Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States, Transmitted to Congress with the Annual Message of the President, December 5, 1870
Mr. Schuyler to Mr. Fish.
Sir: I have the honor to inform you that his Majesty the Emperor, sanctioning the report of the Holy Synod, has seen fit to appoint the Archimandrite John archbishop of the Aleutian Isles and of Alaska. He was formally nominated on Wednesday last, and was consecrated [Page 521]to-day. The diocese of this new bishop includes the whole of the United States, but it is not yet decided whether he will have his residence in New York, San Francisco, or New Archangelsk. His salary is three thousand rubles, paid by the imperial government. The bishop himself is only thirty-two years old, and has been but eight years in orders, but is highly spoken of for learning and character. As this is, I believe, the first instance where a foreign sovereign (the Pope excepted) has sent a functionary of this kind to the United States, and certainly the first where the functionary receives his pay from the treasury of a foreign power, I have thought it necessary to call your attention to this fact.
I may add that a few weeks ago a Mr. Nicolas Behring, formerly a Catholic professor of Baltimore, came to St. Petersburg and embraced the Russian orthodox religion. He was at once ordained a priest for service in America, the rite being performed in the German language.
Mr. Schuyler to Mr. Fish.
Sir: I have the honor to inclose you an abstract of the law regulating cities, the latest of the great reforms of the present reign. The constitution of the Russian cities, now in force, was adopted by Catherine II, and continued almost unchanged until 1866, when charters similar in spirit, though less liberal than this new law, were granted to St. Petersburg, Moscow, and Odessa. These reforms were found to work so well, that a special commission was charged with the duty of elaborating a general law for all the cities of the empire. This commission was at work for more than a year, making public from time to time its proceedings and propositions, which were ably discussed in the leading journals. The project of the commission was adopted, with slight alterations, by the council of the empire, and is now sanctioned by the Emperor.
By an imperial ukase of the 28th of June, published on the 4th of August, this reform has been ordered to be introduced into all the cities of European Russia, except St. Petersburg, Moscow, and Odessa; and the cities of Poland, Bessarabia, (except Kishinef,) and the Baltic provinces. The first three, owing to their exceptional position, are left as they are for the present, and their city councils are given six months to show what changes may be needed for them. After consultation with the authorities of the western and Baltic provinces, special laws will be made suited to the needs of those regions. The abolition of the old German and Swedish charters in the cities of the Baltic provinces will probably be attended by some difficulty.
The reform seems conceived in a very liberal spirit, with the aim of decentralizing as much as possible, and of accustoming the people to representative institutions. The peculiar mode of protecting the property-owning classes in the election of the city councils is an interesting experiment in municipal government. The lowest class in the cities of Russia, composed of artisans and laborers, is constantly changing; and other things being equal, it would be found very difficult to arrange for their voting. The restriction as to the number of non-Christians in the city governments seems a blot in an otherwise liberal measure, and it has been remarked as such by some of the journals.
EUGENE SCHUYLER.[Page 522]
abstract of the law of municipal reform.
The municipal administration has the care of the economical interests of the city and of the maintenance of good order. The chief objects of administration are: 1, the organization of their administration and of the city economy; 2, the external constitution of the city, streets, parks, buildings, &c.; 3, matters regarding the well-being of the inhabitants, markets, public health, precautions against fire, &c., protection of commerce and industry, docks, exchanges, and establishments of credit: 4, hospitals, theaters, museums, and libraries; 5, public instruction; 6, communication to the government of the wants and interests of the city. The administration is limited in jurisdiction to the extent of the city, and can impose no taxes not authorized by law, and is responsible for all excess of power and illegal acts. Complaints and conflicts of jurisdiction are referred to a special provincial assembly in each government, composed of the governor, the vice-governor, the treasurer, the procurer of the court of assizes, the president of the general session of justices of the peace, the president of the government provincial diet, and the mayor of the chief town of the government. In case the municipal administration does not pay the taxes to the general government which have been lawfully imposed, the governor will collect them at the expense of the city.
The institutions for the municipal administration are: 1, the city electoral assemblies; 2, the city council; and, 3, the city government or delegation. The electoral assemblies meet once in four years to elect the members of the city council. Every inhabitant of the city can vote, provided he is a Russian subject, twenty-five years old, and owns real estate in the city paying taxes, or keeps an establishment of commerce or manufactures with a commercial certificate, or if he has lived in the city for two years before the election and pays taxes on a certificate for commerce or manufactures for retail trade, or as a clerk of the 1st class; and if he owes no arrears of taxes. Electors are not allowed to vote if they have been condemned or are under trial for crimes or misdemeanors, if they have been expelled the public service, (within three years,) if they are bankrupt, (unless their innocence has been proved,) if they have been expelled from the clerical state for vices, or if they have been expelled from the nobility or the guilds. The governor, the members of the provincial assembly for municpal affairs, (except the mayor,) the members of the government regency, and the local police cannot vote while in office. Females, absent persons, and those between twenty-one and twenty-five can appoint an electer to vote for them by power of attorney. Infants are to be represented by their guardians. Institutions, companies, corporations, churches, and monasteries which own taxable real estate, or pay taxes on rights for trade or manufactures, have the right to vote through their president or representative. But no one can have more than two votes—one for himself, and one as attorney for another.
