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An Account of the Societies for Reformation of Manners, 1733

The Nine and Thirtieth
OF THE PROGRESS made in the
Cities of London and Westminster,
And Places adjacent,
By the Societies for Promoting
a Reformation of Manners;
By furthering the Execution of the LAWS against Prophaneness and Immorality, and by other Christian Methods.

THE Reasonableness of Uniting in Societies for the more effectual carrying on a Work of this Nature, need not be further proved, after what has been said with so much Advantage upon that Subject in the Annual Reformation Sermons/ as also by the excellent Author of the Whole Duty of Man, who, in his [p.36] Treatise of the Causes of the Decay of Christian Piety, hath this remarkable Passage: The Scandal, saith he, brought upon Religion, as it was not contrated by the Irregularities of one or two Persons, but by associated and common Crimes; so neither will it be removed by a few single and private Reformations. There must be Combinations and publick Confederacies in Virtue, to ballance and counterpoise those of Vice, or she will never recover that Honour which she acquired by the general Piety of her Professors.

THANKS be to GOD, many such Combinations and publick Confederacies are now in Being, who make it a great Part of their Business to oppose associated, as well as particular Offenders.

THE Societies for Reformation of Manners are eminently of that Number: And the Usefulness of such Confederacies is visible from what has been actually brought about by Means of the said Societies, far beyond what could have been hoped for from any private Endeavours. Multitudes, for near Forty Years last past, have been prosecuted, and punished according to Law, for lewd and scandalous Practices. Great Numbers of Bawdyi-houses, Sodomitical Haunts, Common Gaming-houses, and other Disorderly Houses, have been suppressed and shut up; and the Streets very much purged from the wretched Tribe of Night-walking Prostitutes and most detestable Sodomites. Many young Men, taken with lewd Women, have, by their being brought to timely Shame and Punishment, been discouraged, and turned (as we have reason to hope) from following such sinful Courses, which often cause them to defraud their Parents, Masters, &c. and bring themself to utter Ruin. Moreover, many Thousands of good Books have been dispersed by these Societies throughout the Kingdom, and put into the Hands of lewd and profane Persons, to awaken them to a Sense of their Sins. By these various Methods, many Persons have, by the Blessing of GOD, [p.37] been brought to a Sense of their Sin and Danger; and tho' they have at first been exasperated against the Instruments of awakening them out of their dreadful Lethargy, and stopping them in their sinful Courses; yet have they afterwards blessed GOD for their Recovery, and been heartily thankful to those, who had been serviceable to them therein.

THIS Undertaking, begun by a very few Persons, has been mightily spread it self, not only in Great Britain, but in Foreign Parts. And the great Good which, by GOD's Blessing, has been done by the said Soc ieties, has very much animated their Endeavours. They likewise have been encouraged by several Royal Proclamations, Orders f Sessions, Presentments of Grand-Juries in many Counties in England; by the Lord-Mayors and Court of Aldermen of the City of London; by many Sermons of the Right Reverend the Bishops, and other eminent Divines, preached to the Societies, and by the Writings of other learned Men; as also by the solemn Approbation of a considerable Numbers of Lord Spiritual and Temporal, and the Honourable Judges of England and Ireland, and te Commissioners of several Protestant Churches.

IT must be confessed, That Profaneness and Debauchery do very much abound, for Want of a more general and hearty Concurrence in this Work, of Persons of all Orders amongst us, in Proportion to the Greatness of the Concern.

THE said Socities have prosecuted, and been assisting in Prosecuting, from the First of December 1732, to the First of December 1733, divers Sorts of Offenders, viz.

Lewd and Disorderly Practices
Keeping of Disorderly Houses
Exercising their Trades or ordinary Callings on the Lord's Day


THE Total Number of Persons prosecuted in or near London only, for Debauchery and Profaneness, for near 40 Years last past, are calculated at about 98970. [p.38]

THEY have also been assisting in bringing to Punishment several Sodomitical Houses, as well as divers Persons for Sodomy, and Sodomitical Practices, who have been prosecuted by the Direction, and at the Charge of the Government.

