William Johnson Cocker.

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The Government of the United States.






.ntered according to Act of Congress, in the > ear eighteen hundred and eighty-four

PV w. i ,;GCKER,

In the office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington.


The design of this book is to meet the want, for some time felt in our
public schools, of a text-book on the government of our own State.
There is a growing demand for accurate elementary instruction on the
nature of our State Government, and the duties of our public officers.
The attempt to group together the officers of different States and define
their powers, is unsatisfactory, for the reason that States differ greatly in
the number of officers, and in the nature of their duties. In text-books
which thus treat of State Governments in general, many of our State,
county, and township officers are omitted, and duties are assigned to
some of our public officers which do not belong to them, although such
duties are performed by similar officers in other States. Accurate knowl-
edge concerning the functions of our own officers demands a text- book
that deals exclusively with the peculiarities of our own State Government.

The aim of the book is to present, in as concise and clear a manner as
possible, the political system of the State, indicate the functions of the
departments of our State government, describe the duties and powers of
the various executive, legislative, and judicial officers, and give some of
the leading features of our educational, charitable, and reformatory institu-
tions. Only the more important duties of officers are described, so that
the minds of pupils may not be confused with numerous details, and
yet ample means are afforded for obtaining a clear and discriminating
knowledge of the powers of these officers.

The book is designed not only for schools, but also for general use.
There is a lamentable amount of ignorance, even among educated men, as
to the workings of our political system. It is absolutely indispensable in
a republic that every one should understand the functions of the govern-
ment and the obligations of citizenship, so as to discharge intelligently the
duties of an elector.

The author is under great obligation to His Excellency, Gov. Charle*
M. Cromwell, for valuable information, and for numerous State documents ;
and to Hon. C. A. Gower, Superintendent of Public Instruction, for valuable
notes and suggestions. lie is also indebted to various authorities for sug-
gestions and subject-matter.


ADRIAN, Mich., Dec. 26, 1879.




STATE OFFICERS, - - ... . . 7 _ I4

COUNTY OFFICERS, - . . 15-23

TOWNSHIP OFFICERS, - . . , . 24-30




ELECTIONS, -v. - . . . . 65-75

TAXATION, - - . . . 76-81

STATE INSTITUTIONS, - . .-'.-" . 109-119

STATE MILITIA, . - . . . . , 2O _ I28

POLITICAL MACHINERY, . . . . 129-140



INDEX, - - . - - - . 237-251




State Constitution. Prior to the admission of a State
into the Union, it is required to form a Constitution that
shall be essentially republican. The theory of a republic is
that all the powers which are wielded by the government
must be conferred by the whole people. A Constitution
must determine what powers are conferred, and within what
limits the functions of the government shall be exer-
cised. Accordingly provision is made for the calling of a con-
stitutional convention, the office of which is to frame what is
called the constitutional or the fundamental principles which
lie at the basis of a State government. When their work is com-
pleted, it must be submitted to the whole people for ratifica-
tion. All subsequent legislation must be strictly within the
limits which are defined by the Constitution.

In England they have what is called an unwritten constitution, which
rests upon common usage, special grants, and judicial decisions. It really
consists in the gradual surrender of what are called the vested rights
acquired by the aristocracy in feudal times, and of the absolute power eT
the monarch.

Revision and Amendments. The Constitution may be revised
or amended by a constitutional assembly, the call of which is
authorized by the Legislature, and must be again submitted to
the people for ratification; or single amendments may be sug-
gested by the Legislature and submitted to the people. This
latter method has now come to be the more general practice.



Members of the Legislature, and executive and judicial officers, before
entering on the duties of their respective offices, are required to take and
subscribe the following oath or affirmation: "I do solemnly swear (or
affirm) that I will support the Constitution of the United States and the
Constitution of this State, and that I will faithfully discharge the duties of
the office of > according to the best of my ability."

Departments of Government. The government of the State
is divided into three departments, the legislative, the judicial,
and the executive. The legislative department makes the
laws, the judicial interprets them, and the executive carries
them into effect. No officer belonging to one department
can exercise the powers properly belonging to any other.
The officer whose duty it is to execute the laws can not decide
the guilt or innocence of those accused of breaking the laws,
and those who make the laws are not allowed to apply or carry
them into execution. The great safeguard of all free govern-
ments is to keep these three departments entirely distinct,
so that they may mutually act as a check upon each other.
When the legislative, judicial, and executive functions are
exercised by one person, the government becomes a despotism.

