Elements of Civil Government
by Alexander L. Peterman
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E-text prepared by Al Haines


A Text-Book for Use in Public Schools, High Schools and Normal Schools and a Manual of Reference for Teachers



Late Principal and Professor of Civil Government in the Normal School of the Kentucky State College, and Member of the Kentucky State Senate

New York Cincinnati Chicago American Book Company

Revised to 1916.


To the thousands of devoted Teachers in every part of the land, who are training the boys and girls of to-day to a true conception of American citizenship, and to a deeper love for our whole country, this little book is dedicated by a Brother in the work.


This text-book begins "at home." The starting-point is the family, the first form of government with which the child comes in contact. As his acquaintance with rightful authority increases, the school, the civil district, the township, the county, the State, and the United States are taken up in their order.

The book is especially intended for use in the public schools. The plan is the simplest yet devised, and is, therefore, well adapted to public school purposes. It has been used by the author for many years, in public schools, normal schools, and teachers' institutes. It carefully and logically follows the much praised and much neglected synthetic method. All students of the science of teaching agree that beginners in the study of government should commence with the known, and gradually proceed to the unknown. Yet it is believed this is the first textbook that closely follows this method of treating the subject.

The constant aim has been to present the subject in a simple and attractive way, in accordance with sound principles of teaching—that children may grow into such a knowledge of their government that the welfare of the country may "come home to the business and bosoms" of the people.

The recent increase of interest among the people upon the subject of government is a hopeful sign. It will lead to a better knowledge of our political institutions, and hence give us better citizens. Good citizenship is impossible unless the people understand the government under which they live.

It is certainly strange that every State in the Union maintains a system of public schools for the purpose of training citizens, and that the course of study in so many States omits civil government, the science of citizenship.

The author's special thanks are due Hon. Joseph Desha Pickett, Ph.D., Superintendent of Public Instruction of Kentucky, for the suggestion which led to the preparation of the work and for excellent thoughts upon the plan. The author also desires to confess his obligation to President James K. Patterson, Ph.D., and Professor R. N. Roark, A.M., of the Kentucky State College, Lexington, for valuable suggestions as to the method of treatment and the scope of the book.

The author has derived much assistance from the many admirable works upon the same subject, now before the country. But he has not hesitated to adopt a treatment different from theirs when it has been deemed advisable. He submits his work to a discriminating public, with the hope that he has not labored in vain in a field in which so many have wrought.



1. PURPOSE OF THE STUDY.—Every school should teach, and every child should study, the principles of our government, in order:

1. That by knowing his country better he may learn to love it more. The first duty of the school is to teach its pupils to love "God, home, and native land."

2. That the child may learn that there is such a thing as just authority; that obedience to it is right and manly; that we must learn to govern by first learning to obey.

3. That he may know his rights as a citizen, and, "knowing, dare maintain;" that he may also know his duties as a citizen, and, knowing, may perform them intelligently and honestly.

4. That he may understand the sacredness of the right of suffrage, and aid in securing honest elections and honest discharge of official duties.

5. That he may better understand the history of his country, for the history of the United States is largely the history of our political institutions.

2. ORAL INSTRUCTION.—There is no child in your school too young to learn something of geography, of history, and of civil government.

These three subjects are so closely related that it is easier and better to teach them together. All pupils not prepared for the text-book should, at least on alternate days, be instructed by the teacher in a series of familiar talks, beginning with "The Family," and proceeding slowly to "The School," "The Civil District or Township," "The County," "The State," and "The United States." In this system of oral instruction, which is the best possible preparation for the formal study of civil government, the plan and outlines of this book may be used by the teacher with both profit and pleasure.

3. PROPER AGE FOR STUDY OF THE TEXT-BOOK.—The plan and the style of this book are so simple that the subject will be readily understood by pupils reading in the "Fourth Reader." Even in our ungraded country schools the average pupil of twelve years is well prepared to begin the study of the text-book in civil government. It is a serious mistake to postpone this much neglected subject until a later age. Let it be introduced early, that the child's knowledge of his government may "grow with his growth, and strengthen with his strength."

4. TWO PARTS.—It will be observed that the book is divided into two parts: the former treating the subject concretely, the latter treating it abstractly.

Beginners should deal with things, not theories; hence, the abstract treatment of civil government is deferred until the pupil's mind is able to grasp it.

For the same reason, definitions in the first part of the book are few and simple, the design of the author being to illustrate rather than to define; to lead the child to see, rather than to burden his mind with fine-spun statements that serve only to confuse. In an elaborate work for advanced students the method of treatment would, of course, be quite different.

5. TOPICAL METHOD.—The subject of each paragraph is printed in bold-faced type, thus specially adapting the book to the topical method of recitation. This feature also serves as a guide to the pupil in the preparation of his lesson.

6. SUGGESTIVE QUESTIONS.—In deference to the best professional thought, the author has omitted all questions upon the text, knowing that every live teacher prefers to frame his own questions. The space usually allotted to questions upon the text is devoted to suggestive questions, intended to lead the pupil to think and to investigate for himself.

The author sincerely hopes that the teacher will not permit the pupil to memorize the language of the book, but encourage him to express the thought in his own words.




Introductory; Definition; Purposes; Members; Rights; Duties; Officers; Powers; Duties; Responsibility; Suggestive Questions



Introductory; Definition and Purposes; Formation; Functions; Members; Children; Rights; Duties; Parents; Rights and Duties; Government; Officers; Appointment; Duties; Teacher; Powers; Duties; Suggestive Questions



Introductory; Civil Unit Defined; General Classes; Civil District; Number; Size; Purposes; Government; Citizens; Rights; Duties; Officers; Justice of the Peace; Election; Term of Office; Duties; Constable; Election; Term of Office; Duties; Suggestive Questions



Introductory; Formation; Number; Size; Purposes; Citizens; Rights; Duties; Government; Corporate Power; Officers; Legislative Department; People; Trustees; Executive Department; Clerk; Treasurer; School Directors; Assessors; Supervisors; Constables; Other Officers; Judicial Department; Justices; Suggestive Questions



Introductory; Purposes; Formation; Area; County Seat; Government; Corporate Power; Departments; Officers; Legislative Department; County Commissioners, or Board of Supervisors; Executive Department; County, Attorney, or Prosecuting Attorney; County Superintendent of Schools; Sheriff; Treasurer; Auditor; County Clerk, or Common Pleas Clerk; Recorder, or Register; Surveyor; Coroner; Other Officers; Judicial Department; County Judge, or Probate Judge; Suggestive Questions



The Village or Borough; Incorporation; Government; Officers; Duties; The City; Incorporation; Wards; City Institutions; Finances; Citizens; Rights and Duties; Government; Officers; Duties; Commission Plan of City Government; Recall; Suggestive Questions



Introductory; Definition; Formation of Original States; Admission of New States; Purposes; Functions; Institutions; Citizens; Rights; Duties; Constitution; Formation and Adoption; Purposes; Value; Contents; Bill of Rights; Suggestive Questions


THE STATE—(Continued).

Government Departments; Legislative Department; Qualifications; Privileges; Power; Sessions; Functions; Forbidden Powers; The Senate; House of Representatives; Direct Legislation; Suggestive Questions


THE STATE—(Continued).

Executive Department; Governor; Term; Qualifications; Powers; Duties; Lieutenant-Governor; Secretary of State; Auditor; Comptroller; Treasurer; Attorney-General; Superintendent of Public Instruction; Other Officers; Suggestive Questions


THE STATE—(Continued).

