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legal existence separate from the state. It is not a distinct political organism, but a part of the great organism, the state.
A municipal corporation is always formed at the request of its people for the purpose of securing a local government to look after local affairs. Under our present constitution it could not be formed without their consent.1 A quasi corporation is formed for the purpose of enforcing the general laws of the state in the locality, and it may be formed without the consent of the people of the locality. The boundaries of a municipal corporation may not be changed without the consent of its people, while those of a quasi corporation may be. These differences grow out of the fact that general laws will meet the needs of sparsely settled communities, whose public wants and interests are few and simple; but that special provision must be made for thickly settled communities whose wants and interests are many and complex.
23. Corporations Classified. — Corporations may be classified in many ways according to the points that one desires to emphasize. The following outline is intended to present to the eye a brief summary of what has been said in this chapter about corporations :
CORPORATIONS I. Characteristics.
1. They are created by the state. 2. They have power to speak and act as one person, although
they are composed of three or more persons. For this
reason a corporation is said to be an artificial 3. They have perpetual succession.
1 See Andrews, American Law, page 536 seq. See also Kahn vs. Sutro, 114 Cal. 319.
The maintenance of a municipal government is relatively more expensive than that of a county, and no community should be compelled to assume the burden without its consent.
(1) Ordinary business corporations.
street car, telegraph, telephone, water, gas, and
electric companies. b. Eleemosynary corporations. These include incorporated
churches, private schools and colleges, and charitable
institutions. C. Corporations organized for pleasure or sport. 2. Public Corporations. a. Municipal corporations. These have charters and are true
corporations. b. Quasi corporations. These have no true charters and are
not true corporations. They have, however, the characteristics and some of the powers of a corporation, and for convenience are called public corporations.
24. Local Self-government. By means of public corporations we enjoy local self-government. Local selfgovernment means (1) that all local (county, city, school district, etc.) officers are locally elected, and (2) that the state depends upon these local officers to enforce in the localities general state laws, as well as to make and enforce local ordinances. This makes all local officers state officers.
Countries in which local self-government does not exist have what is called a centralized government. If we had a centralized government in Calfornia, all our local officers, or at least the most important of them, would be appointed at the state capital; and they would not be responsible to the people whom they serve, but to the central authority in Sacramento. In each county there would probably be an appointed official whose consent would have to be obtained before the county could improve a road or build
a necessary public building; or before any city in the county could lay out a park, grade a street, or make any other necessary improvement.
The Roman Empire during the last two hundred years of its existence had a thoroughly centralized government. In the early days of Roman expansion the policy of the conquering city was to permit a large measure of local self-government to the conquered communities; but almost from the first there was a tendency toward centralization. Many times communities neglected to look after their local concerns properly, and the central government was obliged to interfere in the interests of efficiency and good order. Provincial governors grew more and more inclined to disregard local usages and customs, while they themselves became more and more dependent on the Emperor. It became customary to refer questions concerning the most trifling details to Rome for decision. The process of centralization continued until by the beginning of the fourth century A.D. local self-government was entirely dead.?
France is an example of a well-governed modern nation which has a centralized government. The hand of the central authority is seen everywhere in the government of the localities. As Woodrow Wilson says,3 “ The general rule of French administration is centralization, the direct representation of the central authority through appointed officers in every grade of local government, and the ultimate dependence of all bodies and ministers upon the officers in Paris.” France is divided into departments corresponding to our counties. The most important official in each department is the prefect. He is the recruiting officer of the department, its treasurer, its superintendent of schools, its chief of police, its executive officer in all important undertakings. He appoints most subordinate officials. The police of every city in his department are subject to his control. He supervises the issuing of municipal bonds and the granting of franchises, and has a voice in all important municipal affairs. He is appointed by the Minister of the Interior in Paris, and is strictly re
1 See Pliny's letters to Trajan.
sponsible to him. It is evident that the French people know very little of local self-government as we know it in America.
Our federal government is highly centralized. The officers and employees of the United States government number about four hundred thousand; and of this number only the President, the Vice President, and the members of Congress are elected. All others are appointed either directly or indirectly by the President, and are responsible to the President, or to the heads of the great departments in Washington. This form of government has proved eminently successful in the management of our national affairs. Our state governments are based on the local self-government principle, and all that we have of local self-government pertains to and is a part of our state governments. This is no doubt the fundamental cause of the jealousy that the states have always felt toward the national government when it has seemed to exhibit a tendency to encroach
every advance made by the federal government at the expense of the states is an encroachment of centralized authority on the principle of local self-government.
1. Why is a congressional district not a public corporation ?
2. Why will not a county government serve for the cities located in the county ?
3. What is a charter? Why must a city have a charter ? 4. Why does a county need no true charter ?
5. How can it be said of a school district that it "exists for the government of a portion of the state” ?
6. Is Stanford University a private or a public corporation ? 7. Why is a railroad called a quasi public corporation ? 8. Why are the subdivisions of Class II called public corporations ?
9. What is local self-government? What part does the state government have in our local self-government ?
10. Could our national government be based on the local self-government principle? Why? 1
II. Explain the difference between “Smith and Jones, Grocers,” and “The Smith-Jones Grocery Co., Inc.”
12. Can the student body of a public school sue or be sued ?
13. Why are corporations difficult to punish for infractions of the law ?
1 Our national government exists to look after our national affairs, which include all matters that pertain to the nation as a whole. The states are united in order to secure unity of action in the management of these national affairs. This purpose would be defeated if each locality had a part in the management. The federal government must be centralized in order to avoid confusion.