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(idea icon)1912

The Wisconsin Idea

by Charles McCarthy   1912


IN my capacity as legislative librarian for over ten years in the state of Wisconsin, I have been constantly in touch with the legislation of this state, which now seems to be attracting some little attention throughout the country. The legislative reference department has been besieged by newspaper writers who come here to use the files and records. The recent magazines have contained considerable literature relating to the constructive nature of this legislation. Every day this department is called upon to answer many questions concerning particular laws or underlying principles. Our time has been taken up to such an extent that it has been deemed wise, after a great deal of deliberation and perplexity as to what should be done with the increasing volume of correspondence, to set down a few notes about these laws, and the philosophy upon which they are built as I see it. In doing so I am aware of my limitations. I have done the work hurriedly, without due care as to literary standards. Also, I have been handicapped to some degree because I have been working in this department for the legislators and have taken no part in active politics.

In the actual toil and drudgery of the legislative session--in a clerical capacity--I have tried gladly to carry out the will of the men of genius and power who composed the Wisconsin legislature. Working under the direction of the legislature, a large part of this legislation, indeed the principal part of it, was constructed in some connection with the department of which I have been chief. Because of my duties as librarian of the legislative reference department and as a member of the faculty of the University of Wisconsin, I can say truly that I have had opportunities to see events in this state perhaps from a different standpoint than any other man. If I show a certain spirit now and then which may seem to cloud my judgment as to certain matters herein contained, I crave the reader's pardon on the score that I, a wandering student, seeking knowledge, came knocking at the gates of the great University of Wisconsin, and it took me in, filled me with inspiration, and when I left its doors the kindly people of the state stretched out welcoming hands and gave me a man's work to do.

Without the collaboration of my assistant, Miss Ono Mary Imhoff, these rough notes could not have been put together. She has also prepared the short bibliography which may be found in the Appendix and which will show the inquirer how and where to obtain particular laws or documents.