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Estate Confiscation Act of 26 February 1782

Source:  The Statutes at Large of South Carolina (Volume 4, Part 2) by  Thomas Cooper and David J. McCord (first published in 1836-1841), pages 516-523.

South Carolina No. 1153 - AN ACT for disposing of certain Estates, and banishing certain persons, therein mentioned.

WHEREAS, the thirteen British colonies (now the United States of America,) were, by an Act of the Parliament of Great Britain, passed in or about the month of December, in the year of our Lord 1775, declared to be in rebellion, and out of the protection of the British Crown; and by the said Act not only the property of the colonists was declared subject to seizure and condemnation, but divers seizures and destruction of their property having been made after the 19th day of April, 1775, and before the passing of the said Act, such seizures and destruction were, by the said Act, declared to be lawful; and whereas the good people of these States, having not only suffered great losses and damages by captures of their property on the sea, by the subjects of his Britannic Majesty, but by their seizing and carrying off much property taken on the land; in consequence of such proceedings of the British crown, and those acting under its authority, the honorable Congress of the United States, after due and mature consideration, authorized the seizing and condemnation of all property found on the sea, and belonging to the subjects of Great Britain, and re­commended to the several States in which such subjects had property, to confiscate the same for public use; all political connection between Great Britain and the United States having been dissolved by the separation of these States from that kingdom, and their declaring themselves free and independent of her; in pursuance of which recommendation most (if not all) have disposed of such property for the public use; and whereas, notwithstanding this State has forborne even to sequester the profits arising from the estates of British subjects, the enemy, in violation of the most solemn capitulations and public engagements, by which the property of individuals was secured to them, seized upon, sequestered, and applied to their own use, not only in several instances the profits of the estates, but in other instances the estates themselves, of the good citizens of this State, and have committed the most wanton and willful waste of property, both real and personal, to a very considerable amount; and whereas, from a proclamation of Sir Henry Clinton, declaring that if any person should appear in arms in order to prevent the establishment of his Britannic Ma­jesty's government in this country, such persons should be treated with the utmost severity, and their estate be immediately seized, in order to be confiscated; and whereas, from a letter of Lord Rawdon to Lieutenant Colonel Rugely, declaring that every militia man who did not use his utmost endeavors to apprehend deserters, should be punished in such man­ner as his lordship should think adequate to such offence, by whipping, imprisonment, or being sent to serve his Britannic Majesty in the West Indies; from the Earl Cornwallis's letter to Lieutenant Colonel Cruger, bearing date the 18th of August, 1780, declaring that he had given orders that all the inhabitants who had submitted, and who had taken part with their countrymen in the first action near Camden, (although such submission was an act of force or necessity,) should be punished with the greatest rigor, that they should be imprisoned, and their whole property taken from them or destroyed; and that he had ordered in the most positive manner, that every militia man who had borne arms on the part of his Britannic Majesty, and who had afterwards joined his fellow citizens, (although he had been compelled to take up arms against them,) should be immediately hanged; and ordering the said Lieutenant Colonel Cruger to obey these directions in the district in which he commanded, in the strictest manner; and from the general tenor of the enemy's conduct, in their willful and wanton waste and destruction of property as aforesaid, committing to a cruel imprisonment, and even hanging, and otherwise putting to death in cold blood, and an ignominious manner, many good citizens who had surren­dered as prisoners of war; it is evident that it was the fixed determination of the enemy, notwithstanding their professions to the contrary, to treat this State as a conquered country; and that the inhabitants were to expect the utmost severities, and to hold their lives, liberties, and properties, solely at the will of His Britannic Majesty's officers; and it is therefore inconsistent with public justice and policy, to afford protection any longer to the property of British subjects, and just and reasonable to apply the same towards alleviating and lessening the burdens and expenses of the war, which must otherwise fall very heavy on the distressed inhabitants of this State:

 

I.  Be it therefore enacted, by the honorable the Senate and House of Representatives, met in General Assembly, and by the authority of the same, That all the real estates, either in possession, reversion, or remain­der, of the several persons whose names are mentioned in the list number one hereunto annexed, known to be subjects of his Britannic Majesty, shall be, and the same are hereby, vested in five commissioners, to be chosen by ballot by the Senate and House of Representatives, and the survi­vors and survivor of them, and the heirs and assigns of such survivor; and they are hereby declared to be fully seized and possessed thereof, for such term as the said persons severally hold therein, in trust, and to and for the several uses, intents, and purposes hereinafter mentioned.

