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amendments, and this course was followed by other states. Maryland and
South Carolina came next, and New Hampshire made the ninth. Virginia
and New York then ratified by very narrow majorities and after
prolonged discussion. North Carolina did not come in until 1789, and
Rhode Island not until 1790.

[Sidenote: The first ten amendments.]

In September, 1789, the first ten amendments were proposed by
Congress, and in December, 1791, they were declared in force. Their
provisions are similar to those of the English Bill of Rights, enacted
in 1689,[31] but are much more full and explicit. They provide for
freedom of speech and of the press, the free exercise of religion, the
right of the people to assemble and petition Congress for a redress
of grievances, their right to bear arms, and to be secure against
unreasonable searches and seizures. The quartering of soldiers is
guarded, general search-warrants are prohibited, jury trial is
guaranteed, and the taking of private property for public use without
due compensation, as well as excessive fines and bail and the
infliction of "cruel and unusual punishment" are forbidden. Congress
is prohibited from establishing any form of religion.

[Footnote 31: See above, p. 190. This is further elucidated in
Appendixes B and D.]

Finally, it is declared that "the enumeration of certain rights shall
not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people,"
and that "the powers not granted to the United States by the
Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the
states respectively, or to the people."


1. What provision did the Constitution make for its own ratification?

2. What was the general method of ratification in the states?

3. On what general grounds did the opposition to the Constitution seem
to be based?

4. By what feature in the Constitution was the support of South
Carolina and Georgia assured? Why was this support deemed peculiarly

5. What five states ratified the Constitution with little or no

6. What was the objection of Massachusetts and some other states to
the Constitution? What course, therefore, did they adopt?

7. What three states after Massachusetts by their ratification made
the adoption of the Constitution secure?

8. What four states subsequently gave in their support?

9. Give an account of the adoption of the first ten amendments.

10. For what do these amendments provide?

11. What powers are reserved to the states?

Section 8. _A Few Words about Politics._

[Sidenote: Federal taxation.]
A chief source of the opposition to the new federal government was the
dread of federal taxation. People who found it hard to pay their town,
county, and state taxes felt that it would be ruinous to have to pay
still another kind of tax. In the mere fact of federal taxation,
therefore, they were inclined to see tyranny. With people in such a
mood it was necessary to proceed cautiously in devising measures of
federal taxation.

[Sidenote: Excise.]
This was well understood by our first secretary of the treasury,
Alexander Hamilton, and in the course of his administration of the
treasury he was once roughly reminded of it. The two methods of federal
taxation adopted at his suggestion were duties on imports and excise on
a few domestic products, such as whiskey and tobacco. The excise, being
a tax which people could see and feel, was very unpopular, and in 1794
the opposition to it in western Pennsylvania grew into the famous
"Whiskey Insurrection," against which President Washington thought it
prudent to send an army of 16,000 men. This formidable display of
federal power suppressed the insurrection without bloodshed.

[Sidenote: Tariff.]
Nowhere was there any such violent opposition to Hamilton's scheme of
custom-house duties on imported goods. People had always been familiar
with such duties. In the colonial times they had been levied by the
British government without calling forth resistance until Charles
Townshend made them the vehicle of a dangerous attack upon American
self-government.[32] After the Declaration of Independence, custom-house
duties were levied by the state governments and the proceeds were paid
into the treasuries of the several states. Before 1789, much trouble had
arisen from oppressive tariff-laws enacted by some of the states against
others. By taking away from the states the power of taxing imports, the
new Constitution removed this source of irritation. It became possible
to lighten the burden of custom-house duties, while by turning the full
stream of them into the federal treasury an abundant national revenue
was secured at once. Thus this part of Hamilton's policy met with
general approval. The tariff has always been our favourite device for
obtaining a national revenue. During our Civil War, indeed, the
national, government resorted extensively to direct taxation, chiefly in
the form of revenue stamps, though it also put a tax upon
billiard-tables, pianos, gold watches, and all sorts of things. But
after the return of peace these unusual taxes were one after another
discontinued, and since then our national revenue has been raised, as in
Hamilton's time, from duties on imports and excise on a few domestic
products, chiefly tobacco and distilled liquors.

