constitutional; at other times, when a matter was desirable, but of questionable legality, the selectmen were directed ‘to petition the General Court for the passage of an act which would meet the case.’
Indeed, the greater part of the acts passed by the Legislature in relation to the war, such as those for the payment of bounties, and of State aid, were but the embodiment in a legal form of ideas and suggestions expressed at these primary meetings; and this leads us to make a statement of the provisions of a few of those acts which were passed, having relation to the cities and towns, with a view to regulate and make equal the payment of aid to soldiers' families, and as far as possible the payment of bounties to volunteers.
The extra session of the Legislature, which met on the 14th of May, 1861, passed ‘an act in aid of the families of volunteers and for other purposes,’ which provided that towns and cities might raise money by taxation, to provide assistance for the families of volunteers and those dependent upon them for support, but restricted the amount to twelve dollars a month to any one family;1
and the money so applied was to be reimbursed annually to each city and town from the treasury of the Commonwealth
, from which fact it was called ‘State Aid.’
One purpose of this act was to prevent towns from too much extravagance in providing for the dependants of the soldiers, which some of them at the commencement of the war were inclined to do. Another purpose was to incite to action towns which might not, otherwise, make suitable provision for these dependants, knowing that, if they did, the money expended would be reimbursed to them by the Commonwealth
This act, without material change, continued in force all through the Rebellion
, and in a modified form it still remains upon our statute-book.
It was one of the wisest State measures of the war. The amount of money paid by each city and town for State aid during each of the four years of the war, and afterwards refunded by the Commonwealth
, will be found in these pages as part of the record of each city and town, the aggregate amount of which during the four years was $8,348,880.63.