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proviso, that an allowance for “ building and clearing" should not be made to those who had “lawful warning" of a prior right.nAbout the same period (1643) the assembly passed an act direct ing that all process against debtors lately arrived from England (except where the debts were contracted for goods purchased in England, or for the accommodation of plauters returning to this country) should be suspended.. This act is introduced by a lengthy preamble, assigning reasons which fully satisfied the minds of the legislature as to the policy and even justice of the measure. These laws had an obvious tendency to increase the population, and promote the improvement of the couniry, by rendering the persons of many of the inhabitants free from restraint, and by securing to every man the fruits of his labour.
The culture of tobacco seems to have been a favorite object with the first settlers, and was the only staple commodity to which they could be induced to turn their attention. In order to improve its quality various laws were passed limiting the number of plants to be cultivated by each hand, and the leaves to be gathered from a plant.p. Other details in the process of making it, were also prescribed by the legislature; and to insure a just compensation for the labour of the planter, the price at which it was to be sold was fixed by the assembly, at different tiines. The first idea of int specting tobacco is contained in an act passed in 1630, before any warellouses were established. The process was very simple, and the penalty for offering unmerchantable tobacco in payment equally severe. If a planter offered to pay away, or barter any bad tobacco, the commander of the plantation (an officer who united with the powers of a justice of the peace, the supreme military command of the settlement) with two or three discreet men, were directed to view it, and if found of bad quality, to cause it to be burnt; and the owner was probibited from planting any more tobacco until authorised by the General Assembly.r At the next session the law was amended so as to make it the duty of the commander to issue his order either verbally or in writing to two “sufficient men" to view the tobacco, who were, in like manner, to burn it, if of bad quality.s The same law was re-enacted in the revisal of 1632. In 1633, warehouses (then called storchouses) were established, and the inspectors were to be composed of that member of the king's council, whose residence was nearest any warehouse, and the commissioners of the several plantations, as assistants.v
» Sce act IV of 16-47, pr. 319 anil act XXII of March, 1057-8, p.2. 143,4.
pa. 188, 206 r See pit. 152. s See pa. 105. | See pa. 190. u See pa. 204. 211.
To prevent the recurrence of a scarcity of corn, which had been steverely felt in the colony, each master of a farnily was compelled up plant and sufficiently tend, two acres a head, for each labouring person in his family; and as an encouragement to cultivate that article, the price was not to be limited, but every planter might sell it as dear as he could. Nor does it appear that the legislature ever interfered with the exportation of corn, or restricted the price, except in times of pressing want.w In the year 1630, the contents of a barrel of corn were fixed at five bushels, Winchester measure, and has so continued to the present day.x
Various and severe laws were very early enacted against forestalling and ingrossing imported articles,y but their inefficacy having been experienced, they were all repealed and a free trade allowed.*
The administration of justice, in Virginia, was originally extremely cheap, and simple in its details. Commanders of plantations held monthly courts for the trial of civil actions, not exceeding the value of one hundred pounds of tobacco, and for the punishment of petty offences,t reserving the right of appeal to the quarter court held by the governor and council, which possessed the supreme judicial power, under the different charters, and had original jurisdiction in all cases whatsoever. Commissioners of monthly courts succeeded to commanders of plantations, with the like jurisdiction in civil cases ;f which was afterwards extended to five pounds sterling.b The jurisdiction of the court was further extended to sixteen hundred pounds of tobacco, and they were to be called county instead of monthly courts; and that of a single magistrate was final as far as twenty shillings sterling.c In consequence of the great distance of many of the counties from James City, where the quarter courts were held, jurisdiction was finally given to the county courts, in all cases of law and equity, and the trial by jury secured to those who desired it.d The decision of the county court was, at first, final as far as sixteen hundred pounds of tobacco,e and for all sums above that an appeal was allowed to the quarter court, and from thence to the assembly :f which afterwards had jurisdiction of appeals in all cases, of whatever amount.g Besides the general jurisdiction of the county and quarter courts, special provision was made for certain counties and settlements where it was considered too inconvenient to the people to attend at the usual place of holding courts. The leading principle seems to have been to curry justice to the doors of the inhabitants. Thus, the county court of Northampton," on account of its
u See Index tit. corn.' See page 170.
