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national feeling for the preservation of institutions which suit her circumstances, has remained unassailed. Sweden has not yet entered upon the long-projected amendments of her cumbrous political system. Prussia, together with the smaller German States, are still in the leading-strings of Bureaucracy, and have yet much to do towards attaining a well-regulated liberty, worthy of the great German people. Spain and Portugal have made no very apparent progress towards infusing the true spirit of freedom into the forms of free government, which have hitherto in their hands been little more than instruments of arbitrary power and bad faith. Over the rest of Europe, from the Pyrenees to the Carpathians, the experience that had been gathered, and the hopes that had been formed of constitutional liberty, have for the time been overwhelmed and scattered, and men have now to wait the growth of maturer councils, or of that solidity and strength of moral character, and that temper and self-restraint in political action, without which the framework of constitutional government serves but the
of corruption or oppression.
If from none of the above we are likely to derive political lessons of any great value to ourselves at this particular moment, when we are about again to pass in review our own political arrangements with the expectation of amending some few of them, we naturally turn next to the great community on the other side of the Atlantic.
We are led to ask whether the new form of free government, established in the United States in 1789,
offers any peculiarities which might be usefully adopted here, or whether experience has there brought to light any defects in theory or in practice, which may be regarded as warnings for ourselves.
Desirable as such an inquiry may be at the present moment, it is not a very easy matter to pursue it. It may indeed be not difficult for any one to possess himself of a copy of the Constitution of the United States-a document occupying a few pages only-or to refer to it in any work of modern history. But a perusal of the document itself will advance him very little on his way towards understanding the objects at which it aimed, the reasons on which it was founded, the contrasts and analogies it presents to our own and to all previous forms of free government, and the lessons to be learnt from the sixty-five years of experience to which it has now been subjected.
To attain that knowledge, even any intelligent citizen of the United States must have recourse to voluminous and learned works, which require time and study to master. The principal of these are the “Commentaries” of Mr. Justice Story, and those of Mr. Justice (afterwards Chancellor) Kent, the first in three, the second in four thick octavo volumes. Next in value and importance, are the papers forming the collection of the “Federalist," written by some of the leading statesmen of the time of the separation from this country. Equal to these is the very learned and admirable “Defence of the American Constitutions” against the attack of M. Turgot, by Mr. John Adams, afterwards the second President of the Republica
(London, New Edition, 1794, 3 vols.) Then follow the numerous volumes of reports of the decisions of the Supreme Court of the United States; also various other books of legal authority, such as Tucker's edition of "Blackstone's Commentaries;" and, lastly, the masterly analysis by M. de Tocqueville, of the social and political condition of the people of that country.
I am not aware that any attempt has been made to place before the public in this country in an accessible shape, the Constitution of the United States, set in the light thrown upon it by some of the highest minds which that country has produced ; illustrated by some portions of the experience which time has brought forth; and contrasted with those principles and practices which we cherish as the main supports of our system of constitutional government.
It appears to me that there are public reasons why this task should be undertaken at this period; and at the risk of executing it imperfectly, I venture to put together the results of such reading and personal inquiry as, during some years past, I have from time to time been able to bring to bear upon the subject. I
purpose following very nearly the arrangement of Mr. Justice Story in his “Commentaries,” and shall, in the first place, state in as compendious a manner as is consistent with clearness, the substance of that learned judge's remarks and opinions, upon each of the most important articles of the Constitution.
To this I shall add, where desirable, the observations of the authors of the “Federalist,” and also those of Mr. Justice Kent, under the same heads, together with
extracts from any other writers whose facts and opinions may seem worthy of consideration in connection with those of the above principal authorities.
And, finally, I shall take occasion to point out the essential differences between the system of government in the United States and our own, and draw such conclusions from those points of difference as the facts may justify, and as may seem important to be kept in mind at a time when we are about to touch the framework of our own system with a view to its further amendment.
It is proper to say a word or two more as to the high character of the American works which I am about to follow.
The “Commentaries” of Professor Story stand at the head of all the writings on the subject of the American Constitution, and, in conjunction with his other works, have acquired for their learned author a judicial authority of the first order throughout Europe. He was appointed in 1811 one of the Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States. He also obtained the “Dane" Professorship of Law in Harvard University, near Boston, and in that capacity published his
Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States,” in the year 1833. The edition which I have quoted from is the last, that of 1851. (Boston.)
These Commentaries occupy the same place in literature as an exposition of the Constitution of the United States, as is occupied by "Blackstone's Commentaries upon the Constitution and Common Law of England.” They are conspicuous for their calm tone,
correct style, and measured language, no less than for careful research and strictness of reasoning. Though a faithful citizen of the United States, and a patriotic admirer of the main principles of her Constitution, he is too bold to disguise his disapproval of what he deems imperfections, too honest to conceal his fears, and too sincere a lover of truth to shrink from or pervert it.
Next in authority are the “Commentaries” of Mr. Justice Kent, Judge of the Supreme Court of New York, and Professor of Law at Columbia College in the same State. This voluminous and learned work is chiefly occupied with comments on the common law; but the considerable portion devoted to the Constitution of the United States is not less characterised by a spirit of fairness and truthfulness than the work of Mr. Justice Story. It is, under come heads, more copious, and abounds in valuable notes bringing down the experience of the working of the Constitution to the
But the great sources of constitutional doctrine from which these and other writers have alike “ drawn by far the greatest part of their most valuable materials,” are “The Federalist," + an “incomparable commentary of three of the greatest statesmen of their age” (Mr. Madison, Mr. Hamilton, and Mr. Jay); and also the highly-esteemed judgments of Chief Justice Marshall upon constitutional law, “The former have discussed the structure and organisation of the national
* New York. 1844.
+ New York. 1802.