John Caldwell Calhoun

Political Philosophy

His Disquisition on Government and Discourse on the Constitution and Government of the United States, both published posthumously, crystallized his political philosophy. The Constitution, he stated, established a government of concurrent majorities composed of two elements—the state governments and the federal government. Hence the states enjoy the power of veto, or nullification, and the right of secession results necessarily from the origin of the Union as a compact among the sovereign parties. His theories attempted to formulate democracy in terms of protection for a minority, specifically, the South, and they were later embodied in the Confederate constitution. Because his ideas are associated with an institution—slavery—offensive to the idealism of most Americans, Calhoun has not been a popular figure in U.S. history.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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