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WHAT IS THE KING’S SHILLING?
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What is it? Impressment was a long standing authority from the state for the recruitment to military service, either on land or on sea. The impress service, or more commonly called the press gang, was employed to seize men for employment at sea in British seaports. Impressment was used as far back as Elizabethan times when this form of recruitment became a statute and later the Vagrancy Act , men of disrepute usually homeless vagrants could be drafted into service.
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In , an act limited the seizure of men for naval service to those under 18, although apprentices were exempt from being pressed. In , the age was raised to Officially, no foreigner could be impressed although they were able to volunteer.
If, however, the foreigner married a British woman, or had worked on a British merchant ship for two years, their protection was lost and they could be impressed. However, these limits were often ignored and the impressment of Americans into the British navy became one of the causes of the American War of