Community Civics and Rural Life
by Arthur W. Dunn
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The council also has limited power to levy taxes and to borrow money for public purposes.

There is a chief executive officer, sometimes called MAYOR, sometimes president, or by other names. Subordinate to him are various other officers, such as the police marshal, the street commissioner, fire marshal, tax assessor, treasurer, clerk, and so on. In larger villages boards of health and other boards and commissions exist to administer various forms of public service. The village may also have its minor court presided over by a justice of the peace.


When villages or towns reach a certain population usually fixed by state law, they may be incorporated as cities. The change that takes place is simply one of elaborating the governing machinery and giving to it larger powers to correspond with the larger needs of city life. The complex problems of city government we shall not attempt to study in this book.


Great improvement in the government of towns and cities has been made in recent years. The latest plan of government to be adopted, and it has spread to a considerable number of towns and cities in the United States, is the CITY MANAGER, or TOWN MANAGER, form of government. By this plan the voters elect a small council, or board of directors, who in turn appoint a MANAGER who serves as a superintendent over the affairs of the city or town. He is a trained specialist, often an engineer, and cities and towns sometimes search the country over for the best man available for the place. The manager appoints the heads of the various departments of government, such as health, police, public works, etc., and is responsible to the council for their work. It is the application to town government of methods long used by successful business corporations.

Investigate and report upon:

How the county in Louisiana came to be called a "parish."

Organization and powers of your county board.

A list of your county officers and their duties.

The sentiment in your county with regard to the efficiency of your county government. Is the sentiment justified?

Recognized defects in your county government.

The long (or short) ballot in your county.

Extent to which the people of your county study the reports of your county government (consult at home and with older friends).

What do you find of interest in your county reports?

Are reports of your county published in the newspapers? Do you understand them? Ask your father to explain them to you.

Extent to which your county board exercises control over other county officers.

Extent to which the farmers of your county interest themselves in politics.

Whether or not the experience of the officer quoted on page 410 could be duplicated in your state.

The fee system in your county.

How and why public officers "are just what the people make them."

The meaning of Jefferson's remark that "public education and the subdivision of counties into wards are the two hooks upon which republican government must hang".

The feasibility of a "county club" in your county similar to those in North Carolina.

The balance between county government and township government in your county.

State control of your county government—too much, or too little? Explain.

Difference between a charter and a constitution.

Number of incorporated towns and cities in your county.

Cooperation (or friction) between urban and rural districts in your county.

Organization of village, borough, or town government in your county.

Difference between the "town" as referred to in the last part of this chapter and the "town" as described in the first part.

Services in incorporated towns and villages in your county that are not performed by the county or township governments for rural residents.

How a village or town is incorporated in your state.

Town manager form of government in your state. Its advantages.


State Constitution.

County Government and County Affairs in North Carolina, North Carolina Club Year Book 1917-1918 (The University of North Carolina Record, Extension Series No 30, Chapel Hill, N.C. ).

County Government, ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Vol XLVII, May, 1913. (36th and Woodland Ave, Philadelphia.)

Publications of the New York Short Ballot Association, 381 Fourth Ave, New York City.

Fairlie, J.A., Local Government in Counties, Towns, and Villages (The Century Co.).

Mobilizing the Rural Community, by E.L. Morgan, Extension Bulletin No. 23, Massachusetts Agricultural College, Amherst, Mass.


Series B: Lesson 19, The commission form of government and the city manager.

Hart, A.B., Actual Government, Part IV, Local government in action.

Reed, T.H., Form and Functions of American Government, Part iv, Local government.




When the thirteen original states were colonies, they derived their governing powers from CHARTERS granted to them by the king, as cities and some counties are granted charters by the state. When they won their independence the people of each state substituted a CONSTITUTION for the charter; the difference between a charter and a constitution being that the former is given TO the people by some higher authority, while the latter is adopted BY the people themselves. All of our states alike, whether created before or after the Union was formed, are self-governing under constitutions of their own making.

Counties and towns, cities and villages, have no powers of self- government except those granted to them BY THE STATE. The national government, also, may exercise only such powers as are given to it by the people VOTING AS STATES. Each state, on the other hand, is self-governing in its own right, and may exercise through its government any power whatever, excepting only those which it voluntarily surrendered upon entering the Union. (See pp. 94, 449; also Constitution, Art. I, Sec. 10 and Art. IV.)


The state constitution is the supreme law of the state and is supposed to represent the direct voice of the people. Since the Union was formed, state constitutions have been framed by conventions of delegates elected especially for the purpose, and in most cases have been submitted to the people for their ratification. Amendments may be proposed either by such conventions or by the state legislatures, but they must also be ratified by the people. Some of the states have completely revised their constitutions several times, and amendments have been very numerous.


State constitutions are long documents, containing a great deal of detail regarding the organization and powers of government. In this respect they differ from the national Constitution, which is brief and speaks in broad, general terms. Recent constitutions are longer than earlier ones, partly because there is a greater variety of problems to be dealt with, but also because of a growing tendency to limit the powers of legislatures and administrative officers.


After a DECLARATION OF RIGHTS, which all state constitutions contain, the constitution is concerned chiefly with the organization, powers and duties of the government. Each state may organize its government as it sees fit, provided only that it is "republican" in form as required by the federal Constitution (Art. IV, sec. 4). This means that it must be a form of representative self-government.


While the state governments differ from one another in matters of detail, the general plan is the same in all. Each consists of three branches: the legislative branch for lawmaking; the executive branch for law enforcement and administration; and the judicial branch for the interpretation of the laws and for the administration of justice in accordance with the law. These three branches are organized on the principle of a SEPARATION OF POWERS, to prevent encroachment by one upon the powers of the others, and to make each a check upon the powers of the others.

In the government of this commonwealth, the legislative department shall never exercise the executive and judicial powers, or either of them; the executive shall never exercise the legislative and judicial powers, or either of them; the judicial shall never exercise the legislative and executive powers, or either of them; to the end it may be a government of laws, and not of men. [Footnote: Constitution of Massachusetts, Part I, Art. XXX.]

Investigate and report on:

The meaning of "a government of laws, and not of men."

The entrance of your state into the Union.

The history of your present state constitution.

The powers surrendered by your state when it entered the Union.

Compare the length of your state constitution with that of the federal Constitution.

The principal parts of which your constitution is composed.

Number of amendments to your state constitution. When the latest amendments were adopted and why.

The declaration of rights in your state constitution.

Checks exercised by the legislature upon the executive and judicial branches; by the executive upon the legislative and judicial branches; by the judicial upon the legislative and executive branches.


The chief executive officer of the state is the governor, who is elected by the people for a term which varies, in the different states, from one to four years. It is his duty to see that the laws of the state are faithfully executed. The constitution makes him the commander-in-chief of the state militia, which he may call upon to enforce the laws or to quell disorders. It also gives him the power to pardon persons convicted of crime, in the exercise of which power he is sometimes assisted by a special board of pardons and sometimes by the legislature; but the consideration of the pleas of such persons and their friends for pardon often consumes much of his time.


A great deal of the governor's time is also taken up with duties devolving upon him as the official representative of the state on ceremonial occasions, as in the laying of corner-stones of public buildings, attending state fairs, and making speeches at public meetings of all kinds. By virtue of his office he is also a member of many boards and commissions whose meetings he must attend.


The governor also has some part in lawmaking. In all states except North Carolina he has the power to VETO bills passed by the legislature. This check upon the legislature is not absolute, for the legislature may overcome the governor's veto by again passing the bill, usually by a two-thirds vote. The governor may also influence legislation by means of his messages to the legislature in which he recommends measures which he believes should be enacted into law. In case of opposition by the legislature, the governor often carries his proposals directly to the people, who quickly make known whether or not they support him. The governor may call special sessions of the legislature to consider measures of especial importance.


The governor is a more influential officer today than he was in the early part of our history. In colonial times he was the direct representative of the king, or of the colonial proprietor, and the people sought in every way to limit his powers. After the colonies became states this habitual fear of the governor continued, and he was placed under the control of the legislature. As time went on, however, the legislature fell under the suspicion of the people, while the governor was more and more looked to as their leader. Thus, for example, the veto power was given to him, increasing his influence while it curbed that of the legislature.


But the power and influence of the governor are by no means as great in relation to state government as are the powers of the President in relation to the national government. In fact, the executive branch of our state governments has been notoriously weak, and its weakness is of the same kind as that noted in county government: the lack of an effective, responsible head.


