Tag Archives: law

James I’s sanctuary legislation

I have just added two pieces of Jacobean legislation to the statutes archive: the clause of 1604 repealing sanctuary acts and  the clauses of 1623 that purportedly abolished sanctuary outright. Unlike all the other laws on sanctuary, these are extreme in their brevity, and aren’t even full acts, but sections of longer acts that extend, revive or revoke a great miscellany of diverse laws.

The tortuous wording of many laws, with their repeated stock phrases, such as ‘Sheriff or Sheriffs, Gaoler or Gaolers, or Keeper of any such Prison’, make me think that they are trying to pre-empt overly literal argumentation by including as many possible variants as possible. This makes them very difficult to follow, to the point of inducing headaches. Here we have the very opposite: minimal and concise, as if fewer words means less to debate. Yet these clauses are quite unfathomable.

To take the clause of 1604 first, this repeals the whole body of legislation on sanctuary prior to 1592, all swept away, without even specifying which particular acts are refered to. Quite why this was done has yet to be explained; the historians I’ve read on sanctuary do seem to scratch their heads at this point. It’s difficult to understand why 1592, Elizabeth’s  35th year, was taken as a cut-off point; there isn’t, as far as I can see, any legislation relating to sanctuary in that year, and the only mention of it after that is to deny the benefit of it to raiders and brigands in northern England. But what this benefit could be is thrown into doubt because there is now nothing on the statute books to define it.

What the act actually means for sanctuary is just as unclear. Given that in the same year taking sanctuary was listed as an act of bankruptcy (1 or 2 James 1 c.15) it abolishes neither the practice nor the spaces.

The 1604 clause was itself amended by the 1623 act, which was just as sweeping. Twenty years after all the acts touching sanctuary were repealed, those parts that took away sanctuary were restored. This is paradoxical, like throwing a hole into a void. Only the negation of sanctuary exists on the statute book; there is no recognition or definition of it there otherwise.

And to confuse matters still more this clause is immediately followed by what seems to be a definitive end to sanctuary: “no sanctuary or privilege of sanctuary shall be hereafter admitted or allowed in any case.”

Interpreting this second clause as the absolute abolition of sanctuary might be due to Danby Pickering’s annotation of it. His marginal note reads “All Sanctuaries taken away”, citing Coke’s Institutes, volume 3, first published 1644. But this is a circular argument: Coke simply repeats the the meat of the clause,  dropping the word “hereafter.”

So as David Loades has written in connection with the sanctuary at Westminster Abbey, “it did not actually legislate the surviving sanctuaries out of existence, it merely declared that no one could take advantage of them.” (David Loades, The Sanctuary, in Knighton, ed., Westminster Abbey Reformed: 1540-1640, p.91.) To be precise, I think this should read no one could take sanctuary ‘hereafter’; it is not clear that those already in sanctuary are required to give up their situation. The phrasing also suggests that it is to do with sanctuary in a procedural sense – “in any case” – leaving the geographical rights in place. This is supported by the three subesquent references to sanctuaries in English legislation, where they are listed as a form of special territory, alongside liberties, franchises and ancient demeasnes. Quite how someone could avail themselves of the rights of these places when such rights were stripped from the person, is, like much else here, a mystery.

Sanctuary has been said to have been a hard right to end. On the basis of this legislation, one could suggest that the law-makers made a very bad job of it, creating an ambiguity that was exploited later by the ‘Alsatians’ of Whitefriars.

 

Resource: Statutes of Ireland to 1800

As a quick appendix to my previous post on English statutes, here are the Statutes of Ireland from 1310 up to the Act of Union in 1800. I know little of Irish history, but as I’ve come across some very interesting material about debtors, prisons and even sanctuaries there, I’ve been drawn towards it, hence my sifting through the legislation.

There were three collections of the Irish statutes published in the eighteenth century. I haven’t found the first, dating from 1734, anywhere on the open internet. The second was edited by one J.G. Butler, published in 1765, and is incomplete in Google’s holdings. It appears that this series was continued up to 1800; the last volume I have found is numbered 19 and dated 1799. The third set was published from 1794 to 1801, goes right up to the Act of Union, and all volumes are to be found in Google Books. To wit:

For the record, here are those volumes I have located of the 1765 series, The Statutes at Large, Passed in the Parliaments Held in Ireland, edited by James Goddard Butler, with the volumes continuing it to 1800.

Other sources: There is a very little pre-1800 Irish legislation on the UK legislation portal, and similarly a little at the Irish Statute Book. The Irish Legislation Database has detailed information concerning each act, but not their texts. A useful website from the University of Minnesota covers the anti-catholic Penal Laws. Wikipedia has two pages listing the acts, up to 1700 and from 1700 to 1800.

Update, 4 October 2015: 2 more volumes added to the 1765 series, nos. 5 and 9; and nos. 14 to 16 and 18, continuing this series after 1765. The latter are from the Hathi Trust archives; they allow full view of the digitization, but not downloading it.

Update, 4 October 2015: I have found some volumes from the first series, mentioned above. Going under the title Acts and Statutes Made in a Parliament begun in Dublin, it seems to have been published from the 1720s up to Butler’s consolidation in the 1760s. Being set in gothic type, its utility both for OCRing and plain reading is somewhat limited.

Resource: The Acts of Parliament

Notice: I’ve now taken up the task of scanning these volumes, proofing the OCR and organizing the statutes. Watch http://statutes.org.uk/ for progress.

The law is an important historical source, and especially so for the history of debt. Over the 200 years from Restoration to the abolition of incarceration for insolvency in 1868, there was a constant flow of acts directed at debtors, whether as defaulters, frauds, prisoners, fugitives, pitiable creatures or “evil-disposed and wicked persons.” Hundreds of acts were passed, releasing prisoners, offering amnesties to fugitives, establishing ‘Courts of Conscience’ and regulating debtor prisons. I have transcribed and published some of these statutes, and more will follow. (I’ve re-organized the site to make them easier to find: check the Statutes page for links to the various acts).

These laws have posed two problems: firstly in finding them, and then in understanding their tortuous prose. For the first, quite simply there is no free and complete repository of the legislation. The Official Home of U.K. Legislation has none of the material I require. Much as I appreciate what the National Archive has achieved – and it is a great deal – their remit has been to put current legislation online, not the historic. So although they have published everything in force from 1988 onwards, the vast majority of historic, meaning repealed, legislation is not available. The various proprietary legal databases have either been beyond my reach and pocket, or provide little more than the digital scans available elsewhere.

Which means to find old laws one has to turn to the magnificent libraries and awful metadata of Google Books and Internet Archive. There one can find many different collections of the statutes, albeit of varying quality and completeness, and in the usual disorder that results from mass, indiscriminate digitization.

These digital copies are images of the original works, pictures of books rather than transcriptions of the text, which mean they may be readable by the human eye, but not by the machine. This brings us to the second problem, of the law’s labyrinthine prose. Part of the very nature of law is that it is constantly rewritten, by parliaments and courts, who go about renewing, repealing, interpreting and clarifying, without any guarantee of consistency. The resulting vast, unwieldy corpus is difficult to navigate, full of linguistic peculiarities, tangled and convoluted. To make ones way through this maze would be far easier if one could use the computer to do some of the heavy lifting: searching, digesting, comparing, cross-referencing and so on.

The nascent field of Computational Legal Studies has produced some interesting digital research into law; for example, the Legal Language Explorer, (now dead, but preserved on archive.org) producing ngrams from U.S. Supreme Court decisions, and the attempts to measure the complexity of the U.S. law by Katz and Bommarito (article and slides). If such explorations imply greater spaces to be discovered, and beyond the legal profession, they also show that useful data is an essential prerequisite. In the case of English and British statutes, that requirement is not met by the volumes scanned by Google and the Internet Archive.

It is of course a fundamental right that everyone should have access to the laws governing them; that’s not only the inevitable corollary of the principle ‘ignorance of the law is no excuse’, but also an essential check on state power. This means more than just publishing laws and judgements; they must be published freely, openly, useably and re-usably. A number of organizations are campaigning to open up the law: for example the Free Access to Law Movement, the Law.Gov campaign, and the Open Knowledge Foundation’s legislation working group.

I personally believe that this right to the law should encompass the entirety of the legislation to include the historical, the repealed, for three reasons:

One: Repeal does not mean reversal. Every enclosure bill shows this, for when struck from the book the land did not revert to common ownership. The effects of laws persist beyond their lifetimes.

Two: Repeal does not mean disappearance. The law is historically constituted and continually refers back to itself. Revoked acts and their related judgements remain a part of the legal record.

Three: Repeal does not mean forgetting. We do not live in an eternal present. We have a capacity, a need and a right to memory.

It is in this spirit that I list here all the various freely-available editions of the statutes. They may not be adequate, they may not even be accurate, but it is a gesture towards making this legislation accessible.

The next step will be to transcribe the statutes; a great and arduous task that requires collaboration and infrastructure. Happily, Wikisource have taken the digital copies of Ruffhead’s Statutes At Large, covering 1225 to 1763, and inserted it into their open transcription system. If little of it has actually been transcribed yet, it does at least show the potential for crowdsourcing legal texts, and the usefulness of Wikimedia’s infrastructure for supporting such a project.

Legislation to 1800

There are many collections of statutes; some bibliographic details can be found on Wikipedia. As they have different editorial policies and selection criteria, and as none are fully comprehensive, I’ve listed a number of sets here.

For laws up to 1811, one place to start is with the 4 volumes of The Statutes: Revised Edition from 1870. It is far from complete, as legislation repealed by 1870 is absent, but there is a handy chronological table in each volume to indicate what is present and what is not. The first four volumes of this are online at archive.org, the first three also at Google; I haven’t been able to locate any further, freely available volumes, and I’m not even sure there were any more.

Update 9 May 2015: I have located a handful of  volumes beyond the first four, and from the metadata we can see that there were at least 13 volumes.

Volume 1: Henry III to James II: 1235 – 1685:   Internet Archive   Google
Volume 2: William & Mary to 10 George III: 1688 – 1770:   Internet Archive   Google
Volume 3: 11 George III to 41 George III: 1770 – 1800:   Internet Archive   Google
Volume 4: 41 George III to 51 George III: 1801 – 1811:   Internet Archive
Volume 7: 2&3 William IV to 6&7 William IV: 1831 – 1836: Internet Archive
Volume 9: 6&7 Victoria to 9&10 Victoria: 1843 – 1846 : Internet Archive
Volume 12: 17&18 Victoria to 19&20 Victoria: 1854 – 1856: Hathi Trust
Volume 13: 20 Victoria to 24&25 Victoria: 1857 – 1861: Hathi Trust

Ruffhead’s series covers 1225 to 1763, the whole run being digitized by the Internet Archive, and is in Wikisource’s transcription system, as described above.  In 9 volumes, there is a supplementary volume with a subject index.

Volume 1: 1225 – 1460
Volume 2: 1461 – 1601
Volume 3: 1604 – 1698
Volume 4: 1699 – 1713
Volume 5: 1714 – 1729
Volume 6: 1730 – 1746
Volume 7: 1747 – 1756
Volume 8: 1757 – 1762
Volume 9: 1762 – 1763, Index and Appendix
Complete Index to the Statutes At Large

Perhaps the most often cited collection is that of Danby Pickering. The first 24 volumes were historical, going  from 1225 to 1760. After that, it became a contemporary series, publishing the legislation as it was passed. I am deeply indebted to the pseudonymous contributor on the Paradox forums for finding all the google links; I’ve added links to those volumes I’ve found on archive.org.

vol. 1 – 9 Henry III to 14 Edward III (1225-1340); archive.org
vol. 2 – 15 Edward III to 13 Henry IV (1341-1411); archive.org
vol. 3 – 1 Henry V to 23 Edward IV (1412-1482); archive.org
vol. 4 – 1 Richard III to 31 Henry VIII (1484-1539); archive.org
vol. 5 – 32 Henry VIII to 7 Edward VI (1540-1553)
vol. 6 – 1 Mary I – 35 Elizabeth I (1553-1593); archive.org
vol. 7 – 39 Elizabeth to 12 Charles II (1597-1660); archive.org
vol. 8 – 12 Charles II to 1 James II (1661-1685)
vol. 9 – 1 William & Mary to 8 William III (1688-1696); archive.org
vol. 10 – 8 William III to 1 Anne (1696-1701); archive.org
vol. 11 – 2 & 3 Anne to 8 Anne (1703-1708); archive.org
vol. 12 – 8 Anne to 12 Anne (1709-1711); archive.org
vol. 13 – 12 Anne to 5 George I (1713-1717); archive.org
vol. 14 – 5 George I to 9 George I (1718-1721); archive.org
vol. 15 – 9 George I to 2 George II (1722-1728); archive.org
vol. 16 – 2 George II to 9 George II (1729-1735); archive.org
vol. 17 – 9 George II to 15 George II (1736-1741); archive.org
vol. 18 – 15 George II to 20 George II (1742-1746); archive.org
vol. 19 – 20 George II to 22 George II (1747-1749); archive.org
vol. 20 – 23 George II to 26 George II (1750-1752); archive.org
vol. 21 – 26 George II to 30 George II (1753-1756); archive.org
vol. 22 – 30 George II to 32 George II (1757-1759); archive.org
vol. 23 – 33 George II to 1 George III (1760); archive.org
vol. 24 – Index to all Volumes

