Lord Denman’s is often quoted as supplying a definition of conspiracy. It is, he says, either a combination to procure an unlawful object, or to procure a lawful object by unlawful means; but the exact meaning to be given to the word “lawful” in this antithesis has nowhere been precisely stated. A thing may be unlawful in the sense that the law will not aid it, although it may not expressly punish it. The extreme limit of the doctrine is reached in the suggestion that a combination to hiss an actor at a theatre is a punishable conspiracy.
The application of the wide conception of conspiracy to trade disputes and to civil questions arising out of contracts for service is dealt with under the headings Labour Legislation, Strikes and Lock-Outs and Trade Unions. The criminal side is regulated by the Conspiracy and Protection to Property Act 1875, which enacted that “an agreement or combination by two or more persons to do, or procure to be done, any act in contemplation or furtherance of a trade dispute between employers and workmen shall not be indictable as a conspiracy, if such act committed by one person would not be punishable as a crime. When a person is convicted of any such agreement or combination to do an act which is punishable only on summary conviction, and is sentenced to imprisonment, the imprisonment shall not exceed three months, or such longer period, if any, as may have been prescribed by the statute for the punishment of the said act when committed by one person.” The effect of the act of 1875 in conjunction with the Employers and Workmen Act of the same year is that breach of contract between master and workmen is to be dealt with as a civil and not as a criminal case, with two exceptions. A person employed on the supply of gas and water, breaking his contract with his employer, and knowing, or having reasonable cause to believe, that the consequence of his doing so, either alone or in combination with others, will be to deprive the inhabitants of the place wholly or to a great extent of their supply of gas or water, shall be liable on conviction to a penalty not exceeding £20, or a term of imprisonment not exceeding three months. And generally any person wilfully and maliciously breaking a contract of service or hiring, knowing or having reasonable cause to believe that the probable consequences of his so doing either alone or in combination with others will be to endanger human life or cause serious bodily injury, or to expose valuable property whether real or personal to destruction or serious injury, shall be liable to the same penalty. By section 7 every person who, with a view to compel any other person to abstain from doing or to do any act which such other person has a legal right to do or abstain from doing, wrongfully and without legal authority, (1) uses violence to or intimidates such other person, or his wife and children, or injures his property; or (2) persistently follows such other person about from place to place; or (3) hides any tools, clothes or other property owned or used by such other person, or deprives him of or hinders him in the use thereof; or (4) watches or besets the house or other place where such other person resides, or works, or carries on business, or happens to be, or the approach to such house or place; or (5) follows such other person with two or more other persons, in a disorderly manner, in or through any street or road, shall be liable to the before-mentioned penalties. Of course a combination to do any of these acts would be punishable as a conspiracy, as mentioned in section 3 above.
Seamen are expressly exempted from the operation of this act. The exceptions as to contracts of service for the supply of gas and water, &c., were supported by the circumstances of the London gas stokers’ case in 1872.
Conspiracy at common law is a misdemeanour, and the punishment is fine or imprisonment, or both, to which may be added hard labour in the case of any conspiracy to cheat and defraud, or to extort money or goods, or falsely to accuse of any crime, and to obstruct, pervert, prevent or defeat the cause of justice. Conspiracy to murder, whether the victim be a subject of the king or resident in his dominions or not, is, by the Offences against the Person Act 1861, punishable by penal servitude.
United States.—The most generally accepted definition of conspiracy in the United States is “a combination of two or more persons by some concerted action to accomplish some criminal or unlawful purpose, or to accomplish some purpose not in itself criminal or unlawful by criminal or unlawful means”; though in some states, e.g. Colorado, it is not conspiracy under the statute to do a lawful act in an unlawful way (Lipschitz v. People  25 Col. 261). In some states an overt act must be shown (N.Y. Pen. Code, § 171). This is so in the Federal Courts, United States v. McCord (72 Fed. R. 159). Conspiracy out of the state to do any act which if done within the state would be treason is punishable by imprisonment not exceeding ten years (ibid. § 169). The United States Revised Statutes, § 5440, make any conspiracy to commit an act, declared by any law of the United States to be a crime, an offence against the United States, e.g. a conspiracy to plunder a wrecked vessel within the admiralty and maritime jurisdiction of the United States (U.S. v. Sanche, 7 Fed. R. 715), conspiracy to violate the postal laws (Re Renkle  125 Fed. R. 996), to violate the revenue laws (U.S. v. Cohn  128 Fed. R. 615). It is not essential that the object be accomplished (Radford v. U.S.  129 Fed. R. 49). A conspiracy to depress the market price of stock by circulating false reports that the company was going into the hands of a receiver is indictable under N.Y. Pen. Code, § 168 (People v. Goslin  67 N.Y. App. D. 16, affirmed 171 N.Y. 627).
CONSTABLE, ARCHIBALD (1774–1827), Scottish publisher, was born on the 24th of February 1774 at Carnbee, Fife. His father was land steward to the earl of Kellie. In 1788 Archibald was apprenticed to Peter Hill, bookseller, of Edinburgh, but in 1795 he started in business for himself as a dealer in rare and curious books. He bought the Scots Magazine in 1801, and John Leyden, the orientalist, became its editor. In 1800 Constable began the Farmer’s Magazine, and in November 1802 he issued the first number of the Edinburgh Review, under the nominal editorship of Sydney Smith; Lord Jeffrey, was, however, the guiding spirit of the review, having as his associates Lord Brougham, Sir Walter Scott, Henry Hallam, John Playfair and afterwards Macaulay. Constable made a new departure in publishing by the generosity of his terms to authors. The writers for the Edinburgh Review were paid at an unprecedented rate, and Constable offered Scott 1000 guineas in advance for Marmion. In 1804 A. G. Hunter joined Constable as partner, bringing considerable capital into the firm, styled from that time Archibald Constable & Co. In 1805, jointly with Longman & Co., Constable published Scott’s Lay of the Last Minstrel, and in 1807 Marmion. In 1808 a split took place between Constable and Sir Walter Scott, who transferred his business to the publishing firm of John Ballantyne & Co., for which he supplied the greater part of the capital. In 1813, however, a reconciliation took place. The publishing firm of Ballantyne was in difficulties, and Constable again became Scott’s publisher, a condition being that the firm of John Ballantyne & Co. should be wound up at an early date, though Scott retained his interest in the printing business of James Ballantyne & Co. In 1812 Constable, who had admitted Robert Cathcart and Robert Cadell as partners on the retirement of A. G. Hunter, purchased the copyright of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, adding the supplement (6 vols., 1816–1824) to the 4th, 5th and 6th editions (see Encyclopaedia). In 1814 he bought the copyright of Waverley. This was issued anonymously; but in a short time 12,000 copies were disposed of, Scott’s other novels following in quick succession. The firm also published the Annual Register. Through over-speculation, complications in Constable’s business arose, and in 1826 a crash came. Constable’s London agents stopped payment, and he failed for over £250,000, while James Ballantyne & Co. also went bankrupt for nearly £90,000. Sir Walter Scott was involved in the failure of both firms. Constable started business afresh, and began in 1827 Constable’s Miscellany of original and selected works . . . consisting of a series of original works, and of standard books republished in a cheap form, thus making one of the earliest and most famous attempts to popularize wholesome literature. He died on the 21st of July 1827. After Constable’s bankruptcy, Robert Cadell (1788–1849), who