It appears to your committee, that on the seventh or eighth day of October last, Henry Peyton, high sheriff of the county of Prince William, advanced and lent a large sum of money, which had been collected for public taxes, to Cuthbert Bullitt, attorney for the commonwealth, and one of the commissioners of the tax for the said county of Prince William, to send by Col. Burr Harrison to the treasury, to purchase unappropriated lands from the public, which was accordingly applied in payment for a land office treasury warrant issued to the said Cuthbert Bullitt on the 15th day of the same month. That the said sheriff, the day before he advanced the money to Mr. Bullitt, was very active in the town of Dumfries in collecting the taxes; that among others, he applied to Mr. Thomas Chapman for the payment of about seven hundred pounds, due for the taxes of the sequestered estate of Robert Bristow, esq; a British subject, and upon Mr. Chapman's informing him that the said taxes could not then be paid, without selling the said estate's tabacco immediately, which might be a loss to the public, as the proceeds thereof were to go into the treasury, as well as the taxes, the sheriff declared he must have his taxes immediately, for he wanted to send as large a sum of money as he could by Col. Burr Harrison to the treasury, in part payment of the taxes, to prevent any imputation on his own conduct, of negligence, or want of punctuality; and upon Mr. Chapman's addressing himself to the commissioners of the tax for their advice, Mr. Bullitt, and another of the said commissioners, replied, by all means the tobacco must be sold, and the sheriff paid.
That Alexander Keith, an under sheriff in the said county, intended to send down a sum of money, which he had collected, by Mr. Hugh Brent, to be paid into the treasury for taxes; but instead of doing so, he paid it to the high sheriff; and that no money hath yet been paid into the treasury for the present year's taxes of the said county of Prince William; the whole of the money sent down to Col. Burr Harrison having been invested in a land office warrant for Mr. Bullitt, except four hundred pounds, which was invested in a land office warrant for the said high sheriff.
It farther appears to your committee, that the said Cuthbert Bullitt also applied to John Barker, an under sheriff in the county of Fauquier, to borrow of him a considerable sum of money collected for taxes, but the said John Barker, judging he had no right to make any such application of the public money in his hands, refused to lend it, and hath since paid into the treasury the sum of 58461.8s in part of the taxes for the said county of Fauquier.
Resolved therefore, as the opinion of the committee, that the application of public money to private purposes is a high breach of trust in a sheriff or another public officer, and ought to be effectually restrained.
Resolved, that the public auditors ought to be empowered to move for, and obtain judgements against public defaulters, on some certain day, as well in December as in the March session of the General Court.
Resolved, that all sheriffs and other public officers, guilty of misapplying public money to private purposes, or other peculation, should be subjected to indictment for a misdemeanor in the general of any county court, and punishable, upon conviction, by fine or imprisonment, at the discretion of a jury.