Front Page Titles (by Subject) draft of a bill for suspending executions for debt 1 - The Works, vol. 2 (1771-1779)
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draft of a bill for suspending executions for debt 1 - Thomas Jefferson, The Works, vol. 2 (1771-1779) 
The Works of Thomas Jefferson, Federal Edition (New York and London, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1904-5). Vol. 2.
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draft of a bill for suspending executions for debt1
v. s. a.
[Dec. 6, 1776.]
Whereas by the expiration of the act for the regulating and collecting certain officers fees, and by the troubles which have since subsisted in this country, the administration of justice hath been in a great measure suspended; and altho it is thought proper to revive and establish the courts of justice for the purpose of securing & preserving internal peace & good order, of determining disputed rights and titles and of ascertaining just debts and unsettled demands which might otherwise be lost by the death of witnesses or insolvency of debtors; yet nevertheless it may produce great oppression and ruin to debtors to suffer executions to be levied on decrees to be inforced, during the present limited and uncertain state of our trade, for debts heretofore contracted: Be it therefore enacted by the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Virginia that when judgement shall be entered or decree passed in any court of record for the recovery of money due from the defendant or defendants before the passing of this act, if such defendant or defendants shall give to the said court good & sufficient security for paiment of the money whensoever by a restoration of trade or from other circumstances it shall appear proper to the General assembly to pass an act for levying executions or enforcing decrees for money then such court shall order execution of the sd judgement or process for enforcing the said decree to be stayed, entering of record the recognisance of such security, so that if the money be not paid when directed by such future act of assembly, a scire facias may issue thereon, without the necessity of commencing a new suit.
draft of a bill for providing against invasions and insurrections1
v. s. a.
[May 10, 1777.]
For making provision against invasions & insurrections & laying the burthen thereof equally on all be it enacted by the General assembly of the Commonwealth of Virginia that the division of the militia of each county into ten parts directed by a former ordinance shall be completed & kept up in the following manner. The commanding officer of every county within one month after every general muster shall enroll under some captain such persons not before enrolled as ought to make a part of the militia, who together with those before enrolled & not yet formed into tenths & with such Quakers & Menonists as are not formed into tenths shall be such captain at his first muster after receiving the same be divided into equal parts as nearly as may be, each part to be distinguished by fair and equal lot by numbers from one to ten, & when so distinguished to be added to, and make part of the division of the militia of such county already distinguished by the same number.
And where any person subject to such allotment shall not attend, or shall refuse to draw for himself, the captain shall cause his lot to be drawn for him by some other in presence of the company.
When any officer of the militia shall receive notice of any invasion or insurrection within his own county, he shall immediately give intelligence thereof to the commanding officer of the county & if the urgency of the case requires it he shall forthwith raise the militia under his special command & proceed to oppose the enemy or insurgents: the commanding officer of the county on receiving notice thereof shall immediately if the case will admit delay or be greater than the force of his own militia may encounter, communicate the same to the Governor, by express, for which purpose he may impress boats, men & horses, & may also notify to any militia officer of the adjacent counties to be by him forwarded to his commanding officer & in the meantime if it be urging shall raise such part of his own militia as the case shall require & admit. The commanding officer of any adjacent county receiving the notice so forwarded, shall immediately raise such part of his militia, not exceeding two thirds, as the circumstances of the case may require & order them to the assistance of such adjacent county: but any of the commanding officers, if he think the case of too small consequence to require these proceedings may call a council of war to consist of a majority of his field officers & captains & take their advice whether any & what force shall be raised or sent or whether they may await the governor’s orders.
The governor on receiving such intelligence may, with the advice of the council of state cause to be embodied & marched to oppose such invasion or insurrection, such members of the militia as may be needful and from such counties as will suit the exigencies of the case; & if the corps consist of three or more battalions, may appoint a General officer to take command thereof.
The several divisions of the militia of any county shall be called into duty by regular rotation from the first to the tenth, & every person failing to attend when called on, or to send an able bodied man in his room, shall, unless there be good excuse, be considered as a deserter & suffer accordingly.
Any able bodied volunteers who will enter into the service shall be accepted instead of so many of the divisions of militia called for but if the invasion or insurrection be so near & pressing as not to allow the delay of calling for the division or divisions next in turn, the commanding officer may call on such part of the militia as shall be most convenient, to continue in duty till such division or divisions can come to supply their places.
The soldiers of such militia if not well armed & provided with ammunition shall be furnished with the arms & ammunition of the county & any deficiency in these may be supplied from the public magazines, or, if the case admit not the delay, by impressing arms & ammunition of private property, which ammunition so far as not used, & arms, shall be duly returned as soon as they may be spared & any person embezzling any such public or private arms, or not delivering them up when required by his commanding officer shall on his warrant be committed to prison without bail or mainprise there to remain till he deliver or make full satisfaction for the same.
The commanding officer shall appoint such officers of the militia as he shall think most proper to command the men called out by divisions in the following proportions: if there be called into duty not more than 15 men he shall appoint one ensign & one serjeant to command them: if not more than 25 men a lieutenant an ensign and two serjeants; if not more than 40 men, a captain, lieutenant ensign & three serjeants; if 50 men, a captain two lieutenants an ensign & four serjeants; & so in proportion for every greater number; adding, if there be several companies, such field officers as may be requisite. A distinct list of the names & numbers of officers & soldiers sent on duty, with the time they served, attested on oath by the officer commanding such party shall be certified by the commanding officer of the county to the next General assembly.
