Charles II, 1677 & 1678
An Act for the further Reliefe and Discharge of poore distressed Prisoners for Debt.

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History of Parliament Trust

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John Raithby (editor)

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1819

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887-889

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'Charles II, 1677 & 1678: An Act for the further Reliefe and Discharge of poore distressed Prisoners for Debt.', Statutes of the Realm: volume 5: 1628-80 (1819), pp. 887-889. URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=47476 Date accessed: 29 July 2014.


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Recital of 22 & 23 C. II.c.20.

Persons being in Prison for Debt, &c. on 29th May 1678, in the Cases herein mentioned, released.

Whereas by an Act of this present Parlyament made in the Two and twentyeth and Three and twentyeth yeares of the Raigne of our Soveraigne Lord King Charles the Second intituled An Act for Reliefe and Release of poore distressed Prisoners for Debt, Provision hath beene made for Releife and Release of such Prisoners as were in Prison for Debt or Damages upon the Fourteenth day of Aprill One thousand six hundred seaventy and one in such way and manner as in the said Act is provided and declared Notwithstanding which the persons of such Prisoners have not beene discharged of their Imprisonments the words Debt or Damages mentioned in the said Act being construed doubtfull as not warranting the Discharge of any Prisoner unlesse charged in Execution For Explanation whereof and to supply other Defects which have obstructed the good ends and purposes of the said Act Bee it now enacted by the Kings most Excellent Majestie by and with the Advice and Consent of the Lords Spirituall and Temporall and the Commons in this present Parlyament assembled and by the Authoritie of the same That all persons being in Prison upon the Nine and twentieth day of May One thousand six hundred seaventy and eight being the Anniversary day of his Majestyes Birth and happy Restauration for Debt or Damages or for or upon any Action or Actions or upon any mean-processe for Debt Account or Trespasse upon the Case which Actions by Prosecution of Law may be Judgements for Debt or Damages or who have Judgements entred upon Record against them or are charged in Execution or imprisoned upon Attachments for Debt or upon Outlawryes before or after [Judgements (fn. 1) ] for Debts or upon any other Processe whatsoever issueing out of any Court of Law or Equity for the Cause of Debt or Damages or Costs onely whether the said persons were in prison upon the said Fowerteenth day of April One thousand six hundred seaventy and one and have taken the Oath in the said Act mentioned or have beene committed to Prison since that time who shall take the Oath in the said recited Act mentioned shall and may be released and discharged from their Imprisonments in such way and manner as such as were in Prison for Debt or Damages upon the said Fourteenth day of Aprill One thousand six hundred seaventy and one by the former Act were or might have beene in case the said Debt and Damages had beene ascertained by Judgement

II. Justices of Peace to execute the said Act.

The said Act to be construed beneficially to Prisoners.

And all Justices of the Peace within their severall Countyes and Divisions are hereby authorized and impowered to putt in Execution all such Powers Directions and Authorities for the full Release and Discharge of such persons as were in Prison on the said Fowerteenth day of Aprill One thousand six hundred seaventy and one as aforesaid and of all such other persons as have beene since that time committed to Prison and are in Prison on the said Nine and twentyeth day of May as aforesaid as the said former Act hath made and provided for the Release and Discharge of such who were in Prison for Debt or Damages upon the said Fowerteenth Day of Aprill One thousand six hundred seaventy and one and every Clause Matter and Thing in the said former Act contained shall be construed and taken to the benefitt and advantage of such as shall be in Prison upon the said Nine and twentyeth day of May One thousand six hundred seaventy and eight as fully and amply as by the said Act it ought to have beene for the Benefit and Discharge of such as were in Prison on the said Fowerteenth day of Aprill One thousand six hundred seaventy and one

III. Recital of 22 & 23 C. 11. c. 20. §4.

Weekly Allowance to be paid to Prisoner and not to Keeper, &c.; Prisoner not discovered in Three Months to have any Estate, discharged by Two Justices.

