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Note to Chapter 90: REMARKS BY MR. DENIS KEARNEY ON “KEARNEYISM IN CALIFORNIA” - Viscount James Bryce, The American Commonwealth, vol. 2 
The American Commonwealth, with an Introduction by Gary L. McDowell (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1995). Vol. 2.
Part of: The American Commonwealth, 2 vols.
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EXPLANATION (BY MR. G. BRADFORD) OF THE NOMINATING MACHINERY AND ITS PROCEDURE IN THE STATE OF MASSACHUSETTS1
Note to Chapter 90
REMARKS BY MR. DENIS KEARNEY ON “KEARNEYISM IN CALIFORNIA”
After the appearance of the first edition of this book I received a letter from Mr. Denis Kearney, taking exception to some of the statements contained in the chapter entitled “Kearneyism in California.” This letter is unfortunately too long to be inserted as a whole; and it does not seem to me seriously to affect the tenor of the statements contained in that chapter, which my Californian informants, on whom I can rely, declare to be quite correct. I have, however, in a few passages slightly modified the text of the former edition; and I give here such extracts from Mr. Kearney’s letter as seem sufficient to let his view of his own conduct be fairly and fully set forth. As he responded to my invitation to state his case, made in reply to his letter of remonstrance, I am anxious that all the justice I can do him should be done.1
Page 431.* “In September, 1877, immediately after the general State, municipal, and congressional elections, I called a meeting of working men and others to discuss publicly the propriety of permanently organizing for the purpose of holding the politicians up to the pledges made to the people before election. . . . I made up my mind that if our civilization—California civilization—was to continue, Chinese immigration must be stopped, and I saw in the people the power to enforce that ‘must.’ Hence the meeting. This meeting resolved itself into a permanent organization, and ‘resoluted’ in favour of a ‘red-hot’ agitation. I was, in spite of my earnest protests, elected President of this new organization, with instructions from the meeting to ‘push the organization’ throughout the city and State without delay. Our aim was to press Congress to take action against the Chinese at its next sitting. . . .”
Page 432.† “True I am not one of the literati, that is to say, a professor of degrees and master of languages, although I can speak more than one. For more than thirty years I have been a great reader and close student of men and measures. No Chronicle reporter ever wrote or dressed up a speech for me. They did the reverse; always made it a point to garble and misrepresent. It was only when the Chronicle saw where it could make a hit that it spread out a speech. To illustrate, if I attacked a monopoly whose rottenness the Chronicle shielded for money, it then would garble and misrepresent that speech; but if I attacked an institution the Chronicle wanted to blackmail, the speech would be given in full once or twice, or they would keep it up until ‘seen.’”
Page 433.‡ (Meeting on Nob Hill.)
“I did not use any such language as is imputed to me. Nob Hill is the centre of the Sixth Ward, and I advertised for the meeting there to organize the Sixth Ward Club. We had bonfires at all our meetings so as to direct the people where to go. . . . No such construction could have been put upon the language used in my speech of that evening. The police authorities had shorthand reporters specially detailed to take down my speeches verbatim. . . . I was not arrested on account of the Nob Hill meeting. I cannot now tell without looking up the matter how many times I was arrested. At last the authorities, finding their efforts to break up the movement of no avail, decided to proclaim the meetings à la Balfour in Ireland.”
Page 435.* “Shortly after the election of the delegates I made a tour of the United States, speaking everywhere to immense audiences and urging that they petition Congress to stop Chinese immigration. . . . My trip was a brilliant success. In less than a year I had succeeded in lifting the Chinese from a local to a great national question. This also disputes the statement that my trip East was a failure.”
Page 441.† (“Since 1880 he has played no part in Californian politics.”)
“This is true to this extent. I stopped agitating after having shown the people their immense power, and how it could be used. The Chinese question was also in a fair way of being solved. The plains of this State were strewn with the festering carcasses of public robbers. I was poor, with a helpless family, and I went to work to provide for their comfort. Common sense would suggest that if I sought office, or the emoluments of office, I could easily have formed combinations to be elected either governor of my State or United States senator.”
Page 436.‡ (“hoodlums and other ragamuffins who formed the first Sand Lot meetings.”)
“It was only when the city authorities, who while persecuting us, either hired all of the halls or frightened their owners or lessees into not allowing us to hire them, that we were driven to the Sand Lots. At these early meetings we sometimes had to raise from $500 to $1000 to carry on the agitation inside and outside the courts. If, then, the audiences were composed of hoodlums and ragamuffins, how could we have raised so much money at a single meeting?”
Page 440.§ “I also dispute some of the statements therein. All of the bills of the first session of the Legislature under the new Constitution were declared unconstitutional by the State Supreme Court on account of the little scheming jokers tucked away in them. The Anti-Chinese Bills that were passed—and all introduced were passed—were declared by the Federal judges as in conflict with the United States Constitution. I advocated the adoption of the new Constitution, and delivered one hundred and thirty speeches in that campaign. The San Francisco papers sent correspondents with me. The very prominence of the questions threw me into the foreground, so that I had to stand the brunt of the battle, and came very near being assassinated for my pains.”
Page 443.* “I don’t quite understand what you mean by the ‘solid classes.’ The money-lenders, land monopolists, and those who were growing rich by importing and employing Chinese labourers were against me, and did all in their power to kill both the movement and myself. . . . My only crime seems to have been that I opposed the Mongolization of my State in the interest of our own people and their civilization. I never received a dollar from public office or private parties for my services. They were gratuitous, and have secured me, I am sure, the esteem of the majority of my fellow-citizens, among whom I am still not without influence.”
The Predictions of Hamilton and de Tocqueville
A student of American institutions who desires to discover what have been the main tendencies ruling and guiding their development, may find that the most dramatic and not the least instructive method of conducting his inquiry is to examine what were the views held, and the predictions delivered, at different points in the growth of the Republic, by acute and well-informed observers. The contemporary views of such men as to the tendencies which prevailed in their own day and the results to be expected from such tendencies have a value that no analysis made by us now, with our present lights, our knowledge of what has actually followed, could possess, because we cannot help reading into the records of the past the results of all subsequent experience.
To do this with any approach to completeness would be a laborious undertaking, for one would have to search through a large number of writings, some of them fugitive writings, in order to gather and present adequate materials for determining the theories and beliefs generally prevalent at any given period. I attempt nothing so ambitious. I desire merely to indicate, by a comparatively simple example, how such a method may be profitably followed, disclaiming any pretensions to have sought to exhaust even the obvious and familiar materials which all students of American history possess.
For this purpose, then, I will take two famous books—the one written at the very birth of the Union by those who watched its cradle, and recording incidentally, and therefore all the more faithfully, the impressions and anticipations of the friends and enemies of the infant Constitution; the other a careful study of its provisions and practical working by a singularly fair and penetrating European philosopher. I choose these books not only because both are specially representative and of rare literary merit, but because they are easily accessible to European readers, who may, by referring to their pages supply the omissions which want of space will compel me to make, and may thereby obtain a more complete and graphic transcript of contemporary opinion. One of these books is the Federalist—a series of letters recommending the new Constitution for adoption to the people of New York, written in 1788 by Hamilton, Madison, and Jay. The other, which falls almost exactly half-way between 1788 and our own time, is the Democracy in America of Alexis de Tocqueville.
The Ideas and Predictions of 1788
I begin by briefly summarizing the record which the Federalist preserves for us of the beliefs of the opponents and advocates of the draft constitution of 1787 regarding the forces then at work in American politics and the probable future of the nation.
To understand those beliefs, however, we must bear in mind what the United States then were, and for that purpose I will attempt to recall the reader’s attention to some of the more salient aspects of the federal Republic at the epoch when its national life began.
In 1783 the last British soldier quitted New York—the last stronghold that was held for King George. In 1787 the present Constitution of the United States was framed by the Convention at Philadelphia and in 1788 accepted by the requisite number of states (nine). In 1789 George Washington entered on his presidency, the first Congress met and the machine began to work.1 It was a memorable year for Europe as well as for America—a year which, even after the lapse of a century, we are scarcely yet ripe for judging, so many sorrows as well as blessings, πολλὰμὲσϑλὰμεσμιγμεν, πολλάδελυγρά, were destined to come upon mankind from those elections of the States-General which were proceeding in France while Washington was being installed at Philadelphia.
All of the thirteen United States lay along the Atlantic coast. Their area was 827,844 square miles, their population 3,929,214, less than the population of Pennsylvania in 1880. Settlers had already begun to cut the woods and build villages beyond the Alleghenies; but when Kentucky was received as a state into the Union in 1792, she had a population of only 73,677 (census of 1790). The population was wholly of English (or Anglo-Scotch) stock, save that a few Dutch were left in New York, a few persons of Swedish blood in Delaware, and some isolated German settlements in Pennsylvania. But in spite of this homogeneity the cohesion of the states was weak. Communication was slow, difficult and costly. The jealousies and suspicions which had almost proved fatal to Washington’s efforts during the War of Independence were still rife. There was some real conflict and a far greater imagined conflict of interests between the trading and the purely agricultural states, even more than between the slave states and those in which slavery had practically died out. Many competent observers doubted whether the new federal Union, accepted only because the Confederation had proved a failure and the attitude of foreign powers was threatening, could maintain itself in the face of the strong sentiment of local independence animating colonies which after throwing off the yoke of Britain, were little inclined to brook any external control. The Constitution was an experiment, or rather a bundle of experiments, whose working there were few data for predicting. It was a compromise, and its very authors feared for it the common fate of compromises—to satisfy neither party and to leave open rents which time would widen. In particular, it seemed most doubtful whether the two branches of the legislature, drawn from so wide an area and elected on different plans, would work harmoniously, and whether general obedience would be yielded to an executive president who must necessarily belong to and seem to represent one particular state and district. Parties did not yet exist, for there was as yet hardly a nation; but within a decade they grew to maturity and ferocity. One of them claimed to defend local self-government, the rights of the people, democratic equality; the other, the principle of national unity and the authority of the federal power. One sympathized with France, the other was accused of leaning to an English alliance. They were, or soon came to be, divided not merely on burning questions of foreign policy and home policy, but also—and this was an issue which mixed itself up with everything else—as to the extent of the powers to be allowed to the central government and its relations to the states—questions which the curt though apparently clear language of the Constitution had by no means exhausted, though by specifying certain powers as granted and certain others as withheld, it had supplied data for legal argument on points not expressly dealt with as well as on the general theory of the Constitution.
Slavery was not yet a leading question—indeed it existed to some slight extent in the Middle as well as in the Southern states, but the opposition of North and South was already visible. The Puritanism of New England, its industries and its maritime commerce gave it different sentiments as well as different interests from those which dominated the inhabitants of the South, a population wholly agricultural, among whom the influence of Jefferson was strong, and doctrines of advanced democracy had made great progress.
There was great diversity of opinion and feeling on all political questions in the America of those days, and the utmost freedom in expressing it. Over against the extreme democrats stood an illustrious group whose leader was currently believed to be a monarchist at heart, and who never concealed his contempt for the ignorance and folly of the crowd. Among these men, and to a less extent among the Jeffersonians also, there existed no small culture and literary power, and though the masses were all orthodox Christians and except in Maryland, orthodox Protestants, there was no lack of scepticism in the highest circles. One may speak of highest circles, for social equality, though rapidly advancing and gladly welcomed, was as yet rather a doctrine than a fact, and the respect for every kind of authority was great. There were neither large fortunes, nor abject poverty; but the working class, then much smaller relatively than it is now, deferred to the middle class, and the middle class to its intellectual chiefs. The clergy were powerful in New England; the great colonial families enjoyed high consideration in New York, in Pennsylvania, and above all in Virginia, whose landowners seemed to reproduce the later feudal society of England. Although all the states were republics of a hue already democratic, every state constitution required a property qualification for the holding of office or a seat in the legislature, and, in most states, a similar condition was imposed even on the exercise of the suffrage. Literary men (other than journalists) were rare, the universities few and unimportant, science scarcely pursued, philosophy absorbed in theology and theology dryly dogmatic. But public life was adorned by many striking figures. Five men at least of that generation, Washington, Hamilton, Franklin, Jefferson and Marshall, belong to the history of the world; and a second rank which included John Adams, Madison, Jay, Patrick Henry, Gouverneur Morris, James Wilson, Albert Gallatin, and several other gifted figures less familiar to Europe, must be mentioned with respect.
Everybody professed the principles of the Declaration of Independence and therefore held a republican form of government to be the only proper, or at any rate the only possible form for the central authority as well as for the states. But of the actual working of republican governments there was very little experience, and of the working of democracies, in our present sense of the word, there was really none at all beyond that of the several states since 1776, when they broke loose from the British Crown. Englishmen and Americans are more likely than Continentals to forget that in 1788 there was in the Old World only one free nation and no democracy.2 In Europe now there remain but two strong monarchies, those of Russia and Prussia, while America, scarcely excepting Brazil and Canada, is entirely (at least in name) republican. But the world of 1788 was a world full of kings—despotic kings—a world which had to go back for its notions of popular government to the commonwealths of classical antiquity. Hence the speculations of those times about the dangers, the merits, the characteristic tendencies and methods of free governments under modern conditions, were and must needs be vague and fanciful, because the materials for a sound induction were wanting. Wise men when forced to speculate, recurred to the general principles of human nature. Ordinary men went off into the air and talked at large, painting a sovereign people as reckless, violent, capricious on the one hand, or virtuous and pacific on the other according to their own predilections, whether selfish or emotional, for authority or for liberty. Though no one has yet written the natural history of the masses as rulers, the hundred years since 1788 have given us materials for such a natural history surpassing those which Hamilton possessed almost as much as the materials at the disposal of Darwin exceeded those of Buffon. Hence in judging the views of the Federalist writers3 and their antagonists, we must expect to find the diagnosis often inexact and the forecast fanciful.
Those who opposed the Constitution of 1787, a party both numerous and influential in nearly every state, were the men specially democratic and also specially conservative. They disliked all strengthening of government, and especially the erection of a central authority. They were satisfied with the system of sovereign and practically independent states. Hence they predicted the following as the consequences to be expected from the creation of an effective federal executive and legislature.4
1. The destruction of the states as commonwealths. The central government, it was said, would gradually encroach upon their powers; would use the federal army to overcome their resistance; would supplant them in the respect of their citizens; would at last absorb them altogether. The phrase “consolidation of the Union,” which had been used by the Convention of 1787 to recommend its draft, was laid hold of as a term of reproach. “Consolidation,” the consolidation of the states into one centralized government became the popular cry, and like other plausible catchwords, carried away the unthinking.
2. The creation of a despot in the person of the president. His legal authority would be so large as not only to tempt him, but to enable him to extend it further, at the expense of the liberties both of states and of people. “Monarchy,” it was argued, “thrown off after such efforts, will in substance return with this copy of King George III, whose command of the federal army, power over appointments, and opportunities for intriguing with foreign powers on the one hand and corrupting the legislature on the other,5 will render the new tyrant more dangerous than the old one. Or if he be more open to avarice than to ambition, he will be the tool of foreign sovereigns and the means whereby they will control or enslave America.”6
3. The Senate will become an oligarchy. Sitting for six years, and not directly elected by the people, it “must gradually acquire a dangerous preeminence in the government, and finally transform it into a tyrannical aristocracy.”7
4. The House of Representatives will also, like every other legislature, aim at supremacy. Elected only once in two years, it will forget its duty to the people. It will consist of “the wealthy and well-born,” and will try to secure the election of such persons only as its members.8
5. The larger states will use the greater weight in the government which the federal constitution gives them to overbear the smaller.
6. The existence of a strong central government is likely, not only by multiplying the occasions of diplomatic intercourse with foreign powers, to give openings for intrigues by them dangerous to American freedom, but also to provoke foreign wars, in which the republic will perish if defeated, or if victorious, maintain herself only by vast expenditure, with the additional evil of having created an army dangerous to freedom.
That some of these anticipations were inconsistent with others of them was no reason why the same persons should not resort to both in argument. Anyone who wishes to add to the number, for I have quoted but a few, being those which turn upon the main outlines of the Philadelphia draft, may do so by referring to the record of the discussions in the several state conventions which deliberated on the new Constitution, known as Elliott’s Debates.
I pass from the opponents of the Constitution to its advocates. Hamilton and its friends sought in it a remedy against what they deemed the characteristic dangers of popular government. It is by dwelling on these dangers that they recommend it. We can perceive, however, that, while lauding its remedial power, they are aware how deep-seated such dangers are, and how likely to recur even after the adoption of the Constitution. It is plain from the language which Hamilton held in private that he desired a stronger and more centralized government, which would have approached nearer to that British Constitution which he regarded as being, with all its defects, the best model for free nations.9 And in a remarkable letter written in February 1802, under the influence of disappointment with the course events were then taking, he calls the Constitution he was “still labouring to prop” a “frail and worthless fabric.”
