Public Property and Private Power: The Corporation of the City of New York in American Law, 1730-1870

Public Property and Private Power: The Corporation of the City of New York in American Law, 1730-1870

Public Property and Private Power: The Corporation of the City of New York in American Law, 1730-1870

Public Property and Private Power: The Corporation of the City of New York in American Law, 1730-1870

Synopsis

Using New York City's institutional history as a case study, Hendrik Hartog argues that the emergence of modern local government law was made possible by a deep transformation of political values. During the century and a half covered by this study, New York City changed from a largely autonomous corporate government shaped primarily by its property holdings to a public municipal corporation under the direct authority of the state legislature. By the early nineteenth century, a corporation that had once governed through is personal, private estate had become one dedicated to using legislatively delegated power to provide goods and services for the expanding city.



This book combines doctrinal analysis with detailed pictures of changing governmental practices, ranging from the laying out of streets and port facilities to the regulation of cemeteries and pigs. These pictures reveal the complex and only partially articulated choices made by city and state officials which directed New York City's transformation into an agency of a centralized state, the model of a modern municipal corporation.



To an extent, the story told is one of separation and loss. Hartog describes our separation from a legal world of local autonomy where property rights legitimized community self-determination, where a city corporation might possess its government as well as its real estate. Yet the story is also about the creativity and ingenuity with which the new urban legal order imposed their radical and animating view that public power existed to improve the material lives of Americans.



Based on extensive research in the New York City archives and minutes of the Common Council, as well as the many court cases that ultimately determined New York's status as a city corporation, Public Property and Private Power will be of interest to legal historians, urbanists, and those interested in the development of New York City.
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