Part 1 out of 4
Produced by Kevin Handy, Dave Maddock, Bob Beard and PG Distributed
LOCAL, STATE, AND NATIONAL
J.A. James, Ph.D.
Professor of History in Northwestern University
A.H. Sanford, M.A.
Professor of History, State Normal School, La Crosse, Wisconsin
Charles Scribner's Sons
The subject matter herewith presented partially represents the plan
pursued by the authors as teachers of civil government for a number of
years in high school, academy, and normal school. It has been found that
a study of the methods by which the affairs of government are conducted
gives constant interest to the work, and, consequently, the practical
side of government has been emphasized. But while our desire has been to
bring the actual working of the institutions under which the student
lives into prominence, we have also attempted to give such accounts of
the origin and early development of forms of government as will assist
in explaining their process of growth. The plan of discussion is similar
to that followed in "Government in State and Nation." The general favor
with which that text has been received leads to the belief that it fully
meets the requirement of the Committee of Five for such schools as
present civil government in the third or fourth year of the course. In
many cases, however, the subject is taught earlier in the course, and
the present work has been prepared in answer to the requests of teachers
for a text suitable to this class of students.
The arrangement is such that either Local (Part I), National (Part II),
or State Government (Part III) may be studied first. In the work on
local and State government it is not expected that the student will
_learn_ all of the different practices found in the various States, but
that he will compare them with those of his own State.
While some of the discussions and many of the suggestive questions are
intended to make students realize more completely their duties as
citizens, many more having a local bearing will occur to teachers. It is
scarcely to be hoped that all of the books and magazines mentioned will
be found in any high school library, but the need for supplementary
reading is being met through the rapid increase of public libraries. A
working-library on the subject of civics may be accumulated in a short
time if only a few of the books given in Appendix D are procured each
year. No attempt has been made to give references to all of the material
which has appeared within the past few years.
The ability of the reader and the time to be devoted to the subject have
been kept constantly in mind. There may be more supplementary questions
and references than can be used by any one class. Should it happen, on
the other hand, that more work of this character is desired, the need
may be met by reference to similar questions in "Government in State and
In preparing this new edition, we take the opportunity of acknowledging
the assistance given by many teachers of civics, strangers to us, who
are using "Government in State and Nation," and others who are using
"Our Government," for their helpful suggestions.
July 1, 1913.
I. THE WORK OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT
II. COUNTY GOVERNMENT
III. THE ORIGIN OF LOCAL GOVERNMENTS.
IV. THE GOVERNMENT OF CITIES
V. EVENTS LEADING TO THE FORMATION OF THE UNION
VI. THE CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION
VII. ORGANIZATION OF THE LEGISLATIVE DEPARTMENT
VIII. POWERS AND DUTIES OF THE SEPARATE HOUSES
IX. HOW LAWS ARE MADE BY CONGRESS
X. SOME IMPORTANT POWERS OF CONGRESS
XI. OTHER GENERAL POWERS OF CONGRESS
XII. POWERS DENIED THE UNITED STATES AND THE SEVERAL STATES
XIII. THE EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENT
XIV. POWERS AND DUTIES OF THE PRESIDENT
XV. THE CABINET
XVI. THE NATIONAL JUDICIARY
XVII. TERRITORIES AND PUBLIC LANDS
XVIII. AMENDMENTS TO THE CONSTITUTION
XIX. THE GOVERNMENTS OF THE WORLD
A. CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES
B. THE ARTICLES OF CONFEDERATION
C. REFERENCE BOOKS
THE WORK OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT.
The Preservation of Order.--The first and most important work of
any government is the preservation of order. We think of this function
most frequently as exercised in the arrest of offenders who violate the
law. In fact, most young persons receive their earliest ideas of
government by seeing the policeman, or constable, who stands for the
authority of the government. But he is not the only officer who is
concerned in preserving order. The police officer who makes an arrest
cannot punish his prisoner, but must merely hold him until it is decided
that he deserves punishment. This is the work of a court, with its
justice, or judge, and the jury. If the prisoner is declared guilty,
then the police officer executes the orders of the court by collecting a
fine or by imprisoning him. We have here illustrated two divisions of
governmental authority: (1) the _judicial_, which decides whether the
law applies in particular cases; and (2) the _executive_, which carries
out the requirements of the law and the orders of the court.
Law-Making.--The executive and the judicial officers are both
subject to higher authority: the one applies and the other executes _the
law_. The framing of the law is the third function of government. This
work is called _legislation_, and is carried on by such bodies as the
town board, the village board, and the city council. But these
law-making bodies do not have independent authority; they are bound more
or less strictly by the opinions of those who elected them to office;
i.e., the body of voters.
The Three Divisions of Government.--We say, then, that in our
country government is based finally upon _the will of the people_. For
the expression of their will they choose numerous officers, who may be
grouped under three heads, corresponding to the general divisions of
government: legislative, executive, and judicial.
Just as it would be impossible for all the voters to take part in
applying or interpreting the law, so it is in most cases impossible
for them to assemble in a body and make the laws. They generally
delegate this work to legislators; but in some States the voters of
a town (or township) assemble yearly in town meeting, where all may
take part in discussion and in voting.
Roads and Streets.--The preservation of order is but one of the
functions of government. In towns where the population is scattered,
roads must be built, and it is still more necessary that in villages and
cities, where many people live within a small area, streets should be
graded and paved and sidewalks maintained. This is an illustration of
the way in which, through the machinery of government, people provide
themselves with many conveniences that it would be impossible for each
citizen to provide for himself. The legislative bodies already mentioned
determine the extent to which these things shall be done: the town board
orders the laying out of a new road; the village board or the city
council passes ordinances saying what streets shall be paved and what
materials shall be used in the work.
Executive Officers, General and Special.--The actual execution of
the work involved in public improvements is generally in charge of a
special officer, such as the road or street commissioner. But since
there are many other matters of public concern that require attention,
each under the control of an executive officer, it is necessary that a
general officer should be in authority over all of these as the _chief
executive_ of the local government. This officer is known by various
titles, as, in the town, the _chairman_, in the village, the
_president_, and in the city, the _mayor_. In any case, he has all or
most of the important executive work of government under his control. It
is his duty to see that the laws are obeyed, so the police officers are
subject to his orders. The chief executive is guardian of the people's
interests; for he must see that the minor officers do not injure the
public welfare by neglect of duty, and he must defend the public from
all persons who would encroach upon its rights.
Let us now consider some of the other ordinary functions of local
The Poor.--Poor relief may be mentioned first. How much aid shall
be granted to paupers, and how shall it be distributed, are questions
that everywhere require attention.
Public Health.--Public health is also an important subject upon
which local laws must been enacted. In cities, particularly, the council
passes strict regulations for preventing diseases and for checking the
spread of such as are contagious. City ordinances are also enacted
regulating the construction of sewers and drains. The health
commissioner and the city physicians are the particular officers who
direct the execution of laws upon these subjects.
Education.--Public education is among the most important of the
local government's functions. The free schools which exist everywhere in
our country are supported and controlled chiefly by the towns, villages,
and cities. In many States, however, there are other divisions, called
school districts, which have boards and officers for this purpose.
Other Necessary Functions.--Protection from fire is so important in
communities where population is dense that special officers and
apparatus must be provided. So, too, streets must be lighted, and a pure
Parks, Museums, and Libraries.--Besides the functions of government
that are readily seen to be necessary, there are others which may not at
first appear to be so. We have cities providing parks, with beautiful
lawns and flower-gardens; museums, where articles of historical and
scientific interest are kept; aquariums and zoological gardens;
libraries, with books, magazines, and papers for the free use of all
citizens. If one looks closely, he will see a reason in each case why
the government undertakes these various enterprises.
Why Taxes Are Levied.--We have now to consider a power of
government, without which none of the others so far named could be
exercised. This is the taxing power. In every case money must be used by
local governments in exercising their functions. Officers, who are
agents of the people, depend largely upon taxes for their salaries.
Taxes are levied by the legislative bodies that we have found in towns,
villages, and cities. Other officers, _assessors_ and _treasurers_,
determine the amount to be paid by each citizen and collect the taxes.
The treasurer also has charge of public money, and pays it out when
ordered to do so by the proper authorities.
All of the operations of government are matters of record. While each
officer is expected to keep strict account of the operations of his own
department, the general records of towns, villages, and cities are kept
by the _clerks_.
This general view of local governments may now be summarized in two
I. THE FUNCTIONS OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT.
The preservation of order.
Protection against fire.
Protection of public health.
2. _Providing Necessities and Conveniences_:--
II. OFFICERS OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT.
TOWN. VILLAGE. CITY.
Board Board Council
Chairman President Mayor
Clerk Clerk Clerk
Treasurer Treasurer Treasurer
Assessors Assessors Assessors
Constables Constables Police
Road Commissioner Street Commissioner Street Commissioner
Justices Justices Justices
[Footnote 1: The list here given is not complete, and the official
titles are not the same in all States.]
Make a study of your local (town, village, or city) government.
1. Group the officers as legislative, executive, and judicial,
2. How many different methods are used in paying these officers?
3. Do all the voters ever assemble to make laws? If not, how is the will
of the majority expressed?
4. What are some of the local regulations regarding the poor? public
health? protection from fire?
