Author: ARDELEANU KONSTANTIN
By late 18th century, in continuation of former medieval institutions, the administration of the county of Covurlui and of its capital, Galaţi, was carried out by two percalabs (pârcălabi), representatives at a local level of the central authorities. These officials held military, juridical and fiscal responsibilities, enforced the princely dispositions and certified agreements between private persons. At the same time, the traditional autonomous councils of burghers gradually lost their importance, as the Phanariote hospodars in the capital of Jassy (Iaşi) managed to impose the institution of town epitropos (epitropi de târg).
The percalabia (pârcălăbia) of Galaţi was a valued public dignity, granted to influential boyars, responsible with securing the proper flow of the supplies that Moldavia had to provide to the Sublime Porte. The office remained as important during the subsequent Russian military occupations, the duties of the percalabs being “to collect the payments settled according to the official tables, to judge and to enquire into the quarrels between inhabitants, to solve the disputes concerning land estates and other fortunes and to provide judgment documents according to the decision taken”. The dignitaries also had to guard public tranquillity in the town and county, to apply necessary quarantine decisions and to secure the proper circulation of ships loading cargoes in the harbour. These officials were paid by the central treasury, but they could also levy a tax on local commercial traffic and were entitled to receive presents. For exercising their police attributions and for catching wrongdoers, the percalabs were supported by the great captain of Covurlui (marele căpitan de Covurlui), a dignitary appointed by the prince, but subordinated to the local percalabs. At Galaţi, the town captain (căpitanul de târg) or the başbulucbaşa had similar attributions, and the police of the harbour was exercised by another official, called captain of the echelle (căpitanul schelei). Due to its importance in supplying the imperial capital with foodstuffs, the harbour was also guarded by an Ottoman serdar and several dozen soldiers, allegedly employed for preventing any abuses of the Ottoman merchants in the strategic Moldavian port.
The modern organisation of local administration in the Romanian Principalities was imposed during the Russian military occupation of 1828–1834 and culminated with the introduction of the “Organic Statues” in 1831–1832. In June 1830 there was already in office the Urban Commission (Comisia orăşenească), made up of sword bearer Dumitrache Codreanu, cupbearer Paraschiv Şerban and cupbearer Oprişan, appointed to look after the good order of the town, to draft projects for its development and embellishment, and to administer the local budget. In December 1831, according to the provisions of the “Organic Statutes”, the administration of the town was taken over by a Municipal Council (Sfat Municipal), made up of three members: Petrache Altântovici, Iordachi Mantu, and Ioan Simionovici, whom the central authorities recognised only with some delay, as all three were foreign subjects. Since 1833, the institution was called the Urban Ephorate (Eforia orăşenească), composed of three members, supported by a secretary, two civil servants, and a scribe. The members were elected for a term of one year and were not remunerated. The Urban Ephorate was entrusted with administering the budget, protecting the town’s trade and securing the proper supply of local markets. The collection of municipal taxes was farmed, but the actual gathering of money proved difficult in the first years after the introduction of the new law.
The “Organic Statutes” also regulated the attributions of the percalabia, the institution entrusted with the administration of the county of Covurlui. The percalab had fiscal, administrative, police and political functions. He enforced the laws, secured the collection of taxes and prevented public abuses; he had to preserve public tranquillity, to watch over the cultivation of agricultural estates, to adequately organise public meetings and elections for local institutions. He also inspected the condition of public roads and bridges, looked after the state of public health, trade and handicrafts, supervised the rightful use of passports and the proper treatment of foreign subjects, enforced juridical decisions, guarded the country’s border, etc. Not least of all, he was in charge of the harbour management and of the Danubian quarantine, and conducted all official relations with the foreign consulates from Galaţi.
A major administrative reform, introduced after the creation of modern Romania by the union of the Principalities of Moldavia and Wallachia in 1859, was regulated by the “Communal Law” and the “Law for the Establishment of County Councils” (1864).
By the first law, the city of Galaţi was organised with the rank of urban commune. The local administration was responsible with caring for churches, poor people and orphans, public schools, the fire fighters service and hospitals. The public administration was led by a Communal Council (Consiliu communal), and the actual management was entrusted to a mayor (primar). The Communal Council had 15 members in cities with a population between 30,000 and 50,000 inhabitants, but the number of councillors grew with the increase of the urban population and by subsequent changes of the law. Councillors were elected for a term of four years, and half of them were renewed every two years by ballot. The urban commune was led by a magistrate called mayor. Initially, he was appointed by the prince from among the first three councillors by number of votes. The government also elected and confirmed several deputies (four in cities with a population between 15,000 and 40,000 inhabitants). The mayor was also the delegate of the central government and served under its authority. He was entrusted with the police, the preservation of public tranquillity, and the imposition of measures of public wellbeing for all inhabitants. The mayors of large cities could be suspended by the ministry of home affairs and revoked by the prince.
Subsequent regulations modified several of these provisions, so that by the end of the 19th century things were slightly different. The communal organisation was made up of the mayor and three deputies, all four elected from among the 27 members of the Communal Council. According to the electoral system, the councillors were voted into two electoral colleges, 14 at the first college and 13 at the second one. The Office of Civil Registry was led by a councillor delegated by the mayor. Only these five officials were paid, and all the rest served honorary. The Communal Council assembled whenever it was necessary and when it was summoned. The sittings were held with an absolute majority of 14 members when first summoned, but at re-summons it could decide with a third of its members (nine).
