Page:Democracy in America (Reeve, v. 1).djvu/138

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the citizen of a free country has a right to do whatever he pleases; on the contrary, social obligations were there imposed upon him more various than anywhere else; no idea was ever entertained of attacking the principles, or of contesting the rights of society; but the exercise of its authority was divided, to the end that the office might be powerful and the officer insignificant, and that the community should be at once regulated and free. In no country in the world does the law hold so absolute a language as in America; and in no country is the right of applying it vested in so many hands. The administrative power in the United States presents nothing either central or hierarchical in its constitution, which accounts for its passing unperceived. The power exists, but its representative is not to be perceived.

We have already seen that the independent townships of New England protect their own private interests; and the municipal magistrates are the persons to whom the execution of the laws of the State is most frequently entrusted[1]. Besides the general laws, the State sometimes passes general police re-

  1. See ‘The Town-Officer,’ especially at the words Selectmen, Assessors, Collectors, Schools, Surveyors of Highways. I take one example in a thousand: the State prohibits travelling on the Sunday; the tything-men, who are town-officers, are especially charged to keep watch and to execute the law. See the Laws of Massachusetts, vol. i. p. 410.

    The selectmen draw up the lists of electors for the election of the governor, and transmit the result of the ballot to the secretary of the State. See Act of the 24th Feb. 1796: Id., vol. i. p. 488.