[Footnote 2: For a general account under this topic, see James and
Sanford, "Government in State and Nation," Chapter VIII. Health
regulations are discussed in the same work, pp. 70-72.]
5. Who pays for the education that young people receive in the public
6. How much has your local government done toward furnishing things that
are not merely conveniences? How do you justify expenditures for these
7. Does the management of local government excite as much interest among
the citizens as it should?
8. In what ways are students directly interested in having efficient
Why There Are Counties.--If the local organizations discussed in
Chapter I could attend to all the interests that citizens have in
common, then government would be a much simpler matter than it is. But
just as almost every citizen has business and social relations outside
of the neighborhood in which he lives, so different communities must
have political relations with each other if they are to live in harmony.
(For this and other reasons, which we shall learn presently, county
governments are established. Their organization and functions correspond
quite closely to those of the towns, villages, and smaller cities.)
Important County Officers.--The local governments cannot undertake
alone the preservation of order or the protection of citizens against
criminals. We have, consequently, an important officer, the _sheriff_,
who with his deputies has power to make arrests. There is also the
judicial side of county governments, seen in the _court_, with its
judge. In this court another county officer, called the _district_ or
_State's attorney_, prosecutes persons who are accused of crime; i.e.,
he finds evidence of the prisoner's guilt and causes this evidence to be
given by witnesses at the trial.
Functions of County Government.--Public highways are also matters
of more than local interest. When an expensive bridge is to be built, or
an important road in which several communities are interested is to be
constructed, the county government can best raise the money and manage
the work. So, too, in caring for the poor, the county may aid the local
governments, or it may take entire charge of the paupers, and maintain a
The County Board.--It is evident that there must be a legislative
body which shall determine the policy of the county in these matters.
This is the _county board_, or as it is called in some States, the
_county court_. In most States this body is composed of _commissioners_.
These are elected by either of two methods: (1) at large, when every
voter may vote for the entire number of commissioners; (2) they may be
elected from districts into which the county has been divided. In some
States the members of the county board are called _supervisors_, and
they represent the towns, villages, and wards of cities. Under this
system the county board is generally larger than under the commissioner
system. There is another difference between the two systems: in the
States that have county commissioners, the county government has a
larger number of functions than in the other States. That is, the county
government has almost entire control of such matters as roads and poor
relief, leaving the local governments with little authority in these
directions. On the other hand, where the supervisor system exists, the
towns and villages have chief authority in legislating upon these
matters, and the county assists or takes only such part as it finds
necessary for the general good.
Power of the Board.--The county board holds annual meetings and
makes laws for the county as a whole. It has charge of the county
property, including the court-house, jail, and poorhouse. Since it must
provide for the expense of maintaining these buildings, for the salaries
of county officers, and for other expenses connected with roads, poor,
and other county business, the board must also have the power of levying
Superintendent of Schools.--Education is another function of
government which is not managed solely by the local units. There is a
county officer, called the _superintendent of schools_, who has
supervisory powers, and he usually examines teachers and certifies to
Register of Deeds.--The _register of deeds_, or _recorder_, is a
county officer who keeps records of certain kinds. Among other things,
copies of deeds are registered or kept in his office. A person wishing
to buy real estate (i.e., houses or lands) may, by consulting the
records in this office, learn whether the owner has a clear title to the
Coroner.--The _coroner_ has the duty of holding inquests when
persons meet death by violence or in some unexplained way. He may also
perform the duties of the sheriff when the latter cannot perform them.
Surveyor.--The county _surveyor_ makes surveys at the request of
public authorities, as well as for individuals. He keeps the official
records of the boundaries of farms and lots.
Clerk and Treasurer.--Of course the county must have its _clerk_
and _treasurer_, the officers whose duties are to keep the records and
to handle county moneys.
We may now pass in review the principal features of county government:--
1. _County Boards_:--
Roads and bridges
II. EXECUTIVE AND ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICERS.
Sheriff and Deputies
Register of Deeds, or Recorder
Superintendent of Schools
(In some States, Assessors and Collectors of Taxes, and Auditors.)
Relations of Local Officers to State Law.--There are other reasons
than those already given why States are divided into counties. One is
because, in the performance of their duties, the county officers act as
agents for the State; that is, they carry out the State law in their own
localities. For instance, criminals are brought to trial and punished
under State law, but it is administered by local or county officials. So
the surveyor, superintendent of schools, register of deeds, and other
officers act under State laws. While it seems best to have one general
law for the State upon important subjects, it is also the policy of our
government to intrust the execution of the law, in most cases, to local
rather than to State officials. These officers, being elected by the
people of the various localities, feel their responsibility more keenly
than if they obtained office by appointment from State authorities.
What has been said concerning the relation of the county to the State
government is true to a considerable extent concerning the town,
village, and city governments. Here, too, elections are held, taxes are
collected, and trials are conducted by local officers in accordance with
State law. Indeed, it is true that these local divisions owe their
existence to State law. Towns are laid out, villages and cities are
incorporated, in accordance with the provisions of laws enacted by State
legislatures. The State is the source of all the authority exercised by
the officers and governing bodies of these local governments.
Make a study of your county government.
1. Outline the officers in groups, as on p. 6.
2. Learn the important duties of each officer.
3. Are officers paid by fees or by salaries? Which is the better method?
4. What is the length of the term for which each county officer holds
5. How many members constitute the county board? Are they commissioners
or supervisors? When do the meetings of the board occur?
6. Obtain a copy of the county board's report and ascertain what
important business has been transacted.
7. What buildings has the county at the county seat? Does it own
8. What process is followed in laying out a new town? in the
incorporation of a village?
* * * * *
1. The functions of government. Hoxie, How the People Rule, 11-16.
Reinsch, Young Citizen's Reader, 31-46. Dole, Young Citizen, 73-92.
2. Towns and villages. Reinsch, 145-152. Hoxie, 42-63. Hill, Lessons for
Junior Citizens, 142-168.
3. County government. Reinsch, 163-166. Hoxie, 90-103.
THE ORIGIN OF LOCAL GOVERNMENTS.
The Source of Our Local Governments.--If we look further into the
systems of local government which have been described, we shall find
facts in the history of their origins which explain many of their
details. We shall now see how local government grew in the colonies, for
here we have the beginnings of the systems that are in operation to-day.
Everywhere in the colonies the English settlers brought to their new
homes the ancient customs of the mother-country. Differences in physical
geography, and in the character and motives of the colonists, caused
differences in the resulting local governments. This fact is best
illustrated by an account of what took place in New England and in
The Method of Settlement in New England.--These colonies were settled
by emigrants who came, in the main, from the same classes of Englishmen.
The New Englanders, however, were Puritans. The church and its services
were a very important part of their daily lives. The requirement of
church attendance was one reason for grouping their homes near the
meeting-house. Moreover, the region in which they settled had a stony
soil, difficult to cultivate. Their farms required careful cultivation,
and therefore could not be very large. The New Englander was content to
live near the coast. Means of traveling to the interior were not easy,
for the rivers, with few exceptions, were short and rapid. The sea
fisheries tempted the settlers to remain near the coast, and fishing,
with ship-building and commerce, became their important industries.
Town Meetings and Officers.--For these reasons New England was a
region of small farms and towns, and the local government which grew up
was adapted to these conditions. The voters of each town (or township)
met annually, or oftener, in "town meeting." Here their common local
affairs were discussed and regulated. The church, the schools, roads,
the poor, and many other matters were under the complete control of this
meeting, and of the officers elected by the assembled voters. These
officers were the selectmen,--which was a board having general
supervision of the town affairs,--the clerk, treasurer, assessors, fence
viewers, constables, and numerous others.
The County in New England.--Because the people lived in towns and
could most easily regulate their affairs through the machinery of town
government, they had no counties whatever at first; but these were soon
established, though merely for judicial purposes. The governor appointed
justices who held court in each county.
The leading features of New England local government, then, were (1)
its democratic character, seen particularly in the town meeting; and (2)
the fact that nearly all local affairs were managed by the town
government, leaving but one important function, and that judicial in its
nature, for the county.
The Settlement of Virginia.--In the colony of Virginia we find
conditions that bring about entirely different results in the
organization and workings of local government. Here the settlers were
not bound by religious or other ties into compact social bodies as the
Puritans were. Natural conditions in Virginia made it better for the
settlers to live apart, so that nearly all their attempts to form cities
and towns failed. The cultivation of tobacco, of course, explains this
to a large extent. The fertile soil and the ease of raising this product
led to the formation of large plantations. The broad rivers made
progress into the interior remarkably easy; and there seemed little
necessity for towns as shipping ports, because ocean vessels could stop
at the private wharves of the various plantations. The rich planters
were most prominent in the social and political life of the colony, and
local government fell under their control.
The Importance of the County.--Now, of the various local
organizations to which the Virginians had been accustomed in England,
the one best suited to their condition in the colony was the county. So
they copied the English county and made it their chief organ of local
government. The principal governing body was the _county court_,
composed of justices appointed at first by the governor of the colony.
The court had both legislative and judicial functions. It managed such
matters as roads, licenses, and taxation; it also tried civil and
criminal cases. Other county officers were the sheriff and the
lieutenant, the latter being commander of the militia.
