1795: 36 Geo.3 c.8 : Seditious Assemblies Act

1795: 36 Geo.3 c.8: An Act for the more effectually preventing Seditious Meetings and Assemblies.

  1. Whereas Assemblies of divers Persons, collected for the Purpose or under the Pretext of deliberations, or other Addresses, to the King, or to both Houses, or either House of Parliament, have of late been made use of to serve the Ends of factious and seditious Persons, to the great Danger of the Public Peace, and may become the Means of producing Confusion and Calamities in the Nation: 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 no Meeting, of any Description of Persons, exceeding the Number of fifty Persons, (other than and except any Meeting of any County Riding, or Division called by the Lord Lieutenant, Custos Rotulorum [the Keeper of the Rolls of the County, an officer appointed by the common law for the maintenance of the public peace. The highest civil officer of a County and principal Justice of the Peace], or Sheriff of such County; or a Meeting called by the Convenor of any County or Stewartry in that part of Great Britain called Scotland; or any Meeting called by two or more Justices of the Peace of the County or Place where such Meeting shall be holden; or any Meeting of any County, having different Ridings or Divisions, called by two Justices of any one or more of such Ridings or Divisions; or any Meeting called by the major Part of a Grand Jury of the County, or of the Division of a County, where such Meeting shall be holden, at their General Assizes or General Quarter Sessions of the Peace; or any Meeting of any City, or Borough, or Town Corporate, called by the Mayor or other Head Officer of such a City, or Borough, or Town Corporate; or any Meeting of any Ward or Division of any City or Town Corporate, called by the Alderman or other Head Officer of such Ward or Division; or any Meeting of any Corporate Body, shall be holden for the Purpose or on the Pretext of considering of or preparing any Petition, Complaint, Remonstrance, or Declaration, or other Address to the King, or to both Houses or either House of Parliament, for Alteration of Matters established in Church or State, or for the Purpose or on the Pretext of deliberating upon any Grievance in Church or State, unless Notice of the Intention to hold such Meeting, and of the Time and Place when and where the same shall be proposed to be holden, and of the Purpose for which the same shall be proposed to be holden, shall be given, in the Names of seven Persons at the least, being Householders resident within the County, City, or Place where such meeting shall be proposed to be holden, whose Places of Abode and Descriptions shall be inserted in such Notice, and which Notice shall be given by public Advertisement in some public Newspaper usually circulated in the County and Division where such Meeting shall be holden five Days at the least before such Meeting shall be holden, or shall be delivered in Manner hereinafter mentioned; and that such Notice shall not be inserted in any such Newspaper unless the Authority to insert such notice shall be signed by seven Persons at the least, being Householders resident within the County, City, or Place where such Meeting shall be proposed to be holden, and named in such Notice, and unless such Authority, so signed, shall be written at the Foot of a true Copy of such Notice, and shall be delivered to the Person required to insert the same in any such Newspaper as aforesaid; which Person shall cause such Notice and Authority to be carefully preserved, and shall also, at any Time after such Notice shall have been inserted in such Paper, and within fourteen Days after the Day on which such Meeting shall be had, produce such Notice and Authority, and cause a true Copy thereof (if required) to be delivered to any Justice of the Peace for the County, City, Town, or Place where such Person shall reside, or where such Newspaper shall be printed, and who shall require the same; and in case any Person to whom any such Notice and Authority shall have been delivered for the Purpose of inserting such Notice in any such Newspaper as aforesaid, shall refused to produce such Notice and Authority, or to deliver a true Copy thereof, being thereunto required as aforesaid, within three Days after such Production and Copy, or either of them, shall have been so required, every such Person, for every such Offence, shall forfeit the Sum of fifty Pounds to any Person who shall sue for the same.
