England History. The Luddites and the Combination Acts

Treasonable and Seditious Practices Act
18 December 1795.

Source: Reference Library of Political Documents.
First Published: Statutes at Large, Vol. XL.

An Act for the Safety and Preservation of His Majesty’s Person and Government against treasonable and seditious Practices and Attempts.

  1. We, your Majesty’s most dutiful and loyal Subjects, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons, of Great Britain, in this present Parliament assembled, duly considering the daring Outrages offered to your Majesty’s most Sacred Person, in your Passage to and from your Parliament at the Opening of this present Session, and also the continued Attempts of wicked and evil disposed Persons to disturb the Tranquillity of this your Majesty’s Kingdom, particularly by the Multitude of seditious Pamphlets and Speeches daily printed, published, and dispersed, with unremitting industry, and with a transcendent Boldness, in Contempt of your Majesty’s Royal Person and Dignity, and tending to the overthrow of the Laws, Government, and happy Constitution of these Realms, have judged, that it is become necessary to provide a further Remedy against all such treasonable and seditious Practices and Attempts: We, therefore, calling to Mind the good and wholesome Provisions which have at different Times been made by the Wisdom of Parliament for the averting such Dangers, and more especially for the Security and Preservation of the Persons of the Sovereigns of these Realms, do most humbly beseech your 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 Persons whatsoever, after the Day of the passing of this Act, during the natural Life of our most gracious Sovereign Lord the King, (whom Almighty God preserve and bless with a long and prosperous Reign,) and until the End of the next Session of Parliament after the Demise of the Crown, shall, within the Realm or without, compass, imagine, invent, devise, or intend Death or Destruction, or any bodily Harm tending to Death or Destruction, Maim or Wounding, Imprisonment or Restraint, of the Person of our same Sovereign Lord the King, his Heirs and Successors, or to deprive or depose him or them from the Style, Honour, or Kingly Name of the Imperial Crown of this Realm, or of any other of his Majesty’s Dominions or Countries; or to levy War against his Majesty, his Heirs or Successors, within his Realm, in order, by Force or Constraint, to compel him or them to change his or their Measures or Counsels, or in order to put any Force or Constraint upon, or to intimidate, or overawe, both Houses, or either House of Parliament; or to move or stir any Foreigner or Stranger with Force to invade this Realm, or any other of his Majesty’s Dominions or Countries, under the Obeisance of his Majesty, his Heirs or Successors; and such Compassings, Imaginations, Inventions, Devices, or Intentions, or any of them, shall express, utter, or declare, by publishing any Printing or Writing, or by any overt Act or Deed; being legally convicted thereof, upon the Oaths of two lawful and credible Witnesses, upon Trial, or otherwise convicted or attained by due Course of Law, then every such Person and Persons, so as aforesaid offending, shall be deemed, declared, and adjudged, to be a Traitor and Traitors, and shall suffer Pains of Death, and also lose and forfeit as in cases of High Treason.
  2. And be it further enacted by the Authority aforesaid, That if any Person or Persons within that part of Great Britain called England, at any Time from and after the Day of the passing of this Act, during three Years from the Day of passing this Act, and until the End of the then, next Session of Parliament, shall maliciously and advisedly, by Writing, Printing, Preaching, or other Speaking, express, publish, utter, or declare, any Words or Sentences to excite or stir up the People to hatred or Contempt of the Person of his Majesty, his Heirs or Successors, or the Government and Constitution of this Realm, as by Law established, then every such Person and Persons, being thereof legally convicted, shall be liable to such Punishment as may by Law be inflicted in cases of High Misdemeanours; and if any Person or Persons shall, after being so convicted, offend a second Time, and be thereupon convicted, before any Commission of Oyer and Terminer, or Gaol Delivery, or in his Majesty’s Court of King’s Bench, such Person or Persons may, on such second Conviction, be adjudged, at the Discretion of the Court, either to suffer such Punishment as may now by Law be inflicted in Cases of High Misdemeanours, or to be banished this Realm, or to be transported to such place, as shall be appointed by his Majesty for the Transportation of Offenders; which Banishment or Transportation shall be for such Term as the Court may appoint, not exceeding seven Years.
  3. Be it further enacted, That if any Offender or Offenders, who shall be so ordered by any such Court as aforesaid to be banished the Realm, or transported beyond the Seas, in the manner aforesaid, shall be afterwards at large within any part of the Kingdom of Great Britain, without some lawful Cause, before the Expiration of the Term for which such Offender or Offenders shall have been ordered to be banished or transported beyond the Seas as aforesaid, every such Offender being so at large as aforesaid, being thereof lawfully convicted, shall suffer Death, as in Cases of Felony without Benefit of Clergy ["Benefit of Clergy” was a privilege extended for the first conviction of felony, which exempted a convicted felon from the punishment of death, thus mitigating some of the severity of English criminal law]; and such Offender or Offenders may be tried, either before Justices of Assize, Oyer and Terminer, Great Sessions, or Gaol Delivery, for the County, City, Liberty, Borough, or Place, where such Offender or Offenders shall be apprehended and taken, or from whence he, she, or they, was or were ordered to be banished or transported; and the Clerk of Assize, Clerk of the Peace, or other Clerk or Officer of the Court, having Custody of the Records where such Orders of Banishment or Transportation shall be made, shall, at the Request of the Prosecutor, or any other Person on his Majesty’s behalf, make out and give a Certificate, in Writing signed by him, containing the Effect and Substance only (omitting the formal part) of every Indictment and Conviction of such Offender or Offenders, and of the Order for his, her, or their Banishment or Transportation, to the Justices of Assize, Oyer and Terminer, Great Sessions, or Gaol Delivery, where such Offender or Offenders shall be indicted (not taking for the same more than two Shillings and Sixpence), which Certificate shall be sufficient Proof of the Conviction and Order for Banishment or Transportation of such Offender or Offenders.
  4. Provided always, That No Person or Persons, by virtue of this present Act, shall for any Misdemeanor incur any Penalties hereinbefore mentioned, unless he, she, or they, be prosecuted within six Calendar Months next after the Offence committed, and the Prosecution brought to Trial or Judgment within the first Term, Sitting, Assizes, or Sessions which shall next ensue, in which, by the course of the Court in which such Prosecution shall be depending, or before which such Trial ought to be had, shall, on special Ground stated by Motion in open Court, think fit to enlarge the Time for the Trial thereof, or unless the Defendant shall be prosecuted to or towards an Outlawry; and that no Person shall, upon Trial, be convicted by virtue of this Act, for any Misdemeanor, but by the Oaths of two credible Witnesses.
  5. Provided always, and be it further enacted, That all and every Person or Persons that shall at any Time be accused, or indicted, or prosecuted, for any Offence made or declared to be Treason by this Act, shall be entitled to the Benefit of the Act of Parliament, made in the seventh Year of his late Majesty King William the Third, intituled, An Act for regulating of trials in Cases of treason and misprison of treason; and also to the provisions made by another Act of Parliament, passed in the seventh Year of her late Majesty Queen Anne, intituled, An Act for improving the union of the two Kingdoms.

Provided also, and be it enacted, That nothing in this Act contained shall extend, or be construed to extend, to prevent or affect any Prosecution by Information or Indictment at the Common Law, for any Offence within the Provisions of this Act, unless the Party shall have been first prosecuted under this Act.