No. 38.
Mr. Kasson to Mr. Evarts.

No. 200.]

Sir: The good order of this city, with its million of inhabitants, its exemption from scandal in its financial and other departments, its remarkably [Page 65] small number of crimes of violence and against property, its comparative freedom from public beggary, the cleanliness of its streets, and its excellent sanitary condition, have induced me to make a study of its organization and administration.

The frequent agitation of questions relating to municipal government in the United States, the constant demand for more effective grants or limitations of municipal jurisdiction, and your own former official interest in these questions, have induced me to forward to you the results of this investigation. It may be that the system, prevailing here, the result of an experience of centuries, will afford useful suggestions to some of the American cities which are seeking improved systems and better securities of good administration in municipal affairs.

The manner in which they have here solved the question of suffrage, so that no one class of the population can secure absolute control of the interests of all others, is especially worthy of consideration. This principle might equally be adopted where the suffrage is universal, and where the distinction of interests may require a different classification.


the municipal theory.

The theory of the municipality appears to be this: It has no sovereign rights. It is merely a local corporation, designed chiefly to protect the property and promote the business interests of the residents within its jurisdiction, under the limitations of general laws imposed from without. Its management is therefore committed to those who have vested interests in it, who contribute to its support, bear its liabilities, suffer from its mismanagement, and who are profited by its honest and successful administration. It recognizes the existence in its midst of conflicting local, class, and personal interests, and the danger of allowing any one interest, whether of wealth, or of labor, or of locality, to obtain a numerical control. To avoid this result, it divides the electoral population into three great classes, each of which chooses its own representation in the governing council.

In this way it becomes difficult to impose burdens upon one interest to the exclusive advantage of another. Those who contribute nothing to defray the expenses, and who bear none of the responsibilities of mismanagement, are not considered as veritable stockholders in the municipality, and are not allowed to elect its managers. It is, in effect, a modification of the principle on which nearly all corporate business enterprises are founded, such as railroads, insurance companies, &c.: that those who furnish the means and bear the losses should Control the administration of the municipality.

I am informed that certain smaller towns of Switzerland have so successfully carried this principle into execution in former years that they have ceased to impose taxes and have become dividend-paying corporations. Wise and interested management has there in the course of time accumulated sufficient public property to provide from its rents for all town expenses, and leave a surplus for distribution to the citizens. In these towns a vote of the corporation was necessary to admit a new citizen, who was also upon his admission required to pay a capital sum representing his interest in the common property.

In Vienna, however, which is very far from such a degree of financial prosperity, there is only required from municipal voters sufficient qualification of some sort to indicate a vested interest in the welfare of the [Page 66] city, and some responsibility for its administration and expenditures. To this end the law arranges the organic control in the following manner:


electors and their classification.

One electoral group is composed of those householders in the city who pay 500 florins or more of land or house tax; and of other persons who contribute upon the industry pursued by them in the city, or upon their income, a tax of not less than 100 florins.

Another electoral group embraces all householders paying taxes on real property in the city to an amount between 10 florins and 500 florins; all employés of the municipality, of the state, and of the court (whether active or pensioned), who pay at least 10 florins of income tax; all officers of the permanent militia, all clergymen of the recognized Christian churches, all Jewish rabbis, “doctors” of all faculties whose degrees were conferred by an Austrian university, all masters and professors of public schools. It is intended to include in this group all the resident active, educated classes, irrespective of their property—such as the medical and legal professions, engineers, architects, &c., all of whom contribute to the revenue in some form.

The remaining electoral group is formed of all other persons who are taxed within the city (upon either industry or income) less than 100 florins. All the smaller industries and occupations of the city are here represented. All “citizens” of Vienna not paying the amount of tax required, nor belonging to one of the liberal professions, vote with this group.

Austrians living in the town, but not “citizens” of Vienna, have also the right to vote with their proper group, if they pay at least 10 florins of direct taxes on houses possessed or trade carried on by them within the city, or if they are rated with at least 20 florins of income tax.

