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Full text of "Political Science Of The State"

INSTITUTIONS,  LOCAL AND  SELF GOVERNMENTS.     377
power not to be controlled. And when we say this, we in-
clude that of borrowing money for municipal purposes; that
is, of throwing debts upon the town on the plea that it will by
and by be greatly benefited and enriched by an outlay. On
such pleas canals and railroads have been aided to a great
extent in this country, not only by cities but by counties also,
until unnecessary and useless debts yielding no adequate
return have gone beyond the power of the place to pay, or
have been a lasting injury to its growth. The remedy for
this lies not in cutting off from the municipalities the power
of laying taxes or of borrowing, still less in making this
power dependent on the will of the legislature; but in limit-
ing by a general charter the exercise of such powers. Care
for the next generation, and present pecuniary safety, as well
as honor, require some such provision as the new consti-
tutions of some of the United States have adopted under the
sobering lessons of experience. Thus the constitution of
Illinois (1870) declares that " no county, city, township,
school district, or other municipal corporation JJ shall contract
a debt besides that already existing, exceeding five per cen-
tum on the last assessed value of the taxable property within
its limits. The recent constitution of Pennsylvania contains
provisions the same in their general principle. But this is
not enough. It ought to be placed within the reach of the
payers of taxes on property situated in the town to control
such projects, which may be mere jobs or devised for pres-
ent political purposes. The simplest control would be to
give them alone the right to vote, where taxes are to be
levied. This seems to be the only way within the reach of
our institutions in the United States, of securing municipali-
ties against financial folly, or even ruin, since all must vote
for town officers, and party controls to so great a degree in
local affairs. A short time since, in a city of moderate size,
a gathering of workingmen demanded that the corporation
of the place should appropriate a quarter of a million of dol-
lars in order to furnish work for the unemployed. A city
ought to be unable to do such things, for the habit will grow, if