The “Law for the Establishment of County Councils” regulated the administrative organisation of districts in Romania, which were no longer simple administrative subdivisions, but juridical persons invested with certain public powers and with patrimonial rights. The law was subsequently modified in 1883 and 1892.
The domestic affairs of the county were decided in the County Council (Consiliul Judeţean), elected for a term of four years. At the end of the 19th century there were 24 county councillors, eight for each of the three colleges in which the electoral body was divided (according to the provisions specific for the Lower House of the Parliament). A president, two vice-presidents and two secretaries were elected to head the County Council, but the management of daily problems was entrusted to three members that constituted the Permanent Committee: a president and two assessors, each one supported by a substitute member. The permanent and the substitute members were elected for two years, with the possibility of renewing their terms.
The general administration of the county and the direct representation of the central government at a local level were entrusted to a magistrate called prefect. Given the importance of Galaţi for Romania’s economy, but also due to its location on the border, the county of Covurlui was a prefecture of first degree. The General County Council was summoned in ordinary session once a year (15 October – 1 November), and in extraordinary sessions whenever necessary. The prefect assisted with a consultative vote at these sittings, he could make proposals of improvement, he guarded the enforcement of laws and could use his veto, with the obligation to refer to the ministry of home affairs against the decisions of the Permanent Committee which he did not support.
 Istoria dreptului românesc, edited by Dumitru Firoiu and Liviu P. Marcu (Bucharest: Editura Academiei Republicii Socialiste România, 1984), vol. II, part 1, 150–151.
 Ibid., 152–154; Paul Păltănea, Istoria oraşului Galaţi de la origini până la 1918, second edition, edited by Eugen Drăgoi (Galaţi: Editura Partener, 2008), vol. I, 227–228.
 Ibid., 229, with several examples in the following pages.
 Ibid., 233–234.
 Ibid., 236–237.
 Ibid., 237–238 and 351–352.
 Ibid., 238–239 and 353–354.
 Ibid., 347–348.
 Ibid., 348. Details in N. A. Bogdan, “Cea dintâi legiuire comunală în oraşul Iaşi şi în principalele târguri din Moldova”, Ion Neculce, 1 (1922), 241–244.
 D. Agache, “Atribuţii specifice ale pârcălabului de Galaţi în perioada Regulamentului Organic (1832–1849)”, Danubius, 6–7 (1973), 81–97; Istoria dreptului românesc, II/1, 151.
 The text of the Communal Law of 1864 is available at the address http://lege5.ro/Gratuit/heztqmzv/legea-nr-394-1864-pentru-comunele-urbane-si-rurale
 Moise N. Pacu, Cartea judeţului Covurluiu. Note geografice, istorice şi în deosebi statistice, (Bucharest: Stabilimentul Grafic I. V. Socecu, 1891), 302–303.
 Ibid., 317–319.
The Communal Law of 1864:
Official site of the Municipality of Galaţi
Official site of the prefecture of Galaţi
Serviciul Judeţean Galaţi al Arhivelor Naţionale (The National Archives, Galaţi Branch), Prefectura Judeţului Covurlui (The Prefecture of Covurlui County), files starting with 1848.
Serviciul Judeţean Galaţi al Arhivelor Naţionale (The National Archives, Galaţi Branch), Primăria oraşului Galaţi (The Municipality of Galaţi), files starting with 1831.
Agache, D., “Atribuţii specifice ale pârcălabului de Galaţi în perioada Regulamentului Organic (1832–1849)” [Specific Attributions of the Percalab of Galaţi during the Period of the Organic Statute (1832–1849)], Danubius, 6–7 (1973), 81–97.
Bogdan, N. A., “Cea dintâi legiuire comunală în oraşul Iaşi şi în principalele târguri din Moldova” [The First Communal Law in the City of Jassy and in the Main Towns of Moldavia], Ion Neculce, 1 (1922), 241–244.
Ciurea, D., “Organizarea administrativă a statului feudal Moldova (sec. XIV–XVIII)” [The Administrative Organisation of the Feudal State of Moldavia (14th – 18th centuries)], Anuarul Institutului de Istorie şi Arheologie, Iaşi, 2 (1965), 143–235.
Filitti, I. C., Despre veche organizare administrativă a Principatelor Române [On the Old Administrative Organisation of the Romanian Principalities] (Bucharest: Ediura Revistei de Drept Public, 1935).
Firoiu, Dumitru, Liviu P. Marcu (editors), Istoria dreptului românesc [History of Romanian Law], vol. II, part 1 (Bucharest: Editura Academiei Republicii Socialiste România, 1984).
Grigoraş, N., Dregătorii târgurilor moldoveneşti şi atribuţiile lor până la Regulamentul Organic [The Dignitaries of Moldavian Towns and Their Attributions until the Organic Statute] (Jassy: Tipografia Avântul, 1942).
Pacu, Moise N., Cartea Judeţului Covurlui. Note geografice, istorice şi în deosebi statistice [The Book of Covurlui County. Geographical, Historical and Mainly Statistical Notes] (Bucharest: Stabilimentul Grafic I. V. Socecu, 1891).
Păltănea, Paul, Istoria oraşului Galaţi de la origini până la 1918 [The History of Galaţi from Its Beginnings to 1918], second edition, edited by Eugen Drăgoi (Galaţi: Editura Partener, 2008).
Păltănea, Paul, “Organizarea administrativă a oraşului Galaţi până la Regulamentul Organic” [The Administrative Organisation of the Town of Galaţi until the Organic Statute], Anuarul Institutului de Istorie şi Arheologie A. D. Xenopol din Iaşi, 17 (1980), 303–319.