John C. Calhoun and the social contract
Atkinson, Ralph J.
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A review of the scholarly literature on John C. Calhoun reveals that many of the critical questions about his political philosophy are as yet unresolved. One of the most important of these concerns Calhoun's relationship to the social contract theory. The question is a difficult one because Calhoun presents a number of arguments, some showing his clear debt to the traditional contract perspective, and others seeming to indicate an organic approach. To resolve this question - whether or not Calhoun is a contract theorist calls for a clarification of the contract theory as it appears in the Anglo-Saxon and American tradition. This thesis attempts such a clarification by elucidating the basic elements of the contract theory as they appear in Locke's Second Treatise; Locke being selected both for his pre-eminence as a contractarian and his influence on American thought. Using these elements as a standard, we then examine Calhoun's major work, A Disquisition on Government to determine as precisely as possible Calhoun's perspective. It is our conclusion that each of these basic elements of contract theory is present in the Disquisition and thus that Calhoun is not an "organicist" but remains within the contract tradition.