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In preparing this book I have had chiefly in mind the wants of my own classes at the Harvard Law School; of these and students elsewhere who follow similar methods of study. I should have been glad to make it more serviceable to others by introducing headnotes, were this iconsistent, in my opinion, with its best usefulness for the main purpose in hand.
It is nearly a year now since the first part of the book appeared. I am led to hope that the completed work may help to promote a deeper, more systematic, and exacter study of this most interesting and important subject, too much neglected by the profession. It appears to me that what scientific men call the genetic method of study, which allows one to see the topic grow and develop under his eye, - a thing always grateful and stimulating to the human faculties, as if they were called home to some native and congenial field, — is one peculiarly suited to the subject of Constitutional Law. For, while this is a body of law, — of law in a strict sense, as distinguished from constitutional history, politics, or literature, since it deals with the principles and rules which courts apply in deciding litigated cases; and while, therefore, it is an exact and technical subject; yet it has that quality which Phillipps, the writer on Evidence, alluded to when he said, in speaking of the State Trials, that “ The study of the law is ennobled by an alliance with history.” The study of Constitutional Law is allied not merely with history, but with statecraft, and with the political problems of our great and complex national life.
In this wide and novel field of labor our judges have been pioneers. There have been men among them, like Marshall, Shaw, and Ruffin, who were sensible of the true nature of their work and of the large method of treatment which it required, who perceived that our constitutions had made them, in a limited and secondary way, but yet a real one, coadjutors with the