 

II.  And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That all the personal estates (debts excepted) of the persons named on the said list number one, shall be, and the same are hereby, vested in the said commissioners, anti the survivors and survivor of them, his executors, administrators and assigns, who are hereby declared to be fully possessed thereof, for such term, or interest, as such persons have respectively therein, in trust, and for the uses, intents, and purposes hereinafter mentioned.

 

III.  And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That the said commissioners, or a majority of them, shall, as soon as may be, sell and dis­pose of the said estates, both real and personal, (except as hereinafter excepted,) at public auction, giving six weeks notice of the times and places of intended sales, on credit of five years; the purchase money to be paid in specie, with interest of seven per centum per annum, also payable in specie at the expiration of each year; and that they shall take bonds, with sufficient landed security in this State, for the said purchase moneys, which bonds and securities shall all be taken in the name of the treasurers, in trust, for the use of the State, and delivered over by the said commissioners to the said treasurers.

 

IV. And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That the said commissioners, or a majority of them, and the survivors and survivor (of such majority, are and is hereby empowered and required to execute sufficient titles and conveyances, for vesting the estates and property which may be sold by the said commissioners, or a majority of them as aforesaid, in the persons who shall respectively purchase the same, their heirs, ex­ecutors, administrators, and assigns, respectively, for the term for which they were sold.

 

V. And whereas, upon the dissolution of the connection which formerly subsisted between Great Britain and the colonies, now the United States of America, the General Assembly thinking it necessary to establish a test of fidelity, required that all persons who held commissions under the British government, or were suspected by the Governor and Council of holding principles inimical to the rights and liberties of America, should take an oath, professing their allegiance; and afterwards, by another Act of Assembly, it was enacted that all the inhabitants of this, State who owned allegiance thereto, should take an oath professing such allegi­ance; and that upon such persons refusing to take the said oath, he should quit the State within a certain time, and never return thereto; and such person's return wins declared to be a capital offence; and whereas, sundry persons who refused to take the said oath, have neglected to sell their es­tates, or have returned and acquired estates;

 

Be it therefore enacted, That all the estates and property, both real and personal, of all persons, except­ing those who were prevented from complying with the laws abovementioned by death, who have neglected to sell their estates, or who have returned since and acquired estates, shall be, and they are hereby, vested in the commissioners aforesaid, in the same manner and for the like uses and purposes, as the estates and property of the persons named on the said list number one; and that the said commissioners shall be vested with the same power relative to, and act in the same manner in every respect, touching the disposition of, the estates of the persons last above described, as of those first above mentioned.

 


VI. And whereas, divers persons, inhabitants of, and owing allegiance to, this State, in the year of our Lord 1779, withdrew from their allegiance, and went over to, and took up arms with the enemy, which offence, by an Act of the General Assembly, commonly called the sedition Act, passed on or about the sixth day of April, 1776, was declared to be a capital offence, and to work a forfeiture of life and estate; and although such persons were, by proclamations of his excellency the Governor and Commander-in-chief, summoned and required by name to surrender themselves to a magistrate, within forty days after the respective dates of those proclamations, in pursuance of an ordinance of the General Assembly, passed
the 20th day of February, 1779, entitled, "An Ordinance to prevent persons withdrawing from the defense of this State, to join the enemies thereof, under the pains and penalties mentioned in the said Ordinance," which were outlawry of their persons and forfeiture of their estates; yet few or none of such persons did surrender themselves to a magistrate as required by the said proclamations;

 

Be it therefore enacted, That all and singular the several matters and things herein before enacted, shall extend, and be construed to extend, to the estates and property, both real and personal, of the persons mentioned in the said proclamations; which estates shall be, and they are hereby, vested in the commissioners aforesaid, in the same manner, and for the like uses and purposes, as the estates and property of the persons named in the said list number one; and that the said commissioners shall be vested with the same power relative to, and act in the same manner in every respect touching the disposition of, the estates of the persons last above mentioned, as of those first above mentioned: Provided, that nothing herein contained shall extend, or be construed to extend, to such of those persons as have returned to their allegiance, and borne arms in the defense of this State, before the 27th day of September last, and have
continued so to do, and shall give satisfactory proof to the said commissioners of their having done so.

