Benjamin Franklin Papers

Pennsylvania Assembly Committee: Report on the Laws, [19 January 1763]

Pennsylvania Assembly Committee: Report on the Laws

Printed in Votes and Proceedings of the House of Representatives, 1762–1763 (Philadelphia, 1763), p. 13.

Throughout Franklin’s absence in England he had been re-elected to the Assembly from the city of Philadelphia every October. When the House met on Jan. 10, 1763, he appeared to take his place for the first time in about five and three-quarters years, and at once resumed an active part in its work. During this session, which lasted until March 4, he served on eleven committees of varying importance, most of them concerned with the drafting of bills.7 One of the earliest of his committee assignments came on January 14 when he and two other members were directed to examine the laws and report “such as have been found defective or are near expiring, and require to be amended or revived.” The committee submitted a written report five days later.8

[January 19, 1763]

In Obedience to the Order of the House, we have inspected the Laws of this Province, and find that the Act to prevent Abuses in the Indian Trade, with its Supplement, expires in the Month of April next. We apprehend it to be a salutary Law, and submit it to the Consideration of the House, whether it may not be to continue it, with such Amendments as the Experience of the Commissioners, who have executed it, may enable them to suggest.9

That the Act directing the Choice of Inspectors for the Counties of Chester, Lancaster, &c. is expired.1

That the Act for regulating the nightly Watch, and enlightening the Streets of the City, with its Supplement, will expire at the End of the Sessions of Assembly next after the Fifteenth Day of September next.2

That the Act to regulate Waggoners, Carters, Draymen and Porters, in the City of Philadelphia, will expire the Sixth Day of April next.3

That the Act for establishing Courts of Judicature, appears to want some Alterations and Amendments.4

And your Committee are of Opinion, that if the several Acts now in Force for the Relief of the Poor were reduced into one general Law, with some Amendments, the same would be more intelligible, more easily executed, and of greater Utility to the Province.5

Submitted to the House, by

Benjamin Franklin,
Samuel Rhoads,
John Ross.

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

7For a listing of these committees and the duties with which they were charged, see BF’s Record of Service in the Assembly, 1751–64, above, IV, 176.

8Votes, 1762–63, pp. 9, 13. On BF’s two fellow committee members, Samuel Rhoads and John Ross, see above, II, 406 n; VI, 384 n.

9Gov. William Denny signed an act, April 8, 1758, “for Preventing Abuses in the Indian Trade,” which put the trade under the control of commissioners named in the act. A supplementary law of April 17, 1759, increased the capital which the commissioners might borrow to carry on the trade. Immediately after the reading of the present report the Assembly ordered the commissioners to present a representation on the state of the Indian trade; they did so on January 28, and on February 8 the House appointed a committee of eight members, including BF, to prepare a bill. The committee reported the bill on the 12th and it passed the Assembly on the 23d, but Governor Hamilton would not agree on the method of raising the necessary funds, so the measure failed. The Friendly Association for Regaining and Preserving Peace with the Indians then intervened; a new committee of seven, including BF, was appointed at the next session, March 29, and on the following day it presented a revised bill avoiding taxation; Hamilton accepted it and it became law on April 2. Votes, 1762–63, pp. 14, 17, 22, 25, 27, 30, 32–5, 39–41; Statutes at Large, Pa., V, 320–30, 396–400; VI, 283–93.

1An act for appointing inspectors of elections in Chester, Lancaster, York, Cumberland, Berks, and Northampton Counties was approved March 11, 1752, and renewed in 1755 and 1759. The Assembly appointed a committee to bring in a new bill not including Chester Co. on January 20, and the resulting measure was enacted March 4, 1763. Votes, 1762–63, pp. 14, 16, 17, 18, 19, 22, 35–6; Statutes at Large, Pa., V, 153–8, 195–6, 465–6; VI, 253–61.

2This act was first passed on Feb. 9, 1751; it was revised and renewed for seven years on Sept. 15, 1756. A short bill for continuing it was enacted Sept. 30, 1763, during BF’s absence in New England. Votes, 1762–63, pp. 54, 55, 57, 60, 64; Statutes at Large, Pa., v, 111–28, 224–43; VI, 309–10.

3First passed, March 14, 1761. A committee of five members, including BF, was appointed on Jan. 21, 1763, to bring in a new bill; it reported February 22, and the measure was enacted without conflict on March 4, 1763. Votes, 1762–63, pp. 14, 29, 30, 35–6; Statutes at Large, Pa., VI, 65–9, 249–50.

4On Sept. 29, 1759, Governor Denny approved a supplement to the act of 1722, “for Establishing Courts of Judicature in This Province,” which granted Pa. judges tenure during good behavior, but this was disallowed by the King in Council, Sept. 2, 1760 (above, IX, 205, 210). The act of 1759 had also extended the terms of the Court of Quarter Sessions in Bucks and Chester Counties. On Jan. 21, 1763, the Assembly appointed a committee of ten members, including BF, to bring in two bills, one for regulating the courts of judicature and the other for limiting the continuation of actions in the courts, but neither bill became law. The first was presented January 26 (its terms are not stated); it was debated on February 10 and 24 and then tabled, but an unnamed member thereupon presented a bill confined to enlarging the time for holding the Quarter Sessions in Bucks and Chester Counties, and this was enacted on March 4. The committee presented a bill to limit the continuation of actions on February 4 and this measure passed the Assembly, but the governor rejected it on the ground that such matters should be left to the discretion of the judges. Votes, 1762–63, pp. 14, 17, 21, 23, 24, 26, 31, 32, 36; Statutes at Large, Pa., V, 462–5; VI, 273–4.

5The Assembly appointed a committee of thirteen members, including BF, for this purpose on January 21, but the committee made no report during the life of this Assembly. Votes, 1762–63, p. 14.

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