Judicial Department; Purposes; Supreme Court; District, or Circuit Court; Territories; Executive Department; Legislative Department; Judicial Department; Representation in Congress; Laws; Local Affairs; Purposes; Hawaii and Alaska; District of Columbia; Porto Rico and the Philippines; Suggestive Questions



Introductory; Formation; Form of Government; Purposes; Functions; Citizens; Naturalization; Rights; Aliens; Constitution; Formation; Necessity; Amendment; Departments; Suggestive Questions



Legislative Department; Congress; Privileges of the Houses; Privileges and Disabilities of Members; Powers of Congress; Forbidden Powers; Senate; House of Representatives; The Speaker; Other Officers; Suggestive Questions



Executive Department; President; Qualifications; Election; Inauguration; Official Residence; Dignity and Responsibility; Messages; Duties and Powers; Cabinet; Department of State; Diplomatic Service; Consular Service; Treasury Department; Bureaus; War Department; Bureaus; Military Academy; Navy Department; Naval Academy; Post-Office Department; Bureaus; Interior Department; Department of Justice; of Agriculture; of Commerce; of Labor; Separate Commissions; Suggestive Questions



Judicial Department; Jurisdiction of U.S. Courts; Supreme Court of the United States; Jurisdiction; Dignity; United States Circuit Courts of Appeals; United States District Court; Court of Customs Appeals; Court of Claims; Other Courts; Term of Service; Officers of Courts; Suggestive Questions



Origin and Necessity; For the People; Kinds; Forms of Civil Government; Monarchy; Aristocracy; Democracy; Suggestive Questions



Rights and Duties; Relation of Rights and Duties; Civil Rights and Duties; Industrial Rights and Duties; Social Rights and Duties; Moral Rights and Duties; Political Rights and Duties; Suggestive Questions



Origin; Kinds of Law; Courts; Suits; Judges; Grand Jury; Trial Jury; Origin of Juries; Officers of Courts; Legal Proceedings; Suggestive Questions



Suffrage; Importance; Elections; Methods of Voting; Officers of Elections; Bribery; Suggestive Questions



Origin; In the United States; Principles; Requirements; Voting; Advantages; Forms of Ballots; In Louisville; In Massachusetts; In Indiana; Suggestive Questions



Origin; Necessity; Party Machinery; Committees; Conventions; Calling Conventions; Local and State Conventions; National Convention; Platform; Nominations; Primary Elections; Caucuses; Suggestive Questions



Bills; Introduction; Committees; Reports; Amendments; Passage; Suggestive Questions



Revenue; Taxation; Necessity of Taxation; Direct Taxes; Indirect Taxes; Customs or Duties; Internal Revenue; Suggestive Questions







INTRODUCTORY.[1]—People living in the United States owe respect and obedience to not less than four different governments; that is, to four forms of organized authority. They have duties, as citizens of a township or civil district, as citizens of a county, as citizens of some one of the States, and as citizens of the United States. All persons are, or have been, members of a family; some also live under a village or city government; and most children are subject to the government, of some school. Many people in this country live under six governments—namely, the family, the township or civil district, the village or city, the county, the State, and the United States; while children who live in villages or cities, and attend school, are subject to seven different governments. These organizations are so closely related that the duties of the people as citizens of one do not conflict with their duties as citizens of the others. The better citizen a person is of one of these governments the better citizen he is of all governments under which he lives.

DEFINITION.—Each of us is a member of some family. We were born into the family circle, and our parents first taught us to obey. By insisting upon obedience, parents govern their children, and thus keep them from evil and from danger. The family, then, is a form of government, established for the good of the children themselves, and the first government that each of us must obey.

PURPOSES.—The family exists for the rearing and training of children, and for the happiness and prosperity of parents. All children need the comforts and restraints of home life. They are growing up to be citizens and rulers of the country, and should learn to rule by first learning to obey. The lessons of home prepare them for life and for citizenship.


The members of the family are the father, the mother, and the children; and the family government exists for all, especially for the children, that they may be protected, guided, and taught to become useful men and women. The welfare of each and of all depends upon the family government, upon the care of the parents and the obedience of the children.

RIGHTS.—The members have certain rights; that is, certain just claims upon the family. Each has a right to all the care and protection that the family can give: a right to be kindly treated; a right to be spoken to in a polite manner; a right to food, clothing, shelter, and an opportunity to acquire an education; a right to the advice and warning of the older members; a right to the respect of all.

DUTIES.—As each of the members has his rights, each also has his duties; for where a right exists, a duty always exists with it. It is the duty of each to treat the others kindly; to teach them what is right and what is wrong; to aid them in their work; to comfort them in their sorrows; and to rejoice with them in their gladness. It is the duty of the children to love their parents; to obey them in all things; to respect older persons; and to abstain from bad habits and bad language.


The officers of the family government are the father and the mother. They were made officers when they were married, so that the rulers of the family are also members of the family. The office of a parent is a holy office, and requires wisdom for the proper discharge of its duties.

POWERS.—The parents have power to make rules, to decide when these have been broken, and to insist that they shall be obeyed. They make the law of the family, enforce the law, and explain the law. They have supreme control over their children in all the usual affairs of life, until the children arrive at the legal age—twenty-one years.

DUTIES, RESPONSIBILITY.—Parents should be firm and just in their rulings; they should study the welfare of their children, and use every effort to train them to lives of usefulness and honor. It is the duty of parents to provide their children with food, clothing, shelter, and the means of acquiring an education. There is no other responsibility so great as the responsibility of fathers and mothers. They are responsible for themselves, and the law makes them partly responsible for the conduct of their children. Therefore, one of the highest duties of a parent to his children is to exact obedience in all right things, in order that the children may be trained to true manhood and womanhood.

[1]To the teacher—Do not assign to the average class more than two or three pages of the text as a lesson. Make haste slowly. When each chapter is completed let it be reviewed at once, while the pupil's interest is fresh.

See that the "Suggestive Questions" at the end of the chapter are not neglected. If necessary, devote special lessons to their consideration. Assign the "questions" to the members of the class, to be answered on the following day, giving not more than two "questions" to any pupil.


1. Name some of the restraints of home life.

2. Why does the welfare of all depend upon the family government?

3. Why do rights and duties always exist together?

4. Name some bad habits.

5. Why should children abstain from bad habits?

6. What is true manhood?

7. Are disobedient children apt to make good citizens?

8. Should a father permit his bad habits to be adopted by his children?



INTRODUCTORY.—When children reach the age of six or seven years, they enter the public school and become subject to its rules. We are born under government, and we are educated under it. We are under it at home, in school, and in after life. Law and order are everywhere necessary to the peace, safety, liberty, and' happiness of the people. True liberty and true enlightenment can not exist unless regulated by law.

DEFINITION AND PURPOSES.—A school district or sub-district is a certain portion of the town or county laid off and set apart for the purpose of establishing and maintaining a public school. It exists for educational reasons only, and is the unit of educational work. The public schools are supported by funds raised partly by the State, and partly by the county or the township. They are frequently called common schools or free schools. It is the duty of the State to provide all children with the means of acquiring a plain English education, and the State discharges this duty by dividing the county into districts of such size that a school-house and a public school arc within reach of every child.

