Page images



The First Century of the Constitution.

HE month of September, 1887, naturally suggests the completion of the work of the Convention of 1787, just a hundred years ago, in its successful formation of the Constitution of the United States. The difficulties which attended the Convention's work are detailed elsewhere in this number of THE CENTURY by a distinguished historian, and a discussion of an important feature of it occurs in two Open Letters, one by a lawyer of Indiana, and the other by one of our leading historical students. It may be well for us, with the light of a century's practical experience of the Constitution, at the end of which that instrument fits the new nation as comfortably as in 1789, to consider what

the difficulties of the Convention would have been if it had been called upon to frame, with prophetic vision, a Constitution for the United States of 1887.

The strongest argument which the "Federalist," and the defenders of the new Constitution in the State conventions, could advance in favor of ratification and in justification of the expectation of the practical success of the Constitution, was the comparatively small size of the country. Hamilton, in the " Federalist," lays down this rule: "The natural limit of a republic is that distance from the center which will barely allow the representatives of the people to meet as often as may be necessary for the administration of public affairs." He estimates the length of the country, from north to south, at 8684 miles, and its breadth at 750, adding this comfortable comparison: "It is not a great deal larger than Germany

or than Poland before the

late dismemberment." In another place he says: "If there be but one government pervading all the States, there will be, as to the principal part of our commerce, but one side to guard, the Atlantic coast." With what feelings would he and the Convention have set about their work, if they could have realized that they were in reality framing a scheme of government for a country which was to stretch from north latitude 25° to 49°, and from the 67th to the 125th degree of west longitude, 2600 miles by 1600 through the center, to say nothing of Alaska, in itself two-thirds the size of the country of which Hamilton was speaking? That the commerce for which they were caring was to whiten the waters of both the Pacific and the Atlantic, of the Gulf of Mexico as well as of the Great Lakes? That the Congress which they were providing was to deal with an internal commerce greater than all the foreign commerce that the country has ever known; with a manufacturing capital of $2,800,000,000 and an annual product of $5,400,000,000; with a population of 60,000,000, instead of 4,000,000? That the time would come when a member of Congress would be compelled to travel 6500 miles in going to the Federal Capital and returning to his State? It is a fortunate thing for the United States that the Convention which framed its Constitution knew nothing of the future, and devoted its care and energies to the establishment of a government for the country which it knew.

The Convention sent forth the instrument which it had framed to meet the future, and the most marvelous feature of its first century of trial has been its apparently inexhaustible power of accommodating itself to the growth and changing necessities of the people. Its judiciary system has expanded in its territorial jurisdiction from thirteen districts to sixty; its

Presidential office has had control of a million of armed


its imports have risen from $22,000,000 to $640,000,000, and its exports from $20,000,000 to $720,000,000; steam, electricity, and all the other forces which modern civilization has harnessed for the service of man, have altered the life and needs of the people; and still the national government established by the Constitution remains unchanged in substance. The natural divergence of its lines has brought larger and still larger fields within their scope; the few employees of 1789 have increased in number until they are an army; but the Treasury officer of 1789, if he could examine the organization of to-day, would still be able to trace clearly the lines of the original formation, though he might be bewildered in the effort to follow out all the ramifications by which the system has met the requirements of later development. The case is the same in every department of the national system: it has developed, but it has not changed. The Convention of 1787 could hardly have provided a more satisfactory system for 1887 if, with prophetic vision, it had been able to forecast the needs of 1887 and adapt its work to those needs.

Nations, like individuals, can live but one day at a time, and their business is to live that day as wisely, honestly, and justly as may be; not to essay the part of a Providence, and attempt to legislate for millions yet unborn. They cannot legislate for posterity: they can only provide the molds into which following generations must be poured; and, unless those molds are wise, just, and honest for the generation which makes them, they will assuredly be broken by some succeeding generation, or they will compress and mar the whole life of the people. In this sense, we, who stand on the threshold of the second century of the Constitution, are as actually constitution-makers as the members of the Convention of 1787. Let it be our care to make our institutions wise, just, and honest for the people of 1887, and to hate and repudiate every proposition that savors of dishonesty or of injustice, however it may seem to our temporary advantage, knowing that we are thus doing all that man can do for the people of 1987.

