Cyclopædia of Political Science, Political Economy, and the Political History of the United States
HON. ALEXANDER MITCHELL,
THE FIRST TO COUNSEL AND ENCOURAGE THE PREPARATION OF THIS WORK,
NEITHER American nor English literature has hitherto possessed a Cyclopædia of Political Science and Political Economy. The want of a work of reference on these important branches of knowledge has long been felt, especially by lawyers, journalists, members of our state and national legislatures, and the large and intelligent class of capitalists and business men who give serious thought to the political and social questions of the day. The present work, which will be completed in three volumes, is the first to supply that want. It is also the first Political History of the United States in encyclopædic form—the first to which the reader can refer for an account of the important events or facts in our political history, as he would to a dictionary for the precise meaning of a word. The French, the Germans and even the Italians are richer in works of reference on political science and political economy than the Americans or the English. The Germans have Rotteck and Welcker's Staatslexikon, and Bluntschli and Brater's Staatswörterbuch; the French, Block's Dictionnaire Général de la Politique, and the celebrated Dictionnaire de l'Economie Politique, edited by Guillaumin and Coquelin.
The "Cyclopædia of Political Science, Political Economy, and of the Political History of the United States" is intended to be to the American and English reader what the above-named works are to French and German students of political science and political economy. The articles by foreigners in our work are largely translations from the Dictionnaire de l'Economie Politique, the Dictionnaire Général de la Politique, the Staatswörterbuch, and original articles by Mr. T. E. Cliffe Leslie, the eminent English economist; while the American articles are by the best American and Canadian writers on political economy and political science. The task of writing the articles on the political history of the United States was confided to one person, Mr. Alexander Johnston, of Norwalk, Connecticut, thoroughness, conciseness and the absence of repetition and of redundancy being thus secured.
It has been our aim to produce a work covering ground not covered by other cyclopædias. Hence, the biographies of American statesmen are made purposely very short, ours not being a biographical dictionary. The biographies in question are intended mainly to supplement the articles on the political history of the United States; just as our Cyclopædia itself is intended as a supplement to every other cyclopædia in the English language. It is, in fact, a special Cyclopædia, and bears the same relation to other cyclopædias that, for instance, a cyclopædia of law, medicine or engineering does. Great care has been taken in the articles from the French and German to preserve the exact meaning of the writer. In no instance has any liberty been taken with the thought of a contributor. The editor has not sought to harmonize the ideas of so many writers, and yet in very few instances will the opinions of one writer be found in direct conflict with those of another. The same subject is, in some cases, treated by two writers, but from a somewhat different point of view, under titles almost identical; and in these cases the difference of title serves merely for convenience of reference.
A little familiarity with the work will satisfy the reader that the articles from French and German writers are as applicable in the United States as in France and Germany. There is no more a French or German or American political economy or political science than there is a German or French or American science of astronomy or chemistry. It would have been well, some may think, if all the articles had been supplied by American writers. No one, however, can regret that those not written by Americans are from the pens of the most eminent European writers, men like T. E. Cliffe Leslie, J. C. Bluntschli, Brater, Bastiat, Barthélmy Saint-Hilaire, Baudrillart, Chevalier, Clément, Coquelin, Coquerel, Finali, Joseph Garnier, Guizot, v. Holtzendorff, Horn, Paul Janet, Laboulaye, v. Mangoldt, de Molinari, de Quatrefages, Remusat, Roscher, J. B. Say, Léon Say, Jules Simon, Thiers, Wolowski, Wagner and Wirth. The fact that every article is signed by the writer of it, and that each writer is an authority on the subject on which he writes, gives to the work a value which it would not otherwise possess. This feature is, we feel confident, one which the reader will appreciate.
In no country in the world is the necessity of the study of political science and political economy greater than in the United States, in which every citizen is, directly or indirectly—through the medium of his vote—a legislator; and yet, in no great country, perhaps, has the study of politics as a science been so utterly neglected. Our experience as a people during the last decade has demonstrated how very important it is to lay before the great body of readers reliable works to which they may refer, when occasion requires, for the principles by which all great national questions are solved. The people of the United States for the past ten years, to go no farther back in their history, have been, so to speak, one great debating club, discussing such questions as the resumption of specie payments, contraction of the currency, inflation of the currency, money, paper money, the nature and cure of commercial depressions, the demonetization of silver, banks, savings banks, bi-metallism, the relations of capital and labor, the right of employment, socialism, communism, strikes, railroad policy, civil service, civil service reform, etc., etc. The thinking portion of the people have eagerly devoured whatever they could find on these topics.
Other questions equally important are springing up every year, both in the national and state legislatures, questions relating to interest, the hours of labor, taxation, temperance, etc. These and kindred questions are, or may very easily become, questions of practical politics, or of political economy as applied to politics. In the present work these and similar subjects can be found discussed, from the standpoint of the statesman and legislator, by the best minds of the age, each under its proper title and in alphabetical order.
We think that the time at which our work appears is peculiarly opportune, for never before was the attention of the American people turned to questions of political science and political economy, more than now.
The publishers and editor desire to thank the contributors to this work for the readiness with which they accepted the invitation to write for its pages; and the unselfish interest they have one and all manifested in its success. Our acknowledgments, however, are due in a special manner to Mr. Horace White, of New York; to Mr. A. R. Spofford, Librarian of Congress; to Mr. Edward Atkinson, of Boston; to Mr. John Jay Knox, Comptroller of the Currency, and to Mr. Max. Eberhardt, of Chicago.
Return to top