FORMATION.—The limits of the school district are usually fixed by the chief school officer of the county, by the town, by the school board, or by the people living in the neighborhood. In most of the States districts vary greatly in size and shape; but in some of the States they have a regular form, each being about two miles square.

FUNCTIONS.—The functions, or work, of the school are solely educational. The State supports a system of public schools in order that the masses of the people may be educated. The country needs good citizens: to be good citizens the people must be intelligent, and to be intelligent they must attend School.


The members of the school district are the people living in it. All are interested, one way or another, in the success of the school. In most States the legal voters elect the school board, or trustees, and in some States levy the district school taxes. Those who are neither voters nor within the school age are interested in the intelligence and good name of the community, and are therefore interested in the public school.

CHILDREN.—The children within the-school age are the members of the school, and they are the most important members of the school district. It is for their good that the school exists. The State has provided schools in order that its children may be educated, and thus become useful men and women and good citizens.

RIGHTS.—Children, as members of the school, have important rights and duties. It is the right, one of the highest rights, of every child to attend the full session of the public school. Whoever prevents him from exercising this right commits an offense against the child and against the State. The State taxes its citizens to maintain a system of schools for the benefit of every child, and so every child has a right to all the State has provided for him.

DUTIES.—As it is the right, it is also the duty of all children to attend the full session of the public school, or of some other equally good. They should be regular and punctual in their attendance; they should yield prompt and cheerful obedience to the school government, and try to avail themselves of all advantages that the school can give. As it is the duty of the State to offer a plain English education to every child, so it is the duty of all children to make the most of all means the State has provided for their education.

PARENTS, THEIR RIGHTS AND DUTIES.—All parents have the right to send their children to the public school, and it is also their duty to patronize the public school, or some other equally as good. Fathers and mothers who deprive their children of the opportunities of acquiring an education do them lasting injury. Parents should use every effort to give their children at least the best education that can be obtained in the public schools.


The school has rules to govern it, that the pupil may be guided, directed, and protected in the pursuit of knowledge. Schools can not work without order, and there can be no order without government. The members of the school desire that good order be maintained, for they know their success depends upon it; so that school, government, like all other good government, exists by the consent and for the good of the governed.

OFFICERS.—The school, like all other governments, has its officers. These are the school board, or trustees, and the teacher. They are responsible for the government and good conduct of the school. There are, in most governments, three kinds of officers, corresponding to the three departments of government—the legislative, the judicial, and the executive. The legislative department of the government makes the laws, the judicial department explains them, and the executive department executes them. School officers are mostly executive; that is, their chief duties are to enforce the laws made by the legislature for the government of the public schools. As they also make rules for the school, their duties are partly legislative.

APPOINTMENT, TERM OF OFFICE.—The district officers are usually elected by the legal voters of the school district; but in some States they are appointed by the county superintendent, or county school commissioner as he is often called. In most States the term of office is three years, but in some it is two years, and in others it is only one year. Trustees or directors usually receive no pay for their services.

DUTIES.—In most States it is the duty of the district officers to raise money by levying taxes for the erection of school-buildings, and to superintend their construction; to purchase furniture and apparatus; to care for the school property; to employ teachers and fix their salaries; to visit the school and direct its work; to take the school census; and to make reports to the higher school officers. In some States, as in Indiana, most of these duties belong to the office of township trustee.

THE TEACHER.—The teacher is usually employed by the directors or trustees, but in some States he is employed by the township trustee or by the county superintendent. He must first pass an examination before an examiner, or board of examiners, and obtain therefrom a certificate or license entitling him to teach in the public schools.

POWERS.—The teacher has the same power and right to govern the school that the parent has to govern the family. The law puts the teacher in the parent's place and expects him to perform the parent's office, subject to the action of the directors or trustees. It clothes him with all power necessary to govern the school, and then holds him responsible for its conduct, the directors having the right to dismiss him at any time for a failure to perform his duty.

DUTIES.—The teacher is one of our most important officers. The State has confided to him the trust of teaching, of showing boys and girls how to be useful men and women, of training them for citizenship. This is a great work to do. The State has clothed him with ample power for the purpose, and it is his duty to serve the State faithfully and well. The teacher should govern kindly and firmly. Every pupil in school, of whatever age or size, owes him cheerful and ready obedience. It is his duty, the duty for which he is paid, to insist upon this obedience; to govern the school; to teach the pupils to obey while they are children, in order that they may rule well when they become rulers; that is, when they become citizens.


1. Why are law and order necessary to the peace and happiness of the people?

2. Why are public schools sometimes called free schools or common schools?

3. About how many square miles are there in a school district in this county?

4. What is the official title, and what the name, of the chief school officer of this county?

5. Why does the State want its people educated?

6. Why should children be regular and punctual in their attendance?

7. What can parents do to aid their children to acquire an education?

8. What number of directors do you think would be best for the school district? Why?

9. Should directors receive compensation? How much?

10. Why should the teacher pass an examination?

11. Should he be examined every year?

12. Why does the law place the teacher in the parent's place?

13. Why are citizens said to be rulers?


Resolved, That it is right for a man without children to pay school taxes.



INTRODUCTORY.—In our study, thus far, we have had to do with special forms of government as exercised in the family and in the school. These are, in a sense, peculiar to themselves. The rights of government as administered in the family, and the rights of the members of a family, as well as their duties to each other, are natural rights and duties; they do not depend upon society for their force. In fact, they are stronger and more binding in proportion as the bands of society are relaxed.

In the primitive state, before there was organized civil society, family government was supreme; and likewise, if a family should remove from within the limits of civil society and be entirely isolated, family government would again resume its power and binding force.

School government, while partaking of the nature of civil government, is still more closely allied to family government. In the natural state, and in the isolated household, the education of the child devolves upon the parents, and the parent delegates a part of his natural rights and duties to the teacher when he commits the education of his child to the common school. The teacher is said to stand in loco parentis (in the place of the parent), and from this direction, mainly, are his rights of government derived. The school, therefore, stands in an intermediate position between family government and civil government proper, partaking of some features of each, and forming a sort of stepping-stone for the child from the natural restraints of home to the more complex demands of civil society. The school district, also, while partaking of the nature of a civil institution, is in many respects to be regarded as a co-operative organization of the families of the neighborhood for the education of their children, and its government as a co-operative family government.


In nearly every part of the United States there is a unit of civil society in which the people exercise many of the powers of government at first hand. This civil unit is variously named in the different States, and its first organization may have been for some minor purpose; but it has grown to be an important sphere of government in many States, and throughout the entire country it is the primary school of the citizen and the voter.

There are many different names by which this civil unit is known.

In the State of Mississippi it is called the Beat, and this name is no doubt derived from the original purpose of the organization, as the jurisdiction of a watchman or constable.

In Delaware it is called the Hundred, which is the old English subdivision of a county, supposed to contain one hundred families, or one hundred men able to bear arms in the public service.

In the New England States, in New York, and in Wisconsin it is called the Town, from the old Anglo-Saxon civil unit, which antedates the settlement of England by its Saxon invaders, and is probably older than the Christian era.

In Arkansas, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, the Carolinas, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and parts of Illinois, Nebraska, and the Dakotas, it is called the Township, only a variation of name from the "town," and having the same origin.

In California it is called the Judicial Township, and in parts of the Dakotas it is called the School Township.

In Alabama, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and parts of Illinois and Nebraska, it is called the Election Precinct, from the fact that it was the subdivision made for the convenience of voters.

