Изображения страниц


In a noteworthy article printed in a volume of his miscellaneous speeches the late Mr. Goschen, a few years ago, called attention to the extent to which governments the world over were moving away from the theoretical economical principle of laissez-faire to that of government control, in these memorable words:

* *

among all the complicated social and economical phenomena of the present day, none appears more interesting or of deeper importance for philosophers, economists, politicians, and, indeed, for all students of the varying aspects of our national life, than the changes which have occurred and are daily occurring in the relations between the State and individual liberty. None of us can be blind to what is passing around us in this respect. Whether we look to the events of successive years, to the acts of successive Parliaments, or to the publication of successive books, we see narrower and narrower limits assigned to the application of the principle of 'Laissez-faire,' while the sphere of Government control and interference is expanding in ever widening circles.

“ The extension of State action to new and vast fields of business, such as telegraphy, insurance, annuities, postal orders, and parcels post, is not the most striking feature. What is of far deeper import is its growing interference with the relations between classes, its increased control over vast categories of transactions between individuals, and the substitution in many of the dealings of trade and manufacture of the aggregate conscience and moral sense of the nation for the conscience and moral sense of men as units.


In the United States down to the close of the Civil War the doctrine of laissez-faire had been adopted very generally as the result of the teaching of the encyclopedists and of Adam Smith, well of those of the later Manchester school. The national government was supposed to have no right of regulation or control over any matters not spe



cifically delegated to it, and where the power to control through lack of such delegation remained in the several States, in the States themselves the let-alone policy was generally adopted, and in the economic evolution of corporations and particularly of corporations exercising and enjoying public franchises, the result was that not only the national interests but the interests of the people of the several States themselves were disregarded by the great corporations, which had as a rule very controlling influence not only in the State Legislatures but in the National Congress. The time at length arrived when it became imperatively necessary that there should be some co-ordination of regulative provisions, and the result was the passage by Congress of the Interstate Commerce Law, which was followed by a large body of most important constitutional jurisprudence delimiting afresh the powers of the Nation and the States, and again passing upon the great fundamental issues of nationalism and federalism.

The war for the Union was a war for nationalism as against federalism. When the truth is clearly seen it will be recognized that it was not fundamentally a war for moral principles, but one growing out of economic causes involving the question as to whether we should have a national economic state in supreme control of our share of the continent or whether there should be on the one hand a series of quasi-independent economic states, bound together by the principle of confederation as a limitation on nationality, or whether there should be two nations, one founded upon the economic principle of freedom and the other upon the economic principle of slavery. The result of the conflict was strictly in keeping with the tendency which had begun to make itself felt from the day of the adoption of the Constitution that is to say, the tendency from federalism to nationalism. The opponents of this tendency, always seeking the largest liberty for the promotion of their individual interests as distinguished from the economic welfare of the nation, which was the exercise of the highest privilege ever enjoyed by man namely, that of enslaving his fellow man — always and invariably sought refuge behind the doctrine of “States' rights” and the theory of “ local self-government.” The North believed that, so far

an irre

as the territories were concerned, the nation had a right to exclude slavery. The South contended the nation had no such power, and finally even secured the decision of the Supreme Court of the United States to that effect. And so “ the house was divided against itself” and the conflict had become " pressible one."

Now, under conditions of civilization there are in reality always two great organizations in all communities -- the economic organization, which is known to publicists and economists as the Economic State, and the political organization, which is known to them as the Political State, or the Nation. The Economic State, however, is primordial, and has from the beginning of history invariably and without exception always dominated, controlled and dictated the ultimate form of the Political State. Whenever there has been a conflict between the two, whenever there has been an irreconcilable failure of coincidents, the result has been a change in the political constitution in order to reconcile it with the economic constitution. And wherever certain economic tendencies growing out of the inadequacy or insufficiency of the political constitution to protect the commonwealth have become dangerous to the people as a whole the wrong has been rectified either by constitutional evolution looking to the preservation of the national life against individual encroachment or by abrupt and cruel revolution. This is the key to the history of all revolutions, bloody or bloodless of the Roman revolution, from the time of Gracchus to Augustus; of the Cromwellian revolution in England, of the English revolution of 1688, of the French revolution of 1789, of the revolt of the English colonies in 1776, of the South American revolutions against Spain during the first two decades of the nineteenth century, of the French revolutions of 1820 and 1848, and of the tremendous constitutional revolution in Germany which resulted in the formation of the present empire, and, it goes without saying, of our own civil war and the constitutional revolution which followed

upon it.

The history of the evolution of nationalism in the United States demonstrates that the strengthening of the Nation and the weakening of the State, wherever the exercise or failure of exercise of State power makes against the national welfare is a tendency as inevitable and as irresistible as the flow of the tides or the rising and the setting of the sun, unless it be that the nation is to enter upon a stage of dissolution instead of pursuing a normal process of evolution, which means the continuance of the vigor, and involves even the life, of the American people as a homogeneous body.

Throughout our history one or another form of economic privilege has invariably sought political license for its existence by appeal to the principle of “ States' rights” or “ local self-government.” The present inconceivably tangled condition of affairs in the United States is due primarily to the fact that we have forty-six sovereignties, to each of which the seekers of privilege may appeal, and every one of which sovereignties may permit the existence of conditions which make against the national welfare. Thus the State of New Jersey, by its laws for the organization and management of corporations, has been the fruitful mother of legal conditions which have virtually tied the hands of the national government, and made the national law against combination tending to the creation of monopolies inimical to the welfare of the nation as a whole practically unenforceable.

The appeal will always be made, as it was made in 1832, in 1850, 1854 and in 1860, to the Constitution; and the sacredness of so-called constitutional right will be the asylum in which the enemies of the national welfare — that is to say, the welfare of the whole people as distinguished from the privilege of individuals to absorb the national wealth and to control the political power of the nation — will seek refuge. There will be endless appeals to the purpose and intention of the “Fathers.” The written Constitution will be dwelt upon, and to it will be given such construction as the interests of the privileged classes may dictate.

But what is the Constitution? The written Constitution no more resembles the actual Constitution of this nation than the anatomical skeleton resembles the outward body or indicates the physiological constitution of the man. Our present Constitution is to be found not in the famous document adopted in 1787 and the amendments that have been formally made thereto, but in

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »