Home >> Encyclopedia Americana, Volume 27 >> Van Dyck to Yaper >> Woman Suffrage_P1

Woman Suffrage

constitution, rights, executive, government, bill and federal

Page: 1 2 3

WOMAN SUFFRAGE.

The typical State constitution contains: (1) A definition of boundaries, except in the older States; (2) A bill of rights; (3) A frame of government; (4) A great mass of miscellaneous provisions, arranged with slight regard for logical classification, to administration and law, including articles treating of educa tion, of the militia, of taxation and revenue, of the public debts, of local government, of State prisons and hospitals, of agriculture, of labor, of impeachment and of the method of amend ing the constitution, besides other matters still less political in their character"; (6) The schedule, which contains temporary provisions about putting the constitution into effect.

A bill or declaration of rights, historically the most important part of the document, is found in every State constitution, except Michi gan's, where there is no separate bill of rights. It contains those fundamental guarantees of personal liberty, the most prized heritage of our race, which are most familiar through incor poration in the Federal Constitution, and in ad dition many provisions, widely dissimilar in the several constitutions, defining supposedly inherent rights of the individual. The bill of rights of the Federal Constitution restricts the Federal government alone; hence the necessity for the incorporation of a bill of rights in the State constitution. Mention will be made of one only of the rights thus secured to the citizen. Religious liberty, in its fullest sense, was not a possession of all people in the American States during the early years of national independence. Connecticut did not abolish her established church until 1818 and that of Massachusetts was not fully disestablished until 1833. At the present time all States have constitutional guar antees of freedom of conscience, of expression of religious opinion, of worship or of non worship and of equality of all religious de nominations in the eyes of the law; although the Christian religion is by the common law recognized as the prevailing religion of the country, as is witnessed by the laws of blas phemy and of observance of the Christian Sabbath.

The frame of State government is strikingly similar throughout the Union. Each provides for an executive department consisting of a governor, a lieutenant-governor in most States, and heads of the important departments of ad ministration (secretary of state, treasurer, comptroller, attorney-general, etc.), elected in nearly all of the States and constituting, with the governor, what is in reality an executive in commission. While in the Federal government the President is the executive, the State gover nor is merely a part of the executive; a number of the most important heads of departments being nearly or quite independent of the gov ernor, although in some States subject to re moval from office for cause shown. They are practically colleagues, not subordinates, of the governor. Executive decentralization is the rule; a rule still further enforced by the crea tion of large numbers of administrative boards and commissions, all of which are created by law and have their duties prescribed by the legislature and, whether appointed by the gov ernor or not, are in practice very httle under his control. A number of State governors have, in recent years, called attention to the defects of such excessive decentralization and have asked the legislatures to devise remedies for what they deem a growing evil. The governor's power of appointment is in most States small and his actual control of administration is even less. His greatest legal power and responsibility are derived from the possession of the veto and the marked increase in recent years in the in fluence of the gubernatorial office has been due to the fact that its incumbent is the elected representative of all the people and hence has their confidence and is the exponent of public opinion to a far greater degree than the legis lature and to the governor's share in legislative power rather than to his executive and admin istrative functions.

Page: 1 2 3