England History. The Luddites and the Combination Acts
Source: University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth;
Statutes at Large, (39 and 40 Geo. III, c. 106), LIII, pp. 847-862; in A. Aspinall and E. Anthony Smith, eds., English Historical Documents, XI, 1783-1832, New York: Oxford University Press, 1959,.pp. 749-52. During the 18th century a succession of laws prohibited workers from organizing themselves for the purpose of collective bargaining with their employers. In 1799 and 1800, under the fear of Jacobinism, the Combination Acts further limited the ability of workers to organize. The Act of 1800 was not repealed until 1824.
An Act to repeal an Act, passed in the last Session of Parliament, intitulated, “An Act to prevent Unlawful Combinations of Workmen”; and to substitute other provisions in lieu thereof.
I. Whereas it is expedient to explain and amend an Act [39 Geo. III, c. 81]...to prevent unlawful combinations of workmen ... be it enacted ... that from ... the passing of this Act, the said Act shall be repealed; and that all contracts, covenants and agreements whatsoever ... at any time ... heretofore made ... between any journeymen manufacturers or other persons ... for obtaining an advance of wages of them or any of them, or any other journeymen manufacturers or workmen, or other persons in any manufacture, trade or business, or for lessening or altering their or any of their usual hours or nine of working, or for decreasing the quantity of work (save and except any contract made or to be made between any master and his journeyman or manufacturer, for or on account of the work or service of such journeyman or manufacturer with whom such contract may be made), or for preventing or hindering any person or persons from employing whomsoever he, she, or they shall think proper to employ ... or for controlling or anyway affecting any person or persons carrying on any manufacture, trade or business, in the conduct or management thereof, shall be ... illegal, null and void....
II.... No journeyman, workman or other person shall at any time after the passing of this Act make or enter into, or be concerned in the making of or entering into any such contract, covenant or agreement, in writing or not in writing ... and every ... workman ... who, after the passing of this Act, shall be guilty of any of the said offences, being thereof lawfully convicted, upon his own confession, or the oath or oaths of one or more credible witness or witnesses, before any two justices of the Peace ... within three calendar months next after the offence shall have been committed, shall, by order of such justices, be committed to and confined in the common gaol, within his or their jurisdiction, for any time not exceeding 3 calendar months, or at the discretion of such justices shall be committed to some House of Correction within the same jurisdiction, there to remain and to be kept to hard labour for any time not exceeding 2 calendar months.
III.... Every ... workman ... who shall at any time after the passing of this Act enter into any combination to obtain an advance of wages, or to lessen or alter the hours or duration of the time of working, or to decrease the quantity of work, or for any other purpose contrary to this Act, or who shall, by giving money, or by persuasion, solicitation or intimidation, or any other means, wilfully and maliciously endeavour to prevent any unhired or unemployed journeyman or workman, or other person, in any manufacture, trade or business, or any other person wanting employment in such manufacture, trade or business, from hiring himself to any manufacturer or tradesman, or person conducting any manufacture, trade or business, or who shall, for the purpose of obtaining an advance of wages, or for any other purpose contrary to the provisions of this Act, wilfully and maliciously decoy, persuade, solicit, intimidate, influence or prevail, or attempt or endeavour to prevail, on any journeyman or workman, or other person hired or employed, or to be hired or employed in any such manufacture, trade or business, to quit or leave his work, service or employment, or who shall wilfully and maliciously hinder or prevent any manufacturer or tradesman, or other person, from employing in his or her manufacture, trade or business, such journeymen, workmen and other persons as he or she shall think proper, or who, being hired or employed, shall, without any just or reasonable cause, refuse to work with any other journeyman or workman employed or hired to work therein, and who shall be lawfully convicted of any of the said offences, upon his own confession, or the oath or oaths of one or more credible witness or witnesses, before any two justices of the Peace for the county ... .or place where such offence shall be committed, within 3 calendar months ... shall, by order of such justices, be committed to ... gaol for any time not exceeding 3 calendar months; or otherwise be committed to some House of Correction ... for any time not exceeding 2 calendar months.
