Few people have the leisure to undertake a systematic and thorough study of history, but every one ought to find time to learn theprincipal features of the governments under which we live, and to getsome inkling of the way in which these governments have come into existence and of the causes which have made them what they are. Some such knowledge is necessary to the proper discharge of the duties of citizenship. Political questions, great and small, are perpetually arising, to be discussed in the newspapers and voted on at the polls; and it is the duty of every man and woman, young or old, to try to understand them. That is a duty which we owe, each and all of us, to ourselves and to our fellow-countrymen. For if such questions are not settled in accordance with knowledge, they will be settled in accordance with ignorance; and that is a kind of settlement likely to be fraught with results disastrous to everybody. It cannot be too often repeated that eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. People sometimes argue as if they supposed that because our national government is called a republic and not a monarchy, and because we have free schools and universal suffrage, therefore our liberties are forever secure. Our government is, indeed, in most respects, a marvel of political skill; and in ordinary times it runs so smoothly that now and then, absorbed as most of us are in domestic cares, we are apt to forget that it will not run of itself. To insure that the government of the nation or the state, of the city or the township, shall be properly administered, requires from every citizen the utmost watchfulness and intelligence of which he is capable.
We consulted this book when drafting the historical section of our book, America 3.0 which concerned the establishment of English cultural, legal and political practices in North America.