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is beyond the memory of history, older than the descriptions of Tacitus of the parent German stock of the Anglo-Saxon race. On the other hand, it is a remarkable fact, that all the encroachments on the right of the commonalty to administer the laws made by them, are of comparatively modern date, and are made by express statutory enactments—thus affording prima facie legal evidence of an antecedent common law or popular custom, which any one familiar with our records can verify by a cloud of proofs.* It has been well observed by Mr. Toulmin Šmith, in one of his learned and ingenious works on the constitution, that the very fact of members of Parliament being, of ancient right, sent up from any place, is in itself evidence that the place sending them formed an institution of local self-government for all other purposes; for the sending up of representatives was merely an incident to, not the essential purpose of, the institution; and the persons sent were anciently not elected specially for that purpose, but were those who had been chosen to one of the principal offices of the district.†
This is an important constitutional fact, involving great moral and political considerations, which must be apparent to every reader versed in the philosophy of government, but which are altogether ignored in contemporary movements for political reforms. In passing, we may be permitted to remark, that these institutions of local self-government are now part and parcel of the existing law of this land; not in the fragmentary fictions of
boards' and 'trusts,' 'councils,' and other self-delusions, established under the policy of centralization, but in the healthy verity of the folkmotes, in all their well-organized developments and ramifications throughout the political system. Jefferson, the American statesman, was profoundly impressed with the philosophy of localization ; and he lamented, if we remember rightly, that it was not carried out on a more complete plan. It is not,' he says, 'by the consolidation or concentration of powers, but by their distribution, that good government is effected. Were not this great country (the United States) already divided into
Many proofs might be cited. Two must here suffice-in the cases of the appointment of sheriffs and justices of the peace. By the common law, the sheriff was chosen by the county, as the coroner now is; but the statute 14 Edward III. c. 7 (1340) provides, that he shall be appointed yearly on the morrow of All Souls, at the Exchequer, by the Chancellor, Treasurer, and Chief Baron, taking to them the chief justices, &c., except in London, where the form of a popular election (encroached on in recent times) is still preserved. The justices of the peace were anciently chosen by the freeholders of the county. They were first appointed by commission under 1 Edward III. (1327).
+ Parallels between the Constitution and Constitutional History of England and Hungary, p. 35.
states, that division must be made, that each might do for itself what concerns itself directly, and what it can so much better do than a distant authority. Every state, again, is divided into counties, each to take care of what lies within its local bounds; each county, again, into townships or wards, to manage minuter details; and every ward into farms, to be governed each by its individual proprietor. Were we directed from Washington when to sow and when to reap, we should soon want bread. It is by this partition of cares, descending in gradation from general to particular, that the mass of human affairs may be best managed for the good and prosperity of all.' The venerable statesman would have been more logically correct, had he described the process of government distribution in the ascending scale, from particular to general ; for, as before remarked, Parliament or Congress is only a result, not the source, of power. It is, however, precisely on the principle of the supposed absurdity of central direction for seed-time, that modern liberal governments of England act. All popular power is fast disappearing under the baneful progress of bureaucratic centralization. Almost everything but our lives has, within the last few years, been handed over by our 'parliamentary representatives' to crownappointed and irresponsible commissioners; and now it is gravely proposed that, after we have "shuffled off this mortal coil,' our bodies are to be disposed of after the same fashion. Against this dangerous policy of encroachment on our liberties, the energies of every freeman should be aroused. It is lamentable to think that the loudest professing liberals are the most active supporters and instruments of the system. Witness the recent attempts to substitute summary jurisdiction and the whip for trial by jury; and the declaration in the House of Commons, by an eminent liberal member, that education is only a matter of government police! It only requires a self-helping effort to render these self-governmental institutions again practical verities. Revive the regular periodical meetings of the ancient shiremotes, and, if desirable, the subsidiary institution of the hundredmote, with the corresponding folkmotes of the cities and boroughs, which any number of freeholders and citizen occupiers may do by a little independence and exertion. All that remains to call into sound and active existence an electoral body as extended as any of the charters,' great or small, propose to do, is to repeal that oligarchical statute of 7 Henry VI. c. 7, which first imposed, as a statutory restriction, what Mr. Cobden and other reformers are fond, though most erroneously, of asserting to be a common-law franchise, namely, the forty-shilling freehold, as the test of electoral right. Much would require to be done in the way of statutory removal, in order to restore to the commonalty their ancient constitutional right to impose and collect all local taxation, and to administer the law by officers duly and lawfully appointed by the commonalty of the shire or town; but, in as far as concerns placing the parliamentary electoral franchise on a solid basis, no course of policy has higher claims on the serious attention of reformers, either as respects soundness of principle or facility of action. It has additional claim on the consideration of the leaders of the Liberal party at a time when Government has propounded one of its favourite empirical measures for local legislation by county boards~a measure utterly devoid of constitutional principle (we use this muchabused phrase as synonymous with legal right), and one only of that prolific crop of Whig centralizing schemes, decked out in the finery and false pretences with which bureaucratic despots in all times have seduced the people to sell their birthright. The 'freehold-land societies,' under good guidance, and divested of the character of a mere party movement, are calculated to render valuable aid to the cause of constitutional renovation; but we are sorry to see symptoms of the centralizing spirit prevalent in this movement, in the desire to render the provincial societies not self-dependent in direction as in effort, but to look for guidance to the central authority of London. 'Economy of management' will in the end be found a poor return for the sacrifice of the healthy principle of self-dependence. But these questions are of too great extent and moment to be thus incidentally discussed, and we must return to our proper themethe corporation of London, in relation to the preservation of its ancient rights and institutions, which it is the object of Mr. Hume's bill to restore into full operation and efficiency.
