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Home > Crime and Punishment in Durham > Crime and Criminals > Was being in debt a crime?

 Was being in debt a crime?

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Petition sent to the King by debtors housed in Durham Gaol.

Petition sent to King George III by debtors housed in Durham Gaol, 1794. (DUL ref: ADD MS 1130/4)



Go to resource on citizenship This source can also be used for the study of citizenship.

Debtors - people who owed money- could be found in practically every gaol or House of Correction across the country. But was being in debt a crime? Read the source carefully (you might want to use the enlarged version or the transcript) and try to answer the following questions.

1. Who is the petition to? Who is the petition from?

2. Using the following table, make a list of the complaints made by the petitioners and say what it means in modern English.

What the petition says What the petition means


3. From reading the source, do you think that being in debt was a crime?

4. Is there anything in the petition to suggest that being in debt wasn't a crime?


Now that you have find out about debtors, move on to the next source to see if sabbath-breaking was a crime.

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