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Act of the Pennsylvania General Assembly concerning public accounts, including cover letter from Robert Morris to the state governors
Pennsylvania. General Assembly
March 20, 1783
Volume 16, Pages 800-809

HON. ROBERT MORRIS TO GOVERNOR MARTIN.
[From Executive Letter Book.]


Office of Finance, 20th May, 1783.

Sir:

I do myself the honor to enclose to your Excellency the Copy, of an Act of the Legislature of Pennsylvania for the Settlement of our public Accounts. I shall neither make any comments on this Act, nor recommend it. The Science of Law is entirely out of my line. But your Excellency will indulge me with the observation that unless your State will give some aid to the Commissioner for settling accounts it will be next to impossible for him to perform the duties of his office.

I have the honor to be Sir, &c.,
ROBERT MORRIS.

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State of Pennsylvania.

An Act for the settlement of the public Accounts of the United States of America.

Section 1st. Whereas the good people of the United States of America labour under great inconveniences from the public accounts remaining unsettled and from many large sums of money & much other property being wrongfully detained from them by persons who have been intrusted therewith, or who have become possessed thereof.

Section 2d. And whereas it would be expensive, dilatory and difficult to settle and adjust the same in the ordinary way of proceeding in the Courts of Justice,

Section 3rd. And whereas sufficient powers and authorities in the Officers for this purpose by the said United States in Congress Assembled appointed, have not been heretofore given, and it is become highly expedient for the public good, that the plans which have been recommended and adopted by Congress, for the settlement of the said public accounts and for the recovery from individuals of monies and effects belonging to the United States of America, be carried into speedy and effectual execution.

Section 4th. And whereas by an Act made and passed in Congress on the 27th Day of February in the year of our Lord 1782, it was ordained and provided that five Commissioners should be appointed for the settlement of accounts under the direction of the Superintendent of the Finances of the United States of America; namely, one for the Quarter Master’s department, one for the Commissaries department, one for the Hospital department, one for the clothiers department, & one for the Marine department; each of which Commissioners shall have full power and authority to Liquidate and finally settle the accounts of the departments respectively assigned to them, up to the last day of December which was in the year of our Lord 1781, inclusive of the said day; & by the same Act it was recommended to the several Legislatures of the said States, to empower the said Commissioners to call for Witnesses, & to examine such Witnesses on Oath of affirmation, touching such matters as were or should be respectively assigned to them for settlement, and also to make provision by Law for the speedy and

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effectual recovery from individuals of debts due, & effects belonging to the United States of America.

Section 5th. Be it therefore enacted, and it is hereby enacted by the representatives of the free men of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, in General Assembly met, and by the authority of the same,

That every one of the said Commisssoners shall be and hereby is vested with full power and authority within his respective department, to issue his process, when and so often as the same shall be deemed necessary, at the suit of the United States of America in the nature of a summons, directed to any person or persons whatsoever (within his proper department) who at any time or times on or before the last day of December, which was in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred eighty and one, was or were officers or persons appointed or employed, or who acted in the department aforesaid; and against any person who acted as either as principal, assistant, deputy or agent, who was employed as any such principal assistant deputy or agent in any of the said respective departments; or against any other person or persons whatsoever within this State concerning who it shall be alleged, that he she or they have or had, in his her or their hands, or possession monies or other property belonging to the United States of America, either at the time of issuing such process, or any time before; or against whom the said United States have or may have any claim or demand whatsoever, & requiring him her or them to be & appear before such Commissioner, at a certain day and place in the said process to be expressed: Provided that the same be not sooner than fifteen days, to be computed from the service of such process, and that the same process set forth briefly the cause for which the said person or persons shall be summoned; and upon the appearance of any person or persons, either voluntarily or after being summoned in manner aforesaid to proceed to the hearing and examinations of the allegations, vouchers and evidence, for and against such person or persons & to liquidate his her or their accounts, & to pass Judgment thereon according to Law and as the merits of the case shall require. And that the said Commissioner may be fully enabled to perform and execute the trust reposed in him, it shall and may be lawful for such Commissioner, at any time or times and as often as it shall be deemed necessary, to issue one or more subpœna or subpœnas for &

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to call before him any Witness & Witnesses & to examine such Witness or Witnesses, upon Oath or affirmation, touching the merits of the matter in controversy, before such Commissioner; and generally to use and exercise such effectual and like means for the collecting & procuring evidence, either for or against any defendant or defendants; or person or persons whose accounts may be depending before such Commission for Liquidation and Settlement, as any of the Courts of Common Law may, or can use and exercise in suits and causes depending beforc them.

