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When were the heresy laws abolished in England?

When were the heresy laws abolished in England?


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We know that during the English Reformation several "heretics" were burnt at the stake. We also know that during the reign of Henry VIII both protestants and catholics were burnt or beheaded while during the reign of Mary I, protestants were awarded the death penalty.

We now know that this is no longer the law in the U.K. But when was it formally repealed? If it was repealed in stages --thus permitting immigration (or so I assume), what does the timeline look like?


I'd guess you're mainly referring to the Elizabethan Act of Uniformity and related laws from the same period which set out the church laws and their connection to the state.

Some of the provisions in the Act of Uniformity were repealed or modified in 1650 by the Rump Parliament and Cromwell. They were replaced by other restrictive laws, such as the Blasphemy Act.

In 1689, The Act of Toleration repealed most of the provisions of earlier acts and provided a measure of religious freedom for most Protestant denominations although Catholics and others were still effectively outlawed or restricted. These ongoing restrictions became an important reason for people to immigrate to the American colonies.

Over the centuries, parts of these religious laws were repealed or modified as suited the contemporaneous political events. For example, the Roman Catholic Relief Acts in 1791 and 1829 were intended to help deal with the political situation in Ireland and to better handle political events in Europe. This continues today, most recently with provisions in the 2010 Equality Act.


The Abolition of Slavery In Britain

On 28th August 1833 a very important act received its Royal Assent. The Slavery Abolition Law would finally be enacted, after years of campaigning, suffering and injustice. This act was a crucial step in a much wider and ongoing process designed to bring an end to the slave trade.

Only a few decades previously, in 1807 another act had been passed which had made it illegal to purchase slaves directly from the African continent. Nevertheless, the practice of slavery remained widespread and legal in the British Caribbean.

The fight to end the slave trade was a long drawn out battle which brought to the surface a host of issues ranging from politics and economics to more social and cultural concerns.

The decision to bring the practice of slavery to an end was a contentious one. Britain had been engaged in slavery since the sixteenth century, with economic prosperity being secured through the use of slave-grown products such as sugar and cotton. The British Empire relied on cultivating products in order to trade in a global market: the use of slaves was paramount to this process.

Slaves cutting the sugar cane, Antigua, 1823

By the late 1700’s, times were changing, social norms were challenged and the stage for revolution in Europe was set. Concerns over equality, humanity and the rights of man gave way to individuals championing the cause of abolishing the antiquated and barbaric practice of slavery.

The campaign in Britain was led by significant Quaker anti-slavery groups who made public their concerns and brought it to the attention of politicians who were in a position to enact real change.
In May 1772 a significant court judgement by Lord Mansfield in the case of James Somerset, who was an enslaved African, versus Charles Stewart, a Customs Officer. In this case, the slave who had been purchased in Boston and then transported with Stewart to England had managed to escape. Unfortunately, he was later recaptured and subsequently imprisoned on a ship bound for Jamaica.

Somerset’s cause was taken up by three godparents, John Marlow, Thomas Walkin and Elizabeth Cade who made an application to the courts to determine whether there was a legitimate reason for his detention.

In May, Lord Mansfield gave his verdict ruling that slaves could not be transported from England against their will. The case therefore gave great impetus to those campaigners such as Granville Sharp who saw the ruling as an example for why slavery would be unsupported by English law.

Nevertheless, the ruling did not advocate abolition of slavery completely. Those backing Somerset argued that colonial laws which permitted slavery were not in conjunction with the common law of Parliament, thus making the practice unlawful. The case in question was still argued very much along legal lines rather than humanitarian or social concerns, however it would mark an important step in a trajectory of events which ultimately culminated in abolition.

The case had gained a great deal of attention amongst the public, so much so that by 1783 a strong anti-slavery movement was being formed. More individual cases such as that of a slave taken to Canada by American loyalists, sparked new legislation in 1793 against slavery, the first of its kind to take place in the British Empire.

William Wilberforce, 1794

Back in Britain, the abolition of slavery was a cause championed by William Wilberforce, a Member of Parliament and philanthropist who was one of the most important and influential figures. He was soon joined by likeminded individuals who would bring the matter into the public sphere as well as the political sphere.

Other anti-slavery activists such as Hannah More and Granville Sharp were persuaded to join Wilberforce, which soon led to the foundation of the Anti-Slavery Society.

Key figures within the group included James Eliot, Zachary Macaulay and Henry Thornton who were referred to by many as the Saints and later, the Clapham Sect of which Wilberforce became the accepted leader.

On 13th March 1787 during a dinner involving several important figures amongst the Clapham Sect community, Wilberforce agreed to bring the issue to parliament.

Wilberforce would subsequently give many speeches in the House of Commons which included twelve motions condemning the slave trade. Whilst his cause described the appalling conditions experienced by slaves which were in direct opposition to his Christian beliefs, he did not advocate a total abolition of the trade. At this point, however, the biggest obstacle was not the ins and outs of the motion but parliament itself which continued to stall on the matter.

By 1807, with slavery garnering great public attention as well as in the courts, Parliament passed the Slave Trade Act. This was a momentous step, however it still was not the end goal as it simply outlawed the trade of slaves but not slavery itself.

Once enacted, the legislation worked through the imposition of fines which sadly did little to deter slave owners and traders who had great financial incentives in ensuring that the practice continued. With lucrative gains to be made, trafficking between Caribbean Islands would persist for several years. By 1811, a new law would help to curb this practice somewhat with the introduction of Slave Trade Felony Act which made slavery a felony.

The Royal Navy was also called in to assist in the implementation through the establishment of the West African Squadron which patrolled the coast. Between 1808 and 1860 it successfully freed 150,000 Africans bound for a life of enslavement. However, there was still a long way to go.

One often overlooked factor in bringing an end to the practice of the slave trade was the role played by those already enslaved. A growing resistance movement was developing amongst the slaves themselves, so much so that the French colony of St Domingue had been seized by the slaves themselves in a dramatic uprising leading to the establishment of Haiti.

Depiction of the Battle of Ravine-à-Couleuvres, 23rd February 1802, during the slave revolt in St Domingue (Haiti).

This was an era for enacting great social change, the Age of Reason, ushered in by the Enlightenment which brought together philosophies which catapulted social injustices to the forefront of people’s minds. Europe was experiencing great upheaval: the French Revolution had brought with it ideas of the equal rights of man and challenged the previously accepted social hierarchies.

The impact of this new European social conscience and self-awareness also impacted enslaved communities who had always put up resistance but now felt emboldened to claim their rights. Toussaint Louverture leading the revolt in Haiti was not the only example of such a stirring of feelings revolts in other locations followed including Barbados in 1816, Demerara in 1822 and Jamaica in 1831.

The Baptist War, as it became known, in Jamaica originated with a peaceful strike led by the Baptist Minister Samuel Sharpe, however it was brutally suppressed which led to loss of life and property. Such was the extent of the violence that the British Parliament was forced to hold two inquiries that would make important inroads in establishing the Slavery Abolition Act a year later.

Official medallion of the British Anti-Slavery Society

Meanwhile, the Anti-Slavery Society had its first meeting back in the UK which helped to bring together Quakers and Anglicans. As part of this group, a range of campaigns involving meetings, posters and speeches were arranged, helping to get the word out and draw attention to the issue. This would ultimately prove successful as it brought together a range of people who rallied behind the cause.

By 26th July 1833, the wheels were in motion for a new piece of legislation to be passed, however sadly William Wilberforce would die only three days later.

As part of the act, slavery was abolished in most British colonies which resulted in around 800,000 slaves being freed in the Caribbean as well as South Africa and a small amount in Canada. The law took effect on 1st August 1834 and put into practice a transitional phase which included reassigning roles of slaves as “apprentices” which was later brought to an end in 1840.

Sadly, in practical terms the act did not seek to include territories “in the possession of the East India Company, or Ceylon, or Saint Helena”. By 1843 these conditions were lifted. A longer process however ensued which not only included freeing slaves but also finding a way to compensate the slave owners for loss of investment.

The British government sought around £20 million to pay for the loss of slaves, many of those in receipt of this compensation were from the higher echelons of society.

Meanwhile whilst the apprenticeships were enforced, peaceful protests by those affected would continue until their freedom was secured. By 1st August 1838 this was finally achieved with full legal emancipation granted.

