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An act concerning escheats and forfeitures from British subjects.

* I. WHEREAS during the connection which subsisted between the now United States of America and the other parts of the British empire, and their subjection to one common prince, the inhabitants of either part had all the rights of natural born subjects in the other, and so might lawfully take and hold real property, and transmit the same by descent to their heirs in fee simple, which could not be done by mere: aliens; and the inhabitants on each part had accordingly acquired real property in the other, and in like manner had acquired personal property, which by their common laws might be possessed by any other than an alien enemy and transmitted to executors and administrators; but when by the tyrannies of that prince, and the open hostilities committed by his armies and subjects inhabitants of the other parts of his dominions, on the good people of the said United States, they were obliged to wage war in defence of their rights, and finally to separate themselves from the rest of the British empire, to renounce all subjection to their common prince, and to become sovereign and independent states, the said inhabitants of the other parts of the British empire, became aliens and enemies to the said states; and as such incapable of holding the property, real or personal so acquired therein, and so much thereof as was within this commonwealth became by the laws vested in the commonwealth. Nevertheless the general assembly, though provoked by the example of their enemies to a departure from that generosity which so honourably distinguishes the civilized nations of the present age, yet desirous to conduct themselves with moderation and temper by an act

passed at their session in the year 1777, took measures for preventing what had been the property of British

subjećts within this commonwealth from waste and de

struction, by putting the same into the hands and un

der the management of commissioners appointed for .

that purpose, that so it might be in their power if rea

sonable, at a future day, to restore to the former pro

prietors the full value thereof. • I1. And whereas it is found that the said property is oritish Pro; liable to be lost, wasted, and impaired without greater ..." attention in the officers of civil goverument, than is monwealth consistent with the discharge of their publick duties; by eacheat & and that from the advanced price at which the same s” would now sell, it may be most for the benefit of the former owners, if the same should be restored to thern hereafter, or to the publick if not so restored, that the sale thereof should take place at this time, and the proceeds be lodged in the publick treasury, subject to the future directiou of the legislature: Be it therefore enacted by the General Assembly, That so much of the act before mentioned as may be supposed to have suspended the operation of the laws of escheat and forfeiture, shall be hereby repealed, and that all the proerty real and personal within this commonwealth, beo: at this time to any British subject, or which did belong to any British subject at the time such escheat or forfeiture may have taken place, shall be deemed to be vested in the commonwealth; the lands, slaves, and other real estate by way of escheat, and the ‘. . personal estate by forfeiture. The governour with Proceedings the advice of council so far as their information will ho in Stutt; . enable them, and the commissioners of the tax within their several counties aided by their assessors, shall forthwith institute proper proceedings of escheat and forfeiture for all such property real and personal, in which they shall be advised and assisted by the seve- ral attornies for the commonwealth. Where any office office found in the cases before mentioned, shall be found for the for commoncommonwealth and returned to the general court, it . to - e property shall remain there but one month for the claim of any jo pretending right to the estate; and if within that time no such claim be made, or being made, if it be found and discussed for the commonwealth, the title of the owner to such estate real or personal, shall be for ever barred, but may be afterwards asserted as to the money proceeding from the sale thereof, with equal outlight to force and advantage as might have been to the thing ...m itself; and such farther proceedings shall be had for sale of pro. making sale of the right, title, claim, and interest, le- Foy gal and equitable, of any British subject in and to the onen. lands so found, in parcels not greater than four hun- éd.

Commissioners of sale.

Sales, how conducted.

Allowance to escheators.

dred acres (to be described by the commissioners hereafter mentioned, and measured and marked by metes and bounds by a surveyor where they shall think it necessary) and in and to the other party as in other cases of escheat and forfeiture, save only that the governour with advice of council, for every such sale, shall appoint two commissioners to superintend and controul the proceedings of the said escheator, which commissioners shall be sworn to use their best endeavours to have the estate to which their trust extends, sold to the best advantage. The said sales shall be for ready money to be paid to the escheator, who shall retain thereof three per centum on the first thousand pounds arising from the sale of any such estate, and one and a half per centum on the remainder for his trouble. His certificate of such payment in the case of lands, and of the person purchasing, to the register of the land office, shall entitle the purchaser to a grant of the said lands, free and fully exonerated from all

... the rights, title, claim, and interest, legal and equita

Grants, for escheated lands, how obtained.

