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John C. 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. 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.
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.
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 indispensible.