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referring to more elaborate treatises, monographs, and documents, for the use of those who wish to pursue the study at greater length.
Within limits thus restricted, it will probably seem strange to some that so much space is given to the treatment of local institutions, - comprising the governments of town, county, and city. It may be observed, by the way, that some persons apparently conceive of the state also as a 6 local institution.” In a recent review of Professor Howard's admirable “ Local Constitutional History of the United States," we read, “the first volume, which is all that is yet published, treats of the development of the township, hundred, and shire; the second volume, we suppose, being designed to treat of the State Constitutions." The reviewer forgets that there is such a subject as
development of the city and local magistracies (which is to be the subject of that second volume), and lets us see that in his apprehension the American state is an institution of the same order as the town and county. We can thus readily assent when we are told that “many youth have grown to manhood with so little appreciation of the political importance of the state as to believe it nothing more than a geographical division.”i In its historic genesis, the American state is not an institution of the same order as the town and county, nor has it as yet become depressed or “mediatized” to that degree. The state, while it does not possess such attributes of sovereignty as were by our Federal Constitution granted to the United States, does, nevertheless, possess many very important and essential characteristics of a sovereign body, as is here pointed out on pages 172–177. The study of our state governments is inextricably wrapped
1 Young's Government Class Book, p. iv.
up with the study of our national government, in such wise that both are parts of one subject, which cannot be understood unless both parts are studied. Whether in the course of our country's future development we shall ever arrive at a stage in which this is not the case, must be left for future events to determine. But, if we ever do arrive at such a stage, “ American insti. tutions” will present a very different aspect from those with which we are now familiar, and which we have always been accustomed (even, perhaps, without always understanding them) to admire.
The study of local government properly includes town, county, and city. To this part of the subject I have devoted about half of my limited space, quite unheedful of the warning which I find in the preface of a certain popular text-book, that “ to learn the duties of town, city, and county officers, has nothing whatever to do with the grand and noble subject of Civil Government,” and that “to attempt class drill on petty town and county offices, would be simply burlesque of the whole subject.” But, suppose one were to say, with an air of ineffable scorn, that petty experiments on terrestrial gravitation and radiant heat, such as can be made with commonplace pendulums and tea-kettles, have nothing whatever to do with the grand and noble subject of Physical Astronomy! Science would not have got very far on that plan, I fancy. The truth is, that science, while it is perpetually dealing with questions of magnitude, and knows very well what is large and what is small, knows nothing whatever of any such distinction as that between things that are “grand” and things that are “petty.” When we try to study things in a scientific spirit, to learn their modes of genesis and their present aspects, in order that we may foresee their tendencies,
and make our volitions count for something in modifying them, there is nothing which we may safely disregard as trivial. This is true of whatever we can study; it is eminently true of the history of institutions. Government is not a royal mystery, to be shut off, like old Deiokes,1 by a sevenfold wall from the ordinary business of life. Questions of civil government are practical business questions, the principles of which are as often and as forcibly illustrated in a city council or a county board of supervisors, as in the House of Representatives at Washington. It is partly because too many
of our citizens fail to realize that local government is a worthy study, that we find it making so much trouble for us. The bummers and “ boodlers ” do not find the subject beneath their notice; the Master who inspires them is wide awake and for a creature that divides the hoof tremely intelligent.
It is, moreover, the mental training gained through contact with local government that enables the people of a community to conduct successfully, through their representatives, the government of the state and the nation. And so it makes a great deal of difference whether the government of a town or county is of one sort or another. If the average character of our local governments for the past quarter of a century had been quite as high as that of the Boston town-meeting or the Virginia boards of county magistrates, in the days of Samuel Adams and Patrick Henry, who can doubt that many an airy demagogue, who, through session after session, has played his pranks at the national capital, would long ago have been abruptly recalled to his native heath, a sadder if not a wiser man? We cannot expect the nature of the aggregate to be
| Herodotus, i. 98.
much better than the average natures of its units. One may hear people gravely discussing the difference between Frenchmen and Englishmen in political efficiency, and resorting to assumed ethnological causes to explain it, when, very likely, to save their lives they could not describe the difference between a French commune and an English parish. To comprehend the interesting contrasts between Gambetta in the Chamber of Deputies, and Gladstone in the House of Commons, one should begin with a historical inquiry into the causes, operating through forty generations, which have frittered away self-government in the rural districts and small towns of France, until there is very little left. If things in America ever come to such a pass that the city council of Cambridge must ask Congress each year how much money it can be allowed to spend for municipal purposes, while the mayor of Cambridge holds his office subject to removal by the President of the United States, we may safely predict further extensive changes in the character of the American people and their government. It was not for nothing that our profoundest political thinker, Thomas Jefferson, attached so much importance to the study of the township.
In determining the order of exposition, I have placed local government first, beginning with the township as the simplest unit. It is well to try to understand what is near and simple, before dealing with what is remote and complex. In teaching geog. raphy with maps, it is wise to get the pupil interested in the streets of his own town, the country roads running out of it, and the neighbouring hills and streams, before burdening his attention with the topographical details of Borrioboola Gha. To study grand generalizations about government, before attending to such of
its features as come most directly before us, is to run the risk of achieving a result like that attained by the New Hampshire school-boy, who had studied geology in a text-book, but was not aware that he had ever set eyes upon an igneous rock.
After the township, naturally comes the county. The city, as is here shown, is not simply a larger town, but is much more complex in organization. Historically, many cities have been, or still are, equivalent to counties; and the development of the county must be studied before we can understand that of the city. It has been briefly indicated how these forms of local government grew up in England, and how they have become variously modified in adapting themselves to different social conditions in different parts of the United States.
Next in order come the general governments, those which possess and exert, in one way or another, attributes of sovereignty. First, the various colonial governments have been considered, and some features of their metamorphosis into our modern state governments have been described. In the course of this study, our attention is called to the most original and striking feature of the development of civil government upon American soil, — the written constitution, with the accompanying power of the courts in certain cases to annul the acts of the legislature. This is not only the most original feature of our government, but it is in some respects the most important. Without the Supreme Court, it is not likely that the Federal Union could have been held together, since Congress has now and then passed an act which the people in some of the states have regarded as unconstitutional and tyrannical ; and in the absence of a judicial method of settling such questions, the only available