A Great Teacher.

THE teachers of men are many; the teachers of young men are few. To turn the faculties of a mature mind to the education of youth is something willingly undertaken by many, but success does not depend upon willingness or knowledge, or even enthusiasm. The art of teaching is a gift and an inspiration equally

with poetry and music. In the vast majority of even good teachers, it is impossible to resist the conclusion that they become accommodated in their own minds to the minds of their pupils. Sympathy being the essential requisite, they unconsciously fall into the habit and scope of thought of their students,—“ subdued to what it works in, like the dyer's hand." It is the fatal tendency in teaching to shrink towards the capacity of those taught - — a tendency that able teachers resist by constant watchfulness and severe studies.

When a great man gives himself to teaching young men, and successfully resists this tendency, and when also he has the gift or genius for teaching, we have that rarest of men-a great teacher. This century has furnished two eminent examples: Dr. Arnold, of Rugby, and Dr. Hopkins, of Williams College. There have been other great teachers, but these two men preeminently wear these marks,- greatness and genius in their work. Dr. Arnold taught boys, but he kept even with his own powers, and was as great as if he had spent his days at Oxford or in Parliament. Dr. Hopkins taught young men, but it is difficult to conceive of him as greater in any other possible sphere. The success of each is due to the fact that they preserved the full measure of their mental powers, and at the same time had the faculty of laying powerful hold of the young mind. A great mind, enlisting young men, and drawing them by the secret charm and power of his divine gift up to himself without descending in his own mental habit to them,- such was Dr. Hopkins.

It would not be quite correct to say that Dr. Hopkins had a theory of teaching. Great men do not work by theories. He taught spontaneously, out of his own nature; and here lay the value of his work. He carried into the class-room the free action of his own mind and also its total action. Many men are able to do this who fail as teachers, but Dr. Hopkins possessed the knack of bridging the space between his own lofty thought and the mind of the pupil, and so getting him up to his own level. This is true teaching-inducing in the pupil the thought and feeling of the teacher.

But Dr. Hopkins did far more to get his pupils to share in his thought and ideas: he taught them to think in the same fashion. It was not a prime or even a subordinate purpose with him to induce his pupils to agree with his opinions. He rather aimed to get them to thinking in a certain way. His idea was that if he could arouse the nature of the man to the full, and start him into vigorous natural action, he would think safely. Hence he taught principles, and, above all, the nature of man. Scholasticism, formal logic, dogma these were remote from his methods, as they were remote from himself. "Know thyself" is the heathen phrase which he put to a use that carried his pupils to the heights of Christian morality. It is for this reason that his teaching and his pupils wear the plain marks of freedom and catholicity.

It was also a distinguishing mark of Dr. Hopkins's instruction that it had a peculiarly germinant quality. Teaching by principles and by the nature of man, and avoiding a too close deduction, his pupils were left free to develop in their own way. Dr. Hopkins taught the catechism for many years, but the students carried away more of their teacher's breadth and rationality than of the dogmas of the Confession.

It was a characteristic of his teaching that it had a directing rather than a binding influence. Room was left in it for growth, for variation, and adaptation to new conditions. He founded no school of philosophy, but did the better work of grounding young men in the fundamental principles of thought and feeling and conduct. If his teaching had a specialty, it consisted in unifying truth; the truth of one realm was the truth of all realms. Thus a well-taught pupil stood with the whole earth under his feet and all heaven above his head.

Dr. Hopkins's long life was spent in one of the most rural parts of New England, and one of the most remote from the centers of culture. Shut in between the Hoosac range on the east, and the Taconic on the west, miles of untouched forest on every side, in a little village that clustered about the college as cottages nestled at the foot of a friendly castle, he drew to himself, like a medieval teacher, pupils from all parts of the country, kept them about him for four years, and sent them out, stamped with his impress, to the towns and cities to repeat in themselves what he had taught them, and to convey far and wide something of the keenness of thought, of moral earnestness, and religious wisdom which they had learned and felt in him. Such a life is at once great in its humility and in the breadth and power of its influence.

