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Dr. HERBERT B. ADAMS
AT WHOSE SUGGESTION THIS WORK WAS UNDERTAKEN, AND WHOSE KINDLY INTEREST IN ITS PROGRESS HAS NEVER FAILED
IS RESPECTFULLY DEDICATED
This volume is designed to contribute toward a constitutional history of the New England township. The purpose has been to depict the steady evolution of various forms of local government from the assembly of freemen, to detect the far-reaching influence of the Church organization at the centre of social activity, to describe the gradual differentiation that took place within the official structure, to observe the operation of political and social agencies, whether external or internal, and to discern, throughout the vicissitudes of two hundred and fifty years, the permanent characteristics which make up New Haven's strong individuality.
Since Tocqueville's day, the New England Town-Meeting, as an institution, has not pleaded in vain for recognition. But the scientific study of the evolution of the Town-Meeting and of the inner workings of our local government has only just begun to receive due attention. In 1881, Dr. H. B. Adams's monographs upon The Village Communities of Cape Ann and Salem" and upon 66 The Germanic Origin of New England Towns" led the way for a host of similar essays. During the last five years, trained specialists have been associated together in the work of observing and describing various forms and institutions of local government in every part of the land. Out of these researches there will arise, for the first time, a comprehensive classification of our local usages, and eventually also an accurate conception of the part which different local institutions have taken, and still take, in the development of the nation.
The republic of New Haven presents to the student of local institutional growth a field abounding in materials of historic interest. Its founders cherished high ideals, and their community has always retained something of the early impress. The lineaments of the ancient type have been repeated in a long line of younger townships. The fathers of the town preserved copious accounts of their public actions, as though conscious that future generations would be interested in every word and deed. It follows that the work of investigation is now both easy and difficult: easy, because the whole story is manifest; difficult, because so much of it must be omitted.