In Georgia it is called the Militia District, from the fact that each subdivision furnished a certain proportionate number of men for the militia service of the State.

In Kentucky, Virginia, and West Virginia, it is called the Magisterial District, from the fact that it was constituted as the limit of the jurisdiction of a local magistrate.

In Louisiana it is called the Police Jury Ward, perhaps for the reason that from each one of these subdivisions a warden was elected to administer the parish government.

In Maryland and Wyoming it is called the Election District, from the fact that it was the subdivision made for the convenience of voters.

In Tennessee it is called the Civil District—probably, next to "town" or "township," the most fitting name for the smallest subdivision of civil government.

In Texas it is called the Justice's Precinct, as being the limit of a justice's jurisdiction.

In some of the New England States, also, districts which have not the entire town organization are provisionally called Plantations or Grants, being subject to the administration, in some local affairs, of other towns.

But under whatever name the civil unit may exist, it is the primary seat of government. In many cases the original reason for the name has disappeared, while the character of the government has greatly changed, and been modified and developed from the first crude forms.

THREE GENERAL CLASSES.—As a result, there are at present but three general classes into which we need subdivide the civil unit in the various States: these are the Civil District, which would include the "Beat," "Hundred," "Election Precinct," "Militia District," and numerous other classes, embracing about one half the States of the Union; the Town, which has its fullest development in the New England States; and the Township, which in some States has nearly the full development of a New England town, while in other States it has a looser organisation, approximating the civil district of the Southern and Southwestern States.


We shall treat of the various forms of the civil unit which we have classed under the general name of civil district before we speak of the town and the township, because they are simpler and much less developed, and therefore naturally constitute the simplest form of the civil unit.

NUMBER, SIZE.—In number and size, civil districts vary widely in different States and in different counties of the same State. There are rarely less than five or more than twelve districts to the county.

PURPOSES.—The division of the county into districts, each with its own court of law, brings justice to the people's doors. It secures officers to every part of the county, thus affording better means for the punishment of crimes. It provides a speedy trial for minor offences and minor suits. It aids the higher courts by relieving them of a multitude of small cases. As each district has one or more polling-places, it secures convenience to the electors in casting their votes.

GOVERNMENT.—The functions of the civil district arc judicial and executive, and lie within a narrow range. Its government possesses no legislative or corporate power whatever; it can not make a single law, however unimportant. Within a narrow jurisdiction or sphere, it applies the law to particular cases, and this is the chief purpose for its existence. Whenever the civil unit possesses more powers than are herein set forth, it is more properly described under the township in the next chapter, no matter what name it may go by locally.


The citizens of the civil district are the people residing within it. It exists for their benefit, that they may be secure in life, liberty, and property. In a certain sense they constitute the district, since its government concerns them directly, and others only remotely.

RIGHTS.—All citizens have a right to the full and equal protection of the laws. Each has a right to be secure in his person and property; to demand that the peace be preserved; to do all things according to his own will, provided he does not trespass upon the rights of others. No one in the family, in the school, in the civil district, in the county, in the State, or in the nation, has the right to do or say any thing which interferes with the life, liberty, property, or happiness of another. Any act which interferes with the rights of others is an offence against the common good and against the law. It is chiefly for the prevention and punishment of these unlawful acts that the civil district exists, with its court and its officers.

All legal voters of the district have the right to participate in its government by exercising a free choice in the selection of its officers, except in States where these officers are appointed. They have the right to cast their votes without fear or favor. This is one of the most important and sacred rights that freemen possess. Free government can not exist without it. The law guarantees it, and all the power of the State may be employed to maintain it. Therefore, whoever prevents a voter from exercising the right of suffrage does it at his own peril.

DUTIES.—As the citizens of the civil district have rights, they also have corresponding duties. As they may demand protection and the preservation of the peace, so it is their duty to obey the law and assist the officers in its enforcement, in order that the same protection may be extended to the whole people. Each should abstain from acts that injure others, and render cheerful aid to all in securing their rights through the law.

All qualified voters have the right, and it is also their duty, to vote. The voters elect the officers of the district, and are therefore its rulers. When they fail to vote, they fail to rule—fail in their duty to the people and to themselves. The duty to vote implies the duty to vote right, to vote for good men and for good measures. Therefore, citizens should study their duty as voters, that they may elect honest, capable, faithful officers, and support the parties and principles that will best promote the good of the country? Every one should study his political duty with the best light that he can obtain, decide what is right, and then vote his sentiments honestly and fearlessly. If the district has good government, the voters deserve the credit; if it has bad government, the voters deserve the blame.


The officers of the district are the justices of the peace and the constable. In some States there is only one justice to each district, in other States there are two, and in others there are three.

JUSTICE OF THE PEACE.—The office of justice of the peace is one of dignity and importance. Justices can render great service to society by the proper discharge of their duties. They may have much to do with enforcing the law, and therefore the best men should be elected to this office.

ELECTION, TERM OF OFFICE.—Justices of the peace are usually elected by the qualified voters of the district. In some States the governor appoints them. The term of office is two, three, four, or even seven years, varying in different States.

DUTIES.—The duties of justices of the peace are principally judicial, and their jurisdiction extends throughout the county. Upon the sworn statement of the person making complaint, they issue warrants for the arrest of offenders. With the aid of juries, they hold court for the trial of minor offences—such as the breach of the peace—punishable by fine or brief imprisonment. They sometimes try those charged with higher crimes, and acquit; or, if the proof is sufficient, remand the accused to trial by a higher court. This is called an examining trial. They try civil suits where the amount involved does not exceed a fixed amount—fifty dollars in some States, and one hundred dollars in others—and prevent crime by requiring reckless persons to give security to keep the peace. Justices sometimes preside, instead of the coroner, at inquests, and in some States they have important duties as officers of the county.

CONSTABLE, ELECTION, TERM OF OFFICE.—There is usually one constable—in some States more—in each civil district. Constables, like the justices, are elected in most States; but in some they are appointed. The term of office is usually the same as that of the justice in the same State.

DUTIES.—The constable is termed a ministerial officer because it is his duty to minister to, or wait upon, the justice's court. He serves warrants, writs, and other processes of the justice, and sometimes those of higher courts. He preserves the public peace, makes arrests for its violation, and in some States collects the taxes apportioned to his civil district.


1. In what respect does civil government differ from family or school government?

2. Why does the government of the civil district concern its people directly and others remotely?

3. What is meant by the civil unit? By what names is it known in the various States?

4. What are the three general classes under which the civil unit may be considered?

5. Why can not free government exist without the right to vote?

6. Why should the people try to secure their rights through the law?

7. What is the purpose of the subdivision of a county into districts?

8. Define in general terms the rights and duties of the citizens of civil districts.

9. By what other names are justices of the peace sometimes called?

10. Why is the jurisdiction of a justice's court limited?

11. Who are the justices of this civil district?

12. When elected, and what is their term of office?

13. Who is constable of this district?


Resolved, That the government of the civil district should have a legislative department.



INTRODUCTION.—We have learned that in the Southern States the civil unit under various names may be described under the common name of the civil district; that in the New England States it is called the town, and in many of the Western States it is known as the township. As the powers and functions of the town and the township are the same in kind, differing only in extent, and as the two names are so often used, the one for the other, we shall consider both under the head of the township.

