Item of the Day: Trevett against Weeden (1787)

Full Title:

The Case, Trevett against Weeden: On Information and Complaint, for refusing Paper Bills in Payment for Butcher’s Meat, in Market, at Par with Specie.  Tried Before the Honourable Superior Court, in the County of Newport, September Term, 1786.  Also, The Case of the Judges of Said Court, Before the Honourable General Assembly, at Providence, October Session, 1786, on Citation, for diminishing said Complaint.  Wherein the Rights of the People to Trial by Jury, &c. are stated and maintained, and the Legislative, Judiciary and Executive Powers of Government examined and defined.  By James M. Varnum, Esq; Major-General of the State of Rhode Island, &c. Counsellor at Law, and Member of Congress for said State.  Providence:  Printed by John Carter, 1787. 

Upon the last Monday of September, in the eleventh year of the Idependence of the United States, in the city of Newport, and State of Rhode Island, &c. was heard, before the Superior Court of Judicature, Court of Assize, and General Gaol-Delivery, a certain information, John Trevett against John Weeden, for refusing to receive the paper bills of this State, in payment for meat sold in market, equivalent to silver and gold: And upon the day following the Court delivered the unanimous opinion of the Judges, that the information was not cognizable before them.

That this important decision may be fully comprehended, it will be necessary to recur to the acts of the General Assembly, which superinduced the trial.–At the last May session, an act was made for emitting the sum of one hundred thousand pounds, lawful money, in bills, upon land security, which should pass in all kinds of business, and payments of former contracts, upon par with silver and gold, estimating an ounce of coined silver at six shillings and eightpence.  Another act was passed in the June following, subjecting every person who should refuse the bills in payment for articles offered for sale, or should make a distinction in value between them and silver and gold, or should in any manner attempt to depreciate them, to a penalty of one hundred pounds, lawful money; one moiety to the State, and the other moiety to the informer; to be recovered before either of the Courts of General Sessions of the Peace, or the Superior Court of Judicature, &c.

Experience soon evinced the inadequacy of this measure to the objects of the Administration: And at a session of the General Assembly, specially convened by his Excellency the Governor, upon the third Monday of the following August, another act was passed, in addition to and amendment of that last mentioned, wherein it is provided, that the fine of one hundred pounds be varied; and that for the future the fine should not be less than six, nor exceed thirty pounds, for the first offence: The mode of prosecution and trial was also changed, agreeably to the following clauses, “that the complainant shall apply to either of the Judges of the Superior Court of Judicature, &c. within this State, or to either of the Judges of the Inferior Court of Common Pleas within the county where such offence shall be committed, and lodge his certain information, which shall be issued by the Judge in the following form,” &c.  It is then provided, that the person complained of come before a Court to be specially convened by the Judge, in three days; “that the said Court, when so convened, shall proceed to the trial of said offender, and they are hereby authorized so to do, without any jury, by a majority of the Judges present, according to the laws of the land, and to make adjudication and determination, and that three members be sufficient to constitute a Court, and that the judgment of the Court, if against the offender so complained of, be forthwith complied with, or that he stand committed to the county gaol, where the said Court may be sitting, till sentence be performed, and that the said judgment of said Court shall be final and conclusive, and from which there shall be no appeal; and in said process no essoin, protection, privilege or injunction, shall be in anywise prayed, granted or allowed.”   

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Filed under 1780's, Constitutional Debate, Crime and punishment, Early Republic, Eighteenth century, Government, Legal, Posted by Matthew Williams

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