The Parish and the Vestry.--That part of the Virginia local
government which corresponded to the New England town was the _parish_;
but it is apparent that few functions remained to be exercised in this,
their smallest political organization. The counties were generally
composed of several parishes. The governing body of each was the vestry;
it had charge of church affairs and of poor relief. The members of the
vestry and also the justices of the county court were not elected by the
people, as the town officers were in New England. On the contrary, both
the vestry and the county court filled vacancies in their own number,
without popular election.
This fact serves to illustrate the general truth that local government
was democratic in New England and aristocratic in Virginia; in the
former colony the mass of voters took part most actively in local
government, while in the latter a few men constituted the ruling class.
This does not mean that local affairs in Virginia were badly managed,
for the leading men were on the whole intelligent and public-spirited;
and in the years of the Revolution they were among the foremost in the
defense of American liberties. In New England, however, it was
noticeable that the mass of voters were intelligent and understood the
practical management of political affairs--a result which doubtless
came largely from their training in the town meeting.
The Three Types of Local Organization.--We have now seen that in
New England the town had the most important functions of local
government, and this is called, therefore, the _town type_; while in
Virginia the county had the greater share of governing powers, and there
we find the _county type_. Virginia influenced the colonies that lay
south of her, so that the county type was found also in the Carolinas
and Georgia. In the middle colonies there existed both counties and
towns, and here there was a much more equal division of powers between
these organizations. Hence we call theirs the _mixed_ or
_township-county type_ of local government.
Local Government in the West.--The people who migrated to the new
States west of the Alleghenies carried with them the forms of local
government which have just been described as growing up in the colonies.
This statement needs some modification, for nowhere in the West was the
pure town type adopted. Everywhere in the North we find the mixed type,
while the Southern States have, in general, the county type. In the
latter the county commissioners, elected at large or from precincts,
together with other county officers, exercise most of the local powers
Two Forms in the North.--In the greater number of the States that
have the mixed type, the county is governed by a board of commissioners
elected by either of the methods just mentioned as prevailing in the
South. In a few States (such as Michigan, Illinois, and Wisconsin), the
county board is composed of _supervisors_, who represent the towns,
villages, and wards of the county. Here we find the town meeting, copied
after that of New England or New York, and the town government has more
functions than in those States where commissioners compose the town
Local Self-Government.--Such is the way in which local government
has come about in the various States of the Union. Rooted in the systems
that Englishmen have developed through the centuries, adapted to the new
life and the peculiar conditions of the colonial period, it has spread
with the population throughout the land. The management of local affairs
by the people and their chosen representatives is a sound principle of
government which holds a firm place in every part of our country.
* * * * *
SUPPLEMENTARY QUESTIONS AND REFERENCES.
1. Which type of local government exists in your State? Can you account
for its origin?
2. Is the system of local government uniform throughout your State? If
so, why is this true? If not, can you account for the lack of
THE GOVERNMENT OF CITIES.
The General Plan of City Government.--The general framework of city
government is not very different from that of the other governmental
divisions. There are the legislative, executive, and judicial
departments, whose organization and functions are stated in the
_charter_, or fundamental law of the city. The city legislature is the
_council_ or _board of aldermen_. In most cases this body is a single
house, though in some cities there are two houses. The members are
elected from the wards into which the city is divided. The council may
pass ordinances for the government of the city, but it is limited in the
extent of its powers by the terms of the city charter.
City Charters Granted by Legislatures.--The source of the charter
is the State legislature. In most States the constitution provides that
the legislature shall pass _general laws_ prescribing the framework of
all cities, or of the classes into which the cities of a State may be
divided, according to their population. These laws also contain
regulations that are safeguards against the abuses of municipal
government, such as heavy taxation and the accumulation of debts. The
requirement of general laws secures uniformity in the most important
features of city government, and it prevents the practice, which is
otherwise liable to prevail, of constant interference by State
legislatures in the affairs of certain cities. Such _special laws_
should be enacted with great caution, if at all; for when a legislature
regulates the affairs of a particular city, it too often does so at the
request of persons or corporations having advantages to gain at the
expense of the public.
[Footnote 3: In some States where the constitutions require general laws
applying to classes of cities, single cities have been put in classes by
themselves; so the legislature has virtually governed them by special
The Mayor.--The chief executive of the city is the mayor. He is the
head of the police department and has more or less authority over the
other administrative departments to be discussed later in this chapter.
In the cases of both mayor and aldermen, the facts concerning their
terms, salaries, and other details vary so greatly in different cities
that no general description is possible.
The city judiciary includes the ordinary State courts and also special
or municipal courts of various degrees.
Other City Officials.--Besides the officers enumerated, every city
has its clerk, treasurer, attorney, and assessors. The auditor, or
comptroller, is an important official who controls city finances.
Administrative Departments.--The greatest difficulties of city
government arise in connection with the numerous administrative
departments; these are quite complex in their operation. In large cities
the number of officials and the variety of their duties render it almost
impossible for the average citizen to become informed concerning these
affairs; consequently, opportunities for fraud and mismanagement occur
Why, it may be asked, is such complex machinery necessary in municipal
government? It is because social and industrial conditions (that is, the
circumstances under which men live and work) are quite different from
those that we find in towns and villages; and city government must be
adapted to these conditions.
Conditions Peculiar to City Life.--Let us notice some of the ways
in which this is true. (1) The mere fact that population is dense
increases the possibility that a citizen may interfere with the rights
of his neighbors even in the conduct of ordinary business. (2) There is
greater liability that public health and safety may be endangered, both
in the homes and in the shops and factories of cities, than in less
densely settled communities. (3) The opportunities for evil-doing and
for concealment that exist in cities draw to them a larger proportion of
the vicious classes who need control and suppression. (4) Finally, in
cities it is less easy than in the country for each family to supply
itself with certain conveniences, such as water, light, and
transportation; consequently, the government must regulate to some
extent the supply of these necessities.
These are some of the conditions that are peculiar to city life; and we
find here the reasons why the government in a city must undertake a
large number of functions. At every point the safety of the citizen and
his property must be guarded; and in a great many ways the conveniences
of life must be supplied by the city or under the control of city
officials. Thus we account for the fact that city government is
complex--the principal source of the difficulties and the evils that we
find in connection with administrative departments.
Fire and Police Departments.--The number and the organization of
administrative departments vary considerably in different cities.
Everywhere we find the police, fire, and health departments. Fire
departments are, as a rule, very efficient; for the citizens will not
allow laxness in the protection of their property. The efficiency of
police departments varies greatly in different cities. When the
selection of police officers is on a political basis, the standards are
apt to be low, and the police may then protect or even assist violators
of the law. Instances have been known where policemen received,
regularly, money payments from law-breakers whom they did not arrest.
The detection of this form of corruption is difficult; nevertheless, if
it continues, the people are evidently not awake to their own best
interests. In other cities, on the other hand, the police force is
maintained upon a high standard. Sometimes civil-service-reform methods
are used in the selection of policemen; the passing of an examination is
necessary for appointment. This, with a fair system of promotions,
should render a police force more like a military organization in its
relation to the enforcement of law.
The Health Department.--The department of public health has duties
that are of vital importance. Sewerage systems, sanitation, and the
water-supply are the chief objects of its inspection. Health officers
also have powers which enable them to detect and prohibit the sale of
impure foods. The milk-supply should receive its particular attention,
for the purity of this product is an important matter. The enforcement
of strict health regulations in the crowded tenement districts of large
cities is very difficult; but the neglect of these matters by city
officials is nothing less than criminal.
The Department of Streets.--This department, which has in charge
the construction of streets and pavements, affects the convenience of
every citizen. Here vast sums of money are expended, sometimes wisely,
and sometimes under the supervision of officials who are lacking in the
technical knowledge required by this kind of work. Opportunity for
dishonest handling of public money may be found in the letting of
contracts and in the purchase of supplies. Street-cleaning has received
comparatively little attention in American cities. In this respect we
are far behind many European cities. This is because the relation of
clean streets to public health, and to civic beauty, is not fully
appreciated by the average citizen of our country.
Public Charities.--The administration of public charities is
everywhere a difficult matter, and, naturally, its difficulty is
greatest in large cities, where we find the greatest number of those who
seek relief. Two problems confront the department of public charities:
(1) How can it distinguish between those who actually need assistance
and those who do not? (2)How can it help those who need assistance
temporarily, without weakening their desire to become self-supporting?
The same problems must be solved by the citizen in connection with his
private charities. In general, it may be said that charitable work is
best managed by private organizations, in charge of trained workers, who
can investigate all cases of application for aid.
The Public Schools.--Public education is another department of
municipal activity. City governments spend great amounts of public
money for this purpose. The work of our educational institutions is
constantly being enlarged; courses in commerce, manual training, and
domestic science are intended to strengthen the practical side of
education. In some cities special schools are maintained for the
defective classes and for truants.
[Footnote 4: This subject is also treated in the chapter on Public
Libraries, Parks, and Playgrounds.--The educational advantages
furnished by the city are not for the children alone. Public libraries
and museums serve adults as well. Recreation is provided by means of
parks, public playgrounds, and open-air gymnasiums. These will become
more common when their educational influence is more fully understood.
