Thomas Jefferson Papers

8. A Bill Establishing a Board of War, 18 June 1779

8. A Bill Establishing a Board of War

Be it enacted by the General Assembly that a Board of War shall be constituted to consist of five persons, to be chosen by joint ballot of both Houses of Assembly, at the first session of every Assembly, and to continue in office until the next choice shall be made. But any member may be removed within that time by joint vote of both Houses, and thereupon, as also on the death, resignation or refusal to act, of any member, they shall proceed to chuse another to act in his stead and during his term, and if either of these events happen during the recess of Assembly, the Governor and Council may appoint some person to act in the said office until the end of the next session of Assembly:1 Any three of the members may proceed to business, and he who is first in the nomination shall preside.

The duty of the said board shall be to superintend and manage, subject to the direction and controul of the Governor with advice of the Council, all matters and things within the department of war, and all persons holding offices or performing duties within that department: All their resolutions, proceedings and orders, before they are carried into execution, shall be signed by the Governor: The said board shall depute by rotation, unless they can otherwise agree, some one of their members to visit and personally examine and report, once in every two months at the least, the condition of the military stores and provisions in the several magazines.2

They shall sit at such places, and in such apartments, as the Governor with advice of the Council shall direct: And if at any time they shall be separated and occasion for their meeting shall arise, the Governor shall have power to call them together: They shall have authority from time to time to appoint a Commissioner of the Navy and also their own clerk; which clerk shall take an oath to keep secret all such matters as they shall direct to be kept secret;3 the said oath may be administered by any member of the board.

Report description begins Report of the Committee of Revisors Appointed by the General Assembly of Virginia in MDCCLXXVI, Richmond, 1784 description ends , p. 8. See Note on Bill No. 9.

This Bill was introduced by TJ separately at the session of May 1779; it is substantially the same as the Act then adopted (JHD description begins Journal of the House of Delegates of the Commonwealth of Virginia (cited by session and date of publication) description ends , May 1779, 1827 edn., p. 6–8, 10; Hening, description begins William W. Hening, The Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia description ends x, 17–18); the principal differences are indicated below. This Act was repealed by an Act of May 1780 which, “for the purpose of introducing œconomy into all the various departments of government, and for conducting the publick business with the greatest expedition,” established in place of the boards of war and trade a commercial agent, a commissioner of the navy, and a commissioner of the war office, appointed by the governor with advice of the council and under direction of both (same, x, 291–2; see also “an act to regulate the department of the war office,” adopted May 1781, same, p. 426–9).

1The Act includes at this point the requirement that the members take an oath of fidelity and also an oath of office, the terms of the latter being specified in the Act.

2The Act also gives the board authority to appoint a commissary of prisoners.

3The Act required both the commissioner of the navy and the clerk of the board to take an oath of office and also an oath of secrecy.

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