CONSTABLE, noun [Latin , a stable; count of the stable.]
1. The Lord High constable of England, the seventh officer of the crown. He had the care of the common peace, in deeds of arms, and matters of war; being a judge of the court of chivalry, now called the court of honor. To this officer and to the Earl marshal belonged the cognizance of the contracts, deeds of arms, without the realm, and combats and blazonry within the realm. The power of this officer was so great and so improperly used, that it was abridged by the 13th Richard II., and was afterwards forfeited in the person of Edward Stafford, duke of Buckingham, in 1521. It has never been granted to any person, since that time, except pro hac vice, or on a particular occasion.
2. An officer of the peace. In England, there are high constables, petty constables, and constables of London. The high constables are chosen at the court leets of the franchise or hundred over which they preside, or in default of that, by the justices of the quarter sessions, and are removable by the same authority that appoints them. The petty constables are chosen by the jury of the court leet, or if no court is held, they are appointed by two justices of the peace. In London, a constable is nominated in each precinct by the inhabitants, and confirmed at the court of wardmote. The duty of constables is to keep the peace, and for this purpose they are invested with the power of arresting and imprisoning, and of breaking open houses.
In the United States, constables are town or city officers of the peace, with powers similar to those possessed by the constables in Great Britain. They are invested also with powers to execute civil as well as criminal process, and to levy executions. In New England, they are elected by the inhabitants of towns in legal meeting.
To overrun the constable to spend more than a man is worth or can pay; a vulgar phrase.