Thus Always To Tyrants

The Virginia Re-publication Oversight Committee
Report of 28 January 1818

This report of 28 January 1818, from the Virginia Senate oversight committee shows the due diligence, deliberation, consideration and judicious course set in the revision of the Laws of Virginia, and disproves the contention that inclusion of the 13th Amendment in the Revised Code of the Laws of Virginia of 1819 was a careless "oversight".

Hening's prefatory comments in his third edition of the Statutes, included below this report are equally supportive of the case that careful, knowing review was exercised.

As photocopied from the VA Senate Journal ---- [Emphasis added]

Wednesday, January 28, 1818
    Mr. Johnson, from the Committee appointed yesterday, made the
following report relative to the revised bills, which was read :

    The Committee appointed to enquire and report " What in their
opinion, would be the most prudent course, to be pursued by the
Senate, in relation to the revised bills," beg leave to submit the fol-
lowing result of their enquiry:---

    The Committee acknowledge their incompetency to scan, with
critical accuracy, the work, which has been reported to the General
Assembly, by the Committee of Revisors, appointed by an act of
the last session of the Legislature---They cannot, however, be insen-
sible of the great value of that work, and of the very great labour
which it has cost; and the defects which they think they perceive in
it, can be attributed only to that want of time, and want of power in
the revisors, of which they themselves make mention in their report.
They believe that defects do exist, and that they are such as forbid
the Legislature, until they are remedied, to give the compilation to
the public, as containing the code of our laws.
The defects which
appear to your Committee, are of the following description---
    First---Defects in the arrangement; which may be reduced to these
heads, viz:--
1. In putting into one act, what belongs to another.
2. In not putting together in their proper order, the different provi-
    sions in the same act, which are connected with each other;
3. In not compiling new bills, formed of the provisions on the same
    subjects, to be found in various acts, as for example---A bill to re-
    gulate proceedings in civil actions at Common Law, to apply to
    all the courts of law:---A bill to regulate proceedings in Chancery,
    to apply to the Superior and Inferior Courts of Equity;---A bill re-
    gulating costs, to apply to all Courts;---A bill for the limitations of
    civil actions;---A bill for the recovery of small debts, &c.
4. In not classing the bills themselves, and placing them together,
    in the order prescribed, by the analogy which they bear to each
    other---Thus the bills concerning the several Courts of Justice,
    and proceedings in Courts, with other connected with them,
    might form one class, and be placed together in their proper order.

     Secondly---Defects of omission.---Instances of which, may be found
in the omission to compile into one act, the several acts formerly
made to prevent the circulation of private banks notes, and the act
lately passed to prevent the circulation of the notes of unchartered
banks---and the omission to compile, or to note for publication, some
important laws, generally denominated land laws, on which they depend
the titles of much of the real property in this Commonwealth.

    And thirdly---Defects of amendment.---These defects the Com-
mittee believe are very numerous, and may be classed under the
following heads:---
1. In not reforming the language of the revised bills, so as to make
    it suitable to the present state of the law----it frequently happening
    that the language of a law enacted some time since, has now be-
    come either improper, or inadequate, in consequence of subse-
    quent amendments.
2. In not making the various provisions of laws, enacted at different
    times, and now brought together in one bill, consistent with each
3. In not suggesting such amendments, as are necessary to remedy
    the defects of the present system of laws, without changing the
    essential principles thereof.
    How to remedy these defects, is a question on which your Com-
    mittee will offer some reflections to the House:---

   They believe it is out of the power of the present Legislature to
apply the remedy.

     It is obvious that much time, and much deliberate and critical
examination of the subject, would be necessary to the proper dis-
charge of this duty. This, it seems to your Committee, cannot now
be bestowed, with the prospect of any useful result. Upwards of
ninety revised bills have been reported to the General Assembly;
more than forty of them have passed the House of Delegates, and
of them, twenty have passed the Senate.
The session must now have
arrived within a few weeks of the ordinary period of adjournment;
and it is believed that there is enough of other business before the
Legislature, to employ the remnant of the session. No hope there-
fore remains, that the whole code can be gone through; and it is not
believed, that with due deliberation, and with proper attention to
the other subjects of legislation, any material progress could now be
made, with the revised bills. There are some considerations, which
would embarrass the proceedings of the Senate upon this subject.

