72. A Bill Forbidding and Punishing Affrays
Be it enacted by the General Assembly, that no man great nor small, of what condition soever he be, except the ministers of justice in executing the precepts of the Courts of Justice, or in executing of their office, and such as be in their company assisting them be so hardy to come before the Justices of any court, or other of their ministers of justice doing their office, with force and arms on pain to forfeit their armour to the commonwealth and their bodies to prison at the pleasure of a court, nor go nor ride armed by night nor by day, in fairs or markets or in other places in terror of the country, upon pain of being arrested and committed to prison by any Justice on his own view, or proof by others, there to abide for so long a time as a jury, to be sworn for that purpose by the said Justice, shall direct, and in like manner to forfeit his armour to the commonwealth.
But no person shall be imprisoned for such offence by a longer space of time than one month.
Report description begins Report of the Committee of Revisors Appointed by the General Assembly of Virginia in MDCCLXXVI, Richmond, 1784 description ends , p. 51. Text of 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, 334.
Bill presented by Madison 31 Oct. 1785 and on 14 Dec. postponed to the next session (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, 92). At the Oct. 1786 session it was passed by the House on 18 Nov. and by the Senate on 27 Nov. (same, Oct. 1786, p. 16–17, 44, 46, 48, 64, 126). The text of the Act as adopted is identical with the Bill as proposed; its operation was suspended until 1 July 1787 (Hening, description begins William W. Hening, The Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia description ends xii, 410–11). This Bill is a good example of TJ’s retention of the language of early English statutes, with its archaic provision for the forfeiture of “armour,” &c. It is also a good example of TJ’s ability to condense the involved language of the earlier English statutes that he thought worthy of retaining in the revision (see Edward Coke, The Third Part of the Institutes of the Laws of England, London, 1680, ch. lxxiii, “Against going or riding armed,” p. 160).