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partially affected by an act of 1796—but in 1797, it was formally amended. By this act commissioners were appointed by the courts of quarter sessions, to value land taken in execution; and in case it would not sell for three-fourths of its estimated value, it might be sold on three months' credit, or replevied. A law of the preceding year, having exempted slaves from execution, where the defendant had land—this act exempted the land, if there were slaves.
Another act, passed in 1799, dispensed altogether with the commissioners, and ordained that land taken in execution, should be sold on three months' credit, for whatever it would bring; or the defendant in the mean time, might replevy the debt, for a like term.
It is worthy of notice, that, notwithstanding these various laws make no scruple of changing the relative situation of debtor, and creditor, in various respects; that yet they were uniform in excluding land from the payment of debts contracted previous to the passage of the act of 1792.
An act of this session, prescribed the mode of proceeding in cases of impeachment; with due regard to the nature, and object of the constitutional provisions, on that subject.
The instituting inspections of tobacco, hemp, and flour, employed a portion of the same session.
This act required the appointment of three inspectors at each warehouse; and adopted the laws of Virginia, in force at the separation, for their guide, and government. It is certainly a department of great importance to the agricultural interests of the country. That the legislature have at all times had a fellow-feeling with their constituents, as to inspections, may be satisfactorily inferred from the fact, that the law was amended every year, but one, during the existence of the first constitution; and for the next seven years ensuing—and how much oftener, it is not thought material to inquire. 'Trades live by consumption; and frangibility in a commodity is as useful a quality to the manufacturer of hardwares, as defects and imperfections, inadequacy, or ambiguity, in the laws, are to the faculty of law makers, or the expounders of laws. That the subject need not be touched again, it may now be closed with the remark—that owing to legislation, or some other cause, not less deleterious, public inspections are in but low repute; and add little or nothing, to the credit of the article inspected, at home or abroad. Prudent purchasers inspect for themselves. One cause of this result, is, the too great number of inspections; another, the relaxed habits of the country. Others could be named, but need not, a general reform, will alone correct the evil. Of which, the prospect has not yet dawned.
"An act concerning executions, and for the relief of insolvent debtors," has relation only to civil transactions—is always important, as a part of the remedial system of every government; and, in fact, is not only the consummation of justice, but it is the great digestive organ of the social, and municipal system. Keep this department in a state of healthy activity, and it shall preserve, or free conscience, from more error, and be productive df greater good, than all the religious creeds in the state. It may be repeated, that a well digested, permanent, and regularly enforced, execution law, both civil and criminal, teaches the right code of morals; renders useless all other sumptuary laws; and at the same time, yields to industry its most pleasing incentives, in a manner perfectly unattainable by any other means without it. To neglect, or embarrass, the due operations of this department, is to open the road for disorder into every part of the community. It is, however, only in the civil line, that the act at present contemplated, operates. rt, of course, directs the mode of suing out, executing, and returning, the various final process, emanating from the courts, upon judgments, decrees, and orders, usually denominated by the general term, "executions."
Perhaps, no single branch of the judicial department, not withstanding the fluctuating state of all, has undergone more derangements, or greater shocks from the legislature, than this. It would seem as if this was thought the most vital part, and has therefore been the most frequently attacked, as concentrating in a single vessel all the animal fluid of the whole system whenever that was to be disordered, the doctors went to work on the execution law. A stop law, of two lines, may produce total stagnation jn the circulation of justice: and this is not without example.
Not to forestall the intended review of the subject, it will be passed at present, with the remark—that the act of 1732 was amended in 1793, again in 1794, and once more under the first constitution, in 1796 ., by a general law, on the subject.
Constables, peace officers, familiar under the laws of Virginia, holding, in relation to justices of the peace, a rank similar to that of sheriff, with respect to the courts, were" recognised; and their duties and fees regulated, by an act of this session; which has shared the common fate of frequent amendment. Had those so called been real amendments of the laws, although indicating great ignorance, or inattention in their original formation—yet the legal code of Kentucky, should long since have been the most perfect in the universe. But alterations, are not necessarily improvements. And it frequently happened, that the amendment made the law worse, instead of better—perplexed, what it professed to explain— was the mere effect of the change of members from year to year—or it suited some individual member—or it had been promised to some influential man, in the course of an electioneering canvass for a seat in the legislature.
