|The English Parliament passed the Hat Act in order to prohibit intercolonial trade of hats made from felt. Although felt and hatmakers in England were holding their own in their competition with French hatmakers, and they feared that if competition came from North America, it would tip the balance against them. The Act attempted to make it difficult for the colonial hatmakers by requiring them to have served a seven year apprenticeship. It then limited the number of apprentices per shop to just two. And finally, it barred Africans from being taken in as apprentices.|
| An Act To Prevent The Exportation Of Hats Out Of Any Of His Majesty's Colonies Or Plantations In America And to restrain the number of apprentices taken by the hat-makers in the said colonies or plantations, and for the better encouraging the making hats in Great Britain.
Whereas the art and mystery of making hats in Great Britain hath arrived to great perfection and considerable quantities of hats manufactured in this kingdom have heretofore been exported to his Majesty's plantations or colonies in America, who have been wholly supplied with hats from Great Britain; and whereas great quantities of hats have of late years been made, and the said manufacture is daily increasing to the British plantations in America, and is from thence exported to foreign markets, which were heretofore supplied from Great Britain, and the hat-makers in the said plantations take many apprentices for very small terms, to the discouragement of the said trade, and debasing the said manufacture: wherefore for preventing the said ill practices for the future, and for promoting and encouraging the trade of makiing hats in Great Britain, be it enacted by the King's most excellent majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the lords spiritual and temporal and commons in this present parliament assembled and by the authority of the same, That from and after the twenty ninth day of September in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and thirty two, no hats or felts whatsoever, dyed or undyed, finished or unfinished, shall be shipt, loaden, or put on board any ship or vessel in any place or parts within any of the British plantations, upon any pretence whatsoever, by any person or persons whatsoever, and also that no hats or felts, either dyed or undyed, finished or unfinished, shall be loaden upon any horse, cart or other carriage, to the intent and purpose to be exported, transported, shipped off, carried or conveyed out of any of the said British plantations to any other of the British plantations, or to any other place whatsoever, by any person or persons whatsoever.
II. And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That all and every the offender and offenders, offence and offences against this act, shall be subject and liable to the penalties and forfeitures herein after mentioned, that is to say, The said hats or felts dyed or undyed, finished or unfinished, so exported, transported, shipped off, carried, conveyed or loaden contrary to the true intent and meaning of this act, shall be forfeited, and that every of the offender or offenders therein shall likewise forfeit and pay the sum of five hundred pounds, for every such offence committed; and every master, mariner, porter, carter, waggoner, boatman, or other person whatsoever knowing such offence, and sittingly aiding and assisting therein, shall forfeit and pay the sum of forty pounds; which said several penalties and forfeitures shall and may be recovered by action of debt, bill, plaint or information in any of his Majesty's courts of record in Great Britain, or in such of the said plantations wherein such offence shall be committed (in which suit no essoin, protection or wager of law, or more than one imparlance shall be allowed) and shall go and be applied, one moiety to the use of his Majesty, his heirs and successors, and the other moiety to him, her or them, that shall sue for the same.
III. And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That it shall and may be lawful to and for any person or persons to seize, take, secure and convey to his Majesty's next warehouse all such hats and felts dyed or undyed, finished or unfinished, as he or they shall happen to see, find, know or discover to be laid on board in any ship, vessel or boat, or to be bought, carried or laid on shore, at or near the sea, or in any navigable river or water, to the intent or purpose to be exported or conveyed out of the said plantations, contrary to the true intent and meaning of this act, or to be laden upon any horse, cart or other carriage to the intent or purpose to be exported, conveyed or carried into any other of the said plantations, or into any other part or place whatsoever, contrary to the true intent and meaning hereof; and that such person or persons that shall happen so to seize, take or secure any of the commodities aforesaid, shall be indemnified for so doing to all intents and purposes.