Proceedings against es

cheators, for delinquency

ble, of any British subject thereto; and also from the right, title, claim, and interest of all and every person

whatsoever, by or under any deed of mortgage, the

equity of redemption whereof had not been foreclosed

at the time of the sale, but such mortgages, their heirs

or assigns, may nevertheless asterwards assert their claim and title to the money proceeding from the sale thereof, with equal force and advantage as they might have dome to the land itself before such sale. If the said escheator sliall fail to pay the said money into the hands of the treasurer within a reasonable time af. ter any such sale (which reasonable time shall be accounted one day for every twenty miles such sale was distant from the publick treasury, and twenty days of grace in addition thereto) he shall pay interest thereon from the time of the said sale, at the rate of twenty per centum per annum; and moreover it shall be lawful for the auditors on the last day but one of any ge

neral court, or at any court to be held for the county

wherein such property was sold, after the expiration of the time allowed for payment, to obtain judgment on motion against such escheator, his heirs, executors, and administrators, for the principal sum and such in

terest, together with costs.

And for the information of the auditors, the commissioners of the sale shall immediately on such sale, certify to whom and for how much such sale was made, and transmit such certificate by some safe and early conveyance to the auditors, which certificate shall be legal evidence against such escheator. The auditors shall allow the commissioners so appointed, .*.* the expenses of the surveys by them directed and made, soil. and other their reasonable expenses; and such com- pensation for their trouble as to them shall seem proper. Where the commissioners shall be of opinion that it will be more to the interest of the owner or publick, that possession of such property, real or persomal, should be retained for finishing and removing a crop, or other purpose, it shall be lawful for them to stay the possession as it now is until the sixth day of December next, and in such cases postpone the sale of the slaves, tools, and other personal property, necessary for their subsistence, and making the said crop, until the said sixth day of December. The , money for which such property was sold being paid ee o: into the publick treasury, and all expenses allow-extended in ed and deductions made, the balance thereof shall be tobacco, how extended in nett tobacco, at the market price as the **** same shall be estimated on oath by the grand jury of the succeeding general court, and such balance of tobacco shall be considered in future as the true measure of retribution to be made to the individuals interested; if retribution be made, and in such case shall be repaid to them by the publick in quantity and kind. The duties which, under this act, are to be performed Duty of exby an escheator in the several counties of this common- . to . wealth, not being within the territory" ed the Northern Neck, shall in the counties within Northern that territory be performed by the sheriff of such coun-Neck; by ties respectively, which sheriffshall have the same pow-" ers, be entitled to the same allowances, and subject to the same penalties, conditions, and legal proceedings as escheators are in the other counties.

III. And for preventing doubts who shall be deem- or to: ed British subjects within the meaning of this act, It o descri is hereby declared and enacted, That (first) all persons subjects of his Britannick majesty, who, on the nineteenth day of April, in the year 1775, when hostilities were commenced at Lexington, between the United

States of America and the other parts of the British. empire, were resident or following their vocations in any part of the world, other than the said United

States, and have not since, either entered into publick

employment of the said states or joined the same, and by overt act adhered to them; and (secondly) all such subjects, inhabitants of any of the said United States, as were out of the said states on the same day, and have since by overt act adhered to the enemies of the said states; and (thirdly) all inhabitants of the said states, who, after the same day and before the commencement of the act of general assembly, entitled

“An act declaring what shall be treason,” depart

Property in particular ‘instances excepted out s:f this act.

ed from the said states and joined the subjects of
his Britannick majesty, of their own free will, or
who, by any county court within this commonwealth,
were declared to be British subjects, within the mean-
ing and operation of the resolution of the general as-
sembly of the nineteenth day of December; 1776, for ,
enforcing the statute staple, shall be deemed British:
subjects within the intention of this act. But this act.
shall not extend to debts due to British subjects, and,
payable into the loan. office according to the act of
general assembly for sequestering British property; nor
take effect on any lots of land within the town of Rich-
imond, as the limits of the said town now are, or shall,
be at the time of the inquest found, which by the dio.
rectors of the publick:buildings shałł he included with,
in the squares appropriated:for such buildings, further
than that an office: shall be found as to such lots of
Jand, and the estimated value thereof be disposed of
hereafter as the price would have been by this act, had
they been exposed to publick sale; nor on any other
such lots within the same town, whether held in seve-
ralty by any British subject or subjects, or by a citi- .
zen or citizens and a British subject-or subjects, as joint
tenants or tenants in common, which shall by the said
directors be declared proper for the publick use, until
buildings be erected on the squares before memioned,
except that an office shall be found as to the interest
of any. British subject in such lots, and such interest
estimated by the same jury which found the office, and . .
at the same time, as also the interest therein of any ci-
tizen who is joint tenant or tenant in common with
such British subject, and the value of the interest of .

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