The annual meeting of the Georgia Political Science Association will include a panel devoted to analyzing an East Georgia State College professor’s recent book. The decision to organize a panel on a recently scholarly book at a professional meeting signifies the importance of the work, as well as the timeliness of the issues contained in the book. The professor, Dr. Lee Cheek, and his new book, Patrick Henry-Onslow Debate: Liberty and Republicanism in American Political Thought, was published by Lexington Books, an internationally-respected publisher, will be featured at the meeting. Dr. Cheek co-edited the volume, which gathers documents on one of the most momentous political debates about the meaning of republican government in the decades before the Civil War.
The debate followed the disputed Election of 1824. After an indecisive electoral college vote, the House of Representatives selected John Quincy Adams as president over the more popular war hero, Andrew Jackson. As a result, John C. Calhoun ended up serving as vice-president under Adams. Neither man was comfortable in this situation as they were political rivals who held philosophically divergent views of American constitutional governance. The emerging personal and philosophical dispute between President Adams and Vice-President Calhoun eventually prompted the two men (and Adams’s political supporters) to take up their pens, using the pseudonyms “Patrick Henry” and “Onslow,” in a public debate over the nature of power and liberty in a constitutional republic. “The great debate,” notes Kevin Gutzman of Western Connecticut State University, “arrayed Calhoun’s Jeffersonian republican vision of constitutionally restrained power and local autonomy against Adams’s neo-Federalist republican vision which called for the positive use of inherent power—a view that would become increasingly compelling to future generations of Americans.” The debate between Vice President John C. Calhoun (‘Onslow’) and President John Quincy Adams or his ally (‘Patrick Henry’) captures the clash between Jeffersonian and Hamiltonian views at a pivotal moment in American history.
While the debate has not received the scholarly attention it deserves, the organization of this panel suggests renewed interest in the debate, as well as its continuing importance to American politics. The annual meeting of the Georgia Political Science Association will take place from 13-15 November in Savannah, Georgia. The panel was organized by Dr. Hans E. Schmeisser of Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College, and will include scholars from around the country
Dr. Cheek is Chair of the Social Sciences and Professor of Political Science at East Georgia State College, in Swainsboro, Georgia. His many publications include Calhoun and Popular Rule (2001) and Order and Legitimacy (2004).