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Sewer

commission, sewers, law, act, commissioners, laws, county, lord, rivers and named

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SEWER, a place, according to Lord Coke, where water issues, or, as is said vulgarly, "sues," whence the word suers, or sewer. The word has acquired noto riety as giving the title to " The Law of Sewers," an important branch of English law. According to that law, the super intendence of the defences of the land against the sea, and against inundation by land-floods, and of the free course of navigable rivers, has been immemorially, "from the beginning of laws," says Callis, a matter of public concern : and from very early periods commissions under the common law have from time to time been issued by the crown, empowering persons to enforce the law on such sub jects. Many statutes have been passed relating to sewers. The first, according to Lord Coke, is " Magna Charts," c. 23, which provides for the taking down of weirs. But the most important of these is 23 Hen. VIII. c. 5, commonly called " The Statute of Sewers," by which the law was extended, explained, and settled. Several statutes have been since passed, but the most comprehensive is the 3 & 4 Win. IV. c. 22, amended by 12 & 13 Viet. c. 50. From these acts, especially that of Henry VIII., the general law of sewers must be ascertained. The Act of William IV. does not affect any private or local Act for sewers concern ing any county or district, &c., or any commission of sewers in the county of Middlesex within ten miles of the Royal Exchange, except such as lie within any commission of sewers of the county of Essex, or any navigable river, canal, &c., under the management of trustees, by virtue of any local or private act, or any law, custom, &c., of Romney Marsh or Bedford Level.

The appointment of commissioners of sewers by the late Act is vested in the lord chancellor, the lord treasurer, and the two chief justices, or any three of them, of whom the chancellor must be one. Such as have not acted as commis sioners before the passing of the statute of William IV. must be possessed, in the same county or the county adjoining that for which the commission issues, of landed estate in fee, or for a term of 60 years, of 100/. yearly value, or of a term of 21 years, 10 of which are unexpired, of 2001 yearly value, or be heir apparent to an estate of 2001. yearly value. Bodies cor porate and absentee proprietors possessed of a landed estate of 300/. yearly value taxed to sewers may qualify an agent to act as commissioner, provided such agent is named in the commission ; persons named ex-officio in any commission as mayor, &c., may act without any further qualification. Coincidently with every commission there issues from the crown office a writ of dedimus potestatem, ad dressed to a list of persons therein named, who are part of the commissioners named in the commission, and authorised to ad minister the oaths to the commissioners. Previous to entering on office each com missioner takes an oath before these par ties for the due performance of his duty, and that he is possessed of the requisite qualification. A commission continues

in force for ten years from the date of it; and the laws, decrees, and ordinances made under it, notwithstanding the ex piration of the commission, continue in force until they are repealed.

Commissioners may be appointed to act in any part of the kingdom of Eng land and Wales or the islands within that kingdom. The English seas are also said to be included within the king dom of England. Each commission spe cifies the district to which it applies. The authority of the commissioners ex tends over all defences, whether natural or artificial, situate by the coasts of the sea, all rivers, water-courses, &c., either navigable or entered by the tide, or which directly or indirectly communicate with such rivers, &c. But they have no juris diction over any ornamental works situate near a house and erected previous to the Act of William IV., except with the con sent in writing of the owner. They have power to repair and reform the defences, and to remake them, when de cayed, in a different manner, if this can be done more commodiously. They may also cause rivers, &c., to be cleansed and deepened, and remove any obstructions, such as weirs, mill-dams, and the like, which have been erected since the time of Edward I. ; or, if such antient ob structions have been since increased, they may remove the increase. If any navi gable river is deficient in water, they may supply it from another where there is an excess. But the object to be at tained by all these acts must be of a general nature, and have for its purpose the furtherance of public general defence, drainage, or navigation. The commis sioners have authority also to make and maintain new, and to order the abandon ment of old works, and to determine in what way the expenses of the new works shall be contributed: but they cannot undertake any new work without the consent in writing of three-fourths of the owners and occupiers of the lands to be charged. They may also contract for the purchase of lands where necessary to the accomplishment of their objects; the price of which, if not agreed on, must be determined by a jury summoned for that purpose. In them is vested the property in such lands, and in all the works, tools, materials, &c., of which they are pos sessed by virtue of their office. The commissioners have power to make ge neral laws, ordinances, and provisions relating to matters connected with sewers in their district, as well as to determine in particular instances. These laws are to be in accordance with the laws and customs of Romney Marsh, in Kent, or " after their own wisdoms and discre tions." The mention of discretion occurs very frequently in the statute of Henry VI IL, and would seem to vest, as in truth it does vest, a very large and undefined power in the hands of the commissioners. Notwithstanding, however, this reference to their discretion, they have no authority to do anything which is not both just and reasonable, and also in accordance with the laws of the land.

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