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. A DISQUISITION ON GOVERNMENT. In order to have a clear and just conception of the nature and object of government, it is indispensable to understand.

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I would like to thank the late Professor Charles S. So powerful, indeed, is this tendency, that it has led to almost incessant wars between contiguous communities for plunder and conquest, or to avenge injuries, real or supposed. In such case, it would be indispensable to success to avoid division and keep united — and hence, from a necessity inherent in the nature of such governments, each party must be alternately forced, in order to insure victory, to resort to measures to concentrate the control over its movements in fewer and fewer hands, as the struggle became more and more violent.

His systematic theory about the nature of man and government, as well as his rigorous analysis of the presumptions and convictions of The Federalist Papers, deserves careful attention for his part in the ongoing discussion of the uneasy, but critical, relationship between liberty and union. This principle, in constitutional governments, is compromise —and in absolute governments, is force —as will be next explained.

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

But where there are no means by which they could compel the major party to observe the restrictions, the only resort left them would be, a strict construction of the constitution, that is, a construction which would confine these powers to the narrowest limits which the meaning of the words used in the grant would admit. And, hence, in such contests, the party which may prevail, will usually find, in the commander of its forces, a master, under whom the great body of the community will be glad to find protection against the incessant agitation and violent struggles of two corrupt factions — looking only to power as the means of securing to themselves the honors and emoluments of the government.

Questions like these, and many others raised by Calhoun in his Disquisition and Discourse, represent a legacy of continuing relevance in the ongoing debate in American constitutional thought.

This is its aim — and when this is attained, its end is fulfilled. Yale University governnment become the intellectual center for these ideas since the defeat of the Federalists in the election of It has led, not only to mistakes in the attempts to form such governments, but to their overthrow, when they have, by some good fortune, been correctly formed.


The government would gradually pass from the hands of the majority of the party into those of its leaders; as the struggle became more intense, and the honors and emoluments of the government the all-absorbing objects.

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 governmment the others. The first summons came from the nobles; and was designed to conciliate their good feelings and secure their cooperation in the war against the king.

Indeed, however imperfect the organism, it must have more or less effect in diminishing such tendency. 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.

Any other would be not only too complex and cumbersome, but unnecessary to guard against oppression, where the motive to use power for that purpose would be so feeble. Little more could be done, he heard Senator Mason say for him; compromise was no longer possible.

Both works reveal a philosopher whose preference for metaphysical discourse is unmistakable. Both are, however, necessary to the existence and well-being of our race, and equally of Divine ordination. 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 eventually causes the adoption of any measure, however objectionable, which might give the party in the majority an advantage.

The residuum belongs to liberty. On the contrary, as the instrument of party warfare, it contributes greatly to increase party excitement, and the violence and virulence of party struggles; and, in the same degree, the tendency to oppression and abuse of power. 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.

No reason, indeed, can be assigned, why the latter would abuse their power, which would not apply, with equal force, to the former. But the same cause would act with still greater force in predisposing the various interests of the community to agree in a well-organized government, founded on the concurrent majority.

At first, while there was danger of the return of the exiled family, they treated the plebeians with kindness; but, after it had passed away, with oppression and cruelty. Constitution is the contrivance of man, while government is of Divine ordination. On the contrary, nothing is more difficult than to equalize the action of the government, in reference to the various and diversified interests of the community; and nothing more easy than to pervert its powers into instruments to aggrandize and enrich one or more interests by oppressing and impoverishing the others; and this too, under the operation of laws, couched in general terms — and which, on their face, appear fair and equal.


As Calhoun himself noted in his letter of June 15,from Fort Hill:. The executive power is vested in the monarch, who is regarded as constituting the first estate.

John C. Calhoun – Disquisition on Government

It would then be construction against construction; the one to contract, and the other to enlarge the powers of the government to the utmost.

For this purpose many devices have been resorted to, suited to the various stages of intelligence and civilization through which disquisihion race has passed, and to the different forms of government to which they have been applied. In this stage, the effects of progress and improvement on the increase of power, began to be disclosed; but still numbers and personal prowess were sufficient, for a long period, to enable barbarous nations to contend successfully with the civilized — and, in the end, to overpower them — as the pages of history abundantly testify.

It is the czlhoun 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. Until this distinction is recognized, and better understood, there will continue to be great liability to error in properly constructing constitutional governments, especially of the popular form, and of preserving them when properly constructed.

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But the dread of such goverjment sort disquisitoin necessarily lead the government to prepare to meet force in order to protect itself; and hence, of necessity, force becomes the conservative principle of all such governments.

And hence, there will be diffused throughout the whole community kind feelings between its different portions; and, instead of antipathy, a rivalry amongst them to promote the interests of each other, as far as this can be done consistently vith the interest of all. 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.