The abolition of slavery in the British Empire thus brought in a new era of change in politics, economics and society. The movement towards abolition had been an arduous journey and in the end many factors played a significant role in ending the slave trade.

Key individuals both in Britain and overseas, parliamentary figures, enslaved communities, religious figures and people who felt the cause was worth fighting for all helped to bring about a seismic shift in social awareness and conscience.

Thus, the trajectory of events leading to the abolition of slavery remain a significant chapter in British and global history, with important lessons for humanity as a whole.

Jessica Brain is a freelance writer specialising in history. Based in Kent and a lover of all things historical.


Growing criticism of the death penalty.

There were many trivial misdemeanours a hapless person could commit which would often land them on a gallows. From the 1600s to the early 1800s, England had over 200 offences punishable by death. These could be as minor as poaching, cutting down a tree, petty theft, or working as a pickpocket. Although this period was known as Britain’s ‘Bloody Code’, they bought these statutes in as a deterrent and, on the surface at least, it seemed to work.

For several reasons, throughout the 18th century, there were fewer people executed than in the 16th and 17th centuries combined. As well as the deterrent element, by the late 1700s, early 1800s, the population was losing its appetite for needless death penalties in the UK. For instance, theft of goods above a certain value was a capital offence, so juries found ways to reduce the value of the goods, allowing the defendant to receive a custodial sentence, rather than facing the gallows.

During this same period, ‘transportation,' rather than hanging, was used as a popular punishment for those convicted of petty theft, or less serious crimes. Convicts were transported to the Americas and then, after the American Revolution, to Australia.

In 1806, a barrister by the name of Sir Samuel Romilly was appointed Solicitor General, and during his time in office, managed to repeal the death penalty for some minor misdemeanours. In 1834, Liberal MP William Ewart also got bills passed to reduce the number of capital offences, including abolishing the death penalty for rustling. In 1861, the death penalty in the UK was abolished for all crimes except those of high treason, piracy with violence, arson in royal dockyards, and murder. Some seven years later, public hanging ended, with the introduction of the Capital Punishment Act.


Joan of Arc is burned at the stake for heresy

At Rouen in English-controlled Normandy, Joan of Arc, the peasant girl who became the savior of France, is burned at the stake for heresy.

Joan was born in 1412, the daughter of a tenant farmer at Domremy, on the borders of the duchies of Bar and Lorraine. In 1415, the Hundred Years War between England and France entered a crucial phase when the young King Henry V of England invaded France and won a series of decisive victories against the forces of King Charles VI. By the time of Henry’s death in August 1422, the English and their French-Burgundian allies controlled Aquitaine and most of northern France, including Paris. Charles VI, long incapacitated, died one month later, and his son, Charles, regent from 1418, prepared to take the throne. However, Reims, the traditional city of French coronation, was held by the Anglo-Burgundians, and the Dauphin (heir apparent to the French throne) remained uncrowned. Meanwhile, King Henry VI of England, the infant son of Henry V and Catherine of Valois, the daughter of Charles VI, was proclaimed king of France by the English.

Joan’s village of Domremy lay on the frontier between the France of the Dauphin and that of the Anglo-Burgundians. In the midst of this unstable environment, Joan began hearing “voices” of three Christian saints—St. Michael, St. Catherine, and St. Margaret. When she was about 16, these voices exhorted her to aid the Dauphin in capturing Reims and therefore the French throne. In May 1428, she traveled to Vaucouleurs, a stronghold of the Dauphin, and told the captain of the garrison of her visions. Disbelieving the young peasant girl, he sent her home. In January 1429, she returned, and the captain, impressed by her piety and determination, agreed to allow her passage to the Dauphin at Chinon.

Dressed in men’s clothes and accompanied by six soldiers, she reached the Dauphin’s castle at Chinon in February 1429 and was granted an audience. Charles hid himself among his courtiers, but Joan immediately picked him out and informed him of her divine mission. For several weeks, Charles had Joan questioned by theologians at Poitiers, who concluded that, given his desperate straits, the Dauphin would be well-advised to make use of this strange and charismatic girl.

Charles furnished her with a small army, and on April 27, 1429, she set out for Orleans, besieged by the English since October 1428. On April 29, as a French sortie distracted the English troops on the west side of Orleans, Joan entered unopposed by its eastern gate. She brought greatly needed supplies and reinforcements and inspired the French to a passionate resistance. She personally led the charge in several battles and on May 7 was struck by an arrow. After quickly dressing her wound, she returned to the fight, and the French won the day. On May 8, the English retreated from Orleans.

During the next five weeks, Joan and the French commanders led the French into a string of stunning victories over the English. On July 16, the royal army reached Reims, which opened its gates to Joan and the Dauphin. The next day, Charles VII was crowned king of France, with Joan standing nearby holding up her standard: an image of Christ in judgment. After the ceremony, she knelt before Charles, joyously calling him king for the first time.

On September 8, the king and Joan attacked Paris. During the battle, Joan carried her standard up to the earthworks and called on the Parisians to surrender the city to the king of France. She was wounded but continued to rally the king’s troops until Charles ordered an end to the unsuccessful siege. That year, she led several more small campaigns, capturing the town of Saint-Pierre-le-Moitier. In December, Charles ennobled Joan, her parents, and her brothers.

In May 1430, the Burgundians laid siege to Compiegne, and Joan stole into the town under the cover of darkness to aid in its defense. On May 23, while leading a sortie against the Burgundians, she was captured. The Burgundians sold her to the English, and in March 1431 she went on trial before ecclesiastical authorities in Rouen on charges of heresy. Her most serious crime, according to the tribunal, was her rejection of church authority in favor of direct inspiration from God. After refusing to submit to the church, her sentence was read on May 24: She was to be turned over to secular authorities and executed. Reacting with horror to the pronouncement, Joan agreed to recant and was condemned instead to perpetual imprisonment.

Ordered to put on women’s clothes, she obeyed, but a few days later the judges went to her cell and found her dressed again in male attire. Questioned, she told them that St. Catherine and St. Margaret had reproached her for giving in to the church against their will. She was found to be a relapsed heretic and on May 29 ordered handed over to secular officials. On May 30, Joan, 19 years old, was burned at the stake at the Place du Vieux-Marche in Rouen. Before the pyre was lit, she instructed a priest to hold high a crucifix for her to see and to shout out prayers loud enough to be heard above the roar of the flames.

As a source of military inspiration, Joan of Arc helped turn the Hundred Years&apos War firmly in France’s favor. By 1453, Charles VII had reconquered all of France except for Calais, which the English relinquished in 1558. In 1920, Joan of Arc, one of the great heroes of French history, was recognized as a Christian saint by the Roman Catholic Church. Her feast day is May 30.


Rome Corrupted Christianity

A TIME WHEN THE BIBLE WAS BANNED
AND BURNED – By The Apostate Christian Church

Many people are unaware of the fact that there
was a long period of time, when the Church of
Christendom – forbid the reading of the Bible.

Not only did she forbid the reading of the Bible,
but she also forbid having posession of a Bible
in one’s own home.

These were called the “Dark Ages” for obvious
reasons. The Apostate Church of Christendom was
at the peak of her power, and was afraid that if
her subjects owned and read Bibles, that they might
question some of the Church’s actions and teachings.

“During the Dark Ages (A.D. 500-1500),
Rome burned Bibles along with their owners.”
-The Baptist Pillar
CANADA’S ONLY TRUE BAPTIST PAPER
Published by Bible Baptist Church

This was a time, when not only was the Bible banned,
but literacy in general was prohibited and frowned
upon. Very few people during this time knew how to
read or write. Again, the Apostate Church was
determined that the less knowledge that people had,
the more easy it would be to rule them.

“Only ten percent of people
in the Roman Empire could read…
and those were generally in the wealthy
upper classes.”
-River of God,
Gregory J. Riley, pp. 66

The Church admits this in her own Laws :

“Canon 14. We prohibit also that the laity should
not be permitted to have the books of the Old or
New Testament we most strictly forbid their having
any translation of these books.”
– The Church Council of Toulouse 1229 AD
Source: Heresy and Authority in Medieval Europe,
Scolar Press, London, England
copyright 1980 by Edward Peters,
ISBN 0-85967-621-8, pp. 194-195

The Council of Tarragona of 1234,
in its second canon, ruled that:

“No one may possess the books of the Old
and New Testaments, and if anyone possesses
them he must turn them over to the local bishop
within eight days, so that they may be burned…”
– The Church Council of Tarragona 1234 AD
2nd Cannon – Source : D. Lortsch,
Historie de la Bible en France, 1910, p.14.