We may therefore legitimately treat his list of evils to be provided against by the new federal government as indicating the permanently mischievous tendencies which he foresaw. Some of them, he is obliged to admit, can not be wholly averted by any constitutional devices, but only by the watchful intelligence and educated virtue of the people.
The evils chiefly feared are the following:
Not less instructive than the fears of the Federalist writers are their hopes. Some of the perils which have since disclosed themselves are not divined. Some institutions which have conspicuously failed are relied on as full of promise.
The method of choosing the president is recommended with a confidence the more remarkable because it was the point on which the Convention had been most divided and had last arrived at an agreement.
“The mode of appointment of the Chief Magistrate of the United States is almost the only part of the system, of any consequence, which has escaped without severe censure, or which has received the slightest mark of approbation from its opponents. . . . If the manner of it be not perfect, it is at least excellent. It unites in an eminent degree all the advantages the union of which was to be wished for. . . . The process of election affords a moral certainty that the office of President will never fall to the lot of anyone who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications. Talents for low intrigue, and the little arts of popularity may alone suffice to elevate a man to the first honors in a single State, but it will require other talents and a different kind of merit to establish him in the confidence and esteem of the whole Union, or of so considerable a portion of it as would be necessary to make him a successful candidate for the distinguished office of President of the United States. It will not be too strong to say that there will be a constant probability of seeing the station filled by characters preeminent for ability and virtue.”17
It is assumed that America will continue an agricultural and (to a less extent) a commercial country, but that she will not develop manufactures; and also that the fortunes of her citizens will continue to be small.18 No serious apprehensions regarding the influence of wealth in elections or in politics generally are expressed.
The contingency of a division of the states into two antagonistic groups is not contemplated. When the possibility of state combinations is touched on, it is chiefly with reference to the action of small and of large states respectively. In particular no hint is dropped as to the likelihood of the institution of slavery becoming a bond to unite the Southern states and a cause of quarrel between them and the Northern.19
Although the mischiefs of faction are dwelt on, nothing indicates that its embodiment in highly developed party systems, whose organizations might overshadow the legal government, had occurred to anyone’s mind. Still less, of course, is there any anticipation of the influence to be exerted on politics by the distribution of offices.
Let us now see which of these views and forecasts have been verified by the event.
Of those put forth by the opponents of the Constitution not one has proved true. The states are still strong, the president is not a despot, though for a time during the war he came near being one, nor has he ever fallen under the influence of any European power. The House does not consist of the “wealthy and well born”; the large states do not combine against nor press hardly on the smaller; no great country has so few wars or indeed foreign complications of any kind. Although persons are still found who call the Senate “an oligarchy,” they only state the undeniable fact that it consists of comparatively few persons, most of them wealthy, and that it has a strong corporate feeling in favor of the personal interests of each of its members. It is really as dependent on public opinion as the House, perhaps even more afraid of public opinion, and almost as directly the offspring of popular election. One is in fact surprised to find that of the many arrows of accusation levelled at the Constitution, all should have flown wide of the mark.
The deeper insight and more exact thinking of Hamilton and Madison fastened upon most of the real and permanent weaknesses in popular government. Yet even they could not foresee the particular forms which those weaknesses would assume in the new nation. To examine in detail the eight points specified above would involve an examination of the whole of recent American history. I shall therefore simply indicate in a word or two the extent to which, in each case, the predictions of the Federalist may be deemed correct or the reverse.
1. The spirit of faction has certainly, as Madison expected, proved less intense over the large area of the Union than it did in the Greek republics of antiquity or in the several states from 1776 to 1789. On the other hand, the bonds of sympathy created by the federal system have at times enabled one state to infect another with its own vehemence. But for South Carolina, there would have been no secession in 1861. Today the “demon of faction” is less powerful in the parties than at any previous date since the so-called “Era of Good Feeling” in 1820.
2. Sudden popular impulses there have been. But finding a ready and constitutional expression in elections, they do not lead to physical violence, while the elaborate system of checks seldom allows them to result in dangerous federal legislation. In the states the risk of bad laws is greater, but it is largely averted by the provisions of the federal Constitution as well as by gubernatorial vetoes and the restrictions of recent state constitutions.
3. The early history of the Union furnishes illustrations of feebleness and inconstancy in foreign policy, yet not greater than those which mark most monarchies. Royal caprice, or the influence of successive favorites, has proved more pernicious in absolute monarchies than popular fickleness in republics. That of late years the foreign policy of the United States has been singularly consistent is due not so much to the Senate, nor even to the good sense of the people, as to the fact that the position and interests of the nation prescribe certain broad and simple lines.
4. On public matters, at least, Congress has not been prone to waste or excess in legislation. At present, it is more blameable for what it neglects or postpones than for what it enacts. The censure is more true of the states, especially the newer Western states.
5. The House of Representatives has doubtless sought to extend its sway at the expense of other departments. Whether it has succeeded is a question on which good observers in America itself differ; but the fact of their differing proves that the encroachments have not been considerable. Whenever the president is weak or unpopular, Congress seems to be gaining on the executive chief. When the latter is presumably strong, he can keep the legislature at bay.
6. In the struggle which never quite ceases, though it is often scarcely noticed, between the states and the federal government, the states have rather lost than gained ground. Nor are the larger states more practically formidable than the small ones. No state would now venture to brave the federal judiciary as Georgia did, and did successfully, in the disgraceful case of the Cherokee Indians.
7. As regards the so-called tyranny of the majority, a question too large to be fully examined here, I must be content to remark that it has not hitherto proved a serious evil in America. This, however, is due rather to the character and habits of the people and their institutions generally than to the mere extent and population of the Union, on which the Federalist writers relied.
8. There is some foolish Congressional legislation, and, of course, much more foolish state legislation. But property is secure and the sense of civic duty seems, on the whole, to be improving.
It will appear from this examination and from the fact (noted a few pages back) that some remarkable developments which political life has taken never crossed the minds of the authors of the Federalist, that these wisest men of their time did not foresee what strike us now as the specially characteristic virtues and faults of American democracy. Neither the Spoils System nor the system of party nominations by wire-pullers crossed their minds. They did not foresee the inordinate multiplication of elections, nor the evils of confining eligibility for a seat in the legislature to a person resident in the electing district. No student of history will deem that this detracts from their greatness, for history teaches more plainly than the vanity of predictions in the realm of what we call the moral and political sciences, in religion, in ethics, in sociology, in government and politics. Deep thinkers help us when they unfold those permanent truths of human nature which come everywhere into play. Historians help us when, by interpreting the past, they demonstrate what are the tendencies that have so prevailed in recent years as to create the present. Observers keen enough to read the mind of the present generation may help us by rendering it probable that those tendencies, or some new ones just appearing, will be ruling factors in the near future. But beyond the near future—that is to say, beyond the lifetime of the generation which already holds power—no true philosopher will venture. He may indulge his fancy in picturing the details of the remoter landscape; but he knows that it is a region fit for fancy, not for science. In the works of great thinkers there are to be found some happy guesses about times to come; but these are few, indeed, compared with the prophecies whose worthlessness was so soon revealed that men forgot they had ever been made, or the dreams which, like those of Dante, idealized an impossible future from an irrevocable past.
As regards the views of Hamilton and Madison, who, be it remembered, do not present themselves as prophets but as the censors of present evils, it may be added that the Constitution which they framed and carried checked some of these very evils (e.g., the unjust lawmaking and reckless currency experiments of the state legislatures); and that it was obviously impossible till the federal government began to work to say how the existing forces could adapt themselves to it. Hamilton remarks in one of his letters that he holds with Montesquieu that a nation’s form of government ought to be fitted to it as a suit of clothes is fitted to its wearer.20 He would doubtless have added that it was difficult to make sure of the fit until the coat had been tried on.
The causes, moreover, which have affected the political growth of America are largely causes which were in 1788 altogether beyond human ken: the cotton gin, steam communications, Irish and German immigration have been supreme factors in that history; but even the first of these had not risen over the horizon in that year, and the last did not become a potent factor till half way through the present century.21 What the sages of the Convention show us, are certain tendencies they discern in the contemporaries, viz.:
That each of these tendencies then existed and might have been expected to work for evil, admits of no doubt. But if we ask American history what it has to say about their subsequent course, the answer will be that the second and third tendencies have declined, and do not at present menace the public welfare, while the first, though never absent and always liable to marked recrudescence, as the annals of the several states prove, has done little harm in the sphere of national government. As to the fourth, which Hamilton seems to have chiefly feared, it ultimately took the form not of a general centrifugal force, impelling each state to fly off from the system, but of a scheme for the separation of the Southern or slaveholding states into a separate Confederacy, and in this form it received, in 1865, a crushing and apparently final defeat.22
Tocqueville and His Book
Fifty-one years after the recognition of the independence of the United States, fifty-three years before the present year, Alexis de Tocqueville published his Democracy in America, one of the few treatises on the philosophy of politics which has risen to the rank of a classic. His book, therefore, stands half way between our own days and those first days of the Republic which we know from the writings of the Fathers, of Washington, Hamilton, Jefferson, Adams, Madison. It offers a means of measuring the changes that had passed on the country during the half century from the birth of the Union to the visit of its most famous European critic, and again from the days of that critic to our own.
It is a classic, and because it is a classic one may venture to canvas it freely, without the fear of seeming to detract from the fame of its author. The more one reads Tocqueville, the more admiration does one feel for his acuteness, for the delicacy of his analysis, for the elegant precision of his reasonings, for the limpid purity of his style; above all for his love of truth and the elevation of his views. He is not only urbane, but judicial; not only noble, but edifying. There is perhaps no book of the generation to which he belonged which contains more solid wisdom in a more attractive dress.
We have here, however, to regard the treatise not merely as a model of art and a storehouse of ethical maxims, but as a picture and criticism of the government and people of the United States. And before using it as evidence of their condition fifty years ago, some observations must be made as to the reliance we may place upon it.
The first observation is that not only are its descriptions of democracy as displayed in America no longer true in many points, but that in certain points they were never true. That is to say, some were true of America, but not of democracy in general, while others were true of democracy in general but not true of America. It is worth while to attempt to indicate the causes of such errors as may be discovered in his picture, because they are errors which everyone who approaches a similar task has to guard against. Tocqueville is not much read in the United States, where the scientific, historical, and philosophical study of the institutions of the country, apart from the legal study of the Constitution, is of quite recent growth. He is less read than formerly in England and even in France. But his views of the American government and people have so passed into the texture of our thoughts that we cannot shake off his influence, and in order to profit by it are bound to submit his conclusions and predictions to a searching though respectful examination.
The defects of the book are due to three causes. He had a strong and penetrating intellect, but it moved by preference in the a priori or deductive path, and his power of observation, quick and active as it was, did not lead but followed the march of his reasonings. It will be found, when his method is closely observed, that the facts he cites are rather the illustrations than the sources of his conclusions. He had studied America carefully and thoroughly. But he wanted the necessary preparation for that study. His knowledge of England, while remarkable in a foreigner, was not sufficient to show him how much in American institutions is really English, and explainable only from English sources.
He wrote about America, and meant to describe it fully and faithfully. But his heart was in France, and the thought of France, never absent from him, unconsciously colored every picture he drew. It made him think things abnormal which are merely un-French; it made him attach undue importance to phenomena which seemed to explain French events or supply a warning against French dangers.
He reveals his method in the introduction to his book. He draws a fancy sketch of a democratic people, based on a few general principles, passes to the condition of France, and then proceeds to tell us that in Amercia he went to seek the type of democracy—democracy pure and simple—in its normal shape. “J’avoue que dans l’Amérique, j’ai vu plus que l’Amérique: j’y ai cherché une image de la démocratie elle-même, de ses penchants, de son caractère, de ses préjugés, de ses passions.”
Like Plato in the Republic, he begins by imagining that there exists somewhere a type or pattern of democracy, and as the American Republic comes nearest to this pattern, he selects it for examination. He is aware, of course, that there must be in every country and people many features peculiar to the country which reappear in its government, and repeatedly observes that this or that is peculiar to America, and must not be taken as necessarily or generally true of other democracies. But in practice he underrates the purely local and special features of America, and often, forgetting his own scientific cautions, treats it as a norm for democracy in general. Nor does he, after finding his norm, proceed simply to examine its facts and draw inferences from them. In many chapters he begins by laying down one or two large principles, he develops conclusions from them, and then he points out that the phenomena of America conform to these conclusions. Instead of drawing the character of democracy from the aspects it presents in America, he arrives at its character a priori, and uses those aspects only to point and enforce propositions he has already reached. It is not democracy in America he describes, but democracy illustrated from America. He is admirably honest, never conceding or consciously evading a fact which he perceives might tell against his theories. But being already prepossessed by certain abstract principles, facts do not fall on his mind like seeds on virgin soil. He is struck by those which accord with, he is apt to ignore those which diverge from his preconceptions. Like all a priori reasoners, he is peculiarly exposed to the danger of pressing a principle too far, of seeking to explain a phenomenon by one principle only when it is perhaps the result of an accidental concurrence of several minor causes. The scholasticism we observe in him is due partly to this deductive habit, partly to his want of familiarity with the actualities of politics. An instance of it appears in his tendency to overestimate the value of constitutional powers and devices, and to forget how often they are modified, almost reversed in practice by the habits of those who use them. Though no one has more judiciously warned us to look to the actual working of institutions and the ideas of the men who work them rather than to their letter, he has himself failed to observe that the American Constitution tends to vary in working from its legal theory, and the name legislature has prevented him, like so many other foreign observers, from seeing in the English Parliament an executive as well as a lawmaking body.
In saying that he did not know England, I fully admit that his knowledge of that great free government was far beyond the knowledge of most cultivated foreigners. He had studied its history, had lived among and learnt the sentiments of its aristocracy. But he had little experience of the ideas and habits of the middle class, whom the Americans then more resembled, and he was not familiar—as how could a stranger be?—with the details of English politics and the working of the English courts. Hence he has failed to grasp the substantial identity of the American people with the English. He perceives that there are many and close resemblances, and traces much that is American to an English source. He has seen and described with perfect justness and clearness the mental habits of the English and American lawyer as contrasted with those of the French lawyer. But he has not grasped, as perhaps no one but an Englishman or an American can grasp, the truth that the American people is the English people, modified in some directions by the circumstances of its colonial life and its more popular government, but in essentials the same. Hence much which is merely English appears to Tocqueville to be American or democratic. The functions of the judges, for instance, in expounding the Constitution (whether of the federation or of a state) and disregarding a statute which conflicts therewith, the responsibility of an official to the ordinary courts of the land, the coexistence of laws of a higher and lower degree of authority, seem to him to be novel and brilliant inventions instead of mere instances of general doctrines of English law, adapted to the circumstances of a colony, dependent on a home government or a state partially subordinated to a federal government. The absence of what the French call “administration” and the disposition to leave people to themselves which strike him, would not surprise an Englishman accustomed to the like freedom. Much that he remarks in the mental habits of the ordinary American, his latent conservatism for instance, his indifference to amusement as compared with material comfort, his commercial eagerness and tendency to take a commercial view of all things, might have been just as well remarked of the ordinary middle-class Englishman, and has nothing to do with a democratic government. Other features which he ascribes to this last named cause, such as habits of easy social intercourse, the disposition to prize certain particular virtues, the readiness to give mutual help, are equally attributable to the conditions of life that existed among settlers in a wild country where few persons were raised by birth or wealth above their fellows, and everyone had need of the aid of others—conditions whose results remain in the temper of the people even when the community has passed into another phase, a phase in which inequalities of wealth have already begun to be marked, and temptations have appeared which did not beset the Puritans of the seventeenth century.
It is no reproach to Tocqueville that France formed to him the background of every picture whose foreground was the New World. He tells us frankly in the introduction that the phenomena of social equality, as they existed in France, and the political consequences to be expected from them, filled his mind when he examined the institutions of America; he hoped to find there lessons by which France might profit: “J’ai voulu y trouver des enseignements dont nous puissions profiter.” But with this purpose before him, he could hardly avoid laying too much stress on points which seemed to have instruction for his own countrymen, and from fancying those things to be peculiar and abnormal which stood contrasted with the circumstances of France. Tocqueville is, perhaps of all eminent French writers, the least prone to assume the ways and ideas of his own country to be the rule, and those of another country the exception; yet even in him the tendency lurks. There is no more than a trace of it in his surprise at the American habit of using without abusing political associations, and at the disposition of legislatures to try experiments in legislation, a disposition which struck him chiefly by its contrast with the immutability which the Code of the First Empire seemed to have stamped upon the private law of France.
