ALDERMAN. This word is front the ealdorman or eoldorman. The term ealdorman is composed of ealdor, originally the comparative degree of the adjective eald, old,' and man ; but the word wider was also used by the Anglo Saxons as a substantive, and as such it was nearly synonymous with the old English term elder, which we so often meet with in the English version of the Bible. A prior of a monastery was called Temples•ealdor ; the magistrate of a district, ; the magistrate of a hundred, &c. In a philological sense, the terms ealdor and ealdorman were synonymous and equiva lent; but in their political acceptation they differ, the former being more gene ral, and, when used to express a specific degree, commonly denoting one that is lower than ealdorman. In both terms the notion of some high office, as well as that of rank or dignity, seems to be inherent ; but ealdormaa at the same time expressed a definite degree of hereditary rank or nobility which ealdor does not so neces sarily imply. Princes, earls, governors of provinces, and other persons of distinc tion, were generally termed Aldermen by the Anglo-Saxons. But besides this general signification of the word, it was also applied to certain officers; thus there was an Alderman of all England (alder mann= totius Anglia), the nature of whose office and duties the learned Spel nmn says " he cannot divine, unless it corresponded to the office of Chief Justi ciary of England in later times." There was also a King's Alderman (aldermannus regis), who has been supposed to have been an occasional judge, with an autho rity or commission from the king to administer justice in particular districts : it is very possible, however, that his duties may have resembled those exer cised by the king's sergeant in the time of Bracton, when there are strong traces of the existence of an officer so called, appointed by the king for each county, and whose duty it was to prosecute pleas of the crown in the king's name. Spel man, however, doubts whether the King's Alderman may not have been the same person with the Alderman of the county, who was a kind of local judge, intrusted, to a certain extent, with the administra tion of civil and criminal justice. Besides those above mentioned, there were also Aldermen of cities, boroughs, and castles, and Aldermen of hundreds.
In modern times, Aldermen are indi viduals invested with certain powers in municipal corporations, either as civil magistrates themselves, or as associates to the chief civil magistrates of cities or corporate towns. The functions of Aldermen, before the passing of the Mu nicipal Corporations Act, varied some what, according to the several charters under which they acted.
In the municipal boroughs of England and Wales as remodelled by 5 & 6 Wm. I V. c. 76, the resident burgesses elect coun cillors, who, in the larger boroughs which are divided into four or more wards, must be burgesses possessing at least 10001. in property or rated at 30/. annual value ; and in the smaller boroughs they must possess at least 500l. in property or be rated at 151. per annum. This principle of quali fication by property had no existence under the old municipal system. The
councillors thus elected by the burgesses at large hold office for three years, and one-third of their number go out annu ally. The aldermen are elected by the council from its own number for six years, and one-half go out every three years. One-fourth of the municipal coun cil consists of aldermen, and three-fourths of councillors ; but the only difference between them is in the mode of election and in their term of office. In the 178 municipal boroughs remodelled by the act above mentioned, there are 1080 al dermen, and of course 3240 councillors. The number of councillors varies from 12 to 48, according to the size of the borough, and the number of aldermen from 4 to 16.
In the Corporation of London, which is not remodelled by the 5 & 6 Wm. IV. c. 76, the Court of Aldermen consists of twenty-six Aldermen, including the Lord Mayor. Twenty-five of these are elected for life by such freemen as are householders of the wards, the house being of the an nual value of 101., and the freeman paying certain local taxes to the amount of 30s., and bearing lot in the Ward. In this way twenty-four of the wards, into which the city is divided, send up ow alderman each: the two remaining wards send up another. The twenty-sixth alderman belongs to a twenty-seventh nominal ward, which com prehends no part of the city of London, but only the dependency of Southwark. This alderman is not elected at all, but, when the aldermancy is vacant, the other aldermen have, in seniority, the option of taking it ; and the alderman who does take it holds it for life, and thereby creates a vacancy as to the ward for which he for merly sat The Court of Aldermen pos sess the privilege of rejecting, without any reason assigned, any person chosen for Al derman by the electors, and, after three such rejections, of appointing an alderman to the vacancy. The Lord Mayor is ap pointed from such of the aldermen as have served the office of Sheriff. Of these the Common Hall names two, and of these two the Court of Aldermen selects one. The Court of Aldermen is the bench of magistrates for the city of London. and it possesses also authority of a judicial and legislative nature in the affairs of the corporation. Although the Aldermen form a part of the Court of Common Hall (which consists exclusively of freemen who are liverymen), they are not in the habit of speaking or voting at elections, at least not in the character of Aldermen. They are members of the Court of Common Council, the legisla tive body of the corporation, which con sists of 264 members, all of whom, ex cepting the Aldermen, are elected an nually by the same electors who elect the Aldermen. (Second Report of the Commissioners of Corporation Inquiry, 1837.) In the few boroughs which are not included in the schedules of the Munici pal Corporations Act the aldermen are elected according to custom or charter. With the exception of the city of London, these boroughs are insignificant, and the corporation IS little better than a nominal body.