Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 23.djvu/364

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

cent of the total population. This percentage slowly gained at each successive census, until in 1840 it had reached 8·5 per cent. In fifty-years it had thus gained a little over 5 per cent. But in 1850 it rose to 12·5 per cent, in 1860 it was 16·1 per cent; in 1870 it was 20·9 per cent, having in this one decade gained as much as in the first fifty years of our political existence. In 1880 the population resident in cities was 22·5 per cent of the whole population.

Contemporaneous with this rapid growth of urban population have grown the complaints of corrupt administration and bad municipal government. The outcry may be said to be universal, for it comes from both sides of the Atlantic; and the complaints appear to be in direct proportion to the size of cities. It is obvious, therefore, that the knowledge of the art of local government has not kept pace with the growth of population. I am here by your favor to speak for the city of New York, and I should be the last person to throw any discredit on its fair fame; but I think I only give voice to the general feeling when I say that the citizens of New York are satisfied neither with the structure of its government nor with its actual administration, even when it is in the hands of intelligent and honest officials. Dissatisfied as we are, no man has been able to devise a system which commends itself to the general approval, and it may be asserted that the remedy is not to be found in devices for any special machinery of government. Experiments without number have been tried, and suggestions in infinite variety have been offered, but to-day no man can say that we have approached any nearer to the idea of good government which is demanded by the intelligence and the wants of the community.

If, therefore, New York has not yet learned to govern itself, how can it be expected to be better governed by adding half a million to its population and a great territory to its area, unless it be with the idea that a "little leaven leaveneth the whole lump"? Is Brooklyn that leaven? And if not, and if possibly "the salt has lost its savor, wherewith shall it be salted?" Brooklyn is now struggling with this problem it remains to be seen with what success; but meanwhile it is idle to consider the idea of getting rid of our common evils by adding them together.

Besides, it is a fundamental axiom in politics, approved by the experience of older countries as well as of our own, that the sources of power should never be far removed from those who are to feel its exercise. It is the violation of this principle which produces chronic revolution in France, and makes the British rule so obnoxious to the Irish people. This evil is happily avoided when a natural boundary circumscribes administration within narrow limits. While, therefore, we rejoice together at the new bond between New York and Brooklin, we ought to rejoice the more that it destroys none of the conditions which permit each city to govern itself, but rather urges them