« AnteriorContinuar »
the parishes where the parties reside. The act of solemnization may be by the minister of any society of Christians, who shall have been previously licensed for this purpose by the court of the county. Quakers and Menonists, however, are exempted from all these conditions, and marriage among them is to be solemnized by the society itself.
A foreigner of any nation, not in open war with us, becomes naturalized by removing to the state to reside, and taking an oath of fidelity; and thereupon acquires every right of a native citizen: and citizens may divest themselves of that character, by declaring, by solemn deed, or in open court, that they mean to expatriate themselves, and no longer to be citizens of this state.
Conveyances of land must be registered in the court of the county wherein they lie, or in the general court, or they are void, as to creditors, and subsequent purchasers. Slaves pass by descent and dower as lands do. Where the descent is from a parent, the heir is bound to pay an equal share of their value in nioney to each of his brothers and sisters.
Slaves, as well as lands, were entailable during the monarchy: but, hy, an act of the first republican assembly, all donees in tail, present and future, were vested with the absolute dominion of the entailed subject.
Bills of exchange, being protested, carry 10 per cent. interest from their date.
No person is allowed, in any other case, to take moro than five per cent. per annum simple interest for the loan of moneys.
Gaming debts are made void, and moneys actually paid to discharge such debts (if they exceed 40 shillings) may be recovered by the payer within three months, or by any other person afterwards.
Tobacco, flour, beef, pork, tar, pitch, and turpentine, must be inspected by persons publicly appointed, before they can be exported.
The erecting iron works and mills is encouraged by many privileges; with necessary cautions however to
prevent their dams from obstructing the navigation of the water-courses. The general assembly have on several occasions shown a great desire to eucourage tho opening the great falls of James and Patowinac rivers. As yet however, neither of these have beeu effected.
The laws have also descended to the preservation and improvement of the race of useful animals, such as horses, cattle, deer; to the extirpation of those which are noxious, as wolves, squirrels, crows, blackbirds; and to the guarding our citizens against infectious disorders, by obliging suspected vessels coming into the state, to perforın quarautine, and by regulating the conduct of persons having such disorders within the state.
The niode of acquiring lands, in the earliest times of our settleinent, was by petition to the general assembly. If the lands prayed for were already cleared of the Indian title, and the assemlily thought the prayer reasonable, they passed the property by their vote to the petitioner. But if they had not yet been ceded by the Indians, it was necessary that the petitioner should previously purchase their right. This purchase the asseinhly verified, by enquiries of the Indian proprietors; and being satisfied of its reality and fairness, proceeded further to exainine the reasonableness of the petition, and its consistence with policy; and according to the result, either granted or rejected the petition. The company also sometimes, though very rarely, granted lands, independently of the general assembly. As the colony increased, and individual applications for land multiplierl, it was found to give too much occupation to the general assembly to senquire into and execute the grant in every special case. They therefore thought it better to establish general rules, according to which all grants should be maile, and to leave to the governor the execution of them, under these rules. This they did by what have been usually called the land laws, amnending them from time to time, as their defects were developed. According to these laws, when au individual wished a portion of unappropriated land, he was to locate and survey it by a public officer, appointed
for that purpose: its breadth was to bear a certain proportion to its length; the grant was to be executed by the governor: and the lands were to be improved in a certain manner, within a given time. From these regulations there resulted to the state a sole and exclusive power of taking conveyances of the Indian right of soil: since, according to them an Indian conveyance alone could give no right to an individual, which the laws would acknowledge. The state, or the crown, thereafter, made general purchases of the Indians from time to time, and the governor parcelled them out by special grants, conformable to the rules before described, which it was not in his power, or in that of the crown, to dispense with. Grants, unac
accompanied by their proper legal circumstances, were set aside regularly by scire facias, or by bill in chancery. Since the establishment of our new government, this order of things is but little changed. An individual, wishing to appropriate to himself lands still unappropriated by any other, pays to the public treasurer a sum of money proportioned to the quantity he wants. He carries the treasurer's receipt to the auditors of public accompts, who thereupon debit the treasurer with the sum, and order the register of the land office to give the party a warrant for his land. With this warrant from the rogister, he goes to the surveyor of the county where the land lies on which he has cast his eye. The surveyor lays it off for him, gives him its exact description, in the form of a certificate, which certificate he returns to the land office, where a grant is made out, and is signed by the governor. This vests in him a perfect dominion in his lands, transmissible to whom he pleases by deed or will, or by descent to his heirs, if he die intestate.
Many of the laws which were in force during the monarchy being relative merely to that form of government, or inculcating principles inconsistent with republicanism, the first assembly which inet after the establishment of the commonwealth appointed a committee to revise the whole code, to reduce it into pro
per form and volume, and report it to the assembly. This work has been executed by three gentlemen, and reported; but probably will not be taken up till a restoration of peace shall leave to the legislature leisure to go through such a work.
The plan of the revisal was this.' The common law of England, by which is meant, that part of the English law which was anterior to the date of the oldest statutes extant, is made the basis of the work. It was thought dangerous to attempt to reduce it to a text: it was therefore left to be collected from the usual monuments of it. Necessary alterations in that, and so much of the whole body of the British statutes, and of acts of assembly, as were thought proper to be retained, were digested into 126 new acts, in which simplicity of style was aimed at, as far as was safe. The following are the most remarkable alterations proposed:
To change the rules of descent, so as that the lands of any person dying intestate shall be divisible equally among all his children, or other representatives, in equal degree.
To make slaves distributable among the next of kin, as other moveables.
To have all public expenses, whether of the general treasury, or of a parish or county, (as for the maintenance of the poor, building bridges, court-houses, &c.) supplied by assessments on the citizens, in proportion to their property.
To hire undertakers for keeping the public roads in repair, and indemnify individuals through whose lands new roads shall be opened.
To define with precision the rules whereby aliens should become citizens, and citizens make themselves aliens.
To establish religious freedom on the broadest bot
To emancipate all slaves born after passing the act. The bill reported by the revisors does not itself contain this proposition ; but an amendment containing it was prepared, to be offered to the legislature when
over the bill should be taken up, and further directing,