Debt Act of 1732

Jefferson’s Notes on Debt Recovery Act


In his copy of Parliament’s Debt Act of 1732, Thomas Jefferson situates Britain’s latest imperial encroachment within the existing body of colonial trade restrictions already in place.  In the margins, Jefferson’s annotations document the shifting geography of imperial authority.

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In this facsimile, Jefferson the colonial subject and legal apprentice takes note of the Debt Act’s provisions over “Lands [to be] subject to Execution” in paragraph four and the category of “probated debts”; classifications that would determine the distribution of slaves. 

As an American statesman after the Revolution, he worked toward ensuring that individual landowners and their heirs retained their inviolable “natural rights” to property; a view that would clash with “commercial republicans” during the partisan debates of the 1790s.

This transcription is under final review.

Further Reading
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Slavery Law & Power in Early America and the British Empire (April 19, 2024) Jefferson’s Notes on 1732 Debt Recovery Act . Retrieved from
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"Jefferson’s Notes on 1732 Debt Recovery Act ." Slavery Law & Power in Early America and the British Empire [Online]. Available: [Accessed: April 19, 2024]

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Anno Quinto [illegible]. 1732
Cap. VII.

An act for the more easy recovery of debt in his majesty’s plantation and colonies in America.

Whereas his majesty’s subjects trading to the British planters in America lie under great difficulties, for want of more easy methods of moving, recovering [illegible] of debts due to them, than are now used in some of the sd planters: as & whereas it will tend very much to the retrieving of the credit formerly given by the trading subjects of Sr. Britn. to the natives and inhabitants of the sd planters, and to [illegible] & [illegible] & the [illegible] of this [illegible] [illegible] if such [illegible] were remedied; may it therefore please your majesty that it may be enacted, and be it enacted by the k’s most excellent [illegible] by end the advice and consent of the lords spiritual and temporal and commons in this present [illegible] & assembld [sic], and by the authority of the same, that from and after the 29th day of Sep which shall be in the year of our lord 1732 in any action or [illegible] then depending, or thereafter to be brought in any court of law or equity in ay of the [illegible], for or relating to any debt or account wherein any person residing in great Britn shall be a party, it shall and maybe lawful to and for the [illegible] and also to and for any witness to be examd [sic] or made use of in such action or suit to verify or prove any matter or things by affidavit or affidavits in writing upon oath or in case the person making such affidavit be one of the people called Quakers, them upon his or her solemn affirmation, made before any Mayor, or other chief magistrate of the city, borough, or town corporate in Gr. Br. Where or near to which the person making such affidavit or affirmation shall reside, and certified and transmitted under the common seal of ouch city, borough or town corporate, or the seal of the office of [illegible] Mayor, or other chief magistrate shall be and is hereby authorized and impowered [sic] to administer; and every affidavit or affirmation [illegible] made, certified and transmitted, shall in all such actions and suits be allowed to be of the same force and effect, as if the person or persons making the same upon [illegible] or [illegible] affirmation as aforesd [sic], has appeared and [illegible] the matter contained in such affidavit or affirmation [illegible] in open court, or upon a common issued for the examination of witness, or of any party in any such action or suit respectively;

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provid [sic] that in every such affidavit and affirmation there shall be expressed the addition of the party making such affidavit or affirma [sic], and the particular place of his or her [illegible].
II. And be it further enacted by the authority aforesd [sic], that in all [illegible] now depending, or hereafter to be brought in ay court of law or equity by or in behalf of his majesty his heirs and successors in any of the sd planters, for or relating to any debt or acct, that his majesty, his heirs and successors, shall and may prove his and their debt and accts and examine his or their witness or witnesses by affidavit or affirmation in like manner as any subject is or are impowered [sic] or may do by this present act .
III. Provided [illegible] and it is hereby further enacted, that if any person making such affidavit upon oath or solemn affirmation as aforesaid, shall be guilty of falsely and [illegible] [illegible] or affirming any matter or thing in such affidavit or affirmation, which if the same had been sworn upon an examination in the usual form would have amounted to wilfull [sic] and corrupt perjury, every person so offending and being thereof lawfully convicted, shall incur the same penalties and [illegible] as by the laws and statutes of this realm are provided against [struck] persons convicted of wilful [sic] and [illegible] [illegible]
IV. And be it further enactd. [sic] by the authority aforesaid that from and after the said 29th day of Sep. 1732. The houses, lands, negroes, and other [illegible] and real estate [illegible] or being within any of the [illegible] belonging to any person indebt, shall be liable to and chargeable with all just debt, duties and demands of what nature or [illegible] ever, owing by any such person to his majesty, or any of his subjects, and shall maybe assets for the satisfaction thereof, in like manner as real manner as real estate are by the [illegible] of Engl. Liable to the satisfaction of debts due by bond or other specialty, and shall be subject to the like remedies proceeding and process in any court of law or equity in any of the [illegible] respectively, for seizing, extending welling or disposing of any such houses, lands, negroes, and other [illegible] and real estate, towards the satisfaction of such debt, duties, and demands, and in like manners as personal estate in any of the [illegible] respectively are seized, extended, sold or disposed of, for the satisfaction of debts.

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