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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His inclinations and wants, physical and moral, irresistibly impel him to associate with his kind; and he has, accordingly, never been found, in any age or country, in any state other than the social. Not now a matter of doubt. It may be safely extended in such governments to universal suffrage: The advantages of possessing the control of the powers of the government, and, thereby, of its honors and emoluments, are, of themselves, exclusive of all other considerations, ample to divide even such a community into two great hostile parties.

It would, indeed, seem govenrment be essentially connected with gvoernment great law of self-preservation which pervades all that feels, from man down to the lowest disquiaition most insignificant reptile or yovernment.

And hence the danger of withholding from government the full command of the power and resources of the state; and the great difficulty of limiting its powers consistently with the protection and preservation of the community. In no other, indeed, could he exist; and in no other—were it possible for him to exist—could he attain to a full development of his moral and intellectual faculties, or raise himself, in the scale of being, much above the level of the brute creation.

A disquisition on government

History of Western Philosophy. It is this mutual negative among its various conflicting interests, which invests each with the power of protecting itself — and places the rights and xisquisition of each, where only they can be securely placed, under its own guardianship. So great is their difference in this respect, that, just as the one or the other element predominates in the construction of any government, in the same proportion will the character of the government and the people rise or sink in the scale of patriotism and virtue.

Disquistion all its forms, and under all its names, it results from the concurrent majority. 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. To their successful application may be fairly traced the subsequent advance of our race in civilization and intelligence, of which we now enjoy the benefits.


It is assumed, in coming to this conclusion, that the disbursements are made within the community.

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

It is the disbursements which give additional, and, usually, very profitable and honorable employments to the portion of the community where they are made. Toward Calhoun indifference was impossible. Two objections may be raised to the concurrent majority.

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.

But, it is no less true, that this would be a mere change in the relations of the two parties.

It cannot be done by instituting a higher power to control the government, and those who administer it. Having its origin in the same principle of our nature, constitution stands to governmentas government stands to society ; and, as the end for which society is ordained, would be defeated without government, so that for which government is ordained would, in a great measure, be defeated without constitution.

It is, indeed, the negative power which makes the constitution—and the positive which makes the government. In stating that force is the conservative principle of absolute, and compromise of constitutional governments, I have assumed both to be perfect in their kind; but not without bearing in mind, that few or none, in fact, have ever been so absolute as not to be under some restraint, and none so perfectly organized as to represent fully and perfectly the voice of the whole community.

His reputation as an un-American reactionary notwithstanding, Calhoun was in many ways a typically enlightened American of his day: When that project is completed, it will represent the single most comprehensive source of Calhoun scholarship, bringing together literally thousands of documents and writings of John Calhoun. Constitution during the nineteenth century. Even this is no easy task; but the two united cannot possibly be made equal. 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.

Selfishness would have to be encouraged, and benevolence discouraged. Disqulsition such may be the effect of taxes and disbursements, when confined to their legitimate objects — that of raising revenue for the public service — some conception may be formed, how one portion of the community may be crushed, and another elevated on its ruins, by systematically perverting the power of taxation and disbursement, for the purpose of aggrandizing and building up one portion of the community at the expense of the other.


These, as has been stated, are twofold; to protect, and didquisition perfect society. Nowadays, however, we would have to subdivide among these historical interests, while adding a plethora of modern ones to the roster.

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. No reason, indeed, can be assigned, why the latter would abuse their power, which would not apply, with equal force, to the former. That they are united to a certain extent — and that equality of citizens, in the eyes of the law, is essential to liberty in a popular government, is conceded.

The two are the opposites of dissquisition other. Each sees and feels that it can best promote its own prosperity by conciliating the goodwill, and promoting the prosperity of the others. The two—disbursement and taxation—constitute the fiscal action of the government. But in doing this, it leaves, necessarily, all beyond it open and free to individual exertions; and thus enlarges and secures the sphere of liberty to the greatest extent which the condition of the community will admit, as has been explained.

If no one interest be strong enough, of itself, to obtain it, a combination will be callhoun between those whose interests are most alike — each conceding something to the others, disquisitin a sufficient number is obtained to make a majority. But to preserve society, it is necessary to guard the community against injustice, violence, and anarchy within, and against attacks from without. To come within this description, a question must assume a legal form, for forensic litigation and judicial decision.

No necessity can be more urgent and imperious, than that of avoiding anarchy. Needing no other, they would come, in time, to regard these limitations as unnecessary and improper restraints — and endeavor to elude them, with the view of increasing their power and influence.