“Under the shell there was an animal, and behind the document there was a man.”
To say that the United States have produced a great many lawyers, but very few politicians, is to utter what to most minds will seem a startling paradox. And, taking the word “politicians” in its ordinary, every-day sense, the paradox will be real as well as seeming. Not so, however, if by this word is understood masters in the science of politics. In this sense, politicians among us have been, as stated, extremely few; but two or three at the utmost. Many of our public and literary men have, it is true, published treatises on the government of the United States, American institutions, etc., but in these treatises they have uniformly considered everything from the lawyers standpoint; have construed the facts of history as facts under law, and as, from the nature of things here, necessarily under law. What these writers understand by the term “law,” as they employ it, is a rule of conduct prescribed by the people as such unto the people. The idea of law as a rule of conduct prescribed to the people by some determinate, political superior they put altogether aside. They find endless satisfaction, therefore, in the use and repetition of such expressions as “self-government,” “political equality,” the “supremacy of law,” etc.1
For all of this there exists an explanation, and that quite clear and satisfactory. The United States as such came into being as a protest against the unjust and oppressive acts of a determinate, political superior, to wit, the Parliament of Great Britain. They came into being, moreover, at a time when the idea of a determinate, political superior as the real source of law in a state was, on the continent of Europe, passing somewhat into ill-repute; when, indeed, in France, the abolition of all political authority was deemed a consummation of the not distant future; when the words “liberty,” “equality,” “fraternity,” were on everybody’s lips. In setting about a political organization among themselves, therefore, the American States, through their representatives, resolved upon attempting one in which the objection of a determinate, political superior should be obviated; in which the ruled should be also and as such the rulers; in which law, as set forth in a fundamental charter or written constitution, should—the antithesis of ruled and ruler having been done away with—be of itself supreme.