State and Local Government


“I also spoke at length for the repeal of the ordinance of the city licensing merchants, hawkers, taverns, and ordinaries, desiring that this might be a free people, and enjoy equal rights and privileges, and the ordinances were repealed.” (Joseph Smith, History of the Church, Vol. 6, p. 8.)

“How powerfully did we feel the energy of this organization [of wards] in the case of [the] embargo [prohibiting imports from England]?

“I felt the foundations of the government shaken under my feet by the New England townships [wards]. There was not an individual in the State [of Massachusetts] whose body was not thrown with all its momentum into action; and although the whole of the other States were known to be in favor of the measure, yet the organization of this little…minority enabled it to overrule the Union.

“What would the unwieldy counties of the Middle, the South, and the West do? Call a county meeting, and the drunken loungers at and about the courthouses would have collected, the distances being too great for the good people and the industrious generally to attend. The character of those who really met would have been the measure of the weight they would have had in the scale of public opinion. As Cato, then, concluded every speech with the words, ‘Carthago delenda est,’ so do I [conclude] every opinion, with the injunction, ‘divide the counties into wards!’” (Thomas Jefferson, letter to Joseph C. Cabell The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, 14:421-23. 1816.)

“The elementary republics of the wards, the county republics, the State republics, and the republic of the Union, would form a gradation of authorities, standing each on the basis of law, holding every one its delegated share of powers, and constituting truly a system of fundamental balances and checks for the government.

“[Here] every man is a sharer in the direction of his ward-republic, or of some of the higher ones, and feels that he is a participator in the government of affairs, not merely at an election one day in the year, but every day; when there shall not be a man in the State who will not be a member of some one of its councils, great or small, he will let the heart be torn out of his body sooner than his power be wrested from him by a Caesar or a Bonaparte.(Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to Samuel Kercheval The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, 15:38. 1816.)

“My proposition [to divide every county into wards] had for a further object, to impart to these wards those portions of self-government for which they are best qualified, by confiding to them the care of their poor, their roads, police, elections, the nomination of jurors, administration of justice in small cases, elementary exercises of militia; in short, to have made them little republics, with a warden at the head of each, for all those concerns which, being under their eye, they would better manage than the larger republics of the county or State. A general call of ward meetings by their wardens on the same day through the State, would at any time produce the genuine sense of the people on any required point, and would enable the State to act in mass.” (Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to John Adams The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, 13:400. 1813.)

“The article…nearest my heart is the division of counties into wards. These will be pure and elementary republics, the sum of which taken together composes the State, and will make of the whole a true democracy as to the business of the wards, which is that of nearest and daily concern. The affairs of the larger sections, of counties, of States, and of the Union, not admitting personal transactions by the people, will be delegated to agents elected by themselves; and representation will thus be substituted where personal action becomes impracticable. Yet even over these representative organs, should they become corrupt and perverted, the division into wards constituting the people, in their wards, a regularly organized power, enables them by that organization to crush, regularly and peaceably, the usurpations of their unfaithful agents, and rescues them from the dreadful necessity of doing it insurrectionally. In this way we shall be as republican as a large society can be, and secure the continuance of purity in our government by the salutary, peaceable, and regular control of the people.” (Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to to Samuel Kercheval The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, 15:70. 1816.)

“These wards [of approximately 100 families], called townships in New England, are the vital principle of their governments and have proved themselves the wisest invention ever devised by the wit of man for the perfect exercise of self-government and for its preservation.” (Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to Samuel Kercheval The Autobiography of Thomas Jefferson, p. 74-75. 1816.)

“Divide the counties into wards of such size as that every citizen can attend, when called on, and act in person. Ascribe to them the government of their wards in all things relating to themselves exclusively. A justice chosen by themselves, in each a constable, a military company, a patrol, a school, the care of their own poor, their own portion of the public roads, the choice of one or more jurors to serve in some court, and the delivery within their own wards of their own votes for all elective officers of higher sphere, will relieve the county administration of nearly all its business, will have it better done, and by making every citizen an acting member of the government, and in the offices nearest and most interesting to him, will attach him by his strongest feelings to the independence of his country and its republican Constitution.” (Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to Samuel Kercheval Letters, 1399-1400. 1816.)

“These little republics would be the main strength of the great one. We owe to them the vigor given to our revolution in its commencement in the Eastern States.” (Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to John Tyler The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, 12:394. 1810.)

“If it is believed that these elementary schools will be better managed by the governor and council, the commissioners of the literary fund or any other general authority of the government than by the parents within each ward, it is a belief against all experience.” (Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to Joseph C. Cabell 1816.)