But this constant great reference to France goes deeper than the political philosophy of the book. It determines its scope and aim. The Democracy in America is not so much a political study as a work of edification. It is a warning to France of the need to adjust her political institutions to her social condition, and above all to improve the tone of her politics, to create a moral and religious basis for her national life, to erect a new fabric of social doctrine, in the place of that which, already crumbling, the Revolution had overthrown. We must not, therefore, expect to find in him a complete description and criticism such as a German would have given of the government of America in all its details and aspects. To observe this is not to complain of the book. What he has produced is more artistic, and possibly more impressive than such a description would have been, as a landscape gives a juster notion of scenery than a map. His book is permanently valuable, because its reflections and exhortations are applicable, not merely to the Frenchmen of fifty years ago, but to mankind generally, since they touch upon failings and dangers permanently inherent to political society. Let it only be remembered that in spite of its scientific form, it is really a work of art rather than a work of science, and a work suffused with strong, though carefully repressed emotion.
The best illustration I can give of these tendencies of Tocqueville will be found in a comparison of the first part of his work, published in 1834, and now included in the first and second volumes of recent editions with the second part published in 1840, and now forming the third volume. In the first part the author keeps close to his facts. Even when he has set out on the a priori road, he speedily brings his theory to the test of American phenomena: they give substance to, and (so to speak) steady the theory, while the theory connects and illumines them. But in the second part (third volume) he soars far from the ground and is often lost in the clouds of his own sombre meditation. When this part was written, the direct impressions of his transatlantic visit had begun to fade from his mind. With all his finesses and fertility, he had neither sufficient profundity of thought nor a sufficient ample store of facts gathered from history at large to enable him to give body and substance to his reflections on the obscure problems wherewith he attempts to deal.23 Hence, this part of the book is not so much a study of American democracy as a series of ingenious and fine-spun abstract speculations on the features and results of equality on modern society and thought, speculations which, though they have been singled out for admiration by some high judges, such as Ampère and Laboulaye, will appear to most readers over fanciful, over confident in their effort to construct a general theory applicable to the infinitely diversified facts of human society, and occasionally monotonous in their repetition of distinctions without differences and generalities too vague, perhaps too hollow, for practical use.
How far do these defects of Tocqueville’s work affect its value for our present purpose, that of discovering from it what was the condition, political, social, intellectual, of the United States in 1833 and what the forces that were then at work in determining the march of the nation and the development of its institutions?
It is but slightly that they impair its worth as a record of facts. Tocqueville is so careful and so unprejudiced an observer that I doubt if there be a single remark of his which can be dismissed as simply erroneous. There is always some basis for every statement he makes. But the basis is occasionally too small for the superstructure of inference, speculation and prediction which he rears upon it. To borrow an illustration from chemistry, his analysis is always right so far as it is qualitative, often wrong where it attempts to be quantitative. The fact is there, but it is perhaps a smaller fact than he thinks, or a transient fact, or a fact whose importance is, or shortly will be, diminished by other facts which he has not adequately recognized.
When we pass from description to argument he is a less safe guide. By the light of subsequent experience we can perceive that he mistook transitory for permanent causes. Many of the phenomena which he ascribes to democracy were due only to the fact that large fortunes had not yet grown up in America, others to the absence, in most parts of the country, of that higher education and culture which comes with wealth, leisure, and the settlement of society. I have already observed that he sometimes supposes features of American politics to be novel and democratic which are really old and English, that he does not allow sufficiently for the imprint which colonial life had left on the habits and ideas of the people, an imprint which though it partly wears off with time, partly becomes transformed into something which, while you may call it democratic, remains different from the democracy of an old European country, and is not an index to the character of democracy in general.
It need hardly be said that the worth of a book like his is not to be measured by the number of flaws which a minute criticism can discover in it. Even a sovereign genius like Aristotle cannot be expected to foresee which of the influences he discerns will retain their potency: it is enough if his view is more piercing and more comprehensive than that of his greatest contemporaries; if his record shows the high water mark of the learning and philosophy of the time. Had history falsified far more of Tocqueville’s predictions than she has done, his work would still remain eminently suggestive and stimulating. And it is edificatory not merely because it contains precepts instinct with the loftiest morality. It is a model of that spirit of fairness and justice, that love of pure truth which is conspicuously necessary and not less conspicuously difficult in the discussion, even the abstract discussion, of the problems of political philosophy.
Tocqueville’s View of the United States
Before we examine the picture of the social and political phenomena of America which Tocqueville has drawn, let us see what were the chief changes that had passed on the territory of the Union, on its material resources, on the habits and ideas of the people during the forty-six years that elapsed from the publication of the Federalist to that of the Democracy in America.
The territory of the United States had been extended to include the whole valley of the Mississippi, while to the northwest it stretched across the Rocky Mountains as far as the Pacific. All beyond the Missouri was still wilderness, much of it wholly unexplored, but to the east of the Mississippi there were now twenty-four states with an area of 2,059,043 square miles and a population of fourteen million. The new Western states, though rapidly increasing, were still so raw as to exercise little influence on the balance of national power, which vibrated between the free Northern and the Southern slave states. Slavery was not an immediately menacing question, for the first wound it made had been skinned over, so to speak, by the Missouri Compromise of 1820, but it was evidently pregnant with future trouble, for the number of slaves was rapidly increasing, and the slaveholders were already resolved to retain their political influence by the creation of new slave states. The great Federalist party had vanished, and the Republican-Democratic party, which had triumphed over it, had just been split up into several bitterly hostile factions. Questions of foreign policy were no longer urgent, for Europe had ceased to menace America, who had now no neighbors on her own continent except the British Crown on the north and the Mexican Republic on the south. The protective tariff and the existence of the United States Bank were the questions most agitated, but the main dividing party lines were still those which connected themselves with the stricter or looser interpretation of the federal Constitution—that is to say, they were questions as to the extent of federal power on the one hand, of the rights of the states on the other. New England was still Puritan and commercial, with a bias towards protection, the South still agricultural, and in favor of free trade. The rule of the masses had made its greatest strides in New York, the first among the other states which introduced the new methods of party organization and which thoroughly democratized in (1846) her constitution. Everywhere property qualifications for office or the electoral franchise were being abolished, and even the judges formerly nominated by the state governor or chosen by the state legislature, were beginning to be elected by universal popular suffrage and for terms of years. In fact a great democratic wave was passing over the country, sweeping away the old landmarks, destroying the respect for authority, casting office and power more and more into the hands of the humbler classes, and causing the withdrawal from public life of men of education and refinement. State feeling was still strong, especially in the South, and perhaps stronger than national feeling, but the activity of commerce and the westward movement of population were breaking down the old local exclusiveness, and those who saw steamboats plying on the Hudson and heard that locomotive engines were beginning to be run in England, might have foreseen that the creation of more easy, cheap, and rapid communications would bind the sections of the country together with a new and irresistible power. The time was one of great commercial activity and great apparent prosperity; but large fortunes were still few, while in the general pursuit of material objects science, learning, and literature had fallen into the background. Emerson was still a young Unitarian minister, known only to the circle of his own friends. Channing was just rising into note; Longfellow and Hawthorne, Prescott and Ticknor had not begun to write. Washington Irving was probably the only author whose name had reached Europe. How disagreeable the manners of ordinary people (for one must of course except the cultivated circles of Boston and Philadelphia) seemed to the European visitor may be gathered from the diaries of Richard Cobden and Sir Charles Lyell, who travelled in America a year or two after Tocqueville. There was a good deal of ability among the ruling generation of statesmen—the generation of 1787 was just dying out with Madison—but only three names can be said to have survived in the world’s memory, the names of three party leaders who were also great orators, Clay, Calhoun, and Webster.24
In those days America was a month from Europe and comparatively little affected by Europe. Her people walked in a vain conceit of their own greatness and freedom, and scorned instruction from the effete monarchies of the Old World, which in turn repaid them with contemptuous indifference. Neither continent had realized how closely its fortunes were to be interwoven with those of the other by trade and the movements of population. No wheat, no cattle were sent across the Atlantic nor had the flow of immigration from Ireland, much less from Germany, as yet begun.
The United States of 1834 had made enormous advances in material prosperity from those of 1789. They had become a great nation, and could become a great power as soon as they cared to spend money on fleets and armies. Their federal government had stood the test of time and of not a few storms. Its component parts knew their respective functions, and worked with less friction than might have been expected. The sense of national unity, powerfully stimulated by the war of 1812,25 was still growing. But the level of public life had not risen. It was now rather below than above that of average private society. Even in the realm of morality there were strange contrasts. A puritan strictness in some departments of conduct and a universal recognition of the sanctions of religion coexisted in the North with great commercial laxity, while the semi-civilized South, not less religious and valuing itself on its high code of honor, was disgraced by the tolerance accorded to duels and acts of murderous violence, not to speak of the darker evils which slavery brought in its train. As respects the government of states and cities, democratic doctrines had triumphed all along the line. The masses of the people had now realized their power, and entered into the full fruition of it.26 They had unlimited confidence in their wisdom and virtue, and had not yet discovered the dangers incidental to popular government. The wise elders, or the philosophic minds who looked on with distrust, were either afraid to speak out, or deemed it hopeless to stem the flowing tide. They stood aside (as Plato says) under the wall out of the storm. The party organizations had just begun to spread their tough yet flexible network over the whole country; and the class of professional politicians, at once the creator and the creature of such organizations, was already formed. The spoils of office had, three years before, been proclaimed to belong to the victors, but few saw to what consequences this doctrine was to lead. I will not say that it ws a period of transition, for that is true of every period in America, so fast do events move even in the quietest times. But it was a period when that which had been democratic theory was passing swiftly into democratic practice, when the seeds sown long ago by Jefferson had ripened into a waving crop, when the forces which in every society react against extreme democracy were unusually weak, some not yet developed, some afraid to resist the stream.
Let us see what were the impressions which the America of 1832 made on the mind of Tocqueville. I do not pretend to summarize his account, which every student ought to read for himself, but shall be content with presenting those more salient points to which our comparison of 1832 with 1788 on the one hand, and 1887 on the other, relates.
He is struck by the thoroughness with which the principle of the sovereignty of the people is carried out. Fifty-five years ago this principle was far from having obtained its present ascendancy in Western Europe. In America, however, it was not merely recognized in theory, but consistently applied through every branch of local, state, and national government.
He is impressed by the greater importance to ordinary citizens of state government than of federal government, and their warmer attachment to the former than to the latter. The federal government seems comparatively weak, and in case of a conflict between the two powers, the loyalty of the people would be given rather to the state.27
The basis of all American government is to be found in the “commune,” i.e., in local government, the ultimate unit of which is in New England the township, in the Southern and Middle states the county. It is here that the bulk of the work of administration is done, here that the citizens learn how to use and love freedom, here that the wonderful activity they display in public affairs finds its chief sphere and its constant stimulus.
The absence of what a European calls “the administration” is remarkable. Public work is divided up between a multitude of petty and unrelated local officials: there is no “hierarchy,” no organized civil service with a subordination of ranks. The means employed to keep officials to their work and punish offences are two: frequent popular election and the powers of invoking the ordinary courts of justice to obtain damages for negligence or unwarranted action. But along with the extreme “administrative decentralization” there exists a no less extreme “governmental centralization,” that is to say, all the powers of government are collected into one hand, that of the people, the majority of the voters. This majority is omnipotent; and thus authority is strong, capable of great efforts, capable also of tyranny. Hence the value of local self-government which prevents the abuse of power by a central authority; hence the necessity for this administrative decentralization, which atones for its want of skill in details by the wholesome influence it exerts on the character of the people.
The judges enjoy along with the dignity of their European brethren the singular but most salutary power of “declaring laws to be unconstitutional,” and thus serve to restrain excesses of legislative as well as executive authority.
The president appears to our author to be a comparatively weak official. No person, no group, no party, has much to hope from the success of a particular candidate at a presidential election, because he has not much to give away. The elective system unduly weakens executive authority because a president who approaches the end of his four years’ term feels himself feeble, and dares not take any bold step; while the coming in of a new president may cause a complete change of policy. His reeligibility further weakens and abases him, for he must purchase reelection by intrigue and an unworthy pandering to the desires of his party. It intensifies the characteristic fault of democratic government, the predominance of a temporary majority.
The federal Supreme Court is the noblest product of the wisdom of those who framed the federal Constitution. It keeps the whole machine in working order, protecting the Union against the states, and each part of the federal government against the aggressions of the others. The strength of the federation, naturally a weak form of government, lies in the direct authority which the federal courts have over the individual citizen; while their action, even against a state, is less offensive than might be expected because they do not directly attach its statutes, but merely, at the instance of an individual plaintiff or defendant, secure rights which those statutes may have infringed.
The federal Constitution is much superior to the state constitutions; the federal legislature, executive, and judiciary, are all of them more independent of the popular majority, and freer in their action than the corresponding authorities in the several states. Similarly the federal government is better than those of the states, wiser, more skilful, more consistent, more firm.
The day of great parties is past. There is now a feverish agitation of small parties and a constant effort to create parties, to grasp at some principle or watchward under which men may group themselves, probably for selfish ends. Self-interest is at the bottom of the parties, yet aristocratic or democratic sentiment attaches itself to each of them, that is to say, when a practical issue arises, the old antithesis of faith in the masses and distrust of the masses reappears in the view which men and parties take of it. The rich mix little in politics. Secretly disgusted at the predominance of the crowd, they treat their shoemaker as an equal when they meet him on the street, but in the luxury of their own homes lament the vulgarity of public life and predict a bad end for democracy.
Next to the people, the greatest power in the country is the press; yet it is less powerful than in France, because the number of journals is so prodigious, because they are so poorly written, because there is no centre like Paris. Advertisements and general news occupy far more of their space than does political argument, and in the midst of a din of opposing voices, the ordinary citizen retains his dull fixity of opinion, the prejudices of his sect or party.
A European is surprised, not only by the number of voluntary associations aiming at public objects, but at the tolerance which the law accords to them. They are immensely active and powerful, and do not threaten public security as they would in France, because they admit themselves, by the very fact of their existence, to represent a minority of voters, and seek to prevail by force of argument and not of arms.
Universal suffrage, while it gives admirable stability to the government, does not, as people in Europe expect that it will, bring the best men to the top. On the contrary, the governors are inferior to the governed,28 the best men do not seek either office or a seat in the House of Representatives, and the people, without positively hating the “upper classes” does not like them; and carefully keeps them out of power. “Il ne craint point les grands talents, mais il les goûte peu.”
The striking inferiority of the House to the Senate is due to the fact that the latter is a product of double election, and it is to double election that democracies must come if they will avoid the evils inseparable from placing political functions in the hands of every class of the people.29
American magistrates are allowed a wider arbitrary discretion than is common in Europe, because they are more constantly watched by the sovereign people, and are more absolutely at its mercy.30
Every office is, in America, a salaried office; nothing can be more conformable to the spirit of a democracy. The minor offices are, relatively to Europe, well paid, the higher ones ill paid. Nobody wears any dress or displays any insignia of office.31
Administration has both an unstable and an unscientific character. Few records are kept of the acts of departments, little information is accumulated, even original documents are neglected. Tocqueville was sometimes given such documents in answer to his queries, and told that he might keep them. The conduct of public business is a hand to mouth, rule of thumb sort of affair.32
Not less instability reigns in the field of legislation. Laws are being constantly changed; nothing remains fixed or certain.33
It is a mistake to suppose that democratic governments are specially economical. They are parsimonious in salaries, at least to the higher officials, but they spend freely on objects beneficial to the mass of the people, such as education, while the want of financial skill involves a good deal of waste. You must not expect economy where those who pay the bulk of the taxes are a mere fraction of those who direct their expenditure. If ever America finds herself among dangers, her taxation will be as heavy as that of the European monarchies.
There is little bribery of voters, but many charges against the integrity of politicians. Now the corruption of the governors is worse than that of the governed, for it lowers the tone of public morals by presenting the spectacle of prosperous turpitude.
The American democracy is self-indulgent and self-complacent, slow to recognize, still more slow to correct, its faults. But it has the unequalled good fortune of being able to commit reparable faults, of sinning with impunity (la faculté de faire des fautes reparables).
It is eminently ill-fitted to conduct foreign policy. Fortunately it has none.