Committees or Boards.--The important questions that arise in
connection with administrative departments are, how shall they be
organized? and how shall the officers who control them be appointed? Two
general methods prevail: (1)In the smaller cities the members of the
council are grouped into _committees_, which have charge of the various
administrative departments. In large cities there are _boards_ or
_commissioners_, distinct from the council, and these may be composed of
salaried officers. In either case the board may employ a superintendent
to take charge of the work under its jurisdiction. The principal
criticism which can be offered against this method of managing
administrative departments is that responsibility cannot be definitely
located. No single member of a board or commission will assume
responsibility for mismanagement; and when responsibility is divided
among several persons, none of them feels it very strongly.
(2)Single Heads of Departments.--As a remedy for this defect,
administrative departments in some cities are placed under the control
of _single officers_. These are given authority to appoint their
subordinates, and they are held strictly accountable for the management
of the department. Responsibility is further concentrated in some cities
by giving the mayor power to appoint these heads of departments.
The Commission Form of City Government.--This form is found in a
number of cities throughout the country. In place of the mayor and
council these cities have a small body of men (generally three or five)
who both make and execute city ordinances. They are elected at large
from the city. Each of the commissioners is in charge of one or more of
the city departments, and all subordinate officers are appointed by
them. The commissioners are expected to devote their entire time to
their duties and they are paid liberal salaries. Thus, it is hoped, city
government will become more business-like and efficient.
In most cities that have the commission form provision is made for the
_initiative, referendum_, and _recall_. The initiative enables a body of
citizens who sign a petition to obtain a certain law by popular vote, if
the commission refuses to pass it. The referendum enables citizens to
vote for or against a law that the commission has passed, and thus to
repeal it if they desire. Under the recall a member of the commission
can be made to stand for re-election, or else to resign, at any time
during his term of office, if a certain number of citizens petition for
Qualifications of City Officers.--Grave questions are involved in
these matters of organization, but the efficiency of city government
depends in the greatest measure upon the character of the officers who
are placed in power. We need to recognize the importance, in city
affairs as in private business, of securing officials who are qualified
by training and by successful experience to serve the public. Economy
and honesty in municipal government cannot be expected when politics
alone determines appointments to office. The establishment of
civil-service-examination systems in certain cities is a step in the
Public Utilities.--Besides the administrative departments already
mentioned, we have in large cities those which control the supply of
water, light, and transportation facilities. The industries furnishing
these necessities may belong to the city, but in most cases they are
owned by individuals and corporations. Even then they should be
subject to strict regulation by the city, for several reasons: (1) These
industries make use of public streets. The right to do this is granted
by the council in a _franchise_. (2) The product that is supplied being
in each case a necessity, it is the duty of the city government to
protect the citizens from any abuse or inconvenience that may arise in
connection with it. (3) In nearly every case the industries in question
are monopolies; i.e., competition between rival plants is not
possible. For this reason the public may suffer either from high rates
or from imperfect service.
[Footnote 5: On this topic see "Government in State and Nation," pp.
The Question of Municipal Ownership.--The opinion is gaining ground
that no amount of municipal control will cure the evils of private
ownership in these industries. Since they are "natural monopolies," it
is argued they should be operated by the city government. This opinion
is seen to have great weight when we consider the corruption and the
lack of attention to the public welfare that accompany the granting of
franchises to corporations. The bribery of aldermen and the granting of
valuable privileges without compensation are frequent occurrences. On
the other hand, the facts that bad officers are sometimes elected in our
cities, and that they ignore public interests, raise a very serious
question whether they should be intrusted with the management of great
industries, such as water and lighting plants and street-car systems.
Reasons for Poor City Government.--Other arguments may be made on
both sides of this question of municipal ownership; but there are
fundamental reasons why the cities of the United States are, on the
whole, poorly governed, which must receive consideration before this
question can be settled. The conditions accounting for the evils of
municipal government may be briefly stated as follows: (1) City
governments are necessarily complex, and, in their administrative
departments especially, a multitude of details must receive attention.
Citizens find it difficult to understand these transactions and even
more difficult to follow them closely. (2) City governments must spend
vast sums of money, and this fact is a standing temptation to dishonest
men both in and out of office. (3) The rapidity with which cities have
grown has increased the difficulty of their problems. (4) Individuals
and corporations have found it necessary to secure franchises from
cities for the operation of important industries; this has opened many
opportunities for corruption in city affairs. (5) The presence of large
numbers of foreigners who are ignorant of governmental affairs has
enabled corrupt politicians to exert great influence upon the voters in
The Reform of Municipal Governments.--Having reviewed the principal
causes for the evils of municipal government, let us now consider some
of the conditions that are necessary for bringing about reforms.
(1) National politics should be entirely separated from city affairs. It
may be impossible to prevent the nomination of candidates by the regular
political parties; but within each party local issues, not national,
should determine the selection of candidates. At the polls the voter
should cast his ballot independently of party considerations.
(2) Public interest in municipal affairs and the existence of a strong
civic pride are conditions that are essential to the election of good
officers and to the purity of city government.
(3) Before we can have better city governments every citizen must
recognize his _responsibility_, not only on election day, but on every
occasion when he can help in the work of detecting wrong, punishing
corrupt officials, and encouraging better things in all departments of
city life. This means unselfishness in one's attitude toward the public
welfare; it means willingness to sacrifice time and effort in the public
service. The example set by many eminent persons who have devoted
themselves unselfishly to the accomplishment of reforms in our great
cities may well be imitated by every citizen in the smaller affairs of
his city or his ward. And the younger generation of citizens, who are
yet students in the public schools, may exert no little influence toward
the betterment of the city; and they may aid in the formation of that
better public sentiment without which no improvement in our standards of
municipal government is possible.
* * * * *
Outline for the study of your city government.
1. Was the city organized under a general law of the State, or was it
granted a special charter? Does the legislature enact special laws for
2. The mayor: term, salary. What are his principal powers? Should his
responsibility be increased?
3. The council or board of aldermen: number of members, term of office,
manner of election, compensation?
4. The municipal courts and judges.
5. Administrative departments: make a complete list of these. Are they
controlled by boards or by single officers? How do the officers obtain
their positions? Are they paid salaries? Of what business does each have
6. How are the water, lighting, and street-car plants managed? Do you
believe in the municipal ownership of any of them? Give reasons for your
7. How do police officers receive appointment? If an officer fails to
enforce an ordinance, what course would you take to secure its
8. Are party lines closely adhered to by voters in city elections? Are
independent party organizations formed? Are they successful?
9. What can you learn of reform movements that have taken place in your
city's history? Give the causes for the success or failure of these.
10. What is the cost of your city government per annum? Is it
economically administered? What are the principal items of expense? Has
the city other sources of revenue besides taxation?
11. What are the excellent features of your city's government? What are
its faults? How may the latter be corrected?
12. Mention some ways in which students can assist in bringing about
better conditions in your city.
* * * * *
1. Reinsch, Young Citizen's Reader, 80-83. Hoxie, How the People Rule,
63-83. Dole, Young Citizen, 93-108; 132-139.
THE NATIONAL GOVERNMENT.
EVENTS LEADING TO THE FORMATION OF THE UNION.
Colonial Relations.--Why was union so long delayed? How was it
finally accomplished? These are always questions of great interest to
the student of American government. We note the general indifference
toward union among the colonies before the Revolutionary War. This may
be partially accounted for by the fact that each colony had its own
separate government, and was jealous of all outside interference. Lack
of good roads and methods of travel made extensive communication between
the scattered settlements difficult. Prejudice against strangers, and
especially those of a different religious belief, was common. Bonds of
sympathy, however, between the citizens of different colonies were not
wholly lacking. Their language and customs were mainly English. Their
chief desire was to develop a government according to their own plans.
Common interests were at times created because of the necessity for
providing protection against their Indian, French, and Dutch foes. In
general, we may say, confederation was early brought about through need
for defense, but union has been the result of two centuries and a half
Union of the New England Colonies, 1643.--A notable attempt was
made to form a confederation among the colonies in 1643. It is known as
the New England Confederation, and included Massachusetts Bay, New
Plymouth, Connecticut, and New Haven colonies. Their united energies
were necessary to furnish protection against dangers from the Indians.
The Dutch and French also tended constantly to encroach upon their
rights. The governing body of this confederation was a board of
commissioners. In the annual meetings of the commissioners, two being
sent from each colony, questions of war, relations with the Indians, and
other matters of mutual interest were discussed. But this central
government possessed advisory powers only. The colonies were to provide
for their own local government. The confederation became constantly
weaker, and was finally dissolved in 1684. Seventy years were to elapse
before the call was sent out for a meeting of delegates from all the
colonies at Albany, but the influence of the New England Confederacy was
felt, no doubt, during that period.
The Albany Congress, 1754.--Open hostilities with their enemies
became more and more frequent. From the outbreak of King William's War,
in 1689, to 1754, the date of the Albany Congress, there were at least a
dozen intercolonial conferences called to consider means for the common
defense. Plans for union were also prepared. The most interesting is
that of William Penn. In it the word "Congress" is used for the first
time in connection with American affairs. As the final struggle with
France for the possession of America was about to begin, a "Congress" of
twenty-five of the leading men from seven different colonies met at
Albany. They were called, primarily, for the purpose of making a treaty
with the Iroquois Indians. This object secured, the resolution was then
unanimously adopted that "A union of all the colonies is at present
absolutely necessary for security and defense." Franklin's famous plan
providing for a permanent federation of all the colonies was also
adopted. When submitted to the colonies, it failed to receive the
ratification of a single one. Nor was it acceptable to the English
government. Said Franklin, "The assemblies all thought there was too
much prerogative, and in England it was thought to have too much of the
The Stamp Act Congress, 1765.--After the passing of the stamp act
by the English government, the Massachusetts house of representatives
invited the other colonial assemblies to send delegations to a general
congress. Nine colonies responded by sending twenty-eight men to the
congress in New York City, October 7, 1765. During the session of two
weeks, these delegates drafted petitions to the English government and
declared that the rights of the colonists were the same as those of the
natural-born subjects of England. It is noteworthy that representatives
had again assembled on the motion of the colonists themselves. The
growth of common interests was well expressed by Christopher Gadsden of
South Carolina, when he said: "There ought to be no New England man, no
New Yorker, known on the continent; but all of us Americans."
