Law and Politics: Occasional Papers of Felix Frankfurter, 1913-1938

By Archibald MacLeish; E. F. Prichard Jr. et al. | Go to book overview

The American Leviathan

The following review of The American Leviathan: The Republic in the Machine Age, by Charles A. Beard and William Beard, appeared in the Harvard Law Reviewfor February, 1931 (Vol. 44, p. 661).

IT WILL not be the fault of the Beards if we fail to understand how American society came to be what it is, and the part that government now plays in that society. Three years ago husband and wife gave us the most satisfactory single account of American Kulturgeschichte. Now father and son do for our day what Bryce did forty years ago--less magisterially than Bryce, but with more regard for the teeming life beneath the decorous surface. If the reviewer had to place in the hands of a thoughtful foreigner one book on the history of the United States and another on its contemporary government, The Rise of American Civilization and The American Leviathan would be the safest choices, thereby proving that no single book, no matter how good, is enough for any important field of inquiry. Whatever may be the need of a foreigner, certainly to American lawyers the book of the new Beards is as important as . . . the book of the old Beards. For if law be, in essence, one of the systems of arrangements for securing cohesion in society, no body of citizens needs more to be reminded than lawyers of the forms and functions of government within and through which the law of the lawyers must achieve the social ends of law. The lawyer's contact with government begets most immediately the doctrines and arrangements called public law. The machine age, however, leads more and more to governmental permeation in matters which to some lawyers and judges still seem peculiarly reserved for exclusively private arrangement,

-17-

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