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The following story of the Evolution of the CONSTITUTION of the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA was originally written by request of the Constitutional Centennial Commission, under whose auspices the first centennial of its formation was celebrated at Philadelphia in 1887, in presence of representatives of the States and of the Nation. The first edition was published as a part of the two memorial volumes, in large octavo and fully illustrated, in a form and at a cost which precluded popular circulation. That edition was soon exhausted, and only occasionally can a copy be now obtained at any price. Some desire has been expressed by its readers for a new edition adapted to more general circulation among the people, and especially for the use of students of constitutional law.
It is to meet this requirement that the present edition has been prepared, after revision and some slight additions to the text. But there has been no departure from the original plan. This embraced a clear but condensed recital
of the conditions preliminary to the “Confederacy;" a statement of the infirmities and ineffectiveness of the Articles of Confederation, upon which the founders sought in vain to build a practical government; its entire failure as a national bond, and the recognition of that failure by the patriots of the Revolution; the successive steps by which they sought the consent of the States to a general convention to provide a substitute government; and finally, the manner in which they accomplished the organization of a NATION. The leading contested clauses of the Constitution are considered separately, and the great points of the debate connected with each are given. Thus a very clear light is thrown upon the object and scope of each important section of the Constitution, and its true interpretation is greatly facilitated, and in most cases assured.
This edition is submitted to public consideration in the hope that it will be found not only interesting to the lover of history, but especially useful to the busy man in public life, in and out of Congress, who has no time for elaborate research; and to the students of public law in the universities, colleges, and law schools of the country.
The Author also ventures to hope that a clearer and more widely diffused knowledge of the great intellectual struggle which cul. minated in the adoption of the Constitution will stimulate popular devotion to its principles, and a loving loyalty to this sovereign Charter of our American liberty. We recall with glowing gratitude the virtues of our great ancestors who founded the government, and of whose labors we have inherited the splendid fruits. The habit of liberty and the long usage of prosperity have always a tendency to deaden our remembrance of the greatness of the Act which inaugurated both, and which still preserves them to us. Let not the lapse of time banish the memory of our mighty fathers, to whose persistent courage, wisdom, and patience we owe our rich political inheritance. They won it in the storm of battle, and through the tedious trials of self-sacrifice. They rescued it from anarchy, bankruptcy, disorder, and discords, which more than a century ago had brought upon our loosely confederated States the pity of their friends and the disdain of their foes. The vital forces which this constitutional union created gave to our country the purer breath of a national life, and the sentiment of national honor. The Union supplemented the weakness of each with the strength of all. Instead of sectional banners stained with repudiation and local greed, this constitutional Union gave to the whole country a single flag, destined to unsurpassed respect among the nations of the earth. Year after year we add new stars to its folds as peacefully as appears a new star in the heavens from which we borrowed them.
Surely a system of government which has established the essential liberties of the people under the orderly limitations of fundamental law, and which has approved itself to successive generations by an unparalleled experience of national growth, prosperity, and happiness under its provisions, will never cease to be a most interesting study alike for statesmen and students.
That part of American foreign policy known as the MONROE DOCTRINE has acquired so much authority, both at home and abroad, that its influence over our people and their representative statesmen has become almost equal to that of a provision of the national Constitution. I have therefore added to this volume a history of the origin and development of that Doctrine, mainly derived from the original records on file in the Department of State at Washington.