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into the class of paupers, receiving parish-relief, to the great injury not only of the owners of the soil, but of the moral character of the people. Another cause renders the indiscriminate application of poor-rates dangerous. Persons in the receipt of parish-relief are thereby enabled to work for lower wages than others; and the consequence is, that the independent labourer is obliged to come upon the parish, to avoid being undersold by them. Besides, improvident marriages are encouraged by a system which withdraws from the poorer classes those checks which restrain their richer fellow-subjects from marrying, without possessing the means of maintaining a wife and children. These several causes were progressively producing a very alarming state of things, when a remedy was applied by stat. 4 and 5 Wm. IV. c. lxxvi The difficulty of legislating on this subject, so as to avoid the evils arising from the old system, and, at the same time, to reconcile charity and humanity with that degree of strictness which appeared to be necessary for the maintenance of industrious and moral habits among the working classes, — can hardly be estimated too highly. The fundamental rule of the stat. 4 and 5 Wm. IV. c. lxxvi. is, the refusal of relief to all those who are capable of working (except medical relief), unless they will submit to reside in the workhouse. That rule is carried into effect under the directions and government of three commissioners, sitting in London, and the superintendence of assistant commissioners, who travel about the country to visit the different districts where the new system has been introduced. The commissioners in London have power to unite so many parishes as they may think fit, for the more convenient application of the system; and, in such unions, a board of guardians are chosen by the ratepayers, for the government of the workhouse and relief of the poor therein. Such are the chief features of the new system; the details of which, however, require some amendment, and the most watchful vigilance of the legislature. The working classes ought to depend upon their own industry; and parish-relief should be a resource to be resorted to only where the former means of subsistence fail. But, on the other hand, any degree of rigour in the law, or its administration, beyond what is necessary to keep the application of the poor-rates within the boundaries assigned to it by that principle, is deserving of the most severe condemnation. The machinery of the act having been instituted only for a specified term,—its renewal must soon be brought under the consideration of parliament.1 By stat. 1 and 2 Vict. c. lvi. the chief provisions of the amended English poor-law are extended to Ireland, under the government of the three poor-law commissioners in London.
We have now reviewed the system of county government and administration in England and Wales, and the magistrates and officers by whom they are conducted, with the exception of the lord lieutenants, whose functions, being chiefly military, will be more properly considered under the head of the military state. We will now proceed to the municipal polity of cities, boroughs, and towns.
They, as we have already remarked, require a different species of government from agrarian districts. The
1 It appears by the Report of the Poor-Law Commissioners, dated 31 Dec. 1839, that at that time there remained 799 parishes in England and Wales which had not been brought under the operation of the poor-law amendment act, containing a population of 2,055,733 souls. The number of unions and single parishes under boards of guardians then under the provisions of that act, was 13,691; containing a population of 11,841,454 souls. There were also 70 unions in which no central workhouse had been built. See Report, p. 4.
comparatively small space within which considerable bodies of inhabitants are assembled, and the variety of distinct classes comprised within the limits of every town, render a vigorous government peculiarly necessary. Besides, there are various things requisite for health, convenience, and ornament, in towns, which are unnecessary for, or inapplicable to, agrarian districts; and, on the other hand, towns present peculiar facilities for selfgovernment. The inhabitants are easily assembled to elect magistrates, or to deliberate on their municipal affairs; and there are always to be found among them a sufficient number of persons, peculiarly capable, from their education, or their practical habits of business, to conduct those affairs. From these peculiar circumstances the municipal liberties of towns all over the world have, perhaps, in great measure arisen.
In England, all ancient cities, boroughs, and towns, and many others, are governed by bodies corporate, or corporations. But the corporate character is by no means an essential quality of those bodies. Thus, Mr. Sergeant Merewether shews, in his History of Municipal Corporations,1 that charters of incorporation, granted to cities and towns, originated in the introduction of certain technical rules of law, excluding bodies not incorporated from the enjoyment of certain legal capacities or privi
1 Merewether and Stephens, H'st. of Boroughs, vol. i. 575; and introd. p. v., xix., xxxiii., &c. The important conclusion following from this fact is, that all municipal corporations commenced since the time of legal memory, which is the reign of Rich. I., and that therefore there cannot, correctly speaking, be a municipal corporation by prescription, which must be founded on a supposed existence before that time, inducing a presumption of an original charter. Incorporations were superinduced upon our ancient municipal institutions. The first charter of that kind was granted to Kingston-upon-Hull in the 18th of Hen. VI.
leges. And the same learned writer proves that the grant of these charters to cities and towns did not commence before the reign of king Henry VI. We will therefore postpone the consideration of the corporate character of these bodies until we come to the subject of corporations in general.
It has been abundantly proved that the municipal constitutions of towns, all over Europe, are derived directly, or indirectly, from the Roman municipia,1 which were little republics, subject, indeed, to the Roman people, but administering their own affairs by means of their elective magistrates and senate, who in process of time appropriated to themselves the legislative power, which was originally vested in the people.2
The analogy existing between the more ancient constitutions of our corporate towns and that of the Roman municipia is a very curious subject of investigation, especially as it throws considerable light upon the diversities and peculiarities of government in the former bodies, which cannot otherwise be satisfactorily explained.
But this has been rendered, to a great extent, more matter of history and antiquarian research than of law, by the stat. 5 and 6 Wm. IV. c. lxxvi., which newmodelled the municipal constitution of the corporate
1 Savigny, Hist . du Dr. Rom. tom. i. c. ii. per tot. Sir Francis Palgrave cites a constitution in the Code of Theodosius, lib. ii. tit. 7 and 2, which shews that the decurions of cities existed in Britain, as in other parts of the empire. Rise and Progress of the British Commonwealth, vol. i. p. 349. And see Mr. Cathcart's learned preface to his translation of Savigny on the derivation of our municipal constitutions from those of the Roman municipia and colonies. He shews that there was, from the earliest times, a form of government in towns totally distinct and different from the Saxon constitution of the tithing and hundred.
2 Savigny, Hist . du Dr. Rom. tom. i. c. ii.
cities, boroughs, and towns, in England and Wales (excepting London), upon an uniform system. That system we will briefly consider.
All municipal corporations now consist of a mayor, aldermen, and burgesses. The burgesses are inhabitant householders, who have occupied a house, warehouse, counting-house, or shop, within the town, for three years; and have paid all poor-rates and borough-rates on or before the last day of August, which have become due six months before that time in each year. Provision U made in the statute for their registration and the annual revision of the registers; and they elect the councillors by majority of votes.1 One third of the council go out of office on the first of November in each year; and every t councillor must go out of office or be re-elected once in ) every three years. Thus the burgesses maintain a proper degree of control over those whom they entrust with their affairs; and, at the same time, the inconveniences which would arise from an annual re-election of the whole body arc avoided. As for the aldermen, who are members of the council, they are elected by the council; and their number must always be one third of the number of the councillors. Half the number of aldermen go out of office on the ninth of November in each year; but they also may be re-elected. The mayor is the presiding magistrate of the council, and the person of greatest dignity within the town. He is elected by the council on the ninth of November in each year. The council also appoint the town-clerk and treasurer. In those towns which have the privilege of being counties of cities and towns, and are therefore exempt from the jurisdiction of the sheriffs of the counties wherein they are situated, the council elect a sheriff on the first of November in 1 Stat. 1 Vict, c. lxxviii.