Published Humanitas, Volume VI No. 1, 1992-1993

The Essential Calhoun, edited by Clyde N. Wilson. New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers, 1992. 436 pp. $39.95.

Though he served long years as U.S. Representative, Senator, Secretary of War, Secretary of State, and Vice President, John C. Calhoun’s chief importance is as a philosopher of constitutional government. Tragically, his original and prescient thinking has been neglected in the more than 140 years since his death. If his work is treated at all, it is considered part of a sectional defense. Calhoun was concerned, however, with the most fundamental of political issues—the nature of society, the character of the human condition, and the structure of government. He has been libeled by ideologically tainted historians, one of whom called him the “Marx of the master class.” His real purpose was to preserve liberty and prevent government oppression, while giving government the powers necessary to fulfill its functions. He wrote in a bare-bones style completely without the flourishes of nineteenth-century political writing. His major works remind one of Aristotle, yet…

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