Our Government: Local, State, and National: Idaho Edition
by J.A. James
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BY 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

1903, 1913 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 Nation."

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.














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 government.

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 water-supply provided.

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 forms:—


1. Protection:—

The preservation of order. Protection against fire. Protection of public health.

2. Providing Necessities and Conveniences:—

Roads—Streets—Sidewalks. Water—Lights—Sewers. Poor relief—Education. Parks—Libraries—Museums.



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, respectively.

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?[2] 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 schools?

6. How much has your local government done toward furnishing things that are not merely conveniences? How do you justify expenditures for these purposes?

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 local governments?



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 poorhouse.

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 taxes.

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 their qualifications.

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 property.

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:—

Commissioner type Supervisor type

2. Functions:—

County buildings Poor—Education Roads and bridges Taxation


Sheriff and Deputies Clerk Treasurer Register of Deeds, or Recorder Attorney Superintendent of Schools Coroner Surveyor

(In some States, Assessors and Collectors of Taxes, and Auditors.)


County Court District Court

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 his position?

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 property elsewhere?

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 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 Virginia.

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 of government.

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 board.

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.

* * * * *


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 uniformity?



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.[3]

[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 laws.]

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 frequently.

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.[4] 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 School Systems.]

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 this action.

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 right direction.

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.[5] 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. 33-36.]

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 city elections.

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.

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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 the city?

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 charge?

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 opinion.

7. How do police officers receive appointment? If an officer fails to enforce an ordinance, what course would you take to secure its enforcement?

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.

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1. Reinsch, Young Citizen's Reader, 80-83. Hoxie, How the People Rule, 63-83. Dole, Young Citizen, 93-108; 132-139.





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 of growth.

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 democratic."

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.[6] 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[7] 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.

* * * * *


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 Union, 93-95.

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 produces union?

10. Describe the character of the money used in 1783 and succeeding years. What was its influence? Fiske, Critical Period, 162-186.



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.[8] 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 Debates."]

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 equally represented.

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 possible.

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,[9] 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 Anti-Constitutional party.

[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 every soil."

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.[10] The inauguration of President Washington did not take place, however, until April 30.

[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.


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 Period, 224-229.

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, 132, 133.

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.




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 excepted.

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 principles.

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.[11] 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.[12]

[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[13] 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 inhabitant.

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 excluded.

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 129,518.

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.

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