By local self-government we mean the management of the affairs of a village, town, district or province by the people themselves through their elected representatives, as distinct from imperial self-government, which is the management of the affairs of the whole nation by the elected central government.
In England, for example, the purely local affairs of the parish are managed by the elected Parish Councils, of the towns by Town-Council or Corporations, and of the counties by Country-Councils.
These different councils are all elected from time to time by the people of the parishes, towns and counties, and administer all the local affairs which do not concern the central government.
The history of England shows that local self-government historically precedes national self-government, and is the school in which national self-government is learnt. It dates back to the ancient Anglo-Saxon times.
When the Saxons and Angles and Jutes conquered Britain they brought with them their own political institutions. Although each tribe acknowledged the authority of a leader in time of war, the Saxons were all free-men, who were used to self-government in all local affairs.
They had their town-moots, (moot means meeting, or assembly), their hundred-moots, and a general assembly of the tribe, called the folk-moot.
These local self-governing bodies were established in England; so that English people have been accustomed for 2,000 years to govern themselves in local matters. In the Middle Ages, the towns were mostly self-governed, and had charters of liberties, and recognized privileges and powers of their own.
National self-government was of much slower growth. It was not until the reign of Edward I, at the end of the 13th century, that the English Parliament was formed.
It was not until 1688 that the Parliament became the real governing power; and it was not until 1832 that Parliament really began to represent the people.
The English have become such experts in national self-government because they first went through centuries of training in local self-government.
India has undoubtedly benefited from the triumph of English democracy. It knows that self-government is an art, and an art that can be learnt only by experience.
People that cannot manage the local affairs of a village, a town, a district, or a province, cannot hope to manage the affairs of a kingdom or an empire. They must learn the art of self-government by experience before they can expect to succeed in national self-government.
With the coming of Gandhiji on the political scene the idea of self-government took deeper roots in the country. Municipal corporations developed gradually so that by the time Independence was finally achieved India was prepared to face her new duties and responsibilities in the matter of self-government.
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