sheriffs were grown insolent and arbitrary; often
distraining even quadruple the value of the tax, and avoiding the owner, till it was too late for him to redeem his property.
All this was the more hateful, as a part of the amount was expended by the Governor
in building himself an extravagantly costly palace; and a part was notoriously embezzled.
The collecting officers and all others, encouraged by the imperious example of Fanning
who loaded the titles to estates with doubts,2
and charged illegal fees for recording new deeds, continued their extortions;3
sure of support from the whole hierarchy of men in place.
Juries were packed; and the Grand Jury
was almost the agent of the extortioners.
The cost of suits at law, under any circumstances exorbitant, was enhanced by an unprecedented extent of the right of appeal from the county court to the remote superior court; where a farmer of small means would be ruined by the expense of attendance with his witnesses.
‘We tell you in the anguish of our souls,’ said they to the Governor
, ‘we cannot, dare not go to law with our powerful antagonists; that step, whenever taken, will terminate in the ruin of ourselves and families.’4
Besides, the Chief Justice
was Martin Howard
a profligate time-server, raised to the bench as a convenient reward for having suffered in the time of the Stamp Act, and ever ready to use his place as a screen for the dishonest profits of men in office, and