Shall we Plant Native or Foreign Trees ?

THE relative value for planting in America of native and foreign trees is a question of wide and deep and of rapidly increasing interest; yet it is one to which the public has scarcely begun to give the attention it deserves. As the destruction of our native forests progresses, planting for the sake of timber must be ever more largely engaged in; and this destruction cannot but progress with considerable rapidity, even though the legislation which is so greatly to be desired as a check upon it should soon be brought to bear. Year by year, too, it becomes more desirable that the worn-out fields of our Eastern States should be put to arboricultural service, and that the settlers on the prairies of the West should be accurately informed as to what trees they may best set out. And as our love for art increases we shall wish to do even more than we are doing now in the way of private and public planting for ornamental purposes. In short, there is no American who is not interested, directly or indirectly, in the question as to the kinds of trees which are best adapted to American uses.

The extent to which we have hitherto planted foreign trees is probably ignored by a great majority of our readers. Not indeed in very earliest years, but ever since the first advent among us of the nursery-gardener we have given them the preference, in our more thickly settled districts, over trees of native origin. The first nurserymen were Europeans, and brought both their stock of knowledge and their stock of plants from the Old World; and even when their knowledge had extended itself their stock remained largely the same; for, from some inexplicable reason, a great many species of European trees may be far more easily raised, and therefore more cheaply and profitably sold, than our own. Thus the private planter, getting his materials from nursery gardens, has generally been led to

choose foreign trees. Again, those who first began to plant on a large scale with an eye to economic results -to the production of timber- were inspired by English examples, and naturally selected those species whose utility had been proved by centuries of experience. So when ornamental planting over large areas was undertaken, what more natural than that the landscape-gardener should most often try to reproduce European successes and guide himself by the recommendations of those European books which were his only printed helpers?

The result has been that the foreign representatives of many important genera are as familiar to American eyes in populous districts as their native cousins, and in certain cases in the case, for instance, of the willow, of the spruce, and of the horse-chestnut- - are much more familiar. Signs of a change in practice may now be perceived. A few years ago it was impossible to buy American trees in any quantity in any nursery, but now they may more easily be had and are more often chosen. Still, the comparatively recent introduction of novel species from Asia has added to the exotic temptations of the purchaser, and even now, we are told, "where one native tree is planted in Massachusetts, five foreign trees are planted here."*

It will easily be guessed that this is not a desirable state of things. But how deplorable a state of things it really is, few understand as yet, save those who have specially studied the behavior of foreign trees upon American soil. Such study has been carefully carried on by more than one scientific observer during a number of years, and of late an effort has been made to test the value here, as sources of timber supply, of many of the species which had made the best records in their native habitat. Of course all observers do not agree upon all points, and of course it is too soon yet to decide dogmatically with regard to many imported species. But with regard to many others the evidence is practically conclusive and of a most unfavorable


Take, for instance, the Norway spruce (Abies excelsa), which all through the Northern and Eastern States has been planted in such numbers for so many years that it can surely be said to have been fairly tested. It is a most remunerative tree to nurserymen, and a most tempting one to planters-easily raised and transplanted, and growing with remarkable rapidity and great beauty of form while young. But in the pamphlet just quoted, Professor Sargent says that its general introduction into our plantations "must, nevertheless, be regarded as a public misfortune. . . . In spite of its early promise, it must be acknowledged to be a complete failure in eastern America. It has passed its prime here, and is almost decrepit before it is half a century old; it will never produce timber here, and it becomes unsightly just at that period of life when trees should be really handsome in full and free development." The most cursory glance at the condition of this tree in the neighborhood of New York will prove that it is not unsuited to the climate of Massachusetts only. The Central Park is disfigured by hundreds of half-dead specimens which are not yet "Some Additional Notes upon Trees and Tree-planting in Mas

sachusetts." By C. S. Sargent, director of the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard College. (Reprinted from the Annual Report of the Massachusetts State Board of Agriculture.) Boston: Wright and Potter. 1886.

