Although the charter under which Baltimore is governed came into effect as late as 1898, it is only the second one for the city, the first one having been in force for 101 years. The mayor is now elected for a term of four years; he must be at least twenty-five years of age and must have property in the city valued at $2000 or more, on which he shall have paid taxes for two years preceding his election. Great responsibility is centred upon him by giving him power to appoint the heads of departments and sub-departments, subject to the approval of the second branch of the council, and permitting him to remove at pleasure for six months after an appointment; in appointing a board or commission, however, he is required to choose the members from more than one political party. He has five days in which to veto an ordinance, and an affirmative vote of three-fourths of the members of each branch of the council is required to pass an ordinance over his veto. The council, constituting the legislative department, consists of two branches.

The first branch is composed of one member from each ward, elected for a term of four years; the second branch of two members from each of four districts, and a president elected by the city at large, all for a term of four years; a property qualification is prescribed for members of each branch. All municipal officers are elected in May in order to separate municipal from state and national elections. No street franchise can be granted for a longer term than twenty-five years, and the right to regulate the exercise of each and every franchise is reserved to the mayor and council. A board of estimate, composed of the mayor, the city solicitor, the comptroller, the president of the second branch of the city council, and the president of the board of public improvements, has control over appropriations, the council having power to decrease the amount of any item but not to enlarge it. To create a debt for any purpose other than to meet a temporary deficiency, the mayor and council must first obtain the consent of both the state legislature and the city electorate. The department of education is intrusted to an unsalaried board of nine commissioners, appointed by the mayor with the approval of the second branch of the council for a term of six years, three retiring every two years.

This board appoints a superintendent, six or more assistant superintendents, and the teachers of the high schools and the Polytechnic Institute, also the other teachers, but only according to the superintendent's recommendation on the basis of merit.


Baltimore was named in honour of the Lords Baltimore, the founders of the province of Maryland, but no settlement was made here until nearly 100 years after the planting of the colony; meanwhile at least two other town-sites, on which it was hoped permanent towns might be established, had received the same name, but nothing came of either. Finally, however, while the provincial legislature was still engaged in the practice of directing places to be laid out for towns, where, as events proved there was nothing to give these towns more than a mere paper existence, that body in 1729 directed seven commissioners to purchase 60 acres of land on the N. side of the Patapsco and lay it out in sixty equal lots as the town of Baltimore. Three years later, at the instance of the same body, Jones-Town (Old Town) was laid out on the opposite side of Jones's Falls, and in 1745 these two towns were consolidated. About the same time the resources of the interior, for which Baltimore was to become a trade centre, were being rapidly developed by the Germans. Prior to 1752, in which year there were only twenty-five houses with two hundred inhabitants, the growth of the city had indeed been slow; but only a year or two later wheat loaded in its harbour was for the first time shipped to Scotland; during the war between the French and the English at this time some of the unfortunate Acadians found new homes here; in 1767 Baltimore was made the county seat; by the beginning of the War of Independence its population had grown to 6755; and in 1780 it was made a port of entry.

The city early became an important shipping centre; during both the War of Independence and the War of 1812 many privateers were sent out from it, and in the interval between these wars, the ship-owners of Baltimore had their share in the world's carrying trade, the "Baltimore clippers" becoming famous. In 1797 Baltimore received its first charter, having been governed until then from Annapolis and through commissions with very limited powers; at the same time the Fells' Point settlement, founded about 1730 by William Fells, a ship carpenter, was annexed. During the War of Independence, the Continental Congress, frightened from Philadelphia in 1776, sat for several weeks in a hall in W. Baltimore Street near Liberty Street; during the same war also fortifications were first erected on the site of the present Fort McHenry. This fort effectively protected the city in 1814 when attacked by the British, and it was during the attack that Francis Scott Key, detained on one of the British attacking vessels, composed the "Star Spangled Banner." In 1860 all three of the candidates opposed to Lincoln - Douglas, Breckinridge and Bell - were nominated here, and here in 1864 President Lincoln was nominated for a second term.

The city has been the meeting-place of other important conventions, and is sometimes called "The Convention City." At the outbreak of the Civil War on the 19th of April 1861, the Sixth Massachusetts regiment, while passing through Baltimore, was attacked by a mob and several men were killed on both sides; in the following month the city was subjected to military rule and so continued until the close of the war. From 1856 to 1860 Baltimore was under the control of the American or Know-Nothing party, and suffered greatly from election riots and other disorders, until as a remedy the control of the police system was taken from the mayor and council and exercised by the state government. Soon after the Civil War a Democratic "machine" got firm control of the city, and although a struggle to overthrow the machine was begun in earnest in 1875 by a coalition of the reform element of the Democratic party with the Republican party, it was not till 1895 that the coalition won its first decisive victory at the polls.

Even then the efforts of the Republican mayor were at first thwarted by the council, which passed an ordinance over his veto, taking from him the power of appointment and vesting it in themselves; the Maryland court of appeals, however, soon decided that the council had exceeded its powers, and an important outcome of the reform movement was the new charter of 1898. Annexations of suburban territory in 1888 and 1890 greatly increased the area of the city.


J. H. Hollander, Guide to the City of Baltimore (Baltimore, 1893); T. P. Thomas, "The City Government of Baltimore" (in Johns Hopkins University Studies in Historical and Political Science, Baltimore, 1896); St G. L. Sioussat, "Baltimore, the Monumental City" (in L. P. Powell, Historic Towns of the Southern States, New York, 1900); J. T. Scharf, Chronicles of Baltimore (Baltimore, 1874).