  2. Provided always, nevertheless, and be it further enacted by the Authority aforesaid, That it shall be lawful to deliver any such Notice as aforesaid, signed by the seven Persons in whose Names such Notice shall be given, with their Places of Abode and Descriptions, five Days at the least before the Day on which such Meeting shall be holden, to the Clerk of the Peace of the County, Riding, or Division, within which such Meeting shall be proposed to be holden; and such Clerk of the Peace shall forthwith, and without Delay, send a true Copy of such Notice, with such Signatures and Additions as aforesaid, to three Justices of the Peace at the least, of such County, Riding, or Division, then resident within such County, Riding, or Division; or in the case of the Justices of the Peace of the City, Borough, or Town, where such Meeting shall be proposed to be holden, shall have exclusive Jurisdiction, then to three of such Justices, if so many shall then be resident within such Jurisdiction, and if not, then to so many of such Justices as shall be resident within such exclusive Jurisdiction; and in such Case, such Notice so given by such Means as aforesaid, shall be as effectual, to all Intents and Purposes, as if the fame had been given by public Advertisement, inserted in any such Newspaper as aforesaid.
  3. And be it further enacted by the Authority aforesaid, That all Meetings, of any Description of Person, exceeding the Number of fifty Persons, (other than and except as aforesaid,) which shall be holden without such previous Notice as aforesaid, for the Purpose or on the Pretext of considering of or preparing any Petition, Complaint, Remonstrance, Declaration, or other Address to the King, or both Houses, or either House of Parliament, for Alteration of Matters established in Church or State, or for the Purpose or on the Pretext of deliberating on any Grievance in Church or State, shall be deemed and taken to be unlawful Assemblies.
  4. And be it further enacted by the Authority aforesaid, That if any Persons, exceeding the Number of fifty, being assembled contrary to the Provisions hereinbefore contained, being required or commanded by any one or more Justice or Justices of the Peace, or by the Sheriff of the County or his Under Sheriff, or by the Mayor or other Head Officer or Justice of the Peace of any City or Town Corporate, where such Assembly shall be, by Proclamation to be made in the King’s Name, in the Form hereinafter directed, to disperse themselves, and peaceably to depart to their Habitations, or to their lawful Business, shall, to the Number of twelve, or more, notwithstanding such Proclamation made, remain or continue together by the Space of one Hour after such Command or Request made by Proclamation, shall be adjudged Felony without Benefit of Clergy, and the Offenders therein shall be adjudged Felons, and shall suffer Death, as in case of Felony without Benefit of Clergy.
  5. And be it enacted by the Authority aforesaid, That the Order and Form of the Proclamation to be made as aforesaid shall be a hereafter followeth; (that is to say,) the Justice of the Peace, or other Person authorized by this Act to make the said Proclamation, shall, among the said Persons assembled, or as near to them as he can safely come, with a loud Voice command, or cause to be commanded, Silence to be while Proclamation is making, and after that shall openly and with loud Voice make, or cause to be made, Proclamation in these Words, or like in Effect:“Our Sovereign Lord the King chargeth and commandeth all Persons being assembled immediately to disperse themselves, and peaceably to depart to their Habitations or to their lawful Business, upon the Pains contained in the Act, made in the thirty-sixth Year of King George the Third, for the more effectually preventing Seditious Meetings and Assemblies. GOD save the KING.”
  6. And be it further enacted by the Authority aforesaid, That in case any Meeting shall be holden, in pursuance of any such Notice as aforesaid, and the Purpose for which the same shall in such Notice have been declared to be holden, or any Matter which shall be in such Notice proposed to be pronounced or deliberated upon such Meeting, shall purport that any Matter or Thing by Law established may be altered otherwise than by the Authority of the King, Lords, and Commons, in Parliament assembled, or shall tend to incite or stir up the People to Hatred or Contempt of the Person of his Majesty, His Heirs or Successors, or of the Government and Constitution of this Realm, as by Law established, it shall be lawful for one or more Justice or Justices, or the Sheriff of the County where such Meeting shall be, or for the Mayor or other Head Officer, or any Justice of the Peace of any City or Town Corporate, where any such Meeting shall be, by Proclamation, to require or command the Persons there assembled to disperse themselves; and if and Persons, to the Number of twelve or more, being required or commanded, by Proclamation to be made in the King’s Name, in the form hereinbefore directed, to disperse themselves, and peaceably to depart to their Habitations, or to their lawful Business, shall, to the Number of twelve or more, notwithstanding such Proclamation made, remain or continue together by the Space of one hour after such Command or Request made by Proclamation, that then such continuing together to the Number of twelve or more, after such Command or Request made by Proclamation, shall be adjudged Felony without Benefit of Clergy, and the Offenders therein shall be adjudged Felons, and shall suffer Death, as in the case of Felony without Benefit of Clergy.
