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Civil Government in the United States Considered with by John Fiske

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[Greek: Aissomai pai Zaevos Heleutheroiu,
Imeran eurnsthene amphipolei, Soteira Tucha
tiv gar en ponto kubernontai thoai
naes, en cherso te laipsaeroi polemoi
kagorai boulaphoroi.]

PINDAR, _Olymp_. xii.

Thou, too, sail on, O Ship of State!
Sail on, O Union, strong and great!...
Our hearts, our hopes, are all with thee.
Our hearts, our hopes, our prayers, our tears,
Our faith triumphant o'er our fears,
Are all with thee,--are all with thee!





This little book is dedicated, with the author's best wishes and
sincere regard, to the many hundreds of young friends whom he has
found it so pleasant to meet in years past, and also to those whom he
looks forward to meeting in years to come, in studies and readings
upon the rich and fruitful history of our beloved country.


Some time ago, my friends, Messrs. Houghton, Mifflin & Co., requested
me to write a small book on Civil Government in the United States,
which might be useful as a text-book, and at the same time serviceable
and suggestive to the general reader interested in American history.
In preparing the book certain points have been kept especially in
view, and deserve some mention here.

It seemed desirable to adopt a historical method of exposition, not
simply describing our political institutions in their present shape,
but pointing out their origin, indicating some of the processes
through which they have acquired that present shape, and thus keeping
before the student's mind the fact that government is perpetually
undergoing modifications in adapting itself to new conditions.
Inasmuch as such gradual changes in government do not make themselves,
but are made by men--and made either for better or for worse--it is
obvious that the history of political institutions has serious lessons
to teach us. The student should as soon as possible come to understand
that every institution is the outgrowth of experiences. One probably
gets but little benefit from abstract definitions and axioms
concerning the rights of men and the nature of civil society, such as
we often find at the beginning of books on government. Metaphysical
generalizations are well enough in their place, but to start with such
things--as the French philosophers of the eighteenth century were fond
of doing--is to get the cart before the horse. It is better to have
our story first, and thus find out what government in its concrete
reality has been, and is. Then we may finish up with the metaphysics,
or do as I have done--leave it for somebody else.

I was advised to avoid the extremely systematic, intrusively
symmetrical, style of exposition, which is sometimes deemed
indispensable in a book of this sort. It was thought that students
would be more likely to become interested in the subject if it were
treated in the same informal manner into which one naturally falls in
giving lectures to young people. I have endeavoured to bear this in
mind without sacrificing that lucidity in the arrangement of topics
which is always the supreme consideration. For many years I have been
in the habit of lecturing on history to college students in different
parts of the United States, to young ladies in private schools, and
occasionally to the pupils in high and normal schools, and in writing
this little book I have imagined an audience of these earnest and
intelligent young friends gathered before me.

I was especially advised--by my friend, Mr. James MacAlister,
superintendent of schools in Philadelphia, for whose judgment I have
the highest respect--to make it a _little_ book, less than three
hundred pages in length, if possible. Teachers and pupils do not have
time enough to deal properly with large treatises. Brevity, therefore,
is golden. A concise manual is the desideratum, touching lightly upon
the various points, bringing out their relationships distinctly, and
referring to more elaborate treatises, monographs, and documents, for
the use of those who wish to pursue the study at greater length.

Within limits thus restricted, it will probably seem strange to
some that so much space is given to the treatment of local
institutions,--comprising the governments of town, county, and city.
It may be observed, by the way, that some persons apparently conceive
of the state also as a "local institution." In a recent review of
Professor Howard's admirable "Local Constitutional History of the
United States," we read, the first volume, which is all that is yet
published, treats of the development of the township, hundred, and
shire; the second volume, we suppose, being designed to treat of
the State Constitutions. The reviewer forgets that there is such a
subject as the "development of the city and local magistracies" (which
is to be the subject of that second volume), and lets us see that in
his apprehension the American state is an institution of the same
order as the town and county. We can thus readily assent when we
are told that many youth have grown to manhood with so little
appreciation of the political importance of the state as to believe
it nothing more than a geographical division.[1] In its historic
genesis, the American state is not an institution of the same order
as the town and county, nor has it as yet become depressed or
"mediatized" to that degree. The state, while it does not possess such
attributes of sovereignty as were by our Federal Constitution granted
to the United States, does, nevertheless, possess many very important
and essential characteristics of a sovereign body, as is here
pointed out on pages 172-177. The study of our state governments is
inextricably wrapped up with the study of our national government,
in such wise that both are parts of one subject, which cannot be
understood unless both parts are studied. Whether in the course of our
country's future development we shall ever arrive at a stage in which
this is not the case, must be left for future events to determine.
But, if we ever do arrive at such a stage, "American institutions"
will present a very different aspect from those with which we are now
familiar, and which we have always been accustomed (even, perhaps,
without always understanding them) to admire.

[Footnote 1: Young's _Government Class Book_, p. iv.]

The study of local government properly includes town, county, and
city. To this part of the subject I have devoted about half of my
limited space, quite unheedful of the warning which I find in the
preface of a certain popular text-book, that "to learn the duties of
town, city, and county officers, has nothing whatever to do with the
grand and noble subject of Civil Government," and that "to attempt
class drill on petty town and county offices, would be simply
burlesque of the whole subject." But, suppose one were to say, with
an air of ineffable scorn, that petty experiments on terrestrial
gravitation and radiant heat, such as can be made with commonplace
pendulums and tea-kettles, have nothing whatever to do with the grand
and noble subject of Physical Astronomy! Science would not have got
very far on that plan, I fancy. The truth is, that science, while it
is perpetually dealing with questions of magnitude, and knows very
well what is large and what is small, knows nothing whatever of any
such distinction as that between things that are "grand" and things
that are "petty." When we try to study things in a scientific spirit,
to learn their modes of genesis and their present aspects, in order
that we may foresee their tendencies, and make our volitions count
for something in modifying them, there is nothing which we may safely
disregard as trivial. This is true of whatever we can study; it is
eminently true of the history of institutions. Government is not a
royal mystery, to be shut off, like old Deiokes,[2] by a sevenfold
wall from the ordinary business of life. Questions of civil government
are practical business questions, the principles of which are as often
and as forcibly illustrated in a city council or a county board of
supervisors, as in the House of Representatives at Washington. It is
partly because too many of our citizens fail to realize that local
government is a worthy study, that we find it making so much trouble
for us. The "bummers" and "boodlers" do not find the subject beneath
their notice; the Master who inspires them is wide awake and--for a
creature that divides the hoof--extremely intelligent.

[Footnote 2: Herodotus, i. 98.]

It is, moreover, the mental training gained through contact with
local government that enables the people of a community to conduct
successfully, through their representatives, the government of the
state and the nation. And so it makes a great deal of difference
whether the government of a town or county is of one sort or another.
If the average character of our local governments for the past quarter
of a century had been _quite_ as high as that of the Boston
town-meeting or the Virginia boards of county magistrates, in the days
of Samuel Adams and Patrick Henry, who can doubt that many an airy
demagogue, who, through session after session, has played his pranks
at the national capital, would long ago have been abruptly recalled to
his native heath, a sadder if not a wiser man? We cannot expect the
nature of the aggregate to be much better than the average natures
of its units. One may hear people gravely discussing the difference
between Frenchmen and Englishmen in political efficiency, and
resorting to assumed ethnological causes to explain it, when, very
likely, to save their lives they could not describe the difference
between a French commune and an English parish. To comprehend the
interesting contrasts between Gambetta in the Chamber of Deputies, and
Gladstone in the House of Commons, one should begin with a historical
inquiry into the causes, operating through forty generations, which
have frittered away self-government in the rural districts and small
towns of France, until there is very little left. If things in America
ever come to such a pass that the city council of Cambridge must ask
Congress each year how much money it can be allowed to spend for
municipal purposes, while the mayor of Cambridge holds his office
subject to removal by the President of the United States, we may
safely predict further extensive changes in the character of the
American people and their government. It was not for nothing that our
profoundest political thinker, Thomas Jefferson, attached so much
importance to the study of the township.

