The Promise of American Life eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 620 pages of information about The Promise of American Life.

This result was achieved chiefly by virtue of capable, energetic, and patriotic leadership.  It is stated that if the Constitution had been subjected to a popular vote as soon as the labors of the Convention terminated, it would probably have been rejected in almost every state in the Union.  That it was finally adopted, particularly by certain important states, was distinctly due to the conversion of public opinion, by means of powerful and convincing argument.  The American people steered the proper course because their leaders convinced them of the proper course to steer; and the behavior of the many who followed behind is as exemplary as is that of the few who pointed the way.  A better example could not be asked of the successful operation of the democratic institutions, and it would be as difficult to find its parallel in the history of our own as in the history of European countries.



Fortunately for the American nation the unionists, who wrought the Constitution, were substantially the same body of men as the Federalist party who organized under its provisions an efficient national government.  The work of Washington, Hamilton, and their associates during the first two administrations was characterized by the same admirable qualities as the work of the makers of the Constitution, and it is of similar importance.  A vigorous, positive, constructive national policy was outlined and carried substantially into effect,—­a policy that implied a faith in the powers of an efficient government to advance the national interest, and which justified the faith by actually meeting the critical problems of the time with a series of wise legislative measures.  Hamilton’s part in this constructive legislation was, of course, more important than it had been in the framing of the Constitution.  During Washington’s two administrations the United States was governed practically by his ideas, if not by his will; and the sound and unsound parts of his political creed can consequently be more definitely disentangled than they can be during the years when the Constitution was being wrought.  The Constitution was in many respects a compromise, whereas the ensuing constructive legislation was a tolerably pure example of Hamiltonian Federalism.  It will be instructive, consequently, to examine the trend of this Hamiltonian policy, and seek to discover wherein it started the country on the right path, and wherein it sought to commit the national government to a more dubious line of action.

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The Promise of American Life from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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