Calhoun and Popular Rule: The Political Theory of the Disquisition and Discourse

By H. Lee Cheek Jr. | Go to book overview

thought. 2. These studies by Gregory Butler and Jürgen Gebhardt assume a related and coherent framework for expressing the growth of the American political self-understanding, albeit from a point of view that suggests that a unitary model of interpretation is adequate for explaining the complex and multifaceted world of early national and nineteenth-century political thought in America.

This book offers the possibility for the presentation of a greater philosophical depth of field within the corpus of American political thought, as well as a more complex framework for understanding the regime than previously acknowledged or articulated. The purpose of this work is to probe the tensions of existence manifested in the political thought of a representative of the generation of Americans who attempted to translate the Founders' worldview to the nineteenth century. The tensions of the new century would bring this articulation of the political order under increased scrutiny and would encourage aberrant interpretations of the republic's political existence. 3. Accordingly, the task of defining and elucidating the salient contributions of the period is always subject to lapsing into a deformative manifestation of the tradition, distracting and ultimately undermining the project at hand; however, this work attempts to avoid such a pitfall by stressing the persistence of a particular vision throughout the Founding, Early National, and Jacksonian periods of American political thought, as expressed in the works of John Caldwell Calhoun. We also contend that Calhoun was one of the preeminent leaders in the extension of the political tradition of the Founding in the first half of the nineteenth century, which should enhance the existing understanding of this worldview, as well as the emerging diversity and continuity of the tradition itself. In American political thought, however, the foundational search and presentation of this vision continue to assume a distinctly New England flavor.

The significance of New England, and more specifically the Massachusetts Bay settlement and subsequent political developments, in American political thought is not being disputed here. Moreover, the understanding of political authority that arose from this early colony forces the theorist to search for other experiences to approach

____________________
2.
Willmoore Kendall and George W. Carey, The Basic Symbols of the American Political Tradition; Gregory S. Butler, In Search of the American Spirit; Jürgen Gebhardt, Americanism.
3.
Irving H. Bartlett, The American Mind in the Mid-Nineteenth Century; Charles M. Wiltse, The New Nation, 1800-1845; Eugene D. Genovese, The Slaveholders' Dilemma, 46-75; and Charles Seller, The Market Revolution.

-2-

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