1661: 13 Charles 2 s.2, c.5: Tumultuous Petitioning Act

1661: 13 Charles 2, session 2, c.5: An Act against Tumults and Disorders, upon Pretence of preparing or presenting publick Petitions, or other Addresses to his Majesty or the Parliament.

‘WHEREAS it hath been found by sad Experience, that tumultuous and other disorderly soliciting and procuring of Hands by private Persons to Petitions, Complaints, Remonstrances and Declarations, and other Addresses to the King, or to both or either Houses of Parliament, for Alteration of Matters established by Law, Redress of pretended Grievances in Church or State, or other publick Concernments, have been made Use of to serve the Ends of factious and seditious Persons gotten into Power, to the Violation of the public Peace, and have been a great Means of the late unhappy Wars, Confusions and Calamities in this Nation;’ for preventing the like Mischiefs for the Future,

II. Be it enacted by the king’s most Excellent Majesty, by and with the Consent of the Lords and Commons assembled in Parliament, and by the Authority of the same, That no Person or Persons whatsoever shall from and after the first of August one thousand six hundred sixty and one, solicite, labour or procure the getting of Hands, or other Consent, of any Persons above the Number of twenty or more, to any Petition, Complaint, Remonstrance, Declaration, or other Address to the King, or both or either Houses of Parliament, for Alteration of Matters established by Law in Church or State, unless the Matter thereof have been first consented unto and ordered by three or more Justices of that County, or by the major Part of the Grand Jury of the County or Division of the County where the same Matter shall arise, at their public Affixes, or General Quarter sessions, or if arising in London, by the Lord Mayor, Aldermen and Commons in Common council assembled; (2) and that no Person or Persons whatsoever shall repair to his Majesty, or both or either of the Houses of Parliament, upon Pretence of presenting or delivering any Petition, Complaint, Remonstrance or Declaration, or other Addresses, accompanied with excessive Number of People, nor at any one Time with above the Number of ten persons; upon Pain of incurring a Penalty not exceeding the Sum of one hundred Pounds in Money, and three Months Imprisonment without Bail or Mainprize for every Offence; which Offence to be prosecuted at the Court of king’s Bench, or at the Affixes or General Quarter sessions, within six Months after the Offence committed, and proved by two or more credible Witnesses.

III. Provided always, That this Act, or any Thing therein contained, shall not be construed to extend to debar or hinder any Person or Persons, not exceeding the Number of Twenty aforesaid, to present any public or private Grievance or Complaint to any Member or Members of Parliament after his Election, and during the Continuance of the Parliament, or to the king’s Majesty, for any Remedy to be thereupon had; nor to extend to any Address whatsoever to his majesty, by all or any of the Members of both or either Houses of Parliament, during the Sitting of Parliament, but that they may enjoy their Freedom of Access to his Majesty, as heretofore hath been used.

Source: Ruffhead, Statutes at Large, volume 3. See also British History Online, Statutes of the Realm.

Further reading: Wikipedia.