PURPOSES.—It is an old and true maxim that government should be brought as near the people as possible. This the township system does. In our country all power resides in the people, and the township provides a convenient means of ascertaining their wishes and of executing their will. The farther away the government, the less will be the people’s power; the nearer the government, the greater will be the people’s power. The township system enables each community to attend to its own local affairs—a work which no other agency can do so well—to remove readily and speedily its local public grievances, and to obtain readily and speedily its local public needs.
The citizens of the township are the people living in it, whether native or foreigners who have become citizens. It exists for their benefit, to afford them a means of securing their rights and of redressing their wrongs. It is these persons that the law has in view when setting forth the privileges and immunities of citizenship.
RIGHTS.—All citizens of the township arc entitled to enjoy the rights of “life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness.” The township government exists for the purpose of securing these rights to the people. All have equal claims to the fullest protection of the law. They may use their own property as they choose, and do whatever pleases them, so long as they do not interfere with the rights of others. Whenever one’s act, speech, or property interferes with the rights of others, he falls under the censure of the law and becomes subject to its penalty.
All male inhabitants born in the United States, and foreigners who have become citizens, who have resided within the State, county, and township the time required by law, are entitled to vote at all township, county, state, and national elections. Several States require ability to read, or the payment of poll-tax, as a qualification to vote; a few permit the subjects of foreign countries to vote; and in some States women are permitted to vote in school elections or in all elections. Lunatics, idiots, paupers, and persons convicted of certain high crimes are disfranchised; that is, are not permitted to vote. The right of suffrage is one of great power and value, being the basis of all free government, and is jealously guarded by the laws of the land.
DUTIES.—The people have extensive rights and they have equally extensive duties. Each citizen has rights that others must respect. It is the duty of each to observe and regard the rights of all other persons; and when he does not, the law interferes by its officers and deprives him of his own rights by fine or imprisonment, and in some instances by a still more severe penalty. It is the duty of the people to love and serve the country; to be good citizens; to labor for the public good; to obey the law, and to assist the officers in its enforcement.