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THE DEVELOPMENT OF LOCAL, STATE, AND NATIONAL
GOVERNMENT IN THE UNITED STATES
1. The Origin of the Township. The American township had its origin in Europe among the Teutonic, or Germanic, races, from which the Germans, the AngloSaxons, the Danes, the Scandinavians, and the Dutch have descended. The Teutons, or ancient Germans, possessed and wandered over the whole territory from the Rhine to the Vistula, and even farther eastward.
When a clan of those ancient Germans ceased to wander from place to place and settled permanently somewhere (see p. 10), they formed a village. This was protected by a wall, outside of which lay a belt of land which they used for tillage and grazing. The wall was called a tun, and the land a mark. The village became known either as the mark or the tun or town—in England, as the town. The fellow-tribesmen of a town had local self-government. They met in town meetings to make local laws, elect local officers, and decide questions of justice.
When the Anglo-Saxons had been converted to Christianity, the people became subject to church gove ernment as well as to civil government. In order to administer church government locally, parishes were established, which were generally coextensive with the townships. The parish exercised the right to lay taxes
for church support. By and by the parish took the place of the township in England and administered both spiritual and temporal affairs. Hence it was that in some of the English colonies in America, where the Church of England was dominant, notably in Virginia, the name parish was applied to what in other colonies was known as the township. In Louisiana the counties are called parishes.
After the Norman conquest local government in England fell into the hands of great lords. The township or parish became the manor, whose chief officers were responsible to the lords, rather than to the people. However, the ancient town meeting survived and continued to exercise some local power.
2. The Township in New England. From these different forms of local government at home the colonists in America selected that best suited to their own conditions. As there were to be no lords of the manor among the Puritans in America, they selected the parish as the unit of local government. They gave it the name of town or township, because it was the oldest and most expressive name. New England was settled largely by church congregations led across the sea and into the wilderness by their pastors. The people liked to live near the church; and as farming could not be carried on extensively, on account of the poor soil, they settled in compact communities around the church. To live in towns was also a protection from the Indians. It was this way that New England came to have the ancient tun or town as a unit of local government. The church was the nucleus of the town (remember town means the town proper and all the country roundabout).
Once every year a town meeting was held
at first in the churches, later in the town halls. At these meetings the voters passed laws, elected officers, and laid taxes. The pastor was generally the leading man in the town meeting. Thus originated the New England township with its very large powers of local government.
3. The Township in the South.—In the South agriculture on an extensive scale was the main industry. The cultivation of tobacco, rice, indigo, and other staples, and the employment of slaves in the work, tended to make the plantations large. The people lived widely scattered, and the towns were few and at great distances apart. The narrowest local organization was the parish. Its members, who were originally elected by the church, but afterwards by the vestry itself, had charge of the church government and the care of the poor, and laid a tax for these purposes. The parish in the South was the original parish of England, being chiefly a local church government. The local civil government was exercised by the county. After church and state were separated the voting precinct became the smallest unit of local government. It is a mere geographical division made for the convenience of voters.
4. The Township in the Middle States. In the Middle States the original population was more mixed in nationality and religion than either that of New England or of the South. The township here has neither the large degree of local power found in New England nor the limited degree found in the South. The settlers of Pennsylvania especially were of various nationalities. The Dutch, the Swedes, the English, the Germans, the Welsh, the Swiss, the French, the Scotch-Irish, all contributed to the formation of local government. Penn had the right in his charter to divide his province into “ towns, hundreds, and counties, and to erect and incorporate towns into boroughs, and boroughs into cities;" also, “to erect any parcels of land into manors.” The township is not mentioned in this list of political units for local government. Instead, the hundred is named as a division after the county. The hundred in England was a military and fiscal division of the county. In ancient Germany it was probably a district that was required to furnish a hundred warriors. The hundred was likewise introduced in Maryland, Delaware, and Virginia. It still exists in Delaware. Maryland had also a number of manors.
5. The Origin of the County.-As the clan became the town when the Anglo-Saxon ceased to migrate, so the tribe became the shire (called county in England after the Norman Conquest). The shire had its mote (meeting) to which selected men from each township were sent as representatives, together with a number of delegates from the hundreds. Boroughs and cities were allowed separate representatives, called burghers. The shire mote was both legislative and judicial. In its judicial capacity it finally became the county court, with its quarter sessions, its coroner, sheriff, and justices of the peace; but most of its legislative functions were absorbed by the Parliament of the kingdom.
6. The County in New England.-In England the shires are older than the kingdom. In New England the States are older than the counties. The county of New England originated by the division of the colony into districts in which courts should be held quarterly. But
as such ample powers of local government are given to the township the county is chiefly a judicial and military district of the State. It was not even the unit of representation in the legislature until the middle of the nineteenth century. And in Connecticut to-day the town is the unit of representation in the lower branch.
7. The County in the South.—The conditions in the South made the county the chief organ of local government; but it was not so populous as in New England, consisting in a few instances of a single parish. The county administered justice by means of a court that met about once a month in some court house, erected at a convenient place and named after the county, as, Hanover Court House, Virginia. “Court day” was a holiday for all classes of people. Though they had no voice in the public business transacted, yet “court day” furnished an occasion like that of the New England town meeting, for it brought the people of the whole county together for the discussion of public questions. Roads and bridges were built and repaired by the county; in fact nearly all local affairs excepting those pertaining to the church were managed by county officers, most of whom were either appointed by the governor or perpetuated their rule by the method of close corporations. The county, too, was the unit of representation in the legislature. These facts explain why at the present day the county in the South is the medium for the transaction of nearly all public business.
8. The County in the Middle States.- In the Middle States, outside of Pennsylvania, the county of colonial times is more difficult to define. In Maryland and Delaware the hundred played an important part in local