In determining the order of exposition, I have placed local government
first, beginning with the township as the simplest unit. It is well to
try to understand what is near and simple, before dealing with what is
remote and complex. In teaching geography with maps, it is wise to get
the pupil interested in the streets of his own town, the country roads
running out of it, and the neighbouring hills and streams, before
burdening his attention with the topographical details of Borrioboola
Gha. To study grand generalizations about government, before attending
to such of its features as come most directly before us, is to run the
risk of achieving a result like that attained by the New Hampshire
school-boy, who had studied geology in a text-book, but was not aware
that he had ever set eyes upon an igneous rock.

After the township, naturally comes the county. The city, as is here
shown, is not simply a larger town, but is much more complex in
organization. Historically, many cities have been, or still are,
equivalent to counties; and the development of the county must be
studied before we can understand that of the city. It has been briefly
indicated how these forms of local government grew up in England, and
how they have become variously modified in adapting themselves to
different social conditions in different parts of the United States.

Next in order come the general governments, those which possess and
exert, in one way or another, attributes of sovereignty. First, the
various colonial governments have been considered, and some features
of their metamorphosis into our modern state governments have been
described. In the course of this study, our attention is called to
the most original and striking feature of the development of civil
government upon American soil,--the written constitution, with the
accompanying power of the courts in certain cases to annul the acts
of the legislature. This is not only the most original feature of our
government, but it is in some respects the most important. Without the
Supreme Court, it is not likely that the Federal Union could have been
held together, since Congress has now and then passed an act which the
people in some of the states have regarded as unconstitutional and
tyrannical; and in the absence of a judicial method of settling such
questions, the only available remedy would have been nullification. I
have devoted a brief chapter to the origin and development of written
constitutions, and the connection of our colonial charters therewith.

Lastly, we come to the completed structure, the Federal Union; and by
this time we have examined so many points in the general theory
of American government, that our Federal Constitution can be more
concisely described, and (I believe) more quickly understood, than if
we had made it the subject of the first chapter instead of the last.
In conclusion, there have been added a few brief hints and suggestions
with reference to our political history. These remarks have been
intentionally limited. It is no part of the purpose of this book
to give an account of the doings of political parties under the
Constitution. But its study may fitly be supplemented by that of
Professor Alexander Johnston's "History of American Politics."

This arrangement not only proceeds from the simpler forms of
government to the more complex, but it follows the historical order of
development. From time immemorial, and down into the lowest strata
of savagery that have come within our ken, there have been clans and
tribes; and, as is here shown, a township was originally a stationary
clan, and a county was originally a stationary tribe. There were
townships and counties (or equivalent forms of organization) before
there were cities. In like manner there were townships, counties, and
cities long before there was anything in the world that could properly
be called a state. I have remarked below upon the way in which English
shires coalesced into little states, and in course of time the English
nation was formed by the union of such little states, which lost their
statehood (_i.e._, their functions of sovereignty, though not
their self-government within certain limits) in the process. Finally,
in America, we see an enormous nationality formed by the federation
of states which partially retain their statehood; and some of these
states are themselves of national dimensions, as, for example, New
York, which is nearly equal in area, quite equal in population, and
far superior in wealth, to Shakespeare's England.

In studying the local institutions of our different states, I have been
greatly helped by the "Johns Hopkins University Studies in History and
Politics," of which the eighth annual series is now in course of
publication. In the course of the pages below I have frequent occasion
to acknowledge my indebtedness to these learned and sometimes profoundly
suggestive monographs; but I cannot leave the subject without a special
word of gratitude to my friend, Dr. Herbert Adams, the editor of the
series, for the noble work which he is doing in promoting the study of
American history. It had always seemed to me that the mere existence of
printed questions in text-books proves that the publishers must have
rather a poor opinion of the average intelligence of teachers; and it
also seemed as if the practical effect of such questions must often be
to make the exercise of recitation more mechanical for both teachers and
pupils, and to encourage the besetting sin of "learning by heart."
Nevertheless, there are usually two sides to a case; and, in deference
to the prevailing custom, for which, no doubt, there is much to be said,
full sets of questions have been appended to each chapter and section.
It seemed desirable that such questions should be prepared by some one
especially familiar with the use of school-books; and for these I have
to thank Mr. F.A. Hill, Head Master of the Cambridge English High
School. I confess that Mr. Hill's questions have considerably modified
my opinion as to the merits of such apparatus. They seem to add very
materially to the usefulness of the book.

It will be observed that there are two sets of these questions,
entirely distinct in character and purpose. The first set--"Questions
on the Text"--is appended to each _section_, so as to be as near
the text as possible. These questions furnish an excellent topical
analysis of the text.[3] In a certain sense they ask "what the book
says," but the teacher is advised emphatically to discourage any such
thing as committing the text to memory. The tendency to rote-learning
is very strong. I had to contend with it in teaching history to
seniors at Harvard twenty years ago, but much has since been done
to check it through the development of the modern German seminary
methods. (For an explanation of these methods, see Dr. Herbert
Adams on "Seminary Libraries and University Extension," _J.H.U.
Studies_, V., xi.) With younger students the tendency is of course
stronger. It is only through much exercise that the mind learns how
to let itself--as Matthew Arnold used to say--"play freely about the

[Footnote 3: "This," says Mr. Hill, "will please those who prefer the
topical method, while it does not forbid the easy transformation
of topics to questions, which others may demand." In the table of
contents I have made a pretty full topical analysis of the book, which
may prove useful for comparison with Mr. Hill's.]

In order to supply the pupil with some wholesome exercise of this
sort, Mr. Hill has added, at the end of each _chapter_, a set of
"Suggestive Questions and Directions." Here he has thoroughly divined
the purpose of the book and done much to further it.

Problems or cases are suggested for the student to consider, and
questions are asked which cannot be disposed of by a direct appeal to
the text. Sometimes the questions go quite outside of the text, and
relate to topics concerning which it provides no information whatever.
This has been done with a purpose. The pupil should learn how to go
outside of the book and gather from scattered sources information
concerning questions that the book suggests. In other words, he should
begin to learn _how to make researches_, for that is coming to be
one of the useful arts, not merely for scholars, but for men and
women in many sorts of avocations. It is always useful, as well as
ennobling, to be able to trace knowledge to its sources. Work of this
sort involves more or less conference and discussion among classmates,
and calls for active aid from the teacher; and if the teacher does not
at first feel at home in these methods, practice will nevertheless
bring familiarity, and will prove most wholesome training. For the aid
of teachers and pupils, as well as of the general reader who wishes to
pursue the subject, I have added a bibliographical note at the end of
each chapter, immediately after Mr. Hill's "Suggestive Questions and

This particular purpose in my book must be carefully borne in mind.
It explains the omission of many details which some text-books on the
same subject would be sure to include. To make a manual complete and
self-sufficing is precisely what I have not intended. The book is
designed to be suggestive and stimulating, to leave the reader with
scant information on some points, to make him (as Mr. Samuel Weller
says) "vish there wos more," and to show him how to go on by himself.
I am well aware that, in making an experiment in this somewhat new
direction, nothing is easier than to fall into errors of judgment. I
can hardly suppose that this book is free from such errors; but if in
spite thereof it shall turn out to be in any way helpful in bringing
the knowledge and use of the German seminary method into our higher
schools, I shall be more than satisfied.