Those who do not exercise the elective function are minors, domestic servants, transient laborers, bankrupts pending proceedings against them by their creditors, paupers, and all persons who have refused or neglected to pay the taxes on which their right to vote is dependent.

Each of the groups above described elects 40 members of the city council.*

All citizens entitled to vote are enrolled in election lists, one for each voting district and for each group to which the voters of that district belong. Six weeks before election these lists are exhibited and published in the official journal.

Reclamations may be made and must be decided (within six days of their presentation) by the district magistrates. The revision must be completed a fortnight before the election. One week before the election the voters are notified of the time and place of holding the election and of the number of seats vacant; and special election commissioners are appointed for each district. They consist of one member of the city [Page 67] council, one magistrate, and four other citizens. The city councilor presides, assisted by a delegate of the governor of this province, whose duty it is to preserve order at the election. The commission receives the votes and supervises and certifies the entire act of the election.

The protocol so certified is laid before the city council, where reclamations may be made within a week. If the election is vitiated upon any such reclamation, a new election takes place. If ratified, the elected member is notified, and in turn notifies his acceptance.

All citizens of Vienna who are qualified voters are eligible to the city council, after attaining the age of thirty years, except soldiers in active service, municipal officers and employés, and dilatory debtors to the community.


organization of the city council and mayoralty.

The members of the city council are elected for a term of three years, one-third being renewed annually, and are re-eligible. The mayor (Burgermeister) is elected by them from their own number, and for a term of three years, and must receive a two-thirds vote of that body. At this election all the members are required to be present on pain of forfeit of their places. The council chooses also two vice-mayors for one year’s term, who may be ready to replace the mayor upon occasion. The bur-germeister is subject to confirmation by the Emperor. He receives no salary, but there is provided for him a spacious official residence and an allowance of 10,000 florins for representation. The members of the common council also serve without salary.

This council of 120 is, for the better consideration of business, divided into eight sections, as follows:

On general organization, law, central statistics.
On internal department commerce, and trade.
On education and public worship.
On public safety and board of health.
On poor, pauper, and humane institutions.
On building and engineering.
On financial affairs and control.
On provisioning of the city and market police.

The burgermeister (mayor) is charged with the usual supervisory and executive functions of a mayor, and has the right of veto of the municipal resolutions. In case of such veto, the proposed measure can only become valid if it shall subsequently be approved by the provincial Landtag. This legislature corresponds to our State legislatures, and may of its own initiative also impose laws upon the city, as its immediate sovereign in authority.


limitations of the powers of the city government.

The municipal representatives, in addition to the usual powers in respect to local ordinances and regulations, have the right to adopt a budget of city expenditures for all purposes which may not (without special legislative authority) exceed the fourth part (25 per cent.) of the amount of taxes imposed upon the city for all public and national purposes. If a greater revenue is required, the consent of the provincial legislature must be first obtained. The portion now allotted to the city of the entire taxes is 30 per cent.

[Page 68]

In order to the creation of a city, debt, the sanction both of the Landtag and of the Emperor is required. All current liabilities must be met by the taxation, limited as stated above.

The city is not allowed to dispose of any of its real estate exceeding 10,000 florins in value without the like sanction of the Emperor and the Landtag. Its moveable property is within its own control.

The city council does not control the general judiciary of the city nor the general police. These functionaries, being charged with the enforcement of the general state laws, and with the prevention and punishment of crimes, as regulated by the state, are appointed by the state authority exclusively, and are responsible to it. No changes are made in the police force except for cause. Their vigilant attention to duty, and the rare breaches of good order in the city, bear testimony in favor of this system. There are, however, as hereafter described, certain functionaries of the city who combine both administrative and judicial functions in respect to the ordinances of the city. There is also a limited number of municipal police or watchmen, charged with certain municipal duties.

Of the pay of the state police employed in the city, one-third part is borne by the city.


the organization and distribution of executive functions.

