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Dayhoff: Changes in the form of Carroll County government come slowly | COMMENTARY

Since the late 1960s barrels of ink and antacid have been spilled on the discussions, hand-wringing and gnashing of teeth over what is the best form of government for Carroll County.

On Nov. 5, after more than a year or so of discussion, “Carroll County’s Board of County Commissioners tabled the idea of switching from being governed by a commission to a charter form of government. On Thursday, the county commissioners voted 3-2 against forming a committee to write a charter for the potential change,” according to an article in this newspaper by Penelope Blackwell.

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In recent history, one of the first organized efforts to bring charter government to Carroll County took place around 1967. In full disclosure I played a very minor research role in that effort — and in the 1992 effort to change the form of government to charter. I have written countless articles on the history of government in Carroll County. A portion of this discussion has been published before.

Folks have asked me what form of government I would prefer. I guess I would prefer the “B’s Coffee Shoppe” form of government. The era of Westminster’s “Greatest Generation Mayor and Council” elected officials lasted from 1961 through 1985.

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In those days, almost every morning, many of the city councilmembers, along with Carroll County and Maryland state elected officials would get together at B’s Coffee Shoppe, where O’Lordans Irish Pub is now located in the “old stone building” on Liberty Street.

The era of Westminster's "Greatest Generation Mayor and Council" elected officials lasted from 1961 through 1985. In those days, almost every morning, many of the city councilmembers, along with Carroll County and Maryland state elected officials would get together at "B's Coffee Shoppe," pictured here in a file photograph from 1978. It was located where O'Lordan's Irish Pub is now in the "old stone building" on Liberty Street. There, they would go over the day's events, meet with citizens and deliberate upon pressing issues. Having an opportunity to talk with an elected official was easy back then.
The era of Westminster's "Greatest Generation Mayor and Council" elected officials lasted from 1961 through 1985. In those days, almost every morning, many of the city councilmembers, along with Carroll County and Maryland state elected officials would get together at "B's Coffee Shoppe," pictured here in a file photograph from 1978. It was located where O'Lordan's Irish Pub is now in the "old stone building" on Liberty Street. There, they would go over the day's events, meet with citizens and deliberate upon pressing issues. Having an opportunity to talk with an elected official was easy back then.

There, they would go over the day’s events, meet with citizens and deliberate upon pressing issues. Having an opportunity to talk with an elected official was easy back then.

In 1968, voters in Carroll County rejected both charter government and code home rule. In 1984, code home rule was defeated. In 1992 charter government was defeated at the ballot box. In 1998, voters rejected a referendum to increase the Board of Commissioners to five at-large members and rejected a charter form of government.

No worries. This is not the first time folks in Carroll County have tried to change our form of government — and chances are it will not be the last. It usually takes about 50 years.

Before 1744, the predominant government in Carroll County was the Haudenosaunee Nation — the “Six Nations.” The Haudenosaunee played a key role in the evolution of American democracy.

Much of our current way of life is owed to the heritage and legacy of the Haudenosaunee Nation. Several main roads in Carroll County have their beginnings as Haudenosaunee trading routes. And several towns in Carroll County — Patapsco for example — had their beginnings as Haudenosaunee settlements.

It was not until after the Treaty of the Six Nations was signed on July 4, 1744, with the Haudenosaunee Nation, and the dispute over the Mason-Dixon Line was settled in 1767 that settlers started to come to Carroll County in greater numbers.

From 800 to approximately 1867, the boundaries and configuration of the “Six Nations” – the Haudenosaunee Confederation, constantly changed. This map depicts the make-up of the confederation from perhaps around 1500. The Haudenosaunee Constitution was divided into 117 articles. In the Constitutional Convention of May through September, 1787, the basis for the “federal system” of government advocated by Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson was based on the Haudenosaunee system of government. There is evidence, for example, that both Messrs. Jefferson and Franklin used material delineated in a famous speech made by the great Haudenosaunee “sachem” (chief,) Canassatego, in 1744 at the signing of the Treaty of Six Nations.
From 800 to approximately 1867, the boundaries and configuration of the “Six Nations” – the Haudenosaunee Confederation, constantly changed. This map depicts the make-up of the confederation from perhaps around 1500. The Haudenosaunee Constitution was divided into 117 articles. In the Constitutional Convention of May through September, 1787, the basis for the “federal system” of government advocated by Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson was based on the Haudenosaunee system of government. There is evidence, for example, that both Messrs. Jefferson and Franklin used material delineated in a famous speech made by the great Haudenosaunee “sachem” (chief,) Canassatego, in 1744 at the signing of the Treaty of Six Nations. (Courtesy photo)

The Treaty of Paris in 1763 signaled the end of the North American portion of a global war between France and England: the French and Indian War, 1754–63.

It was one of the last pieces of the puzzle enabling settlement in Carroll County with relative freedom from violence.

But the very first “settlers” were the Algonquians who arrived around 800 B.C. The original Algonquians divided into a number of distinct tribe-nations, which formed a multi-nation government under a constitution that dates to approximately Aug. 31, 1142.

The Algonquians called themselves the “Haudenosaunee” meaning “People of the Longhouse” and their government was one of the first true participatory democracies in history. It also incorporated full political and leadership rights for women.

The French term for the Six Nations confederacy was “Iroquois.” The original Carroll countians spoke one of many dialects of the Algonquian-Wakashan linguistic family of North America.

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The Six Nations consisted of “nation-states” made up from different areas governed by the Mohawks, Oneidas, Onondagas, Cayugas, Senecas, and the Tuscaroras. The Six Nations extended from Labrador to South Carolina.

Many historians to this day credit the multi-cultural and multi-lingual participatory democracy as exemplified by the Haudenosaunee Nation to be the inspiration for our nation’s founders' ideas for our system of government.

From 1659 to 1837, the eastern half of Carroll County was located in Baltimore County. From 1695, Prince George’s County governed the western portion of Carroll County until Dec. 10, 1748, when Frederick County was formed. In fact, when the property, “Whites Level,” which later become part of Westminster, was first purchased in 1733, it was actually part of Prince George’s County.

As early as 1785, citizens petitioned Maryland Gov. William Paca to form “Paca County” from parts of Frederick and Baltimore counties. In the Nov. 25, 1813, issue of the “Engine of Freedom,” a newspaper in “The Forks,” later known as Uniontown, wrote that a petition was being forwarded to the Maryland General Assembly to form “Union County,” with the county seat in Uniontown. The effort failed. On March 2, 1833, a bill passed the General Assembly authorizing a vote on forming Carroll County in October 1833. The vote failed, 593 to 554.

Finally, a bill was introduced in 1835 and passed the General Assembly on March 25, 1836, to form Carroll County. This act was confirmed on Jan. 19, 1837. It only took about 50 years, but Carroll countians had finally changed their government.

Kevin Dayhoff writes from Westminster. His Time Flies column appears every Sunday. Email him at kevindayhoff@gmail.com.

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