[Footnote 6: Virginia, New Hampshire, Georgia, and North Carolina
sympathized with the movement, but did not send delegates.]
Committees of Correspondence.--Nine years were to go by before the
meeting of another congress, but the colonists were prepared for a
united effort at the end of this period. No sooner were the contents of
the Townshend acts of 1767 known than Massachusetts issued a circular
letter to the other colonies, asking for combined action against all
such unconstitutional measures. The other colonial assemblies agreed
with Massachusetts. Another movement which made the Revolution possible
was begun by Samuel Adams. In November, 1772, he prevailed upon the
Boston town meeting to appoint a committee which should carry on a
correspondence with committees organized in other towns of that colony.
Rights and grievances were the chief subjects for consideration. Other
colonies adopted this plan. Led by Virginia, the idea was carried one
step further, and in 1773 were formed committees of correspondence
between the different colonies. Thus they were prepared for united
action in the First and Second Continental Congresses.
The First Continental Congress, 1774.--When the coercive acts of
1774 had been passed, Massachusetts, now in greatest need, called for a
congress of all the colonies. Delegates from all, Georgia excepted,
assembled at Philadelphia, September 5, 1774. In the Declaration of
Rights, and in the adoption of the Articles of Association, they gave
full expression to colonial sentiment. They commended the resistance of
the people of Massachusetts. They declared that all "America ought to
support them in their opposition," if force should be used in carrying
out the measures of Parliament.
[Footnote 7: Georgia was in sympathy with this movement.]
The Second Continental Congress, 1775.--Before adjourning, the
First Continental Congress provided for the meeting of another congress,
in May, 1775, unless the causes for colonial grievances should be
earlier removed by the English government. But other measures of
repression were quickly passed, and before the Second Continental
Congress met, the battle of Lexington had been fought and the American
forces were blockading Boston. This congress convened in Philadelphia
May 10, 1775, and continued in session, with adjournments from time to
time, until May 1, 1781. All of the colonies were represented. Like
previous congresses, this was, at first, merely an advisory body, but
necessity compelled it to act as a real government. It took control of
military affairs, provided for a currency, threw open American ports to
the ships of all nations, and did whatever else the necessities of the
time seemed to demand. Having been appealed to for advice, this congress
took a most notable position in recommending that new forms of
government should be established in the several States. By the year 1777
ten States had framed new constitutions. It furthered independence by
appointing a committee to draft resolutions based on the ideas of
independence then everywhere present. The Declaration of Independence
was the result.
The Articles of Confederation.--Franklin early saw the need for a
more effective government than that of a revolutionary assembly. On July
21, 1775, he presented to Congress a plan for "perpetual union." Nearly
a year elapsed before a committee was appointed to prepare some form for
confederation to be entered into between the colonies. Another period of
a year and five months was to go by before the report of this committee
was adopted by the Continental Congress. It was then submitted to the
State legislatures for approval. After three years and a half, on March
1, 1781, Maryland, the last State, was induced to ratify the Articles of
Confederation. The adoption of these articles is one of the most
important events in the history of our nation. While the Articles of
Confederation must always be regarded as a weak instrument of
government, we must not forget that the Continental Congress was then
working out problems in the province of government that were almost
wholly new. The solution, faulty as it was, went far to establish the
place of the written Constitution as a basis for government.
Said John Fiske: "Almost everything else in our fundamental
institutions was brought by our forefathers in a more or less
highly developed condition from England; but the development of the
written Constitution, with the consequent relation of the courts to
the law-making power, has gone on entirely upon American soil."
Practical Working of the Government.--Conditions soon proved the
articles unsatisfactory. The States were almost independent of the
central government. There was no separate executive power to enforce,
and no judiciary to interpret the laws. The nation was deep in debt, and
without means for payment. Paper money of the period was worthless, and
debtors were rebellious. Disputes between the various States brought
them to the verge of civil war. Each State had its own system of duties
and imposts, which led to great confusion in commerce. No important
resolution could be passed in Congress without the votes of nine States.
No amendment was possible, except by the votes of all the States.
Congress became constantly weaker as various members resigned to accept
positions under State authority. In that most dangerous period of our
history, extending from 1783 to 1788, aptly called the "critical
period," it became constantly more apparent that government under the
Articles of Confederation was a failure. Fortunately, in this hour of
gloom, there came forward Washington, Hamilton, Madison, and other
leaders, who were prepared, if need be, to make compromises, but who
were determined to preserve the elements of the union already secured.
* * * * *
SUPPLEMENTARY QUESTIONS AND REFERENCES.
1. How was the stamp act regarded in the different colonies as shown by
the addresses made and resolutions offered? Hart, Contemporaries, II,
395-411; Tyler, Patrick Henry (American Statesmen), Chapters 5 and 6.
2. Do you know of other instances in our history where a stamp act has
been passed? How was it regarded? In what ways was it different from
that of 1765?
3. What was the origin of the committees of correspondence and how did
they aid in unification? Sloane, The French War and the Revolution, 161,
162; Hart, Formation of the Union, 57.
4. Analyze the Declaration of Independence, and select from it the
causes for the Revolution.
5. Why was the adoption of the Articles of Confederation so long
delayed? Hart, Contemporaries, II, 539-543; Fiske, The Critical Period,
93, 95; Walker, The Making of the Nation, 6; Hart, Formation of the
6. Read the Articles of Confederation (Appendix B).
(_a_) How was the Congress composed? (Art. V.) (_b_) The number
necessary for a quorum? (Art. X.) (_c_) The powers of Congress? (Art.
IX.) (_d_) Powers of the separate States (Art. VIII.)
7. Defects of the Confederation. Hart, Contemporaries, II, 591-603.
8. What was the attitude toward union during the period 1783-1788? Were
there notable bonds of union even at this time? What other influences
have increased this sentiment? Fiske, Critical Period, 55-63; Walker,
The Making of the Nation, 7, 8.
9. President Roosevelt said, in an address delivered April 9, 1902, at
Charleston, S.C., "When four years ago this nation was compelled to face
a foreign foe, the completeness of the reunion became instantly and
strikingly evident." What is his meaning? How does the statement
illustrate the point emphasized in this chapter, that a common danger
10. Describe the character of the money used in 1783 and succeeding
years. What was its influence? Fiske, Critical Period, 162-186.
THE CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION.
Events Leading to the Constitutional Convention.--Among the many
difficulties that arose during the period of the confederation were
constant disputes between Virginia and Maryland over the navigation of
the Potomac River and Chesapeake Bay. Finally, in March, 1785,
commissioners from these States met at Alexandria to consider these
difficulties. The outcome of the meeting was that Virginia proposed a
convention and called for delegates from all of the States to meet to
consider how commerce should be controlled. Delegates from five States
only were present at Annapolis on the day appointed, September 11, 1786.
Nothing permanent could be accomplished with so few States represented.
Before adjourning, however, they agreed to a resolution, framed by
Alexander Hamilton, which proposed the calling of a convention at
Philadelphia to amend the Articles of Confederation.
The Federal Convention, 1787; Delegates.--All of the States, Rhode
Island excepted, were finally represented in this, one of the most
notable conventions in the history of the world. Among the fifty-five
delegates assembled were many who had already been conspicuous in public
affairs. They were the choice men of the States from which they came.
Twenty-nine of the number were university men. Washington and Franklin
were present, and Washington was unanimously chosen president of the
convention. Neither of these men took an active part in the debates; but
their presence gave inspiration to the other members, and they had
untold influence at critical times. Among the ablest members were
Alexander Hamilton of New York; James Madison of Virginia; Oliver
Ellsworth and William S. Johnson of Connecticut; James Wilson and
Gouverneur Morris of Pennsylvania; Rufus King of Massachusetts; and
Charles C. Pinckney of South Carolina.
Our Knowledge of the Convention.--The Convention lasted from
May 25 to September 17, 1787. The sessions were secret. Fortunately
we are not dependent on the secretary's report alone for our
knowledge of the meetings. Mr. Madison seemed to understand the
full meaning of the convention from the first, and decided to give
an accurate account of the proceedings. He wrote: "Nor was I
unaware of the value of such a contribution to the fund of
materials for the history of a Constitution on which should be
staked the happiness of a people great even in its infancy, and
possibly the cause of liberty throughout the world." His notes were
purchased by the government from Mrs. Madison, in 1837, for the sum
of thirty thousand dollars. They were published as "Madison's
Journal of the Constitutional Convention."