The general administration, apart from the mayor, is divided into 24 sections. The officers at the head of these divisions are individually styled Counsellor and collectively are called “The Magistracy.” They are under the general control of the city council, and when assembled, form a sort of executive council, and are the executive organs of the municipality. The mayor is their controlling superior, and presides at their assembled sessions. In his absence, a vice-burgermeister, or some member of the magistracy itself, presides. Should their actions be illegal or prejudicial to the rights of the city, it is to be reported to the Landtag through the governor. When the Landtag is not in session, the government itself may take provisional measures in such cases to prevent injury or wrong to the city.

The magistracy supervises the execution of the city ordinances, and watches over city property, city institutions, and municipal societies. It exercises the functions of a local supervisory board of police. It has the judicial right to punish violations of municipal ordinances, as well as of its own orders and regulations, with fines not exceeding 200 florins ($100), and with imprisonment in the proportion of one day for each 5 florins of fine. Immediately superior to this body is a general director, relieving the mayor of a portion of the labor of supervising the magistracy.

Each of the 24 divisions has at its head a counselor (rath), who is appointed for life and becomes entitled to a pension on cessation of active service. His salary is from 2,500 to 3,500 florins, according to length of service. The general director receives a salary of 6,000 florins.

The director and counselors must, before appointment, have passed their state examination, and must also have taken a regular degree of doctor of laws. They hold their appointment from the city council.

The magistracy, through its proper bureaus, collects all taxes, local and state, and employs in all, under authority of the city council, 36 secretaries and 62 clerks of all grades, who are distributed among the bureaus according to their respective requirements.

[Page 69]

The entire business of the city, including the judicial enforcement of its ordinances and orders, is distributed among these 24 bureaus. Each chief of section has the jurisdiction, in respect to violation of city ordinances, of an ordinary justice of the peace or city judge, combining to this limited extent executive and judicial functions. I give only an outline of the distribution of business.

  • To section I is assigned the charge of important documents of the administration, and of the ordinances of the council; the promulgation of laws when this is not made the duty of another counselor, the editorship of the Official Ordinance Journal; charge of public collections, supervision of the city clerks and servants, &c.
  • Section II, examination and judgment on all law matters touching the city. Preparation and issue of all documents and memorials, &c.
  • Section III, accounts and budget of the city of Vienna, administration of loans; also statistics.
  • Section IV, collection of rates and dues, local police funds, certain special taxes, certain church affairs, charitable institutions, canalization, supervision of the chief city treasury, and other specialties.
  • Section V, register of landed estates, direction of the district (ward) committees, administration and inspection of real estate, insurance and care of buildings, barracks, and tenements belonging to the city, tire insurance on all city public edifices, bathing establishments, both public and private, lighting of the streets and squares, charge of the city clocks, &c.
  • Section VI, precautionary and administrative measures against and during inundations, regulation, laying out and good condition of streets, street railways, regulation of the municipal tariffs; guaranties for current work and supplies furnished to the city, &c.
  • Section VII, the public and private water-works; supervision of wells.
  • Section VIII, ordinances for the health of the city, especially for that of the working classes, preventive measures against epidemic diseases and the occupation of crowded and unhealthy lodgings; management of the municipal hospitals, the cemeteries, licensed flayers of animals, supervision of apothecaries and surgeons, &c.
  • Section IX, buildings and deposit of materials, &c.
  • Section X, all public schools and supervision of all private academies and gymnasia, &c.
  • Section XI, all matters concerning the poor; alms-houses, workhouses, foundling and orphan asylums, and other humane institutions.
  • Section XII, expenses of hospitals and interments and collection of the same.
  • Section XIII, collection of fees and dues demandable from other public authorities; also matters in reference to the stamping of gold and silver plate and stamp duties.
  • Section XIV, local police, inquests, care of effects of persons suddenly deceased, of suicides, and of insane persons.
  • Section XV, preventive measures for personal security, and in charge of advertising apparatus, public closets, telegraphs, theaters, cruelty toward animals, insurance against fire or accident, matters relative to firemen, river police, &c.
  • Section XVI, provisioning and market ordinances; supervision of the guilds of bakers, fishmongers, butchers, poulterers, gardeners, wood-merchants, milk-dealers, &c.
  • Section XVII, charge of the census, emigration, growth of population, and liability to military service, and all affairs touching the army and militia.
  • Section XVIII, administration and correspondence in matters of marriages, changes of religion, legitimation of natural children, changing of names, acquirement of citizenship, supervision of the guilds of founders, gold and silversmiths, jewellers, bronze-workers, potters, copper and blacksmiths, platers, and tinmen.
  • Section XIX, collection of taxes and rates, additional charges of state and city treasury, matters in relation to tax executions, state loans, elections, jury-lists.
  • Section XX, affairs which concern the guilds and associations in common; also toll matters, exercise of the trade and occupation of peddlers 5 matters affecting fairs, voluntary auctions; also stock companies, insurance companies, exchanges, supervision of printers, booksellers, retail merchants, photographers, and the like.
  • Section XXI, legalization of documents; supervision of affairs relating to pawnbrokers, builders, slaters, engravers, masons, locksmiths, carpenters, shoemakers, watchmakers, &c.
  • Section XXII, relating to brewers, innkeepers, confectioners, &c.
  • Scetion XXIII, relating to house-painters, bookbinders, chemists, bar-biers, glovers, hatters, tailors, dress-makers, perfumers, saddlers, rope-makers, upholsterers, weavers, &c.
  • Section XXIV, relating to gunsmiths, brush-makers, turners, coachmen, cabmen, piano-forte makers, opticians, musical-instrument makers, joiners and cabinet-makers, &c.

