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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Nor is it less certain, from the operation of all these causes, that the dominant majority, for the time, would have the same tendency to oppression and abuse of power, which, without the right of suffrage, irresponsible rulers would have. Neither would be able to retain power beyond some fixed term; for those seeking office and patronage would become too numerous to be rewarded by the offices and patronage at the disposal of the government; and these being the sole objects of pursuit, the disappointed would, at the next succeeding election, throw their weight into the opposite scale, in the hope of better success at the next turn of the wheel.

Nor, in stating that absolute governments exclude all other means of resistance to its authority than that of force, have I overlooked the case of governments of the numerical majority, which form, apparently, an exception.

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

To perfect society, it is necessary to develop the faculties, intellectual and moral, with which man is endowed. 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.

But this does not impeach the truth of the principles on which it rests. Being thus constrained, they are, in the next place, forced to regard the numerical majority, as, in effect, the entire people; that is, the greater part as the whole; and the government disqhisition the greater part as the government of the whole.

In answering the important question under consideration, it is not necessary to enter into an examination of the various contrivances adopted by these celebrated governments to counteract this tendency to disorder and abuse, nor to undertake to treat of constitution in disqusition most comprehensive sense.

These savage provisions were enforced with the utmost rigor against the indebted and impoverished plebeians. Such an organism, then, as will furnish the gvernment by which resistance may be systematically and peaceably made on the part of the ruled, to oppression and abuse of power on the part of the rulers, is the first and indispensable step towards forming a constitutional government.

For, without a constitution—something to counteract the strong tendency of government to disorder and abuse, and to give stability to political institutions—there can be little progress or permanent improvement.

For, as the community becomes populous, wealthy, refined, and highly civilized, the difference between the rich and the poor will become more strongly marked; and the number of the ignorant and dependent greater in proportion to the rest of the community.


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 ln to overpower all regard for truth, justice, sincerity, and moral obligations of every description.

John C. Calhoun – Disquisition on Government

The powers necessary for this purpose will ever prove sufficient to aggrandize those who control it, at the expense of the rest of the community. This principle, in constitutional governments, is compromise —and in absolute governments, is force —as will be next explained. Where the organism is perfect, every interest will be truly and fully represented, and of course the whole community must be so. He, in his infinite wisdom and goodness, has allotted to every class of animated beings its condition and appropriate functions; and has endowed each with feelings, instincts, capacities, and faculties, best adapted to its allotted condition.

The effect of this is, to make the different orders or classes diequisition an aristocracy, or monarchy, far more jealous and watchful of encroachment on their respective rights; and more resolute and persevering in resisting attempts to concentrate power in any one class or order.

Calhoun found himself in the dilemma of privately opposing a measure supported by the administration he was a part of. It is difficult to conceive that any people, among whom they did not exist, would, or could voluntarily institute them, in order to establish such governments; while it is not at all wonderful, that they should grow out of conflicts between different orders or classes when aided by a favorable combination of circumstances.

A Disquisition on Government (1849)

There, mere numbers have not the absolute control; and the wealthy and intelligent being identified in interest with the caohoun and ignorant of their respective portions or interests of the community, become their leaders and protectors.

And what makes this evil remediless, through the right of suffrage of itself, however modified or carefully guarded, or however enlightened the people, is the fact that, disquiisition far as the honors and emoluments of the government and its fiscal action are concerned, it is impossible to equalize it.

Public opinion, in relation to government and its policy, is as much divided and diversified, as are the interests of the community; and the press, instead of being the organ of the whole, is usually but the organ of these various and diversified interests respectively; or, rather, of the parties growing out of them.

He reveals a bold new understanding of the science of politics. 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.

There is no difficulty in forming government. By this arrangement, the government was placed under the concurrent and joint voice of the two orders, expressed through separate and appropriate organs; the one possessing the positive, and the other the negative towers of the government. For, in such case, it would require so large a portion of the community, compared with the whole, to concur, or acquiesce in the action of the government, that the number to be plundered would be too few, and the number to be aggrandized too many, to afford adequate motives to oppression and the abuse of its powers.


Liberty and security are the indispensable elements that leave each member of a society free to develop his intellectual and moral facilities. It is, then, manifest, taking the whole process together, that taxes must be, in effect, bounties to that portion of the community which receives more in disbursements than it pays in taxes; while, to the other which pays in taxes more than it receives in disbursements, they are taxes in reality—burthens, instead of bounties.

They are complementary texts: In doing this, it secures, at the same time, the rights and liberty of the people, regarded individually; as each portion consists of those who, whatever may be the diversity of interests among themselves, have the same interest in reference to the action of the government.

And what makes this evil remediless, through the right of suffrage of itself, however modified or carefully guarded, or however enlightened the people, is the fact that, as far as the honors and emoluments of the government and its fiscal action are concerned, it is impossible to equalize it.

These they will ever be ready to re-assume, when the objects for which they coalesced are accomplished. This is its aim — and when this is attained, its end is fulfilled. Constitution during the nineteenth century.

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.

It follows, that the two, suffrage and proper organism combined, are sufficient to counteract the tendency of government to oppression and abuse of power; and to restrict it to the fulfilment of the great ends for which it is ordained.

It may be readily inferred, from what has been stated, that the effect of organism is neither to supersede nor diminish the importance of the right of suffrage; but to aid and perfect it.

In the government of the concurrent majority, on the contrary, the same cause which prevents such strife, as the means of obtaining power, and which makes it the interest of each portion to conciliate and promote the Edition: That which corrupts and debases the community, politically, must also corrupt and debase it morally.

But, as there can be no constitution without the negative power, and no negative power without the concurrent majority—it follows, necessarily, that where the numerical majority has the sole control of the government, there can be no constitution; as constitution implies limitation or restriction—and, of course, is inconsistent with the idea of sole or exclusive power.