Having for a long time been convinced that the Constitution is neither an invention nor an imitation, but almost exclusively a native product of slow and gradual growth, I have in this book undertaken to trace back, through previous American documents in colonial times, every material clause of it. If the writers on the sources of the Constitution had followed this plan there would, I think, be less disagreement among them, or at least not the extraordinary contradiction which we now find.
These documents are very numerous, and consist of twenty-nine colonial charters and constitutions, seventeen Revolutionary constitutions, and twenty-three plans of union, — in all, sixty-nine different forms of government which were either in actual or in attempted operation in America during a period of about two hundred years, from 1584 to 1787. The contradiction follows naturally enough from their method; for as soon as they leave the direct line of growth and begin to search for resemblances everywhere they will find plenty of them.
I have also tried to lessen his efforts, wherever I could, by comments and summaries. In other cases a nation, having to solve a problem which has troubled it for many years, works out in time what seems to be a solution, and is the more convinced that it will prove successful because something like it has been adopted by another country.
Besides this detailed analysis, there are chapters giving a general view of the growth and discussing the supposed resemblances to European forms of government The last chapter deals with Mr. CONFUSED IDEAS AS TO THE ORIGIN OF THE CONSTITUTION .. The foreign institutions are used in these instances argumentatively, and are not imitated in the true sense of the word, because the nation has an experience of its own with which it is working, and it uses the foreign institution merely to reinforce its own ideas.
This has made necessary a great deal of small print, and sometimes rather long quotations from the old documents, which were very verbose. Very often the institutions of the foreign country are considered as an example of what should not be done.
But the reader has it all before him, and can, in most instances, see at a glance the nature of the development without any laborious search through the sixty-nine documents. Some of the provisions of our own Constitution were influenced in this way by what were supposed to be evils in the English system. The New England township system, according to some learned people, is of German origin. In fact, there is a most extraordinary and even ridiculous contradiction in the sources they assign. Bryce, in his great work, "The American Commonwealth," finds the sources in the British government of King, Lords, and Commons, and he is followed by Taylor, Stevens, and others, with variations of the same general opinion; while Foster, in his recent work on the Constitution, seems somewhat inclined to go back to Mr. When we look further into the general subject of the sources of American institutions, municipal as well as constitutional, we find the same tendency to assign queer foreign origins.In order to show the evolution in all its details, I have divided two of the chapters into sections. THE EVOLUTION OF FEDERALISM..............215CHAPTER VII. THE EVOLUTION OF FEDERALISM SHOWN IN DETAIL.....267CHAPTER VIII. There have been instances of direct and literal imitation; but they are comparatively rare, and very rare among the Anglo-Saxon race.Each section traces back a clause of the Constitution through all the previous documents, with quotations from each document showing the gradual development, the experience that was acquired, or the experiments that were made. CLAUSES OF THE CONSTITUTION WHICH WERE OF SHORT DEVELOPMENT ....................310CHAPTER IX. The instances where one nation has been influenced in a general way by what it knows of the workings of institutions in another nation are more numerous; but in these instances there is not what would properly be called an imitation or a taking. New York Constitution, begun July 10, 1776; finished April 20, 1777.40. For many years after the Revolution it was supposed that some of the American Indians were descended from a lost tribe of Welshmen who came to this continent under a leader called Madoc. Georgia Constitution, begun October 1, 1776; finished February 5, 1777.39. Commission of Council for Foreign Plantations, 1660.3. Report of Board of Trade on union of New York with other colonies, 1696.5. A Virginian's Plan, in "An Essay on the Government of the English Plantations on the Continent of America," 1701.7. Every generation seems to have its crop of these extraordinary suggestions and hypotheses, which their advocates soon extend beyond their proper sphere of mere suggestions and insist that they are certainties.These constituted the school of thought, the experiments, and the training which in the end produced the national government under which we now live. Human nature is in a general way much the same all the world over, and human beings have been laboring for many centuries and encountering the same problems and conditions in one country as in another.The time of two hundred years was sufficiently long, and the sixty-nine different forms of government were certainly numerous and varied enough, to bring about the final result; and they account for the final result in a more clear, complete, and satisfactory manner than any of the theories of sudden inspiration or imitation of England or Holland that have been broached. THE EVOLUTION FROM THE COLONIAL CHARTERS SHOWN IN DETAIL......................105CHAPTER VI. Within recent years vast quantities of historical details of almost every country have been published, and a man who has a fancy for some particular nation can easily frame a specious argument to show how other nations have apparently copied from it. South Carolina Constitution, adopted March 26, 1776.32. Between the occurrence of these two resemblances centuries of time elapsed when such towns were unknown to the race and forgotten by it. New Hampshire Constitution, begun December 21, 1775; finished January 5, 1776.31. The New England town, they say, especially in colonial times, with its common land and self-government, almost exactly resembled the old Teutonic village.