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ated for his services by grants of the General Court, made from year to year; and Magistrates and Deputies received an allowance at a fixed rate for each day of their presence in the General Court, paid sometimes by their towns, and sometimes from the general treasury." In Plymouth, the Magistrates, when on duty, had their living at the public charge.” Neither in Connecticut nor in New Haven does it appear that the Magistrates or Deputies received any regular stipend in the early times.” The public treasury of each Colony was supplied by direct taxes upon property.” There was as yet no capitation tax or excise.” The share, which, through their delegated voice in the General Courts, the towns had in the general legislation, was not the chief of the functions that belonged to them. The municipal jurisdictions present a peculiarity of the social system of New England, than which none more attracts, at this day, the attention of intelligent strangers, or has had more influence on the condition and the character of the people, through the eight generations of their history. The territory of these States, with the exception of that small portion at the north which remains unoccupied, is laid off into districts of moderate extent, and the inhabitants of each form a little body politic, with an administration of its own, conducted, by officials of its own choice, according to its own will, within certain limits imposed by the higher common authority." With something of the same propriety with which the nation may be said to be a confederacy of republics called States, each New-England State may be described as a confederacy of minor republics, called Towns. The system is the extreme opposite of a political centralization. To the utmost extent consistent with the common action and the common welfare of the aggregate of towns that make the State, the towns severally are empowered to take care of those interests of theirs which they respectively can best understand, and can most efficiently and most economically provide for; and these are identical with the interests which most directly concern the public security, comfort, and morals. Thus it belongs to them, and they are compelled by general laws of the States within which they are severally included, to protect the public health and order by means of a police; to maintain safe and convenient communication about and through their precinct by roads and bridges; to furnish food, clothing, and shelter to their poor; to provide for the education of all their children at their common charge. By force of this institution, every man in New England belongs to a small community of neighbors, known to the law as a corporation, with rights and liabilities as such, capable of suing and subject to be sued in the courts of justice, in disputes with any parties, individual or corporate.” Once a year the corporation chooses the administrators of its affairs, and determines the amount of money with which it will intrust them, and how this shall be raised." If the State levies a general tax, it is the town treasuries that must pay it; and the State fixes the proportion due from each town, leaving it to the town to distribute the burden of its share in the assessment among its own people. As to matters of their own interest, the towns present their petitions, and, as to matters of general concern, they send their advice, to the central authorities. By their magistrates, they exercise a responsible supervision of the elections of officers of the town, the county, the State, and the nation. The experience of later times dictated improvements of detail in the municipal system of New England; but its outline was complete when it was first devised.” At the epoch of the confederation, there were forty-nine towns in the four Colonies, of which number Plymouth had eight, Massachusetts thirty, Connecticut (including Saybrook) six, and New Haven five. The institution of towns, with their government of Select-men, had its origin in Massachusetts, and was borrowed thence by the other governments.” When the public business had assumed a methodical course, the establishment of towns
* Mass. Rec., I. 183, 187, 228; II. 67; Mass. Hist. Coll., XXVIII. 226. — “They [the Assistants] have hitherto been volunteers, governing without pay from the people.” (Johnson, Wonderworking Providence, Book I. Chap. XLV.; comp. Body of Liberties, Art. 63; Mass. Hist. Coll., XXI. 16–20.)
* Plym. Rec., I. 101, 127.
* Trumbull (History, I. 170) supposes that an allowance to the Governor of Connecticut of thirty pounds, in 1648, was the first that was made to any civil officer in that Colony. But
as early as 1641, a grant was made to the Governor of 160 bushels of corn (worth about twenty-four pounds), and thirty pounds were voted to him in 1645. In 1648, an annual allowance of the latter amount (to both the Governor and Deputy-Governor) was made permanent. (Conn. Rec. I. 69 131, 161, 162.)
* Mass. Rec., I. 120.
