Page images
PDF
EPUB

popular magistrates in the country were-the Tithing and Hundred Reeves; the former were always, the latter mostly, elected by their respective communes. The smaller questions of debt and police were probably decided by these men in their respective courts; the freemen of the Tithing would meet as occasion required; the Hundred Court was summoned once a month." In the court of the Tithing we may discover the germ of vestry meeting and town meeting, and in Tithingmen, the origin of Selectvestrymen and Selectmen.

The Saxon Tithingman was the Selectman of the Tithing. He was an elected officer, like the Petty Constable, who succeeded him. The mediaval Tithingman's functions were patriarchial and authoritative. He was the Town Father in the true and original sense of that term. His relations were

He

with families, as in early New England. He watched over his hamlet as the New England Tithingman watched over his neighborhood and the congregation. He kept the public peace; he was arbiter between neighbors and kinsmen; he regulated the division of lands, the use of pastures and meadows; he announced the time of harvest and when enclosures were to be removed or fences put up. He was a man having authority in a small neighborly way. foreshadowed the Petty Constable and the easy-going Selectmen of our modern New England Towns. But the main idea of his office was the same as that perpetuated in the original Tithingmen of New England, viz: elective, patriarchal headship over a neighborhood of at least ten families. This is the original, fundamental character of the office, considered as a local institution.

We have found the heart of our subject. We have stripped off the ecclesiastical tissue, which in later times enshrouded the New England Tithingman, who is now undoubtedly dead. We have dissected away the outer layer of constabulary duties, and have found, in the patriarchal control of a Tithing, the real mechanism which for

many centuries gave such energetic life to the Tithingman. The biologists in Baltimore have recently succeeded in isolating the mammalian heart, and in keeping it alive, by a transfusion of foreign blood, for hours after the rest of the body is entirely dead. Possibly by some such method of procedure, in the case of a live subject like the modern Constable or Selectman, we may derive a more intimate knowledge of that older institution, whose life is now beating on in kindred forms.

popular magistrates in the country were-the Tithing and Hundred Reeves; the former were always, the latter mostly, elected by their respective communes. The smaller questions of debt and police were probably decided by these men in their respective courts; the freemen of the Tithing would meet as occasion required; the Hundred Court was summoned once a month." In the court of the Tithing we may discover the germ of vestry meeting and town meeting, and in Tithingmen, the origin of Selectvestrymen and Selectmen.

The Saxon Tithingman was the Selectman of the Tithing. He was an elected officer, like the Petty Constable, who succeeded him. The medieval Tithingman's functions were patriarchial and authoritative. He was the Town Father in His relations were

the true and original sense of that term. with families, as in early New England. He watched over his hamlet as the New England Tithingman watched over his neighborhood and the congregation. He kept the public peace; he was arbiter between neighbors and kinsmen; he regulated the division of lands, the use of pastures and meadows; he announced the time of harvest and when enclosures were to be removed or fences put up. He was a man having authority in a small neighborly way. He foreshadowed the Petty Constable and the easy-going Selectmen of our modern New England Towns. But the main idea of his office was the same as that perpetuated in the original Tithingmen of New England, viz: elective, patriarchal headship over a neighborhood of at least ten families. This is the original, fundamental character of the office, considered as a local institution.

We have found the heart of our subject. We have stripped off the ecclesiastical tissue, which in later times. enshrouded the New England Tithingman, who is now undoubtedly dead. We have dissected away the outer layer of constabulary duties, and have found, in the patriarchal control of a Tithing, the real mechanism which for

many centuries gave such energetic life to the Tithingman. The biologists in Baltimore have recently succeeded in isolating the mammalian heart, and in keeping it alive, by a transfusion of foreign blood, for hours after the rest of the body is entirely dead. Possibly by some such method of procedure, in the case of a live subject like the modern Constable or Selectman, we may derive a more intimate knowledge of that older institution, whose life is now beating on in kindred forms.

« PreviousContinue »