1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/District

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DISTRICT, a word denoting in its more general sense, a tract or extent of a country, town, &c., marked off for administrative or other purposes, or having some special and distinguishing characteristics. The medieval Latin districtus (from distringere, to distrain) is defined by Du Cange as Territorium feudi, seu tractus, in quo Dominus vassallos et tenentes suos distringere potest; and as justitiae exercendae in eo tractu facultas. It was also used of the territory over which the feudal lord exercised his jurisdiction generally. It may be noted that distringere had a wider significance than “to distrain” in the English legal sense (see Distress). It is defined by Du Cange as compellere ad aliquid faciendum per mulctam, poenam, vel capto pignore. In English usage, apart from its general application in such forms as postal district, registration district and the like, “district” has specific usages for ecclesiastical and local government purposes. It is thus applied to a division of a parish under the Church Building Acts, originally called a “perpetual curacy,” and the church serving such a division is properly a “district chapel.” Under the Local Government Act of 1894 counties are divided for the purposes of the act into urban and rural districts. In British India the word is used to represent the zillah, an administrative subdivision of a province or presidency. In the United States of America the word has many administrative, judicial and other applications. In South Carolina it was used instead of “county” for the chief division of the state other than in the coast region. In the Virginias, Tennessee, Georgia, Kentucky and Maryland it answers to “township” or precinct, elsewhere the principal subdivision of a county. It is used for an electoral “division,” each state being divided into Congressional and senatorial districts; and also for a political subdivision ranking between an unorganized and an organized Territory—e.g., the District of Columbia and Alaska.