Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 52.djvu/684

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recent years the theory of constitution-makers has been that general rules would suffice for the guidance of the patriots that represent the people. But the creed of the Russian highwayman, who offers a prayer before he commits a crime, could hardly be more impotent. Then the theory was adopted that more specific directions would possess a greater virtue. Accordingly, the inhibitions of a statute rather than the principles of a charter became the dominant trait of later constitutions. But all in vain. One has been as impotent as the other. "No act," says the Constitution of Indiana, "shall take effect until the same shall have been published and circulated in the several counties in this State by authority, except in case of emergency, which emergency shall be declared in the preamble or the body of the law." Still, out of two hundred laws passed at one session of the legislature, more than two thirds of them contained the lying declaration that "whereas an emergency exists for the immediate taking effect of this act, it shall therefore be in force from and after its passage." "The General Assembly," says the Constitution of Ohio, repeating a provision common to the Constitutions of other States, "shall pass no special act conferring corporate powers." Yet, of the laws of a single session, fifty were in violation of this provision. A similar provision exists in the Constitution of Tennessee. But only thirty-five of the two hundred and sixty-five acts passed at one session omitted the flagrant falsehood that the "public welfare" required their immediate enforcement. One of these laws so essential to the "public welfare" provided only for the change of the line of a lot. "No county, city, town, or village," says the new Constitution of New York, "shall hereafter give any money or property, or loan its money or credit, to or in aid of any individual, or association, or corporation." To such an extent has this important restriction been disregarded that in one year alone over three million dollars of public funds were put into the hands of private charities. Clergymen and philanthropists even defended the shameless evasion, and the consequent plunder of taxpayers, in the name of humanity.

"Can we believe," said De Tocqueville, grasping sixty years ago the melancholy significance of this want of deference to the most solemn obligations that can be put upon people that govern themselves, "that democracy, which has destroyed the feudal system, will respect the rights of the citizen and capitalist? Will it stop now that it has grown so strong and its adversaries so weak?" If there is little in its contempt for written constitutions to warrant a cheerful answer, there is still less in the most cursory analysis of its State and Territorial legislation. "Statutes have been passed," said Mr. James M. Woolworth before the American Bar Association, giving a glimpse of the character of this legislation, "which have usurped a