Dateline: Virginia, 1758. Are the Governor, Council and General Assembly heartless or merciful in difficult times? Read the (short) Act to find out.
Modernized transcription begins:
AN ACT TO ENABLE THE INHABITANTS OF THIS COLONY TO DISCHARGE THEIR PUBLIC DUES, OFFICERS’ FEES, AND OTHER TOBACCO DEBTS IN MONEY FOR THE ENSUING YEAR
I.. It being evident from the prodigious diminution of our staple commodity occasioned by the unseasonableness of the weather in most parts of the colony, that there will not be tobacco made to answer the common demands of the country; and it being certainly expedient at all such time to prevent, as much as possible, the distresses that must inevitably attend such a scarcity;
Be it therefore enacted, by the Lieutenant Governor, Council and Burgesses of this present General Assembly, and it is hereby enacted, by the authority of the same that it shall ad may be lawful to and for any person or persons from whom any tobacco is due by judgment for rent, by bond or upon any contract or for public, county or parish levies; or for any secretaries, clerks, sheriffs, surveyors, or other public officers’ fees or by any other ways or means whatsoever to pay and satisfy the same either in tobacco, according to the directions of the act of Assembly, entitled An Act for amending the staple of tobacco and preventing frauds in his majesty’s customs, or in money at the rate of sixteen shillings and eight pence for every hundred pounds net of tobacco and so in proportion for a greater or lesser quantity at the option of the payer; and the sheriffs and other collectors shall, and they are hereby required to receive the same from any person or persons entitled to the same in proportion to their several demands, all tobacco and money which they shall receive in payments of such levies and fees, any law to the contrary thereof notwithstanding.
II.. Provided always that nothing herein contained shall extend or be construed to extend to any public, county or parish levies or officers’ fees now due or hereafter to become due in any county by law the inhabitants of such county are now empowered to discharge the same in money.
III.. Provided also that nothing herein contained shall extend to any contract made for tobacco have been bona fide paid at a greater rate than sixteen shillings and eight pence per hundred, as aforesaid, but that all such contracts shall be discharged in tobacco according to the price really given for such tobacco, together with the lawful interest arising on the same to the time of paying the same, at the option of the person or persons from whom the tobacco would have been due, had this act never been passed.
IV.. And be it further enacted that this act shall continue and be in force for one year and no longer.
Once again, a drought hit Virginia, so the tobacco crop failed. As a result the General Assembly passes this act for the relief of the taxpayers.
Will Virginia Pass Tax Relief During Drought in 1758?
Journals of the House of Burgesses of Virginia, 1761-1765, ed. John Pendleton Kennedy (Richmond, Virginia: 1907) xxxix-l (39-50).