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OUR political constitution rests for the most part on the unwritten customs of England, but our system of Local Government is almost entirely regulated by statute law, even to its minutest details. There are about 650 Acts, or fragments of Acts, of general application relating to local affairs. These public Acts are supplemented by some thousands of local and special Acts, which apply to particular towns or districts, and accumulate at the rate of about sixty a year. Our local legislation begins with the statute De Officio Coronatoris, passed in 1275, and ends for the present with the Divided Parishes Act of 1882. Between these terminal marks the various Acts are scattered up and down in wild confusion. The reader's journey through this dark valley of statutory dry bones must needs be a dull one. Writing law books is not a good literary training, and I have no power of enlivening the pilgrimage, or making the way seem picturesque. I have tried, however, to make the book as intelligible and accurate as the nature of the subject admits of. My difficulty is this:-Every principle that can be stated is liable to be obscured by a dense overgrowth of local exceptions. To attempt to go into local
details and anomalies would only confuse the reader and render my task endless. I have therefore kept to propositions of general application. For instance, in describing the constitution of Municipal Boroughs I have not adverted to the special savings for Cambridge and the Cinque Ports or the long array of special Acts relating to Liverpool and Manchester. Once for all, then, whenever I state a proposition, I must ask the reader kindly to repeat before it the formula, "Except as otherwise provided by any local or special Act, and subject to any exceptions or savings in the general Acts.”
I have to tender my best thanks to Mr. R. S. Wright, who most kindly gave me copies of the Memoranda he prepared in 1877 for Mr. Whitbread and Mr. Rathbone. I have found them invaluable. For the early history of our local institutions I have mainly used Professor Stubbs's Constitutional History.
M. D. C.