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Abstract

Remembered primarily for his radical views on slavery and support for nullification, John C. Calhoun contributed a wealth of political philosophy in the mid-nineteenth century. His interpretation of the Constitution maintained that a negotiation between democracy and mixed government—as opposed to unmediated democracy—was the founders’ ultimate aim. This analysis explores Calhoun’s development of his interpretation of the Constitution in his speech on the presidential veto power, given before the U.S. Senate on February 28, 1842. Particular attention is paid to Calhoun’s rhetorical turn to a “religious republicanism” in order to warn against the dangers of numerical majorities. Although this speech is less studied than some of Calhoun’s other writings, it provides a powerful example of a well-reasoned analysis of government, which, largely because of this appeal to “republican faith,” effectively shifted the course of the debate in which it was given.

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