[Footnote 8: It was published in 1819 as a part of Volume I of "Elliot's
Plans for a Government; Virginia Plan.--The magnitude of the labors
of this convention can be understood only when we read the report of the
discussions as given by Madison. It was at once determined that no time
should be lost in patching up the articles, but that a new Constitution
should be formed. Two sets of resolutions were early submitted, each
setting forth a plan of government. The Virginia plan was largely the
work of Mr. Madison. It provided for the establishment of a national
government with supreme legislative, executive, and judicial powers. The
legislative power was to be vested in a Congress of two separate houses.
The executive was to be chosen by both houses of Congress and the
judiciary by the Senate. Representation in both houses of Congress was
to be based on population or the contributions to the support of the
government. This scheme was fiercely attacked by the delegates from the
small States, for it would clearly give control into the hands of the
more powerful States.
The New Jersey Plan.--The New Jersey plan, presented by Mr.
Patterson of that State, was agreed upon by the members from
Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, and Maryland. This
Small-State plan, so called, provided for a continuance of the
government under the Articles of Confederation. They were to be revised
in such a manner as to give Congress the power to regulate commerce, to
raise revenue, and to coerce the States. The Small-State party insisted
that the Virginia plan, if adopted, would destroy the sovereignty of the
States. They would rather, they said, submit to a foreign power than be
deprived of equality of suffrage in both branches of the legislature.
Madison, Wilson, King, and other leaders of the Large-State party
declared that the basis for the new government was to be the people and
not the States; that it would be unfair to give Delaware as many
representatives as Virginia or Pennsylvania. After many days of
fruitless debate, a compromise, sometimes called the "First Great
Compromise," was presented and finally adopted. This provided that the
House of Representatives should be composed of members elected on the
basis of population. In the Senate, large and small States were to be
The Slavery Problem; Second Compromise.--How was the number of the
representatives to be found? Were slaves to be counted a part of the
population? A heated debate arose over these questions. The delegates
from South Carolina maintained that slaves were a part of the population
and as such should be counted. The answer was made that slaves were not
represented in the legislatures of that and other States; that slaves
were regarded in those States merely as so much property, and as such
ought never to be represented. Finally, when it seemed that the work of
the convention must fail, a compromise, known as "the three-fifths
compromise," was accepted. This provided that all free people should be
counted and three-fifths of the slaves.
The Third Compromise.--Slave-trade and commerce were the causes for
a third compromise. South Carolina and Georgia desired to have the
importation of slaves continued. Some of the other Southern States and
the Northern States generally were opposed. The New England members were
anxious that the National government should have complete control of
foreign commerce. This was resisted by some of the Southern delegates,
who feared that the importation of slaves might thereby be prohibited.
Finally, a compromise was agreed upon which gave Congress power over
foreign and interstate commerce, but forbade any act which might
prohibit the importation of slaves before 1808. It was also agreed that
a tax of ten dollars each might be laid on all slaves imported. While
the entire Constitution may be said to be made up of compromises, the
agreement upon these three rendered the further work of the convention
Signing the Constitution.--Gouverneur Morris was selected to give
the document its final form. The clear, simple English used is due
largely to him. After thirty-nine members, representing twelve different
States, had signed the Constitution, the convention adjourned. While the
last signatures were being written, Franklin said to those standing near
him, as he called attention to a sun blazoned on the back of the
President's chair: "I have, often and often, in the course of the
session, and the vicissitudes of my hopes and fears as to its issue,
looked at that behind the President, without being able to tell whether
it was rising or setting; but now, at length, I have the happiness to
know that it is a rising and not a setting sun."
Difficulties of Ratification.--The convention submitted the
Constitution to Congress. Here, for eight days, it was attacked by its
opponents. Finally, Congress passed it on to the State legislatures. It
was sent by them to State conventions elected by the people. This
ratification was provided for by Article VII of the Constitution, as
follows: _The ratification of the conventions of nine States shall be
sufficient for the establishment of this Constitution between the States
so ratifying the same._
The period included between September 28, 1787, when Congress
transmitted the Constitution to the State legislatures, and June 21,
1788, when New Hampshire, the last of the necessary nine States,
ratified, was one of the most critical in our history. Political
parties, in a truly National sense, were formed for the first time.
Among the leaders who defended ably the views of those who opposed the
ratification of the Constitution were Patrick Henry, Richard Henry Lee,
Elbridge Gerry, and George Clinton. It was urged that there was no bill
of rights, that the President would become a despot, and that
equality of representation in the Senate was an injustice to the larger
States. "Letters from the Federal Farmer," prepared for the press of the
country by Richard Henry Lee, set forth clearly the views of the
[Footnote 9: A bill of rights, in which the idea of the rights of man
were set forth, was a significant part of nearly all the State
constitutions. Englishmen, generally, had been familiar with the formal
statement of these principles since 1689, when William and Mary accepted
the Declaration of Rights as a condition of their receiving the crown of
England. During the same year Parliament gave the Declaration of Rights
the form of a statute, under the name of the Bill of Rights. Among other
rights it demanded that the king, without the sanction of Parliament,
should not raise an army, secure money, or suspend the laws; also, that
the right of petition, freedom in the exercise of religion, and equality
under the laws were to be granted all subjects.]
"The Federalist."--No influence was more noteworthy in bringing
about ratification than a series of political essays afterward collected
under the name of "The Federalist." It is considered to-day the best
commentary on the Constitution ever written. Alexander Hamilton
originated the plan, and wrote 51 of the 85 numbers. James Madison wrote
29, and John Jay 5.
The Influence of Washington.--Washington was again a giant in
his support of the Constitution. In a letter to Patrick Henry he
early sounded an effective note of warning against anarchy,
expressing the very fear that finally led many in the conventions
to vote for the Constitution. He wrote: "I wish the Constitution
which is offered had been more perfect; but it is the best that
could be obtained at this time, and a door is open for amendments
hereafter. The political concerns of this country are suspended by
a thread. The convention has been looked up to by the reflecting
part of the community with a solicitude which is hardly to be
conceived, and if nothing had been agreed upon by that body,
anarchy would soon have ensued, the seeds being deeply sown in
Ratification Secured.--Delaware, the first State, ratified December
6, 1787, without a dissenting vote. Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Georgia,
and Connecticut followed quickly. Much depended on the action of the
Massachusetts convention. After prolonged debate, the delegates were
finally influenced by the statement that amendments might be made, and
they ratified the Constitution by a vote of 187 to 168. The ninth State
was secured in the ratification by New Hampshire, June 21, 1788. It was
not until November 21, 1789, however, that North Carolina voted to
accept the Constitution. Rhode Island held out until May 29, 1790.
The New Government Put into Operation.--When the ratification of
the ninth State had been secured, Congress appointed a special committee
to frame an act for putting the Constitution into operation. It was
enacted that the first Wednesday in January should be the day for
appointing electors; that the electors should cast their votes for
President on the first Wednesday in February, and that on the first
Wednesday of March the new government should go into operation. It was
not until April 1 that a quorum was secured in the House of
Representatives, and in the Senate not until April 6. The electoral
votes were counted in the presence of the two houses on April 6. The
inauguration of President Washington did not take place, however, until
[Footnote 10: New York did not choose electors. North Carolina and Rhode
Island, as we have seen, had not ratified the Constitution.]
Origin of the Constitution.--Before making a study of this
epoch-making document, let us inquire briefly as to its origin. An
analysis of the Constitution shows that there are some provisions which
are new and that English precedent had an influence. The main features,
however, were derived from the constitutions of the States with whose
practical workings the delegates were familiar. The following well-known
statement is an excellent summary: "Nearly every provision of the
Federal Constitution that has worked well is one borrowed from or
suggested by some State constitution; nearly every provision that has
worked badly is one which the convention, for want of a precedent, was
obliged to devise for itself."
Authority and Objects of the Constitution.--It was evidently the
intention of the framers of the Constitution to found a government
deriving its authority from the people rather than from the States. The
purposes for which this was done are set forth in the following
enacting clause, commonly called the preamble:--
"_We, the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect
union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the
common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of
liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this
Constitution for the United States of America_."
This clause was attacked vigorously by the opponents of the
Constitution, and especially in the Virginia and the North Carolina
conventions. Said Patrick Henry: "And here I would make this inquiry of
those worthy characters who composed a part of the late Federal
Convention.... I have the highest veneration for those gentlemen; but,
sir, give me leave to demand what right had they to say, 'We, the
people'?... Who authorized them to speak the language of, We, the
people, instead of, We, the States? If the States be not the agents of
this compact, it must be one great, consolidated, national government of
the people of all the States." It was argued, on the other hand, by
Randolph, Madison, and others, that the government, under the Articles
of Confederation, was a failure, and that the only safe course to pursue
was to have a government emanating from the people instead of from the
States, if the union of the States and the preservation of the liberties
of the people were to be preserved.
SUPPLEMENTARY QUESTIONS AND READINGS.
1. For an account of the members of the convention, see Hart,
Contemporaries, III, 205-211.
2. For the contributions of the individuals and the classes of
delegates, see Walker, The Making of the Nation, 23-27; Fiske, Critical
3. Discuss the peculiar conditions in Massachusetts. Give the arguments
presented. Walker, 56-57; Fiske, Critical Period, 316-331.
4. How was the Constitution regarded in Virginia? Walker, 58, 60; Fiske,
Critical Period, 334-338.
