Skip to main content

Full text of "Political Science Of The State"

See other formats

Anglo-Saxon times, that system of free self-government which
became obsolete, or nearly so, not long after the reformation.
This is probably true, for, although the manor and its court
swallowed up the business of the English township in part,
still it held its assemblies or gemots, passed by-laws, elected
certain officers, had certain police duties laid upon it, and
prepared the tithing lists for the sheriff's inspection. The
parish and town being nearly confounded in the course of
time, in the vestry meeting, " the freemen of the township,
the rate-payers, still assemble for purposes of local interest
not involved in the manorial jurisdiction ; elect the parish
officers—properly, the township officers, for there is no pri-
mary connection between the maintenence of roads and col-
lection of taxes and the parish as an ecclesiastical unity—
the church wardens, the way wardens, the assessors, and the
overseers of the poor."* It is worthy of notice that under
the ecclesiastical constitution of two of the New England colo-
nies the parish and town were one and the same for the most
part, that the division of towns into two parishes needed an
order of the " general court," and that the church and parish
elected their minister by concurrent vote.t
The competence of the towns is thus described in the laws
of one of the New England states! \ Towns may make such
regulations for their welfare not concerning matters of a crim-
inal nature, nor repugnant to the laws of the state, as they
deem expedient, and enforce them by penalties not exceeding
five dollars for one breach. The principal powers are those
of establishing poor-houses, workhouses, high schools, con-
solidated school districts, setting up and maintaining by a tax
of fifty cents on every poll, public libraries, passing by-laws
respecting sidewalks, catching birds, fisheries, registration of
births, marriages, and deaths, and making town burying-
grounds. Their necessary duties are to support free schools,
maintain paupers, build and keep in repair highways, and set
* Prof. Stubbs, Const. Hist, i, § 43.
f See Buck, Eccles. Law of Massachusetts, chapters 1-3.
j~Laws of Connecticut, revision of 1874, title 7, ch. 2.
VOL. II.—25