"Stripped of all its covering, the naked question is,
whether ours is a federal or consolidated government;
a constitutional or absolute one;
a government resting solidly on the basis
of the sovereignty of the States,
or on the unrestrained will of a majority;
a form of government, as in all other unlimited ones,
in which injustice, violence, and force must ultimately prevail."
by:
John C. Calhoun
(1782-1850) American statesman
Date:
1831
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Reader comments about this quote:
I put 4 stars instead of 5 only because the quote was an observation of events posed in question form. State's sovereignty (even then) had been obscured or lost in the murky mist and the once finite Constitution became alive, morphing into an unrecognizable philosophy, justifying whatever current brand of tyranny was in vogue. The point made though, is even more true today.
 -- Mike, Norwalk     
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    If this is correct then why do we allow it today. And why do we not allow proportional representation in America. If an individual has over 3 million votes and not have a seat in governemnt is that right? (not that I agree with that particular persons political views)
     -- Robert, Sarasota     
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    It applies as much today as it did when it was spoken. Of course, this was the precursor to the succession of the southern States. It begs the question whether another succession is coming.
     -- E Archer, NYC     
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    E Archer is right-on. The question posed was a primary concern formulating the war between the states. Constitutionally speeking, the question is as valid today, probably more so, than then. I had a friend (he being no longer with us) that was succesful in getting succession paperwork before several State Houses. Pushing for succession today by everyone reading this blog, I believe, is but one of the required elements to return liberty to the U.S.
     -- Mike, Norwalk     
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    Great quote by one of our Nation's (The South's) greatest orators. The Yankee Empire today has stripped virtually all vestiges of Sovereignty from the States. The Yankee/Federal Flag is flown above the Banner of my Country, Florida. The Federal flag is flown over the Capitol of My Country in Tallahassee. Yes, E. Archer, another Secession is coming. "Truth crushed to the ground is still truth, and like a seed it will RISE AGAIN!!" These are the words of our first President, Jefferson Davis. May these words ring true throughout our fair Nation. Deo Vindice. R.G. Alturas, [Occupied] Florida, CSA Federal Occupation Code - 33820
     -- Anonymous, Alturas, FL CSA     
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    I read this quote and by reading it I liked it so much that I presented it in my assembly and it was appreciated by everyone.
     -- Yash Mittal, Meerut     
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    Ole John was a great statesman. As vice president to "Ole Hickory" he saw where Jackson wanted to nationalize everything and resigned. Unlike Jackson, he beleived in states rights. He was a true patriot all the way. He knew like the Ten Commandments that our "Bill of Rights" was written in stone and not open to any liberal interputation!
     -- cal, lewisville, tx     
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    Calhoun remains one of our lesser known great political thinkers. His stand on states rights gave him a bad name which remains undeserved. He came up with the the idea of the consenting majority. One of my professors way back when called it the first original political idea from the USA.
     -- J. B. Wulff, Bristol     
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    "The Unrestrained Will of the Majority", democracy in action.
     -- jim k, austin     
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    The democracy of the "majority rule" is in decline and rightfully so. Individual liberty and state sovereignty are what we need. Watch for the 10 amendment movement to gain momentum. 23 (?) states and counting...
     -- J Carlton, Calgary     
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    Calhoun truly was one of the greatest anti-statists.
     -- Justin, Elkland     
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    And Robert, you can have 3 million votes and have a seat in the government. You could be a school board member, mayor, state legislator and in some states a governor. My question is why should 545 people (536 elected and nine appointed) lord over 300 million people? And my answer is that they shouldn't. They should negotiate treaties, provide for the common defense, and mediate disputes among states. Leave the rest to the States or the people.
     -- Justin, Elkland     
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    What Calhoun is bellowing about here is whether or not he and his handlers are going to be able to keep SLAVERY for ever and ever or are they going to be influenced by others out side of South Carolina, be it the remaining states, that is the Union or by the world at large. He apparently died 15 years to early and a Civil War to late to get his answer. Every bitch about majority rule from Calhoun is really a complaint and a worry that his bastion of slavery might lose its strange institution. Calhoun like others fail to understand that the The Constitution is about Union not disunion.
