Thomas Jefferson Papers

Bill for Suspending Executions for Debts, [6 December 1776]

Bill for Suspending Executions for Debts

Whereas by the expiration of the act for the regulating and collecting certain officers fees, and by the troubles which have since subsisted in this country the administration of justice hath been in a great measure suspended; and altho’ it is thought proper to revive and establish the courts of justice for the purpose of securing and preserving internal peace and good order, of determining disputed rights and titles, and of ascertaining and securing just debts and unsettled demands which might otherwise be lost by the death of witnesses or insolvency of debtors; yet nevertheless it may produce great oppression and ruin to debtors to suffer executions to be levied or decrees to be inforced, during the present limited and uncertain state of our trade, for debts heretofore contracted: Be it therefore enacted by the General assembly of the Commonwealth of Virginia that when judgment shall be entered or decree passed in any court of record for the recovery of money due from the defendant or defendants before the passing of this act, if such defendant or defendants shall give to the said court good and sufficient security1 for paiment of the money1 whensoever by a restoration of trade or from other circumstances it shall appear proper to the General assembly to pass an act for levying executions or enforcing decrees for money then such court shall order execution of the said judgment or process for enforcing the said decree to be stayed, entering of record the recognisance of such security,1 so that if the money be not paid when directed by such future act of assembly, a Scire facias may issue thereon2 without the necessity of commencing a new suit.

Dft (Vi). Docketed in TJ’s hand: “A Bill for suspending executions for Debts” and, in a clerk’s hand: “Decr. 6th Read 1st. Time Decr. 9th Read 2d. & committed to Com: of the whole Decr. 13 Order put off til next session.”

TJ was appointed to the committee to bring in the Bill, 5 Dec., and Mason introduced it on 6 Dec. This compromise measure, intended to relieve the fear that with the opening of the courts debtors would be ruined by executions, failed, but see under 14 Jan. 1778, “An act to open the courts of justice and to revive and amend an act for better regulating and collecting certain officers fees,” and also the Act of the same session for sequestering British Property and enabling British debts to be paid into the loan office (JHD description begins Journal of the House of Delegates of the Commonwealth of Virginia (cited by session and date of publication) description ends , Oct. 1776, 1828 edn., p. 83, 85, 89, 96; Malone, Jefferson, I, 259; Hening, description begins William W. Hening, The Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia description ends ix, 368–9, 377–80; JHD description begins Journal of the House of Delegates of the Commonwealth of Virginia (cited by session and date of publication) description ends , Oct. 1777, 1827 edn., p. 114).

1Evidently the words underscored were the object of some amendments offered in the committee of the whole, but there is no means of ascertaining what changes were intended.

2A caret inserted here suggests that TJ intended to designate another amendment at this point.

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