Just here, let me say to young people in all parts of our country:--If
you have not already done so, it would be well worth while for you
to organize a debating society in your town or village, for the
discussion of such historical and practical questions relating to the
government of the United States as are suggested in the course of this
book. Once started, there need be no end of interesting and profitable
subjects for discussion. As a further guide to the books you need
in studying such subjects, use Mr. W.E. Foster's "References to the
Constitution of the United States," the invaluable pamphlet mentioned
below on page 277. If you cannot afford to buy the books, get the
public library of your town or village to buy them; or, perhaps,
organize a small special library for your society or club. Librarians
will naturally feel interested in such a matter, and will often
be able to help with advice. A few hours every week spent in such
wholesome studies cannot fail to do much toward the political
education of the local community, and thus toward the general
improvement of the American people. For the amelioration of things
will doubtless continue to be effected in the future, as it has been
effected in the past, not by ambitious schemes of sudden and universal
reform (which the sagacious man always suspects, just as he
suspects all schemes for returning a fabulously large interest upon
investments), but by the gradual and cumulative efforts of innumerable
individuals, each doing something to help or instruct those to whom
his influence extends. He who makes two clear ideas grow where there
was only one hazy one before, is the true benefactor of his species.

In conclusion, I must express my sincere thanks to Mr. Thomas Emerson,
superintendent of schools in Newton, for the very kind interest he has
shown in my work, in discussing its plan with me at the outset, in
reading the completed manuscript, and in offering valuable criticisms.

CAMBRIDGE, _August_ 5, 1890.




"Too much taxes".

What is taxation?

Taxation and eminent domain.

What is government?

The "ship of state".

"The government".

Whatever else it may be, "the government" is the power which imposes

Difference between taxation and robbery.

Sometimes taxation is robbery.

The study of history is full of practical lessons, and helpful to
those who would be good citizens.

Perpetual vigilance is the price of liberty.






Section 1. _The New England Township_.

The most ancient and simple form of government.

New England settled by church congregations.

Policy of the early Massachusetts government as to land grants.

Smallness of the farms

Township and village

Social position of the settlers

The town-meeting

Selectmen; town-clerk

Town-treasurer; constables; assessors of taxes and overseers of the

Act of 1647 establishing public schools

School committees

Field-drivers and pound-keepers; fence-viewers; other town officers

Calling the town-meeting

Town, county, and state taxes


Taxes on real-estate; taxes on personal property

When and where taxes are assessed


Cheating the government

The rate of taxation

Undervaluation; the burden of taxation

The "magic-fund" delusion

Educational value of the town-meeting


Power and responsibility

There is nothing especially American, democratic, or meritorious about
"rotation in office"


Section 2. _Origin of the Township_.

Town-meetings in ancient Greece and Rome

Clans; the _mark_ and the _tun_

The Old-English township, the manor, and the parish

The vestry-meeting

Parish and vestry clerks; beadles, waywardens, haywards,
common-drivers, churchwardens, etc.

Transition from the English parish to the New England township

Building of states out of smaller political units

Representation; shire-motes; Earl Simon's Parliament

The township as the "unit of representation" in the shire-mote and in
the General Court

Contrast with the Russian village-community which is not represented
in the general government




Section 1. _The County in its Beginnings_.

Why do we have counties?

Clans and tribes

The English nation, like the American, grew out of the union of small

Ealdorman and sheriff; shire-mote and county court

The coroner, or "crown officer"

Justices of the peace; the Quarter Sessions; the lord lieutenant

Decline of the English county; beginnings of counties in Massachusetts


Section 2. _The Modern County in Massachusetts_.

County commissioners, etc.; shire-towns and court-houses

Justices of the peace, and trial justices

The sheriff


Section 3. _The Old Virginia County_.

Virginia sparsely settled; extensive land grants to individuals

Navigable rivers; absence of towns; slavery

Social position of the settlers

Virginia parishes; the vestry was a close corporation

Powers of the vestry

The county was the unit of representation

The county court was virtually a close corporation

The county-seat, or Court House

Powers of the court; the sheriff

The county-lieutenant

Contrast between old Virginia and old New England, in respect of local

Jefferson's opinion of township government

"Court-day" in old Virginia

Virginia has been prolific in great leaders






Section 1. _Various Local Systems._

Parishes in South Carolina

The back country; the "regulators"

The district system

The modern South Carolina county

The counties are too large

Tendency of the school district to develop into something like a

Local institutions in colonial Maryland; the hundred

Clans; brotherhoods, or phratries; and tribes

Origin of the hundred; the hundred court; the high constable

Decay of the hundred; hundred-meeting in Maryland

The hundred in Delaware; the levy court, or representative county

The old Pennsylvania county

Town-meetings in New Tort

The county board of supervisors


Section 2. _Settlement of the Public Domain._

Westward movement of population along parallels of latitude

Method of surveying the public lands

Origin of townships in the West

Formation of counties in the West

Some effects of this system

The reservation of a section for public schools

In this reservation there were the germs of township government

But at first the county system prevailed


Section 3. _The Representative Township-County System in the

The town-meeting in Michigan

Conflict between township and county systems in Illinois

Effects of the Ordinance of 1787

Intense vitality of the township system

County option and township option in Missouri, Nebraska, Minnesota,
and Dakota

Grades of township government in the West

An excellent result of the absence of centralization in the United

Effect of the self-governing school district in the South, in preparing
the way for the self-governing township

Woman-suffrage in the school district






Section 1. _Direct and Indirect Government._

Summary of the foregoing results; township government is direct,
county government is indirect

Representative government is necessitated in a county by the extent of
territory, and in a city by the multitude of people

Josiah Quincy's account of the Boston town-meeting in 1830

Distinctions between towns and cities in America and in England


Section 2. _Origin of English Boroughs and Cities._

Origin of the _chesters_ and _casters_ in Roman camps

Coalescence of towns into fortified boroughs

The borough as a hundred; it acquires a court

The borough as a county; it acquires a sheriff

Government of London under Henry I

The guilds; the town guild, and Guild Hall

Government of London as perfected in the thirteenth century; mayor,
aldermen, and common council

The city of London, and the metropolitan district

English cities were for a long time the bulwarks of liberty

Simon de Montfort and the cities

Oligarchical abuses in English cities, beginning with the Tudor period

The Municipal Reform Act of 1835

Government of the city of New York before the Revolution

Changes after the Revolution

City government in Philadelphia in the eighteenth century

The very tradition of good government was lacking in these cities


Section 3. _The Government of Cities in the United States_.

Several features of our municipal governments

In many cases they do not seem to work well

Rapid growth of American cities

Some consequences of this rapid growth

Wastefulness resulting from want of foresight

Growth in complexity of government in cities

Illustrated by list of municipal officers in Boston.

How city government comes to be a mystery to the citizens, in some
respects harder to understand than state and national government

Dread of the "one-man power" has in many cases led to scattering and
weakening of responsibility

Committees inefficient for executive purposes; the "Circumlocution

Alarming increase of city debts, and various attempts to remedy the

Experience of New York with state interference in municipal affairs;
unsatisfactory results

The Tweed Ring in New York

The present is a period of experiments

The new government of Brooklyn

Necessity of separating municipal from national politics

Notion that the suffrage ought to be restricted; evils wrought by
ignorant voters

Evils wrought by wealthy speculators; testimony of the Pennsylvania
Municipal Commission

Dangers of a restricted suffrage

Baneful effects of mixing city politics with national politics

The "spoils system" must be destroyed, root and branch; ballot reform
also indispensable






Section 1. _The Colonial Governments_.

