The new book of Dr. Von Hoist, who is known so intimately by the large number of men who take or have taken History 13, is reviewed in the current number of the "Nation." The following extracts may prove interesting:
"American readers will welcome the translation of Dr. von Hoist's 'Constitutional Law of the United States of America' (Chicago: Callaghan & Co.). The author apologizes for consenting to its appearance in this country. It is, he says, but a sketch, written as part of a larger book for German readers - Marquardsen's 'Handbuch des Oeffentlichen Rechts.' - He was limited, moreover, to a very inadequate space, and had to compress his material unduly, and wholly to throw out much; and 'my only literary resources were my private library and the notes previously taken in the British Museum and American libraries.' These explanations are, indeed, helpful in getting at the right point of view for judging of the book, but the reader will, after all, wonder at the extent and accuracy of the writer's knowledge and the general justness of his observations. Three 'Parts' on the 'Genesis of the Constitution,' 'The Federal Constitution,' and the 'Constitutional and General Law of the Separate States,' fill up the three hundred pages and more which compose the volume; the second part takes up more than two-thirds of the whole.
"From a pretty careful examination of this volume we are inclined to think it one of the best brief accounts of our constitutional system that have been published. It has the sort of merit that is usually found in the comments of a competent foreign observer upon the institutions of any country. Things that attract little attention, and so are often not at all remarked or understood by those who live under a given system, strike a stranger with the charm of novelty; they are tacitly compared with other institutions, and their true character is often more keenly perceived and brought out by such observers than by any others. De Tocqueville's book, parts of Prof. Dicey on 'The Law of the Constitution,' and such a treatise as Cottu on the 'Administration of Criminal Justice in England,' are instances of this. Much of this sort of merit is found in this little book by Von Hoist. An illustration of it may be seen in his striking note at pp. 136, 137, on the Indians. 'The first cause of the failures and mistakes,' he keenly remarks, and it is as true today as it ever was, 'has been in no small degree the lack of knowledge of and care for the fundamental question of Law.' It is a shrewd remark that 'the constitutional law as to the obligation of contracts made by legislation is still in embryo, despite the numberless decisions upon it.' The merits and the true bearing of the excellent proposal to bring the Cabinet officers on the floor of Congress are well recognized and stated. The limitations upon the power of courts, in judging of the constitutionality of legislation, are more keenly discerned by Von Hoist than they are by some of our own writers. The fulness of the statistics in regard to various important topics is very satisfactory. We have observed but few errors; the author is not accurate in some of his statements about the legal-tender cases in the somewhat ill-judged note on p. 62, and it is a very misleading statement on p. 231 that 'Unquestionably Congress can as little impair the obligation of contracts as a State," No court could declare a law of Congress unconstitutional merely upon the ground that it impaired the obligation of a contract. There is sometimes a certain vagueness and lack of confidence in our author's manner of discussing controverted questions, e. g., as regards the subject last mentioned, which is probably traceable to the circumstances under which his essay was composed."