CONSTABLE (Lat. comes stabuti, count of the stable=master of the horse). 1. A great noble under the later Roman Empire, and so down through the Middle Ages; usually the commander-in-chief of the army; in France also of the navy, and the chief subject in the state, when Richelieu abolished the office in 1627. Napoleon revived the title but not the authority, and it lapsed with him. In England the lord high constable and the earl marshal held the courts-martial and courts of chivalry; but Henry VIII left the office unfilled, and it is only revived temporarily for great pageants. There were constables who were wardens of castles, and whose office is still existent, heredi tary or appointive. 2. In England, a petty con stable was the chief parish officer for keeping the peace, but is now mostly supplanted by the police. 3. In the United States, outside of cities and incorporated villages, the constable is still the chief conservakir of the peace. The office was borrowed from England, and in colonial times was of high importance, includ ing functions now assigned to various other officers. In New England he was appointed by
the selectmen, in Virginia by the hundred, in other provinces or States chosen by the town. He not only made arrests, imprisoned, had right of search and executing processes, etc., but he was often tax collector, overseer of the roads, and even petty judge, and gave notice of town meetings. There was no legally defined scope of his duties, each community deciding them for itself, but the place was always concidered one of power and dignity. Philadelphia and New York had high constables, the latter up to about 1830, when his functions were given to the chief of police. The office of econstable of the commonwealth)) has also been created in sotne States. Consult Bacon, 'New Abridge ment of the Law); Dalton, (The Country Justice: Containing the Practice, Duty and Power of the Justices of the Peace.'