Home  »  Volume XVII: American LATER NATIONAL LITERATURE: PART II  »  § 34. Criticism of Governmental Administration

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

§ 34. Criticism of Governmental Administration

Equally important was the new criticism of the operation of government and its purposes. This began with Woodrow Wilson’s Congressional Government (1885), which pointed out the evil results in the existing relations of the executive and the legislature, notably the irresponsibility in legislation and the lack of leadership in Congress, which his own administration has since so well illustrated. A few years later Frank J. Goodnow pointed out the defects in the American theory of the separation of powers; indeed his Comparative Administrative Law (1893) was the first work in English on administrative as distinct from constitutional law. John R. Commons in his Proportional Representation (1896) advanced a substitute for the existing unjust methods of representation. Municipal government also became the subject of criticism. A supplementary chapter to Bryce’s American Commonwealth on the Tweed Ring caused the whole first edition of that excellent book to be suppressed. E. L. Godkin pointed out the weaknesses in the government of our large cities in his Unforeseen Tendencies of Democracy, while Albert Shaw showed the superiority in municipal ideals and forms of government of English and Continental cities as compared with those of the United States. Finally, the function of the state was re-examined. The early conception, born in the days of the Revolution, that the function of the state is confined to the protection of life, liberty, and property yielded to one more comprehensive. Thus Woolsey declares that “the sphere of the State may reach as far as nature and the needs of men reach.” Woodrow Wilson in his The State advocated state regulation in industrial matters. W. W. Willoughby makes the economic, industrial, and moral interests of the people “one of the essential concerns of the state”; and John W. Burgess, working under the influence of German rather than American ideals, makes the ultimate aim of the state “the perfection of humanity, the civilization of the world; the perfect development of human reason and its attainment to universal command over individualism; the apotheosis of man.”

The changes in the viewpoint of the leaders of thought came as a shock to the pillars of conservatism. Not infrequently the writings and influence of teachers cost them their positions in colleges and universities.