 


VII. And whereas, some of the citizens of this State, whose names are mentioned in the list number two, did, immediately after the surrender of the garrison of Charlestown, withdraw themselves from the allegiance which they owed to their country, and desirous of evincing their attachment to the king of Great Britain, congratulated Sir Henry Clinton and Mariot Arbuthnot, Esquire, on the reduction of that fortress; others, whose names are mentioned on list number three, and who also withdrew themselves from their allegiance, anxiously desirous of establishing the British government in this State, did request to be embodied, and to be permitted to serve as royal militia; others, whose names are mentioned on list number four, were so thoroughly attached to the British interest, and so lost to the feelings of humanity, and their duty to the State, as to congratulate the Earl Cornwallis on the success of his Britannic majesty's arms, and to glory in the blood of their countrymen, which had been shed by the hands of the enemies to the independence of America; and some, whose names are mentioned on list number live, still hold, or have held, commissions under his Britannic Majesty, and are now with the enemy; all which officers, by the said sedition Act, arc declared to be capital: And whereas, the peace and safety of this State require that proper examples should be made of such atrocious offenders, who have hitherto shown themselves incapable of reformation;

 

Be it therefore enacted by the authority aforesaid, That all and singular the several matters and things hereinbefore enacted, shall extend, and be construed to extend, to the estates and property, both real and personal, of the persons mentioned in the same lists number two, three, font and five; which estates shall be, and they are hereby, vested in the commissioners aforesaid,, in the same manner, and for the like uses and purposes, as the estates and property of the persons named on the said list numbered one; and that the said commis­sioners shall be vested, with the same power relative to, and act in the same manner in every respect touching the disposition of, the estates of the persons last above mentioned, as of those first above mentioned.

 

VIII.  And whereas, the persons mentioned on the list number six, have not only voluntarily avowed their allegiance to his Britannic majesty, but by the general tenor of their conduct manifested their attachment to the British government, and proved themselves inveterate enemies of this State;

 

Be it therefore enacted by the authority aforesaid, That all and singular the several matters and things hereinbefore enacted, shall extend, and be construed to extend, to the estates and property, both real and personal, of the persons mentioned in the said list number six; which estates shall be, and they are hereby, vested in the commissioners afore­said, in the same manner, and for the like uses and purposes, as the estates and property of the persons named on tire said list number one; and that the said commissioners shall be vested With the same power relative to, and act in the same manner in every respect touching the disposition of, the estates of the persons last above described, as of those first above mentioned.

 

IX. And although the lives as well as the fortunes of the persons mentioned on the said lists number two, three, four and five, are by law forfeited for the offences aforesaid; yet in order to avoid, if possible, sanguinary measures, and to extend to those persons as much mercy as may be consistent with, justice to the public, Be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That instead of inflicting capital punishment on such persons, they shall be, and they are hereby declared to be, forever banished from this State; and if any of the said persons shall remain in this State forty days next after the passing of this Act, or shall return to this State, the Governor or Commander-in-chief, for the time being, is hereby authorized and required to cause the person so remaining in or returning to this State, to be apprehended and committed to jail, there to remain, without bail or mainprize, until a convenient opportunity shall offer of transporting the said person or persons from this State, to become part of his Britannic majesty's dominions, which the Governor or Commander-in-chief for the time being, is hereby required to do; and if any of the said persons shall return into this State, after such transportation, then, and in such case, he or they shall be adjudged, and they are hereby declared to be, guilty of felony, and shall, upon conviction of the offence of having returned as aforesaid, suffer death, without benefit of clergy.

