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AN ACT appointing Commissioners for the better regulating Titles of Land within this State, and declaring their power.
Whereas, there are many tenements, farms and tracts of land, situate within this State, claimed by sundry persons, under divers titles, occasioned partly from the unsettled situation the people of this State have heretofore been in, and partly by the avaricious views of those governors, who under the King of Great Britain, feared not to give patents directly interfering with each other, and many settlers have moved on to said lands under those different titles, and undergone innumerable hardships in settling farms, and now to dispossess them, would be cruel and unjust: while others have been intruders and trespassers from the beginning; and to establish them, in seclusion of the lawful freeholders, would be equally iniquitous and unjust.
And whereas many inconveniences must attend trials at law, in strict legal ajudications of such a multiplicity of disputes, as well to individuals as the public; such as delays of justice in many instances, increasing of broils and contentions; which great evils to prevent,
Be enacted, &c. that Joseph Bowker, Esq., Joseph Tyler, Esq., John Strong, Esq., Edward Harris, Esq., and Capt. Edmund Hodges, be appointed and commissionated by his Excellency the Governor of this State, and sworn in the form of the oath hereafter prescribed, to be commissioners for the purposes aforesaid; and that the said commissioners, or any three of them, be, and they are hereby, authorised and impowered, to do and perform the several acts, matters and things hereafter named; to wit: that the said commissioners, or any three of them, shall have power to take into consideration, and fully examine, all the evidence relating to, or respecting, the titles of controverted lands in this State: for that end, they shall have power, to send for persons, to administer oaths, to call upon the parties for charters, patents, deeds of conveyances, and all other writings respecting their title to said lands: as also to examine the parties upon oath; and shall make report to this Assembly, at their next session,or at the session of General Assembly in October next, which of those various claimants to the same land ought, in justice and equity, to possess and forever hold the fee of said land, with the remittances said fee-holders shall make to the other claimants; together with the evidence and reasons upon which said report shall be grounded.
And be it further enacted, that upon application made by any person, claming lands in the actual possession of another, whereon improvements have been made, to or, in his absence, to — they, or either of them, are hereby impowered to summon any two or more of the commissioners aforesaid, to convene in that particular town, wherein the disputed land lieth; notifying therein the time and place of convening; and also to grant a citation to the person making application, to summon the person in actual possession, to answer him in his claim, before said commissioners, at the time and place of their convening as abovesaid: which citation shall be served on the adverse party, at least twenty days before said commissioners convene: and said commissioners, after making out their reports, shall lodge a true and attested copy of each report, fourteen
days before the sitting of the General Assembly, at their next session, or at the session in October next, in that particular town clerk's office, in which the land lieth, that each and every party may have the perusal thereof. And said commissioners shall, on or before the opening of the General Assemblies aforesaid, deliver to the clerk of said Assembly, the various reports they shall have made; which reports shall be read, with the evidence and reason of each report, on the first day of the Assembly's meeting, and shall then be laid on the table for each member's perusal, at least four days before they shall pass the house: after which the reports shall be taken up the second time, and read; when all persons remonstrating against any of said reports, shall be heard; and each report that shall be approved and adjudged to be established by said Assembly, and ordered to be carried into execution, a copy of the resolve of said Assembly shall be sent to the town clerk's office where the land lieth; and and the clerk of said town is hereby required, on the receipt of said copy from the General Assembly, to record the report and resolution of the Assembly, in the register book of said town; which shall be forever after deemed and considered an indisputable title to said lands, and the appurtenances thereof, in seclusion of all claims and demands whatsoever, of the party or parties in the trials aforesaid.
And be it further enacted, that no cause or action shall be commenced or prosecuted, in which the title of land is any way concerned: and all actions now depending before any court, assistant, or justice of the peace, wherein the title of land is concerned, shall be removed from said court, assistant, or justice of the peace, in the same manner in which they now stand, to said commissioners, who are also hereby impowered to take notice of the cost that hath hitherto arisen: and all persons now in actual possession of land, shall be and remain in quiet and peaceable possession, until the General Assembly shall determine the same.
And be it further enacted, that each and every of the said commissioncrs, before they shall take upon them the exercise of said office, do, before an assistant, or justice of the peace, take the following oath, viz: You- being appointed one of the commissioners, according to the form and effect of an act, entitled "an act appointing commissioners for the better regulating titles of land within this State, and declaring their power," do most solemnly promise and swear, by the ever living God, that you will, to the best of your knowledge and ability, without favour or affection, faithfully execute and perform, as well to justice between parties as for the benefit and advantage of the inhabitants of the State of Vermont, all and singular the powers and authorities, by force and virtue of said act unto you given. So help you God.
And be it enacted, that the person or persons making application to the commissioners aforesaid, shall be holden to pay the same fees to said commissioners, as is allowed to the judges of the superior court: and they are hereby impowered to grant executions accordingly.
AN ACT constituting the Superior Court a Court of Equity, and declaring their power.
Whereas, from the universality of the law, many cases will arise,wherein it is necessary that some further provision be made for relief in equity, than can be obtained by the rules of common law. To the intent therefore that justice and equity may be jointly administered;
Be it enacted, &c. that the superior court shall be, and it is hereby, constituted a court of equity, and impowered to hear and determine all cases in equity that shall be brought properly before said court, wherein the demands, dues, matter or cause in dispute, is above twenty pounds, and doth not exceed the sum of four thousand pounds, lawful money and on consideration of the several pleas and allegations made by either party, may moderate the rigor of the law, decree and enter up judgment therein agreeable to equity and good conscience, and to award execution accordingly.