The continuation of the Pickering series gets rather confusing. Some books appear to be split into parts, others have ‘Part 1’ on the title page but don’t appear to have a sequel. Volume 44 (1802) doesn’t appear to have been digitized. Update 25 November 2015: Volume 44 part 1 can be found through Hathi Trust. Update 28 September 2016: Located the volume on Google Books.

vol. 25 2 George III to 3 George III (1761-1763); archive.org
vol. 26 4 George III to 5 George III (1764-1765); archive.org
vol. 27 6 George III to 7 George III (1765-1766); archive.org
vol. 28 8 George III to 10 George III (1767-1769); archive.org
vol. 29 11 George III to 12 George III (1770-1772); archive.org
vol. 30 13 George III to 14 George III (1773-1774); archive.org
vol. 31 15 George III to 17 George III (1775-1777)
vol. 32 18 George III to 19 George III (1778-1779)
vol. 33 20 George III to 21 George III (1780-1781); archive.org
vol. 34 22 George III to 24 George III (1782-1784)
vol. 35 25 George III to 26 George III (1785-1786)
vol. 36 27 George III to 29 George III (1787-1789)
vol. 37 30 George III to 32 George III (1790-1792)
vol. 38 General Index from 1 George III to 32 George III; archive.org
vol. 39 Pt. 1: 33 George III to 34 George III (1793-1794)
vol. 39 Pt. 2: 34 George III (1794); archive.org
vol. 40 35 George III to 36 George III (1795); archive.org
vol. 41 37 George III to 38 George III (1796-1797); archive.org
vol. 42 Pt. 1: 39 George III (1798-1799); archive.org
vol. 42 Pt. 2: 39 Geo III (Local & Personal) (1800)
vol. 43 41 George III (1801); archive.org
vol. 44 Pt. 1: 43 George III (1802-1803); Hathi Trust
vol. 45 44 George III (1803-1804); archive.org
vol. 46 46 George III (1806)

Nineteenth Century Legislation

Although my main focus is on the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, I’ve also needed to find various nineteenth century laws. The following list is incomplete, composed of at least two different series, mainly found in the Internet Archive, but with some from Google. Links to years and volumes I’ve missed will be very much appreciated; please leave them in the comments.

1807 47 Geo 3
1808 48 Geo 3
1809 49 Geo 3
1810 50 Geo 3
1811 51 Geo 3
1812 52 Geo 3
1813 53 Geo 3
1814 54 Geo 3
1815 55 Geo 3
1816 56 Geo 3
1817 57 Geo 3
1818 58 Geo 3
1819 59 Geo 3
1820 60 Geo 3 & 1 Geo 4
1821 1 & 2 Geo 4
1822 3 Geo 4
1823 4 Geo 4
1824 5 Geo 4
1825 6 Geo 4
1826 7 Geo 4
1827 7 & 8 Geo 4
1828 9 Geo 4
1829 10 Geo 4
1830 11 Geo 4 / 1 Will 4
1831 1 Will 4
1832 2 & 3 Will 4
1833  3 & 4 Will 4
1834  4 & 5 Will 4
1835  5 & 6 Will 4
1836  6 & 7 Will 4
1837  7 Will 4 / 1 Vic
1837-8  1 & 2 Vic
1839  2 & 3 Vic
1840  3 & 4 Vic
1841  4 & 5 Vic
1842  5 & 6 Vic
1843  6 & 7 Vic
1844  7 & 8 Vic
1845  8 & 9 Vic
1846 9 & 10 Vic
1847 10 & 11 Vic

1847-8 11 Vic / 11 & 12 Vic
1849  12 & 13 Vic
1850  13 & 14 Vic
1851 14 & 15 Vic & on Google
1852 15 & 16 Vic
1853 16 & 17 Vic
1854 17 & 18 Vic
1854-5 18 & 19 Vic
1855-6 19 & 20 Vic
1857  20 Vic
1858  21 & 22 Vic
1859 22 Vic
1860 22 & 23 Vic
1861  24 & 25 Vic
1862 25 & 26 Vic
1863 26 & 27 Vic
1864 27 & 28 Vic
1865  28 & 29 Vic
1866  29 & 30 Vic
1867  30 Vic / 30 & 31 Vic
1867-8 31 & 32 Vic
1869  32 & 33 Vic  Another ed.
1870  33 & 34 Vic
1871 34 & 35 Vic
1872  35 & 36 Vic
1873 36 & 37 Vic
1874  37 & 38 Vic
1875 38 & 39 Vic
1877  40 & 41 Vic
1881  44 & 45 Vic
1882 45 & 46 Vic
1884 48 & 49 Vic
1892  55 & 56 Vic
1896  59 & 60 Vic
1902  2 Edw 7
1904  4 Edw 7
1906  6 Edw 7

Update 6/5/2014

I have found some more volumes from the early nineteenth century, many of which I have added to the list above. I’ve also found that there were two related series – the Statutes at Large of England and Great Britain, and The Statutes at Large of Great Britain and Ireland –  published at that time, edited first by Tomlins and then Raithby, and then Simons. The former goes up to 1800, and so there’s considerable overlap with all the other editions listed above. Raithby also produced a three volume index, covering the period from the Magna Carta to 49 George III.

Raithby, Statutes At Large of England and Great Britain, in 20 volumes.

Volume 2: 1 Richard II 1377 to 19 Henry VII 1504: Archive  Google
Volume 3: 1 Henry VIII 1509 to 7 Edward VI 1553: Archive  Google
Volume 4: 1 Mary 1553 to 16 Charles I 1604: Archive  Google
Volume 6: 8 William III to 6 Anne 1707: Google
Volume 7: 7 Anne 1708 to 1 George I 1715: Google
Volume 8: 3 George I 1716 to 13 George I 1726: Google
Volume 9: 1 George II 1727 to 15 George II 1742: Google
Volume 10: 16 George II 1743 to 23 George II 1750: Google
Volume 12: 1 George III 1760 to 7 George III 1767: Google
Volume 13: 8 George III 1768 to 14 George III 1774: Google
Volume 14: 15 George III 1775 to 19 George III 1779: Google
Volume 15: 20 George III 1780 to 24 George III 1784: Google
Volume 17: 28 George III 1788 to 32 George III 1792: Google
Volume 18: 33 George III 1793 to 35 George III 1795: Google
Volume 20: 39 George III 1798 to 41 George III 1800: Google

Raithby’s Statutes of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland:

Updates 28/8/2016 and 11/10/2016: A set of these volumes, annoyingly without volume 10, has been uploaded to the Internet Archive by the University of Southampton. But hallelujah, the elusive Volume the Tenth has been located on Google, as has the 14th through to the 18th, which appears to be the last of this series. Note that later volumes are edited by one N. Simons, rather than Raithby.

Volume 1: 41 George III 1801 to 43 George III 1803: Google  Archive.org
Volume 2: 44 George II 1804 to 46 George II 1806: Archive.org
Volume 3: 47 George III 1807 to 49 George III 1809: Google  Archive.org
Volume 4: 50 George III 1810 to 52 George III 1812: Google  Archive.org
Volume 5: 53 George III to 54 George III 1814: Google  Archive.org
Volume 6: 55 George III 1815 to 56 George III 1816: Google  Archive.org
Volume 7: 57 George III 1817 to 59 George III 1819: Archive.org
Volume 8: 60 George III 1820 to 3 George IV 1822: Archive.org
Volume 9: 4 George IV 1823 to 5 George IV 1824: Google  Archive.org
Volume 10: 6 George IV 1825 to 7 George IV 1826: Google
Volume 11: 7 & 8 George IV 1827 to 10 George IV 1829: Google  Archive.org
Volume 12: 11 George IV 1829 to 2 & 3 William IV 1832: Google  Archive.org
Volume 13: 3 & 4 William IV 1833 to 5 & 6 Willian IV 1835: Archive.org
Volume 14: 6 & 7 William IV 1836 to 1 & 2 Victoria 1838:  Google
Volume 15: 2 & 3 Victoria 1839 to 5 Victoria 1841: Google
Volume 16:  5 & 6 Victoria 1842 to 6 & 7 Victoria 1843. Pt 1: Google Pt 2: Google
Volume 17: 7 & 8  Victoria 1844 to 8 & 9 Victoria 1845. Pt 1: Google Pt 2: Google
Volume 18: 9 & 10 Victoria 1846 to 10 & 11 Victoria 1847: Google

Raithby’s An index to the statutes at large: from Magna Carta, to the forty ninth year of George III inclusive:

Volume 1: Abatement to Inrolment. Google
Volume 2: Insane Persons to Roly Poly. Google
Volume 3: Roman Catholics to Zouch (Souche) and Seymour (Lord). Google

Other Sources

British History Online has two sets of legislation, available under somewhat restrictive terms of use: the complete Acts and Ordinances of the Interregnum, from 1642 to 1660, and volumes 5, 6 and 7 (out of 11) of  Raithby’s Statutes of the Realm, covering 1628 to 1701. Various copies of the Interregnum collection are available, readable but not downloadable without a partner account, at Hathi Trust; the final volume, containing the introduction, chronology and index, is freely available at archive.org. Similarly, Hathi Trust has a complete set of Statutes of the Realm available for reading online, but downloadable only by a select few.

Update 28/8/2016: The University of Southampton has uploaded some volumes of Raithby’s Statutes to the Internet Archive.

The National Archives’ offical government repository site, as mentioned above, has all legislation from 1988 onwards, and some  historic material. For laws before the Magna Carta, there is the Early English Laws project, although I’m not sure whether it is still active.

As mentioned above, Wikipedia have a great many useful entries describing, listing and classifying the laws and their attendant structure. The best entry page for these, containing links to lists of statutes by parliament and period, is the List of Acts of Parliament in the United Kingdom.

Acknowledgements: Big tip of the hat to Andrew Gray of Wikipedia for introducing me to the crowd-sourced transcription on WikiSource, and for other wikipedia help. Likewise to the pseudonymous Abdul Goatherd, who did most of the legwork gathering Google’s Danby Pickering editions, and published it on this old forum.

The 1697 ‘Escape of Debtors’ act

I have previously – and only briefly – discussed the 1697 act against the sanctuaries, looking at those places named in it, and their geographical distribution. Below, I present the full text of the statute. The abolition of ‘pretended privileged places’ is just one clause, number 15, out of 22. The rest of the act concerns the management of the prisons, specifically the Fleet and the King’s Bench, the escape of imprisoned debtors, and extortionate practices against prisoners. Certain provisions tacked on the end are made for particular individuals.

Again, as with the other legislation I’ve transcribed, it’s nearly impossible to read. Every clause is a single sentence, every sentence a clause, terms are continually repeated, singulars reinforced with plurals. And that’s before considering the archaic and latin terms used. Add to this the need for context – the motivations driving the law, the parliamentary debate around it, the manner of its writing, the whole legal apparatus producing and enforcing it – and the modern reader is at a considerable distance from it. This distance is further increased given the way the laws inter-relate with each other, defining terms, clarifying clauses, repealing some sections, augmenting others. The whole of the law is more than the sum of its statutes.

So this body of texts requires different ways of reading, to bring out the structures, links and patterns embodied within. Laws can be data-mined, to pull out names and locations for example. The vocabulary can be counted, to show stock phrases and unusual occurrences. Texts can be visualized, with ‘graphs, maps and trees’, to use Franco Moretti’s taxonomy. The computer now allows us to do this, although not as easily as one might think. In this way one can read the whole of the law, going beyond the time-consuming, comprehension-limited and mind-melting strictures of turning every page.

My next few posts will look at ways of analyzing the tortured prose below. But as a quick taster, note that the section pertaining to the sanctuaries adds ‘she’ and ‘her’ to the list of subjects, as in “he, she or they.” Only in this one clause, and then only towards the end, in the parts relating to the aiding, abetting and concealing escapees, are women so specified. From the other legislation I’ve read, this is quite rare; a quick search has revealed a solitary ‘she’ in the Black Act §2. Gender in the law is an important question, and one eminently susceptible to the digital techniques as mentioned above.

Note: Spelling has not been modernised; italics and marginalia have been omitted.

 

8 & 9 William III c.27 An act for the more effectual relief of creditors in cases of escapes, and for preventing abuses in prisons and pretended privileged places.

Whereas by reason of the many grievous extortions and ill practices of such persons who have for several years past respectively executed the offices of marshal of the King’s Bench, warden of the Fleet, and keeper of the Marshalsea, Newgate, and other prisons, and by several pretended privileged places within this realm, both creditors and debtors have been notoriously abused, and the good intents on the law wholly eluded: for reformation thereof be it enacted by the King’s most excellent majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the lords spiritual and temporal, and commons, in this present parliament assembled, and by the authority of the same, That from and after the first day of May, one thousand six hundred ninety seven, all prisoners, either upon contempt or mesne process, or in execution, who are or shall be committed to the custody of the marshal of the King’s bench prison, or the warden of the Fleet, shall be actually detained within the said prisons of the King’s Bench and Fleet, or the respective rules of the same, until they shall be from thence discharged by due course of law; and if at any time from and after the said first day of May, the said marshal or warden, or any other keeper or keepers of any prison, shall permit and suffer any prisoner committed to their custody, either on mesne process or in execution, to go or be at large out of the rules of their respective prisons (except by virtue of some writ of Habeas Corpus, or rule of court, which rule of court shall not be granted but by motion made or petition read in open court) every such going or being out of the said rules shall be adjudged and deemed, and is hereby declared to be an escape.