As a rule, the township possesses more extensive governmental functions in the Eastern than in the Western States, and in the West it possesses functions much more extensive than those of the civil district in the South. Many of the most important powers that belong to the county in the Southern States belong to the township in the Eastern and the Western States.

FORMATION.—In the Eastern States the townships were formed in the first settlement of the country, and afterward a number of townships were combined to form the county. In the Western States the townships were surveyed, and their boundaries marked, by agents of the general government, before the Territories became States of the Union. As a natural result, the townships of the Eastern States are irregular in shape and size, while those of the Western States have a regular form, each being about six miles square. In the Western States the township is usually composed of thirty-six sections, each section being one mile square, and containing six hundred and forty acres of land.

PURPOSES.—It is an old and true maxim that government should be brought as near the people as possible. This the township system does. In our country all power resides in the people, and the township provides a convenient means of ascertaining their wishes and of executing their will. The farther away the government, the less will be the people's power; the nearer the government, the greater will be the people's power. The township system enables each community to attend to its own local affairs—a work which no other agency can do so well—to remove readily and speedily its local public grievances, and to obtain readily and speedily its local public needs.


The citizens of the township are the people living in it, whether native or foreigners who have become citizens. It exists for their benefit, to afford them a means of securing their rights and of redressing their wrongs. It is these persons that the law has in view when setting forth the privileges and immunities of citizenship.

RIGHTS.—All citizens of the township arc entitled to enjoy the rights of "life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness." The township government exists for the purpose of securing these rights to the people. All have equal claims to the fullest protection of the law. They may use their own property as they choose, and do whatever pleases them, so long as they do not interfere with the rights of others. Whenever one's act, speech, or property interferes with the rights of others, he falls under the censure of the law and becomes subject to its penalty.

All male inhabitants born in the United States, and foreigners who have become citizens, who have resided within the State, county, and township the time required by law, are entitled to vote at all township, county, state, and national elections. Several States require ability to read, or the payment of poll-tax, as a qualification to vote; a few permit the subjects of foreign countries to vote; and in some States women are permitted to vote in school elections or in all elections. Lunatics, idiots, paupers, and persons convicted of certain high crimes are disfranchised; that is, are not permitted to vote. The right of suffrage is one of great power and value, being the basis of all free government, and is jealously guarded by the laws of the land.

DUTIES.—The people have extensive rights and they have equally extensive duties. Each citizen has rights that others must respect. It is the duty of each to observe and regard the rights of all other persons; and when he does not, the law interferes by its officers and deprives him of his own rights by fine or imprisonment, and in some instances by a still more severe penalty. It is the duty of the people to love and serve the country; to be good citizens; to labor for the public good; to obey the law, and to assist the officers in its enforcement.

It is the duty of the qualified voters to give the township good government by electing good officers. A vote cast for a bad man or a bad measure is an attack upon the rights of every person in the community. The power of suffrage is held for the public good; but it is used for the public injury when incompetent or unfaithful men are elected to office. Good government and the happiness and prosperity of the country depend upon an honest and intelligent vote.


The township government possesses legislative, judicial, and executive functions. It has a legislative department to make local laws, a judicial department to apply the laws to particular cases, and an executive department to enforce these and other laws. The three functions are of nearly equal prominence in the Eastern States, but in the West the executive function is more prominent than the legislative and the judicial.

CORPORATE POWER.—Each township is a corporation; that is, in any business affair it may act as a single person. In its corporate capacity it can sue and be sued; borrow money; buy, rent, and sell property for public purposes. When it is said that the township possesses these powers, it is meant that the people of the township, acting as a single political body, possess them.

OFFICERS.—The officers of the township are more numerous, and their functions are more extensive than those of the civil district. Many officers are the same in name, and others have the same duties as those of the county in the Southern States.

LEGISLATIVE DEPARTMENT; THE PEOPLE.—In the Eastern States the legislative department of the township government has more extensive functions than in the West. In the New England States most local affairs belong to the township government, and the county is of minor importance. In these and a few other States the people make their own local laws instead of delegating this power to representatives. The electors of the township meet annually at a fixed place, upon a day appointed by law, discuss questions of public concern, elect the township officers, levy township taxes, make appropriations of money for public purposes, fix the salaries and hear the reports of officers, and decide upon a course of action for the coming year. Thus the people themselves, or more strictly speaking, the qualified voters, are the government. In some States special town meetings may be called for special purposes. The town meeting places local public affairs under the direct control of the people, and thus gives them a personal interest in the government, and makes them feel a personal responsibility for its acts. Another benefit of the system is that it trains the people to deal with political matters, and so prepares them to act intelligently in all the affairs of the State and the nation.

In the Western States the county government is more important, and township legislation is confined to a narrow range. In power and importance the township of most Western States is intermediate between the town of the East and the civil district of the South.

SELECTMEN OR TRUSTEES.—The legislative power of the township is vested in the trustees, town council, or selectmen, as they are variously termed. The number of trustees or selectmen is not the same in all parts of the Union, being fixed at three in most States of the West, and varying in New England with the wishes of the electors. The trustees, councilmen, or selectmen are elected by the qualified voters of the township for a term of one, two, or three years, varying in different States. They are the legal guardians of the public interests of the township, and make laws or ordinances, sometimes called by-laws, expressly pertaining to the local wants of the community, and to a limited extent may levy taxes.

In some States, especially those of the East, the principal duties of the trustees or selectmen are executive. They divide the township into road districts; open roads on petition; select jurors; build and repair bridges and town halls, where the expenditure is small; act as judges of elections; purchase and care for cemeteries; have charge of the poor not in the county charge; and act for the township in its corporate capacity. If any thing goes wrong in the public affairs of the town, complaint is made to these officers.

EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENT.—Most of the public affairs of the township, as well as of all other governments, pertain to the executive department. Its duties are far more extensive, and its officers are more numerous, than those of the other departments. The executive officers of the township are the clerk, the treasurer, the school directors, the assessor, the supervisors, and the constables. In most States all these officers are elected by the qualified voters; but in some the clerk, the treasurer, and the constables are elected by the town council.

CLERK.—The clerk of the township is clerk of the trustees, council, or selectmen, and in some States of the school board. He attends the meetings of the trustees, and makes a careful record of the proceedings. He keeps the poll-lists and other legal papers of the township, administers oaths, and notifies officers of their election. In the New England States, and some others, he keeps a record of the marriages, births, and deaths, calls the town meeting to order, reads the warrant under which it is held, presides until a moderator is chosen, and then acts as clerk of the meeting.

TREASURER.—Taxes collected from the people for local purposes are paid to the treasurer. He receives all fines, forfeitures, and license-fees paid to the township. He is the keeper of the township funds, giving bond for the faithful performance of his duties, and pays out money upon the written order of the trustees, attested by the clerk. In some States, as in New York, there is no separate township treasurer, the above and other duties being performed by the supervisor, who is the chief officer of the township.

SCHOOL DIRECTORS.—The school directors have charge of the public schools of the township. The number of directors varies widely, being usually three, five, or more. In a few of the States, the clerks of the district trustees constitute the township school directors, or township board of education. The directors levy taxes for school purposes, visit and inspect the public schools, adopt text-books, regulate the order of studies and length of the term, fix salaries, purchase furniture and apparatus, and make reports to the higher school officers. In some States they examine teachers and grant certificates to teach. In many States a part of these duties falls to the county superintendent.

