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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Calhoun’s Philosophy of Politics: From the same cause, there is a like tendency in aristocratical to terminate in absolute governments of the monarchical form; but by no means as strong, because there is less repugnance between military power and aristocratical, than between it and democratical governments.

The concurrent majority, since it would discourage aggrandizement by particular interests, would tend to bring the community together. 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.

These vibrations would continue until confusion, corruption, disorder, and anarchy, would lead to an appeal to force—to be followed by a revolution in the form of the government.

Among these, the trial by jury is the most familiar, and on that account, will be selected for illustration.

For this purpose, a struggle will take place between the various interests to obtain a majority, in order to control the government. The numerical majority is as truly a single powerand excludes the negative as completely as the absolute government of one, or of the few.

A Disquisition on Government (1849)

To call any other so, would be impious. 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 disquisitionn liberty of individuals, can cooperate peaceably and effectually in resisting the encroachments of power, and thereby preserve their rights and liberty.

So long as this state of things continues, exigencies will occur, in which the entire powers and resources of the community will be needed to defend its existence. It may be further affirmed, that, being more favorable to the enlargement and security of liberty, governments of the concurrent, must necessarily be more favorable to progress, development, improvement, and civilization — and, of course, to the increase of power which results from, and depends on these, than those of the numerical majority.


In doing this, it laid the solid foundation of Roman liberty and greatness. Governmebt whole united must necessarily place under the control of government an amount of honors and emoluments, sufficient to excite profoundly the ambition of the aspiring and the cupidity of the avaricious; and to lead to the formation of hostile parties, and violent party conflicts and struggles to obtain the control of the government.

They acquired the right, not only of vetoing the passage of all laws, but also their execution; and thus obtained, through their tribunes, a negative on the entire action no the government, without divesting the patricians of their control over the Senate.

But to go further, and make equality of condition essential to liberty, would be to destroy both liberty and progress.

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

It is, perhaps, the only form of popular government suited to a people, while they remain in such a condition. These, as has been stated, are twofold; to protect, and to perfect society.

Without this there can be no negative; and, without a negative, no constitution. From the same cause, there is a like tendency in aristocratical to terminate in absolute governments of the monarchical form; but by no means as strong, because there is less goverment between military power and aristocratical, than between it and democratical governments.

I refer to their respective conservative principle—that is, the principle by which they are upheld and preserved. If knowledge, wisdom, patriotism, and virtue, be the most certain means of acquiring them, they will be most highly appreciated and assiduously cultivated; and this would cause them to become prominent traits in the character of the people. It can do no more, however enlightened the people, or however widely extended or well guarded the right may be. It is, therefore, a great misnomer to call it the state of nature.


They are all but different names for the negative power. 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. In each there must, of necessity, be a governing and governed — a ruling and a subject portion. Such an organism as this, combined with the right of suffrage, constitutes, in fact, the elements of constitutional government.

It has been already shown, that the same constitution of man which leads those who govern to oppress the governed — if not prevented — will, with equal force and certainty, lead the latter to resist oppression, when possessed of the means of doing so peaceably and successfully. With the increase goevrnment this difference, the tendency to conflict between them will become stronger; and, as the poor and dependent become more numerous in proportion, there will be, in governments of the numerical majority, no want of leaders among the wealthy and ambitious, to excite and direct them in their efforts to obtain the control.

Calhoun elaborates upon his discussion of the concepts of limited government, separation of powers, judicial review, and the theory of the extended, compound republic.

Here lies the evil: Political power in South Carolina was uniquely concentrated in a legislature of large property holders who set state policy and selected the men to administer it. It is, indeed, emphatically, that principle which makes the constitution, in its strict and limited sense.

It follows, then, that man is so constituted, that government is necessary to the existence of society, and society to his existence, and the perfection of his faculties. To this the major party would oppose a liberal construction — one which would give to the words of the grant the broadest meaning of which they were susceptible.