“Opened on Thursday alongside the Inquisition
archives was the infamous Index of Forbidden Books,
which Roman Catholics were forbidden to read
or possess on pain of excommunication. They showed
that even “the Bible” was once on the blacklist.
Translations of the holy book ended up on the bonfires
along with other “heretical” works…The Index
of Forbidden Books and all excommunications relating
to it were officially abolished in 1966. The Inquisition
itself was established by Pope Gregory IX in 1233….”
-Vatican archives reveal Bible was once banned book
By Jude Webber
ROME, Jan 22, 1998 (Reuters)

“Canon 14. We prohibit also that the laity should be
permitted to have the books of the Old or New Testament
…we most strictly forbid their having any translation
of these books.”
– ITEM #2 COUNCIL OF TOULOUSE – 1229 A.D.
Heresy and Authority in Medieval Europe,
Edited with an introduction by Edward Peters,
Scolar Press, London, copyright 1980
by Edward Peters, ISBN 0-85967-621-8, pp. 194-195
–After the death of Innocent III, the Synod of Toulouse
directed in 1229 its fourteenth canon against the misuse
of Sacred Scripture on the part of the athari:
“prohibemus, ne libros Veteris et Novi Testamenti
laicis permittatur habere”
(Hefele, “Concilgesch”, Freiburg, 1863, V, 875).

ITEM #3 THE COUNCIL OF TARRAGONA – 1234 A.D.
The Council of Tarragona of 1234, in its second canon,
ruled that:
“No one may possess the books of the Old and New
Testaments
in the Romance language, and if anyone
possesses them he must turn them over to the local
bishop within eight days after promulgation of
this decree, so that they may be burned….”
– D. Lortsch, Historie de la Bible en France, 1910, p.14.

ITEM #6 THE BIBLE PROHIBITED BY
THE INDEX LIBRORUM PROHIBITORUM

Pope Pius IV had a list of the forbidden books compiled
and officially prohibited them in the Index of Trent
(Index Librorum Prohibitorum) of 1559.
This is an excerpt :

“ Whoever reads or has such a translation in his
possession … cannot be absolved from his sins
until he has turned in these Bibles
…Books in the
vernacular dealing with the controversies between
Catholics and the heretics of our time are not to be
generally permitted, but are to be handled in the
same way as Bible translations…”
– Rule IV & Rule VI
Die Indices Librorum Prohibitorum des sechzehnten
Jahrhunderts (Tübingen, 1886), page 246f.
Source: The Reformation, by Hans J. Hillerbrand,
copyright 1964 by SCM Press Ltd and Harper and Row,Inc.,
Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 64-15480,
pages 474, 475.

History’s Most Indestructable Book

Many dictators have attempted to wipe
the Bible from existence. Yet it has
withstood all these attacks, remaining
the most popular book in the world.
More copies of the Bible are sold every year
than any other book, despite its image as
being “out of date.”

Christendom Becomes – An Enemy of the bible
Christendom – as a political power

Unfortunately, this ultimately led to
persecution again as the church quickly
became a powerful political force, used to
control public opinion and political ambitions.

The Bible continued to be attacked, now from
within the church. Bibles in common languages
such as Greek were outlawed. The Latin Vulgate
Bible was produced and carefully controlled,
readable only by specially trained representatives
of the church. Laws were issued making it illegal
for any Christian to possess a Bible. Penalties
included burning at the stake. During the Dark Ages
even priests were unable to read the Scriptures
for themselves. As a result, they were unable to
compare the false doctrines sweeping through the
Roman church against the doctrines of the
Word of God. In Italy, it was still illegal to
own a Bible until 1870!

Political ambitions led to such crimes as the
Crusader Wars, purported to be in the name of
Christ but having no relationship with any
Christian doctrine. Christianity was primarily
an excuse used to give them credibility. Since
the people had no Bibles to check such things for
themselves, they were at the mercy of the corrupt
religiious leaders behind these efforts.

“The Roman Catholic Church has traditionally
suppressed, opposed, and forbidden the open use
of the Bible. It was first officially forbidden
to the people and placed on the index of Forbidden
Books List by the Council of Valencia in 1229 A.D.
The Council of Trent (1545-63 A.D.) also prohibited
its use and pronounced a curse upon anyone who would
dare oppose this decree. Many popes have issued
decrees forbidding Bible reading in the common
language of the people, condemning Bible societies
and banning its possession and translation under
penalty of mortal sin and death. The Roman Catholic
Church has openly burned Bibles and those who
translated it or promoted its study, reading, and use.
(John Hus, 1415 A.D. William Tyndale, 1536 A.D.)”
-Christian Equippers International,
2941 Lake Tahoe Blvd,
South Lake Tahoe 96150

1525: Six thousand copies of William Tyndale’s
English translation of the New Testament were
printed in Cologne, Germany, and smuggled into
England—and then burned by the English church.

“Tyndale wrote that the Church authorities
banned translation into the mother tongue
“to keep the world still in darkness,
to the intent they might sit through vain
superstition and false doctrine, to satisfy
their filthy lusts, their proud ambition,
and insatiable covetousness, and to exalt their
own honour… above God himself.” “
–William Tyndale’s New Testament.
Worms (Germany), 1526
British Library C.188.a.17
Copyright © The British Library Board
ONLINE GALLERY
LANDMARKS IN PRINTING

“Tyndale’s New Testament was the first to be
printed in English. There are only two complete
copies surviving from the 3,000 or more printed
in 1526 by Peter Schoeffer in the German city
of Worms. Tyndale’s translation was pronounced
heretical in England, so his Bibles were smuggled
into the country in bales of cloth. Those discovered
owning them were punished. At first only the books
were destroyed, but soon heretics (those found with
the Bibles) would be burned too – including Tyndale
himself in 1536.”
-William Tyndale’s New Testament.
Worms (Germany), 1526
British Library C.188.a.17
Copyright © The British Library Board
ONLINE GALLERY
LANDMARKS IN PRINTING

“For 600 years the Roman Catholic Church
attempted to keep translations of the Bible
out of the hands of the people. Bible-believing
people were mercilessly persecuted and their
Scriptures were destroyed. Those who possessed
Bibles without a license were commanded to
deliver them up to the Catholic authorities
under threat of inquisition terrors. Booksellers
were forbidden to sell any Bibles except to
people who possessed a license from the Catholic
church. Huge quantities of Scriptures in English,
Germany, Italian, French, Spanish, and in other
languages, were confiscated and destroyed
throughout the 13th to the 19th centuries.
Bible translators and distributors were imprisoned
and burned. Even after the Catholic inquisition
was outlawed in many lands in the 18th and 19th
centuries, the popes continued to condemn the free
distribution of Scripture.”
-ROME AND THE BIBLE:
TRACING THE HISTORY
OF THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH
AND ITS PERSECUTION OF THE BIBLE
AND OF BIBLE BELIEVERS, by David W. Cloud,
Way of Life Literature, copyright 1996.

“In Roman-dominated lands, the Bible was almost
an unknown book among the common people. The Bible
in Rome is a strange and rare book. Indeed very few
of the common people know what we mean by the Bible.”
-ROME AND THE BIBLE:
TRACING THE HISTORY
OF THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH
AND ITS PERSECUTION OF THE BIBLE
AND OF BIBLE BELIEVERS, by David W. Cloud,
Way of Life Literature, copyright 1996.

“Book burnings which included Bibles
were common after 1521. Sometimes the
translators and publishers themselves
were also burned. Possession of Bibles became
criminal offenses and often resulted in the
execution of the accused. There are cases on
record of people executed by order of church
for the “crime” teaching their children
the Lord’s Prayer or the Ten Commandments
in their own native tongue.”
-What Happened this Day in Church History
June 13, 1757 • The Bible in Many Tongues.
Christian History Institute

“In the two decades after Wycliffe’s death,
many Lollards were burned at the stake,
some even with their Bibles hanging from
their necks to be burned with them.”
-Ron Minton,
The Making and Preservation of the Bible
(n.p. November, 2000) 216.

