« PreviousContinue »
of town officers.
Tax collectors chosen.
Sundry Petitions. Read.
The Town proceeded to the Choice of seven Selectmen & the Votes brought in & Sorted, it appeared that,
Samuel Grant Esq.
Mr. Thomas Hill
[and five others]
were unanimously chose. [Here follow elections of Overseers of the Poor, Firewards, Town Treasurer, Clerks of the Market, Fence Viewers, Hogreeves, Scavengers, and other officers.']
Tuesday Morning ten o'clock the Town Mett according to Adjournment. . . . The Town took into Consideration the Method of raising Monies for the payment of Schoolmasters, for the Relief of the Poor, and the defreying other necessary Charges, and after a very long debate thereon. Voted that the Sum of Money that shall be agreed upon to be raised at this Meeting for the purposes aforesaid, shall, as soon as may be, be apportion'd by the Assessors, and the Collectors of Taxes shall upon receiving said Assessments from them, forthwith Collect and pay the same into the Town Treasury, & that no more than six pense on the Pound be allow'd for Collecting of Taxes. Voted that the Sum of Six Thousand Pounds Lawful Money be rais'd by a Tax upon Polls and Estates within this Town for Relief of the Poor, and defreying other necessary Charges arising within the Town the Year ensuing.
. . Voted that the Town proceed to the Choice of four Collectors of Taxes, the Vote passed this Meeting for choosing only
1 It will be noted that according to the formal law the municipal officers of Boston were to be elected in open town meeting. The following extract from John Adams's Journal is an interesting illustration of the political practice: "This day learned that the Caucus club meets at certain times in the garret of Tom Dawes, the adjutant of the Boston regiment. He has a large house and he has a movable partition in the garret which he takes down and the whole club meets in one room. There they smoke tobacco until you cannot see from one end of the garret to the other. There they drink flip, I suppose, and they choose a moderator who puts questions to the vote regularly; and selectmen, assessors, collectors, fire-wards, and representatives are regularly chosen before they are chosen in the town.". John Adams, Works (1850), Vol. II, p. 144.
two notwithstanding, accordingly the Votes were brought in, and upon Sorting them it appeared that,
Mess". John Ruddock
Jonathan Payson &
were chose Collectors of Taxes for the Year ensuing. .
Petition of sundry Inhabitants praying that the Town would pave Petitions the lower end of Prince Street leading to Charlestown Ferry, for reasons therein mentioned, was Read, and after a short debate, Voted that said Petition be dismiss'd. The Petition of the Watchmen of the Town praying for an Addition to their Wages, for reasons therein mentioned was Read, Voted that said Petition be dismiss'd. . . .
5. Local Government in Virginia
In the South, on the other hand, the physiographical conditions favored the formation of scattered settlements and the establishment of the county as the principal unit of local government. In the county, the justices of the peace, after the fashion of England, conducted the administrative as well as the judicial business. Adopting the more highly centralized system of the mother country, where the justices were appointed by the crown, the Virginia legislature vested the appointment in the governor of the colony. Some of the features of Southern local government are well described in the lengthy statutes from which the extracts given here are taken:
For the better and more expeditious determination of controversies, Be it enacted by the Lieutenant-Governor, Council, and Burgesses, of this present General Assembly, and it is hereby enacted by the authority of the same, That in every county of this dominion, a monthly court shall be held, by the justices thereof, at the several respective places already assigned for that purpose, or at such place or places as shall be hereafter lawfully appointed, upon the days hereinafter limited for each county respectively,
Justices of the peace appointed
Justices to administer local im
and at no other time or place: Which courts shall be called county courts, and consist of eight or more justices of the peace, commissionated by the governor or commander in chief of this dominion, for the time being: Any four of them, one being of the quorum, shall be sufficient to hear and determine all causes depending in the said county courts.
