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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21). rn VOLUME XVII. Later National Literature, Part II.

XXI. Political Writing Since 1850

§ 13. The Organic Theory; Sovereignty in the Nation

The pathway for the new thought had already been indicated by Francis Lieber, and soon the organic theory, with sovereignty in the nation rather than the states, was well under way. Very significant was the effort to distinguish between the written and the unwritten constitution. Thus J. A. Jameson, eminent jurist and exponent of the new school, divided constitutions into two classes; those which are organic growths, the products of social and political forces, and those which are “instruments of evidence,” the results of attempts to express in language the sense of organic growth. Likewise Orestes A. Brownson, a devoted Catholic, who found in the church fathers and the traditions of early Christianity the principles of democracy, distinguished between the constitution of the state or nation and the constitution of the government. In the same vein was the declaration of John C. Hurd, that “sovereignty cannot be an attribute of law because by the nature of things, law must proceed from sovereignty,” and consequently the Constitution of the United States cannot be cited as evidence for the sovereignty of the states or the nation. Naturally, by such writers sovereignty is conceived as undivided and as being in the nation, and the social compact and related political theories are rejected. With the passing of years their views have predominated. Thus the war which “joined with bayonets” the Union, like the defence of slavery, caused a decline of the political theory of the Revolutionary and federal periods.