“By 1408 even reading the Bible in English
was outlawed.”
– F. F. Bruce, PP 20-23
History of the Bible in English, 3rd ed.
(New York: Oxford University Press, 1978)

“One of Wycliffe’s followers, John Hus,
actively promoted Wycliffe’s ideas:
that people should be permitted to read
the Bible in their own language,
and they should oppose the tyranny
of the Roman church that threatened
anyone possessing a Bible with execution.
Hus was burned at the stake in 1415,
with Wycliffe’s manuscript Bibles used
as kindling for the fire. The Catholic
Church excommunicated Hus in 1411 and
burned him at the stake in Constance on
July 6, 1415, having condemned him by
the Council of Constance, in an unfair trial.”
-English Bible History “John Hus”
GREATSITE.COM the online showroom of
The Bible Museum, Inc. Since 1987

Burned at the Stake
For Owning A Bible

Burned at the Stake
For Owning A Bible

“During the Dark Ages (A.D. 500-1500),
Rome burned Bibles along with their owners.”
-The Baptist Pillar
CANADA’S ONLY TRUE BAPTIST PAPER
Published by Bible Baptist Church

“In the two decades after Wycliffe’s death,
many Lollards were burned at the stake,
some even with their Bibles hanging from
their necks to be burned with them .”
-Ron Minton,
The Making and Preservation of the Bible
(n.p. November, 2000) 216.

“October 6, 1998 marks 462 years since another
Christian was burned at the stake for his
translation and distribution of the English Bible.”
-The Bible Gateway
Topic : “William Tyndale”
Bible.Org.com
Tom White and Steve Cleary,
“The Smuggler,” The Voice of the Martyrs,
October, 1998, pp. 3-4

“Owning a Bible in English,
or even quoting Scripture in English,
meant death for countless men and women of God.”
-1376-Indestructible Book: Story of the Bible
Bestselling Catholic Videos
in English and Spanish Languages
Largest Roman Catholic Marian Resource

“Many people died at the stake
for owning a Bible, or for helping
to translate one, or for distributing
them to others.”
– Sermon of
Rev. Orland Wolfram (1912-1987)
Pillar of Fire Church
Missionary to Guatemala

“The principal accusation against those
who are subject to… (the inquisition)
is heresy… of such who read the Bible
in the common language …
Upon all occasions the inquisitors carry on
their processes with the utmost severity,
and punish those who offend them
with the most unparalleled cruelty.”
-Fox’s Book of Martyrs Chapter 5
An Account of the Inquisition
Author: John Foxe (1516-1587)

Taking the Bible for Granted

Many people today, ridicule those who search
the scriptures for truth. And even many of
my readers make fun of me and say that I should
not take the Bible so seriously. I am told
to lighten up. But I know that Jesus replied
to almost all of the questions that were
presented to him, by quoting from the Bible’s
Old Testament (Hebrew Scriptures). I know too,
that the apostles and early christians died for
their belief in the Bible’s laws and principals.

Through the centuries, courageous men and women
have treasured the Scriptures and have struggled
to preserve and disseminate them amid great
opposition. Some, as we have seen, have even died
to get the Bible into the hands of the common
person. Their sacrifices should inspire us to a
greater study and application of the Bible’s
teachings. Yet many today take owning a Bible
for granted. Nevertheless, surveys reveal that
fewer than half of Americans can even name the
first four books of the New Testament.

The words of the Bible are of no value as mere
letters on paper. They must live in the minds
of people through the Spirit of God.

The Bible is a precious heritage and a priceless
gift. It reveals the true God and his Son,
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Contents

Sir Samuel Romilly, speaking to the House of Commons on capital punishment in 1810, declared that "[there is] no country on the face of the earth in which there [have] been so many different offences according to law to be punished with death as in England". [2] Known as the "Bloody Code", at its height the criminal law included some 220 crimes punishable by death, including "being in the company of Gypsies for one month", "strong evidence of malice in a child aged 7–14 years of age" and "blacking the face or using a disguise whilst committing a crime". Many of these offences had been introduced by the Whig Oligarchy to protect the property of the wealthy classes that emerged during the first half of the 18th century, a notable example being the Black Act of 1723, which created 50 capital offences for various acts of theft and poaching. [3] Crimes eligible for the death penalty included shoplifting and stealing sheep, cattle, and horses, and before abolition of the death penalty for theft in 1832, "English law was notorious for prescribing the death penalty for a vast range of offences as slight as the theft of goods valued at twelve pence." [4]

Whilst executions for murder, burglary and robbery were common, the death sentences for minor offenders were often not carried out. A sentence of death could be commuted or respited (permanently postponed) for reasons such as benefit of clergy, official pardons, pregnancy of the offender or performance of military or naval duty. [5] Between 1770 and 1830, an estimated 35,000 death sentences were handed down in England and Wales, of which 7,000 executions were carried out. [6]

In 1808, Romilly had the death penalty removed for pickpockets and lesser offenders, starting a process of reform that continued over the next 50 years. The death penalty was mandatory (although it was frequently commuted by the government) until the Judgement of Death Act 1823 gave judges the power to commute the death penalty except for treason and murder. The Punishment of Death, etc. Act 1832 reduced the number of capital crimes by two-thirds. In 1832, the death penalty was abolished for theft, counterfeiting, and forgery except for the forgery of wills and certain powers of attorney. [4] [7] Gibbeting was abolished in 1832 and hanging in chains was abolished in 1834. In 1837, the death penalty for forging wills and powers of attorney was abolished. The death penalty for rape and some other offences was abolished by the Substitution of Punishments of Death Act in 1841. [8] In 1861, several acts of Parliament (24 & 25 Vict c. 94 to c. 100) further reduced the number of civilian capital crimes to five: murder, treason, espionage, arson in royal dockyards, and piracy with violence there were other offences under military law. The death penalty remained mandatory for treason and murder unless commuted by the monarch.

The Royal Commission on Capital Punishment 1864–66 [9] concluded (with dissenting Commissioners) that there was not a case for abolition but recommended an end to public executions. This proposal was included in the Capital Punishment Amendment Act 1868. From that date executions in Great Britain were carried out only in prisons. The punishment of beheading and quartering those executed for treason was abolished in 1870. [10] The last application of that punishment had been in 1820 and the last sentence to the punishment had been in 1839. [11] [12]

20th century Edit

In 1908, the Children Act 1908 banned the execution of juveniles under the age of 16. In 1922 a new offence of infanticide was introduced to replace the charge of murder for mothers killing their children in the first year of life. In 1930 a parliamentary select committee recommended that capital punishment be suspended for a trial period of five years, but no action was taken. From 1931 pregnant women could no longer be hanged (following the birth of their child) although in practice since the 18th century their sentences had always been commuted.

In 1933 the minimum age for capital punishment was raised to 18 under the Children and Young Persons Act 1933. The last known execution by the civilian courts of a person under 18 was that of Charles Dobel, 17, hanged at Maidstone together with his accomplice William Gower, 18, in January 1889. Harold Wilkins, at 16 years old, was the last juvenile sentenced to the death penalty in the United Kingdom, in 1932 for a sexually related murder, but he was reprieved due to age. [13]

In 1938 the issue of the abolition of capital punishment was brought before parliament. A clause within the Criminal Justice Bill called for an experimental five-year suspension of the death penalty. When war broke out in 1939 the bill was postponed. It was revived after the war and to much surprise [ citation needed ] was adopted by a majority in the House of Commons (245 to 222). In the House of Lords the abolition clause was defeated but the remainder of the bill was passed as the Criminal Justice Act 1948. Popular support for abolition was absent and the government decided that it would be inappropriate for it to assert its supremacy by invoking the Parliament Act 1911 over such an unpopular issue.