half grown; and even where the soil is better, ragged, blackened forms almost invariably prove a want of health and vigor. Again, Mr. Robert Douglas, of Waukegan, Ill., one of the oldest and most widely known nurserymen in the country, writes that he has never seen a Norway spruce in the East fifty years old that was not failing in its upward development, or one in the West forty years old; and that when he went purposely to Canada to examine a large number which he had seen planted forty-nine years before (believing that they might have done especially well in a northern climate), he found that not one was living, and that many which had been planted in later years were already failing. And he adds, that he speaks with a sense of responsibility, as he has "grown more Norway spruces than any man in America and than all other men in America."

As it is with this favorite conifer, so it seems to be with many others almost as often planted. The Scotch pine (Pinus sylvestris), for example, will bear more exposure than any other tree, and will sooner make an effective "wind-break." It is therefore invaluable in certain positions to planters on the prairies; but as regards long life and the production of timber, Mr. Douglas pronounces it “an abject failure" in any part of the country where he has ever seen it, and his words are fully confirmed by the Massachusetts report.

With deciduous trees the case is similar. Neither the foreign lindens nor the foreign ashes are long-lived in this country. The sycamore maple (Acer pseudoplatanus) — so widely cultivated abroad for its valuable timber-grows rapidly at first, as is the way with many other European trees, but seems likely to prove quite worthless at least for economic purposes. Of the European oak (Quercus robur) Professor Sargent writes: "Tens of thousands of these trees have been planted in this State during the last century, but it is now almost impossible to find anywhere a healthy specimen more than thirty years old, while all the older trees have now almost entirely disappeared from the neighborhood."

These few instances are examples of a number more which might be given of the proved unfitness of European trees to withstand our climate. With other species, as has been said, the question still remains an open one; and with others, again, the evidence seems distinctly favorable. The white willow of Europe (Salix alba) not only flourishes, but has become thoroughly naturalized, in New England, and is of greater economic value than any native species. Though as much as this cannot be said of any other European tree, the English elm (Ulmus campestris) does thoroughly well and affords by its very different habit a desirable contrast to our native elms, while the Norway maple (Acer platanoides) and the European larch (Larix europea) also promise to thrive. In such cases the needs of the landscape-gardener justify their continued cultivation, even though related native species may be still better fitted to supply us with timber.

As the climate of eastern Asia is much more like our own than that of Europe, one is not surprised to find the trees which have been brought thence giving, as a whole, a better account of themselves. Their chief value is for ornament and shade, but from these points

[ocr errors][merged small]

of view some of them are very precious acquisitions. The curious gingko-tree, which has a beauty all its own, is now largely planted in the streets of Washington and is perfectly hardy as far north as Massachusetts. The paulownia, so interesting in form, so valuable for shade, and so splendid in its spring bloom, thrives in all the cities of the Middle States; and its masses of purple flowers appearing every now and then in the wild woods of Maryland show that there at least it has made itself perfectly at home. Of the ailantus it is hardly necessary to speak. Despite the disagreeable odor of its blossoms, it is one of the most valuable of all trees for city planting growing very rapidly, affording a wide expanse of shade, being free from insects, and keeping the freshness of its foliage uninjured through the heats and dusts of summer.

But it is not our present aim to weigh the evidence for and against this tree or that. What we desire is simply to show that such evidence has already been collected in a considerable body; that it is the duty of every experienced planter still further to inform the public; and that it is for the interest of every intend

ing planter that he should consider carefully before he buys his stock. Yet we feel justified in adding to these general statements a word of strong recommendation in favor of native as against foreign, or at least as against European, trees. At the best the latter are uncertain in almost every case, while the former have an inborn and a well-proved title to be trusted. The most successful ornamental planting that has ever been done in America shows its results in the streets of such towns as Stockbridge, Great Barrington, Salem, and New Haven, and was the work of men who went to the forest and not to the nursery for their infant elms and maples. Certainly our more recently planted parks offer small promise of a like maturity of beauty, with their European oaks and ashes, their Scotch and Austrian pines, in almost as deplorable a state as their Norway spruces. When not ornamental but economic plantations are in question, past experience tells very strongly against European trees, while the evidence of recent experiment with native trees-as in the plantations of indigenous conifers in eastern Massachusetts -is of the most encouraging kind.


