An Act for preventing the Mischiefs and Dangers that may arise by certain Persons called Quakers and others, refusing to take lawful Oaths. [1661]


 ‘Whereas of late Times certain Persons under the Names of Quakers, and other Names of Separation, have taken up and maintained sundry dangerous Opinions and Tenents, and (amongst others) that the taking of an Oath in any Case whatsoever, although before a lawful Magistrate, is altogether unlawful and contrary to the Word of God ; and the said Persons do daily refuse to take an Oath, though lawfully tendred, whereby it often happens that the Truth is wholly suppressed, and the Administration of Justice much obstructed : And whereas the said Persons, under a Pretence of Religious Worship, do often assemble themselves in great Numbers in several Parts of this Realm, to the great Endangering of the publick Peace and Safety, and to the Terror of the People, by maintaining a secret  and strict Correspondence amongst themselves, and in the mean time separating and dividing themselves from the Rest of his Majesty’s good and loyal Subjects, and from the publick Congregations and usual Places of Divine Worship :’


II. For the Redressing therefore, and better preventing the many Mischiefs and Dangers that do and may arise by such dangerous Tenents and such unlawful Assemblies, (2) Be it enacted by the King’s most Excellent Majesty, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons,  assembled in Parliament, and by Authority of the same, That if any Person or Persons, who maintain that the Taking of an Oath in any case whatsoever, (although before a lawful Magistrate) is altogether unlawful, and contrary to the Word of God, from and after the four and twentieth Day of March in

this present Year of our Lord one thousand six hundred sixty and one, shall wilfully and obstinately refuse to take an Oath, whereby the Laws of the Realm he or she is or shall be bound to take the same, being lawfully and duly tendered ; (3) or shall endeavour to persuade any other Person to whom any such Oath shall in like Manner be duly and lawfully tendered, to refuse and forbear the Taking of the same ; or shall by Printing, Writing or otherwise, go about to maintain and defend that the Taking of an Oath in any case whatsoever, is altogether unlawful : (5) And if the said Persons commonly called Quakers, shall at any Time after the said four and twentieth Day of March depart from the Places of their several Habitations, and assemble themselves to the Number of five or more, of the Age of sixteen Years or upwards, at an one Time, in any Place, under Pretence of joining in a Religious Worship, not authorised by the Laws of this Realm ; (6) that then in all and every such Cases, the Party so offending being thereof lawfully convict by Verdict of twelve Men, or by his own Confession, or by the notorious Evidence of the Fact, shall lose and forfeit to the King’s Majesty, his Heirs and Successors, for the first Offence, such Sum as shall be imposed upon him or her, not exceeding five Pounds ; (7) and if any Person or Persons, being once convicted of any such Offence, shall again offend therein, and shall in Form aforesaid be thereof lawfully convicted, shall for the second Offence forfeit to the King Our Sovereign Lord, his Heirs and Successors, such Sum as shall be imposed upon him or her, nor exceeding ten Pounds : (8) The said respective Penalties to be levied by Distress and Sale of the Parties Goods so convicted, by Warrant of the Parties before whom they shall be so convicted, rendering the Overplus to the Owners, if any be ; (9) and for want of such Distress or Nonpayment of the said Penalty within one Week after such Conviction, that then the said Parties so convicted shall for the first Offence be committed to the common Gaol or House of Correction for the Space of three Months ; and for the second Offence, during six Months, without Bail or Mainprise, there to be kept at hard Labour ; (10) which said Monies so to be levied, shall be paid to such Person or Persons as shall be appointed by those before whom they shall be convicted, to be employed for the Increase of the Stock of the House of Correction to which they shall be committed, and providing Materials to set them on Work : (11) And if any Person after he, in Form aforesaid, hath been twice convict of any of the said Offences, shall offend the third Time, and be thereof, in Form aforesaid, lawfully convict, that then every Person so offending and convict shall for his or her third Offence abjure the Realm ; or otherwise it shall and may be lawful to and for his Majesty, his Heirs and Successors, to give Order, and to cause him, her or them to be transported in any Ship or Ships, to any of his Majesty’s Plantations beyond the Seas.


III. And it is ordained and enacted by the Authority aforesaid, That all and every justice of Oyer and Terminer, Justices of Assize and Gaol-delivery, and the Justices of the Peace, shall have full Power and Authority in every of their open and General Sessions, to inquire, hear and determine all and every the said Offences within the Limits of their Commission to them directed, and to make Process for the Execution of the same, as they may do against any Person being indicted before them of Trespass, or law­fully convicted thereof.


IV. And be it also enacted, That it shall and may be lawful to and for any Justice of the Peace, Mayor, or other Chief Officer of any Corporation, within their several Jurisdictions, to commit to the common. Gaol, or bind over with sufficient Sureties to the Quarter-Sessions, any Person or Persons offending in the Premises, in order to his or their Conviction aforesaid.


V. Provided always, and be it hereby further enacted, That if any of the said Persons shall after such Conviction as aforesaid, take such Oath or Oaths, for which he or she stands committed, and also give Security, that he or she shall for the Time to come forbear to meet in any such unlawful Assembly as aforesaid, that then and, from thenceforth, such Person and Persons shall be discharged from all the Penalties aforesaid ; any Thing in this Act to the contrary notwithstanding.


VI. Provided always, and be it ordained and enacted by the Authority aforesaid, That all and singular Lords of the Parliament, for every third Offence committed against the Tenor of this Act, shall be tried by their Peers, and not otherwise.



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First published in 2005.

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