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From these fruitful principles, consequences have been derived and applications have been made such as no nation in Europe has yet ventured to attempt.

In Connecticut the electoral body consisted, from its origin, of the whole number of citizens; and this is readily to be understood,[41] when we recollect that this people enjoyed an almost perfect equality of fortune, and a still greater uniformity of capacity.[42] In Connecticut, at this period, all the executive functionaries were elected, including the governor of the state.[43] The citizens above the age of sixteen were obliged to bear arms; they formed a national militia, which appointed its own officers, and was to hold itself at all times in readiness to march for the defence of the country.[44]

In the laws of Connecticut, as well as in those of New England, we find the germe and gradual development of that township independence, which is the life and mainspring of American liberty at the present day. The political existence of the majority of the nations of Europe commenced in the superior ranks of society, and was gradually and always imperfectly communicated to the different members of the social body. In America, on the other hand, it may be said that the township was organized before the county, the county before the state, the state before the Union.

In New England, townships were completely and definitively constituted as early as 1650. The independence of the township was the nucleus around which the local interests, passions, rights, and duties, collected and clung. It gave scope to the activity of a real political life, most thoroughly democratic and republican. The colonies still recognised the supremacy of the mother-country; monarchy was still the law of the state; but the republic was already established in every township.

The towns named their own magistrates of every kind, rated themselves, and levied their own taxes.[45] In the townships of New England the law of representation was not adopted, but the affairs of the community were discussed, as at Athens, in the market-place, by a general assembly of the citizens.

In studying the laws which were promulgated at this first era of the American republics, it is impossible not to be struck by the remarkable acquaintance with the science of government, and the advanced theory of legislation, which they display. The ideas there formed of the duties of society toward its members, are evidently much loftier and more comprehensive than those of the European legislators at that time: obligations were there imposed which were elsewhere slighted. In the states of New England, from the first, the condition of the poor was provided for;[46] strict measures were taken for the maintenance of roads, and surveyors were appointed to attend to them;[47] registers were established in every parish, in which the results of public deliberations, and the births, deaths, and marriages of the citizens were entered;[48] clerks were directed to keep these registers;[49] officers were charged with the administration of vacant inheritances, and with the arbitration of litigated landmarks; and many others were created whose chief functions were the maintenance of public order in the community.[50] The law enters into a thousand useful provisions for a number of social wants which are at present very inadequately felt in France.

But it is by the attention it pays to public education that the original character of American civilisation is at once placed in the clearest light. "It being," says the law, "one chief project of Satan to keep men from the knowledge of the Scripture by persuading from the use of tongues, to the end that learning may not be buried in the graves of our forefathers, in church and commonwealth, the Lord assisting our endeavors."[51] Here follow clauses establishing schools in every township, and obliging the inhabitants, under pain of heavy fines, to support them. Schools of a superior kind were founded in the same manner in the more populous districts. The municipal authorities were bound to enforce the sending of children to school by their parents; they were empowered to inflict fines upon all who refused compliance; and in cases of continued resistance, society assumed the place of the parent, took possession of the child, and deprived the father of those natural rights which he used to so bad a purpose. The reader will undoubtedly have remarked the preamble of these enactments: in America, religion is the road to knowledge, and the observance of the divine laws leads men to civil freedom.