The game law: or, a collection of the laws and statutes made for the preservation of the game of this kingdom. Drawn into a short and easy method, for the information of all gentlemen, and Caution of others. The fourth edition. To which is added, An abstract of The Act, the 9th of Q. Anne, for making the Act for the better preservation of the Game, perpetual, and more effectual.
London : printed by J. N. for A. R. and sold by S. Butler, at Bernard’s-Inn-Gate in Holborn, 1711. $2,300
Duodecimo, 5.75 X3.5 inches. Second edition A6,B- D12
The book is bound in contemporary full calf, previous owners name on top of title page, contents in very good condition, rear endpapers with some stains. This book is bound in the original binding with general wear and some stains, old repair to spine.
It is a very nice copy.
As argued by Munsche in his “The Gamekeeper and English Rural Society, 1660-1830”, the English gameskeeper was a policeman and “the closest thing to a professional law enforcement official to be found in rural England before the middle of the nineteenth century.” (Journal of British Studies, Vol. 20, No. 2, pp. 82-105) This compilation of the Game Law, the first of many subsequent editions and popular commentaries issued in the eighteenth century, enumerates in detail the property qualifications for not only the hunting of “beasts of chase, birds of flight, and fish” but also for the possession of both weapons – “Cross-bow, Hand gun, Hackbut, or Demihake” – and of dogs, snares, and other “engines for the taking of game”, in addition to spelling out the penalties for poaching and trespassing.
The rights of land and water owners are quite specifically written out as well as the contents thereof “Stealing of tame Peacocks is Felony; so of tame Herons, Pigeons, and young Hawks. in their Nests; so of Fishes in private Ponds”
The third Part is “OF FISH”
“How strictly the Game ( which may otherwise be called the SubJect-Matter of Hunting, Hawking, Shooting “and Fishing) is kept and preserved M. Foreign Countries, France especially our Travellers can witness. In many Places, to offend herein, is Capital. And. it seems to have been once so in England -before the Reign of King Henry III. For by the Charter of the Forest, made in the Ninth Tear of that King, it is Enacted, That none for the future lose Life or Member for killing the King’s Deer. And though such Crimes are not now Felony (generally speaking) yet are they Trespasses of an high Nature, and severely punished by Fine and Imprisonment, and in some Cases with Corporal Inflictions.
Unwarrantable Destroying of Game, now called Poaching, (a Word of Disgrace among Sportsmen) is no New Crime, but taken Notice of and provided agamfi by the Statute of 13 R. 2 cap.13
TO take any Fish in any several Water or River, without the Consent of the Owner of the said Water; Penalty upon Conviction by Confession of the Party, or Oath of one Witnefe, (within a Month) before a Justice of Peace, Recompence as the Justice shall appoint, not exceeding treble Damages, and pay to the Poor a Sum not exceeding 10s; to be levied by Distress and for want of Distress, the Offender to be committed to the House of Correction, not exceeding a Month, or give Bond with Sureties to the Party injur’d, not to offend again in like Manner. 22 & 2} Car. 2. tap. aj.
LXX. The LXX.
The Justice before whom such Offender shall be convicted (by Oath of One Witness, or Confession) may destroy the Engines wherewith he was taken or apprehended. Ibid. §. 8. In Trespass for taking and cutting his Nets and Oars, the Defendant justifies for that he was seized in Fee of a several Piscary, and found the Plaintiff with others trespassing. Judgment for the Plaintiff, for the Defendant cannot by such Colour cat the Nets and Oars, but he might have taken them and distrained them for Damage-Fesant. Cro. Car. 228. Reyntl and Champermon’s Case. But now they may he taken and destroy’d by a Justice’s Warrant. Vid. i*f. 72.
Hunting has historically provided one of the few justifications for the use of weapons, and the qualification statues (monetary thresholds based on the value of a landholding or one’s social rank) laid out in the Game Law warrant attention. The English jurist Blackstone commented that “[F]ifty times the property [is required] to enable a man to kill a partridge, as to vote for a knight of the shire.” Indeed, at least one author has argued that Blackstone’s “reprobation of the forest and game laws as owing ‘their immediate original to slavery’ provided an impelling spirit for American opposition to gun control” while citing an American editor of Blackstone’s observation that the game laws “’are among the powerful instruments of state-enginery so that the whole nation are completely disarmed, and left at the mercy of the government, under the pretext of preserving the breed of hares and partridges”. (Lund, Thomas. “British wildlife law before the American Revolution”. Michigan Law Review. Vol. 74, No. 1. pp. 49-74)
The particular examples of qualification statutes from this edition (out of 81 total statutes, incl. of Addenda) are listed below:
XII: no Layman not having Land of 40 s. per Annum, nor Clerk not having 10 l. per Annum revenue, shall keep or have any Grayhound, Hound, Dog, Ferret, Net, or Engine to destroy Hares, Coneys, or any other Gentlemens Game
XVI: No Person not having 40 l. per Annum in Lands, or 200 l. in Goods or some enclosed Ground for Deer or Conies worth 40 s. per Annum, shall use, Gun, Bow or Cross-Bow, to kill Deer or Conies, nor keep Buck-stall, Ferret, Dog, Net, or other Engine; And any Person having Lands worth 100 l. per Annum may seize such Gun, &c. and keep the same to his own use.
XIX: Persons not having Lands or some other Estate of Inheritance in their own or Wife’s Right of One hundred Pound per Annum, or for Life, or Lease of Ninety-nine Years of One hundred and fifty Pounds per Annum are declared to be persons not allowed to keep Guns, Bows, Grayhounds, &c.
XLIX: Every person Convicted as above said of keeping a Grayhound, Setting Dog, or Net to take Deer, Hare, Pheasant or Partridge, not having Inheritance of Ten Pounds per Annum, Lease for Life of Thirty Pounds per Annum, or worth Two hundred Pounds personal Estate, or Son of a Baron or Knight, or Heir apparent of an Esquire, shall suffer Imprisonment, ut supra, unless he pay Forty Shillings to the use above said.
LXIV: None shall shoot in, or keep in house any Cross-bow, Hand gun, Hackbut, or Demihake, unless he hath Lands of One hundred Pounds per Annum, under pain of Ten Pounds, except the Followers of Lords Spiritual or Temporal, Knights, Esquires, Gentleman, Inhabitants of Cities, Boroughs, or Market Towns, who may keep in their Houses Hand Guns of a Yard in length.