Modern Democracies Vol. 1 – James Bryce
American political scientists do not need to be told that James Bryce’s work is one of the most important ever written on the principles and practice of democratic government. More than a century has passed since his masterly description and appreciation of the American Commonwealth put him at the head of all students of American government and politics. He has served as a member of three British cabinets, he has been the British ambassador to the United States, and he has traveled to all quarters of the globe, always keenly interested in the institutions of the lands he visited. Now he embodies the ripest fruits of these years of travel and study in two stout volumes. After some introductory considerations applicable to democratic government in general, he proceeds to a detailed comparison of the working of democracy in various countries, chiefly France, Switzerland, Canada, the United States, Australia, and New Zealand, and concludes with some general observations and reflections on the present and future of democratic government. This is volume one out of two.
Modern Democracies Vol. 1.
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Bryce as Ambassador to the United States (from Wikipedia):
However, even this time, Bryce’s cabinet post was held only for a brief period because as soon as February 1907, he was appointed British Ambassador to the United States of America. He kept this diplomatic office until 1913 and was very efficient in strengthening the Anglo-American friendship. Bryce made many personal friends in American politics such as US President Theodore Roosevelt. The German ambassador in Washington, Graf Heinrich von Bernstorff, later admitted how relieved he felt that Bryce was not his competitor for American sympathies during the World War period even though Bernstorff managed to keep the US from declaring war until 1917.
As an author, Bryce quickly became well known in America for his 1888 work, The American Commonwealth. The book thoroughly examined the institutions of the United States from the point of view of a historian and constitutional lawyer and at once became a classic. In developing material for his book, Bryce painstakingly reproduced the travels of Alexis de Tocqueville, who wrote Democracy in America (1835–40). Although Tocqueville emphasized the egalitarian nature of early-19th-century America, Bryce was dismayed to find vast inequality: “Sixty years ago, there were no great fortunes in America, few large fortunes, no poverty. Now there is some poverty… and a greater number of gigantic fortunes than in any other country of the world” and “As respects education… the profusion of…elementary schools tends to raise the mass to a higher point than in Europe… [but] there is an increasing class that has studied at the best universities. It appears that equality has diminished [in this regard] and will diminish further.” The work was heavily used in academia as a result of Bryce’s close friendships with men such as President James B. Angell of the University of Michigan and successively Charles W. Eliot and Abbott Lawrence Lowell at Harvard. Against the backdrop of the New Immigration of the late nineteenth century, the work also became a key medium for popularising the view of American history as distinctly Anglo-Saxon, comparable with similarly exceptionalist “Whig” histories written in late Victorian Britain.
(The text of the last section was taken from a Wikipedia entry and is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License.)
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