87. A Bill against Usury
Be it enacted by the General Assembly, that no person shall hereafter, upon any contract take, directly or indirectly, for loan of any money, wares or merchandize, or other commodity, above the value of five pounds, for the forbearance of one hundred pounds, for a year, and, after that rate, for a greater or lesser sum, or for a longer or shorter time; and all bonds, contracts, covenants, conveyances, or assurances, hereafter to be made, for payment or delivery of any money, or goods, so to be lent, on which a higher interest is reserved or taken, than is hereby allowed, shall be utterly void. If any person shall, by any way, or means of any corrupt bargain, loan, exchange, shift, covin, device, or deceit, take, accept, or receive, for the loan of, or giving day of payment for money, wares, merchandize, or other commodity, above the rate of five pounds, for one hundred pounds, for one year, every person so offending, shall forfeit double the value of the money, wares, merchandize, or commodity, so lent, exchanged, or shifted, one moiety to the use of the commonwealth, and the other to the informer, to be recovered, with costs. Any borrower of money or goods may exhibit a bill in Chancery, against the lender, and compel him to discover, upon oath, the money or thing really lent; and all bargains, contracts, or shifts, which shall have passed between them, relative to such loan, or the repayment thereof, and the interest or consideration for the same; and if, thereupon, it shall appear, that more than lawful interest was reserved, the lender shall be obliged to accept his principal money, without any interest, or other consideration, and pay costs, but shall be discharged of all other penalties of this act. Every broker, solicitor, or driver of bargains, who shall hereafter, directly or indirectly, take or receive more than the rate or value of five shillings, for brokerage, or soliciting, the loan or forbearance of one hundred pounds, for a year, or above one shilling for making or renewing1 the bond or bill, for such loan or forbearance, or for any counter-bond or bill, concerning the same, shall forfeit, for every offence, twenty pounds to the commonwealth and informer, to be recovered, and divided, as herein before is mentioned.
Report description begins Report of the Committee of Revisors Appointed by the General Assembly of Virginia in MDCCLXXVI, Richmond, 1784 description ends , p. 60. MS (ViU); clerk’s copy. 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, 337–8.
Bill was presented by Madison 31 Oct. 1785, postponed 14 Dec. to next session, and brought up again at Oct. 1786 session. It was considered by committee of the whole 18 Nov.; the House passed the Bill on 21 Nov. The Senate approved it on 8 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, 92; same, Oct. 1786, p. 16–17, 49, 52, 95, 127). The Act as adopted and the Bill as proposed are identical; Act was suspended until 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). See the 1748 “Act to restrain the taking of excessive Usury,” whose preamble states that “the high interest of money has been found in all countries where it has prevailed, to impoverish the people, and a great discouragement to trade and industry” (Hening, description begins William W. Hening, The Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia description ends vi, 101–4); this Act limited the interest rate to 5%; provided double forfeiture for violation; and stipulated the same brokerage fees.