From Hardin Burnley
Richmond Decr. the 15th. 1787
The Assembly have proceeded with so much tardiness that notwithstanding the length of time we have been convened our Journals furnish but little which would merit your attention. We have been more engaged in rejecting than in adopting the various political projects which have been proposed. The instalment plan was at first received with much seeming approbation. But ever since its first introduction its decline has been gradual & its death has at length become certain.
The scheme at present proposed to be substituted in its place is to this effect. When an execution is levied the property must be sold if it will command three fourths of its value, if not the Debtor will be suffered to replevy his property on giving bond & security for the Debt & Costs payable in twelve Months, if neither of these take place the property is to be sold at twelve months credit; in either of which Cases the bonds so taken will have the force of Judgments on which no appeal or replevy will be allowed.1 A Bill for the establishment of district Courts is now before the house. These two bills are intended as a kind of barter between the Creditor & Debtor & are to be so mutually dependant on each other that the fate of the one will determine that of the other. A Collection of pieces on the federal Constitution is just published by Davis2 one of which I should have inclosed you but am informed that Colo. Barbour has already done it. Another Collection is now on foot by Mr. Dixon.3 This I shall bring to Orange with me & shall be submitted to your perusal. It is [at] present expected that one half the tax on young Negroes & white tytheables will be taken off.4 Nothing will be done by this assembly which will injure the credit of public securities. With the highest esteem for yourself & family I remain Dr. Sir yr. Most Obt. Servt.
RC (DLC). Docketed by JM.
1. See “An act directing the mode of proceeding under certain executions” (Hening, Statutes description begins William Waller Hening, ed., The Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia, from the First Session of the Legislature, in the Year 1619 (13 vols.; Richmond and Philadelphia, 1819–23). description ends , XII, 457–62). As Joseph Jones pointed out, the “principal object” of the bill was to appoint and authorize commissioners (instead of the county sheriff) to determine whether a debtor’s property could be sold for three-fourths its value to satisfy claims (Jones to JM, 18 Dec. 1787). If the property could not be sold at such a price, the debtor was allowed to recover his property for twelve months (instead of three), when the claim again became due.
2. Augustine Davis (d. 1825) was publisher of the Va. Independent Chronicle description begins Virginia Independent Chronicle (Richmond: Augustine Davis, 1786–90). Beginning on 13 May 1789 entitled, Virginia Independent Chronicle, and General Advertiser. description ends . The collection of pieces was undoubtedly Various Extracts on the Fœderal Government (Stuart to JM, 9 Nov. 1787 and n. 2). Included in the pamphlet, which attempted to balance opposing views, were the letters of “An American Citizen” (Tench Coxe), the first two numbers of “The Centinel” (Samuel Bryan), James Wilson’s speech to the citizens of Philadelphia, Richard Henry Lee’s letter to Edmund Randolph of 16 Oct. 1787, Elbridge Gerry’s objections to the Constitution, and Benjamin Franklin’s last speech at the Federal Convention.
3. John Dixon (1741–1791) was printer for the commonwealth. His collection is not listed in Evans’s American Bibliography.
4. The revenue act of 1 Jan. 1788 repealed entirely the “very burthensome” poll taxes on white tithables—free males above the age of twenty-one—and on slaves under the age of sixteen. At the same time, however, the act provided for a future tax of ten shillings on slaves above the age of twelve (Hening, Statutes description begins William Waller Hening, ed., The Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia, from the First Session of the Legislature, in the Year 1619 (13 vols.; Richmond and Philadelphia, 1819–23). description ends , XII, 431).