Centennial Considerations. Two Views of the Relation between the State and the General Government.


F a small community can govern itself, and do it better than others can govern it, a larger community composed of like individuals can do the same, and so any still larger community of like individuals, even to the largest.

There is no reason why a government by the people, through their representatives, should not wisely and well govern the inhabitants of a whole continent, provided the people are sufficiently civilized to enable those occupying the various parts of it to govern them selves.

This will appear more clearly the more accurately we distinguish what are the proper functions of government, and all that is necessary for it to do.

The only warrant for the existence of government of any kind is, that it makes possible for the people a greater degree of happiness than would be possible without it. In the earlier stages of civilization, war is the chief business of the government, and success in war is the chief good, and to it all else is made subservient. When civilization has advanced somewhat, it is found that in some degree each individual should be protected from aggression by other individuals, and then the power of government is, to some extent, exerted for that purpose; and as civilization progresses, this purpose increases in importance as compared with the other, and could we imagine wars entirely to cease, it would be the only necessary function of government. From our position in relation to other nations, and from our strength as compared with those on this continent, the danger from aggressions by other nations is exceedingly small, and the probability of any resort to arms, unless we are the aggressors, is very remote, so that the preventing of aggressions by other nations

has come to be with us of comparatively small importance. Our government should every year become less military and more industrial; that is, less occupied with the duty of preventing foreign aggressions, and more occupied with preventing the aggressions of individuals on each other, and promptly and sufficiently repressing the wrongs done by such aggressions.

This, the paramount duty of government, has been very imperfectly performed in the past, and there is little reason to hope that it will be better done in the near future. Much of this imperfection is due to the low standard of the average morality of the people. But is not more of this imperfection the result of our governmental machinery not being adapted to the performance of this duty? Can it be performed efficiently so long as the national and State governments coëxist, and each is expected to perform undefined and undefinable parts of this duty?

When our national government was formed, slavery existed in most of the States, and presented an insuperable objection to any arrangement by which the people of the whole country could be intrusted with unlimited power over any part of it. The part of the people among whom slavery existed, and who intended to retain it, would not, and could not, consent that the part among whom it did not exist should regulate the relations between master and slave. Where these relstions existed, laws were required which would not have been tolerated elsewhere, and it was only by the agency of the State governments that slavery could be continued.

For the repression of crime and for dealing with the criminal class, the single agency of the nation would be more efficient than the one compounded of the nation and the several States, each acting separately. There are as many criminal codes defining crimes and the mode of dealing with them, and with the criminal class, as there are States, and to them is added the code of the nation.

Whatever is properly a criminal act in one locality

should be so in every place in the nation, and the criminal laws with the mode of enforcing them which would be the best possible in any subdivision would be the best in every subdivision. How to prevent the ingress of paupers from abroad, and how to deal with those here, would be problems more easily solved through the single than through the complex agency.

There are many matters which in the near future will need regulation. Among these may be mentioned the relation of employers and employees; gambling in stocks, grain, etc.; the extent to which accumulations of wealth in the hands of individuals or corporations shall be permitted; what restraints shall be imposed on monopolies of every kind; whether there should be a limit, and what one, upon the right to acquire and hold lands. With these and like questions the State governments are incompetent to deal, for if one State legislated effectually as to any such matters, its only effect would be to drive from its territory those who regarded themselves as injuriously affected by such action, and they would seek a State where there had been no such legislation.

As to matters with which each of the civil codes of the States deal. Why should there be different land tenures, why different rules of descent and distribution of decedents' estates, different laws as to wills, as to marriage and divorce, as to parent and child, as to guardian and ward, as to contracts, as to corporations, etc., etc.? Why should there be as many different modes of administering justice? Why should that be held to be just in the courts of a State which is held unjust in the courts of the nation, or in the courts of other States? why a right enforced, if claimed against a citi. zen of the same State as the claimant, and denied as against a citizen of another State?

