Thomas Jefferson Papers
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1. Bill Declaring When Laws Shall Be in Force, 1779

1. Bill Declaring When Laws Shall Be in Force

To prevent all Doubt concerning the Time at which the Laws of this Commonwealth shall take place, and be in Force Be it enacted by the General Assembly, that all Laws, or Acts of Assembly, which shall be made or passed during this, or any future Session, shall take place, and be in Force, from and after the last Day of that Session of Assembly in which they shall have been respectively made or passed, and not sooner: Provided nevertheless, that where any Law, or Act of Assembly, shall particularly declare or specify the certain Date, or Time, at which it is to take Place, or be in Force, that such Law, or Act of Assembly, shall accordingly take Place, and be in Force, from and after the Date, or Time, so declared, or specified, and not otherwise.

And for the more effectual publication of the Laws, and the Information of the People; Be it enacted that the Clerk of every County, after every Session of General Assembly, so soon as he shall have received the Laws made, and passed, in such Session, shall deliver them to the Sherif of his County, taking his Receipt for the same, and such Sherif shall, and he is hereby required, at the next Court after such Laws shall have come to his Hands, and having first made due Proclamation at the Court-House Door, to cause all the said Laws to be publickly and distinctly read, and thereafter return them to the Clerk’s office of his County.

MS (DLC); two pages, entirely in George Mason’s hand. Endorsed: “A Bill declaring from what time the Laws passed in each Session of Assembly shall take Place, and be in Force; and for the more effectual Publication of the same.”

It is probable that this Bill was drawn by Mason for the Report of the Committee of Revisors, but there is no positive evidence to this effect. Its presence among TJ’s papers and its object of providing for “the more effectual publication of the Laws, and the Information of the People” seem to be plausible reasons for placing this draft in the revision of 1779. The Committee of Revisors, however, made no use of the Bill and it was never acted upon. Bill No. 2, above, provided that Acts of Assembly should commence and be in force from the date of passage, unless an Act specifically named another date (see Hening, description begins William W. Hening, The Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia description ends xii, 128–9). This continued to be law in Virginia (The Code of Virginia, Richmond, 1849, p. 98).

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