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5. The Commissioners of Regent's Park.
And Baltimore the following, viz:
1. The Commissioners of Finance. 2. The Commissioners of the Water Department. 3. The Commissioners of Public Schools. 4. The City Commissioners. 5. The Commissioners of Druid Hill Park. 6. The Commissioners of the Health Department. 7. The Board of Visitors of the City Jail. 8. The Harbor Commission. 9. The Board of Police Commissioners. 10. The Board of Fire Commissioners. 11. The Commissioners of Street Openings. While they are found in many other States.
The idea of absolute local self-government in the city of New York, has no foundation in our past history, and is at war with the fundamental principles of State supremacy.
The State of New York never allows any portion of its territory, be it town, county or city, a local independence, but subjects all parts of its domain to the supreme authority of the State itself. When a charter is given to a village for the convenience of its inhabitants, the better preservation of order, the protection of private right, and the suppression of local evils, the State confers upon such village certain special powers, which may be recalled by the Legislature at will, and differ widely from irrevocable grants of property. In the exercise of such powers, the village officials, in effect, are merely deputed to perform a portion of the functions of the State government at that particular place. So, on a larger scale, the city of New York, from time to time, has received authority from the State for the purposes of local government, but always subject to the superior power of
the State. The great amount of property and the large population of the city render it expedient, and even necessary, that the provisions for the local government here should be ample and comprehensive; but the fundamental principle of the subordination of the local government of a district to the general government of the whole State, is the same here as in the case of any mere village.
So far as New York is concerned, it will be found that it is entirely due to the existence of commissions that our city has not been despoiled and ruined. All that is purely local in the government of our city bears no comparison in value to that which ema. nates from State authority; while the corruption of the Legislature is caused mainly by the money taken from this city by popular branches of the municipal government.
To abolish the commissions would be to destroy all hope of our attaining good government. It is not the capitalist, the merchant, the banker, the honest laborer and largest tax payers in this city who are opposed to commissions, but the professed politician—the place and power seeker, the trader in contracts and jobs.
Some few eminent, able, and honest men may question this form of government, but the great mass of our responsible citizens uphold it, and would be struck with terror were it abolished.
Nothing in our form of government requires that all offices should be filled by election. It is maintained by the ablest writers on this subject, that, to insure the integrity of our institutions and the efficient and economical management of public affairs the elections should be few and held to fill the highest offices only. The system of electing every officer, no matter how merely executive his duties, by spreading the elective franchise over so many subjects, cheapens and weakens it, and lowers the standard of character and capacity in our officials; because by multiplying the number of officers to be voted for we render it impossible for the elector to give the attention required to the character and qualifications of the individuals soliciting bis vote.
The elector may have the time and opportunity to inform himself on these matters in the case of one man or of a few men, but he shrinks from the task in the case of a large number of men. One
of the most eminent jurists in this State, a member of the last Constitutional Convention, bas stated that for twenty years he has seldom cast an intelligent vote for a local officer. The result is, that the machinery of our local elections falls into the hands of a few men who make politics a business, while the electors go to the polls and vote for the candidates of this or that party, with no knowledge or trustworthy information of the character or qualifications of the individuals for whom they vote. The general public take less interest in the elections, and the practical consequence is the same, as regards the expenditure of the city and county funds, no matter what political party may succeed. On the other hand, where the elections are few and the appointments many, more general interest is taken in politics and more attention paid to the selection of candidates for office; for the candidates being few and for important offices having many appointments, the elector is more likely to inform himself as to the character and qualifications of the men offered to his choice. By multiplying the number of elective officers, we do not, as is supposed, increase the real responsibility to the people, but, on the contrary, we decrease it. The people do not feel the keen responsibility for a bad official elected by themselves that is felt by the one man who is solely responsible for such an appointment, for each elector divides his responsibility among several thousand others.
If it be true that good government is more effectually attained by extending this imaginary responsibility caused by the frequent use of the ballot box, it follows that the best government will be realized by making every officer, clerk and policeman elective, which, although it may appear to be absolute responsibility to the people, would in fact put an end to good government.
As regards the general plan of the State Government, which alone embraces the power of the whole people, there is no reason why it should not be moulded in some measure after that of the National Union, giving to the Governor the power of appointing subject to confirmation by the Senate, all strictly executive or judicial officers. And no argument presents itself why this power to appoint should cease in the case of the chief executive officers of great cities.
The city of New York is the most important division of the whole State. The commercial, financial, social and moral relations exist
ing between the people thereof and of other portions of the State are too intimate and well known to require special reference in this letter. Suffice it to say, that this city is in fact the heart not only of our State but of the whole nation. Art, science, education, religion, all have their great centres here, and therefore the people of our State cannot, without great danger to themselves, give over the entire government of this Metropolis to the hands of those irresponsible masses among us who control the ballot box.
Again, there are some officers which, by reason of their nature, should be independent of direct popular control; and especially is this the case in large cities, such as New York. Among such officers are those which have the control of the police, the public health, the protection of property, and the construction and maintenance of such public works or improvements wbich, although local in fact, are national in character and effect.
The people of the State have many interests in this city which it is their right and duty to protect.
It was in consequence of the danger caused by the bread riots, to the millions of dollars' worth of breadstuff in this city owned by the farmers throughout the State, that the law was passed making counties liable for the destruction of property by rioters.
The association holds that it would be dangerous in the extreme to trust the above great interests to the mayor, who, while his office is elective, is so completely in the hands of those who control large masses of votes.
To give the mayor this power is to practically hand the matter over to the following elements of our population : A law exists prohibiting the sale of intoxicating liquors on Sundays, in the city of New York. Sunday was the most profitable day for the saloon and bar keepers. It was notorious that every Sunday, in every drinking shop, this law was openly violated. No prosecutions were instituted against the offenders, because they were influential in controlling the votes of their ward or district. They were the whippers-in of their party. Not only were the suffrages of the landlords and barkeepers thus obtained, but those of the thousands of unfortunate persons whose score was chalked up in the saloon, and cancelled by voting for the favorite candidate. There were ten thousand drinking shops
in this city ; if each furnished but two voters, here were twenty thousand votes controlled simply by the intentional neglect to enforce a simple law.
The keepers of junk shops can be controlled by granting licenses to them in the first instance; and, in the second, by refraining from revoking those licenses when stolen goods, bought from thieves, are found in their possession.
The keepers of second-hand clothes shops can be controlled in like
So with the keepers of stands upon public streets, held “during the pleasure of the common council.”
So with the store keepers, who are permitted, on the like terms, to extend projecting signs, show-cases and advertising devices into the thoroughfares, and to incumber the sidewalks.
So with the keepers of stands in the markets.
So with the persons suffered to incumber the piers and wharves. So with the keepers and frequenters of gambling houses, for the suppression of which strong laws are now in existehce.
So with the keepers of brothels.
So with the keepers of dance-houses.
So with the keepers and patrons of concert saloons.
So with the keepers of lottery shops.
All of these can be controlled without the expenditure of a dollar. They yield an aggregate of many thousand votes.
The foreign vote in this city is 80,000; the native vote, 52,000.
By the police returns for 1866, it appears that there were 55,528 males arrested for crime during the year, of whom 45,000 were old enough to vote. In addition to the above we have several other classes that can be controlled in the same way, making altogether a phalanx of over 60,000 strong always marching solid to the ballot box.