IV. And for the more effectual suppression of all combinations amongst journeymen, workmen and other persons employed in any manufacture, trade or business, be it further enacted, that all and every persons and person whomsoever (whether employed in any such manufacture, trade or business, or not) who shall attend any meeting had or held for the purpose of making or entering into any contract, covenant or agreement, by this Act declared to be illegal, or of entering into, supporting, maintaining, continuing, or carrying on any combination for any purpose by this Act declared to be illegal, or who shall summons, give notice to, call upon, persuade, entice, solicit, or by intimidation, or any other means, endeavour to induce any journeyman, workman, or other person, employed in any manufacture, trade or business, to attend any such meeting, or who shall collect, demand, ask, or receive any sum of money from any such journeyman, workman, or other person, for any of the purposes aforesaid, or who shall persuade, entice, solicit, or by intimidation, or any other means, endeavour to induce any such journeyman, workman or other person to enter into or be concerned in any such combination, or who shall pay any sum of money, or make or enter into any subscription or contribution, for or towards the support or encouragement of any such illegal meeting or combination, and who shall be lawfully convicted of any of the said offences, upon his own confession, or the oath or oaths of one or more credible witness or witnesses, before any two justices of the Peace.... within 3 calendar months ... shall ... be committed to and confined in the common gaol ... for any time not exceeding 3 calendar months, or otherwise be committed to some House of Correction.......for any time not exceeding 2 calendar months.
V. [No person shall contribute for any expenses incurred for acting contrary to this Act, or towards the support of any person to induce him not to work, on penalty not exceeding £10, and any person collecting money for such purposes, shall forfeit, not exceeding £5. Offences shall be determined in a summary way before two justices, who, shall fix the penalty, and if not paid, shall cause it to be levied by distress, and if not to be had, shall commit the offender to the common gaol or House of Correction.]
VI. [Sums contributed as subscriptions towards any of the purposes prohibited by this Act to be forfeited.]
VII, VIII. [Concerning the recovery of such contribution money.]
IX. [Offenders may be compelled to give evidence and shall be indemnified from prosecution for any matter relative to their testimony.]
X, XI. [Justices may summon offenders and witnesses and may commit them for non-appearance or refusal to testify.]
XII. [Form of Convictions.]
XIII. [Convictions to be transmitted to the next General or Quarter Sessions to be filed, and if appeal be made the justices shall then proceed to hear it.]
XIV. [Act not to abridge powers now given by law to justices touching combinations of manufacturers, &c.]
XV. [Act not to empower manufacturers to employ workmen contrary to the provisions now in force for regulating the conduct of any particular manufacture, without licence from a justice, who may grant the same, whenever the ordinary course of the manufacture is obstructed.]
XVI. [No master in the trade in which any offence is charged to have been committed, shall act as a justice under this Act.]
XVII. [All contracts between masters or other persons, for reducing the wages of workmen or for altering the usual hours of working, or increasing the quantity of work, shall be void, and masters convicted thereof shall forfeit £20.]
XVIII. And whereas it will be a great convenience and advantage to masters and workmen engaged in manufactures, that a cheap and summary mode be established for settling all disputes that may arise between them respecting wages and work; be it further enacted ... that, from and after 1 August ... 1800, in all cases that shall or may arise within... England, where the masters and workmen cannot agree respecting the price or prices to be paid for work actually done in any manufacture, or any injury or damage done or alleged to have been done by the workmen to the work, or respecting any delay or supposed delay on the part of the workmen in finishing, the work, or the not finishing such work in a good and workman-like manner, or according to any contract; and in all cases of dispute or difference, touching any contract or agreement for work or wages between masters and workmen in any trade or manufacture, which cannot be otherwise mutually adjusted and settled by and between them, it shall and may be, and it is hereby declared to be lawful for such masters and workmen between whom such dispute or difference shall arise ... or either of them, to demand and have an arbitration or reference of such matter or matters in dispute; and each of them is hereby authorised and empowered forthwith to nominate and appoint an arbitrator ... to arbitrate and determine such matter or matters in dispute as aforesaid by writing, subscribed by him in the presence of and attested by one witness ... and to deliver the same personally to the other party ... and to require the other party to name an arbitrator in like manner within two days after such reference to arbitration shall have been so demanded; and such arbitrators so appointed ... are hereby authorised and required to ... examine upon oath the parties and their witnesses ... and forthwith to proceed to hear and determine the complaints of the parties, and the matter or matters in dispute between them; and the award to be made by such arbitrators within the time herein-after limited, shall in all cases be final and conclusive between the parties; but in case such arbitrators so appointed shall not agree to decide such matter or matters in dispute, so to be referred to them as aforesaid, and shall not make and sign their award within the space of three days after the signing of the submission to their award by both parties, that then it shall be lawful for the parties or either of them to require such arbitrators forthwith and without delay to go before and attend upon one of his Majesty’s justices of the Peace acting in and for the county ... or place where such dispute shall happen and be referred, and state to such justice the points in difference between them ...which points ... the said justice shall ... hear and determine, and for that purpose ... examine the parties and their witnesses upon oath, if he shall think fit....
XIX. [The parties may extend the time limited for making an award.]
XXII. [If either party shall not perform what is directed by the award, he may be committed.]
XXIII. [Any person convicted under this Act may appeal to the General or Quarter Sessions, whose decision shall be final.]