Postwar Edit

Instead, then Home Secretary, James Chuter Ede, set up a new Royal Commission (the Royal Commission on Capital Punishment, 1949–1953) with instructions to determine "whether the liability to suffer capital punishment should be limited or modified". The commission's report discussed a number of alternatives to execution by hanging (including the electric chair, gas inhalation, lethal injection, shooting, and the guillotine), but rejected them. It had more difficulty with the principle of capital punishment. Popular opinion believed that the death penalty acted as a deterrent to criminals, but the statistics within the report were inconclusive. Whilst the report recommended abolition from an ethical standpoint, it made no mention of possible miscarriages of justice. The public had by then expressed great dissatisfaction with the verdict in the case of Timothy Evans, who was tried and hanged in 1950 for murdering his infant daughter. It later transpired in 1953 that John Christie had strangled at least six women in the same house he also confessed to killing Timothy's wife. If the jury in Evans's trial had known this, Evans might have been acquitted. There were other cases in the same period where doubts arose over convictions and subsequent hangings, such as the notorious case of Derek Bentley.

The commission concluded that unless there was overwhelming public support in favour of abolition, the death penalty should be retained.

Between 1900 and 1949, 621 men and 11 women were executed in England and Wales. Ten German agents were executed during the First World War under the Defence of the Realm Act 1914, [14] and 16 spies were executed during the Second World War under the Treachery Act 1940. [15]

By 1957 a number of controversial cases highlighted the issue of capital punishment again. Campaigners for abolition were partially rewarded with the Homicide Act 1957. The Act brought in a distinction between capital and non-capital murder.

1957 Homicide Act Offences punishable by death Edit

Only six categories of murder were now punishable by execution:

  • in the course or furtherance of theft
  • by shooting or causing an explosion
  • while resisting arrest or during an escape
  • of a police officer
  • of a prison officer by a prisoner
  • the second of two murders committed on different occasions (if both done in Great Britain).

The police and the government were of the opinion that the death penalty deterred offenders from carrying firearms and it was for this reason that such offences remained punishable by death.

In 1965 the Labour MP Sydney Silverman, who had committed himself to the cause of abolition for longer than 20 years, introduced a Private Member's Bill to suspend the death penalty for murder. It was passed on a free vote in the House of Commons by 200 votes to 98. The bill was subsequently passed by the House of Lords by 204 votes to 104. [17] [18] Silverman was opposed in the General Election 1966 in the Nelson and Colne constituency by Patrick Downey, the uncle of Lesley Anne Downey, a victim in the Moors murders case, who stood on an explicitly pro-hanging platform. Downey polled over 5,000 votes, 13.7%, then the largest vote for a genuinely independent candidate since 1945. [19]

The Murder (Abolition of Death Penalty) Act 1965 suspended the death penalty in Great Britain (but not in Northern Ireland) for murder for a period of five years, and substituted a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment it further provided that if, before the expiry of the five-year suspension, each House of Parliament passed a resolution to make the effect of the Act permanent, then it would become permanent. In 1969 the Home Secretary, James Callaghan, proposed a motion to make the Act permanent, which was carried in the Commons on 16 December 1969, [20] and a similar motion was carried in the Lords on 18 December. [21] The death penalty for murder was abolished in Northern Ireland on 25 July 1973 under the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1973.

Following the abolition of the death penalty for murder, the House of Commons held a vote during each subsequent parliament until 1997 to restore the death penalty. This motion was always defeated, but the death penalty remained for other crimes until the dates mentioned below:

    (until 1971)
  1. espionage [22] (until 1981) (until September 1998) (until September 1998)
    and certain purely military offences under the jurisdiction of the armed forces, such as mutiny[23] (until November 1998). Prior to its complete abolition in 1998, it was available for six offences:
    1. serious misconduct in action
    2. assisting the enemy
    3. obstructing operations
    4. giving false air signals or incitement to mutiny and
    5. failure to suppress a mutiny with intent to assist the enemy.

    However, no executions were carried out in the United Kingdom for any of these offences after the abolition of the death penalty for murder.

    Nevertheless, there remained a working gallows at HMP Wandsworth, London, until 1994, which was tested every six months until 1992. This gallows is now housed in the National Justice Museum in Nottingham. [24]

    Last executions Edit

    England and in the United Kingdom: on 13 August 1964, Peter Anthony Allen, at Walton Prison in Liverpool, and Gwynne Owen Evans, at Strangeways Prison in Manchester, were executed for the murder of John Alan West on 7 April that year. [25]

    In 1955 Ruth Ellis was the last woman to be hanged in Britain for the murder of her lover David Blakely.

    Scotland: Henry John Burnett, 21, on 15 August 1963 in Craiginches Prison, Aberdeen, for the murder of seaman Thomas Guyan.

    Northern Ireland: Robert McGladdery, 26, on 20 December 1961 in Crumlin Road Gaol, Belfast, for the murder of Pearl Gamble.

    Wales: Vivian Teed, 24, in Swansea on 6 May 1958, for the murder of William Williams, sub-postmaster of Fforestfach Post Office. [26]

    Last death sentences Edit

    Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom: Liam Holden in 1973 in Northern Ireland, for the capital murder of a British soldier during the Troubles. Holden was removed from the death cell in May 1973. [27] In 2012 his conviction was quashed on appeal on the grounds that his confession was obtained by torture. [28]

    England: David Chapman, who was sentenced to hang in November 1965 for the murder of a swimming pool nightwatchman in Scarborough. He was released from prison in 1979 and later died in a car accident.

    Scotland: Patrick McCarron in 1964 for shooting his wife. He killed himself in prison in 1970.

    Wales: Edgar Black, who was reprieved on 6 November 1963. He had shot his wife's lover in Cardiff.

    Final abolition Edit

    The Naval Discipline Act 1957 reduced the scope of capital espionage from "all spies for the enemy" to spies on naval ships or bases. [29] Later, the Armed Forces Act 1981 abolished the death penalty for espionage. [30] (The Official Secrets Act 1911 had created another offence of espionage which carried a maximum sentence of fourteen years.)

    Beheading was abolished as a method of execution for treason in 1973. [31] Hanging, however, remained available until 30 September 1998 [32] when, under a House of Lords amendment to the Crime and Disorder Act 1998, proposed by Lord Archer of Sandwell, the death penalty was abolished for treason and piracy with violence, replacing it with a discretionary maximum sentence of life imprisonment. These were the last civilian offences punishable by death.

    On 20 May 1998 the House of Commons voted to ratify the 6th Protocol of the European Convention on Human Rights prohibiting capital punishment except "in time of war or imminent threat of war". The last remaining provisions for the death penalty under military jurisdiction (including in wartime) were removed when section 21(5) of the Human Rights Act 1998 came into force on 9 November 1998. On 10 October 2003, effective from 1 February 2004, [33] the UK acceded to the 13th Protocol, which prohibits the death penalty in all circumstances. [34]

    As a legacy from colonial times, several states in the West Indies still had the British Judicial Committee of the Privy Council as the court of final appeal although the death penalty has been retained in these states, the Privy Council would sometimes delay or deny executions. Some of these states severed links with the British court system in 2001 by transferring the responsibilities of the Privy Council to the Caribbean Court of Justice, to speed up executions. [35]

    Crown dependencies Edit

    Although not part of the United Kingdom, the Isle of Man and the bailiwicks of Guernsey and Jersey are British Crown dependencies.

    In the Channel Islands, the last death sentence was passed in 1984 the last execution in the Channel Islands was in Jersey on 9 October 1959, when Francis Joseph Huchet was hanged for murder. [36] The Human Rights (Amendment) (Jersey) Order 2006 [37] amends the Human Rights (Jersey) Law 2000 [38] to give effect to the 13th Protocol of the European Convention on Human Rights providing for the total abolition of the death penalty. Both of these laws came into effect on 10 December 2006. Capital punishment was abolished in Guernsey in 2003, and the 13th Protocol was extended to Guernsey in April 2004. Sark (which is part of Guernsey but has its own laws) formally retained it until January 2004, when the Chief Pleas in a 14–9 vote removed it from the statutes. [39] [40]

    The last execution on the Isle of Man took place in 1872, when John Kewish was hanged for patricide. Capital punishment was not formally abolished by Tynwald (the island's parliament) until 1993. [41] Five persons were sentenced to death (for murder) on the Isle of Man between 1973 and 1992, although all sentences were commuted to life imprisonment. The last person to be sentenced to death in the UK or its dependencies was Anthony Teare, who was convicted at the Manx Court of General Gaol Delivery in Douglas for contract murder in 1992 he was subsequently retried and sentenced to life imprisonment in 1994. [42] In 2004 the 13th Protocol was adopted, [43] with an effective date of 1 November 2006. [44]

    Overseas territories Edit

    Like the Crown dependencies, the British overseas territories are constitutionally not part of the United Kingdom. However, the British government's ultimate responsibility for good governance of the territories has led it over recent years to pursue a policy of revoking all statutory provision for the death penalty in those territories where it had up until recently been legal.