The benefits which American society derives from its democratic government are summed up as follows:
As the majority make the laws, their general tendency, in spite of many errors in detail, is to benefit the majority, because though the means may sometimes be ill chosen, the end is always the same. Hence the country prospers.
Everyone is interested in the welfare of the country, because his own welfare is bound up with it. This patriotism may be only an enlarged egotism, but it is powerful nevertheless, for it is a permanent sentiment, independent of transient enthusiasms. Its character appears in the childish intolerance of criticism which the people display. They will not permit you to find fault with any one of their institutions or habits, not even if you praise all the rest.34
There is a profound respect for every political right, and therefore for every magistrate, and for the authority of the law, which is the work of the people themselves. If there be exceptions to this respect, they are to be found among the rich, who fear that the law may be made or used to their detriment.
The infinite and incessant activity of public life, the responsibilities it casts on the citizen, the sense of his importance which it gives him, have stimulated his whole nature, made him enterprising in all private affairs also. Hence, in great measure, the industrial prosperity of the country. Democracy effects more for the material progress of a nation than in the way of rendering it great in the arts, or in poetry, or in manners, or in elevation of character, or in the capacity for acting on others and leaving a great name in history.
We now come to the darker side of the picture. In democracies, the majority is omnipotent, and in America the evils hence flowing are aggravated by the shortness of the term for which a legislature is chosen, by the weakness of the executive, by the incipient disposition to elect even the judges, by the notion universally received that the majority must be right. The majority in a legislature being unchecked, laws are hastily made and altered, administration has no permanence, officials are allowed a dangerously wide range of arbitrary authority. There is no escape from the tyranny of the majority. It dominates even thought, forbidding, not indeed by law but through social penalties no less effective than legal ones, the expression of any opinion displeasing to the ordinary citizen. In theology, even in philosophy, one must beware of any divergence from orthodoxy. No one dare tell an unwelcome truth to the people, for it will receive nothing but incense. Such repression sufficiently explains the absence of great writers and of great characters in public life. It is not therefore of weakness that the free government in America will ever perish, but by excess of strength, the majority driving the minority to despair and arms.
There are, however, influences which temper the despotism of the majority. One is the existence of a strong system of local self-government, whereby nearly all administration is decentralized. Another is the power of the lawyers, a class everywhere disposed to maintain authority and to defend that which exists, and specially so disposed in England and America because the law which they study and practice is founded on precedents and despises abstract reason. A third exists in the jury, and particularly the jury in its action in civil causes, for it teaches the people not only the regular methods of law and justice, but respect for law and for the judges who administer it.
Next we come to an enumeration of the causes which maintain republican government. They are, over and above the constitutional safeguards already discussed, the following:
The absence of neighboring states, and the consequent absence of great wars, of financial crises,35 of invasions or conquests. How dangerous to republics is the passion for military glory is shown by the two elections of General Jackson to be president, a man of violent temper and limited capacity, recommended by nothing but the memory of his victory at New Orleans twenty years before.36
The absence of a great capital.
The material prosperity of the country, due to its immense extent and natural resources, which open a boundless field in which the desire of gain and the love of independence may gratify themselves and render the vices of man almost as useful to society as his virtues. The passions which really agitate America are commercial, not political.
The influence of religion. American Protestantism is republican and democratic: American Catholicism no less so; for Catholicism tends itself to an equality of conditions, since it treats all men alike. The Catholic clergy are as hearty republicans as any others.
The indirect influence of religion on manners and morality. Nowhere is marriage so much respected and the relations of the sexes so well ordered. The universal acceptance of Christianity, an acceptance which imposes silence even on the few sceptics who may be supposed to exist here as everywhere, steadies and restrains men’s minds. “No one ventures to proclaim that everything is permissible in the interests of society. Impious maxim, which seems to have been invented in an age of liberty in order to give legitimacy to all tyrants to come.”
The Americans themselves cannot imagine liberty without Christianity. And the chief cause why religion is so powerful among them is because it is entirely separated from the state.37
The intelligence of the people, and their education, but especially their practical experience in working their local politics. However, though everybody has some education, letters and culture do not flourish. They regard literature properly so called with disfavor; they are averse to general ideas. They have no great historian, not a single poet, legal commentators but no publicists, good artisans but very few inventors.38
Of all these causes, the most important are those which belong to the character and habits of the people. These are infinitely more important sources of well being than the laws, as the laws are in turn more important than the physical conditions.
Whether democracy will succeed in other parts of the world is a question which a study of America does not enable the observer confidently to answer. Her institutions, however suitable to her position in a world of her own, could not be transferred bodily to Europe. But the peace and prosperity which the Union enjoys under its democratic government do raise a strong presumption in favor of democracy even in Europe. For the passions and vices which attack free government are the same in America as in Europe, and as the legislator has overcome many of them there, combating envy by the idea of rights, and the presumptuous ignorance of the crowd by the practice of local government, he may overcome them here likewise.
One may suppose other institutions for a democracy than those the Americans have adopted, and some of them better ones. Since it seems probable that the peoples of Europe will have to choose between democracy and despotism, they ought at least to try the former, and may be encouraged by the example of America.
A concluding chapter is devoted to speculations on the future of the three races which inhabit the territories of the United States. (I need not transcribe what he says of the unhappy Indian tribes. Their fate was then already certain: the process which he saw passing in Alabama and Michigan is now repeating itself in California and Oregon.)
The presence of the blacks is the greatest evil that threatens the United States. They increase, in the Gulf states, faster than do the whites. They cannot be kept forever in slavery, the tendencies of the modern world run too strongly the other way. They cannot be absorbed into the white population for the whites will not intermarry with them, not even in the North where they have been free two generations. Once freed, they would be more from political rights. A terrible struggle would ensue. Hence the Southern Americans, even those who regret slavery, are forced to maintain it, and have enacted a harsh code which keeps the slave as near as possible to a beast of burden, forbidding him to be taught and making it difficult for him to be manumitted. No one in America seems to see any solution. The North discusses the problem with noisy inquietude. The South maintains an ominous silence. Slavery is evidently economically mischievous, for the free states are far more prosperous; but the South holds to slavery as a necessity.
As to the federal Union, it shows many signs of weakness. The states have most of the important powers of government in their hands; they have the attachment of the people; they act with vigor and promptitude, while the federal authority hesitates and argues. In every struggle that has heretofore arisen the federal government has given way, and it possesses neither the material force to coerce a rebellious state nor a clear legal right to retain a member wishing to dissolve the federal tie. But although the Union has no national patriotism to support it (for the professions of such patriotism one hears in America are but lip-deep), it is maintained by certain interests—the material interests which each part of the country has in remaining politically united with the rest. Against these one finds no strong interests making for material severance, but one does find diversities not indeed of opinion—for opinions and ideas are wonderfully similar over the whole country—but of character, particularly between Northern and Southern men, which increase the chance of discord. And in the rapid growth of the Union there lies a real source of danger. Its population doubles every twenty-two years. Before a century has passed its territory will be covered by more than a hundred million of people and divided into forty states. Now all partnerships are more difficult to keep together the more the number of partners increases.39 Even admitting, therefore, that this hundred million of people have similar interests and are benefited by remaining united, still the mere fact that they will then form forty nations, distinct and unequally powerful, will make the maintenance of the federal government only a happy accident. “I cannot believe in the duration of a government whose task is to hold together forty different peoples spread over a surface equal to the half of Europe, to avoid rivalries, ambitions and struggles among them, and to unite the action of their independent wills for the accomplishment of the same plans.”s40
The greatest danger, however, which the Union incurs as it grows is the transference of forces which goes on within its own body. The Northern states increase more rapidly than the Southern, those of the Mississippi Valley more rapidly still. Washington, which when founded was in the centre of the Union, is now at one end of it. The disproportionate growth of some states menaces the independence of others. Hence the South has become suspicious, jealous, irritable. It fancies itself oppressed because outstripped in the race of prosperity and no longer dominant. It threatens to retire from a partnership whose charges it bears, but whose profits it does not share.41
Besides the danger that some states may withdraw from the Union (in which case there would probably be formed several federations, for it is highly unlikely that the original condition of state isolation would reappear), there is the danger that the central federal authority may continue to decline till it has become no less feeble than was the old Confederation. Although Americans fear, or pretend to fear, the growth of centralization and the accumulation of powers in the hands of the federal government, there can be little doubt that the central government has been growing steadily weaker, and is less and less able to face the resistance of a refractory state. The concessions of public territory made to the states, the hostility to the United States Bank, the (virtual) success of South Carolina in the nullification struggle, are all proofs of this truth. General Jackson (then president) is at this moment strong, but only because he flatters the majority and lends himself to its passions. His personal power may increase, but that of the president declines. “Unless I am strangely mistaken, the Federal Government of the United States tends to become daily weaker, it draws back from one kind of business after another, it more and more restricts the sphere of its action. Naturally feeble, it abandons even the appearance of force. On the other side, I think I perceive that in the United States the sentiment of independence becomes more and more lively in the States, and the tone of provincial government more and more pronounced. People wish to keep the Union, but to keep it reduced to a shadow: they would like to have it strong for some purposes and weak for the rest—strong in war and almost non-existent in peace—forgetting that such alternations of strength and weakness are impossible.”
Nevertheless the time when the federal power will be extinguished is still distant, for the continuance of the Union is desired, and when the weakness of the Government is seen to threaten the life of the Union, there may be a reaction in its favor.
Whatever may be the future of the federation, that of republicanism is well assured. It is deeply rooted not only in the laws, but in the habits, the ideas, the sentiments, even the religion of the people. It is indeed just possible that the extreme instability of legislation and administration may some day disgust the Americans with their present government, and in that case they will pass rapidly from republicanism to despotism, not stopping by the way in the stage of limited monarchy. An aristocracy, however, such as that of the old countries of Europe, can never grow up. Democratic equality will survive, whatever be the form which government may take.
This brief summary, which gives no impression of the elegance of Tocqueville’s reasonings, need not be pursued to include his remarks on the commercial and maritime greatness of the United States, nor his speculations on the future of the Anglo-American race. Still less shall I enter on the second part of the book, for (as has been observed already) it deals with the ideas of democracy and equality in a very abstract and sometimes unprofitable way, and would need a separate critical study.
But before passing on to consider how far the United States now differ from the republic which the French philosopher described, we must pause to ask ourselves whether his description was complete.
It is a salutary warning to those who think it easy to get to the bottom of the political and social phenomena of a nation, to find that so keen and so industrious an observer as Tocqueville, who has seized with unrivalled acuteness and described with consummate art many of the minor features of American politics, has omitted to notice several which had already begun to show their heads in his day, and have since become of the first importance. Among these are:
The system of party organization. It was full grown in some states (New York for instance), and spreading quickly through the rest.
The influence of commercial growth and closer commercial relations in binding together different states of the Union and breaking down the power of state sentiment. He does once refer to this influence, but is far from appreciating the enormous power it was destined to exercise, and must have exercised even without railways.
The results of the principle proclaimed definitely just before his visit, that public office was to be bestowed for political service alone, and held only so long as the party which bestowed it remained in power.
The rise of the Abolitionists (they had begun to organize themselves before 1830 and formed a National Anti-Slavery Society in 1833) and the intense hostility they aroused in the South.
The growth of the literary spirit, and the beginnings of literary production. The society which produced Hawthorne, Emerson, Longfellow, Channing, Thoreau, Prescott, Ticknor, Margaret Fuller—not to add some equally famous living names—deserved mention as a soil whence remarkable fruits might be expected which would tell on the whole nation. Yet it is not once referred to, although one can perceive that Tocqueville had spent some time in Boston, for many of his views are due to the conversations he held with the leading Whigs of that day there.
The influence of money on politics. It might have been foretold that in a country with such resources and among a people of such restless commercial activity, great piles of wealth would soon be accummulated, that this wealth would find objects which it might accomplish by legislative aid, would seek to influence government, and would find ample opportunities for doing so. But of the dangers that must thence arise we do not hear a word.
Examination of Tocqueville’s Views and Predictions *
Such were the United States in 1832, such the predictions which an unusually penetrating and philosophic mind formed of their future. I will not attempt to enquire whether his picture is in all respects accurate, because it would be unprofitable to contest his statements without assigning one’s own reasons, while to assign them would lead me into a historical disquisition. A shorter and simpler course will be to enquire in what respects things have changed since his time, for thus we shall be in a position to discern which of the tendencies he noted have proved permanent, what new tendencies have come into being, what are those in whose hands the destinies of the Republic now lie.
I have noted at the end of last section the phenomena which, already existing in Tocqueville’s time, he omitted to notice or to appraise at their due value. Let us see what time has brought forward since his day to alter the conditions of the problem as he saw it.
The great events that have befallen since 1834, are these:
These are events which have told directly or indirectly upon politics. I go on to enumerate the political changes themselves of the same fifty years:
To these I add, as powerfully affecting politics, the development not only of literary, scientific, and historical studies, but in particular of a new school of publicists, who discuss constitutional and economic questions in a philosophic spirit; closer intellectual relations with Europe, and particularly with England and Germany; increased interest of the best class of citizens in politics; improved literary quality of the newspapers and of periodicals (political and semi-political) generally; growth of a critical and sceptical spirit in matters of religion and philosophy; diminished political influence of the clergy.
We may now ask which of Tocqueville’s observations have ceased to be true, which of his predictions falsified. I follow the order in which they were presented in last chapter.
Although the powers of the several states remain in point of law precisely what they were (except as regards the constitutional amendments presently to be noticed) and the citizen depends as much on the state in all that relates to person and property, to the conduct of family and commercial relations, the national or federal government has become more important to him than it was then. He watches its proceedings more closely, and, of course, thanks to the telegraph, knows them sooner and more fully. His patriotism is far more national, and in case of a conflict between one or more states and the federal power, the sympathies of the other states would almost certainly be with the latter.
Local government has been maintained in its completeness, but it seems to excite less interest among the people. In the larger cities it has fallen into the hands of professional politicians, who have perverted it into a grasping and sordid oligarchy.
There is still, as compared with continental Europe, wonderfully little “administration.” One is seldom reminded of the existence of a government. But the influence of federal legislation on the business of the country is more considerable, for the tariff and the currency, matters of immense consequence ever since the war, are in its hands.
The dignity of the judicial bench has in most states suffered seriously from the system of popular election for comparatively short terms. In those states where nomination by the executive has been retained, and in the case of federal judges (nominated by the president) their position is perhaps the highest permanent one open to a citizen.
The president’s authority received a portentous increase during the war, and although it has not returned to its normal condition, the sense of its importances has survived. His election is contested with increasing excitement, for his immense patronage and the magnitude of the issues he may influence by his veto power gives individuals and parties the strongest grounds for hope and fear. Experience has, on the whole, confirmed the view that the reeligibility of an acting president (i.e., the power of electing him for an immediately succeeding term) might be dispensed with.
The credit of the Supreme Court suffered somewhat from its proslavery decisions just before the war, and has suffered slightly since in respect to its treatment of the legal tender question. Nevertheless it remains respected and influential.
The state constitutions, nearly all of which have been reenacted or largely amended since 1834, remain inferior to the federal Constitution, and the state legislatures are, of course (possibly with a few exceptions in the New England states), still more inferior to Congress.
Two great parties reappeared immediately after Tocqueville wrote, and except for a brief interval before the war when the Whig party had practically expired before its successor and representative the Republican party had come to maturity, they have continued to divide the country, making minor parties of slight consequence. Now and then an attempt is made to start a new party as a national organization, but it rarely becomes strong enough to maintain itself. The rich and educated renewed their interest in politics under the impulse of the slavery and secession struggle. After an interval of subsequent apathy they seem to be again returning to public life. The secret murmurs against democracy, whereof Tocqueville speaks, are confined to a mere handful of fashionable exquisites less self-complacent now than they were in the days when they learnt luxury and contempt for the people in the Paris of Louis Napoleon.
Although the newspapers are much better written than formerly and those of the great cities travel further over the country, the multitude of discordant voices still prevents the people from being enslaved by the press. The habit of association by voluntary societies continues to grow.
The deficiencies of the professional politicians, a term which now more precisely describes those whom Tocqueville calls by the inappropriate European name of the governors, continue marked.
So, too, the House of Representatives continues inferior to the Senate, but for other reasons than those which Tocqueville assigns, and to a less degree than he describes. The Senate has latterly not maintained the character he gives it.
