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of time with each judge whether he shall succeed to it or not. If there be any functions peculiar to the office requiring particular faculties in their exercise, one man must necessarily be more competent than another to perform them, and his claims should be passed upon by the appointing power rather than by the blind decision of time and chance.
A most strange restriction upon the judges of the lower courts is to be found in the clause of the present Constitution, which enacts that during their continuance in office they shall reside within the district or county for which they are respectively elected. Obviously, one of the principal advantages of the present English plan of going on circuits is, that the judge is entirely removed above the petty scandals and prejudices of any given locality, so that he brings to bear in the hearing of any cause a mind thoroughly unwarped by influences which are the most difficult to resist, because the most impalpable—the peculiar tone and mode of thought of the community where he dispenses justice. While the prejudices of the country districts are perhaps still too violent to admit of any radical change in the present system of county courts, it would not be amiss to strike from our new Constitution the record of so weak and blind a prejudice, which, it is to be hoped, the least intelligent have now prepared to discard.
A reform of very great importance, which has recently attracted much public attention in Philadelphia on account of the strenuous but ineffectual attempts of the Reform Society to rid the community of the present abuse, is the suggested appointment by their respective courts, or a majority of the members thereof, of the subordinate officers of those courts, viz.: prothonotaries, clerks, etc.
A member of this Bar, some years ago, went to the then prothonotary of the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia and asked to see his road docket. “I don't keep none,” answered this worthy, who, having been unsuccessful in his original vocation of blacksmith, had taken refuge in politics. The lawyer then reported the matter to the president judge of the court, and the prothonotary was summoned to answer for the derelictions of the past. “Why don't you keep a road docket?" said the judge. “Shall I make anything more by it?" was the evasive answer of the prothonotary. The judge then explained that, although there were to be no forthcoming fees, the interests of justice and of the community which Mr. — served must be regarded by him. The prothonotary left the judge's presence with a determined visage. A few days afterward the same member of the bar, after searching in vain for the expected docket, asked the prothontary why he had not obeyed the orders of the judge. “Judge – be damned," was that gentleman's reply. “We are both of us elected by the same people, and my office is a damned sight better than his, for I make a lot more money by it.” We have very little doubt that this is the natural way of looking upon their relative positions, entertained by many prothonotaries, and we should suggest, as a means of introducing a more subordinate spirit, the appointment of all such worthy men by the courts themselves, in which case they might be taught to realize that they were the officers of the courts and not of that much less exacting and far more long-suffering body—the public itself.
The office of Alderman or justice of the peace has, in our large cities, been so long associated with all that is disreputable in politics and in morality, that it has become a serious question with those interested in political reform whether it should not be altogether abolished, or, at least, radically changed.
In England, the Justice of the Peace, up to the beginning of the reign of Edward the Third, either claimed that office by prescription or was bound to exercise it by the tenure of his lands, or, lastly, was chosen by the freeholders of the county. But in order to prevent the disturbances which were apprehended at the death of Edward the Second, the new king sent writs to all the sheriffs in England commanding each that the peace be kept throughout his bailiwick, on pain of disinheritance and loss of life and limb. A few weeks afterward an act was passed in Parliament in which it was ordained that good men and lawful should be assigned to keep the peace.
Such is briefly the account which Sir William Blackstone gives of the origin of the appointment of justices of the peace. They are now selected on the recommendation of the Lord Lieutenant, and are appointed by special commission under the great seal.
The ordinary justice of the peace in England receives no emolument, but in London and in certain populous districts it has become customary to appoint paid magistrates, and generally with
additional powers. (See various statutes passed during the reign of the present sovereign.)
In France the trial of small and pecuniarily unimportant cases is committed to the juge de paix, who is appointed by the government, receives a salary, and must have had a certain amount of legal training.
In the city of Philadelphia the office has so utterly fallen from its high estate that but few men of respectability, and, we believe we may say, none of education, can or do enter it. The feelings of the Bar of Philadelphia on this subject were made known to the public last winter, when a deputation of aldermen went up to Harrisburg for the purpose of inducing the Legislature to pass a bill enlarging their jurisdiction. A few members of the Bar followed these noble justices, and despite the pecuniary means at the disposal of the latter, convinced our law-makers that the feelings of the general public would be so outraged by the passage of the proposed measure that the bill was defeated by a small majority.
