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CHAPTER XXXVI

NATURE OF THE AMERICAN STATE

From the study of the National Government, we may go on to examine that of the several States which make up the Union. This is the part of the American political system which has received least attention both from foreign and from native writers. Finding in the Federal president, cabinet, and Congress a government superficially resembling those of their own countries, and seeing the Federal authority alone active in international relations, Europeans have forgotten and practically ignored the State Governments to which their own experience supplies few parallels, and on whose workings the intelligence published on their side of the ocean seldom throws light. Even the European traveller who makes the six or seven days' run across the American continent, from New York via Philadelphia and Chicago to San Francisco, though he passes in this journey of 2100 miles over the territories of eleven self-governing commonwealths, hardly notices the fact. one coinage and one post-office; he is stopped by no custom-houses ; he sees no officials in a state livery; he thinks no more of the difference of jurisdictions than the passenger from London to Liverpool does of the counties

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traversed by the line of the North-Western Railway. So, too, our best informed English writers on the science of politics, while discussing copiously the relation of the American States to the central authority, have failed to draw on the fund of instruction which lies in the study of State Governments themselves. Mill in his Representative Government scarcely refers to them. Mr. Freeman in his learned essays, Sir H. Maine in his ingenious book on Popular Government, pass by phenomena which would have admirably illustrated some of their reasonings."

American publicists, on the other hand, have been too much absorbed in the study of the Federal system to bestow much thought on the State governments. The latter seem to them the most simple and obvious things in the world, while the former, which has been the battle-ground of their political parties for a century, excites the keenest interest, and is indeed regarded as a sort of mystery, on which all the resources of their metaphysical subtlety and legal knowledge may well be expended. Thus while the dogmas of State sovereignty and State rights, made practical by the great struggle over slavery, have been discussed with extraordinary zeal and acumen by three generations of men, the character power and working of the States as separate self-governing bodies have received little attention or illustration. Yet they are full of interest; and he who would understand the changes that have passed on the American democracy will find far more instruction in a study of the State governments than of the Federal Constitution. The materials for this study are unfortunately, at least to a European, either inaccessible or unmanageable. They consist of constitutions, statutes, the records of the debates and proceedings of constitutional conventions and legislatures, the reports of officials and commissioners, together with that continuous transcript and picture of current public opinion which the files of newspapers supply. Of these sources only one, the constitutions, is practically available to a person writing on this side the Atlantic. To be able to use the rest one must go to the State and devote one's self there to these original authorities, correcting them, where possible, by the recollections of living men. It might have been expected that in most of the States, or at least of the older States, persons would have been found to write political, and not merely antiquarian or genealogical, State histories, describing the political career of their respective communities, and discussing the questions on which political contests have turned. But this has been done in comparatively few instances, so that the European inquirer finds a scanty measure of the assistance which he would naturally have expected from previous labourers in this field. I call it a field : it is rather a primeval forest, where the vegetation is rank, and through which scarcely a trail has yet been cut. The new historical school which is growing up at the leading American universities, and has already done excellent work on the earlier history of the Eastern States, will doubtless ultimately grapple with this task; in the meantime, the difficulties I have stated must be my excuse for treating this branch of my subject with a brevity out of proportion to its real interest and importance. It is better to endeavour to bring into relief a few leading features, little understood in Europe, than to attempt a detailed account which would run to inordinate length.

1 The first authors known to me who have in Europe insisted with adequate force on their value, are M. Boutmy of the Parisian École Libre des Sciences Politiques, and Dr, von Holst, the constitutional historian of America.

| Since these lines were written, such a series of State histories has been begun under the title of American Commonwealths. Of the volumes that have already appeared some possess high merit ; but they do not always bring the narrative down to those very recent times which are most instructive to the student of existing institutions.

The American State is a peculiar organism, unlike anything in modern Europe, or in the ancient world. The only parallel is to be found in the cantons of Switzerland, the Switzerland of our own day, for until 1815, if one ought not rather to say until 1848, Switzerland was not so much a nation or a state as a league of neighbour commonwealths. But Europe, and particularly England, so persistently ignores the history of Switzerland, that most instructive patent museum of politics, apparently only because she is a small country, and because people go there to see lakes and to climb mountains, that I should perplex instead of enlightening the reader by attempting to illustrate American from Swiss phenomena.

Let me attempt to sketch the American States as separate political entities, forgetting for the moment that they are also parts of a Federation.

There are thirty-eight States in the American Union, varying in size from Texas, with an area of 265,780 square miles, to Rhode Island, with an area of 1250 square miles; and in population from New York, with 5,082,871 inhabitants, to Nevada, with 62,266. That is to say, the largest State is much larger than either France or the Germanic Empire; the most populous much more populous than Sweden, or Portugal, or Denmark, while the smallest is smaller than War

1 The population of Nevada has declined since the census of 1880, and is now probably little over 40,000, while that of New York is now nearly 6,000,000.

wickshire or Corsica, and the least populous less populous than the parish of Clerkenwell in London (69,076), or the town of Greenock in Scotland (65,884). Considering not only these differences of size, but the differences in the density of population (which in Nevada is :6, and in Oregon 1.8 to the square mile, while in Rhode Island it is 254.9 and in Massachusetts 221.8 to the square mile); in its character (in South Carolina the blacks are 604,332 against 391,105 whites, in Mississippi 650,291 against 479,398 whites) ; in its birthplace (in North Carolina the foreign-born persons are less than 337 of the population, in California more than }); in the occupations of the people, in the amount of accumulated wealth, in the proportion of educated persons to the rest of the community,—it is plain that immense differences might be looked for between the aspects of politics and conduct of government in one State and in another.

Be it also remembered that the older colonies had different historical origins. Virginia and North Carolina were unlike Massachusetts and Connecticut; New York, Pennsylvania, and Maryland different from both; while in recent times the stream of European immigration has filled some States with Irishmen, others with Germans, others with Scandinavians, and has left most of the Southern States wholly untouched.

Nevertheless, the form of government is in its main outlines, and to a large extent even in its actual working, the same in all these thirty-eight republics, and the differences, instructive as they are, relate to points of secondary consequence.

The States fall naturally into five groups —
The New England States—Massachusetts, Connecti-

cut, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Vermont,
Maine.

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