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THE request addressed to me by the publishers to write for non-professional readers a book on the Constitution of the United States led me to inquire whether, in the multiplicity of works on this, as on almost every other conceivable subject touching large popular interests, there is any room to say something novel, or put into a new form the old matter which has been said and written over and over again by abler tongues and pens than mine. It occurred to me that a sketch of the Constitution of the United States as it stands in text, and as it is interpreted by the Supreme Court, accompanied by a history of the political controversies which resulted in the formation of and changes in that instrument, together with the presentation of the actual situation of political parties and questions, which, in their turn, may produce constitutional changes, would, if given within a limited space, present such a view of the institutional condition of the United States as to justify this book to the student of political history.

At no time in the history of the United States have its institutions awakened such widespread and friendly interest as at present. It is true that dur


ing the great civil war, from 1861 to 1865, the news from the contending armies was read with greater avidity than that which is awakened by the items of a commercial, agricultural, and industrial character, which now in the main fill the columns of the press; but a far greater proportion of the human family are more largely concerned in these very items than then were in our military contests, inasmuch as since that period the United States has become the largest contributor to the food supply of the world.

That period of the history of this country beginning with the close of the war is a most interesting one to the student of political institutions. European statesmen doubted, and many thoughtful Americans at times had misgivings, whether its institutions could bear the strain of the conditions in which at the close of the war the national government was placed. Every war issue has been met and successfully disposed of. The ills of an improperly laid and collected revenue, a bad civil service, mischievous methods of taxation and corrupt municipal administration still exist, but not one of these evils, properly speaking, can be said to date from the war period, but the roots of them were planted many years before the slavery agitation was at its height. Nigh a million of men, who in the North and South were under arms at the


close of the war, were disbanded and absorbed again by the agricultural and industrial enterprises of the country, and no appreciable increase of crime or lawlessness was visible in the community. The government returned to a sound currency from a depreciated paper war currency, notwithstanding the fact that great masses believed the return to specie payment would be the ruin of individual enterprise. A large proportion of the debt created by the war has already been paid off; and the remainder, by the establishment of a financial credit second to none in the world, is refunded at so low a rate of interest that the burden of the debt, taking into consideration the increase of population, is but a third of what it was at the close of the war. The revenue of the country is so far in excess of its financial needs that but for the ingenuity of politicians to devise jobs to absorb public funds, a bad civil service and governmental extravagance, a still greater reduction would have been made. As it is, the debt of the United States, although the most recent of the great governmental debts of the world, may still be the first to be paid off.

All these evidences of elasticity of institutions, enabling them successfully to meet unlooked-for emergencies in the country's needs, have from time to time elicited the admiring expressions of publicists the world over, and caused them more closely to study institutions which, while they on the one hand secure individual freedom of action, seem not to be devoid of the power to produce such farreaching results as are supposed to be the special advantages of the more paternal forms of government.

To attribute the whole of the prosperity of the people of the United States to its institutions would be puerile in the extreme. Any constitutional form of government securing freedom of action in dealing with its practically exhaustless resources, among which may be enumerated vast treasures of mineral wealth, fruitful soil, and beneficent climate, coupled with a geographical situation which almost wholly prevents foreign complications, would have made for the inhabitants of the vast domain known as the United States a home filled with comfort, luxury, and wealth, and have attracted seekers of fortune from every quarter of the globe.

That the institutions of the United States did, however, largely favor the growth of material wealth cannot be denied. Not to speak of other advantages afforded to individual enterprise, the entire absence of any inter-state custom-house from Maine to Florida, and from the Atlantic to the Pacific, has given the inestimable and incalculable advantages of free trade in its most absolute form over a larger surface and among more varied conditions of an indus

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