Whether American magistrates did ever in general enjoy the arbitrary power Tocqueville ascribes to them, may be doubted. They do not enjoy it now, but in municipalities there is a growing tendency to concentrate power in the hands of one or a few officers in order that the people may have some one person on whom responsibility can be fixed. A few minor offices are unsalaried; the salaries of the greater ones have been raised, particularly in the older states.
The methods of administration, especially of federal administration, have been much improved, but are still behind those of Europe, one or two departments excepted.
Government is far from economical. The war of the Rebellion was conducted in the most lavish way; the high protective tariff raises a vast revenue and direct local taxation takes more from the citizen than in most European countries.
Congress does not pass many statutes, nor do they greatly alter the law. Many legislative experiments are tried in the newer states, but the ordinary private law is in no such condition of mutability as Tocqueville describes. The law of England suffered more changes between 1868 and 1885 than either the common or statute law of the older states of the Union.
The respect for the rights of others, for the regular course of law, for the civil magistrate, remains strong; nor have the rich (at least till within the last year or two) begun to apprehend any attacks on them, otherwise than as stockholders in great railway and other corporations.
The tyranny of the majority does not strike one as a serious evil in the America of today, though to be sure people are always foretelling the mischief it will do. It cannot act through a state legislature so much as it may have done in Tocqueville’s days, for the wings of these bodies have been generally clipped by the newer state constitutions. Faint are the traces which remain of that intolerance of heterodoxy in politics, religion, or social views whereon he dilates. Politicians on the stump still flatter the crowd, but many home truths are told to it nevertheless in other ways and places, and the man who ventures to tell them need no longer fear social proscription in the Northern or Western states, perhaps not even in the Southern.
The Republic has come scatheless out of a great war, and although the laurels of the general who concluded that war twice secured for him the presidency, they did not make his influence dangerous to freedom. There is indeed no great capital, but there are cities greater than most European capitals, and the Republic has not been imperilled by their growth. The influence of the clergy on public affairs has declined; whether or not that of religion has also been weakened it is more difficult to say. But everybody continues to agree that religion gains by its entire detachment from the state.
The Negro problem remains, but it has passed into a new and for the moment less threatening phase. Neither Tocqueville nor anyone else could have then foreseen that manumission would come as a war measure, and be followed by the grant of full political rights. It is no impeachment of his judgment that he omitted to contemplate a state of things in which the blacks have been made politically the equals of the whites, while immeasurably inferior in every other respect, and destined, apparently, to remain wholly separate from them. He was right in perceiving that fusion was not possible, and that liberation would not solve the problem, because it would not make the liberated fit for citizenship. His remark that the social repulsion between the races in the South would probably be greater under freedom than under slavery has so far been strikingly verified by the result.
All the forces that made for the maintenance of the federal Union are now stronger than they were then, while the chief force that opposed it, viz., the difference of character and habits between North and South, largely produced by the existence of slavery, tends to vanish. Nor does the growth of the Union make the retention of its parts in one body more difficult. On the contrary, the United States is a smaller country now when it stretches from the Bay of Fundy to the Gulf of California, with its sixty million of people, than it was then with its thirteen million, just as the civilized world was larger in the time of Herodotus than it is now, for it took twice as many months to travel from Persepolis or the Caspian Sea to the Pillars of Hercules as it does now to circumnavigate the globe, one was obliged to use a greater number of languages, and the journey was incomparably more dangerous.
Before steamboats plied on rivers, and trains ran on railways, three or four weeks at least were consumed in reaching Missouri from Maine. Now one goes in seven days of easy travelling from Portland in Maine to Portland in Oregon. Nor has the increased number of states bred more dissensions. The thirty-eight states are not as Tocqueville assumes, and this is the error which vitiates his reasonings, thirty-eight nations. The differences in their size and wealth have become greater, but they work more harmoniously together than ever heretofore, because neither the lines which divide parties nor the substantial issues which affect men’s minds coincide with state boundaries. The Western states are now, so far as population goes, the dominant section of the Union, and become daily more so. But their interests link them more closely than ever to the North, through which their products pass to Europe, and the notion once entertained of moving the capital from Washington to the Mississippi valley has been quietly dropped.
Before bidding farewell to Tocqueville, let us summarize his conclusions and his predictions.
He sees in the United States by far the most successful and durable form of democratic government that has yet appeared in the world.
Its merits are the unequalled measure of freedom, as respects action, not thought, which it secures to the ordinary citizen, the material and social benefits it confers on him, the stimulus it gives to all his practical faculties.
These benefits are likely to be permanent, for they rest upon the assured permanence of:
It is true that these benefits would not have been attained so quickly nor in such ample measure but for the extraordinary natural advantages of the New World. Nevertheless, these natural advantages are but subsidiary causes. The character of the people, trained to freedom by experience and by religion, is the chief cause, their institutions the second, their material conditions only the third; for what have the Spaniards made of like conditions in Central and South America?
Nevertheless, the horizon is not free from clouds.
What are these clouds?
Besides slavery and the existence of a vast Negro population they are:
There is therefore warning for France in the example of America. But there is also encouragement—and the encouragement is greater than the warning.
Of these clouds one rose till it covered the whole sky, broke in a thunderstorm and disappeared. Some have silently melted into the blue. Some still hang on the horizon, darkening large parts of the landscape. But how near may be the danger they threaten, and how serious, are questions fitter to be discussed by Americans than by a European.
Bryce’s American Commonwealth: A Review *
This is a great work, worthy of heartiest praise. Its strength does not lie in its style, although that, while lacking distinction, is eminently straightforward and clear; nor yet altogether in its broad scope of weighty topics—a scope wide almost beyond precedent in such objects, and rich in suggestion—but chiefly in its method and in its point of view. Mr. Bryce does not treat the institutions of the United States as experiments in the application of theory, but as quite normal historical phenomena to be looked at, whether for purposes of criticism or merely for purposes of description, in the practical, everyday light of comparative politics. He seeks to put American institutions in their only instructive setting—that, namely, of comparative institutional history and life.
It is of course inevitable to compare and contrast what Mr. Bryce has given us in these admirable volumes with de Tocqueville’s great Democracy in America. The relations which the two works bear the one to the other are almost altogether relations of contrast, and the contrast serves to make conspicuous the peculiar significance of what Mr. Bryce has written. De Tocqueville came to America to observe the operation of a principle of government, to seek a well-founded answer to the question: How does democracy work? Mr. Bryce, on the other hand, came, and came not once but several times, to observe the concrete phenomena of an institutional development, into which, as he early perceived, abstract political theory can scarcely be said to have entered as a formative force. The question for which he sought an answer was this: What sort of institutions have the English developed in America? In satisfaction of his curiosity, his keen and elevated philosophical desire, de Tocqueville saw the crude and impatient democracy of Andrew Jackson’s time. Mr. Bryce has seen the almost full grown, the measurably sobered America of today, and has seen, therefore, with a fairer chance of just proportion.
It will hardly be accounted a disparagement of Mr. Bryce’s style to say that it is inferior to de Tocqueville’s; the thoughts it has to convey, the meanings it has to suggest belong to quite another class than that to which de Tocqueville’s judgments must be assigned: it is not meant to carry the illumination of philosophical conceptions into the regions of fact which it explores; its task is rather exposition than judgment. Mr. Bryce does not feel called upon to compete with de Tocqueville in the field in which de Tocqueville is possibly beyond rivalry. Something very different was needed, and that he has done to admiration: he has written a book invaluable to students of comparative politics—invaluable because of its fulness, its accuracy, its candor, its sane, perhaps I ought rather to say its sage, balance of practical judgment.
Mr. Bryce’s qualifications for the great task he has thus worthily performed were probably equal to those of any other man of our generation. First of all, he is a Roman lawyer steeped in the legal and political conceptions of that race whose originative strength in the field of law and practical sagacity in the field of politics were as conspicuous and as potent in the ancient world as the legal capacity and political virility of the English race are in the modern world. His knowledge of Roman institutions constantly serves to remind him of the oldness and persistency of certain features of institutional development, to warn him against perceiving novelty where it does not exist. In the second place, he is a member of Parliament and an English constitutional statesman, knowing the parent stock from which our institutions sprang, not only through study, but also through having himself tasted of its present fruits. Perhaps no one can so readily understand our institutions as an English public man sufficiently read in our history and our constitutional law not to expect to find bishops in our Senate or prime ministers in the presidency. He has breathed the air of practical politics in the country from which we get our habits of political action; and he is so familiar with the machinery of government at home as to be able to perceive at once the most characteristic differences, as well as the real resemblances, between political arrangements in England and in the United States. He is prepared to see clearly, almost instinctively, the derivation of our institutions, at the same time that he is sure to be struck by even our minor divergences from English practice. But Mr. Bryce brought to the task of judging us a wider and more adequate preparation than even a schooling in Roman law and English practice could by itself have supplied. He is sufficiently acquainted with the history and practical operation of the present constitutions of the leading states of Europe to be able readily to discern what, in American practice, is peculiar to America, or to America and England, what common to modern political experience the world over. In brief, he has a comprehensive mastery of the materials of comparative politics, and great practical sagacity in interpreting them.
Mr. Bryce divided his work into six parts. In Part I he discusses “The National Government,” going carefully over the ground made almost tediously familiar to American constitutional students by commentaries without number. But he gives to his treatment a freshness of touch and a comprehensiveness which impart to it a new and first-rate interest. This he does by combining in a single view both the legal theory and interpretation and the practical aspects and operation of the federal machinery. More than that, he brings that machinery and the whole federal arrangement into constant comparison with federal experiments and constitutional machinery elsewhere. There is a scope and an outlook here such as render his critical expositions throughout both impressive and stimulating. Congress, the presidency, and the federal courts are discussed in every point of view that can yield instruction. The forms and principles of the federal system are explained both historically and practically and are estimated with dispassionate candor. Perhaps the most emphasized point made in this part is one which is derived from comparative politics. It is the separation of the executive from Congress, a separation which deprives the executive of all voice in the formation of administrative and financial policy, and which deprives Congress of such leadership as would give its plans coherency and make available for its use that special and intimate knowledge of administrative possibilities without which much well-meant legislation must utterly miscarry. This is of course the particular in which our government differs most conspicuously from all the other governments of the world. Everywhere else there is one form or another of ministerial leadership in the legislature. A body of ministers constitutes, as it were, a nerve centre, or rather a sensitive presiding brain, in the body politic, taking from the nation such broad suggestions as public opinion can unmistakably convey touching the main ends to be sought by legislation and policy, but themselves suggesting in turn, in the light of their own special knowledge and intimate experience of affairs, the best means by which those ends may be attained. Because we are without such legislative leadership we remain for long periods of embarrassment without any solution of some of the simplest problems that await legislation.1 To this absence of cabinet government in America, and the consequent absence of party government in the European sense of the term, Mr. Bryce again and again returns as to a salient feature, full of significance both for much evil and for some good.2 The evil consists in slipshod, haphazard, unskilled and hasty legislation; the good, so far as it may be stated in a single sentence, consists in delaying the triumphs of public opinion and thereby, perhaps, rendering them safer triumphs.
One chapter of this first part possesses conspicuous merit, namely, Chapter 23, on “The Courts and the Constitution.” It brings out with admirable clearness the wholly normal character of the function of constitutional interpretation, as a function familiar from of old to English judicial practice in the maintenance of charter provisions, and of course necessary, according to English precedents and ideas, to the maintenance and application of charterlike written constitutions. In exposition of this view, now universally held but not always lucidly explained, he gives a prominence such as it has never before had to the very instructive fact that the Constitution does not grant the power of constitutional interpretation to the federal courts in explicit terms, but that that power, so marvelled at by Europeans, is simply a necessary inference (at least a necessary English inference) from its general provisions touching the functions of a federal judiciary. One point touching the action of the courts is, however, left perhaps a little too much to this same English inference. It is stated that cases involving questions of constitutionality must wait to be made up in the ordinary manner at the initiative of private parties suing in their own interest and are often, most often, decided at the instance and in behalf of private litigants; but it is left too much to inference—an inference easy of course to an American, but doubtless far from obvious to a foreigner—that a decision, when against the constitutionality of a law, is, not that the law is null and void, but is that the law will not be enforced in that case. Therefore other cases involving the same points will not be made up, litigants knowing what to expect, and it is thus, indirectly, that the desired annulment is effected. This is not a matter of form merely or only of curious interest. For Mr. Bryce’s purpose it is a point of importance. It illustrates the thesis he is trying to establish, namely, the normality of the whole principle and procedure: the entire absence from our system of any idea of a veto exercised by the courts upon legislation or of any element of direct antagonism between Congress and the judiciary, and the matter-of-course interpretation of the supreme law by those who interpret all law.
The appendix to Volume I adds to this first part, besides much other illustrative matter, a statement of the main features of the federal structure of the two great English universities* and the federal constitution of Canada.
Part II is devoted to “The State Governments.” Here for the first time in any comprehensive treatise the states are given the prominence and the careful examination which they have always deserved at the hands of students of our institutions but have never before gotten. Under some seventeen heads, occupying as many close-packed chapters full of matter, the state governments (including of course local government and the virtually distinct subject of the government of cities), state politics, the territories, and the general topics in comparative politics suggested by state constitutions and state practice are discussed, so far as reliable materials serve, with the same interest and thoroughness that were in the first part bestowed upon the federal government. Mr. Bryce more than once urges upon European students of comparative politics, the almost incomparable richness of this well-nigh unexplored region of state law. If he can wonder that Mr. Mill “in his Representative Government scarcely refers to” our states, and that “Mr. Freeman in his learned essays, Sir. H. Maine in his ingenious book on Popular Government, pass by phenomena which would have admirably illustrated some of their reasonings,” finding, as he does, in M. Boutmy and Dr. von Holst the only European discoverers in this field, it may profit American students to reflect in what light their own hitherto almost complete neglect of the constitutional history of the states ought to be viewed. This second part of Mr. Bryce’s book ought to mark a turning point in our constitutional and political studies. In several of our greater universities some attention is already paid to state law and history; but it is safe to say that in no one of them are these subjects given the prominence they deserve; and it is safe to predict that our state history will some day be acknowledged a chief source of instruction touching the development of modern institutions. The states have been laboratories in which English habits, English law, English political principles have been put to the most varied, and sometimes to the most curious, tests; and it is by the variations of institutions under differing circumstances that the nature and laws of institutional growth are to be learned. While European nations have been timidly looking askance at the various puzzling problems now pressing alike in the field of economics and in the field of politics, our states have been trying experiments with a boldness and a persistency which, if generated by ignorance in many cases and in many fraught with disaster, have at any rate been surpassingly rich in instruction.
Part III, on “The Party System,” is the crowning achievement of the author’s method. Here in a learned systematic treatise which will certainly for a long time be a standard authority on our institutions, a much used handbook for the most serious students of politics, we have a careful, dispassionate, scientific description of the “machine,” an accurately drawn picture of “bosses,” a clear exposition of the way in which the machine works, an analysis of all the most practical methods of “practical politics,” as well as what we should have expected, namely, a sketch of party history, an explanation of the main characteristics of the parties of today, a discussion of the conditions of public life in the United States, those conditions which help to keep the best men out of politics and produce certain distinctively American types of politicians, and a complete study of the nominating convention. One can well believe that that not supersensitive person, the practical politician, much as he pretends to scorn the indignant attacks made upon him by “pious” reformers, would be betrayed into open emotion should he read this exact and passionless, this discriminating and scientific digest of the methods by which he lives, of the motives by which he is moved. And certainly those who are farthest removed from the practical politician’s point of view will gain from these chapters a new and vital conception of what it is to study constitutions in the life. The wholesome light of Mr. Bryce’s method shines with equal ray alike upon the just and upon the unjust.
Mr. Bryce very happily describes our system of nomination by convention as
an effort of nature to fill the void left in America by the absence of the European parliamentary or cabinet system, under which an executive is called into being out of the legislature by the majority of the legislature. In the European system no single act of nomination is necessary, because the leader of the majority comes gradually to the top in virtue of his own strength.3
But what, in view of this, are we to say of his judgment that “a system for selecting candidates is not a mere contrivance for preventing party dissensions, but an essential feature of matured democracy”?4 Clearly no system for nominating candidates can touch the leading places in a democracy, however matured that democracy may be, if those places be filled under the parliamentary or cabinet system, as they are in England and France. Mr. Bryce is able to show that the selection of candidates by local representative party associations has been coming more and more into vogue in England pari passu with the widening of the franchise, having in 1885 been behind almost every new Liberal candidate for the Commons;5 but is it quite safe to argue cum hoc ergo propter hoc? Of course it needs no nominating convention in Midlothian to select Mr. Gladstone, and no caucus in any other constituency to choose for the voters a man who has made himself necessary because of mastery in Parliament, because of proof given there of a dominant mind in statesmanship. But, leaving parliamentary leaders apart, is not all nominating machinery a “separable accident” rather than an essential feature of democracy? Has it failed of construction in Switzerland merely because of the smallness of the Swiss constituencies? Have not the exceeding multiplicity of elective officers and that pernicious principle that no one may be chosen state or national representative except from the district in which he lives—a principle whose history runs back to insignificant Governor Phips of colonial Massachusetts—been more to blame than anything that can be regarded as essential to democracy? Above all is not that complete obscuration of individual responsibility which results from the operation of the “checks and balances” of our system chiefly chargeable? It prevents any man from selecting himself for leadership by conspicuous service and makes the active part of politics turn upon selecting men rather than selecting measures. Men are not identified with measures; there must, consequently, be some artificial way of picking them out.
