William Holmes, C.P.A. PEAT, MARWICK, MITCHELL, AND CO.
AN 18TH CENTURY ACCOUNTING PROJECTION FROM PLYMOUTH, MASSACHUSETTS
Abstract: A cost study for the 1768 Plymouth Town Meeting.
The New England town meeting is undoubtedly the oldest show on the American road and, at least in the smaller towns, can still on occasion erupt with fire and brimstone after three hundred odd years. Each year a new cast of local office-seekers play the old traditional roles of Constable, Selectman, Surveyor of Highways, and Fence Viewers and other parts, some of which can be found in the records of small towns in England back into the middle ages.
Every town these days has a Planning Committee, of which there are two distinct types. The first type assumes the task of studying means for moving the town forward, attracting new industry, and broadening the tax base. The second type, indigenous to older wealthy towns, sets itself just as assiduously to means for not mov-ing the town forward, not attracting new industry, and generally leaving things alone.
I suppose most of us would associate Planning Committees with the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The title has about it the flavor of modern management and business education. We would be wrong, though! Although not so designating them, New England towns from the early Colonial days formed the habit of appointing committees to look into projects of one kind or another, often associated with defenses against the Indians or putting the able-bodied poor to work; and some of their reports show com-mendable Yankee business acumen. The report of one such com-mittee appears in the records of the Town Meeting of Plymouth, Massachusetts for the year 1768.
"We the Subscribers a Committee Chosen by the Town to Con-sider the affair whether the town will again Improve it again by Keeping Sheep thereon do Report as follows—
We would propose that the Scheme for Keeping Sheep on sd Land be renewed & that the Town as a Town Undertake the Affair