     -- Waffler, Smith     
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    The Constitution is about Union? Waffler you've out done yourself. The Constitution is about Individual Rights...State Rights...Individual Liberty...and State Liberty. Its about keeping the Fed's on a short leash. How you equate any of this to slavery is all in your mind...
     -- J Carlton, Calgary     
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    Waffler, I thought you were against ad hominem arguments? Only when it benefits you, eh? Calhoun was neither alive during the Revolution or the War Between the States. There was slavery in the North as well as the South. Maybe you ought to study history instead of making stuff up. Yes, slavery was bad, and had the Continental Congress kept the anti-slavery clauses in the Declaration of Independence, this would have been a moot point. Liberation is an ongoing process -- many like Waffler believe they are free or are happy with their level of dependence and servitude as 'fair enough.' But history tracks the progress of the transformation of a federal government ruled by law into a nationalist government ruled by force. Calhoun simply is crying out about the fox in the hen-house. Remember that the first states to consider succession were the New England states, and Jefferson said essentially, let us part friends. Obviously Lincoln had other feelings...
     -- E Archer, NYC     
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    Just because I am against ad hominem arguments (judging the man rather than what was said) it does not mean I don't try to see what a person really stands for. And Calhoun and his state really stood for slavery in his time and forever. Calhoun was the fighter for slavery throughout the early years of our democracy through the compromises over slavery and Texas admission etcetera. His debates with Webster are part of our great political history. We are not totally free or as free as Archer would like to be. Man has never been totally free once he started associating with others and passing laws, and rules for mutual use. We are sadly enough influenced by causal law, that is laws cause us to act certain ways which are different than total freedom for each man to act anyway he wishes.
     -- Waffler, Smith     
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    A jewel of American thought! He was most prophetic about is happening. Americans need to wake up and smell the roses!
     -- Anonymous, Burt     
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    Note that Calhoun's argument is based on repetitions of either/or arguments. The Constitution is either one thing or it is one other thing. The either/or argument is a logical fallacy that was recognized in the early middle ages. Almost always, things are not simply one or the other. Consider this argument, "either you agree with me or you are stupid." There are many other possibilities than just the two presented. Calhoun is hiding his real argument. He believed the crucial character of the constitution was that it protected slavery within the union and he was for modifying almost any other provision of the constitution to maintain the safety of slavery, which was under attack worldwide and within the union.
     -- Anonymous     
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    Calhoun is alluding to the question that was debated in the Constitutional Convention between the Federalist and the Anti-Federalists. The Federalist wanted a consolidated government centered around the concept of Nationalism as was typical of a European State and the Anti-Federalists desired to to maintain a confederated republic centered around the new concept of federalism in which the central government's powers would be few and defined. The States would retain all powers not delegated to the central government under a compact among the free, sovereign and independent States. Slavery was a subtitle to the real debate over the nature of the Union as a compact among the states rather than the creation of a national state.
     -- David, Bridge City, Tx     
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    Materialism and greediness of the gain, blind the minds of compassion to protect the neighbors rights to do the same without greed and excess. Necessity is laid upon us all, it is a yoke that need no extra burden as sovereign states and individual. Study to be quite, and work to supply thy need. The open hands are sharing hands, closed hands are contemptuous fighting hands. Know thyself as a sovereign first, then you will know thy neighbor. Choose them wisely, then you will have good representation on all points. Waffler is a plant of discontent ! Well said David, Tx
     -- Ronw13, Yachats Or     
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    The last word indicates that the worst of human character will ruin any form of govt. As a simple follower of Christ I recognize that all human institutions are flawed but the US system has allowed more freedom and the good things that flow thereof than any other system under heaven.
     -- Anonymous, Nashville IN     
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    My Dad had in the attic, a old uniform, never folded or laid down. He use to take naps up there, and think about that hallowed ground. Lost a lot of good men and women and friends. He was a good man, a moderate man. a policing man.
     -- Ronw13, Yachats Or     
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