In enumerating the causes why the best men do not enter politics,6 Mr. Bryce seems to me to omit one of the most important, although he elsewhere repeatedly gives evidence that he is in full view of it, namely, the absence of all great prizes of legislative leadership to be won by sheer strength of persuasive mind and constructive skill. He sums up the reasons he does give with admirable point, however, by saying that “in America, while politics are relatively less interesting than in Europe, and lead to less, other careers are relatively more interesting and lead to more”;7 but he omits to state, in this connection, one of the most patent reasons why politics are relatively less interesting, why they lead to less, here than elsewhere.8
Part IV, on “Public Opinion,” its American organs, its American characteristics, its American successes and failures, contains some of the author’s best analytical work, but is less characteristic of his method than the preceding parts.
Part V contains “Illustrations and Reflections.” It opens with an excellent chapter on the Tweed ring by one of the most lucid of our own writers, Professor Goodnow;* treats of other special phases of local ring government; of “Kearneyism in California,” of laissez faire, of woman’s suffrage, and of the supposed and true faults of democracy as it appears in America.
Part VI concerns “Social Institutions”—railroads, Wall Street, the bench, the bar, the universities, the influence of religion, the position of women, the influence of democracy on thought and on creative intellectual power, American oratory, etc.—and contains the author’s cautious forecast of the political, social, and economic future of the United States.
All through, the work is pervaded with the air of practical sense, the air of having been written by an experienced man of affairs, accustomed to handle institutions as well as to observe them. Besides, this observer is an Englishman without English insularity, with views given elasticity by wide studies of institutions and extensive travel. He understands us with the facility of one who belongs to the same race; but he understands us also in our relations with the politics of the wider world of Europe.
The work, however, has the faults of its good qualities. If it is full of acute and sage observation and satisfying in its wonderfully complete practical analysis, it gains its advantage at a certain sacrifice. The movement of the treatment is irregular, and even hesitating at times, like the varied conversation of a full, reiterative talker; and the internal plan of each part is lacking in executive directness and consistency, is even sometimes a little confused, reminding one now and again of the political system the author is describing. So judicious and balanced is the tone, too, that it is also a little colorless. It is a matter-of-fact book in which, because of the prominence and multiplicity of the details, it is often difficult to discern the large proportions of the thought. It is full of thoughts, thoughts singularly purged of prejudice, notably rich in suggestion; but these thoughts do not converge towards any common conceptions. It is rather, one may imagine, like that lost book of Aristotle’s which contained his materials of observation than like the Politics. It carries one over immense distances characteristic of its great subject; but this it does by carrying one in many directions, in order to do which, from substantially the same point of departure in each case, it repeatedly traverses the same ground. In brief, it is an invaluable storehouse of observations in comparative politics rather than of guiding principles of government inductively obtained. The facts, not the principles derivable from them, are prominent.
These underlying principles could not, indeed, have been made prominent without a much freer use, a much fuller use, of the historical method than Mr. Bryce has allowed himself; and it is in his sparing use of history that Mr. Bryce seems to me principally at fault. The other drawbacks to his treatment which I have mentioned are, no doubt, for the most part directly due to his purpose, clearly and consistently kept in view, to explore this rich field of politics in search of the facts only, not in search of generalizations. His method is that of thorough, exact, exhaustive analysis. But history belongs to the very essence of such a method; facts in comparative politics possess little value in the absence of clues to their development; and one cannot but wonder at the apologies which preface Mr. Bryce’s occasional introduction of historical matter. Without more history than he gives there must be at least a partial failure to meet the demands of his own method. His work satisfies all who are in search of information, whether as to the existing facts or as to the formal historical derivation of our institutions. But its historical portions do not go beyond the formal history of measures and of methods to make evident the forces of national development and material circumstances which have lain behind measures and methods, and which, when once the nation gets past the youth of its continent, must work deep modification in its institutions and in its practical politics.
I can best illustrate what I mean by taking as points of departure Mr. Bryce’s own clear statements of the views with which he approached our institutions. “America,” he says, “is made all of a piece; its institutions are the product of its economic and social conditions and the expression of its character.”9 More pointedly and forcibly still does he express the same thing at page 404* of the same volume, in his chapter on laissez faire. He there reports himself as having said, to an English friend who bade him devote a chapter to the American theory of the state, “that the Americans had no theory of the state, and felt no need for one, being content, like the English, to base their constitutional ideas upon law and history.”“No one doubts,” he says, in another place, “that fifty years hence it [America] will differ at least as much from what it is now, as it differs now from the America which Tocqueville described”;10 and this difference, he is evidently ready to believe, may very possibly be a difference of institutions as well as a difference in material and social condition. Once again, in the chapters in which he discusses the influence of democracy on thought and on creative intellectual power, Mr. Bryce insists, assuredly with perfect justice, that political institutions have comparatively little to do with intellectual product and quality, certainly in the case of the United States. There is really, when American institutions are compared with English, nothing essentially novel in our political arrangements: they are simply the normal institutions of the Englishman in America. They are, in other words, English institutions as modified by the conditions surrounding settlements effected under corporate charters, in separate but neighbor colonies; above all as dominated by the material, economic, and social conditions attending the advance of the race in America. These conditions it is, not political principles, that have controlled our intellectual as well as our political development. Mr. Bryce has frequently to say of propositions of de Tocqueville’s that, although possibly or even probably true when advanced, they are now no longer true; for example, certain “supposed faults of democracy.” Many things supposed to be due to democracy, to political ideas, have turned out, under the test of time, to be due to circumstances. So disconnected with institutions, indeed, are actual national methods and characteristics that even what Mr. Bryce says of American public opinion in his very suggestive and valuable fourth part will doubtless be true only so long as our country is new. Americans, he says, are sympathetic, but they are unsettled and changeful. This cannot remain true of the people of an old and fully settled country, where sympathy will lead to cohesiveness and to the development of local types of opinion, where variety, consequently, will take the place of that uniformity of life and opinion which now leads to a too rapid transmission of impressions and impulses throughout the whole body of the nation—the quick contagion of even transient impressions and emotions. America is now sauntering through her resources and through the mazes of her politics with easy nonchalance; but presently there will come a time when she will be surprised to find herself grown old—a country crowded, strained, perplexed—when she will be obliged to fall back upon her conservatism, obliged to pull herself together, adopt a new regimen of life, husband her resources, concentrate her strength, steady her methods, sober her views, restrict her vagaries, trust her best, not her average, members. That will be the time of change.
All this Mr. Bryce sees; his conspicuous merit consists, indeed, in perceiving that democracy is not a cause but an effect, in seeing that our politics are no explanation of our character, but that our character, rather, is the explanation of our politics. Throughout his work you feel that he is generally conscious of the operation of historical causes and always guided by a quick appreciation of the degree to which circumstances enter into our institutions to mould and modify them. A reader who is himself conscious of our historical make-up and tendencies can see that Mr. Bryce is also. But it is one thing for a writer to be conscious of such things himself and quite another thing for him to convey to readers not possessed of his knowledge adequate conceptions of historical development. If our politics are the expression of our character and if that character is the result of the operation of forces permanent in the history of the English race, modified in our case by peculiar influences, subtle or obvious, operative in our separate experience, the influences, namely, of a peculiar legal status and of unexampled physical surroundings, then it is to the explanation of these forces and influences that every means of exposition ought to be bent in order to discover the bases of our law and our constitutions, of our constructive statesmanship and our practical politics. A description of our institutions, even though it be so full and accurate as to call for little either of criticism or addition, like this of Mr. Bryce’s, will not suffice unless backed by something that goes deeper than mere legal or phenomenal history. In legal history Mr. Bryce leaves little to be desired: nothing could be more satisfying than his natural history of our courts with their powers of constitutional interpretation. The course of constitutional amendment, too, he traces, and all such concrete phenomena as the growth and operation of nominating conventions, the genesis and expansion of the Spoils System, or of municipal rings and ‘bossdom,” etc. But outside of legal and phenomenal history he seldom essays to go. If his method were that which de Tocqueville too often followed, there would be little reason why he should look further than visible institutions; if a nation can be understood by the single light of its institutions, its institutions may be made to stand forth as itself. But if institutions be the expression of the national life, as Mr. Bryce rightly conceives, that national life must be brought constantly forward, even in its most hidden aspects, to explain them.
Some passages of Mr. Bryce’s work, indeed, afford ground for suspecting that he does not himself always make sufficient private analysis even of the forces operative outside of our laws and acting in support and vivification of them. Thus he permits himself the old expression that we are “trying an experiment” in government. This is not true except in the same sense that it is true that the English are trying an experiment in their extensions of the franchise and in their extreme development of ministerial responsibility to the Commons. We are in fact but living an old life under new conditions. Where there is conservative continuity there can hardly be said to be experiment. Again, Mr. Bryce’s statement—the old statement—that 1789 witnessed the birth of a national government could be made only by one who had not analyzed the growth of the national idea, which is coincident with the conscious development of the national experience and life. Its truth in juristic theory may be cogently maintained; but from the lay historian’s point of view, and particularly from the point of view proper to English institutional and legal history, it is scarcely true at all. In the first place, no people can be a nation before its time, and its time has not come until the national thought and feeling have been developed and have become prevalent. Until a people thinks its government national it is not national. In the second place, the whole history—indeed the very theory—of judge-made law such as ours, whether it be equity or common law, bears witness to the fact that for a body of English people the fundamental principles of the law are at any given time substantially what they are then thought to be. The saving fact is that English (and American) thought is, particularly in the sphere of law, cautiously conservative, coherently continuous, not carelessly or irresponsibly spreading abroad, but slowly “broadening down from precedent to precedent” within a well-defined course. It is not a flood, but a river. The complete nationality of our law therefore, had to await the slowly developed nationality of our thought and habit. To leave out in any account of our development the growth of the national idea and habit, consequently, is to omit the best possible example of one of the most instructive facts of our politics, the development, namely, of constitutional principles outside the constitution, the thoroughly English accumulation of unwritten law. That there has been such an accumulation Mr. Bryce of course points out and illustrates; but because of his shyness touching the use of history, which he fears will be tedious or uninteresting, he leaves the matter, after all, without adequate analysis. For such an analysis is not supplied by his Chapter 34 on “The Development of the Constitution by Usage.” That chapter contains a history of measures, of certain concrete practices, but no account of the national sentiment which has so steadily grown into a controlling, disposing, governing force, and which has really become a most tremendous sort of “usage.” It is a sketch of the development of the government rather than of the influences which have made the government and altered the conceptions upon which it rests.
This must be taken to explain also the author’s somewhat inadequate view of the constitutional effects of the war of secession. He seems to judge the effects of the war by the contents of the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments.11 A European reader, I believe, would get the impression that our civil war, which was a final contest between nationalism and sectionalism, simply confirmed the Union in its old strength, whereas it in reality, of course, confirmed it in a new character and strength which it had not at first possessed, but which the steady advance of the national development, and of the national idea thereby begotten, had in effect at length bestowed upon it.
If Mr. Bryce was obliged to exclude such historical analysis from his volumes, whose whole spirit and method nevertheless suggest such an analysis, and seem to await it, if not to take it for granted, why then much remains to be done in elucidation of the lessons of government to be learned in America. Those lessons can be fully learned only from history. There still remains to be accomplished the work of explaining democracy by America, in supplement of Mr. Bryce’s admirable explanation of democracy in America. Comparative politics must yet be made to yield an answer to the broad and all-important question: What is democracy that it should be possible, nay natural, to some nations, impossible as yet to others? Why has it been a cordial and a tonic to little Switzerland and to big America, while it has been as yet only a quick intoxicant or a low poison to France and Spain, a mere maddening draught to the South American states? Why has England approached democratic institutions by slow and steady stages of deliberate and peaceful development, while so many other states have panted towards democracy through constant revolution? Why has democracy existed in America and Australia virtually from the first, while other states have utterly failed in every effort to establish it? Answers to such questions as these would serve to show the most truly significant thing now to be discovered concerning democracy: its place and office, namely, in the process of political development. What is its relative function, its characteristic position and power, in politics viewed as a whole?
Democracy is of course wrongly conceived when treated as merely a body of doctrine, or as simply a form of government. It is a stage of development. It is not created by aspirations or by new faith: it is built up by slow habit. Its process is experience, its basis old wont, its meaning national organic unity and effectual life. It comes, like manhood, as the fruit of youth: immature peoples cannot have it, and the maturity to which it is vouchsafed is the maturity of freedom and self-control, and no other. It is conduct, and its only stable foundation is character. America has democracy because she is free; she is not free because she has democracy. A particular form of government may no more be adopted than a particular type of character may be adopted: both institutions and character must be developed by conscious effort and through transmitted aptitudes. The variety of effects produced by democratic principles, therefore, upon different nations and systems, and even upon the same nation at different periods, is susceptible of instructive explanation. It is not the result of accident merely, nor of good fortune, manifestly, that the English race has been the only race, outside of quiet, closeted Switzerland, the only race, that is, standing forward amidst the fierce contests of national rivalries, that has succeeded in establishing and maintaining the most liberal forms of government. It is, on the contrary, a perfectly natural outcome of organic development. The English alone have approached popular institutions through habit. All other races have rushed prematurely into them through mere impatience with habit: have adopted democracy, instead of cultivating it. An expansion of this contrast would leave standing very little of the reasoning from experience which constitutes so large a part of Sir Henry Maine’s plausible Popular Government, and would add to Mr. Bryce’s luminous exposition of the existing conditions of life and the operative machinery of politics in the greatest of republics something which might serve as a natural history of republicanism.
Mr. Bryce has given us a noble work possessing in high perfection almost every element that should make students of comparative politics esteem it invaluable. If I have regretted that it does not contain more, it has been because of the feeling that the author of The American Commonwealth, who has given us a vast deal, might have given us everything.
Review of The American Commonwealth*
“The American Commonwealth” cancels that sentence of Scaliger which Bacon amplifies in his warning against bookish politicians: Nec ego nec alius doctus possumus scribere in politicis.1 The distinctive import of the book is its power of impressing American readers. Mr. Bryce is in a better position than the philosopher who said of another, Ich hoffe, wir werden uns recht gut verständigen können; und wenn auch keiner den andern ganz versteht, wird doch jeder dem andern dazu helfen, dass er sich selbst besser verstehe.2 He writes with so much familiarity and feeling—the national, political, social sympathy is so spontaneous and sincere—as to carry a very large measure indeed of quiet reproach. The perfect tone is enough to sweeten and lubricate a medicine such as no traveller since Hippocrates has administered to contrite natives. Facts, not comments, convey the lesson; and I know no better illustration of a recent saying: Si un livre porte un enseigement, ce doit être malgré son auteur, par la force même des faits qu’il raconte.3
If our countryman has not the chill sententiousness of his great French predecessor, his portable wisdom and detached thoughts, he has made a far deeper study of real life, apart from comparative politics and the European investment of transatlantic experience. One of the very few propositions which he has taken straight from Tocqueville is also one of the few which a determined faultfinder would be able to contest. For they both say that the need for two chambers has become an axiom of political science. I will admit that the doctrine of Paine and Franklin and Samuel Adams, which the Pennsylvanian example and the authority of Turgot made so popular in France, is confuted by the argument of Laboulaye: La division du corps législative est une condition essentielle de la liberté. C’est le seule garantie qui assure la nation contre l’usurpation de ses mandataires.4 But it may be urged that a truth which is disputed is not an axiom; and serious men still imagine a state of things in which an undivided legislature is necessary to resist a too powerful executive, whilst two chambers can be made to curb and neutralize each other. Both Tocqueville and Turgot are said to have wavered on this point.