* I believe the first poll-tax was levied in Massachusetts (Mass. Rec., II. 173), and the first excise in Plymouth (Plym. Rec., II. 103); both in 1646. * In 1850, Massachusetts had 321 * Towns began early to be admon
towns, Maine 396, New Hampshire 226, Vermont 248, Rhode Island 31, and Connecticut 153. (Seventh Census of the United States, 1–86.) The average number of inhabitants in the Rhode-Island towns was 4,760; in those of Maine, 1,470. In respect to the amount of population in their towns, these States present the two extremes.
ished of their obligations by heavy fines for neglect. (See, e.g., Mass. Rec., I. 23.3.) The earliest city governments, those of New Haven and New London in Connecticut, were instituted in 1784. There are now cities in every New-England State. The rights and liabilities of cities and towns in relation to the State are the same.
took place in this manner.
The General Court, in the exercise of its rights, of ownership and jurisdiction, over the territory within its boundaries, granted a tract of land to a company of persons understood to be capable of supporting a minister, and authorized them to establish a plantation and a church. The land, when its bounds had been set out by a committee of the Court, was held at first by the company as proprietors in common." To transact the joint business, to build the meeting-house, choose and support the minister, admit new associates, distribute the lands among individuals, make the roads, preserve order, attend to weights and measures, and regulate a variety of miscellaneous affairs, —the organization of a local authority was immediately needed. With the growth of numbers and of interests, the town meetings, town by-laws, town offices and elections would assume more importance, and come to be regulated with more system, but still with irregularities and differences in different places, which at length would require to be reduced to some uniformity; and as, step by step, the relations of the towns to their own people, to one another, and to the whole community were developed, they led to new provisions of the central government, defining the municipal powers and obligations.
The difference between a city and a
monwealth. But the State tax has
Almost from the beginning, each town had the following civil officers, chosen by its own freemen; namely, a board of Selectmen, varying in number from three to nine; a Clerk; a Treasurer; a Sealer of Weights and Measures; one or more Surveyors of Highways; a Constable; and one or more Tithing-men. Meanwhile the persons exercising ecclesiastical functions were officers of the same community, elected by the same constituents; for not only was there a church wherever there was a town, but the church was the nucleus about which the neighborhood constituting a town was gathered. It was not till after several generations, that the towns released themselves from the ecclesiastical element that belonged to their original constitution; and down to the present century, in most of the towns of Massachusetts, the proceedings and records of the municipality and of the religious congregation continued to be the same. No want presses itself sooner on the attention of a community, than that of a regular administration of justice among its members. In the beginning court, or of the Colonies, whatever of the judicial author. * ity was not exercised by the body of freemen, resided in the central board of Magistrates. As litigation increased with the increase of numbers, inferior courts were instituted to exercise local jurisdiction. When the settlements of Plymouth had begun to extend, “two sufficient men, one of Yarmouth and another of Barnsta- Igo. ble,” were annually empowered, in association ** with an Assistant, “to hear and determine suits and controversies, betwixt party and party within the township, not exceeding three pounds.”* Besides courts of this description, we read of no inferior tribunals in that Colony for many years; nor, in the primitive times, does any judicial authority, except the Court of Magistrates (or Assistants) and Plantation (or Town) Courts” (both borrowed from Plymouth and Massachusetts), appear to have been instituted in either Connecticut or New Haven. In Massachusetts, “Inferior Courts” were early established, consisting each of five judges, one at least being a Magistrate resident within the jurisdiction of ion. his Court, the others being persons appointed by ** the General Court from a list nominated by the freemen
* Mass. Rec. I. 136, 141, 146, 156, I. 36, 37, 58, 59. Comp. Gorges, Amer157, 179, 271, 279, 319; Conn. Rec., ica painted to the Life, 42.
* Brigham, Compact, &c., 66. Comp. sums not greater than forty shillings. Plym. Rec., II. 73, 118. In New Haven they might decide
* N. H. Rec., I, 113; Conn. Rec., questions to the amount of twenty I. 130; comp. 12, 21, 69. The Plan- pounds, and inflict fines not exceeding tation Courts of Connecticut had juris- five pounds, and the punishments of diction only in controversies involving whipping and setting in the stocks.