The earliest NC laws:1669, and first law of the Assembly of 1715

I posted today about my find online at Googlebooks of two very early bodies of North Carolina law:

1) Laws of North Carolina 1715-1776 (compendium in State Records of North Carolina volume XXIII).

2) Laws of North Carolina 1789-90 and omitted laws 1669-1783 (acts of 1669 begin at pa119) (compendium in State Records of North Carolina volume XXV)

Here is the text of the two earliest North Carolina colonial laws, enacted in 1669: 



20 JANUARY, 1669-1670.


            An Act Prohibiting Sueing of Any Persons Within 5 years.



            Whereas, there has not binn sufficient encouragement hitherto granted to persons transporting themselves and Estates into this County to plant or inhabit, for remedy whereof, be it enacted by the Pallatine and Lords Proprietors, by and with the advice and consent of this present Grand Assembly and the authority thereof that noe person transporting themselves into this County after the date hereof shall be liable to be sued during the terme and space of five years after their arrival for any debt contracted or cause of action given without the County and that noe person living in  this County shall on any pretense whatsoever receive any letter of Attorney Bill or account to recover any debt within the time above mentioned of a Debtor living here without the said Debtor freely consent to it.


An Act Concerning Marriages. 

            For as much as there may be divers people that are minded to be joined together in the holy state of Wedlock and for that there is no minister as yet in this County by whom the said partyes may be joined in Wedlock according to the rites and customs of our native Country the Kingdome of England that none may be hindred from this soe necessary a worke for the preservation of mankind and settlement of this County it is enacted And it be enacted by the Pallatine and Lords Proprietors of Carolina by and with the advice and consent of the Present Grand Assembly and authority thereof that any two persons desiring to be joined together in the holy state of matrimony taking three or fower of their Neighbors along with them and repairing to the Governor or any one of the Council before him declareing that they do joyne together in the holy state of Wedlock And doe accept one the other for man and wife; and the said Governor or Councellor before whom such act is performed giving Certificate thereof and the said Certificate being registered in the Secretarys Office or by the Register of the precinct or in such other Office as shall hereafter for that use be provided It shall be deemed a Lawful Marriage and the parties violating this Marriage shall be punishable as if they had been marryed by a minister according to the rites and Customs of England.

The Assembly of 1715 appeared to be the first “modern” assembly after the separation of North and South Carolina, and got busy enacting the Revisal of 1715 (six older laws declared to still be in effect, the first of which was the “act concerning marriages” set out above), an act declaring the common and statute law of England to be in force in the colony (now codified as G.S. 4-1), and then enacting Chapter VII, a very moralistic law:

CHAPTER VII. (Repealed by Act 4 April 1741.)
An Act for the better observing the Lord’s Day called Sunday, the 30th of
January, the 29th of May & the 22nd of September; And also, for the
suppressing Prophaneness, Immorality, & divers other vicious & Enormous
I. Forasmuch as by the great neglect in keeping Holy the Lord’s Day &
the little regard had to all other days & times appointed to be kept religiously,
Impiety is likely to grow to a very great height, if not timely prevented,
to the great Dishonour of the Almighty and scandal of this Province,
Wherefore for the Speedy & Effectual Redressing thereof,
II. Be it Enacted by his Excellency the Palatine and the rest of the True
& Absolute Lords Proprietors, by & with the advice & consent of the
General Assembly now met at Little River for the North-East of the Province
of Carolina,
III. And It is hereby Enacted by the Authority aforesaid, that from &
atter the Ratification of this Act, all & every person and persons whatsoever
shall on every Lord’s Day apply themselves to the holy Observation
thereof by exercising themselves publickly & privately in the required
duties of Piety & true Religion & that no Tradesman, Artificer, Workman,
Labourer, or any other person or persons whatsoever shall do or exercise
any Worldly Labour, Business or work of their Ordinary Callings, or shall
employ themselves either by Hunting or Fishing on that Day or any part
thereof (Works of Necessity & Charity only excepted.) and that every
person being of the Age of fourteen years or upwards, Offending In the
Premises, shall for every such offence forfeit & pay the sum of Tenn
IV. And Be it Further Enacted by the Authority aforesaid, that the 30th
of January, being the Day whereon the late Royall Martyr & sovereign
King Charles I. was barberously murthered ; And 22nd of September being
the Anniversary of the late barbarous massacre committed by the Indians
on the Inhabitants of Bath County in the year 1711, are & shall be hereby
appointed to be kept & solemnized. annually, as Days of Humiliation, with
Fasting & Prayer; And the 29th of May being the Day of the Birth & happy
Restoration of the late King, Charles II of Blessed Memory shall be yearly
celebrated as an Holy Day & that if any person or persons shall be found
Gameing, Drinking or Working or otherwise Using and doing any Act or
Deed on the said 30th of January, 22nd of September, or not celebrating
the said 29th Day of May as an Holy Day. contrary to the true Intent &
Meaning of this Act (Works of Necessity & Charity only excepted) he. she,
or they, so offending shall be fined the sum of Five Shillings,

V. And Be It Further Enacted that no Planter. Merchant, their Servants
shall cause or encourage or permit any Servant, or Servants, Slave or Slaves
to work on the Lord’s Day or any of the other Days appointed by this Act
to be kept Holy every such Master, Mistress or Overseer shall for every
Servant or Slave forfeit & pay the sum of Five Shillings for every such
VI. And be it Further Enacted that no Planter, Merchant, their Servants
or Slaves, nor any other person or persons whatsoever shall Use, Employ, or
Trade with any Boat, Cannoe, or Periauguer, on the Lord’s Day (except in
cases of Necessity or to attend the Publlck Worship) upon Pain that every
person so offending shall forfeit & pay for every offence the sum of Ten
And if any Ordinary or Punch-House Keeper shall sell any Wine, Beer,
Punch or other Liquors on the Lord’s Day, the 30th of January, or the 22nd
of September aforesaid (except it be for necessary occasions, for Lodgers
or Sojourners) every person so offending shall for every such offence forfeit
& pay the sum of Ten Shillings.
VII. And Forasmuch as Prophane Swearing & Cursing is forbidden by
the Word of God. Be it therefore Enacted by the Authority aforesaid that no
person or persons shall prophanely Swear or Curse, upon pain of forfeiting
& paying the sum of Two Shillings & six pence for every Oath or Curse if
a private person; But if any person in Office, shall prophanely swear or
curse, then such person shall forfeit & pay the sum of Five Shillings. And
further, in case any person or persons shall prophanely swear or curse in
any Court-House Sitting the Court, He or She shall upon Conviction, Immediately
pay the sum of Five Shillings or be set in the Stocks for the space
of three Hours by order of the Court before which the Offence was committed.
VIII. And whereas the odious & loathsome Sin of Drunkenness is of late
grown into common Use within this Province & being tho Root & Foundation
cf many Enormous Sins,
IX. Be it therefore Enacted that all & every Person & persons that shall
after the Ratification hereof be drunk upon the Sabbath Day, the 30th of
January, the 22nd of September, shall forfeit & pay the sum of Ten Shillings,
if on any other day the sum of Five shillings for every such offence.
X. And be it further Enacted that if any person or persons shall offend
in any of the aforesaid premises in the presence of any Justice of the Peace
of the Precinct where the Crime shall be committed & shall thereof be convicted
by him or by his own confession or by the proof of any one or more
witnesses, upon Oath before any other Justice of the Peace for the said
Precinct, or before any Justice of the Peace of the Precinct where the party
so offending had or hath at the time of conviction, his usual Residence &
Aboard, then the said Justice, who Is hereby impowered to give & administer
the said Oath before whom such person or persons shall be convicted,
shall give & Issue out a Warrant under his Hand & Seal to the Marshall or
Constable of the Precinct where the Offender shall be convicted, thereby
commanding him (upon non-payment of the Fines & Forfeitures aforementioned)
to Levy the same by way of Distress & Sale of the Goods of
every such Offender — rendering to the Offender (after the Charges of
Makeing Distress as aforesaid are first deducted) the overplus of the money
raised thereby & in default of such Distress or in case of Insufflcieney or
Inability of the said Offender to pay the said Forfeitures & Penalties, Then
set him, her, or them publickly in the Stocks by the Space of Three Hours.

XI. And Be it Further Enacted that all Forfeitures ariseing by Virtue of
this Act shall be delivered by the Justice (before whom he shall be convicted)
to the Church Warden of his parish wherein the Distress shall be
made to be paid, one half to the Informer & the other to the Use of the
poor, and the said Church Warden to be accountable to the Vestry for the
same: Provided that nothing in this Act contained shall extend to the prohibiting
of Dressing Meat in Families or Dressing or Sellng Meat in Publick
Houses for such as cannot otherwise be provided for; And Provided also,
that no person or persons shall be prosecuted or molested for any offence
before mentioned in this Act, unless he or they be prosecuted for the same
within Ten Days after the Offence committed.
XII. And be it Further Enacted by the Authority aforesaid, that every
person who shall be convicted of fornication in the Precinct Court where
he or she shall be so convicted, shall for every time so offending be fined
the sum of Fifty Shillings, one half for the Informer & the other half to the
Church Wardens for the use of that Parish or precinct or to receive Corporal
punishment by being publickly whipped at the Discretion of the Court,
not exceeding One and twenty lashes; And that every person that shall be
convicted of Adultery shall be fined the sum of Five pounds to the uses
aforesaid, or to receive corporal punishment as aforesaid. And for the
pi eventing of Charges accruing to the parish or precinct wherein any Bastard
Child or Children shall be born.
XIII. Be it Further Enacted that any two Justices of the Peace, upon
their own knowledgement or Information made to them, that any single woman is bigg with child may cause such woman to be brought before them & examine her upon her Oath concerning the Father & to cause the man whom she shall accuse to be brought before them & to enter into Bond payable to the Justice of the Precinct Court, for the time being & to their Heirs & Successors, with condition that he shall discharge the precinct or parish of & from the said child & shall also observe & keep such further orders for the maintaining the said Child as the said Court shall see convenient & agreeable. But in case any woman shall obstinately refuse to confess who is the Father of such Bastard Child, or any man so accused shall deny to enter into Bond for discharging the precinct or parish, & for maintaining the said Child as aforesaid, then it shall & may be lawfull for the said Justices before whom he or she are brought, to commit him or her to the safe Custody of the Marshall or his Deputy untill such time as he or she shall be discharged therefrom by the Precinct Court, the Justices whereof are hereby authorized & impowered to inflict such Corporal or other punishment as to them shall seem most reasonable for such contempt.

XIV. And Whereas to the Great Scandall of this Government, many persons from Foreign Parts have come & settled themselves here as man & wife, when by their Actions & Behaviour, or by some knowledge of others, they appear not only to be unmarried to each other, but too often are the husband
& wife of others. Wherefore for the further prevention
thereof, they last resided; otherwise, to be treated as Vagabonds & expelled the

XV. Be it further enacted that whatever man or woman shall hereafter come into this Government from Foreign Parts & shall here live together as Man & Wife & shall be accused by credible report or Commoin fame that they are not lawfully married, such Man & Woman shall be convened before the next Magistrate & before him be compelled, within twelve months after, to produce a Certificate of their marriage, or at least, that they have been taken & reputed to be Man & Wife in the Government where they last resided; othwerwise to be treated as Vagabonds and expelled the Government.
XVI. And It Is Also Enacted that this Act shall be read publickly by the
Minister of every parish immediately after Divine Services at least twice
every year, viz., on the first Sunday in the months of March & October, &
for want of such Ministers by the Clerk of every Precinct Court, at the
Courts holden in the months of April & October, yearly during the times of
the Court sitting, under the penalty of paying Twenty Shillings for every
Default & Neglect
Speaker. N. CHEVIN,


One Response to The earliest NC laws:1669, and first law of the Assembly of 1715

  1. cinema 12 Carpentersville Il

    The earliest NC laws:1669, and first law of the Assembly of 1715 | Drafting Musings

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