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Shifting the responsibility for American constitutional development from the courts to the entire electorate by means of a new machinery for amending the Federal constitution was the method for securing independence of the courts from political influence and establishing more direct expression of public will, proposed by Mr. Herbert D. Croly '90, in the Godkin series of lectures last night. Mr. Croly claimed that the United States, with its national unity now well established, has outgrown its old system of government by law, and should be ruled by the popular will.
The speaker opened his argument by explaining the achievements of constitutional government in this country. It has built up our economic prosperity. But at the same time the existing system has impaired the people's ability to assume responsibility, and has forced the courts to exercise political functions in preserving law and order.
The best remedy is a shift of responsibility from the courts to the people. This change might be disastrous if effected by a violent transition. The only reasonable change will be by constant, gradual securing of control over the law. No deification of popular will is implied in the proposition. The decisions of the people cannot be called right until they have been tried, but their will and reason should eventually bring a more democratic, satisfactory government.
The greatest obstacle in the way of this system, Mr. Croly pointed out, is the existing method of making constitutional amendments, which is extremely inflexible and slow. Amendments should be made, not by Congress and the States, but by a majority of the entire electorate. Time should be allowed for public deliberation, and the territorial distribution of this majority should be especially considered.
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