Elements of Civil Government eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 218 pages of information about Elements of Civil Government.

All qualified voters have the right, and it is also their duty, to vote.  The voters elect the officers of the district, and are therefore its rulers.  When they fail to vote, they fail to rule—­fail in their duty to the people and to themselves.  The duty to vote implies the duty to vote right, to vote for good men and for good measures.  Therefore, citizens should study their duty as voters, that they may elect honest, capable, faithful officers, and support the parties and principles that will best promote the good of the country?  Every one should study his political duty with the best light that he can obtain, decide what is right, and then vote his sentiments honestly and fearlessly.  If the district has good government, the voters deserve the credit; if it has bad government, the voters deserve the blame.


The officers of the district are the justices of the peace and the constable.  In some States there is only one justice to each district, in other States there are two, and in others there are three.

JUSTICE OF THE PEACE.—­The office of justice of the peace is one of dignity and importance.  Justices can render great service to society by the proper discharge of their duties.  They may have much to do with enforcing the law, and therefore the best men should be elected to this office.

ELECTION, TERM OF OFFICE.—­Justices of the peace are usually elected by the qualified voters of the district.  In some States the governor appoints them.  The term of office is two, three, four, or even seven years, varying in different States.

DUTIES.—­The duties of justices of the peace are principally judicial, and their jurisdiction extends throughout the county.  Upon the sworn statement of the person making complaint, they issue warrants for the arrest of offenders.  With the aid of juries, they hold court for the trial of minor offences—­such as the breach of the peace—­punishable by fine or brief imprisonment.  They sometimes try those charged with higher crimes, and acquit; or, if the proof is sufficient, remand the accused to trial by a higher court.  This is called an examining trial.  They try civil suits where the amount involved does not exceed a fixed amount—­fifty dollars in some States, and one hundred dollars in others—­and prevent crime by requiring reckless persons to give security to keep the peace.  Justices sometimes preside, instead of the coroner, at inquests, and in some States they have important duties as officers of the county.

CONSTABLE, ELECTION, TERM OF OFFICE.—­There is usually one constable—­in some States more—­in each civil district.  Constables, like the justices, are elected in most States; but in some they are appointed.  The term of office is usually the same as that of the justice in the same State.

DUTIES.—­The constable is termed a ministerial officer because it is his duty to minister to, or wait upon, the justice’s court.  He serves warrants, writs, and other processes of the justice, and sometimes those of higher courts.  He preserves the public peace, makes arrests for its violation, and in some States collects the taxes apportioned to his civil district.

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Elements of Civil Government from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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