Early New England Towns; a Comparative Study of Their Development

By Anne Bush MacLear | Go to book overview

CHAPTER III
TOWN FINANCES

THE financial system of a Massachusetts town of the seventeenth century was peculiar. It gave to the citizens of the town a control over the raising and expenditure of revenue much more complete and immediate than that per- mitted by the systems of to-day. In fact, during the early years of the towns there was no regular method for levying town taxes, nor was there any system of estimating the amount of money needed for the yearly expenses of the town, or for expending that sum for town expenses in general. On the contrary, when the citizens of the town realized that money was needed for its running expenses or for any purpose whatsoever, they assembled in the town meeting, discussed the need for money, decided whether the need should be met, and if so, how much money would be required, and ordered the amount raised for that specific purpose and expended for that purpose only. Was a high- way to be made, the town meeting voted that a certain sum be raised to pay for it; was a bridge to be built, the meeting house to be repaired, or the schoolmaster's salary to be paid, the same thing was done. Whatever the reason for the tax, its purpose and amount were specified. Sometimes this was done in direct obedience to a town ordinance, some- times it seems to have been required only by custom. For example, Watertown, in 1641, ordered "That when any Rate is made by ye Towne or country that it shall be speci-

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Early New England Towns; a Comparative Study of Their Development
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 3
  • Preface 7
  • Contents 9
  • Chapter I - The Town in General 13
  • Chapter III - Town Finances 55
  • Chapter IV - Town Lands *
  • Chapter V - Town Government 106
  • Chapter VI - The Church 137
  • Chapter VII - The Schools 161
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