It has been said that Tocqueville never understood the federal Constitution. He believed, to his last edition, that the opening words of the first section, “all legislative powers herein granted,” meant tous les pouvoirs législatifs déterminés par les representants.5 Story thought that he “has borrowed the greater part of his reflections from American works [meaning his own and Lieber’s] and little from his own observation.” The French minister at Washington described his book as intéressant mais fort peu exact;6 and even the Nation calls it “brilliant, superficial, and attractive.” Mr. Bryce can never be accused of imperfect knowledge or penetration, of undue dependence upon others, or of writing up to a purpose. His fault is elsewhere. This scholar, distinguished not only as a successful writer of history, which is said to be frequent, but as a trained and professed historian, which is rare, altogether declines the jurisdiction of the Historical Review. His contumacy is in gross black and white: “I have had to resist another temptation, that of straying off into history.” Three stout volumes tell how things are, without telling how they came about. I should have no title to bring them before this tribunal, if it were not for an occasional glimpse at the past; if it were not for a strongly marked and personal philosophy of American history which looms behind the boss and the boom, the hoodlum and the Mugwump.
There is a valid excuse for preferring to address the unhistoric mind. The process of development by which the America of Tocqueville became the America of Lincoln has been lately described with a fulness of knowledge which no European can rival. Readers who thirst for the running stream can plunge and struggle through several thousand pages of Holst’s Verfassungsgeschichte, and it is better to accept the division of labour than to take up ground so recently covered by a work which, if not very well designed or well composed, is, by the prodigious digestion of material, the most instructive ever written on the natural history of federal democracy. The author, who has spent twenty years on American debates and newspapers, began during the pause between Sadowa and Woerth, when Germany was in the throes of political concentration that made the Empire. He explains with complacency how another irrepressible conflict between centre and circumference came and went, and how the welfare of mankind is better served by the gathering than by the balance or dispersion of forces. Like Gneist and Tocqueville he thinks of one country while he speaks of another; he knows nothing of reticence or economy in the revelation of private opinion; and he has none of Mr. Bryce’s cheery indulgence for folly and error. But when the British author refuses to devote six months to the files of Californian journalism, he leaves the German master of his allotted field.
The actual predominates so much with Mr. Bryce that he has hardly a word on that extraordinary aspect of democracy, the Union in time of war; and gives no more than a passing glance at the Confederate scheme of government, of which a Northern writer said: “The invaluable reforms enumerated should be adopted by the United States, with or without a reunion of the seceded states, and as soon as possible.” There are points on which some additional light could be drawn from the roaring loom of time. In the chapter on Spoils it is not stated that the idea belongs to the ministers of George III. Hamilton’s argument against removals is mentioned, but not the New York edition of The Federalist with the marginal note that “Mr. H. had changed his view of the Constitution on that point.” The French wars of speculation and plunder are spoken of; but, to give honour where honour is due, it should be added that they were an American suggestion. In May 1790, Morris wrote to two of his friends at Paris: “I see no means of extricating you from your troubles, but that which most men would consider as the means of plunging you into greater—I mean a war. And you should make it to yourselves a war of men, to your neighbours a war of money. . . . I hear you cry out that the finances are in a deplorable situation. This should be no obstacle. I think that they may be restored during war better than in peace. You want also something to turn men’s attention from their present discontents.” There is a long and impartial inquiry into parliamentary corruption as practised now; but one wishes to hear so good a judge on the report that money prevailed at some of the turning-points of American history; on the imputations cast by the younger Adams upon his ablest contemporaries; on the story told by another president, of 223 representatives who received accommodation from the bank, at the rate of a thousand pounds apiece, during its struggle with Jackson.
America as known to the man in the cars, and America observed in the roll of the ages, do not always give the same totals. We learn that the best capacity of the country is withheld from politics, that there is what Emerson calls a gradual withdrawal of tender consciences from the social organisation, so that the representatives approach the level of the constitutents. Yet it is in political science only that America occupies the first rank. There are six Americans on a level with the foremost Europeans, with Smith and Turgot, Mill and Humboldt. Five of these were secretaries of state, and one was secretary of the treasury. We are told also that the American of today regards the national institutions with a confidence sometimes grotesque. But this is a sentiment which comes down, not from Washington and Jefferson, but from Grant and Sherman. The illustrious founders were not proud of their accomplished work; and men like Clay and Adams persisted in desponding to the second and third generation. We have to distinguish what the nation owes to Madison and Marshall, and what to the army of the Potomac; for men’s minds misgave them as to the Constitution until it was cemented by the ordeal and the sacrifice of civil war. Even the claim put forward for Americans as the providers of humour for mankind, seems to me subject to the same limitation. People used to know how often, or how seldom, Washington laughed during the war; but who has numbered the jokes of Lincoln?
Although Mr. Bryce has too much tact to speak as freely as the Americans themselves in the criticism of their government, he insists that there is one defect which they insufficiently acknowledge. By law or custom no man can represent any district but the one he resides in. If ten statesmen live in the same street, nine will be thrown out of work. It is worth while to point out (though this may not be the right place for a purely political problem) that even in that piece of censure in which he believes himself unsupported by his friends in the States, Mr. Bryce says no more than intelligent Americans have said before him. It chances that several of them have discussed this matter with me. One was governor of his state, and another is among the compurgators cited in the preface. Both were strongly persuaded that the usage in question is an urgent evil; others, I am bound to add, judged differently, deeming it valuable as a security against Boulangism—an object which can be attained by restricting the number of constituencies to be addressed by the same candidate. The two American presidents who agreed in saying that Whig and Tory belong to natural history, proposed a dilemma which Mr. Bryce wishes to elude. He prefers to stand half-way between the two, and to resolve general principles into questions of expediency, probability, and degree: “The wisest statesman is he who best holds the balance between liberty and order.” The sentiment is nearly that of Croker and De Quincy, and it is plain that the author would discard the vulgar definition that liberty is the end of government, and that in politics things are to be valued as they minister to its security. He writes in the spirit of John Adams when he said that the French and the American revolutions had nothing in common, and of that eulogy of 1688 as the true Restoration, on which Burke and Macaulay spent their finest prose. A sentence which he takes from Judge Cooley contains the brief abstract of his book: “America is not so much an example in her lierty as in the covenanted and enduring securities which are intended to prevent liberty degenerating into license, and to establish a feeling of trust and repose under a beneficent government, whose excellence, so obvious in its freedom, is still more conspicuous in its careful provision for permanence and stability.” Mr. Bryce declares his own point of view in the following significant terms: “The spirit of 1787 was an English spirit, and therefore a conservative spirit. . . . The American constitution is no exception to the rule that everything which has power to win the obedience and respect of men must have its roots deep in the past, and that the more slowly every institution has grown, so much the more enduring is it likely to prove. . . . There is a hearty puritanism in the view of human nature which pervades the instrument of 1787. . . . No men were less revolutionary in spirit than the heroes of the American revolution. They made a revolution in the name of Magna Charta and the Bill of Rights.” I descry a bewildered Whig emerging from the third volume with a reverent appreciation of ancestral wisdom, Burke’s Reflections, and the eighteen Canons of Dort, and a growing belief in the function of ghosts to make laws for the quick.
When the last Valois consulted his dying mother, she advised him that anybody can cut off, but that the sewing on is an acquired art. Mr. Bryce feels strongly for the men who practised what Catharine thought so difficult, and he stops for a moment in the midst of his very impersonal treatise to deliver a panegyric on Alexander Hamilton. Tanto nomini nullum par elogium.7 His merits can hardly be overstated. Talleyrand assured Ticknor that he had never known his equal; Seward calls him “the ablest and most effective statesman engaged in organising and establishing the Union”; Macmaster, the iconoclast, and Holst, poorly endowed with the gift of praise, unite in saying that he was the foremost genius among public men in the New World; Guizot told Rush that The Federalist was the greatest work known to him, in the application of elementary principles of government to practical administration; his paradox in support of political corruption, so hard to reconcile with the character of an honest man, was repeated to the letter by Niebuhr. In estimating Hamilton we have to remember that he was in no sense the author of the Constitution. In the convention he was isolated, and his plan was rejected. In The Federalist, written before he was thirty, he pleaded for a form of government which he distrusted and disliked. He was out of sympathy with the spirit that prevailed, and was not the true representative of the cause, like Madison, who said of him, “If his theory of government deviated from the republican standard, he had the candour to avow it, and the greater merit of co-operating faithfully in maturing and supporting a system which was not his choice.” The development of the Constitution, so far as it continued on his lines, was the work of Marshall, barely known to us by the extracts in late editions of the Commentaries. “The Federalist,” says Story, “could do little more than state the objects and general bearing of these powers and functions. The masterly reasoning of the Chief Justice has followed them out to their ultimate results and boundaries with a precision and clearness approaching, as near as may be, to mathematical demonstration.” Morris, who was as strong as Hamilton on the side of federalism, testifies heavily against him as a leader: “More a theoretic than a practical man, he was not sufficiently convinced that a system may be good in itself, and bad in relation to particular circumstances. He well knew that his favourite form was inadmissible, unless as the result of civil war; and I suspect that his belief in that which he called an approaching crisis arose from a conviction that the kind of government most suitable, in his opinion, to this extensive country, could be established in no other way. . . . He trusted, moreover, that in the changes and chances of time we should be involved in some war, which might strengthen our union and nerve the executive. He was of all men the most indiscreet. He knew that a limited monarchy, even if established, could not preserve itself in this country. . . . He never failed, on every occasion, to advocate the excellence of, and avow his attachment to, monarchical government. . . . Thus, meaning very well, he acted very ill, and approached the evils he apprehended by his very solicitude to keep them at a distance.” The language of Adams is more severe; but Adams was an enemy. It has been justly said that “he wished good men, as he termed them, to rule; meaning the wealthy, the well-born, the socially eminent.” The Federalists have suffered somewhat from this imputation; for a prejudice against any group claiming to serve under that flag is among the bequests of the French Revolution. Les honnêtes gens ont toujours peur; c’est leur nature,8 is a maxim of Chateaubriand. A man most divergent and unlike him, Menou, had drawn the same conclusion: En révolution il ne faut jamais se mettre du côté des honnêtes gens: ils sont toujours balayés.9 And Royer Collard, with the candour one shows in describing friends, said: C’est le parti des honnêtes gens qui est le moins honnête de tous les partis. Tout le monde, méme dans ses erreurs, était honnête à l’assemblée constituante, excepté le côté droit.10 Hamilton stands higher as a political philosopher than as an American partisan. Europeans are generally liberal for the sake of something that is not liberty, and conservative for an object to be conserved; and in a jungle of other motives besides the reason of state we cannot often eliminate unadulterated or disinterested conservatism. We think of land and capital, tradition and custom, the aristocracy and the services, the crown and the altar. It is the singular superiority of Hamilton that he is really anxious about nothing but the exceeding difficulty of quelling the centrifugal forces, and that no kindred and coæval towers divide his attachment or intercept his view. Therefore he is the most scientific of conservative thinkers, and there is not one in whom the doctrine that prefers the ship to the crew can be so profitably studied.
In his scruple to do justice to conservative doctrine, Mr. Bryce extracts a passage from a letter of Canning to Croker which, by itself, does not adequately represent that minister’s views. “Am I to understand, then, that you consider the king as completely in the hands of the tory aristocracy as his father, or rather as George II was in the hands of the whigs? If so, George III reigned, and Mr. Pitt (both father and son) administered the government, in vain. I have a better opinion of the real vigour of the crown when it chooses to put forth its own strength, and I am not without some reliance on the body of the people.” The finest mind reared by many generations of English conservatism was not always so faithful to monarchical traditions, and in addressing the incessant polemist of Toryism Canning made himself out a trifle better than he really was. His intercourse with Marcellus in 1823 exhibits a diluted orthodoxy: Le système britannique n’est que le butin des longues victoires remportées par les sujets contre le monarque. Oubliez-vous que les rois ne doivent pas donner des institutions, mais que les institutions seules doivent donner des rois? . . . Connaissez-vous un roi qui mérite d’être libre, dans le sens implicite du mot? . . . Et George IV, croyez-vous que je serais son ministre, s’il avait été libre de choisir? . . . Quand un roi dénie au peuple les institutions dont le peuple a besoin, quel est le procédé de l’Angleterre? Elle expulse ce roi, et met à sa place un roi d’une famille alliée sans doute, mais qui se trouve ainsi, non plus un fils de la royauté, confiant dans le droit de ses ancêtres, mais le fils des institutions nationales, tirant tous ses droits de cette seule origine. . . . Le gouvernement représentatif est encore bon à une chose que sa majesté a oubliée. Il fait que des ministres essuient sans répliquer les épigrammes d’un roi qui cherche à se venger ainsi de son impuissance.11
Mr. Bryce’s work has received a hearty welcome in its proper hemisphere, and I know not that any critic has doubted whether the pious founder, with the dogma of unbroken continuity, strikes the just note or covers all the ground. At another angle, the origin of the greatest power and the grandest polity in the annals of mankind emits a different ray. It was a favourite doctrine with Webster and Tocqueville that the beliefs of the pilgrims inspired the revolution, which others deem a triumph of Pelagianism; while J. Q. Adams affirms that “not one of the motives which stimulated the puritans of 1643 had the slightest influence in actuating the confederacy of 1774.” The Dutch statesman Hogendorp, returning from the United States in 1784, had the following dialogue with the stadtholder: La religion, monseigneur, a moins d’influence que jamais sur les esprits. . . . Il y a toute une province de quakers? . . . Depuis la révolution il semble que ces sortes de differences s’évanouissent. . . . Les Bostoniens ne sont-ils pas fort dévots?. . . . Ils l’étaient, monseigneur, mais à lire les descriptions faites il y a vingt ou même dix ans, on ne les reconnaît pas de ce côté-là .12 It is an old story that the federal Constitution, unlike that of Hérault de Séchelles, makes no allusion to the Deity; that there is none in the president’s oath; and that in 1796 it was stated officially that the government of the United States is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion. No three men had more to do with the new order than Franklin, Adams, and Jefferson. Franklin’s irreligious tone was such that his manuscripts, like Bentham’s, were suppressed, to the present year. Adams called the Christian faith a horrid blasphemy. Of Jefferson we are assured that, if not an absolute atheist, he had no belief in a future existence; and he hoped that the French arms “would bring at length kings, nobles, and priests to the scaffolds which they have been so long deluging with human blood.” If Calvin prompted the revolution, it was after he had suffered from contact with Tom Paine; and we must make room for other influences which, in that generation, swayed the world from the rising to the setting sun. It was an age of faith in the secular sense described by Guizot: C’était un siècle ardent et sincère, un siècle plein de foi et d’enthousiasme. Il a eu foi dans la vérité, car il lui a reconnu le droit de régner.13
In point both of principle and policy, Mr. Bryce does well to load the scale that is not his own, and to let the jurist within him sometimes mask the philosophic politician. I have to speak of him not as a political reasoner or as an observer of life in motion, but only in the character which he assiduously lays aside. If he had guarded less against his own historic faculty, and had allowed space to take up neglected threads, he would have had to expose the boundless innovation, the unfathomed gulf produced by American independence, and there would be no opening to back the Jeffersonian shears against the darning-needle of the great Chief Justice. My misgiving lies in the line of thought of Riehl and the elder Cherbuliez. The first of those eminent conservatives writes: Die Extreme, nicht deren Vermittelungen und Abschwächungen, deuten die Zukunft vor.14 The Genevese has just the same remark: Les idées n’ont jamais plus de puissance que sous leur forme la plus abstraite. Les Idées abstraites ont plus remué le monde, elles ont causé plus de révolutions et laissé plus de traces durables que les idées pratiques.15 Lassalle says, Kein Einzelner denkt mit der Consequenz eines Volksgeistes.16 Schelling may help us over the parting ways: Der erzeugte Gedanke ist eine unabhängige Macht, fur sich fortwirkend, ja, in der menschlichen Seele, so anwachsend, dass er seine eigene Mutter bezwingt und unterwirft.17 After the philosopher, let us conclude with a divine: C’est de révolte en révolte, si l’on veut employer ce mot, que les sociétés se perfectionnent, que la civilisation s’établit, que la justice régne, que la vérité fleurit.18
The anti-revolutionary temper of the revolution belongs to 1787, not 1776. Another element was at work, and it is the other element that is new, effective, characteristic, and added permanently to the experience of the world. The story of the revolted colonies impresses us first and most distinctly as the supreme manifestation of the law of resistance, as the abstract revolution in its purest and most perfect shape. No people was so free as the insurgents; no government less oppressive than the government which they overthrew. Those who deem Washington and Hamilton honest can apply the term to few European statesmen. Their example presents a thorn, not a cushion, and threatens all existing political forms, with the doubtful exception of the federal Constitution of 1787. It teaches that men ought to be in arms even against a remote and constructive danger to their freedom; that even if the cloud is no bigger than a man’s hand, it is their right and duty to take the national existence, to sacrifice lives and fortunes, to cover the country with a lake of blood, to shatter crowns and sceptres and fling parliaments into the sea. On this principle of subversion they erected their commonwealth, and by its virtue lifted the world out of its orbit and assigned a new course to history. Here or nowhere we have the broken chain, the rejected past, precedent and statute superseded by unwritten law, sons wiser than their fathers, ideas rooted in the future, reason cutting as clean as Atropos. The wisest philosopher of the old world instructs us to take things as they are, and to adore God in the event: Il faut toujours être content de l’ordre du passé, parce qu’il est conforme à la volonté de Dieu absolue, qu’on connoît par l’évènement.19 The contrary is the text of Emerson: “Institutions are not aboriginal, though they existed before we were born. They are not superior to the citizen. Every law and usage was a man’s expedient to meet a particular case. We may make as good; we may make better.” More to the present point is the language of Seward: “The rights asserted by our forefathers were not peculiar to themselves, they were the common rights of mankind. The basis of the Constitution was laid broader by far than the super-structure which the conflicting interests and prejudices of the day suffered to be erected. The Constitution and laws of the federal government did not practically extend those principles throughout the new system of government; but they were plainly promulgated in the Declaration of Independence. Their complete development and reduction to practical operation constitute the progress which all liberal statesmen desire to promote, and the end of that progress will be complete political equality among ourselves, and the extension and perfection of institutions similar to our own throughout the world.” A passage which Hamilton’s editor selects as the keynote of his system expresses well enough the spirit of the revolution: “The sacred rights of mankind are not to be rummaged for among old parchments or musty records. They are written, as with a sunbeam, in the whole volume of human nature, by the hand of the Divinity itself, and can never be erased or obscured by mortal power. I consider civil liberty, in a genuine, unadulterated sense, as the greatest of terrestrial blessings. I am convinced that the whole human race is entitled to it, and that it can be wrested from no part of them without the blackest and most aggravated guilt.” Those were the days when a philosopher divided governments into two kinds, the bad and the good, that is, those which exist and those which do not exist; and when Burke, in the fervour of early liberalism, proclaimed that a revolution was the only thing that could do the world any good: “Nothing less than a convulsion that will shake the globe to its centre can ever restore the European nations to that liberty by which they were once so much distinguished.”
