Combination Act 1799

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The Combination Act 1799 (39 Geo. III, c. 81) titled An Act to prevent Unlawful Combinations of Workmen, prohibited trade unions and collective bargaining by British workers. An additional act was passed in 1800 (39 & 40 Geo III c. 106). The act itself was passed in early 1799.

Background[edit]

Following their repeal in 1824, the Combination Act of 1825 was passed. Collectively these acts were known as the Combination Laws. The 1799 and 1800 acts were passed under the government of William Pitt the Younger as a response to Jacobin activity and the fear that workers would strike during a conflict to force the government to accede to their demands.

Significance[edit]

The legislation drove the labour organizations underground. Sympathy for the plight of the workers brought repeal of the acts in 1824. Lobbying by the radical tailor Francis Place played a role in this. However, in response to the series of strikes that followed, the Combination Act of 1825 was passed, which allowed labour unions but severely restricted their activity.

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