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The aim of the “GOVERNMENT YEAR BOOK”--to put it into the fewest and simplest words—is to exhibit the principal forms and methods of government in each particular State, and then, having these facts laid down for ready reference and comparison, to review each year the most striking of contemporary events, and to note how they hinge upon or tend to modify political organizations. Where written Constitutions exist they have been either quoted in their entirety or analysed; and the different Constitutions have been incidentally compared with one another. In the absence of a formal Constitution, greater stress has been laid upon the historical development of national institutions. The sole object throughout has been to furnish a compact and symmetrical account of the methods of government in various quarters of the world.
Apart from constitutional facts, strictly so called, the information contained in the following pages has been compressed within narrow limits. Tbe reader will find in connection with each country a very brief mention of its political position and boundaries, its area and population, and the salient facts of its financial condition. He will not
find many details under these heads, nor will he meet with statistics of agriculture and natural productions, of armies and navies, of trade and manufactures, of imports and exports, of reigning families, of railways, posts, and telegraphs, such as may be found in sundry established books of reference. It will be recognized that “The GOVERNMENT YEAR Book" has an object and a plan distinct from those of any existing work. It is a collection not so much of figures and computations as of constitutional facts and forms. It is true that a subject of this kind could not be worthily treated, at any rate for the purpose of reference, except on a statistical basis; but the statistics employed are such as illustrate the value of prevailing governments, or show the tendency of national and popular developments.
The task of bringing together, in a shape most likely to be serviceable, a large number of facts and statements of one particular complexion is by no means easy. A Year Book has this advantage over volumes which are printed once for all in a definitive form, that it can more frequently and completely avail itself both of the after labours of its editor and of the attentions of its critics. It is hoped that this work may acquire value not only as a precise abstract of information on modes and methods of government, but also as an impartial commentary on the constitutional development of the nations from year to year.
In the general arrangement of the contents a plan has been followed which appears to be on the whole more convenient than a strict adherence to alphabetical order, or than an attempted classification of countries by the character of their government. Great Britain and her dependencies
are placed first, partly because of the space which they occupy, but more on account of considerations which are set forth in the Introduction. The remaining countries of the world are then divided into the two distinct classes of Republics and Monarchies; and in each class the arrangement is alphabetical. When it seems necessary to draw attention to occurrences of the past twelve months, as bearing on the constitutional or international position of any particular country, this is done in a few paragraphs immediately following the account of the government of that country. In the case of the British Dependencies the arrangement is geographical. Questions of international government, which could not well be treated in connection with separate countries, are briefly handled in the Introduction.
The authorities relied on in the preparation of this work will be found for the most part referred to in the text or notes. Valuable aid has been afforded by gentlemen connected with the Legations in London and with the British Legations abroad, as well as by other competent authorities, on the policy and tendencies of particular countries. To all these the editor desires to express his obligation and thanks.