24. A Bill concerning Escheators
Be it enacted by the General Assembly, that there shall be one escheator commissioned in every county, by the Governor on recommendation from the court of the same county, who shall execute his office in proper person, and not by deputy, and shall, before the court of the county, be bound in the penalty of 1000 1. with security to be approved by the same court, duly to perform the duties of his said office.
The said escheator shall sit in convenient and open places, and shall take his inquests of fit persons, who shall be returned and empanelled by the sheriff of the county, and shall suffer every person to give evidence, openly, in their presence, to such inquest; and the said inquisition, so taken, shall be, by indentures to be made between the said escheator and them of the inquest, whereof the counterpart, sealed by the escheator, shall remain in the possession of the first person that shall be sworn in the said jury, and by him shall be returned to the court of the same county there to be recorded; and the other part, sealed by the jurors, shall, by the escheator, be sent into the General Court within one month after the inquest taken. And if it be found for the commonwealth, and there shall be any man that will make claim to the lands he shall be heard without delay on a traverse to the office, monstrans de droit or petition of right; and the said lands, or tenements, shall be committed to him, if he, shew good evidence of his right and title to hold, until the right shall be found and discussed for the commonwealth or for the party, finding sufficient surety to prosecute his suit with effect, and to render and pay to the commonwealth the yearly value of the lands, if the right be discussed for the commonwealth.
No lands nor tenements, seized into the hands of this commonwealth upon such inquests taken before escheators, shall be in any wise granted, nor to farm let, to any, if it be not to him or them which claim as is aforesaid, till the same inquests and verdicts be fully returned into the General Court, nor within six months after the same return, but shall intirely and continually remain in the hands of the escheators, who shall answer to the commonwealth the issues and profits yearly coming of the said lands and tenements, without doing waste or destruction.
If no person, within the six months before mentioned, make claim to the lands or tenements so seized, or claim being so made, if it be found and discussed for the commonwealth, the clerk of the General Court, shall, within one month thereafter, certify [to the escheator of the county, wherein the lands lie, that no claim hath been made, or that being made, it hath been discussed for the commonwealth, which escheator shall thereupon proceed to make sale of the land, for the benefit of the commonwealth, to him who will give the most, after one month’s public notice of the time and place of doing the same, and shall certify the purchaser and price to the Register of the Land-Office, who, on receiving a certificate that such price hath been paid into the treasury, shall have a grant executed to the purchaser in such manner as by law directed in the case of unappropriated lands.]1
Where any person holds lands, or tenements, for term of years, or hath any rent, common, office, fee, or other profit apprender of any estate of freehold, or for years, or otherwise out of such lands or tenements which shall not be found in such office or inquisition, such person shall hold and enjoy his lease, interest, rent, common, office, fee and profit apprender in manner as if no such office or inquisition had been found, or as if such lease, interest, rent, common, office, or profit apprender had been found in such inquisition. Also if one person or more be found heir by office or inquisition, in one county, and another person be found heir to the same person, in another county, or if any person be untruly found lunatic, ideot, or dead, or where it shall be untruly found that any person attainted of treason, or felony, is seized of any lands, tenements, or hereditaments, at the time of such treason or felony committed, or at any time after, whereunto any other person hath any just title or interest of any estate of freehold, the person grieved by such office or inquisition may have his traverse or monstrans de droit to the same, without being driven to any petition of right and proceed to trial therein, and have like remedy and restitution upon his title found or judged for him therein, as in other cases of traverse upon untrue inquisition found.
Report description begins Report of the Committee of Revisors Appointed by the General Assembly of Virginia in MDCCLXXVI, Richmond, 1784 description ends , p. 22. Text of Act as adopted in 1785 is in Hening, description begins William W. Hening, The Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia description ends xii, 158–60. A MS fragment (Vi) of this Bill has been preserved; it is partly in a clerk’s hand and partly in TJ’s hand, as indicated below. On its verso is the MS draft in TJ’s hand of the Bill for Providing a Supply (q.v., under 20 May 1778). Also, MS (ViU); clerk’s copy.
TJ was ordered to bring in a Bill on this subject 27 May 1779; presented it the same day; read 2d time 28 May and committed to the committee for courts of justice, who reported the Bill on 11 June with an amendment which was agreed to by the House; read 3d time and passed on 12 June; approved by Senate with amendments which were agreed to by House on 16 June (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. 23, 25, 26, 43, 44, 50). Bill as amended and adopted in 1779 is in Hening, description begins William W. Hening, The Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia description ends x, 115–17. The Bill as reported by the Committee of Revisors was again presented by Madison 31 Oct. 1785, passed without alteration by House 25 Nov., and approved by Senate 3 Dec. (JHD description begins Journal of the House of Delegates of the Commonwealth of Virginia (cited by session and date of publication) description ends , Oct. 1785, 1828 edn., p. 12–15, 48, 55, 70, 132). The amendments made in 1779 by the committee for courts of justice and by the Senate can be determined by comparing the text in Hening, description begins William W. Hening, The Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia description ends x, 115–17 with this text. The principal amendment, probably made by the committee for courts of justice, excepted the counties of the Northern Neck, by permitting the sheriffs of these counties to perform the duties of an escheator. See also Bill concerning Escheats and Forfeitures from British Subjects, 4 June 1779. Act of 1785 concerning Escheators was repealed at the session of Oct. 1786 (Hening, description begins William W. Hening, The Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia description ends xii, 411).
1. The passage in square brackets (supplied) is that part of the MS fragment described above which is in TJ’s hand.