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Proceedings and Acts of the General Assembly, October 1773 to April 1774
Volume 64, Preface 22   View pdf image (33K)
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xxii Introduction.

By December 1773, then, most of the major disagreements between the two
houses were out of the way. Perhaps the Proprietary had learned a little wis-
dom, for, of course, what the Upper House and the Governor did was what
he bade them do. Governor Sharpe's inclination was to serve the interests of
the Province, but Governor Eden, whose inclination was also kindly, was the
brother-in-law of Lord Baltimore, and his confidant. He therefore could
command the attention of the Proprietary when he favored some yielding to
the wishes of the people.

NON-CONTROVERSIAL ACTS

These last Provincial assembly sessions did not devote all their time to
squabbling with the Governor and the Upper House. Altogether, in these two
sessions—two, because the first meeting here set forth passed no laws—
sixty-one statutes were enacted. Many were private acts, passed upon petition
and for the benefit of one person or of a small group. There are two sure tests
of the privateness of acts. They were not printed in full in Green's session
laws, and the beneficiaries had to pay fees to the Speaker and to the clerks of
the two houses when they were passed. Local laws concerned and benefitted
either a part of the Province or a part of the people in it. Like the private acts,
they were passed as a result of petitions, and, also like them, they were referred
in the Lower House, to the members from the county they concerned. They
might be country poor laws, or school laws or market laws or road laws, or
laws to erect a new church or a chapel of ease or to support an organist in a
parish that had an organ. And there were non-controversial general laws.
They were of interest to all the people, even though they might deal specifically
with only one person. The usual law for the encouragement of Anne Catharine
Green of the City of Annapolis Printer was one, another prevented infection
from the ship Chance, then lying in Annapolis harbor with small pox aboard.
The Act for the relief of insolvent debtors embodied the principle behind the
often-passed laws for the relief of languishing prisoners, and so saved the time
and the effort of the Assembly.

The petitions, on which the private laws and some of the local ones were
based, were uniformly presented to the Upper House, and, almost as uniformly
sent down by them to the Lower House. Once in a while the Upper House
rejected a petition, but generally they let the Lower House do it. There were
hundreds of petitions presented in these sessions, and many of them were
granted, but not one is now known to have been preserved, and very often the
only clue to the contents is the preamble to the law wherein the prayer was
granted (pp. 197-197, Jor instance). Martha Roundell and her sisters asked
and got permission to divide some land without the concurrence of her husband
Samuel "now residing beyond Sea." Executors were allowed to sell part of the
estate for the payment of the decedent's debts (pp. 195-197). Several acts
permitted the enrollment of deeds technically defective or confirmed titles to land
(365, 388-391). John Done, sheriff of Worcester County got an extension of
the time within which he could sue for fees due him.

Some of the local laws were, if not controversial, distinctly important.


 

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Proceedings and Acts of the General Assembly, October 1773 to April 1774
Volume 64, Preface 22   View pdf image (33K)
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