State Officers. At the general election, which occurs every
two years, State officers are elected. They are called State
officers, because their duties pertain to the whole State. The
executive officers of the State are,

1. Governor,

2. Lieutenant Governor,

3. Secretary of State,

4. Treasurer,

5. Auditor General,

6. Commissioner of the Land Office,

7. Attorney General,

8. Superintendent of Public Instruction.


Governor. The Governor is the chief executive officer of
the State. It is his duty to look after the general interests of
the State, and to see that the laws are faithfully executed and
enforced in all parts of the State. He is required,

1. To give to the Legislature in formation, by message, of
the condition of the State, call their attention to mat-
ters of State interest, and recommend such measures as
he may deem expedient.

2. To convene the Legislature when matters arise which
require their immediate attention.

3. To preserve peace and good order within the State,
suppress riots, and repel invasion. To this end the
Governor is Commander-in-Chief of all the military
forces of the State.

4. To fill vacancies in State offices, and to appoint certain
State boards.

The Governor has the power to grant pardons or to lessen
the severity of a sentence. He is aided in the performance
of his various duties,

1. By the State officers ;

2. By boards and commissioners.

No person is eligible to the office of Governor or Lieutenant Governor
who has not been a citizen of the United States for five years, and a resident
of the State for two years. He must also have attained the age of thirty

Lieutenant Governor. The Lieutenant Governor, by vir-
tue of his office, is the presiding efficer of the Senate. If
there is a vacancy in the office of Governor, or the Governor
is absent from the State, or is incapable of performing the
duties of his office, the Lieutenant Governor takes his place
and performs his duties.


Secretary of State. This officer preserves all books and
papers belonging to the State, and keeps a record of the offi-
cial acts and proceedings of the legislative and executive
departments. He is required,

1. To countersign all commissions and proclamations
issued by the Governor ;

2. To publish and properly distribute the laws of the
State ;

3. To receive returns of State and national elections,
and reports from corporations organized, under the
State law ;

4. To perform various other duties.

Treasurer. The Treasurer receives and has charge of all
money belonging to the State. He is required to make an
annual report to the Legislature of all money received and paid
out by him during the year, and of the amount remaining in
the treasury. No money can be paid out of the treasury
except in pursuance of appropriations made by law.

The Treasurer is obliged to give bonds, for the faithful performance of
his duties, to the sum of one hundred and fifty thousand dollars.

Auditor General The Auditor General is required to
examine the Treasurer's account of money received and paid
out by him, and the money in the treasury, and he makes a
complete statement to the Legislature of the funds and reve-
nues of the State, together with such recommendations for the
improvement of the financial condition of the State as he
may deem expedient. He examines all claims against the
State and orders the payment of those that are just ; superin-
tends the collection of money due to the State, and appor-
tions the State tax among the several counties. He is the
guardian of the public treasury. No money can be paid out


of the treasury except on the warrant of the Auditor General,
and all receipts for money paid to the Treasurer must be
countersigned by him.

Commissioner of the Land Office. The Commissioner of
the Land Office has the general charge and supervision of all
lands belonging to the State, and he is authorized to sell or
dispose of them in such a manner as may be prescribed by

Attorney General. The principal duties of the Attorney
General are,

i. To give his opinion upon all questions of law submitted
to him by any State officer or by the Legislature ;

a. To advise with Prosecuting Attorneys in all matters
pertaining to the duties of their office, when so
requested by them ;

3. To prosecute and defend all actions in the Supreme
Court in which the State is interested, and appear for
the people of the State in all suits, when requested by
the Governor or by either branch of the Legislature.

Superintendent of Public Instruction. The Superinten-
dent of Public Instruction has the general supervision of the
educational interests of the State. It is his duty to promote,
as far as possible, the efficiency of the public school system.
Institutions of learning are at any time subject to his visita-
tion and examination, and they are annually required to
report to him their condition and progress.

Boards and Commissioners. Certain boards and commis-
sioners are selected to assist the Governor in the performance
of his duties. They have the general supervision and control
of various State institutions, and they perform duties which
concern the welfare of the whole State. These boards and
commissioners are selected in three ways :


1. Some are appointed by the Governor with the advice
and consent of the Senate.

2. Others are elected by the people.

3. State officers by virtue of their office serve on certain
State boards.

State Legislature. The State Legislature is composed of
two houses, the Senate and the House of Representatives. The
Senate consists of thirty two members, and the House of one
hundred. The Legislature enact laws, devise means for raising
money to meet the public expenses of the State, and perform
such other duties as the Constitution and laws of the State
require. They have power to confer upon the Boards of
Supervisors of the several counties, and upon organized town-
ships, and incorporated villages and cities, such local powers
of legislation and administration of affairs as they deem
proper. Members of the Legislature are elected for two years.

Supreme Court. The Supreme Court is the highest judicial
court in the State. It consists of one Chief Justice and three
Associate Judges. They have a superintending control over
all the courts of the State, and they decide points of law
appealed to them, for their decision, by the lower courts.
Questions as to the constitutionality of any legislative enact-
ment are decided by this court. The Judges are elected for
eight years, one being elected every two years.

