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several States and the federal government; but, in substance, the organization provided by the charter was simply an adaptation of a form of municipal government which had existed for centuries in the commercial towns of England.
As already pointed out, the Mayor was, under the new charter of the city of Boston, as in the older municipalities of England, simply the chief officer of the government. He had no charter power of appointment or removal, no right of veto over municipal legislation, and no control of the executive business of the city, except such as was derived from his vote in the Board of Aldermen and the power to appoint its committees.
The difficulties attendant on this form of government in a democratic community were apparent from the outset. The citizens had surrendered all direct share in the administration of the government; but on the other hand the responsibility for the executive business of the government was divided among a very much larger number of elective officers than under the old system, that is, among 57 instead of 9,-and there was less rather than more efficiency and cohesion in administration. During the first year of the new City Government disappointment was felt that the change had not produced the practical results expected; and the second Mayor determined to use all the powers that ingenuity could spell out of the city charter to the end of concentrating responsibility and control. The means adopted by him to secure this result was to make himself chairman of all the important committees of the Board of Aldermen, and thus personally to become familiar with all the details of the executive business of the city, and responsible for the management of them. This course enabled Mayor Quincy to become a most competent and careful administrator as well as a far-seeing advocate of public improvements; but the control exercised by him over the affairs of the city was necessarily the result of personal influence and industry. It had no technical justification in the charter, and was unaccom
panied by legal powers of any kind. It subjected him to much criticism and abuse, and was one of the causes which contributed to his final defeat in the city election of 1829. I am not aware that any of his successors saw fit to imitate his example; and from 1829 to 1885 the executive business of the city was practically directed by committees of the City Council.
After the abandonment of Mayor Quincy's experiment, the weakness of the executive branch of the City Government was tolerated, though not ignored. until the building of railroads and steamships and the great increase in population due to these and other causes had entirely changed the character of the community and its necessities in the way of government. From a seaport town Boston became the distributing centre for the manufacturing industries of New England; new avenues of commercial communication were opened up in all directions: the city increased in population at an unprecedented rate; and it became common to think and speak of it as a metropolis. The "long winter of New England isolation" was broken, and Boston found herself suddenly transformed from a provincial town into a centre of trade and commerce, in close communication with all the other portions of a great country developing with phenomenal rapidity. The people no longer formed a homogeneous community, in respect to race, religion, or wealth. Their life became more complex, their interests more diversified, their aspirations larger; economy in public affairs ceased to be the chief aim of the city authorities and a demand arose for a greater measure of municipal activity and a more liberal use of the public funds.
SECTION 2. The Charter of 1854. Under these changed conditions the inadequacy of the city charter became a matter of common admission, and in 1854 a revision was obtained. This document contained few changes of importance except that it gave the Mayor a qualified veto
1 St. 1854, ch. 448.
over the action of the City Council or either branch of it. It also gave him a power of removal over appointed officers; but as most of the executive officers continued to be elected by the City Council, this power was of nominal value. The veto power did not include the right to disapprove separate items in an appropriation order or a loan bill.
SECTION 3. The Charter Amendments of 1885. The charter of 1854 was in only one respect an improvement on the original—it gave the Mayor a qualified power of veto ;1 and as the city increased in population and the public business became still more diversified and complicated, the inherent difficulty of conducting it through committees of a large elective body became annually more apparent. For the next thirty years almost every Mayor at some period of his administ.ation expressed the opinion that a radical change was necessary, and that the executive business of the city should be separated from the legislative. The annexation of the suburban communities of Roxbury, Dorchester, West Roxbury, Charlestown, and Brighton served to emphasize this necessity; and after various commissions had considered the subject, and it had been repeatedly discussed in the City Council and the Legislature, a new charter was procured in 1885.3
This act did not attempt, as did the charter of 1854, to revise or reenact the organic law of the city, but took the form of a few short amendments, and is commonly referred to as the Charter Amendments of 1885. It transferred all the executive powers of the city to the Mayor, to be exercised through the several officers and boards of the city, in their respective departments, under his general supervision and control, and placed in charge of these officers and boards everything relating to contracts, the purchase of material, the employment of labor, the construction, repair, and management of the public works, buildings, institutions, and other city prop
'As he had lost the power to vote in the Board of Aldermen, the advantage of the change was not great. Plurality elections for Mayor were inaugurated by this charter, a clear majority having previously been necessary.