  7. And be it further enacted by the Authority aforesaid, That if any one or more Justice or Justices of the Peace, present at any such Meeting requiring such Notice as aforesaid, shall think fit to order any Person or Persons who shall at such meeting propound or maintain any Proposition for altering any Thing by Law established, otherwise than by the Authority of the King, Lords, or Commons, in Parliament assembled, or shall wilfully and advisedly make any Proposition, or hold any Discourse, for the Purpose of inciting and stirring up the People to Hatred or Contempt of the Person of his Majesty, His Heirs or Successors, or of the Government and Constitution of this Realm, as by Law established, to be taken into Custody, to be dealt with according to Law; and in case the said Justice or Justices, or any of them, or any Peace Officer acting under their or any of their Orders, shall be obstructed in taking into Custody any Person or Persons so ordered to be taken into Custody, then and in such Case it shall be lawful for any such Justice or Justices thereupon to make, or cause to be made, such Proclamation as aforesaid, in Manner aforesaid; and if any Persons to the Number of twelve or more, being required or commanded by such Proclamation to disperse themselves, and peaceably to depart as aforesaid, shall, to the Number of twelve or more, notwithstanding such Proclamation made, remain or continue together by the Space of one hour after such Command or Request made by Proclamation, that then such continuing together to the Number of twelve or more, after such Command or Request made by Proclamation, shall be adjudged Felony without Benefit of Clergy, and the Offenders therein shall be adjudged Felons, and shall suffer Death, as in the case of Felony without Benefit of Clergy.
  8. And be it further enacted by the Authority aforesaid, That every Justice or Justices of the Peace, Sheriff, Under-Sheriff, Mayor, and other Head Officer aforesaid, is and are hereby authorized and empowered, on Notice or Knowledge of any such Meeting or Assembly as is hereinbefore mentioned, to resort to the Place where such Meeting or Assembly shall be, or shall be intended to be holden, or to any Part thereof, and there to do, or order or cause to be done, all such Acts, Matters, and Things, as the Case may require, which they are hereby enabled to do, or order to be done, or which they are otherwise by Law enabled to do, or order to be done; and it shall be lawful for all and every Justices of the Peace, Sheriff, Under Sheriff, Mayor, or other Head Officer as aforesaid, to take and require the Assistance of any Number of Constables or other Officer of the Peace, within their respective Districts, or within the District or Place wherein every such Meeting as hereinbefore mentioned shall be holden; which Constables and other Officers of the Peace are hereby required to attend accordingly such Justices, Sheriff, Under Sheriff, or other Head Officer respectively, and to give such Assistance as shall be necessary for the due Execution of this Act.
  9. And be it further enacted by the Authority aforesaid, That if such Persons so assembled as aforesaid, or twelve or more of them, after any Proclamation made in the Manner aforesaid, shall continue together, and not disperse themselves within one Hour, that then it shall and may be lawful to and for every Justice of the Peace, Sheriff, or Under Sheriff of the County where such Assembly shall be, and also to and for every High and Petty Constable, and other Peace Officer within such County, and also to and for every Mayor, Justice of the Peace, Sheriff, or other Head Officer, High and Petty Constable and other Peace Officer, of any City or Town Corporate where such Assembly shall be, and to and for such other Person and Persons as shall be commanded to be assisting unto any such Justice of the Peace, Sheriff or Under Sheriff, Mayor, or other Head Officer aforesaid, who are hereby authorized and empowered to command all his Majesty’s Subjects, of Age and Ability, to be assisting to them therein, to seize and apprehend, and they are hereby required to seize and apprehend, such Persons assembled, and continuing together after Proclamation made as aforesaid, and forthwith to carry the Persons so apprehended before one or more of his Majesty’s Justices of the Peace of the County or Place where such Persons shall be so apprehended, in order to their being proceeded against for such Offences according to Law; and that if the Persons so assembled, or any of them, shall happen to be killed, maimed, or hurt in the dispersing, seizing, or apprehending, or endeavouring to disperse, seize, or apprehend them, that then every such Justice of the Peace, Sheriff, Under Sheriff, Mayor, Head Officer, High or Petty Constable, or other Peace Officer, and all and singular Persons, being aiding and assisting to them or any of them, shall be free, discharged, and indemnified, as well against the King’s Majesty, his Heirs and Successors, as against all and ever other Person and Persons, of, for, or concerning the killing, maiming, or hurting of any such Person or Persons so assembled, that shall happen to be so killed, maimed, or hurt as aforesaid.
