WHEREAS in the present alarming and critical situation of the war with a powerful enemy in the neighbouring southern states, it may be indispensably necessary to provide and collect in proper places, with the utmost expedition, large stores of provisions, either to supply our own militia or continental troops, or for supplying the troops sent by our good allies to the assistance of these United States; Be it enacted by the General Assembly, That the governour, with the advice of council, be empowered to appoint commissioners in such counties, within this commonwealth, as they may think necessary for the purpose of carrying this act into execution.
And be it further enacted, That each and every of the commissioners, before they enter upon the execution of their trust, shall take the following oath or affirmation, which may be administered by any justice of the peace in the county for which the said commissioners shall be respectively appointed, to wit: "I A. B. do swear or affirm, that I will diligently and faithfully, without favour, affection, or partiality, execute the duty and trust reposed in me by an act of the general assembly of this commonwealth, entitled An act for procuring a supply of provisions and other necessaries for the use of the army." Be it enacted, That all and every of the commissioners appointed and qualified as before directed, shall have power and authority, and they are hereby required to examine into the state and quantity of the provisions in the possession of every person and family within their respective counties, where they shall have reason to believe such supplies may be obtained, and to purchase the same, at such prices as are herein after stated. And if the holder of such provisions or other necessaries shall refuse to sell the same, then the said commissioners shall seize the same for the publick use, under the following restrictions and limitations. Provided nevertheless, that the commissioners shall leave in the hands of the tavern-keepers, a sufficient quantity of such enumerated articles, not only for the use of the family of such tavern-keeper, but as much as may be necessary for the accustomed consumption of such tavern. The commissioners aforesaid shall tender to each holder, for all provisions he can spare, receipts or certificates for the same, at the rates, and upon the conditions hereafter mentioned, that is to say: For pickled beef, twenty four shillings per pound; for salted pork, thirty shillings per pound; for bacon, forty eight shillings per pound; for Indian corn, seven pounds per bushel; for wheat, twenty pounds per bushel; for rye, twelve pounds per bushel; for oats, five pounds per bushel; for pease, eight pounds per bushel; for superfine flour, sixty pounds per hundred weight; for common flour, fifty pounds per hundred weight; for ship stuff, forty pounds per hundred weight; for white bisket, seventy five pounds per hundred weight; for brown bisket, sixty pounds per hundred weight; for West Indian rum, thirty pounds per gallon; for brandy, twenty five pounds per gallon; for corn spirits, fifteen pounds per gallon; for allum salt, forty pounds; for French or fine salt, thirty pounds per bushel; provided, that the same exemption from seizure of salt as is extended to the importers thereof under this act, shall also be extended to the manufacturers of salt within this commonwealth. And provided also, that the proof herein after demanded of the importer, that he did bona fide import the articles found in his possession, shall extend to prove that he has not subsequent to the importation, sold the said articles to another. All such receipts or certificates shall be payable at the treasury, within six months from the date, with an interest at the rate of six per centum thereon; allowing always for the difference of value between the time of payment and the delivery of the articles; which difference shall be previously settled by the board of auditors, according to the respective prices of tobacco; or otherwise any person holding such receipt or certificate, may pay them to the collector in discharge of his or her next money tax, or his or her next specifick tax, in like kind and quantity.
And be it farther enacted, That if any person shall refuse to shew to the commissioners, when thereto required, his stock or quantity in possession, of any of the above enumerated articles, the said commissioners are hereby authorized and required to break open, in the day time, any house, barn, outhouse, mill, or storehouse, or other outhouses where any such enumerated articles may be suspected to be; and seize and take into his possession for the publick use of salted beef, pork, and bacon, the surplus; and of Indian corn, half the surplus; after leaving sufficient for the use of the family, or those in his or her service, to the first day of December next, of wheat, rye, oats, flour, rum, and other spirits, the surplus; after leaving sufficient for the use of the family to the first day of September, one thousand seven hundred and eighty one, and also a sufficient quantity of such grain for seed for the succeeding crop; of bisket, salt, rum and other spirits in the possession of any person or persons, for sale, not exceeding one half of the quantity on hand. If flour should be seized by the commissioners in the possession of any baker or bakers, then the said commissioners may store the same with such baker or bakers for the purpose of being made into bread, paying for baking thereof a reasonable allowance, to be ascertained by previous contract, should the person in whose possession such flour shall be so seized, be willing to undertake the same; and in case of refusal, then the said commissioners may cause the same to be removed to such other place as they may judge proper, for that or any other purpose. And if any person so called on by the commissioners shall wilfully secrete or conceal any of the before enumerated articles in his or her possession, he or she so secreting or concealing the same, being proved guilty thereof, shall forfeit and pay to the use of the commonwealth, treble the value of the articles so secreted or concealed; to be recovered by action of debt or information, instituted in any court of record by the said commissioners, or either of them. Provided always, that the quantity and kind of any of the above enumerated articles, to be collected by virtue of this act, in each county, may be farther limited by the directions of the governour, with the advice of council, as the publick exigence may permit. And to the end, that such limitation may be the more properly directed, the commissioners to be appointed by this act shall make monthly returns of their collections to the governour. Provided also, that the said commissioners shall not seize any provisions which may have been procured for the use of the crews of any vessels, if the quantity so procured, be not more than sufficient for their voyage; and that any articles herein before enumerated, which shall be in the possession of the importer thereof, shall be, and the same are hereby excepted out of this act.
Provided always and be it enacted, That in every case where a doubt shall arise, whether any of the said enumerated articles have been imported by the person or persons possessing the same, the proof of such importation shall be upon the possessor. And be it farther enacted, That the said commissioners and each of them within the county for which they are respectively appointed, be authorized and required to hire and give certificates for the same in manner as before directed, or if need be, to seize any store-houses for the safe keeping the said enumerated articles, and to hire in manner aforesaid, or if need be to impress any horses, carriages, and their drivers, boats, and other vessels and their crews for transporting the same, and to hire persons and procure materials for making sacks, barrels, or other proper casks, or boxes for the containing and transporting the same; and in general to do all and every thing which may be needful for the procuring, collecting, and transporting the said enumerated articles, to such places either within or without the county, as shall be directed by the governour with the advice of council: All articles seized or impressed by virtue of this act, shall be paid for with certificates, in the same manner as is herein before directed to be paid to persons willing to sell what they had to spare.
And be it farther enacted, That any person who shall forge, counterfeit, alter, or erase, any certificate granted or directed to be granted by this act, or shall pass or tender such counterfeits in payment, knowing them to be so counterfeited, altered, or erased, or shall be aiding, abetting, or assisting in such forgery or counterfeiting, altering, erasing, or tendering, shall be deemed guilty of felony without benefit of clergy, and shall suffer death. The court of the county shall ascertain and certify the proper allowances to the commissioners for their expense and trouble, which being examined, and the errours corrected by the auditors for publick accounts, shall be paid by the treasurer. Any commissioner who shall be so appointed, and refusing or neglecting to act, shall forfeit and pay the sum of one thousand pounds to the use of the commonwealth, to be recovered with costs by action of debt or information in any court of record. The operation of this act so far as it relates to the seizure of salt, shall not be construed to extend to that article purchased by, and in quantities suited to the wants of, the owners for their private use, which may be in the custody of any other person (the onus probandi of such purchase, to lie on the person in possession) and shall cease on the first day of August next; and so far as it relates to any other matter or thing therein contained, shall continue and be in force until ten days after the beginning of the next session of general assembly, and no longer.