Thomas Jefferson Papers

41. A Bill for Preventing Infection of the Horned Cattle, 18 June 1779

41. A Bill for Preventing Infection of the Horned Cattle

Be it enacted by the General Assembly, that the driving of cattle into, or through, the commonwealth, or any part thereof, if it be not to remove them from one plantation to another of the same owner, or to be used at his house, shall be deemed a nuisance, unless the driver shall produce to any freeholder of a county, wherein the drove is passing, who shall require it, a bill of health, signed by some Justice of the commonwealth, containing the number of the drove, with descriptions of the cattle by their sexes, flesh marks and ear marks, or brands, and certifying them to be free from distemper; or, notwithstanding he may produce such bill of health, unless he shall forthwith obtain another, at the like requisition, if any such freeholder make affidavit, before a Justice, that he hath cause to suspect some of the cattle to be distempered. Such bill of health shall not be given, in either case, before two disinterested freeholders appointed by warrant of a Justice, shall have viewed the cattle and reported them to be free from distemper. A freeholder refusing to obey such warrant shall be amerced.1 If the cattle appear, by the report, to be distempered, the owner may impound them; and if he refuse to do so, or if he suffer them to escape from the pound before a Justice shall have certified that they may be removed without annoying others, the same Justice, or some other, to whom information shall be given of the fact, shall, by his order, cause them to be slaughtered; and their carcases, with the hides on, but so cut or mangled that none may be tempted to take them up and flay them, to be buried four feet deep. Those who shall be employed in executing such order shall receive five shillings for every head so buried, to be paid by the county wherein it shall happen; and every one appointed by the order who shall refuse or neglect to execute it, shall be amerced.2 Every one shall so restrain his distempered cattle, or such as are under his care, as that they may not go at large off the land to which they belong; and when they die shall bury them with their hides in manner aforesaid, and knowingly offending in either of those instances shall be amerced.3

Report description begins Report of the Committee of Revisors Appointed by the General Assembly of Virginia in MDCCLXXVI, Richmond, 1784 description ends , p. 31. MS (ViU); clerk’s copy. Text of 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 xii, 171–2.

Bill presented by Madison 31 Oct. 1785, passed by House 30 Nov., amended by Senate 7 Dec., and amendment accepted by House the next day (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, 51, 65, 75, 76, 133). Act as adopted agrees with Bill as proposed save for differences indicated below. See Act of 1766 for preserving the breed of cattle (Hening, description begins William W. Hening, The Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia description ends viii, 245–50).

1The Act adds: “by the justice granting such warrant, in any sum not exceeding twenty five shillings.”

2The Act adds: “in the sum of five shillings for every head so ordered to be buried.”

3The Act adds: “in the sum of twenty shillings for every head they shall neglect so to bury.” The Act has an additional clause putting it into effect 1 Jan. 1787.

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