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carrying into execution the foregoing powers.” By a liberal interpretation of this clause the powers of the federal government have been very greatly extended. Through legislative regulation, for example, the federal government exercises control over the railroads and other corporations, a control which may at any time easily pass into public ownership of these corporations; and it has this power because it is a “necessary and proper” power for
carrying into execution the harmless-looking power “to regulate commerce between the several
The Constitution is so elastic that there is almost no limit to the extension of the powers of the federal government by means of judicial interpretation; the only thing necessary is to have a national public opinion which favors the extension. As we say in the United States, “the decisions of the Supreme Court follow the election returns."
But there are some powers which cannot be read into the Constitution, which can be put there only by a formal amendment of the Constitution. And in recent years it has become clear that the formal amendment is a less difficult matter than was formerly supposed. This also is only a matter of getting a sufficiently consolidated national public opinion. Such an opinion in America is likely to come gradually, without a great deal of discussion and without any upheaval; and it is brought about by the constant social experimentation which is going on in the states and local communities far more than by argument and discussion. Americans are but little inclined to take up with ideas or theories simply because they have a logical consistency; but on the other hand they are not inclined to hold to any custom merely because it is old. Their aims are practical and their methods direct; and when any new thing is proposed to them their first question is, “How will it work?” You may say that it is only just that women should have the right to vote, or you may say that to refuse women the vote is inconsistent with the principles of the Declaration of Independence; but what nine men out of ten will ask is: “Why do women need to vote? How will it work out in practice?” Now, it is a great advantage of our federal system that it admits of trying out this new idea on a small scale. For a long time we have been experimenting with woman's suffrage, first in municipal elections, then in one state after another. The average American has accordingly not argued much about woman's suffrage; he has watched it work in one state after another; and as it seems to work well enough, and nothing serious happens where it is tried, the average American finds himself in favor of woman's suffrage without really knowing how. The truth is that he has simply become accustomed to the idea of it, and he finds himself saying, “Well, I suppose women ought to have a right to vote.” What he really thinks is: “Woman's suffrage seems to work well enough where it is tried; there seems to be no harm in it. I expect it is bound to come.”
When Americans get the idea that a thing is “bound to come,
the battle is won. Women will soon have the right to vote throughout the United States because the opinion that “it is bound to come” is taking hold of the country. The same is true of the prohibition movement. This has been an issue in the United States for fifty years; and in some states the manufacture and sale of alcoholic liquors have been prohibited for a generation. The movement has spread rapidly in recent years, until now over half the states are what we call “dry” states. The war has in the mean time given such an impetus to the movement that prohibition, like woman's suffrage, is coming to be regarded as one of the things that “are bound to come.” National opinion is already so far crystallized on this question that Congress has voted a constitutional amendment, which is now before the state legislatures for ratification. It is extremely probable that it will receive the approval of the necessary three-fourths of the states, in which case the power of the states to regulate the manufacture and sale of liquors will once for all cease. 1
It all comes back to the question of a thoroughly established national public opinion. If the people really want to change the Constitution it is a simple matter to do so. The system of written constitutional guaranties prevents hasty action, and it preserves a great deal of local liberty as long as there is a marked divergence of interests and ideas throughout the country in respect to any question; but there is nothing in the system of written constitutions or in the system of federal government to prevent the popular will, when it is once certain what the popular will is, from having its way. If its way
leads to an ever greater degree of equality in the distribution of wealth, if the popular will is bent upon establishing a genuine social democracy, there is no power either in men or in institutions to prevent the achievement of these ends.
1 This proposed amendment nas, since the above was written, been ratified by the necessary three-fourths of the states.
NEW WORLD DEMOCRACY AND OLD WORLD
HE first years of independence were taken
up with attempts to solve the many problems of peaceful reconstruction under a federal government which was one of the weakest ever devised by the hand of man. By 1786 all far-sighted men realized that a stronger bond of union would have to be created if the United States were not to dissolve into thirteen completely independent republics; and the movement for strengthening the Articles of Confederation resulted in the Constitutional Convention of 1787 which formulated the present Constitution. Within the next two years
the Constitution was referred to the several states for ratification, and in 1789 the new government went into operation with the inauguration of George Washington as the first President. It was essentially over the ques