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 In Mr. Bradford, who died since he revised this note (in 1910), Massachusetts lost a singularly thoughtful and public-spirited citizen.
Note to Edition of 1910: Mr. Kearney died in 1907.
[* Publisher’s Note:] p. 1071 in the present edition.
[† Publisher’s Note:] p. 1072 in the present edition.
[‡ Publisher’s Note:] p. 1073 in the present edition.
[* Publisher’s Note:] p. 1074 in the present edition.
p. 1080 in the present edition.
[‡ Publisher’s Note:] p. 1075 in the present edition.
[§ Publisher’s Note:] p. 1079 in the present edition.
[* Publisher’s Note:] p. 1081 in the present edition.
 North Carolina did not ratify the Constitution till November, 1789; Rhode Island not till May, 1790.
 The Swiss Confederation was scarcely yet a nation, and the few democratic cantons were so small as hardly to come into account.
 Of these writers Hamilton must be deemed the leading spirit, not merely because he wrote by far the larger number of letters, but because his mind was more independent and more commanding than Madison’s. The latter rendered admirable service in the Philadelphia Convention of 1787, but afterwards yielded to the (in the main unfortunate) influence of Jefferson, a character with less purity but more vehemence.
 I take no account of those objections to the Constitution which may be deemed to have been removed by the first eleven amendments.
 See Federalist, No. 54.
Federalist, No. 66, p. 667. “Calculating upon the aversion of the people to monarchy, the writers against the Constitution have endeavored to enlist all their jealousies and apprehensions in opposition to the intended President of the United States, not merely as the embryo but as the full grown progeny of that detested parent. They have to establish the pretended affinity, not scrupled to draw resources even from the regions of fiction. The authority of a magistrate in fewer instances greater, in some instances less, than those of a Governor of New York, have been magnified into more than royal prerogatives. He has been decorated with attributes superior in dignity and splendour to those of a King of Great Britain. He has been shewn to us with the diadem sparkling on his brow and the imperial purple flowing in his train. He has been seated on a throne surrounded with minions and mistresses, giving audience to the envoys of foreign potentates in all the supercilious pomp of majesty. The images of Asiatic despotism and voluptuousness have scarcely been wanting to crown the exaggerated scene. We have been taught to tremble at the terrific visages of murdering janizaries, and to blush at the unveiled mysteries of a future seraglio.”
Federalist, No. 62.
Federalist, Nos. 56 and 59.
 Though he, like other observers of that time had not realized, and might not have relished, the supremacy, now become omnipotence, which the House of Commons had already won.
Federalist, No. 10 (written by Madison) and in other letters.
Federalist, No. 62.
Federalist, No. 61.
Federalist, No. 72.
 “The Legislative Department is everywhere (i.e., in all the States) extending the sphere of its activity and drawing all power into its impetuous vortex. . . . It is against the enterprising ambition of this department that the People ought to indulge all their jealousy and exhaust all their precautions.”Federalist, No. 47.
Federalist, No. 50.
Federalist, No. 12.
Federalist, No. 67. In 1800, twelve years after Hamilton wrote this passage, the contest for the presidency lay between Jefferson and Aaron Burr, and Hamilton was compelled by his sense of Burr’s demerits to urge his party to vote (when the choice came before the House of Representatives) for Jefferson, his own bitter enemy. What he thought of Burr, who, but for his intervention, would certainly have obtained the chief magistracy of the nation, may be inferred from the fact that he preferred as president the man of whom he thus writes: “I admit that his (Jefferson’s) politics are tinctured with fanaticism; that he is too much in earnest in his democracy, that he has been a mischievous enemy to the principal measures of our past administration, that he is crafty and persevering in his objects, that he is not scrupulous about the means of success, nor very mindful of truth; and that he is a contemptible hypocrite. But, &c.” (Letter to James A. Bayard, Jan. 16, 1801.)
After this it is superfluous, as it would be invidious, to dwell on the deficiencies of some recent presidents or presidential candidates.
 “The private fortunes of the President and Senators, as they must all be American citizens, cannot possibly be sources of danger.”Federalist, No. 54.
 But as to the early emergence of the opposition of Northern and Southern men over slavery, see the first chapter of Dr. Von Holst’s History.
 “I hold with Montesquieu that a government must be fitted to a nation as much as a coat to the individual; and consequently that what may be good at Philadelphia may be bad at Paris and ridiculous at Petersburgh.” To Lafayette, Jan. 6th, 1799.
 The first cargo of cotton was sent from America to Europe in 1791 and the cotton gin invented in 1793.
 When we come to Tocqueville, we shall find him touching but lightly on the two first of the above tendencies (partly, perhaps, because he attends too little to the state governments), but emphasizing the third and fearing from the fourth the dissolution of the Union.
 Sainte Beuve says somewhere of him, “Il a commencéà penser avant d’avoir rien appris: ce qui fait qu’il a quelquefois pensé creux.” Thiers once said, in the chamber, “Quand je considère intuitivement, comme dirait M. de Tocqueville.”
 To none of whom, oddly enough, does Tocqueville refer. He is singularly sparing in his references to individuals, mentioning no one except Jackson for blame, and Livingston (of the Louisiana Code and secretary of state, 1831–33) for praise.
 An interesting discussion of the effects in this respect of the war of 1812 is contained in Mr. N. M. Butler’s paper in the Johns Hopkins University Studies, No. VII of the Fifth Series.
 Dr. Von Holst gives at the beginning of the second part of his constitutional history a powerful picture of the democratic revolution, and inswarming of a new class of men, which accompanied the election and installation of Andrew Jackson.
 Note the singular fact that he does not give any description of a state as a commonwealth, nor characterize the general features of its government.
 This is a common remark of visitors to America, but it arises from their mistaking the people they see in society for the “governed” in general. They go with introductions to educated people: if they mixed with the masses they would form a different notion of the “governed,” as Tocqueville rather oddly calls the ordinary citizens.
 It is remarkable that Tocqueville should have supposed this to be the chief cause of the excellence he ascribes to the Senate.
 The only instance given of this is in the discretion allowed to the officers of the New England townships, whose functions are, however, unimportant. I greatly doubt if the statement is or ever was generally true.
 Still true as regards public offices, save and except the judges of the Supreme Court when sitting at Washington.
 This has ceased to be true in federal administration, and in that of the more advanced states.
 Tocqueville does not say whether he intends this remark to apply to state legislation only or to federal legislation also. He quotes dicta of Hamilton, Madison, and Jefferson to the same effect, but these testimonies all refer to a time anterior to the creation of the federal Constitution. Admitting that such instability did exist in 1832 as respects the states, one is tempted to believe that Tocqueville was unconsciously comparing America with France, where the Code has arrested legislation to an extent surprising to an English observer. During the last thirty years there have been more important changes in the ordinary law annually made by the English Parliament than by most American legislatures.
 Everyone knows how prominent this trait is among the observations which European visitors pass upon America. It is now much less noticeable than formerly. I can even say from experience that it had sensibly diminished between 1870 and 1883.
 This observation seems strange indeed to anyone who has read the commercial history of the United States since the great crisis of 1838.
 Jackson’s popularity began with his military exploit: but his hold on the people was due to other causes also. His election coincided with the rise of the great democratic wave already referred to.
 I do not profess to summarize in these few lines all that Tocqueville says of the character and influence of Christianity in the United States, for he devotes many pages to it, and they are among the wisest and most permanently true that he has written.
 Can this have been true even in 1832?
 No proof is given of this proposition, which is by no means self-evident, and which has indeed all the air of a premiss laid down by a schoolman of the thirteenth century.
 He has however nowhere proved that the states deserve to be called “peoples.”
 The protective tariff was felt as a grievance by the South, being imposed in the interest of the Northern and Middle states. No doubt, the North got more gain out of the Union than the South did.
[*]Publishers Note: The Predictions of Hamilton and de Tocqueville by James Bryce originally appeared in the Johns Hopkins University Studies in Historical and Political Science, Vol. IX, 5th Series (September 1887).
 “Il est impossible d’imaginer une haine plus venimeuse que celle des Americains contre les Anglais.”
 In the form of the amendment of particular provisions of state constitutions.
[*]Publisher’s Note: This review originally appeared in Political Science Quarterly, Vol. 4, No. 1 (March 1889). It is reprinted in Bryce’s “American Commonwealth”: Fiftieth Anniversary, ed. Robert C. Brooks (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1939), pp. 169–88. “At the time of writing this review,” Brooks notes, “Woodrow Wilson had just become professor of political science at Wesleyan University, Middletown, Connecticut. According to Ray Stannard Baker, his official biographer, Wilson ‘pounced upon it [The American Commonwealth] with a kind of passion, characteristically underscored its significant passages, filled it with side notes, in short, tore the very vitals out of it and prepared a review for the Political Science Quarterly—as good a criticism of the work as was ever written.’ (Woodrow Wilson, Life and Letters, Vol. 1, p. 310).”
 Bryce, The American Commonwealth, Vol. 3, Ch. 86, p. 146 [Publisher’s Note: Vol. 2, p. 1004, of the present edition].
 Bryce, op. cit., see particularly Vol. 1, Ch. 25, on “Comparison of American and European Systems.”
[*]Publisher’s Note: This section of the appendix does not appear in the 1922 edition.
 Bryce, op. cit., Vol. 2, Ch. 73, p. 596 [p. 884 of the present edition].
 Bryce, op. cit., Vol. 2, Ch. 59, p. 416 [p. 752 of the present edition].
 Bryce, op. cit., Vol. 2, Ch. 59, p. 418 [p. 753 of the present edition].
 Bryce, op. cit., Vol. 2, Ch. 58, pp. 403–11 [pp. 743–48 of the present edition].
 Bryce, op. cit., Vol. 2, Ch. 58, p. 409 [p. 747 of the present edition].
 For Mr. Bryce’s recognition of the readiness of the people to receive and follow leaders whenever circumstances produce them, spite of institutions—an acknowledgement apparently not perfectly consistent with some other judgments of the book (e.g., that any arrogation of a right to consideration, greater than that accorded to the ordinary, the average man, is resented) . . . see Vol. 3, Ch. 87, pp. 169, 170 [Vol. 2, pp. 1019–20, of the present edition].
[*] Publisher’s Note: Professor Goodnow’s chapter on the Tweed Ring was rewritten by Bryce in later editions.
 Bryce, op. cit., Vol. 3, Ch. 96, p. 354. [This sentence appears with slight changes in Chapter 102 of the 1922 edition (Vol. 2, p. 1271, of the present edition).]
[*]Publisher’s Note: This page number is incorrect; the correct page number is 266 (pp. 1210–22 of the present edition).]
 Bryce, op. cit., Vol. 3, Ch. 115, p. 648 [Vol. 2, Chapter 122, p. 1496, of the present edition].
 Thus he expresses surprise at the slightness of the changes wrought by the war in the Constitution—meaning, of course, the formal changes.
Publisher’s Note: This review originally appeared in the English Historical Review, Vol. 4 (April 1889). It is reprinted in Bryce’s “American Commonwealth”: Fiftieth Anniversary, ed. Robert C. Brooks (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1939), pp. 189–203. John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton (1834–1902) served in Parliament (1859, 1865) as a member of the Liberal Party, and was raised to the peerage by William Gladstone as Baron Acton of Aldenham. In 1895 he was appointed Regius Professor of History at Cambridge University. While at Cambridge he planned and partially completed The Cambridge Modern History. Readers interested in the works of Acton may consult Selected Writings of Lord Acton, ed. Rufus J. Fears, 3 vols. (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1985–88).
 “Neither I nor any other learned person can write about politics.”
 “I hope we will be able to understand each other quite well, and if neither understands the other wholly still each may be able to help the other to understand himself better.”
 “If a book conveys a lesson it must do so in spite of the author, by the very force of the facts which it sets forth.”
 “The division of the legislative body is an essential condition of liberty. It is the only guaranty which insures the nation against the usurpation of its mandataries.”
 “All the legislative powers determined by the representatives.”
 “Interesting but not very exact.”
 “To so great a name praise can add nothing.”
 “Honest people are always afraid: that’s their nature.”
 “In a revolution one should never side with honest people: they are always swept out.”
 “It is the party of honest people which is the least honest of all parties. Everyone, even in his errors, was honest in the Constituent Assembly except on the side of the [conservative] right.”
 “The British system is only the final achievement of the long victories gained by the subjects against the monarch. Do you forget that kings ought not to establish institutions, but that institutions only should establish kings? . . . Do you know one king who deserves to be free, in the implicit sense of the word? And George IV, do you believe that I would be his minister if he had been free to choose? . . . When a king denies to the people the institutions which the people need what is the practice of England? It expels the king, and puts in his place a king of a related family no doubt, but one who finds himself thus no longer a son of royalty, trusting in the right of his ancestors, but the son of national institutions, drawing all his rights from this sole origin. . . . Representative government is still good for one thing which his majesty has forgotten. It is necessary that the ministers suffer without replying the epigrams of a king who seeks in this way to revenge himself for his impotence.”
 “Religion, sire, has less influence than ever over the minds [of men]. . . . There is a whole province of Quakers? . . . Since the Revolution it seems that differences of this sort are disappearing. . . . Are not the Bostonians very devout? . . . They were so, sire, but in reading descriptions of them written say twenty or even ten years ago one would not recognize them from this angle.”
 “This was a century ardent and sincere, a century full of faith and enthusiasm. It had faith in the truth, for it recognized the right of truth to reign.”
 “Extremes, not their means and weaker sides, point out the future.”
 “Ideas never have more power than when under their most abstract form. Abstract ideas have moved the world more, they have caused more revolutions and left more durable traces than have practical ideas.”
 “No individual thinks with the consequence of the popular spirit.”
 “A thought, once developed, is an independent power, working on for itself, yes, so growing in the human soul that it brings force to bear upon its own mother and reduces her to subjection.”
 “It is by revolt after revolt, if one wishes to employ this word, that societies are perfected, that civilization is established, that justice reigns, that truth flourishes.”
 “It is necessary always to be content with the order of the past, because it has conformed to the will of Almighty God, whom one recognizes in the event.”