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Currency, (except where the Crown is concerned or where the Title of Lands shall come into Question; - and Actions of Slander) but the parties may either of them demand a jury of Six Men. - If wrong is done to either party, the person injured may have a Certiorari from the Supreme Court, tho' the remedy is very inadequate.
The Courts of Criminal Jurisdiction are Correspondent to those in England. - The Supreme Court exercises it in the City of New York, as the King's Bench does at Westminster. — The Judges when they go the Circuit have a Commission of Oyer and Terminer and General Gaol Delivery; and there are Courts of Sessions held by the Justices of the peace; the powers of which and their proceedings correspond with the like Courts of England. - The Office of Clerk of the Sessions, is invariably connected with that of the Clerk of the Inferior Court of Common Pleas in the respective Counties.
By acts of the Provincial Legislature the Justices of the Peace have an extraordinary Jurisdiction with respect to some offences by which any three Justices (one being of the Quorum) where the offender does not find Bail in 48 Hours after being in the Custody of the Constable, may try the party without any [...] or a jury, for any offence under the Degree of Grand Larceny; and inflict any punishment for these small offences at their Discretion, so that it exceeds (qy? extends) not to Life or Limb. — And any three Justices of the Peace (one being of the Quorum) and Five Freeholders have power without a Grand or Petty Jury to proceed against and try in a Summary Way, Slaves offending in certain cases, and punish them even with death.
The Duty of His Majesty's Attorney General of the Province is similar to the Duty of the Officer in England, and the Master of the Crown Office: He is appointed by the Crown during Pleasure, and His Majesty has no Sollicitor General nor Council in the Province, to assist the Attorney General upon any Occasion.
There are two other Courts in the Province. The Court of Admiralty which proceeds after the Course of the Civil Law
in matters within its Jurisdiction, which has been so enlarged by divers Statutes as to include almost every breach of the Acts of Trade. — From this Court an appeal lies to a Superior Court of Admiralty, lately Established in North America by Statute; before this Establishment an appeal only lay to the High Court of Admiralty of England.
The Prerogative Court concerns itself only in the Probate of wills and in matters relating to the Administration of the Estates of Intestates and granting Licences of Marriages. The Governor is properly the Judge of this Court but it has been usual for him to act in general by a Delegate.
The Province is at present divided into fourteen Counties, viz - The City and County of New York — The County of Albany - Richmond (which comprehends the whole of Staten Island) Kings, Queens and Suffolk (which include the whole of Nassau or Long Island) Westchester, Dutches, Ulster, Orange, Cumberland, Gloucester, Charlotte and Tryon. — For each of these Counties a Sheriff and one or more Coroners are appointed by the Governor who hold their offices during pleasure.
As to the Military power of the Province, the Governor for the time being is the Captain General and Commander in Chief and appoints all the Provincial Military officers during pleasure.
5. Report of Governor Gooch on Virginia." The Const. of ye Gov't. resembles Gt. Britn. as near as may be: ist in the Point of Legislature ye Govr. in Place of ye Kg. has the Power of calling, Prorogueing or disolv'g Gen. Assemblies wch represent ye Parliament. This Assembly consists of 2 Houses. Ye upper is composed only of ye council in number 12, who are of ye Principal Gentlemen of ye Country, & who are supplyed from time to time (in vacancies) by Ks nomination under his sign manual. The lower House ye House of Burgesses is composed of Representatives chosen by ye majority
1 “Queries from ye Lds of Trade to Sr Wm. Gooch Govr of Virginia & his Answers Abridged,” in Virginia Magazine of History, III, 114-17. I have edited the text freely, in order to make intelligible certain abbreviations, like H of B, Chan., N.N., etc.
ye Freeholders, two in each county. One for Wmsburgh, one for Norfolk, one for Ja'stown & ye Coll. Wee have now including ye North Neck 44 Counties, which makes ye number of Burgesses 92. All Bills for laying duties on Commodities & Taxes on the people take rise in ye House of Burgesses, and generally all Bills prepared on petitions or Representations of ye People are first moved there; but either House may frame Bills as they find most expedient for ye publick service. The Bills pass through ye like Forms as in Parliament, & when passed both Houses are enrolled for ye Govrs assent commonly given ye last day of the session.