5. What was the attitude of the New York Convention toward the
Constitution? Fiske, Critical Period, 340-345.
6. What objections were made against the Constitution in North Carolina?
Hart, Contemporaries, III, 251-254.
7. What would have been the status of North Carolina and Rhode Island if
they had not ratified? Walker, 73, 74; Hart, Formation of the Union,
8. Show the influence of the State constitutions on the Federal
Constitution. James and Sanford, Government in State and Nation, 117.
9. For other questions on the material in this chapter, see Fiske, Civil
Government, 211, 212; James and Sanford, Government in State and Nation,
135, 136, 137.
ORGANIZATION OF THE LEGISLATIVE DEPARTMENT.
A Congress of Two Houses.--Section i. _All legislative powers,
herein granted, shall be vested in a Congress of the United States,
which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives_.
In the Constitutional Convention, the Pennsylvania delegates were the
only ones who objected to the formation of a legislative body having two
houses. It was believed that with two houses one would be a check upon
the other, and that there would be less danger of hasty and oppressive
legislation. Another reason for the formation of a congress having two
houses was that the colonists were familiar with this kind of
legislature. It existed in all of the States, Pennsylvania and Georgia
Term of Members and Qualifications of Electors.--Section 2, Clause
1. _The House of Representatives shall be composed of members chosen
every second year by the people of the several States, and the electors
in each State shall have the qualifications requisite for electors of
the most numerous branch of the State legislature_.
A short term for representatives was agreed upon, for it was the design
to make them dependent on the will of the people. The question
frequently arises, therefore, ought representatives to be compelled to
receive instructions from those who elect them? May we not agree that
our legislation would often be more efficient if the welfare of the
nation were considered, rather than what seems, for the moment, to be
only the concern of a district or even, a State? Securing the best
interests of all may mean at times, also, the sacrifice of mere party
Who May Vote for Representatives.--By the words _people_ and
_electors_ is meant voters. With the desire to make the House of
Representatives the more popular branch, it was decided to grant the
right of voting for a representative to any person who might be
privileged to vote for a member of the lower house of the legislature of
his State. The freedom of a State to determine what these qualifications
are is limited only by the provisions of the Fifteenth Amendment:--
Amendment XV. _The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall
not be denied or abridged by the United States, or by any State, on
account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude_.
This amendment was proposed by Congress in February, 1869, and was
declared in force, March 30, 1870. It was for the purpose of granting
more complete political rights to the negroes, recently declared, by
Amendment XIV, to be citizens.
Method and Time of Choosing Representatives.--The Constitution
prescribes that representatives shall be elected by the people.
Congress has provided that representatives shall be chosen on the
Tuesday next after the first Monday in November of the even-numbered
years. Congress has also decreed that representatives shall be
chosen by districts; but the State legislature has complete control of
the districting of its State. However, Congress has declared that these
districts shall be composed of contiguous territory, and contain, as
nearly as practicable, an equal number of inhabitants. Now, usage has
defined territory to be contiguous when it touches another portion of
the district at any one point. As a result of this questionable
interpretation, some States have been divided into districts of
fantastic shapes, to promote the interests of the party having the
majority in the State legislature.
[Footnote 11: The only exceptions to this rule are: Maine holds its
election on the second Monday in September, and Vermont on the first
Tuesday in November.]
[Footnote 12: This process is called "gerrymandering." See, also,
"Government in State and Nation," pp. 135, 136.]
Proportional Representation.--Proportional representation,
which is coming into favor in these days, would doubtless do much
toward remedying this abuse. According to the present system of
electing representatives by districts, large minorities of voters
are not represented. Numerous plans of "Proportional
Representation" have been advocated. One such plan is in operation
in Illinois for the election of members to the State house of
representatives. Each district elects three members on a general
ticket. The voter may give one vote to each candidate, or one and a
half votes to each of two candidates, or three votes to a single
candidate. Therefore, the minority, by concentrating their votes on
one candidate, may elect a representative to the legislature, when
under the district system they would not be represented.
[Footnote 13: On proportional representation, read "Government in State
and Nation," pp. 14, 15.]
Qualifications of Representatives.--Section 2, Clause 2. _No
person shall be a representative who shall not have attained to the age
of twenty-five years, and been seven years a citizen of the United
States, and who shall not, when elected, be an inhabitant of that State
in which he shall be chosen._
In the original States there was great diversity of qualifications for
members of the lower houses of their legislatures. But some uniform
system was necessary for the National organization, and so the few
simple requirements of this clause were introduced. It is understood,
however, that the States may not add other qualifications. While a
representative must be an inhabitant of the State in which he is chosen,
he need not, so far as the Constitution requires, be an inhabitant of
the district. But the instances have been few in which a member of the
House has not been also an inhabitant of the district which he
represents. According to the English system of representation, a member
of the House of Commons frequently represents a borough or county in an
entirely different part of the kingdom from that of which he is an
May the House refuse to admit a person duly elected and possessing
the necessary qualifications? This question arose in the 56th
Congress, in the case of Brigham Roberts of Utah. He was finally
Present System of Apportioning Representatives.--Section 2 of
Amendment XIV contains the rule of apportionment that is now in
operation. This became a part of the Constitution, July 28, 1868.
_Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States
according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of
persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed. But when the right
to vote at any election for the choice of electors for President and
Vice-President of the United States, representatives in Congress, the
executive and judicial officers of a State, or the members of the
legislature thereof, is denied to any of the male inhabitants of such
State, being twenty-one years of age, and citizens of the United States,
or in any way abridged, except for participation in rebellion or other
crime, the basis of representation therein shall be reduced in the
proportion which the number of such male citizens shall bear to the
whole number of male citizens twenty-one years of age in such State_.
The second sentence of this section was framed in the belief that the
States, rather than lose a portion of their representatives in Congress,
would grant the right of suffrage to negroes already declared to be
citizens. But proportional reduction of representatives was never put
into practical operation, for before the next apportionment of
representatives, Amendment XV became a part of the Constitution, and
negro suffrage was put on the same basis as white. However, the
enforcement of Section 2 of Amendment XIV has been strongly urged in our
own time. This is because it is estimated that many thousands have been
disfranchised through the restrictions on the right of suffrage found in
several of our State constitutions. Some require an educational test and
others a property qualification for voting.
The "Indians not taxed" doubtless refers to those Indians who still
maintain their tribal relations or who live on reservations in the
several States. Their member, according to the census of 1910, was
Early Apportionment.--The number of representatives to which each
of the States was originally entitled is given in Section 2, Clause 3,
of the article we are now considering as follows:--
_Representatives and direct taxes shall be apportioned among the several
States which may be included within this Union, according to their
respective numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole
number of free persons, including those bound to service for a term of
years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three-fifths of all other
persons. The actual enumeration shall be made within three years after
the first meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every
subsequent term of ten years, in such manner as they shall by law
direct. The number of representatives shall not exceed one for every
thirty thousand, but each State shall have at least one representative;
and until such enumeration shall be made, the State of New Hampshire
shall be entitled to choose three, Massachusetts eight, Rhode Island and
Providence Plantations one, Connecticut five, New York six, New Jersey
four, Pennsylvania eight, Delaware one, Maryland six, Virginia ten,
North Carolina five, South Carolina five, and Georgia three_.
The three-fifths rule was rendered void by the adoption of Amendment
XIII, which abolished slavery, since there were no longer the "other
persons." That part of the clause which provides for the laying of
direct taxes is still in force.
The Census.--In order to carry out the provision of the
Constitution, an "actual enumeration" was made in 1790. Since that date
there has been a census every ten years. The taking of the census and
the compilation and publication of the statistics connected with it are
under the supervision of the director of the census. Work on the
thirteenth census was begun April 15, 1910, and required some 65,000
enumerators, 3500 clerks, and 1800 special agents. The cost was some
$12,000,000. The most important volumes found in the report are those on
population, manufactures, and agriculture. The taking of the census
will, in the future, be more economical and efficient because of the
establishment of the permanent census bureau by an act of Congress in
[Footnote 14: The population of the United States, according to the
first census, was 3,929,214. The population in 1910 was 91,972,266;
including the possessions and dependencies, 101,000,000.]
Ratio of Representation.--The Constitution provided that there
should be 65 members in the first House of Representatives. After
the first census, Congress agreed that there should be one
representative for each 33,000 of the population. This gave a house
with 105 representatives. From that time the ratio of
representation has been changed every ten years. Otherwise, with
the rapid increase in population, the House would soon become too
large. The ratio adopted by the act of 1911 was one representative
to 211,877 people. After March 4, 1913, therefore, there will
be at least 433 members, an increase of 42.
[Footnote 15: For the method of apportionment, see "Government in State
and Nation," p. 128.]
[Footnote 16: The number of members in the English House of Commons is
670; in the French Chamber of Deputies, 584; and in the German
Members from New States.--Should a new State be admitted after the
apportionment is made, its representatives are always additional to the
number provided for by law.
The Constitution provides that each State shall have at least one
representative. If this provision had not been made, the States of
Arizona, Delaware, Nevada, and Wyoming, each having a smaller
population than the ratio adopted in 1910, would not be represented.
Territorial Delegates.--The organized Territories are each entitled
to send a delegate to the House of Representatives. He is allowed to
speak on any question that has to do with his Territory, but may not
Vacancies.--Section 2, Clause 4. _When vacancies happen in the
representation from any State, the executive authority thereof shall
issue writs of election to fill such vacancies_.
