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Ordinance to enable the present Magistrates and Officers to continue the administration of justice


An Ordinance to enable the present Magistrates and Officers to continue the administration of Justice, and for settling the general mode of Proceedings in Criminal and other cases till the same can be more amply provided for.

Whereas it hath been found indispensably necessary to establish Government in this Colony, independent of the Crown of Great Britain, or any authority derived therefrom, and a plan of such Government hath been accordingly formed by the General Convention, but it will require some considerable time to compile a body of laws suited to the circumstances of the country, and it is necessary to provide some method of preserving peace and security to the community in the mean time:

Be it therefore ordained by the Representatives of the people now met in General Convention, That the several persons named in the commission of the peace in each County respectively, having in the Court of the County taken the following oath, which shall be administered to the first person named who is present by any two of the others, and then by him administered to all the others, that is to say: "I, A˙ B˙, do solemnly swear, that I will be faithful and true to the Commonwealth of Virginia; that I will, to the utmost of my power, support, maintain, and defend, the Constitution and Government thereof, as settled by the General Convention; and that I will faithfully execute the office of .......for the County of ......, and do equal right and justice to all men, to the best of my judgment, and according to law;" shall each, and every of them, have full power to execute the office of a Justice of Peace, as well within his County Court as without, in all things according to law.

And be it further ordained, That where it shall happen that there is not a sufficient number of Magistrates for holding a Court in any County already appointed, the Governour may, with the advice of the Privy Council, appoint such and so many Magistrates in such County as may be judged proper and necessary.

And whereas Courts in the District of West-Augusta have been hitherto held by writs of adjournment, which writs cannot now be obtained:

Be it therefore ordained, That the Justices residing in the said District, on taking the same oath aforesaid, shall have the power and authority to hold a Court within the said District, on the third Tuesday in every month, at such place as they may appoint, and shall exercise their office, both in Court and without, in the same manner as the Justices of the several Counties are by this Ordinance empowered to do.

Provided always, That upon complaint made to the Governour and Privy Council against any Justice of Peace now in commission, of misfeasance in office, or disaffection to the Commonwealth, it shall and may be lawful for the Governour, with advice of the Privy Council, on a full and fair hearing of both parties, to remove such Justice from his office, if they shall be of opinion that the said complaint is just and well founded.

And be it further ordained, That the Common Law of England, all Statutes or Acts of Parliament made in aid of the Common Law prior to the fourth year of the reign of King James 1˙, and which are of a general nature, not local to that kingdom, together with the several acts of the General Assembly of this Colony now in force, so far as the same may consist with the several Ordinances, Declarations and Resolutions of the General Convention, shall be the rule of decision, and shall be considered as in full force, until the same shall be altered by the Legislative power of this Colony.

Provided always, and be it further ordained, That all quit-rents and arrears thereof, and all duties, aids, penalties, fines, and forfeitures, heretofore made payable to the King, his heirs and successors, shall be and inure to the use of the Commonwealth; and all bonds for securing the same shall be made payable to the person or persons having the Executive power.

And be it further ordained, That all bonds to be entered into by Sheriffs, or other publick officers, and in all other cases where the same are required by law, shall be made payable to the Justices of the Court taking such bond, and, in the names of them or their successors, may be sued and prosecuted at the costs and for the benefit of the publick, or any private person or persons injured by the breach thereof, as often as there may be occasion, until the whole penalty be levied.

And be it further ordained, That all the present Sheriffs now in office under a commission from the late Governour, upon taking the oath before prescribed in the Court of their County, shall continue to act, and have all the powers and authorities of Sheriff, according to law, until the 25th day of October next.