And whereas by the said former Act it is provided That if any Creditor shall insist to have his Debtor continued in Prison after he hath taken the said Oath and will allow him a weekly Maintenance to be appointed by the Justices of the Peace not exceeding Eighteene pence the weeke the same Prisoner shall continue and be detained in Prison Bee it now enacted by the Authoritie aforesaid That such weekly Allowance shall be paid to the Prisoner himselfe and not to the Goale-Keeper or any other person for him and if within the space of Three moneths after such weekly Allowance by any Creditor noe Estate of the Prisoner shall be discovered or made out before Two Justices of the Peace of that County and Division where the said Prisoner is kepte in Prison then the said Prisoner shall forthwith be discharged by Warrant under the Hands and Seales of any Two Justices of the Peace of the same County and Division where the said Prisoner shall be soe in Prison to the Keeper of such Prison in that behalfe directed as fully and amply as if such Prisoner had beene discharged by the Justices of the Peace at their Quarter Sessions as in the said recited Act is mentioned and that then and from thenceforth the said weekely Allowance shall cease and determine as if the same had never beene made.

IV. Prisoners freed by this and the former Act, free from Chamber Rent, &c.

And all Prisoners by this present Act or by the said former Act freed and discharged from their Imprisonments are hereby acquitted and discharged of and from the payment of Chamber Rent and all and every ( (fn. 2) ) Fee and Fees due to the Goaler or Keeper of such Prison or Prisons in any manner or wise.

V. Prisoner discharged, not again to be charged for the old Debts;

nor by any other Person to whom he gave Notice of Application for Discharge.; Prisoner shewing Duplicate of Discharge may retain an Attorney; Proceedings thereon against Prisoner, and his Lands, Goods, &c.; Proviso for Wearing Apparel, &c. to the Value of £10; and for Discharge of Prisoner.

And bee it further enacted by the Authoritie aforesaid That noe Prisoner discharged out of Prison by vertue of this present Act or by vertue of the said recited Act shall at any time hereafter be imprisoned for or by reason of any Debt or Damages or any summe or summes of money contracted or growne due to or recovered by any person or persons at whose Suite the said Prisoner did then stand charged in any Prison or any other person or persons to whome such Prisoner did give notice under the Hand and Seale of some Justice of the Peace of the same County City or Place the space of forty dayes before the time of his Discharge of his intention to receive the benefit of this Act and of the way and course he intended to take for obtaining the same before the time of their Discharges as aforesaid But that upon any Arrest for such Debt Damages or Summes of Money it shall or may be lawfull for them shewing a Duplicate of their Discharge under the Hands and Seales of the Justices of the Peace by whome they were discharged or of any Two of them or of such Justices of the Peace in case such Prisoner be discharged after an allowance of Maintenance by the Creditor for Three Moneths as aforesaid which the said Justices are hereby required to give to every Prisoner soe by them discharged to retaine an Attourney to appeare for them and file Common Baile to every such Action and pleade thereunto soe that the Plaintiffe if he please may recover and enter Judgement against such Prisoner to be executed and levyed upon the Lands Tenements Goods and Chattells of such Prisoner soe discharged as aforesaid his or her Wearing Apparell Furniture for his or her Dwelling house the said Furniture not exceeding Ten pounds in value and necessary Tools for his or her Trade and. Occupation onely excepted but not upon the Person of the Prisoner the persons of such Prisoners being hereby for ever freed and discharged from Imprisonment for any Debt Trespasse upon the Case Duty Summe or Summes of Money or thing thereunto relateing contracted or due before the time of their discharge haveing had notice as aforesaid

VI. Sheriff or Gaoler refusing, &c. to discharge Prisoner;

Penalty £20. and Punishment.

And bee it enacted by the Authority aforesaid That in case any Sheriffe Goaler and Keeper of Prison shall refuse and delay to bring and discharge and sett at Liberty any Prisoner or Prisoners according to the Order of the Justice or Justices of the Peace made in pursuance of this Act or of the said former recited Act Every such Goaler Sheriffe [and (fn. 3) ] Keeper of Prison shall forfeite and pay to such Prisoners ( (fn. 4) ) detained contrary to such Order the summe of Twenty pounds to be recovered by Action of Debt in any of His Majestyes Courts of Record and shall alsoe be subject to such Fine and Punishment as the said Justices of the Peace shall upon Complaint thereof to them made order and award

VII. On Action of Escape, &c. against Sheriff or Gaoler;

General Issue; Double Costs.