[Footnote 32: See my _War of Independence_, pp. 58-83; and my
_History of the United States, for Schools_, pp. 192-203.]

[Sidenote: Origin of American political parties.]
Hamilton's measures as secretary of the treasury embodied an entire
system of public policy, and the opposition to them resulted in the
formation of the two political parties into which, under one name or
another, the American people have at most times been divided. Hamilton's
opponents, led by Jefferson, objected to his principal measures that
they assumed powers in the national government which were not granted to
it by the Constitution. Hamilton then fell back upon the Elastic
Clause[33] of the Constitution, and maintained that such powers were
_implied_ in it. Jefferson held that this doctrine of "implied powers"
stretched the Elastic Clause too far. He held that the Elastic Clause
ought to be construed strictly and narrowly; Hamilton held that
it ought to be construed loosely and liberally. Hence the names
"strict-constructionist" and "loose-constructionist," which mark perhaps
the most profound and abiding antagonism in the history of American

[Footnote [33]: Article I, section viii, clause 18; see above, p. 245.]

Practically all will admit that the Elastic Clause, if construed
strictly, ought not to be construed _too_ narrowly; and, if construed
liberally, ought not to be construed _too_ loosely. Neither party has
been consistent in applying its principles, but in the main we can call
Hamilton the founder of the Federalist party, which has had for its
successors the National Republicans of 1828, the Whigs of 1833 to 1852,
and the Republicans of 1854 to the present time; while we can call
Jefferson the founder of the party which called itself Republican from
about 1792 to about 1828, and since then has been known as the
Democratic party. This is rather a rough description in view of the real
complication of the historical facts, but it is an approximation to the

[Sidenote: Tariff, Internal Improvements, and National Bank.]
It is not my purpose here to give a sketch of the history of American
parties. Such a sketch, if given in due relative proportion, would
double the size of this little book, of which the main purpose is to
treat of civil government in the United States with reference to its
_origins_. But it may here be said in general that the practical
questions which have divided the two great parties have been concerned
with the powers of the national government as to (1) the _Tariff_; (2)
the making of roads, improving rivers and harbours, etc., under the
general head of _Internal Improvements_; and (3) the establishment of a
_National Bank_, with the national government as partner holding shares
in it and taking a leading part in the direction of its affairs. On the
question of such a national bank the Democratic party achieved a
complete and decisive victory under President Tyler. On the question of
internal improvements the opposite party still holds the ground, but
most of its details have been settled by the great development of the
powers of private enterprise during the past sixty years, and it is not
at present a "burning question." The question of the tariff, however,
remains to-day as a "burning question," but it is no longer argued on
grounds of constitutional law, but on grounds of political economy.
Hamilton's construction of the Elastic Clause has to this extent
prevailed, and mainly for the reason that a liberal construction of that
clause was needed in order to give the national government enough power
to restrict the spread of slavery and suppress the great rebellion of
which slavery was the exciting cause.

[Sidenote: Civil service reform.]
Another political question, more important, if possible, than that of
the Tariff, is to-day the question of the reform of the Civil Service;
but it is not avowedly made a party question. Twenty years ago both
parties laughed at it; now both try to treat it with a show of respect
and to render unto it lip-homage; and the control of the immediate
political future probably lies with the party which treats it most
seriously. It is a question that was not distinctly foreseen in the days
of Hamilton and Jefferson, when the Constitution was made and adopted;
otherwise, one is inclined to believe, the framers of the Constitution
would have had something to say about it. The question as to the Civil
Service arises from the fact that the president has the power of
appointing a vast number of petty officials, chiefly postmasters and
officials concerned with the collection of the federal revenue. Such
officials have properly nothing to do with politics; they are simply the
agents or clerks or servants of the national government in conducting
its business; and if the business of the national government is to be
managed on such ordinary principles of prudence as prevail in the
management of private business, such servants ought to be selected for
personal merit and retained for life or during good behaviour. It did
not occur to our earlier presidents to regard the management of the
public business in any other light than this.

