The Transformation of Criminal Justice, Philadelphia, 1800-1880

By Allen Steinberg | Go to book overview

7. Consolidation and Compromise

The marshal's police may have embodied a new theory of preventative policing, but they also strengthened the old practices of criminal justice. Between 1850 and 1854, the relationship that aldermen had established with the new police force's puny predecessors blossomed, making police prosecution a formidable part of criminal justice and also further empowering the minor judiciary. This, in turn, reinforced private prosecution and the power of ward politicians.

In response, critics of criminal justice intensified their demands for change. Temperance reformers recruited judges and grand jurors to their cause, and prison reformers sought to carve out a place for themselves within the criminal courts. Municipal reformers included the centralization of primary justice in their larger demand for the consolidation of city government. Behind their actions stood the principle that the law should be enforced by independent state action and need not necessarily rely on the voluntary action of aggrieved citizens. Without articulating it, perhaps even to themselves, reformers were becoming supporters of an administrative state, pushing the law from an era of social laissez-faire into an era of public social policy.

This was just the beginning, however. Reformers could not achieve their goals without compromising some of them, partly because of their own uncertainty about what they were doing, partly because of the strength of their opponents. Ward politicians forced reformers to adopt a structure of city government that ensured a wide field of control for politicians in the criminal courts and the consolidated city generally.

Still, consolidation and its supporters had a major impact on criminal prosecution and the future of reform. A consolidated city meant a consolidated police force, one much more conducive to concerted state efforts at criminal prosecution. The creation of police stations with aldermen sitting as magistrates in each drew the center of gravity in criminal justice away from private prosecution and toward the police, and it provided some aldermen with lucrative posts that were tied directly and exclusively to the police. In addition, the criminal court and its judges established close formal ties to local reformers. Equally important was the fact that the consolidated city offered aldermen and other politicians a much wider field of action and paved the way for the shift in

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The Transformation of Criminal Justice, Philadelphia, 1800-1880
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Tables vi
  • Preface vii
  • Introduction: the Greatest Luxury of All 1
  • Part I the Duality of Criminal Justice 11
  • 1. Courtrooms and Cases 13
  • Part Ii the World of Private Prosecution 35
  • 2. the Aldermen and Primary Justice 37
  • 3. the Courts of Record 56
  • 4. the Weakness of Court Officials 79
  • 5. Politics and Private Prosecution, 1800-1850 92
  • Part III the Rise of State Prosecution 117
  • 6. the Origins of Police Authority 119
  • 7. Consolidation and Compromise 150
  • Part Iv the Decline of Private Prosecution 169
  • 8. the Impact of Consolidation 171
  • 9. the Transformation of Primary Justice 196
  • Epilogue 224
  • Appendix 233
  • Notes 251
  • Bibliography 307
  • Index 323
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