And bee it further enacted by the Authoritie aforesaid That upon any Action of Escape or other Suite brought or to be brought against any Justice of the Peace Sheriffe Goaler or Keeper of Prison for any thing done in obedience to this Act it shall and may be lawfull to and for any such Justice of the Peace Sheriffe Goaler and Keeper of Prison to plead the Generall Issue and give this Act in Evidence which shall be a good and sufficient Discharge and shall save harmelesse every such Justice of the Peace Sheriffe Goaler or Keeper of Prison pleading the same And if the Plaintiffe in any such Action shall be nonsuited or Verdict passe against him the Defendant shall have double Costs to be taxed by the Court where such Action is brought.

VIII. Discharge of Prisoner not a Discharge of Surety.

Provided alwayes and bee it enacted That the Discharge of any, person or persons by vertue of this Act shall not amount unto or be construed to free or discharge any other person or persons joyntly or severally bound for or lyable to answere or satisfie the said Debt or any part thereof either as Principall or Surety but that such other person or persons shall be lyable to answere the said Debt and Damages in such manner to all intents and purposes as they were before the discharge of such Prisoner

IX. Prisoner discharged to have been Six Months imprisoned.

Provided alsoe That noe person shall be discharged by this Act that hath not or shall not before such Oath made have remained in Prison by the space of Six Moneths.

X. Debtor for more than £500 to one Creditor, not discharged.

Provided alsoe That noe person by vertue of this Act shall be discharged out of Prison who shall stand charged in Execution with more then the Summe of Five hundred pounds to any one person Principall Money and Damages

XI. If Parent, &c. of Ability, Creditor not bound to make weekly Allowance to Prisoner.

Provided alsoe That noe Creditor insisting to have his Debtor continued in Prison shall be bound to make any Weekly Allowance for the Subsistance of the Prisoner where the Father Mother Sonne or Daughter or other person who by the Lawes of this Realme are bound to maintaine him in discharge of the Parish if he were at large are of sufficient Ability to maintaine such Prisoner.

XII. Creditor of Debtor, being a Day Labourer, &c. may have his Debtor removed to public Work-house within 20 Miles, and kept to Labour.

Creditor to contribute only so much above Profit of Labour as shall be requisite to maintain Debtor, Proviso if Profit of Labour exceed Maintenance.

Provided alsoe and bee it enacted That if any Creditor insisting to have his Debtor continued in Prison and ordered to make Allowance towards his Maintenance shall desire to have his Debtor being a person formerly useing any Handycraft or Day labour removed to any Publique Worke house there to be kept at hard Labour and shall within One weeke next after notice of such Order for makeing Allowance at his owne proper Costs and Charges cause such Prisoner by Habeas Corpus and Committment or other Order to be removed to any Publique Worke-house in the same County where the said Prison is or within Twenty miles distance of the said Prison That then such Prisoner soe removed to the said Workhouse shall and may be there held to Labour suitable to his ability and the Creditor or Creditors shall afterwards contribute towards his Maintenance onely such Summe as over and above the proffitt of his Labour shall be requisite to maintaine him to be ascertained by the Two next Justices of Peace And in case the proffitt of his Labour shall exceede the value of his Maintenance one moyety of the overplus shall goe towards the payment of his Debts for which he remaines in Execution the other moyety shall be paid to the hands of the said Prisoner the said moyetyes to be distributed accordingly by the Two next Justices of the Peace

XIII. After continuing in Workhouse Two Years, Prisoner discharged.

And bee it further enacted That after any person shall by vertue of this Act have continued at any Workhouse by the space of Two yeares he is then to be discharged from his Imprisonment and enjoy the full benefitt of this Law

XIV. Powers to Judge, &c. to commit Prisoner to Workhouse.

And bee it enacted That any Judge of such Court whereto such Debtor is a Prisoner or the two next Justices of the Peace to such Workehouse shall and may have power to committ such Debtor being brought before him or them by Habeas Corpus or Order under the Hands and Seales of such Two Justices unto any Worke house within the County where such Prison is there to remaine according to this Act.

XV. Prisoner released, found or suspected to have Goods, &c. above Allowance by this or former Act

Exception; and not paying his Debts.; Oath may be again tendered, and on Refusal Prisoner remanded.