II. And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That from and after the said first day of May, every person or persons obtaining judgement in any action of escape against the said marshal or warden, or their respective lawful deputy or deputies, shall and may have, not only several remedies already by law allowed for obtaining satisfaction thereon, but the judges of the respective courts where such judgement shall be obtained (upon oath before them made by the persons or persons obtaining such judgement, that the same was obtained without fraud or covin, and that the debt of the prisoner making such an escape was a true and real debt and unsatisfied) shall, upon motion made to them in open court for that purpose, sequester the fees and profits of the office of marshall or warden, or so much, or such part or proportion thereof, as the said court wherein such motion shall be made shall think it fit and reasonable, with respect to the debt or debts due from such prisoner or prisoners so escaping, and in the first place apply the same towards satisfaction of the debt or debts due from the prisoner or prisoners who escaped, together with all costs and damages recovered in such action of escape.

III. And to the end that such satisfaction may not be deferred by any writ of error brought for delay only, be it enacted, That if the said marshal or warden, or their respective deputy or deputies, shall at any time after the said first day of May, sue forth any writ or writs of error to reverse any judgment given in any action of escape, such marshal or warden, or their respective deputy of deputies, shall be obliged to put in special bail, or in default thereof no execution shall be stayed, nor any sequestration of the profits delayed.

IV. And whereas it is notorious that divers great sums of money and other rewards have been given to, and actually received by, the several persons executing the respective offices of marshal and warden, and other keepers of the several prisons within this kingdom, to assist or permit prisoners in their custody to escape, in open defiance and contempt of the laws of this realm: for preventing the like evil practices for the time to come, be it further enacted, That if any marshal or warden, or their respective deputy or deputies, or any keeper of any other person within this kingdom, shall take any sum of money, reward or gratuity whatsoever, or security for the same, to procure, assist, connive at, or permit any such escape, and shall thereof be lawfully convicted, the said marshal or warden, or their respective deputy or deputies, or such other keeper of any prisons as aforesaid, shall for every such offence forfeit the sum of five hundred pounds, and his said office, and be for ever after incapable of executing any such office.

V. Provided always, That this act, nor any thing therein contained, shall extend, or be construed to extend to make void such securities, or any of them, as shall at any time or times hereafter be given by any prisoner or prisoners for his or their lodging or lodgings without the aforesaid prisones, or ether of them, within the rules of the said prisons of King’s Bench and Fleet, or either of them, so as such security or securities be not taken for the enlargement of any prisoner or prisoners out of or beyond the rules of the said prisons of King’s Bench and Fleet, or either of them respectively.

VI. And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That from and after the said first day of May, no retaking on fresh pursuit shall be given in evidence on the trial of any issue in any action of escape against the said marshal or warden, or their respective deputy or deputies, or against any other keeper or keepers of any other prison or prisons as aforesaid, unless the same be specially pleaded, nor shall any special plea be taken, received, or allowed, unless oath can be first made in writing by the marshal or warden, or their respective deputy or deputies, or by such other keeper or keepers of any other prison or prisons as aforesaid, against whom such action shall be brought, and filed in the proper office of the respective courts, that the prisoner for whose escape such action is brought did without his consent, privity, or knowledge make such escape; and if such affidavit shall at any time afterwards appear to be false, and the marshal or warden or other keeper or keepers of any other prison or prisons, shall be convicted thereof by due course of law, such marshal or warden or other keeper or keepers of any other prison or prisons shall forfeit the sum of five hundred pounds.

VII. And be it further enacted and declared by the authority aforesaid, That if at any time after the said first day of May, any prisoner who is or shall be committed in execution to either or any of the said respective prisons, shall escape from thence by any ways or means howsoever, the creditor or creditors, at whose suit such prisoner was charged in execution at the time of his escape, shall or may retake such prisoner by any new Capias, or Capias ad satisfaciendum, or sure forth any other kind of execution on the judgment, as if the body of such prisoner had never been taken in execution.

VIII. And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That if the said marshal or warden for the time being, or their respective deputy or deputies, or other keeper or keepers of any other prison or prisons, shall, after one day’s notice in writing given for that purpose, refuse to shew any prisoner committed in execution to the creditor at whose suit such prisoner was committed or charged, or to his attorney, every such refusal shall be adjudged to be an escape in law.

IX. And be it further enacted and declared by the authority aforesaid, That if any person or persons whatsoever, desiring to charge any person with any action or execution, shall desire to be informed by the said marshal or warden, or their respective deputy or deputies, or by any other keeper or keepers of any other prison or prisons, whether such person be a prisoner in his custody, or not, the said marshal or warden, or such other keeper or keepers of any other prison or prisons, shall give a true note in writing thereof to the person so requesting the same, or to his lawful attorney, upon demand at his office for that purpose, or in default thereof shall forfeit the sum of fifty pounds; and if such marshal or warden, or their respective deputy or deputies exercising the said office, or other keeper or keepers of any other prison or prisons, shall give a note in writing that such person is an actual prisoner in her custody, every such note shall be accepted and taken as sufficient evidence that such person was at that time a prisoner in actual custody.

X. And be it further enacted and declared by the authority aforesaid, That on or before the four and twentieth day of June, one thousand six hundred ninety seven, all and every the conveyances, grants, and mortgages of the inheritance of the aforesaid prisons of King’s Bench and Fleet, or either of them, and of the prison-houses, lands, tenements, buildings, and other hereditaments to the said prisons of King’s Bench and Fleet or either of them respectively belonging, or in any wise appertaining, and all leases thereof, and the respective titles of the marshal of the King’s Bench and warden of the Fleet prisons thereunto, or of him or them in whom the inheritance or inheritances of, in, and to the said prisons, and prison-houses, and premises, or either of them, now are, and all trusts and declarations of trusts thereunto, or unto either of them relating, shall be inrolled (viz.) that of the marshal of the King’s Bench in the King’s Bench court, and that of the warden of the Fleet in the court of Common Pleas at Westminster; and that all future conveyances, grants, and mortgages, of the inheritance of the said prisons of King’s Bench and Fleet, or of either of them, or of any part of either of them, and all leases thereof, and all trusts and declarations of trust thereunto or unto either of them relating, shall be so inrolled in the respective courts, as aforesaid, within six months next after the executing of every or any such conveyances, grants, mortgages, or leases, or such trusts or declarations of trusts thereunto or unto either of them relating, or of any of them; and if any such conveyances, grants, or mortgages, of the inheritance of the said prisons of King’s Bench or Fleet, or either of them, or of any part of either of them, of any such trusts or declarations of trust thereunto or unto either of them relating, or any leases of the said premisses, be not so inrolled within the times limited as aforesaid, in the said courts respectively, as aforesaid, that then and in such case, as well the present as all future conveyances, grants, and mortgages of every of them, and the inheritance of the said prisons of King’s Bench and Fleet, or either of them, or of any part of either of them, and all leases thereof, and all trusts and declarations of trust thereunto, or unto any of them relating, shall be and are hereby declared to be utterly void and of none effect, as if the same had never been executed; any law, statute, or custom, to the contrary thereof in any wise notwithstanding.

XI. And be it further enacted and declared by the authority aforesaid, That from and after the said first day of May, the said offices of marshal of the King’s bench prison, and warden of the Fleet, and each of them, shall be executed by the several persons to whom the inheritance of the prisons, prison-houses, lands, tenements, and other hereditaments, of the said prisons of King’s Bench and Fleet, or either of them, shall then belong or appertain respectively, in his or their respective proper person or persons, or by his or their sufficient deputy or deputies; for which deputy or deputies, and for all forfeitures, escapes, and other misdemeanors, in their respective offices by such deputy or deputies permitted, suffered, or committed, the said person or persons, in whom the aforesaid inheritances respectively are or shall then be, shall be answerable, and the profits and aforesaid inheritances of the said several offices shall be sequestred, seized, or extended to make satisfaction for such forfeitures, escapes, and misdeameanors respectively, as if permitted, suffered, or committed by the person or persons themselves, or either of them, in whom the respective inheritances of the said prisons shall then be.

XII. And whereas the way of proceeding against the warden of the Fleet prison by bill in the courts of Common Pleas and Exchequer at Westminster is found to be very dilatory; be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That from and after the said first day of May, it shall and may be lawful to and for any person or persons, having cause of action against the warden of the Fleet prison, upon bill filed in the said courts of Common Please or Exchequer against the said warden, and a rule being given to plead thereto, to be out eight days at most after filing such bill, to sign judgment against the said warden of the Fleet, unless he plead to the said bill within three days after such rule is out.

XIII. And for the more easy and quick obtaining of judgment against any person or persons who now is or hereafter shall be a prisoner or prisoners in the aforesaid prison of the Fleet; be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That from and after the said first day of May, it shall and may be lawful to and for any person or persons, who hath or shall have any cause of action against any prisoner or prisoners, who now is, or are, or hereafter shall be committed to the said prison of the Fleet, after filing or entring of a declaration in such action with the proper officer, to deliver a copy of such declaration or declarations to any such defendant or defendants in any personal action or actions, or to the turnkey or porter of the said Fleet prison, and, after rule given thereupon to plead, to be out at eight days at most after delivery of such copy of declaration or declarations, and affidavit made of such delivery before the lord chief justice, or one other of the justices of the Common Pleas, or before the lord chief baron, or some other of the barons of the coif of the Exchequer at Westminster, of the delivery of such declaration or declarations to the defendant or defendants, in such action or actions, or to the turnkey or porter of the said Fleet prison, as aforesaid, to sign judgment in such action or actions against such defendant or defendants, as if such defendant or defendants had been actually charged at the bar of the Common Pleas or Exchequer with such action or actions; any law, statute, usage, or custom, to the contrary thereof in any wise notwithstanding.

XIV. And whereas great sums of money have been and are still taken of the prisoners of the aforesaid prisons of King’s Bench and Fleet, and other prisons, under pretence of chamber rent, although the said prisoners have not had the actual possession of any chamber within the said prisons, or any of them; for the avoiding of that inconvenience for the future be it enacted, That from and after the said first day of May, no prisoner or prisoners shall pay, or be compellable to pay any chamber rent for any chamber within either or any of the said prisons, for an longer time than he or they is or are actually in possession of the said chamber or chambers, and that during such time as he or they is or are actually in possession of any such chamber or chambers within either or any of the said prisons as aforesaid, such prisoner or prisoners shall not pay above the sum of two shillings and six pence per week for any such chamber; and if the marshal of the King’s Bench prison, warden of the Fleet, or keeper or keepers of any other prison or prisons, as aforesaid, shall take or demand any greater sum or sums of money for the use of such chamber, than the sum of two shillings and six pence per week, he or they so taking or demanding shall in such case, for every such offence, forfeit the sum of twenty pounds.

