Elements of Civil Government eBook

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

FUNCTIONS.—­The functions of the State are very extensive, including the greater part of those acts of government which preserve society by affording security to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness.

The State government touches the citizens at most points; that is, all those laws that concern the body of the people in their ordinary daily life are made and enforced by the State, or by the smaller political divisions of the State, acting under the State’s directions.  Officers discharge their duties, arrests are made, courts are held, offenders are punished, justice is meted out, and taxes are collected, by the authority of the State.

The National Government has similar functions to perform in every part of the country, but they are far less frequent than those of the State.

INSTITUTIONS.—­The State maintains a number of charitable and other institutions for the public welfare.  It makes appropriations of land or money for the support of asylums, prisons, reformatories, scientific institutions, schools, colleges, and universities.  The support of these institutions, the payment of salaries, the administration of justice, and the conduct of other public interests, involve large annual expenditures, often amounting to several millions of dollars.


The citizens of a State are the people who live in it, whether natives of the United States, or foreigners who have been adopted.  Persons who are citizens of the United States are thereby citizens of the State in which they reside.  They have all the rights that freemen can possess, and enjoy a larger freedom than do the people of any other country.

The legal voters, often called electors, are the male citizens who have resided in the State, the county, and the township, or voting precinct, the time required by law to entitle them to vote.  The length of residence required in the State varies, being two years in some, six months in others, and one year in most States.  Several States permit citizens of foreign countries to vote, and a few permit women to vote.

RIGHTS.—­Every citizen has the right to be secure in his person; to be free from attack and annoyance; to go when and where he may choose; to keep, enjoy, and dispose of his property; and to provide in his own way for the welfare of himself and of those dependent upon him.

The rights of the people are set forth at length and with great precision in a portion of the State constitution called the Bill of Rights.  These rights must be exercised under the restrictions of the law, and with due regard for the same rights held by others.

The legal voters have the right to vote in all local, State, and national elections.  They are voters in national elections by virtue of being voters in State elections.  The right to vote implies the right to be voted for, and the right to hold office; but for many officers the State requires a longer residence and other qualifications than those prescribed for voters.

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Elements of Civil Government from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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