COUNTY, in the United States, an ad ministrative subdivision of each State, inter mediate between the body as a whole and the town, parish or municipality In the North (ex cept the wild northern parts of Maine and New Hampshire), and the thickly settled States of the central West, it is an aggregation of actual towns, there being no county land which is not a part of sonic town. In the South and the more sparsely settled Western States, the town is a piece cut from the county, the greater part of which may be entirely unorganized, except as divided by the State into artificial sections for administrative convenience or the saving of future boundary disputes; townships (as also in Aroostook County, Me.), military districts as in Georgia, as in Louisiana, 'beats" as in Mississippi, etc. The relations of the county to the political and social life of the community also vary widely in different sec tions, owing to historic development. In New England it is of less consequence than any where else in the United States: a mere arti ficial group of towns, which might be regrouped at any time with little disturbance. Here it has three commissioners, who act as its attorneys and representatives, as well as executive offi cers, apportion the taxes among the towns, care for highways, etc. The old militia regi ment, of which the town train-bands were com panies, has disappeared; the County Court has been replaced by sessions of the State Superior Court on circuit; there are, as of old, a sheriff, courthouse, and jail, a Probate Court, registry of deeds, etc. The representative system here is not based in the least on the counties, but on the towns in general, singly for the lower house in the State, and grouped into "senatorial districts" for the upper. Hence there is but lan guid interest in county matters, and no feeling of county unity. But in the Middle and South ern States the county is a much more integral part of daily life; it is the basis of representa tion, and often the real unit of growth and settlement. In the Middle States the towns were the original centres of settlement, as in New England, but they have not reduced the coun ties to insignificance; on the contrary, the county-seat is usually the chief centre of busi ness and political interest, and the coveted spot at which to edit a newspaper sure of the largest circulation — in New England the county-seat has no advantages as such to make it a news paper focus, and frequently is an insignificant place where none is published — and the county meetings of the town boards of supervisors de termine the important actions of the county population. In the South, generally, the county
was originally not only the most important, but almost the one subordinate unit of settle meet, owing to the paucity of towns due to the plantation system. The county regiment, in stead of being made up of town companies, was divided into district bands for convenience of drill and assemblage; the local manaement was mainly by county instead of town officers; the magistracies were mostly self-perpetuating, in the hands of a few leading families, instead of being elective or even appointive. The very settlements intended for towns often did not grow into such, but spread into disconnected plantations, and became counties; as James City County and Charles City County, Va. In South Carolina there were two systems — the county in the low country, the district in the Piedmont region; after the war the district system was extended over the whole State; in 1868 it was abolished and the whole State divided into counties. But these are purely artificial crea tions, and not even created with good judgment ; they are of immense size, nearly double those in Massachusetts or Connecticut, and treble those in Virginia or Kentucky; Charleston County is larger than Rhode Island. They have no courts, being grouped into judicial circuits. The real subdivision seems likely to take place within them. In Louisiana the corresponding divisions are called parishes instead of counties. The institution was brought from England by the first settlers: the county there was an old tribal settlement, sometimes a whole kingdom as in Kent, the counties or shires being gradually fused into the kingdom. The shires are there fore not divisions made in the kingdom, but small governments whose coalescence made the state. The name "county° was given them after the Norman Conquest, from their likeness to the counts' governments on the continent. At first here the English organization was copied: there were courts called quarter-sessions, jus tices of the peace with extensive powers, lieu tenants, coroners or etc. Virginia had the county in 1634, Maryland in 1638, Mas sachusetts in 1643. Consult Fiske, 'Civil Gov ernment in the United States) (1890) ; Pollock and Maitland, of English Law) (Bos ton 1899).