chapter  VII
35 Pages

CHAPTER VII

Loca^Turn-Jn the long and dreary array of Turnpike Trust Acts Acts. there is nothing which calls for detailed notice. But some

attention is due to the causes which led to so enormous a claim upon the time and care of Parliament, and which also led Parliament to sanction the maintenance of our roads by a local system of tolls on traffic. In attempting this explanation reference must be made to a few of the numerous public measures, the trial and failure of which, through a course of many centuries, ended in a fresh experiment by means of private legislation, and in quite as signal a failure. At common law the duty of keeping highways in repair generally rested with the parishes, unless by prescription this duty attached to townships or districts, or to owners of estates ratione tenures or clausurce. From this burden at common law parishes and townships were not relieved by Acts authorizing turnpikes. According to judicial decisions, these special Acts merely provided additional means for the discharge of what was a public obligation, to be performed, failing other means, by local rates.1 In cases, therefore, where highways were converted into turnpike roads, and afterwards fell out of repair, the only parties liable to indictment were the road authorities of the parish or township, though, after conviction, they had a remedy against the turnpike trustees.2 From the earliest times, however, as well as in the latest, there is ample proof how difficult it was to enforce the theoretical liability of parishes, and either to make or maintain good roads, especially through poor and sparsely-populated districts.3 Some examples are here collected which illustrate this difficulty.