Any community containing thirty or more houses may, with the approval of the selectmen of the town, receive a separate village organization.
Among those in the Peters's list which are wholly or substantially true are the following: "The judges shall determine controversies without a jury"; "Married persons must live together or be imprisoned"; "A wife shall be good evidence against her husband"; "No minister shall keep school"; "The selectmen, on finding children ignorant, may take them away from their parents and put them into better hands, at the expense of their parents."
In 1737 he began his public career as a member of the Boston Board of Selectmen, and a few weeks later he was elected to the General Court of Massachusetts Bay, of which he was a member until 1740 and again from 1742 to 1 749, serving as speaker in 1 747, 1 74 8 and 1749.
In the larger " towns " the officers elected at this meeting may consist of five, seven or nine selectmen, a clerk, a treasurer, three or more assessors, three or more overseers of the poor, one or more collectors of taxes, one or more auditors, one or more surveyors of highways, a road commissioner, a sewer commissioner, a board of health, one or more constables, two or more field drivers, two or more fence viewers, and a tree warden; but in the smaller " towns " the number of selectmen niay be limited to three, the selectmen may assess the taxes, be overseers of the poor, and act as a board of health, and the treasurer or constable may collect the taxes.
The term of all these officers may be limited to one year, or the ' selectmen, clerk, assessors and overseers of the poor may be elected for a term of three years, in which case a part only of the selectmen, assessors and overseers of the poor are elected each year.
The selectmen have the general management of a " town's " affairs during the interval between town-meetings.
All laws relative to " towns " are applied to " cities " in so far as they are not inconsistent with general or special laws relative to the latter, and the powers of the selectmen are vested in the mayor and aldermen.
These officers always include three selectmen, a clerk, a treasurer and one or more auditors, and they may include any or all of the following: assessors, who together with the selectmen constitute a board for the assessment of taxes, one or more collectors of taxes, overseers of the poor, constables, surveyors of highways, fence-viewers, sealers of weights and measures, measurers of wood and bark, surveyors of lumber, cullers of staves, a chief fireward or engineer and one or more assistants, a clerk of the market and a pound keeper.
The moderator of the town meeting is elected at the general election in November for a term of two years, and a board of health, consisting of three members, is appointed by the selectmen, one member each year.
The general business of the town, other than that which comes before the town meeting, is managed by the selectmen, and they are specially intrusted with the regulation of the highways, sidewalks and commons.
In accordance with the general laws each city elects a mayor, a board of aldermen, and a common council in whom is vested the administration of its " fiscal, prudential and municipal affairs "; the mayor presides at the meetings of the board of aldermen, and has a veto on any measure of this body, and no measure can be passed over his veto except by an affirmative vote of at least two-thirds of all the aldermen; each ward elects three selectmen, a moderator and a clerk in whom is vested the charge of elections; the city marshal and assistant marshals are appointed by the mayor and aldermen, but the city clerk and city treasurer are elected by the aldermen and common council in joint session.
The town officials consist of the selectmen (usually three, five or seven, sometimes nine), the town clerk, treasurer, assessors, tax collector, school committee men, and the holders of divers minor offices according to local needs.
Indeed, I found some of them to be wiser than the so-called overseers of the poor and selectmen of the town, and thought it was time that the tables were turned.
The more important township officials are a moderator, a board of selectmen, a clerk, a treasurer and a superintendent of schools.
These are elected annually, except that in some cases the selectmen and school committee have a term of several years, one member of each board being elected annually.
The selectmen, who receive no regular salary, but may charge for expenses actually incurred, form a sort of directory or executive committee, which manages the ordinary administrative and financial business under such instructions as may have been given by the town meeting.
However, at the request of the selectmen, I condescended to make some such statement as this in writing:--"Know all men by these presents, that I, Henry Thoreau, do not wish to be regarded as a member of any incorporated society which I have not joined."