    The last executions in an overseas territory, and indeed the last on British soil, took place in Bermuda in 1977, when two men, Larry Tacklyn and Erskine Burrows, were hanged for the 1973 murder of the territory's then Governor Sir Richard Sharples. [45]

    In 1991, the British government extended an Order in Council to its Caribbean territories the effect of which was to abolish capital punishment for murder in Anguilla, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, Montserrat and the Turks and Caicos Islands. [46]

    The British government was unable to extend the abolition via Order in Council to Bermuda, the UK's most autonomous overseas territory with powers of almost total self-governance—but warned that if voluntary abolition was not forthcoming it would be forced to consider the unprecedented step of "whether to impose abolition by means of an Act of Parliament". [47] As a result, the Bermudian government introduced its own domestic legislation in 1999 to rectify the problem. [48]

    Further measures were subsequently adopted to revoke technicalities in British overseas territories' domestic legislation as regards use of the death penalty for crimes of treason and piracy. In October 2002 the British government abolished the death penalty for treason and piracy in the Turks and Caicos Islands. Since then, the death penalty has been outlawed under all circumstances in all the UK's overseas territories. [49]

    Under section 94 of the Extradition Act 2003, it is unlawful for an extradition of an individual to take place if the individual is accused of a capital crime, unless the Home Secretary has received assurances that the death penalty would not be applied in that case. [50] [51] Regardless of this, in July 2018, the Government said it will not object to the United States seeking the death penalty for two suspected British members of ISIS captured by the Syrian Democratic Forces. [52] [53] Although not strictly an extradition case, in response to an urgent question in Parliament on the matter, the Government stated that they still held the policy "to oppose the death penalty in all circumstances as a matter of principle". [54]

    Since the death penalty's suspension in 1965, there have been continued public and media calls for its reintroduction, particularly prompted by high-profile murder cases.

    At the same time, there have been a number of miscarriages of justice since 1965 where persons convicted of murder have later had their convictions quashed on appeal and been released from prison, strengthening the argument of those who oppose the death penalty's reintroduction. These include the Birmingham Six (cleared in 1991 of planting an IRA bomb which killed 21 people in 1974), the Guildford Four (cleared in 1989 of murdering five people in another 1974 IRA bombing), Stephen Downing (a Derbyshire man who was freed in 2001 after serving 27 years for the murder of a woman in a churchyard) and Barry George (who was freed in 2007 when his conviction for the 1999 murder of TV presenter Jill Dando was quashed on appeal). [55]

    Perhaps the first high-profile murder case which sparked widespread calls for a return of the death penalty was the Moors murders trial in 1966, the year after the death penalty's suspension, in which Ian Brady and Myra Hindley were sentenced to life imprisonment for the murders of two children and a teenager in the Manchester area (they later confessed to a further two murders). [56] Later in 1966, the murder of three policemen in West London also attracted widespread public support for the death penalty's return. [57] Other subsequent high-profile cases to have sparked widespread media and public calls for the death penalty's return include "Yorkshire Ripper" Peter Sutcliffe, convicted in 1981 of murdering 13 women and attacking seven others in the north of England [58] Roy Whiting, who murdered a seven-year-old girl in West Sussex in 2000 [59] and Ian Huntley, a Cambridgeshire school caretaker who killed two 10-year-old girls in 2002. [60]

    A November 2009 television survey showed that 70% favoured reinstating the death penalty for at least one of the following crimes: armed robbery, rape, crimes related to paedophilia, terrorism, adult murder, child murder, child rape, treason, child abuse or kidnapping. However, respondents only favoured capital punishment for adult murder, the polling question asked by other organisations such as Gallup, by small majorities or pluralities: overall, 51% favoured the death penalty for adult murder, while 56% in Wales did, 55% in Scotland, and only 49% in England. [61]

    In August 2011, the Internet blogger Paul Staines—who writes a political blog as Guido Fawkes and heads the Restore Justice Campaign—launched an e-petition on the Downing Street website calling for the restoration of the death penalty for those convicted of the murder of children and police officers. [62] The petition was one of several in support or opposition of capital punishment to be published by the government with the launch of its e-petitions website. Petitions attracting 100,000 signatures would prompt a parliamentary debate on a particular topic, but not necessarily lead to any Parliamentary Bills being put forward. [63] When the petition closed on 4 February 2012 it had received 26,351 signatures in support of restoring capital punishment, [64] but a counter-petition calling to retain the ban on capital punishment received 33,455 signatures during the same time period. [65]

    Also in August 2011, a representative survey conducted by Angus Reid Public Opinion showed that 65% of Britons support reinstating the death penalty for murder in Great Britain, while 28% oppose this course of action. Men and respondents aged over 35 are more likely to endorse the change. [66]

    In March 2015 a survey by the NatCen British Social Attitudes Report showed that public support for the death penalty had dropped to 48%. [67]

    — Margaret Thatcher, interview with 'Aplus4', 15 October 1984 [68]

    Parliamentary debates on reintroduction Edit

    After Royal Assent for the Murder (Abolition of Death Penalty) Act 1965, supporters in Parliament have made several attempts to reintroduce capital punishment. On 23 November 1966, Duncan Sandys was refused leave to bring in a Bill to restore capital punishment for the murder of police or prison officers, by a vote of 170 to 292. [69] Motions to make the five-year suspension of capital punishment under the 1965 Act permanent were opposed, but agreed by 343 to 185 in the House of Commons [70] in the House of Lords, an amendment to continue with a temporary suspension of capital punishment until 31 July 1973 was rejected by 174 to 220. [71] In April 1973, the House of Commons voted against reintroduction. [72]

    The deaths of civilians in several IRA bombings in 1974 prompted a renewed debate. On 11 December 1974 Brian Walden moved a motion declaring that "the death penalty would neither deter terrorists nor increase the safety of the public" Jill Knight moved an amendment calling instead for introduction of legislation providing for death to be the penalty for acts of terrorism causing death. Her amendment was rejected by 217 to 369. [73] A year later, Ivan Lawrence's motion "That this House demands capital punishment for terrorist offences causing death" was rejected by 232 to 361. [74]

    After the Conservatives' victory in the 1979 general election, Eldon Griffiths (Parliamentary adviser to the Police Federation of England and Wales) moved a motion "that the sentence of capital punishment should again be available to the courts" on 19 July 1979. [75] While the motion was not expected to pass, the margin of its defeat (243 to 362) was much wider than expected. [76] Later in the same Parliament, the Criminal Justice Bill provided an opportunity on 11 May 1982 for several new clauses to be proposed which would have reinstated capital punishment. The first, which simply declared that "A person convicted of murder shall be liable to capital punishment", was tabled by Edward Gardner, and rejected by 195 to 357. [77] It was followed by an alternative under which capital punishment would be available "as the penalty for an act of terrorism involving the loss of human life" this new clause was rejected by 176 to 332. [78] A further new clause proposing capital punishment "as the penalty for murder by means of firearms or explosives" was rejected by 176 to 343. [79] Then a new clause allowing for capital punishment "as the penalty for murder of a police or prison officer" was rejected by 208 to 332. [80] Finally a new clause allowing capital punishment "as the penalty for murder in the course of robbery and burglary which involves the use of offensive weapons" was rejected by 151 to 331. [81]

    The new Parliament in 1983 again prompted supporters of capital punishment to put their case. Sir Edward Gardner's motion "That this House favours the restoration of the death penalty for murder" was debated on 13 July 1983, with several amendments moved to restrict capital punishment to certain categories of murder. The amendments were voted on first: capital punishment for murder "resulting from acts of terrorism" was rejected by 245 to 361, for murder "of a police officer during the course of his duties" by 263 to 344, for murder "of a prison officer during the course of his duties" by 252 to 348, for murder "by shooting or causing an explosion" by 204 to 374, and for murder "in the course or furtherance of theft" by 194 to 369. The main motion was then defeated by 223 to 368. [82] Towards the end of the Parliament, a new clause proposed to the Criminal Justice Bill proposed to return the death penalty for "A person convicted by the unanimous verdict of a jury of the premeditated killing of another person or of knowingly and intentionally killing another person in a manner, or for a reason, or in circumstances which a reasonable person would consider to be evil" was rejected by 230 to 342 on 1 April 1987. [83]