2 See especially the report of the last one, Doc. 120 of 1884.
* St. 1885, ch. 266.
erty, and generally the direction and control of all the executive and administrative business of the city. It prohibited the City Council, its members and committees, from interfering in any manner in the employment of labor, the making of contracts, the purchase of materials, and generally in the conduct of the executive and administrative business of the city. It gave the Mayor the power of appointing, subject to confirmation by the Board of Aldermen, all officers and members of boards except the city clerk, clerk of committees, and city messenger, and those officers who were then elected by the people. It gave him the power to remove any of the executive officers and boards for such cause as he might deem sufficient and assign in the order of removal. It provided that all contracts exceeding $2,000 in amount should require the approval of the Mayor, and prohibited the departments from expending money or incurring liability beyond the appropriations duly made therefor. It gave the Mayor the right to veto every order passed by the City Council, or either branch of it, and to disapprove separate items in loan bills and appropriation orders; subject to the right of the City Council by a two-thirds concurrent vote to override the veto. It provided that the Mayor should not be a member, or preside at any of the meetings, or appoint any of the committees, of the Board of Aldermen or the School Committee.
Taken in connection with perfecting amendments 1 subsequently passed, this act amounted to a new charter, under which a single officer was annually chosen by the legal voters of the city, and in his hands was placed the entire charge and responsibility for the proper conduct of all the executive business of the city. Other legislation of the
1 Particularly the following: St. 1890, ch. 418, regulating the status of subordinate employees, and the execution of public works (see p. 80); St. 1891, ch. 206, which praetically gives the mayor an absolute veto over loan bills; St. 1891, ch. 323, and 1892, ch. 418, which makes the mayor's signature necessary for all streets laid out by the Board of Survey and Board of Street Commissioners; St. 1892, ch. 213, relating to the waterworks; St. 1893, ch. 192, relating to loans; and St. 1893, ch. 261, relating to transfers of appropriations.
same year limited the rate of taxation for municipal purposes, as well as the amount of indebtedness, while the civil service rules for the selection of the subordinate employees of the city went into effect that year.2
Since 1885, therefore, we have been living under a form of government which is entirely different from that which preceded, and is a more consistent application of the theory of executive responsibility than can be found in the organic law of any other large city in this country.3
A distrust of municipal legislatures and of the capacity of their committees to conduct the executive business of a city government has been the chief feature of municipal development in this country during the past thirty years. The tendency to substitute the "one-man power" of the Mayor for the unwieldy and irresponsible machinery of the City Council and its committees has been deprecated by some as contrary to European precedents; and it has been denounced by others as un-American and un-democratic. It must be conceded that the common argument that as most of the city's work is executive in character, it should for that reason be vested in an executive officer, is refuted by the experience of foreign cities, most of which are admittedly well-governed under the committee system. The concentration of executive power in the Mayor's hands is to be defended, not so much on business, as on political grounds. The legislative system works well enough in the cities of Europe where the property-owners are in control, but it has worked very badly in the larger cities of this country under universal suffrage. As the voting list expands and the membership of the City Council increases, it has been found more and more difficult to elect a body that in its committee work represents with any approach to fidelity the desires of the
1 St. 1885, ch. 178.
St. 1884, ch. 320.
The reform charter of the city of Brooklyn was probably the nearest approximation to this idea prior to 1885, but it gave the Mayor no absolute power of removal, and was otherwise a much weaker act. In New York the Mayor has no power of removal.