Combination Act 1799

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Combination Act 1799
Act of Parliament
Long titleAn Act to prevent Unlawful Combinations of Workmen.
Citation39 Geo. 3. c. 81
Royal assent12 July 1799
Other legislation
Repealed byUnlawful Combinations of Workmen Act 1800
Status: Repealed
Text of statute as originally enacted
Unlawful Combinations of Workmen Act 1800
Act of Parliament
Long titleAn Act to repeal an Act, passed in the last Session of Parliament, intituled, "An Act to prevent Unlawful Combinations of Workmen"; and to substitute other provisions in lieu thereof.
Citation39 & 40 Geo. 3. c. 106
Other legislation
Repealed byMasters and Workmen Arbitration Act 1824
Status: Repealed

The Combination Act 1799 (39 Geo. 3. c. 81) titled "An Act to prevent Unlawful Combinations of Workmen", prohibited trade unions and collective bargaining by British workers. The Act received royal assent on 12 July 1799. An additional Act, the Combination Act 1800, was passed in 1800 (39 & 40 Geo. 3. c. 106).


The 1799 and 1800 acts were passed under the government of William Pitt the Younger as a response to Jacobin activity and the fear of then-Home Secretary the Duke of Portland that workers would strike during a conflict to force the government to accede to their demands. Collectively these acts were known as the Combination Acts.[1] Under these laws any combination of two or more masters, or two or more workmen, to lower or raise wages, or to increase or diminish the number of hours of work, or quantity of work to be done, was punishable at common law as a misdemeanor.[2]


The legislation drove labour organisations 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 Combinations of Workmen Act 1825 was passed, which allowed trade unions but severely restricted their activity.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Rodney Mace (1999). British Trade Union Posters: An Illustrated History. Sutton Publishing. p. 13. ISBN 0750921587.
  2. ^ The National Cyclopaedia of Useful Knowledge. Vol. IV. London: Charles Knight. 1848. p. 791.

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