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Page:Harvard Law Review Volume 2.djvu/364

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346 ff^R YARD LA W RB VIE W.

principles, turn as a matter of course to Britain and to America for enlightenment and direction.

The statesman who for such a purpose contemplates the con- stitution of England perceives that it is a body of principles and usages resting in prescription, the outgrowth of national history, expressive of national aims and thought, and the national convic- tion of what is best, or at least is most politic, in government. All these principles and usages have been of gradual establish- ment, and have been enlarged and improved as a result of a growing spirit of liberty among the people and of concessions to that spirit on the part of the governing classes. I think we may justly call this the natural method of constitution building. No constitution otherwise formed can so completely adapt itself to the needs and thoughts of the people as the one that springs directly from the national life, has been moulded by the events of national history, and constitutes an expression of the popu- lar idea of government, and of what are its proper functions and limitations. It then fits as a garment, and no other will. But history shows us that all government originating otherwise than by formal charter begins in despotism and with a governing family or class ; and in the growth of a prescriptive constitution there is necessarily something in the nature of a continuous struggle between the rulers on the one hand and the people on the other, — a struggle which in the main may be peaceful, but is liable at times to blaze out in civil war. Ever since the overthrow of Napoleon I. a struggle of this sort has been going on in nearly every European country, with varying successes and many bloody incidents, but with a general tendency in the direction of greater liberty. The free constitution in any case is only won slowly, and by minute, perhaps imperceptible, advances. We do not mark the changes from year to year ; they are commonly seen only from age to age ; in time the England of the robber Normans becomes the England in which the representatives of the commons wield the sovereignty, and the crown has left to it little beyond nominal power. It is not unreasonable to assume that nothing could be better or safer than such a growth, or could give better promise of permanency. Nevertheless, an inherent weakness is seen in this : that there may at any time be dispute as to whether any particular principle has so far become accepted that it constitutes a part of the constitution, and the dispute may only be settled through