COERCION (from Lat. coercere, to restrain), an application of moral or physical compulsion by which a person is forced to do or refrain from doing some act or set of acts apart from his own voluntary motion. Where the coercion is direct or positive, i.e. where the person is compelled by physical force to do an act contrary to his will, - for example, when a man is compelled to join a rebel army, and to serve as a soldier under threats of death, - his act is not legally a crime. Where the coercion is implied, as when a person is legally under subjection to another, the person coerced, having no will on the subject, is not responsible. But this principle is applied only within narrow limits, and does not extend to the command of a superior to an inferior; of a parent to a child; of a master to his servant or a principal to his agent. Where, however, a married woman commits a crime in the presence of her husband, she is generally presumed to have acted by his coercion, and to be entitled to acquittal, but this presumption does not extend to grave crimes, nor to those in which the principal part may be supposed to be taken by the woman, such as keeping a brothel. In civil matters, such as the making of a contract, where the law requires the free assent of the person who undertakes the obligation, coercion is a ground for invalidating the instrument.
The term "coercion" is inevitably somewhat ambiguous, and depends on the circumstances of the case. In a political sense, the application of the Crimes Act of 1887 to Ireland was called "coercion" by those opposed to the English Unionist party and government, as being special legislation differing from the ordinary law applicable in the United Kingdom.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)