The City, Ancient and Modern
Maoriland Worker, Volume 6, Issue 218, 14 April 1915, Page 8
The City, Ancient and Modern
Lecture by Miss M. England
On Sunday, March -'3, Miss M. England lectured on tho above subject iv Everybody's Theatre, Wellington, under S.D.P. auspices. Mrs. P. H. Hickey presided. Mis 3 England said:
Tho early history of English towns is not at all easy to ascertain as the records rave seldom been carefully kept. However, it is reasonably certain that in most cases it was the merchant guild by whom the request for a charter was made. Wo also find that tho guild elected tho mayor and council from the members of their own executive. This is important as every freeman was a member of the guild, provided ho paid tbo small membership fee. When Iho city received its charter and became a "liber burgus" or free city, its merchants became burgesses." i.o. freeholders, each paying rates on a "burgago" or freehold. Uliilo towns were small and .proud or their liberty, every burgess valued his privileges and required no pressing; to take his slniro in tho management and defence of his town. Tho "court leet," which might be described as a sub-comrr.itteo of the city council, exercised paternal watchfulness over the city, reproviug and exhorting all and sundry, even his worship the mayor and his brethren of the council: For instance in Henry IPs reign the Privy Council fixed the retail price of bread and ale, but the cities claimed the right to reflate the prices of all food within their boundaries, and their claim was allowed. On© would have thought this too valuable a right to have been foregone. Alas, there is a significant entry in tho records of the Preston court leet, which roads thus: "Tho assize of bread and beer is as we conceive much neglected, although corn be so lowo a rate yet nothing is done in reliefe thereof, which is contrary to the statute 1" ' This entry is dated 1603. In Gcorgo Ill's reign this power had been lost by city councils. Long before that dato citizens had grown careless of privileges which involved duties. And yet for some centuries the records show that genuine efforts were made to induce all burgesses to exercise thenprivileges and to take their share m civio activities. The privilege of selfgovernment was lost in a largo measure by tho general public because they did not value it. Privileges which are neither valued nor used are quietly but carefully deleted from Acts of Parliament. Once lost tho fight to get them back is long and strenuous. Iv a word, eternal vigilance is the nnce of liberty. OUR. PRESENT POWERS. If this was tho case in the past, it is equally so to-day. In theory we have even greater powers of self-government than our forefathers. Do we value them more? To-day we arc on the c-vo of elections at which we have to elect Mayor and City Council, Hospital and Charitable Aid Boards and School Committees. New Zealand is a country in which it is possible for every adult citizen to make his or her influence felt. How many of us recognise our power and the responsibility it involves? How much thought do we give to ensuring the return of iho best candidates for public offices? How many of us have faced the duty of ottering ourselves as candidates should wo possess the requisite qualifications and leisure? And yet the work is most important and these various local bodies afford admirable training ground for both men and women ulio recognise tho duty of serving the great cause of humanity. Tho Labour Representation Committee has nominated candidates for each body and adopted a platform. Let us uexamine some of tho items. CITY COUNCIL. j (1) The Clearing of Slum Areas. The Act gives the Council power to pull down buildings unfit for occupation on the demand of three electors backed by the certificate of one medical man. And yet slums grow apaco and houses in which the existonco of dry rot is ono of the least of tho defects command high rents. That Act will remain a dead letter until the pcoplo realise their powers and elect a council of tho right stuff. (2) Workers Dwellings. The Act gives the Council power to acquire laud aud erect suitable cottages. Where are they? Can children be healthy or family lifo happy' in unhygienic buildings, which it is necessary to sharp with others owing to tho largeness of tho rent demanded. Let every mother tnko this to hoart and us<> her vote to put men and women on the Council who will fight this evil and never allow fear of giving oll'onco to the owners of such property to deter them from insist in, , .; upon its imnrovpinent. an Control of tho .Milk Supply. Tho Act already gives ample power to the Council for tho inspection of the milk from cowshed to retailers' shop. And
FROM MERCHANT GUILD TO CITY COUNCIL
yet tho Dominion Laboratory report 3 (1914) that "The year lias seen no improvement in the local milk supply. 31,C00 gallons of water of uncertain quality were sold as milk during ihe year. At 4d. per quart this represents £2,106. Deducting £81 recovered in fines, there remains a clear profit ot over £2,000 for the vendors of watered milk." Tho children of the public drink that milk, the money of the wage-earners pays for it. The medical inspectors of 'schools talk of the prevalence of malnutrition in the children. Is it odd if this is the quality of "milk" they drink? Ant 1 , yet New Zealand is a good dairying country and London is paying high prices for N.Z. butter and cheese. The "Evening Post" has made a vigorous and well-timed protest, but it remains for tho public to do their part. Unless tho electors U39 the power they possess and return councillors pledged to remedy this scandalous state of things, they will deserve to continue to be exploited, for assuredly ,so long as auch profits can be wade out of water, t.h*> children will not £«t milk. HOSPITAL~AND"CHARITABLE AID BOARD. This Board controls the charitable iustitutions of the province, and expends some £50,000 annually. It is very important that the workers should be represented upon it, and that a fair proportion of its members should bo returned. It is also most essential that its members should not bo exclusively business men, who have always shown themelves inclined to put "economy" as they consider it, i.e., keeping down oxpemiituro for fear of a protest from the selfish pdrtion of the ratepayers, before efficiency in all public institutions. Hospitals everywhere suffer at their hands. The trouble in tho Wellington Board, which has arisen out of the desire of the majority of the members to improve the hospital milk supply by the purchase of a dairy farm, is a case- in point. Electors should make sure that candidates for election are not only philanthropic and public spirited, but possessed of some expert knowledge on the most modern methods of relief, and sufficient business ability to distinguish between wasteful administration and tho wise expenditure of large sums of money to secure lasting benefits to the community. As so much of their work deals with destitute or suffering women and children, it is most important that the women members should be both practical and independent-minded. SCHOOL COMMITTEES These bodies are far more important than is generally realised. They .are the only means ef 'direct the public possessses over the education of its children. They have suffered greatly from the railure of the public to realise the extreme importance of obtaining the best possible education for the children. They have in many places degenerated into organisers of picnics and school concerto and have ofben (especially in the country) proved themselves so ignorant of the modern methods of education that (good teachers, devoted body and soul to the interests of the children, have longed and oven worked for their abolition. The public if it is wise will be vigilant and s*e to it that they are reformed but never abolished. As it is they have one most important power, i.e., tho election of the Education Boards, in whose hands iio the entiro management of the e!e-montary schools and the appointment of teachers. New Zealand possesses a body of teachers of which any land might be proud, but there are not enough of them and they are handicappod by lack of sufficient accommodation among other things. This also is v matter for the public to consider seriously. Children cannot be taught to think if herded together in mobs of 60, 80, and 100. They not only oaunot learn, but they suffer seriously in health if kept hours in roome built to contain CO and used for 80 or 90. And yet this happens in almost every school, and even in the infants' department The excuse given by the Department is always lack of funds.
Pareuts of New Zealand, workers, you who nro eagerly looking for a day when the ideal State shall come into bring, believe, mc, we shall never build Jerusalem in this green and pleasant land, if we allow our children, its citizens,, to be rendered incapable of fearless, powerful thought, by stinting them of the advantages a true education alone can civ?. Think and make your representatives think in terms of human souls and not in miserable golden sovereigns.