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It is the object of this book to supply the means of forming an accurate idea of the American governinent. The author has adopted the proposition that the highest style of government is one of the people, by the people, and for the people," and believes that a constant progress, commencing in the earliest times, has reached its full development in the Great Republic. He therefore traces The FOOTPRINTS OF Tome through all history; notes the gradual unfolding of institutions, the rise and fall of empires, the causes that produced and destroyed the ancient republics, and the origin of the forces that give so much more strength and stability to modern civilization. All this he considers essential to a correct appreciation of the wonderful events of our age and country.
He then proceeds to a close and clear analysis of the whole structure of the government. Each general division, with its sub-divisions, is examined in detail, but successively: so that a definite picture of it, with all its branches, operations, and relations to other parts, stands before the mind as a sharply defined whole. The Executive, Legislative, and Judicial divisions — the dependent parts of each kept in proper place – come in order, one after the other, before the mind, the structure, powers and working of each being fully explained.
The book is indeed a compilation, and the matter in large part from official sources, but collected from an astonishingly large number of books, all of which are not to be found even in the largest public libraries; but the labor required in gathering so much from all directions and impressing a library into a form and compass so convenient, and so well arranged, in so few and well chosen words, has been great indeed.
All the works heretofore brought before the public proposing to meet this want have been fragmentary, or have treated at too great length but a portion of the subject. A complete summary, or Citizens' Manual, is here furnished, that includes a sufficiently detailed Analysis of the entire structure of the government, developing in a clear and comprehensive manner the organization, powers, relations, and mode of working of each department, small or large, the principles on which they rest and the spirit that permeates them all. It lays our history so far under contribution as to show us the occasion that produced each institution, the gradual growth of the grand edifice and the causes that controlled and shaped the whole. In short, it gives us an adequate reason for the form of our institutions, even so far back as the earlier history of humanity, when the tendencies that have borne this fruit first began to appear in human history,
It is our happiness to live in an age whose master-pieces of accomplishment, in science, industry and commerce, put to shame the extravagant fictions of Oriental tales and the wonders ascribed to the gods and heroes of ancient mythology, The changes produced by recent investigations and discoveries are so vast and so rapid that it is difficult to follow them or comprehend the power and thoroughness of the transformations that are taking place in the world around us. The applications of steam and electricity astonish us by their wide spread influence on the condition and relations of men; the ease and speed of movement and intercourse, constantly in
are ever putting us in new and unfamiliar situations. We have hardly accustomed our thoughts and habits to one before we are hurried on into another. The constantly clearer and more abundant light shed by science and the press does not suffice to keep our minds fully up to the progress that goes on in all departments of life.
It is plain that we have entered on a New Era, the most extraordinary and momentous the world has ever seen. The old and imperfect is being cleared away and everything thoroughly reconstructed. The explanation is that we are now setting up the grand Temple of Civilization, the separate stones and pillars of which each nation and age was commissioned to hew and carve, and, bo to speak, left in the quarry to await the time when, all the material being ready, the Master Builder should collect all the scattered parts and raise the
whole edifice at once, to the astonishment and joy of mankind.
All the institutions and civilizations of the past may be considered temporary, erected in haste from the materials nearest at hand, not for permanence, but to serve the present turn while the special task of the nation or age was being performed. The races and ages nearer the birth of mankind worked on rougher parts of the edifice, that entered into the foundations; those grand races, the Greek and the Roman, furnished the noble outline which the nations of modern Europe perfected while they supplied what was still lacking for use and adornment.
America was reserved, designedly, for so many ages, to furnish a suitable and unencumbered location for the central halls and mightiest pillars of the completed structure. Our fathers cleared the ground and laid the foundation deep down on the living rock, that is to say, on Human Rights. That they seldom failed to place stone, pillar and column in just position the work, as we find it, proves, and we have little to do but to clear away the rubbish, beautify the grounds, and put the whole to its proper use.
We begin to see that Time, Thought and Experience have not wrought in vain, that Progress is not a phantom of the imagination, that the human race is essentially a Unit, that it has been growing through all the centuries and is now approaching the prime of its manhood, just ready to enter on its special career with its grandest work still to do. The energies of all the races are preparing for unheard of achievements. The world was never so completely and so wisely busy as now, and America stands between modern Europe and ancient Asia, receiving from, and giving to, both. Her institutions are founded on principles so just and so humane that, when administered with due wisdom and skill, they will embarrass and restrain the proper activities of men at no point. America stands a model which other nations will carefully copy, in due time, as they can adapt themselves and change their institutions. There may be no literal copy or close formal imitation; but there is little doubt that the spirit and true sense of our Declaration of Independence will finally mould the structure and control the workings of all governments.
It is the Course of Human Progress, and the important elements that were successively added as each leading phase of civilization appeared, that is endeavored to be traced in the Historical Review of the First Part of this book. While following the general march of events chronologically, we have stopped here and there to take a general survey, in order the better to understand the significance of detached facts, or to exainine a new influence that enters among the forces moulding the future. Our space did not allow an exhaustive process; nor was it desirable. We have taken note of only the more important landmarks of Progress. Too much detail would confuse the mind by engaging it in an intricate mass of facts. It is the thread of events, that joins the nations and ages together, or the channel by which they sent down to our day — from Asia to Europe, and from Europe to America each their special contribution to the political wisdom and the free institutions of America, that we have endeavored to find.
We hope we have not underrated any people or any time, and that we have not overrated the value and glory of America.
Its founders, the authors of its Constitution, were unaware of the singular excellence and nobility of their work. Like all other people, they built according to their genius and instincts. Time only could show whether they built for immortality. They feared and trembled orer their work; but Time has set on it his seal of approval. Our people are busy using their liberties and energies, each for his individual benefit, as is quite right and proper; since the welfare of individuals makes the prosperity of the community. But a government left to take care of itself is prone to do that work only too well. We have done well and wisely in important crises; but a more intelligent and constant watchfulness
America is yet young: