Henry Livingston, Jr.
Henry Livingston's Prose

Extract from an Act1, entitled
An Act for encouraging HorseStealing.
Passed the 13th day of February, 1791.

"WHEREAS in a country like our own, just emancipated from foreign control; it is necessary that the minds of the citizens be as speedily as possible weaned from every restraint whatsoever, that they may not return to former ideas and situations. And whereas certain bold and ardent spirits, if properly supported, might in times of peril and danger render important service to their country.

And also whereas, altho' a late law of this state has removed most of the terrors which formerly impended over the heads of Horse-thieves, yet still the said law, so far from granting rewards for the aforementioned fears, enacts certain corporeal infelicities, equally undelectable with these felt by the filcher of a gammon, to the great injury of the object to be obtained by this act: for experience has shown, that since the passing of the said law, Horse-stealing has not increased more than four-fold.

And lastly whereas, divers propositions and remarks have appeared in almanacks and other profound compositions proving irreflagably, that the practice of making oxen subservient to all the purposes of agriculture ought to be preferred to the general use of horses: That the latter animal is a moth in the land -- eats the childrens bread -- engrosses the undue attention of thousands to the ruin of their households -- is the rival of many a lovely mistress and affectionate wife -- in short is the root of great and manifold evil.

Therefore be it enacted by the authority

aforesaid, That from and after the first day of May next, whoever shall either by night or by day, secretly and dextrously take and carry away any horse, mare or gelding, to be in his, her or their possession at least eight days, and shall produce sufficient proof of the exploit, shall besides keeping such horse, be intitled to a plated bridle, a cisingle and portmanteau, to be provided by the town wherein such horse, mare or gelding was taken.

And be it also enacted by the authority aforesaid, That for the second acquisition as aforesaid, and due proof thereof made, the horse as aforesaid, shall be the property of the captor or captors; and the town wherein such horse was taken, shall reward him, her or them with a new saddle with blue broad-cloth housings trimmed with silver lace, and a pair of spurs made of solid bullion, or at least the value of two guineas.

And further be it enacted by the authority aforesaid, That for the third, and every successive horse, mare or gelding taken and conveyed away as aforesaid, a reward of half the value of such horse (to be ascertained by the appraisement of nine indifferent men) shall be paid to the taker or takers, and the horse, mare or gelding so seized, to be and remain his, her or there sole property.

And finally it is enacted by the authority aforesaid, That no town, precinct, manor or district, in the distribution of the premiums and rewards as above-mentioned, presume to present to any thief or thieves, or even dare to mention in his, her or their presence, that terrifying suffocating implement called a HALTER.
A true copy.

Though not himself a lawyer, Henry Livingston was a Justice of the Peace in a family rich with lawyers and judges. Publications of the time were available to walk non-lawyer judges through the legal thickets.

Poughkeepsie Journal
June 26, 1790; by R


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