The chapters that here follow are not an abridgment of the full description of the constitution and government of the United States presented in my book entitled The American Commonwealth which was first published more than thirty years ago, and has been since enlarged and frequently revised. They have been written as a new and independent study of American institutions, considered as founded on democratic theories...
The chapters that here follow are not an abridgment of the full description of the constitution and government of the United States presented in my book entitled The American Commonwealth which was first published more than thirty years ago, and has been since enlarged and frequently revised. They have been written as a new and independent study of American institutions, considered as founded on democratic theories and illustrating in their practice the working out of democratic principles and tendencies. Desiring to present a general view of what popular government has achieved and has failed to achieve, I have dealt with those details only which are characteristic of democratic systems, omitting as beyond the scope of this treatise all matters, such as the structure of the Federal Government and its administrative methods, which do not bear directly upon it or illustrate its peculiar features. Neither has it been my aim in these or any other chapters to bring contemporary history up to date. It is safer not to touch, and I have carefully abstained from touching the controversial questions of the moment, questions which indeed change their aspects from month to month. My wish has been throughout the book to give the reader materials for estimating the merits and defects of each form which popular government has taken, and for this purpose events that happened ten or twenty years ago are just as profitable as those of to-day, indeed more profitable, for we can judge them by their consequences
Though the main conclusions to which I was led when writing on the United States in 1888 seem to me to be still true, new phenomena have since appeared which throw further light on the nature of popular government, and these I have endeavoured to set forth and comment upon, studying the facts afresh and unbiassed by the judgments of thirty years ago. Since that year much has been done in America to vivify public interest in political theory and history by many books, excellent in plan and execution. To these, and to the American friends who have aided me by their criticisms and comments, I gratefully acknowledge my obligations.
An excerpt from the beginning of:
The Beginnings of Democracy in North America
Of all modern countries the United States supplies the most abundant data for the study of popular government. It has been a democracy for a century and a quarter, and is now by far the largest of the nations that live under self-governing institutions. It shows the working of these institutions, on a great scale in its Federal Government and in the governments of the most populous States, on a smaller scale in the lesser States, as well as in counties, townships, and cities, some of which latter have a frame of government that makes them resemble autonomous republics. It has exerted an immense influence on other countries, for its example fired the French people at the outbreak of the Revolution of 1789, and its constitution has been taken as a model by the new republics of the Western hemisphere. Since Tocqueville published in 1832 his memorable book on American democracy, the United States has stood before the minds of European thinkers and statesmen not only as the land to which the races of the Old World are drawn by hopes of happiness and freedom, but also as the type of what the rule of the people means when the people are left to themselves, and as the pattern of what other peoples are likely to become as they in their turn move along the fateful path to democratic institutions. Whoever in Europe has wished to commend or to disparage those institutions has pointed to the United States, and has found plenty of facts to warrant either praise or blame.
No nation ever embarked on its career with happier auguries for the success of popular government. The friends of liberty in Europe indulged the highest hopes of what Liberty could accomplish in a new land, exempt from the evils which the folly or selfishness of monarchs and nobles had inflicted on the countries of Europe. The Americans themselves, although the Revolutionary War left them impoverished as well as vexed by local jealousies, were full of pride and confidence. There was much to justify this confidence. Their own racial quality and the traditions they inherited, the favouring features of their physical environment and the security from external dangers which isolation promised, made up, taken in conjunction, a body of conditions for a peaceful and prosperous political life such as no other people had ever enjoyed. Those who settled Spanish America had an equally vast and rich territory open before them. Those who settled Australia and New Zealand had an equally noble inheritance of freedom behind them. But in neither of these cases were the gifts of Nature and those of a splendid Past bestowed together in such ample measure on the founders...