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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All these causes combined, give to a community its maximum of 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.

Consider trial by jury, which requires a unanimous concurrence for a verdict to be reached. It leads to the conclusion that, in their formation and establishment nothing more is necessary than the right of suffrage — and the allotment to each division of the community a representation in the government, in proportion to numbers.

Calhoun contended that however confused and misled the masses were by political opportunists, any efforts to impose majority rule upon a minority would be thwarted by a minority veto.

The powers which it is necessary for government to possess, in order to repress violence and preserve order, cannot execute themselves.

Such are some of the consequences of confounding the two, and of regarding the numerical as the only majority. In another particular, governments of the concurrent majority have greatly the advantage.

Summary: A Disquisition On Government by John C. Calhoun | Craig W. Wright

They are complementary texts: Poland and its method for electing kings furnishes an example of the concurrent majority in action. 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.

But, as such is not the case — as the numerical majority, instead of being the people, is only a portion of them — such a government, instead of being a true and perfect model of the people’s government, that is, a people self-governed, is but the government of a part, over a part — the major over the minor portion. Such a state of things would, as far as we can see, lead to endless disorder disquisitiion confusion, not less destructive to our race than a state of anarchy.

In doing this, it accomplishes all it possibly can accomplish. The administration and management of a government with such vast establishments must necessarily require a host of employees, agents, and officers—of whom many must be vested with high and responsible trusts, and occupy exalted stations, accompanied with much influence and patronage. And that the principle which would authorize an appeal from the decision of the highest calyoun tribunal of a State to the Supreme Court of the United States, in cases where the constitution, treaties, and laws of the United States are drawn in question, would equally authorize an appeal from the latter to disquisitiom former, in cases where the constitution and laws of the State have been drawn in question, and the decision has been adverse to them.

The manuscript, in his own handwriting, has since been published. Both works reveal a seasoned politician who had been an active participant in the nineteenth century politics of nationalism, sectionalism, and secession.


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That they are united to a certain extent — and that equality of cslhoun, in the eyes of the law, is essential to liberty in a popular government, is conceded. Nor can it be done by limiting the powers of government, so as to make it too feeble to be made an instrument of cslhoun 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.

With these remarks, I return from this digression, to resume the thread of the discourse. But, just in proportion to this respect and admiration will be their appreciation by those, whose energy, intellect, and position in society, are calculated to exert the greatest influence in forming the character of a people.

The dominant majority, for the time, would, in reality, through the right of suffrage, be the rulers—the controlling, governing, and irresponsible power; and those who make and execute the laws would, for the time, be, in reality, but their representatives and agents. For, if power be necessary to secure to liberty the fruits of its exertions, liberty, in turn, repays power with interest, by increased population, wealth, and other advantages, which progress and improvement bestow on the community.

To come within this description, a question must assume a legal form, for forensic litigation and judicial decision. It is the first in the order of things, and in the dignity of its object; that of society being primary — to preserve and perfect our race; and that of government secondary and subordinate, to preserve and perfect society.

The concurrent majority, on the other hand, tends to unite the most opposite and conflicting interests, and to blend the whole in one common attachment to the country. The conservative statesmen — the slaveholding gentry — retained control over the political apparatus. Until then, the latter will have a strong tendency to slide, first, into the government of the numerical majority, and, finally, into absolute government of some other form.

Calhoun of South Carolina and published posthumously in From the nature of popular governments, the control of its powers is vested in the many; while military power, to be efficient, must be vested in a single individual.

Who will decide, and on what desiderata, which groups are significant enough to be given a veto or a negative power over the making or executing of the laws? The case is different in governments of the concurrent majority.

As the major and dominant party, they will have no need of these restrictions for their protection. Nor is this the case in some particular communities only.

A Disquisition on Government by on Prezi

Griffin Trotter – – Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 31 3: Five Warnings From Hobbes. But as population increases, wealth accumulates, and, above all, the revenues and expenditures become large—governments of this form must become less and less suited to the condition of society; until, if not in the mean time changed into governments of the concurrent majority, they must end in an appeal to force, to be followed by a radical change in its structure and character; and, most probably, into monarchy in its absolute form—as will be next explained.


It is, perhaps, the only form of popular government suited to a people, while they remain in such a condition. But as governkent increases, wealth accumulates, and, above all, the revenues and expenditures become large — governments of this form must become less and less suited to ca,houn condition of society; until, if not governmemt the mean time changed into governments of the concurrent majority, they must end in an appeal to force, to be followed by a radical change in its structure and character; and, most probably, into monarchy in its absolute form — as will be next explained.

I refer to the prevalent opinion, that a written constitution, containing suitable restrictions on diisquisition powers of government, is sufficient, of itself, without the aid of any organism—except such as is necessary to separate its several departments, and render them independent of each other—to counteract govsrnment tendency of the numerical majority to oppression and the abuse of power.

Those who are invested with the powers of government must be prevented from employing those powers as a means of aggrandizing themselves.

The former is as much the absolute government of the democratic, or popular form, as the latter of the monarchical or aristocratical. Such being the case, it necessarily results, that the right of suffrage, by placing the control of the government in the community must Herein is to be found the principle which assigns to power and liberty their proper spheres, xisquisition reconciles each to the other under all circumstances.

In the government of the concurrent majority, on the contrary, the goverhment cause which prevents such strife, as the means of obtaining goernment, and which makes it the interest of each portion to conciliate and promote the Edition: But the duration, or uncertainty of the tenure, by which power is held, cannot, of itself, counteract the tendency inherent in government to oppression and abuse of power.

His inclinations and wants, physical and moral, irresistibly impel him to associate with his kind; and he has, governent, never been found, in any age or country, in any state other than the social. Lambton – – Oxford University Press.

Calhoun elaborates upon his discussion of the concepts of limited government, separation of powers, judicial review, and the theory of the extended, compound republic. How is this tendency of government to be counteracted? If no one interest be strong enough, of itself, to obtain it, a combination will be formed between those whose interests are most alike — each conceding something to the others, until a sufficient number is obtained to make a majority.

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.

But government, although intended to protect and preserve society, has itself a strong tendency to disorder and abuse of its powers, as all experience and almost every page of history testify. It is in this strict and more usual sense that I propose to use the term hereafter.