The movement by the citizens of the important ward of Farringdon Without comprising about one-fourth of the population of London) is a very interesting and useful one in precept and good example, the only tolerable kind of centralization in a free country. But before we refer to it, it will be convenient to cite a few historical facts in support of the declaration of rights contained in this bill. We are indebted to Mr. Toulmin Smith for an admirable statement of the law and constitutional history bearing on the question, in the pamphlet named in the title. The extensive research into the sources of our legal and historical learning, the critical acumen, earnest truth-seeking, and large views of political philosophy which he has displayed in his various works on the ignored principles of our constitution, are all employed in the assertion and proof of the legal rights of the citizens of London. The men of Farringdon are not only indebted to him for direction and counsel, and actual leadership in the constitutional course they have had the wisdom to adopt on this occasion, but for this model bill, which would have done no discredit to the framers of the Petition of Right, albeit the great Coke was probably chief penman of that memorable document.
Mr. Toulmin Smith, in the course of his argument, establishes six points :—That,
1. The only constitutional test of citizenship (i.e., co-extensive rights and obligations) within the city of London, is a bona fide interest in the well-being of the city, following from occupancy therein.
2. The presumption of law is, and has always been, that all occupiers are Free Men, and, therefore, full citizens.
3. Even a proved serf-born, if he resided for a year and a day within any city, became, by the general law of England, thereby a Free Man ; and therefore entitled to all the rights and privileges, and liable to all the obligations, of a Free Man born.
4. This noble privilege was always largely availed of within the city of London : hence there were always many freed-men among
her free men and citizens. 5. Any exclusive class of 'freemen' within the city of London was unheard of till a comparatively late period; and the existence of such a class, as composing the corporation, is unrecognised by, and in direct violation of, every charter, record, and statute.
6. Wards and wardmotes are the constitutional and most effective mode of keeping the roll of citizens perfect, and of keeping the citizens themselves in continual active discharge of their rights and duties as free men.
The corporation of London, in common with the Commonwealth of England, has suffered from the want of knowledge(we should be dubbed impertinent if we said ignorance) on the part of those 'popular authorities from whom the commonalty of readers seek constitutional enlightenment. The profound comment ors and essayists who would have us believe that the English constitution came in with the Conqueror, have their counterparts in the learned civic historians, who date the origin of the corporation from the charters of that monarch. It would be as absurd to say, as some have said, and as thousands believe, that freedom was granted to his subjects by John, when he affixed his name to Magna Charta, as that his valorous predecessor gave corporate rights to London. Neither of these monarchs granted rights which they had legally the power to bestow. The so-called 'grants’ were only confirmations, in the common form of such instruments, of pre-existing rights, which one monarch made through policy or the force of circumstances --the other through necessity and the superior strength of his
subjects. It is always an unpopular course to adduce remote history in support of modern policy, because few are prepared to enter into the argument. Omne ignotum pro mirifico' is only a Tory truth ; scepticism is the rule on the other side. In referring to the times antecedent to the conquest of the English throne by William the Norman, neglected by all but a few patient antiquaries and truth-seekers, as the true period in which to seek the fundamental principles of our freedom, we have to meet, on the one hand, the conjoint oligarchism of the genuine old Tory, who admires antiquity for its rust, and of the Whig, whose first article of faith is, that liberty was born with Whiggery ; on the other, the excessive haste of unsparing Radicalism, which ignores all that is ancient, good and bad together, asserts that the English constitution is a mere fiction, and that all attempts to prove its reality from our fundamental laws are sheer antiquarian pedantry, unworthy of attention in an age of enlightenment and progress. We have dwelt on the importance of this period, because we believe that the institutions shaped by Alfred the Great, from the ruder elements of self-government, which had then endured for ages, are based on, and embody, the soundest principles of civil policy, which, if thoroughly comprehended and adapted to the more artificial wants of our times, would place rich and poor in more harmonious relation to each other, and by teaching all classes of men that human rights are only co-ordinate and co-existent with duties, evoke the better parts and sympathies of humanity. We speak not now of the direct antagonism of these institutions to that baneful policy of centralization under which mediæval liberty fell.
Our wise forefathers stoutly resisted the attempts of the civilians to supplant their cherished common law, and England has stood indebted to them for liberty preserved. Shall we, while longslumbering nations have arisen to shake off the incubus of oppression, quietly submit to the centralizing encroachments which our rulers have made, and are yearly making with increased rapidity and extent, on our rights and privileges ? There are two courses-either to carry out to the fullest extent our local institutions of self-government, and, by a re-arrangement, to render them consistent with fundamental principles, and to develop them to the requirements of the times, or tamely submit to the yoke of despotism, under the mockery of a parliament, which, without a scruple, hands over its delegated power to irresponsible Crown-appointed commissions. The time has now come when we must either make a bold stand, or succumb ignobly. It will be well for freemen, who would live free, to bear in mind, that, as in our language, so in our institutions, the sinews and strength were given by our Saxon forefathers.