Division and Reunion

Longmans, Green, and Company
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Publisher
Longmans, Green, and Company
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Published on
Dec 31, 1921
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Pages
455
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Language
English
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This content is DRM free.
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One of the genuine classics of American political science literature, Constitutional Government in the United States is also a subtle and influential criticism of the American founding fathers produced during the Progressive Era. Wilson's interpretation of the Constitution shaped the thought of scholars and students of American politics. His definition of constitutional government and the place of the United States in the development of constitutional theory continues to shape discourse today. Wilson discusses the three branches of government in the United States, the relation between the states and the federal government and party government in a manner quite distinct from the founding fathers.

Constitutional Government has its origins in a series of lectures Wilson delivered at Columbia University in 1907. It is carefully organized around three separate but mutually supporting arguments. First, is the idea that constitutional government evolves historically from primitive beginnings of the state toward a universal and ideal form. Second, this idea of historical evolution contains within it an analysis of how and where the Constitution fits into the evolutionary process as a whole. Third, the historical thesis itself provides a prescription for bringing American government, and with it the Constitution, into accord with his first principle of the ideal form of modern government.

In his new introduction, Sidney A. Pearson explores how, with Constitutional Government in the United States, Wilson helped create a new genre of political writing using the point of view of a "literary politician." He discusses Wilson's intention to replace the constitutional argument of the founders with one of his own based on the application of Darwinian metaphor in a political science framework. And he examines the differences between the views launched by Wilson and those set forth by James Madison in The Federalist. This is an essential work for all interested in the evolution of American political thought.

The government of the United States is a living system. As such, it is subject to subtle change and modification over time, but still maintains a constancy via its central nervous system-a congressional form of rule. Woodrow Wilson saw congressional government as "Committee" government. It is administered by semi-independent executive agents who obey the dictates of a legislature, though the agents themselves are not of ultimate authority or accountability. Written by Wilson when he was a twenty-eight-year-old graduate student, this is an astounding examination of the American legislative branches, especially in light of the fact that Wilson had not yet even visited Congress at the time of its composition.

Wilson divides Congressional Government into six parts. In part one, his introductory statement, Wilson analyzes the need for a federal Constitution and asks whether or not it is still a document that should be unquestioningly venerated. In part two, Wilson describes the make-up and functions of the House of Representatives in painstaking detail. Part three is concerned with taxation and financial administration by the government and its resulting economic repercussions. Part four is an explanation of the Senate's role in the legislative process. The electoral system and responsibilities of the president are the central concerns of part five. And Wilson concludes, in part six, with a both philosophical and practical summarization of the congressional form of the United States government, in which he also compares it to European modes of state governance.

In a new introduction specially prepared for this edition, William F. Connelly, Jr. compares Wilson, as a professional politician, to former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. He notes that Wilson's ideas, which have had a lasting influence, helped form Gingrich's outlook on the role of the Constitution and the executive branch in the legislative process. He also investigates Wilson's criticism of Madison's separation of powers. Congressional Government is a document of continuing relevance, and will be essential for those interested in politics and American history.

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