 

X. And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That the said commissioners, or a majority of them, shall and may, on the credit of the estates hereby directed to be sold, make such provision for the temporary support of such of the families of the persons mentioned on the lists number two, three, four, five and six, as shall appear to the said commissioners, or a majority of them, necessary, until the said commissioners shall render a full account of the sales hereby directed to be made, which they shall do at the next meeting of the General Assembly; and the legislature can, thereupon judge what final provision shall be made for the said families.

 

XI.  And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That the said commissioners, before they proceed to sell any slaves or other personal property belonging to any persons mentioned in the said lists, shall set apart a sufficient number of slaves to raise the quota of continental troops required of this State, and to pay such State troops as have bounties due to them, and four hundred and forty of the male slaves belonging to such persons, which shall be fit and proper for the use of the continental army, as pioneers, wagon drivers, artificers and officers' servants, in such pro­portion of each of those classes as the Governor, with the advice of the Privy Council, shall require; which slaves shall be employed in those several occupations, so long as they shall be wanted for the public service; and also such horses, cattle, wagons and provisions, as shall be wanted for the use of the army.

 

XII.  And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That all real and personal property, of which the persons named in the said lists were possessed, either by themselves or agents, on the fourth of July, 1776, or at any time between that day and the twelfth of May, 1780, shall be deemed and held to be still theirs; unless the same was really and bona fide sold and conveyed, for valuable consideration of money paid, or se­cured to be paid, and actual possession given to the purchasers, before the said twelfth of May, without any secret trust or condition, and not with a view of eluding a forfeiture; and that all real and personal property which the said persons have acquired since the said twelfth of May, 1780, shall be deemed and held to be still theirs. That all grants, devises, sales, and conveyances, made by any of the said persons, between the said fourth of July and twelfth of May, except as aforesaid, or after the said twelfth of May, for any consideration whatsoever, shall be, and they are hereby declared to be, fraudulent and ipso facto null and void, to all intents and purposes; and the estate or property thereby granted, devised, sold or conveyed, shall be considered as hereby vested in the said commissioners, for the uses aforesaid.

 

XIII.  And. be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That before any of the said commissioners shall act as such, he shall take the following oath, to wit, "I, A. B. do swear, that as a commissioner under the Act for seizing anti confiscating the property of persons mentioned in an Act enti­tled "An Act for disposing of certain estates, and banishing the persons therein mentioned," will, to the best of my 'skill and judgment, execute the trust reposed ill me, and the duties of my office, diligently, impartially and faithfully: So help me God."

 

XIV.  And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That for the most expeditious and extensive improvement of the soil, the general convenience and accommodation of the most fixed and useful purchasers, to increase as much as may be the number of white inhabitants, and to prevent the increase of the number of large and dangerous monopolizers of land, the commissioners appointed to execute this Act are hereby required and directed to divide all the lands and plantations confiscated thereby, into tracts, containing from two hundred to five hundred acres each tract, and that no one tract shall exceed five hundred acres at most, where it can be done without great and manifest, prejudice to the sale, when weighed and considered by the said commissioners together with all the other important circumstances just mentioned in the former part of this clause.

 

XV.  And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, that the said commissioners shall and may appoint such a number of clerks as they shall judge necessary, which clerks shall keep regular inventories of the said estates, and make true entries of all their proceedings, and, before they act as clerks, shall take an oath diligently and truly to execute the said office; and that the said commissioners shall be allowed a commission, of one per cent. on the net proceeds of the said estates, to be equally divided amongst them, in lieu of all demands against the public.

 

XVI.  And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That the expense which may be incurred for surveying and laying off the lands hereby confiscated, into different tracts, shall be paid or reimbursed by the persons who shall purchase any of the said lands, at the time of purchasing the same.

