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In the series of volumes bearing the title “The American State,” to which this work is intended to serve as an introduction, there will be described in detail the manner in which the governmental agencies of this country-federal, state, and local -are organized and operated. The aim of the present essay is to prepare the way for this descriptive work by disclosing the constitutional character of the American State, explaining the status of its various territorial subdivisions, and indicating the extent of the powers of their several governments. In order to do this it has not been thought necessary or appropriate to prepare a comprehensive treatise upon United States constitutional law. Considered as but an introduction to the volumes that are to follow, it has been conceived that the scope of this study should not include more than a determination of the constitutional character of our complicated federal system, and a statement of the general principles in accordance with which the legal powers of its various governmental agencies are ascertained. The fact is therefore to be emphasized that no attempt is made in this volume even to enumerate the
specific powers possessed by, or the limitations imposed upon, the several organs of the federal and state governments, much less to follow out in detail the manner in which these powers and limitations have been interpreted and applied. Indeed, it is not the collective purpose of the volumes that are to follow to do this. As indicated above, the aim of these volumes is to be a description of the political agencies of the American State, and an explanation of the manner in which they are actually operated. With the specific activities of our governments, such, for example, as the federal regulation of interstate commerce bankruptcy, the state control of corporations or manufactures, or the municipal ownership or regulation of public utilities, these studies are not to be primarily concerned. It may be said, however, that should this series meet with the approval of the reading public, another series will probably be published dealing specifically with the activities of the American States, the individual volumes of which will be devoted to the consideration of such topics as “The American State and Trade and Commerce," "The American State and Labor," "The American State and Education,” etc.
Returning now to the statement of the particular purpose of the introductory essay here presented to the public, it will be found that the author has first attempted to ascertain the constitutional character of the American State; that is to say, to determine whether, in it, ultimate sovereignty is to be found located in the United States, viewed as a single national entity, or in the constituent commonwealths, or divided between the Federal State and its political members. This fundamental question having been answered, he has essayed to explain the manner in which, in actual practice, the integrity of our national government and the supremacy of its laws have been secured without at the same time destroying that independence of action on the part of the individual States which is characteristic of the federal system. This has involved the giving of answers to such questions as the following: Do the States, or did they ever, have a constitutional right to secede from the Union ? Have they the right or power to nullify a federal law which they deem obnoxious or unconstitutional; and, if not, where else is to be found a security against unconstitutional action on the part of the General Government? In case of a refusal by States, or their peoples, to perform the functions constitutionally laid upon them, or an attempt upon their part to resist the operation of federal laws, what legal means of coercion are open to the General Government? To what extent may the United States control the form of governments established and maintained by the States ? To what extent may it supervise or compel the exercise by them of their ordinary functions ? What is the status of territories belonging to the United States, but not included within the boundaries of any of the states? How may such territories be acquired, and what powers for their government are constitutionally possessed by the Union? These, and other similar questions which have to be answered before one can have an adequate understanding of the nature of the American Constitutional System, and a knowledge of the manner in which its successful operation is secured, are examined in the light of modern political theory, and the latest decisions of the Supreme Court of the United States.
As regards the general method of presentation adopted, it may be said that in very many instances the authoritative language of the Supreme Court has been ery closely followed. When space has permitted, it has been deemed proper to give the exact words of that tribunal.
The terms "Federal Government," "General Government,” and “National Government” have frequently been used where technical exactness would have demanded the employment of "Federal State,' “General State,” and “National State.” In so doing, however, the author has followed the general practice not only of other writers, but of the courts, and in