Creating the American State: The Moral Reformers and the Modern Administrative World They Made

Creating the American State: The Moral Reformers and the Modern Administrative World They Made

Creating the American State: The Moral Reformers and the Modern Administrative World They Made

Creating the American State: The Moral Reformers and the Modern Administrative World They Made


Whether renewing a driver's license, traveling on an airplane, or just watching in fascination as a robot probes Mars, we all participate in the everyday workings of the modern administrative state. As Stillman demonstrates in this study, however, we have not, until now, fully investigated or appreciated this administrative state's origins or its evolution into the entity that so affects our lives today.

Stillman reveals that this modern enterprise emerged from a complex foundation of ideas and ideals rather than as a result of a simple, rational plan or cataclysmic event, as previously contended. In fact, he finds that the basis for our current administrative state lies in the lives of the seven individuals who, during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, invented its various elements.

Stillman also finds that although they lived at different times, these seven founders -- George William Curtis, Charles Francis Adams, Jr., Emory Upton, Jane Addams, Frederick W. Taylor, Richard Childs, and Louis Brownlow -- had much in common: all were products of intensely Protestant, small-town America, and all were motivated by strong moral idealism. Indeed, Stillman finds that state making in the United States has been a continuation of the Protestant goal to "protest and purify".

Some names are more recognizable than others, but all, through remarkable moral fervor and exceptional leadership skills, invented the administrative practices and procedures so familiar today.


Scholarship builds on previous scholarship, and this book is no exception. in Preface to Public Administration (1991), I advanced the thesis that American public administration, as both a field of study and of practice, is different, very different, from that of the rest of the world, namely because we missed the European state experience. Indeed, the framers of the U.S. Constitution did just about everything to ensure that "the first new nation" would not create a European-style state. Instead, I argued, the United States had to "chink-in" or add an administrative state in bits and pieces more than a century afterward, in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. This was well behind other industrial Western nation states, and, as a result of this unique "chinking process," our American administrative state continues to reflect an unusual cast and character compared with others.

In that book I sketched this "chinking process" only in the broadest fashion and left some questions unresolved: How did this "chinking" actually occur to form the American state? What factors caused state development to take place in this era? Who were its key leaders? Why did they devote themselves with such inordinate intensity and devotion to this particular cause of state building? How did they develop their ideas and work to put them into effect? By what means did the institutions they established shape our modern American governing processes--and our lives today?

Luckily my book's reviewers did not pick up on these general omissions or rather lack of specifics about such questions. Quite honestly, I had not figured out "answers" at the time. Nonetheless, these problems remained important issues, at least for me. Somehow and somewhere, I needed to try to sort them out, just for my own satisfaction, if nothing else.

By good fortune, I was invited to deliver the 1994 Ransone Lectures at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama, the site of the off-

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