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THE CONSTITUTIONAL LAW
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.
Dr. H. Von HOLST,
PRIVY COUNCILOR AMD PIK FEKSOK IN THE UNIVERSITY OP FREIBUBG.
ALFRED BISHOP MASON.
Entered according to Act of Congress In the year eighteen hundred and eighty seven Br CALLAGHAN & COMPANY, in the office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington, D. C.
STATE JOURNAL PRINTING COMPANY,
This treatise on the constitution of the United States is but a sketch. I, this time, could not attempt to write a more pretentious work, for it was to form part of Marquardsen's "Handbuch des Oeffentlichen Rechts." Editor and publisher had to insist upon it that I, like all the other contributors, consented to being bound by contract not to exceed a certain number of pages. Though they afterwards kindly allowed me nearly double the space originally agreed upon, yet no sooner had I dipped my pen into the inkstand than it became evident that even the most essential questions had to be treated with a brevity which more than once sorely tried my temper. Questions of less importance, though, too, of considerable interest, had to be compressed into a still smaller compass, and many a point which had found a place in my preparatory notes had to be thrown out entirely.
The difficulty in deciding what to retain and what to let go by the board, how much space to allow to each question and — last, not least — how to treat them, was greatly increased by the consideration that I was to write for European readers. Even the foremost American authors could serve me but to a very limited extent as models, because they have all written for Americans, while my task was not to be the instructor of those who are to the manor born, but the cicerone of strangers. These having but little time to spare, and their interest in the subject being but limited and quite unconnected with any practical purposes, they expect to be shown what from their standpoint merits the most attention. Besides, everything has to be presented in such a manner that they can realty understand what they see — in this case by no means an easy task, for even educated Europeans frequently show an astonishing talent for misunderstanding the most lucid expositions of American institutions and their working.
It is not necessary further to enlarge upon these points, for what I have said is sufficient to show why the first inquiries with regard to a translation of the treatise were not received by me with a feeling of unmixed satisfaction. I not only could have dived deeper, and would have done so, if I had intended to write for Americans, but even if I had confined myself to a mere sketch, the perspective would have been somewhat different. Besides, the treatise had to be written at a time when I could not go either to England or the United States. My only literary resources were my private library and the notes previously taken in the British Museum and American libraries.
These statements I have had to make in justice to myself as a scholar and an author. To clear the way for a new book by explanations which have a rather strong flavor of excuses will, however, never be exactly to the liking of an author who thinks that he has any reputation to lose. Nevertheless I have concluded, upon more mature reflection, to give my formal assent to having the treatise translated, trusting that the American public will deal with it not only fairly but with the same kindness with which they have received my other and more pretentious writings. I, of course, do not expect to see it in the hands of lawyers arguing constitutional questions before court, or of statesmen busying themselves in congress to manufacture new constitutional nuts for judges, counselors and publicists to crack. But the juniors and seniors of the colleges, and perhaps even the students of the law schools, may find it quite a handy guide in the pursuit of their studies on the public law of their country. Nay, I am bold enough to hope that, as a convenient book of reference, if as nothing else, it will render some good services in the hands of men who have in no professional way anything to do with constitutional • law, but are fully conscious how important it is that the citizen of a democratic republic stands on his own legs with regard to the public law of his country, instead of having implicitly to rely upon the wisdom of his daily paper and any stump speaker whom he may chance to hear.