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Colonial and State Records of North Carolina
Report by George Burrington concerning acts of the North Carolina General Assembly passed in 1715
Burrington, George, 1680-1759
Volume 03, Pages 180-189

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[B. P. R. O. North Carolina. B. T. Vol. 8. A. 15. P. 231.]

1. An Act for the better observing of the Lords Day called Sunday the 30th of January the 29th of May and the 22d of September. And also for the suppressing profaneness Immorality and divers other vitious & enormous sins.

This Law is very well intended for the suppressing Vice and Immorality but it is like most laws of this kind too little regarded.

2. An Act for establishing the Church and appointing Select Vestrys.

This Act not only confirms the Church of England here but divides the Country into Parishes according to the Scituation & Conveniency. Appoints Church Wardens and a Vestry in each Parish and investeth them with Power, but as they allow them to raise a levy of but 5sh per Poll on the Parish since Bills are come into Payment it amounts to so little as will scarce do more (after maintaining the Poor if any) than to pay a Reader for reading the Common Prayer and a Printed Sermon on Sundays to the People but as to Gleebs & Collection of Parsons there is so little of it that there is not a settled Parson in the Country. His Majesty's Instruction on this head I laid before the Assembly but nothing was done upon it.

3. An Act for Liberty of Conscience And that the solemn Affirmation of the People called Quakers shall be accepted instead of an Oath in the usual forme.

This was an old Law and little altered on the Revisal—And as to the Affirmation of the Quakers they refuse taking it since the Act of Parliament in Great Britain that gives them further liberty they have usually taken the benefit of that Act here and in all the Plantations

4. An Act relating to the Bienniall and other Assemblys and regulating Elections and Members.

This was an old Law taken from one of the Lords Proprietors Original Constitutions and hath undergone little alteration.

This Act provides that the Burgesses chosen shall meet and sit at a certain day after the choice Whence they have sometimes been of Opinion that they could not be Prorogued or Disolved or Adjourned before they had mett and sate. But there being a Clause in the Act that the Lords Proprietors Power of calling Proroguing and Disolving Assemblys

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shall no ways by this Act be Invaded Limited or Restrained it seems plainly to leave the Power of Prorogueing and Desolving as before.

By this Act all Freemen are quallifyed to vote as well as Freeholders which is Contrary to my Instructions from his Majesty on that Head

The People also by this Law assemble and chuse Burgesses on the Day by the Act appointed without any writ for it which occasions a great deal of Mobbing and tumults; and returns so often that upon the whole I think it would be more for His Majesty's Service if this Act was repealed & Assemblys called only by writs as in all other His Majty's Colonys.

5. Coroners Appointed

This is an antient Law and seems taken from one of the Lords Proprietors Constitutions.

6. An Act for the qualification of such Officers.

This Act seems well provided to prevent any Persons disaffected to His Majesty from being put into Offices here and is made agreable to the Laws of Great Britain.

7. An Act to appoint Constables.

This has been an antient Law and the method found satisfactory & agreable to the Purpose.

8. An Act relating to the Justices of the Court of Common Pleas and to prevent the Commissioners and other inferior Officers of the said Court pleading as Attorneys.

This has been an old Law and prohibits not only the Justices or Commissioners as they are called from Pleading or expounding the Causes, but also all Officers of the Court, to prevent the occasion of mall practise.

9. An Act for ascerting the time and method for the executing and return of Originall Writts and for the better regulating divers priviledges in the Court of Pleas.

This Act in general seems well adapted to shorten the practice of the Law, by preventing the necessity of several mean Processes that may delay justice, but is not so elearly worded as it might have been, and is in some Causes supply'd by Constructions and Practise accordingly and some other additional Acts have been made especially as to original Attachments, which in this Country where there are so many loose transient People is found very necessary. This Act seems to require special Bayl in all Cases which the Laws of England in many Cases does not.

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10. An Act to direct the method to be observed in the examination and Committment of Criminalls.

This Act is intended in favour of the liberty of the Subject in criminall Processes & seems well approved of by the People.

11. An Act concerning Evidences

This is an antient Law and the Country well enough satisfyed with the method—But there seems wanting a sufficient Provision for takeing Depositions of People leaving the Country which often happens suddenly to the Detriment of the Partys.

12. An Act for the relief of such Creditors whose Debtors having land in this Government, depart without leaving personal Estate sufficient to pay the Debt.

This Act subjecting the Lands of fugitive Debtors to the payment of their Debts, seems contrary to the Laws and useages of England, but is agreable to the Customs of the Plantations where real Estates are everywere more or less subject to different useages from what they are in England, and in this case one principal reason seems to be that Lands in England being improved to a great yearly value may by the annual income on an extent pay the Debt but Lands here are generally of little yearly rent and the Benifit of them is the accruing Improvements of the Occupyer which on extent in the end he must loose the Benifit off would be too hard.