XV. And for the preventing for the future the many notorious and scandalous practices used in many pretended privileged places in and about the cities of London and Westminster, and borough of Southwark in the county of Surrey, by obstructing the execution of legal process there, and thereby defrauding and cheating great numbers of people of their honest and just debts; be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That from and after the said first day of May, it shall and may be lawful for any person or persons, who have or hath any debt or debts, sum or sums of money due or owing to him from any person or persons who now is, or hereafter shall be and reside within the White Friers, Savoy, Salisbury Court, Ram Alley, Mitre Court, Fuller’s Rents, Baldwin’s Gardens, Montague Close, or the Minories, Mint, Clink, or Deadman’s Place, upon legal process taken out against such person or persons, to demand and require the sheriffs of London and Middlesex, head bailiff of the liberty of the duchy of Lancaster, or high sheriff of the county of Surrey, or bailiff of the liberty of the borough of Southwark for the time being (as the case shall require, if the plaintiff think it requisite) or their respective deputy or deputies, officer or officers, to take, and they are hereby enabled respectively to take the Posse Comitatus, or such other power as to him or them or any of them shall seem requisite, and enter the said pretended privileged place, and any or either of them (as the case shall require) and to arrest, and in the case of resistance or refusal to open the doors, to break open any door or doors to arrest such person or persons upon any mesne or other process, extent or execution, or to seize the goods of any such person or persons upon any execution or extent; and if the said sheriff or sheriffs, head bailiff, or their deputy or deputies, officer or officers, or either or any of them shall neglect or refuse (upon such request) with such force to do their best endeavours for the executing of such process, execution or extent, he or they so neglecting or refusing to execute such process, execution or extent, shall forfeit to the plaintiff or plaintiffs in such action the sum of one hundred pounds, to be recovered by action of debt, bill, plaint or information, in which no essoin, protection, or wager of law, or more than one imparlance shall be allowed; and if in the executing of such process, execution or extent, any person or persons shall oppose or resist any such officer or officers, or any of them, or any who shall be aiding or assisting to him, them, or any of them, in the executing of such process, execution or extent, he or they so offending shall, for every time he or they shall so offend, forfeit the sum of fifty pounds, and moreover shall be by some justice of the peace committed to the common gaol of such county, city or place where such offence shall be committed, there to remain without bail or mainprize until the next assizes, sessions of oyer and terminer, and general gaol delivery, to be held for such county, city or place; and such offender or offenders being of such offence or offences duly convicted, every such offender shall suffer and undergo such imprisonment, and be set in the pillory, as the court where such conviction shall be shall think fit; and if any rescous shall be made of any prisoner taken by any such officer or officers as aforesaid, upon any such process, execution or extent, within the limits of any the before mentioned pretended privileged places, by any person or persons whatsoever, such person or persons so making such rescous, or aiding, assisting or abetting the same, and being thereof lawfully convicted, shall respectively forfeit to the plaintiff in any such action the sum of five hundred pounds, to be recovered by action of debt, bill, plaint or information, in any of his Majesty’s courts at Westminster, in which action, bill, plaint or information, no essoin, privilege, protection, wager of law, or more than one imparlance shall be allowed; and if after such recovery had against any person or persons for such rescous, or for aiding, assisting or abetting the same, the person or persons against whom such recovery shall be had, shall refuse or neglect to pay to the plaintiff in such action, or to his, her or their executors, administrators or assigns, the sum or sums of money recovered, with full costs of suit, within one month after judgment signed upon such recovery, and demand made, that then the person or persons so refusing or neglecting as aforesaid, upon producing a copy of the judgment upon which such recovery shall be had, and oath made that the money recovered is not paid, shall, by order of such court wherein the said person or persons was or were so convicted, of or for any suit rescous, or for aiding, assisting or abetting the same, be transported by the sheriff or sheriffs of the county, city or place where such conviction shall happen to be, to one of his Majesty’s plantations beyond the seas, there to remain for the space of seven years; and if the person or persons so transported, shall return again to this kingdom within the space of seven years, he, she or they so returning, shall be and is hereby adjudged guilty of felony, and shall not be allowed the benefit of clergy, but shall suffer and forfeit as in cases of felony where clergy is not allowed; and if any person or persons, inhabiting within either or any of the aforesaid pretended privileged places, shall receive, conceal or harbour any person or persons, who shall have made any rescous as aforesaid, he, she or they so receiving, concealing or harbouring any such person or persons, knowing or having had notice that such person or persons had been guilty of such offence, being thereof convicted by due course of law, shall be, by order of that court where such conviction shall happen to be, by the sheriff or sheriffs of the county, city of place where the offence was committed, transported to some or one of his Majesty’s plantations beyond the seas, there to remain for the space of seven years, unless such person or persons shall, within the space of one month next after such conviction, pay to the plaintiff or plaintiffs in such action or suit, the full debt or duty for which such action or suit was brought, with full costs; and if he, she or they shall return into this kingdom within the said space of seven years, he, she or they so returning, shall be and is hereby adjudged guilty of felony, and shall not be allowed the benefit of clergy, but shall suffer and forfeit as in cases of felony, where clergy is not allowed.

XVI. And be it further enacted, That the several penalties before in and by this act inflicted, and not particularly disposed of, shall go one half to his Majesty, his heirs and successors, and the other half to him or them that will sue for the same, to be recovered as aforesaid.

XVII. And for the prevention of disputes touching this act, be it enacted by the authority aforesaid, That the same, and every clause and thing therein contained, shall be deemed, adjudged, and taken to be a general law, and that it shall not be needful to shew or set forth the same or any clause thereof in pleading, and that the same, and all clauses therein, shall be construed most largely and beneficially for the preventing of all the mischiefs, abuses, escapes, and other inconveniences herein provided against; and further, that if any person or persons shall at any time be sued for putting in execution any power or authority given by this act, such person and persons shall and may plead the general issue, and give in evidence this act, and the special matter; and if the plaintiff or plaintiffs in such action shall be nonsuit, or a verdict given for a defendant or defendants, or if the plaintiff or plaintiffs discontinue their action, or if upon demurrer judgment shall be given for the defendant or defendants, every such defendant or defendants shall have his or their double costs.

XVIII. Saving unto Martha Johnson widow, Thomas Johnson, and John Johnson, sons of the said Martha, and Frances her daughter, their heirs, executors, administrators and assigns, all such right, title, estate, equity, interest and demand, as she or they now have, or shall or may have, challenge or claim, of, in or unto all or any of the houses and shops belonging to the office of the warden of the Fleet, or to the prison of the Fleet, herein before contained, as fully and effectually, to all intents and purposes, as she or they had before the making of this act, as if this act had never been had or made.

XIX. Provided nevertheless, That nothing in this act contained shall extend to prejudice, impeach, or lessen any security or securities for any sum or sums of money made or given, by or out of the said office of marshal of the Marshalsea of the couret of King’s bench, or the profits thereof, by William Lenthall esquire, to Sir John Cutler baronet deceased, or to Edmund Boulter esquire, executor of the said Sir John Cutler, or to any other person or persons in trust for them or either of them, or to subject the said office, or the profits thereof, or the person or persons in whom the same are or shall be vested, to any of the forfeitures or penalties in this act contained, other than such as they are or may be liable unto before the making of this act, until such sum or sums of money, secured thereby, shall be fully satisfied and paid; any thing in this act contained to the contrary thereof notwithstanding.

XX. Saving unto Anthony Smith mariner, his heirs, executors, administrators and assigns, all such right, title, estate, equity, interest and demand, as he or they now have, or shall or may have, challenge or claim, of, in or unto the office of the warden of the Fleet, or the prison of the Fleet, or all or any of the houses and shops belonging to the office of warden of the Fleet, or to the prison of the Fleet, or herein before contained (by virtue of two decrees in Chancery, the one of them made the two and twentieth day of June, one thousand six hundred eighty three, and the other of them the six and twentieth day of January, one thousand six hundred eighty five, whereby four hundred twenty five pounds, and the interest thereof, was and is decreed to be paid to the said Anthony Smith out of the said office, houses, shops and appurtenances, after a mortgage made thereof by Thomas Bromhall unto Henry Norwood esquire was satisfied) as fully and effectually to all intents and purposes, as he or they had before the making of this act, and as if this act had never been had or made.

XXI. Provided nevertheless, That nothing in this act contained shall be deemed, construed or adjudged to take away, lessen, charge or prejudice the right, title or interest of Thomas Norwood, surviving executor of Henry Norwood, as for, touching or concerning a debt of two thousand one hundred fifty and three pounds, and interest, secured to the said Henry Norwood, by virtue of a mortgage of the office of warden of the Fleet prison, bearing date the twenty third day of November, in the year of our Lord one thousand six hundred seventy and six, or so much thereof as is justly due thereupon; nor to take away, lessen or prejudice the right, title or interest of John Clements of the Middle Temple, London, gentleman, as for, touching or concerning a debt of two thousand two hundred ninety nine pounds, and interest, secured to the said John Clement, in trust for himself and others, by virtue of a mortgage of the said office of warden, bearing date the third of May, one thousand six hundred seventy and eight, or so much thereof as is justly due thereupon.

XXII. And be it further enacted and declared by the authority aforesaid, That all and every deputation or deputations, grant or grants, at any time heretofore made or executed by William Lenthall esquire, of the said office of marshal of the Marshalsea of the said court of King’s Bench, is and are hereby declared void and of none effect; and that all and every succeeding marshal shall from time to time, and at all times hereafter, be constituted and appointed by the said William Lenthall, his heirs and assigns, by and with the consent in writing under the hand and seal of Edmund Boulter esquire, his executors, administrators and assigns, until the debt owing by the said William Lenthall to the said Edmund Boulter, executor of Sir John Cutler baronet deceased, be satisfied.

Source: Pickering, Danby, ed., The Statutes at Large, vol. 10.

The Black Act

Following on from my previous post, I present the text of the infamous ‘Black Act’ of 1723. This draconian statute was ostensibly in response to the ’emergency’ created by organized poaching in Windsor and Hampshire. It created a host of new capital offences, and even introduced collective financial penalties upon communities where crimes took place. The best work on it that I know of is E.P. Thompson’s Whigs and Hunters (London, 1975).

The reason for publishing it here is that it appears to have been the act by which the Wapping Minter Charles Towers was executed. This is perplexing, as it appears that the relevant clause, the first, against going armed and disguised, is directed at rural poachers. It does list “any high road” amongst the heaths, downs, forests and enclosures, and makes mention of “forcible rescues”, albeit for persons detained “for any of the offences before mentioned” rather than for debt. But this strikes me as a somewhat tenuous reading in the case of Towers.

It is still the more curious in that the third clause of the Act against Southwark Mint, passed at the same time, also criminalized going in disguise, but only within that sanctuary and  without specifying the death sentence. Why two laws for the same offence if the harsher one was applicable throughout the country? (The Act against Wapping Mint didn’t come into force until 1725, so Towers could not have been prosecuted under that.)

Understanding these laws is a difficult exercise, and not only due to the archaic language and legalistic form. The text itself doesn’t describe the process by which it was written, nor its context as an instrument of state, its debate in parliament, its analysis in the courts, or its enforcement ‘on the ground.’ In this case, the seeming disjuncture between the text and the execution of Towers may be due to a political motivation to crush the sanctuary of Wapping Mint, rather than the disinterested workings of justice.

 

ANNO NONO GEORGII I. C.22. An act for the more effectual punishing wicked and evil-disposed persons going armed in disguise, and doing injuries and violences to the persons and properties of his Majesty’s subjects, and for the more speedy bringing the offenders to justice.

I. WHEREAS several ill-designing and disorderly persons have of late associated themselves under the name of Blacks, and entered into confederacies to support and assist one another in stealing and destroying of deer, robbing of warrens and fish-ponds, cutting down plantations of trees, and other illegal practices, and have, in great numbers, armed with swords, fire-arms, and other offensive weapons, several of them with their faces blacked, or in disguised habits, unlawfully hunted in forests belonging to his Majesty, and in the parks of divers of his Majesty’s subjects, and destroyed, killed and carried away the deer, robbed warrens, rivers and fish-ponds, and cut down plantations of trees; and have likewise solicited several of his Majesty’s subjects, with promises of money, or other rewards, to join with them, and have sent letters in fictitious names, to several persons, demanding venison and money, and threatning some great violence, if such their unlawful demands should be refused, or if they should be interupted in, or prosecuted for such their wicked practises, and have actually done great damage to several persons, who have either refused to comply with such demands, or have endeavoured to bring them to justice, to the great terror of his Majesty’s peaceable subjects:

For the preventing which wicked and unlawful practices, be it enacted by the King’s most excellent Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the lords spiritual and temporal and commons, in parliament assembled, and by the authority of the same. That if any person or persons, from and after the first day of June in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and twenty-three, being armed with swords, fire-arms, or other offensive weapons, and having his or their faces blacked, or being otherwise disguised, shall appear in any forest, chase, park, paddock, or grounds inclosed with any wall, pale, or other fence, wherein any deer have been or shall be usually kept, or in any warren or place where hares or conies have been or shall be usually kept, or in any high road, open heath, common or down, or shall unlawfully and wilfully hunt, wound, kill, destroy, or steal any red or fallow deer, or unlawfully rob any warren or place where conies or hares are usually kept, or shall unlawfully steal or take away any fish out of any river or pond; or if any person or persons, from and after the said first day of June shall unlawfully and wilfully hunt, wound, kill, destroy or steal any red or fallow deer, fed or kept in any places in any of his Majesty’s forests or chases, which are or shall be inclosed with pales, rails, or other fences, or in any park, paddock, or grounds inclosed, where deer have been or shall be usually kept; or shall unlawfully and maliciously break down the head or mound of any fish-pond, whereby the fish shall be lost or destroyed; or shall unlawfully and maliciously kill, maim or wound any cattle, or cut down or otherwise destroy any trees planted in any avenue, or growing in any garden, orchard or plantation, for ornament, shelter or profit; or shall set fire to any house, barn or out-house, or to any hovel, cock, mow, or stack of corn, straw, hay or wood; or shall wilfully and maliciously shoot at any person in any dwelling-house, or other place; or shall knowingly send any letter, without any name, subscribed thereto, or signed with a fictitious name, demanding money, venison, or other valuable thing; or shall forcibly rescue any person being lawfully in custody of any officer or other person, for any of the offences before mentioned; or if any person or persons shall, by gift or promise of money, or other reward, procure any of his Majesty’s subjects to join him or them in any such unlawful act; every person so offending, being thereof lawfully convicted, shall be adjudged guilty of felony, and shall suffer death as in cases of felony, without benefit of clergy.

II. And whereas notwithstanding the laws now in force against the illegal practices above mentioned, and his Majesty’s royal proclamation of the second day of February which was in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and twenty-two, notifying the same, many wicked and evil-disposed persons have, in open defiance thereof, been guilty of several of the offences before mentioned, to the great disturbance of the publick peace, and damage of divers of his Majesty’s good subjects; It is hereby enacted by the authority aforesaid, That all and every person and persons, who since the second day of February in the year of our Lord one thousand seven  hundred and twenty-two, have committed or been guilty of any of the offences aforesaid, who shall not surrender him, her or themselves, before the twenty-fourth day of July in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and twenty-three, to any of the justices of his Majesty’s court of kings bench, or to any one of his Majesty’s justices of the peace, in and for the county where he, she or they did commit such offence or offences, and voluntarily make a full confession thereof to such justice, and a true discovery upon his, her or their oath or oaths, of the persons who were his, her or their accomplices in any of the said offences, by giving a true account of their names, occupations and places of abode, and to the best of his, her or their knowledge or belief, discover where they may be found, in order to be brought to justice, being thereof lawfully convicted, shall be adjudged guilty of felony, and shall suffer death as in cases of felony, without benefit of clergy.

