An ACT for enlarging the
powers of the governor and the council.
The governor and council are invested
with as full powers (except that of banishment) as have at any
convention been lodged in the councils of safety. They are likewise
authorised to engage volunteer militia,
with the same allowance of pay and rations as was given to continental
troops, for such time and
on such terms as they shall think proper, to march into any of the adjoining
states; to procure, at discretion,
magazines and provisions for any militia called into service, and to collect
as many arms as possible;
to execute any resolve, and to comply with any requisition of congress
which they may judge for
the interest and safety of the state; to send exports at discretion; and
to import military stores and necessaries;
to employ persons who shall fit, equip and manage, the state vessels of
war, and do any other
business under their control and superintendence. And to enable them
to exercise these various duties,
they are empowered to draw at discretion on either of the treasurers.
In the absence of the governor the
council may execute all the powers conferred by this act.
This act further directs, that militia fines be levied
by distress and sale, under warrant of a justice,
and authorised the officers, who should adjudge a fine, to commit the offender
to a serjeant, provided they
should prefer that mode of compulsion.
This act lastly declares, all resolves of the session
to be equally binding with formal acts of assembly.
It was to continue in force until the fifth day of the succeeding session.
It was continued by the act of
June, 1777, ch. 7, until the fifth day of the next session. By the
act of October following, ch. 2, it had a
similar continuance. At the succeeding session in March, 1778, it
was suffered to expire; but in a few days
after, by ch. 3, it was revived to continue until the end of that session,
at which period it finally expired,
another act under that mode of compulsion.
N. B. To ascertain what were the powers of the council
of safety, it is necessary to resort to the proceedings
of the convention.
At the convention held on the 26th of July, 1775, fifteen
persons, eight of whom are chosen from
each shire, are appointed a council of safety, any nine of whom, or a majority
thereof, when met, may
direct the operations of the minute-men and militia, grant all military
commissions, appoint field officers,
and appoint and regulate the rank of all military officers; in the recess
of convention to call forth the
minute-men into action, in any place in this or any neighbouring colony,
and order the militia into action
in any part of the province, at such times, in such proportions, and on
such occasions, as they may
think proper; and do every thing, in their own discretion, for defending
and strengthening the province.
In cases of necessity, a majority of the members on either shore may appoint
courts martial, hear, determine
and punish, dangerous offences, according to the resolves of that convention,
call forth the minute
or militia men of their shore, and, after doing these things, as soon as
possible, they are to call a meeting
of the council at large, whose resolutions may control their proceedings.
The council, or either branch
of it, may draw on the treasurers of the respective shores, and suspend
any officer of the militia-men or
the militia. And the council, on a full hearing, may displace any
field officer, commission another in
his stead, and full up all vacancies below the degree of a field officer.
Any two of this council are authorised
to call either a meeting of the whole body or of their own branch.
The council may call a
meeting of the convention before the day to which it shall stand adjourned;
on the meeting of the convention
their power is to be at an end, they are to render an account of their
proceedings, and to the
succeeding council one half of them are to be ineligible.
By the convention which met on the 7th of December,
1775, seven persons were appointed a council
of safety, four of them residing on the western and three on the eastern
shore, with the following powers,
viz. To direct the operation of the regular forces, minute-men and
militia; to grant all military commissions;
to appoint all officers not appointed by this convention; to regulate military
rank; to call forth into action
the regulars and minute-men to any place within this or any neighbouring
colony, and to order the militia to
any place within the province, at any time and in any proportions they
may think proper; to do all things for
the defence of the province which they may think necessary; to suspend
or displace any regular, minute or militia
officer, and fill up all vacancies; to draw for the bills of credit for
the purpose of executing the resolves of
convention, discharging present and future contracts, and defraying the
expences of the regulars and militia-men;
to arrest, confine and imprison, until the next convention, all persons
guilty of high and dangerous
offences, tending to disunite the people, or destroy the liberties of America;
to hear, try and imprison, all
offenders of this class sent to them by the several committees of observation;
to pardon persons sentenced
by courts martial to death; to call the convention before the time to which
it shall be adjourned. Their
power is to continue until the end of the next convention, to which they
are to render an account.