Report of the Committee to whom it was referred to direct some mode for the relief of debtors confined for debt in the goals of the respective Counties in the State

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[Your Committee, to whom it was referred, to direct some mode for the relief of Debtors confined for debt in the Gaols of the respective Counties in this State, do report the following, viz:

Whereas, by the long suspension of the Legislature of this State, the debtors confined in the respective gaols are reduced to the greatest misery and distress, and their lives much endangered by long confinement: And whereas the detaining in custody debtors, under execution, who are willing to deliver up their estates for the use of their creditors, can be of no real benefit or advantage to the creditors, and at the same time, that by reason of such severity, many useful members are lost to the community, who might be advantageously employed at this arduous conjuncture in the service and defence of their country:

Be it therefore ordained, That all and every person and persons imprisoned or detained in any gaol within this State, by reason of any process, writ, or commitment for debt, be forthwith released and discharged: Provided always, That all and every person or persons, who shall take and claim the benefit hereby intended, shall before his, her, or their discharge, exhibit a petition in their respective Counties, where such person or persons are confined, to the persons hereinafter named, setting forth the reasons of such confinement; and if he, she, or they, so petitioning shall be charged in execution, such prisoner or prisoners shall with his, her, or their petition annex the name or names of his, her, or their creditors, and the debts due, as near as can be, and certify an account or inventory of his, her, or their whole real and personal estate, their bedding and clothing excepted, with the tenure by which it is held, and the evidences, deeds, books of account, notes or bonds relating thereunto; and upon such petitions and certificates delivered to the persons hereafter named, in the respective Counties, or any two of them, and they are hereby required to order such prisoner to be brought before them, and administer to such persons the following oath or affirmation, in such cases heretofore required, viz:

"You of do hereby solemnly swear upon the Holy Evangelist of Almighty God, that the account by you here produced, and to your petition annexed, to the best of your knowledge, contains a true and perfect state of all the debts due to your respective creditors; and likewise that the inventory by you exhibited contains a just and faithful account of all your real and personal estate, your bedding and clothing excepted, with the tenure by which it is held, and the evidences, deeds, books of account, notes or bonds relating thereto, and that you have not knowingly or intentionally kept back any part of the same, nor conveyed to any person or persons whatsoever any part thereof, for your

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future benefit, with design to defraud your creditors. So help you God."

And upon having taken such oath or affirmation such prisoner or prisoners shall make an assignment of his, her, or their estate, to two such persons as assignees, being freeholders, as the persons empowered to administer such oath or affirmation shall appoint, to be by them equally divided among all the creditors of the said insolvent debtors, in proportion to their several and respective debts, dues, and demands; whereupon, he, she, or they, making such assignment as aforesaid, shall be discharged out of custody, from and after which discharge, he, she, or they, shall not any time hereafter be imprisoned for the same debt or debts for which he, she, or they have made such assignment.

And further, That any two of the Judges of the Inferiour Court of Common Pleas, in the respective Counties of this State, together with the Chairman of the County Committee for the time being, be and they are hereby nominated, empowered, and required to hear and discharge the prisoners in the gaols of the said Counties, and to administer to them the oath above mentioned, and that all Gaolers and Sheriffs heretofore appointed, and all persons within this State, give due obedience to the said persons within their several Counties, who have been hereby authorized and appointed to hear and discharge the prisoners aforesaid.

And lastly, That the assignees to be appointed as aforesaid, notify the several creditors of the debtors so discharged in one or more of the publick newspapers of this State, for three months successively of their appointment as aforesaid, with intent that they may be acquainted where to apply for their several dividends.

JOSHUA H˙ SMITH.

September 18, 1776.