III. Provided nevertheless, That all and every person and persons, who have been guilty of any the offences aforesaid, and shall not be in lawful custody for such offence on the said first day of June and shall surrender him, her or themselves, on or before the said twenty-fourth day of July as aforesaid, and shall make such confession and discovery as aforesaid, shall by virtue of this act be pardoned, acquitted and discharged of and from the offences so by him, her or them confessed as aforesaid; any thing herein contained to the contrary in any wise notwithstanding.

IV. And for the more easy and speedy bringing the offenders against this act to justice, be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That if any person or persons shall be charged with being guilty of any of the offences aforesaid, before any two or more of his Majesty’s justices of the peace of the county where such offence or offences were or shall be committed, by information of one or more credible person or persons upon oath by him or them to be subscribed, such justices before whom such information shall be made as aforesaid, shall forthwith certify under their hands and seals, and return such information to one of the principal secretaries of state of his Majesty, his heirs or successors, who is hereby required to lay the same, as soon as conveniently may be, before his Majesty, his heirs or successors, in his or their privy council; whereupon it shall and may be lawful for his Majesty, his heirs or successors, to make his or their order in his or their said privy council, thereby requiring and commanding such offender or offenders to surrender him or themselves, within the space of forty days, to any of his Majesty’s justices of the court of king’s bench, or to any one of his Majesty’s justices of the peace, to the end that he or they may be forth coming, to answer the offence or offences wherewith he or they shall so stand charged, according to the due course of law; which order shall be printed and published in the next London Gazette, and shall be forthwith transmitted to the sheriff of the county where the offence shall be committed, and shall, within six days after the receipt thereof be proclaimed by him, or his officers, between the hours of ten in the morning, and two in the afternoon, in the market-places upon the respective market-days, of two market-towns in the same county, near the place where such offence shall have been committed; and a true copy of such order shall be affixed upon some publick place in such market-towns; and in case such offender or offenders shall not surrender him or themselves, pursuant to such order of his Majesty, his heirs or successors, to be made in council as aforesaid, he or they so neglecting or refusing to surrender him or themselves as aforesaid, shall from the day appointed for his or their surrender as aforesaid, be adjudged, deemed and taken to be convicted and attainted of felony, and shall suffer the pains of death as in case of a person convicted and attainted by verdict and judgment of felony, without benefit of clergy; and that it shall be lawful to and for the court of king’s bench, or the justices of oyer and terminer, or general gaol-delivery for the county, where the offence is sworn in such information to have been committed, upon producing to them such order in council, under the seal of the said council, to award execution against such offender and offenders, in such manner, as if he or they had been convicted and attainted in the said court of king’s bench, or before such justices of oyer and terminer, or general gaol-delivery respectively.

V. And be it enacted by the authority aforesaid, That all and every person and persons, who shall, after the time appointed as aforesaid, for the surrender of any person or persons, so charged upon oath with any the offences aforesaid, be expired, conceal, aid, abet or succour, such person or persons, knowing him or them to have been so charged as aforesaid, and to have been required to surrender him or themselves, by such order or orders as aforesaid, being lawfully convicted thereof, shall be guilty of felony, and shall suffer death as in cases of felony, without benefit of clergy.

VI. Provided nevertheless, and it is hereby declared and enacted, That nothing herein contained shall be construed to prevent or hinder any judge, justice of the peace, magistrate, officer or minister of justice whatsoever, from taking, apprehending and securing, such offender or offenders, against whom such information shall be given, and for requiring whose surrender such order in council shall be made as aforesaid, by the ordinary course of law; and in case such offender or offenders, against whom such information, and for requiring whose surrender such order in council shall be made as aforesaid, shall be taken and secured in order to be brought to justice, before the time shall be expired, within which he or they shall be required to surrender him or themselves, by such order in council as aforesaid, that then in such case no further proceeding shall be had upon such order made in council against him or them so taken and secured as aforesaid, but he or they shall be brought to trial by due course of law; any thing herein before contained to the contrary in any wise notwithstanding.

VII. And be it enacted by the authority aforesaid, That from and after the first day of June one thousand seven hundred and twenty-three, the inhabitants of every hundred, within that part of the kingdom of Great Britain called England, shall make full satisfaction and amends to all and every the person and persons, their executors and administrators, for the damages they shall have sustained or suffered by the killing or maiming of any cattle, cutting down or destroying any trees, or setting fire to any house, barn or out-house, hovel, cock, mow or stack of corn, straw, hay or wood, which shall be committed or done by any offender or offenders against this act; and that every person and persons, who shall sustain damages by any of the offences last mentioned, shall be and are hereby enabled to sue for and recover such his or their damages, the sum to be recovered not exceeding the sum of two hundred pounds, against the inhabitants of the said hundred, who by this act shall be made liable to answer all or any part thereof; and that if such person or persons shall recover in such action, and sue execution against any of such inhabitants, all other the inhabitants of the hundred, who by this act shall be made liable to all or any part of the said damage, shall be rateably and proportionably taxed, for and towards an equal contribution for the relief of such inhabitant, against whom such execution shall be had and levied; which tax shall be made, levied and raised, by such ways and means, and in such manner and form, as is prescribed and mentioned for the levying and raising damages recovered against inhabitants of hundred in cases of robberies, in and by an act, intituled, An act for the following hue and cry, made in the twenty-seventh year in the reign of Queen Elizabeth.

VIII. Provided nevertheless, That no person or persons shall be enabled to recover any damages by virtue of this act, unless he or they by themselves, or by their servants, within two days after such damage or injury done him or them by any such offender or offenders as aforesaid, shall give notice of such offence done and committed unto some of the inhabitants of some town, village, or hamlet, near unto the place where any such fact shall be committed, and shall within four days after such notice, give in his, her or their examination upon oath, or the examination upon oath of his, her or their servant or servants, that had the care of his or their houses, out-houses, corn, hay, straw or wood, before any justice of the peace of the county, liberty or division, where such fact shall be committed, inhabiting within the said hundred where the said fact shall happen to be committed, or near unto the same, whether he or they do know the person or persons that committed such fact, or any of them; and if upon such examination it be confessed, that he or they do know the person or persons that committed the said fact, or any of them, that then he or they so confessing, shall be bound by recognizance to prosecute such offender or offenders by indictment, or otherwise, according to the laws of this realm.

IX. Provided also, and be it further enacted, by the Authority aforesaid, That where any offence shall be committed against this act, and any one of the said offenders shall be apprehended, and lawfully convicted of such offence,within the space of six months after such offence committed, no hundred, or any inhabitants thereof, shall in any wise be subject or liable to make any satisfaction to the party injured, for the damages he shall have sustained; any thing in this act to the contrary notwithstanding.

X. Provided also, That no person, who shall sustain any damage by reason of any offence to be committed by any offender contrary to this act, shall be thereby enabled to sue, or bring any action against any inhabitants of any hundred, where such offence shall be committed, except the party or parties sustaining such damage, shall commence his or their action or suit within one year after such offence shall be committed.

XI. And for the better and more effectual discovery of the offenders above-mentioned, and bringing them to justice, be it enacted by the authority aforesaid, That it shall and may be lawful to and for any justice of the peace, to issue his warrant to any constable, headborough, or other peace officer, thereby authorizing such constable, head-borough, or other peace-officer, to enter into any house, in order to search for venison stolen or unlawfully taken, contrary to the several statutes against deer-stealers, in such manner, as by the laws of this realm such justice of the peace may issue his warrant to search for stolen goods.

XII. And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That if any person or persons shall apprehend, or cause to be convicted any of the offenders above-mentioned, and shall be killed, or wounded so as to lose an eye or the use of any limb, in apprehending or securing, or endeavouring to apprehend or secure any of the offenders above-mentioned, upon proof thereof made at the general quarter-sessions of the peace for the county, liberty, division or place, where the offence was or shall be committed, or the party killed, or receive such wound, by the person or persons so apprehending, and causing the said offender to be convicted, or the person or persons so wounded, or the executors or administrators of the party killed, the justices of the said sessions shall give a certificate thereof to such person or persons so wounded or to the executors or administrators of the person or persons so killed, by which he or they shall be entitled to receive of the sheriff of the said county the sum of fifty pounds, to be allowed the said sheriff in passing his accounts in the exchequer; which sum of fifty pounds the said sheriff is hereby required to pay within thirty days from the day on which the said certificate shall be produced and shewn to him, under the penalty of forfeiting the sum of ten pounds to the said person or persons to whom such certificate is given, for which said sum of ten pounds, as well as the said sum of fifty pounds, such person may and is hereby authorized to bring an action upon the case against such sheriff, as for money had and received to his or their use.

XIII. And whereas the shortness of the time within which prosecutions for offences against the statute made in the third and fourth years of the reign of their late majesties King William and Queen Mary, intituled, An act for the more effectual discovery and punishment of deer-stealers, are limited to be commenced, has been a great encouragement to offenders; be it therefore enacted by the authority aforesaid, That any prosecution for any offence against the said statute, shall or may be commenced within three years from the time of the offence committed, but not after.

XIV. And for the better and more impartial trial of any indictment or information, which shall be found commenced or prosecuted for any of the offences committed against this act, be it enacted by the authority aforesaid, That every offence that shall be done or committed contrary to this act, shall and may be enquired of, examined, tried and determined in any county within that part of the kingdom of Great Britain called England, in such manner and form, as if the fact had been therein committed; provided, That no attainder for any of the offences made felony by virtue of this act, shall make or work any corruption of blood, loss of dower, or forfeiture of lands or tenements, goods or chattels.

XV. And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That this act shall be openly read at every quarter-sessions, and at every leet or law-day.

XVI. And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That this act shall continue in force from the first day of June one thousand seven hundred and twenty-three, for the space of three years, and from thence to the end of the then next session of parliament, and no longer. [Continued for five Years by 12 Geo I. c. 30.]

XVII. And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That if any venison, or skin of any deer, shall be found in the custody of any person or persons, and it shall appear that such person or persons bought such venison or skin of any one, who might be justly suspected to have unlawfully come by the same, and does not produce the party of whom he bought it, or prove upon oath the name and place of abode of such party, that then the person or persons who bought the same, shall be convicted of such offence, by any one or more justice or justices of the peace, and shall be subject to the penalties inflicted for killing a deer, in and by the statute made in the third and fourth year of the reign of their late majesties King William and Queen Mary, intituled, An act for the more effectual discovery and punishment of deer-stealers.

Transcribed from The Statues at Large, from the Ninth Year of King George the First to the Second Year of King George the Second, ed. D. Pickering, 1765, pp. 88-94. This text is in the public domain and may be reproduced freely.

 

Thomas Baston’s “Little Republick”

Little is known of Thomas Baston, a printmaker specializing in naval scenes. It appears he was born in the early 1670s, fought the French at sea and perhaps the Irish on land, lived and worked in London, had prints commissioned by William and Mary, and spent the best part of the 1710s in the Kings Bench prison for debt.

It was whilst in prison that he wrote Thoughts on Trade And a Publick Spirit, a wide-ranging attack on corruption, malpractice and fraud, in state, economy and law alike. Against such tyranny, not only does he plead the case of those on the receiving end, the poor debtors and ill-used sailors, but counterposes the example of the Southwark Mint, in a glowing, almost utopian, description of it as a ‘little Republick.’ There, the Minters are honest, honorable and hard-working, regular in government, needing few law books. Justified by both scripture and ‘ancient liberty’, ‘they live very lovingly together.’ An idealistic description without a doubt, but also a radical, political vision of how the whole country could be: ‘the best Way to set this Place on the same level with the rest of the Kingdom is to bring the rest of the Nation on a nearer level with them.’

There is much more to discover about both the man and his book. I’m not even certain he had any first-hand experience of Southwark Mint. Most of the information I’ve found on Baston comes from Charles Harrison Wallace’s site, who notes the suggestive co-incidence of publication and reprinting with crisis: the South Sea Bubble in 1716, the Navy’s Porto Bello disaster of 1728 and the Customs and Excise Bill of 1732. But pending further research, I present his remarkable portrait of a sanctuary.

Of the Mint

from Thomas Baston, Thoughts on Trade and a Publick Spirit, 1716, pp.111-113.

