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LAWS PASSED AT WESTMINSTER,
OCTOBER SESSION, 1783.
AN ACT to enable Towns and Parishes, to erect proper Houses for
public Worship, and support Ministers of the Gospel. Whereas, it is of the greatest importance to the community at large, as well as to individuals, that the precepts of christianity and rules of morality be publicly and statedly inculcated on the minds of the inhabitants.
Therefore, Be it enacted, &c. that whenever any town or parish shall think themselves sufficiently able to build a meeting-house, or settle a minister, it shall be the duty of the town or parish clerk, on application of seven freeholders of such town or parish, to warn a town or society meeting, mentioning the time, place, and matter to be debated; giving twelve days notice, by posting the same at the most public place, or places, in said town or parish: and that two thirds of the inhabitants of such town or parish, who shall meet agreeable to such warrant, being legal voters, and of similar sentiments with respect to the mode of worship, shall be hereby authorised to appoint a place or places for the public worship of God, and fix on a place or places for building a house or houses for such worship, and vote a tax or taxes sufficient to defray the expense of such building or buildings; and also to hire, or otherwise agree with, . minister or ministers to preach in such town or parish, either to supply such town or parish with preaching, or on probation for settlement; and further to vote such minister or ministers such settlement or settlements in money, or otherwise, as to them shall seem equal; and to vote such minister or ministers such annual support in money, or otherwise, (to be agreed on between such minister or ministers and people as shall be found necessary; to be assessed on the polls and rateable estates of persons living, or estates lying, within the limits of such town or parish.
Provided, no person shall be obliged to pay such tax or taxes, or any part thereof, or his estate taken therefor, who shall be hereafter described and exempted by this act.
Provided also, that no vote shall be deemed legal and binding on such inhabitants as are not by law exempted as aforesaid, unless there shall be twenty-five legal voters in the affirmative.
And if the inhabitants of any town or parish shall agree to build a meeting-house or houses, agreeable to the tenor of this act, but shall not agree on the place or places to build the same ; in that case it shall be the duty of the county court, at their sessions within the county where such difficulty may arise, at the request of not less than seven members, inhabitants of such town or parish, to appoint an indifferent committee at the discretion of the court, and cost of such town or parish, to view atten
ävely such town or parish, and find out the most convenient place or places for such house or houses, and there set up a stake or stakes, and acquaint the clerk of such town or parish therewith, who shall make a record thereof: and such committee shall report their doings to the court that appointed them; which court shall examine said report, and if found to be just and equal, shall establish the same.
And whereas, there are in many towns and parishes within this State, men of different sentiments in religious duties, which lead peaceable and moral lives, the rights of whose conscience this act is not to controul ; and likewise some, perhaps, who pretend to differ from the majority with a design only to escape taxation. Therefore,
Be it enacted, that every person or persons, being of adult age, shall be considered as being of opinion with the major part of the inhabitants within such town or parish where he, she or they sball dwell, until he, she or they shall bring a certificate, signed by some minister of the gospel, deacon, or elder, or the moderator in the church or congregation to which he, she or they pretend to belong, being of a different persuasion; which certificate shall set forth the party to be of their persuasion : and until such certificate shall be shewn to the clerk of such town or parish (who shall record the same) such party shall be subject to pay all such charges with the major part, as by law shall be assessed on his, her or their polls or rateable estate.
Provided, this act shall not be construed to extend to the collection of taxes, for the purposes herein named, from any persons, or description of persons, who, before the publication of this act, shall have confederated together to support the gospel, until such confederation shall be dissolved. or such persons, or description of persons, shall apply to the General Assembly to be incorporated into a town or parish, or towns or parishes, and receive the final determination of said Assembly. Provided also, that such application shall be made in one year from said publication ; any thing contained in this act to the contrary notwithstanding.
AN ACT against Adultery, Polygamy, and Fornication. Whereas, the violation of the marriage covenant is contrary to the command of God, and destructive to the peace of families :
Be it therefore enacted, &c. that if any man be found in bed with another man's wife, or woman with another's husband, the persons so offending, being thereof convicted before the supreme court, shall be severely whipped on the naked body, not exceeding thirty-nine s tripes; unless it shall appear upon trial that it was involuntary in one of the parties; in which case no punishment shall be inflicted on such party not consenting.
And if any person shall commit adultery, and be thereof convicted before the supreme court, he, she or they shall be set upon the gallows for the space of an hour, with a rope or ropes about his, her or their neck or necks, and the other end cast over the gallows: and also shall be severely
whipped on the naked body, not exceeding thirty-nine stripes, and shall, from the expiration of twenty-four hours after such conviction, during their abode in this state, wear a capital A of two inches long, and proportionable bigness, cut out in cloth of a contrary color to their cloaths, and sewed upon their upper garment, on the out-side of their arm, or on their back, in open view. And if any person or persons, having been convicted and sentenced for such offence, shall, at any time, be found without their letter so worn, during their abode in this State, he or they shall, by warrant from any justice of the peace, be forthwith apprehended, and publicly whipped, not exceeding fifteen stripes: and so from time to time, toties quoties.
That if any man and woman who have been, or shall hereafter be divorced, according to law, or where their marriage has been or shall be declared pull and void, shall cohabit or converse together as man and wife, and be thereof convicted as aforesaid; every such person shall suffer the like pains and penalties as are above mentioned.
Be it further enacted, that if any person or persons in this State, be. ing married, or who shall hereafter marry, do, at any time, presume to marry any other person, the former or other husband or wife being aliye: or shall continue to live together, so married; that then, every such offender shall suffer and be punished as in case of adultery: and such marriage shall be, and is hereby declared to be null and void : which offenders shall be tried in the county where they shall be apprehended.
