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The purpose of this book is to ascertain and define the being of the nation in its unity and continuity. There is moving toward its realization in national laws and institutions, the necessary being of the nation itself. The nation thus becomes an object of political knowledge.
It is no abstraction, but in this alone is the avoidance of abstractions. It avoids, on the one hand, an empty empiricism, that with the recognition of no consistent principle makes the nation only a formal organization, and politics only a succession of random experiments, hits, and ventures ; and on the other hand, avoids an abstract idealism, which, regarding the state also as only a formal organization, would shape all things after an imaginary polity and an abstract design. It is this conception of the state as involving unity and continuity which is the condition of political science, that is to be set forth alike against the political empiric and the political dogmatist. It is this alone which can avert the danger which there is in the application of formal and abstract conceptions in politics. It is a logic which is presumed in politics, — if politics be an object of knowledge, — but a logic formed in the necessary conception and manifest in the realization of the nation, not the barren forms of logic as it is held in the notions of the schools. In this conception that certainly is to be retained which works well, but political science is to apprehend the law and condition of its working.
The apprehension is of the realization of the nation in the United States, its substance, its rights, and its powers, underlying but manifest in its whole form and organization.
This book had its beginning in a purpose to represent the nation in its moral being; to assert this moral being in its true position in politics; but the aim has been throughout as the conception widened, to define in their relative and positive character those principles which are the ground of political science. I do not believe that the teacher of ethics can avoid the subject of politics. I do not believe that there can be a separation of them in the thought of a people, but ethics will become abstract and formal, — the dry product of the schools; and politics be bereft of all its power to become at last even a name of reproach. The book may thus serve to indicate, perhaps, in some measure the sources of the power of American institutions in the formation of character.
I have written in the conception that holds politics itself as a science which is the ground of political education. In its apprehension of the bè.
ing of the nation, its unity and laws, which form the condition of science, political history, jurisprudence, political economy, and social statics, are separate and subordinate departments; political history is concerned with the rise and growth of institutions, and the comparative value of political constitutions; jurisprudence is the science of the jural law and civil organization; political economy is the science of wealth, of the relations of labor and capital, of the laws of production and exchange; social statics is the science of the laws of health and population ; international law may be regarded also as subordinate, since it. presumes the existence of separate nations, and is formed mainly in the conception in which the nation is held.
A larger space has been given in some instances to subjects of special interest in the immediate condition of affairs, as the jural and the economic representation of the nation, the relation of natural and political rights, the distinction of civil and political rights, the representative principle, the method and dangers of a representative constitution, and the relation and difference of the civil and the international state, a particular State, and the United States.
I have written with an obligation, which I am glad to acknowledge, to the Rev. Mr. Maurice of London, and to Hegel and Stahl, to Trendelenburg and Bluntschli; while I have sought by reference to them to indicate this, it has been larger than mere notes of reference can trace; and I am never sure but their words may have mingled unawares with my thought; I shall not regret this if it may lead any who may trace them to traverse those rich and ample fields, or if it may be an aid to larger knowledge. This only can be the aim of the worker; and it is much to contribute to the knowledge of the people in any form and in however slight a measure. The saddest of words are,—the people perish for lack of knowledge.
The slight references to the Alabama question I may say were written before the recent discussion of the subject, but I have seen no reason to change them.
The words “nation” and “state ” are used as synonymous, and a particular State in the United States is written “State” and is described as a commonwealth, as the commonwealth of Massachusetts or Virginia.
I have sought, however imperfectly, to give expression to the thought of the people in the late war, and that conception of the nation, which they who were so worthy, held worth living and dying for. I know how far it falls short of that conception which went with them to battle and sacrifice; yet I would most care to connect, if I may, my work with theirs, and trust it may be received by Him, who is the head of all, to whom their service was done.
2. Is in mere force or might.