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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Like breathing, it is not permitted to depend on our volition. But the main spring to their development, and, through this, to progress, improvement and civilization, with all their eisquisition, is the desire of individuals to better their condition.

To perfect society, it is necessary to develop the faculties, intellectual and moral, with which man is endowed. There is no difficulty in forming government. It is, indeed, his inequality of condition between the front and rear ranks, in the march of progress, which gives so strong an impulse to the former to maintain their position, and to the latter to press forward into their files.

But to create such employments, by disbursements, is to bestow on the portion of the community to whose lot the disbursements may fall, a far more durable and lasting benefit—one that would add much more to its wealth and population—than would the bestowal of an equal sum gratuitously: I allude to the difference in their respective tendency, in reference to dividing or uniting the community. The reasons assigned would not be applicable if the proceeds of the taxes were paid in tribute, or expended in foreign countries.

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. They have, for the most part, grown out of the struggles between conflicting interests, which, from some fortunate turn, have ended in a compromise, by which both parties have been admitted, in some one way or another, to have a separate and distinct voice in the government.

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No people, indeed, can long enjoy more liberty than that to which their situation and advanced intelligence and morals fairly entitle them. More cannot be safely or rightly allotted to it. In the earlier stages of society, numbers and individual prowess constituted vovernment principal elements of power.


The same cause, which, in governments of the numerical majority, gives to party attachments and antipathies such force, as to place party triumph and ascendency above the safety and prosperity of the community, will just as certainly give them sufficient force to overpower all regard for truth, justice, sincerity, and moral obligations of every description. These, however, are not the only elements of moral power.

On the contrary, the government of the concurrent majority, where the organism is perfect, excludes the possibility of oppression, by giving to each interest, or portion, or order — where there are established classes — the means of protecting itself, by its negative, against all measures calculated to advance the peculiar interests of others at its expense.

Being the party in possession of the government, they will, from the same constitution of man which makes government necessary to protect society, be in favor of the powers granted by the constitution, and opposed to the restrictions intended to limit them.

This structure, or organism, is what is meant by constitution, in its strict and more usual sense; and it is this which distinguishes, what are called, constitutional governments from absolute. He attracted, or repelled; he convinced, or he antagonized; he was loved, or he was hated. Five Warnings Governmentt Hobbes. The process may be slow, and much time may be required before a compact, organized majority can be thus formed; but formed it will be in time, even without preconcert or design, by the sure workings of that principle or constitution of our nature in which government itself originates.

These it cannot effect for two reasons, either of which is conclusive. So diwquisition seated, indeed, is disquisitikn tendency to conflict between the different interests or portions of the community, that it would result from the action of the government itself, even though it were possible to find a community, where the people were all of the same pursuits, placed in the same condition of life, and in every respect, so situated, as to be without inequality of condition or diversity of interests.

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.


If reversed — if their feelings and affections were stronger for others than for themselves, or even as strong, the necessary result would seem to be, that all individuality would be lost; and boundless and remediless disorder and confusion would ensue. Traced to this source, the voice of a people — uttered under the necessity of avoiding the greatest of calamities, through the organs of a government so constructed as to suppress the expression of all partial and selfish interests, and to give joyn full calhounn faithful utterance to the sense of the whole community, in reference to its common welfare — may, without impiety, be called the voice of God.

That by which this is prevented is what is called constitution.

John C. Calhoun, A Disquisition on Government – PhilPapers

The one is the power of acting — and the other the power of preventing or arresting disuqisition. The Disquisition was published inshortly after his death, as was another book, Discourse on the Constitution and Government of the United States.

The interest of all being the same, by supposition, as far as the action of the government was concerned, all would have like interests as to what laws governmnet be made, and how they should be executed. Those who are disquisitlon with the powers of government must be prevented from employing those powers as a means of aggrandizing themselves.

And hence their encroachments on liberty, and the danger to which it is exposed under such governments. The former of these I shall call the numerical, or absolute majority; and the latter, the concurrent, or constitutional majority. The first question, accordingly, to joh considered is—What is that constitution or law of our nature, without which government would not exist, and with which its existence is necessary? According to the Supremacy Clause located in Article 6, laws made by the federal government are the “supreme law of the land” only when they are made “in pursuance” of the U.