Six Acts

Lord Liverpool and his Tory government responded to the Peterloo Massace by introducing the Six Acts. When Parliament reassembled on 23rd November, 1819, Lord Sidmouth, the government 's Home Secretary, announced details of what later became known as the Six Acts. By the 30th December, 1819, Parliament had debated and passed six measures that it hoped would suppress radical newspapers and meetings as well as reducing the possibility of an armed uprising.

(1) Training Prevention Act: A measure which made any person attending a gathering for the purpose of training or drilling liable to arrest. People found guilty of this offence could be transportated for seven years.

(2) Seizure of Arms Act: A measure that gave power to local magistrates to search any property or person for arms.

(3) Seditious Meetings Prevention Act: A measure which prohibited the holding of public meetings of more than fifty people without the consent of a sheriff or magistrate.

(4) The Misdemeanours Act: A measure that attempted to reduce the delay in the administration of justice.

(5) The Basphemous and Seditious Libels Act: A measure which provided much stronger punishments, including banishment for publications judged to be blaspemous or sedtious.

(6) Newspaper and Stamp Duties Act: A measure which subjected certain radical publications which had previously avoided stamp duty by publishing opinion and not news, to such duty.

These measures were opposed by the Whigs as being a suppression of popular rights and liberties. They warned that it was unreasonable to pass national laws to deal with problems that only existed in certain areas. The Whigs also warned that these measures would encourage radicals to become even more rebellious.

Primary Sources

(1) Lord Sidmouth, letter to Lord Liverpool about the introduction of the proposed Six Acts (1st October, 1819).

It is with deep regret that the determination to assemble Parliament has been so long delayed. The existing means of stopping the progress, not merely insurrection but rebellion, have long since proved to be utterly insufficient, but hitherto my colleagues have remained unconvinced of the imperious and urgent necessity of advising the adoption of the only measure, which would of itself, animate the loyal and awe the disaffected, and by which alone effectual means can be provided to meet and overcome a danger greater, as I am firmly and deliberately convinced, than any to which the country has been exposed since the accession of the present Royal Family to the throne.