The electors are divided into three electoral assemblies, each of which elects one-third of the members of the city council. Each of these three electoral assemblies is composed of persons paying one-third of the taxes: the first assembly being made up of those who pay the highest taxes, up to one-third; the second, those coming next; and the third, all the rest of the electors.
Every elector is elegible to the city council, but not more than one-third of the council can be non-Christians. The voting is by secret ballot. A candidate is elected when he has a majority of votes, provided he receives more than half the number of votes cast. A person elected can refuse to serve. There is a quorum in the electoral assembly when the number of voters surpass the number of members to be elected. The city council is composed of members elected for four years, presided over by the mayor. When the number of electors does not exceed 300, there are 30 members of the council; for every 100 electors in excess of 300, six members are added to the council until 72, which is its limit The members of the city government sit in the council, but have no votes unless members. The council elects the city officers; fixes their salaries; fixes the amount of taxes; has the charge of converting all personal services due to the city to money ones, e. g., paving and cleaning the streets, hitherto done by the property owners; and regulates the loans and obligations of the city; the reception of gifts; the fixing of expenses and revision of the budget; revision of accounts and of the operations of the executive; the elaboration of rules for the administration of the city property and public buildings; and the establishment of beneficence and public utility in their charge; the general order of the labors of the executive; the regulation of public utility, i. e., docks, paving, cleaning, markets, &c.; change in the plan of the city; and the representation of the wants and needs of the city to the supreme authority.
The city council examines affairs in its competence on the initiative of the mayor or of its members, on the proposition of the city government, on the initiation or demand of the govermental authorities, and on the demand or complaint of private persons.
One-third of the members of the council form a quorum, except when there is a discussion about the purchase or sale of real estate by the city, loans or guarantees, the conversion of contributions in kind with money, and the impeachment and removal of officials, when half the members must be present, and a majority of two-thirds is necessary to pass a measure. In other cases a simple majority is sufficient.[Page 523]
The council will elect those special officers and representatives now appointed by the city, such as directors of city banks, of city benevolent institutions, &c.
The city government or delegation is composed of a number of members fixed by the city council, but not less than two besides the president who is the mayor.
In the small cities the duties of this delegation can be intrusted to the mayor alone. This institution has charge of the immediate carrying on of the economical, commercial, and administrative affairs of the city. On its proposition the city council can establish executive commissioners, permanent or temporary, to take measures necessitated by extraordinary circumstances and for the immediate direction of certain branches of the economy and administration; a branch of administration can also be intrusted to a single individual. These commissions are presided over by one of the members of the delegation. The delegation also performs all those duties formerly imposed on the city council by the superior authorities, such as the collection of the taxes of the empire, the drawing recruits, &c. The mayor of the city, the members of the delegation, and the secretary of the city are selected by the city council, and substitutes are also elected to take their places in case they cease their functions. The members of the delegation must be electors, but not necessarily members of the council; the secretary need not be an elector, provided he is not absolutely disqualified. There cannot be in the delegation at the same time father and son, father-in-law and son-in-law, or brothers; nor more than one-third can be non-Christians. The mayor cannot be a Hebrew. There cannot be in the city service as mayor, member of the council or delegation, i. e., an ecclesiastic, a judge, a procurer or assistant procurer, or a functionary of the public treasury. Officials in the service of the state can only accept service in the city government and retain their places with the consent of their chiefs. The mayor is elected for four years; the members of the city delegation are renewed half every two years and can be reëlected. The term of office of the secretary depends on the council. The election of mayor of a government city must be confirmed by the minister of the interior; of the other cities, by the governor. The other officers need no confirmation. The extent of the powers of the city government with regard to good order and the public welfare is clearly defined.
The kind of property which can be owned, bought, or sold by the city is distinctly specified, as well as the manner of its purchase or sale.
The city council can lay taxes: 1, on real property, by per cent.; 2, on patents for trade and manufactures; and, 3, on hotels and restaurants; also, 4, on cartage, hacks, and transportation; 5, on horses and vehicles kept by private persons; and, 6, on dogs, but for these last the highest rate of tax and the method of collection must be regulated by a special law of the empire. The tax on real estate cannot exceed 10 per cent, of its income or 1 per cent, of its value.
The taxes on patents for trade and commerce and excise duties are to be levied according to the existing laws, and to be collected at the same time and in the same way as the imperial taxes. The taxes on hotels and restaurants are to be levied according to the existing laws.
The city council may ask the consent of the government for levying a tax on lodgings. Certain now existing fees on property, auction sales, verification of measures and weights, &c., are to be paid to the city. No other tax can be laid without a special law to authorize it.
The disbursements of the city must be strictly limited to the objects of which the city government has cognizance, and strict accounts must be kept. Budgets must be drawn up of the proposed expenses of the year and of the expenses of the past year, and must be submitted to the governor, to see that they are in conformity with the law. An extraordinary special unforeseen expense can be voted by the council and put in a supplementary budget.
All officials of the city are strictly forbidden to be interested in any contract or bargain to which the city is a party.
The methods of complaint against the city authorities are specified in detail.[Page ] [Page ]