A Bill for the Relief of Military Pensioners
[19 Dec. 1781]
Whereas by the act of General assembly for establishing a board of Auditors the said board was authorized to allow pensions and sums in gross to a certain extent to officers and souldiers of the army or navy raised by act of general assembly and disabled in the service and to the widows of those slain or dying therein, which allowances having been made in paper currency have by the depreciation of that become inadequate to the benevolent purposes of the said act: Be it therefore enacted by the General assembly that all such allowances made or to be made shall be paiable in specie, the Auditors taking care that they be properly reduced where in consideration of such depreciation they shall have been made larger than they be when to be paid in specie.
MS (Vi); entirely in TJ’s hand; endorsed by TJ: “a Bill for the relief of Military pensioners”; docketed by a clerk: “December 19th: 1781. read the first time. December 20th: 1781. read the second time & Committed to Mr: Jefferson Mr: Henry & Mr: Richard Lee Engrossed.”
On 18 Dec. Richard Lee, for the committee of trade, reported on a number of petitions concerning claims for pensions; whereupon the House ordered Lee, TJ, and Patrick Henry to bring in a bill or bills pursuant to the resolutions of the committee. On 19 Dec. TJ presented the above bill, which was read the second time on 20 Dec. and recommitted to the same committee (the Journal lists Arthur Lee, but see docketing above). On 22 Dec. TJ reported that the committee had considered the bill but had made no amendments. On 21 Dec. the House granted TJ leave of absence for the remainder of the session and he left Richmond before the bill was read the third time and passed, on 24 Dec. Richard Lee carried the bill to the Senate which approved it on 27 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. 1781, 1828 edn., p. 47, 50, 52, 53, 54, 58; Hening, description begins William W. Hening, The Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia description ends x, 461). During his attendance at the legislature TJ was added to the committee on finance, to the committee on county petitions, to a committee to prepare a bill for better government of the western counties, and to the committee to draft a naval bill (same, p. 34, 39, 46, and 51), but the present bill is the only evidence that he took any really active part in the legislation proposed at this session, his one object being to defend his administration against the charges that had been made. The “Bill to impower the Executive to fitt out a certain naval force” was read the first time on 21 Dec. and was in accord with recommendations for defense that TJ had made in his letter to the Speaker of the House of Delegates on 10 May 1781 (Hening, description begins William W. Hening, The Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia description ends x, 458); however, there is no evidence on the MS bill (Vi) to show that TJ had a hand in its authorship. It is also possible that TJ may have been the author of a bill introduced by Southall on 10 Dec. 1781, the day he entered the legislature, whose purpose was the relief of those persons who had been or might be injured by the enemy’s destruction of county records in June 1781 (MS, Vi; JHD description begins Journal of the House of Delegates of the Commonwealth of Virginia (cited by session and date of publication) description ends , Oct. 1781, 1828 edn., p. 33–4). He was certainly the first and perhaps the only one to take advantage of the provision in the Act which authorized the governor to commission magistrates in any county whose records had been destroyed empowering them to hear witnesses and take depositions of any persons whose “Estates, Titles, and interests” had been affected by such destruction (Hening, description begins William W. Hening, The Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia description ends X, 453–4). On 10 Jan. 1782 the Council, “on application from Thomas Jefferson esqr. of Albemarle County,” advised the governor to issue such a commission to the nine senior magistrates of Albemarle and at the same time urged “that the Printer be directed to publish in his paper so much of the … Act as empowers the Governor to issue such Commissions” (MS Va. Council Jour., 10 Jan. 1782, Vi).