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of the king to dispense, in certain cases, with the laws of the state. That was the light in which a great majority of the people, at the time, viewed their own and the legitimate authority of the crown. Subsequent experience and observation disclosed the necessity of making the law supreme, in all cases.
This principle of political progress is just as applicable to us as it was to our progenitors. It is illustrated with peculiar force in the history of the American States which, with rare exceptions, have ever maintained a free system of laws. Descending from this platform of freedom to the practical life of the Union-to the exercise of power more remote from its source-we find even the ancient prerogative of royal dispensation not only revived, but so extended as to set aside both the laws and the Federal Constitution.
I have sought to present a clear view of the great Experiments in Free Government, of England and America. The various subjects discussed have, to some extent, a separate interest, but their general connection is obvious. It is apparent, in going over so much ground, that many of the lights and shadows of political history and many subjects of the greatest practical importance, at the present day, must be passed over without that minute pencilling and investigation which their merits claim. History and biography are so closely united, that he who undertakes to separate them, runs some risk of making his work lifeless and practically valueless. This is especially the case in reviewing the great subject of Free Government, which necessarily embraces the biography of many of the highest and noblest men of history, as it too often involves the sacrifice of their lives and estates. I have not altogether neglected the narration of such personal incidents; though, I confess, I have not dealt as largely in them as I could have wished.
In that portion of the work devoted to English and American political history, I have drawn freely upon cotemporaneous writers, and have used their reflections, with some necessary modifications of the text, with and without special credit, as would best carry out my design.
NEW YORK, October, 1864.