13. An Act concerning escapes of Persons under Execution.

This Law was made before Goals was built in this Country but now that Part relateing to the Marshalls House since Goals are built is become obsolete.

14. An Act to direct the disposal of Goods upon execution and for the better regulation of Distresses hereafter to be made for Levys and Quit Rents.

This Law though the partiallity of the Appraisors often occasioned great frauds, they had formerly the same Law in the neighbouring Government of Virginia but finding the corrupt practices upon it had brought the method nearer to the Laws of England, and exposed the Goods seized, to be under certain regulations exposed to sale.

15. An Act concerning Attorneys from forraign Parts and for giving priority to Country Debts.

This Act obliges all Forreigners suing here to give security for the Cost &c. if cast and gives the Priority of Debts contracted in the Country to be paid before foreign debts.

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16. An Act concerning Appeals and Writts of Error.

This Law seems well provided for redressing errors which are often much sooner and better stop'd by appealing than could be by writ of Error at a distance and it would have been ilconvenient to have set aside the Remedy by Writ of Error because the Appeal being always made instantly boath Partys being present without further notice, and if that were slip'd there would be no further remedy to the Law hath very well admitted remedy either way.

And now there is liberty of appealing by the King's Instructions from the General Court to Me and Council, and in cases of Moment to the King and Council that Point seems thoroughly provided for.

17. An Act to prevent the Inhabitants of Bath County bringing Actions in the General Court against one another for less than tenn Pounds.

This is an Act for the Ease of the People living at distance from the General Court and I have no Complaint against it.

18. An Act for the Tryall of small & mean Causes

This is a Law People are generally fond of being an expedicious way of obtaining justice, and they have by subsequent Laws increased the Power of the Justices to determine for above double the sum here stated.

19. An Act for the better regulating the Militia of this Government.

This Act was made during the Warr & seems well enough to Provide for the Ends intended.

20. A Form of a Patent.

This Act was made to confirme the tenure of Lands here according to the Grand Deed on the same footing as in Virginia the Rent at 2sh per hundred acres and ascertains what shall be deem'd seating and planting according to the Condition of the Grant and tho' in strictness imediately on faylure of the condition should revert; yet by this Act it is saved seven years after if the land be seated before it's granted to another by an elaps'd Patent as they are called which by the Formallitys in elapsing hitherto used renders it often fruitless and greatly frustrates the Condition of the Patent.

21. An Act concerning old Titles of Lands and for the Limitation of Actions and for avoiding Suite in Law.

By this Act Titles are confirmed by Possession 7 years and the time for bringing Actions is limited to a shorter time than by the Statutes of Limitation in England they were reduced to.

22. Feme Coverts how to pass Lands.

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23. An Act for Preventing Disputes concerning Lands already Surveyed.

The allowance of Tenn in the hundred on a Resurvey does not seem extravagant and as I am told is the same in Virginia but that the Patentee should have the surplusage Land prevents all discoverys of such frauds But could the Petitioner in such Case have the surplusage it would discover many Concealments that way.

24. An Act for settling and maintaining Pillotts at Roanoke and Qacock Inletts.

This Act was well design'd for the Encouragement of Trade but of late years has been wholly neglected and tho' all Vessells pay such a sum for powder money which ought to have been for Pilotage, the Publick of late have taken no Care about it. I design to settle Pilots at OcaCock which is one of the best Inletts in the Country into a safe harbour, but shoally afterwards; but large ships may come in there and unlade and lade if such a Regulation could be made.

25. An Act for Entering of Vessells and to prevent the Exportation of Debtors.

This Act is to prevent the exporting Debtors till they give security for Payment of their Debts.

26. An Act for raising a Publick Magazine of Ammunition upon the Tonnage of all Vessells trading to this Government.

This Act is for raysing an Impost Duty on Tonage of Vessells which is commonly called the Powder money and tho' the Title of the Act is for raysing a Magazine there is nothing further mentioned about it in the Act nor is the money appropriated by the Act, it is provided to be paid in Ammunition, But as liberty is given in the Act to pay it in Bills little else but Bills has been paid which the Receivers have constantly accounted for to the Assembly. Formerly some part of it was appropriated to Buoying out the Channels but that has been lately wholly neglected and the money has generally been appropriated to pay the Assembly Men and other Publick Charges.

27. An Act concerning Roads and Ferrys.

This Act is well adapted to the Purpose and suitable to the circumstances of the Place and People but wants to be more effectually put in execution.