Claims of Spain to the possession of North America

Claims of France and England

The London and Plymouth Companies

Their common charter

Dissolution of the two companies

States formed in the three zones

Formation of representative governments; House of Burgesses in

Company of Massachusetts Bay

Transfer of the charter from England to Massachusetts

The General Court; assistants and deputies

Virtual independence of Massachusetts, and quarrels with the Crown

New charter of Massachusetts in 1692; its liberties curtailed

Republican governments in Connecticut and Rhode Island

Counties palatine in England; proprietary charter of Maryland

Proprietary charter of Pennsylvania

Quarrels between Penns and Calverts; Mason and Dixon's line

Other proprietary governments

They generally became unpopular

At the time of the Revolution there were three forms of colonial
government: 1. Republican; 2. Proprietary; 3. Royal

(After 1692 the government of Massachusetts might be described as

In all three forms there was a representative assembly, which alone
could impose taxes

The governor's council was a kind of upper house

The colonial government was much like the English system in miniature

The Americans never admitted the supremacy of parliament

Except in the regulation of maritime commerce

In England there grew up the theory of the imperial supremacy of

And the conflict between the British and American theories was
precipitated by becoming involved in the political schemes of George


Section 2. _The Transition from Colonial to State Governments._

Dissolution of assemblies and parliaments

Committees of correspondence; provincial congresses

Provisional governments; "governors" and "presidents"

Origin of the senates

Likenesses and differences between British and American systems


Section 3. _The State Governments_.

Later modifications

Universal suffrage

Separation between legislative and executive departments; its
advantages and disadvantages as compared with the European plan

In our system the independence of the executive is of vital importance

The state executive

The governor's functions: 1. Adviser of legislature; 2. Commander of
state militia; 3. Royal prerogative of pardon; 4. Veto power

Importance of the veto power as a safeguard against corruption In
building the state, the local self-government was left unimpaired

Instructive contrast with France

Some causes of French political incapacity

Vastness of the functions retained by the states in the American Union

Illustration from recent English history

Independence of the state courts

Constitution of the state courts

Elective and appointive judges






In the American state there is a power above the legislature

Germs of the idea of a written constitution

Development of the idea of contract in Roman law; mediaeval charters

The "Great Charter" (1215)

The Bill of Rights (1689)

Foreshadowing of the American idea by Sir Harry Vane (1666)

The Mayflower compact (1620)

The "Fundamental Orders" of Connecticut (1639)

Germinal development of the colonial charter toward the modern state

Abnormal development of some recent state constitutions, encroaching
upon the legislature

The process of amending constitutions

The Swiss "Referendum"






Section 1. _Origin of the Federal Union_.

Circumstances favourable to the union of the colonies. The New England
Confederacy (1643-84). Albany Congress (1754); Stamp Act Congress
(1765); Committees of Correspondence (1772-75). The Continental Congress
(1774-89). The several states were never at any time sovereign states.
The Articles of Confederation. Nature and powers of the Continental
Congress. It could not impose taxes, and therefore was not fully endowed
with sovereignty. Decline of the Continental Congress. Weakness of the
sentiment of union; anarchical tendencies. The Federal Convention


Section 2. _The Federal Congress_.

The House of Representatives. The three fifths compromise. The
Connecticut compromise. The Senate. Electoral districts; the
"Gerrymander". The election at large. Time of assembling. Privileges of
members. The Speaker. Impeachment in England; in the United States. The
president's veto power.


Section 3. _The Federal Executive_.

The title of "President". The electoral college. The twelfth
amendment. The electoral commission (1877). Provisions against a lapse
of the presidency.

Original purpose of the electoral college not fulfilled

Electors formerly chosen in many states by districts; now always on a
general ticket

"Minority presidents"

Advantages of the electoral system

Nomination of candidates by congressional caucus (1800-24)

Nominating conventions; the "primary"; the district convention; the
national convention

Qualifications for the presidency; the term of office

Powers and duties of the president

The president's message

Executive departments; the cabinet

The secretary of state

Diplomatic and consular service

The secretary of the treasury

The other departments


Section 4. _The Nation and the States._

Difference between confederation and federal union

Powers granted to Congress

The "Elastic Clause"

Powers denied to the states

Evils of an inconvertible paper currency

Powers denied to Congress

Bills of attainder

Intercitizenship; mode of mating amendments


Section 5. _The Federal Judiciary._

Need for a federal judiciary

Federal courts and judges

District attorneys and marshals

The federal jurisdiction


Section 6. _Territorial Government._

The Northwest Territory and the Ordinance of 1787

Other territories and their government


Section 7. _Ratification and Amendments_.

Provisions for ratification

Concessions to slavery

Demand for a bill of rights

The first ten amendments


Section 8. _A Few Words about Politics_.

Federal taxation

Hamilton's policy; excise; tariff

Origin of American political parties; strict and loose construction of
the Elastic Clause

Tariff, Internal Improvements, and National Bank.

Civil Service reform

Origin of the "spoils system" in the state polities of New Tort and

"Rotation in office;" the Crawford Act

How the "spoils system" was made national

The Civil Service Act of 1883

The Australian ballot

The English system of accounting for election expenses





A. The Articles of Confederation

B. The Constitution of the United States

C. Magna Charta

D. Part of the Bill of Rights, 1689

E. The Fundamental Orders of Connecticut

F. The States classified according to origin

G. Table of states and territories

H. Population of the United States 1790-1880, with percentages of
urban population

I. An Examination Paper for Customs Clerks

J. The New York Corrupt Practices Act of 1890

K. Specimen of an Australian ballot





In that strangely beautiful story, "The Cloister and the Hearth," in
which Charles Reade has drawn such a vivid picture of human life at the
close of the Middle Ages, there is a good description of the siege of a
revolted town by the army of the Duke of Burgundy. Arrows whiz,
catapults hurl their ponderous stones, wooden towers are built, secret
mines are exploded. The sturdy citizens, led by a tall knight who seems
to bear a charmed life, baffle every device of the besiegers. At length
the citizens capture the brother of the duke's general, and the
besiegers capture the tall knight, who turns out to be no knight after
all, but just a plebeian hosier. The duke's general is on the point of
ordering the tradesman who has made so much trouble to be shot, but the
latter still remains master of the situation; for, as he dryly observes,
if any harm comes to him, the enraged citizens will hang the general's
brother. Some parley ensues, in which the shrewd hosier promises for the
townsfolk to set free their prisoner and pay a round sum of money if the
besieging army will depart and leave them in peace. The offer is
accepted, and so the matter is amicably settled. As the worthy citizen
is about to take his leave, the general ventures a word of inquiry as to
the cause of the town's revolt. "What, then, is your grievance, my good
friend?" Our hosier knight, though deft with needle and keen with lance,
has a stammering tongue. He answers: "Tuta--tuta--tuta--tuta--too much

[Sidenote: "Too much taxes."]
"Too much taxes:" those three little words furnish us with a clue
wherewith to understand and explain a great deal of history. A great
many sieges of towns, so horrid to have endured though so picturesque
to read about, hundreds of weary marches and deadly battles, thousands
of romantic plots that have led their inventors to the scaffold, have
owed their origin to questions of taxation. The issue between the
ducal commander and the warlike tradesman has been tried over and
over again in every country and in every age, and not always has the
oppressor been so speedily thwarted and got rid of. The questions as
to how much the taxes shall be, and who is to decide how much they
shall be, are always and in every stage of society questions of most
fundamental importance. And ever since men began to make history, a
very large part of what they have done, in the way of making history,
has been the attempt to settle these questions, whether by discussion
or by blows, whether in council chambers or on the battlefield. The
French Revolution of 1789, the most terrible political convulsion of
modern times, was caused chiefly by "too much taxes," and by the fact
that the people who paid the taxes were not the people who decided
what the taxes were to be. Our own Revolution, which made the United
States a nation independent of Great Britain, was brought on by the
disputed question as to who was to decide what taxes American citizens
must pay.

