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title:“A Bill Vesting Extraordinary Powers in the Governor and Council”
authors:George Mason
date written:1780-7-10

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last updated:Jan. 22, 2013, 8:05 a.m. UTC
retrieved:Feb. 22, 2024, 7:49 p.m. UTC

Mason, George. "A Bill Vesting Extraordinary Powers in the Governor and Council." The Papers of George Mason. Vol. 2. Ed. Robert A. Rutland. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1970. 639-44. Print.

A Bill Vesting Extraordinary Powers in the Governor and Council (July 10, 1780)

[10 July 1780]
WHEREAS in this time of publick danger, when a powerful and vindictive enemy are ravaging our southern sister states, and encouraged by success, are making a rapid progress towards our own borders, it has become highly expedient, as well to oppose the common enemy in general, as to provide for the safety and defence of this state in particular, to vest the executive with extraordinary powers for a limited time, Be it therefore enacted, That the governour, with advice of council, shall have full power, and he is hereby required, if need be, to call into actual service, from such counties as shall be judged most proper, any number of the militia, not exceeding twenty thousand men, including those already ordered out by virtue of the act of general assembly, entitled "An act to embody militia for the relief of South Carolina." And the militia to be called into service by virtue of this act, shall be officered and regimented by the governour, with advice aforesaid. The field officers may either be chosen from the militia field officers in the counties from whence the men shall be drawn, or from such persons as may be in this state, who have gained experience by long service in the continental army, as the governour, with advice of council, shall judge best. When regimented, they may be marched either to the northern states, or to the assistance of any of the southern United States. The troops to be drawn into service under this act, if marched out of this state shall be entitled to the same pay as those who are embodied by the before recited act for the relief of South Carolina. And whereas should this commonwealth be invaded, or there should be an insurrection within the same, it may be necessary for the publick security that disaffected persons should be confined or removed. Be it enacted, That the governour be authorized, with advice of council, and he is hereby authorized and empowered, to commit to close confinement, any person or persons whatsoever, whom there may be just cause to suspect of disaffection to the independence of the United States, and of attachment to their enemies; or to cause any such persons to be removed to such places of security as may best guard against the effects of their influence and arts to injure this community, and benefit the common enemy. And be it farther enacted, That in case of any insurrection within this commonwealth, or the same shall be invaded by the enemy, either by land or water, that all and every person or persons within the same, who shall act as guides to, or spies for them, or who shall furnish the enemy with provisions or other necessaries; or who shall encourage desertion from the army, or who shall dissuade or discourage the militia from opposing the enemy, or who shall give intelligence, aid, or comfort to the enemy, shall, and they are hereby declared to be subject to the law martial as declared by congress on the twentieth day of September one thousand seven hundred and seventy six, in the fourth article of the sixth section, and the eighteenth and nineteenth articles of the thirteenth section of the continental articles of war. And that for the trial of such offenders, a courtmartial, to consist of not fewer than thirteen commissioned officers, one of whom shall be a field officer, shall be called by the county lieutenant or commanding officer of the militia in the county where such offence shall be committed, or in any other county of this commonwealth, where such offender may be found. And such officers shall, before they proceed to trial, take the following oath, to be administered by a field officer or eldest captain present to the president of such court, and then by him to the other members. "You shall swear well and truly to try and determine, according to your evidence, the matter now before you, between the commonwealth and the prisoner to be tried; and that you will duly administer justice according to law." The commonwealth's attorney for the county where the trial is held shall attend the court, and act as judge advocate; and in case of his absence, the court is hereby authorized to appoint a person to act in his stead, and the sheriff or constable, as the court may direct, shall also attend to put in execution the orders and sentence of said court. Provided always, That no sentence so given shall be carried into execution until the same shall be approved by the governour, with advice of the council. And to the end that the said articles may be properly promulgated, Be it enacted, That the executive shall cause a printed copy of them to be sent to the county lieutenant or commanding officer of every county in the commonwealth, and direct the same to be published three times in the Virginia gazette, together with this act. And be it farther enacted, That the powers given to the governour and council by an act of the present session, entitled "An act for procuring a supply of provisions and other necessaries for the use of the army," shall be extended to the obtaining of so many live cattle, linen for tents (except so much as is necessary for the use of each particular family) horses, wagons, boats or other vessels and their crews, and other necessaries as may be wanted for supplying the militia or other troops that are or may be ordered into actual service from this commonwealth; and also for supplying with provisions the convention troops and guard at the barracks in Albemarle; and the provisions and other necessaries so obtained, shall be valued and appraised by two disinterested persons, to be chosen by the owner thereof and the commissioner, being first sworn by the commissioner, and if those two disagree in opinion, they shall choose an umpire; and in case the owner shall refuse to choose a