A Disquisition on Government and Selections from the Discourse

A Disquisition on Government and Selections from the Discourse

A Disquisition on Government and Selections from the Discourse

A Disquisition on Government and Selections from the Discourse

Excerpt

John Caldwell Calhoun in April, 1845, informed a friend that he had commenced "an enquiry into the elements of political science, preliminary to a treatise on the Constitution of the U. States; but I know not whether I shall ever have time to finish it." Calhoun lived to complete the preliminary enquiry, A Disquisition on Government, and the treatise, A Discourse on the Constitution and Government of the United States, but he did not live to see either work in print.

The chief problem to which Calhoun gave his attention in both the Disquisition and the Discourse was how best to safeguard the interests and way of life of a minority against the will of democratic majorities.

The Disquisition, particularly, reveals Calhoun as a courageous and original thinker, as a keen observer and student of history, and possessed of insights beyond the ken of most of his contemporaries. Leaving aside the issue of slavery, Calhoun's thought displays a universality which will forever assure him a high position in the history of American political thought.

EDUCATION AND PUBLIC LIFE

Calhoun was born, March 18, 1782, in the Abbeville district in western South Carolina. He was the son of Scotch-Irish, Calvinist parents, Patrick and Martha Caldwell Calhoun. Patrick, tough, resourceful, and a man of strong convictions, was a leader in the community. He served as judge, surveyor, and member of the state legislature. He, like his son, was a strong individualist; he believed in a maximum of individual freedom consistent with social order. Patrick opposed the adoption of the Federal Constitution on the ground that the power with which the central government was to be endowed would prove destructive of liberty.

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