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ENGLANT) AND AMERIC A.:
THE GREAT CHARTER,
S. M. J O HNS ON.
N E W Y O R K :
Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1864, by
In the Clerk’s Office of the District Court of the United States for the Southern District of New York.
IT is said never to be diplomatic, seldom courteous or civil, and not always safe, to call things by their right names. If an exception is anywhere to be found to this suggestion of policy, it should surely exempt the discussion of the wide-spread and destructive opinions which seem now to govern the American people. The spectacle of an admirable system of laws shamelessly overridden, or wantonly administered, is surely an occasion for plain speech. This work is submitted in the hope that an examination of its contents may lead to a better understanding of the principles and structure of the States and the Union, and to a higher appreciation of the duties and obligations of the people in the maintenance of a free system of laws. I have discussed at some length the leading doctrines of Free Government as they have been developed by the Anglo-American race, and have given a sketch of their progress through the struggles of the Great Charter, the Petition of Right, the Bill of Rights, up to the adoption of the Federal Constitution. These great events teach us the important lesson that Experience is the only safe guide in the creation and maintenance of free institutions. These institutions embrace not alone the mere theory of Free Government, but the practical enforcement of its principles in all the affairs of life. Accuracy and completeness of form, in other words, are valueless without perfect fidelity to the law on the part of the people and the public administration. All this is exhibited by our English ancestors in a light so clear as to sink opposing theories to the level of fiction. In the struggle of 1628, no man did more to build up the free system of English laws than that great and honest statesman, Sir Edward Coke. He is found, nevertheless, to admit the right of royal dispensation—the right