ASSESSOR.—The assessor makes a list of the names of all persons subject to taxation, estimates the value of their real and personal property, assesses a tax thereon, and in some States delivers this list to the auditor, and in others to the collector of taxes. In most States there, is also a poll-tax of from one to three dollars, sometimes more, laid upon all male inhabitants more than twenty-one years of age. In some States there are two or more assessors to the township, and in others real estate is valued only once in ten years.

COMMISSIONERS, or surveyors of highways, have charge of the construction and repair of highways, summon those subject to labor on the road, and direct their work.

SUPERVISOR.—In some States the chief executive duties of the town fall upon the supervisor, but his principal duties are rather as a member of the county board of supervisors.

CONSTABLES.—Constables are ministerial and police officers. There are usually two or three in each township. They wait upon the justice's court, and are subject to his orders. They preserve the public peace, serve warrants and other processes, and in some States act as collectors of taxes.

COLLECTOR, ETC.—In some States the township has a collector and three or more auditors. They are usually elected by the trustees, or council, but in a few of the States they are elected by the town meeting. The collector collects the township taxes, giving bond for the faithful performance of his duties. In order to secure honesty and efficiency in public office, and to exhibit the financial condition of the township, the auditors annually examine the books of the treasurer and the collector, and publish a report showing the receipts and expenditures of public money.

In a few States the township has a field-driver and a pound-keeper, whose respective duties are to take stray animals to the pound, an enclosure kept for the purpose, and to retain them with good care until the owner is notified and pays all expenses; two or more fence-viewers, who decide disputes about fences; surveyors of lumber, who measure and mark lumber offered for sale; and sealers, who test and certify weights and measures used in trade. These officers are usually appointed by the selectmen.

JUDICIAL DEPARTMENT; JUSTICES.—The judicial power is vested in the justices, who are elected by the qualified voters of the town. There are usually two or three justices, but in some States there is only one in each township. The term of office is one, two, three, four, or more years, varying in different States. Justices preside in the justice's court to hear and determine suits at law. "This is the humblest court in the land, the court of greatest antiquity, and the court upon which all other courts are founded."[1] The justice's court tries petty offences and civil suits for small amounts. In some States the justices preside at the town meetings, and in others they perform the duties of coroner in the township.

[1]Thorpe's Civil Government.


1. Has this State the township system? If so, give the name and number of your township.

2. How does the township system provide a convenient means of ascertaining and of executing the people's will?

3. Why is the people's power greater when the government is near?

4. Why can the community manage its own affairs better than any other agency can manage them?

5. How do people secure their rights?

6. What is meant by falling under the censure of the law?

7. What is a naturalized person?

8. Is it right for subjects of foreign governments to vote? Why?

9. Is it right for women to vote?

10. Why is suffrage the basis of all free government?

11. What is a more severe penalty than imprisonment?

12. How can people serve the country?

13. What is a good citizen?

14. Why is a bad vote an attack on the rights of the people?

15. What other laws than those made by the legislative department of the township does the executive department enforce?

16. How do you like the New England town meeting? Why?

17. Name some duties that belong to the executive department.

18. What is a poll-list?

19. What are the duties of judges of election?

20. Of what use is a record of marriages, births, and deaths?

21. What is meant by license-fees?

22. What persons are subject to taxation?

23. What is a poll-tax, and is it right? Why?

24. Who are subject to road duty in this State?

25. Give the names of the officers of this township.


Resolved, That the town meeting is the best system of local government yet devised.



INTRUDUCTORY.—The county is a political division of the State, and is composed of civil districts or of townships. It bears the name of county in all parts of the country except in Louisiana, where a similar organization is known as a parish. In New England the county has less power than the town; in the Western States it has more than the township; and in the Southern States it has far more than the civil district, being there the unit of political influence.

PURPOSES.—The county organization brings justice near the people, enables them to attend to local affairs too extensive for a smaller community, and affords a medium by which they may transact business with the State. It serves as a convenient basis of apportioning members of the legislature among the people. It maintains local officers, such as sheriff and prosecuting attorney, whose duties would be too narrow if confined to a township. It secures a competent and higher tribunal than the justice's court for the trial of suits at law. This was the original purpose, and is still the controlling reason for the division of the States into counties.

FORMATION, AREA.—Counties are formed, their rights are conferred, and their duties imposed, by act of the State legislature. In most States counties vary greatly in shape and size, but in some of the Western States they have a regular form. The average area of counties in the United States is eight hundred and thirty square miles; the average area of those east of the Mississippi River is only three hundred and eighty square miles.

COUNTY SEAT.—The county government resides at the county seat, county town, or shire town, as it is variously called. The court-house, the jail, the public offices, and sometimes other county buildings are located at the county seat. Here are kept the records of the courts; also, usually copies of the deeds, wills, mortgages, and other important papers of the people.


The county, like the United States, the State, and the township, has a republican form of government; that is, it is governed by representatives elected by the people. In nearly all States the county government has three departments, legislative, executive, and judicial; but the functions of making, of executing, and of explaining the laws, are not always kept separate and distinct. In a few States the county does not have a judicial department.

OFFICERS.—County officers and township officers have duties similar in kind, but the former have charge of the larger interests. The usual officers of the county are the commissioners or supervisors, the county attorney or prosecuting attorney, the county superintendent of schools or school commissioner, the sheriff, the treasurer, the auditor, the county clerk or common pleas clerk, the surveyor, the coroner, and the county judge and surrogate, or probate judge. In the counties of many States one or more of these officers are lacking, and others have different names from those here given. In the Western and the Southern States county officers are elected by the direct vote of the people; in most of the New England States some of them are chosen in other ways. The terms of county officers vary in different parts of the Union, being usually two, three, or four years; but in some States certain officers are elected for a longer term.

LEGISLATIVE DEPARTMENT: COUNTY COMMISSIONERS, OR BOARD OF SUPERVISORS.—In most States the public interests of the county are intrusted to a board of officers, three or five in number, called county commissioners. In some States the board consists of one or more supervisors from each township, and is called the board of supervisors. In a few States the board consists of all the justices of the county, with the county judge as presiding officer.

The county commissioners, or board of supervisors, have charge of the county property, such as the court-house, the jail, and the county infirmary; make orders and raise funds for the erection of county buildings, and for the construction and improvement of highways and bridges; provide polling-places; make appropriations of money for public purposes; and act as the chief agents of the county in its corporate capacity. In some States they fix the salaries of county officers; in others they have power to form new townships and to change the township boundaries. In several States the functions of the board are almost wholly executive.

EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENT: COUNTY ATTORNEYS, OR PROSECUTIN ATTORNEYS.—The county attorney, or prosecuting attorney, is the county's counsellor at law, and when requested gives legal advice to all the county officers. It is his duty to prosecute the accused in the trial of crimes and offences, in the justice's court, the county court, and in some States in the circuit court or district court; to represent the county in all civil suits to which it is a party; and to act for it in all cases in which its legal interests are involved.

COUNTY SUPERINDENTENT OF SCHOOLS.—In some States there is no county superintendent of schools. In most States there is such an officer elected by the township school directors or by the people of the county, or appointed by the State superintendent of public instruction. In a few States the county is divided into two or more districts, each having a commissioner of schools.

