To the Home Page of the National Humanities Center Web Site National Humanities Center Toolbox Library: Primary Resources in U.S. History and Literature  contact us | site guide | search 
Toolbox Library, primary resources thematically organized with notes and discussion questionsOnline Seminars, professional development seminars for history and literature teachersThe Triumph of Nationalism/The House Dividing, 1815-1850
The Triumph of Nationalism/The House Dividing
Topic: Culture of the Common ManTopic: Cult of DomesticityTopic: ReligionTopic: ExpansionTopic: America in 1850
Topic: Culture of the Common Man
Overview of Triumph of Nationalism
Resource Menu: Culture of the Common Man
Text 1. Andrew Jackson
Text 2. Mark Twain
Text 3. Thomas W. Dorr
Text 4. Mechanics/Workers
Text 5. Richard Allen and David Walker
Text 6. Nathaniel Hawthorne
Text 7. James Fenimore Cooper
Text 8. Ralph Waldo Emerson
Text 9. John C. Calhoun
» Reading Guide
•  Link

Text 10. Walt Whitman

RESOURCE MENU » Reading Guide Link

Reading Guide
9.  John C. Calhoun, excerpt from "A Disquisition on Government," 1851

"But now we are a mob," wrote Emerson in "Self-Reliance." How are we, then, to shape democracy so that majority rule does not become mob rule? This question vexed many in the early part of the nineteenth century, including Cooper, Emerson, Thoreau, Hawthorne, Twain, and Calhoun. To address it, Calhoun framed the concept of a "concurrent majority." He recognized "interest groups" and asserted that a majority within an interest group should have the right to accept or reject a law within its sphere. Strongly recommended. 6 pages.

Discussion questions
  ·  What in Calhoun's view is the relationship between power and liberty?
  ·  How do Calhoun's views of equality and inequality compare with those of Cooper and Jackson?
  ·  How does Calhoun's vision of democracy compare with Jackson's?
  ·  How does the theory of the "concurrent majority" relate to the theory of nullification that Calhoun propounded twenty years earlier when he was Jackson's vice-president?
  ·  For Calhoun, what is the purpose of political power?

» Link

Topic Framing Questions
  •  How did Americans respond to the emergence of a functioning democracy in which the majority of free adult males could vote?
  •  How did Northerners view the purposes of political rights and power?
  •  How did Southerners view them?

Toolbox: The Triumph of Nationalism / The House Dividing
Common Man | Cult of Domesticity | Religion | Expansion | America in 1850

Contact Us | Site Guide | Search

Toolbox Library: Primary Resources in U.S. History and Literature
National Humanities Center
Web site comments and questions, contact:
Copyright © 2002 National Humanities Center. All rights reserved.
Revised: January 2002