There is a Place on the other Side of the Water, in St. George‘s Parish, call’d the Mint, where a great Number of unfortunate Persons have agreed together to recover a little of ancient Liberty, and rather to loose their Lives than be carry’d to Prison for Debt, tho’ they do not in the least resist the Execution of the law in any other particular; for this little Republick (in this respect) has a very regular Government, executed by their Senators, which they call Clubs, in which some Days every Week they meet together, and examine all Enormities, for they give shelter, or Protection unto none, except purely to the Unfortunate in the case of Debt. They protect no Man who has it in his power to make Satisfaction; no Man who flyes from his Bail; no Cheat of any Sort: In short, they are a tolerable good Sort of People, as Times go, and every whit as honest as their Neighbours, notwithstanding they are call’d by a great many bad Names; yet I am of Opinion they are at worst, very diminutive Rogues in Comparison of those out of the Place; however, their Creditors, and the Bailiffs in general, are mighty Angry with them, because they will not quietly go to Goal, and there be starv’d; tho’ abundance of them, being at liberty to Work, having Time, with their Industry, have paid their Creditors their whole Debt; and others part, according as they can agree, which cou’d never have been done if their Creditors had had their Wills to throw them into Prison. God allow’d several Sanctuaries, or Cities of Refuge; and seeing the Law of our Land allows of none, these Gentlemen allow themselves one. When they catch a Baily (who is an Enemy to their Constitution) they treat him according to the Custom of the Place, which like most of our Courts, is as binding as a Law. ‘Tis true, they make use of very few Law-Books, for which Reason they live very lovingly together, consulting one anothers Good, and Safety, and account their little Cottages happier Dwellings, than Palaces out of the Place, where Bailiffs and their Dogs are continually waiting at their Doors with Writs and Executions. They give Credit to one another, as well in this Place as in any other, according to their Abilities, only upon Honour, and honestly pay when they have it, and better than those out of it, notwithstanding the infallible Security of a Prison, as some foolishly and ridiculously account it. It has been talk’d a long time of putting down this Place, but I believe it will not be easily done without a great deal of Mischief; but the best Way to set this Place on the same level with the rest of the Kingdom is to bring the rest of the Nation on a nearer level with them; that is, to let all the other good People of England have the same Protection for their Persons by Law from a Prison for Debt, as they have by Force.

The Life of Charles Towers, a Minter in Wapping

Of all the sanctuaries, Wapping Mint, also known as the New Mint, was the most audacious and the shortest lived. Set up by refugees from Southwark Mint after the act of 1722, the claim for being a sanctuary was based on being, as with Southwark, the former site of a Royal Mint. Its inhabitants appear to have been more aggressive towards bailiffs than with other sanctuaries, raiding their lock ups to rescue comrades, abducting the bailiffs responsible and trying them in mock courts. Perhaps on account of this it lasted just two years until being abolished by the law of 1724.

The following account, somewhat more pompous than others of the genre, is taken from Lives of the most remarkable criminals volume 1, first published in the 1740s. After giving a short history of the sanctuaries and some tantalizing details of Minter practices , it describes the acts of the Wapping Minter Charles Towers, executed for going in disguise on a raid to free a compatriot.

There is some doubt as to the law under which Towers was found guilty and sentenced to death. This text explicitly states that it was under the notoriously severe ‘Black Act’, passed in 1723 against the poachers and deer stealers of Windsor and Hampshire. E.P. Thompson, in Whigs and Hunters pages 247 to 249, debates this, saying that it was more likely to have been the law against Southwark Mint, which also criminalized going in disguise. However, the latter act didn’t make the crime capital. Yet the Black Act, comprehensive as it was, was fundamentally about securing rural property, and doesn’t seem easily applicable to urban conditions. There is a lot more to investigate here.

Unlike much of the popular criminal literature, the executed man does not go quietly to his death, but fulminates against bailiffs and his sentence on the scaffold. As with Francis Winter, he doubted the justice of his execution. And as with Winter, his death was lamented by a large crowd.

Text courtesy of Project Gutenberg from the 1927 edition. An earlier version (from 1874) is available at archive.org.

The Life of Charles Towers, a Minter in Wapping

Notwithstanding it must be apparent, even to a very ordinary understanding, that the Law must be executed both in civil and criminal cases, and that without such execution those who live under its protection would be very unsafe, yet it happens so that those who feel the smart of its judgment (though drawn upon them by their own misdeeds, follies or misfortunes which the Law of man cannot remedy or prevent) are always clamouring against its supposed severity, and making dreadful complaints of the hardships they from thence sustain. This disposition hath engaged numbers under these unhappy circumstances to attempt screening themselves from the rigour of the laws by sheltering in certain places, where by virtue of their own authority, or rather necessities, they set up a right of exemption and endeavour to establish a power of preserving those who live within certain limits from being prosecuted according to the usual course of the Law.

Anciently, indeed, there were several sanctuaries which depended on the Roman Catholic religion, and which were, of course, destroyed when popery was done away by Law. However, those who had sheltered themselves in them kept up such exemption, and by force withstood whatever civil officers attempted to execute process for debt, and that so vigorously that at length they seemed to have established by prescription what was directly against Law. These pretended privileged places increased at last to such an extent that in the ninth year of King William, the legislature was obliged to make provision by a clause in an Act of Parliament, requiring the sheriffs of London, Middlesex, and Surrey, the head bailiff of the Dutchy Liberty, or the bailiff of Surrey, under the penalty of one hundred pounds, to execute with the assistance of the posse comitatus any writ or warrant directed to them for seizing any person within any pretended privilege place such as Whitefriars, the Savoy, Salisbury Court, Ram Alley, Mitre Court, Fuller’s Rents, Baldwin’s Gardens, Montague Close or the Minories, Mint, Clink, or Dead Man’s Place. At the same time they ordered the assistance for executing the Law, of any who obey the sheriff or other person or persons in such places as aforesaid, with very great penalties upon persons who attempt to rescue persons from the hands of justice in such place.

This law had a very good effect with respect to all places excepting those within the jurisdiction of the Mint, though not without some struggle. There, however, they still continued to keep up those privileges they had assumed, and accordingly did maintain them by so far misusing persons who attempted to execute processes amongst them, by ducking them in ditches, dragging them through privies or “lay stalls,” accompanied by a number of people dressed up in frightful habits, who were summoned upon blowing a horn. All which at last became so very great a grievance that the legislature was again forced to interpose, and by an act of the 9th of the late King, the Mint, as it was commonly called, situated in the parish of St. George’s, Southwark, in the county of Surrey, was taken away, and the punishment of transportation, and even death, inflicted upon such who should persist in maintaining there pretended privileges.

Yet so far did the Government extend its mercy, as to suffer all those who at the time of passing the Act were actually shelterers in the Mint (provided that they made a just discovery of their effects) to be discharged from any imprisonment of their persons for any debts contracted before that time. By this Act of Parliament, the privilege of the Mint was totally taken away and destroyed.

The persons who had so many years supported themselves therein were dissipated and dispersed. But many of them got again into debt, and associating themselves with other persons in the same condition, with unparalleled impudence they attempted to set up (towards Wapping) a new privileged jurisdiction under the title of the Seven Cities of Refuge. In this attempt they were much furthered and directed by one Major Santloe, formerly a Justice of Peace, but being turned out of commission, he came first a shelterer here, and afterwards a prisoner in the Fleet. These people made an addition to these laws which had formerly been established in such illegal sanctuaries, for they provided large books in which they entered the names of persons who entered into their association, swearing to defend one another against all bailiffs and such like. In consequence of which, they very often rescued prisoners out of custody, or even entered the houses of officers for that purposes. Amongst the number of these unhappy people, who by protecting themselves against the lesser judgments of the Law involved themselves in greater difficulties, and at last drew on the greatest and most heavy sentence which it could pronounce, was him we now speak of.

Charles Towers was a person whose circumstances had been bad for many years, and in order to retrieve them he had turned gamester. For a guinea or two, it seems, he engaged for the payment of a very considerable debt for a friend, who not paying it at his time, Towers was obliged to fly for shelter into the Old Mint, then in being. He went into the New, which was just then setting up, and where the Shelterers took upon them to act more licentiously and with greater outrages towards officers of Justice than the people in any other places had done. Particularly they erected a tribunal on which a person chosen for that purpose sat as a judge with great state and solemnity. When any bailiff had attempted to arrest persons within the limits which they assumed for their jurisdiction, he was seized immediately by a mob of their own people, and hurried before the judge of their own choosing. There a sort of charge or indictment was preferred against him, for attempting to disturb the peace of the Shelterers within the jurisdiction of the Seven Cities of Refuge. Then they examined certain witnesses to prove this, and thereupon pretending to convict such bailiff as a criminal, he was sentenced by their judge aforesaid to be whipped or otherwise punished as he thought fit, which was executed frequently in the most cruel and barbarous manner, by dragging him through ditches and other nasty places, tearing his clothes off his back, and even endangering his life.

One West, who had got amongst them, being arrested by John Errington, who carried him to his house by Wapping Wall, the Shelterers in the New Mint no sooner heard thereof, but assembling on a Sunday morning in a great number, with guns, swords, staves, and other offensive weapons, they went to the house of the said John Errington, and there terrifying and affrighting the persons in the house rescued John West, pursuant, as they said, to their oaths, he being registered as a protected person in their books of the Seven Cities of Refuge. In this expedition Charles Towers was very forward, being dressed with only a blue pea-jacket, without hat, wig or shirt, with a large stick like a quarter-staff in his hand, his face and breast being so blackened that it appeared to be done with soot and grease, contrary to the Statute made against those called The Waltham Blacks, and done after the first day of June, 1723, when that Statute took place.

Upon an indictment for this, the fact being very fully and dearly proved, notwithstanding his defence, which was that he was no more disguised than his necessity obliged him to be, not having wherewith to provide himself clothes, and his face perhaps dirty and daubed with mud, the jury found him guilty, and he thereupon received sentence of death.

Before the execution of that sentence, he insisted strenuously on his innocence as to the point on which he was found guilty and condemned, viz., having his face blacked and disguised within the intent and meaning of the Statute, but he readily acknowledged that he had been often present and assisted at such mock courts of justice as were held in the New Mint, though he absolutely denied sitting as judge when one Mr. Westwood, a bailiff, was most abominably abused by an order of that pretended court. He seemed fully sensible of the ills and injuries he had committed by being concerned amongst such people, but often said that he thought the bailiffs had sufficiently revenged themselves by the cruel treatment they had used the riotous persons with, when they fell within their power, particularly since they hacked and chopped a carpenter’s right arm in such a manner that it was obliged to be cut off; had abused others in so terrible a degree that they were not able to work, or do anything for their living. He himself had received several large cuts over the head, which though received six weeks before, yet were in a very bad condition at the time of his death.

As to disguises, he constantly averred they were never practised in the New Mint. He owned they had had some masquerades amongst them, to which himself amongst others had gone in the dress of a miller, and his face all covered with white, but as to any blacking or other means to prevent his face being known when he rescued West he had none, but on the contrary was in his usual habit as all the rest were that accompanied him. He framed as well as he could a petition for mercy, setting forth the circumstances of the thing, and the hardship he conceived it to be to suffer upon the bare construction of an Act of Parliament. He set forth likewise, the miserable condition of his wife and two children already, she being also big of a third. This petition she presented to his Majesty at the Council Chamber door, but the necessity there was of preventing such combinations for obstructing justice, rendered it of no effect. Upon her return, and Towers being acquainted with the result, he said he was contented, that he went willingly into a land of quiet from a world so troublesome and so tormenting as this had been to him. Then he kneeled down and prayed with great fervency and devotion, after which he appeared very composed and showed no rage against the prosecutor and witnesses who had brought on his death, as is too often the case with men in his miserable condition.

On the day appointed for his execution, he was carried in a cart to a gallows whereon he was to suffer in Wapping, the crowd, as is not common on such occasions, lamenting him, and pouring down showers of tears, he himself behaving with great calmness and intrepidity. After prayers had been said, he stood up in the cart, and turning towards the people, professed his innocence in being in a disguise at the time of rescuing Mr. West, and with the strongest asserverations said that it was Captain Buckland and not himself who sat as judge upon Mr. Jones the bailiff, though, as he complained, he had been ill-used while he remained a prisoner upon that score. To this he added that for the robberies and thefts with which he was charged, they were falsities, as he was a dying man. Money indeed, be said, might be shaken out of the breeches pocket of the bailiff when he was ditched, but that whether it was or was not so, he was no judge, for he never saw any of it. That as to any design of breaking open Sir Isaac Tilliard’s house, he was innocent of that also. In fine, he owned that the judgment of God was exceeding just for the many offences he committed, but that the sentence of the Law was too severe, because, as he understood it, he had done nothing culpable within the intent of the Statute on which he died. After this, he inveighed for some time against bailiffs, and then crying with vehemency to God to receive his spirit, he gave up the ghost on the 4th of January, 1724-5.

However the death of Towers might prevent people committing such acts as breaking open the houses of bailiffs, and setting prisoners at liberty, yet it did not quite stifle or destroy those attempts which necessitous people made for screening themselves from public justice, insomuch that the Government were obliged at last to cause a Bill to be brought into Parliament for the preventing such attempts for the future, whereupon in the 11th year of the late King, it passed into a law to this effect:

That if any number of persons not less than three, associate themselves together in the hamlet of Wapping, Stepney, or in any other place within the bills of mortality, in order to shelter themselves from their debts, after complaint made thereof by presentment of a grand jury, and should obstruct any officer legally empowered and authorised in the execution of any writ or warrant against any person whatsoever, and in such obstructing or hindering should hurt, wound or injure any person; then any offender convicted of such offence, should suffer as a felon and be transported for seven years in like manner as other persons are so convicted. And it is further enacted by the same law that upon application made to the judge of any Court, out of which the writs therein mentioned are issued, the aforesaid judge, if he see proper, may grant a warrant directly to the sheriff, or other person proper to raise the posse comitatus, where there is any probability of resistance. And if in the execution of such warrant any disturbance should happen, and a rescue be made, then the persons assisting in such rescue, or who harbour or conceal the persons so rescued, shall be transported for seven years in like manner as if convicted of felony, but all indictments upon this statute are to be commenced within six months after the fact committed.

