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isting, well known, and thoroughly habituated organisation; but, in the case of the Parish being accidentally too small, too large, or otherwise unsuitable for ihe political end in view, of entertaining no scruple as to substituting a fresh unit of area, of which, however, the Parish itself is an essential constituent element. The attitude of Parliament is further denoted by the introduction of wholly new guarantees and precautions for the economic use of local funds, and the wise and generally uniform management of local affairs, so far as this can be secured without impairing responsibility on the spot, weakening local energy and interest, or needlessly disturbing local customs, not to say prejudices.
Another point, closely related to the foregoing, though with different legislative results, is the modern reorganisation of the Police, or Parish, Municipal, and County Constabulary. The constitution of what is now known as the Metropolitan Police force, and the substitution in place of the older parochial police of a constabulary indefinite in point of numbers and wholly under the control of a Secretary of State, is perhaps, when thoroughly considered, the most decisive movement towards centralisation in all its senses,—and in some senses somewhat questionable,—which the present age has witnessed. The preamble of the Act of 1829 'for Improving the Police in and near the Metropolis,' 1 is worth citing as a constitutional land-mark. 'Whereas Offences against Property have of late in'creased in and near the Metropolis; and the local Es'tablishments of Nightly Watch and Nightly Police 'have been found inadequate to the Prevention and
1 10 Geo. IV. cap. 44.
The Metropolitan Police. 143
'Detection of Crime, by reason of the frequent Unfit'ness of the Individuals employed, the Insufficiency of 'their Number, the limited Sphere of their Authority, 'and their want of Connection and Co-operation with 'each other: And whereas it is expedient to substitute 'a new and more efficient System of Police in lieu of 'such Establishments of Nightly Watch and Nightly 'Police, within the Limits hereinafter mentioned, and 'to constitute an office of Police, which, acting under 'the immediate Authority of One of His Majesty's 'Principal Secretaries of State, shall direct and control 'the whole of such new System of Police within those 'Limits: Be it enacted,' among other things, that (Section 4) 'the whole of the City and Liberties of 'Westminster, and such of the Parishes, Townships, 'Precincts, and Places in the Counties of Middlesex, 'Surrey, and Kent as are enumerated in the Schedule 'to this Act, shall be constituted, for the Purposes of 'this Act, into One District, to be called "the Metro"'politan Police District;" and a sufficient Number 'of fit and able Men from Time to Time, by the Direc'tions of One of His Majesty's Principal Secretaries of 'State, shall be appointed as a Police Force for the 'whole of such District, who shall be sworn in by One 'ef the said Justices to act as Constables for preserving 'the Peace, and preventing Robberies and other 'Felonies, and apprehending Offenders against the 'Peace; and the Men so sworn shall, not only within 'the said District, but also within the Counties of 'Middlesex, Surrey, Hertford, Sussex, and Kent, and 'within all Liberties therein, have all such Powers, 'Authorities, Privileges, and Advantages, and be liable 'to all such Duties and Responsibilities, as any Con'stable duly appointed now has or hereafter may have 'within his Constablewick by virtue of the Common 'Law of this Realm, or of any Statutes made or to be 'made, and shall obey all such lawful Commands as 'they may from time to time receive, from any of the 'said Justices for conducting themselves in the Execu'tion of their Office.' The later Act of 1839 and still more recent Acts have empowered 'Her Majesty, by 'the advice of Her Privy Council,' to vary or extend the boundary of the Police district within limits which from time to time have been fixed by the successive Statutes.
The relevancy of the change effected by the Metropolitan Police Act of 1829 can best be understood from the opposition which greeted it when first introduced by Sir Robert (then Mr.) Peel, the Home Secretary in the Duke of Wellington's Government. It was said that a military Cabinet desired to introduce into England the despotic police of the Continent, with their whole system of domestic espionage; and influential newspapers denounced the abolition of the ancient order of watchmen. M. Guizot relates how an address was presented to King George the Fourth, conjuring him to open his eyes, to call upon the name of the Lord, and to rally his people around him, for a plot had been formed to overthrow the House of Hanover, and to place the Duke of Wellington on the throne, by the assistance of the Irish Catholics who were to be enrolled in the Police.1 Long experience has dispelled most of these constitutional alarms, and reconciled the public with an institution the perils of which are found to be, at the worst, limited, and which has hitherto
1 Guizot's Memoirt of Sir Robert Peel, p. 45.
Public Health, 145
proved to be subject to the effective control of Parliament. Nevertheless, the Metropolitan Police Acts, by substituting an entirely new unit of area for the Parish, by inventing an unprecedented organisation of undefined extent, and placing the permanent management of this organisation in the hands of the Crown, constituted an era in the history of local government in this country. The process of superseding the old parish constable throughout the country by the introduction of a class of officials better paid, better educated, and better managed, and subject to a more central administrative authority than that of the local justices on the spot, has been carried on by a series of Acta, among which may be mentioned the Act of 1839, enabling the Justices of any county in Quarter Sessions to appoint a chief Constable, who, with the concurrence of two or more Justices, might appoint superintendents for different divisions of the county, and any number of petty constables to act under them; the Act of 1856, by which the establishment of a county police force was made obligatory in every county, and power was given to Her Majesty in Council to require the division of a county into police districts, and arrange the terms of consolidation of the police of a county and borough; and the Act of 1872, which provided that no parish constables should be henceforth appointed by any parish, unless the Court of Quarter Sessions should decide that such appointment was necessary, or unless the Vestries of the parish should resolve on the appointment.
In intimate connection with the parliamentary reconstitution of the Parish in respect of Poor-law relief and the police, are the strenuous efforts that of late
years have been made by Parliament to further, supervise, and economise local efforts for promoting those various and often incongruous objects now compendiously gathered up under the title of the Public Health. According to the language of a series of Acts of Parliament, from the Public Health Act of 1848 to that of 1875, Public Health includes public well-being, comfort, and even entertainment, inasmuch as these Acts contemplate the paving and lighting of streets, and the purchase and management of grounds of public recreation, no less than the abatement of nuisances, the utilisation of sewage, and the prevention of the spread of infections diseases. The legal machinery resorted to in this legislation is closely analogous to that of the Poor-law system. The parish is taken as the unit of area for rating, but the district of management is not conterminous with it. A Local Board of Health could be appointed for the district, either on the petition of a certain portion of the ratepayers, or on the annual death-rate reaching a certain height; and by the later Acts the institution of Local Boards has been made more and more generally compulsory. The Local Board has been brought into close correspondence, first witb the Central Board of Health, and, since 1871, with the Local Government Board, the consent of which Board is required to all the more important acts of the local authority. It is unfortunate that a number of objects closely akin to the heterogeneous objects- already comprehended by the Public Health Acts have been simultaneously made the subject of distinct legislation of an analogous kind, which has resulted in the co-existence of a number of districts often complicated with each other, and destitute of all uniformity in respect of the