[Sidenote: What is taxation?]
What, then, are taxes? The question is one which is apt to come up,
sooner or later, to puzzle children. They find no difficulty in
understanding the butcher's bill for so many pounds of meat, or the
tailor's bill for so many suits of clothes, where the value received
is something that can be seen and handled. But the tax bill, though
it comes as inevitably as the autumnal frosts, bears no such obvious
relation to the incidents of domestic life; it is not quite so clear
what the money goes for; and hence it is apt to be paid by the head
of the household with more or less grumbling, while for the younger
members of the family it requires some explanation.

It only needs to be pointed out, however, that in every town some
things are done for the benefit of all the inhabitants of the town,
things which concern one person just as much as another. Thus roads
are made and kept in repair, school-houses are built and salaries paid
to school-teachers, there are constables who take criminals to jail,
there are engines for putting out fires, there are public libraries,
town cemeteries, and poor-houses. Money raised for these purposes,
which are supposed to concern all the inhabitants, is supposed to be
paid by all the inhabitants, each one furnishing his share; and the
share which each one pays is his town tax.

[Sidenote: Taxation and eminent domain.]
From this illustration it would appear that taxes are private property
taken for public purposes; and in making this statement we come
very near the truth. Taxes are portions of private property which a
government takes for its public purposes. Before going farther, let
us pause to observe that there is one other way, besides taxation, in
which government sometimes takes private property for public purposes.
Roads and streets are of great importance to the general public; and
the government of the town or city in which you live may see fit, in
opening a new street, to run it across your garden, or to make you
move your house or shop out of the way for it. In so doing, the
government either takes away or damages some of your property. It
exercises rights over your property without asking your permission.
This power of government over private property is called "the right of
eminent domain." It means that a man's private interests must not be
allowed to obstruct the interests of the whole community in which
he lives. But in two ways the exercise of eminent domain is unlike
taxation. In the first place, it is only occasional, and affects only
certain persons here or there, whereas taxation goes on perpetually
and affects all persons who own property. In the second place, when
the government takes away a piece of your land to make a road, it pays
you money in return for it; perhaps not quite so much as you believe
the piece of land was worth in the market; the average human nature is
doubtless such that men seldom give fair measure for measure unless
they feel compelled to, and it is not easy to put a government under
compulsion. Still it gives you something; it does not ask you to part
with your property for nothing. Now in the case of taxation, the
government takes your money and seems to make no return to you
individually; but it is supposed to return to you the value of it in
the shape of well-paved streets, good schools, efficient protection
against criminals, and so forth.

[Sidenote: What is government?]
In giving this brief preliminary definition of taxes and taxation, we
have already begun to speak of "the government" of the town or city
in which you live. We shall presently have to speak of other
"governments,"--as the government of your state and the government of
the United States; and we shall now and then have occasion to allude
to the governments of other countries in which the people are free,
as, for example, England; and of some countries in which the people
are not free, as, for example, Russia. It is desirable, therefore,
that we should here at the start make sure what we mean by
"government," in order that we may have a clear idea of what we are
talking about.

[Sidenote: The "ship of state."]
Our verb "to govern" is an Old French word, one of the great host of
French words which became a part of the English language between the
eleventh and fourteenth centuries, when so much French was spoken in
England. The French word was _gouverner_, and its oldest form was
the Latin _gubernare_, a word which the Romans borrowed from
the Greek, and meant originally "to steer the ship." Hence it very
naturally came to mean "to guide," "to direct," "to command." The
comparison between governing and steering was a happy one. To govern
is not to command as a master commands a slave, but it is to issue
orders and give directions for the common good; for the interests of
the man at the helm are the same as those of the people in the ship.
All must float or sink together. Hence we sometimes speak of the "ship
of state," and we often call the state a "commonwealth," or something
in the weal or welfare of which all the people are alike interested.

Government, then, is the directing or managing of such affairs as
concern all the people alike,--as, for example, the punishment of
criminals, the enforcement of contracts, the defence against foreign
enemies, the maintenance of roads and bridges, and so on. To the
directing or managing of such affairs all the people are expected to
contribute, each according to his ability, in the shape of taxes.
Government is something which is supported by the people and kept
alive by taxation. There is no other way of keeping it alive.

[Sidenote: "The government."]
The business of carrying on government--of steering the ship of
state--either requires some special training, or absorbs all the
time and attention of those who carry it on; and accordingly, in all
countries, certain persons or groups of persons are selected or in
some way set apart, for longer or shorter periods of time, to perform
the work of government. Such persons may be a king with his council,
as in the England of the twelfth century; or a parliament led by a
responsible ministry, as in the England of to-day; or a president
and two houses of congress, as in the United States; or a board of
selectmen, as in a New England town. When we speak of "a government"
or "the government," we often mean the group of persons thus set
apart for carrying on the work of government. Thus, by "the Gladstone
government" we mean Mr. Gladstone, with his colleagues in the cabinet
and his Liberal majority in the House of Commons; and by "the Lincoln
government," properly speaking, was meant President Lincoln, with the
Republican majorities in the Senate and House of Representatives.

[Sidenote: Whatever else it may be, "the government" is the power which
"The government" has always many things to do, and there are many
different lights in which we might regard it. But for the present
there is one thing which we need especially to keep in mind. "The
government" is the power which can rightfully take away a part of your
property, in the shape of taxes, to be used for public purposes. A
government is not worthy of the name, and cannot long be kept in
existence, unless it can raise money by taxation, and use force, if
necessary, in collecting its taxes. The only general government of the
United States during the Revolutionary War, and for six years after
its close, was the Continental Congress, which had no authority to
raise money by taxation. In order to feed and clothe the army and pay
its officers and soldiers, it was obliged to _ask_ for money from
the several states, and hardly ever got as much as was needed. It was
obliged to borrow millions of dollars from France and Holland, and to
issue promissory notes which soon became worthless. After the war was
over it became clear that this so-called government could neither
preserve order nor pay its debts, and accordingly it ceased to be
respected either at home or abroad, and it became necessary for the
American people to adopt a new form of government. Between the old
Continental Congress and the government under which we have lived
since 1789, the differences were many; but by far the most essential
difference was that the new government could raise money by taxation,
and was thus enabled properly to carry on the work of governing.

If we are in any doubt as to what is really the government of some
particular country, we cannot do better than observe what person or
persons in that country are clothed with authority to tax the people.
Mere names, as customarily applied to governments, are apt to be
deceptive. Thus in the middle of the eighteenth century France and
England were both called "kingdoms;" but so far as kingly power was
concerned, Louis XV. was a very different sort of a king from George
II. The French king could impose taxes on his people, and it might
therefore be truly said that the government of France was in the king.
Indeed, it was Louis XV's immediate predecessor who made the famous
remark, "The state is myself." But the English king could not impose
taxes; the only power in England that could do that was the House of
Commons, and accordingly it is correct to say that in England, at the
time of which we are speaking, the government was (as it still is) in
the House of Commons.

[Sidenote: Difference between taxation and robbery.]
I say, then, the most essential feature of a government--or at any
rate the feature with which it is most important for us to become
familiar at the start--is its power of taxation. The government is
that which taxes. If individuals take away some of your property for
purposes of their own, it is robbery; you lose your money and get
nothing in return. But if the government takes away some of your
property in the shape of taxes, it is supposed to render to you an
equivalent in the shape of good government, something without which
our lives and property would not be safe. Herein seems to lie the
difference between taxation and robbery. When the highwayman points
his pistol at me and I hand him my purse and watch, I am robbed. But
when I pay the tax-collector, who can seize my watch or sell my house
over my head if I refuse, I am simply paying what is fairly due from
me toward supporting the government.

