Petitions and Parliament

Debtors in prisons throughout the land regularly presented petitions to Parliament requesting relief in order to highlight their plight to members of both Houses in the hope that legislation would be passed. 

The petitions were always ordered to ‘lie on the Table’ meaning that they were accepted by Parliament, but no direct action was taken. They did not therefore lead directly to legislation but their accumulation was enough to lead Parliamentarians to initiate relief Acts, allowing debtors to try and obtain their freedom. The Lords’ and Commons’ Journals show that debtors' petitions were often presented in batches, indicating organization amongst the MPs presenting the petitions.

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