House of Commons’ 1773 Bills to Aid Prisoners

face of a prisoner

In 1773, bills to aid prisoners were introduced into the House of Commons. On February 18, 1773, the House of Commons ordered:

Ordered, That Leave be given to bring in a Bill for the Relief of Prisoners charged with Felony, or any other crime, who shall be acquitted or discharged by Proclamation, respecting the Payment of Fees; and giving a Recompence for such Fees out the County Rates: And that Mr. Popham, the Lord Folkestone, Mr. Cornwall, Mr. Morton, Mr. Fuller, Mr Feilde, and Sir Thomas Clavering, do prepare, and bring in, the same.

On March 19, 1773, the House of Commons went into committee to consider how to maintain clergy to officiate in jails and places of confinement for debt. A bill was brought to the House on March 29, 1773:

Ordered, That Leave be given to bring in a Bill for providing Clergymen to officiate in the Gaols and Places of Confinement for Debt, within that Part of Great Britain called England: And that Mr. Gray, Mr Onslow, Mr. Whitbread, Mr. Fuller, Sir Thomas Clavering, and Mr. Ongley, do prepare, and bring in, the same.

The bill to maintain clergy for prisoners passed both houses of parliament and received royal assent in June of 1773. The bill addressing fees for release from prison was on April 28, 1773 committed to committee for further discussion and not considered further in the 1773 parliamentary session. However, a similar bill was re-introduced and enacted in early 1774.

Samuel Whitbread, a wealthy Bedfordshire brewer, and Robert Henley Ongley, son-in-law of the prosperous Bedfordshire linen merchant Samuel Ongley, were among the seven sponsors of the bill to provide clergy for prisoners. Sir Thomas Claverly was the only member appearing as a sponsor of both 1773 bills. The progress of these bills, and the members named as bringing in the bills, can be found in the Journal of the House of Commons, v. 34, 13 Geo. III, Parl. 13, Sess. 6 (1772 & 1773).

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