Several of the revised bills which have passed, both branches of the
Legislature, are intimately connected with others which remain to be
acted upon. Some of the bills, which are now before the Senate, are
probably as intimately connected with others, which have not yet
passed, and may not during the session, pass the House of Delegates.
And to act advisedly upon this subject, it appears to your Committee,
that all bills intimately connected with each other, should be under
consideration of the same committee, at the same time---Again, To
facilitate the examination of the revised bills, the books which were
used by the revisors, with their marginal notes and references, were
deposited with the Clerk of the House of Delegates.
---Your commit-
tee are informed that these books, which would in your opinion, af-
ford great facility in examining this subject, cannot be procured for
the use of committees of the Senate. In addition, it may be remark-
ed, that the Senate cannot apply the remedy to some of the defects
above enumerated ; they have not the power to compile new bills.

     The committee are of opinion that a subsequent session of the Le-
gislature would be much more competent to the task of acting judi-
ciously upon this subject. They hope and believe that the revisal
would be re-committed to the same gentlemen who have reported it,

and that their powers would be enlarged so as to enable them to pro-
pose such changes in the present system of laws, as may be necessa-
ry to arrest its obvious defects, without materially changing its essen-
tial principles. That they should be required to class and methodise [sic]
and simplify the system ; that they should be required to cause two
sets of their books, with marginal notes and references, to be pre-
served, the one for the use of the House of Delegates, the other for
the Senate ; and that they should be allowed time to perform the
work with care and deliberation.

    The great advantages which such a course would afford to a sub-
sequent Legislature, in acting upon this subject, need not be enume-
The classification of the bills, itself, besides the public benefit
arising from it, would compensate for the whole expense of the revi-
sion, in the time it would save the Legislature in acting upon them.

     But if the revisal should not be re-committed to the revisors, yet
your Committee think, that a subsequent Legislature would act upon
this subject with much greater advantages than the present. The ex-
perience of the present, will point out to the future session, the most
judicious course to be pursued. In addition to that, the volume at
present reported, will be in the hands of the future members for ma-
ny months before the commencement of the session, and will not be be-
fore the public.

    For these reasons amongst others, which might be urged, your
Committee would recommend to the Senate the adoption of the fol-
lowing resolution:---

    Resolved, That the several Committees to whom revised bills have
been referred, ought to be discharged from considering them, and
that the further consideration of the said bills, ought to be postponed
until the first Monday in December next.

    The Resolution at the conclusion of the said report, being twice
read, was on the question put thereupon, agreed to by the House.


    THE second edition of this work was entirely out of print, and
not a copy to be had at any price, when the legislature, by an act of
the 15th of February, 1817, made provision for "a new edition of
the laws of this commonwealth."
Until that work was completed,
it was impossible to make any progress in this, as the laws were
not only subject to a new arrangement, but to the introduction of
new matter.
The Revisors reported to the session of 1817-1818, at
which, part of the bills went through the parliamentiary forms, and
were enacted into laws ; but the residue were not acted on until the
next session ; when the
"Revised Code of 1819" was completed. In
no revisal of our laws has so much and such important new matter
been introduced.
The very able superintendent of the publication
of the Code (Benjamin Watkins Leigh, Esq.) having been pleased
to designate the author of this work, as one of his assistants, it
afforded him an opportunity of marking, with greater accuracy, the
various changes which our laws had undergone.
In this edition,
all the references have been made to the Revised Code of 1819.
Where the law has been altered, correspondent alterations have
been made in this book ; where new subjects have been introduced
into our laws since the publication of the second edition, new titles
have been raised in this edition. So great and so numerous are
the alterations that the former editions of this work ought not to
be depended upon as a safe guide.

WILLIAM WALLER HENING                    
Richmond, October 18th, 1820                

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