November 03, 2005

Quote of the Day

Mr. Gladstone has observed, that "as the British Constitution is the most subtle organism which has proceeded from progressive history, so the American Constitution is the most wonderful work ever struck off at a given time by the brain and purpose of man." His words, though not necessarily carrying such meaning, have been often quoted as expressive of this old-time idea, that the American Constitution is wholly new, - that it is, in fact, an original creation of the convention which met in Philadelphia in 1787. ... [But] the Constitution of the United States, though possessing elements of novelty, is not, after all, the new creation that this idea would imply. It is not, properly speaking, the original composition of one body of men, nor the outcome of one definite epoch, - it is more and better than that. It does not stand in historical isolation, free of antecedents. It rests upon very old principles, - principles laboriously worked out by long ages of constitutional struggle. It looks back to the annals of the colonies and of the mother-land for its sources and its explanation. And it was rendered possible, and made what it is, by the political development of many generations of men. ...

There may still be persons in America who ... look unwillingly to England or other countries for the origin of institutions they have long been accustomed to consider characteristically modern and American. But surely Americanism can never be more truly American, than when it welcomes, not merely such isolated fragments of fact as differentiate the United States from other nationalities, but every fact, whatever it be, that has to do with the nation; and among these, a most important fact is that of progression from the Anglo-Teutonic past. In reality, the light that comes from historical comparison will be found to give new and heightened colour to the national institutions, and to bring out more clearly than anything else could do, their true meaning and value....

Our institutions are essentially Teutonic, and the channels through which the ancient influences have made themselves felt in the Constitution, are conceded to be predominantly colonial and English. The historian of institutions thus held in common by the mother country and our own, can never treat Great Britain as he might properly treat a land of alien peoples. That old land which is the home of our language, and which holds the dust of most of our forefathers, can never be wholly foreign soil. And this is well, - for surely mankind is the better for whatever binds together these two great kindred nations in the love of liberty.
C. Ellis Stevens, Sources of the Constitution of the United States Considered in Relation to Colonial and English History (1894) Posted by Lexington Green at November 3, 2005 02:07 PM
Comments

The other way of putting it is that the US Constitution is "Revision 2.0 -- New, Improved, and Written Down!" of the English constitution.

Posted by: Tony Zbaraschuk at November 3, 2005 11:12 PM

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Posted by: bcxbgcbc at April 11, 2007 04:28 AM
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