THE thirteen American colonies were now to establish a new nation, not wholly unfettered by the past, but with very wide scope to do as it pleased. They soon were coming to blows among themselves over boundary disputes, but the abler leaders succeeded in mastering State feeling and establishing a united government in 1787. But the States surrendered only certain powers to the federal government-army, navy, customs, foreign policy. They retained their sovereign powers intact in education, justice, and divorce laws; and all future topics of interest that might arise were to fall in the sphere of the States, not of the Federal government. The tendency, however, has been to increase the powers of the Federal government, especially as communications have improved.
The President was to be chosen for a term of four years by representatives elected directly by the people. It was expected that they would be chosen for their general wisdom and then select their President, somewhat as the College of Cardinals chooses a Pope, but in. practice they are elected to vote for a certain candidate only. The President was to have considerable powers, modelled on the theory of the King of England's powers then current; in war time he was to be almost a despot. Washington was inevitably elected President and served for two four-year terms: he could have remained President indefinitely, but he retired and set a precedent which none of his successors has broken. Washington was great in his positive talents and in the moderation which saved him from overreaching ambition and faction. He displayed indeed a degree of honesty and calm wisdom very rare even in less troubled times.