Vagabonds Act 1597

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The Vagabonds Act 1597 is an Act of the Parliament of England (39 Eliz. c. 4). It introduced penal transportation as a punishment for the first time. During the reign of Henry VIII, it has been estimated that 72,000 people were executed.[1] With the establishment of settlements in North America, an alternative practice (seemingly borrowed from Spain) began of a reprieve of the death sentence should the condemned person consent to be transported to an American colony, and be entered into bond service.[1] However, it is probable that this part of the legislation was never put into force.[2] Another effect of the Act was to lessen the severity of a punishment meted out to strolling players imposed under a 1572 act wherein "all fencers, bearwards, common players of interludes, and minstrels (not belonging to any baron of this realm, or to any other honourable person of greater degree)," wandering abroad without the license of two justices at the least, were subject "to be grievously whipped and burned through the gristle of the right ear with a hot iron of the compass of an inch about." [3]

It also made those listed in several categories liable for impressment in the service of the fleet.

It was repealed by section 28 of the Vagrants Act 1713.


  1. ^ a b 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Capital punishment
  2. ^ Sources in the National Archives for research into the transportation of Irish convicts to Australia (1791-1853) : Introduction
  3. '^ '1911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Theatre