             

XVII.  And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That all persons, subjects of this or any of the United States, and friends to the freedom and independence thereof, who have demands against any of the persons mentioned in the said lists number two, three, four, five and six, shall lay a state and proofs of the said demands before the said commis­sioners, on or before the twentieth day of February next; and the said commissioners are hereby empowered and required to examine into the justice and validity of the said demands, and make report thereof to the General Assembly, at their next meeting, after the said twentieth of February, to the end, that the legislature may direct with respect to such creditors what to justice shall appertain; and if the said legislature shall not liquidate the said demands agreeable to the claimant, such claimants shall have an action against the said commissioners, and the amount sales of the estates of the persons mentioned in this Act, shall be respectively liable to satisfy the said demands, and all other creditors, except those above men­tioned; and those, in case they shall neglect or refuse to make their demands with the time aforesaid, shall be, and they are hereby, barred from any claim on the State, on account of their said demands.

 

XVIII. And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That if any person or persons shall remove, aid or assist in the removal of, any of the property hereby confiscated, or shall conceal the same, with intent to defraud the public, every such person or persons shall be, and they are hereby declared to be, guilty of felony, and shall, on conviction, suffer death, without benefit of clergy.

 

XIX. And be it enacted by the authority aforesaid, That each of the said commissioners shall forthwith, and before entering on the execution of their office, give security, to be approved by the Governor and Commander-in-chief, with the advice and consent of the Privy Council, in the sum of ten thousand pounds sterling, for the due and faithful execution of the said office; and on failure so to do, the Governor and Commander-in-chief, with the advice and consent of the Privy Council, shall appoint some other fit and proper person or person in the loom or stead of the person or persons failing to give such security, who shall have all the powers and authorities, and do and execute the several matters and things, which are hereby granted or required of the person or persons so failing to give such security.

 

XX. And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That in case it shall be necessary, on surveying of the lands hereby directed to be sold, to have a sight of the plats of the adjacent lauds, the owners of the said adjacent lands shall, on demand by the said commissioners, or a majority of them, produce the said plats, and deliver copies of them to the said commissioners, for the better ascertaining the exact boundaries between the said lands and those hereby directed to be sold, or shall testify, upon oath or affirmation, that they neither have or can obtain the plats required by. the said commissioners; and in default of their so doing, the said commissioners shall cause the said lands, hereby directed to be sold, to be surveyed, and plats thereof made, according to the best information which they can procure touching the same; in which case the plats so made shall be deemed conclusive against the claims of the owners of the said adjacent lands.

 

XXI. And whereas, a sum of money in specie may be necessary for the service of the State;

 

Be it therefore enacted by the authority aforesaid, That the Governor or Commander-in-chief shall direct so many of the slaves hereby confiscated to be sold, in such place or places, in or out of this State, for ready money, as he, with the advice and consent of the Privy Council, may think requisite and necessary for the service of the State, (not exceeding in the whole one hundred and fifty slaves); any thing hereinbefore contained to the contrary hereof in any wise notwithstanding.

 

XXII.  And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That in all the sales of Negroes, directed by this Act, the parents shall not be separated from their children, but that the said slaves shall be sold in families.

 

XXIII. And be it farther enacted by the authority aforesaid, That this State will warrant and forever defend the estates and property which may be sold by the said commissioners, or a majority of them, as aforesaid, to the persons who shall respectively purchase the same, and to their heirs, executors, administrators and assigns, for the term for which the same shall be sold, against every person whomsoever.

 

XXIV. And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That the commissioners shall, from time to time, at least once in every month, deliver to the treasurers all such inventories, with the appraisement of the different estates, and all such account sales as may be finished, together with the bonds for the same.

 

XXV. And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That this shall be deemed a public Act, and judicially taken notice of as such, and that the same shall be construed liberally, and in the most beneficial manner for the interest of the State, and for carrying the intent and preview of the Act fully and effectually into execution. And if the said commissioners or any of them, or any person acting by their authority, shall be sued or impleaded for any matter or thing done by virtue hereof, they or he may plead the general issue, and give this Act and the special matter in evidence; and on verdict or judgment against the plaintiff, on discontinuance or non-suit, the person or persons so sued shall recover treble costs of suit.

 

In the Senate, the twenty-sixth day of February 1782.

JOHN LEWIS GERVAIS, President of the Senate.

HUGH RUTLEDGE, Speaker of the House of Representatives.

 

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