When a vacancy occurs in the representation from any State on account of
death, expulsion, or for other cause, it is made the duty of the
governor of the State in which the vacancy exists to call for a special
election in that district to choose a representative for the remainder
of the term.
Officers.--Section 2, Clause 5. _The House of Representatives shall
choose their Speaker and other officers, and shall have the sole power
The speaker, who is the presiding officer, has always been a member of
the House, but the Constitution does not say that he _shall_ be. The
other officers are the clerk, sergeant-at-arms, doorkeeper, postmaster,
and chaplain, none of whom is a member of the House.
Number and Term of Office of Senators.--Section 3, Clause 1. _The
Senate of the United States shall be composed of two senators from each
State, elected by the people thereof, for six years; and each senator
shall have one vote. The electors in each State shall have the
qualifications requisite for electors of the most numerous branch of the
As we have seen, the provision that there should be two senators from
each State was the result of a compromise. Consequently, New York and
Pennsylvania have the same number as Delaware and Nevada. The term
of six years for senators was likewise a compromise measure. There were
members of the convention who favored three years; others wanted nine
years, and Hamilton desired that the term should be during good
behavior. Many States have practically lengthened the prescribed term by
the wise policy of returning acceptable senators for more than one term.
[Footnote 17: The Senate now contains 96 members; the English House of
Lords, 560; and the French Senate, 300.]
Prior to April 8, 1913, when the Seventeenth Amendment became a part of
the Constitution, through ratification by the requisite votes of
three-fourths of the State legislatures, senators were chosen by the
State legislatures. For years the demand for such an amendment was
insistent. More than two-thirds of the State legislatures had gone on
record in favor of such a reform. The House of Representatives had
passed such a resolution a number of times, but the requisite two-thirds
vote could not be secured in the Senate. The leading reasons for the
amendment were: the frequent deadlocks in the legislatures, thus
interrupting the course of regular legislation, and the use of bribery.
Classes of Senators and Vacancies.--Section 3, Clause 2.
_Immediately after they shall be assembled in consequence of the first
election, they shall be divided, as equally as may be, into three
classes. The seats of the senators of the first class shall be vacated
at the expiration of the second year; of the second class, at the
expiration of the fourth year; and of the third class, at the expiration
of the sixth year; so that one-third may be chosen every second year.
When vacancies happen in the representation of any State in the Senate,
the executive authority of such State shall issue writs of election to
fill such vacancies. Provided, that the legislature of any State may
empower the executive thereof to make temporary appointments until the
people fill the vacancies by election as the legislature may direct_.
_This amendment shall not be so construed as to affect the election or
term of any senator chosen before it becomes valid as part of the
This provision makes the Senate a permanent body, since only one-third
of the members go out of office every two years. In the first session of
the first Congress, the senators were divided into three classes. It has
been the custom to place the senators from new States in different
classes. This is done in order to preserve, so far as possible, the
equality of numbers in each class. Besides, a State is thus enabled to
keep one man of experience in the Senate. When a new State is admitted,
the senators from that State determine by lot, drawn in the presence of
the Senate, which classes they are to enter.
Qualifications of Senators.--Section 3, Clause 3. _No person shall
be a senator who shall not hove attained to the age of thirty years, and
been nine years a citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when
elected, be an inhabitant of that State from which he shall be chosen_.
The reasons for requiring different qualifications in senators from
those of representatives is expressed in "The Federalist" as follows:
"The propriety of these distinctions is explained by the nature of the
senatorial trust, which, requiring greater extent of information and
stability of character, requires at the same time that the senator
should have reached a period of life most likely to supply these
advantages." The attitude of Americans toward the Senate to-day differs
from that manifest during the first quarter century of our history. Has
the Senate degenerated is a question frequently asked. The presence in
that body of numerous millionaires has also excited unfavorable comment.
There have been two instances only in which senators have been
disqualified because of inadequate citizenship.
Times and Places for Electing Senators and
Representatives.--Section 4, Clause 1. _The times, places, and
manner of holding elections for senators and representatives shall be
prescribed in each State by the legislature thereof; but the Congress
may at any time, by law, make or alter such regulations, except as to
the place of choosing senators_.
It is desirable that Congress should have the _final_ authority in
providing for the election of its own members, because the very
existence of the Union might otherwise be left, at times, to the whims
of the State legislatures.
President of the Senate.--Section 3, Clause 4. _The Vice-President
of the United States shall be President of the Senate, but shall have no
vote unless they be equally divided_.
Other Officers.--Section 3, Clause 5. _The Senate shall choose
their other officers, and also a President pro tempore, in the absence
of the Vice-President, or when he shall exercise the office of President
of the United States_.
The Vice-President of the United States is the presiding officer of the
Senate. He cannot take part in debates, and has no vote unless there be
a tie. In marked contrast with the power of the speaker, he cannot name
the committees, and has no direct authority in legislation. Indeed, the
office is regarded as one of so little influence that it is sometimes
difficult to secure, as candidates for it, men of recognized prominence.
The other officers of the Senate are secretary, chief clerk,
sergeant-at-arms, chaplain, postmaster, librarian, and doorkeeper, none
of whom is a member of the Senate. It is desirable, in the absence of
the Vice-President, that the Senate should have a presiding officer. At
the opening of the session, therefore, that body chooses from its own
members a president _pro tempore_. He may vote on any question, but
cannot cast the deciding vote in case of a tie.
When Congress Meets.--Section 4, Clause 2. _The Congress shall
assemble at least once in every year, and such meeting shall be on the
first Monday in December, unless they shall by law appoint a different
As we have already seen, representatives are elected for a term of two
years. This period defines the length of a Congress. Representatives, as
we know, are chosen on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in
November. Now the term of office of a representative begins legally on
the fourth of March succeeding the time of his election. The first
regular session of the Congress to which he was elected does not begin
until the first Monday of the following December, or thirteen months
after the election. It would seem desirable that the members should be
given an earlier opportunity to express themselves on the issues upon
which they have been chosen.
[Footnote 18: The limits of the 63d Congress will be March 4, 1913, to
March 4, 1915.]
Sessions of Congress.--Each Congress has two regular sessions. The
first is called the "long session," for its length is not determined by
a definite date of adjournment. It usually lasts until midsummer and may
not extend beyond the first Monday in December, the time fixed for the
beginning of the next session. The second, or "short session," cannot
extend beyond 12 M. of March 4, the time set for a new Congress to
begin. The President may convene Congress in special session.
Organization of Congress.--The first Monday in December of
each second year is a notable day in Washington, for the formal
opening of a new Congress is regarded as an important event. The
House of Representatives must go through the entire process of
organization. To the clerk of the preceding House are intrusted the
credentials of the members, and from these he makes out a list of
those who are shown to be regularly elected. At the hour of
assembly he calls the roll from this list, announces whether or not
a quorum is present, and states that the first business is to elect
a speaker. After his election the speaker takes the oath of office,
which is administered by the member who has had the longest service
in the House. The speaker then administers the oath to the members
by States. The election of the chief clerk and the other officers
follows, after which the House is said to be organized.
The Senate is a "continuing body," and no formal organization is
necessary. At the opening of a new Congress the Vice-President
calls the Senate to order and the other officers resume their
duties. After the president _pro tempore_ has been chosen, the
newly elected members are escorted to the desk in groups of four,
and the oath is administered by the president of the Senate. Each
house, when organized, notifies the other of the fact, and a joint
committee of the houses is appointed to wait upon the President and
inform him that quorums are present and are ready to receive any
communication he may desire to send.
The House of Representatives occupies a large hall in the south
wing of the capitol. The desks of the members are arranged in a
semicircle about that of the speaker, with the Republicans on his
left and the Democrats on his right. When a member gains the floor,
he speaks from his own desk or from the space in front of the
speaker's desk. Unless the question is one of importance, but
little attention is paid to the course of debate. Consequently a
visitor can hear only with great effort because of the constant din
produced by the shuffling of papers, clapping of hands for pages,
etc. The real work of Congress, as we shall see, is done in
committees. The Senate occupies a hall at the opposite end of the
capitol. It is, of course, much smaller than that occupied by the
House, but is similarly arranged. In general, the proceedings on
the floor of the Senate are conducted in a much more orderly manner
than is usual in the House.
* * * * *
SUPPLEMENTARY QUESTIONS AND REFERENCES.
1. What is the number of the present Congress? Give the dates for the
beginning and end of each session.
2. In the States which have woman suffrage, may women vote for
3. It is not required by law that a representative shall reside in the
district that he represents, but it is an established custom. What are
its advantages and disadvantages? Compare with the English practice.
Bryce, American Commonwealth, I, Chapter 19.
4. Are the States which allow women the right to vote justified in the
enactment of their suffrage laws?
5. Ought Section 2, Amendment XIV, to be enforced? Rev. of R's,
22:273-275, 653, 654; 24:649-651; Forum, 31:225-230; 32:460-465; N. Am.
Rev., 168:285-296; 170:785-801; 175:534-543; Outlook, 69:751.
6. State the points of likeness and of difference between the House of
Representatives and the House of Commons. N. Am. Rev., 170:78-86.
7. Give the number of representatives to which your State is entitled.
Was the number increased in the last apportionment? How large is your