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The difficulty with irresponsible government is that it breeds more irresponsible government, and that it has always done So. There seems to be a tendency to run in a vicious circle. The more complicated we make our government the more difficult we make it to work, and the more necessary we make the services of a professional who spends his life in the work. The minute a man makes a thing his life-work he tends to make his living out of that work; and as soon as a man is getting his living out of political work, corruption inevitably comes in. As soon as that stage is reached, the people are tempted to ask for more checks and more limitations in order to put an end to such corruption. And so we go around and around and around, each new step producing more results in the same circle. In recent years the irresponsibility of our legislation and the consequent corruption of some of our state legislatures have produced a demand that even the powers left in the legislature shall be limited by the compulsory referendum and that the people themselves shall attempt to do their own law-making directly.
I have never known the case to be more tersely or clearly summed up than by Professor Ford, of Princeton, in his book on The Rise and Growth of American Politics:
So long as our constitutional system provides that an administration chosen to carry out a party policy shall be debarred from initiating and directing that policy in legislation, just so long is the party machine a necessary intermediary between the people and their government, and just so long will party management constitute a trade which those who have a vocation for politics cannot neglect, and those who make a business of politics will make as profitable as possible. As Burke wisely said: "Whatever be the road to power, that is the road that will be trod."
The approaching convention has an opportunity to meet and break that vicious circle. I am glad that I was elected on a platform which declared for responsible government. It takes courage to meet the existing situation. It takes courage to face the people and try to persuade them that the sugarcoated remedy which they have been in the habit of taking will
only make the disease worse. It takes courage to follow the opposite road from the easy one of the demagogue who clamors for more direct government by the people, ignoring the fact that only through the concentration of responsibility can we insure effective democracy. I hope and believe that the delegates of the state of New York in its coming constitutional convention will have the courage and the leadership to take such a course.
THE ADAPTATION OF A CONSTITUTION TO THE
NEEDS OF A PEOPLE'
FRANK J. GOODNOW
President of Johns Hopkins University, legal adviser to the President of China
HE end of the eighteenth century was marked by the formulation and almost universal acceptance by the educated classes of the European world of general political principles. These were regarded as of almost universal application at all times and under all conditions. Among them may be mentioned the sovereignty of the people, the separation or distribution of the powers of government, and the existence of natural rights which were inherent in man.
It was believed at that time that no good government could be established except on these principles. It was of course admitted that in some countries conditions were such that these principles could be applied with greater immediate advantage than was possible in the case of others. But it was on the whole considered to be true that in all countries the application of these principles should be made because of the educational effect upon the people, who would learn much even from the failures and mistakes which they might make.
Perhaps in no country of the western world was there at the end of the eighteenth century greater confidence held in the universal application of general political principles than in the United States. It is almost certain that there is no other country in which this general idea has been retained with so little modification.
The reasons for this attitude in the United States are not far to seek. The revolution which broke out in this country and the changes in the form of government made necessary by its successful conclusion forced upon the people of the United States the formulation of principles upon which the new polit
1 Address at the dinner meeting of the Academy of Political Science, November 19, 1914.
ical organization might be based. Further, the comparatively simple character of the social conditions which obtained in the North America of that day made the application of the principles accepted an easy matter. Little government of any sort was necessary. The free play of an almost unadulterated individualism, a corollary of the principle of natural rights, might be relied on to accomplish what was then regarded as the one supremely desirable thing, that is, the material conquest of the American continent.
In the more settled and more complex conditions existing in Europe, however, the principles which had been received with such enthusiasm on this side of the water came soon not to be regarded by the thinking world with the same favor. Apart from France, governmental changes were not so sudden as they were here, and the increasingly industrial character of European society soon seemed to cause evils which could be remedied only by a limitation of the conception of natural rights..
We find in Europe quite early in the nineteenth century that most of the principles which had been by many supposed to be of universal application were questioned. Popular sovereignty lost much of its hold upon the European mind as a result of the happenings of the French Revolution and the subsequent conservative reaction. The idea of natural rights was in large measure replaced by the conception of rights based on the law of the land as fixed by a representative legislature. The principle of the separation of powers was greatly weakened in its application to concrete political facts, or else its general applicability to government was denied.
The announcement in the world of natural science of the principle of evolutionary progress through adaptation to changes in environment, and its general acceptance by scientific men could not fail to have their influence on the speculations of political thinkers. Gradually there grew up the so-called historical schools of thought as opposed to what had been philosophical and speculative schools.
The result has been that in a little over a century a remarkable change in the mental attitude of political writers has taken place. Whether of European or of American nationality, there is
much less dogmatism on their part than was formerly the case. At the same time it cannot be denied that the old ideas with regard to universally applicable political principles are still maintained by many in this country whose intellectual training has been influenced by the political philosophy of the latter part of the eighteenth and the early part of the nineteenth century. Perhaps nowhere is the force of these ideas greater than among the judges of our courts, who have had great influence on political development in this country through their power to declare unconstitutional acts of our legislatures. In many instances it is, however, to be remembered that the decisions of our courts. on constitutional questions do not necessarily reflect the personal opinions of the judges, since they must follow constitutional provisions adopted under the influence of the older ideas and as yet unaffected by the political theories of the present day.
But, for whatever reason, it is nevertheless true that in the United States probably more than elsewhere there still lingers the belief in political principles of universal application, regardless of the economic and social conditions obtaining in particular countries and of the history and peculiar traditions of those countries.
The existence of these ideas and their disastrous effects upon constructive political work have been brought most forcibly to my attention during the past year as a result of the experience which it has been my good fortune to have in connection with the attempts made in China to frame a constitution for its new republican government. Perhaps a short statement of what has happened there will be of value in throwing light on the subject which has been assigned to me this evening, viz., the adaptation of a constitution to the needs of a people.
For reasons into which it is unnecessary to enter, a revolution broke out in China in 1911. This soon took the form of an attempt to expel the alien Manchu dynasty which had controlled the country for nearly three centuries. China is from the point of view of climate, of geography and of race divided into two great sections, viz., the north and the south. The Manchus, who came from the north, had always, and naturally, a greater hold on the north than on the south. The revolution was im