LIFE-HISTORIES AND POLITICAL SCIENCE
Political biography as a field of political science has long been relied upon to furnish a vivid corrective to the overemphasis laid upon the study of institutional "mechanisms," "structures," and "systems." The legal and customary position of the House of Commons, the House of Lords, the monarch and the electorate, as expounded in the commentaries of Gneist and Dicey, suddenly take on new meaning when viewed through the lens of Morley's Gladstone, Strachey's Victoria, or Lee's Edward VII. The German imperial system of Laband is more fleshly and less transcendental when one has studied the lives of Bismarck or William II. An institutional account of the constitutional development of the United States without a life of Marshall and a life of Lincoln would be but the dregs of a rich and ebullient history. Political science without biography is a form of taxidermy.
When the tumultuous life of society is flayed into precedents and tanned into principles, the resulting abstractions suffer a strange fate. They are grouped and regrouped until the resulting mosaic may constitute a logical and aesthetic whole which has long ceased to bear any valid relation to the original reality. Concepts are constantly in danger of losing their reference to definite events. Notions like liberty and authority require a new birth of meaning after they have followed the tempting path of abstraction but a little way. If conceptions are to serve and not to