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forgotten Buckle a suggestive chapter but had not the data to be more than a precursor.
His England the England of the threefold division of power into legislative, executive and judicial - was a fiction invented by him, a fiction which misled Blackstone and Delolme. Hear Bagehot in his work upon the subject: "The efficient secret of the English Constitution may be described as the close union, the nearly complete fusion of the executive and legislative powers." And again: "The American Constitution was made upon a most careful argument, and most of that argument assumes the king to be the administrator of the English Constitution, and an unhereditary substitute for him - viz., a president - - to be peremptorily necessary. Living across the Atlantic, and misled by accepted doctrines, the acute framers of the Federal Constitution, even after the keenest attention, did not perceive the Prime Minister to be the principal executive of the British Constitution, and the sovereign a cog in the mechanism.”
It is worth remarking that, notwithstanding his deep sense of the inevitableness of the workings of the world, Montesquieu had a possibly exaggerated belief in the power of legislation, and an equally strong conviction of the reality of abstract justice. But it is vain to attempt to criticise the book in detail. Indeed, it is more important to understand its relation to what had been done before than to criticise. There is not space even to point out how many seeds it sowed. Montesquieu is a precursor, to repeat the word, in so many ways. He was a precursor of political economy. He was the precursor of Beccaria in the criminal law. He was the precursor of Burke when Burke seems a hundred years ahead of his time. The Frenchmen tell us that he was the precursor of Rousseau. He was an authority for the writers of The Federalist. He influenced, and to a great extent started scientific theory in its study of societies, and he hardly less influenced practice in legislation, from Russia to the United States. His book had a dazzling success at the moment, and since then probably has done as much to remodel the world as any product of the eighteenth century, which burned so many forests and sowed so many fields.
And this was the work of a lonely scholar sitting in a library. Like Descartes or Kant, he commanded the future from his study more than Napoleon from his throne. At the same time he affects no august sovereignty, but even gives us one or two discreet personal touches full of a sort of pathetic charm — the “Italiam! Italiam!” when the long day's work was done and the author saw his goal before darkness closed upon him; the suppressed invocation at the beginning of Book XX; the proud epigraph, “Prolem sine matre creatam"; and above all the preface, that immortal cheer to other lonely spirits. It is the great sigh of a great man when he has done a great thing. The last words of that are the words with which this introduction should end. “If this work meets with success, I shall owe it largely to the majesty of my subject. However, I
do not think that I have been wholly wanting in genius. When I have seen what so many great men in France, England, and Germany have written before me, I have been lost in admiration, but I have not lost my courage. 'And I too am a painter,' I have said with Correggio.”
JOHN MARSHALL *
IN ANSWER TO A MOTION THAT THE COURT ADJOURN, ON FEBRUARY 4, 1901, THE ONE HUNDREDTH
ANNIVERSARY OF THE DAY ON WHICH
MARSHALL TOOK HIS SEAT AS
As we walk down Court Street in the midst of a jostling crowd, intent like us upon to-day and its affairs, our eyes are like to fall upon the small, dark building that stands at the head of State Street, and, like an ominous reef, divides the stream of business in its course to the gray cliffs that tower beyond. And, whoever we may be, we may chance to pause and forget our hurry for a moment, as we remember that the first waves that foretold the coming storm of the Revolution broke around that reef. But, if we are lawyers, our memories and our reverence grow more profound. In the Old State House, we remember, James Otis argued the case of the writs of assistance, and in that argument laid one of the foundations for American constitutional law. Just as that little building is not diminished, but rather is enhanced and glorified, by the vast structures which somehow it turns into a background, so the beginnings of our national life, whether in battle or in law, lose none of their greatness by contrast with all the mighty things of later date, beside which, by every law of number and measure, they ought to seem so small. To us who took part in the Civil War, the greatest battle of the Revolution seems little more than a reconnoissance in force, and Lexington and Concord were mere skirmishes that would not find mention in the newspapers. Yet veterans who have known battle on a modern scale, are not less aware of the spiritual significance of those little fights, I venture to say, than the enlightened children of commerce who tell us that soon war is to be no more.
* From Speeches (1913), Little, Brown & Co.
If I were to think of John Marshall simply by number and measure in the abstract, I might hesitate in my superlatives, just as I should hesitate over the battle of the Brandywine if I thought of it apart from its place in the line of historic cause. But such thinking is empty in the same proportion that it is abstract. It is most idle to take a man apart from the circumstances which, in fact, were his. To be sure, it is easier in fancy to separate a person from his riches than from his character. But it is just as futile. Remove a square inch of mucous
. membrane, and the tenor will sing no more. Remove a little cube from the brain, and the orator will be speechless; or another, and the brave, generous and profound spirit becomes a timid and querulous trifler. A great man represents a great ganglion in the nerves of society, or, to vary the figure, a strategic point in the campaign of history, and part