Any officer resigning his commission on being called into duty by the Governor or his commanding officer, shall be ordered into the ranks, & shall moreover suffer punishment as for disobedience of command.
The commanding officer of the corps marching to oppose any invasion or insurrection, or any commissioned officer by warrant under the hand of such commander, may, for the necessary use of such corps or for the transportation of them across waters, or of their baggage by land or water, impress provisions, vessels with their furniture, hands, wagons, carts, horses, oxen, utensils for intrenching, smiths, wheelwrights, carpenters or other artificers, & arms in the case before directed, such necessaries or the use of them by the day shall be previously appraised by two persons chosen the one by such officer & the other by the person interested, or both by the officer if the person interested shall refuse to name one and duly sworn by the said officer who is hereby empowered to administer the oath. Such officer shall give a receipt or a certificate of every particular impressed, of its appraised value, & of the purposes for which it was impressed: and if any article impressed shall receive damage while in public service such damage shall be enquired of & estimated by two men chosen & sworn in the same manner & shall be made good by the public.
All persons drawn into actual service by virtue of this act shall be exempted in their persons & property from civil process, & all proceedings against them in civil courts shall be stayed during their continuance in service.
Where any corps or detachment of militia shall be on duty with any corps or detachment of Colonial regulars or Continental troops, or both of them the Continental officers shall take command of the Colonial regulars of the same rank, & these again of militia officers of the same rank.
The commanding officer of each of the counties of Elizabeth City, Princess Anne, Northampton & Accomack, with permission from the Governor, may appoint any number of men not exceeding six in each county to keep a constant lookout to seaward by night & by day; who discovering any vessels appearing to belong to an enemy & to propose landing or hostility, shall immediately give notice thereof to some militia officer of the county, whereon such course shall be pursued as is before directed in case of an invasion or insurrection.
The pay of all officers and soldiers of the militia, from the time they leave their homes, by order of their commanding officer till they return to them again, & of all lookouts shall be the same as shall have been allowed by the last regulations of General assembly to Colonial regulars of the same rank or degree. Messengers shall be allowed by the auditors of public accounts according to the nature of their service.
Any militia officer receiving notice of an invasion or the approach of any vessel with hostile purpose, & not forwarding the same to his commanding officer shall forfeit, if a field officer one hundred pounds, if a captain or subaltern fifty pounds; any commanding officer of a county receiving such notice & not raising part of his militia nor taking the advice of his council of war two hundred pounds, recoverable with costs by action of debt in the name of the Commonwealth before any court of record, & appropriated to the same uses as the fines imposed by the courtmartial of his county.
Any officer or soldier, guilty of mutiny, desertion, disobedience of command, absence from duty or quarters, neglect of guard, or cowardice, shall be punished at the discretion of a courtmartial by degrading, cashiering, drumming out of the army, whipping not exceeding 20 lashes, fine not exceeding two months, or imprisonment not exceeding one month.
Such courtmartial shall be constituted of militia officers only, of the rank of Captains or higher, & shall consist of 7 members at the least whereof one shall be a county lieutenant or field officer, each of whom shall take the following oath: ‘I — do swear that I will well & truly try & impartially determine the cause of the prisoner now to be tried, according to the act of assembly for providing against invasions & insurrections so help me god,’ which oath shall be administered to the presiding officer by the next in command, & then by such presiding officer to the other members. The said court shall also appoint a clerk to enter and preserve their proceedings, to whom the president shall administer an oath truly and faithfully to execute the duties of his office. All persons called to give evidence shall take the usual oath of evidence, to be administered by the clerk of the court. If in any case the offender be not arrested before the corps of militia on duty be discharged, or cannot be tried for want of members sufficient to make a court, he shall be subject to be tried afterwards by the courtmartial of his county.
All other acts & ordinances so far as they make provisions against invasions & insurrections are hereby repealed.
This act shall be read to every company of the militia by order of the captain or next commanding officer twice in every year, that is to say, at their first muster next succeeding every general muster in his county on penalty of five pounds for every omission.
[1 ]The system of mortgaging crops in Virginia; the non-exportation association of the Continental Congress; the interruption of all trade by the restraining acts; and the outbreak of actual war, threatened to force bankruptcy on the larger part of the planter interest in that State. This class therefore united in opposing the establishment of courts of justice under the new Constitution. In hopes of lessening this serious opposition, leave was given by the Burgesses, Dec. 5th, for the introduction of this bill, and Mason, Jefferson, T. Adams, Bullitt, Nicholas, and Braxton were named a committee to do so. On Dec. 6th, it was introduced by Mason, and read the first time. On the 9th, it was read for a second time and committed to the Committee of the Whole. In the meantime, the planters, not satisfied with this sop, had succeeded in deferring the bills organizing the courts, till the next session; so those opposed to them united and deferred this bill also. It was never again introduced. The draft is in Jefferson’s handwriting.
[1 ]The House of Delegates gave leave May 9, 1777, to introduce this bill and named Jefferson, Fleming, and Braxton to draw it. The former reported it on May 10th, when it was read for the first time. On May 16th and 18th, it was considered in the Committee of the Whole, and ordered to be engrossed, and on May 21st, it was passed. This is printed from the draft in Jefferson’s handwriting, and varies considerably from the Act as printed in the Session Acts for May, 1777, p. 13; The Report of the Revisers, p. 6; A Collection of the Public Acts of Virginia, 1785, p. 52; and Hening, x., 294.