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The remedies suggested for the evils of city government as conducted in this country are innumerable.
Confining comment to those most frequently proposed, we have in the first place the proposition to restrict the suffrage for municipal purposes to those who have a direct property interest in the government, through the payment of taxes on real or personal estate. Such a reform is, in my opinion, impracticable; it is wholly unlikely that any Legislature could be induced to disfranchise four-fifths of the voters of this city; and if this was once done, it would not last five years. Our political institutions are founded upon the theory that those who have the physical power shall have the legal right, that is, on universal manhood suffrage ;3 and on that principle they must stand or fall. As I have not hesitated to point out some of the bad results of universal suffrage in municipal affairs, so I desire to record my opposition to all efforts to abolish or restrict it. If the American people cannot in time solve the problem of city government on the basis of universal suffrage, then democracy itself is a failure.
On the other hand, to extend the suffrage by admitting to it women, would be not only to depart from the true theory of universal suffrage, but would reduce still further the percentage of property-owners to the total number of voters; it would more than double the already large majority of non-property owning voters; and it would introduce considerations into the government, the certain tendency of which would be a further and unnecessary increase in expenditure. The result of the limited experience that this city has had with woman suffrage has not been such as to lead thoughtful people to look upon its extension otherwise than with fear.4
1 Recommended twenty years ago by a commission of the State of New York, appointed by Governor Tilden, and since then by many earnest students of municipal affairs.
2 The burden of taxation, although felt more directly by those who pay it in the first place, is yet in the end distributed in rent and prices throughout the whole community; and it seems no harder a task to convince the people of this fact than to abolish manhood suffrage.
3 All property qualifications were abolished in 1821, and the payment of a poll tax ceased to be a prerequisite to the right to vote in 1892.
* Statute 1884, chap. 298, passed at the instance of a few women who desired to
THE PROBLEM OF CITY GOVERNMENT.
In opposing the extension of the franchise to women I do not wish to be understood as failing to recognize their capacity as individuals for public work. On the contrary, I have had frequent opportunities for observing the excellent work accomplished by the ladies who have served the city on the School Committee, the Overseers of the Poor, and the Board of Visitors for the Public Institutions; and those appointed by me to positions upon the two last-named Boards were the first to receive an executive appointment from any Mayor of Boston. The dilution of the suffrage by means of the addition of all women to the voting list is a wholly different. proposition from the capacity of individual women for public work. Woman suffrage has been a conspicuous failure to the limited extent that it has been already tried in this community, and every consideration tends to show that general or municipal suffrage for women could not fail to be attended with the most disastrous results under conditions such as obtain in all populous communities.
"Non-partisanship" in city politics is a common remedy, and on the face of things most plausible, as no real reason can be assigned why municipal elections should turn on considerations of national party politics; but it has not been found possible in the larger cities of the country to maintain for any length of time "citizens"" movements, although occasionally one proves successful. There is, moreover, one possible result of abolishing the party system which seems to be lost sight of by the advocates of non-partisan reform: the division of the people in municipal elections on class and social lines. As a city is a political institution, the people in the end will divide into parties; and it would seem extremely doubtful whether the present system, however illogical its foundation be, does not in fact produce better results, at
take an intelligent part in public affairs, has been used almost exclusively as a weapon in an anti-Catholic agitation, kept up, principally by its means, for the benefit of sensational preachers. The influence of the women who started the school suffrage movement has been lost in the flood of votes cast by other women in ignorance and prejudice, it being estimated that nine-tenths of the women voters at the city election follow the Committee of One Hundred" and other anti-Catholic societies.
