By charter of the 29th of Charles II., the corporation consists of a mayor, two sheriffs, an indefinite number of free burgesses, a recorder, town-clerk, mayor and two constables of the staple, sword-bearer, chamberlain, water-bailiff, and other officers. The mayor is elected annually from the free burgesses, and may appoint a deputy; the mayor, sheriffs (who are similarly elected), and free burgesses form the common council, by whom all the other officers of the corporation are elected and freemen admitted, the latter by favour only.

The mayor and recorder are justices of the peace for the county of the town and also for the county at large, and there are three charter magistrates, to whom five have been recently added by an order of council. The borough appears to have first sent members to a parliament held at Tristledermot, now Castledermot, in 1377, and notices of the provost and bailiffs being summoned to subsequent parliaments till 1559 are on record. The right is recognised in the charters of James I. and Charles II., and the corporation continued to send two members to the Irish parliament till the Union, from which period they returned one member to the Imperial parliament, till, by the act of the 2nd of William IV., cap. 88, the original number was restored. By that act the right of election, previously vested in freeholders of 40s. and upwards within the county of the town, and in all freemen, was extended to £10 householders, and to £20 leaseholders for 14 years, and £10 leaseholders for 20 years; the non-resident freemen, except within seven miles, were disfranchised, and the 40s. freeholders allowed to retain the franchise only for life. The number of electors registered to vote at the last general election was 2062, and the number that actually voted, 1795: the sheriffs are the returning officers.

The mayor and recorder hold a court of record every Tuesday and Friday, for the recovery of debts to any amount, arising within the limits of the county of the town; the mesne process is by arrest of the person or attachment of the goods of the defendant, on an affidavit of the debt. They are also empowered to hold a criminal court, which they transfer to the general quarter sessions for the county. The assizes for the county are held here, and the quarter sessions in April and October; those for the county of the town are held in January, April, July, and October. The court-houses for the county and the borough are both handsome buildings; the former was erected in 1815, in the northern suburb, and contains two spacious court-rooms, and other requisite apartments; the front is embellished with a handsome portico of four fluted Doric columns supporting a pediment, in the tympanum of which are the royal arms.

The county gaol is built in the form of a crescent, vaulted throughout, and without any timber; it contains six wards for male, and two for female criminals, with two for debtors, separated by walls converging towards the centre, in which is the governor's house; there is a tread wheel, and the prisoners are also employed in breaking stones; it will contain 300 prisoners, placing two in each cell; the whole is surrounded by a boundary wall, between which and the building is a wide gravel walk. In an open situation near it is the borough gaol, erected in 1810, but not adapted either for classification or for the maintenance of discipline; another on the improved system is in course of erection.

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