Laws enacted by the Legislature must not conflict with any of the
requirements of the State Constitution




f Secretary of State,

! State Treasurer,
Auditor General,

OFFICERS. I Commissioner of the Land Office,

I Attorney General,
L Superintendent of Public Instruction.

\ Senators,

/ Representatives.

\ Chief Justice of the Supreme Court,

/ Associate Judges.



Governor, - - 1,000

Lieutenant Governor, (i)

Secretary of State, 800

Deputy Secretary of State, - 1,800

State Treasurer, - 1,000

Deputy State Treasurer, - 1,800

Auditor General, 1,000

Deputy Auditor General, - - - 1,800

Commissioner of the Land Office, Soo

Deputy Commissioner of the Land Office, - 1,800


Attorney General, - - 800
Superintendent of Public Instruction, - 1,000
Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction, 1,800
Judges of the Supreme Court, j - - 4,000
Members of the Legislature, - - ( 2 )

(1) The Lieutenant Governor, when performing the duties of Governor,
receives the same compensation. As presiding officer of the Senate, he
receives the same compensation as other members of the Senate.

(2) Members of the Legislature receive three dollars a day while the
Legislature is in session, and ten cents a mile for expenses in going to and
returning from the place of meeting. The Legislature may allow extra
compensation to members from the Upper Peninsula, of not to exceed two
dollars a day. They are supposed to attend a session at a greater incon-
venience than those from the Lower Peninsula. When the members are
convened in extra session, their compensation is three dollars per iay, foi
the first twenty days, and nothing afterwards. This is for the purpose oi
limiting the length of the extra session.




Counties. It would not be possible for the different State
departments to attend to the public business and the special
wants of every part of the State. All that they can do is to
superintend the welfare of the State as a whole. Then,
again, regulations that might be needed in one part of the
State might be unnecessary or detrimental to the interests of
another, so that there are certain matters that must necessarily
be left to the decision of the people of limited districts of
territory. The State is accordingly subdivided into counties
and officers are appointed in each county to attend to its more
immediate interests. This division is necessary for three
reasons :

1. The Governor, and other executive State officers, can
not personally see to it that the laws are executed and
enforced in all parts of the State, without the assistance
of local executive officers.

2. The Legislature can not always adopt measures that
will meet the special wants of every part of the State.

3. It is necessary that local courts should be established
in all parts of the State, so that the rights of ever)
citizen may be the better protected, and justice be more
readily administered.

In England, the word shire is equivalent to our word county; in Prussia,
province nearly corresponds to it; in France, department.


County Officers. At the general election, when State offi-
cers are elected, the following county officers are also elected :
t. Sheriff,

2. Clerk,

3. Treasurer,

4. Register of Deeds,

5. Prosecuting Attorney,

6. Surveyor,

7. Coroners,

8. Circuit Court Commissioners,

9. Probate Judge.

These officers, with the exception of Probate Judge, are
elected for two years.

The officers mentioned above, with the exception of Prosecuting
Attorney, are required to give bonds to an amount designated by law, for
the faithful performance of their duties.

County Seat. In every county, some town is selected where
the business of the county is transacted. This is called the
county seat. Here there is a court-house, a jail, county offi-
ces, and other public buildings. The county seat stands in
about the same relation to the county that the city of Lansing
stands to the State.

Sheriff. The Sheriff is the principal executive officer of
the county. He is required,

I. To preserve peace and good order within the county.
To do this he may demand the aid of others, and even
employ the assistance of any portion of the State

a. To attend all the sessions of the Circuit Court when
held within the county, preserve order in the court
room, and execute all writs and orders of the court.


3. To take charge of the county jail. He is responsible
for the safe keeping of the prisoners confined in the

The Sheriff appoints an under sheriff and deputies to assist
him in the performance of his duties. He is held responsible
for their acts.

1. The Sheriff is prohibited by law from holding the office longer than
four years in any period of six years. He does not receive a salary, but he
receives certain fees fixed by law.

2. When there is a vacancy in the office of Sheriff, the under sheriff
performs the duties of the office, until another Sheriff is elected.

Clerk. The County Clerk is the clerk of the Board of
Supervisors. It is his duty to keep a record of the^>roceed-
ings of the Board, preserve all accounts acted on by them,
and perform such other duties as they may require. He is
also clerk of the Circuit Court, when it is held within the
county. He is required,

1. To keep a journal of the proceedings of the Circuit
Court, and preserve all books and papers belonging to
the office ;

2. To administer oaths to witnesses and jurors ;

3. To keep a record of births, deaths, and marriages ;

4. To draw the grand and petit juries, and to perform
various other duties.

The Clerk is required to appoint one or more deputies, and to designate
one of them as his successor, in case of a vacancy in the office. He
receives both a salary and fees, the salary being fixed by the Board of Super-

Treasurer. The Treasurer, among his other duties, is

i. To receive and have charge of all money belonging
to the county ;


2. To receive from the Township Treasurers the State tax,
and pay it over to the State Treasurer ;

3. To conduct the annual sales of lands on which the
taxes have not been paid.

Money is paid out of the county treasury on the order of
the Board of Supervisors. Money orders are signed by the
clerk and countersigned by the chairman of the Board.

