Handbook of Home Rule eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 281 pages of information about Handbook of Home Rule.
centrifugal, not centripetal, and that the extraordinary love and admiration with which Americans now regard the Federal government are the result of eighty years’ experience of its working.  The first Confederation was as much as the people could bear in the way of surrendering local powers when the War of Independence came to an end.  It was its hopeless failure to provide peace and security which led to the framing of the present Constitution.  But even with this experience still fresh, the adoption of the Constitution was no easy matter.  I shall not burden this article with historical citations showing the very great difficulty which the framers of the Constitution had in inducing the various States to adopt it, or the magnitude and variety of the fears and suspicions with which, many of the most influential men in all parts of the country regarded it.  Any one who wishes to know how numerous and diversified these fears and suspicions were, cannot do better than read the series of papers known as “The Federalist,” written mainly by Hamilton and Madison, to commend the new plan to the various States.  It was adopted almost as a matter of necessity, that is, as the only way out of the Slough of Despond in which the Confederation had plunged the union of the States; but the objections to it which were felt at the beginning were only removed by actual trial.  Hamilton’s two colleagues, as delegates from New York, Yates and Lansing, withdrew in disgust from the Convention, as soon as the Constitution was outlined, and did not return.  The notion that the Constitution was produced by the craving of the American people for something of that sort to love and revere, and that it was not bestowed on them until they had given ample assurance that they would lavish affection on it, has no foundation whatever in fact.  The devotion of Americans to the Union is, indeed, as clear a case of cause and effect as is to be found in political history.  They have learned to like the Constitution because the country has prospered under it, and because it has given them all the benefits of national life without interference with local liberties.  If they had not set up a central government until the centrifugal sentiment had disappeared from the States, and the feeling of loyalty for a central authority had fully shown itself, they would assuredly never have set it up at all.

Moreover, it has to be borne in mind that the adoption of the Constitution did not involve the surrender of any local franchises, by which the people of the various States set great store.  The States preserved fully four-fifths of their autonomy, or in fact nearly all of it which closely concerned the daily lives of individuals.  Set aside the post-office, and a citizen of the State of New York, not engaged in foreign trade, might, down to the outbreak of the Civil War, have passed a long and busy life without once coming in contact with a United States official, and without being made aware in any of his doings, by any

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Handbook of Home Rule from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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