The governor, by and with the advice of the senate, had the appointment of constables under the constitution, until 1799; when by law the appointment was vested in the county courts, respectively; which is believed to have been entirely repugnant to the constitution: although the journal exhibits no evidence of a veto, by the governor. In the preceding year an act had passed, to reduce into one the several acts con^arming constables.
A new county was formed out of parts of Lincoln and Nelson, to take effect from and after the first day of January, 1793, by the name of Green: "beginning on Green river, opposite the mouth of Little Barren river; thence a straight line such a course as will strike a point on the dividing ridge between Lynn camp, and Brush creek, a west course from Skegg's station on Brush creek; thence a straight line to the southwest corner of Washington county; thence along the same to the line of Lincoln county; thence west with the same to Green river; thence a line south forty-five degrees east to the Carolina boundary; thence with the same to Logan county line; thence withthe Logan county line to the Elk lick, on Little Barren river; thence down the said river to the beginning.''
uAn act to procure an enumeration of the free male inhabitants, above twenty-one years of age," sufficiently indicates its purpose.
Civil list warrants, were by law, made receivable in payment of the public taxes. These warrants were written vouchers, signed by the auditor of public accounts, that the person, to whom given, and within named, was entitled to receive from the treasury of the commonwealth, the sum expressed. When in fact, the revenue not yet collected, had placed no money in the treasury, with which to take them up. They were acknowledgments of debt, without funds for prompt payment—a kind of check, without a deposite; but free from any deception. This act was an evidence of the best intention—a readiness on the part of the legislature, to pay to the extent of its power; and even to anticipate the means, by forestalling the collection, and converting the evidence of the debt, into the medium of payment. It seems innocent—and in that and some other instances, no evil is known to have come of its operation. The smallness of the sum issued, and the short time the warrants were out—besides, that when they once got into the hands of the sheriff, or collector of public revenue, they rarely were again put into circulation; may be assigned as- satisfactory reasons for their not depreciating: they really were founded on a metallic capital. And yet, it may well be doubted whether they were allowable, under the constitution of the United States, to be put into circulation, as the effect was, by this law. Previous to the passage of this act, such warrants, were substantially but evidences of debt, and vouchers for the treasurer, that he had paid the contents, when he produced them. But to give them a quality of paying legal demands, was to authorize a tender; and also at the same time, to give them a circulating quality, as bills of credit—both of which are forbidden by the first paragraph of the tenth section of the federal constitution.
This may appear to some, a rigid construction; to whom the act will seem but the common right of a debtor legis* lature; that is, the right of anticipating the payment of debts— and these will say, the act was constitutional. The mischief to be guarded ;gainst by the constitution was incontestably, the consequences, and effects, of state legislatures substituting any thing whatever, in the place of gold and silver coin, as the medium of circulation, among the people, to pay debts.
The remedy, lies, in so construing the constitution, as to restrain the legislature, from such issues of paper, or any thing, in any shape, or form, as will have the effect directly, or indirectly, to produce that substitute. It is not, that exchanges, of thing for thing, shall not be made; or that mutual debts shall not be discounted, or set off, the one against the other, by individuals—but it is to avoid, and prevent, the legislature of a state, from interfering at all, with the currency, or medium of payment, by issuing, setting afloat, or uttering, any thing, not intrinsically valuable; but such, as may have an estimated value, dependent in no degree upon acts of the same legislature. It is believed, that universal experience. had proved, legislative bodies to be as apt to abuse power, at individuals—that the union required a uniform currency—and that it was unsafe to leave with the states, any power on the subject. This impression, proceeding from frequent and recent abuses by state legislatures, was strong when the constitution of the United States was made—while many other evidences,