But ye Govr has a negative & may reject any bill he thinks fitt. For ye administration of Justice there are held monthly Courts in each County by persons commissioned by ye Govr, who not only have ye power of Justices of ye Peace but have cognizance of all suits of wht value soever arising within their respective Jurisdictions, both at common Law & Chancery: excepting only such criminal offences as are punishable by loss of Life or Member. For ye city of Wms there is also a Court of Hustins, held monthly before ye mayor & aldn for tryal of all suits at Common Law arising wth in town & not exceeding 20£ or its value. Ye same for Norfolk. There are ye Inferior Courts of ye Govmt & from these Appeal lies in ye gl Ct. appellt givg security to Prosect wth effect.
The General Court consists of ye Govr & Council, any 5 of whom make a Quorum. This Court hath Jurisdiction of all Causes Real, Pers'l & mixt at Common Law bro't thither originally not under £10 ster; or by appeal or superseds (wch in ye nature of a writ of error) from ye Inferiour Courts. All criminal offences are here tryable & it is also a Court of Chancery for matters of a great value but by act of A. as appeal lies from an Inferior Court unless ye Debt, Damage or thing in Demand Exclusive of Costs exceed ye value of £5, excepting only wch the Titles or Bounds of Land are in question, and appeals lie to King in Council for £300 ster. or upwards. There are two Courts of Oyer and Terminer held yearly ye 2nd Tuesday in June, & Xs for trying all criminals yt happen to be com
mitted after the respective General Courts. Ye Judges here are only such as are members of ye Council & sitt by ye Govrs commission pursuant to his Majesty's Instructn. For punishing slaves for capitl Crimes a commission of Oyer and Terminer issues from ye Gr. to ye Justices of ye County where ye offence is committed by proof of Evidence without any Jury, & on convictions they award exn & set a value on ye slave, which is afterwards paid to ye owner by ye General Assembly as an encouragement to People to discover ye villanies of their slaves. For breaches of the act of Trade & for determining controversies concerning salvage, mariner's wages & other maritime affairs, their is a Court of admiralty held before a Judge constituted under ye Seal of ye high Cot. of admty. of Great Britain; to this Cot belong an advocate, a Register & Marshal appointed by ye Govr. who is also a ** vice admiral of all ye Seas, Rivrs, Creeks & Coasts within his Govmt. This Court is only held as occasion requires & an appeal lyes to ye K. Council. The Govr has also a Comn for trying Pirates.
There is also a Cot. of ye comissary of ye Ld. Bp. of Londn wch only meddles with the Punishment of the Inmors of ye Clergy, & proceeds by monition, suspension or Deprivation according to the offence & an appeal lyes to the Delegates appd. by Ks. Com. in England.
The Governour is invested with a Power Pardoning all Crimes except Treason & willful Murder, & in these he has a Power of suspending ye execun by reprieve till his Majs Pleasure is known. The Govr. can remitt all fines & Forfeitures accruing to ye Crown to ye value of £10 ster. & if above he may suspend the levying till ye Ks pleasure be known. But the inhabitants of ye N. Neck are to be excepted ye Proprietor whereof has by his Charter all the Fines & Forfeitures Felons good & deodances within the Limits of his Grant.
For matters of State there is a Council appointed by ye K. to be assist. with their advice to ye Govr. in all things touching his Majs service viz. the disposing of his Lands, managemt. of his Revenue, nominating or Removl of Js of Peace, Sheriffs, coroners, or other officers of trust who receive ye Comn from
ye Govr. for ye better ordering the tributary Indians & making War or Peace with foreign Indians & various other Matters wch concern the Publick Quiet of ye Govt & do not fall under the direction of Positive Laws. There is no Sallary annexed to this office, but as the Council compose the upper House of Assembly & are also Judges of the General Court there is an appt. of £600 p an. out of ye settled Revenue wch is proportd. & divided among them according to their respective attendce on these two Services. And such of them as attend at the Court of Oyer & Terminer have their Proportion of £100 allowed out of ye Revenue for each Court.