Section 6th. Provided always That the place of appearance of any part so summoned as aforesaid be not at any place without the County wherein such party doth reside.

Section 7th. And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That if any witness shall wilfully falsify or knowingly swear or affirm to an untruth in a material point, in any suit or cause to be instituted before any of the said Commissioners by virtue of this act, the same shall be deemed perjury, and the person guilty thereof shall be liable to be prosecuted in any Court of Quarter Sessions of this State within the Jurisdiction whereof such offence shall be commited, and upon conviction thereof, he or she shall suffer the like pains, and penalties and disabilities to which those who commit willful and corrupt perjury, in any Court of Record of this Commonwealth are liable.

Section 8th. And for the better discovery of the real and true merits of any cause suit or controversy, at any time or times hereafter brought, or which shall be depending before any such Commissioner, under or by the authority of this Act, Be it enacted by the authority aforesaid, That upon the hearing of any such cause or causes suit or suits; it shall and may be lawful for such Commissioner to tender to such defendant or defendants interrogatories, and to examine him or them upon oath or affirmation, as the case may require, concerning such matter which shall be in issue or controversy, in such suit or suits, cause or causes, & to compel the said defendant or defendants to answer thereto in the manner aforesaid, under the penalty that in case he she or they refuse to answer to all or any of the facts alleged against him, her or them such facts shall be considered as confessed by him her or them, and the said facts shall be deemed to be true.

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Section 9th. Provided always that no interrogatories shall be put to such defendant or defendants the answer to which may tend to criminate him her or them, or to incur any penalty or forfeiture, and it shall be lawful for such Commissioner, within his proper department to call upon any such defendant or defendants and to compel him her or them to produce upon Oath or affirmation, to such Commissioner, all and singular the Books, accounts, and original entries of his, her or their Offices & employments unless the same shall appear to have been unavoidably lost or destroyed and in case of refusal to commit him her or them to the Gaol of the County, there to remain, without Bail or mainprize, until such Books papers and orriginal accounts be produced as aforesaid.

Section 10th. And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid That in every case wherein any Judgment or Judgments shall be rendered in favor of the United States of America in any suit or cause, or upon any proceedings instituted as aforesaid, it shall and may be lawful for the party against whom such Judgment or Judgments shall be rendered, to appeal therefrom, within five days after he she or they shall have notice of the rendering of such Judgment or Judgments but not otherwise; provided such rendering be made ten days before the next sitting of the Court of Common pleas in the County, in which County such Judgment or Judgments shall be had: and upon such appeal or appeals being lodged, within the two first days of the sitting of the said next Court, such Court shall proceed to hear the same upon the real merits of the case, in the same terms (unless reasonable cause be shewn to the contrary) and without the usual imparlances, and to determine thereupon either by Jury returned instanter or otherwise agreeably to the usual course of proceedings in such Court, and shall cause execution to be done thereupon as is usual in like cases, between party and party, which Judgment and determination shall be final and conclusive.

Section 11th. Provided nevertheless That no such appeals shall be received, unless sufficient security be given before one of the Justices of the said Conrt, on lodging such appeal, to prosecute such appeal to effect, and to satisfy the Judgment rendered by the said Commissioner, or such Judgment as the said Court may pronounce, and also to satisfy all costs in case the judgment appealed from be confirmed.

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Section 12th. And whereas by one other Act passed by the United States of America in Congress assembled on the 25th day of February 1782, it was ordained and declared that a Commissioner for each State should be appointed in the manner therein mentioned, with full power and authority finally to settle the accounts between the State for which such Commissioner shall be so nominated and the United States of America; and also to liquidate and settle in Specie value all certificates given for supplies by public Officers to individuals, and other claims against the United States of America by individuals for supplies furnished to the army, the transportation thereof and contingent expences thereon within the said State, according to the principles of equity and good Conscience, in all cases which were not or should not be provided for by Congress. And whereas it is reasonable and will be highly conducive to the public good that the Commissioner appointed or to be appointed for this State, for the purposes in the last mentioned act or ordinances of Congress declared, should by law for this purpose enacted be vested with sufficient powers to carry into effectual execution the duties of his Office.

