Notes on John C. Calhoun, A Disquisition on Government, () But “this [ social] state cannot exist without government”, and “In no age or country has any . A Disquisition on Government [John C. Calhoun, H. Lee Cheek Jr.] on Amazon. com. *FREE* shipping on qualifying offers. This volume provides the most. Written between and , John C. Calhoun’s A Disquisition on Government addresses such diverse issues as states’ rights and.

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I call the right of suffrage the indispensable and primary principle; for it would be a great and dangerous mistake to suppose, as many do, that it is, of itself, sufficient to form constitutional governments. But, as there can be no constitution without the negative power, and no negative power without the concurrent majority—it follows, necessarily, that where the numerical majority has the sole control of the government, there can be no constitution; as constitution implies limitation or restriction—and, of course, is inconsistent with the idea of sole or exclusive power.

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Public opinion has been amplified by technology, which has helped give full force goveenment public opinion and make it a strong political element in its own right. But, as there can be no constitution without the negative power, and no negative power without the concurrent majority — it follows, necessarily, that where the numerical majority has the govrenment control of the government, there can be no constitution; as constitution implies limitation or restriction — and, of course, is inconsistent with the idea of sole or exclusive power.

This, too, can be accomplished only in one way—and that is, by such an organism of the government—and, if necessary for the purpose, of the community also—as will, by dividing and distributing the powers of government, give to each division or interest, through its appropriate organ, either a concurrent voice in making and executing the laws, or a veto on their execution.

They would extend to the whole community. These ideas are convincing if one shares Calhoun’s conviction that a functioning concurrent majority never leads to stalemate in the legislature; rather, talented statesmen, practiced in the arts of conciliation and compromise would pursue “the common good”, [6] however explosive the govwrnment.

But to preserve society, it is necessary to guard the community against injustice, violence, and anarchy within, and against attacks from without.

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But such is not the case. But, without diaquisition, there is a reason which renders it impossible to equalize the action of the government, so far as its fiscal operation extends — which I shall next explain. Indeed, public and private morals are so nearly allied, that it would be difficult for it to be otherwise.


It is, indeed, the single, or one power, which excludes the negative, and constitutes absolute government; and not the number in whom the power is vested. It is thus, that, in such governments, devotion to party becomes stronger than devotion to country — the promotion of the interests of party more important than the promotion of the common good of the whole, and its triumph and ascendency, objects of far greater solicitude, than the safety and prosperity of the community.

The necessary result, then, of the unequal fiscal action of the government Edition: If man had been differently constituted in either particular—if, instead of being social in his nature, he had been created without sympathy for his kind, and independent of others for his safety and existence; or if, on the Edition: It is only through an organism which vests each with a negative, in some one form or another, that those who have like interests in preventing the government from passing beyond its proper sphere, and encroaching on the rights and liberty of individuals, can cooperate peaceably and effectually in resisting the encroachments of power, and thereby preserve their rights and liberty.

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But the principle, applied to different communities, will assign to them different govrnment. The combination of practical politics and a noted preference for metaphysical discourse gave his speeches and writings a distinct tone. 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: And as this can only be effected by or through the right of suffrage— the right on the part of the ruled to choose their rulers at proper intervals, and to hold them thereby responsible for their conduct —the responsibility of the rulers to the ruled, through the right of suffrage, is the indispensable and primary principle in the foundation of a constitutional government.

Without this there can be no systematic, peaceful, or effective resistance to the natural tendency of each to come into conflict with the others: To this the major party would oppose a liberal construction—one which would give to the words of the grant the broadest disquizition of which they were susceptible. If it do not, it will prove, in practice, to be, not a constitution, but a cumbrous and useless machine, which must be speedily superseded and laid aside, for some other more simple, and better suited to their condition.

On the contrary, the very uncertainty of the tenure, combined with the violent party warfare which must ever precede a change of parties under Edition: Calhoun considered the concurrent majority essential to provide structural restraints to governance, believing that “a vast majority of mankind is entirely biased by motives of self-interest and that by this interest must be governed”.


The answer will be found in the fact not less incontestable than either of the others that, while man is created for the social state, and is accordingly so formed as to feel what affects others, as well as what affects himself, he is, at the same time, so constituted as to feel more intensely what affects him directly, than what affects him indirectly though others; or, to express it differently, he is so constituted, that his direct or individual affections are stronger than his sympathetic or social feelings.

That which corrupts and debases the community, politically, must also corrupt and debase it morally. On the contrary, the line between the two forms, in popular governments, is so imperfectly understood, that honest and sincere friends of the constitutional form not unfrequently, instead of jealously watching and arresting their tendency to degenerate into their absolute forms, not only regard it with approbation, but employ all their powers to add to its strength and to increase its impetus, in the vain hope of making the government more perfect and popular.

And hence, the numerical, unmixed with the concurrent majority, necessarily forms, in all cases, absolute government. These vibrations would continue until confusion, corruption, disorder, and anarchy, would lead to an appeal to force — to be followed by a revolution in governmfnt form of the government. He wrote as he spoke, sometimes negligently, yet always plainly and forcibly, and it is due to his own character, as well as to the public expectation, that his views should be presented in the plain and simple garb in which he left them.

If knowledge, wisdom, patriotism, and virtue, be the most disquissition means of acquiring them, they will be most highly appreciated and assiduously cultivated; and this would cause them to become prominent traits dosquisition the character of the people.

This form lasted more than two centuries.

This harmony combined with his political talents so well calhouun some people began to advance his name as a possible candidate for president. When once formed, the community will be divided Edition: The conflict between the two parties must be transferred, sooner or later, from an appeal to the ballot-box to an appeal to force—as I shall next proceed to explain.