* Pa. 296. y See pa. 160, 166, 190, 172, 194, 217, 245. † See pa. 125, 131.
See pa. 132 b See pa. 168, 185. c See pa. 272-3. d See pa. 393. e See pa. 345, 398, 477. f Ibid.
g See pa. 541. C
remoteness from James City," had final jurisdiction as far as three thousand two hundred pounds of tobacco; one commissioner on the South side of the river in Jaines City county, was vested with the powers of a county court ;h the inhabitants of Appamattock or Bristol parish, were also authorised to hold courts, with the right of appeal to Henrico or Charles City county courts.i Two courts were permitted to be held in Northampton;k two in Isle of Wight;/ and two in Charles City.m As the population of the county increased, and new counties were formed, these special courts were abolished.
In the year 1643, the first act passed for regulating lawyers ; though they had certainly attended the several courts before that period.n By the first law on the subject, no attorney was permitted to plead, without a license; which was grantable by the court in which he practised; nor could an attorney have a license from more courts than the quarter, and one county court,—Their fees were twenty pounds of tobacco, in the county, and fifty pounds in the quarter court: and no attorney could refuse to be retained unless employed on the other side. In 1645, all mercenary attornies were expelled from office:0 In 1647, that act was amended by adding a clause to it declaring that no attornies should take any fees; and if the court should perceive that either party. by bis weakness, was likely to lose his cause, they themselves should either open the case or “appoint some fit mau out of the people,” to plead the cause, and allow him a reasonable compensation : no other attornies were admitted.plu 1656, the act prolibiting attornies was repealed; the governor and council were authorised to license them for the quarter courts, and the commissioners for the county courts, and if any controversy should arise concerning their fees, it was to be settled by the courts respectively. lo 1657-8, the law against mercenary attornies, was again revived.q
An inspection of the different fee bills will shew the simplicity of judicial proceedings, and the small compensation allowed to the officers of court. The first officers whose fees were established by law, were the secretary who was clerk of the quarter court, and the marshal, who executed the same duties which devolved upon the sheriff, after the appointment of that officer, which was not until the year 1634.s The fees of clerks t and sheriffsv embraced but few objects, and were very moderate.
Clerks of county courts were, at one time, appointed by the governor,w but afterwards by the courts themselves.y Commis
h See pa. 335.6.
i Sce pa. 376.
k See pa. 409. 1 ibid. m See pa. 497.
n See pa. 275. 'o Pa. 302 p Pa. 349.
9 Pa. 482.
r Pa. 176, 201, 220, 265, 463. * Pa. 224, as to appointment of Sheriffs, & pa. 176, 201, 220, as io marshal's fees ! Pa. 266, 305, 464. + Pa.266, 465.
