Dateline: Virginia, 1755. How did the Lt. Gov., Council and General Assembly deal with the “act of God”? Short primary source for American history teachers and students.
This act is called the Two Penny Act because the rate of two pence per pound of tobacco.
The main features are put in bold font.
Modernized transcription begins:
AN ACT TO ENABLE THE INHABITANTS OF THIS COLONY TO DISCHARGE THEIR TOBACCO DEBTS IN MONEY, FOR THIS PRESENT YEAR
I.. Whereas by reason of the great drought a very small quantity of tobacco is made, so that the inhabitants of this colony are not able to pay their public, county, and parish levies, and the officers’ fees and other tobacco debts in tobacco for this present year, according to the directions of the laws now in forced, for remedy whereof and to prevent the sheriffs and other collectors of the public dues, from taking advantage of the necessities of the people and exacting exorbitant prices for tobacco, due or payable to them from the poor and needy.
II.. Be it enacted by the Lieutenant Governor, Council, and Burgesses of this present General Assembly, and it is hereby enacted by the authority of the same; that it shall and may be lawful to and for any person or persons from whom any tobacco is due by judgment, for rent, by bond, or upon contract or for public, county and parish levies or for any secretaries, clerks, sheriffs, surveyors or other officers’ fee or by any other way or means whatsoever to pay and satisfy the same, either in tobacco, according to the directions of the act of Assembly, entitled An Act amending the staple of tobacco and preventing frauds in his majesty’s customs, or in money at the rate of sixteen shillings and eight pence, for every hundred pounds of net tobacco and so in proportion for a greater or lesser quantity at the option of the payer;
And the sheriffs and other collectors shall, and they are hereby required to receive the same from any person or persons, in discharge of any such levies and officers’ fees; aforesaid shall account with and pay to the persons entitled to the same in proportion to their several demands all tobacco and money which they shall receive in payment of such levies and fees, which shall discharge such sheriffs and collectors from any other demand for such levies and fees, any law to the contrary thereof notwithstanding.
III. Provided always that nothing herein contained shall extend or be construed to extend to any public, county, or parish levies or officers’ fees now due or hereafter to become due in any county whereby law the inhabitants of such county are now empowered to discharge the same in money.
IV.. And be it further enacted that this act shall continue and be in force for the space of ten months.
Sixteen shillings and eight pence is required in money. As for the clergy, sixteen thousand pounds of tobacco was too much for the people to pay, so they could pay in money or in tobacco at a cheaper rate. Nonetheless, some (not all) of the clergy wanted their 16,000. So the value of the tobacco should not exceed the actual value placed upon their services—things could fluctuate.
ARTICLES IN SERIES
How Much Should Virginian Anglican Clergy Be Paid during Drought?
Journals of the House of Burgesses of Virginia, 1761-1765, ed. John Pendleton Kennedy (Richmond, Virginia: 1907) xxxix-l (39-50).