Elements of Civil Government eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 218 pages of information about Elements of Civil Government.

DUTIES.—­For every right, the people have a corresponding duty; and for every privilege they enjoy, there is a trust for them to discharge.  The large personal freedom possessed by the American citizens imposes equally as large public responsibilities.  It is the duty of every citizen to obey the law, to aid in securing justice, to respect authority, to love his country, and to labor for the public good.  No one can be a useful member of society unless he respects the laws and institutions of the land.  The people themselves have established this government, both State and national; it exists for them, and therefore they owe it honor and obedience.

It is the duty of every voter to study the interests of the country, and to vote for persons and measures that, in his opinion, will best “promote the general welfare.”  In this country, government is intrusted to the whole people, and they can govern only by expressing their will in elections.  Therefore the majority must rule.  The majority will sometimes make mistakes, but these will be corrected after a time.  In order that good government may ensue, good citizens must take part in elections.  The privilege of suffrage is conferred upon an implied contract that it will be used for the public good.  He who fails to vote when he can, fails to perform his part of the contract, fails to fulfill his promise, and fails to respect the government that protects him.


The constitution is often called the supreme law of the State.  In other words, it is the supreme act of the people, for the purpose of organizing themselves as a body politic, of formulating their government, and of fixing the limits of its power.  It is a contract between the whole society as a political body, and each of its members.  Each binds himself to the whole body, and the whole body binds itself to each, in order that all may be governed by the same laws for the common good.  The constitution of each State is a written instrument, modeled after the Constitution of the United States, with which it must not conflict.

The constitutions of England and most other countries of Europe are unwritten.  They consist of the common usages and maxims that have become fixed by long experience.  In those countries, when a new political custom grows into common practice it thereby becomes a part of the national constitution.

FORMATION AND ADOPTION.—­As the whole people can not assemble in one place to frame and adopt a constitution, they elect delegates to a constitutional convention.  The convention usually meets at the capital, deliberates, frames articles for a proposed constitution, and in nearly all cases submits them to the people.  The people make known their will in a general election, and if a majority vote in favor of adopting the proposed constitution, it becomes the constitution of the State.  If the proposed constitution is rejected, another convention must be called to propose other articles to be voted upon by the people.

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Elements of Civil Government from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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