[Sidenote: Origin of the "spoils system."]
But as early as the beginning of the present century a vicious system
was growing up in New York and Pennsylvania. In those states the
appointive offices came to be used as bribes or as rewards for partisan
services. By securing votes for a successful candidate, a man with
little in his pocket and nothing in particular to do could obtain some
office with a comfortable salary. It would be given him as a reward, and
some other man, perhaps more competent than himself, would have to be
turned out in order to make room for him. A more effective method of
driving good citizens "out of politics" could hardly be devised. It
called to the front a large class of men of coarse moral fibre who
greatly preferred the excitement of speculating in politics to earning
an honest living by some ordinary humdrum business. The civil service of
these states was seriously damaged in quality, politics degenerated into
a wild scramble for offices, salaries were paid to men who did little or
no public service in return, and thus the line which separates taxation
from robbery was often crossed.

[Sidenote: "Rotation in Office."]
[Sidenote: The "spoils system" made national]
About the same time there grew up an idea that there is something
especially democratic, and therefore meritorious, about "rotation in
office." Government offices were regarded as plums at which every one
ought to be allowed a chance to take a bite. The way was prepared in
1820 by W.H. Crawford, of Georgia, who succeeded in getting the law
enacted that limits the tenure of office for postmasters, revenue
collectors, and other servants of the federal government to four years.
The importance of this measure was not understood, and it excited very
little discussion at the time. The next presidential election which
resulted in a change of party was that of Jackson in 1828, and then the
methods of New York and Pennsylvania were applied on a national scale.
Jackson cherished the absurd belief that the administration of his
predecessor Adams had been corrupt, and he turned men out of office with
a keen zest. During the forty years between Washington's first
inauguration and Jackson's the total number of removals from office was
74, and out of this number 5 were defaulters. During the first year of
Jackson's administration the number of changes made in the civil
service was about 2,000. [34] Such was the abrupt inauguration upon a
national scale of the so-called "spoils system." The phrase originated
with W. L. Marcy, of New York, who in a speech in the senate in 1831
declared that "to the victors belong the spoils." The man who said this
of course did not realize that he was making one of the most shameful
remarks recorded in history. There was, however, much aptness in his
phrase, inasmuch as it was a confession that the business of American
politics was about to be conducted on principles fit only for the
warfare of barbarians.

[Footnote 34: Sumner's _Jackson_, p. 147.]

In the canvass of 1840 the Whigs promised to reform the civil service,
and the promise brought them many Democratic votes; but after they had
won the election, they followed Jackson's example. The Democrats
followed in the same way in 1845, and from that time down to 1885 it was
customary at each change of party to make a "clean sweep" of the
offices. Soon after the Civil War the evils of the system began to
attract serious attention on the part of thoughtful people. The "spoils
system" has helped to sustain all manner of abominations, from grasping
monopolies and civic jobbery down to political rum-shops. The virus runs
through everything, and the natural tendency of the evil is to grow with
the growth of the country.

