Scotland.—“All acts by which the minds of the people may be incited to defeat the government or control legislation by violent or unconstitutional means are seditious” (Macdonald, Criminal Law, 229). Sedition is punishable by fine or imprisonment or both (Punishment of Leasing-making, &c., 1825). A very large number of acts of the Scottish parliament dealt with sedition, beginning as early as 1184 with the assize of William the Lion, c. 29. Leasing-making is to be distinguished from sedition, as it attacked only the sovereign individually, not the government.
United States.—In the acts of Congress the word “sedition” appears to occur only in the army and navy articles. A soldier joining any sedition or who, being present at any sedition, does not use his utmost endeavour to suppress the same, is punishable with death or such other punishment as a court-martial shall direct (U.S. Rev. Stats. § 1342, arts. 22, 23). A sailor uttering seditious words is punishable at the discretion of a court-martial. In 1798 an act of Congress called the Sedition Act was passed, which expired by effluxion of time in 1801. Its constitutionality was violently assailed at the time and it “was beyond all question condemned by public sentiment” as “susceptible of being used for purposes of oppression and terrorism.” (See Story on the constitution of the United States, §§ 1293-1294.) Several prosecutions under the act will be found in Wharton's State Trials. Sedition is also dealt with by the state laws mostly in a very liberal spirit. Thus the Louisiana Code, § 394, enacted that “there is no such offence known to our law as defamation of the government or either of its branches, either under the name of libel, slander, seditious writing or other appellation.” By § 111, to constitute the offence of sedition “there must be not only a design to dismember the state, or to subvert or change its constitution, but an attempt must be made to do it by force. It has been held that publications which tend to degrade and vilify the constitution, to promote insurrection and circulate discontent through its members, to asperse its justice and anywise impair the exercise of its functions are seditious and are visited with the peculiar rigour of the law (1805, Respub. v. Dennie, 4 Yeates (Penna), 267). The defendant was indicted “as a factitious and seditious person of a wicked mind and unquiet and turbulent disposition and conversation, seditiously, maliciously and wilfully intending as much as in him lay to bring into contempt and hatred the independence of the United States, the constitution of this commonwealth and of the United States, to excite popular discontent and dissatisfaction against the scheme of polity instituted and upon trial in the said United States and in the said commonwealth, to molest, disturb and destroy the peace and public tranquillity of the said United States … to condemn the principles of revolution and revile, depreciate and scandalize the characters of the revolutionary patriots and statesmen, to endanger, subvert and totally destroy the republican constitutions and free governments of the United States … to involve (it) … in civil war, desolation and anarchy and to procure by art and force a radical change and alteration in the principles and forms of the said constitutions and governments without the free will and concurrence of the people of the United States, and to fulfil, perfect and bring to effect his wicked, seditious and detestable intentions aforesaid he the said Joseph Dennie on the 23rd of April 1803 at the city of Philadelphia falsely, maliciously, fractiously and seditiously did make, compose, write and publish the following libel, to wit, ‘a democracy is scarcely tolerable at any period of national history. Its omens are always sinister and its powers are unpropitious; it was weak and wicked at Athens, it was bad in Sparta and worse in Rome. … It was tried in England and rejected with the utmost loathing and abhorrence. It is on its trial here and its issue will be civil war, desolation and anarchy. … No honest man but proclaims its fraud, and no brave man but draws his sword against its force,’ &c., &c.” The defendant was found not guilty.
Continent of Europe.—The continental codes as a rule are little more definite than English law in their treatment of sedition. In Germany a distinction is drawn between Auflauf, the remaining together of a mob after the authorities have thrice bid it disperse, and Aufruhr or Aufstand, an organized resistance to the authorities; but no definition is given of the terms. The Hungarian penal code defines Aufstand to be an armed assembly which has the intention of attacking a class of citizens, a nationality or a religious body. The French penal code recognizes a difference between sédition and réunion séditieuse. If carried out with sufficient numbers and sufficient force sédition becomes rébellion. Section 100 exempts from the penalties of sedition those who have merely been present at a seditious meeting without taking any active part therein, and have dispersed at the first warning of the military or civil authorities.
