« PreviousContinue »
had never been made: And that for the future, all Slaves declaslaves whatsoever shall be held, deemed, and taken, to red to be chattels per be chattels personal. sonal.
bacco, and for the better execution of the laws now in Representaforce against tending seconds, and for the further tion against prevention thereof. And another of the tenth of your certain laws. the repeal of majesty's reign, to prevent cutting up tobacco suckers. Upon the revisal of their laws, your Assembly reduced such clauses of these acts, (except the first) into one act, with an amendment, that if any plants should be destroyed by tempest or otherwise, when growing, and thrown away without being cured or housed, any person might raise and tend seconds or slips upon the same stalks without incurring a penalty. Which they humbly conceived to be conformable to the spirit of the former laws, and founded on reason and justice. For tho' the policy of theselaws is to prevent the utter loss of the tobacco trade by overstocking the markets with bad tobacco, it does not intend to ruin the planter, whose whole support depends on his crop frequently exposed to tempests, and there is no danger of making two crops from the same plant, where what they call firsts have been destroyed. If this act was repealed upon an opinion that the preventing the tending and making tobacco from slips or suckers will so much lessen the quality of tobacco imported into Great-Britain as to diminish your majesty's revenue arising from that commodity, we beg leave to observe that from a law of the like nature which hath been in force more than forty years, no such effect has been produced; but during that time, we have always made as much tobacco as Great Britain and all its various branches of foreign trade could find markets for. And to encourage the making greater quanities than can be sold will immediately ruin the planter; and in consequence the trade
An Act for establishing the General Court, and for regulating and settling the proceedings therein.
This act contained little more than a collection of former acts relating to this court, and the rules of practice. It altered the returns of some of the process for the ease of the court, the benefit of the suitors, and the convenience of the attornies; limited appeals from the inferior courts to ten pounds, instead
But this act III. Provided always, and be it enacted, by the
the repeal of
Representa of five pounds; which limitations is also in the act for tion against establishing the county courts; and also limited original certain laws. process to twenty pounds current money or four thousand pounds of tobacco, instead of ten pounds sterling or two thousand pounds of tobacco, with a view to keep up the dignity of the court, to prevent in some measure the too great increase of business, and to hinder litigious persons from harrassing their debtors in this court for small debts, where the delays occasioned by the multiplicity of causes, the costs and attendance of the parties, are more burthensome than in the inferior courts, which have competent jurisdiction of such suits. The good effects of this law began to appear during its short continuance.
An Act declaring slaves to be Personal Estate, and for
Slaves are in their nature personal estate, and not
feat the right, title, property, claim, or demand of a ny person or persons whatsoever, of, in, or to any slave or slaves which hath heretofore accrued to him, her,
a method for annexing slaves to lands in tail, and de- Representaclared that such slaves and their increase should pass tion against and descend with the land as part of the freehold. But the repeal of provided that such slaves might be taken in execution, certain laws. and sold for the debts of the tenant in tail for the time being, and such sale should barr the intail. This last act being in the first part explanatory, was productive of many suits; it was thought to look back to the first law made twenty two years before, destroyed old titles, and created new, and was attended with such doubts, variety of opinions, and confusion, that new points are even yet started, and undetermined. To remedy which it was thought best to reduce them to their natural condition, so that they might not at the same time be real estate in some respects, personal in others, and both in others; and as the younger children were entituled to a proportionable part of the value of the slaves descended from a father or mother, they might also share with the elder brother when their collateral relations died intestate, which they could not do before. Nor did your Assembly think it beneficial or convenient to continue the method of intailing negroes any longer. They saw that slaves could not be kept on the lands to which they were annexed without manifest prejudice to the tenant in tail. Because in time they overstocked the plantations, and often the tenant was the proprietor of fee simple land, much fitter for cultivation than his intailed lands, where he could work his slaves to a much greater advantage. But on the other hand the frequent removing and settling them on other lands in other counties and parts of the colony, far distant from the county court, where the deeds or wills which annexed them were recorded, and the intail lands lay; the confusion occasioned by their mixture with fee simple slaves of the same name and sex, and belonging to the same owner; the un⚫ certainty of distinguishing one from another, after se veral generations, no register of their genealogy be ing kept, and none of them having surnames, were great michiefs to purchasers, strangers, and crediH 3-Vol. 5.
or them, by virtue of the said two recited acts; ang thing in this act to the contrary or seeming to the coutrary notwithstanding.
Representa- tors, who were often unavoidably deceived in their tion against purchases, and hindered in the recovery of their the repeal of just debts. It also lessened the credit of the country; it being dangerous for the merchants of Great Britain to trust possessors of many slaves, for fear the slaves might be intailed. And should credit be destroyed in a trading country, as ours may be properly called, the consequence might be fatal. Virginia estates are attended with a certain large and yearly expence in furnishing these slaves with cloathing, food, and tools, paying their public poll taxes, and the quit rents of the lands. The profits arising from the crops of tobacco, and indian corn, are precarious, and often destroyed by gusts, droughts, and other casualties. But in such cases if the master cannot be trusted for necessaries, till he makes another crop, himself, family, slaves, and stoeks, must be in miserable and starving circumstances.
Besides the clause for subjecting intailed slaves to be taken in execution for the debts of the tenant in tail for the time being, in effect annuls the former provision; because an unthrifty or designing tenant, by running in debt or borrowing money, and then confessing judgment, and getting his creditors to sue out excutions against the intailed slaves, might defeat their settlement. And since your majesty was pleased in the eighth year of your reign, to confirm an act settling a manner for docking the intail of lands not exceeding the value of two hundred pounds sterling, by your writ in the nature of an ad quod damnum, it is doubted whether when the intail of such parcels of land is barred, the intail of the slaves annexed thereto does not determine, and the tenant gain an absolute property in them. As there is no notice to be taken of them in defeating the estate tail in the land, wherefore your Assembly were desirous of repealing these acts, but that they might avoid the mischief so justly complained of in the last act, they inserted a clause to save and make good all rights accrued under these laws.
An Act for the distribution of Intestates Estates. The relation this act bears to the last concerning
IV. Provided also, That no slaves whatsoever shall Slaves not li be forfeited, except in such cases wherein the lands able to forfeiture, exand tenements of the person incurring the forfeiture cept where are, should, or might be forfeited. lands might
V. And be it further enacted, by the authority a- be forfeited. foresaid, That this act shall commence and be in force ment of this from and immediately after the tenth day of June, act. which shall be in the year of our lord one thousand seven hundred and fifty one.
slaves, we humbly imagine caused its repeal as use- Representa less, because it varies so little from the old law for the tion against distribution of intestates estates, and declaring widows the repeal of certain laws. rights to their deceased husbands estates, that it was not worth enacting, had not some clauses of the old act been thrown more properly into other laws, and clauses from other laws with greater propriety taken into this. But the chief end was to give the heir of an intestate, to whom the lands descended, an opportunity of keeping the slaves at their appraised value as it would be advantageous to him in tilling his lands, but not so valuable as money to the younger children who had no lands, and to oblige the heir to pay them their parts of the value of the widows slaves when they should come to him. It was also necessary to insert a clause to keep widows to their old allowance of only an estate for life, in a third part of the intestates slaves, to prevent the ruin which would otherwise soon happen to some of the best estates here, by widows marrying second husbands, and carrying with them a property in so many of their first husbands slaves. But we will not trouble your majesty with more reasons for this act, since it is of little use without the other.
These, sir, are some of the principal reasons which we apprehended prevailed with the late Assembly to pass these laws, and which we most humbly submit to your royal consideration,