Always provided, that this act, or any thing therein contained, shall not extend to any person or persons whose husband or wife shall be continually remaining beyond the seas,by the space of seven years together; or whose husband or wife shall absent him or herself, the one from the other, by the space of seven years together, in any part of this or the United States of America, or elsewhere, the one of them not knowing the other to be living within that time.
Provided also, thay this act shall not extend to any person or persons whose husband or wife has lately, or shall hereafter, go to sea in any vessel bound from one port to another, where the passage is usually made in three months time, and such vessel has not been, or shall not be heard of within the space of tlfree full years next after their putting to sea from such port; or only be heard of under such circumstances as may rather confirm the opinion commonly received of the whole company's being utterly lost.
But in every such case, the matter being represented to the supreme court, and made to appear, the person whose husband or wife is or shall be, in this manner, parted from her or him, may be esteemed and declared single and unmarried: and upon such declaration thereof, and liberty obtained from the said supreme court, may lawfully marry again: any thing in this act to the contrary notwithstanding.
Provided also, that this act shall not extend to any person or persons that are or shall be, at the time of such marriage, divorced by any sentence had, or hereafter to be had, agreeable to law; nor to any person or persons where the former marriage has been or shall hereafter, by such sentence, be declared to be void, and of none effect: nor to any person
or persons for or by reason of any former marriage had or made, or hereafter to be had or made, within the age of consent: that is to say, the man fourteen years of age, and the woman twelve.
And be it further enacted, that every person who shall commit fornication within this state, and be duly convicted thereof before any coun. ty court in this State, before the inter-marriage of such persons offending, shall pay a fine not exceeding four pounds to the treasury of the county where such conviction shall be had; or be punished, by whipping, not exceeding twelve stripes each: at the discretion of the county court which shall have cognizance of the offence.
AN ACT to prevent the inhabitants of New-York being allowed
greater privileges within this State, than the inhabitants of this State are allowed within the State of New-York.
Whereas, by an act of the Legislature of the State of New York, no person or persons belonging to this State, are permitted to commence any suit or action at law, within the jurisdiction of New-York, for the obtaining of their just rights, unless they acknowledge the jurisdiction of said State, so far as to take an oath of allegiance to the same.
Therefore, Be it enacted, &c. that no person or persons, being an inhabitant or inhabitants of, or residing within the jurisdiction of the State of NewYork, shall, within the time of his, her or their residence as aforesaid, commence any suit or suits at law, within the jurisdiction of this State, against any inhabitant or resident thereof, for any civil matter or contract, until the Legislature of said State of New York shall allow the inhabitants of this State full liberty to commence the like suits within their jurisdiction, and without any such lets or hindrances.
AN ACT declaring a time when to begin the settlement of new lands,
that has been prevented by the late war between Great-Britain and America. Whereas, the war has stopped the settlement of the northerly part of this State : and as very considerable tracts of land have been disposed of on consideration of settlement, which must necessarily depend on some period when it might be reasonably supposed that such lands might be settled with safety, after the war was to an end. And whereas, many disputes may arise in future when such time was:
Which to prevent, Be it enacted, &c. that the first day of May next, be, and hereby is, declared a lawful time to begin the settlement of new lands, that have been prevented by the late war between Great-Britain and America: and all persons concerned in such lands are required to take notice hereof, and govern themselves accordingly.*
AN ACT establishing a right of land in Poultney, to John Ashley. Whereas, it appears that John Ashley, of the township of Poultney, in in the county of Rutland, did, in the year 1773, purchase one whole right or share of land, being lot number eleven, first division, and the after drafts, in the town of Poultney aforesaid, of Zimri Allen, of Salisbury, in the county of Litchfield, and State of ('onnecticut : and that the said Ashley had a deed of conveyance from the said Allen ; but that the said deed was not recorded. And whereas, said deed was taken from said Ashley, by the enemy, at, or about, the time of the evacuation of Ticonderoga. And whereas, it appears that said Ashley has never since been able to recover said deed: whereupon said Ashley prays for this Assembly to confirm him in the title of said land. Therefore,
Be it enacted, &c. that the said John Ashley be, and hereby is confirmed in his title to said right of land in as full and ample a manner as though said deed had never been lost; and this act being recorded in the town clerk's office in the town where said land lieth, shall be deemed a good, sufficient and lawful tittle thereto.
AN ACT for the purpose of raising one hundred able, effective men to
assist the civil authority in carrying into execution the law, in the southern part of the county of Windham. Whereas, a number of persons, living in the southern part of the county of Windham, to the great disturbance of the peace, have banded together to oppose sheriffs, constables and collectors, in the due execution of their offices; and in many instances proceeded to outrageous abuses, which threaten the ruin of government, unless speedily remedied.
Which evil to prevent, Be it enacted, &c. that there be immediately raised one hundred able, effective men, and stationed in the southerly part of the county of Windham, under the command of Colonel Benjamin Wait, to assist the officers of government in carrying into execution the laws of the State. That said men be officered with one colonel, and one major, and be divided into two companies, to consist each, of one captain, one lieutenant, and one
* Most of the charters granted under the authority of Vermont, previous to the close of the revolutionary war, contained the following condition, viz .
“That each proprietor of the township of aforesaid, bis heirs or assigns shall plant and cultivate, kve acres of land, and build an bouse, at least eighteen sert square on the floor, or have one family settled, on each respective right. within tbe term of three years next after the circumstances of the war will admit of a settlement wib safety; on penalty of the foreilure of each right of land in said township pot so improved or settled, 20d the same to revert to the freemen of this State."