28. An Act to encourage the building of Mills

This was made to encourage People to build Mills and settle the toll to be taken

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29. An Act to appoint Publick Registers and to direct the method to be observed in conveying Lands, Goods and Chattels and for preventing fraudulent Deeds and Mortgages

By this Act the People by votes chuse three Persons out of which the Governor nominates one for Register in each Precinct, who is to register all Deeds and Conveyances of Land &c. and feofment of Lands so recorded having first been proved before the Chief Justice or Precinct Court are Good in Law to pass the Possession and Estate without Livery and Seizen. Provided such Deed be recorded in a Year after date else to be void This Register is to record all Births, Burialls and Mariages.

30. An Act concerning Weights and Measures.

By this Act every Parish is to Provide sealed Weights and Measures to be kept by the Church Wardens as a Standard.

31. Staple Comodities Rated.

This Act seems to have been well intended at first for the Ease of the People to make a medium of Trade and means of Payment in the Produce of the Country, Silver being so scarce as not to be had; But there was two defects in it—One was that whatever Justness or equality was at first in settling the Price or Rates a few years necessary in the course of Trade varying the Price of Goods it must become unequal; as for instance Dear skins are to this day worth in Silver the Price rated while Pitch and Tarr have been scarce worth a quarter part what they are rated at in Silver, to prevent this the rates should have been regulated every Assembly at least. Another inconveniency in it is the rateing so many goods some of them being scarcely to be had, others too trifling to be called staple Comoditys as the Title of the Act is and had much better been confined to some few of the Commoditys, such as Tobacco, Rice, Pitch and Tarr, Beef, Pork, Wheat and Corn, those might justly be called Staple and are the chief Produce of the Country Always vendable and the greatest Merchandize. While the Rates are so unequal People generally take advantage to pay in the worst Commodity which often occasions unfairness in Trade and Dealings; and the Fees and Publick Revenues were sure to be be constantly paid in the worst kinde, had not People a greater advantage still in paying in Bills that are worse than any of the Comoditys. Indeed I am of opinion that if His Majesty is pleased to allow their Publick Bills of Credit to subsist any rated Comoditys are entirely useless and only serves to perplex strangers tradeing and gives great opportunity for Frauds & Tricks in their Dealings.

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32. An Act to ascertain the time for Payment of Pork, Wheat and Indian Corn.

33. An Act ascertaining the Gauge of Barrels and to prevent frauds in Pork, Beef, Pitch or Tarr.

This Act was intended to prevent frauds & abuses in Trade and the Comoditys raised among us but hath in great Measure proved ineffectual through the shortness of time allowed and that Traders seldom care for the trouble and inconveniency if the Comodity be barely tolerable, and the Act itself hath been very dificult in the Construction of the dubble damages to the party, and the value to be forfeited or what to be done with the Comodity, some of which ought to be condemned and burnt others are of value though short perhaps in Quantity so that by one means or other there is little care taken in it, and great discredit & damage our Trade suffers by it which I think will not be sufficiently remedy'd till searchers are appointed to seal & mark the goods and none to pass without in Payment. But I doubt a due regulation in this or the last Act about Staple Comoditys would not be easily obtained to pass an Assembly here according to the present disposition I see in them.

34. An Act to appoint the marking of Horses, Cattle & Hogs, and to prevent Injuries being done by killing mismarking driving away or destroying Peoples Stocks.

This Act is for the benifit of the Inhabitants that let their stock run at large in the Woods to prevent mistakes mismarking or taking from one another and in such Case gives a Penalty instead of the bare damage to be recovered, and on the other hand makes it but a Penal offence instead of a criminal Prosecution for Fellony or otherwise which might be to severe where stock run so promis-cuously and mistakes so easily made.

35. An Act appointing toll Books to be kept at or near Khatharine's Creek in Chowan Precinct at the head of Pequimins Precinct and at the mouth of the No West River in Currituck Precinct and to prevent persons from transporting or driving Horses, Cattle or Hogs to other Persons Lands.

This Act is to regulate Abuses by the borderers and Traders of Virginia but hath not been effectually put in execution and some further Regulation therein seems necessary both in tradeing from Virginia and to it but must be left to time.

36. What Fences are sufficient.

An Act concerning Fences.

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37. An Act concerning Servants & Slaves.

This law is found very benificial to People that have Servants and Slaves, and is agreable to the Customs and Useages of other Places in America.

38. Private Burials Prohibited

This is an old Act made when People were thinly inhabited but now seems grown out of use

39. An Act concerning proving Wills and granting Letters of Administration and to prevent frauds in the management of Intestates Estates.

The Substance of this Act seems to be taken from the Statutes of England but there hath been found a necessity of additional Acts twice as will be seen in their place.

40. An Act concerning Orphans

The occasion of this Act was the Injustice used to Orphans that often fell into hands that would obscurely bind them out or convey them away and destroy what they had which was by this prevented.

