The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 37
"To be a Citizen."
"To be a Citizen."
A Greek or Roman statesman would look with horror and despair at our unorganised masses of men; and to him it would seem as an axiom that they ought to be made either slaves or citizens. With us they have the freedom of a citizen without his attachments—the ignorance of a slave without his constraints.
To become a citizen is a very different thing from giving a vote periodically for a member of parliament or for a president of a republic. Universal suffrage has left France £1850] as disorganised as ever—more disorganised by far than England, because centralisation is there far more complete and stringent.
"To be a citizen" ought to be a thing felt in everyday life—as much in Birmingham as in London, as once in Rhodes or Athens. And this might be done without revolution—without commotion—without introducing novel or untried principles—without lowering any prerogative or dignity of the Crown—without lessening the honor of Parliament; by merely reverting to the old law of the land.
if the inherent powers of provincial towns were not over- page 59 ruled by "private bills" at Westminster—if those statutes were merely rescinded which have encroached on their legitimate spheres of action, they would have full power over their own finance—their own police—their own militia, under such restrictions only as the general safety demanded.
A. local patriotism is ready to rise as in old days; and the example of the United States assures us that this is quite consistent with a warm attachment to the general union of the whole nation, and with loyalty towards its central object.
In such a state of things, towns would have their universities, as so many towns of Germany have. Their magistrates and local ministry would have a far more arduous and honorable task than now is possible. Their schools of professional men and courts of law need not be, as now, eclipsed by the metropolis. The peoble would be knit together in daily relations as citizens, and would be expected to hear, discuss, and judge in regular monthly sittings.
The provision for the poor, the establishment of industrial schools, the administration of charities end of all the public endowments, and numerous kindred matters, would come before all the citizens for their consideration or for their active service.
If law is centralised it always lingers behind men's wants; custom also is artificially hindered from growing into law; so that the civilised state appears to be less sagacious than it was of old, and moralises in wonder at the wisdom of its ancestors. The Central Legislature, having undertaken the hopeless task of enacting details suitable for all parts of a varied country and vast population, so overlays its laws that to know or understand them is simply impossible for the community and but partially possible to professional students of law. The same centralisation hinders special parts of the country from making free experiments for the benefit of the poor.