A handbook showing completely and in detail the distribution of business to the different bureaus and counselors is published for the information of all concerned. Any one having reclamations or coin-plaints about taxes, licenses, nuisances, dangers, violations of ordinances, &c., or whatever else, knows his bureau and his judge, and the usual rules of administration, and can seek relief without the intervention of a lawyer or other intermediary. I forward by this mail a copy of this handbook to illustrate the perfection of the system in its details.

I beg to call your special attention to this admirable organization for the transaction of municipal business, its concentration in one building, its distribution in bureaus or sections in such manner that there is the least delay in dispatch of business and its perfect system of responsibility. There is a distinct line drawn between the agents of the state, for the enforcement of general laws and the punishment of crimes on the one hand, and the agents for the enforcement of city ordinances and the application of their limited penalties on the other. The former are appointed by and act under state authority. The latter are appointed by and are responsible to the city authority. In both cases the agents below the chiefs are appointed for life, or during good behavior, and so become perfect masters both of the principles and details of administration, and are in theory and in fact the agents of good order and public security, instead of the will of struggling politicians or parties. Their compensation is not large but increases with length of service, and a pension follows disability. In this manner the total cost of administration is probably less than that which follows our higher paid but more loosely organized city governments. The application of the principles and rules suggested in this paragraph would of itself effect enormous reforms in the administration of our populous American cities.

The burgermeister stated to me that there is no record of any embezzlement or pecuniary fraud as ever having occurred among their life appointees.

[Page 71]



Under the sanitary bureau (one of the 24 sections), the sanitary inspection of the city is entrusted to two physicians, who are subject to the general direction of the mayor and council. They are required to execute also such orders as shall be addressed to them by the provincial governor (Stadthalter), or the police magistrates. They are equal in authority and their appointments are only revoked for cause. Their legal fees are paid into the city treasury to be equally divided between them. Obliged to live in the inner town, having a carriage allowance for official duties in the suburbs and the cemeteries, neither of them may leave the city on private business without the permission of the mayor (Burgermeister).

