This section is from the book "Popular Law Library Vol8 Partnership, Private Corporations, Public Corporations", by Albert H. Putney. Also available from Amazon: Popular Law-Dictionary.
William C. H. Keough, LL. D.,
Dean Op The Lincoln-Jefferson College Of Law And Professor Of The Law Of Torts, Public Corporations, International
And Roman Law At The Illinois College
Of Law, Member Of The Chicago Bar
In the preparation of the following treatise upon the principles of the law of Public Corporations it is but fair to state, that the writer has found it no inconsiderable task to do even partial justice to this important branch of jurisprudence within the confines of the limited space allotted.
In treating the extensive subject of Public Corporations I have, at least to my own partial satisfaction, supplied the omission chargeable to nearly all writers upon this branch of law, by more comprehensively elucidating the organization and functions of those involuntary political subdivisions of the State for governmental purposes, denominated Public Quasi-Corporations, such as Counties, Townships, School Districts and the like.
The fundamental idea of government in the United States sustains the doctrine, that the people are the source of all political power and possess the unquestioned and settled right to exercise it; this salutary principle forms the foundation stone upon which our political institutions, in all their power and grandeur, rest today, and as the people have the undisputed authority to rule through their chosen representatives, it is not only essential, but almost a condition precedent to a broad and enlightened citizenship to have an acquaintance with the structure and organization of our governmental institutions and the internal arrangement of the public body.
Public corporations in this country are clothed with extraordinary powers, notably the acquisition and disposition of property; the power to elect their own officers; the authority to make contracts within certain prescribed limitations; the exercise of the sovereign power of Eminent Domain and the levying and collecting of taxes, which latter power is admittedly the highest prerogative of sovereignty.
To emphasize the value and importance to the citizen of a knowledge of this significant branch of American jurisprudence, I quote the following lines from that profound political writer De Tocqueville:
"Local assemblies of citizens constitute the strength of free nations. Municipal institutions are to liberty what primary schools are to science; they bring it within the people's reach; they teach men how to use and enjoy it."