The Law against Wapping Mint

Another law, from 1724, the last made against the sanctuaries. Two years after the supression of Southwark Mint, similar measures were taken against those of its inhabitants that had crossed the Thames and claimed sanctuary at Wapping, where there once had been a Royal Mint. It was thus claiming exemption from rule by the City of London by appealing to secular rights rather than religious.

The Wapping Mint appears to be better documented than the other priviledged places; there are more cases relating to it in the Old Bailey Online database than the others, and there seems to be some pamphlet literature around it as well. These documents will appear here in due course.

Anno 11 George I cap. 22: An act to prevent violences and outrages being committed by any persons under pretence of sheltering themselves from debt, or any process of law, within the hamlet of Wapping-Stepney or elsewhere within the weekly bills of mortality.

Whereas it is notorious, that many evil-disposed and wicked persons have, in defiance of the known laws of the realm, and to the great dishonour thereof, unlawfully assembled and associated themselves in the hamlet of Wapping-Stepney, and places adjacent in the county of Middlesex, under pretence of sheltering themselves for debt, and have committed great violences and outrages upon many of his Majesty’s good subjects, and by force protected themselves and their wicked accomplices, against law and justice: and whereas it is absolutely necessary that provision should be made for effectually preventing such violences and outrages for the future, and for bringing all offenders in the premisses to more speedy and exemplary justice: may it please your most excellent Majesty, that it may be enacted; and be it enacted by the King’s most excellent Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the lords spiritual and temporal and commons, in this present parliament assembled, and by the authority of the same,That if any number of persons, not less than three, shall, after the first day of June one thousand seven hundred and twenty five, within the said hamlet of Wapping-Stepney, or any other place within the limits of the weekly bills of mortality of the cities of London or Westminster, wherein persons shall unlawfully assemble and associate for the sheltering themselves from their debts, of which complaint shall have been made by a presentment of the grand jury at a general or quarter-sessions of the proper county, knowingly and wilfully obstruct and oppose any person or persons serving, or endeavouring or attempting to serve or execute any writ or any rule or order of any court of law or equity, or other legal process whatsoever, and shall, in making such obstruction or opposition, insult or abuse any person or persons serving or executing any such writ, rule, order or process, or for having so done, whereby any such person or persons shall receive any bodily hurt, every person so knowingly and wilfully offending in the premisses, being therefore lawfully convicted, shall be adjudged guilty of felony, and shall be transported for seven years to some or one of his Majesty’s colonies or plantations in America, by such ways, means and methods, and in such manner, and for such time, and under such pains and penalties, as felons in other cases are by law to be transported.

II. And be it enacted by the authority aforesaid, That after the said first day of June one thousand seven hundred and twenty five, upon any complaint or complaints at any time or times to be made to a judge of any court, out of which the writs or process herein after mentioned shall issue, of such obstruction and opposition within the said hamlet, or elsewhere within the said bills of mortality, wherein persons shall unlawfully assemble and associate for the sheltering themselves from their debts, of which complaint shall have been made by a presentment of the grand jury at a general or quarter sessions of the proper county, by any person or persons who hath or have or shall have any debt or debts, sum or sums of money due or owing to him, her or them from any person or persons now being, or which shall hereafter be sheltered or reside within the said hamlet of Wapping-Stepney, and places adjacent, or elsewhere within the said bills of mortality, wherein persons shall unlawfully assemble and associate for the sheltering themselves from their debts, of which complaint shall have been made by a presentment of the grand jury at a general or quarter sessions of the proper county, such creditor or creditors having any legal writ or process taken out for prosecuting, recovering or levying any such debt or debts, sum or sums of money, and making oath before such judge, that a debt or debts, exceeding fifty pounds, is or are justly due to him, her or them from the person or persons against whom such complaint shall be made, and that such creditor or creditors verily believe, that such person or persons do then reside, and is or are sheltered, within such place or places as shall in such oath be particularly mentioned, it shall and may be lawful to and for such judge, and he is hereby authorized and impowered, in all and every such case and cases (if he in his discretion shall find it to be requisite) to issue his order from time to time to the sheriff of the county of Middlesex, or to the sheriff of any other county into which the said bills of mortality do extend for the time being, thereby strictly enjoining and respectively requiring him or them, his or their respective deputy or deputies, officer or officers, under such penalty as by this act is prescribed for non-performance of his or their duty therein, to raise and take the posse comitatus and enter the said hamlet of Wapping-Stepney, and places adjacent, or anywhere else within the said weekly bills of mortality, as shall be mentioned in the said oath, and to arrest, and in case of resistance or refusal, to open or break open any door or doors in the day-time, to arrest such person or persons upon any mesne process or other process, extent or execution, and to seize the goods of any such person or persons upon on execution or extent; and if any such sheriff or sheriffs, or any his or their deputy or deputies, officer or officers, or any of them, shall wilfully neglect or refuse, upon such order, to use his or their best endeavours for the executing of such process, execution or extent, he or they so neglecting or refusing to execute such process, execution or extent, shall forfeit to the plantiff or plaintiffs the sum of two hundred pounds, to be recovered by action of debt or of the case, bill, plaint or information, in which no essoin, protection, wager of law, or more than one imparlance shall be allowed: and if any person or persons shall knowingly and wilfully resist or oppose any officer or officers of justice, or any such person or persons who shall be aiding or assisting to such officer or officers, int he execution of any writ, or of any legal process, execution or extent, within the said hamlet of Wapping-Stepney, and places adjacent, or elsewhere within the said bills of mortality, wherein persons shall unlawfully assemble and associate for the sheltering of themselves from their debts, of which complaint shall have been made by a presentment of the grand jury at a general or quarter sessions of the proper county, or shall make rescous of any prisoner taken upon such process, execution or extent within the place aforesaid, or shall there knowingly harbour or conceal any prisoner so taken, or any person or persons who rescued any such prisoner, or shall be in any ways contriving, or knowingly and willingly abetting, aiding or assisting in resisting any such officer or officers, or in rescuing any such prisoner or prisoners taken as aforesaid, all and every person or persons so offending, being thereof lawfully convicted upon any indictment or information to be brought or filed within six months after the offence committed, shall be adjudged guilty of felony, and shall be transported for seven years to some or one of his Majesty’s colonies or plantations in America, by such ways, means and methods, and in such manner, and for such time, and under such pains and penalties, as felons in other cases are by law to be transported.

III. And whereas divers persons, who have taken shelter within the said hamlet of Wapping-Stepney since the twenty ninth day of September one thousand seven hundred and twenty three, have rented houses and land to the yearly value of ten pounds per annum or upwards therein, but by reason of their poverty were never rated nor paid to the relief of the poor of the said parish, nor served any parochial offices there; be it therefore declared and enacted by the authority aforesaid, That no such person or persons so taking shelter, or their families, shall be judged to have gained any legal settlement in the said parish by virtue of having rented any houses or lands of such value, unless such person or persons have been rated and have paid to the relief of the poor of the said parish, or have served parochial offices there; any law or statute to the contrary in any wise notwithstanding.

Taken from Danby Pickering, The Statutes at Large, vol. XV, 1765. Hand transcribed by John Levin. This text is in the public domain and may be reproduced freely.

The Law against Southwark Mint

One of the most important questions about the 1697 law was whether it was successful in closing down the sanctuaries. This law from 1722 shows that at least in the case of The Mint in Southwark it was not. It’s a very convoluted, repetitive text, presumably to avoid leaving any loop-holes, leeway or hope to the residents of the sanctuary. I will write a longer analysis in due course – to spare the reader this tortuous text as much as anything else! – but here’s a few preliminary comments:

It starts by acknowledging the failure of the previous law, that “hath not proved effectual within the said place, commonly called Suffolk-place or the Mint” and that the area was “notorious” for the “dangerous riots and tumults [that] have been frequently occasioned, and great mischiefs done by many inhabitants in the said place …. unlawfully assembling themselves, and with force opposing the execution of legal process.”

It is directed against debtors, and can be set in process by creditors, “by any person or persons, who have or hath, or shall have any debt or debts, sum or sums of money, due or owing to him, her or them, from any person or persons now being, or which hereafter shall be or reside within the said place or places ….”

It extensively criminalises resistance to the King’s law, anyone who “shall be any ways contriving, or knowingly and willingly abetting, aiding or assisting, in resisting any such officer or officers, or in rescuing any such prisoner or prisoners taken as aforesaid, or shall presume to exercise any unlawful jurisdiction, or make or execute, or join in the making or executing any pretended rule, order or ordinance, for supporting any pretended privilege …. or any the limits, or pretended limits thereof, contrary to law, or for opposing or hindering the due execution of any legal process, or any lawful warrant, or any rule, order or decree of any court of law or equity ….”

It specifically mentions anonymity: “any person or persons whatsoever, wearing any vizard, mask, or disguised habit, or having his or their face or faces, or body or bodies disguised.” Here is a connection to the ‘Black Act’ (Anno 9 George I cap 28) against the organized poachers of Windsor and Richmond parks that E.P. Thompson wrote of in Whigs and Hunters. He wrote: “We have in the case of the ‘Mint’ some kind of metropolitan parallel of the forest matrix of Blacking, with debtors as foresters and baliffs as keepers”‘ and over three pages (pp.247-9) gives the only account of the organization of the Minters I have yet found. Again – and I apologise to the reader – this is something I will return to later.

Finally, it was a harsh law; offenders were to “be transported to some or one of his Majesty’s colonies or plantations in America, by such ways, means and methods, and in such manner, and for such time, and under such pains and penalties, as felons in other cases are by law to be transported.”

More anon, but for now, here’s the law:

Anno 9 George I cap 28: An act for more effectual execution of justice in a pretended privileged place in the parish of Saint George in the county of Surrey, commonly called the Mint; and for bringing to speedy and exemplary justice such offenders as are therein mentioned; and for giving relief to such persons as are proper objects of charity and compassion there.

Whereas it is notorious, that many evil-disposed and wicked persons have, in defiance of the known laws of the realm, and to the great dishonour thereof, unlawfully assembled and associated themselves in and about a certain place in the parish of Saint George in the county of Surrey commonly called or known by the name of Suffolk-place, or the Mint, and have assumed to themselves (by unlawful combinations and confederacies) pretended privileges, altogether scandalous and unwarrantable, and have committed great frauds and abuses upon many of his Majesty’s good subjects, and by force and violence protected themselves, and their wicked accomplices, against law and justice: and whereas it is evident, that an act made in the eighth and ninth years of the reign of his late majesty King William the Third, intituled, An act for the more effectual relief of creditors in cases of escapes, and for preventing abuses in prisons and pretended privileged places, hath not proved effectual within the said place, commonly called Suffolk-place or the Mint; and it is absolutely necessary, that further provision should be made for more effectually abolishing the pretended privileges aforesaid, and for bringing all offenders in the premisses to more speedy and exemplary justice: may it please your most excellent Majesty, that it may be enacted; and be it enacted by the King’s most excellent Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the lords spiritual and temporal and commons, in this present parliament assembled, and by the authority of the same, That if any person or person shall, after the tenth day of October one thousand seven hundred and twenty three, within the said place, commonly called Suffolk-place or the Mint, in the parish of Saint George in the county of Surrey, or within any the limits, or pretended limits thereof, knowingly and wilfully obstruct or oppose any person or persons, serving, or endeavouring to serve or execute any writ, or any rule or order of any court of law or equity, or other legal process whatsoever, or any escape-warrant or warrants of any justice or justices of the peace, or shall assault or abuse any person or persons serving or executing any such writ, rule, order, process or warrant, or for having so done, whereby any such person or persons shall receive any damage or bodily hurt, every person so knowingly and willingly offending in the premisses, being thereof lawfully convicted, shall be adjudged guilty of felony, and shall be transported to some or one of his Majesty’s colonies or plantations in America, by such ways, means and methods, and in such manner, and for such time, and under such pains and penalties, as felons in other cases are by law to be transported.

