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HENRY HOLT AND COMPANY
Yet a very
The constitution of the United States has been the subject of great and often inordinate eulogy, much as if it contained within itself some potency or charm, which gave to it especial, even magical, powers for the attaining of good government. As the Germans worship the concept of "the state” as something more and better than the people, so the constitution has been accepted as the spring of all our freedom and success. limited study of history serves to prove that liberty and good government have been obtained by certain other nations possessing no such fundamental contract, and that still others, closely conforming their constitutions to ours, have only succeeded in establishing a model government in theory but a tyranny in fact. In short, a written constitution is nothing but ink and paper, except for what the people it nominally controls add to it.' Over and over again our government has been saved from complete breakdown only by an absolute disregard of the constitution, and most of the very men who framed the compact would have refused to sign it, could they have foreseen its eventual development.
What then, it will be asked, is the use of a written constitution, when it can be so disregarded and so extended? If a government grows and changes with the nation it pretends to control, why seek to bind the people at all? Why attempt to limit the power of the newest law of Congress by the oldest law of the nation? In Great Britain the government is checked only by public
1" I hold, with Montesquieu, that a government must be fitted to a nation much as a coat to the individual ; and consequently that what may be good at Philadelphia, may be bad at Paris, and ridiculous at Petersburgh."--Hamilton, 1799.