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Labitants of many of the counties, especially the poor, who seldom ised them; the law, as to ferries, was repealed,a and the county courts vested with power to establish ferries on the application of individuals, and fix their rates.b The exclusive right of establishing ferries was afterwards resumed by the assembly; and having exercised it for a series of years, to the great interruption of other public business, the legislature at the session of 1806,c restored to the county courts the power exercised by them so long ago as the year 1647.
The present volume has been printed entirely from manuscript, and brings down the laws to the termination of the commonwealth, in 1660. As these documents are at such complete variance with the historical accounts which we have had of the public transactions in Virginia, especially during the four last years of the commonwealth, I have felt it an indispensable duty to annex copious notes, explanatory of the views which I have taken of those subjects.d
In the running title to the acts passed during the COMMONWEALTH, that TERM has been preserved; contrary to the practice in England, which has been to consider the commonwealth, in the computation of the reign of Charles II. as a period which never existed. Thus we see in the Statute-books, and Reporters, the year 1661, which was in the first year after Charles II. was actually at the head of government, intituled as the twelfth year of his reign.e
In a work so laborious as the present, where the characters in which the laws are written are as difficult to decypher as the Greek language would be to a person who had never learnt the alphabet, it is impossible to avoid the committing of many errors. The effect upon the eye sight, too, has been incalculably injurious. To this cause may, doubtless, be ascribed some of the mere literal errors which have escaped my utmost diligence. But it is believed that few have passed unnoticed which affect the sense. The only error of any importance which I have to regret, is in the arrangement of the acts of March, 1654-5, and 1655-6. These were dated in the MS. simply 1655, and the acts of March, 1655-6, were there placed before those of March, 1654-5. It was only by the subject matter that the error could be discovered: and when done, it was too late to alter the arrangement. The reader will therefore turn over from page 393 to 404, and having gone to page 414, he will return to 393.
To this volume is prefixed a list of governors of Virginia, du
a Pa. 348.
b Pa. 348, 411.
c See Revised Code, vol. 2, pa. 130. d See Notes to pa. 358, 369, 429, 513, 526.
e See acts of 1661-2, in vol. 2. See also Hardres's Reports 166. Sir Thomas Raymond's Report 1, and I Levinz's Rep. I.
ring the period comprised in it, taken from an ancient manuscript, with which the editor was favored by Mr. Jefferson, late President of the United States A similar list will be prefixed to each volume and at the end of the work, a complete table, exhibiting an historical view of the formation, boundaries, and variation in the names of the several counties in Virginia will be given.
The Ancient Charters to the first adventurers, forming a mass of important information, have hitherto been of very difficult access; and some of them existing only in manuscript, it was thought that a general collection of them would greatly add to the utility of the work-They have accordingly been compiled and printed from the best authorities.
As an introduction to the laws of an once infant colony, it has been deemed proper to notice those acts of sovereignty, which the people were either compelled to resort to, when the oppressions of the mother country, left them no alternative but absolute slavery, or the formation of an independent government; or which their more mature judgment induced them to adopt. With this view, the CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES, with the latest amendments; the DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE; the ARTICLES OF CONFEDERATION; the DECLARATION OF RIGHTS, and CONSTITUTION OF VIRGINIA have been inserted. But the people of Virginia, represented in convention, being the first to proclaim the idea of AMERICAN INDEPENDENCE, that solemn act may, with propriety. claim the first place in a collection of their laws; and has accordingly been inserted.
WILLIAM WALLER HENING.
Richmond, 29th August, 1809.
THE SECOND EDITION.
By the act of the 5th day of February, 1808, authorizing the editor to publish the Statutes at Large, and prescribing the mode of authentication, one hundred and fifty copies were subscribed for, on behalf of the commonwealth; which added to two hundred copies printed for the use of the editor's subscribers, made the impression three hundred and fifty copies only. Under this subscription, the work progressed to the end of the 4th volume, when the interruptions produced by the late war, and the death of the publisher, Mr. Samuel Pleasants, Junr. occasioned its suspension. When the committee on the Revised Code of 1819, reported to the legislature, they so strongly recommended the continuation of the Statutes at Large, that the act of the 10th of March, 1819, was passed. By this act, the subscription, on behalf of the state, was increased to eight hundred copies; but no provision was made for completing the sets with the first four volumes. The first volume having been long out of print, and the state having a large surplus of the 5th and subsequent volumes, the act of the 24th of January, 1823, was passed, which provides, for completing the sets, and appropriates the proceeds of the sales of 500 copies, under the superintendence of the executive, to the purchase of a public library.
In the first edition, commencing on page 238, the caption of the acts states them to have been taken from a MS. belonging to Edmund Randolph, Esq. The volume was received from that gentleman, by the editor, who understood it to be his property. But from two letters addressed to the editor by Thomas Jefferson, Esq., late President of the United States, the one dated the 25th of April, 1815, the other the 3d of September, 1820, there was such
conclusive evidence that the MS. belonged to him, and had been borrowed, from his library, by Edmund Randolph, Esq., when he contemplated writing a history of Virginia, that it has been sent to the library of Congress, with the other MSS. included in Mr. Jefferson's Catalogue. The error in the caption has been corrected in this edition.
WILLIAM WALLER HENING.
TABLE OF CONTENTS.
LIST of Governors of Virginia, during the period comprised in this volume
Resolution of the Convention of Virginia, authorising their Delegates in Congress to declare American Independence
Constitution of the United States, with the latest amend
Declaration of Independence
Articles of Confederation
Declaration of Rights of Virginia
Ancient Charters relating to the first settlement of Vir-
Second Charter of King James I. to the Treasurer and