Book Reviews

This little book makes no pretense of exhaustive, scholarly treatment. It is without notes, citation of cases or authorities, or index; nevertheless it is a work which could be read with interest and benefit by every thoughtful citizen. The purpose of the author is to show the enormous expansion of federal power and actual control, a development, as Mr. West says, which was inevitable if “We the People of the United States” were to become a nation or long endure even as a union of states. But the conditions and circumstances which have produced this extraordinary accretion of power to the federal government are more obvious in the retrospect than they were in that vision of the future which lay before the men of 1787; and so it may be doubted whether Mr. West is wholly justified in saying, as he does (pp. 36, 37) that when Hamilton declared that a contest between the Union and the State governments “will be most apt to end to the disadvantage of the Union”, he (Hamilton) “deliberately misled the people in his overwhelming desire to secure the ratification of the Constitution”, or else that “his political acumen has been over-rated”. Had Washington and Hamilton and Adams not dominated our first government, and especially had it not been that the masterful mind and statesmanly nationalism of John Marshall directed the Supreme Court during the critical years, i8oi to 1835, a very different tendency and development might well have marked the first century and more of our political life. However, the historical chapters in the book are avowedly only “sketchy” and the minor statements, about which opinions might differ, are not such as to invalidate the larger conclusions to which the author leads.