  10. Provided always, and be it further enacted by the Authority aforesaid, That if any Person or Persons do or shall, with Force of Arms, wilfully and knowingly oppose, obstruct, or in any Manner wilfully and knowingly let, hinder, or hurt, any Justice of the Peace, or other Person authorized as aforesaid, who shall attend any such Meeting as aforesaid, or who shall be going to attend any such Meeting, or any Person or Persons who shall begin to proclaim, or go to proclaim, according to any Proclamation hereby directed to be made, whereby such Proclamation shall not be made, that then every such opposing, obstructing, letting, hindering, or hurting any such Justice or other Persons so authorized as aforesaid, and so attending or going to attend any such Meeting, or any such Person or Persons so beginning or going to make such Proclamation as aforesaid, shall be adjudged Felony without Benefit of Clergy, and Offenders therein shall be adjudged Felons, and shall suffer Death, as in the case of Felony without Benefit of Clergy; and that also every such Person or Persons so being assembled as aforesaid, to the Number of fifty or more as aforesaid, to whom any such Proclamation as aforesaid should or ought to have been made, if the same had not been hindered as aforesaid, shall likewise, in case they or any of them, to the Number of twelve or more, shall continue together, and not disperse themselves within one Hour after such Let or Hindrance so made, having Knowledge of such Let or Hindrance so made, shall be adjudged Felon, and shall suffer Death, as in the case of Felony without Benefit of Clergy; and that also, if any Person or Persons, so being at any such Assembly as aforesaid, shall with Force and Arms wilfully and knowingly oppose, obstruct, or in any Manner wilfully and knowingly let, hinder, or hurt any Justice of the Peace, or other Magistrate, or any Peace Officer, in apprehending or taking into Custody, in Execution of any of the Provisions of this Act hereinbefore contained, any Person or Persons, or endeavouring so to do, that every such opposing, obstructing, letting, hindering, or hurting, shall be adjudged Felony without Benefit of Clergy, and the Offenders therein shall be adjudged Felons, and shall suffer Death, as in the case of Felony without Benefit of Clergy.
  11. And be it further enacted by the Authority aforesaid, That the Sheriffs Depute and their Substitutes, Stewards Depute and their Substitutes, Justices of the Peace, Magistrates of Royal Boroughs, and all other inferior Judges and Magistrates, and also all High and Petty Constables or other Peace Officers, of any County, Stewartry, City, or Town, within that Part of Great Britain called Scotland, shall have such and the same Powers and Authorities, for putting this present Act in execution within Scotland, as the Justices of the Peace and other Magistrates aforesaid respectively have, by virtue of this Act, within and for the other Parts of the Kingdom; and that all and every Person and Persons who shall at any Time be convicted of any of the Felonies afore-mentioned, within that Part of Great Britain called Scotland, shall for every such Offence incur and suffer the Pain of Death, and Confiscation of Moveables.
