Thomas Jefferson Papers

II. Catalogue of Bills Prepared by the Committee of Revisors, 1–5 June 1779

II. Catalogue of Bills Prepared by the Committee of Revisors

A CATALOGUE of BILLS prepared by the Committee
for the revision of the laws

1. A Bill To arrange the counties into Senatorial districts.
2. Concerning the election of members of General Assembly.1
3. Empowering one of the Privy Council to officiate in certain cases as Lieutenant Governor.
4. To empower the Governor with advice of the Privy Council to lay embargoes.
5. For regulating and disciplining the militia.2
6. Making provision against invasions and insurrections.
7. Giving certain powers to the Governor and Council for a limitted time.
8. Establishing a board of war.3
9. Establishing a board of trade.4
10. For the annual appointment of Delegates to Congress.5
11. For establishing a board of Auditors.
12. For appointing a Treasurer.
13. For appointing Naval Officers.6
14. For the appointment of Clerks to the Governor and Council.
15. For the enlistment of soldiers, sailors, and marines.7
16. For apprehending deserters and preventing the loss of arms and other things delivered to soldiers.8
17. Concerning seamen.
18. For supplying the public with lead.
19. For establishing cross posts.9
20. Directing the course of descents.
21. Concerning wills, the distribution of intestates estates, and the duty of Executors and Administrators.
22. For regulating conveyances.
23. Securing the rights derived from grants to aliens.
24. Concerning escheators.10
25. To prevent frauds and perjuries.
26. Of mortmain.
27. Concerning dower and jointure of widows.
28. For preservation of the estates of ideots and lunatics.
29. A Bill Providing that wrongful alienations of lands shall be void so far as they be wrongful.
30. For amending the act intituled an act for raising a supply of money for public exigencies.
31. For levying county rates.
32. For support of the poor.11
33. For ascertaining and collecting certain officers fees.
34. Declaring bills of credit to be equal to gold and silver coin of the same denominations.
35. To prevent the circulation of private bank notes.
36. For withholding British property to indemnify citizens who may suffer by confiscation and to prevent succour to the enemy thereby.
37. To prevent lossess by pirates and enemies on the high seas.
38. For preservation of vessels wrecked or in distress and of their crews and cargoes.
39. Concerning strays.
40. For restitution of stolen goods.
41. For preventing infection of the horned cattle.
42. For improving the breed of horses.
43. For preserving the breed of deer.12
44. For preventing frauds by the dealers in certain commodities.
45. For licensing and regulating taverns.
46. Concerning public roads.
47. Establishing public ferries.
48. Concerning mill-dams and other obstructions of water courses.
49. For unlading ballast and burial of dead bodies from on board ships.
50. Concerning public store-houses.
51. Concerning slaves.
52. Concerning servants.
53. For apprehending and securing runaways.
54. Declaring what persons shall be deemed mulattoes.
55. Declaring who shall be deemed citizens of this commonwealth.13
56. Concerning aliens.
57. Declaring that none shall be condemned without trial and that justice shall not be sold or deferred.
58. Directing what prisoners shall be let to bail.
59. A Bill For granting writs of habeas corpus.
60. Concerning guardians, infants, masters, and apprentices.
61. To enable guardians and committees to perform certain acts for the benefit of those who are under their care.
62. For the restraint, maintenance and cure of persons not sound in mind.
63. For registering births and deaths.
64. For proportioning crimes and punishments in cases heretofore capital.
65. For punishing persons guilty of certain forgeries.14
66. Concerning treasons, felonies and other offences committed out of the jurisdiction of this commonwealth.
67. Concerning truces, safe conducts, passports, licenses, and letters of marque.
68. For the employment, government, and support of male-factors condemned to labor for the commonwealth.
69. To encourage the apprehending of horse-stealers.
70. For preserving the privileges of Ambassadors.
71. For the suppression and punishment of riots, routs, and unlawful assemblies.
72. Forbidding and punishing affrays.
73. Against conspirators.
74. Against conveying or taking pretensed titles.
75. To punish bribery and extortion.
76. Prescribing the punishments of those who sell unwholesome meat or drink.
77. To prevent the spreading of the small-pox.
78. For compelling vessels and persons coming and goods brought from infected places to perform quarentine.
79. For the more general diffusion of knowledge.
80. For amending the constitution of the college of William and Mary and substituting more certain revenues for its support.
81. For establishing a public library.
82. For establishing religious freedom.15
83. For saving the property of the church heretofore by law established.16
84. For punishing disturbers of religious worship and sabbath breakers.
85. A Bill For appointing days of public fasting and thanksgiving.
86. Annulling marriages prohibited by the levitical law and appointing the mode of solemnizing lawful marriage.
87. Against usury.
88. To prevent gaming.17
89. To prevent forestalling, regrating, and engrossing and sale by auction.
90. Constituting the High Court of Chancery.
91. Constituting the General Court.
92. Constituting the Court of Admiralty.18
93. Constituting the Court of Appeals.18
94. For constituting Courts Marshall.19
95. For constituting Justices of the Peace.
96. Concerning sheriffs.
97. For licensing council, attornies at law and proctors.
98. Prescribing the oath of fidelity and the oaths of certain public officers.20
99. To prevent the sale of public offices.
100. Directing the method of proceeding upon impeachments.
101. For regulating proceedings in courts of equity.
102. For regulating proceedings in courts of common law.
103. Directing the method of proceeding against, and trying free persons charged with certain crimes.
104. Directing the method of trying slaves charged with treason or felony.
105. For reforming the method of proceeding in writs of right.
106. Concerning partitions and joint rights.
107. For the speedy determination of suits wherein foreigners are parties.
108. For speedy recovery of money due from certain persons to the public.
109. For recovering demands of small value in a summary way.
110. Providing that actions popular, prosecuted by collusion, shall be no bar to those which be pursued with good faith.
111. For preventing vexatious and malicious prosecutions, and moderating amercements.
112. A Bill Providing a mean to help and speed poor persons in their suits.
113. Providing that an infant may sue by21 his next friend.
114. Declaring when the death of persons absenting themselves shall be presumed.
115. Prescribing a method of protesting inland bills of exchange and allowing assignees of obligations to bring actions thereupon in their own names.
116. For limitation of actions.
117. For granting attachments against the estates of debtors removing privately or absconding.22
118. Concerning inquests.
119. Permitting those who will not take oaths to be otherwise qualified.23
120. For regulating the commencement of the year and the computation of time.
121. Allowing a bill of exceptions to be sealed.
122. For enforcing performance of awards made by rule of court.
123. Concerning executions.
124. Concerning rents and distresses.
125. Providing remedy and punishment in cases of forcible entries and detainers.
126. Repealing certain acts of Parliament and of General Assembly.

