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SCIENCE OF GOVERNMENT,
COMPEND OF THE CONSTITUTIONAL AND
[Entered according to the Act of Congress, in the year 1839, by
WARREN WEBSTER, in the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the Northern District of New York.]
It is the peculiar fortune of the people of the United States, to live under a government that secures to them, in an extraordinary degree, the blessings of civil and reli. gious liberty. It is believed that no other form of govern. ment is capable of conferring upon its citizens an equa: amount of happiness.
Under our constitution, sovereignty resides with the people : in other words, they have the power of governing themselves. Consequently, it is of the first importance, that the depositories of political power should know how to apply this power intelligently and judiciously. The power to make and to administer the laws, is delegated to the repre. sentatives and agents of the people; the people should there. fore be competent to judge when, and how far, this power is constitutionally and beneficially exercised.
Distinguished as the American people are for their com. parative general intelligence, a large portion of them, it must be confessed, are greatly wanting in political knowledge. And while so many books have been prepared to facilitate the means of instruction, and so uch has been done in various ways to promote the interests of education generally, it is remarkable that the science of government has received so little attention.
Multitudes in this republic are annually arriving at that period of life, when they are to exercise, for the first time, their privileges as citizens. In the state of New York alone, the number is about fifteen thousand, and is com. posed, chiefly, of those whose education does not embrace even the first principles of political science. It is not to
be expected that political power, in such hands, can be exercised with safety to the government, or with benefit to the community.
In the education of youth for the business of life, it seems almost to be forgotten, that they are ever to assume the duties of citizens—duties of paramount importance, on the due performance of which, their individual happiness, as well as the happiness and prosperity of the nation, mainly depends.
The following just and forcible observations, are from a late report of the superintendent of common schools of the state of New York. They are entitled to the consideration of every citizen of this republic:
“On our common schools we must rely to prepare the great body of the people for maintaining inviolate the rights of freemen. If the political fabric cannot find in the public intelligence, a basis broad and firm enough to uphold it, it cannot long resist the shocks to which, through the collision of contending interests, it is continually exposed. Forty-nine out of every fifty of our citizens,' re. ceive their education in the common schools. As they advance to manhood, they are, for the most part, devoted to manual employments. Looking to their own industry as their only resource, and to its fruits as the boundaries of their personal desires, the object nearest their hearts is to see their country prosperous, the laws administered with order and regularity, and the political importance, which the constitution has secured to them, maintained undimin. ished. The controversies to which conflicting interests give birth, are be put at rest by their decision. In the questions of policy which are presented to them, consti. tutional principles are frequently involved, and the relation they bear, and may in all future time bear to the govern. ment, is directly or indirectly affected. How important is it that their decisions should be as enlightened as they will be honest ; that with every motive to be upright and conscientious in the exercise of their political rights, they should combine also the capacity to maintain them with indepen. dence and discretion! If they shall ever cease to bring to
the settlement of these great questions a sound and enlightened discrimination, they cannot fail to become the dupes of artful leaders, and their country a prey to internal discord. From the genius of our political institutions, popular education is our only security against present and future dangers. Ignorance is said to be the parent of vice. With us it would also be the parent of those fatal disorders in the body politic, which have their certain issue in anarchy.”
In presenting this work to the public, the compiler intends to supply, in some measure, a deficiency that has too long existed in the course of education in this country. Several excellent treatises on the principles of government, and constitutional jurisprudence, have been published within a few years. But it is believed that of those which are intended as class books, none are, in all respects, well adapted to the use of our common schools.
But it is not for common schools exclusively, that this work is intended. It is believed that there are individuals in almost every family, who will find in it much valuable information to which they have not before had access.
The author has endeavored, throughout the work, to present each subject in a plain and familiar style ; and it is believed the language will be found sufficiently intelligible to those who are of suitable age and capacity to be benefited by the study of this science. And he would here take oc. casion to remind the reader or student of the importance of referring to his dictionary for the definition of such words as he does not understand. Much of the advantage of reading is often lost, especially to young persons, by the neglect of this practice.
The questions relating to the several sections, are deemed Aseful in exercising the pupil. A few only are inserted, leaving it to the teacher to add such further interrogatories as he shall find necessary. Teachers will also find occasion to tax their own resources, in enlarging upon and illustrating the several subjects, which could not be fully treated, without swelling the work to an improper size. Originality in a work of this kind is hardly to be expected.