  12. And whereas certain Houses, Rooms, or Places within the Cities of London and Westminster, and in the Neighbourhood thereof, and in other Places, have of late been frequently used for the Purpose of delivering Lectures and Discourses on and concerning supposed public Grievances, and Matters relating to the Laws, Constitution, and Government and Policy of these Kingdoms, and treating and debating on and concerning the same; and under Pretence thereof Lectures or Discourses have been delivered, and Debates held, tending to stir up Hated and Contempt of his Majesty’s Royal Person, and of the Government and Constitution of this Realm as by Law established: Be it therefore enacted by the Authority aforesaid, That every House, Room, Field, or other Place where Lectures or Discourses shall be delivered or public Debates shall be had on or concerning any supposed public Grievance, or any Matters relating to the Laws, Constitution, Government, or Policy of these Kingdoms, for the Purpose of raising or collecting Money or any other valuable Thing from the Persons admitted whether such House, Room, Field, or Place shall be opened or used for any such Purpose alone, or for any such Purpose together with any other Purpose, or under whatever Pretence the same shall be opened or used, to which any Person shall be admitted by the Payment of Money or by Tickets sold for Money, or in consequence of his paying or giving, or having paid or given, or agreeing thereafter to pay or give, in any Manner, any Money or other Thing for or in respect of his Admission into such House, Room, Field, or Place, unless the opening or using of such a House, Room, Field, or Place shall have been previously licensed Manner hereinafter mentioned, shall be deemed a disorderly House or Place, and the Person by whom such House, Room, Field, or Place shall be opened or used for the Purpose aforesaid, shall forfeit the Sum of one hundred Pounds for every Day or Time that such House, Room, Field, or Place shall be opened or used as aforesaid, to such Persons as will sue for the same, and be otherwise punished as the Law directs in Cases of disorderly Houses; and every Person managing or conducting the Proceedings, or acting as Moderator, President, or Chairman, at such House, Room, Field, or Place, or therein debating, or delivering any Discourse or Lecture for the Purpose aforesaid, and every Person who shall pay, give, collect, or receive, or agree to pay, give, collect, or receive, any Money or other Thing, for or in respect of the Admission of any Person into any such House, Room, Field, or Place, or shall deliver out, distribute, or receive any such Ticket or Tickets as aforesaid, knowing such House, Room, Field, or Place to be opened or used for such Purpose, shall for every such Offence forfeit the Sum of one hundred Pounds to such Person as will sue for the same.
  13. And be it further enacted by the Authority aforesaid, That any Person who shall at any Time hereafter appear, act, or behave him or herself as Master or Mistress, or as the Person having the Command, Government, or Management of any such House, Room, Field, or Place as aforesaid, shall be deemed and taken to be a Person by whom the same is opened or used as aforesaid, and shall be liable to be sued or prosecuted, and punished as such, notwithstanding he or she be not, in Fact, the real Owner or Occupier thereof.
  14. And be it further enacted by the Authority aforesaid, That it shall be lawful for any Justice or Justices of the Peace, or Chief Magistrate respectively, of any County, City, Town, Borough, or Place, who shall, by Information upon Oath, have Reason to suspect that any House, Room, Field, or Place, or any Parts or Part thereof, are or is opened or used for the Purpose of delivering Lectures or Discourses, or for public Debate, contrary to the Provisions of this Act, go to such House, Room, or Place, and demand to be admitted therein; and in case such Justice or Justices, or other Magistrate, shall be refused Admittance to such House, Room, or Building, the same shall be deemed, notwithstanding any such Licence as aforesaid, a disorderly House or Place, within the Intent and Meaning of this Act; and all and every the Provision hereinbefore contained respecting any House, Room, Field, or Place, hereinbefore declared to be a disorderly House or Place, shall be applied to such House, Room, Field, or Place, where such Admittance shall have been refused as aforesaid, and every Person refusing such Admittance shall forfeit a Sum of one hundred Pounds to any Person who shall sue for the same.
  15. Provided always, and be it enacted by the Authority aforesaid, That it shall be lawful for any Justice or Justices of the Peace, or Chief Magistrate respectively, of any County, City, Borough, or Place, where any such House, Room, or other Building shall be licensed as aforesaid, to go to such House, Room, or Building so licenced, at the Time of delivering any such Lecture or Discourse therein as aforesaid, or at the Tome appointed for delivering any such Lecture or Discourse, and demand to be admitted therein; and in case such Justice or Justices, or other Magistrate, shall be refused Admittance to such a House, Room, or Building, the same shall be deemed, notwithstanding any such Licence as aforesaid, a disorderly House or Place, within the Meaning of this Act; and all and every the Provisions hereinbefore contained, respecting any House, Room, Field, or Place, hereinbefore declared to be a disorderly House or Place, shall be applied to such House, Room, or Building so licensed as aforesaid, where such Admittance shall have been refused as aforesaid; and every Person refusing such Admittance shall forfeit the Sum of one hundred Pounds to any Person who will sue for the same.
