A Brief Enquiry into the Nature and Character of our Federal Government/Preface

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The book to which the following pages relate[1] has been for several years before the public. It has been reviewed by some of the principal periodicals of the country, and recommended in the strongest terms to public favor. I have no disposition to detract from its merits as a valuable compendium of historical facts, or as presenting just views of the Constitution in many respects. My attention has been directed to its political principles alone, and my sole purpose has been to inquire into the correctness of those principles, so far as they relate to the true nature and character of our Federal Government,

It may well excite surprise, that so elaborate a work as this of Judge Story, and one so well calculated to influence public opinion, should have remained so long unnoticed by those who do not concur in the author's views. No one can regret this circumstance more than I do; for I would willingly have devolved upon abler hands the task which I now have undertaken. I offer no apology for the manner in which that task has been performed. It is enough for me to say, that the reader, howsoever favorable his opinion of this essay may be, will not be more sensible of its imperfections than I am. I know that the actual practice of the federal government for many years past, and the strong tendencies of public opinion in favor of federal power, forbid me to hope for a favorable reception, except from the very few who still cherish the principles which I have endeavored to re-establish.

The following essay was prepared about three years ago, with a view to its publication in one of our periodical reviews. Circumstances, which it is unnecessary to mention, prevented this from being done, and the work was laid aside and forgotten. My attention has been again called to it within a few weeks past, and I am now induced to give it to the public, under the hope that it may not be without its influence in directing the attention of those who have not yet lost all interest in the subject, to the true principles of our constitution of government.

I do not claim the merit of originality. My conclusions are drawn from the authentic information of history, and from a train of reasoning, which will occur to every mind, on the facts which history discloses. My object will be answered, if even the few by whom these pages will probably be read shall be induced to re-examine, with a sincere desire after truth, the great principles upon which political parties in our country were once divided, but which there is much reason to fear are no longer respected, even if they be not wholly forgotten.

I do not offer this essay as a commentary on the Federal Constitution. Having proposed to myself but a single object, I have endeavored to compress my matter within as small a compass as possible, consistent with a due regard to clearness, and a proper reference to authorities, where authorities are relied on.

Notes

  1. Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States by Joseph Story (Wikisource contributor note)