Section 13th. Be it therefore enacted by the authority aforesaid That the Commissioner appointed for this Commonwealth, for the purposes in the last mentioned Act or ordinance of Congress declared, shall be and hereby is vested with full power and authority to summon Witnesses and examine them upon Oath or affirmation, and execute the like means in this behalf, and for collecting and procuring of Evidence, as any Commissioner appointed or to be appointed for the purposes set forth in the first above recited Act of Congress, may or can do by virtue of this Act, and if any such Witnesses to be examined as last aforesaid, shall wilfully falsify, or shall knowingly swear or affirm to an untruth touching any material point concerning which he or she shall be examined as aforesaid the same shall be deemed perjury and the offender upon conviction thereof in the manner aforesaid shall suffer like pains penalties and disabilities with such like offenders in this Act before mentioned.

Section 14th. And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid That every Comptroller Treasurer, register, auditor, and Clerk appointed or to be appointed by the United States in Congress Assembled, or by the Superintendent of Finance, or otherwise by the authority of Congress, for the purposes mentioned in one other Act or Ordinance of

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Congress, made and passed on the 11th day of September 1781 is hereby vested with full power and authority to carry into effectual execution the duties and functions of his respective office and appointment in like manner and as fully as if the same ordinance were enacted and declared by the Law of this Commonwealth in the words or to the effect in which it has been expressed by the United States of America in Congress assembled, and every such Comptroller or auditor appointed or to be appointed as aforesaid hereby is vested with full power & authority to compel the attendance of any witness or witnesses before him, and to examine every such Witness upon Oath or affirmation touching such matters as shall be depending before him, in the way of his said office or employment, and generally to procure and collect evidence & testimony as fully and effectually as any of the Commissioners herein before mentioned may or can do, by virtue of this Act, and every witness to be examined by such Comptroller or auditor in manner aforesaid is enjoined to make true anwer, under the like pains, penalties, & disabilities, as are by this Act before mentioned and provided in other cases.

Section 15th. And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid That every Commissioner and Officer appointed and to be appointed in pursuance of the several Acts and ordinances of Congress before mentioned, previously to his undertaking to exercise the powers and authorities by this Act vested in him, shall take or subscribe the following Oath or affirmation before the President or Vice President of the Supreme Executive Council of this State; to wit, “I, A. B. do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will truly and faithfully execute the office of . . . . . . . to which I am appointed and the powers in me vested by an Act entitled” an Act for the settlement of public accounts “without favor, affection, hatred or malice, according to the best of my judgment and abilities.”

Section 16th. And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid That when any account shall be finally settled, and any Judgment shall be rendered by any Commissioner pursuant to the direction of this Act, which shall not be appealed from as aforesaid, the same or a transcript thereof shall be signed by the Commissioner and may be filed in any Court of Common pleas within this State, with the prothonotary of such Court, and thereupon an execution shall be issued, as on other judgments, for the debt or sum of money which

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has been found to be due, together with costs (to be taxed by the said Prothonotary) for the service of such process as aforesaid, like to those which are allowed to the Sheriff for serving a Summons or subpœna, and for the attendance of Witnesses the same as are allowed in the said Court.

Section 17th. And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid That if the person or persons to be summoned as aforesaid, as parties or defendants by any such Commissioner shall refuse or neglect to appear agreeably to the directions of the said process; or if any of the said Commissioners shall deem it necessary in the first Instance, such Commissioner may cause process to issue from any Court of Common pleas in this State, or out of the Supreme Court, at his election, at the suit of the United States of America for any debt, demand, sum of money, or personal property, which is now due owing or belonging, or which shall hereafter be due or belong to the United States of America, against any such person or persons, or his, her, or their Executor or administrators, or against any person or persons who have received, or hereafter shall receive Money from the Treasury of the United States of America, or by order of Congress, or for the use of Congress, and who have not rendered or shall not render an account thereof, and in case a Declaration shall be filed with the Prothonotary of the Court before the Writ be issued, and a Copy of such Declaration served on the defendant or defendants or left at his or their last place of abode, ten days at least before the return of the said Writ, it shall and may be lawful for the said Court and the said Court are hereby authorised and required to cause such defendant or defendants to plead to issue and proceed to trial & Judgment at the Court to which such writ shall be returned; and the said Court shall not allow of any imparlance, unless where evidence shall be wanted, without which the party cannot safely go to trial; which fact, and also of a reasonable endeavour to obtain such evidence shall be made to appear to the satisfaction of the Court, by affidavit of the party, or the Testimonial of a Legal Witness. And in case the Writ and Declaration in such suit shall be served within the term of ten days as aforesaid, it shall and may be lawful for the Justices of the said Court to allow of one imparlance, and no more, unless evidence be wanted as aforesaid.

