Thursday, October 09, 2014

From My Quotes Cupboard: The Feudal Power of Britain’s Justices of the Peace

Justice of the Peace, with folded hands
Rural England, which was then three-fourths of England, was governed by the absolute patriarchal sway of the Justices of the Peace. Of county self-government there was none, till the establishment of County Councils in 1888...

The Justices of the Peace absorbed more and more judicial and administrative functions, thrust upon them by a Parliament composed of country gentlemen like themselves – justices gone up to the national Quarter Sessions at Westminster. Indeed, the magistrates in the eighteenth century were hardly in any way controlled or inspected by the central authorities.

Though nominees of the Crown, they in fact co-opted each other, for the Government accepted the recommendations of the Lord-Lieutenant, a local magnate primarily anxious to stand well with the squires of the county...

[The] Tudor and Stuart monarchs had, for a period of two hundred years, tried to make these unpaid local magistrates subserve the purposes of a bureaucracy devoted to the partisan projects of the Crown. But this long experiment had broken down in the final crash of 1688.

Thenceforward the Justices of the Peace may be said rather to have controlled the Central Government through the Houses of Parliament than to have been themselves under any supervision. Nominally State officials, they really represented feudal power tempered by civilization and public spirit...

[The Justices of the Peace] were in fact responsible to no-one ... And their powers and functions covered all sides of county life. They administered justice in Quarter or Petty Sessions, or in the private house of a single magistrate. They kept up the prisons and bridges. They licensed the public houses. They administered the Poor Law. They levied a county rate.

These and a hundred other aspects of country business lay in their absolute control. But they had not, for the multifarious purposes of justice and administration, any proper staff in their pay. Prisons and workhouses, like everything else, were farmed out to contractors, with results disasterous to efficiency and humanity.

British History in the Nineteenth Century (1782 – 1901) by George Macaulay Trevelyan 1928

For more Quotes, please CLICK HERE and for even more, CLICK HERE.

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