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MUNICIPAL DOCKS - William Leggett, Democratick Editorials: Essays in Jacksonian Political Economy 
Democratic Editorials: Essays in Jacksonian Political Economy, Foreword by Lawrence H. White (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1984).
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December 3, 1836.
Among the reports adopted by the Board of Aldermen at a recent sitting was one “in favour of appropriating so much space about Pike Slip as may be necessary for the accommodation of the East river steamboats, and leasing berths for the boats there for not longer than two years, such place to be called East River Steamboat Place.” Another of the reports adopted was in favour of the appointment of a new set of publick officers, under the name of dockmasters, with a salary of five hundred dollars. The principle upon which these measures are founded is one entirely contrary to the genius of democratick government, and to a true theory of political economy. There is no greater reason why the docks and slips should be the property of the city government, and should be disposed of at the discretion of the Common Council, than why the store houses and dwelling houses should, in the same way, be under the municipal control. The political objection to this is that it strengthens the government at the expense of popular rights, creates a necessity for numerous subordinate officers, and makes it more difficult for the honest unbiassed voice of the people to have its due influence over publick affairs. The economick objection is, that no code of municipal laws can ever answer the purposes of trade as well as its own laws. When the docks are owned by the people in their corporate capacity, and hired out by their municipal agents, it results, as an inevitable consequence, that there will be favouritism and partiality in the arrangement; one place will be charged at too high a rate of wharfage, and another at too low; and business will be forced from its natural direction to suit the views of speculators, or to gratify the demands of sectional rapacity. It would, in our opinion, be a wise measure of publick policy, for the corporation to dispossess itself of all property in the docks and slips, selling them to the highest bidder, with perhaps a preemption right to the owners of the contiguous lots. By such a measure a vast fund might be realized, which would go far to pay off the city debt, and would greatly diminish the burden of taxation. According to our theory of government, the more simple the principles on which it is conducted the better. When we hear of the Common Council having made a fortunate speculation in the purchase of some island or unneeded tract of land, which has risen in money price on their hands, the thought strikes us that, what the government gains, certain individual citizens must have lost; that the aggregate wealth of the community is not increased; and that it is no part of the proper duty of government to enter into competition with citizens in the business of purchase and sale. Besides, whatever increases the wealth of a government, whatever sources of revenue it obtains independent of taxation, increases its power, and diminishes the power of the people in the same ratio. This is not a result which a democrat should desire. The aristocratick theory, the main feature of which is distrust of popular intelligence and virtue, approves a strong government; but give us a strong people as the only certain basis of the rights of property and of social order and prosperity.