James Madison Papers

Resolution for Schedule of Tax Rates on Documents, 2 June 1784

Resolution for Schedule of Tax Rates on Documents

Editorial Note

JM was appointed on 18 May to serve on a House of Delegates committee charged with amending “the several acts of Assembly, for ascertaining certain taxes and duties, and for establishing a permanent revenue” (JHDV description begins Journal of the House of Delegates of the Commonwealth of Virginia; Begun and Held at the Capitol, in the City of Williamsburg. Beginning in 1780, the portion after the semicolon reads, Begun and Held in the Town of Richmond. In the County of Henrico. The journal for each session has its own title page and is individually paginated. The edition used is the one in which the journals for 1777–1786 are brought together in two volumes, with each journal published in Richmond in either 1827 or 1828 and often called the “Thomas W. White reprint.” description ends , May 1784, p. 9). Before this committee reported, JM laid his suggestions before the whole house on 2 June, and after some amendments the Committee of the Whole adopted the schedule. In the final stage of passage the purpose of the bill became more explicit, so that it was retitled a bill “to levy certain taxes in aid of the public revenue, and to apply the same in payment of the debts due to foreign creditors” (ibid., pp. 82, 88). JM considered this bill in the nature of a stamp act, so worded as to avoid the obnoxious phrase; he calculated it would raise £15,000 to £20,000 annually (JM to Jefferson, 3 July 1784). In legislative parlance, this bill was a rider meant to accompany an act suspending portions of the permanent revenue measure passed at the October 1782 session. The bill and its “ryder” were passed by the House on 29 June and sent to the Senate, where the rider was approved while the main measure was not. Thus the rider became law, but the bill to which it was intended to be attached remained in legislative limbo. JM must have had this sort of thing in mind when he observed that bills “at present are drawn in manner that must soon bring our laws and our Legislature into contempt among all orders of Citizens” (JM to Jefferson, 3 July 1784).

[ca. 2 June 1784]

Resolved that it is the opinion of this Committee that in aid of the funds already established for supplying the Public exigences, the following duties ought to be imposed, viz.1

£. S. D.
To be paid by the party obtaining such writ,
attachment or appeal, If taxed in bill of Costs
{ On each original writ or subpœna issued from the General Court or H. C. Chancery  6
On each original citation from Court of Admiralty  6
On each original writ, or subpœna in Chancery from any County Court2  3
On each attachment issued by any Justice of the peace against effects of persons about to abscond  3
On each appeal to the Court of appeals 12
On each writ of Error, of supersedeas, & of certiorari from Gen: Court or, H. C. Chany  6
On each appeal from any County Court3  6
To be paid by
the obligor and taxed in the
bill of Costs
{ On each appearance bond, recognizance of special entered bail or bail-piece returnable into the General Court }  3
On each appearance-bond, and recognizance of special entered bail returnable into any County Court }  3
To be paid by
the party
and taxed
in bill of Costs
{ On each final judgment or decree in any Court concerning lands, slaves, or vessels 12
On each final judgment or decree in any Court for a determinate sum of money 1/8 perCent
On each final judgment or decree concerning any other property  3
On each Deed recorded concerning any improved lot or lots in any City or incorporated town for each lot 12 ..
On each Deed recorded concerning any unimproved lot or lots in such City or town for each lot  6
On do. as to improved lots in any unincorporated town, for each lot. 6/-unimproved lots - 3/.
On each Deed recorded concerning other lands for each 100 acres  3
On each other Deed recorded  3
On each patent issued from the land office
On each probate of wills, or grant of administration where lands or slaves are concerned  £1 .. ..
On each probate or grant where no lands nor slaves are concerned4  6 ..
On each exempli[fi]cation under the seal of any Court5  6
On each admission of Attorneys to practise in the superior Courts £15 .. ..
On each licence of attorneys to practise in County Courts  £5 .. ..
On each admission of Clerks to their Clerkships in any Court £15 .. ..
On each licence for keeping a ferry on tide water over Elizabeth, James, York, Rappahan: or Potowmk. rivers £10 .. ..
On each licence for keeping a ferry above tide water on sd. rivers, or over any other rivers  £2 .. ..

Ms (DLC). In JM’s hand. Late in life, JM wrote above this report, “JM’s project of tax, for House of Delegates Virga in 178 .”

1Whether the rates in JM’s hand were his recommendations, or were supplied by the drafting committee, is uncertain. The act as adopted follows this schedule except for the high rate on probates of wills, which was cut from £1 to 6 shillings, the omission of provisions for clerkships and ferries, and the addition of a 2/6 transfer tax on surveyor’s certificates (Hening, Statutes description begins William Waller Hening, ed., The Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia, from the First Session of the Legislature, in the Year 1619 (13 vols.; Richmond and Philadelphia, 1819–23). description ends , XI, 377–79).

2As enacted, “or Court of Hustings”—a court of borough or city jurisdiction—was added.

3Preceding this entry the House added, “on each writ of habeas corpus, cum causa, six shillings.”

4The House dropped this provision.

5Deleted in the final draft.

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