Constitutional Government in the United States
One of the genuine classics of American political science literature, Constitutional Government in the United States is also a subtle and influential criticism of the American founding fathers produced during the Progressive Era. Wilson's interpretation of the Constitution shaped the thought of scholars and students of American politics. His definition of constitutional government and the place of the United States in the development of constitutional theory continues to shape discourse today. Wilson discusses the three branches of government in the United States, the relation between the states and the federal government and party government in a manner quite distinct from the founding fathers.
Constitutional Government has its origins in a series of lectures Wilson delivered at Columbia University in 1907. It is carefully organized around three separate but mutually supporting arguments. First, is the idea that constitutional government evolves historically from primitive beginnings of the state toward a universal and ideal form. Second, this idea of historical evolution contains within it an analysis of how and where the Constitution fits into the evolutionary process as a whole. Third, the historical thesis itself provides a prescription for bringing American government, and with it the Constitution, into accord with his first principle of the ideal form of modern government.
In his new introduction, Sidney A. Pearson explores how, with Constitutional Government in the United States, Wilson helped create a new genre of political writing using the point of view of a "literary politician." He discusses Wilson's intention to replace the constitutional argument of the founders with one of his own based on the application of Darwinian metaphor in a political science framework. And he examines the differences between the views launched by Wilson and those set forth by James Madison in The Federalist. This is an essential work for all interested in the evolution of American political thought.