Query XVI.[ 258 ]
THE measures taken with regard of the estates and possessions of the rebels, commonly called Tories?
A Tory has been properly defined to be a traitor in thought, but not in deed. The only description, by which the laws have endeavoured to come at them, was that of nonjurors, or persons refusing to take the oath of fidelity to the state. Persons of this description were at one time subjected to double taxation, at another to treble, and lastly were allowed retribution, and placed on a level with good citizens. It may be mentioned as a proof both of the lenity of our government, and unanimity of its inhabitants, that [ 259 ]
Under this query I will state the measures which have been adopted as to British property, the owners of which stand on a much fairer footing than the Tories. By our laws, the same as the English in this respect, no alien can hold lands, nor alien enemy maintain an action for money, or other moveable thing. Lands acquired or held by aliens become forfeited to the state; and, on an action by an alien enemy to recover money, or other moveable property, the defendant may plead that he is an alien enemy. This extinguishes his right in the hands of the debtor or holder of his moveable property. By our separation from Great-Britain, British subjects became aliens, and being at war, they were alien enemies. Their lands were of course forfeited, and their debts irrecoverable. The assembly however passed laws, at various times, for saving their property. They first sequestered their lands, slaves, and other property on their farms, in the hands of commissioners, who were mostly the confidential friends or agents of the owners, and directed their clear profits to be paid into the treasury: and they gave leave to all persons owing debts to British subjects, to pay them [ 260 ]