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The commoner. (Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-1923, January 31, 1913, Image 1

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The Commoner.
WOL. 13, NO. 4
Lincoln, Nebraska, January 31, 1913
Whole Number 628
The American Constitution
1 -J U .
s )tjM "SfjflsT
January 15, 1913. Mr. Boris snatzicy,
Igishlnskaja No. 19, St. Petersburg, Russia. My
Itear Sir: Your favor at hand. I regret ex-
dingly that I was not able to meet you while
ISithls country, especially since I fear, from your
ifiJtter, that you have returned to Russia with an
Kroneous opinion of our constitutional system,
Bsfcoinpared with that of Great Britain.
''dBK'ri. t 4-. 4Vo4- 1-i - miMinrn rt flin Amnrlpnn
'l 5CP ... . . . . m . -- J
y constitution neagea aDout tne exerciBe or popu
f ." . .. .. ... . ... ,,.
. ' , Jar autnority witn restrictions, some oi wmcn
W$k .r now recognized as unnecessary, and we
'H&fAC, . , ... .. .,.. ., ..1..H
Must aamit, too, mat written constuuuous yro
OJMig the period required for the making of
rafianges in laws and customs. But I believo
SSkt the greater deliberation compelled by a
Sonstitution is an advantage, rather than a dis-
ffi&vantage. and that arguments based upon such
Wri-., ''Wflilays as the constitution invites are outweighed
y.tf 'Xl other benefits.
s TExperience has justified the wisdom of the
iOiMframers of our constitution in separating the
tticutive, legislative and judicial departments
mtff;tiia government, and in estaoiisninc a system
wchecks and balances which compels co-opera
Mtlon between a large number of persons. Those
prepared, tne constitution, wnno zeaious
vocates of popular government, wore anxious
protect the people against ambitious individ-
The danger from ambition still exists,
t as there is now a larger confidence in the
elligenco and capacity of the people, we aTe
' rlii nil v fihsincrimr mich nrovisirmH of thn con
stitution as unnecessarily restrain popular
For instance, there is before the states for
ratification, a constitutional amendment, re
famtly submitted, providing for the popular
'lection of senators. This will doubtless become
aTpart of the constitution as soon as the states
can act upon it.
A movement is also on foot to make the con
stitution more easily amendable, and I have no
itoubt that this will succeed, although it may be
several years before the reform is accomplished.
&t present, an amendment to the constitution
must be submitted by a TWO-THIRDS vote of
both houses, and then ratified by a THREE-
FOURTHS of the states. There is no good
reason why an amendment should not be sub
mitted by a MAJORITY vote of both houses;
neither is there any valid reason why more than
a majority of the states If they include a ma
jority of the population should be required for
The initiative and referendum, as you sug
gest, are being adopted in the states. The initia
tive and referendum furnish a better method of
submitting questions to the judgment of the
voters than the English method of dissolving
parliament. When a vote is taken upon INDI
VIDUALS, it is impossible to confine the election
,, to any one issue, although some particular
' .'tow
r'A rf
' '.i
. .-.,,
. :i
questions may bo tho cause of the appeal to the
people. Party ties havo weight and personal
popularity has its influence, so that tho re-election
of a member of parliament does not depend
entirely upon his position upon tho question of
issue. When, however, a question is presented
under tho initiative and referendum tho people
vote upon tho naked proposition and are not so
much influenced by either party ties or personal
You will find also that tho manner of nomi
nating our candidates for congress, and, under
the primary, our senators also, is much more
democratic than the method employed In Great
Britain. A member of congress must reside in
the state from which ho is chosen, and, in almost
every instance, he resides In his congressional
district. His nomination depends upon tho
voters of his party in hii3 district, and not upon
any national committee on outside organization.
Tho short term of our congressmen also tends
to keep theni in close touch with tho people.
Then, again, our system of paying a salary
enlarges the class from which representatives
may bo chosen, whereas in Groat Britain only a
limited number are able to indulge tho luxury
of service in parliament, except In the com
paratively few caseB whore labor or other
organizations pay tho salaries of members, and
then tho members are not as free as ours are
to represent the whole constituency. Class
consciousness is a factor that must bo taken
into account4&-representati:eJKgovernment, .as
elsewhere, and we approach toward popular
government in proportion as we permit freedom
in tho selection of those who are to speak ror
the people.
I do not mean to deny that England's system
has some advantages, but I believo that our
system has more and greater advantages and
that tho English people are much more likely
to borrow from our system than we are to
borrow from theirs. In fact, they have recently
adopted our method of paying a salary to mem
bers of parliament.
