previous next

[70]

Chapter 15: publicists and orators, 1800-1850

In America, political theory and political philosophy have always been closely associated with practical politics and with the problems of very immediate interest. The cogent and effective theory of the American Revolution was distinctly part of a determined effort to reach results in civil organization. And so too in the first half of the nineteenth century, a period by no means without its contribution to the philosophy of the state, most of the political theory appeared in speeches and pamphlets directed to the accomplishment of a present and very concrete purpose. The Americans have been charged with incapacity for sustained theorizing, or for prolonged logical discussion; and yet one may safely say that no other people of modern times have so widely used political theory or so generally discussed practical affairs on a theoretical basis. The whole nature of our institutions has prompted men to indulge in argument which was legalistic and was often tinctured with philosophy. Even the unlearned could not speak and think of democracy and its hopes without indulging in visions; they could not discuss the presence of slavery without touching the border of the deepest problems of social order; they could not speak of union or states' rights without entering at least the outer portal of philosophic argument. But we need not look for detached theoretical treatises; the statesman, the politician, and the jurist were busily using such learning as they had and such aptitude for theory as they possessed in the concrete and difficult problems which were begotten by democracy in a country which, to use Calhoun's words, was ‘rapidly—I was about to say fearfully —growing.’ Calhoun himself, a philosopher of real distinction, probably never claimed a higher role than that of statesman;

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
Calhoun, Ky. (Kentucky, United States) (1)

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
John C. Calhoun (1)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
1800 AD (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: