Sunday, May 11, 2014

"An Act for the better Security of the inhabitants, by obliging the male white persons to carry fire arms to places of worship"

Laws Of Georgia

A.D. 1770.

No. 191.

[Pg. 157]

An Act for the better Security of the inhabitants, by obliging the male white persons to carry fire arms to places of worship.[1]

Whereas it is necessary for the security and defence of the province from internal dangers and insurrections, that all persons resorting to places of public worship shall be obliged to carry fire arms:

I. Be it enacted, That immediately from and after the passing of this act, every white inhabitant of this province, (the inhabitants of the sea port towns only excepted, who shall not be obliged to carry any other than side arms) who is or shall be liable to bear arms in the militia, either at common musters or times of alarm, and resorting, on any Sunday or other times, to any church, or other place of divine worship within the parish where such person shall reside, shall carry with him a gun, or a pair of pistols, in good order and fit for service, with at least six charges of gunpowder and ball, and shall take the said gun or pistols with him to the pew or seat where such person shall sit, remain, or be, within or about the said church or place of worship, under the penalty of ten shillings for every neglect of the same, to be recovered by warrant of distress and sale of the offender's goods, under the hand and seal of any justice of the peace for the parrish where such offence is committed, one half to be paid into the hands of the church wardens, or where there is no church wardens to any justice, for the use of the poor of the said parish, and the other half to him or them that shall give information thereof.

II. And for the better and more effectual carrying this act into execution, Be it further enacted, That the church wardens of each respective parish, and the deacons, elders, or select men, of other places of public worship, shall be obliged, and they are hereby empowered to examine all such male persons, either in or about such places of public worship, at any time after the congregation is assembled, on Christmas and Easter days, and at least twelve other times in every year, and if, upon finding any person or persons liable to bear arms, and bring them to places of public worship as aforesaid, without the arms and ammunition by this act directed, and shall not, within fifteen days after such offence is committed, inform against such person or persons so offending, in order to recover the penalty as aforesaid, such church warden or church wardens, deacons, elders, or selectmen, shall, for every such neglect of duty, or giving information as aforesaid, forfeit and pay the sum of five pounds, to be recovered and applied as in this act is before directed.

[1] QUERY--Whether this act can be enforced by any religious association, unless expressly authorized under the present government, See note, page 52.--[Before the revolution the laws had coerciv power on religious service in the church, the revolution changed the antient order of things in church and state. The people then made a constitution for themselves, in which was destroyed all church supremacy; and all men declared to have liberty to worship in their own way and to be liable to no tax or burthen except in their own society. And an act has since passed, continuing all the royal provincial acts, not inconsistent with the principles of the revolution, the constitution and acts of the State. The question now arises, whether the parts of the old acts giving power of assessing rates, are so consistent or not at this day. The answer is evident, religious associations are voluntary, and may be incorporated, and the legislature may give such power upon their application; but without a special law such assessments cannot be made. Those parts therefore of the antient acts, must be considered as dead letter; and the genius of our government must prevail. The following are considered, and have often been asserted, among the natural rights of mankind, "That no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminsh, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities." See qo. sect. 4 art. Const. 1798. to like effect.]

[Pg. 158]

III. And be it further enacted, That any such person or persons thus liable to bring their arms, and being at any church or place of public worship as aforesaid, that shall refuse to be examined in or about such places of public worship, or neglect, on demand of the church warden or church wardens, deacons, elders, or selctmen respectively, to produce and shew his or their arms and ammunition by this act required to be brought by such person or persons, to the intent it may be known whether the same be fit for immediate use and service, such person or persons so refusing or neglecting shall severally, and for every such offence, forfeit the sum of ten shillings, to be recovered and applied in such manner as the penalty for not bringing such arms in and by this act directed.

IV. And be it enacted, That this act shall be and continue in force for and during the term of three years, and from thence to the end of the next session of the generally assembly, and no longer.*

N.W. Jones, Speaker.
James Habersham, Prsident.

James Wright.
Febuary 27, 1770

* The next session after the expiration of the three years, was held in 1777, consequently this act being in force at the time of the revolution, the same is perpetuated by act of 1783, No. 279, though not particularly named.

[A digest of the laws of the State of Georgia, from its first establishment as a British Province down to the Year 1800, inclusive....Philadelphia: Printed By R. Aitken, No. 22, Market-Street. 1801.]

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