SEDLEY, SIR CHARLES (c. 1639-1701), English wit and dramatist, was born about 1639, and was the son of Sir John Sedley of Aylesford in Kent. He was educated at Wadham College, Oxford, but left without taking a degree. Sedley is famous as a patron of literature in the Restoration period, and was the “Lisideius” of Dryden's Essay of Dramatic Poesy. His most famous song, “Phyllis is my only joy,” is much more widely known now than the author's name. His first comedy, The Mulberry Garden (1668), hardly sustains Sedley's contemporary reputation for wit in conversation. The best, but most licentious, of his comedies is Bellamira; or The Mistress (1687), an imitation of the Eunuchus of Terence, in which the heroine is supposed to represent the duchess of Cleveland, the mistress of Charles II. His two tragedies, Antony and Cleopatra (1667) and The Tyrant King of Crete (1702), an adaptation of Henry Killigrew's Pallantus and Eudora, have little merit. He also produced The Grumbler (1702), an adaptation of Le Grondeur of Brueys and Palaprat. An indecent frolic in Bow Street, for which he was heavily fined, made Sedley notorious. He was member of parliament for New Romney in Kent, and took an active and useful part in politics. A speech of his on the civil list after the Revolution is cited by Macaulay as a proof that his reputation as a man of wit and ability was deserved. His bon mot at the expense of James II. is well known. The king had seduced his daughter and created her countess of Dorchester, whereupon Sedley remarked that he hated ingratitude, and, as the king had made his daughter a countess, he would endeavour to make the king's daughter a queen. He died on the 20th of August 1701.
His only child, Catherine, countess of Dorchester (c. 1657-1717), was the mistress of James II. both before and after he came to the throne, and was created a countess in 1686, an elevation which aroused much indignation and compelled Catherine to reside for a time in Ireland. In 1696 she married Sir David Colyear, Bart. (d. 1730), who was created earl of Portmore in 1703, and she was thus the mother of Charles Colyear, 2nd earl of Portmore (1700-1785). She died at Bath on the 26th of October 1717, when her life peerage became extinct. By James II. Lady Dorchester had a daughter Catherine (d. 1743), who married James Annesley, earl of Anglesey (d. 1702), and after his death married John Sheffield, duke of Buckingham. Through Catherine, her daughter by her first husband, she was the ancestress of the Barons Mulgrave.
See The Works of Sir Charles Sedley in Prose and Verse (1778), with a slight notice of the author.
SEDUCTION (from Lat. seducere, to lead astray), a term generally used in the special sense of wrongfully inducing a woman to consent to sexual intercourse. The action for seduction of an unmarried woman in England stands in a somewhat anomalous position. The theory of English law is that the woman herself has suffered no wrong; the wrong has been suffered by the parent or person in loco parentis, who must sue for the damage arising from the loss of service caused by the seduction of the woman. Some evidence of service must be given, but very slight evidence will be sufficient, even making of tea, milking cows, minding children or any small household work. It is no bar if a daughter is out at work during the day time, provided she assists in the household when she comes home in the evening. The relationship of master and servant must, however, exist, and the action must be brought by the person with whom the seduced girl was residing at the time, whether in the capacity of daughter and servant, ward and servant, or servant only. It is so seldom indeed that an action is brought against a seducer when the seduced girl is a servant only, that what Serjeant Manning wrote many years ago is still painfully true: “The quasi fiction of servitium amisit affords protection to the rich man whose daughter occasionally makes his tea, but leaves without redress the poor man whose child is sent unprotected to earn her bread amongst strangers” (note to Grinnell v. Wells, 1844, 7 M. & G. 1044). This capricious working of the action for seduction is somewhat obviated in Scots law, under which the seduced woman may sue on her own account, but only if deceit has been used, and most often there is a difficulty in showing that the deceit alone was the cause of the injury. Although the action is nominally for loss of service, still exemplary damages are given for the dishonour of the plaintiff's family beyond recompense for the mere loss of service. An action for seduction cannot be brought in the county court except by agreement of the parties. As to seduction of a married woman, the old action for criminal conversation was abolished