Obrázky stránek
PDF
ePub

the great area of metropolitan New York, there are but twentyfive thousand persons who appear upon the tax assessor's books as owners of personal property. But one person out of every one hundred and forty possesses sufficient property to warrant a return under the general property tax. And the number of persons owning real property is not much if any more. For in our cities the dweller has become a tenant. Mankind has been dispossessed of the soil. In Greater New York scarcely four per cent of the families live in their own unencumbered homes, while on Manhattan Island, the percentage falls to two

The city has given birth to a landless proletariat. The growth of population does this. Society creates a value and then is charged for the privilege of enjoying it. And neither thrift, economy nor prudence can prevent it. For the average city dweller, even though he saved all of his earnings, could not possess himself of a freehold, or live upon it once secured.-F. C. Howe, op. cit., pp. 30-34.

per cent.

5 Political Consequences of City Growth. It is evident that the mere fact of a change of environment from rural to urban conditions is certain to work profound changes in political ideas. The disintegrating effect of a new environment upon accepted traditions and standards of conduct is one of the fundamental laws of social change. The transition from rural to city life has acted as a solvent of this kind. So powerful has been its influence in this direction that many thinkers have ascribed to city life a purely destructive rôle, undermining all accepted ideas, traditions, and beliefs. While such a generalization is both hasty and premature, it is explained readily by the fact that up to the present time the conspicuous function of city life has been to break down the social and political standards developed under rural conditions. To take a concrete instance—during the early period of our national development the conditions of rural life strengthened that negative attitude of the American people toward government which we inherited from the struggle with the British crown. We have been accustomed to regard protection of property rights as the real and usually the only legitimate field of governmental action.

Beyond these limits state activity is called state "interference"an encroachment upon the liberty of the individual.

It is comparatively easy to explain this attitude when we consider the character of the early settlers. In any new country the pioneers are, by a process of natural selection, the most energetic and independent. They constitute a population trained to depend upon themselves and with little sympathy for schemes involving governmental coöperation. With them, intense individualism finds unquestioned acceptance.

With increasing density of population new standards of governmental action are forced upon the community. One of the first effects is to make apparent the necessity of regulation in the interest of the public health and morals. The patent facts of everyday life demonstrate the evils of unrestrained individual liberty, which is the first step toward a broader interpretation of the regulative functions of government.

The next step in the development of a new concept of governmental action begins with the undermining of faith in the effectiveness of free competition as a guarantor of efficient service and a regulator of progress. No one who has followed the trend of opinion in the large cities of the United States can have failed to observe the gradual awakening to the limitations of free competition. . The facts of corporate combination and consolidation, particularly in such quasi-public services as the street railway, gas, and water supply, have done more to bring about a truer appreciation of the relation of the community to industrial action than any amount of discussion.

The general appreciation of the tremendous power at the disposal of the community exerts a powerful influence upon the political ideas of the urban population. The rapid extension of municipal functions during the last few years is an indication of a marked change of attitude toward the municipality. This does not necessarily mean that we are approaching a period of municipal socialism in the ordinary acceptation of the term. Ultimately, the industrial activity of the municipality may be relatively less than it is at the present time. The change in political ideas will be in the direction of demanding of the municipality the physical conditions for the best utilization I the industrial possibilities of the individual and for the grantz tion of his aesthetic tastes.

While these changes in the attitude of the population. towa government constitute the most important of the consequens directly traccable to the infinence of city life, there are un takable indications of imnortant modifications in our ideas governmental structure due to the same set of causes. organization of our government — nationa. as well as statsbeen determined by a political philosophy inherited Tr. Inglish Whigs of the eighteenth century. The sentra thout of this philosophy is the belief in a governmenta. mestars: acting through “checks and balances" and designed te pre the abuse of power. Concerted action among the varias =* of government was what the Englist, middle class ni tir en teenth century feared mosi. 1: was jet that the increm conid he protected from the tranny of governmen: onts allowing one organ of governmen: ir counterac: the asi T another Division of p.ver was regarded as essenria' ii preservation of mdividu: linens To these politia i standards the Americar, colonists fel herr. s na sua therefore, te tina this theory determining the orginatar 2statr and nntiana governments

The popular faith in the eficiency of this part of goat was so great that the unsatisfactory rurkins of the SI SIST ascribed te imneriesigns ir, the mechanis rather that it inherenr: detects of oneration instead ni suvesting the so te : thorougt examinatior trasertair whether i was to th: kind of probiems with which the city has to dea: ano were made te passt derests it means of mine angs orgunratin - 5. zk. * De as a juga m.. * 6-10

CHAPTER II

A

MUNICIPAL ORGANIZATION
S THE English system of local rural government

served as a model for town and county government in America, so the English borough served as a model for American municipal government. Both the English organization and the theory of the English law were adopted and have largely determined the development of municipal government in this country.

(1) The English Borough. At an early date English towns, which had formerly been governed by town meetings, secured certain special privileges of local government from the crown by purchase or the pledge of an annual contribution of dues. The document which conferred these privileges was called the charter and was granted by the crown. It usually named certain townsmen as the governing body of the community, and these afterward came to appoint their successors, so that the English borough became a close or selfperpetuating corporation. It was not until the passage of the Municipal Corporations Act of 1835 that the government of English cities was placed in the hands of the people. The central feature of the English municipality has always been the council, and it is through the council that the powers of the corporation are exercised. It usually consists of the mayor, aldermen, and councilmen.

The English municipality has always been looked upon as an agent of Parliament. It has always been kept subservient to the central government.

Parliament has been very tenacious of its authority, and has granted only limited powers to municipal corporations, and these powers have been strictly construed. The English city has the power to do only those things which are mentioned in its charter; it has only those powers which are expressly delegated to it by Parliament, which is the source of all authority. This has been the theory of the law of municipal corporations in England from the beginning.

(2) American Municipal Development. Early American charters were modeled after these old English charters and were at first granted by the governors as the English ones had been by the crown. They usually provided for a council composed of councilmen, aldermen, and mayor, and the mayor was usually elected by council and not by popular vote. The theory of the English law was accepted and the American municipal corporation today stands in the same relation to the state government that the English corporation does to Parliament. Later on charters came to be granted by acts of the colonial and state legislatures and the mayor to be elected by the people.

The history of municipal organization in the United

« PředchozíPokračovat »