“There are two subjects, indeed, which I shall claim a right to further as long as I breathe: the public education, and the sub-division of counties into wards. I consider the continuance of republican government as absolutely hanging on these two hooks.” (Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to Joseph C. Cabell Letters, 14:84. 1816.)

“Moreover thou shalt provide out of all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them, to be rulers of thousands, and rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens: And let them judge the people at all seasons: and it shall be, that every great matter they shall bring unto thee, but every small matter they shall judge: so shall it be easier for thyself, and they shall bear the burden with thee.…and all this people shall also go to their place in peace.” (Scriptural, The organization of Israel into self-governing bodies of wards. Exodus, Holy Bible, 18:21-23.)

“The City Council divided the city into four wards, at my suggestion, to-wit.” (Joseph Smith, directing the division of Nauvoo into municipal wards. History of the Church, March 1, 1841.)

“The City Council shall have power and authority…to divide the city into wards…” (Joseph Smith, Nauvoo Charter granting authority to divide the city into municipal wards. Joseph Smith stated: “The City Charter of Nauvoo is of my own plan and device. I concocted it for the salvation of the Church, and on principles so broad, that every honest man might dwell secure under its protective influence without distinction of sect or party.” History of the Church, 4:249.)

“It is not by the consolidation or concentration of powers, but by their distribution that good government is effected. Were not this great country already divided into States, that division must be made that each might do for itself what concerns itself directly and what it can so much better do than a distant authority. Every state again is divided into counties, each to take care of what lies within its local bounds; each county again into townships or wards, to manage minuter details; and every ward into farms, to be governed each by its individual proprietor.” (Thomas Jefferson, Letters, 1308. 1821.)

“If invited by private authority, [to] county or district meetings, these divisions are so large that few will attend; and their voice will be imperfectly, or falsely, pronounced. Here, then, would be one of the advantages of the ward divisions I have proposed. The mayor of every ward, on a question like the present, would call his ward together, take the simple yea or nay of its members, convey these to the country court, who would hand on those of all its wards to the proper general authority; and the voice of the whole people would be thus fairly, fully, and peaceably expressed, discussed, and decided by the common reason of the society.” (Thomas Jefferson, Letter to Samuel Kercheval Letters, 1402-1403. 1816.)

“A plan was formerly proposed to the legislature of this State for laying off every county into hundreds or wards of five or six miles square, within each of which should be a school for the education of the children of the ward, wherein they should receive three years' instruction gratis, in reading, writing, arithmetic as far as fractions, the roots and ratios, and geography.” (Thomas Jefferson, Letter to Peter Carr Letters, p. 1348. 1814.)

“I hope they will adopt the subdivision of our counties into wards. The former may be estimated at an average of twenty-four miles square; the latter should be about six miles square each, and would answer to the hundreds of your Saxon Alfred.” (Thomas Jefferson, Letter to Major John Cartwright. “Saxon Alfred” referes to the Anglo Saxon King Alfred (870 A.D) whose government was derived from the government of ancient Israel. English common law originated from the Anglo Saxons, from which Americans derived their laws. Letters, 1402. 1824.)

“No, my friend, the way to have good and safe government is not to trust it all to one, but to divide it among the many, distributing to every one exactly the function he is competent to.

“Let the National Government be entrusted with the defence of the nation and its foreign and federal relations; the State governments with the civil rights, laws, police and administration of what concerns the State generally; the counties with the local concerns of the counties, and each ward direct the interests within itself.

“It is by dividing and subdividing these republics from the great national one down through all its subordinations, until it ends in the administration of every man's farm by himself; by placing under every one what his own eye may superintend, that all will be done for the best.” (Thomas Jefferson, Letter to Joseph C. Cabell Letters, p. 1388. 1816.)

“When are we going to learn that local communities have the right to ban any business they see fit? Read the plain text of the First Amendment, it says ‘Congress shall make no law…’ This leaves states and local governments FREE to implement laws that punish what the community considers immoral behavior.” (M B, October 5, 2007.)

“It is a firm principle that the smallest or lowest level that can possibly undertake the task is the one that should do so.… This is merely the application to the field of politics of that wise and time-tested principle of never asking a larger group to do that which can be done by a smaller group. And so far as government is concerned the smaller the unit and the closer it is to the people, the easier it is to guide it, to keep it solvent and to keep our freedom.” (Ezra Taft Benson, The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p. 610. 1969.)