    The Criminal Justice Bill in 1988 provided a further opportunity for a debate the new clause proposed by Roger Gale allowed for the jury in a murder case to "have the power, upon reaching a verdict of guilt of murder, to recommend . death in the manner authorised by law". It was rejected by 218 to 341. [84] [85]

    The aforementioned bills were rejected despite support from then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. [86]

    On 17 December 1990 a new Criminal Justice Bill again saw amendments designed to reintroduce capital punishment. The first covered anyone over 18 "convicted of the murder of a police officer acting in the execution of his duty" and was rejected by 215 to 350 [87] a general reintroduction of death as the penalty for murder (with special provision for the Court of Appeal to decide whether to substitute a life sentence) was then rejected by 182 to 367. [88] Capital punishment for "murder committed by means of firearms, explosives or an offensive weapon, or for the murder of a police or prison officer" was rejected by 186 to 349. [89]

    A Parliamentary debate on a question proposing reintroduction of capital punishment came on 21 February 1994 when new clauses to the Criminal Justice and Public Order Bill were moved. The first, providing for death as the sentence for "the murder of a police officer acting in the execution of his duty", was rejected by 186 to 383 [90] A new clause providing for general reintroduction with power for the Court of Appeal to substitute life imprisonment was rejected by 159 to 403. [91] This would have been aimed at terrorists in the Northern Ireland conflict. [92]

    In June 2013 a new bill for capital punishment in England and Wales was introduced, sponsored by Conservative MP Philip Hollobone. This Bill was withdrawn. [93]


    Statute of Labourers 1351

    This statute was enacted in response to the escalating price of labour following decimation of the population due to the plague. Basic economics with shortage of supply had pushed prices upwards and hence the ruling elite conspired to put a stop to the reduction of their profits by this restraint of free labour.

    “It was lately ordained by our lord king, with the assent of the prelates, nobles and others of his council against the malice of employees, who were idle and were not willing to take employment after the pestilence unless for outrageous wages, that such employees, both men and women, should be obliged to take employment for the salary and wages accustomed to be paid in the place where they were working in the 20th year of the king’s reign (1346), or five or six years earlier and that if the same employees refused to accept employment in such a manner they should be punished by imprisonment, as is more clearly contained in the said ordinance.” see full text below from links.

    This was initially a royal ordinance of 1349 converted to statute in 1351 by Parliament. In the long run it was unenforceable but for 30 years some JPs worked hard to enforce and this was a pressure-point that contributed to the Peasants Revolt.

    The Peasants Revolt was an early sign that however draconian and overwhelming the odds were, the people were still capable of taking-up their cause in direct action long before Trade Unions came to be. In terms of social change this is a pivotal moment and although overcome by the deceptions of the monarch this was arguably the start of organised labour in England. Workers would face further harsh oppression by the rulers but eventually many centuries later the balance would be redressed.

    The organisation of labour is a major influence from here to the industrial revolution and beyond alongside Education, Health and Social Welfare it is also mirrored in the way the poor were treated in the Old Poor Law. If you would like to follow our Social Reform Change theme then take a browse here. Whether your interests are in family, local social, British or Global History you will find many threads here that illustrate the impact of change throughout our history.

    Additional Resources

    The text of the statute can be found here with thanks to Yale Law School’s Internet Library.


    When were the heresy laws abolished in England? - History

    Although the Injuntions of 1536 and 1538 suggest that Henry VIII was influenced by the New Learning, the Statute of the Six Articles, passed in 1539, shows that he was nevertheless prepared to enforce under heavy penalties the fundamental doctrines of the Church. Approved by Convocation and enacted by Parliament in Jun 1539, the statute arose from Henry's personal conservatism in matters of doctrine, from his need for better relations with the Catholic powers of Spain and France, and from his desire to curb the growth of heresy in England and religious unrest in Calais.

    The constitutional importance of the statute lies in the fact that it modifies and consolidates the existing laws againt heresy: The rule of the canon law punished heretics by burning, and the case of Sawtrey in 1401 shows that the common law recognised the rule of the canon law, and therefore that a writ de haeretico comburendo could be issued at common law. This was reinforced by the Heresy Acts of 1401 and 1414, the first of which provided that heretics might be arrested on suspicion by the bishop, and those refusing to abjure or relapsing after abjuration were to be burned and the second enabled the bishops to call upon the civil power for assistanee, and authorised courts of quarter sessions to receive indictments for heresy and to deliver persons so indicted to the bishops to be tried . The law against heresy was, however, considerably modified by Henry VIII. An Act of 1533 repealed the Act of 1401, and so deprived the bishops of their power to arrest on suspicion but it confirmed the Act of 1414, and so made it necessary for proceedings in heresy cases to begin by indictment. This had the effect of discouraging prosecutions, and between 1533 and 1539 the cases were not numerous.

    An Act of 1533 also furnishes a kind of negative definition of heresy, for it provides that speaking against the authority of the Pope, or or against spiritual laws made by' the see of Rome repugnant to the laws of the realm or the authority of the King, shall not be deemed heresy. The Statute of Six Articles should be read in close connexion with this Act of 1533, to which it is supplementary. It provides a positive definition of heresy, and establishes a special procedure for the prosecution of heretics, for commissions were to be issued in every diocese to the bishop and others to enquire into offences against the Act, and the ceommissioners were em- powered to compel the attendanee of aceused persons before them and to try them with a jury. The effect of these two Acts taken together was to make heresy in great measure a secular offence, and to mitigate the severity of the older laws against it. Nothing was made heresy by the Statute of Six Articles which the bishop would not have held to be heresy under the Act of 1401, and the procedure was far less oppressive than that established by the Acts of 1401 and 1414.

    Formally titled "An Act Abolishing Diversity in Opinions", the Act of Six Articles reinforced existing heresy laws and reasserted traditional Catholic doctrine as the basis of faith for the English Church.The Act was passed by Parliament in Jun of 1539. It remained Henry's policy toward reforms until his death. The act also represented a political defeat for Cromwell, Archbishop Cranmer, and the other reformist leaders at Court. The Six Articles was referred to as "the bloody whip with six strings" by many protestants. Passage of the Act prompted Hugh Latimer, Bishop of Worcester, and Nicholas Shaxton, Bishop of Salisbury, to resign their sees, and forced Cranmer to send his wife back to Germany.

    Without mentioning the word, the first article affirmed Transubstantiation, the Catholic doctrine of the Eucharist. The remaining five articles similarly upheld Catholic positions. Below is a list of the six articles. It is an abreviated form of the document.

    Statute of Six Artic1es, 1539

    An Act abolishing diversity in Opinions

    Where the King's most excellent Majesty is by God's Law Supreme Head immediately under him of this whole Church and Congregation of England, intending the conservation of the same Church and Congregation in a true, sincere, and uniform doctrine of Christ's Religion, calling also to his blessed and most gracious remembrance as well the great and quiet assurance, prosperous increase, and other innumerable commodities which have ever ensued, come, and followed of concord, agreement, and unity in opinions, as also the manifold perils, dangers, and inconveniences which have heretofore in many places and regions grown, sprung, and arisen of the diversities of minds and opinions, especially of matters of Christian Religion And therefore desiring that such an unity might and should be charitably established in all things touching and concerning the same, as the same, so being established might chiefly be to the honour of Almighty God, the very author and fountain of all true unity and sincere concord, and consequently redound to the common wealth of this his Highness's most noble realm and of all his loving subjects and other resiants and inhabitants of or in the same: Hath therefore caused and commanded this his most high Court of Parliament, for sundry and many urgent causes and considerations, to be at this time summoned, and also a Synod and Convocation of all the archbishops, bishops, and other learned men of the clergy of this his realm to be in like manner assembled And forasmuch as in the said Parliament, Synod, and Convocation there were certain articles, matters, and questions proponed and set forth touching Christian Religion The King's most royal Majesty, most prudently pondering and considering that by occasion of variable and sundry opinions and judgments of the said articles, great discord and variance hath arisen as well amongst the clergy of this his realm as amongst a great number of vulgar people his loving subjects of the same, and being in a full hope and trust that a full and perfect resolution of the said articles should make a perfect concord and unity generally amongst all his loving and obedient subjects Of his most excellent goodness not only commanded that the said articles should deliberately and advisedly by his said archbishops, bishops, and other learned men of his clergy be debated, argued, and reasoned, and their opinions therein to be understood, declared, and known, but also most graciously vouchsafed in his own princely person to descend and come into his said high Court of Parliament and Council, and there like a prince of most high prudence and no less learning opened and declared many things of high learning and great knowledge touching the said articles, matters, and questions, for an unity to be had in the same Whereupon, after a great and long deliberate and advised disputation and consultation had and made concerning the said articles, as well by the consent of the King's Highness as by the assent of the Lords spiritual and temporal and other learned men of his clergy in their Convocation and by the consent of the Commons in this present Parliament assembled -it was and is finally resolved, accorded, and agreed in manner and form following, that is to say