least in large cities, than if the voters were divided into groups separated by property, social, or religious bounds. The evils of such division can be read in the history of the cities of Greece, and if, as many people think, similar dangers confront the municipal democracies of the twentieth century, we should be slow to hasten their advent by a deliberate abandonment of the present system. These remarks apply to partisanship in elections rather than to partisanship in administration. The business of the city can, with relatively insignificant qualifications, be conducted without regard to party politics even under the party system. Ninety-nine per cent. of all the questions that come before the City Council and the executive departments are questions of expenditure; there are practically no divisions of the City Council on party lines; and the contest in almost every case is between extravagance and economy, between expenditure and retrenchment, not between Democrats and Republicans. The present system of party nominations makes the successful party responsible for a bad, inefficient, or extravagant administration; and conversely a successful administration enures to the credit of the party responsible for it; but except in the matter of appointments to office partisanship in administration is no part of the system, and even with respect to appointments the doctrine of partisan proscription has never obtained in this city. Nominations for Mayor of Boston have been made by the principal political parties from the beginning;1 but, as already pointed out (pp. 13 and 120) partisan changes in the heads of departments have been relatively infrequent, even since the power of appointment was lodged in the Mayor. The much-decried system of party responsibility has some merits regarded from the practical standpoint of results; and it may well be doubted whether the
1 In the seventy-three city elections held since 1822 the Federalist candidates were successful ten times, the National Republicans twice, the Whigs seventeen times, the Native American candidates three times, the Republicans thirteen times, various "citizens”” candidates six times, while the Democrats have carried the city in twentytwo elections.
THE PROBLEM OF CITY GOVERNMENT.
substitution of social groups for national parties would in the end benefit the people.
The same objection applies to minority representation: that it invites the voters to divide into classes and to carry the differences of social and pecuniary conditions into city politics. Majority or plurality rule may not be fair to all interests involved; but the question is not so much whether the special interests of the community secure that representation in the government to which they are numerically entitled, as whether they ought to have any representation at all. The rule of the majority, like every other political device, is open to criticism; but after all it secures government that more than half the people have voted for, and not a compromise between the interests of special classes. It is a principle that should not be unthinkingly abandoned.
The "initiative" and "referendum," referendum," the latest political importations from foreign parts, are nothing but devices for the abolition of representative government. We may concede that representative institutions are not adapted to the proper conduct of executive work; but the Swiss initiative. is a scheme to destroy the legislative power of representative governments.1
The theory that the affairs of a city should be managed like those of an ordinary business corporation is attractive and widespread; but it is founded on the fallacy of supposing that a municipality is a business corporation; and its advocates are generally driven to support a limitation of the suffrage. While the modern city is technically a corporation, its constitution, machinery, and objects are wholly different from those of private companies. It is not controlled by a limited number of stockholders casting votes propor
'The submission in the discretion of the Legislature of important local measures to popular vote is properly frequent here; but the Swiss law for the compulsory submission upon request of bills passed by the Legislature, and of other bills that the Legislature will not pass, is the complete annihilation of representative government. The best-informed critics agree that this system is, as might be supposed, leading the people of Switzerland straight to socialism.
tionate to their holdings, but by a great number of people, each with a single vote, most of whom have no direct property interest in it. Its officers are elected, not in the sober quiet of a corporation meeting, but in the heat of a political campaign. Its object is not to make a pecuniary profit for its members, but to provide for their safety, health, and comfort, their education and pleasure, to relieve their poor and help their sick, and generally to do things that no business corporation was ever chartered to accomplish. The chief similarity between a business and a municipal corporation is in respect to those undertakings which are also carried on by private corporations for profit; that is, water-works, ferries, gas-works, etc. ; but in all the other branches of government the distinctive feature of a private corporation, organization for the pecuniary profit of its members, is absolutely wanting. Municipal corporations are organized not to make money, but to spend it; their object is government, not profit. They are by statute law in Massachusetts "bodies politic;"1 the "main purpose of their organization is political," and they "differ distinctively and widely from private and moneyed corporations both in organization, government, and action." 2 At the beginning of municipal life, as we understand it, the city was not only a political society, it was the State itself; and in all the true municipal democracies the world has ever seen "the people are the city." It is idle to point to the cities of modern Germany as illustrations. of the fact that a municipal corporation can be managed on strictly business principles, for there the property-owners control the suffrage; nor to France, for there a large part of the local business is transacted by the national government; nor to England, for in that country the suffrage is not yet equal, free, and universal, and the people have not yet learned their opportunities and power. A city government founded on democratic self-governing principles was, is, and ever will be a political and not a business corporation; and it is only
1 St. 1785, ch. 75, § 8; and see Boston charter, St. 1821, ch. 110, § 1.