[Sidenote: The Civil Service Act of 1883.]
In 1883 Congress passed the Civil Service Act, allowing the president to
select a board of examiners on whose recommendation appointments are
made. Candidates for office are subjected to an easy competitive
examination. The system has worked well in other countries, and under
Presidents Arthur and Cleveland it was applied to a considerable part of
the civil service. It has also been adopted in some states and cities.
The opponents of reform object to the examination that it is not always
intimately connected with the work of the office,[35] but, even if this
were so, the merit of the system lies in its removal of the offices from
the category of things known as "patronage." It relieves the president
of much needless work and wearisome importunity. The president and the
heads of departments appoint (in many cases, through subordinates) about
115,000 officials. It is therefore impossible to know much about their
character or competency. It becomes necessary to act by advice, and the
advice of an examining board is sure to be much better than the advice
of political schemers intent upon getting a salaried office for their
needy friends. The examination system has made a fair beginning and will
doubtless be gradually improved and made more stringent. Something too
has been done toward stopping two old abuses attendant upon political
canvasses, - (1) forcing government clerks, under penalty of losing their
places, to contribute part of their salaries for election purposes; (2)
allowing government clerks to neglect their work in order to take an
active part in the canvass. Before the reform of the civil service can
be completed, however, it will be necessary to repeal Crawford's act of
1820 and make the tenure of postmasters and revenue collectors as secure
as that of the chief justice of the United States.

[Footnote 35: The objection that the examination questions are
irrelevant to the work of the office is often made the occasion of gross
exaggeration. I have given, in Appendix I, an average sample of the
examination papers used in the customs service. It is taken from
Comstock's _Civil Service in the United States_, New York, Holt & Co.,
1885, an excellent manual with very full particulars.]

[Sidenote: The Australian ballot-system.]
Another political reform which promises excellent results is the
adoption by many states of some form of the Australian ballot-system,
for the purpose of checking intimidation and bribery at elections. The
ballots are printed by the state, and contain the names of all the
candidates of all the parties. Against the name of each candidate the
party to which he belongs is designated, and against each name there is
a small vacant space to be filled with a cross. At the polling-place the
ballots are kept in an inclosure behind a railing, and no ballot can be
brought outside under penalty of fine or imprisonment[36]. One ballot is
nailed against the wall outside the railing, so that it may be read at
leisure. The space behind the railing is divided into separate booths
quite screened from each other. Each booth is provided with a pencil and
a convenient shelf on which to write. The voter goes behind the railing,
takes the ballot which is handed him, carries it into one of the booths,
and marks a cross against the names of the candidates for whom he votes.
He then puts his ballot into the box, and his name is checked off on the
register of voters of the precinct. This system is very simple, it
enables a vote to be given in absolute secrecy, and it keeps "heelers"
away from the polls. It is favourable to independence in voting,[37] and
it is unfavourable to bribery, because unless the briber can follow his
man to the polls and see how he votes, he cannot be sure that his bribe
is effective. To make the precautions against bribery complete it will
doubtless be necessary to add to the secret ballot the English system of
accounting for election expenses. All the funds used in an election must
pass through the hands of a small local committee, vouchers must be
received for every penny that is expended, and after the election an
itemized account must be made out and its accuracy attested under oath
before a notary public. This system of accounting has put an end to
bribery in England.[38]

[Footnote 36: This is a brief description of the system lately adopted
in Massachusetts. The penalty here mentioned is a fine not exceeding a
thousand dollars, or imprisonment not exceeding one year, or both such
fine and such imprisonment.]

[Footnote 37: It is especially favourable to independence in voting, if
the lists of the candidates are placed in a single column, without
reference to party (each name of course, having the proper party
designation, "Rep.," "Dem.," "Prohib.," etc., attached to it). In such
case it must necessarily take the voter some little time to find and
mark each name for which he wishes to vote. If, however, the names of
the candidates are arranged according to their party, all the
Republicans in one list, all the Democrats in another, etc., this
arrangement is much less favourable to independence in voting and much
less efficient as a check upon bribery; because the man who votes a
straight party ticket will make all his marks in a very short time,
while the "scratcher," or independent voter, will consume much more time
in selecting his names. Thus people interested in seeing whether a man
is voting the straight party ticket or not can form an opinion from the
length of time he spends in the booth. It is, therefore, important that
the names of all candidates should be printed in a single column.]

[Footnote 38: An important step in this direction has been taken in the
New York Corrupt Practices Act of April, 1890. See Appendix J.]

