« PreviousContinue »
2dly. The obstacle to a uniform and efficient management of the roads which the small divisions of parishes occasion, is obviated by giving the general management of all the roads of a county to the general meetings of the trustees.
3dly. The funds for maintaining the roads are derived from a regular assessment on the lands, instead of by statute labour.
4thly. The surveyors are appointed permanently, and with fixed salaries.
The experience of the manner in which this Scotch system has worked, fully establishes its great superiority over the old Scotch system, which still exists in some counties, and over the English parish system; and leads to the conclusion that it is expedient to make it universal in Scotland, and substitute it in England instead of the English system.
There are but few turnpike roads in Ireland. A report of the committee of the House of Commons, of the session of 1832, shows how defective they are.
The trustees of these roads should be placed under the control of the new Board of public Works in Dublin, in the same way as has been
proposed with respect to placing the turnpike roads of England under the Commissioners of Land Revenue.
It has been mentioned in the introduction, that the roads which are not turnpike in Ireland were placed under the management of the county grand juries in the year 1763, and what has been the general result of this plan.
The main defects of this plan consist in the unfitness of a grand jury as a governing authority, and in creating as many road overseers as there are applicants for money for making and repairing roads.
The grand jury is not a proper governing authority, because the persons who compose it do not represent the interests concerned in road affairs ; and because they can meet but twice a year, and are then occupied with the duties belonging to the criminal prosecutions at the assizes.
By making the applicants for money to be expended on roads the overseers of the expenditure of it, the business of road management falls into the hands of persons ignorant of the proper manner of conducting it. At the same time, another evil arising from this plan is, that it is next to impossible to control the application of the money granted from the roads, so as to
prevent it from being embezzled by the over
To remedy these defects in principle of the Irish road law, no more safe or effectual proceeding could be adopted than the introducing of the modern Scotch system of county road management. The substituting of county trustees for grand juries, and of surveyors for the present tribes of overseers, would provide a remedy of what is wrong in the Irish system.* But unless a more correct moral principle shall also be substituted by purer habits in place of that which has hitherto prevailed among Irish grand juries, with regard to the money levied for the purposes of the roads, neither this proposed alteration, nor any other that the legislature can make, will be followed by any general improvement.
The Irish road act just passed is not founded on any sound principle. The grand juries are continued as the governing authorities. The addition of rate payers to the magistrates to form special sessions for investigating applications for presentments for money, previous to their being laid before the grand juries, with
* The author received instructions, a few years ago, from the grand jury of the Queen's County, to bring a bill into parliament for the management of the roads of that county, on the Scotch plan.
powers to reject them, will lead to an excess of parsimony, and be productive of the ruin of the roads. The clause that requires the tenders of the lowest bidders for contracts to be accepted, will throw all the road work into the hands of schemers destitute of capital, skill, and honesty. It is fortunate that the act contains a clause to postpone its coming into operation till after the next session of parliament, for it will be found, on consideration, to be wholly unfit for establishing a proper plan of road management. Under these circumstances, it is highly expedient deliberately to examine whether
any valid objection can be urged to the introducing of the Scotch plan into Ireland, which experience has proved to work so well, in place of continuing the attempt to mend the Irish grand jury system.