1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Hue and Cry

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HUE AND CRY, a phrase employed in English law to signify the old common law process of pursuing a criminal with horn and voice. It was the duty of any person aggrieved, or discovering a felony, to raise the hue and cry,[1] and his neighbours were bound to turn out with him and assist in the discovery of the offender. In the case of a hue and cry, all those joining in the pursuit were justified in arresting the person pursued, even though it turned out that he was innocent. A swift fate awaited any one overtaken by hue and cry, if he still had about him the signs of his guilt. If he resisted he could be cut down, while, if he submitted to capture, his fate was decided. Although brought before a court, he was not allowed to say anything in self-defence, nor was there any need for accusation, indictment or appeal. Although regulated from time to time by writs and statutes, the process of hue and cry continued to retain its summary method of procedure, and proof was not required of a culprit’s guilt, but merely that he had been taken red-handed by hue and cry. The various statutes relating to hue and cry were repealed in 1827 (7 and 8 Geo. IV. c. 27). The Sheriffs Act 1887, reenacting 3 Edw. I. c. 9, provides that every person in a county must be ready and apparelled at the command of the sheriff and at the cry of the county to arrest a felon, and in default shall on conviction be liable to a fine.

“Hue and cry” has, from its original meaning, come to be applied to a proclamation for the capture of an offender or for the finding of stolen goods, and to an official publication, issued for the information of the authorities interested, in which particulars are given of offenders “wanted,” offences committed, &c.

For the early history, see Pollock and Maitland, History of English Law, vol. ii.; W. Stubbs, Select Charters.

  1. The word “hue,” which is now obsolete except in this phrase and in the “huers” on the Cornish coast who direct the pilchard-fishing from the cliffs, is generally connected with the Old French verb huer, to cry, shout, especially in war or the chase. It has been suggested that while “cry” represents the sound of the voices of the pursuers, “hue” applies to the sound of horns or other instruments used in the pursuit; and so Blackstone, Comment. iv. xxi. 293 (1809), “an hue and cry, hutesium et clamor, . . . with horn and voice.” “Hue,” appearance, colour, is in Old English hiew, hiw, cognate with Swedish hij, complexion, skin, and probably connected with Sanskrit chawi, skin, complexion, beauty.