Report description begins Report of the Committee of Revisors Appointed by the General Assembly of Virginia in MDCCLXXVI, Richmond, 1784 description ends , p. 4–5; marginal notations in TJ’s hand as indicated below in note 1. Also, there are two MS copies, referred to where necessary in the notes below as MS (1) and MS (2), as follows: (1) MS (Vi); six pages. This is a clerk’s copy, but the title and all numbers are in TJ’s hand, as well as the marginal and other additions noted below. This, obviously, is the copy which John Beckley employed in 1784 in preparing the Report description begins Report of the Committee of Revisors Appointed by the General Assembly of Virginia in MDCCLXXVI, Richmond, 1784 description ends . MS is endorsed in a clerk’s hand: “A List of Bills prepared by the Committee <for the Revision of the Laws> of Revisors. 1778.” Despite this date, this MS was drawn up during the session of May 1779, probably between 1 June and 5 June, as the notes below indicate. (2) MS (ViU), four pages, entirely in TJ’s hand. This MS catalogue accompanies the MS of the sixty-five bills described in Editorial Note above. Also, as indicated by the notes below, this MS was annotated by TJ at the May 1779 session, and, as indicated in note 6, below, MS (1) was obviously copied from MS (2). These two MSS agree with the text of the catalogue as printed in the Report description begins Report of the Committee of Revisors Appointed by the General Assembly of Virginia in MDCCLXXVI, Richmond, 1784 description ends , except for the differences noted below.