    First, that in the most blessed Sacrament of the Altar, by the strength and efficacy of Christ's mighty word, it being spoken by the priest, is present really, under the form of bread and wine, the natural body and blood of Our Saviour Jesu Christ, conceived of the Virgin Mary, and that after the consecration there remaineth no substance of bread and wine, nor any other substance but the substance of Christ, God and man

    Secondly, that communion in both kinds is not necessary ad salutem, by the law of God, to all persons and that it is to be believed, and not doubted of, but that in the flesh, under the form of the bread, is the very blood and with the blood, under the form of the wine, is the very flesh as well apart, as though they were both together.

    Thirdly, that priests after the order of priesthood received, as afore, may not marry, by the law of God.

    Fourthly, that vows of chastity or widowhood, by man or woman made to God advisedly, ought to be observed by the law of God and that it exempts them from other liberties of Christian people, which without that they might enjoy.

    Fifthly, that it is meet and necessary that private masses be continued and admitted in this the King's English Church and Congregation, as whereby good Christian people, ordering themselves accordingly, do receive both godly and goodly consolations and benefits and it is agreeable also to God's law.

    Sixthly, that auricular confession is expedient and necessary to be retained and continued, used and frequented in the Church of God :. . . It is therefore ordained and enacted.. . .

    VI. And be it further enacted. that if any person or persons. contemn or contemptuously refuse, deny, or abstain to be confessed at the time commonly accustomed within this realm and Church of England, or contemn or contemptuously refuse, deny, or abstain to receive the holy and blessed sacrament above said at the time commonly used and accustomed for the same, that then every such offender.. shall suffer such, imprisonment and make such fine and ransom to the King our Sovereign Lord and his heirs as by his Highness or by his or their Council shall be ordered and adjudged in that behalf And if any such offender . do eftsoons. refuse. to be confessed or to be communicate. that then every such offence shall be deemed and adjudged felony, and the offender. shall suffer pains of death and lose and forfeit all his. goods, lands, and tenements, as in cases of felony.

    By 1540, Franco-Imperial amity had dissolved, lessening Henry ' s need to impress the Catholic states with his orthodoxy. By the mid-1540s, the ascendancy of the conservative party had waned, although not before it succeeded in destroying Cromwell by convincing the King that his minister shielded heretics, especially in Calais. For these reasons, the Act of Six Articles was not strictly enforced and was never the scourge reformers had feared. Nonetheless, the act, along with the Royal Supremacy, remained the official standard of orthodoxy for the Henrician Church until repealed by the first Parliament of Edward VI in 1547.

    TANNER: Tudor Constitutional Documents
    WAGNER: Bosworth Field to Bloody Mary


    What happened next …

    By the end of the sixteenth century some were arguing for a new solution to criminal sentencing: transporting convicts to the North American colonies. In 1615 James I decreed transportation to be a lawful penalty for crime. But it was not often used until 1718, when new legislation confirmed it as a valid sentence and required the state to pay for it. Until about 1790 transportation remained the preferred sentence for noncapital offenses it could also be imposed instead of the death penalty. The vast majority of transported convicts were men, most of them in their twenties, who were sent to the colonies of Maryland and Virginia. By 1772, three-fifths of English male convicts were transported. During the late 1780s, when England was at war with France, it became common practice to force convicts into service on naval ships. After 1815 transportation resumed—this time to Australia, which became, in effect, a penal colony. About 187,000 convicts were sent there from 1815 to 1840, when transportation was abolished.

    Imprisonment did not become a regularly imposed sentence in England until the late 1700s. Even then, only about ten percent of English convicts were sent to prison. In 1853 the Penal Servitude Act formally instituted the modern prison system in Britain.

    From around the late 1700s the government sought more humane ways to conduct executions. Rather than inflict physical suffering on the condemned person, as was the custom in earlier times, the government became more concerned about the rights of the prisoner. In Scotland, for example, an early type of guillotine was invented to replace beheadings by axe since it could often take two or more axe blows to sever a head, this guillotine was considered a relatively merciful method of execution. Better ways to conduct hangings were also developed, so that condemned prisoners died quickly instead of being slowly strangled on the gallows.

    The Capital Punishment within Prisons Bill of 1868 abolished public hangings in Britain, and required that executions take place within the prison. The death penalty was abolished in England in 1965, except for treason, piracy with violence, and a type of arson. In 1998 the Criminal Justice Bill ended the death penalty for those crimes as well.


    CHRONOLOGY-Who banned slavery when?

    (Reuters) - Britain marks 200 years on March 25 since it enacted a law banning the trans-Atlantic slave trade, although full abolition of slavery did not follow for another generation.

    Following are some key dates in the trans-atlantic trade in slaves from Africa and its abolition.

    1444 - First public sale of African slaves in Lagos, Portugal

    1482 - Portuguese start building first permanent slave trading post at Elmina, Gold Coast, now Ghana

    1510 - First slaves arrive in the Spanish colonies of South America, having travelled via Spain

    1518 - First direct shipment of slaves from Africa to the Americas

    1777 - State of Vermont, an independent Republic after the American Revolution, becomes first sovereign state to abolish slavery

    1780s - Trans-Atlantic slave trade reaches peak

    1787 - The Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade founded in Britain by Granville Sharp and Thomas Clarkson

    1792 - Denmark bans import of slaves to its West Indies colonies, although the law only took effect from 1803.

    1807 - Britain passes Abolition of the Slave Trade Act, outlawing British Atlantic slave trade.

    - United States passes legislation banning the slave trade, effective from start of 1808.

    1811 - Spain abolishes slavery, including in its colonies, though Cuba rejects ban and continues to deal in slaves.

    1813 - Sweden bans slave trading

    1814 - Netherlands bans slave trading

    1817 - France bans slave trading, but ban not effective until 1826

    1833 - Britain passes Abolition of Slavery Act, ordering gradual abolition of slavery in all British colonies. Plantation owners in the West Indies receive 20 million pounds in compensation

    - Great Britain and Spain sign a treaty prohibiting the slave trade

    1819 - Portugal abolishes slave trade north of the equator

    - Britain places a naval squadron off the West African coast to enforce the ban on slave trading

    1823 - Britain’s Anti-Slavery Society formed. Members include William Wilberforce

    1846 - Danish governor proclaims emancipation of slaves in Danish West Indies, abolishing slavery

    1848 - France abolishes slavery

    1851 - Brazil abolishes slave trading

    1858 - Portugal abolishes slavery in its colonies, although all slaves are subject to a 20-year apprenticeship

    1861 - Netherlands abolishes slavery in Dutch Caribbean colonies

    1862 - U.S. President Abraham Lincoln proclaims emancipation of slaves with effect from January 1, 1863 13th Amendment of U.S. Constitution follows in 1865 banning slavery

    1886 - Slavery is abolished in Cuba

    1888 - Brazil abolishes slavery

    1926 - League of Nations adopts Slavery Convention abolishing slavery

    1948 - United Nations General Assembly adopts Universal Declaration of Human Rights, including article stating “No one shall be held in slavery or servitude slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.”

    Sources: Durham University: here Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights: here Anti-Slavery Society: here


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