10 P. 305. y Pa. 448.9.
sioners of county courts, (the same as justices of the peace) were formerly appointed by the governor z afterwards by act of assembly ;a but at the commencement of the commonwealth they were appointed by the house of burgesses ;b afterwards they were recominended by their courts, and commissioned by the governor and council,c and finally their appointment was confirmed by the assembly.d During the same period the county courts recommended three or more to the governor and council, out of which they made a selection for sheriff's,e who were to continue in office for one year only:f
No representative government was ever instituted in which the principles of universal suffrage, and of full representation, were carried further than in Virginia. The right of suffrage was originally exercised by all freemen; who were not compellable to
go from their plantations to vote for burgesses ;g but might give • their suffrages by subscribing a paper.h This mode having been
attended with considerable inconvenience, it was provided that all future elections should be by plurality of voices present; and a fine was imposed on all free men, who should fail to attend at the time and place appointed for the election. The number of burgesses to a plantation or settlement (before the formation of counties) was unlimited ;k nor does it appear that, at that time, any particular qualifications were necessary. After counties laid off, the namber of representatives to a county remained without limitation, until Noveinber, 1645,l when they were reduced to four to each county, except James City county, which might send five, and the city itself one ;m and the election was directed to be held where the county courts were,n except in those places which were specially authorised by act of assembly to hold elections.-These were certain parishes to which that privilege was granted ;o and it was afterwards extended to all parishes, they paying the expenses of their burgesses, as the counties in general were compelled to do in relation to theirs. At the March session, 1660-1, the number of burgesses was limited to two for each county, and one for James City, it being the metropolis.q
: See the form of the commission, pa. 132. a Pa. 168, 166. b Pa. 372. cPa 376, 402.
d Pa. 480.
e Pa. 392.
f Pa. 442. 3 Pa. 227
h Pa. 333.
i Pa. 333-4. & See beginning of acts of 1629, pa. 138, of 1630, pa. 147, of 1632, pa. 152, same year, page 178, of 1633, page 202, in all of which it will be found that each plantation sent their members to the assembly.
I See acts of 1643, page 239, of 1644, page 283, February, 1644-5, page 288, and of November, 1645, page 299.
m Pa. 300. n Ibid. o Pa. 250, 277.
p Pa. 421, 520, 267, 454. q See Act VII, of March, 1660-1, which was re-enacted in the revisal of March, 1661-2, and may be found in Purvis's Collection, act LXXXIV, page 64.
The first act which in the smallest degree abridged the right of suffrage, or prescribed the qualifications of the members, passed at the March session, 1654-5. By this act it was declared, that the persons who should be elected to serve in assembly be such, and no is other than such, as were persons of known integrity and of good “conversation, and of the age of one and twenty years."'s That - all house keepers, whether freeholders, lease-holders, or other“ wise tenants, should only be capable to elect burgesses ;” provided that the term “house keepers should extend vo further than “ to one person in a family.” At the next session, however, so much of this act as excluded ANY FREEMAN from voting was repealed: the assembly declaring " that they conceived it something
hard and unagreeable to reason that any persons should pay equal 6 taxes, and yet have no votes in election." In the revisal of 1657-8, the same principle is preserved; the right of suffrage being extended to “ ALL persons inhabiting in the colony, that “ are FREE MEN."'W By an act of 1670, that right was, for the first time, confined to FREE HOLDERS only ;x and the necessity of this qualification was further enforced by instructions from king, Charles II, to sir Wm. Berkeley, governor, in 1676 : “ You shall "take care," says the second article of the instructions, “ that the « members of the assembly be elected, only by FREE HOLDERS, as “ being more agreeable to the custonie of England, to which you “are as nigh as conveniently you can to conform yourselfe."y
To enumerate all the instances in which the leading principles of laws, supposed to be of late origin, may be traced back to a remote period of antiquity, would far exceed the limits usually devoted to a preface; but it would be a work of great utility. On the foundation of many of our ancient laws, the superstructure of the modern has been raised; and many of them are much more clearly expressed than those, on the same subject, of a more recent date. This circumstauce, added to the reasons often assigned by the early legislatures for the enacting of their laws, would remove much of that doubt and perplexity which is so often experienced in the exposition of a statute. Should the editor meet with that encouragement in bis arduous undertaking, which will permit him to indulge a hope that his labours have obtained some share of public approbation, he will give a General Index at the end of the work, which shall contain a correct history of our several laws from the earliest period to the present time.
Bridges and ferries were at first established and maintained at public expense ;z but this being considered burthensome to the in
w Pa. 475.
r Pa. 411. Pa. 412.
v Pa. 403 x Purvis's Collection, 167-8, and vol. 2 of this work. y Manuscript in possession of the Editor, folio 121, b.
* Pa. 269