person to assist in making the said appraisement, the commissioner is empowered to appoint both; and such cattle and other necessaries shall be paid for, either in the manner as provisions procured by the said act are directed to be paid for, or by draughts on the treasury, as to the executive shall seem most convenient. Provided always, That not more than one half of the bullocks and barren cows belonging to any person, fit for slaughter, shall be subject to such seizure. And whereas several well disposed spirited friends to their country have offered to collect and serve as volunteers in the horse, provided they can be armed, accoutred, and provided with forage and other provisions at the publick expense, Be it enacted, That the governour, with advice of council, be authorized and empowered, and he is hereby authorized and empowered to call into the publick service as many companies of volunteer cavalry as the publick good may require, and to arm, accoutre, and furnish with pay, forage, and provisions, such volunteers at the publick expense. Provided such volunteers shall agree to serve in the continental army till the last day of December one thousand seven hundred and eighty one. And such volunteers shall nevertheless compose and make part of the several divisions directed by an act passed this present session of assembly, entitled "An act for speedily recruiting the quota of this state for the continental army." And every division to which any such volunteer shall be allotted, shall have credit for, and be considered as having furnished the man required by the said recited act. And whereas a good printing press, well provided with proper materials, is indispensably necessary for the right information of the people; Be it enacted, That the governour, with the advice of council, be authorized, and he is hereby authorized and empowered to engage with, and employ, at the public expense, and for the publick service, a good and able printer, of firm and known attachment to the independence of the United States, who may be willing to bring a good and well provided press into this commonwealth. And whereas by an act passed this present session of assembly entitled "An act for putting the eastern frontier of this commonwealth into a posture of defence;" it is among other things directed that one sixth part of the militia of several counties therein enumerated, be trained and disciplined by captains and subalterns within the said counties, and held in constant readiness to march at a moments warning. Be it enacted, That whenever circumstances shall render it necessary to call out into actual duty the aforesaid portions of {642I780 militia, the governor be empowered, with the advice of council, to appoint such and so many field officers to command them as shall be adjudged necessary; and he is also empowered, with the advice aforesaid, to appoint a major to command the marines to be raised and recruited by the said recited act; which officers shall be entitled to such pay and rations as the executive may think just and reasonable. And be it farther enacted, That this act shall be in force until the end of the next session of the general assembly, and no longer, except so much thereof as relates to the publick printer, the volunteers to be called into service by this act, and the officers to be appointed to command the forces raised for the defence of the eastern frontier. And whereas it is highly probable that the troops of every kind to be raised within this commonwealth will be ordered to act in the southern states, which will render the several places of rendezvous fixed by the act passed this present session of assembly, entitled "An act for speedily recruiting the quota of this state in the continental army," very inadequate. Be it therefore enacted, That the governour, with advice of council, be empowered to appoint two or more places of rendezvous on the south side of James river, for the purposes intended by the said recited act. And be it enacted, That the militia to be ordered into actual service by virtue of this law, as well as the militia already in actual service, under an act entitled "An act to embody militia for the relief of South Carolina, and for other purposes," shall, when in actual service, be subject to the continental articles of war. Provided, That all courts martial to be constituted for the trial of any offenders in the said militia, shall consist of such officers only as have immediate command in the said militia corps. And whereas several soldiers lately called into service under the said recited act have already deserted, and it is likely many may desert who are to be raised under this act, and may not be taken until the militia shall be disbanded, to the great injury of the publick; Be it farther enacted, That the commanding officer of every county where such deserter or deserters may be found, is hereby directed to call a court-martial, to consist of five officers, not under the rank of a captain, who shall cause such deserter or deserters to be apprehended, conveyed, and delivered to the nearest officer having command in the troops of this commonwealth, to serve in the said troops for eight months; and such deserters shall moreover be subject to such rules and articles of war as the troops aforesaid are subject to. And the commanding officer of any county who shall fail to summon such court-martial, or to use his best endeavours to cause the said deserters to be apprehended and delivered as aforesaid, shall forfeit, for every offence, five hundred pounds, to be recovered in any court of record, by bill, plaint, or information, and to inure one half to the informer, and the other half to the publick. Provided, That any quaker or menonist ordered into service by this or the last recited act, and failing to march, or deserting, shall be excused from personal service, but in every such case which hath happened or may happen, the county lieutenant or commanding officer of the militia shall direct the enlistment of a substitute, and levy the expense thereof on such of the religious society to which the delinquent belongs as reside within his county, in the same manner as is directed by the act herein first recited, in the case of quakers and menonists, drafted for the continental service.

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