And be it further enacted, by the authority aforesaid, That from time to time, for ever hereafter, the court of every county of this dominion, shall cause to be erected, and kept in good repair, or where the same shall be already built, shall maintain and keep in good repair, within each respective county, and at the charge of such county, one good and convenient courthouse, of stone, brick, or timber, and one common gaol, and county prison, well secured with iron bars, bolts, and locks, and also, one pillory, whipping-post, and stocks; and where land shall not be already provided and appropriated for that purpose, such court may purchase two acres, whereon to erect the said public buildings, for the use of their county, and for no other use what
Be it therefore enacted, by the Lieutenant Governor, Council, and Burgesses of this present General Assembly, and it is hereby provements. enacted, by the authority of the same, That the justices of every
county court in this colony, be, and are hereby authorized and impowered, to contract and agree for the building of bridges, making causeways, and other necessary charges, in such manner as to them shall seem most proper; and to levy the expence thereof, at such times, and in such proportions, as they shall think most for the ease and benefit of the people. And all and every contracts, agreements, and orders, by them made, from time to time, concerning the same, shall be good, binding, and available, against themselves, and their successors, and all other persons whatsoever.
6. Political Theory before the Revolution*
Political theorizing in America before the breach with Great Britain stands in marked contrast to the intellectual ferment which
preceded the French Revolution. The reason for this is not far to seek; the American Revolution was not an internal social reconstruction, but the abolition of external coercion. There was accordingly no discussion of the rights of man, no leveling propaganda, no discontent with the general features of the prevailing system of government. The following extract from a sermon preached in 1765 before the Massachusetts Governor, Council, and House of Representatives, on the occasion of the election of the Council, doubtless represents the attitude toward the government which existed quite generally throughout the colonies.
In Great Britain there is a happy mixture of monarchy, aris- British tocracy, and democracy. This is perhaps the most perfect form of civil government. It is the glory of Britons, and the envy of foreigners. How happy is Great Britain in a Prince who accounts it his glory to reign over a free people, and who, we trust, will always make the laws of the land the rule of his administration! How still more happy, in a constitution that scarce admits of tyranny, unless the people themselves become corrupt and venal; and when that is the case, nothing but Omnipotence can save them. It is the safety of the British nation that the monarchy is heredi- Hereditary monarchy tary, as that right is now understood. It is a favor of heaven the safety that our lawful Sovereign is possessed of virtues which ensure him the love and obedience of his subjects. "Because the Lord hath loved his people, he hath made thee a king over them." May that kind Providence which has so often appeared for our nation, still watch over it for good; disappoint every attempt to subvert their liberties, and preserve them from those internal vices and corruptions which they have more reason to fear than any foreign enemy or open violence!
The form of government in this Province, is a model of the British constitution. Our commander in chief, who represents the king is not elected by ourselves. We do not complain of this as an infringement of our liberties; it rather frees us from many inconveniences which would attend frequent popular elections. Especially may we esteem it a privilege, while we have a Gentleman at our head, who so well understands our civil constitution,
after that of England.
The popular branch of the
and who, we persuade ourselves, sincerely aims at the happiness of the people he is appointed to govern. May his Excellency's services for the public always find acceptance with an obliged and grateful people; and may he have the approbation of his great Lord when he gives an account of the talents committed to him!
The other branches of our legislature are chose by ourselves. It refreshes our hearts to see the return of this anniversary and we hope fills them with thankfulness to God. The presence of our General Assembly and the business of this day, put us in mind of the liberties we enjoy, while more than nine-tenths of mankind are in the most abject slavery, and multitudes of them, to the basest and worst of the human race. We conclude it is from the experience their constituents have had of their wisdom and integrity, that so many are returned to serve in the present assembly who have formerly had a seat there. We cannot think the people are yet so corrupt as generally to be influenced in their elections by other considerations. We trust that they, whom they have honored with this mark of their confidence, will have a sacred regard to their interest and will not suffer any sinister views to bias or govern them.