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COMMONWEALTH—COMMUNE, MEDIEVAL

this object. Commons within the metropolitan police district—the Greater London of the registrar-general—are in this respect in a position by themselves. Under the Metropolitan Commons Acts, schemes for their local management may be made by the Board of Agriculture (in which the inclosure commission is now merged) without the consent either of the owner of the soil or the commoners—who, however, are entitled to compensation if they can show that they are injuriously affected. Outside the metropolitan police district a provisional order for regulation may be made under the Commons Act 1876, with the consent of the owner of the soil and of persons representing two-thirds in value of all the interests in the common. And under an act passed in 1899 the council of any urban or rural district may, with the approval of the Board of Agriculture and without recourse to parliament, make a scheme for the management of any common within its district, provided no notice of dissent is served on the board by the lord of the manor or by persons representing one-third in value of such interests in the common as are affected by the scheme. There is yet another way of protecting a common. A parish council may, by agreement, acquire an interest in it, and may make by-laws for its regulation under the Local Government Act 1894. The acts of 1894 and 1899 undoubtedly proceed on right lines. For, with the growth of efficient local government, commons naturally fall to be protected and improved by the authority of the district.

It remains to say a word as to the extent of common land still remaining open in England and Wales. In 1843 it was estimated that there were still 10,000,000 acres of common land and common-field land. In 1874 another Statistics. return made by the inclosure commission made a guess of 2,632,772. These two returns were made from the same materials, viz. the tithe commutation awards. As less than 700,000 acres had been inclosed in the intervening period, it is obvious that the two estimates are mutually destructive. In July 1875 another version was given in the Return of Landowners (generally known as the Modern Domesday Book), compiled from the valuation lists made for the purposes of rating. This return put the commons of the country (not including common fields) at 1,542,648 acres. It is impossible to view any of these returns as accurate. Those compiled from the tithe commutation awards are based largely on estimates, since there are many parishes where the tithes had not been commuted. On the other hand, the valuation lists do not show waste and unoccupied land (which is not rated), and consequently the information as to such lands in the Return of Landowners was based on any materials which might happen to be at the disposal of the clerk of the guardians. All we can say, therefore, is that the acreage of the remaining common land of the country is probably somewhere between 1,500,000 and 2,000,000 acres. It is most capriciously distributed. In the Midlands there is very little to be found, while in a county of poor soil, like Surrey, nearly every parish has its common, and there are large tracts of heath and moor. In 1866, returns were made to parliament by the overseers of the poor of the commons within 15 and within 25 m. of Charing Cross. The acreage within the larger area was put at 38,450 acres, and within the smaller at 13,301; but owing to the difference of opinion which sometimes prevails upon the question, whether land is common or not, and the carelessness of some parish authorities as to the accuracy of their returns, even these figures cannot be taken as more than approximately correct. The metropolitan police district, within which the Metropolitan Commons Acts are in force, approaches in extent to a circle of 15 miles’ radius. Within this district nearly 12,000 acres of common land have been put under local management, either by means of the Commons Acts or under special legislation. London is fortunate in having secured so much recreation ground on its borders. But when the enormous population of the capital and its rapid growth and expansion are considered, the conclusion is inevitable, that not one acre of common land within an easy railway journey of the metropolis can be spared.

Authorities.—Marshall, Elementary and Practical Treatise on Landed Property (London, 1804); F. W. Maitland, Domesday Book and Beyond (Cambridge, 1897); Borough and Township (Cambridge, 1898); F. Seebohm, The English Village Community (London, 1883); Williams, Joshua, Rights of Common (London, 1880); C. I. Elton, A Treatise on Commons and Waste Lands (1868); T. E. Scrutton, On Commons and Common Fields (1887); H. R. Woolrych, Rights of Common (1850); G. Shaw-Lefevre, English Commons and Forests (London, 1894); Sir W. Hunter, The Preservation of Open Spaces (London, 1896); “The Movements for the Inclosure and Preservation of Open Lands,” Journal of the Royal Statistical Society, vol. lx. part ii. (June 1897); Returns to House of Commons (1843), No. 325; (1870), No. 326; (1874), No. 85; Return of Landowners (1875); Annual Reports of Inclosure Commission and Board of Agriculture; Revised Statutes and Statutes at large.  (R. H.*) 


COMMONWEALTH, a term generally synonymous with commonweal, i.e. public welfare, but more particularly signifying a form of government in which the general public have a direct voice. “The Commonwealth” is used in a special sense to denote the period in English history between the execution of Charles I. in 1649 and the Restoration in 1660. Commonwealth is also the official designation in America of the states of Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Kentucky. The Commonwealth of Australia is the title of the federation of Australian colonies carried out in 1900.


COMMUNE (Med. Lat. communia, Lat. communis, common), in its most general sense, a group of persons acting together for purposes of self-government, especially in towns. (See Borough, and Commune, Medieval, below.) “Commune” (Fr. commune, Ital. comune, Ger. Gemeinde, &c.) is now the term generally applied to the smallest administrative division in many European countries. (See the sections dealing with the administration of these countries under their several headings.) “The Commune” is the name given to the period of the history of Paris from March 18 to May 28, 1871, during which the commune of Paris attempted to set up its authority against the National Assembly at Versailles. It was a political movement, intended to replace the centralized national organization by one based on a federation of communes. Hence the “communists” were also called “federalists.” It had nothing to do with the social theories of Communism (q.v.). (See France: History.)


COMMUNE, MEDIEVAL. Under this head it is proposed to give a short account of the rise and development of towns in central and western continental Europe since the downfall of the Roman Empire. All these, including also the British towns (for which, however, see Borough), may be said to have formed one unity, inasmuch as all arose under similar conditions, economic, legal and political, irrespective of local peculiarities. Kindred economic conditions prevailed in all the former provinces of the Western empire, while new law concepts were everywhere introduced by the Germanic invaders. It is largely for the latter reason that it seems advisable to begin with an account of the German towns, the term German to correspond to the limits of the old kingdom of Germany, comprising the present empire, German Austria, German Switzerland, Holland and a large portion of Belgium. In their development the problem, as it were, worked out least tainted by foreign interference, showing at the same time a rich variety in detail; and it may also be said that their constitutional and economic history has been more thoroughly investigated than any other.

Like the others, the German towns should be considered from three points of view, viz. as jurisdictional units, as self-administrative units and as economic units. One of the chief distinguishing features of early as opposed to modern town-life is that each town formed a jurisdictional district distinct from the country around. Another trait, more in accordance with the conditions of to-day, is that local self-government was more fully developed and strongly marked in the towns than without. And, thirdly, each town in economic matters followed a policy as independent as possible of that of any other town or of the country in general. The problem is, how this state of things arose.

From this point of view the German towns may be divided into two main classes: those that gradually resuscitated on the ruins of former Roman cities in the Rhine and Danube countries, and