Imagens das páginas

becomes necessary on the part of the government, and individual liberty becomes extinct.

So, on the contrary, just as a people rise in the scale of intelligence, virtue, and patriotism, and the more perfectly they become acquainted with the nature of government, the ends for which it was ordered, and how it ought to be administered, the power necessary for government becomes less and less, and individual liberty greater and greater.


What We Mean by Government

1. Law and Government. We have seen that a community could not be peaceful and orderly unless there were law to regulate conduct. But we have also seen that in a large community all the people cannot come together to decide what the laws shall be, and it becomes necessary for a small body of men to be selected as a legislature. Then, when the laws are made, it is also necessary to see that they are obeyed. For this purpose the people select other men, like the policemen in cities and the constables in villages. However, it is not always exactly plain just what the law means in every case, nor is it always sure that a man whom the police may arrest on the charge of committing some crime is really guilty. So the people select other men whose duty it is to decide what the laws mean and whether accused people are actually guilty. These men are usually called judges. And the whole body of men selected for these three kinds of duties, making laws, seeing that the laws are obeyed, and deciding what the laws mean, are called the government.

2. The Two Houses of the Legislature.—Making laws requires very much care, knowledge, and good judgment. The men selected for that purpose ought to be very intelligent and very honest. But, even then mistakes may

be made. In order that these mistakes may be as few as possible, nearly all legislatures are divided into two separate bodies, usually called houses. One is commonly called the upper house and the other the lower house.

3. House is certainly an odd name to give to a body of men. But if we remember that the word is used in this meaning, as well as applying to a building, we shall have no trouble.

4. The Number in Each House. The number of men in the two houses differs in different countries. In the upper house of the British legislature there are nearly 600 members and in the lower house nearly 700. In our American national legislature we have only 90 in the upper house and 357 in the lower house.

5. How Laws are Made.-If any member of the legis lature thinks that there ought to be a law of a certain kind, he writes it out and proposes it at a meeting of the house to which he belongs. In this form it is called a bill. This bill is then usually sent to a committee-a small group of members who talk the bill over and report their opinion of it to the house. Then it is talked over in the house, all the arguments for it and against it being pretty apt to be thought of by somebody. This talk is called a debate. After the bill has been thoroughly examined and debated, the house take a vote, all members who favor the bill voting aye, and those opposed to it voting no. If there are more ayes than noes the bill is said to have passed that house. Then it goes to the other house, where again it is proposed, debated, and voted upon. But unless it passes this house also, the bill cannot become a law.

6. It is easy now to see the advantage of having two houses in a legislature. As every bill has to be debated and voted on by two different sets of men, it can seldom be passed through both bodies in too great a hurry for some one to find out its faults. So we are much less likely to get careless and bad laws than if the legislature had only one house.

7. The Administration.-We have said that after a law is made it is necessary to have a number of public officers whose duty is to see that it is obeyed.

8. In a republic the highest of these officers we usually call the president. The president of the United States has under his authority a very large number of other officers, all of whom are busy in carrying out the laws made by the national legislature. These officers, from the president down, are called the administration, or the administrative officers. The president is the head of the administration. In a monarchy the head of the administration is usually called a king, or an emperor.

9. How the President Shares in Making Laws.-In our republic the president is not merely the head of the administration. He also has something to do with making


10. As he sees how all the laws work and so can easily learn what is needed, it is his duty to advise the legislature from time to time what laws he thinks ought to be made.

11. Then, when a bill has been voted by both houses, before it can become a law it is sent to the President. If he approves it, the bill at once becomes a law. But if he

thinks it ought not to be a law, he sends it back to the legislature with his objections. This is called a veto of the bill. Then the bill has to be debated and voted on all over again. And it cannot be a law unless two-thirds of both houses vote for it.

12. The Courts. In every well-governed country some men are selected to decide what the law means. These men are called judges. But, besides the judges we have another set of men selected every time a man is accused of breaking the law, or when two men dispute about property and cannot settle their disagreement themselves. This other set of men is called a jury, and their duty is to decide. on the facts in dispute. That is, they decide whether the accused person really has broken the law, or, in case of a dispute between two men, the jury decides what actually happened. Then the judge explains the law. The judge and jury together form what is called a court. Sometimes there are no facts in dispute. Then the jury is omitted, and the judge alone is still called a court. And in some courts there are several judges instead of one. The method in which a court proceeds is pointed out in Chapter XIII (p. 180).

13. The Government. Thus we see that there are three sets of officers busy in managing public affairs. And, as we said before, these three sets, taken together, form the government. A country which has a good government has good laws and good men to do the public business. A country which has a bad government has bad laws, or bad men as officers, or both.

14. The government of our republic is made by the

« AnteriorContinuar »