Page images

has unrestricted power in establishing the details of the state and local governments. That is, each state determines who may vote,' and what officers, institutions, and departments shall have charge of the public affairs of the state and its various subdivisions.

2. The general police power of the state 2 is practically without limit. In the exercise of this power it preserves order, punishes criminals, abates nuisances, grants licenses, and regulates or prohibits business enterprises that may be dangerous to the public order, the public health, the public convenience, the public taste, or the public morals.

3. The state regulates marriage and divorce, and establishes the legal relations between husbands and wives and parents and children.

4. The state establishes the conditions under which property may be bought, held, leased, mortgaged, loaned, sold, inherited, or disposed of by will or otherwise.

5. The state establishes conditions under which business may be transacted. Contracts must be made, commerce must be carried on, and private corporations must conduct themselves according to those regulations.3

6. The state protects its people in the enjoyment of their constitutional rights and provides for the settlement of disputes that arise among them.

7. The state supports, directs, and controls the great work of public education.

8. The state does many things for the general welfare of the people, such as the protection and encouragement

1 This is subject to the fifteenth amendment to the national Constitution. 2 Including counties, cities, and towns.

3 Subject to the first section of the fourteenth amendment to the national Constitution.

of their various economic interests, and the conservation of natural resources.

117. State Constitutions. — All the states of our country have exactly the same powers; that is, the people of each state have the same power as the people of every other state. But the powers of the various state governments differ, because the people withhold more power from their governments in some states than in others. The form and composition of a state government and the powers that it may exercise are matters that are determined by the state constitution.

The word constitution as applied to government is used in two ways. In its broader sense it signifies the plan or method of government of any state or nation. According to this interpretation of the word every nation has a constitution. In a narrower sense it signifies the plan or method of government of a state or nation whose people have a voice in the government and have certain rights which the government cannot violate. According to this meaning the usual meaning of the word an absolute monarchy has no constitution.

Constitutions originate in different ways. The constitution of England consists of ancient customs and certain important acts of Parliament, and may be amended at any time by Parliament. The constitution of France was adopted by the national Legislature and may be amended by the same power. The constitution of Italy was granted by the king, and may be amended by the Legislature with the consent of the king. The constitution of Japan was granted by the emperor and may be amended only by him. The constitution of Switzerland, like our national and state constitutions, was adopted by the people and may be amended only by them. In any state or nation the authority to amend the constitution at any given time is the ultimate source of political power.

A constitution in our country is in theory the will of the people directly expressed. This is true in fact of most of

1 Some of our state constitutions were drawn up and adopted by conventions chosen for the purpose, and were not voted upon directly by the people.

our state constitutions. With us all departments of the government are entirely subordinate to the constitution; for the will of the people as thus expressed cannot be legally set aside by any agency of government created by the people.

118. The First Constitution of California. — The first constitution of California was drawn up by a convention which met at Monterey, September 1, 1849. The convention consisted of forty-eight delegates who had been elected in the various districts of California on the first day of August. The election was called by Gen. Bennet Riley, military governor of California. The convention completed its work and adjourned October 13, and the constitution was adopted by an election held November 13, 1849. At the same election, which was also called by General Riley, a governor, a lieutenant governor, and members of the legislature were elected. The legislature met at Monterey, December 15, 1849, and on December 20 the first governor, Peter H. Burnett, was inaugurated. Since California was not admitted to the Union until September 9, 1850, it will be seen that she had a state government, and was acting in all respects like a state, for nearly nine months before she was legally a state.

119. The Second Constitution of California. — The first constitution served as the fundamental law of the state for thirty years. In some respects it was not satisfactory, and our present constitution was adopted in 1879. A brief statement of the circumstances attending the change from the old constitution to the new will be found at the beginning of Chapter XVI, which contains also the text of the constitution itself.

QUESTIONS 1. What has been said about the state government in the preced. ing chapters of this book ?

2. How does the state control our local governments ?

[ocr errors]

3. In what two ways is the word constitution used?
4. Why cannot our state legislature amend the state constitution?

5. The constitution is called our supreme law. What does this mean? When is a state law null and void?

6. Why did California adopt a new constitution in 1879? See Hittell's History of California.

7. What is the meaning of each of these terms: constitutional monarchy, republic, federal, federal republic, confederation ?

8. How does a county in its relation to the state differ from a state in its relation to the United States ?

9. Why cannot the powers of a state be definitely enumerated ?

10. If the American people were to amend the national Constitution in some particular that should conflict with a provision of our state constitution, would this provision become void ? Why?



NOTE. — Before this chapter is read, articles I, II, III, and IV of the state constitution should be studied.

120. Composition, Terms, and Sessions of the Legislature. California, in common with all other states of the Union, has a bicameral legislature; that is, a legislature of two houses. The upper house, the senate, consists of forty members, elected for four years, one by each of the forty senatorial districts into which the state is divided. The odd-numbered districts elect their senators at presidential elections; and the even-numbered districts, at state gubernatorial elections. The lower house, the assembly, consists of eighty members elected for two years ($ 11), one by each of the eighty assembly districts into which the state is divided. Inasmuch as the terms of the members of the assembly all expire at the same time, the beginning of a new assembly marks the beginning of a new term of the legislature. The term of the thirty-ninth legislature expired December 31, 1912; and that of the fortieth began January 1, 1913. For each term there is one regular session divided into two parts by a recess of thirty days. These sessions begin on the first Monday after the first day of January of the odd-numbered years, and the recess in each case begins after the session has continued thirty days. An extra session may be called at any time by the governor to consider such matters as he mentions in his

« PreviousContinue »