In our national government the executive power is concentrated in the hands of one man. State constitutions seem to confer the same powers upon the governor. The constitution of Indiana says, "The executive powers of the State shall be vested in a Governor"; and that of Pennsylvania says, "The supreme executive power shall be vested in the Governor." But the Pennsylvania constitution also says, "The executive department shall consist of a Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Secretary of the Commonwealth, Attorney General, Auditor General, State Treasurer, Secretary of Internal Affairs and a Superintendent of Public Instruction" (Art. IV, Sec. I). Four of these officers besides the governor are elected by the people.


In all states the governor "shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed" (Pennsylvania constitution). For the execution of the laws, however, he is dependent not only upon a number of principal executive officers such as those named above, but also upon a large number of less important administrative officers. Governor Lowden, of Illinois, a few years ago said:

Administrative agencies have been multiplied in bewildering confusion. They have been created without reference to their ability economically and effectively to administer the laws. Separate boards govern the penitentiaries, the reformatories, and the educational institutions. Several boards and commissions have charge of matters affecting the agricultural interests. Administration of laws affecting labor is parceled out among numerous agencies, including several boards having jurisdiction of mining problems and several free employment agencies, each independent of the other. Our finance administration is chaotic, illogical and confused.

The administration of the health laws is divided between boards and commissions, with no effective means of coordination. Our educational agencies are not harmonious. Over one hundred officers, boards, agencies, commissions, institutions and departments are charged with the administration of our laws. No systematic organization exists, and no adequate control can be exercised ... Under the present system the governor cannot exercise the supervision and control which the people have a right to demand. [Footnote: Charles E. Woodward, "The Illinois Civil Administrative Code," reprinted from Proceedings, Academy of Political Science, July, 1918.]


This condition of affairs is characteristic of state governments generally. Some of the numerous officers are appointed by the governor, but many of them are elected by the people or appointed by the legislature. Their terms of office do not coincide with that of the governor, so that he finds in office many persons whom he did not appoint, and whom he cannot remove. Often they may be of an opposite political party. Thus the very organization of the state executive department is such as to make it impossible for the governor to perform the duty, imposed upon him by the constitution, of seeing to it that the laws are faithfully executed. It must be remembered, moreover, that the execution of the laws is also dependent largely upon a multitude of local officers over whom the state exercises little control. It is apparent how imperfect must be the teamwork of the people through this organization.


Why have the people put up with this sort of thing? For one thing, they have not understood where the trouble lies. There is also seen the influence of the political "boss," who thrives under this confusion. But among the causes is the desire of the people to maintain control over government. They have attempted, in their constitutions, not only to say just what services should be performed for them, but also to specify just what machinery should be used for their performance. For every new service, they have created a new and independent piece of machinery. Then, to make their control complete, as they thought, they have made most of their new officers elective. Experience has shown that control of this kind has been gained only at the sacrifice of efficient service, through failure to provide trained leadership and effective organization. Moreover, experience has also shown that control of this kind is largely a delusion; for the people cannot keep in touch with their multitude of officers, and in many cases yield their control, often unknowingly, to the political "boss."


In noting these defects, it is not to be concluded that our state governments have been a failure in all respects. Far from it. Notable progress has been made toward the ideals toward which we have been striving. We have tried one experiment after another, some of which have been highly successful, but others of which have not met the test of new conditions. It is important, however, that we should face our failures squarely and profit by them.


At the present time there is a marked effort to overcome the defects that we have just noted, and a good deal of progress toward it has been made in some states. One of the most progressive states in this particular is Illinois, which has recently enacted a law for the reorganization of its executive branch of government.

Under the new "Civil Administrative Code" of Illinois, the executive branch of government is organized in nine departments: the departments of finance, of agriculture, of labor, of mines and minerals, of public works and buildings, of public welfare, of public health, of trade and commerce, and of registration and education.

At the head of each department is a director, who is appointed by the governor, is responsible to him, and whose term of office is the same as that of the governor.

Each department is organized into various bureaus, or other subdivisions, with officers in charge who are directly responsible to the director of the department. Thus, in the department of agriculture there is an assistant director, a general manager of the state fair, a superintendent of foods and dairies, a superintendent of animal industry, a superintendent of plant industry, a chief veterinarian, a chief game and fish warden, and a food standard commission of three members.

All subordinate employees in all departments are appointed under a civil service law which requires competitive examinations.

Associated with most of the departments are "advisory boards" consisting of citizens who serve without pay. Thus, the department of agriculture has a board of agricultural advisers composed of fifteen persons, and a board of state fair advisers of nine persons, not more than three of whom shall be appointed from any one county.

The things aimed at in this reorganization are: (I) fixing responsibility for the entire service-organization in one place— with the governor; (2) responsible, trained leadership in each department of service; (3) responsiveness of leadership to the people's wants, as provided for by the advisory boards; (4) a system of accounting and records that will make for efficiency and economy, and that will inform the people as well as the officers of government.

Investigate and report on:

The name of the governor of your state, his political party, when elected, for how long a term.

Advantages and disadvantages of a long term for the governor.

The constitutional powers of the governor of your state.

The influence of the governor of your state with the people.

The principal executive and administrative officers of your state. Those that are elective and those that are appointive.

A complete list of the administrative bureaus, boards, commissions, and other state agencies, with their duties.

The application of Governor Lowden's statement regarding Illinois to your state.

Any proposed reorganization of the executive branch of your state government.


The legislative branch of government consists, in all states, of a legislature ("general assembly," "legislative assembly," or "general court") composed of two "houses" or "chambers," the house of representatives and the senate. The senate is the "upper house," and is usually from one-third to one-half the size of the "lower house"; in Massachusetts only one-sixth the size.


A bill to become a law must pass both houses separately, each house acting as a check upon the other, thus securing greater deliberation in lawmaking. The senate is supposed to be, and usually is, a more conservative, or cautious, body than the house of representatives, partly because of its smaller size which makes possible a more careful consideration of business. Its members are elected from larger districts, thus increasing the opportunity to select able men. A higher age qualification is required for membership in the senate than in the house of representatives; and only a part of the senate is elected at each election, so that it is a continuing body, always containing members of experience, while the lower house may be almost entirely changed at each election.


It is a theory of our representative government that representation should be proportional to population. To secure this result, each state is divided into election districts presumably of as nearly equal population as possible, the senatorial districts being the larger. In practice, however, these districts do not always have representation proportional to their population. The county is often the unit of representation, or in New England the town, and these districts vary greatly in population. An attempt is made to equalize the difference by providing that no district shall have less than one representative, and often that none shall have more than a certain number. Inequalities nevertheless exist. In Connecticut, thirty- four of the most populous towns and cities have sixty-eight members in the lower house, whereas if the distribution were made on the basis of population they would be entitled to 186 members. Again, four of the smallest Connecticut towns, with a total population of 1567, have five members; four of the most populous cities, containing 309,982 inhabitants, have only eight members, whereas on the basis of population they would be entitled to eighty-seven. [Footnote: C.A., Beard, America Government and Politics, p. 521.]

Partisan influences often enter into the districting of states for representation, the party in power trying to fix boundaries so as to ensure keeping their majority in the legislature.

Investigate and report on the following:

Number of members in the lower and upper houses of your legislature.

Qualifications for membership and term of office in each house.

Names of your own representative and senator.

Secure a map showing legislative districts of your state. Locate your own.

Whether representation in your legislature is proportional to population.

The "gerrymander": what is it, and has it been used in your state?

The legislature controls our lives at almost every turn.

It has control over the whole domain of civil law; [Footnote 2: See below, p. 437.] that is, it lays down the rules governing contracts, real and personal property, inheritance, corporations, mortgages, marriage and divorce, and other civil matters. It defines crime; that is, it prescribes those actions of the citizen which are to be punished by fine or imprisonment or death. It touches the property of the citizen not only by regulating its use, but also by imposing upon it a burden of taxation. Finally, it has control over the vast domain known as the police power, under which it makes regulations concerning public health, morals, and welfare, devises rules for the conduct of business and professions, and in other ways restrains the liberty of the citizen to do as he pleases. [Footnote 3: C.A. Beard, America Government and Politics,, p. 516.]


