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tions is in fact that of the Municipal Corporations Act of 1835. Since the passing of that Act, no measure of anything like equal proportions bas either supplemented or modified it. The City of London has succeeded in escaping any comprehensive legislative interference; and the chief measures, passed or promised only, have for their purpose the extension of the Act of 1835 to a greater number of boroughs than the 178 on which it was originally imposed, and those which have since voluntarily accepted it. In order to understand the real spirit of the legislation of 1835, as distinguished from the details of the reforms effected, it is worth while making a quotation from the Report, published in 1835, of the Corporation Commissioners. They said : We report to your Majesty that there • prevails among the inhabitants of a great majority of • the incorporated towns a general, and in our opinion
a just, dissatisfaction with their municipal institutions, • a distrust of the self-elected municipal councils,
whose powers are subjected to no popular control, and • whose acts and proceedings, being secret, are un6 checked by the influence of public opinion; a dis• trust of the municipal magistracy, tainting with
suspicion the local adininistration of justice, and often accompanied with contempt of the persons by whom "the law is administered; a discontent under the • burdens of local taxation, while revenues that ought
to be applied for the public advantage are diverted " from their legitimate use, and are sometimes waste"fully bestowed for the benetit of individuals, sometimes
squandered for purposes injurious to the character and (morals of the people. We therefore feel it to be our • duty to represent to your Majesty that the existing Economic Legislation.
'municipal corporations of England and Wales neither possess nor deserve the confidence and respect of your
Majesty's subjects; and that a thorough reform must: • be effected before they can become what we humbly submit to your Majesty they ought to be, useful and efficient instruments of local government.'
The actual reforms effected belong rather to the recent history of local government than to the general constitutional principle, which is the only matter of inquiry here, that Parliament has emphatically assumed to itself the right of introducing into municipal bodies any amount of change which may seem needed to make them really efficacious for public ends. It is sufficient to say that by the Act uniformity and certainty were secured; the municipal constituency,-since made to include women,—was established on a well-recognised basis of rating and residence; the government of the boroughs was vested in bodies elected on a popular principle, and yet so as to avoid the opposite dangers of perpetuity and of capricious and incessant change. The collective population originally affected by the Act was two millions.
3. It might be doubted how far movements in the policy of the country in reference to trade, industry, and social economy properly belong to a consideration of constitutional movements. But when it is remembered that parliamentary interference, for whatever ends, with the free action of citizens in the accumulation and distribution of moneyed capital, and in the processes of organising themselves for the purpose of combined commercial speculations or industrial work, forms a recognised branch of legislation, it is seen at once that the nature and limits of this interference must be determined by some general principles which are in the truest sense constitutional. A line of demarcation has to be drawn between the presumptive claims of individual liberty, of immediate public utility, as scientifically ascertained or believed to be ascertained, and of broader and more general principles of government which cannot be long outraged with impunity. The history of the English Parliament is replete with measures of interference with the economic activity of individual citizens now either tacitly grown obsolete or scientifically condemned. There are found, too, influential schools of political thought of recent growth which would banish the interposition of the State from every field of industrial activity, except in cases such as that of railways, where the essence of the enterprise involves something of the nature of a confiscation, which can only be effected by law. Whatever theories are really in the ascendant in the world of thought, and may ultimately prevail in practice, the only point of constitutional relevancy is that during the last halfcentury, and mainly through the instrumentality of Sir Robert Peel and his political successors, the interference of the State with trade, commerce, money, and social economy generally has been professedly directed in accordance, not with the routine established by longfamiliar custom, nor with the dictates of an immediate expediency, however urgent, nor with the promptings of self-interest discoverable in important classes of the community, but with abstract principles of economy and of government, first laid down by thinkers outside Parliament, and then argumentatively reasoned out and successfully supported within its walls. The proof of these propositions is to be seen in the recent action
The Bank Charter Act.
of Parliament in reference to (1) the Bank of England and other banks, (2) public Companies, (3) railways, (4) factory legislation, (5) the National Debt; and taxation.
(1) The modern legislation relating to the Bank of England commences with Lord Althorpe’s Act of 1833," by which the Bank of England was confirmed in the enjoyment of all its existing privileges until 1855, with the proviso that before the expiration of the term so fixed, and after ten years from the date of the Act, the privileges should cease, on a year's notice being given ; and any vote or resolution of the House of Commons signified by the Speaker of the said House in writing 6 and delivered at the public office of the said Governor and Company [of the Bank of England] or their successors should be deemed and adjudged to be a • sufficient notice. It was in reliance on this clause that, on May 6, 1844, Sir Robert Peel proposed the revision of the Bank Charter, and introduced the measure afterwards known as the Bank Charter Act, which has, for better or worse, revolutionised the relations of Parliament and the Government of the day with the trading community at large. The magnitude and novelty of the enterprise may be gathered from the language of Sir Robert Peel in first broaching the subject in the House. He said: 'I shall proceed at once to *call the attention of the House to a matter which
enters into every transaction of which money forms a part. There is no contract, public or private,-no engagement, national or individual,—which is unaffected by it. The enterprises of commerce, the profits of trade, the arrangements made in all the
i 3 and 4 William IV. cap. 98.
• domestic relations of society, the wages of labour, • pecuniary transactions of the highest amount and of • the lowest, the payment of the national debt, the pro• vision for the national expenditure, the command which *the coin of the smallest denomination has over all the * necessaries of life, are all affected by the decision to ' which we may come on that great question which I
am about to submit to the consideration of the House.' The political principles which governed this reform, and which may be taken as the key-note of all the monetary reforms since effected, are brought into view in the following passage of the same speech. 'I have now " to state the extent to which I propose to carry out
these principles. [That is, the principles respecting - the measure of value, coinage and currency, and pro"missory notes payable on demand.] If I do not carry • them out immediately to their full and entire extent, • I may be told, as I have been told before, that very • good principles have been laid down in the abstract,
but that practically I shrink from their application. • Nevertheless, the opinion which I formerly expressed • I still entertain—that it is of great importance that * public men should acknowledge the great principles
by which important measures should be regulated; 6 and in discussing a question of such magnitude as the • present, I had rather it were said, “ You fall short in 66the application of sound and admitted principles," • than that, “ You have concealed or perverted those 6 “principles for the purpose of justifying your limited 6"application of them.” .... All I can promise is, * that I will propose no practical measure which is in
consistent with the principles that I have laid down, 6 and which does not tend to their ultimate establish