II. And be it enacted by the authority aforesaid, That after the tenth day of October one thousand seven hundred and twenty three, upon any complaint or complaints at any time or times to be made to any three or more justices of the peace of the county of Surrey, by any person or persons, who have or hath, or shall have any debt or debts, sum or sums of money, due or owing to him, her or them, from any person or persons now being, or which hereafter shall be or reside within the said place or places, commonly called Suffolk-place or the Mint, or within any the limits, or pretended limits thereof (such creditor having any legal writ or process taken out for prosecuting recovery, or levying any such debt or debts, sum or sums of money, and making oath before such justices of the peace, or any of them, that a debt or debts, exceeding fifty pounds at the least, is justly due to him, her or them, from the person or persons against whom such complaint shall be made, and that such creditor verily believes, that such person or persons doth then reside or remain within such a place as aforesaid) it shall and may be lawful to and for the said justices of the peace, or any three or more of them, and they are hereby authorized and empowered, in all and every such case and cases (if they in their discretions shall find it to be requisite) to issue their warrant or order, from time to time, to the sheriff of the county of Surrey, or to the bailiff of the liberty of the borough of Southwark, for the time being, thereby strictly enjoining and requiring him or them, his or their respective deputy or deputies, officer or officers (under such penalty, as by this act is prescribed for non-performance of his or their duty therein) to raise and take the posse comitatus, or such other power or force, as to the said justices, or any three or more of them, shall seem requisite, and enter the said pretended privileged place, called Suffolk-place, or the Mint, and the limits, or pretended limits thereof, and every or any part thereof, and to arrest, and in the case of reluctance or refusal, to open or break open any door or doors to arrest such person or persons, upon any mesne process or other process, extent or execution, and to seize the goods of any such person or persons, upon any execution or extent; and if any such sherrif or chief bailiff, or any his or their deputy or deputies, officer or officers, or any of them, shall neglect or refuse, upon such warrant or order, with such force, to use his or their best endeavours for the executing of such process, execution or extent, he or they so neglecting or refusing to execute such process, execution or extent, shall forfeit to the plantiff or plantiffs the sum of two hundred pounds, to be recovered by action of debt, or of the case, bill, plaint or information, in which no essoin, protection, wager of law, or more than one imparlance shall be allowed; and if any person or persons shall resist or oppose any officer or officers of justice, or any person or persons, who shall be aiding or assisting to such officer or officers in the execution of any writ, or any escape warrant, or any warrant or warrants of any justice or justices of the peace, or of any legal process, execution or extent, within the said place called Suffolk-place, or the Mint, or within any the limits, or pretended limits thereof, or shall make rescous of any prisoner taken upon any such write, process, execution or extent, within the place or limits aforesaid, or shall there knowingly harbour or conceal any prisoner so taken, or any person or persons, who rescued any such prisoner, or shall be any ways contriving, or knowingly and willingly abetting, aiding or assisting, in resisting any such officer or officers, or in rescuing any such prisoner or prisoners taken as aforesaid, or shall presume to exercise any unlawful jurisdiction, or make or execute, or join in the making or executing any pretended rule, order or ordinance, for supporting any pretended privilege within the said place called Suffolk-place, or the Mint, or any the limits, or pretended limits thereof, contrary to law, or for opposing or hindering the due execution of any legal process, or any lawful warrant, or any rule, order or decree of any court of law or equity, all and every person and persons so offending, being thereof lawfully convicted upon any indictment or information to be brought or filed within six months after the offence committed, shall be adjudged guilty of felony, and shall be transported to some or one of his Majesty’s colonies or plantations in America, by such ways, means and methods, and in such manner, and for such time, and under such pains and penalties, as felons in other cases are by law to be transported.

III. And for more effectually preventing for the future the great and enormous mischiefs and abuses, which have been riotously committed and done within the said place called Suffolk-place or the Mint, or within any the limits, or pretended limits thereof, by wicked persons in vizards, masks, or disguised habits, or having their faces or bodies disguised; be it enacted by the authority aforesaid, That if after the tenth day of October one thousand seven hundred and twenty three, any person or persons whatsoever, wearing any vizard, mask, or disguised habit, or having his or their face or faces, or body or bodies disguised, shall within the said place called Suffolk-place or the Mint, or within any the limits, or pretended limits thereof, join in, or aid or abet any riot or tumult there, or shall, in any vizard, mask, or other disguise whatsoever, knowingly and willingly there oppose the execution of any legal process, order or warrant, or assault or abuse any person or persons serving or executing any such process, order or warrant, or for having so done, all and every such person or persons, being lawfully convicted of any such offence, shall be adjudged guilty of felony, and shall forfeit and suffer as in cases of felony, without benefit of clergy; and all persons aiding, assisting or abetting, or knowingly harbouring or concealing any such disguised person or persons, being thereof convicted, shall be adjudged guilty of felony, and shall be transported to some or one of his Majesty’s colonies or plantations in America, by such ways, means and methods, and in such manner, and for such time, and under such pains and penalties, as felons in other cases are by law to be transported.

IV. And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That from and after the tenth day of October one thousand seven hundred and twenty three,all and every person and persons who shall apprehend and take any person or persons, guilt of any of the offences before mentioned, and prosecute such person or persons until he or they be convicted, shall have and receive, for every such offender so convicted, the sum of forty pounds, to be paid by the sheriff of the county of Surrey, without any deduction or fee for the same, within one month after such conviction and demand thereof made, by tendering a certificate to the said sheriff, under the hand or hands of the judge or justices before whom such offender or offenders shall be convicted, certifying the conviction of such offender or offenders, and that he or they were taken by the person or persons claiming the said reward; and in case any dispute shall arise between the persons so apprehending any of the said offenders, touching their right and title to the said reward, that then the said judge or justices, so respectively certifying as aforesaid, shall in and by his and their said certificate, direct and appoint the said reward to and amongst the parties claiming the same, in such shares and proportions, as to the said judge or justices shall seem just and reasonable; and if it shall happen any such sheriff shall die or be removed after such conviction and demand made of the said reward (the same not being paid as aforesaid) that then the next succeeding sheriff of the said county of Surrey shall pay the same, within one month after demand, and certificate brought as aforesaid; and if default of payment of the said sum or sums of money shall happen to be made by any such sheriff, the sheriff making default shall forfeit to the person and persons, to whom such money shall be due as aforesaid, double the sum or sums of money such sherrif ought to have paid, to be recovered with double costs of suit by the person or persons aforesaid, or his or their executors or administrators, in any of his Majesty’s courts of record at Westminster, by action of debt, bill, plaint or information, wherein no essoin, privilege, protection or wager of law shall be allowed, nor more than one imparlance.

V. And be it further enacted, That in case any person or persons shall happen to be killed by any such offender or offenders, endeavouring to apprehend, or in making pursuit after him or them, that then the executors or administrators, or such person or persons, to whom the right of administration of the personal estate of each person so killed shall belong (upon certificate delivered under the hands and seals of the judge or justices of assize for the county where the fact was done, or the two next justices of the peace, of such person or persons being so killed, which certificate the said judge or justices, upon sufficient proof before him or them made, is and are hereby required immediately to give without fee or reward) shall receive the sum of forty pounds from the sheriff of the county where the said act was done and committed, and upon failure of payment thereof by the said sheriff, such sheriff shall forfeit double the said sum of forty pounds, to be recovered against him, with double costs of suit, in manner aforesaid.

VI. And it is hereby further enacted, That all sheriffs, their executors or administrators, upon producing such respective certificates, and the receipts for the money by them paid in pursuance of this act, shall be allowed, and are hereby impowered to deduct, upon their accounting with his Majesty, his heirs and successors, all monies (other than the forfeited sum and sums of money, and costs of suit) which they shall disburse as aforesaid, without any fee or reward whatsoever.

VII. Provided always, That if upon the account of any sheriff there shall not be sufficient in the hands of such sheriff to reimburse him such monies paid by him by virtue of this act, that then the sheriff having so paid the said monies, shall have the same repaid by the comissioners of his Majesty’s treasury or the lord high treasurer for the time being, out of the revenue of the crown, or by record of surplusage upon any other sheriff indebted to his Majesty, upon certificate from the clerk of the pipe to that effect.

VIII. And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That in case any such apprehender and prosecutor is guilty of any of the offences aforesaid, every such apprehender and prosecutor, not being in prison for any the said offences, and convicting two or more persons of any the offences aforesaid, shall not only have the aforesaid reward of forty pounds, but shall also have, and is hereby entitled to his Majesty’s most gracious pardon, for any of the said offences committed at any time or times before discovery is made of such other two or more persons so to be convicted as aforesaid.

IX. And whereas it is notorious, that dangerous riots and tumults have been frequently occasioned, and great mischiefs done by many inhabitants in the said place, commonly called Suffolk-place or the Mint, unlawfully assembling themselves, and with force opposing the execution of legal process, so that it hath been necessary, for suppressing such riots and tumults, and to enforce due execution of the law, to raise the posse comitatus, or some other extraordinary power: be it therefore enacted by the authority aforesaid, That the necessary charge of raising the posse comitatus, or such other power as aforesaid, for enforcing the due execution of this act, or the said former act, or for better effecting the purposes thereof, shall be paid by the said sherrif, and allowed in his accounts, or be repaid by the commissioners of his Majesty’s treasury, or the lord high treasurer for the time being, out of the revenue of the crown, or by record of surplusage upon any other sheriff in debt upon his account, upon certificate from the clerk of the pipe to that effect.

X. Provided always, That nothing in this act contained, shall be construed to extend to repeal or make void the said recited act of the eighth and ninth years of the reign of his said late majesty king William the third, or any other law in force, against pretended privileged places, or for suppressing riots or tumults, but that the same shall, to all intents and purposes, be in full force and effect, as if this act had never been made, except in such cases touching which other provision is made by this act.

XI. And forasmuch as there may be inhabiting or residing in the said place called Suffolk-place or the Mint, or within the limits thereof, some persons, who by misfortunes in trade, or other accidents or calamities, have been reduced to such necessities, as have obliged them to take shelter or protection there; and it may be reasonable and convenient to give some relief to such objects of charity and compassion, upon their faithful discovering upon oath, and delivering up, and assigning all their estates and effects whatsoever, for the benefit of their creditors, as is herein after directed; be it therefore enacted, &c.

Inhabitants of the Mint assigning over their effects, &c. are to be discharged from arrests, &c. Notice must be given thirty days before the sessions to the creditors of the party petitioning to be discharged. Clerk of the peace to give a duplicate of discharge, on pain of 5l. Inhabitants &c. perjuring themselves, deemed felons. Persons discharged are not to be imprisoned for debts due before the 11th of February 1722. General issue pleadable. Others than the persons discharged by this act are answerable as before. No discharge is good, if not obtained before 10 July 1724. Bankrupts not intitled to the benefit of this act. Discharges fraudulently obtained, void. Petitioner, &c. to leave with the justices a list of his creditors, &c. persons owing more than 50l. &c. not to be discharged. No shelterer to gain a settlement without paying to the poor, or serving an office. EXP>

Taken from Danby Pickering, The Statutes at Large, vol. XV, 1765. Hand transcribed by John Levin. This text is in the public domain and may be reproduced freely.

The 1697 act against ‘pretended privileged places’

Or, to give it its full name, An Act for the more effectual relief of creditors in cases of escapes, and for preventing abuses in prisons, and pretended privileged places. (Anno 8 & 9 William III cap 27)

This very important law requires lengthy analysis, covering as it does prisons, sanctuaries, escapes, and the debtors involved in all three. Suffice for the moment to point out that the act signaled the reconquering of the lawless areas by the newly-minted Williamite state, reform of the houses of detention and enforcement of commercial and financial contracts. Here, I shall take a preliminary look at just one part, not even a whole sentence, but the list of ‘pretended privileged places’ in §15:

…. the White Friers, Savoy, Salisbury Court, Ram Alley, Mitre Court, Fuller’s Rents, Baldwin’s Gardens, Montague Close, or the Minories, Mint, Clink, or Deadman’s Place, ….

Firstly, to clear up some confusion: there are ten places listed, two of which have nicknames (Montague Close is also known as the Minories, Clink as Deadman’s Place), and Fuller’s Rents is a different place to Fulwoods Rents. These errors may stem from the 1911 Encyclopaedia, available online and used for a base by wikipedia by virtue of being out of copyright.

This does not list all the anomalous areas in London, but only those that had gone ‘wild’, that is, were being actively used to escape the law. (This does not preclude other areas being refuges of some sort.) Of the ten places ennumerated, three are transpontine, being in close proximity in Southwark: Montague Close, the Mint and the Clink. One, The Savoy, is nominally in the City of Westminster, but under the jurisdiction of the Palatinate of Lancaster. Baldwin’s Gardens was in the Parish of St Andrew, Holborn, outside the City of London.

The remaining five are all to be found in Farringdon Ward Without, outside the walls of the City of London, but part of it administratively. Whitefriars is, of course, Alsatia proper; Fuller’s Rents are to the west, in the Temple, between Fleet Street and Kings Bench Walk; Mitre Court and Ram Alley also in the Temple, Salisbury Court just a little way along to the east, before one reaches the Bridewell. The precise locations of these areas have still to be determined – modern street names are a very poor guide, and there have been numerous Mitre Places in London.

The wild sanctuaries then are all outside the City walls, even though there were a number of sanctuaries within them prior to the reformation (Saint Martin Le Grand for example). Around Whitefriars and the South Bank are where they are concentrated, and the Savoy is also close to the river. Baldwin’s Gardens looks quite anomalous geographically.

In following posts, I will discuss each of these places individually, and hopefully produce a map showing as clearly as possible their locations and extent.

I will put the full text of this law online eventually; until then, it can be read at British History Online, alas, without punctuation. This may also explain the taking of nicknames as separate places. Such statutes aren’t easy to read at the best of times, but really!