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Town in United Kingdom

Meaning of Town; Township

The following is an old definition of Town; Township [1]: Town is from the Anglo-Saxon tun, an inolosure: a garden inclosed by a hedge, or a collection of houses inclosed by a wall. Its customary usage in England denoting a collection of houses or a hamlet, between a village and a city, or its stricter legal or civil meaning denoting a civil corporation of larger territory, which might include a village or a city, are somewhat foreign to the use of the word, and the civil and territorial subdivision or organization which it signifies, in this country. Its first use here was to define the original or primary civil or governmental organizations of the early colonists in New England. The word has become generic, comprehending the several species of cities, boroughs, and common towns. A city is a town incorporated, and a “town” may include a city. In New England, towns having been the first local civil governments, antecedent to ithe formation of counties, the counties were made out of the towns. In the Western States, when an organic law is first made for the government of the whole territory, or a constitution is formed for the whole State, counties are formed first, and towns within them afterward; but the original meaning of a, town as ” a subdivision of a county” remains the same.i In some parts of the United States, ” town ” signifies a civil division of a county, irrespective of incorporation or powers of government: such as is elsewhere called a ” township; ” in other parts, a species of municipality more highly organized than a “village,” and less so than a “city.” In instances, the word means a territorial division only, to avert which con- structipn ” incorporated town ” is used.” According to the dictionaries the word ” town ” signifies any walled collection of houses. (Johnson.) But that is its antique meaning. By modem use it is said to be applied to an undefined collection of houses, or habitations; also to the inhabitants; emphatically to the metropolis. (Richardson.) Again, a town is any collection of houses larger than a village; or any number of houses to which belongs a regular market, and which is not a city. (Johnson, Webster, Ogilvie.) The same authorities define a ” village ” as a small collection of houses in the country, less than a town. In New England and New York, towns are the political units of territory, into which the country is subdivided, and answer, politically, to parishes and hundreds in England, but are vested with greater powers of local government. In Delaware, the counties are divided into hundreds, “town” and “village” being indiscriminately applied to collections of houses. In Maryland and most of the Southern States, the political unit of territory is the county, though this is some- times divided into parishes and election districts for limited purposes; and “town” is used in a broad sense to include all collections of houses from a city down to a village. In New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, and Illinois, the subdivisions of a county, answering to the towns of New England and New York, are called townships, though ” town ” is also applied to them in Illinois. In these States “town” and “village “are indiscriminately applied to large collections of houses less than a city. The system of survey of government lands, established in 1796, divided territory into townships six miles square, and these again into sections each a mile square. See Borough; By-law; Citt; School; Pueblo; Village.


Notes and References

  1. Concept of Town; Township provided by the Anderson Dictionary of Law (1889) (Dictionary of Law consisting of Judicial Definitions and Explanations of Words, Phrases and Maxims and an Exposition of the Principles of Law: Comprising a Dictionary and Compendium of American and English Jurisprudence; William C. Anderson; T. H. Flood and Company, Law Publishers, Chicago, United States)

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  • Article Name: Town
  • Author: Rhona Schuz
  • Description: Meaning of Town; Township The following is an old definition of Town; Township [1]: Town is from the Anglo-Saxon tun, an [...]

This entry was last updated: May 14, 2017


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