Provided alwayes and bee it enacted That if any Prisoner that shall be released by vertue of this Act shall at any time afterwards be found or suspected by any of his Creditors to have in ready Money Goods or Chattells in his owne hands and possession or in the hands of any others to his or her use or in Trust for him or her in value over and above what he or she is allowed by this or the said former Act to have [or (fn. 5) ] then such Goods in his Shop or Worke house as he shall have beene credited or trusted with since the time of his Discharge and for what he shall be really indebted at the time of [his (fn. 6) ] makeing such Oath and he or she will not or doe not, upon convenient Demand pay his or her Debt or Debts therewith as farr as the same will reach That then and in such case at the request of any Creditor the said Oath shall be tendered to him or her againe by any Justice of the Peace in this Act before impowered to administer the [said (fn. 6) ] Oath for Discharge of Prisoners or by any Judge of the Court wherein there is Judgement against him which he or she refuseing to take shall be remanded to Prison in Execution for such Debt or Debts Any thing in this Act to the contrary notwithstanding.

XVI. Proviso for Persons in Execution for Penalty before 29th May 1678.

Provided alsoe That this Act shall not extend to any person or persons in Execution for any Fine on him or her imposed for any Offence committed before the said Nine and twentyeth day of May One thousand six hundred seaventy and eight.

XVII. Proviso respecting Persons detained upon Meane Process.

Provided that such person or persons as is or are detained in Prison upon any Meane Processe if it shall be desired by any Creditor before any Justice of the Peace to whome such Prisoner hath applyed for his Discharge shall forthwith give a Warrant to some Attourney to appeare or file Common Baile for him or them in the Court out of which the said Meane Processe issued and to receive a Declaration at the Plaintiffes Suite and that such Prisoner shall thereupon have the full benefit of this Law as to the Liberty of his Person against his said Imprisonment upon the said Meane Processe and against any Judgement or Execution that shall be had against him in that Suite and against any other Suite that shall be brought against him for the same Matter[and (fn. 7) ] cause of Action to all intents and purposes as fully and beneficially as if he had beene charged in Execution at the ( (fn. 8) ) Plaintiffes Suite before the Nine and twentyeth of May One thousand six hundred seaventy and eight but such Prisoner upon Meane Processe shall in case of his refusall to give such Warrant of Attourney lose the whole benefitt of this Law.

XVIII. Aliens how far not to have Benefit of this Act.

Provided alwayes That noe Merchant Stranger or other Alien or Forreigner that hath beene arrested and is in Prison on any Action or Suite for or by reason of any Debt or other Engagement contracted or entred into beyond the Seas shall have any benefitt by this Act but that all and every such Merchant Stranger or other Alien or Forreigner shall and may be detained in Prison and proceeded against as if this Act had never beene made.

XIX. Prisoner not to be discharged till Disclosure of his, Effects on Oath.

Schedule thereof to be made before Justices, and by them returned to Sessions; Proceedings thereon.

Provided alwayes That noe Prisoner shall be discharged by vertue of this Act untill he shall before the Justices of the Peace who are by this Act impowered to discharge him declare upon his Corporall Oath (which Oath the said Justices are hereby appointed to administer) what Effects are belonging to him or what Debt or Debts are then oweing to him within any of His Majestyes Dominions or elsewhere and by whome, and for what cause and upon what Security, of all which a Schedule shall be made in the presence of such Justices and subscribed by the Prisoner and shall be by such Justices returned to the next Sessions there to be kept for the better Information of the Creditors of such Prisoner who or such of them as will joyne may thereupon sue for such Debts or soe much thereof as will reasonably satisfie them in the Name of the Prisoner and after the same recovered and received to render the overplus (their owne Debts and Charges first deducted) to the Prisoner.

XX. Perjury.

Punishment.

Provided alwayes (and to deterr all persons who are by the charitable intention of this Act to be relieved from abuseing the Favour hereby to them intended) That if any person who shall in pursuance of this Act take his Oath for any of the purposes hereby appointed shall forsweare or perjure himselfe Then such person being thereof lawfully convicted shall beyond and over and above the Penalties which may by the Law now in being be inflicted suffer Imprisonment for the space of Seaven yeares without Baile or Maineprise.

Footnotes

1 Judgment O.
2 other O.
3 or O.
4 soe O.
5 other O.
6 interlined on the Roll.
7 or O.
8 said O.