Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER IX.: The Subject Continued. Of Constables. - Collected Works of James Wilson, vol. 2
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CHAPTER IX.: The Subject Continued. Of Constables. - James Wilson, Collected Works of James Wilson, vol. 2 
Collected Works of James Wilson, edited by Kermit L. Hall and Mark David Hall, with an Introduction by Kermit L. Hall, and a Bibliographical Essay by Mark David Hall, collected by Maynard Garrison (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2007). Vol. 2.
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The Subject Continued. Of Constables.
I am now to consider the office of a constable. This officer, and the office which he holds, are often treated with a degree of disrespect; but very improperly and very unwisely. In a government founded on the authority of the people, every publick officer is respectable; for every publick officer is a free citizen: he is more; by other free citizens he is invested with a portion of their power.
Besides; the powers and duties of constables, if properly and effectually exercised and discharged, are of real importance to the community; and their publick utility should rescue them from contempt. The antiquity as well as the usefulness of the office is very great. Of its original it may be said, as we are informed by my Lord Bacon,acaput inter nubila condit;1 for its authority was granted upon the ancient laws and customs of the kingdom, practised long before the conquest. It was intended and instituted for the conservation of the peace, and for repressing every kind of annoyance and disturbance of the people. This was done by way of prevention and not of punishment; for a constable has no judicial power to hear or determine any cause.
Upon a probability of a breach of the peace, as when warm words have passed, the constable may command the parties to keep the peace, and depart and forbear. When an affray is made, he may part those engaged in it, and keep them asunder. He may arrest and commit the breakers of the peace; and, if they will not obey, he may call power to his assistance.b If an affray is in a house, he may break the doors open to restore and preserve the peace. If an offender fly into another district or county, the constable may make fresh pursuit and take him. To prevent as well as to quell a breach of the peace, he may command all persons to assist him; and those, who refuse, may be bound over to the sessions and fined.c
It is the duty of a constable to execute, with speed and secrecy, all warrants directed to him; and not to dispute the authority of him who issues them; provided the matter in question is within his jurisdiction.d
The power and duty of constables are extended to a great variety of instances by a number of acts of assembly, which have been passed in Pennsylvania.
In cases of necessity, a constable has power to appoint a deputy.e
There are two kinds of constables; a high constable and a petty constable. Their authority is the same in substance, and differs only in point of extent.f
To appoint men of low condition to the office of constable, is, according to my Lord Bacon,g a mere abuse and degeneracy from the first institution. They ought, says he, to be chosen from among the better sort of residents.
I have now finished my account of the judicial departments of the United States and Pennsylvania; and, with it, the description of their governments and constitutions. To the government and constitution of every other state in the Union, my remarks and illustrations will, generally, be found applicable. In those instances, in which a strict application cannot be made, still, I flatter myself, my remarks and illustrations will throw some light upon the respective advantages or disadvantages of institutions, which cannot be measured by the same common standard.
[a ]4. Ld. Bac. 94.
[1. ]Its head is hidden in the clouds.
[b ]4. Ld. Bac. 96.
[c. ]Wood. Ins. 87.
[d. ]Id. ibid.
[e. ]4. Ld. Bac. 98.
[f. ]4. Ld. Bac. 98.
[g. ]Id. 96.