  16. Provided, nevertheless, and be it enacted by the Authority aforesaid, That it shall be lawful for two or more Justices of the Peace of the County, City, Town, or Place where any House, Room, or other Building shall be, which any Person shall be desirous to open for any of the Purposes aforesaid, by Writing under their Hands and Seals, At their General Quarter Session of the Peace, or at any Special Session to be held for the particular Purpose, to grant a License to any Person or Persons desiring the same, to open such House, Room, or other Building, for the Purpose of delivering for Money any such Lectures or Discourses as aforesaid, on any of the Subjects aforesaid, the same being clearly expressed in such License, for which Licence a Fee of one Shilling, and no more, shall be paid, and the same shall be in Force for the Space of one Year, and no longer, or for any less Space of Time, therein to be specified; and which Licence it shall be lawful for the Justices of the same County, City, Town, or Place, at any General Quarter Session of the Peace, to revoke and declare void and no longer in Force, by any Order of such Justices, a Copy whereof shall be delivered to or served upon the Person to whom said License shall have been granted, and thereupon such Licence shall cease and determine, and be thenceforth utterly void and of no Effect.
  17. And be it further enacted by the Authority aforesaid, That any Person entitled to any of the Forfeitures aforesaid may sue by Action of Debt in any of his Majesty’s Courts of Record at Westminster, or in the Courts of Justiciary or Exchequer in Scotland, in which Action it shall be sufficient to declare that the Defendant is indebted to the Plaintiff in the Sum of (being the Sum demanded in the said Action) being forfeited by an Act, made in the thirty-sixth Year of the Reign of his Majesty King George the Third, intituled, An Act for the more effectually preventing Seditious Meetings and Assemblies; and the Plaintiff, if he shall recover in any such Action, shall have his full Costs: Provided also, that if any Action or Suit shall be brought against any Person for any Thing done in pursuance and in Execution of this Act, the Defendant may plead General Issue; and if a Verdict pass for the Defendant, or the Plaintiff discontinue his or her Action, or be nonsuited, or Judgment be given against the Plaintiff, then such Defendant shall have treble Costs.
  18. Provided also, That nothing in this Act contained shall be construed to extend to any Lectures or Discourses to be delivered in any of the Universities of these Kingdoms by any Member thereof, or any Person authorized by the Chancellor, Vice Chancellor, or other proper Officers of such Universities respectively.
  19. Provided also, and be it enacted, That no Payment made to any Schoolmaster or other Person by Law allowed to teach and instruct Youth, in respect of any Lectures or Discourses delivered by such Schoolmaster, or other Person, for the Instruction only of such Youth as shall be committed to his Instruction, shall be deemed a Payment of Money for Admission to such Lectures or Discourses within the Intent and Meaning of this Act.
  20. Provided also, That nothing in this Act contained shall be deemed to take away or abridge any Provision already made by Law in this Realm, or of any Part thereof, for the Suppression or Prevention of any Offence whatsoever described in this Act.
  21. And be it further enacted by the Authority aforesaid, That this Act shall be openly read at every Epiphany Quarter Sessions of the Peace, and at every Leet or Law Day.
  22. Provided always, That no Person shall be prosecuted by virtue of this Act, unless such Prosecution shall be commenced within six Calendar Months after the Offence committed; and no Action shall be brought, for any of the Penalties by this Act imposed, unless the same shall be brought within three Calendar Months next after the Offence committed.
  23. Provided also, That this Act shall commence and have Effect within the City of London, and within twenty Miles thereof, from the Day next after the Day of the passing of this Act, and shall commence and have Effect within all other Parts of the Kingdom, from the Expiration of seven Days next after the Day of passing this Act, and shall be and continue in force for three Years from the Day of passing this Act, and until the End of the then next Session of Parliament.

Source: Marxist Internet Archive

Further Information: Wikipedia