There is no comparison between our senate
and the house of lords. Whilo our senate is
not so immediately responsive to public senti
ment as our house of representatives it will
become, as soon as popular election is secured,
more responsive than it has been in tho past
it is much more so than tho British house of
lords. The measure recently exacted, limiting
the veto power of tho house of lords, was a con
fession that the old system had outlived Its use
fulness. I note what you say in regard to the Influence
exerted by Speaker Cannon and Senator Aid
rich. Speaker Cannon's influenco was due to
the rules of the house, which enabled him to
build up a machine through the appointment of
committees, and, to a degree, determine tho
course of legislation. This evil has already been
corrected in the house of representatives, the
power of appointing having been taken from
the speaker and lodged In the party caucus.
This is a step toward more representative gov
ernment. The plan adopted In the last congress may bo
modified, as experience discloses its faults,. but
the modifications will be In the direction of rules
more surely reflecting the will of tha people.
Senator Aldrich's influence was due partly to his
ability, partly to length of service and partly to
the rules of the senate which recognize the rule
of seniority to an indefensible extent. It Is
probable that these rules will, in tho near future,
be so changed as to bring the senate organiza
tion more into harmony with popular govern
- ment.
I can not leave this particular branch of the
subject without adding that a part of Senator
Aldrich's prestige was due to the Influence which
could be exerted over some of the senators by
the large business interests that supported the
policies favored by. Senator Aldrich. The in
fluence of these special interests is being re
duced so that I think there will be loss to object
to in tho future.
I havo touched upon the subjects covored by
your letter; if I havo not made myself clear, I
shall bo pleased to elaborato any point about
which you desire to make further inquiry. Be
ing Interested in our theory of government and
believing, not that our government is porfect In
every detail but that, in principle, it Is tho
nearest approach to perfection in government
that man has devised, I am glad to defend it
where I believo it to be good, and ns anxious to
have its errors pointed out as I am to havo its
merits mado known.
I havo no doubt that wo can borrow from
other governments, and wo should whenever wo
find any policy or method superior to our own.
Tho fact that wo aro able to loan to other
nations is duo to a large extent to tho fact that
our forefathers borrowed liberally from tho ex
perience of Europe In framing our constitution,
and we havo gone on borrowing to tho present
day. Wo borrowed tho Australian ballot from
one of Great Britain's colonics, and aro likely to
borrow the postal rate from another. Wo aro
indebtod to Switzerland for the Initiative and
Replying to your request, I beg to say that
you aro at liberty to use this letter in making
your report to tho Imperial Russian society.
With assurances of respect, I am, very truly
yours, W. J. BRYAN.
BelQW Will bO fOUnd n. Jrotu yoport nuutlUB
rocont declaration of Cardinal Farley of Now
York against church fairs whero lotteries aro
employed to aid tho church. His position is
wisoly taken. Tho lottery Is wrong in principle
and ought to bo universally condemned. Especi
ally is it objectionable when it has tho sanction,
real or seeming, of religious organizations.
Cardinal Farley's stand will havo great moral
weight beyond his jurisdiction.
"A ban against church fairs is tho latest
crusade tho Catholic church is conducting in the
interest of a higher moral order of things. In
tho past church fairs have been sanctioned
occasionally as extraordinary means for raising
funds for the purpose of paying off mortgages
or other church debts. The selling of chances
or lotteries for charitable purposes at theso
fairs has brought about -tho movement.
"At tho recent Diocesan Synod, held at St.
Patrick's cathedral, Cardinal Farley read to the
800 priests of this dfocceso tho rule of the
church that governs tho holding of fairs and
pointed out In strong terms that it was not in
keeping with the ideals of tho church to sanc
tion such events.
"The matter of a church holding a fair Is
strictly within tho control of tho authorities of
the diocese. No pastor is supposed to use extra
ordinary means for raising funds without first
obtaining tho sanction of tho church authori
ties. In place of fairs it is understood sacred
concerts and bazars will be tho approved me
diums for raising funds." New York World.
Governor Wilson's address to the New Jersey
electors was brief but it was to tho point. Ho
said that only PROGRESSIVES would be sum
moned by him as advisers because they only
-were in harmony with tho causo to which ho is
committed. The president-elect is entirely right
he could not consistently say anything else.
Ho has a right to assume that tho reactionaries
are HONEST and that an honest reactionary
would conscientiously adviso AGAINST pro
gressive measures. Why should ho ask advice
which he must necessarily reject? Reaction
ary democrats who supported the ticket are
eligible to other important positions but they
are not available as advisors.

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