Federal Centralization: A Study and Criticism of the Expanding Scope of Congressional Legislation

By Walter Thompson | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XVIII
CONSTITUTIONAL POSSIBILITIES FOR CENTRALIZATION

IN a Wisconsin decision1 the court gave a lucid expression to the difficulties presenting themselves to governments founded upon written constitutions. In this case Chief Justice Winslow, speaking for the court, upholding a Wisconsin workmen's compensation act upon an "elective" insurance plan, said, "A Constitution is a very human document, and must embody with greater or less fidelity the spirit of the time of its adoption. It will be framed to meet the problems and difficulties which face the men who make it, and it will generally crystallize with more or less fidelity the political, social, and economic propositions which are considered irrefutable, if not actually inspired, by the philosophers and legislators of the time; but the difficulty is that, while the Constitution is fixed or very hard to change, the conditions and problems surrounding the people, as well as their ideals, are constantly changing. The political or philosophical aphorism of one generation is doubted by the next, and entirely discarded by the third. The race moves forward constantly, and no Canute can stay its progress."2 The Chief Justice then applied these principles to the testing of the constitutionality of a statute: "Where there is no express command or prohibition, but only general language or policy to be con

____________________
1
Borgnis v. Falk Co., 1911. 147 Wis. 327.
2
Ibid., at 348-9.

-328-

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