Project Gutenberg's The Constitution of the United States, by James M. Beck
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Title: The Constitution of the United States A Brief Study of the Genesis, Formulation and Political Philosophy of the Constitution
Author: James M. Beck
Release Date: November 12, 2003 [EBook #10065]
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[Illustration: Photo Henry Dixon & Son From the Portrait painted by
Harrington Mann for Gray's Inn]
JAMES M. BECK
HONORARY BENCHER OF GRAY'S INN
The Constitution of the United States
A brief Study of the Genesis, Formulation and Political Philosophy of the Constitution of the United States
By James M. Beck, LL.D.
Solicitor-General of the United States, Honorary Bencher of Gray's Inn
With a Preface by The Earl of Balfour
"Where there is no vision, the people perish; but he that keepeth the Law, happy is he."—Proverbs xxix. 18
"Remove not the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set."—Proverbs xxii. 28
TO THE HON. HARRY M. DAUGHERTY
ATTORNEY-GENERAL OF THE UNITED STATES
A TRUE AND LOYAL FRIEND, A FAIR AND CHIVALROUS FOE
With whom it is the author's great privilege to collaborate as Solicitor-General in defending and vindicating in the Supreme Court of the United States the principles and mandates of its Constitution
July 14 1922
Preface by the Earl of Balfour
I have been greatly honoured by your invitation to take the chair on this interesting occasion. It gives me special pleasure to be able to introduce to this distinguished audience my friend, Mr. Beck, Solicitor-General of the United States. It is a great and responsible office; but long before he held it he was known to the English public and to English readers as the author who, perhaps more than any other writer in our language, contributed a statement of the Allied case in the Great War which produced effects far beyond the country in which it was written or the public to which it was first addressed. Mr. Beck approached that great theme in the spirit of a great judge; he marshalled his arguments with the skill of a great advocate, and the combination of these qualities—qualities, highly appreciated everywhere, but nowhere more than in this Hall and among a Gray's Inn audience—has given an epoch-making character to his work. To-day he comes before us in a different character. He is neither judge nor advocate, but historian: and he offers to guide us through one of the most interesting and important enterprises in which our common race has ever been engaged.
The framers of the American Constitution were faced with an entirely new problem, so far, at all events, as the English-speaking world was concerned; and though they founded their doctrines upon the English traditions of law and liberty, they had to deal with circumstances which none of their British progenitors had to face, and they showed a masterly spirit in adapting the ideas of which they were the heirs to a new country and new conditions. The result is one of the greatest pieces of constructive statesmanship ever accomplished. We, who belong to the British Empire, are at this moment engaged, under very different circumstances, in welding slowly and gradually the scattered fragments of the British Empire into an organic whole, which must, from the very nature of its geographical situation, have a Constitution as different from that of the British Isles, as the Constitution of the British Isles is different from that of the American States. But all three spring from one root; all three are carried out by men of like political ideals; all three are destined to promote the cause of ordered liberty throughout the world. In the meanwhile we on this side of the Atlantic cannot do better than study, under the most favourable and fortunate conditions, the story of the great constitutional adventure which has given us the United States of America.
[Footnote 1: [Address of the Earl of Balfour as Chairman on the occasion of the delivery on June 13, 1922, in Gray's Inn of the first of the lectures herein reprinted.]]
Introduction by Sir John Simon, K.C.
I have the privilege and the honour of adding a few words to express our thanks to the Solicitor-General of the United States for this memorable course of lectures. They are memorable alike for their subject and their form; alike for the place in which we are met and for the man who has so generously given of his time and learning for our instruction. Mr. Beck is always a welcome visitor to our shores, and nowhere is he more welcome than in these ancient Inns of Court which are the home and source of law for Americans and Englishmen alike. In contemplating the edifice reared by the Fathers of the American Constitution we take pride in remembering that it was built upon British foundations by men, many of whom were trained in the English Courts; and when Mr. Beck lectures on this subject to us, our interest and our sympathy are redoubled by the thought that whatever differences there may be between the Old World and the New, citizens of the United States and ourselves are the Sons of a Common Mother and jointly inherit the treasure of the Common Law. And we cannot part with Mr. Beck on this occasion without a personal word. Plato records a saying of Socrates that the dog is a true philosopher because philosophy is love of knowledge, and a dog, while growling at strangers, always welcomes the friends that he knows. And the British public often greets its visitors with a touch of this canine philosophy. We regard Mr. Beck, not as a casual visitor, but as a firm friend to whom we owe much; he has been here again and again and we hope will often repeat his visits, and Englishmen will never forget how, at a crisis in our fate, Mr. James Beck profoundly influenced the judgment of the neutral world and vindicated, by his masterly and sympathetic argument, the justice of our cause.
[Footnote 2: Address of Sir John Simon on the conclusion, on June 19,1922, of the three lectures herein printed.]
This book is a result of three lectures, which were delivered in the Hall of Gray's Inn, London, on June 13, 15, and 19, 1922, respectively, under the auspices and on the invitation of the University of London. The invitation originated with the University of Manchester, which, through its then Vice-Chancellor, Dr. Ramsay Muir, two years ago graciously invited me to visit Manchester and explain American political institutions to the undergraduates. Subsequently I was greatly honoured when the Universities of Cambridge, Edinburgh and London joined in the invitation.
Unfortunately for me—for I greatly valued the privilege of explaining the