The Elements of Politics

Henry Sidgwick

Preface 1

Preface to the First Edition

(1891) Some years ago I was strongly impressed with the need of a book which would expound, within a convenient compass, and in as systematic a form as the subject-matter might admit, the chief general considerations that enter into the rational discussion of political questions in modern states. Though there were many valuable treatises dealing with particular portions of this subject, no English writer---so far as I knew---had, since Bentham, attempted to treat it as a whole: and though such a comprehensive treatment must necessarily be brief, it appeared to me that even this brevity would have some advantages. For such a general treatment as I had in view, however full, must be for practical purposes incomplete; and an exposition severely confined by limits of space would at any rate have the merit of keeping this inevitable incompleteness steadily before the minds of both writer and readers. The present work is the result of an attempt to satisfy the need that I have just described. The plan upon which it has been composed I have endeavoured to explain in the first chapter: it only remains for me here to record the chief debts that I am conscious of owing to previous writers from whom I have derived ideas, and to express my gratitude to the friends who have aided me with criticisms and suggestions.

My general view of Politics was originally derived from the writings of Bentham and J. S. Mill; and the earlier portion of the book, which deals with the principles of legislation, is to a considerable extent composed on the lines of Bentham's Principles of the Civil Code. But before composing it I have endeavoured to profit by the study of several more recent works on Jurisprudence and the Principles of Law;---among which I may mention especially Austin's Theory of Jurisprudence, Holland's Jurisprudence, and Pollock's Principles of Contract. In later Chapters (XV. and XVI.) of my first Part, which deal with international relations, I am under special obligations to Hall's International Law. I ought to add that in two or three chapters of this first Part---especially X. and XI.---l have had more or less to go over ground already traversed by myself in my Principles of Political Economy. So far as this has been the case, I have not hesitated to borrow from my earlier work; though I have tried as much as possible to introduce such differences of treatment as appeared to me appropriate to the different scope and aims of the present treatise.

In the second Part of this book, which deals mainly with the structure of Government, the views that I have expressed have been partly derived from so great a variety of sources that I find it difficult to estimate closely how much I owe to any one previous writer. Still, among the English books that I have studied with profit, I am conscious of special obligations to J. S. Mill's Representative Government, Bagehot's English Constitution, Todd's Parliamentary Government, Dicey's Law of the Constitution, and Bryce's American Commonwealth. I have also found Erskine May's Parliamentary Practice, and Anson's Law and Custom of the Constitution, most useful for reference. Among the foreign books from which I have derived ideas and information, I may specially mention the works of Gneist and Holzendorff, and Bluntschli's Lehre vom Modernen Staate; also the series of monographs that make up Marquardsen's Handbuch des öffentlichen Rechts, as well as Dareste's Constitutions Modernes, and Demombyne's Constitutions Européennes. Among American books to which I am indebted I may especially mention the Federalist, and Story's Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States: I wish also to acknowledge my obligations to the Political Science Quarterly---edited by the University Faculty of Political Science of Columbia College---and the Studies in Historical and Political Science, published under the auspices of the Johns Hopkins University. Finally, in speaking of the works of others by which I have profited, I must not omit to mention an unpublished course of lectures on the relation of Political Science to History, delivered in the University of Cambridge by my friend and colleague, Mr. J. R. Seeley, who has kindly allowed me to read it in MS.

The books and articles by which, after arriving at certain conclusions, I have subsequently found my reasonings substantially anticipated, are so numerous, that I forbear to attempt even a selection from them: but I shall make an exception in favour of Mr. Bruce Smith's Liberty and Liberalism, on account of the fundamental importance of the current confusion of thought which this writer has anticipated me in attempting to remove.

In such a work as the present, there seemed to be a special need of securing a comprehensive and many-sided consideration of the various topics included. Impressed with the difficulty of realising this unaided, I have allowed myself, in seeking comments and corrections from others, to encroach on the leisure and to trespass on the indulgence of my friends to an unusual extent. I am specially grateful I to Mr. James Bryce, M.P., and Mr. A. V. Dicey, who have read through the proofs of the whole of the work in its original form; and whose suggestions and criticisms, and memoranda on special points, have been of the utmost value to me. The kindness of several other friends---among whom I would especially mention the Earl of Lytton, Mr. F. W. Maitland, and Mr. T. Thornely---has similarly aided me with instructive comments on selected portions of the book which I have submitted to them. One of these latter---Albert Rutson---whose stores of information and reflection were ungrudgingly placed at my service in several letters and conversations, has unhappily been taken from us before the completion of my work.

Finally, for the index appended to the volume, which I hope will materially increase its usefulness, I am indebted to Mr. James Welton, B.A., scholar of Gonville and Caius College.

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