Memorial from James Davis concerning payment for printing session laws and journals
Davis, James, 1721-1785
Volume 15, Pages 222-225
MEMORIAL OF JAMES DAVIS.
Mr. Davis begs leave to represent to the General Assembly that the very extensive settlements of this State, and the great number of counties into which it is erected, makes it impossible for him to transmit the Acts of Assembly & Journals to the several Counties as directed by Law. That he thinks the Justices of the several Counties and Members of Assembly would receive them with much greater certainty if they were sent to the Clerks of the several District Courts, sealed up in Packets and directed to the several County Court Clerks within the District, and that such Clerks should send for them at the Expence of their Counties, and be laid under an Injunction to deliver them to the several Justices of the County. If this plan should be adopted, Mr. Davis could deliver them to the several District Clerks much within the time limited him by Law.
It is with much Reluctance that he makes any further Application to the General Assembly with regard to his Salary, but, small as it is, should have been contented with it had it not been for the
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very extraordinary Rise in Paper, that Article now selling at Newbern from Eighty to one Hundred pounds per Ream, so that if the Business of this Session should be of any Length, as it has taken upwards of one hundred Copies of the Acts of Assembly to supply the State, it will require about thirty Reams of Paper to complete them, amounting, at the present Prince, to more than the Salary allowed him for the services of the whole year. As it is possible that the price of Paper may be lessened before the next Session, all that Mr. Davis now requests of the Assembly is to be allowed the sum that he may be obliged to advance for the Business of this Session only, and that, as he promises to procure Paper on the best Terms he can, on his producing to his Excellency the Governor an Account on Oath of such Charges, that he be impowred to give him a warrant on any of the Treasurers for the amount. Mr. Davis begs leave to represent to the General Assembly the very great loss and inconvenience he has sustained for two years past in printing the public business of this State. That at the General Assembly in April, 1778, he was allowed twelve hundred pounds per annum, to be paid half-yearly, which sum, had it been regularly paid to him, was far inadequate to the services he was obliged to perform, but as he never received it until February last, he need not inform the Assembly that the depreciation of the currency had reduced it to about £25 real value. That at the Assembly at Smithfield, as he could not attend there in person, he laid before them a Memorial complaining of the loss he was likely to sustain, but was unhappy enough to receive no other consolation than being again appointed printer to the state with a salary of twenty five hundred pounds. If this sum had been immediately advanced to him then, it would not have reimbursed him the expence of paper and other charges he was at in performing the business of one Session only; but as the state should not suffer for want of the Laws being published, he undertook it cheerfully, in hopes of receiving satisfaction at the next assembly. That happened at Halifax in October last, when he attended there, and fully, as he thought, represented his grievances to the Assembly. Tho' he was unfortunate enough to see his most reasonable petition then opposed by some worthy members of the assembly, yet he had hopes of redress, and left the Assembly in full confidence of it. When the Gentlemen returned
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from the Assembly he found that he had been totally neglected, and not the least provision made for him. Surprised and astonished at this conduct, as they had not only neglected him but increased the duty on him by erecting four new counties, he found himself under an absolute necessity of resigning the business, as the article of paper had then risen to one hundred pounds per ream. Of this resolution he informed the then Speaker of the Senate, Mr. Coor, and several other Gentlemen; they told him that as the damage to the State, by not having the Laws published, would be very great, and that however he had been neglected by the Assembly at Halifax, it was certainly their intentions to pay him very handsomely, therefore earnestly solicited him to publish the business of the session. As he had not yet received any part of the small salary allowed him, and the paper only, upwards of twenty reams being requisite, required a large sum, he applyed to the Governor and Council to advance him as much money as would purchase it. They readily gave him a warrant on the treasury for twenty-five hundred pounds, but still his hard fate pursued him; he could get no money, there being other warrants of greater dignity. It then became necessary for him to advance upwards of twenty-five hundred pounds before he could get the laws published. When the Gentlemen of the Assembly met here in February last they were delivered to the members of the several counties that then appeared, and were all sent but four or five of the Western Counties.
He now begs leave to acquaint the general assembly that he has served them two years; has printed and published the Laws and Journals of four Sessions, which has taken 70 or 80 reams of paper; has advanced large sums of money for transmitting them to the several counties, for journeymen's wages, and every other article requisite for supporting his office, and has not received more than 20 or 30 pounds of real value, besides about as much money as paid for the paper used for the business of last Session, which he received only a few weeks ago. He therefore relies on the justice of the assembly, and hopes they will now grant him a sum adequate to his past services. He also begs leave to inform them that, when this country had about thirty counties only, and the justices and others whom he was obliged to supply with copies of the several acts of the assembly amounted to about 500, he was
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allowed £250 per annum. That there are now 50 counties in this state; the number of justices and members of Assembly is upwards of 1,500, and the business of the state increased to four times what it then was, and he imagines that he need not inform the Gentlemen of the assembly from the western Counties who have travelled to this assembly of the very great sum it will take to transmit the laws thro' this extensive state. There are repeated complaints that all the justices of the several counties do not get the laws, but when it is considered that when they are delivered out of his hands they are then out of his power, the neglect cannot be justly charged on him, for he cannot by any art he is master of convey them to their right owners after he has parted with them; but the truth is, the clerks to whom they are always directed do not faithfully deliver them, and untill they are made accountable for all they receive it will be in vain for him to send them.
Upon the whole, Mr. Davis thinks that the printing and publishing the Laws and journals of the assembly is now become a matter of very great consequence to the state; that it is now one of the most expensive civil departments, and requires no small share of attention to perform it with accuracy and precision. That if they will now give him a salary sufficient in real money, not subject to any depreciation, he will undertake to serve them in such a manner that there shall be no just complaint.