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The ordinance of 1787 was not concerned with municipal institutions in the stricter sense. The creation of municipal institutions was reserved to the individual states carved out of the Old Northwest, when urban conditions arose. Chicago reflects

. not only the municipal development in the state of Illinois, but likewise the essential outlines of its quasi-municipal institutions. In its local administrative development the western state has preserved a curious and illogical mixture of rural and urban institutions operating within the same jurisdiction. Previous to the organization of the town of Chicago, the statutes of the state of Illinois preserved a pioneer act relating to village organization. The historical value of this act lies in the

" fact that it was the first attempt in Illinois toward state regulation of village life through an orderly corporate existence. The act of 1814 was as simple as the village life which it was to regulate. It provided a brief and effective process by which

. the small village groups could assume the rights and immunities of corporate life. The county system prevailed at this period as the unit of local government in the territory. At its head stood the county court, a legislative and administrative body. It was made the agent of the legislature in the extension of municipal privileges to the village communities, and could vest any particular tract of land in a board of trustees, upon their application, for the purpose of establishing a village or town.

The villages were organized as proprietary institutions. They were, in their inception, close business corporations. The board of trustees occupied an intermediate position between the inhabitants and the owners of the village site. Rudimentary legislative and administrative powers resided with this body. The board, however, was more than the mere agent for the sale of lots; it possessed power to regulate the inner life of the village through the exercise of ordinance power. The membership of the board was determined by coöptation until the population counted fifteen freeholders, when the principle of the popular suffrage was to be substituted.

* Act of December 19, 1814.

In these simple, rudimentary beginnings of the municipal life of the state are to be discerned the germs of subsequent de velopment. The village was given its organic connection with the central territorial government through the county court, while with the village board resided all corporate powers, legislative and administrative.

A trading French population had followed the fur traders and missionaries into the Northwest from Canada, and planted along many streams and shores of lakes a mediaeval community, so characteristic of the French local life during that century. In Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin and Illinois, at the period of territorial organization many of these villages possessed a flourishing and thrifty population living in the midst of common village holdings. The centralized administration in Paris touched with vigor the remotest of these village communities. The organization of territorial government found already in existence a rudimentary urban life, the outgrowth of special charters which had been granted previous to the act of 1814. The charter of the city of Vincennes may be taken as a fair type of the special legislation of this early period. A board type of organization prevailed, the board consisting of a chairman an] nine assistants. The assistants were divided into three classes and each class was elected annually. The board perfected its own organization by electing a chairman and clerk, and controlled the purchase of lands, markets, etc.2 An important instance of

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*Ibid, Sec. 5.

* Act to incorporate borough of Vincennes, November 19, 1806. Secs. 3 and 4.

legislative control is found in the provision that all by-laws and money accounts, receipts and expenditures in detail must be presented to the territorial legislature.1 The principles of organization employed in the special charters did not depart materially from those set forth in the general act of 1814. Simple conditions demand simple forms. These were found in the models of legislation which followed from the eastern commonwealths.

The state legislature did not attempt further general legislation with reference to the municipalities until the act of March 1, 1831. The act of 1831 was designed to extend the corporate powers of those villages already incorporated, which possessed at least 150 free-holders of twenty-one years of


The initial step toward incorporation was a public meeting, organized with a president and clerk who remained as corporate officers until their regular successors were elected. When the question of incorporation was decided in the affirmative, a second meeting of the voters elected a board of trustees which was to consist of five resident freeholders.3 The board determined its own organization by electing a president from its own membership.*

The president of the board of village trustees was a mayor in embryo, if measured by his relation to the board and to the administrative work of the village. Although possessing no positive powers other than those of a presiding officer, he naturally became the responsible head in the direction and supervision of the work of the board. The board organization implied the presence of dual factors, the president and its remaining members.

The president and trustees were empowered “to make, ordain, establish and execute ordinances” in harmony with the con

*Ibid, Sec. 7.
*Act of March 1, 1831, Sec. 1.
'Ibid, Sec. 3.
'Ibid, Sec. 4.
*Ibid, Sec. 5.
H. C.-2.


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stitutional and legal enactments of the state. The scope of the powers of the board were sufficiently ample to compass the simple village life of the period. The familiar category of village regulations appeared in the enumerated lists of the general act. Gambling and disorderly conduct were the subject of restraint and prohibition; shows were licensed, and markets established and regulated; wells were to be sunk for village water supply; streets and alleys were constructed and repaired by special assessments.2 When necessity required, the board was authorized to organize a fire department.

The tenure of the board was fixed at one year, and all vacancies were to be filled by it. Full publicity was guaranteed to all the board sessions and all ordinances ordered published." Care was also taken to guard against unwarranted appropriations of public funds by the board, by limiting it to those purposes which came under its jurisdiction and control, and no others were considered as legitimate objects for appropriation; and further restriction was found in the required current accounting of all financial transactions with a maximum taxing limit of fifty cents on one hundred dollars.

The importance of this general act lies in the fact that the corporate life of the city of Chicago issued from its provisions. The special feature of the organization, which will appear more definitely as we proceed, is found in the relation of the president to the remaining members of the board.

It will be observed that the act of 1831 differed from that of 1814 in this slight but significant fact, that the board of 1831 was not a corporate body until its organization was perfected by the election of a president, when it was considered as composed of two factors; the president and trustees.

In this we find the basis of the modern organs of mayor and council.


*Ibid, Sec. 5. *Ibid, Sec. 5. *Ibid, Sec. 7. *Ibid, Sec. 7.




The beginnings of great cities are generally clouded in myth and tradition. Those of the western continent have not been entirely liberated from the uncertainties of conjecture. The exact date of the settlement of Chicago does not concern

It is significant, however, that the site of the city was a favorite fishing resort for the Indian, and was known to the fur trader as the lake station on the principal portage between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi system. Physiographically the military and portage village occupied a site of peculiar importance. The commercial supremacy of the city, which dates its beginning from the construction of the Mlinois and Michigan canal, which sought to utilize the natural advantages of this portage by connecting the two great water systems; and still later the Illinois railway systems directed the resources of the Mississippi valley to its markets. Out of this natural location grew an interesting controversy of some political and commercial importance with reference to the future city. It arose with admission of the state of Illinois in 1818, and assumed a more bitter form with the admission of Wisconsin in 1848. The ordinance of 1787 made provision for the formation of "one or two states in that part of said territory which lies north of an east and west line drawn through the southerly bend of Lake Michigan.” With the petition for statehood on the part of Illinois Territory in 1818 came the proposition from her territorial representative that the northerly boundary line of the state be pushed north to 40° 30', instead of the southern point of Lake Michigan. A sweep of fifty miles of lake shore would fall to the new state. The arguExecutive Documents, Vol. IV., 15 Cong., 2nd sess.

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