The city physicians must strictly observe the sanitary regulations and direct their greatest care to the state of the health in all parts of the city; they assist each other and each may perform the duties of the other. Every week they must have a conference. If they hear of unauthorized practice of physicians or surgeons they send notice of it to the town authorities. At the end of each year they must prepare a sanitary report respecting their official activity, and the incidents observed. This report comes before the council.

The work of the city physicians is divided into two main sections, for each of which one of them is primarily responsible.

1st. One has the supervision of the houses, their sink-holes and canals; must enforce the ordinances relative to sanitary interests in all new buildings and rebuildings. He is to be present at the granting of licenses for steam engines, water works and the like, which might interfere with the health and comfort of the neighborhood. He has, moreover, to direct his attention to all trades which are restricted by sanitary ordinances.

All articles of food, all vessels of earthenware and copper used for cooking, etc., must be inspected and examined by him; as also the sale rooms, booths, markets, eating and coffee houses, bars, taps, and the like, and the cook’s galleys of the steamers landing at the city. He must superintend the traffic of all objects which might contain poisonous substances, as stuffs, paper-hangings, toys, cosmetics, etc., and insist on the Strict observance of the ordinances respecting the sale of poisons and drugs. All traffic with nostra, arcana, or prohibited remedies must be reported.

He has the sanitary supervision of all the public and private schools and the gymnasia, as well as of all places of public gathering, which are liable to be crowded, as churches, public walks, theaters, baths, hospitals, prisons, and the like.

He is required to examine carefully the drinking water of the city, and to supervise the cemeteries, upon which he is to make quarterly reports to the city council.

2d. The other city physician, when ordered to do so by the authorities, must pass judgment on the health of municipal officers and servants and on reclamations for discharge from military service. He has the medical superintendence of all work-houses, humane institutions, and the like, belonging to the town, and the chief inspection of all lying-in hospitals, lunatic asylums, and private hospitals in Vienna, as well as of all safety apparatus.

[Page 72]

In case of an epidemic lie has to apply all the necessary measures and to superintend their immediate and strict execution.

In order to be well informed of everything concerning the health, diseases, and sanitary police’ of the city, the city physician is required every month to convoke the district surgeons and the municipal medical staff. He has the superintendence of the corpse inspection, keeps evidence of all occurring deaths, and collects the materials necessary for the use of the statistical bureaus of the city, which he utilizes, together with all other incidents of his experience, for the publication of the medical statistics of the city of Vienna.

There is in each, of the ten bezicks (wards) from three to five sanitary watchmen, who frequently visit house drainage and all suspected places of disease, waste deposits, &c., and report to the city physician. The city makes a contract yearly for wagons for each ward, which call twice a week at every house to carry away refuse at fixed charges.


management of the poor and the sick.

Vienna is richly provided with hospitals for the skillful treatment of diseases and for surgical operations, without cost to the poor. Separate hospitals are provided for contagious diseases. Foundling hospitals diminish the temptation to infanticide. The charitable endowment funds of the city are large. Any deficiency for the poor is made good by the city treasury. The city has six houses for the poor, but this number is insufficient. The oldest, the poorest, and the most infirm are assigned to these poor-houses. A complete system of out-door relief is established under the city government. Each bezick (ward) has its supervisor and his assisting committee (without pay), who care for the humane concerns of the ward and report to the mayor or to the proper bureau. Each case for charitable relief is personally investigated, all the facts noted, and the necessary allowances made. Begging in the streets is prohibited under penalties. But it seems that certain known and deserving cases are excepted from the prohibition (probably on certificate of the armen-vater) (father of the poor) for I see at certain church-doors and at certain points on thoroughfares, the same faces at intervals of some days, appealing, but usually silently, for alms, and always at the same stations. I venture the opinion that such permission accorded to meritorious poverty is not alone beneficial to the pauper. It tends to keep in the memory of the busy and prosperous world the existence of human distress, and the Christian duty imposed on them to extend the hand of relief. A whole community as well as an individual would unconsciously become inhumane after a long suspension of the exercises of acts of humanity.


system of cleaning streets.