Section 18th. And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid

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That the said Courts shall not allow of any plea to a Declaration in any of the said Suits, other than the General Issue, unless the same be verified by the affidavit of the party, or otherwise shewn to be founded in fact, by one credible witness, or other legal evidence, and no demurrer to any Declaration shall be allowed for want of pursuing the usual forms of Declarations in such cases, but it shall be deemed sufficient in all actions upon the case or upon account to alledge that the defendant or defendants in such actions was or were indebted to the United States of America, in the sum demanded; for money had and received to the use of the United States of America and that payment thereof hath not been made nor any account rendered for the same.

Section 19th. And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid That the Court wherein any suit or action as aforesaid shall be brought, may with the consent of the defendant or defendants, and where an action of account shall be brought, and the party shall be legally adjudged a Bailiff, Receiver, or otherwise accountable to the United States of America the said Court may without such consent, appoint Auditors of whom the said Commissioner shall always be one, who, or a Majority of them may take state & settle the accounts of the defendant or defendants and make report to the Court, who may give judgment, for such balance, or for such sum of money as shall appear to be due the United States of America with costs of such; and if any balance shall be reported to be due any defendant or defendants who has or have been negligent in rendering his or their account, no cost whatsoever shall be adjudged to him her or them.

Section 20th. And in order that the said Court may be the better enabled to discover the truth, and to administer compleat justice in the premises, Be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid That it may and shall be lawful for any such Commissioner, before the trial of any suit or action, to exhibit interrogatories to such defendant or defendants, which interrogatories being approved by the said Court in term time, or a quorum of the Justices of the said Court in the vacation, the Court or Justices shall thereupon be authorized and empowered to examine him her or them upon Oath (or affirmation) as the case may require, as to such matter as shall be in issue or controversy, and to compel such defendant or defendants to answer thereto, either in writing or orally, before a Jury or the Auditors

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under a penalty, in case of his her or their refusal to make answer to the several facts alleged in such interrogatories, that the facts not answered as aforesaid shall be taken to be true, and it also may and shall be lawful for the said Court upon the application of such Commissioner, to compel such defendant or defendants to produce to the said Court or before the Auditors, all and Singular the Books, accounts and original entries of his her or their Office and Offices, employment or employments, or in case of a suit against any executor or executors, administrator or administrators, to compel such representatives of a deceased officer or person employed as aforesaid, or any other person having in possession or in his or her custody or power, any such books accounts and original entries, to produce them to such Court; and if the said Books accounts and entries, or any of them be lost or destroyed, to discover to the Court upon Oath or affirmation, according to the best of his her or their knowledge, or belief, the time when the place where and the manner how the same happened, and the contents thereof as far as they know or believe, on the pain of imprisonment until the same be complyed with.

Section 21st. Be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid That after judgment shall be obtained as aforesaid, it shall be lawful to issue execution, and the Sheriff shall proceed thereon as usual in other cases, and all lands and tenements belonging to any debtor to the United States of America at the time of the commencement of any suit in any of the Courts aforesaid or at any time after shall be liable to such execution, or in whose hands or possession soever the said Lands and Tenements may be found.

Section 22d. And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid That this Act shall continue and be in force for the space and term of three years from the publication thereof and from thence to the end of the next session of the General Assembly and no longer.

PETER ZACHERY LLOYD, Clk.
of the General Assembly.

Enacted into a law at Philadelphia on Thursday the 20th day of March in the year of our Lord 1783.