[Sidenote: Sometimes taxation _is_ robbery.]
In what we have been saying it has thus far been assumed that the
government is in the hands of upright and competent men and is
properly administered. It is now time to observe that robbery may be
committed by governments as well as by individuals. If the business of
governing is placed in the hands of men who have an imperfect sense of
their duty toward the public, if such men raise money by taxation and
then spend it on their own pleasures, or to increase their political
influence, or for other illegitimate purposes, it is really robbery,
just as much as if these men were to stand with pistols by the
roadside and empty the wallets of people passing by. They make a
dishonest use of their high position as members of government, and
extort money for which they make no return in the shape of services
to the public. History is full of such lamentable instances of
misgovernment, and one of the most important uses of the study of
history is to teach us how they have occurred, in order that we may
learn how to avoid them, as far as possible, in the future.

[Sidenote: The study of history.]
When we begin in childhood the study of history we are attracted
chiefly by anecdotes of heroes and their battles, kings and their
courts, how the Spartans fought at Thermopylae, how Alfred let the
cakes burn, how Henry VIII. beheaded his wives, how Louis XIV. used to
live at Versailles. It is quite right that we should be interested in
such personal details, the more so the better; for history has been
made by individual men and women, and until we have understood the
character of a great many of those who have gone before us, and how
they thought and felt in their time, we have hardly made a fair
beginning in the study of history. The greatest historians, such as
Freeman and Mommsen, show as lively an interest in persons as in
principles; and I would not give much for the historical theories of a
man who should declare himself indifferent to little personal details.

[Sidenote: It is full of practical lessons;]
Some people, however, never outgrow the child's notion of history
as merely a mass of pretty anecdotes or stupid annals, without any
practical bearing upon our own every-day life. There could not be a
greater mistake. Very little has happened in the past which has not
some immediate practical lessons for us; and when we study history
in order to profit by the experience of our ancestors, to find out
wherein they succeeded and wherein they failed, in order that we may
emulate their success and avoid their errors, then history becomes the
noblest and most valuable of studies. It then becomes, moreover, an
arduous pursuit, at once oppressive and fascinating from its endless
wealth of material, and abounding in problems which the most diligent
student can never hope completely to solve.

[Sidenote: and helpful to those who would be good citizens.]
[Sidenote: Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.]
Few people have the leisure to undertake a systematic and thorough
study of history, but every one ought to find time to learn the
principal features of the governments under which we live, and to get
some inkling of the way in which these governments have come into
existence and of the causes which have made them what they are. Some
such knowledge is necessary to the proper discharge of the duties of
citizenship. Political questions, great and small, are perpetually
arising, to be discussed in the newspapers and voted on at the polls;
and it is the duty of every man and woman, young or old, to try to
understand them. That is a duty which we owe, each and all of us, to
ourselves and to our fellow-countrymen. For if such questions are
not settled in accordance with knowledge, they will be settled in
accordance with ignorance; and that is a kind of settlement likely
to be fraught with results disastrous to everybody. It cannot be too
often repeated that eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.
People sometimes argue as if they supposed that because our national
government is called a republic and not a monarchy, and because we
have free schools and universal suffrage, therefore our liberties are
forever secure. Our government is, indeed, in most respects, a marvel
of political skill; and in ordinary times it runs so smoothly that now
and then, absorbed as most of us are in domestic cares, we are apt to
forget that it will not run of itself. To insure that the government
of the nation or the state, of the city or the township, shall
be properly administered, requires from every citizen the utmost
watchfulness and intelligence of which he is capable.


_To the teacher_. Encourage full answers. Do not permit anything
like committing the text to memory. In the long run the pupil who
relies upon his own language, however inferior it may be to that of
the text, is better off. Naturally, with thoughtful study, the pupil's
language will feel the influence of that of the text, and so improve.
The important thing in any answer is the fundamental thought. This
idea once grasped, the expression of it may receive some attention.
The expression will often be broken and faulty, partly because of
the immaturity of the pupil, and partly because of the newness and
difficulty of the theme. Do not let the endeavour to secure excellent
expression check a certain freedom and spontaneity that should be
encouraged in the pupil. When the teacher desires to place special
stress on excellent presentation, it is wise to assign topics
beforehand, so that each pupil may know definitely what is expected of
him, and prepare himself accordingly.

1. Tell the story that introduces the chapter.

2. What lesson is it designed to teach?

3. What caused the French Revolution?

4. What caused the American Revolution?

5. Compare the tax bill with that of the butcher or tailor.

6. What are taxes raised for in a town? For whose benefit?

7. Define taxes.

8. Define the right of eminent domain.

9. Distinguish between taxes and the right of eminent domain.

10. What is the origin of the word "govern"?

11. Define government.

12. By whom is it supported, how is it kept alive, and by whom is it
carried on?

13. Give illustrations of governments.

14. What one power must government have to be worthy of the name?

15. What was the principal weakness of the government during the
American Revolution?

16. Compare this government with that of the United States since 1789.

17. If it is doubtful what the real government of a country is, how
may the doubt be settled?

18. Illustrate by reference to France and England in the eighteenth

19. What is the difference between taxation and robbery?

20. Under what conditions may taxation become robbery?

21. To what are we easily attracted in our first study of history?

22. What ought to be learned from history?

23. What sort of knowledge is helpful in discharging the duties of

24. Show how "eternal vigilance is the price of liberty."


_To the teacher_. The object of this series of questions and
suggestions is to stimulate reading, investigating, and thinking. It
is not expected, indeed it is hardly possible, that each pupil shall
respond to them all. A single question may cost prolonged study.
Assign the numbers, therefore, to individuals to report upon at a
subsequent recitation,--one or more to each pupil, according to the
difficulty of the numbers. Reserve some for class consideration or
discussion. Now and then let the teacher answer a question himself,
partly to furnish the pupils with good examples of answers, and partly
to insure attention to matters that might otherwise escape notice.

1. Are there people who receive no benefit from their payment of

2. Are the benefits received by people in proportion to the amounts
paid by them?

3. Show somewhat fully what taxes had to do with the French

4. Show somewhat fully what taxes had to do with the American

5. Give illustrations of the exercise of the right of eminent domain
in your own town or county or state.

6. Do railroad corporations exercise such a right? How do they succeed
in getting land for their tracks?

7. In case of disagreement, how is a fair price determined for
property taken by eminent domain?

8. What persons are prominent to-day in the government of your own
town or city? Of your own county? Of your own state? Of the United

9. Who constitute the government of the school to which you belong?
Does this question admit of more than one answer? Has the government
of your school any power to tax the people to support the school?

10. What is the difference between a state and the government of a

11. Which is the more powerful branch of the English Parliament? Why?

12. Is it a misuse of the funds of a city to provide entertainments
for the people July 4? To expend money in entertaining distinguished
guests? To provide flowers, carriages, cigars, wines, etc., for such

13. What is meant by subordinating public office to private ends? Cite
instances from history.

14. What histories have you read? What one of them, if any, would you
call a "child's history," or a "drum and trumpet" history? What one of
them, if any, has impressed any lessons upon you?

15. Mention some principles that history has taught you.

16. Mention a few offices, and tell the sort of intelligence that is
needed by the persons who hold them. What results might follow if such
intelligence were lacking?


It is designed in the bibliographical notes to indicate some
authorities to which reference may be made for greater detail than is
possible in an elementary work like the present. It is believed
that the notes will prove a help to teacher and pupil in special
investigations, and to the reader who may wish to make selections from
excellent sources for purposes of self-culture. It is hardly necessary
to add that it is sometimes worth much to the student to know where
valuable information may be obtained, even when it is not practicable
to make immediate use of it.