The county superintendent, or school commissioner, is the chief school officer of the county. He administers the public school system, condemns unfit school-houses and orders others built, examines teachers and grants certificates, holds teachers' institutes, visits and directs the schools, instructs teachers in their duties, interests the people in education, and reports the condition of the schools to the State superintendent of public instruction. He is one of the most important officers of the county, a capable administration of his duties being of the greatest benefit to the whole people.

SHERIFF.—"The sheriff is the guardian of the peace of the county and the executive officer of its courts."[1] He preserves the peace, arrests persons charged with crime, serves writs and other processes in both civil and criminal cases, makes proclamation of all elections, summons jurors, and ministers to the courts of his county. In States having no county jailer, the sheriff has charge of the prisons and prisoners, and is responsible for their safe-keeping. When persons refuse to pay their taxes, he seizes and sells enough property to pay the sum assessed; and in some States he is the collector of all State and county revenue.

COUNTY TREASURER.—The duties of the treasurer are indicated by the title of his office. He receives all county taxes, licenses, and other money paid into the county treasury. In most States he is custodian of the county's financial records, and of the tax-collector's books, and in others he collects all the taxes assessed in the county. He gives bond for the faithful performance of his duties, and pays out funds upon the warrant of the county commissioners. In most States having no county treasurer, the sheriff is keeper of the public money.

AUDITOR.—The auditor is the guardian of the county's financial interests. He examines the books and papers of officers who receive or disburse county funds; keeps a record of receipts and expenditures; draws all warrants for the payment of public money; and publishes a report of the county's financial transactions. In some States he receives the assessor's returns, apportions taxes among the people, and prepares the tax-collector's duplicate list. In States having no county auditor, these duties are performed by other officers.

COUNTY CLERK, OR COMMON PLEAS CLERK.—The county clerk, or common pleas clerk, is the recording officer of the county court, or probate court, and in some States of the circuit court. He issues writs, preserves papers, and records judgments. In many States he issues licenses, preserves election returns, and records wills, deeds, mortgages, and other important papers.

RECORDER, OR REGISTER.—In many States the county has a recorder, or register, instead of the county clerk, and in some States it has both. The recorder, or register, makes a record in books kept for that purpose, of wills, deeds, mortgages, village plats, and powers of attorney. Some of these instruments must be recorded in order to make them valid in law. In some States having no recorder, these duties are performed by the township clerk, and in others by the county clerk.

SURVEYOR.—The county surveyor, or engineer, surveys tracts of land to locate lines, determine areas, and to settle conflicting claims. In some States his services are frequently needed in the transfer of real estate. In most States he makes plots of surveys, issues maps of the county, and has charge of the construction of roads and bridges.

CORONER.—The coroner investigates the death of persons who have died by violence, or in prison, or from causes unknown. He receives notice of the death; a jury is summoned; witnesses testify; and the jury renders a verdict in writing, stating the cause and the manner of the death. This inquiry is known as the coroner's inquest. In some States when the office of sheriff is vacant, the coroner performs the duties.

OTHER OFFICERS.—In some States there are superintendents of the poor, or infirmary directors, who have charge of the county infirmary in which the dependent poor are maintained; in others the township overseers of the poor support these unfortunates with funds furnished for that purpose by the county. In some States there is a collector who collects all the taxes of the county; a county jailer who holds prisoners in custody and has charge of the county buildings, under the commissioners' directions; and also a circuit clerk, or district clerk, who is the recording officer of the circuit court, or district court as it is often called.

JUDICIAL DEPARTMENT: COUNTY JUDGE OR PROBATE JUDGE.—The judicial power of the county is vested in the county judge, or probate judge, who in many States is its most prominent and important officer. He has jurisdiction of wills and estates, appoints administrators and guardians, and settles their accounts. In many states he grants licenses; presides over the legislative body of the county; makes orders opening roads and appointing overseers of the public highway: appoints officers of elections; holds examining trials; sits in the county court to try minor offences and civil suits for small amounts; and in a few States acts as county superintendent of schools.

In some States there is a probate judge, or judge of the orphan's court, in addition to the county judge.

[1]Thorpe's Civil Government.


1. What is meant by unit of political influence?

2. What affairs are too extensive for a smaller community than the county?

3. Why is the county seat so called?

4. State the terms and the names of the officers of this county.

5. Why do the officers of the county need legal advice?

6. What is meant by the sheriff administering to the courts?

7. What are licenses?

8. Of what use is the treasurer's bond?

9. What is the collector's duplicate list?

10. What is a writ?

11. What is the plot of a survey?

12. What is a will? an administrator?

13. What is an examining trial?

14. Do you think the county judge or probate judge should act as superintendent of schools? Why?


Resolved, That a poll-tax is unjust.



VILLAGES, BOROUGHS, AND CITIES.—The county usually has within its limits villages or cities, organized under separate and distinct governments. When the people become so thickly settled that the township and county government do not meet their local public wants, the community is incorporated as a village. Villages are often called towns, and incorporated as such, especially in the Southern States; but the word taken in this sense must not be confounded with the same word, denoting a political division of the county in New England, New York, and Wisconsin.


INCORPORATION.—In most States, villages, boroughs, and towns are incorporated under general laws made by the State legislature. A majority of the legal voters living within the proposed limits must first vote in favor of the proposition to incorporate. In some States, villages are incorporated by special act of the legislature.

GOVERNMENT PURPOSES.—The purposes of the village or borough government are few in number, and lie within a narrow limit. It is a corporate body, having the usual corporate powers. Under the village organization, local public works, such as streets, sidewalks, and bridges, are maintained more readily and in better condition than under the government, of the township and county. The presence of the village officers tends to preserve the peace and make crime less frequent.

OFFICERS.—The usual officers of the village or borough are the trustees or councilmen, whose duties are mostly legislative; the marshal, and sometimes a president or mayor; a collector and a treasurer, whose duties are executive; and the recorder, or police judge, or justices of the peace, whose duties are judicial. The officers are usually elected by the legal voters, and serve for a term of one or two years. In many villages the president and the collector are elected by the trustees, the former from among their own number.

DUTIES.—The trustees or council pass laws, called ordinances, relating to streets, fast driving, lamps, water-works, the police system, public parks, public health, and the public buildings. They appoint minor officers, such as clerk, regular and special policemen, keeper of the cemetery, and fire-wardens; prescribe the duties, and fix the compensation of these officers.

The president or mayor is the chief executive officer, and is charged with seeing that the laws are enforced. In villages having no president or mayor, this duty devolves upon the trustees. The marshal is a ministerial officer, with the same duties and often the same jurisdiction as the constable, and is sometimes known by that name. He preserves the peace, makes arrests, serves processes, and waits upon the recorder's court. The collector collects the village taxes. The treasurer receives all village funds, and pays out money upon the order of the trustees.

The recorder or police judge tries minor offences, such as breach of the peace, and holds examining trials of higher crimes. His jurisdiction is usually equal to that of justices of the peace in the same State. In some States the village has two justices of the peace instead of the recorder, these being also officers of the county.


When the village, borough, or town becomes so large that its government does not meet the people's local public needs, it is incorporated as a city. Where the country is sparsely settled the peace is seldom broken, private interests do not conflict, the people's public needs are small, and therefore the functions of government are few and light. As the population grows dense, the public peace is oftener disturbed, crime increases, disputes about property arise, the public needs become numerous and important, and the officers of the law must interfere to preserve order and protect the people. The fewer the people to the square mile, the fewer and lighter are the functions of government; the more people to the square mile, the more and stronger must be the functions of government.

