John Caldwell Calhoun (1782 – 1850) was a leading American politician and political theorist from South Carolina during the first half of the 19th century. His leadership in the Federal Senate is most noteworthy. In other words, Calhoun was a major actor in the political history of nineteenth-century America. His dramatic career will always be of interest. However, Calhoun is equally important as a political thinker who continues to elicit widespread interest from the most diverse points of the ideological spectrum. Calhoun is known to posterity as the premier defender of the Old South and slavery and as the theorist of the concurrent majority. His contemporaries knew him as much else, including a political economist and foreign policy authority. As the range of writings shows, he was a valuable and often prophetic commentator.
Dr. Clyde N. Wilson, editor, known as America’s greatest authority on Calhoun, is now retired from his long career in the History Department of the University of South Carolina. Presently, the Director of Historical Review for The Society of Independent Southern Historians, he remains very active in the advocacy of truthful Southern history.
See also our overview of the writings of John C. Calhoun at 20.00.03.
The Essential Calhoun presents a full-fledged selection of speeches and writings taken from the entire forty-year span of Calhoun’s public career and from many varieties of occasions, public and private. For the first time, it is possible to appreciate Calhoun fully and to consider his thought within the compass of a single volume. This 440-page book was compiled by Clyde N. Wilson, editor, and contains a forward by Russell Kirk.
Calhoun’s thought testifies to a deep and abiding concern with moral and ethical issues that confront a government resting on the consent of the people. The fundamental question with which he wrestles in all his works is how to achieve and maintain a proper balance between power and liberty in a democratic society. By providing the most representative compendium of his thought, The Essential Calhoun invites the reader to engage in this exercise of applying the moral imagination realistically to the public business of America. Historians, American studies specialists, economists, and political scientists will find this volume indispensable.
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