Order of the Privy Council of Great Britain concerning an act of the North Carolina General Assembly concerning riots
Great Britain. Privy Council
Volume 09, Pages 285-286
[B. P. R. O. No. Carolina. B. T. Vol. 17]
At the Court at St James's
the 22nd day of April 1772.
The Kings most Excellent Majesty in Council
Whereas there was this day read at the Board a Report from the Right Honourable the Lords of the Committee of Council for Plantation Affairs, dated the 31st of last Month upon considering a Representation from the Lords Commissioners for Trade and Plantations, upon an Act passed in His Majesty's Province of North Carolina in January 1771 intituled, “An Act for preventing tumults and riotous Assemblies; for the more speedy and effectual punishing the Rioters; and for restoring and preserving the Publick Peace of this Province Which Representation sets forth, That this Act was passed for the purpose of preventing Disturbances and Insurrection, to which of late the Province of North Carolina has been exposed; and contains many useful and proper regulations; nevertheless one of the Clauses Enacts that “Upon Indictment found or presentment made against any person for any of the Crimes described in the Act, the Judges or Justices of the Court House, and each Church and Chapel of the County wherein such crime was Committed commanding such Offender to Surrender within sixty days and stand Tryal; on failure of which, he shall be deemed guilty of the offence charged in the Indictment found or Presentment made, and it shall be lawful for any one to kill and destroy such offender and his Lands and chattles shall be confiscated to the King for the use of Government;” That upon this clause Mr Jackson, one of His Majesty's Counsel at Law, to whom the said Lords Commissioners referred this Act,
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observes, “altho the Circumstances of the Province may excuse inserting such Clause in this Act; yet that it is altogether unfit for any part of the British Empire; and therefore he submits that the said Act is fit to be repealed; and altho' from late occurrences in North Carolina, the Legislature of that Province may be warranted in some extension of the Penal Laws against Rioters and Disorderly Persons; yet the said Lords Commissioners cannot but think this Clause highly exceptionable, as being full of danger in its Operation, and irreconcileable to the Principles of the Constitution, depriving withal the Crown of its Prerogative of extending Mercy to offenders, by committing the Execution of the Law into the Hands of the Subject; Nevertheless, as the total Repeal of the Act might in the present state of Affairs sensibly endanger the Peace and safety of the Province, and revive perhaps that dangerous Spirit amongst some of the Inhabitants (as yet not wholly subsided) which has been productive of so much Tumult and Confusion, more especially as the Act, by its own Limitation in time is now upon the point of expiring, The said Lord Commissioners were humbly of opinion that it would be advisable for His Majesty to Instruct and Direct the Governor of North Carolina to recommend to the Legislature, in case they shall proceed to enact a new Law for the above general purposes, to pass it with an exception as to the Clause in Question, or with such Alteration and Amendment thereof as shall free it from the Objections above stated; And the Lords of the Committee being of opinion that it might be advisable for His Majesty to permit and suffer the said Act to expire by its own Limitation, and that an Instruction should be sent to the Governor of North Carolina agreeable to what is above proposed by the Lords Commissioners for Trade and Plantations. His Majesty this Day took the said Report into Consideration, and was pleased with the advice of His Privy Council to approve thereof, and accordingly to permit and allow the said Act to expire by its own Limitation; And His Majesty doth hereby Order, that the Lords Commissioners for Trade and Plantations, do prepare the Draught of an Additional Instruction for the Governor of North Carolina, enjoyning him to recommend to the Legislature there, in case they shall Proceed to Enact a new Law for the above general purposes, to pass it with an Exception, as to the Clause in Question, or with such Alteration & Amendment thereof, as shall free it from the Objections aforestated.