1Report description begins Report of the Committee of Revisors Appointed by the General Assembly of Virginia in MDCCLXXVI, Richmond, 1784 description ends , p. 4, has a check mark (✓) preceding the title of this and the following bills, after each of which TJ wrote “passd.” except that, after Bill No. 32, he wrote “passd. with great alterns.”: Nos. 3, 12, 14, 17, 20, 21, 22, 24, 25, 27, 28, 29, 32, 35, 37, 39, 40, 41, 42, 45, 48, 49, 51, 52, 53, 54, 56, 57, 58, 60, 61, and 62. These notations were obviously made some time after the close of the Oct. 1785 session and before that of Oct. 1786; for all of the 33 bills checked and noted by TJ were passed at the Oct. 1785 session. Surprisingly, TJ failed to check the only other bills passed at the Oct. 1785 session: No. 46 and No. 82, the latter being the Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom.

2Both MSS have in the margin the following notation by TJ: “delivd. to a member.” (See letter of TJ and Wythe to Speaker of House, 18 June 1779.) This Bill was brought in but not passed in 1779.

3Both MSS have the following in TJ’s hand in the margin: “passd.” Bill was presented by TJ 8 May 1779. MS (2) has the following after the title: “V.V.1.” It also has a similar device affixed to each of the titles of bills indicated by the numbers in parentheses: (9):V.V.2; (10):U.U.3; (11):F.F.4; (14):W.W.3; (15):V.V.4; (19):R.R.3; (20):A.1; (24):L.2; (26):R.2.; (27):K.1.; (28):V.1.; (29):J.4.; (30):U.U.1.; (31):P.P.1.; (32):P.P.3.; (37):F.4.; (40):U.3.; (46):N.N.3; (48):M.M.2.; (51):T.T.1.; (52):S.S.3.; (55):G.2.; (56):G.4.; (57):C.2.; (58):Q.4.; (64):Z.3.; (66):F.2.; (67):E.4.; (68):F.F.1.; (70):E.3.; (71):V.2.; (72):W.3.; (73):I.3.; (74):H.4.; (75):M.3.; (76):H.3.; (79):H.H.2.; (80):C.C.3.; (81):R.R.1.; (82):L.L.1.; (83):L.L.4.; (84):D.3.; (94):I.3.; (110):C.1.; (112):S.3.; (113):T.2.; (121):M.1.; (125):N.1.

4Both MSS have the following in TJ’s hand in the margin: “passd.” Bill was presented by TJ 12 May 1779.

5Both MSS have the following in TJ’s hand in the margin: “passd.” Bill was presented by TJ 17 May 1779.

6MS (2) has the following deleted at this point: “13. for establishing a loan office. [Act 1778. c. 9.].” This, of course, meant that originally MS (2) had a total of 127 Bills (actually 128; see note 12, below). TJ had already numbered each of these from 1 to 127; consequently, after he had made this deletion, he renumbered Bills No. 14 to 127 to accord with Nos. 13 to 126 as given in Report description begins Report of the Committee of Revisors Appointed by the General Assembly of Virginia in MDCCLXXVI, Richmond, 1784 description ends and in MS (1). Since there was no such deletion or renumbering in MS (1), it is obvious that it was copied from MS (2).

7MS (1) has the following in TJ’s hand in the margin: “passd.” Bill presented by TJ 21 May 1779.

8MS (2) originally read: “to discourage desertion …” but this was altered by TJ to read as above.

9MS (1) has the following in TJ’s hand: “presentd.” Bill was presented by TJ 18 May 1779, passed by the House 26 May, and rejected by the Senate 5 June. This marginal note must, therefore, have been made before 5 June 1779; see note 13, below.