INCORPORATION.—Cities and villages or boroughs differ principally in size and in the scope of their corporate authority. A city is larger in area and population, and the powers and privileges of its government are more extensive. In most States cities may be incorporated under general laws, but some cities are incorporated by special acts of the State legislature. The act or deed of incorporation is called the city charter. The charter names the city, fixes its limits, erects it as a distinct political corporation, sets forth its powers and privileges, names its officers, prescribes their duties, and authorizes the city to act as an independent government. The legislature may amend the charter at any time, and the acts and laws of the city must not conflict with the constitution of the State or of the United States.

WARDS.—The city is usually divided into wards for convenience in executing the laws, and especially in electing representatives in the city government. Wards vary greatly in area and population, and their number depends in a measure upon the size of the city. Each usually elects a member of the board of education, and one or more members of each branch of the city council. Each ward is subdivided into precincts for convenience in establishing polling-places.

CITY INSTITUTIONS.—Cities maintain a number of institutions, peculiar to themselves, for the public welfare. The frequency of destructive fires causes the formation of a fire department. A police force must be organized to protect life and property. A system of sewerage is necessary to the public health. There must be gas-works or electric-light works, that the streets may be lighted, and water-works to supply water for public and private use. In many cities gas-works and water-works are operated by private parties or by private corporations.

FINANCES.—Each city has an independent financial system, which requires skillful management. The city borrows money, issuing interest-bearing bonds in payment, and engages in extensive public improvements. The large outlays for paving the streets, constructing water-works, laying out parks, erecting public buildings, and for maintaining police systems and fire departments, cause cities to incur debts often amounting to many millions of dollars. As the result of the greater expense of its government, and as its people also pay State and county taxes, the rate of taxation in a city is far greater than in rural districts and villages.

CITIZENS: RIGHTS AND DUTIES.—The qualifications, the rights, and the duties of citizens of the city are the same as those of citizens of the township and the county. The qualifications of voters are also usually the same. The duties of voters are the same in all elections, whether in the school district, the civil district, the city, the county, the State, or the United States; namely, to vote for the best men and the best measures. Under whatever division of government the people are living, they always have the same interest in the maintenance of order, in the enforcement of the laws, in the triumph of right, principles, and in the election of good men to office.

GOVERNMENT.—A city often has a more complex government than that of the State in which the city is situated. The massing of so many people, representing so many interests, requires a government with strong legislative, executive, and judicial functions. One of the great questions of our time is how to secure economy and efficiency in city government; and, as our cities are growing with great rapidity, the problem is daily becoming more difficult to solve.

OFFICERS.—The legislative power is vested in the city council, in many cases composed of a board of aldermen and of a common council. The executive authority is vested in the mayor, the city attorney or solicitor, the city clerk, the assessor, the collector, the treasurer, the city engineer or surveyor, the board of public works, the street commissioner, the school board or board of education, and the superintendent of schools. The judicial power is vested in the city court, police court, or recorder's court, as it is variously termed; in a number of justices' courts; and in the higher courts, which are also courts of the county in which the city is located. The officers of the city are usually elected by the legal voters, but in some cities the collector, the city engineer, the street commissioner, and a number of subordinate officers are appointed by the mayor or city council. The superintendent of schools is elected by the school board.

DUTIES.—In many small cities, and in several of the larger cities, such as New York, Chicago, and San Francisco, the council consists only of the board of aldermen. When the council is composed of two branches, a law can not be made by one of them alone; it must be passed by both; and if vetoed by the mayor, it must be passed again, and in most cities by a two thirds vote, or it is void. The council makes laws, or ordinances, regulating the police force; fixing the rate of city taxation; ordering the issue of bonds and the construction of public works; and making appropriations for public purposes.

The mayor is the chief executive of the city. It is his duty to see that the laws are enforced. He appoints a number of subordinate officers, and in most cities may veto the acts of the city council. The duties of the city attorney, the city clerk, the assessor, the collector, the treasurer, the school board, and the superintendent of schools are similar to those of township and county officers of the same name. The city engineer has charge of the construction of sewers and the improvement of parks. The street commissioner attends to the construction and repair of the streets, crossings, and sidewalks. There are a number of officers appointed by the mayor or the council, such as chief of police, chief of the fire department, and the city physician, who have duties connected with their special departments.

The city judge, police judge, or recorder, has duties similar to those of the same officer in an incorporated village. Cities also have higher courts, variously named, whose judges have duties and jurisdiction equivalent to those of county officers of the same grade. Because offenses against the law are more frequent, officers are more numerous in cities than in the rural districts.

COMMISSION PLAN OF CITY GOVERNMENT.—In recent times the "commission plan" of government has been adopted for many cities, in a number of different States. This plan gives full control of the city government and its minor officials to a commission or council composed of a few men (usually five) elected by the voters of the whole city. This commission exercises both legislative and executive functions. It is composed of a mayor, and councilmen or commissioners who act also as heads of administrative departments.

RECALL.—In a few States a mayor or councilman (or other local or State officer elected by the people) may be displaced before the expiration of his term of office. If a sufficient number of voters petition to have this done, a new election is held to decide whether he or some one else shall have the office for the rest of the term.


1. What is meant by incorporating a village?

2. What is a breach of the peace?

3. What are polling-places?

4. To what State officer does the mayor of a city or town correspond?

5. Why are offenses against the laws more frequent in the cities than in the rural districts?

6. What is the largest city of this State? Is its council composed of one body or of two?


Resolved, That the legislative department of a city government should consist of only one deliberative body.



INTRODUCTORY.—After the county, the government nearest us is that of the State. The political divisions which we have considered are subject to the State, holding their powers as grants from its government. The State can make and unmake them, and we owe them obedience because the State has commanded it. As we sometimes express it, the sovereignty or supreme sway of these local divisions resides in the State.

DEFINITION.—A State is a community of free citizens living within a territory with fixed limits, governed by laws based upon a constitution of their own adoption, and possessing all governmental powers not granted to the United States. Each State is a republic and maintains a republican form of government, which is guaranteed by the United States. The State is supreme within its own sphere, but its authority must not conflict with that of the national government. A State is sometimes called a commonwealth because it binds the whole people together for their common weal or common good.

FORMATION OF ORIGINAL STATES.—The thirteen original colonies were principally settled by people from Europe. The colonial rights were set forth and boundaries fixed by charters granted by the crown of England. In the Declaration of Independence these colonies declared themselves "free and independent States." After the treaty of peace which acknowledged their independence, they framed and adopted the national constitution, and thereby became the United States of America.

ADMISSION OF NEW STATES.—New States are admitted into the Union by special acts of the Congress of the United States. An organized Territory having the necessary population sends a memorial to Congress asking to be admitted as a State. Congress then passes a law called an "enabling act," authorizing the people of the Territory to form a State constitution. When the people have framed and adopted a State constitution not in conflict with the Constitution of the United States, Congress passes another act admitting the new State into the Union "upon an equal footing with the original States in all respects whatever." Sometimes the enabling act provides for admission on proclamation of the President of the United States. Several of the Territories adopted State constitutions and were admitted as States without enabling acts.

PURPOSES.—The State keeps power near the people, and thus makes them more secure in their liberty. "The powers not granted to the United States, nor prohibited to the States, are reserved to the States respectively or to the people." If the whole country were a single republic without State divisions, power would be withdrawn from the people and become centralized in the national government.

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