49. The Impressment Act.
[February 13, 1641/2. 17 Car. I, cap. 28. Statutes of the Realm, v. 138. See Hist. of Engl. x. 166.]
An Act for the better raising and levying of soldiers for the present defence of the kingdoms of England and Ireland.
I. Forasmuch as great commotions and rebellions have been lately raised and stirred up in His Majesty's kingdom of Ireland by the wicked plots and conspiracies of divers of His Majesty's subjects there (being traitorously affected), to the great endangering not only of the said kingdom, but also of this kingdom of England, unless a speedy course be taken for the preventing thereof, and for the raising and pressing of men for those services: and whereas by the laws of this realm none of His Majesty's subjects ought to be impressed or compelled to go out of his county to serve as a soldier in the wars, except in case of necessity of the sudden coming in of strange enemies into the kingdom, or except they be otherwise bound by tenure of their lands or possessions; therefore in respect of the great and urgent necessity of providing a present supply of men for the preventing of these great and imminent dangers, and for the speedy suppressing of the said heinous and dangerous rebellions, be it enacted by authority of this present Parliament, that the Justices of the Peace of every county and riding within this realm, or any three or more of them, as also the Mayor or other head officer or officers of every city or town corporate within this realm having Justices of the Peace, together with any two or more Justices of the Peace of the same city or town corporate respectively, or in default of such Justices, then with two or more Justices of the Peace of the county wherein the said city or town is, shall and may at any time or times between the 1st of December one thousand six hundred forty and one and the 1st of November, which shall be in the year of Our Lord God one thousand six hundred forty-two, within their several limits and jurisdictions raise, levy and impress so many men for soldiers, gunners and chirurgeons, as shall be appointed by order of the King's Majesty, his heirs or successors, and both Houses of Parliament, for the said services, and to command all and every the high constables, other constables, and inferior officers of and within every such county, riding, city or town corporate, or the liberties thereof respectively, by warrant under the hands and seals of such Justices of the Peace, Mayor, or other head officer or officers, as are authorised by this Act as aforesaid, to bring before them any such person or persons as shall be fit and necessary for the said services, which said persons so to be impressed as aforesaid, and every of them shall have such imprest money, and such allowance for coat and conduct unto the place of their rendezvous, as likewise such wages and entertainment from the time of their first entering into pay during their continuance in the said services, and such other necessary charges and allowances shall be made touching the said press: the said money and other charges and allowances to be paid by such persons and in such manner as by order of His Majesty, his heirs and successors, and of both Houses of Parliament, shall be appointed; and if any person or persons shall wilfully refuse to be impressed for the said services, that then it shall and may be lawful to and for the said persons so authorised as aforesaid to the said press, to commit such offender to prison, there to remain without bail or mainprize by the space of six months, and until he shall pay the sum of £10 to the Treasurers for the maimed soldiers of the same county, city or town corporate, where any such Treasurers are to be employed for and towards the relief and maintenance of such soldiers, gunners and chirurgeons, as shall happen to be maimed in the said services, or if none such shall happen to be, then for the relief of other the maimed soldiers of the said county, city or town corporate respectively; and in default of payment of the said sum, then the said person offending to remain in prison by the space of one whole year over and above the said six months, without bail or mainprize.
II. Provided always that this Act shall not extend to the pressing of any clergyman, or any scholars or students or privileged persons of either of the Universities, Inns of Court or Chancery, or any of the trained bands of this realm, or to the pressing of any other person who was rated towards the payment of the last subsidies, or that shall be rated or taxed towards the payment of any subsidies hereafter to be granted before the time of such impressing, or to the eldest son of any person who is or shall be before the time of such impressing rated in the subsidy-book at £3 lands or £5 goods, or to any person of the rank or degree of an esquire or upwards, or to the son of any such person of the said rank or degree, or of the widow of any such person, or to any person under the age of eighteen or above the age of threescore years, or to any mariners, seamen or fishermen.
III. Provided also, and be it enacted, that no money or other reward shall be taken, or other corrupt practice used in or for the pressing, changing or releasing of any person impressed, or to be impressed by force of this Act, by any person hereby authorised in that behalf or their agents, under pain of forfeiture of £20 by every person so offending for every such offence, to be paid and employed to the Treasurers of the maimed soldiers in manner and to the uses aforesaid.
IV. Provided also, and be it enacted, that this present Act shall not extend to the impressing of any of the menial servants of the members or assistants or officers of the Lords' House of Parliament, or to the menial servants of the members or officers of the House of Commons, or of any of the inhabitants of the Isle of Wight, or of the Isle of Anglesey, or of any of the Cinque Ports, or members thereof.
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