Although John C. Calhoun (1782-1850) remains one of the major figures in American political thought, many of his critics have tried to discredit him as merely a Southern partisan whose ideas were obsolete even during his lifetime. In Calhoun and Popular Rule, H. Lee Cheek, Jr., attempts to correct such misconceptions by presenting Calhoun as an original political thinker who devoted his life to the recovery of a "proper mode of popular rule." He argues that Calhoun had a coherent, systematic view of human nature and society and made a lasting contribution to the theory of constitutionalism and democracy.
Cheek suggests that Calhoun was not a political or philosophical aberration, but an authentic exponent of American constitutionalism. He contends that Calhoun's view of democracy forms part of a philosophy of humankind and politics that has relevance beyond the American experience. Although his idea of popular rule was original, it was also related to earlier attempts in America and elsewhere to limit the power of the majority and protect minority interests. According to Cheek, Calhoun stood in the American political tradition and attempted to rearticulate some of its central elements. He explains Calhoun's idea of the concurrent majority and examines how it has been presented by Calhoun's critics, as well as his followers.
As the first combined evaluation of Calhoun's most important treatises, The Disquisition and The Discourse, this work merges Calhoun's theoretical position with his endeavors to restore the need for popular rule. It also compares Calhoun's ideas with those of other great political thinkers such as Thomas Jefferson and James Madison--while explaining what is truly unique about Calhoun's political thought.
Calhoun's philosophy—his understanding of the need for ethical and political restraint and for institutional means for obtaining concurrence—is still relevant today, especially given the current growing ethnic and cultural conflict of the Western world. Scholars of government, American history, and political thought, as well as those interested in understanding "popular rule" and its theoretical and practical impact on modern American government, will find this groundbreaking work to be of great value.