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title:“Protest from the Fairfax County Justices of the Peace”
date written:1785-3-22

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last updated:Jan. 22, 2013, 8:15 a.m. UTC
retrieved:April 22, 2021, 3:18 a.m. UTC

"Protest from the Fairfax County Justices of the Peace." The Papers of George Mason. Vol. 2. Ed. Robert A. Rutland. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1970. 811-12. Print.

Protest from the Fairfax County Justices of the Peace (March 22, 1785)

[22 March 1785]
A new Commission for this County signed by the Honble Benjamin Harrison Esqr, late Governour of this Commonwealth being this day presented and read; whereby the Justices of the County are constituted and appointed de novo and consequently are required to take the oaths of Qualification over again, notwithstanding they had before taken them under the Commonwealth, and several of the Justices have been many years acting Magistrates, by virtue of former Commissions for the County. The Court unaminously refuse to receive, and do protest against the same, for the following Reasons—
Because such Commissions wou'd occasion an unnecessary multiplication and Repetition of Oaths, rendering them common & familiar, and hereby corrupting the morals of the people, and weakening the most sacred Bands of Society, and one of the best Securitys both for public dutys, and private Property.
Because such a Commission wou'd afford a dangerous precedent, and tend to renew in this Commonwealth, one of the many abuses & arbitrary practices of the late monarchical Government here, Yielding to the Secretary an unnecessary office, and to the Governour & Council an unjust & oppressive power of insulting, or turning any man out of his office of a civil Magistrate; as prejudice, Malice or Caprice might dictate, without a hearing, or without a cause of Complaint against him: for the constituting & appointing the former acting Justices de novo necessarily implies the power of vacating the former Commissions, that the Justices derive their office entirely from the last, and consequently, that by issueing a new Commission, and misplacing any man in it, he wou'd lose his Rank and might be degraded from the first to the last Justice in the County; or by leaving out any Justices name, he wou'd thence forward be deprived of his Office both of which it is notorious were frequently practiced under the former Government.
Because it is conceived that the Exercise of such a power is altogether illegal, giving to the Executive department of the State an undue & dangerous Influence over the Courts of Justice, directly contrary to the Declaration of Rights and to the fundamental Principles And altho' this Court hath no cause to believe that the present Commission was issued for any such evil Purposes; Yet we shou'd think we were deficient in the duty we owe to our Country, and to Posterity, if we suffered ourselves to become accessary to establishing a precedent evidently tending to introduce them, and by renewing the oppressive Maxims and Practices of the Government, from which we have so lately been rescued by force of Arms, to sap the foundations of that Liberty, which has been purchased at the expence of so much Blood & Treasure.

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