In view of this importance, it would seem that the people would have the keenest interest in their state legislatures and the greatest respect for them. This has not always been the case. As one writer says, "it has become almost fashionable" to speak slightingly of legislatures and their members, and to talk of them as if they were wholly corrupt and dishonorable. If the very best men the community affords are not always chosen for the difficult and responsible work of lawmaking, the people have no one to blame but themselves. Moreover, the members of our legislatures average up very much like their neighbors, and most of them are sincerely desirous of serving their state and do so to the fullest extent possible under the conditions that exist.

It is indeed time that a different attitude should be assumed toward these bodies. ... Acquaintance with actual legislatures will immediately reveal the fact that they are fairly representative of the American people, and that there is in them, a great deal of honest effort to grapple with the difficult problems of legislation. ... Before all, there ought to be a sustained effort to support the men who are with honest purpose struggling for equitable and effective legislation. ...[Footnote: Paul S. Reinsch, American Legislatures and Legislative Methods, p. 126.]


Most of the unwise and harmful legislation has been due, not to wrong intentions on the part of legislators, but to the difficulty encountered by a body of men of average intelligence and of little experience in dealing with public questions, in getting information necessary to enable them to decide wisely with respect to the multitude of complicated problems that come before them during the brief session of the legislature.

In the lower house of one typical legislature only 19 out of the 252 members had ever been members of a legislature before, 123 were farmers, 6 lawyers, 10 physicians, 48 merchants and manufacturers, 3 bankers, 5 preachers, 6 insurance men, 2 hotel proprietors, 3 liverymen, 14 laborers or artisans, 6 "apparently with no occupation except that of general politician and office- seeker."

Of the thirty members of the senate of the same legislature, 9 were farmers, 4 lawyers, 4 physicians, and 13 merchants. Seven of these had completed their education in "academies," while 13 had never got beyond the public schools.

These men had to decide, in the course of a few weeks, upon an astonishing variety of problems, some of them of the greatest complexity, and all of them affecting the lives of the citizens of the state in a multitude of ways. It is not surprising that serious mistakes are sometimes made. [Footnote: C. A. Beard, American Government and Politics, p. 525 (from S. P. Orth, "Our State Legislatures," Atlantic Monthly, vol. xciv, pp. 728 ff.)]

The mere writing of a bill in language that will convey the exact meaning intended, and that will not involve undesirable and unexpected results, is a difficult matter that requires the skill of men trained for it.


In a number of states an attempt has been made to meet these natural difficulties by the establishment of legislative reference libraries, or bureaus, in charge of highly trained students who collect all available information relating to every possible subject of legislation, keep records of legislation in other states, and place the material in convenient form at the disposal of the legislators. Sometimes they provide expert service in the writing of bills in the proper form. It is said that such legislative reference bureaus have already greatly improved the quality of legislation in some of the states.

It would be impossible for a legislature, acting as a body, to give consideration to more than a small fraction of the bills that come before it.

It is said that it is not unusual for more than 2500 bills to be introduced at a single session. Legislatures are in session from 40 to 90 days. If the session were 60 days, and the working day 10 hours, there would be but 15 minutes for each of 2500 bills. This time would be divided between the two houses. Besides, a great deal of business must be transacted other than the consideration and passage of bills.


To make possible the handling of all this work, each house is organized in standing committees. As bills are introduced, they are referred to their appropriate committees, in which most of the work of lawmaking is done. Most of the bills so referred are never reported back to the legislature at all, and those that are reported are in most cases acted upon by the legislature in accordance with the committees' reports, with little general discussion. The procedure followed in referring bills to committees and in considering them when they are reported back is determined by a complexity of rules that are confusing to the outsider and that cannot be explained in detail here. But their declared purpose is to save time and to enable the legislative business to move smoothly. The small committees can work to better advantage than the large body of men in either chamber. The work is divided up so that the few members of each committee can concentrate their attention upon a few subjects and gain experience in handling special kinds of problems.


On the other hand, it is to this organization that we owe some of the bad lawmaking for which our legislatures are blamed. It tends to remove legislation from the control of the people, and results in what is often called "invisible government," government that is carried on out of sight of the people. It opens a door to partisan influences and to control by political "bosses" and self-seeking "interests." In the lower house the committees are appointed by the speaker, who is the presiding officer, and who is always chosen by the members of the majority party in the house from their own number. The senate committees are sometimes appointed by the presiding officer of the senate, who is often the lieutenant- governor, and sometimes elected by the senate itself. But the chairmen and the majority of the members of all committees in both houses belong to the majority party, which is thus enabled to control legislation for partisan ends if it so desires, and it often does so.


Bills may be "killed" in committee, or reported unfavorably, or so amended as to change their meaning entirely, merely at the will of the party leaders, or of "bosses" and interests outside of the legislature. A large part of the work of the committees is carried on in secret. Although "hearings" may be held at which citizens may present arguments for and against proposed measures, these may be mere matters of form. Influential interests may maintain a lobby at the legislature, which means that they are represented there by agents who seek to influence the members of the legislature, and especially of the committees, sometimes by corrupt methods. The lobby often works by secret methods, whereas the "hearings" are public.

The party leaders in control, of whom the most important are the speaker of the house, the rules committee, the chairmen of committees, and the "floor manager," by dictating the procedure to be followed, may at times make it practically impossible for a member of the minority party, or one who has incurred the displeasure of the leaders, to gain a hearing. The following description gives an idea of what may happen: [Footnote: From a pamphlet issued by the Illinois Legislative Voters' League in 1903, and quoted by C. A. Beard, American Government and Politics, pp 539, 540.]

Consider the petty annoyances to which a decent member outside the "organization" may be subjected, and the methods by which legitimate legislation, backed by him, may be blocked. The bill goes to an unfriendly committee. The chairman refuses to call the committee together, or when forced to call it, a quorum does not attend. ... Action may be postponed on various pretexts, or the bill may be referred to a sub-committee. The committee may kill the bill by laying it on the table. On the other hand, the committee may decide that the bill be reported to the house to pass. Then a common practice is for the chairman to pocket the bill, delaying to report it to the house till too late to pass it. When finally reported to the house, it goes on the calendar to be read a first time in its order. Then begins the advancing of bills by unanimous consent, without waiting to reach them in order. Here is where the organization has absolute control. Unanimous consent is subject to the speaker's acuteness of hearing. His hearing is sharpened or dulled according to the good standing of the objector or of the member pushing the bill. If one not friendly to the house "organization" wants to have his bill considered over an objection, he must move to suspend the rules. The speaker may refuse to recognize him, or may put his motion and declare it carried or not carried as suits his and the organization's desires. So the pet bills are jumped over others ahead of them on the calendar, while

[Footnote: From a pamphlet issued by the Illinois Legislative Voters' League in 1903, and quoted by C. A. Beard, American Government and Politics, pp 539, 540.] the ones not having the backing of the house "organization" are retired farther and farther down until their ultimate passage becomes hopeless. If the bill of the independent member reaches a second reading, it may be killed by striking out the enacting clause or by tacking on an obnoxious amendment that makes it repulsive to its former friends. ... To carry out the will of the organization, the speaker declares amendments carried or the contrary by a viva voce vote. Demands for roll-calls are ignored by him in violation of the members' constitutional rights. ...


It is such practices as these that have brought state legislatures into bad repute, and that have resulted in measures to curb their power. Instead of leaving it entirely to them to make their own rules of procedure, many of these rules are now prescribed by the state constitutions. It was in order to restrain the legislatures that the veto power has been given to the governors of all states but one, and that sessions of legislatures have been limited to brief periods of from forty to ninety days, and then only once in two years. For the same reason state constitutions have taken away powers that legislatures once commonly abused, as in running the state deeply into debt, or in legislating in the interest of particular localities or particular groups; and have provided in great detail for many things that were formerly left to the discretion of the legislatures. For the same reason some states have adopted the initiative and referendum.

Investigate and report on:

Powers possessed by either house of your legislature not possessed by the other.

Powers denied your legislature by the federal Constitution.

Powers denied your legislature by your state constitution. Reasons.

Attitude of the people of your community toward your legislature.

Why service in the legislature does not attract more of the most capable men of the state.

The vocations of the members of your legislature.

Number of bills introduced, and the number passed, at the last session of your legislature.

The purpose of some of the most important laws enacted by your legislature at its last session.

Why it is difficult to write a bill correctly.

The legislative reference library, or bureau, of your state (if any).

The committees in each house of your legislature.

Procedure by which a bill becomes a law in your state.

The speaker of the House of Representatives in your state.

"Invisible government" in your state.

Laws regulating the "lobby" in your state. Frequency and length of legislative sessions in your state.