Certain books should always be at the teacher's desk during the
instruction in civil government, and as easily accessible as the large
dictionary; as, for instance, the following: The General Statutes of the
state, the manual or blue-book of the state legislature, and, if the
school is in a city, the city charter and ordinances. It is also
desirable to add to this list the statutes of the United States and a
manual of Congress or of the general government. Manuals may be obtained
through representatives in the state legislature and in Congress. They
will answer nearly every purpose if they are not of the latest issue.
The _Statesman's Year Book_, published by Macmillan & Co., New York,
every year, is exceedingly valuable for reference. Certain almanacs,
particularly the comprehensive ones issued by the New York _Tribune_ and
the New York _World_, are rich in state and national statistics, and so
inexpensive as to be within everybody's means.

TAXATION AND GOVERNMENT.--As to the causes of the American revolution,
see my _War of Independence_, Boston, 1889; and as to the weakness of
the government of the United States before 1789, see my _Critical Period
of American History_, Boston, 1888. As to the causes of the French
revolution, see Paul Lacombe, _The Growth of a People_, N.Y., 1883, and
the third volume of Kitchin's _History of France_, London, 1887; also
Morse Stephens, _The French Revolution_, vol. i., N.Y., 1887; Taine,
_The Ancient Regime_,--N.Y., 1876, and _The Revolution_, 2 vols., N.Y.,
1880. The student may read with pleasure and profit Dickens's _Tale of
Two Cities_. For the student familiar with French, an excellent book is
Albert Babeau, _Le Village sous l'ancien Regime_, Paris, 1879; see also
Tocqueville, _L'ancien Regime et la Revolution_, 7th ed., Paris, 1866.
There is a good sketch of the causes of the French revolution in the
fifth volume of Leeky's _History of England in the Eighteenth Century_,
N.Y., 1887; see also Buckle's _History of Civilization_, chaps,
xii.-xiv. There is no better commentary on my first chapter than the
lurid history of France in the eighteenth century. The strong contrast
to English and American history shows us most instructively what we have
thus far escaped.



Section 1. _The New England Township_.

Of the various kinds of government to be found in the United States,
we may begin by considering that of the New England township. As
we shall presently see, it is in principle of all known forms of
government the oldest as well as the simplest. Let us observe how the
New England township grew up.

[Sidenote: New England was settled by church congregations.]
When people from England first came to dwell in the wilderness of
Massachusetts Bay, they settled in groups upon small irregular-shaped
patches of land, which soon came to be known as townships. There were
several reasons why they settled thus in small groups, instead of
scattering about over the country and carving out broad estates for
themselves. In the first place, their principal reason for coming to
New England was their dissatisfaction with the way in which church
affairs were managed in the old country. They wished to bring about a
reform in the church, in such wise that the members of a congregation
should have more voice than formerly in the church-government, and
that the minister of each congregation should be more independent than
formerly of the bishop and of the civil government. They also wished
to abolish sundry rites and customs of the church of which they had
come to disapprove. Finding the resistance to their reforms quite
formidable in England, and having some reason to fear that they might
be themselves crushed in the struggle, they crossed the ocean in order
to carry out their ideas in a new and remote country where they might
be comparatively secure from interference. Hence it was quite natural
that they should come in congregations, led by their favourite
ministers,--such men, for example, as Higginson and Cotton, Hooker and
Davenport. When such men, famous in England for their bold preaching
and imperiled thereby, decided to move to America, a considerable
number of their parishioners would decide to accompany them, and
similarly minded members of neighbouring churches would leave their
own pastor and join in the migration. Such a group of people, arriving
on the coast of Massachusetts, would naturally select some convenient
locality, where they might build their houses near together and all go
to the same church.

[Sidenote: Land grants.]
This migration, therefore, was a movement, not of individuals or of
separate families, but of church-congregations, and it continued to be
so as the settlers made their way inland and westward. The first
river towns of Connecticut were founded by congregations coming from
Dorchester, Cambridge, and Watertown. This kind of settlement was
favoured by the government of Massachusetts, which made grants of
land, not to individuals but to companies of people who wished to live
together and attend the same church.

In the second place, the soil of New England was not favourable to the
cultivation of great quantities of staple articles, such as rice
or tobacco, so that there was nothing to tempt people to undertake
extensive plantations.

[Sidenote: Small farms.]
Most of the people lived on small farms, each family raising but
little more than enough food for its own support; and the small size
of the farms made it possible to have a good many in a compact
neighbourhood. It appeared also that towns could be more easily
defended against the Indians than scattered plantations; and this
doubtless helped to keep people together, although if there had been
any strong inducement for solitary pioneers to plunge into the great
woods, as in later years so often happened at the West, it is not
likely that any dread of the savages would have hindered them.

[Sidenote: Township and village.]
[Sidenote: Social positions of settlers.]
Thus the early settlers of New England came to live in townships. A
township would consist of about as many farms as could be disposed
within convenient distance from the meeting-house, where all the
inhabitants, young and old, gathered every Sunday, coming on horseback
or afoot. The meeting-house was thus centrally situated, and near
it was the town pasture or "common," with the school-house and the
block-house, or rude fortress for defence against the Indians. For the
latter building some commanding position was apt to be selected, and
hence we so often find the old village streets of New England running
along elevated ridges or climbing over beetling hilltops. Around the
meeting-house and common the dwellings gradually clustered into a
village, and after a while the tavern, store, and town-house made
their appearance.

Among the people who thus tilled the farms and built up the villages of
New England, the differences in what we should call social position,
though noticeable, were not extreme. While in England some had been
esquires or country magistrates, or "lords of the manor,"--a phrase
which does not mean a member of the peerage, but a landed proprietor
with dependent tenants[1]; some had been yeomen, or persons holding
farms by some free kind of tenure; some had been artisans or tradesmen
in cities. All had for many generations been more or less accustomed to
self-government and to public meetings for discussing local affairs.
That self-government, especially as far as church matters were
concerned, they were stoutly bent upon maintaining and extending.
Indeed, that was what they had crossed the ocean for. Under these
circumstances they developed a kind of government which we may describe
in the present tense, for its methods are pretty much the same to-day
that they were two centuries ago.

[Footnote 1: Compare the Scottish "laird."]

[Sidenote: The town-meeting.]
In a New England township the people directly govern themselves; the
government is the people, or, to speak with entire precision, it is
all the male inhabitants of one-and-twenty years of age and upwards.
The people tax themselves. Once each year, usually in March but
sometimes as early as February or as late as April, a "town-meeting"
is held, at which all the grown men of the township are expected to be
present and to vote, while any one may introduce motions or take part
in the discussion. In early times there was a fine for non-attendance,
but at is no longer the case; it is supposed that a due regard to his
own interests will induce every man to come.

The town-meeting is held in the town-house, but at first it used to be
held in the church, which was thus a "meeting-house" for civil as well
as ecclesiastical purposes. At the town-meeting measures relating
to the administration of town affairs are discussed and adopted or
rejected; appropriations are made for the public expenses of the
town, or in other words the amount of the town taxes for the year is
determined; and town officers are elected for the year. Let us first
enumerate these officers.

[Sidenote: Selectmen.]
The principal executive magistrates of the town are the selectmen.
They are three, five, seven, or nine in number, according to the size
of the town and the amount of public business to be transacted. The
odd number insures a majority decision in case of any difference of
opinion among them. They have the general management of the public
business. They issue warrants for the holding of town-meetings, and
they can call such a meeting at any time during the year when there
seems to be need for it, but the warrant must always specify the
subjects which are to be discussed and acted on at the meeting. The
selectmen also lay out highways, grant licenses, and impanel jurors;
they may act as health officers and issue orders regarding sewerage,
the abatement of nuisances, or the isolation of contagious diseases;
in many cases they act as assessors of taxes, and as overseers of the
poor. They are the proper persons to listen to complaints if anything
goes wrong in the town. In county matters and state matters they speak
for the town, and if it is a party to a law-suit they represent it in
court; for the New England town is a legal corporation, and as such
can hold property, and sue and be sued. In a certain sense the
selectmen may be said to be "the government" of the town during the
intervals between the town-meetings.