THOSE therefore that have a just Zeal for the Honour of GOD and Religion; who desire to prevent the Spreading of the Leprosy of Sin; who are unwilling to have their Children and other Relations, or their Friends and Servants, corrupted by ill Examples and wicked Allurements: Thsoe that sincerely wish well to those excellent and hopeful Nurseries of Piety and good Manners, the Charity-Schools; and would be heartily grieved to see the Christian Instruction and pious Education that Children receive therein, miscarry, through prevailing open Temptations to Wickedness, and a general Contempt of Religion: Those, lastly, who have any due Love to their Country, and would prevent a National Guilt, and thereby keep off National Judgments, cannot possibly, one would think, but heartily approve and assist this useful Design for suppressing Profaneness and Immorality.

NOW, Whereas some have most malicious insinuated, That it is not Reformation which is intended, but the getting of Money from the Delinquents; and by such base and vile Reports have imposed on some very well-meaning People: It is hereby declared to the World, That such a Charge upon these Societies is absolutely false. It is allowed, that there have been some base and wicked Persons (not engag'd, or in the least concerned in this Work) who have extorted Money from Offenders, and sometimes from honest Men. But all such Practices are utterly detested by these Societies, (who, it is well known, have strictly enquired after such Persons, and when discovered, have brought them to Punishment) nor do they know or believe that any who are engaged with them are chargeable with such vile Practices. And to prevent, as [p.39] much as is possible, all Suspicion of a mercenary Design or Principle in any that act in the Business of Reformation, the GENTLEMEN concern'd have all along recommended and insisted upon it with their Friends, that those who give Information against Vice or Profaneness, should never receive that Part of the Penalty which the Law allows the Informer; and it has not come to their Knowledge, that any such Person hath acted otherwise. However, if at any Tiome hereafter it should happen, that any Person or Persons, concern'd in this good Design, should be chargeable with any of the evil Practices before-mention'd, or even with taking the Reward which the Law allows them; it is humbly requested of all that are heartily concerned for the Interest of Religion, that they will give Notice thereof to any of the said Societies.

N.B. The Persons concerned in this Design, confine their Prosecutions to the Offences mention'd in this Account.

AND for the further preventing any Objections from thsoe who are too much disposed to raise them against this necessary Work, that there is more regard had to the Punishment, than to the Conversion of profane and wicked Persons; it may not be improper to acquaint the Word, That in Conjunction with the other pious and proper Methods of Instruction, Admonition and Reproof, the number of Books written and published for those and the like Ends, and given away at their own Charge, are calculated at above Four hundred and forty Thousand.

N.B. It must ever be most thankfully acknowledg'd, by all who wish well to Mankind, and the Prosperity of the Government, That the Jusatices of the Peace of the COMMITTEE appointed at the Sessions of the Peace for the City and Liberty of Westminster, for Suppressing of the Night-Houses and other Disorderly Houses, &c. have been very instrumental in Promoting this good Work, by Punishing as well the Keepers and Maintainers of a great Number of those sort of Houses, as also of many Lewd and Disorderly Persons.     F I N I S     [p.40]

SOURCE: A Sermon Preached to the Societies for Reformation of Manners, at St. Mary-le-Bow, on Thursday, January 10th, 1733. By Arthur Bedford, M.A>, Chaplain to His Grace John Duke of Bedford, and to the Haberdashers-Hospital at Hoxton. London, Printed for Jos. Downing, in Bartholomew-Close, near West-Smithfield, 1734.

CITATION: If you cite this Web page, please use the following citation:
Rictor Norton (Ed.), "An Account of the Societies for Reformation of Manners, 1733", Homosexuality in Eighteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook, 14 February 2010 <>.

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