Some of the greatest abuses of governing power have been in connection with the appropriation of money. They have been due not so much to dishonesty as to bad organization and loose business methods, both in the executive and legislative branches of government. When the executive branch consists of a large number of more or less independent parts, each trying to make the best showing possible, it is quite to be expected that each will seek to get from the public treasury all the money possible without reference to the needs of other parts or to the resources of the state. When, in addition, there is no central executive authority with power to hold the heads of the various parts responsible for their acts, and no uniform or businesslike system of keeping accounts, either of money expended or of work accomplished, it is easy to see the opportunity for wastefulness and inefficiency.


On the other hand, the methods of making appropriations in the legislature have been equally conducive to wastefulness. Appropriation bills pass through the same legislative machinery as all other bills and are subject to the same dangers. Moreover, they are handled by different committees that act as independently of one another as do the various executive departments. In Illinois, for example, until recently "requests for appropriations were submitted informally by each office, department, or board; and separate bills were prepared by the several departments and institutions, and introduced by individual members of the General Assembly," l[Footnote: John A. Fairlie, Budget Methods in Illinois, Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, November, 1915; quoted by W. F. Willoughby, in The Movement for Budgetary Reform in the States, p. 45.] then being referred to different committees according to the subjects to which they related. At the session of 1913, 94 separate appropriation acts were passed.


A number of the states have sought to remedy this defect in government by the adoption of a budget system (see Chapter XIII). Illinois has perhaps made the complete reform in this matter. We have already seen how that state has reorganized its executive branch of government, which is the first necessary step. In this reorganization there was created a finance department, to which all the administrative departments submit a careful estimate of the money needed for their various lines of work, together with a detailed statement of work done and money spent during the two preceding years. The finance department considers all these statements and estimates in their relation to one another and to the financial resources available for the next two years, and submits to the governor a comprehensive and detailed budget. On the basis of this, a single appropriation bill is prepared by a single committee of the legislature. Public hearings are held, the people are given opportunity to know just what the government has done and intends to do, and the governor and his finance department may be held responsible.

No single change would add so largely to both democracy and efficiency as the introduction of proper budget methods. [Footnote: Foreword to Public Budgets, Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, November, 1915; quoted by W. F. Willoughby, The Movement for Budgetary Reform in the States, p. 2.]

Investigate and report on:

Method of making appropriations in your state.

Movement for a budget system in your state.

Why a budget system tends toward (1) economy, (2) efficiency, (3) democracy.


Questions are continually arising as to the meaning of laws, or as to how they apply in particular cases. To answer these questions the judicial branch of government exists, comprising a system of courts. The courts are sometimes called upon to decide whether a law passed by the legislature, or an act of an administrative officer, is in harmony with the constitution, and if not, to declare such law or act invalid. The judicial branch of government is therefore the people's organization to keep the other branches of government within their constitutional powers.


In most cases that come before the courts, however, the law is perfectly clear when once the facts in the case are known. It is therefore the business of the courts also to ascertain the facts. There are two classes of cases that come before the courts, civil cases and criminal cases; and the law that applies to the two classes is known as civil law and criminal law. A civil case is one that involves a dispute between individuals, or an injury done by one individual to another. Such would be a dispute over a boundary line between the properties of two individuals, or over the payment of a debt; or a personal injury due to the carelessness of some one, or an injury to property or to health through maintaining a nuisance of some kind. In such cases the court, after ascertaining the facts, merely sees that justice is done, as by the payment of damages to the injured party by the one doing the injury. A criminal case is one in which a person is charged with having violated a law of the community. The injury is one against the community as a whole, and not merely against an individual. It is the community that appears in court against the accused person, and not merely one of his neighbors. In such cases the court first ascertains the guilt or innocence of the accused person; and if he is guilty, imposes a PUNISHMENT upon him, such as a fine, or imprisonment, or even death, according to the nature of the crime.

The judicial branch of government, then, is that part of the governmental organization that seeks to adjust, by peaceful and just means, the inevitable conflicts that arise in community life.


The lowest in the series of state courts are the JUSTICES' COURTS, of which there is at least one in every township. They are presided over by justices of the peace. Only cases of small moment come before justices' courts: civil cases involving very small amounts, and cases of minor infractions of the law punishable by small fines or by short terms in jail. Persons accused of more serious crimes may have a preliminary examination in a justice's court and, if the evidence warrants it, be committed to jail to await the action of the grand jury (see below). Most cases in a justice's court are disposed of by the justice of the peace alone; but a jury trial may be demanded in all criminal cases, and in civil suits "where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars" (Const., Amendments VI, VII).


More serious cases, civil or criminal, are tried in the COUNTY, or DISTRICT, courts before a judge and a JURY. Cases that have been tried in a justice's court may be APPEALED to the county or district court, where there is sure to be a jury trial, and where the judge is more learned in the law than is a justice of the peace. It is the business of the jury to decide on the facts in the case on the evidence furnished in the trial, and in civil cases to award the amount of damages, if any, to be paid; while the judge sees that the procedure is in accordance with the law, instructs the jury as to the law in the case, and in criminal cases fixes the penalty within the limits permitted by the law.


It was stated above that in criminal cases it is the COMMUNITY that appears against the accused. The community appears in the person of the district attorney, otherwise called the prosecuting attorney, state's attorney, or county solicitor. It is the business of this officer to gather evidence of crimes committed in the community and, in most cases, to submit it to the GRAND JURY, which is a body of citizens carefully chosen to consider such evidence. If the grand jury considers the evidence against the accused sufficient to warrant bringing him to trial, it brings in an INDICTMENT against him. The prosecuting attorney then prosecutes the case for the community against the accused. It is of course his duty to secure exact justice; sometimes, however, he seems interested only in securing the CONVICTION of the accused.


Our state and national constitutions seek to protect carefully the rights of a person accused of crime. He is assumed to be innocent until he has been proved otherwise. He is guaranteed a "speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury." He must be "confronted with witnesses against him," and have "compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor," and "assistance of counsel for his defense" (Const., Amendment VI). He cannot be compelled to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without "due process of law" (Amendment V). "Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted." (Amendment VIII).


In some states there is another set of courts immediately above the county courts, known as CIRCUIT, DISTRICT, or SUPERIOR, courts. The districts in which these courts have jurisdiction include several counties. The cases courts handled by them are either cases of appeal from the lower courts, or cases of greater importance than those over which the lower courts have jurisdiction.


The highest court in the state is the SUPREME COURT, sometimes called the COURT OF APPEALS, or the COURT OF ERRORS. In the supreme court several judges sit together, and there is no jury. The cases that come before it are for the most part cases of appeal from the lower courts, although there are certain classes of cases that come before it in the first instance. The supreme court is the final judge as to whether acts of the legislature are in conformity with the state constitution.


In addition to the courts named above there are sometimes others to deal with special classes of cases. In cities there are MUNICIPAL COURTS and POLICE COURTS, both in the same class with justices' courts. There are JUVENILE COURTS to deal with juvenile offenders; PROBATE, or SURROGATE, COURTS to settle the estates of persons who have died; COURTS OF CLAIMS to settle claims against the state; and CHANCERY COURTS, or courts of EQUITY, which administer justice in cases that the ordinary law will not reach.

For example, the LAW will permit a man's property to be taken to satisfy a mortgage; EQUITY requires that the property be sold and the surplus over the amount of the mortgage returned to the owner. The LAW will grant damages for any injury inflicted; EQUITY will, by an injunction, forbid a repetition of the injury.


The judges of the state courts were originally appointed by the governors, or by the legislatures. With the movement toward more democratic forms of government, the states began to introduce provisions in their constitutions for the election of judges by the people, and they are now so chosen in most states, though in a number they are appointed by the governor, and in a few by the legislature. It is highly important that judges should be controlled in their decisions solely by the desire to render justice, and that they should be removed as far as possible from partisan influences. Popular election of judges is most prevalent because it seems to give to the people the most direct control over their courts. On the other hand, it is opposed by many because it makes possible the election of incompetent judges, and because it does not necessarily remove the matter from partisan influences. In three states (California, Oregon and Arizona) the judges are subject to recall by the people.

The terms during which judges hold office also vary greatly among the states. In three states they hold office for life (Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New Hampshire). In the other states their terms vary from two to twenty-one years.

It seems to be the opinion of most students that the state courts would be improved if their judges were appointed by the chief executive and should hold office for life, or during good behavior, as is the case in the federal courts.

