Note: This entire post is a paraphrase of Calhoun’s work. Direct quotes have been marked as such. Summary Man is a social being and. A Disquisition on Government. By John C. Calhoun In , when President Clinton nominated Lani Guinier, a legal scholar at Harvard, to be the first. A Disquisition on Government [John C. Calhoun, H. Lee Cheek Jr.] on Amazon. com. *FREE* shipping on qualifying offers. This volume provides the most.

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That which corrupts and debases the community, politically, must disqisition corrupt and debase it morally. It is the same as that which makes government indispensable to preserve society; and is not less imperative than that which compels obedience to superior force.

A Disquisition on Government – Wikipedia

And among the civilized, the same causes have decided the question of superiority, where other circumstances are nearly equal, in favor of those whose governments have given the greatest governnent to development, progress, and improvement; that is, to those whose liberty is the largest and best secured.

For of all the causes which contribute to form the character of a people, those by which power, influence, and standing in the government are most certainly and readily obtained, are, by governmennt, the most powerful.

The former is as much the absolute government of the democratic, or popular form, as the latter of the monarchical or aristocratical. Among these, England and the United States afford striking examples, not only of the effects of liberty in increasing power, but of the more perfect adaptation of governments founded on the principle of the concurrent, or constitutional majority, to enlarge and secure liberty.

Sign in to use this feature. These great and dangerous errors have their origin in the prevalent opinion that all men are born free and equal — than which nothing can be more unfounded and false. And hence, instead of faction, strife, and struggle for party ascendency, there would be patriotism, nationality, harmony, and a struggle only for supremacy in promoting the common good of the whole. It would, indeed, seem to be essentially connected with the great law of self-preservation which pervades all that feels, from man down to the lowest and most insignificant reptile or insect.

John Locke – – Lawbook Exchange. If Calhoun intended the states to exercise such a power, why did he not say so explicitly?

US Political Thought, Notes on Calhoun’s A Disquisition on Government

Glvernment had an enormous political influence in the period immediately following disquisitio founding of the American system. This dispensation seems to be the result of some fixed law — and every effort to disturb or defeat it, by attempting to elevate a people in the scale of liberty, above the point to which they are govednment to rise, must ever prove abortive, and end in governmfnt. But to preserve society, it is necessary to guard the community against injustice, violence, and anarchy within, and against attacks from without.

All diwquisition and struggle would cease as to who should be elected to make and execute them. Nor can it be done by limiting the powers of government, so as to make it too feeble to be made an instrument of abuse; for, passing by the difficulty of so limiting its powers, without creating a power higher than the government itself to enforce the observance of the limitations, it is a sufficient objection that it would, if practicable, defeat the end for which government is ordained, by making it too feeble to protect and preserve society.


For they who fall into these errors regard the restrictions which organism imposes on the will of the numerical majority as restrictions on the will of the people, and, therefore, as not only useless, but wrongful and mischievous.

To call any other so, would be impious. Jlhn opinion has been amplified by technology, which has helped give full force to public opinion and make it a strong political element in its own right.

From what has been said, it is manifest, that this provision must be of a character calculated to prevent any one interest, or combination of interests, from using the powers of government to aggrandize itself at the expense of the others.

The reasons assigned would not be applicable if the proceeds of the taxes disquisltion paid in tribute, or expended in foreign countries. That this authority is the constitution-making power—the people of the States respectively.

Beneath the surface of his treatise is a systematic analysis and critique of the founding principles as set forth by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, Edition: The right of suffrage, of itself, can do no more than give complete control to those who elect, over the conduct of those they have elected.

This book is published by Liberty Fund, Inc. Post was not sent – check your email addresses! In none is it stronger than in man. Freehlingis how a compromise would be achieved in the aftermath of a minority veto, when the ubiquitous demagogues betray their constituencies and abandon the concurrent majority altogether. They formed the Confederate States of America. If it fail in either, it would fail in the primary end of government, and would not deserve the name.

In essence, Calhoun suggests that the theory of The Federalist Papers makes inadequate safeguards for the maintenance of limited government. If more than this be allowed, they must soon fall into confusion and disorder — to be followed, if not by anarchy and despotism, by a change to a form of government more simple and absolute; and, therefore, better suited to their condition.

Calhoun’s Philosophy of Politics: The reason is obvious. The conflict between the two parties, in the government of the numerical majority, tends necessarily to settle down into a struggle for the honors and emoluments of the government; and each, in order to obtain an object so ardently desired, will, in the process of the struggle, resort to whatever measure may seem best calculated to effect this purpose.

Nor is it less certain, from the operation of all these causes, that the dominant majority, for the time, would have the same tendency to oppression and abuse of power, which, without the right of suffrage, irresponsible rulers would have. Having now explained the reasons why it is so difficult to form and preserve popular constitutional government, so long as the distinction between the two majorities is overlooked, and the opinion prevails that a written constitution, with suitable restrictions and a proper division of its powers, is sufficient to counteract the tendency of the numerical majority to the abuse of its power—I shall next proceed to explain, more fully, why the concurrent majority is an indispensable element in forming constitutional governments; and why the numerical majority, of itself, must, in all cases, make governments absolute.


But such is not the case. In all its forms, and under all its names, it Edition: The aid of superstition, ceremonies, education, religion, organic arrangements, both of the government and the community, has been, from time to time, appealed to. His social feelings may, indeed, in a state of safety and abundance, combined with high intellectual and moral culture, acquire great expansion and force; but not so great as to overpower this all-pervading and essential law of animated existence.

In no age or country has any society or community ever been found, whether enlightened or savage, without government of some description.

Online Library of Liberty

In a more governjent stage, when communities had passed from the barbarous to the civilized disquisitiin, discipline, strategy, weapons of increased power, and money — as the means of meeting increased expense — became additional and important elements. The Disquisition on Government is a page essay on Calhoun’s definitive and comprehensive ideas on government, which he worked on intermittently for six years until its completion. Second Amendment and gun control? This would truly be the sense of the entire community; for whatever diversity each interest might have within itself — as all would have the same interest in reference to the action of the government, the individuals composing each would be fully and truly represented by its own majority or appropriate organ, regarded in reference to the other interests.

According to the Supremacy Clause located in Calnoun 6, laws made by the federal government are the “supreme law of the land” only when they are made “in pursuance” of the U.

A disquisition on government

Similarly, injohb contending “interests” during the several decades of controversy culminating in the War Between the States were the agricultural and slave on the one hand, on the other the manufacturing, shipping, and financial ones. Of these, by far the most grave is the problem of identifying those interests that must be recognized in the sense-taking, while deciding also which are to be excluded from it.

I shall begin with the former. The first and leading error which naturally arises from overlooking the distinction referred to, is, to confound the numerical majority with the people; and this so completely as to regard them as identical. All admit, that a popular government, or democracy, is the government of the people; for the terms imply this. In point of fact, John Calhoun was one of the most cogently original and genuinely conservative theorists in the American political tradition; one whose ideas, though indeed employed by their author in defense of the slave interest, are intellectually independent from it.