The Petition of a Committee appointed by the Inhabitants of Mecklenburg County, for the express purpose of preparing Instructions for their representatives in the General Assembly, Humbly Sheweth:
That, by an Act of the Assembly, intituled “an act to carry into effect an Act passed at Newbern in the year 1777, intituled an Act for Confiscating the property of all such Persons as are inimical to the United States,” &c., such application is made of confiscated property as is directly repugnant to the nature and intention of Confiscation. The offender is very inadequately punished & the public in no sort indemnified for the injuries it has sustained by his unnatural guilt. The following particulars in s'd Act, we apprehend, are justly liable to the above censure, & if not iniquitious at least unfrugal & impolitic.
1. The Confiscated Estates are bestowed upon the Heirs of the Offenders, in so full and perfect a manner that the guilty absentees may, in most cases, thro' the channel of their friends, enjoy them, while the public, at its own expense, serves them as their humble Factor & the Guardian of their Children.
If the former Proprietors have justly forfeited their right to the above Estates as a Punishment for their Criminal conduct, & the State has thereby acquired a just claim to the same for its indemnification, we are compelled to conclude that both justice and policy forbid such an appropriation of the forfeit as will frustrate the purposes both of punishment and indemnification.
2. The real property confiscated by the Act of 1777 is by the additional Act in question directed to be rented for no longer time than the term of one year.
We apprehend, & experiment justifies the apprehension, that a very small proportion of those lands can be rented for so short a term, as the greater part is woodland; so that the State can derive very little, if any, Emolument from such a provision. We believe that the State would be more benefited & the offenders more certainly punished by an immediate Sale of those Lands, as they might now be sold for a larger sum than they can probably be for several years hence, and as it would put it beyond the power of Intrigue to revest them in their former owners.
3. The time in which Heirs claiming confiscated property, under the provision of s'd Act, are to ascertain their Titles is left indefinite and unlimited.
This, we apprehend, may in future be abused, so as to revest in the persons or children of Absentees, all the Estates now declared forfeit, as those Absentees, under their present unfavourable prospects, would, no doubt, for the sake of their Estates, be willing to recover their denizenship by any required degree of submission.
As we are fully convinced that the particulars above mentioned are grievances of considerable Weight; that the amendments suggested are just, politic & necessary; & that it is the business & duty of the General Assembly principally to consult the good & emolument of the State, even at the expense of every private & partial attachment; we rest assured that you will take them into serious consideration, make such amendments & improvements
Signed, by order of the Committee,