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SEVEN years ago The State Historical Society of Iowa, inspired by that larger view of history which includes the social and economic life of man, announced that its program of researches and publications would include Applied History the foundations for which were even then being laid in the Iowa Economic History Series.* Three years later Applied History was defined as the use of the scientific knowledge of history and experience in efforts to solve present problems of human betterment. As thus defined Applied History comprehends impartial investigation, scientific interpretation, and expert definition and application of standards: it frankly recognizes the fact that public service to be efficient must be guided by open-minded experts - by men governed by knowledge, reason, and high-mindedness.
The practical use of the creative power of scientific knowledge in politics and administration is suggested by the sixteen monographs which constitute the body of the two volumes of the Iowa Applied History Series heretofore issued. Indeed, it is apparent that the greatest possibilities of Applied History are in the field of State legislation, where
*For the first mention of "Applied History" see brief address by Benj. F. Shambaugh published in the Proceedings of the Mississippi Valley Historical Association, 1908-1909, p. 137.
legislative reference, scientific research, and expert bill-drafting may be combined into a constructive method of scientific statute law-making. It is equally clear that the successful creation of statute law depends quite as much upon method and form and language as upon the materials used in the process. It is, therefore, appropriate that the Iowa Applied History Series should contain a volume devoted largely to the methods and forms of statute lawmaking.
During a period of seventy years that is, from 1846 to 1916 the records show that there have been introduced into the General Assembly of Iowa a total of nearly 29,500 bills and joint resolutions. Of these approximately 8000 passed both houses and were placed upon the statute books; while about 21,500 fell by the wayside. To those who are alarmed at the tendency of the legislature to add to the volume of the statute law at an ever increasing rate, it may be something of a relief to learn that there were actually fewer bills introduced in the General Assembly in 1915 than in 1913, and that the mortality of those presented was actually greater in 1915. May it not be that the tide has turned, leaving a high-water mark in 1913 when the Thirty-fifth General Assembly witnessed the introduction of 1297 proposed measures and recorded 410 entries on the statute books?
Academic critics and newspaper paragraphers biennially take their fling at the lawmakers, who in their eyes seem to be possessed of a passion for mak
ing statutory enactments. But to minds familiar with the methods of nature, or tempered by experience in the ways of political accomplishment, it may appear that our legislators have not done so badly after all. The science of legislation is experimental: many attempts at solving the varied problems of statutory regulation must be made before the right formulas are hit upon. Is the scientist in the laboratory discredited because he tries experiments, or because one-half or three-fourths of his efforts fail? The Commonwealth of Iowa is a great political laboratory in which lawmakers are experimenting in the regulation of human conduct. Should we expect more of these workers than of those who labor under the more favorable conditions which prevail in other types of laboratories? The critics should remember that no sooner is a statute enacted than the conditions which called it into being change sometimes through the caprice of man.
"Legislation is largely based upon grumbles they used to be called grievances." And so the important task of the legislature is "to remove discontent and to avert revolution, by making laws which adapt the political, administrative, and economic arrangements of the country to the requirements of the times". In a world that is moving and changing there will always be an insistent and imperative demand for fresh legislation and for the repeal or the alteration of many old statutes. Where there is much legislation there will always be protests against over-legislation; and where statutes are en
acted by popular legislatures there will always be criticism of the form, the language, the accuracy, and the consistency of the laws. "These protests", it must be admitted, "are often justified. Much modern legislation is crude, hasty, unwise. Much of it proceeds from an imperfect conception of what is needed and what is practicable." On the other hand much of the criticism indicates an imperfect knowledge and "appreciation of the difficulties with which modern legislators have to contend, and a misconception of the task which popular legislatures have to perform."*
The scope of this volume is clearly indicated by the titles of the several monographs presented. A brief account of the history and organization of the legislature in Iowa is followed by a discussion of the character and extent of its law-making powers. The methods employed in the enactment of statutes precedes a somewhat detailed consideration of their form and language. Then comes a brief account of the Iowa codes of statute law and the process of codification. Judicial interpretation and construction of statutes are rightly considered from the standpoint of adjudged cases in this State. The imperfections in the form and language of enacted statutes inevitably leads to a consideration of the methods of bill-drafting. Nor would the book have been com
*The quoted passages in the paragraph are taken from Ilbert's The Mechanics of Law Making, pp. 12, 191, 187.