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was applied on such occasions, and no others, on which it might seem probable that the general advantages of uniformity, and of direction by a peculiarly competent though remote authority, would exceed the advantages due to the local energy and constant personal insight which are called into existence in self-contained and self-reliant institutions on a sufficient popular basis.
It is impossible not to see that, in the actual changes respecting local government which have been of late years effected by Parliament, a genuine effort has been made to avoid a needless substitution of central authority for the older and, on the face of them, more popular local councils, and yet at the same time to ensure the reconciliation of the special advantages derivable from local enterprise, knowledge, interest, and concern for economy, with those other advantages in the way of superior force, technical knowledge, scientific and other appliances, as well as stringent supervision, which only Parliament, through its acting medium, the Executive Authority of the day, can command.
It is perhaps in the reconstitution of the Parish, looked at as an area of secular administration, that parliamentary activity in the laying down of new principles for determining the relations of local to central powers has most of all been displayed. The Poor-law of 1834,—which superseded a system of pauper relief and management which had existed without legal alteration from the time of the first parliamentary introduction of a parochial poor-relief system, in the forty-third year of the reign of Elizabeth,—was the earliest modern instance of an invasion of the integrity of the Parish, and of the superposition of a central control of parochial authorities. The earlier constitution of ' Select Vestries,' and the later Reconstruction of the Parish. 141
legislation for controlling, reforming, and multiplying1 such vestries, did not involve any breach in the parochial system. The essence of the Poor-law of 1834 was contained in two leading provisions. The first of these placed the superintendence of the whole machinery for dispensing relief to the poor in the hands of a central body of three Commissioners, whose functions were afterwards, by the Act of 1847, transferred to the Poor-law Board, a committee of the Privy Council; and still later, in 1871, concentrated, with other analogous functions, in the hands of a similar committee, called the Local Government Board. The second of these provisions contemplated the combination of a number of parishes into a Bo-called Union, which henceforward, for all purposes but that of taxation, became the unit of area of Poor-law management. By the 26th section of the Act it was enacted: 'That it shall be lawful for the said Commis'sioners, by order under their hands and seal, to declare 'so many parishes as they may think fit to be united 'for the administration of the laws for the relief of the 'poor, and such parishes shall thereupon be deemed a 'Union for such purpose, and thereupon the workhouse 'or workhouses of such parishes shall be for their com'mon use.'
The general reform, as indicated in these distinct provisions, illustrates that attitude of Parliament towards the Parish which, in and through a mass of later legislation for the division, reconstruction, and combination of parishes for all manner of governmental purposes, has been persistently maintained. The attitude is that of recognising and using the Parish as an ex
1 See Mr. Sturges Bourne's Act in 1818, 58 Geo. in. cap. 69 ; and Sir John Hobhouse's Act in 1831, 1 and 2 Will. IV. cap. 60.
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.