Investigate and report on:

Civil law and criminal law.

What makes an act a "crime."

Difference between a "crime" and a "misdemeanor."

Justices' courts in your community.

Procedure in a justice's court.

The organization of your county court.

Who is your county (or district) judge.

Procedure in your county court, and how it differs from that in the justice's court.

Organization and work of the grand jury.

How a trial jury is selected.

The citizen's duty to serve on the jury.

Rights of an accused person.

Meaning of "bail," "indictment," "due process of law," "counsel for defense," "subpoena," "true bill."

Circumstances under which an appeal may be made.

The supreme court of your state.

The work of a juvenile court.


State Constitution.

Reports of the several departments of the state government.

In LESSONS IN COMMUNITY AND NATIONAL LIFE: Series B: Lesson 18, How state laws are made and enforced.

The Civil Administrative Code of the State of Illinois, compiled by Louis L. Emmerson. Secretary of State, Springfield, Ill.

The Illinois Civil Administrative Code, by Charles E. Woodward, The Academy of Political Science, Columbia University, New York City.

Beard, Chas. A., AMERICAN GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS, Part iii, State government.

Hart, A. B., ACTUAL GOVERNMENT, Part iii, State governments in action.

Reed, T. H., FORM AND FUNCTIONS OF AMERICAN GOVERNMENT, Part iii, State government.

Bryce, James, THE AMERICAN COMMONWEALTH, vol. i, Part ii, The State governments.

In Long's AMERICAN PATRIOTIC PROSE: Invisible government (Elihu Root), pp. 261-264.

In Foerster and Pierson's AMERICAN IDEALS: How to Preserve the Local Self-Government of the States (Elihu Root), pp. 48-55




It was the necessity for team work in carrying on the War for Independence that led the thirteen American colonies for the first time to unite under a common government. They had revolted to escape from an autocratic government, and they sought to avoid setting up another in its place. Since it had been the king whom they distrusted most, they endeavored to get along without any executive head at all. Their new government consisted solely of a Congress of delegates from the thirteen states.


This form of government was continued for several years after the Revolution under a constitution known as the Articles of Confederation. It was, however, unsuccessful in securing anything like real national cooperation. The Congress had no power to levy and collect taxes, it had little power to make laws, and it was without means to execute the laws that it did make. The real governing power during this period was with the several states. The result was a period of unutterable confusion which has been called "the critical period of American history." The question at stake was whether a number of self-governing state communities with a multitude of apparently conflicting interests could really become a nation.


During the war Benjamin Franklin had said, "We must all hang together or we shall all hang separately." The states had "hung together" sufficiently to win the war; but the wise men of the time now saw the need for a government so organized and with such powers as to secure effective cooperation among all the states and all the people at all times for the welfare of the entire Union, while leaving each state free to manage its own local affairs. Therefore a convention of delegates from all the states was called together at Philadelphia in 1787 to revise the Articles of Confederation. The result was our present Constitution under which our present national government went into effect in 1789.

Investigate and report:

The nature and causes of the confusion during "the critical period" of American history.

The leading men of the Constitutional Convention.

How the states ratified the Constitution.

Which of the original thirteen states did not ratify the Constitution until after it had gone into effect.

The number of states required to ratify before the Constitution went into effect (Constitution, Art. VII).


"We, the people of the United States" "ordained and established" the Constitution (see the Preamble). It was also "ordained" in the Constitution (Art. V) that it could be amended only by methods designed to give the people control over the matter—greater control than they have over ordinary lawmaking. A great many amendments have been proposed in the course of time, but only eighteen have so far been adopted,[Footnote: A nineteenth amendment is at this writing before the states for ratification— the woman suffrage amendment.] ten of these having been adopted in the very beginning as a condition on which the states would accept the Constitution at all. None of these amendments changed the form of our government except with respect to the methods of electing the President and United States senators (Amendments XII and XVII).

Explain the two methods of proposing, and the two methods of ratifying, amendments (Constitution, Art. VII).

Has there ever been a national constitutional convention called by the states?

Which of the two methods of ratifying was used in the case of the last amendment adopted? [Footnote: Ohio by a referendum in 1919 submitted the eighteenth amendment to the people of the state for their vote, after it had been ratified by the legislature. This was the first time in our history that an amendment to the Constitution was submitted to popular vote for ratification.]

Did your state vote to ratify or to reject the last amendment?

If any amendment is now before the states for ratification, watch the newspapers for the action of the various states.


The Constitution adopted in 1787 has met the needs of our growing nation in a most remarkable way. It would be a mistake, however, to think that it has always met new conditions perfectly, or that we are governed to-day exactly as was intended by the framers of the Constitution. Although few amendments have been made, INTERPRETATIONS have been placed on the Constitution that were probably unthought of by the framers or by the people who ratified it; and PRACTICES have grown up in our government that have made it quite a different government from that which was anticipated. Our government is a GROWING thing, and one of the chief merits of our Constitution is the fact that it speaks in such general terms that it has been possible, under it, to adapt our government to new and unexpected conditions. In this respect it differs from the detailed state constitutions.


On the other hand, conditions have arisen with the growth of our nation that our Constitution has not enabled us to meet with the greatest success, and that we have not yet met by amendment. In some cases we have tried to get around the difficulties by devices not provided for in the Constitution, sometimes with unfortunate results. But a recognition of defects in our government should not cause us to lose respect for the Constitution. They are due not to positive blunders on the part of the framers, but to the mere absence of provision for conditions that did not exist when the Constitution was framed and that could not be foreseen by the wisest men of that time. The wise course for all good citizens is to seek to understand clearly wherein our government fails to meet our needs, if it does fail, and then to seek to correct the difficulty, under the existing terms of the Constitution if possible, or by amendment of the Constitution if that becomes clearly necessary. Amendment of the Constitution was purposely made difficult, and this was doubtless wise, for it tends to prevent changes without full consideration of their needs and probable effects. Radical changes in our form of government and in our established laws are always fraught with danger. Because of the extreme complexity of community life a change effected at one point to meet a particular evil may have consequences of the most far-reaching kind and in the most unexpected directions. A change that corrects one evil may produce conditions resulting in evils even worse than the first. Changes are necessary at times, but they should be made only after the most careful consideration by men of the widest possible experience.


One thing that stood out clearly after the Revolution was the fear of a strong national government. Some of the states refused to ratify the Constitution unless amendments were added at once guaranteeing the liberties of the people. The first ten amendments, known as the "bill of rights," were the result. To make sure that no important rights were left unguarded, the ninth amendment provides that "the enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people."

Read the first ten amendments and discuss the meaning of each.


It was clearly expected that most of the governing powers to which the people were subject should be exercised by the states, and not by the national government. The national government was to exercise no powers except such as were DELEGATED to it in the Constitution. These powers are important ones, but few in number, and are listed in section 8 of Article I. In order to make this limitation of powers perfectly clear, the tenth amendment declares that "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively or to the people." Certain powers were also expressly denied to the national government in section 9 of Article I.

Discuss the meaning of each clause in Article I, section 8.

Discuss the meaning of each clause in Article I, section 9.


The powers of the national government relate to interstate and foreign affairs, or to matters that the several states could not well regulate without confusion or injustice. For example, it was chiefly the confusion in matters pertaining to trade in the period following the Revolution that made the new government necessary. Therefore power was given to it "to regulate commerce with foreign nations and among the several states, and with the Indian tribes." So, also, it was given power "to coin money, regulate the value thereof, and of foreign coin, and fix the standard of weights and measures," for varying systems of coinage and of weights and measures would be inconvenient. For similar reasons it was empowered "to establish post-offices and post-roads," "to establish an uniform rule of naturalization" for immigrants, and "to promote the progress of science and useful arts" by giving copyrights and patents to authors and inventors. The states, on the other hand, were expressly forbidden to exercise any control over some such matters of national and international concern in section 10 of Article I.

Read section 10, Art I, and discuss the reasons why the powers there mentioned should have been denied to the states.


