New Hampshire Glossary: Constable

constable – in early times, an elected official of a town, with the responsibility of calling (“warning”) town meetings, keeping the peace, and collecting taxes.

He was elected during town meeting, had the power to arrest and attach goods of delinquent taxpayers, enforce “warnings out” issued by the selectmen, and was expected to serve without pay unless excused from service. Fines, punishment, restoration of property, and payment of debts were matters handled by the constable with warrants issued by a local magistrate. In the early records of the town of Goffstown, each constable was paid $10.00 per year, excluding expenses. Constables were the precursors of the current police departments.

In 1808 the term “Police Officer” first appears in Portsmouth, NH records. The early records of the New Hampshire State Police, designated them as “Constable(s) of the State.”


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