And be it further enacted, that all cases in equity, wherein the demands, dues, matter or cause in dispute, shall exceed the sum of four thousand pounds, shall be heard and determined by the Governor and Council and House of Representatives.
And be it further enacted, that the form of the process in equity shall be, that the party aggrieved or oppressed, by the forfeiture or penalty annexed unto any articles of agreement, covenant, contract, bond, or other specialties, or forfeiture of estate on condition executed by deed of mortgage, or any other cause proper for a court of equity, may bring his suit for remedy and relief therein, by filing a bill, in form of a petition, in that particular court that hath cognizance of the same, therein setting forth at large the cause for relief: and shall cause the adverse party to be served with a copy of said petition, and a citation to be signed by the clerk of said court, or by an assistant, or justice of the peace, twelve days before the day of the sitting of the same.
Provided always, that the party aggrieved at any judgment to be given as aforesaid, wherein title of land is concerned, shall have liberty of review, as in other cases is provided at the common law, and shall also have the liberty of appeal from the superior court to the Governor and Council and General Assembly.
And be it further enacted, that all causes in equity, now depending before the General Assembly, wherein the demand does not exceed the sum of four thousand pounds, shall be referred to the superior court, in the same manner in which they now stand.
LAWS PASSED AT WESTMINSTER,
MARCH SESSION, 1780.
AN ACT to prevent unlawful settlement on unappropriated Lands.
Be it enacted, &c. that if any person or persons shall, after the passing of this act, presume to make settlement, or improve any unappropriated lands within this State, without first obtaining a legal title to the same, shall forfeit all such settlement, labor and improvements to this State, and shall be obliged to give up possession, and pay all cost and damages that shall accrue.
Provided always, that nothing in this act be construed to debar any person or persons from recovering pay for labor, settlement, &c. where it can be made to appear that such settlement was made through mistake, or on a supposed legal title. And to prevent fraud in sales of land, by persons who pretend to a title by virtue of their names being annexed to any petition or petitions on file, in the Secretary's office, for granting; all persons are hereby cautioned against such purchases, as they are unjust in their nature, and will not be considered as legal.
AN ACT regulating the tryal of persons who on being arraigned for treason, felony and crimes against the State, stand mute or refuse to plead.
Whereas the judgments directed by the common law, so far as they respect the manner of putting the offender to death, are marked by circumstances manifestly repugnant to that spirit of humanity which should ever distinguish a free, civilized and christian people ;—
For remedy whereof,
Be it enacted, &c. that in all cases of treason, felony, or crimes against the State, where the party indicted or complained of, shall, on being arraigned, obstinately stand mute or refuse to plead and be tried in due course of law; such obstinately standing mute or refusal to plead and be tried as aforesaid, shall be adjudged to amount to, and be a proper traverse or denial of the facts charged in the indictment or complaint, and the trial shall thereupon proceed in like manner, and the same judgment shall be given against the said party, if found guilty, as if he, she, or they had, on being arraigned, duly plead, and in proper form respectively put themselves on their tryal.
AN ACT for the purpose of impowering the inhabitants of the respective towns in this State, to tax themselves for certain occasions.
Whereas it is found necessary for towns as such, to raise sums of money for the carrying on the war, to purchase ammunition for town stock, to support the poor, and many other purposes which they may find necessary, not inconsistent with the Constitution of this State. Therefore,
Be it enacted, &c. that the inhabitants of the respective towns in this State be, and they are hereby authorised to vote a tax for the purpose of carrying on the war-for procuring a town stock of ammunition-for the support of the poor of such town, or any other purposes which they may find necessary, not inconsistent with the Constitution of this State, at their annual town meeting, or at any other meeting warned for that purpose; which meeting shall be warned at least ten days before the holding such meeting, by the select-men. And the respective collectors of town rates are hereby authorised to collect such taxes when directed thereto by warrant from an assistant or justice of the peace; and the collectors of such rates shall lodge the money, so collected, in the town treasury, to be drawn out and disposed of, by the select-men, for the purpose or purposes for which it was raised.
Provided always, that no person be compelled, by the major vote of said town, to build or repair a meeting-house, or support a worship, or minister of the gospel, contrary to the dictates of his conscience; provided said person or persons shall support some sort of religious worship, as to them may seem most agreeable to the word of God; any thing in this act to the contrary notwithstanding.
AN ACT to prevent transporting Provisions out of this State.
Whereas large quantities of provisions are continually exported out of this State, which, if not immediately prevented, will render it impracticable to furnish the troops raised for the defence of the northern frontiers. Therefore,
Be it enacted, &c. that any and all further transportation of wheat, rye, indian corn, flour or meal of any kind, as also pork, beef, or any other provisions whatever, that may be useful for supplying the troops raised by this State, be, and is hereby strictly prohibited and forbid to be transported out of this State, except for the use of the Continent, or that the same be permitted by the Governor with the advice of three or more of his Council. And all sheriffs, grand-jurors, and select-men, in their respective towns, and all persons whatever within this State, are hereby authorised and required to scize any and every of the above mentioned articles, which they have reason to suspect any person or persons may be carrying out, or purchased to be carried out of this State, contrary to the true intent of this act; and if need be, to command assistance, and make returns in writing, of said seizure, to the next assistant or justice of the peace; and unless said person or persons shall satisfy the court before