IV. And to the intent and purpose that this act may more effectually be put in execution, for preventing the growing mischiefs that daily do or may arise to this kingdom, from the exportation of such goods as aforesaid, or any of them, out of the British plantations, should the same still be suffered to be sent from thence to supply other plantations and foreign markets, that ate or have been supplyed from Great britain: be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That if any commissioner or commissioners, or other officer or officers of the customs of any port or place within the British plantations, or any farmer or farmers of the revenue of the customs arising in the plantations, or any officer or officers imployed in the management of the said revenue, or any officer or officers imployed in the management of the said revenue, shall, from and after the said twenty ninth day of September one thousand seven hundred and thirty two, take or suffer to be taken any entry outward, or sign any cocket, warrant or sufference for the shipping or exporting any hats or felts dyed or undyed, finished or unfinished, or shall wittingly and willingly permit, contrive or suffer the same to be done, directly or indirectly, contrary to the true intent and meaning of this act, that then and in every such case, such commissioner or commissioners, farmer or farmers, officer or officers so signing such cocquet, warrant or sufferance, or passing such entry for the same, or any wise conniving thereat, contrary to the true intent and meaning hereof, shall for every such offence or neglect, forfeit his office, and shall moreover for every such offence forfeit the sum of five hundred pounds, to be recovered and applied in manner and form as aforesaid.
V. And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That every offence committed against this act shall and may be inquired of, tried, heard and determined, in the county where any such goods shall be so laden or put on board as aforesaid, or else in the county or place either in Great Britain or the plantations where such offender shall happen to be apprehended or arrested for such offence, or where any of the goods aforesaid shall happen to be seized, taken or brought in; and that the said trial shall be in such manner and form, and in such effect to all intents and purposes as if the same offence had been wholly done and committed in the same county or place where the same shall be tried by virtue and in pursuance of this act.
VI. And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That if any action, bill, plaint or information, shall be commenced or prosecuted against any person for what he shall do in pursuance of this act, such person so sued shall and may file common bail or enter into a common appearance, and plead the general issue, not guilty, and, upon issue joined, may give this act and the special matter in evidence; and if the plaintiff or prosecutor shall become non-suit, or suffer discontinuance, or if a verdict pass against him, or if upon demurrer judgement pass against him, the defendant shall recover treble costs, and damages.
VII. And it is hereby further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That no person residing in any of his Majesty's plantations in America shall, from and after the said twenty ninth day of September one thousand seven hundred and thirty two,make or cause to be made, any felt or hat of or with any wool or stuff whatsoever, unless he shall have first served as an apprentice in the trade or art of felt-making during the space of seven years at the least; neither shall any felt-maker or hat-maker in any of the said plantations imploy, retain or set to work, in the said art or trade, and person as a journeyman or hired servant, other than such as shall have lawfully served an apprenticeship in the said trade for the space of seven years; nor shall any felt-maker or hat-maker in any of the said plantations have, take or keep above the number of two apprentices at one time, or take any apprentice for any less term than seven years, upon pain to forfeit and pay the sum of five pounds for every month that he shall continue offending in the premisses contrary to the true meaning of this act, of which one moiety shall go and be applied to the use of his Majesty, his heirs and successors, and the other moiety thereof to such person or persons as will sue for the same by action of debt, bill, plaint or information, to be commenced, brought or prosecuted in any court in the said plantations, where no essoin, protection or wager of law, or more than one imparlance shall be admitted or allowed for the defendant.
VIII. And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That no person or persons inhabiting in the said plantations, from and after the said twenty ninth day of September one thousand seven hundred and thirty two, shall retain or set on work, in the said art of hat or felt making, any black or negro, upon pain to forfeit and pay the sum of five pounds for every month wherein such person or persons shall so offend, contrary to the meaning of this act; and to be recovered and applied in manner, and to the uses aforesaid.
IX. Provided always, That nothing in this act contained shall extend to charge any person or persons lawfully xercising the said art, with any penalty or forfeiture for setting or using his or their own son or sons to the making or working hats or felts in his or their own house or houses, so as every such son or sons be bound by indenture of apprenticeship, for the term of seven years at the least, which term shall not be to expire before he shall be of the full age of twenty one years; any thing herein contained to the contrary notwithstanding.
X. Provided also, and be it enacted by the authority aforesaid, That every felt-maker residing in the said plantations, who at the beginning of this present session of parliament was a maker or worker of hats or felts, and being an householder, and likewise all such as were at the beginning of this present session apprentices, covenant servants, or journeymen in the same art or mystery of felt-making so as such apprentices serve or make up their respective apprenticeships, shall and may continue and exercise the trade or art of making hats and felts in the said plantations, although the same persons were not bound apprentices to the same art for the term of seven years; any thing in this act to the contrary notwithstanding.
XI. And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That this present act shall be deemed, and is hereby declared to be a public act, of which all judges and justices are to take notice without special pleading the same.
|From Introduction To Contemporary Civilization In The West, Volume 1, Columbia University Press, 1960, pages 916-920.|