ERROR to the Supreme Court of Georgia; the case being thus:
By a statute of Georgia, passed many years ago, it was enacted that the following property, belonging to a debtor who was the head of a family, should be exempt from levy and sale.
'Fifty acres of land, and five additional ones for each of his children under the age of 16 years, the land to include the dwelling-house, if the same and improvements do not exceed $200.
'Fifty dollars' worth of provision, and five dollars' worth for each additional child.
'Beds, bedding, and common bedsteads sufficient for the family.
'One loom, one spinning-wheel, two pair of cards, and one bundred pounds of lint cotton.
'Common tools of trade for himself and his wife.
'Equipment and arms of a militia soldier and trooper's horse.
'Ordinary cooking utensils and table crockery.
'Wearing apparel of himself and family.
'Religious works and school books.
'The library of a professional man not exceeding $300 in value, to be selected by himself.'
In 1861, with this statute in existence, the State of Georgia passed what was called 'an ordinance of secession' from the United States; and joined in the treason and rebellion against the Federal government into which the slaveholding States, for the most part, entered. Her senators and representatives withdrew from Congress; her State government passed into the hands of persons at war with the United States; and she became one of the States styled 'The Confederate States of America;' a confederacy which waged war for several years on the government, and whose insurrection and rebellion the government, on the other hand, sought by force of arms to suppress. The arms of the United States having proved triumphant, the so-called government of the Confederate States fell to pieces, and the State of Georgia was left where she had put herself, that is to say, in the hands of traitors and rebels. No senators or representatives were allowed by the Congress of the United States to come back to its chambers as of old.
In this state of things, in May, 1866, Gunn obtained judgment in one of the courts of the State for $402.30 principal, and $129.60 interest (in all $531.90), against a certain Hart. For what the judgment had been obtained did not appear. Hart had at this time 272 1/2 acres of land, worth $1300, and the judgment bound it as a lien. He had no other land but one piece worth about $100.
On the 2d of March, 1867, the rebellion being suppressed, but the ancient relation of Georgia to the General Government, being still, in point of fact, not restored by representation, the Congress of the United States passed 'an act to provide for the more efficient government of the rebel States;' the act commonly called the Reconstruction Act.*fn1
This act–reciting that 'no legal State governments or adequate protection for life or property now existed in the rebel States of Virginia, Georgia, North Carolina,' &c., and that it was 'necessary that peace and good order should be enforced in the said State till loyal republican State governments could be legally established,' and putting these said States under military rule–enacted that when the people of any one of the said rebel States should have formed a constitution of government in conformity with the Constitution of the United States in all respects . . . and 'when such constitution shall have ...