At a time when every phantom gives an alarm no law which appears to lay a restraint on property can I fear be made satisfactory to the people. This may throw an impediment in legislation to the giving validity to the measure proposed, tho' grounded on the most just and equitable principles. It will therefore be necessary to sooth the peoples apprehensions, by giving them some apparent advantages, and to point out in the preamble of the Act, in the most explicit terms, the reasonableness and justice of the regulation intended to be made. I mention an Act of Assembly, because I think no certain scheme can be formed for securing the payment of Quit Rents without the interposition of the Legislature.
The first object to be attended to is, the establishment of a method by which the possessors of lands may with certainty be known, so that a proper Rent Roll may be immediately formed and regularly kept up to the end of time. This Rent Roll will be a very necessary check on the collectors of the Quit Rents, whose accompts in general stand in need of the strictest examination. To effect this every land holder should be obliged to deliver in to some public
All alienations of lands and probates of wills, are I presume registered or recorded in some public office. It ought to be the duty of the person to whose care these matters are committed to transmit within a limited time copies of all his entries to the Receiver General, or to some public office, to which the officers of the revenue may have resort. These copies should contain the names, surnames and additions of the parties, the consideration expressed, quantity and situation of the lands, when acknowledged or proved and recorded, with copies of all Wills and Testaments recorded in his office.
Where a man dies intestate, the person on whom the inheritance devolves, should be obliged to signify the descent to the Register of the County where the lands lye, containing a description of the same, as has been before mentioned. From hence a clear and distinct Rent Roll may be composed, and every fraud in the Collectors easily detected. The manner in which the Rent Roll is kept at our Auditors Office is here inclosed.
The next thing to be considered is, to oblige the tenant to pay his Quit Rents. Unless he is subject to some penalty, he may perhaps neglect or refuse to do that act of justice, and if he keeps nothing distrainable on the land there may be some difficulty and delay in procuring the payment. It would therefore be proper in order to make them punctual to render their lands liable to a forfeiture, where they are in arrears for a certain time unless sufficient effects are kept upon the premises, for the Collector to levy the Quit Rents by distress. The usual provisos should be made for saving the rights of infants &c. &c. who ought to be allowed a reasonable time for the performance of the conditions of their grants, after their incapacities are removed. Where a forfeiture is incurred the lands ought not to be absolutely resumed by the Crown, but granted to the first person who will inform and petition for the same, to whom patents should be granted in the same manner and upon the same terms, asThe last Object is the Conduct of the Collector.
The progress of an action at law is so slow, and the length of time so great before it is brought to a decision, that it is frequently an encouragement to Collectors to retain the public money in their hands till they are compelled to do their duty in the usual legal form of proceeding. It seems therefore to be good policy, not only in the case of Quit Rents, but in every other instance whatsoever, to ordain a summary method, by which the officers of justice who have received money in behalf of others, should be obliged immediately to pay it to the person entitled to receive the same.
For the reason there can be no impropriety in authorizing the Superior Court in whose jurisdiction the delinquent Collectors reside, to receive a motion on the part of the Crown against them and their securities, to give judgment where it shall appear there has been a breach of duty and to award execution upon giving the parties some previous notice of such intended motion. This is done with us in Virginia and the business is conducted by the Attorney General upon information of delinquencies given him by the Receiver General.
In order to make these regulations set easy on the minds of the people, I think it would be advisable to obliterate all arrears of Quit Rents to a certain time, as near as to the commencement of the Act as possible that every idea of a prior forfeiture may be removed; and also to grant patents upon the usual terms to such as are in possession of the Kings lands, on their making an entry with the public Register as has been before mentioned, But these patents should by no means affect the rights and claims of other people
Nothing that has been mentioned, carries with it, in the point of view in which it appears to me, the least degree of oppression; but on the contrary it seems to me to be the highest act of justice, where protection is expected of the crown, punctually to discharge these acknowledgments which the King has reserved on the grants of his lands and which no man can think unreasonable. The cancelling the arrears must be a very advantageous proposal, as I nnderstand that account is a pretty large one and the terms proposed