A Collection of All Such Public Acts of the General Assembly, and Ordinances of the Conventions of Virginia, Passed since the Year 1768, as are Now in Force with a Table of the Principal Matters; Published under Inspection of the Judges of the High Court of Chancery, by a Resolution of General Assembly, the 16th day of June 1783

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General Assembly of Virginia

Chancellor's Revision

Title page from A Collection of All Such Public Acts of the General Assembly, and Ordinances of the Conventions of Virginia, George Wythe Collection, Wolf Law Library, College of William & Mary.

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Published Richmond: Printed by Thomas Nicolson and William Prentis
Date 1785
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Language English
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Pages 235
Desc. Folio (32 cm.)
Location Shelf M-5
  [[Shelf {{{shelf2}}}]]

The Public Acts of the General Assembly was published in 1785 under the inspection of the judges of the High Court of Chancery. It covers the transition from monarchy into independence that occurred from 1768 through 1783, in three distinct periods: the reign of George III, the Interregnum, and the Republican Period. In 1769, under the reign of George III, the assembly met in Williamsburg and passed laws concerning various matters including a reform of the debtor law, a suppression of private lotteries, and the general regulation of an agrarian colony.[1] The General Assembly met in Richmond Town in 1775 during the Interregnum and passed several laws for the mustering of troops and the gathering of supplies.[2] In 1776, the Assembly met in Williamsburg and passed the highly influential Declaration of Rights.[3] Largely written by George Mason, it circulated widely in the colonies and informed Thomas Jefferson's drafting of the Declaration of Independence.[4] Later, it became the basis of the Bill of Rights, to which some of its language and content bears a striking resemblance.[5]

Marginalia, front free endpaper.

The Declaration dissolved the former government and began the Republican period. The first meeting of the General Assembly in this period occurred in the fall of 1776, and their first act concerned religious freedoms.[6] Although the legislature concentrated on establishing a new government and supporting the ongoing war efforts, it continued to handle domestic issues, including a law providing for the maintenance of the mentally challenged.[7]

A Collection of All Such Public Acts reflects a period of change, but at the same time contains a few interesting traces of the past. Many of the penalties remain in pounds of tobacco, even after independence. For example, in 1782 the legislature passed a law increasing the reward for killing wolves in some counties by two hundred pounds of tobacco.[8] Laws like this, especially in comparison to legislation like the Declaration of Rights, stand as a reminder of the coming of modern ideas and day-to-day concerns that existed in late eighteenth century Virginia.

Evidence for Inclusion in Wythe's Library

George Wythe definitely owned a copy of the 1785 publication of A Collection of All Such Public Acts, also known as "The Chancellor's Revision."[9] A copy at the Library of Virginia includes his signature. The title may also appear in Thomas Jefferson's inventory of George Wythe's Library as "Laws of Virga. Various edns." Jefferson kept the volumes associated with this entry. Both George Wythe's Library[10] on LibraryThing and the Brown Bibliography[11] include this 1785 collection of legislation. The compilation is also listed in Dean's Memo[12] in the section of works Wythe "wrote or collaborated on." Wythe, along with fellow chancellors Edmund Pendleton and John Blair, reviewed the legislation included in the volume. The Wolf Law Library moved a copy of "The Chancellors' Revision" from the general rare books collection to the George Wythe Collection.

Marginalia, rear free endpaper.

Description of the Wolf Law Library's copy

Bound in original paper boards, spine and hinges strengthened recently. Includes marginalia on the preliminary pages and rear blanks.

Images of the library's copy of this book are available on Flickr. View the record for this book in William & Mary's online catalog.

See also


  1. A Collection of all such Public Acts of the General Assembly and Ordinances of the Conventions of Virginia (Richmond: Thomas Nicholson and William Prentis, 1785), 3-29.
  2. Ibid., 30-38.
  3. Ibid., 33.
  4. "The Virginia Declaration of Rights," Archives.gov (United States National Archives & Records Administration, 2014), accessed March 18, 2014.
  5. Ibid.
  6. Public Acts, 39.
  7. Ibid., 40.
  8. Ibid., 163.
  9. "Some Virginia Law Books in a Virginia Law Office," The Virginia Law Register, New Series, 12, no. 7 (Nov. 1926), 389.
  10. LibraryThing, s.v. "Member: George Wythe" accessed on March 5, 2014.
  11. Bennie Brown, "The Library of George Wythe of Williamsburg and Richmond," (unpublished manuscript, May, 2012) Microsoft Word file. Earlier edition available at: https://digitalarchive.wm.edu/handle/10288/13433.
  12. Memorandum from Barbara C. Dean, Colonial Williamsburg Found., to Mrs. Stiverson, Colonial Williamsburg Found. (June 16, 1975), 16 (on file at Wolf Law Library, College of William & Mary).