10MS (1) has “presentd” in TJ’s hand. This Bill was presented 27 May.

11This title is in TJ’s hand in MS (1). The clerk had mistakenly added it to the preceding title, causing that to read “for levying county rates for support of the poor.”

12MS (2) has the deleted title of another Bill following this one: “for regulating the inspection of tobacco.” There is no number prefixed to this deleted title; hence the deletion was made before the numbering from 1 to 127 as indicated in note 6 above, whereas the deletion described in that note was made after the numbering. Since, as indicated in note 13 below, this renumbering was done after the marginalia were written, it follows that these two Bills were struck from the list by TJ somewhere around 1–5 June (see notes 6 and 9, above). The titles of Bills No. 17, 25, 53, 62, and 104 were interlined in MS (2) by TJ; this may possibly mean that he decided to add them to the Report of the Committee of Revisors just as, at the last moment, he decided to strike two from the list.

13TJ added the following in margin of MS (2): “delivd. to a member.” This Bill was turned over to George Mason on 1 June 1779 (see notes to Bill No. 55) when TJ became governor. Now, in every case except this and one other (see note 15, below), the renumbering described in note 6, above, was done by crossing out the old number and writing the new number in front of it. This resulted in a column of crossed-out numbers preceded by a parallel column of new numbers. In the case of Bill No. 55, however, TJ made the change by superimposing the new number on the old. This was obviously done to allow room in the margin for the words “delivd. to a member,” for the word “member” falls in the middle of the space that would have been occupied by the new number “55” if it had been placed as all others. From this it follows, of course, that the words “delivd. to a member” were already there before TJ renumbered the bills. Now these marginal notes were written not earlier than 1 June or later than 5 June 1779 (see note 9, above). Hence bills described in notes 6 and 12, above, were clearly struck from the Report by TJ (possibly in consultation with George Wythe) during the first week of June 1779 and just before the two men submitted their shortened list of bills to the General Assembly. For MS (1) was copied from MS (2) before any numbering had been made on the latter and after two of these titles had been struck from it. TJ then prefixed the correct and final numbers 1 to 126 to the titles of MS (1).

14MS (2) has the following in the margin: “brought in.” The Bill was introduced 26 May 1779 and passed 14 June.

15The words “delivd to a member” are written in the margin of MS (2), the word “member” being written in a minuscule hand beneath the new number “82” (see note 13, above). Bill was introduced on 13 June 1779 (see notes to Bill No. 82).

16The words “delivd to a member” are written in the margin of MS (2) but the new number “83” was superimposed on the old and the marginal phrase placed as in the instance described in note 13, above. This was introduced by John Harvie 13 June 1779, but it did not get beyond the first reading (see notes to Bill No. 83).

17The word “passd.” is written in margin of MS (2). This Act was not passed until the Oct. 1779 session (see notes to Bill No. 88). This notation must have been made by TJ, therefore, at a later date than the others referred to above.

18The word “passed” is written in margin of MS (2). Bill No. 93 was passed 26 June 1779. The Bill for Establishing a Court of Admiralty was passed in 1776 and TJ’s marginal note obviously refers to that.

19TJ wrote “Marshall” in MS (2); it was so copied in MS (1) and thus printed in Report description begins Report of the Committee of Revisors Appointed by the General Assembly of Virginia in MDCCLXXVI, Richmond, 1784 description ends .

20The word “passed” is written in margin of MS (2). Bill No. 98 was passed 1 June 1779.

21In MS (2) TJ first wrote “prochain ami” and then deleted the phrase.

22Following this title in MS (2) is another, deleted and unnumbered as in the instance described in note 12, above. This deleted title reads: “for enforcing performance of awards made by rule of court,” which of course is the same as the title of Bill No. 122.

23The word “passed” is written in the margin of both MSS. Bill No. 119 was introduced by TJ 29 May and it was passed 1 June 1779.

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