There is rarely cause for complaint of unclean streets in Vienna. Different systems are applied in the central and exterior districts. The old city with narrow streets, and lying compactly within the Ringstrasse, a boulevard replacing the ancient line of fortifications, constitutes the first district, and its cleanliness is secured by a contract for a fixed price with a transport company for the term of five years. The city authorities have the right to impose on the contractor a fine not exceeding [Page 73] 500 florins ($250) for each day in which this duty is neglected. The inhabitants must keep their sidewalks free, and in time of slippery frost must protect the pedestrians by sanding the walks on their respective fronts. The transport company is entitled to the sweepings, which are constantly made, and for which poor people are usually employed who have no other regular labor. Snow is promptly gathered aside in heaps and carted away, usually by night.

In the other nine bezicks or suburban wards a street supervisor is elected by all voters together for a term of three years. He is allowed 1,000 florins for incidental expenses, but no salary. His ward is divided into 15 to 18 sections, in each of which is a subordinate who watches over the work in his section.

The men are employed as needed under the general control of the ward supervisor, and the expenses are provided for in the city budget. The ultimate control is in the city council and its magistracy. There is an incidental economy in this system, as many people are employed in the work of sweeping, women as well as men, who would otherwise be a charge on the poor funds of the city.

In 1876 the whole area of the streets amounted to 3,993,350 square meters. The cost of cleaning was—

In 1875 1,112,786
In 1876 996,986
In 1877 1,046,980
In 1878 1,034,800


system of paving streets.

With few exceptions the streets of Vienna are paved with granite cubic blocks measuring in centimeters 23.7 by 13.2 by 18.4.

The quarries, which belong to the city, are situated a few miles above the town on the Danube, down which the cubes are floated to the city front. The quarries are leased to a contractor on the condition that he furnishes to the city 18,000 per annum at a fixed price. A square meter of this pavement costs 8 florins and 25 kreuzers (about $4), while the endurance of the cubes is found to be 32 years, subject to repairs after 12 years. From the twelfth to the thirty-second year the repairs, cost 2 florins 54 kreuzers, making the cost of pavement for the term of 32 years 10 florins 79 kreuzers per square meter (say $5.25). Its disadvantages are noise and rigidity. Its advantages are its durability, rare need of repair when well laid, secure grasp for horses, cheap maintenance, and facility for cleaning.

The judgment of the city has been against bituminous limestone and asphalt, because of its dangerous smoothness; and against macadam, because of its intolerable dirt and dust; and against wood, because of its rapid decay.


I have given above the more important and distinctive features of the municipal system of Vienna. The late burgermeister, Dr. Felder, was good enough to give me personally much of this information, and to place at my disposal various statistical publications of the city government. I also had the aid in the analysis of their contents of a young American graduate of the University of Vienna (and “doctor of laws”), Mr. Samson, voluntarily attached, to this legation. The report on the [Page 74] municipal affairs of Vienna for the three years of Dr. F elder’s administration (1874–1876), which he presented to me, contains much valuable information which may be of use to statisticians and municipal economists. I therefore forward it, via Hamburg, for the use of the Department.

I have, &c.,

  1. In this system the charter seems to have followed the principles recommended by Locke and by Montesquieu: “Il y a toujours dans un État des gens distingués par la naissance, les richesses ou les honneurs: mais s’ils etaient confondus parmi le peuple, et s’ils n’y avaient qu’une voix comme les autres, la liberté commune serait leur esclavage, et ils n’auraient aucun interêt à la defendre, parceque la plupart des resolutions seraient contre eux. La part qu’ils ont à la législation doit done être proportionnée aux autres avantages qu’ils ont dans l’État; ce qui arrivera s’ils forment un corps qui ait droit d’arrêter les entreprises du peuple, comme le peuple a droit d’arrêter les leurs.”—Montesquieu.