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about the operations of government and useful ideas regarding it, to one in the convention.
The other field is the field of the principles of government, a field in which our American constitutions occupy a place of their own in all the world, a place of their own in all the history of government. So far as the principles of government declared in our constitutions are right they do not change. No development of social or industrial life changes a true principle. And there are certain dangers to be considered when we turn our attention to that field of the convention's work— the reconsideration of the fundamental principles of government which are to direct, limit, control the operations of the government of the state.
In the first place, there is always the danger coming from the people who grow faint-hearted, because the path of liberty and justice is narrow and a hard one to tread. You see sometimes a young man who begins life with brilliant talents, undertakes this profession, and presently, finding it difficult, turns to another, and after a while leaves that and turns to another, and then to still another. His life is wasted. There is a little tendency of that kind in government. No great principle can be applied year after year, and generation after generation, where the people develop incompetency, and cease to grow in intelligent capacity. No principle can be applied without meeting obstacles, and being surrounded by inconveniences, and having the faint-hearted say, "Let us find some other way to work out our salvation. Oh, to abandon the hard and painful and trying effort!"
To grow in power, to grow in capacity for true liberty and true justice by holding fast to true principles, is hard. There are many who grow tired, who would find some easier way; but the easier way will but lead from the true path into some other easy way, and that into some other. Self-government, which is the basis and essence of our free republican government, is hard and discouraging. It requires courage and persistency and true patriotism to keep the grip on the handle of the plow and drive the furrow through. But wherever there is a true principle embodied in our constitution, we must stand by it and maintain it against all patent nostrums.
On the other hand, there are indications extensive and numerous of a reaction from certain extreme views, from certain enthusiasm for new devices in government. But we must remember that if reaction goes too far the pendulum will swing back the other way. All our statements of principle must be re-examined, not with faint hearts, but with a sincere purpose to ascertain whether the statement is sound and right, and whether it needs modification with reference to the new conditions in order more perfectly to express the principle.
I feel very differently about this convention from the way in which I felt twenty years ago, because it seems to me that upon this field of action dealing with the fundamental principles of our government we are performing the highest and most sacred duty that civilization ever demands from man. All the little questions of form and method may be right or wrong; we may solve them rightly or wrongly. If they are wrong they will be changed. If the law is wrong it will be changed. If it is not perfect it will be amended. But when a people undertakes to state fundamental principles of its government, it is putting to the test its right and its power to live. Millions of men in Western Europe to-day who are battling with each other, dying by the thousands, are fighting upon one side or the other of two different conceptions of national morality. Homes are desolated, children left fatherless, because two great principles of national morality have met in their death-grip. The nation which lays hold of the truth, of the true principles of liberty and justice will live. The nation that is wrong, the nation that fails to grasp the truth, will die. In our effort or attempt to make and re-make the constitutions of our beloved country we are putting to the test the very life of the country. To that task we should address ourselves with the prayer that we may be free from selfishness. That task should be performed with a sense of duty to one's country that rises to the level of religion. With the help of all the good men and women of our state we should be able to keep this convention right, upon the eternal principles by which alone our free and peaceful and just country can continue.
THE CONSTITUTION AND PUBLIC OPINION I
FREDERIC C. HOWE
Commissioner of Immigration at the Port of New York
OLITICAL institutions in America have been designed on
the principle of distrust. Fear of the people, fear of the legislature, fear of the executive, has inspired constitution makers and law makers from the very beginning. Fear has shaped our political machinery in city, state and nation. We are indebted to Alexander Hamilton for this political philosophy, just as Germany is indebted to Bismarck for a similar imprint upon the political institutions of that country. Hamilton sought to make perpetual the eighteenth-century ideas of government of Great Britain, and up to very recent years his influence has not even been challenged.
This distrust of the people on the one hand and of officials on the other led to the creation of innumerable checks on freedom and obstacles to action. Instead of simplicity, there is confusion. In place of directness there is indirectness. For responsibility there is irresponsibility. From the beginning of the germination of a political idea on the part of the voter to its final enactment into law there is obstacle after obstacle to be overcome, each of which checks initiative and sacrifices efficiency.
Strangely enough, we have adopted a diametrically different course as to business, as to industry, as to all commercial activity. No country in the world has permitted as free incorporation laws as have we. No country has sanctioned ease of organization, directness of action and concentration of power in private affairs as has America, and in consequence American industry, trade and commerce have developed with phenomenal rapidity. The private corporation suffered under none of
1 Address at the dinner meeting of the Academy of Political Science, November 19, 1914.
the limitations imposed upon the public corporation; it enjoyed freedom and the greatest flexibility.
Obstacles to Efficiency
Among the more important burdens which this philosophy of distrust has imposed upon our political institutions are the following:
1. Extreme rigidity in our federal and state constitutions. Amendment is made as difficult as possible; in some states it is practically impossible. The assumption of constitution makers seems to have been that eternal wisdom was possessed by the generation entrusted with the making of the constitution, and that the results of their labors should be crystallized into permanent, unchanging form.
2. A second check, born of distrust, was the indirect election of the President by the electoral college, and of the United States Senate by the state legislatures, provisions which have since been abandoned or changed.
3. Other checks are provided in the veto of one legislative branch upon the other, as well as in the power of the executive to overrule the acts of the legislative department.
4. Still further obstacles are provided in the power of the. courts to review and veto legislation, as well as in the lodgment of final authority in the written constitution, whose interpretation is entrusted to the judicial branch of the government.
5. Confusion is further confounded by the different lengths of terms of officials and the different methods of selection of the different departments, the courts being appointed for life or elected for long terms, while the Executive, the Senate and the House of Representatives are chosen for different periods. Each of these branches of the government represents a different electorate; each represents a different method of selection and a different time of contact with the people. At no time can the settled conviction of the public impress itself upon the whole government, as is possible under the British parliamentary system, or as is possible in most of our cities.
Checks and Obstacles in State and City
This negative philosophy of distrust found further expression in the constitutions of the states, in their laws as well as in the municipal codes provided for the cities. Almost all of the state constitutions provide for biennial sessions of the legislature, on the assumption that state legislatures are a nuisance and should meet as rarely as possible and for a very short time. In many states the length of the legislative session is limited to forty or sixty days. In others it is limited to ninety days. Sessions of this length virtually preclude any serious legislation being enacted; for, as anyone familiar with legislative bodies knows, it is practically impossible for such a body to organize, select its officials, provide its machinery and acquaint itself with the procedure, much less pass legislation through the routine of readings, committees, hearings and action, in such a short period of time. Certainly a legislative session of from forty to sixty days is little more than a farce. By such limitations as these we have invited legislative control by outside interests, or, where these do not prevail, by the undue activity of the executive branch of the government.
Methods of nomination and election reflect the same spirit of distrust. The caucus and convention were designed to remove the nominating power from the direct control of the people. These still further confused action and paralyzed initiative. Distrust added from one to half a dozen intermediaries between the voter and his representative. The long blanket ballot was an additional burden. This idea of distrust was carried into local government. It led to the denial of home rule to the cities; it involved complete dependence of the municipality on the state, with the log-rolling, trading and ripper legislation under which almost all of ours cities have suffered. Up to very recent times, cities enjoyed far less power than private corporations; in the rarest of instances were they equipped with power to perform their routine activities in an efficient and economical way. The same distrust expressed itself in limitations on the city's financial operations. The tax rate was limited, as is the amount of indebtedness that can be incurred. In some instances the limitations on the cities are so serious that they cannot per