Elements of Civil Government eBook

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

Both the grand jury and the trial jury are firmly grounded in this country, being recognized, in the constitutions of nearly all the States and the Constitution of the United States, and are regarded as among the strongest supports of a free government.

OFFICERS OF COURTS.—­Each court has one or more ministerial officers, variously designated as constable, sheriff, tipstaff, or marshal.  Each court also has one or more clerks, and sometimes other officers. Attorneys are considered officers of the courts in which they practice.  They usually represent the plaintiff and the defendant in court and are then called counsel.

LEGAL PROCEEDINGS in civil cases begin by the court issuing a writ, at the instance of plaintiff, summoning defendant to appear.  The defendant responding, pleadings are filed—­the claims of plaintiff, and answer or demurrer of defendant.  If these disagree as to facts, the court subpoenas witnesses.  In the presence of judge and jury, the plaintiff states his case and the defendant his defense, witnesses are examined and cross-examined, and the case is argued.  The judge then charges the jury—­summarizing the evidence and indicating points to be decided; the jury retire to prepare their verdict, which is announced and recorded as the judgment of the court.

In criminal cases the accused may be arrested on a grand jury indictment or a magistrate’s warrant.  Unless the crime is murder, the accused may be released upon bail until trial, which proceeds as in civil cases.


1.  Why does the State prosecute offenses, instead of leaving this duty to private persons?

2.  What is meant by passing sentence upon an offender?

3.  Do you believe in the jury system, or in the trial by several judges sitting together?  Why?

4.  Have you ever seen a court in session?

5.  In this State a grand jury has how many members?



SUFFRAGE.—­The most important political right is the right of suffrage; that is, the right to vote.  As the government exists for the benefit of the governed, the purpose of suffrage is to place it under their control.  It gives each qualified voter a voice in public affairs, and places the country under the rule of the people.

As the interests of the voters and their families are the same, and as the voters represent these interests, the whole people, including women and children, have an influence in the government.  The whole machinery of the State and of the United States is in the hands of those who do the voting.

IMPORTANCE.—­The importance of this right can scarcely be overestimated.  It constitutes the difference between a free country and a despotism.  There can be no freedom unless the right to vote resides in the people; nor can there be good government unless this right is exercised with an intelligent regard for the public welfare.  Yet vast numbers of voters never realize the power they wield or the great responsibility it entails upon them.

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Elements of Civil Government from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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