[Sidenote: Town-clerk.]
An officer no less important than the selectmen is the town-clerk. He
keeps the record of all votes passed in the town-meetings. He also
records the names of candidates and the number of votes for each in
the election of state and county officers. He records the births,
marriages, and deaths in the township, and issues certificates to
persons who declare an intention of marriage. He likewise keeps on
record accurate descriptions of the position and bounds of public
roads; and, in short, has general charge of all matters of

[Sidenote: Town-treasurer.]
Every town has also its treasurer, who receives and takes care of the
money coming in from the taxpayers, or whatever money belongs to the
town. Out of this money he pays the public expenses. He must keep a
strict account of his receipts and payments, and make a report of them
each year.

[Sidenote: Constables.]
Every town has one or more constables, who serve warrants from the
selectmen and writs from the law courts. They pursue criminals and
take them to jail. They summon jurors. In many towns they serve as
collectors of taxes, but in many other towns a special officer is
chosen for that purpose. When a person, fails to pay his taxes,
after a specified time the collector has authority to seize upon his
property and sell it at auction, paying the tax and costs out of the
proceeds of the sale, and handing over the balance to the owner. In
some cases, where no property can be found and there is reason to
believe that the delinquent is not acting in good faith, he can be
arrested and kept in prison until the tax and costs are paid, or until
he is released by the proper legal methods.

[Sidenote: Assessors of taxes and overseers of the poor.]
Where the duties of the selectmen are likely to be too numerous, the
town may choose three or more assessors of taxes to prepare the tax
lists; and three or more overseers of the poor, to regulate the
management of the village almshouse and confer with other towns
upon such questions as often arise concerning the settlement and
maintenance of homeless paupers.

[Sidenote: Public schools.]
Every town has its school committee. In 1647 the legislature of
Massachusetts enacted a law with the following preamble: "It being
one chief project of that old deluder, Satan, to keep men from the
knowledge of the Scriptures, as in former times by keeping them in an
unknown tongue, so in these latter times by persuading from the use of
tongues, that so at least the true sense and meaning of the original
might be clouded and corrupted with false glosses of deceivers; to the
end that learning may not be buried in the graves of our forefathers,
in church and commonwealth, the Lord assisting our endeavours;" it was
therefore ordered that every township containing fifty families or
householders should forthwith set up a school in which children might
be taught to read and write, and that every township containing one
hundred families or householders should set up a school in which
boys might be fitted for entering Harvard College. Even before this
statute, several towns, as for instance Roxbury and Dedham, had begun
to appropriate money for free schools; and these were the beginnings
of a system of public education which has come to be adopted
throughout the United States.

[Sidenote: School committees.]
The school committee exercises powers of such a character as to make
it a body of great importance. The term of service of the members is
three years, one third being chosen annually. The number of members
must therefore be some multiple of three. The slow change in the
membership of the board insures that a large proportion of the members
shall always be familiar with the duties of the place. The school
committee must visit all the public schools at least once a month, and
make a report to the town every year. It is for them to decide what
text-books are to be used. They examine candidates for the position
of teacher and issue certificates to those whom they select. The
certificate is issued in duplicate, and one copy is handed to the
selectmen as a warrant that the teacher is entitled to receive a
salary. Teachers are appointed for a term of one year, but where their
work is satisfactory the appointments are usually renewed year after
year. A recent act in Massachusetts _permits_ the appointment of
teachers to serve during good behaviour, but few boards have as yet
availed themselves of this law. If the amount of work to be done seems
to require it, the committee appoints a superintendent of schools. He
is a sort of lieutenant of the school committee, and under its general
direction carries on the detailed work of supervision.

Other town officers are the surveyors of highways, who are responsible
for keeping the roads and bridges in repair; field-drivers and
pound-keepers; fence-viewers; surveyors of lumber, measurers of wood,
and sealers of weights and measures.

[Sidenote: Field-drivers and pound keepers.]
The field-driver takes stray animals to the pound, and then notifies
their owner; or if he does not know who is the owner he posts a
description of the animals in some such place as the village store
or tavern, or has it published in the nearest country newspaper.
Meanwhile the strays are duly fed by the pound-keeper, who does not
let them out of his custody until all expenses have been paid.

[Sidenote: Fence-viewers.]
If the owners of contiguous farms, gardens, or fields get into a
dispute about their partition fences or walls, they may apply to
one of the fence-viewers, of whom each town has at least two. The
fence-viewer decides the matter, and charges a small fee for his
services. Where it is necessary he may order suitable walls or fences
to be built.

[Sidenote: Other officers.]
The surveyors of lumber measure and mark lumber offered for sale.
The measurers of wood do the same for firewood. The sealers test the
correctness of weights and measures used in trade, and tradesmen
are not allowed to use weights and measures that have not been thus
officially examined and sealed. Measurers and sealers may be appointed
by the selectmen.

Such are the officers always to be found in the Massachusetts town,
except where the duties of some of them are discharged by the
selectmen. Of these officers, the selectmen, town-clerk, treasurer,
constable, school committee, and assessors must be elected by ballot
at the annual town-meeting.

[Sidenote: Calling the town-meeting.]
When this meeting is to be called the selectmen issue a warrant for
the purpose, specifying the time and place of meeting and the nature
of the business to be transacted. The constable posts copies of the
warrant in divers conspicuous places not less than a week before the
time appointed. Then, after making a note upon the warrant that he has
duly served it, he hands it over to the town-clerk. On the appointed
day, when the people have assembled, the town-clerk calls the meeting
to order and reads the warrant. The meeting then proceeds to choose by
ballot its presiding officer, or "moderator," and business goes on
in accordance with parliamentary customs pretty generally recognized
among all people who speak English.

[Sidenote: Town, country, and state taxes.]
At this meeting the amount of money to be raised by taxation for town
purposes is determined. But, as we shall see, every inhabitant of a
town lives not only under a town government, but also under a county
government and a state government, and all these governments have to
be supported by taxation. In Massachusetts the state and the county
make use of the machinery of the town government in order to assess
and collect their taxes. The total amounts to be raised are equitably
divided among the several towns and cities, so that each town pays its
proportionate share. Each year, therefore, the town assessors know
that a certain amount of money must be raised from the taxpayers of
their town,--partly for the town, partly for the county, partly for
the state,--and for the general convenience they usually assess it
upon the taxpayers all at once. The amounts raised for the state and
county are usually very much smaller than the amount raised for
the town. As these amounts are all raised in the town and by town
officers, we shall find it convenient to sum up in this place what we
have to say about the way in which taxes are raised. Bear in mind that
we are still considering the New England system, and our illustration
is taken from the practice in Massachusetts. But the general
principles of taxation are so similar in the different states that,
although we may now and then have to point to differences of detail,
we shall not need to go over the whole subject again. We have now to
observe how and upon whom the taxes are assessed.

[Sidenote: Poll-tax.]
They are assessed partly upon persons, but chiefly upon property, and
property is divisible into real estate and personal estate. The tax
assessed upon persons is called the poll-tax, and cannot exceed the
sum of two dollars upon every male citizen over twenty years old. In
cases of extreme poverty the assessors may remit the poll-tax.

[Sidenote: Real-estate taxes.]
As to real estate, there are in every town some lands and buildings
which, for reasons of public policy, are exempted from paying taxes;

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