Wythe County, Virginia Taxation Questions September 7, 1793

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Wythe County, Virginia Taxation Questions September 7, 1793

John T. Ayers, William Davies, John Stephens, Commissioners, to the Governor, Sept. 7th, 1793

Your Excellency has been pleased to transmit to us a Commission "to Enquire into & ascertain the taxable property in the county of Wythe, on which arrears of taxes are still due." We are ready to submit to Execute the duty imposed on us by the Government immediately, were it not that several obstacles seem to stand in our way, for surmounting which, we think it necessary to stand in our way, for surmountin which, we think it necessary to ask information from the Executive.

We conceive the Act of Assembly under which we have been appointed is so imperfect in its directions, as to be liable to receive very different constructions; indeed we cannot see that the Act authorises the appointment we have received. It gives authority to your Excellency to appoint Commissioners "in each county coming within the purview of this Act." And we cannot understand that this county comes within the purview thereof, but only (perhaps) within the preamble of the third section. But certainly it is very defective in not directing in what ammner commissioners are to proceed to ascertain the taxable property; whether then shall we proceed in the manner observed by the Justices formerly, or that observed by the commissioenrs of the Revenue at present?

Shall we take the word of the owner, require his oath, Inquire at his neighbours, or refer to his former list?

The Act does no say whether taking an oath be a prerequisite to authorize the commissioners to do the duties for which they are appointed.

There is also a particular difficulty in regard of this county, which we conceive Should be laid before the Executive. It took place in May, 1790. We suppose with that year we cannot concern, as it was the duty of the Commissioners of Montgomery. In 1792, Commissioners were appointed, but a subsequent court superceded the appointment.

Whether the Commissioners proceeded or no, we are not officially informed. A copy of these orders we transmit. We are therefore ignorant for what years particularly we are to ascertain the taxable property. We hope your Excellency will direct us in what manner we are to manifest our acceptance of the commission; for what particular years we are to take lists; in what manner we are to procure those lists; and within what period we must compleat them.

We are your Excellency's &c.

Governnor Pendleton's endorsement, sent to the Auditors Office on October 15, 1793.

I do not see the difficulties of which these Gentlemen complain. The Act under which they were appointed might indeed have been more explicit, but it [is] a lamentable truth that there is scarcely a single Act to be found totally free from ambiguity, and which does not leave an opening for plausible evasion. The objects of the law alluded to are, however, very obvious, and it would have required less of that ingenuity which penetrated these defects to have carried the law into effect, especially as it contains a direct to have carried the law into effect, especially as it contains a direct reference to another law, which defines the duties of Comm'rs. If the Court superceded the Comm'rs app'd in '92, it may reasonably be presumed the Comm'rs did nothing, and it is very clear that this case is within the meaning of the preamble to the 3rd sect'n, which forms part of the purview of the Act.

J. Pendelton.