Constitutional Limitations Upon Special Legislation Concerning Municipalities (Classic Reprint)by William Backus Guitteau
Special legislation for our cities is in part an inheritance from England, where for many years legislative authority has been highly centralized. This centralization results in part from the fact that the British Parliament has usually been very tenacious of its authority,
Excerpt from Constitutional Limitations Upon Special Legislation Concerning Municipalities
Special legislation for our cities is in part an inheritance from England, where for many years legislative authority has been highly centralized. This centralization results in part from the fact that the British Parliament has usually been very tenacious of its authority, and has consequently circumscribed local divisions within narrow limits, to be exceeded only by its own permission, granted in special acts. From early times the theory has prevailed that, so far as public powers are concerned, municipal corporations are merely the delegates of Parliament, which is the ultimate source of all governmental power.
Hence it has naturally followed that the powers granted by Parliament to municipalities have been carefully limited and minutely specified. English legislation has never attempted merely to announce principles, leaving their application to some administrative official or local body; on the contrary it endeavors to foresee all possible contingencies, and, by leaving little room for the exercise of discretion on the part of governmental officers or agencies, seeks to remove all excuse for arbitrary action. The English Municipal Code contains no such broad grant of power as is conferred by section 61 of the French Code of 1884, which declares: "The municipal council regulates by its deliberations the affairs of the commune." Thus the English cities, unlike those of continental Europe, are and have always been authorities of enumerated, rather than of general, powers, and special legislation has consequently been necessary in order to meet new municipal needs.
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