Bill for Giving the Members of the General Assembly an Adequate Allowance
[12 December 1778]
Whereas it is just that the members of General assembly, delegated by the people to transact for them the legislative business, should, while attending that business, have their reasonable sustenance defrayed, dedicating to the public service their time and labors freely and without account: and it is also expedient that the public councils should not be deprived of the aid of good and able men, who might be deterred from entering into them by the insufficiency of their private fortunes to bear the extraordinary expences they must necessarily incur:
And it being inconsistent with the principles of civil liberty, and contrary to the natural rights of the other members of the society, that any body of men therein should have authority to enlarge their own powers, prerogatives, or emoluments without restraint, the said General assembly cannot at their own will increase the allowance which their members are to draw from the public treasury for their expences while on assembly; but to enable them so to do, an application to the body of the people has become necessary:
And such application having been accordingly made to the freeholders of the several counties, and they having thereupon consented that the said allowance shall be enlarged, and authorized and instructed their members to enlarge the same for themselves and the members of all future assemblies, to pounds1 of nett tobacco by the day for attendance on assembly, and to ℔s2 of like tobacco for every mile they must necessarily travel going to or from the same, together with their ferriages, to be paid in money out of the public treasury at such rate as shall be estimated by the court of appeals3 at their session next before the meeting of every session of assembly, governing themselves in the said estimate by the worth of the said tobacco, and the competence of the same to defray the necessary expences of travelling and attendance:
Be it therefore enacted by the General assembly by express authority and instruction from the body of the people that the allowance to the several members of the present and of all future general assemblies shall be of pounds1 of tobacco by the day for attendance on the said assemblies, ℔s2 of the like tobacco for every mile they must necessarily travel going to or from the same, together with their ferriages; to be paid to them in money out of the public treasury at such rate as shall be estimated by the court of appeals3 at their session next before the meeting of each respective session of assembly, governing themselves in the said estimate by the worth of the said tobacco and the competence of the same to defray the necessary expences of travelling and attendance.
MS (Vi); in TJ’s hand. Endorsed by him: “A Bill for giving the members of the General assembly an adequate allowance for their services.” Docketed by Edmund Randolph: “Decr. 12. 1778. Read the first time. Decr. 14. read second & comd. to whole to morrow. Decr. 18. To be engd. & printed.” Broadside, printed as ordered, entitled: “An Act for giving the members of the General Assembly an adequate allowance for their services.” (This broadside is not recorded in the standard bibliographies.) The latter is attached to the MS copy of the Report of the Committee of Revisors, 18 June 1779 (Vi), where the words “An Act” are crossed out and “A Bill” inserted by hand.
On 8 Dec. 1778 the Committee on Propositions and Grievances brought in several resolutions, the first of which was to the effect that that part of the remonstrances of the freeholders of Halifax and Prince William counties praying for a repeal of the Act of the previous session granting an increase in allowance to members of the General Assembly (Hening, description begins William W. Hening, The Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia description ends ix, 466–7, an Act which provided a salary of twenty shillings per day while attending, plus the same rate per diem while traveling to and from the Assembly, and ferriage costs) was reasonable. The House laid this resolution on the table but immediately thereafter appointed a committee of six, of which TJ was chairman, to bring in a Bill “for giving the members of the General Assembly an adequate allowance for their services.” The Bill was introduced by George Mason on 12 Dec.; on 14 Dec. it was read the second time and committed to the committee of the whole, where it was debated on 15, 17, and 18 Dec. and amended. On the last date the House ordered the Bill engrossed and, in accordance with the broad philosophy stated in the preamble, directed 175 copies to be printed for the use of members of both houses. Members were directed to “consult with their constituents, during the recess of Assembly, on the justice and expediency of passing the bill … and procure from them instructions whether or not the said bill shall be passed” (JHD description begins Journal of the House of Delegates of the Commonwealth of Virginia (cited by session and date of publication) description ends , Oct. 1778, 1827 edn., p. 104, 111, 112, 117, 121, 123). At the next session the delegates reported the views of their constituents, which were favorable to the increase, and on 25 May 1779 the House appointed a committee to bring in a Bill; TJ was a member of this committee. The Bill, identical to the one that TJ had drawn up the previous session, was reported the same day. It was passed promptly, without amendment, and agreed to by the Senate on 1 June (same, May 1779, p. 21, 23, 26, 27, 29). The Act as adopted is in Hening, description begins William W. Hening, The Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia description ends x, 29–30.
1. The broadside (and, of course, the Act as adopted) reads: “fifty pounds.”
2. The broadside (and the Act as adopted) reads: “two pounds.”
3. This was amended on 18 Dec. 1778 to read (as it does in the broadside and in the Act): “by the grand jury at the session of the General Court next before.”