The Stay Law

October 12, 1868


The dispatch complains about how this law called the Stay Law unfavorably favors those in power as debtors as compared to a regular citizen debtor. Using their connection the debris in government give themselves an advantage. The tone is more disappointed than shock and rage for this article.


The Stay Law. Stay laws do far more injury than good to communities. The debtor and creditor class manage their matters far better, when left to themselves, under the guidance and protection of the general lairs on contract. In all civilized and commercial communities the relations between them are highly reciprocal, and their interests are very much assimilated. Indeed, a very large portion of the creditor class are likewise debtors, and are therefore inclined to forbearance. But there is no such thing amongst civilized people as a mere pressing of debtor from malice or a persecuting spirit; and in the absence of those motives the creditor will not necessarily press his debtor to settlement at a time when to do so must so sacrifice property that it can not discharge the claims upon it-can only realize a portion of the amount which it was considered good for, with a large margin to spare at a previous date. As long as there is a hope that times will be better, and that the debtor, under favorable circumstances, will pay all he owes, it will be hardly the desire, and it cannot be to the interest, of the creditor class that he should be ruined by coercion. As long as the debtor at such a time keeps his creditor secure he will hardly precipitate by rigid exactions a general crash, which would produce such prostration that even he could not escape the disastrous consequences. The creditor, indeed, is as much interested as the debtor in the maintenance of confidence. What is wealth without it ! But the law-makers, too many of whom are debtors, think differently. Those among them who are debtors want to put a shield over themselves, while others are mere demagogues, and ready to do anything for popularity and votes. In stepping in with their stay law they make pets of debtors and excite the jealousy and complaints of creditors, who are as much entitled to State favor as other classes. The debtor class is made for a time independent of the favors of the creditor class ; but when that time expires, the latter class are not in a frame of mind suited to indulgences or longer delay of their demands. In the mean time interest upon claims has accumulated, and means in the hands of debtors have not much increased, as in a time of stay laws there is too little prosperity to enable a hardpressed man much to improve his condition. A general movement against men who have been involved during their protection by law in greater debt only puts down the value of property and brings upon society the very calamity which the stay law was designed to avoid, and which can only be mitigated in its force by the clemency of the very men whom the law pronounced without that virtue. Need we say now that it would have been infinitely better for many people had they sold their lands in '65-'66 and paid their debts ? They could have sold them for far better prices than they can get now. Since then their interest debt has run up fearfully, increasing their embarrassments, while their means are diminished. Nevertheless, we have had such a law for some years, and there is some excuse for the apprehension lest its expiration just at this time might produce great alarm and much temporary evil.
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Contributed By

Jacob Markman




“The Stay Law,” Reconstructing Virginia, accessed April 19, 2019,