Complaints of bribery and corruption have attracted especial attention
in the United States during the past few years, and it is highly
creditable to the good sense of the people that measures of prevention
have been so promptly adopted by so many states. With an independent and
uncorrupted ballot, and the civil service taken "out of politics," all
other reforms will become far more easily accomplished. These ends will
presently be attained. Popular government makes many mistakes, and
sometimes it is slow in finding them out; but when once it has
discovered them it has a way of correcting them. It is the best kind of
government in the world, the most wisely conservative, the most steadily
progressive, and the most likely to endure.


1. What was a chief source of opposition to the new federal government?

2. What necessity for caution existed in devising methods to raise money?

3. Hamilton's scheme of excise: -
a. The things on which excise was laid.
b. The unpopularity of the scheme.
c. The "Whiskey Insurrection."
d. Its suppression by Washington.

4. Hamilton's tariff scheme: -
a. The class of things on which duties were placed.
b. Popular acquiescence in the plan.
c. Effect of diverting the stream of custom-house revenue from its old
destination in the several state treasuries to its new destination in
the federal treasury.
d. Direct taxation during the Civil War.
e. Methods pursued since the Civil War.

5. The origin of American political parties: -
a. Jefferson's objection to Hamilton's policy.
b. Hamilton's defence of his policy.
c. Jefferson's view of the Elastic Clause.
d. Hamilton's view of the Elastic Clause.
e. Two names suggestive of an abiding antagonism in American politics.
f. A view of the Elastic Clause that commends itself to all.
g. The party of Hamilton and its successors.
h. The party of Jefferson and its successor.

6. Great practical questions that have divided parties: -
a. The Tariff.
b. Internal Improvements.
c. A National Bank.
d. The present attitude towards these three questions.
e. The shifting of ground in arguing the tariff question.
f. The reason for this change of base.

7. Civil Service reform: -

a. The attitude of parties a few years ago.
b. The present attitude of the same parties.
c. A question not foreseen.
d. The number of officers appointed.
e. The non-political nature of their duties.
f. The principles that should prevail in their selection and

8. The "spoils system": -
a. Early appointive officers in New York and Pennsylvania,
b. The driving of good citizens out of politics.
c. The character of the men called to the front.
d. The effect on civil service and on politics.

9. Rotation in office: -
a. A new idea about government offices.
b. Crawford's law of 1820.
c. Failure to grasp its significance.
d. Jackson's course in 1829.
e. Removals from office down to Jackson's time.
f. Removals during the first year of Jackson's administration.
g. Origin of the phrase, "spoils system."
h. Promises and practice down to 1885.
i. The evils conspicuous since the Civil War.

10. The Civil Service Act of 1883.
a. A board of examiners.
b. Competitive examination of candidates.
c. The spread of the principles of the reform.
d. The merit of the system.
e. Two old abuses stopped.
f. Further measures needed.

11. The Australian ballot system: -
a. The object of this system.
b. The printing of the ballots.
c. What a ballot contains.
d. Ballots at the polling-places.
e. The booths.
f. The manner of voting.
g. The advantages of the system.
h. An additional precaution against bribery.

12. What is the attitude of the people towards bribery and corruption?

13. What reforms must be accomplished before others can make
much headway?


1. How much money is needed by the United States government for the
expenses of a year? How much is needed for the army, the navy, the
interest on the public debt, pensions, rivers and harbours, ordinary
civil expenses, etc.? (Answer for any recent year.)

2. From what sources does the revenue come? Tell how much revenue each
of the several sources has yielded in any recent year.

3. What is the origin of the word _tariff_?

4. What is meant by _protection_? What is meant by _free
trade_? What is meant by a _tariff for revenue only_? What is
meant by _reciprocity_? Give illustrations.

Online LibraryJohn FiskeCivil Government in the United States Considered with Some Reference to Its Origins → online text (page 21 of 29)