The surroundings, too, of the present aldermen are of such a nature that, while many an honest man is mulcted, many a knave escapes. We would recall to our readers the scene between Justice Shallow and Davy, in which the latter begs the former to “countenance" William Visor, of Wincot, against Clement Parkes, of the Hill.
“ Shallow. There are many complaints, Davy, against that Visor; " that Visor is an arrant knave on my knowledge.
" Davy. I grant your worship that he is a knave, sir; but yet, “God forbid, sir, but a knave should have some countenance at his “ friend's request. An honest man, sir, is able to speak for him“self, when a knave is not. The knave is mine honest friend, sir; “therefore, I beseech your worship, let him be countenanced.
“Shallow. Go to, I say; he shall have no wrong."
So bitterly has this evil been felt, that the last presentment of the grand jury recommends the Constitutional Convention to abolish the office of alderman.
We should suggest that all aldermen should be appointed by the Governor of the State, with the assent, if that restriction be considered necessary, of the mayor of the city; or, in the case of the county, by the sheriff of the county. Then let the Governor be held by the press, and by public opinion strictly responsible for every appointee; if he offend, let the Governor have, as now, the power of summary removal. Let the aldermen receive a suitable salary, and let the pernicious system of fees be entirely abolished.
We have only to add, in addition to what we have already said upon the subject, that we think that membership of the Bar should be a necessary qualification. Aldermen who had a rudimentary legal education, who continued in office during good behavior, and who by the enjoyment of a fixed salary were removed from the invincible temptation of always deciding for the plaintiff, would relieve our Court of Common Pleas of a vast amount of entirely unnecessary litigation.
III. We have already said that we thought that the number of members of the Legislature should be largely increased. We would suggest that it should bear a ratio to the present one of about four to one. The House of Representatives now consists of one hundred members, and the Senate of thirty-three. We should suggest four hundred and fifty as the number of the House, of which fifty should be chosen by the whole State as members at large, and four hundred by small constituencies. A proportional increase in the Senate would give a little more than a hundred and twenty members. Our plan would be to elect one hundred of these from senatorial districts and twenty from the State at large. Each constituency, however, should be allowed to choose its representative in whateverpart of the State he might reside. The desire to have every legislator a resident of his particular district, is like the anxiety displayed so often by the benevolent lawmaker in the passage of usury laws to make the rate at which money is borrowed low. In the one case as in the other the interests of the individual may safely be left to his own management; and it may be assumed, if a city district select to represent it one who resides in the country, or vice versa, that it is but an exercise of a most valuable privilege, and in consequence of the conviction that the constituency will be better represented in that way. Far more important is such a liberty in this country than in England, on account of the much slighter prevalence of country life among the more cultivated classes here, and the constantly in
creasing exodus from the country to the city among those who are untrammeled in the choice of their place of abode.
Another change which we hope to see effected, is that by which the Attorney General, the Secretary of the State, the State Treasurer, and the Superintendent of Public Education, should be made ex officio members of the Legislature, without a vote, as the delegates of the Territories of the United States in the House of Representatives. The advantage of rapid and easy communication between the Executive and Legislative departments cannot be too highly estimated, and the former should have a less clumsy way of communicating with the latter than by a message. As a matter of fact, not a single session passes without the recommendation of several measures on the part of the Governor, and it is important that their advantages should be well explained in order to be duly appreciated.
In the Constitution of the State of Illinois the Legislature is prohibited from passing special laws in the following amongst other enumerated cases :
Regulating the jurisdiction and duties of justices of the peace, police magistrates and constables.
Incorporating cities, towns or villages, or changing or amending the charter of any town, city or village.
Regulating the rate of interest on money.
Granting to any corporation, association or individual the right to lay down railroad tracks, or amending charters for such purpose.
Granting to any corporation, association or individual any special or exclusive privilege, immunity or franchise whatever.
In all cases where a general law can be made applicable, no special law shall be enacted, etc.
Many of these provisos are drawn up with so much looseness as to be easily evaded; but the object which they aim at attaining is excellent.