41. An Act to encourage the destroying of Vermin


42. An Act to ascertain what Persons are tithables and to direct the method to be observed in taking the Lists of them.

This is an antient Law and the usual method for taking Lists for a Pole tax in Publick or Parish Leveys and hath been found no ways illconvenient.

43. An Act for appointing a town in the County of Bath and for securing the Publick Library belonging to St Thomas's Parish in Pamptico.

This tho' a long Act only concerns a Town where little Improvements have been made, and for securing a small Library that was too much embezelled before the Act was made.

44. An Act concerning Ordinary Keepers & Tipling Houses.

This is a very old Law, but that part of it which says that the Ordinary Keeper is to take Cent per Cent advance upon what Liquor he sels is altered and the Precinct Courts have Power from time to time to settle their Rents upon all sorts of Liquor and Dyet.

45. An Act ascertaining the currency of Dollars.

The intent of this Law was to bring Dollars into the Country and to make them current here, but it never had the effect.

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46. An Act ascertaining the Damage upon protested Bills of Exchange.

This is a Law copied from Virginia, & I think the Damage Given is no ways unreasonable.

47. Public Letters how to be conveyed.

This Law was made during the Indian Warr when it was necessary Publick Letters should have dispatch but never answered the end and is now entirely useless.

48. An Act to prevent the taking Boats, Cannoes and Pereanges from Landings without leave.

This Law considering our scituation upon Rivers and Creeks and the Disapointment People meet withall in having their Boats and Cannoes taken away is no way amiss.

49. An Act to ascertain Officers Fees.

This is the old Law for Fees (except in some few Articles that were altered in the year 1715.) when the Country was without Bills of Credit and the rated Species was so low that it was full as good as Proclamation Money and ought allways to have been kept to this Standard which is fully observed upon in the Report.

50. An Act for restraining the Indians from molesting or injuring the Inhabitants of this Government and for securing to the Indians the Right and Property of their own Lands.

This Law has proved very convenient to prevent any irregularities and misunderstandings with the Tributary Indians that live among us who have ever since behaved peaceably and are now excepting the Tuscaroras decayed and grown very inconsiderable.

51. Public Treasurers to give Account.

By this Act the Treasurers &c. are obliged to account to the Assembly for all Moneys received by authority of Assembly.

52. An Act for a Town on Roanoak Island.

This Project failed and the Act hath hitherto taken no effect, nor any Prospect at present of it.

53. An Act for raising Corn to satisfy the Debt due from this Government to the Honble Charles Craven Esqre Governor of South Carolina And for the Subsistance of such Forces as shall be raised for the necessary Defence of the Frontiers of this Government.

This was a temporary Act to discharge a large Debt occasioned by the Indian Warr for Assistants given this Country from South Carolina.

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54. An Act for raising the sum of two thousand Pounds annually 'till the Publick Debts are answered and paid, and for the better encouraging the Currency of the Public Bills of Credit.

By this Act a tax was layd of 15sh per Poll for tithable and rateable Persons and a land Tax of 2s 6d per hundred acres and a Method taken for a Rent Role at that time, tho' now the Assembly is so backward in doing anything of the like Nature for a Rent Role to collect the Quit Rents by which is so much wanted for His Majesty's Service And it's well provided by this Act if Lands were concealed three years unpaid and nothing to be found on the Land to levy, the Justices of the Precinct Courts where the Land lay had Power to sell so much of it as should pay the dues thereon and charges This tax being intended as a sinking Fund to call in the Bills & to lessen them 2000 per annum the publick Faith was pledged not only for encouragement of Merchants & other Traders to establish their Currency but to assure the Lords Proprietors that they should in a few years be sunk & it was enacted that no new Bills should afterwards be made nor this Tax lessened till all the Bills were called in but this was afterward broke in upon & the taxes lessened & new Bills emitted to the Apparent & continual loss of the Lords Proprietors in their Revenue & their Officers who were pay'd in the Paper Currency

55. An Act impowering Johanna Peterson Widow of Thomas Peterson late of Albemarle County Esqre to make sale of certain Lands late belonging to the said Thomas Peterson and to make other Provision for Anna the daughter of the said Thomas Peterson to whom the said Lands do descend.

A private Act for sale of Land.

56. An Act confirming the Titles of sundry Persons who have already or hereafter may purchase Lands of Col: Thomas Cary in Bath County.

This Act to confirm some doubtful Titles of Land purchased by Collonel Cary.

57. An Act for the confirmation of the Laws passed this Session of Assembly and for repealing all former Laws not herein particularly excepted.

This Act finishes the Revisal of the Laws in 1715 and having taken out of the former Laws what was thought necessary or convenient they made this to be the Body of Laws for the Government and repealed all former Laws excepting some few by name expressed and all private Acts &c. and a Method is prescribed for dispersing the Laws, and encouragement given for printing of them but it was never effected.