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functions at probably the most critical time in the recent history of the country. Naturally, little if any progress was made by it in solving the many pressing and important problems which were presented.
Just prior to the dissolution of the Kuomingtang party, the committee of the Parliament had drafted a complete constitution which was to be submitted to the Parliament for action. This draft constitution provided, as has been said, for the cabinet form of government and emphasized the legislature rather than the executive, as had been the case with the provisional constitution. The disappearance of Parliament made it impossible for this constitution to be acted upon.
Soon after the disappearance of Parliament the President summoned an administrative council composed for the most part of representatives of the more conservative elements of Chinese society. This body passed such legislation as seemed to be required, and among other things provided for a convention which was authorized to make amendments to the provisional constitution.
After sitting for some months this convention adopted amendments to the provisional constitution which greatly strengthened the power of the President. Among other things it provided for a council of state to be composed of members appointed by the President. This body was to advise the President and was to act as a legislature until the organization of a new legislature to be elected by the people. The amended provisional constitution provided that the convention which amended it should organize such a legislature and that the council of state should draft a new permanent constitution to take the place of the provisional constitution as amended.
Up to the present time all legislation has been passed by the council of state. In addition to legislation proper, that is, laws passed by the council of state acting temporarily as a legislature, ordinances of the President, who has a wide power of ordinance by the provisions of the present constitution in force, regulate a number of very important matters such as the civil and military' organization of the government.
The experience of the few months of cabinet government was
borne in mind by those called upon to amend the provisional constitution, and will undoubtedly have a great influence upon the permanent constitution which will be adopted in the course of the next two or three years. It has already caused a very great increase in the powers of the President, who in the minds of the people takes the place—so far as an elected officer serving for a limited time could take that place-of the former Son of Heaven. He it is in whom are now centered all powers of government. The function of the legislature by this amended constitution is to be advisory rather than controlling, consultative rather than initiating.
Such a reversal of policy is of course somewhat disconcerting to the ardent republican who regards a republic as a government of the people, by the people and for the people. But it cannot be denied that the form of government provided by the amended provisional constitution is more in accord with the history and conditions of the country than was the original provisional constitution. For China has never really known any sort of government but personal government in accordance with immemorial custom. The Chinese people for reasons into which we cannot now enter are at present incapable of any large measure of social coöperation. Well-organized economic classes conscious of common interests do not exist in the same degree as they were to be found in Europe when representative government began to be established.
The consequence is that the organization of a representative body which will really represent anything is extremely difficult, while the development of autocracy is very easy. Under these conditions all in the nature of political reform which can be accomplished at present is to place by the side of a powerful executive a body which shall more or less adequately represent the classes of the people conscious of common interests. These classes are the literati class and the merchant class. The literati not only are conscious of common interests; they also still have an immense influence on public opinion. The merchants are already organized in trade guilds and have in the past exercised rather informally a great influence over the actions of the officials. To these two classes might perhaps be added the larger tax-payers.
To a body representing these classes and chosen from them so far as possible by some form of election, should for the present be given consultative rather than deliberative powers. If it prove effective its powers may be increased and its representative character widened, but it is extremely doubtful whether real progress in the direction of constitutional government in China will be made by a too violent departure from past traditions, by the attempt, in order to apply a general political theory, to establish a form of government, which, while suited to other countries, does not take into account the peculiar history of China and the social and economic conditions of the country.
A policy such as I have outlined is, I believe, the policy which the President is now trying to adopt. Yuan Shih Kai is, however, in addition to being a statesman, a politician. If he were not he would not be where he is. As a politician he has to accommodate himself to temporary political conditions as best he may. What those are the outsider does not and cannot know. No one therefore who is not acquainted with the ins and outs of Chinese political life can sit in judgment upon the particular acts of the President in the great struggle which he has been conducting with such consummate skill during the past two or three years. But we are in a position to express an opinion as to the general result. If we look back upon these years we see that Yuan Shih Kai has been able to prevent the disintegration of China, that he had almost succeeded in reorganizing its finances when the present lamentable European war broke out, and that he is bringing order out of disorder. At no time in the history of China has there been so little disorder attendant upon so important and radical a change of government. The overthrow of a dynasty in China in the past has usually been accompanied by wars which have devastated whole. provinces, wiped out cities, destroyed great amounts of property and slain millions of human beings. At this particular period in the history of China comparatively few lives have been sacrificed and conditions are becoming better almost every day. That Yuan Shih Kai has therefore already done much for his country cannot be gainsaid. That he is endeavoring to lead China into the paths of constitutional government as fast as her
faltering steps will permit is my sincere conviction. Whether he will succeed no one of course can say. But his success in what he has attempted to accomplish in the past is certainly a happy augury for the future. One reason for this success is to
be found in the fact that as a practical statesman he is convinced that the constitution of China must be adapted to the needs and conditions of the country.
THE PROBLEMS OF THE CONSTITUTIONAL
Editor of the American Review of Reviews, Vice President of the
T has been decided by the people of the state of New York that the time has arrived for a scrutiny of the state's or
ganic law, with a view to such changes as may be found desirable to meet present-day needs. It is contemplated that a constitutional convention shall be elected every twenty years in this state, and that this body shall meet for some weeks or months of study and work. The result of its labors will be submitted to the people for their acceptance or rejection.
Meanwhile, there may be submitted by the legislature at any time, for acceptance or rejection at any general election, such propositions for constitutional change as may be thought desirable. In this manner, taking all the state constitutions under survey, the process of change is going on unceasingly throughout the country. Since the present constitution of 1894 was accepted by the people of New York, many amendments have been submitted, some of which have been adopted by popular vote and others rejected.
Recent New State Constitutions
Since 1894 the four new states of Utah, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Arizona have been admitted to the Union with constitutions accepted by the President and Congress. A number of the forty-eight commonwealths have made and adopted constitutions during the past twenty years. Hundreds of amendments, furthermore, have been proposed and adopted, some of them bringing about important changes in the principles and methods of state government, while others go far
1Introductory address as presiding officer at the meeting of the Academy of Political Science, November 19, 1914.