1. Moneys paid to the Treasurer on account of fines, forfeitures, penal-
ties, and recognizances, are kept separate and distinct from all other accounts,
and credited to the school library fund, and paid over to the Treasurers of
the several townships, according to the number of school children in each

2. The Treasurer receives a salary, fixed by the Board of Supervisors,
and fees. If there is a vacancy in the office, the deputy performs his
duties. The Board of Supervisors may, however, select another Treasurer,
if the interests of the county so require.

Register of Deeds. It is the duty of the Register of Deeds
to keep a record of all deeds, mortgages, and other papers
which are required by law to be recorded. In this way it can
be readily ascertained when property is mortgaged, and to
what extent, and whether the legal title is good. . All trans-
fers of property and legal instruments are in this way pre-
served, so that they can easily be referred to at any time, by
interested parties.

The Register of Deeds receives a certain amount, prescribed by law, for
every one hundred words recorded. He receives other fees, but no salary.

Definitions. A deed is an instrument in writing, by which
real estate is transferred from one person to another.

A mortgage is the conveyance of land to another as
security for the payment of a debt.

A title is the evidence of such right or ownership as a
person has in property.


Prosecuting Attorney. The Prosecuting Attorney is the
legal officer of the county. It is his principal duty to prose-
cute all persons who have been guilty of any crime within
the county, give legal advice to county officers in the discharge
of their duties when so requested, and prosecute and defend
all suits in the county in which the county is interested.

The Prosecuting Attorney receives a salary, but no fees. The salary is
fixed by the Board of Supervisors.

Surveyor. The Surveyor makes such surveys in the county
a* are required by any court or any person residing in the
ounty. He determines the location and boundaries of lands,
md keeps a record of all surveys made by himself or his
deputies. All surveys are required to be made in accordance
with certain principles established by law, so that there may
be a uniform system of land surveying in the several counties
of the State.

1. The Surveyor and his deputies receive a compensation of not less
than four dollars a day and fees.

2. When there is a vacancy in the office, the Prosecuting Attorney and
ue County Clerk may appoint some one, for the time being, to perform the
ia ties of Surveyor.

Coroners. Two Coroners are elected in each county to
Investigate the causes of all sudden and suspicious deaths
within the county. When a dead body is found, a coroner's
jury of six men is assembled to ascertain, if possible, the cause
of the death, and if they have reason to believe that murder
has been committed, a verdict to that effect is rendered, and
information of the fact is filed with the proper authorities.
Their duty is an important one, and is designed to make life
more secure. Coroners are sometimes required to perform the
duties of a Sheriff. This is when the Sheriff is an interested
party in a suit.


A vacancy in the office of Coroner is filled in the same manner as in
that of Surveyor. The Coroners receive fees.

Circuit Judge. A Circuit Judge is elected in what is called
a judicial circuit, which usually consists of two or more coun-
ties. He goes from one county to another, and at specified
times holds a session of the Circuit Court in each county
within the limits of his circuit ; so that he may be properly
called one of the judicial officers of the county, although he
is elected in a district composed of several counties. It is the
duty of the Circuit Judge to preside at all sessions of the Cir-
cuit Court. He is elected at the spring election in April, for
a term of six years.

1. The first circuit consists of the Counties of Lenawee and Hillsdale ;
the second of Cass and Berrien ; the third of Wayne; etc.

2. The salary of a Circuit Judge is two thousand five hundred dollars
annually, without any fees or perquisites whatever.

Circuit Court Commissioners. In each county of the State
there is a Circuit Court Commissioner, and in some of the
larger counties there are two. They are authorized to perform
all the duties and execute all the powers, in all civil cases,
which a Circuit Judge may perform and execute out of court,
subject, however, to certain limitations. They may, in other
words, perform many of the duties that a Circuit Judge would
be obliged to perform, if it were not for their assistance.

1. Testimony in a chancery suit may be taken by a Circuit Court Com-
missioner, and injunctions may also be granted by this officer. Circuit
Court Commissioners receive fees, not a salary.

2. In counties containing a population of twenty thousand inhabitants,
two Circuit Court Commissioners are required to be elected.

3. The Governor is authorized to fill any vacancy in this office.

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Online LibraryWilliam Johnson CockerThe civil government of Michigan, with chapters on political machinery, and the government of the United States → online text (page 1 of 15)