When the usual suspects were rioting, looting, and destroying their own habitat last summer (and many previous summers), did you wonder what happened to the Riot Act? Said act, in its original (British) form, provides that
if any persons to the number of twelve or more, being unlawfully, riotously, and tumultuously assembled together, to the disturbance of the publick peace, at any time after the last day of July in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and fifteen, and being required or commanded by any one or more justice or justices of the peace, or by the sheriff of the county, or his under-sheriff, or by the mayor, bailiff or bailiffs, or other head-officer, or justice of the peace of any city or town corporate, where such assembly shall be, by proclamation to be made in the King’s name, in the form herin after directed, to disperse themselves, and peaceably to depart to their habitations, or to their lawful business, shall, to the number of twelve or more (notwithstanding such proclamation made) unlawfully, riotously, and tumultuously remain or continue together by the space of one hour after such command or request made by proclamation, that then such continuing together to the number of twelve or more, after such command or request made by proclamation, shall be adjudged felony without benefit of clergy, and the offenders therein shall be adjudged felons, and shall suffer death as in a case of felony without benefit of clergy.
Would that it were so in these times.
But it isn’t so because the sob-sisters, bleeding-hearts and weeping-willies — who have always been with us — have for centuries (if not millennia) chipped away at the protections that keep the bad guys more or less in line. They have likewise chipped away at standards of performance.
The effective abolition of the death penalty in this country is just the tip of the melting iceberg of punishment.
Awards for showing up are symptomatic of the erosion of standards.
The two phenomena have been conjoined in the left’s treatment of law-enforcement. There are too many felons running loose because pre-felonious crimes aren’t punished harshly enough (a failure that is often justified by the demographic characteristics of offenders); felonies aren’t punished harshly enough; paroles are too easily granted; police (those who are still on the force) are increasingly edgy about “mistreating” suspects who resist arrest; and affirmative action has ensured that law-enforcers are no longer as strong or quick-witted as they were in the past.
What did happen to the Riot Act (British version)? This:
The death penalty created by sections one, four and five of the act was reduced to transportation for life by section one of the Punishment of Offences Act 1837.
The Riot Act eventually drifted into disuse. The last time it was definitely read in England was in Birkenhead, Cheshire, on 3 August 1919, during the second police strike, when large numbers of police officers from Birkenhead, Liverpool and Bootle joined the strike. Troops were called in to deal with the rioting and looting that had begun, and a magistrate read out the Riot Act. None of the rioters subsequently faced the charge of a statutory felony. Earlier in the same year, at the battle of George Square on 31 January, in Glasgow, the city’s sheriff was in the process of reading the Riot Act to a crowd of 20-25,000 – when the sheet of paper he was reading from was ripped out of his hands by one of the rioters.
The last time it was read in the Scotland was by the deputy town clerk James Gildea in Airdrie in 1971
The act was repealed on 18 July 1973 for the United Kingdom by the Statute Law (Repeals) Act 1973, by which time riot was no longer punishable by death.
There is still a riot act in the United States, and it is sometimes used. Its use by President Trump during the Antifa-BLM riots of 2020 provoked the usual reactions: “Trump is a racist.” “Trump is Hitler.” And the left’s allies in the media simply refused to acknowledge the riots or, when they couldn’t be tossed down the memory hole, insisted on referring to them as “protests” (“mostly peaceful”, of course).
But the history of the Riot Act in Britain, which died from disuse long before it died officially, tells the sad tale of how sob-sisters, bleeding-hearts, and weeping-willies — and leftists — have undermined the rule of law and made the world a less-civilized and less-safe place for the vast majority of its denizens.
None of this would have happened if God had smitten Adam and Eve for their transgression. Perhaps that’s where it all went wrong.
Seriously, though, it all went wrong in the way that most good things go bad. Just a little tweak here to make someone happier and a little tweak there to make someone else happier, and the next thing you know: the think is all tweaked out of shape. It’s like making a mountain out of a molehill: a shovelful at a time over a long period of time will do the trick.
Related posts: Most of the posts listed here.