John Hopkins University Studies in Historical and Political Science, Vol. 3

John Hopkins University Studies in Historical and Political Science, Vol. 3

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Excerpt from John Hopkins University Studies in Historical and Political Science, Vol. 3: Local Government in Illinois; Reprinted From the Fortnightly Review and Local Government in Pennsylvania; Read Before the Pennsylvania Historical Society, May 1, 1882

It is difficult to approach the study of the political systems to-day in operation in the new Western States without a feeling that they are wholly artificial and superimposed inventions rather than growths. Such preconceptions must in good measure yield before a study of the simple facts. Artificial and mathematical as is that checker-board system of local geography which a township map of Illinois depicts, it nevertheless furnishes metes and bounds for local governments which are neither novel nor experimental, but are transplanted scions from older growths of Anglo-Saxon communal life, which have already taken firm root in prairie soil and have easily adapted themselves to the modifying influences of the new environment. It must be remembered that the prairie farmer is descended from people who for centuries have had the habit of attending to their own local affairs; and that with all his fondness for paper constitutions and minute written laws, he is but re-enacting, under modified forms, the social arrangements under which the Anglo-Saxon usually insists upon living, wherever you transplant him. The safeguards and maxims of the common law are as truly the heritage of the young Anglo-Saxon in the Mississippi Valley as of his cousin on the Severn or the Thames.

The precise forms under which the people of Illinois are to-day governing themselves have been largely shaped by certain facts in the history of the State, and will be best understood in the light of a preliminary historical sketch.

Migration from the Atlantic States to the interior and Western States has always followed the parallels of latitude.

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