Not only did the framers of the Constitution carefully limit the powers that the national government might exercise, but they also introduced into the organization of the government various devices to control it and to prevent any of its parts from assuming too much power. The most important of these is the system of CHECKS AND BALANCES. In our national government, as in the state governments, the legislative, executive, and judicial powers are SEPARATED. In early times in England, the king could make any laws he wished, he could enforce them as he pleased, and he controlled the courts of justice. In our government the legislature, composed of representatives of the people, makes the laws; the executive branch of government sees to their enforcement; and the courts, which are responsible neither to the legislature nor to the executive, interpret the laws and administer justice in accordance with the laws. This separation of powers is to prevent any one person or group of persons from exercising too much power, as the king did, and is a safeguard to the liberty of the people. But the separation of powers IS NOT COMPLETE. Each branch of government has A LIMITED CONTROL over the others. This constitutes THE SYSTEM OF CHECKS AND BALANCES, which still further protects the people's liberties.

While the President cannot make the laws, he is given a check upon the lawmaking power of Congress by his veto power. On the other hand, he cannot, by an excessive use of his veto power, destroy the lawmaking power of Congress, because Congress may pass laws over the President's veto by means of a two-thirds vote.

The President cannot make a treaty, nor appoint men to office, without the consent of the senate; neither can he exercise his executive powers until Congress votes him the necessary money.

If Congress passes a law that is contrary to the Constitution the courts may declare the law void, and the executive cannot enforce it. The courts, on the other hand, are in a measure under the control of both Congress and the President, for Congress may create and destroy courts (except those created by the Constitution), and the President, with the consent of the senate, appoints the judges.


The "checks and balances" in the organization of our government have been very effective in accomplishing the purpose for which they were intended, namely, to protect the liberties of the people against despotic government. But they have also, at times, been an obstacle to team work and to effective service. It sometimes happens, for example, that the President represents one political party, while the majority of one or both houses of Congress are of the opposing party. The two branches of government may then enter into a struggle on partisan grounds, each trying to defeat the program of the other. Such a situation was probably unforeseen by the framers of the Constitution, although it again reminds us of Washington's warning with regard to the dangers of the party spirit.


With the growth of our nation, the national government has come to perform a vast amount of service, as we have seen in earlier chapters, and to regulate the lives of the people in a multitude of ways little dreamed of by the makers of the Constitution. This has been possible because of the principle of IMPLIED POWERS in the Constitution. This means that some of the powers expressly granted in the Constitution have been broadly interpreted to IMPLY powers not expressly stated. There are certain clauses in the Constitution that especially lend themselves to such broad interpretation. For example, after the enumeration of the powers which Congress may exercise, in section 8 of Article I, clause 18 of that section gives Congress power "to make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers ..." Another clause whose liberal interpretation has been responsible for much of the service performed by the national government is that giving it the power to regulate interstate commerce (Art. I, sec. 8, clause 3).

In the early days of our government the Federalist party, under the leadership of Alexander Hamilton, proposed the creation of a NATIONAL BANK. The Republican party under Jefferson opposed this because the Constitution did not expressly provide for it, and because it was feared that it would give the national government too much power. But the "broad constructionists" argued that a national bank was a "necessary and proper" means to enable the national government "to borrow money on the credit of the United States" and to exercise other financial powers expressly granted in the Constitution. The supreme court of the United States supported the latter view, and the national bank became a fact.

The building of roads and other internal improvements by the national government have always been opposed by the "strict constructionists," except where roads were clearly "post-roads" (Article 1, section.8, clause 7). But the "broad constructionists" argued that roads were "necessary and proper" to provide "for the common defense," and also as a means "to regulate commerce among the several states."

Most of the work that the national government has done for the promotion of the public health, such as the passage and enforcement of the "pure food and drugs act," the inspection of livestock and of slaughterhouses, and the attempt to regulate child labor, has been done under the authority of the clause giving Congress power to regulate interstate commerce.


It has been the duty of the Supreme Court of the United States to decide finally whether much of the new service undertaken by the national government is in accordance with the Constitution or not, and this court has been responsible for most of the expansion of the service rendered, because of its liberal interpretation of the Constitution.

Why should the power to regulate interstate commerce also give Congress the power to require the inspection of cattle in your neighborhood? or to forbid the use of harmful substances in patent medicines? or to forbid the employment in factories of children?

Find out what you can about the influence of John Marshall, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, in extending the powers of the national government.


The Constitution vests the executive power in the President of the United States (Art. II, sec. I), and he alone is responsible to the people for the execution of the laws. The people are protected against abuse of this power in the hands of one man by various constitutional provisions. The President's term of office is limited to four years, though he may be reelected. In case of improper conduct in office, he may be removed by IMPEACHMENT. The impeachment charges must be brought against him by the House of Representatives, and the Senate, presided over by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, must act as a court to try the case. Moreover, even the President must act according to law, and in so far as his duties are not prescribed by the Constitution they are prescribed by Congress. Congress must also create the machinery by which the President executes the laws, and it must appropriate the necessary money. The Senate exercises a further control over the President in that it must approve all appointments and all treaties made by him.


The method of electing the President provided in the Constitution was intended to insure a wise choice, and also shows a lack of complete confidence in the people on the part of the framers of the Constitution. He was to be elected by a body of ELECTORS, chosen by the several states "in such manner as the legislatures thereof may direct," the number of electors from each state to equal the whole number of senators and representatives from that state (Art. II, sec. 2). These electors were originally chosen by the legislatures of the states, but are now elected by the people. When voters "vote for the President" every four years, they in reality only vote for these electors who, in turn, cast their votes for the President.


In the method of electing the President we find one of the points where the intention of the framers of the Constitution has clearly been thwarted. It was obviously the intention that the electors chosen by the states should use their own discretion in the choice of the President. But in practice to-day, the entire body of electors from each state always represents the victorious political party, and casts its vote invariably for the presidential candidate already nominated by the party machinery. We still elect the electors, and the electors go through the form of electing the President; but their part in the procedure is now entirely useless.


The Vice-President of the United States is elected at the same time and by the same method as the President. But he has no executive duties whatever so long as the President is capable of performing his duties. In order that he might have something to do, he was made presiding officer of the Senate, but even there he has no vote.

Investigate and report:

The qualifications necessary to hold the office of President (Const., Art. II, sec. I, cl. 5).

How the electors elect the President (Const., Amend. XII).

Who would become President if both the President and the Vice- President should die.

The salary of the President.

The oath taken by the President on assuming office. The difference between an oath and an affirmation (Art. II, sec. i, cl. 8).

The powers of the President (Art. II, sec. 2).

A President who was impeached.

Why no President has been elected for a third term.

Advantages and disadvantages of a longer term for the President.


The President is at the head of a stupendous service organization which was not ready-made by the Constitution, but which has been gradually created by acts of Congress under its express and implied powers. The Constitution did not even create the great administrative departments through which the President works, although it implied that such departments should be created: "The President ... may require the opinion, in writing, of the principal officer in each of the executive departments, upon any subject relating to the duties of their respective offices" (Art. II, sec. 2, cl. i). The heads of these departments are appointed by the President, are responsible to him, and may be removed by him. Together they constitute the President's CABINET, meeting with him frequently to discuss the affairs of their departments and matters of public policy.


Five of these administrative departments were created during Washington's administration. These five have grown to cover a multitude of activities that were not at first contemplated, and five other great departments have since been created.

The DEPARTMENT OF STATE maintains relations between the United States and foreign powers. The Secretary of State, acting for the President, negotiates treaties with foreign governments, and is in constant communication with the ambassadors, ministers, consuls, and other representatives of our government in foreign countries, and with similar representatives of foreign governments in this country. This department is the medium of communication between the President and the governors of the several states. The Secretary of State has in his keeping the treaties and laws of the United States, and also the Great Seal of the United States, which he affixes to proclamations, commissions, and other official papers. Through him the rights of American citizens in foreign countries are looked after. He is first in rank among the members of the cabinet, and by law would succeed to the Presidency in case of the death or disability of both the President and the Vice- President.

The DEPARTMENT OF THE TREASURY has at its head the Secretary of the Treasury, who is the financial manager of the national government. He prepares plans for, and superintends the collection of, the public revenues; determines the manner of keeping the public accounts; directs the coinage and printing of money. He also controls the construction and maintenance of public buildings, and administers the public health service and the life- saving service.

The DEPARTMENT OF WAR is directed by the Secretary of War, who, under the President, controls the military establishment and superintends the national defense. He also administers river and harbor improvements, the prevention of obstruction to navigation, and the building of bridges over navigable rivers when authorized by Congress. He also has direction of the Bureau of Insular Affairs, which supervises the government of Porto Rico and the Philippines.

The DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE has at its head the Attorney General, who is the chief law officer of the government, and represents it in all matters of a legal nature. He is the legal adviser of the President and of the several executive departments, and supervises all United States attorneys and marshals in the judicial districts into which the country is divided.