If there was but one code of laws and one judiciary, that of the nation, justice would be the same in every locality, and the rights and duties of the individual and all aggregates of individuals would be alike everywhere within the national limits. Is there any reason why this should not be?

The tendency has been in the direction of the exercise of larger powers by the nation and restrictions on the power of the States. Except as to a few matters, this has not been the result of changes in written constitutions, or conscious action on the part of the people. The nation, through its courts, from time to time, has asserted jurisdiction not given by the Constitution, as understood at and soon after its adoption. As instances may be mentioned the rulings of the Supreme Court of the United States in 1806, that the courts of the nation had no jurisdiction of a controversy between a citizen of one State and a corporation of another State, if any of the stockholders of the corporation were not citizens of the last State. This ruling was repeatedly followed; but in 1844 the court overruled all these cases, and asserted the jurisdiction over all such con

[ocr errors]

* Without any desire to inject counter-arguments into the article, an exception may be taken to this very essential portion of it. Four "instances of the exercise of doubtful or prohibited powers are here assigned, but at least three of them are quite irrelevant. (1) Admiralty law, like equity, is judge-made law": the Constitution merely gives Federal courts "Admiralty jurisdiction," leaving the judges to work out the jurisdiction for themselves. The change of ruling in 1851 was therefore clearly provided for, and made possible by, the Constitution itself. (2) The power to pass a general election law is explicitly given to Con

troversies, without reference to the citizenship of the stockholders. It is under this later ruling that the courts have assumed jurisdiction over all matters in which the railroad, telegraph, and other great corporations are interested. The same court, in 1825, ruled that courts of the nation had no jurisdiction over any navigable waters except where the tide ebbed and flowed, and repeatedly so decided until 1851, when it asserted jurisdiction over the great lakes, and in 1857 extended it over all navigable rivers. Now Congress has but to declare any locality navigable water, and legislate in regard to it, and the courts of the nation hold that Congress has not exceeded its powers.

Congress has assumed a supervision of elections, it has declared certain promises to pay to be money and a legal tender, and the courts of the nation affirm its power. It is unnecessary to multiply instances. As to no matter has the nation exercised a doubtful or prohibited power, but in a short time such power has been recognized as belonging to it, and a new reading given to the Constitution as the proper warrant for it.*

The small powers still exercised by the States over railroads and telegraph lines will probably soon be taken from them and absolute control of them be assumed by the nation, and this with the approval of the people. For they feel that it is almost intolerable that the rights of these great corporations should change with the passage from State to State; and this feeling will grow until it finds expression in legislation by the nation, and its assumption of entire control.

The nation has assumed the power to make regulations for the preservation of the health of the people, and for the extirpation and prevention of cattle-plagues, etc., and there is no limit to the powers it will exercise for such purposes whenever it is deemed proper by the people.

Public education is likely soon to be declared a matter of national concern, and if the people so wish, the nation will take charge of it and exclude the States. This will probably be, in the future, the history of every matter which equally interests and affects the whole people.

Why should it not be so? Why should not all lawmaking be done by the nation? Why should not all general laws operate alike everywhere within the nation, making the rights and duties of each individual, and of all aggregates of individuals, the same in all places?

It may be asked, How can the nation deal with the matters which are of interest only in particular localities? The answer is that, under proper general regulations and restraints, all such matters should be placed within the control of minor subdivisions. Each county, each city, or other subdivision, should be given full power over whatever affects only the people of the subdivisions. If the State governments should cease to exist, the only class which would suffer would be the office-holders. Almost, if not quite, half of the great army of office-holders could be disbanded, and a

gress by the Constitution, within well defined limits, and those limits have been carefully respected. (3) The Supreme Court's decision in favor of the constitutionality of legal-tender paper currency has not been received with unanimous or enthusiastic applause. At best it is but permissive, and the decision of but one branch of the government. When we shall have a Congress which will issue legal-tender paper in time of peace, and a Presi dent who will not veto the act, the " instance will be a fair one; until then, nil dicimus.- Editor.

« PreviousContinue »