The POST-OFFICE DEPARTMENT is administered by the Postmaster General.

The DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY, under the Secretary of the Navy, has charge of the "construction, manning, equipment, and employment of vessels of war."

The DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR was created to relieve the Department of State of work relating to internal affairs, and now embraces a wide variety of duties. At its head is the Secretary of the Interior. Through many bureaus and divisions it administers the public lands, the national parks, the giving of patents for inventions, the pensioning of soldiers, Indian affairs, education, the reclamation service, the geological survey, the improvement of mining methods for the safety of miners, certain matters pertaining to the territories of the United States, and certain institutions in the District of Columbia.

The DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE is directed by the Secretary of Agriculture. Its work is described in Chapter XII.

The DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE, under the Secretary of Commerce, promotes the commercial interests of the country in many ways. It includes in its organization the Bureau of Foreign and Domestic Commerce, the Bureau of Corporations, the Census Bureau, the Bureau of Lighthouses, the Bureau of Navigation, the Bureau of Fisheries, and the Bureau of Standards.

The DEPARTMENT OF LABOR, under the Secretary of Labor, has for its purpose "fostering, promoting, and developing the welfare of the wage earners of the United States, improving their working conditions, and advancing their opportunities for profitable employment." Among its important bureaus are those of Immigration and of Naturalization, and the Children's Bureau, which investigates and reports upon "all matters pertaining to the welfare of children and child life among all classes of our people."


In addition to these great administrative departments with their numerous bureaus and subdivisions, there are various boards, commissions and establishments that are independent of the departments.

Some of the most important of these are the Interstate Commerce Commission, the Civil Service Commission (see below), the Federal Reserve Board, the Federal Trade Commission, the United States Tariff Commission, the Board of Mediation and Conciliation, the United States Bureau of Efficiency, the Federal Board of Vocational Education, the Panama Canal.

Of another kind are the Library of Congress which includes the Copyright Office; the Government Printing Office; the Smithsonian Institution, including the National Museum and the National Zoological Park.

There are many others. During the recent war a great variety of new administrative commissions and boards were created for the emergency. Most of these have been, or are to be, discontinued, though some of them may survive. Such were the Council of National Defense, the Committee on Public Information, the Food Administration, the Fuel Administration, the United States Shipping Board, the War Trade Board, the Director General of Railroads.


The detailed work of this vast service organization is carried on by about 400,000 employees (not counting the army and the navy). These constitute the CIVIL SERVICE. The quality of service depends largely upon the efficiency of these employees. The task of filling all these places is a large one. In Andrew Jackson's administration (1829-1837) the "spoils system" was introduced, which means that government positions were treated by the victorious party as "the spoils of victory," to be given to members of the victorious party as rewards for party service without much regard to fitness for the work to be done. Whenever the administration passed from one party to another, the army of civil service employees was displaced by another of new employees. Not only did this result in inefficient service, but the time of the President and the heads of the departments was largely consumed in considering the claims of those seeking appointment.

Moreover, since appointments could be made only "with the advice and consent" of the Senate, senators were besieged by applicants for positions and their friends. The President, overwhelmed by the multitude of appointments to be made, came to rely almost wholly upon the advice of the senators, and even of members of the House of Representatives, for appointments in their states and districts. Thus, in effect, appointments were made by members of Congress rather than by the President who was really responsible. No system could have been devised more wasteful of the time of the executive and legislative branches of the government, or more conducive to inefficiency.


The spoils system became a great offense to the nation, but it was not until President Garfield was murdered by a disappointed office seeker that Congress, in 1883, passed a law for the reform of the civil service. Candidates for many positions in the civil service were required to pass an examination designed to prove their fitness for the work to be done, and a CIVIL SERVICE COMMISSION was created to administer the law and to conduct the examinations, which are held at stated intervals in different parts of the country. Those appointed under this system cannot be removed except for cause. Even at the present time, however, only about half of the civil service is subject to this MERIT SYSTEM. From the above description of the work of the several executive departments select topics for special investigation and report; such as:

The work of United States Consuls. Coining money; the United States Bureau of Engraving.

The life-saving service of the United States.

The United States Army in war and peace.

The United States Army as an organization to save life, especially in its work of sanitation in territories occupied.

Representatives of the United States Department of Justice in your community, and examples of their work.

Building a battleship. Training for the navy.

Exploits of the navy in war. The work of the navy in time of peace.

The work of the patent office; of the bureau of Indian affairs; of the geological survey; of the bureau of mines.

Taking the United States census.

The work of the bureau of fisheries.

Marvels of the bureau of standards.

The immigration bureau.

Work of the children's bureau.

How an immigrant is naturalized.

The Government Printing Office.

The Congressional Library.

The spoils system in Andrew Jackson's administration.

How would you go about it to take an examination for the civil service?

Is there any reason why a mail carrier or a clerk in a government office should be a Republican or a Democrat?

What employees of the United States civil service are there in your community?


Efficient government requires strong, clearly recognized leadership. Democratic government requires that its leadership shall be responsive to the needs of the people and under their control. The problem of how to secure strong leadership and controlled leadership at one and the same time is a difficult one. So far as the executive branch of government alone is concerned, the framers of the Constitution secured strength by concentrating full responsibility in the President. But did they expect him to be their leader in the government as a whole; that is, in formulating the policies of government that should serve as the basis for legislation? We are in the habit of thinking of him as our national leader, but was he made so in fact?


In fact, the framers of the Constitution were apparently more concerned about maintaining control over the President than about clearly making him the nation's leader. About the only indication the Constitution contains that he was to be such a leader is the statement that he "shall from time to time give to the Congress information of the state of the Union, and recommend to their consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient" (Art. II, sec.3). He does submit recommendations to Congress at the opening of each of its terms and often at other times. If the President and the majority in Congress are of the same political party, Congress is pretty likely to follow the President's lead; or, if the President has a commanding personality and is clearly popular with the people, he may force measures through even an unwilling Congress. But if differences arise between the President and Congress, especially when one or both houses of Congress are of the opposite party from the President, his recommendations may be entirely ignored. By our system of "checks and balances" the President is "controlled," but he ceases to be a leader when he does not have the "following" of Congress, or of the majority of the people.

President Wilson began his second administration with a majority in both houses of Congress of his political party, and apparently in popular favor. He was clearly accepted as leader and practically all of his proposed measures were favorably acted upon by Congress. In the middle of this administration a congressional election occurred which resulted in a majority in both houses of the opposing party. This result might be considered as a popular vote against the leadership of the President, and his opponents did consider it so. It cannot be absolutely certain that this was intended, for the people were not voting directly on this question. Whether this was true or not, Congress refused to follow his leadership in many important questions, including the treaty of peace with Germany.


It will be helpful to compare this situation with the method by which England has worked out the problem of leadership and control of leadership.

The real executive head in the English government is the prime minister. The king appoints the prime minister, but he always chooses for the position THE RECOGNIZED LEADER OF THE POLITICAL PARTY THAT IS IN THE MAJORITY in the House of Commons (which corresponds to our House of Representatives).

The prime minister having been appointed, he then selects the other members of his cabinet, who are to be the heads of the executive departments, and WHO ARE ALSO MEMBERS OF PARLIAMENT.

The prime minister and the other members of the cabinet have seats in the House of Commons, contrary to the practice in our country. THEY ALSO TAKE THE LEAD IN LEGISLATION, for most of the important bills considered in the House of Commons are planned and introduced by the cabinet. So the executive and legislative branches of the English government are not separated as in our country. The same group of men manage the service organization and lead in planning the legislation that makes the service possible.

It sometimes happens, however, that the cabinet introduces a measure which, after discussion, a majority of the House of Commons rejects. This means that on this question the cabinet no longer represents the majority in the House. Then one of two things happens. EITHER THE CABINET RESIGNS in a body to make way for a new cabinet that does represent the majority; OR THE PRIME MINISTER ASKS FOR A GENERAL ELECTION FOR MEMBERS OF THE HOUSE OF COMMONS. If at this election a majority is again returned that is opposed to the cabinet, it means that the cabinet no longer leads the people, and it resigns. If a majority is returned in support of the cabinet, it means that the old House was no longer representative of the people, and the old cabinet retains its leadership.

This system gives the English people MORE DIRECT CONTROL over their government than we have in our country; it is very much like the method of RECALL that is used in some of our states. At the same time, it assures a real executive leadership WITHIN THE GOVERNMENT, a leadership that is both responsive and responsible to the people.


Not only does our Constitution fail to provide clearly for responsible leadership within the government, but our system of "checks and balances," our party system of government, and the organization and rules of Congress, all taken together, have tended to confuse our leadership, and to impose upon us an irresponsible leadership, OUTSIDE of the government as outlined by the Constitution. To understand this it will first be necessary to examine the organization of Congress.


Congress, like the state legislatures, consists of two chambers, the House of Representatives and the Senate; this being another instance of "checks and balances."

The creation of two chambers in the Congress made possible a satisfactory settlement of a dispute in the Constitutional Convention with regard to the basis of representation. The larger states wanted representation proportional to their population, while the smaller states, insisted upon EQUAL representation for all the states. It was settled that there should be equal representation in the Senate, and proportional representation in the House of Representatives. This is one of a series of compromises that had to be made between the two parties in the convention. In fact, the Constitution is a series of compromises from beginning to end. Only thirty-nine of the fifty-five delegates in the convention signed the Constitution, and it is probable that no one even of the thirty-nine was wholly pleased with it.


The number of representatives in the first Congress from each state was fixed in the Constitution, and provision made for a census in 1790 and every ten years thereafter, on the basis of which a reapportionment should be made. At present there are 435 members of the House, one for about every 212,000 of the population. They are elected by direct vote of the people, one from each of the CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICTS into which each state is divided, and for a term of two years.


There are two senators from each state. The Constitution provided that they were to be elected by the state legislatures, another evidence of distrust of the people. In 1913, the seventeenth amendment to the Constitution was enacted, providing for the election of senators by popular vote, showing the growing spirit of democracy and the distrust of the state legislatures. Senators are elected for six years, but the term of only one third of them expires at the same time, so that at least two thirds of the Senate have always had at least two years' experience. No citizen may become a senator until he is thirty years of age, while one may become a member of the lower house at twenty-five.


The House of Representatives has one important power not possessed by the Senate: it alone can originate bills for raising revenue. This is because the representatives were supposed to be more directly representative of the people than the senators. However, the Senate may amend such bills, and often succeeds in forcing the House to accept such radical amendments as practically to destroy the advantage possessed by the latter in its power to originate the bills.

In addition to its lawmaking powers, the Senate was intended to be an advisory council to the President. Only with its "advice and consent" may the President make appointments and treaties.

Investigate and report on the following:

The compromises of the Constitution.

The census of 1920.

The number of congressional districts in your state, and the number of the one you live in.

The names of your representative and senators.

The qualifications for election to the House of Representatives and to the Senate (Art. I, secs. 2 and 3). Compare with the qualifications for election to the two houses of your legislature.

The characteristics of the Senate that make it more conservative than the House of Representatives. The meaning of "conservatism."

Why the Senate should be more conservative than the House.

The "long" and "short" sessions of Congress.

How vacancies in Congress are filled between elections.

Legislation in which the representative from your district has been especially interested during the last session of Congress.

In England a member of the House of Commons is not required to be a resident of the district which he represents. Arguments for and against this plan.

Debate the question: RESOLVED, that our Constitution should be amended to provide for a "responsible cabinet government" as in England.


The presiding officer of the Senate is the Vice-President of the United States, while that of the House of Representatives is a SPEAKER elected by the House. The Vice-President has no vote in the Senate except in case of a tie, when he may cast the deciding vote. The Speaker, on the other hand, has all the rights of any other member and has large powers by virtue of his position. He is always elected by a strictly party vote, and therefore represents the majority party in the House.


As in the state legislatures, and for the same reason, most of the work of legislation in Congress is done by standing committees, of which there are about sixty in the House and about seventy-five in the Senate. As in the state legislatures, these committees are chosen on party lines, the chairmen and the majority of the members always being of the majority party. The procedure by which legislation is carried on in Congress is very much the same as that in the state legislatures, and has the same advantages and disadvantages. There is even greater necessity for the committee organization and for rules because of the vastly greater number of bills introduced. In a recent Congress more than 33,000 bills were introduced in the House of Representatives alone. Whereas in the state legislatures some of the rules of procedure are fixed by the state constitutions, the rules of Congress are determined entirely by each house for itself. The committee on rules in each house, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and the chairmen of the committees in both houses, may run things as they see fit. That this is done there is plenty of evidence, such as the following words of a member of Congress:

You send important questions to a committee, you put into the hands of a few men the power to bring in bills, and then they are brought in with an ironclad rule, and rammed down the throats of members; and then those measures are sent out as being the deliberate judgment of the Congress of the United States when no deliberate judgment has been expressed by any man.


It is this procedure in Congress that causes leadership to become diffused, hidden, and often to pass outside of the government altogether into the hands of "bosses" and special "interests." There can be no well-conceived PLAN worked out by responsible leaders and approved by Congress as a whole. There may be "plans," worked out by leaders in Congress, but they are likely to be plans designed to serve party ends rather than to promote a well- thought-out program of national development. Thousands of bills of the greatest variety are introduced by individual members and handled by different committees acting independently of one another and often at cross purposes.


The legislative and executive branches of government are each extremely jealous of any encroachment upon its powers by the other. It is not always easy to decide just where the dividing line lies between the powers properly exercised by each. It is maintained on the one hand that Congress is encroaching on the rightful domain of the executive; and at least it is true that while it denies the President responsible leadership in determining the policies of the government, it has failed to substitute any other responsible leadership, and has even made leadership obscure. On the other hand, it is maintained that the executive encroaches upon the powers of Congress. While this chapter was being written a member of the House of Representatives made a speech in which he said:

This bill presents a fine specimen of bureaucratic legislation. [Footnote: "Bureaucratic legislation" here means lawmaking by bureaus in the executive branch of the government.] If the Congress ever intends, as it surely does, to regain the powers granted it by the fathers, of which it is now temporarily deprived by bureaucratic encroachment, now is the time to start upon such a campaign by defeating by a decisive majority the bill now offered for your consideration ... Every time you weaken Congress by the establishment of a bureau in which the authority of Congress is lessened, you lay one more stone in the erection of the temple of autocracy ... These bureaus are not only legislating by administrative processes but are usurping the power and prerogatives of the people's courts ...


It is the business of the people's representatives in the law- making branch of government not merely to make laws, but also to watch and control the executive. The great English philosopher, John Stuart Mill (1806-1873), thus stated the purpose of the English House of Commons:

To watch and control the government; [Footnote: "Government" here refers to the executive branch.] to throw the light of publicity on its acts; to compel a full explanation and justification of all of them which any one considers questionable; to censure them if found condemnable; to be at once the nation's committee on grievances; an arena in which not only the opinion of the nation, but that of every section of it, and as far as possible, of every eminent individual that it contains, can produce itself in full sight and challenge full discussion.

As we have seen, the English House of Commons has a way to control executive leadership without destroying it. Even if we desired to do so, we could not adopt the English plan without changing our Constitution. But there are ways in which the same result could in a measure be accomplished without such change. One of these is by a well-organized BUDGET SYSTEM.


The methods of making appropriations for the purposes of our national government have been as unbusinesslike as in the states. Charges of extravagance and inefficiency have been made freely, the blame being placed sometimes upon Congress and sometimes upon the executive departments. Both are at fault; and the difficulty is that it is almost impossible to fix the responsibility anywhere.


Although the national government, unlike the states, has a single- headed executive, the executive departments are composed of a multitude of bureaus and other subdivisions that are not well organized in their relations to one another. There is overlapping, duplication, and even conflict of work. The director of finance of the War Department said that in the recent war,

The War Department entered this war without any fixed or carefully digested and prepared financial system. There were at the beginning of the war five ... bureaus each independent of the others, each making its own contracts, doing its own purchasing, doing its own accounting, with as many different methods as there were bureaus. As a result they were competing with each other in a market where the supplies in many cases for which they were competing were restricted in amount ... There was no central authority to prune, revise, or compare estimates submitted and to coordinate expenditures, and that naturally resulted in overlappings and duplications, and some of them of a large amount. [Footnote: Testimony before Budget Committee, quoted by Will Payne, "Your Budget," Saturday Evening Post, Jan. 3, 1920, p. 32.]

The responsibility is partly in the executive department; but it is also partly in Congress, for it creates bureaus, defines their duties, appropriates money for them. And in Congress the responsibility is divided among various committees.

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