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cil, dated December 26, 1662, in which, after reciting those words of his declaration from Breda, relating to his giving liberty to tender consciences, and his readiness to consent to an act of parliament for that purpose, bis majesty adds, “ As all these things are fresli in our memory, so are we still firm in the resolution of performing them to the full. But it must not be wondered at, since that parliament to which those promises were made, never thought fit to offer us an act for that purpose, that we, being so zealous as we are (and by the grace of God shall ever be) for the maintenance of the true Protestant religion, should give its establishment the precedency before matters of indulgence to dissenters from it; but that being done, we are glad to renew to all our subjects concerned in those promises of indulgence, this assurance, That, as for what concerns the penalties upon those, who, living peaceably, do not conform to the church of England through scruple, or tenderness of misguided conscience, but modestly, and without scandal, perform their devotions in their own way, we shall make it our special care, as far as in us lies, without invading the freedom of parliament, to incline their wisdom at the next approaching sessions, to concur with us in making some act for that purpose, as may enable us to exercise with a more universal satisfaction, that power of dispensing which we conceive to be inherent in us; nor can we doubt of their cheerful co-operating with us in a thing wherein we conceive ourselves so far engaged, both in honour, and in what we owe to the peace of our dominions, which we profess we can never think secure whilst there shall be a colour left to disaffected persons to inflame the ininds of so many multitudes upon the score of conscience, with despair of ever obtaining any effect of our promises for their ease.”
His majesty then proceeds to obviate the objection of his favouring Papists; and, after having avowed to the world the due sense he had of their having deserved well from his royal father, and from himself, and even from the Protestant religion, in adhering to them with their lives and fortunes, for the maintenance of their crown in the religion established, he declares, that “it is not in his intention to exclude them from all benefit from such an act of indulgence, but that they are not to expect an open toleration; but refers the manner to the approaching sessions of parliament, which he doubts not will concur with him in the performance of his promises.” He concludes - with hoping that all his subjects, with minds happily composed by his clemency and indulgence (instead of taking up thoughts of deserting their professions, or transplanting), will apply themselves comfortably, and with redoubled industry, to their several vocations, in such manner as the private interest of every one in particular may encourage him to “Given at our court at Whitehall, this 26th December, in the
, fourteenth year of our reign.'
This declaration was thought to be framed at Somerset-house, where the queen-mother kept her court, without the knowledge of lord Clarendon or bishop Sheldon; and, according to Burnet, was the result of a council of Papists at the earl of Bristol's (who were under an oath of secrecy), and of the king himself *. It is modestly expressed; and, though it carries in it a claim of the dispensing power, and of good will to Popery, yet it refers all to the parliament. Accordingly his majesty, in his speech at the opening the next sessions, February 28, 1663, supported his declaration in the following words, “ that though he was in his nature an enemy to all severity in religion, he would not have them infer from thence that he meant to favour Popery, though several of that profession, who had served him and his father well
, might justly claim a share in that indulgence he would willingly afford to other dissenters; not that I intend them to hold any place in the government,” says his majesty, " for I will not yield to any, no, not to the bishops themselves, in my zeal for the Protestant religion, and my liking the act of uniformity; and yet if the dissenters will behave themselves peaceably and modestly under the government, I could heartily wish I had such a power of indulgence to use upon all occasions, as might not needlessly force them out of the kingdom, or staying here, give them cause to conspire against the peace of it." This was the first open claim of a dispensing power, which the reader will observe did not propose a law for liberty of conscience, but that his majesty might have a legal power of indulgence vested in himself, which he might use or recall as he thought fit. This alarmed the house of commons, who voted the thanks of the house for his majesty's resolution to maintain the act of uniformity ; but, that it was the opinion of the house that no indulgence be granted to dissenters from it; and an address was appointed to be drawn up, and presented to his majesty, with the following reasons:
“We have considered,” say they, “ your majesty's declaration from Breda, and are of opinion that it was not a promise, but a gracious declaration to comply with the advice of your parliament, whereas no such advice has been given t. They who pretend a right to the supposed promise, put the right into the hands of their representatives, who have passed the act of uniformity t. If any shall say, a right to the benefit of the declaration still remains, it tends to dissolve the very bond of government, and to suppose a disability in the whole legislature to make a law contrary to your majesty's declaration. We have also considered the nature of the indulgence proposed, and are of opinion, 1. That it will • Burnet, vol. 1. p. 282, 283.
† Rapin, vol. 2. p. 634. : According to this curious mode of reasoning, the authority of a trust justifies the abuse of it, and persons elected for the general welfare are not accountable for acting contrary to the interest of their constituents. Such a position is just as absurd, to use the simile of a late writer, as to imagine" that physicians, chosen to superintend and cure the sick in hospitals, have a right to kill their patients if they please." Secret History of the Reign of Charles II. vol. 2. p. 7, note.-Ep.
establish schism by a law, and make the censures of the church of no consideration. 2. That it is unbecoming the wisdom of parliament to pass a law in one session for uniformity, and in another session to pass a law to frustrate or weaken it, the reasons continuing the same. 3. That it will expose your majesty to the restless importunities of every sect who shall dissent from the established church. 4. That it will increase sectaries, which will weaken the Protestant profession, and be troublesome to the government; and in time some prevalent sect may contend for an establishment which may end' in Popery. 5. That it is unprecedented, and may take away the means of convicting recu
6. That the indulgence proposed will not tend to the peace, but to the disturbance of the kingdom; the best way, therefore, to produce a settled peace is to press vigorously the act of uniformity."
The reader will judge of the force of these reasons, which, in my opinion, would justify the severest persecution in the world; however, the king was convinced with a sum of money, and therefore made no other reply, but that he had been ill understood. The house then addressed him to put the laws in execution against Papists; and a proclamation was issued out for that purpose, but little regarded. However, this opposition to the king and the Roman Catholics by lord Clarendon, and his friends in the house of commons, laid the foundation of his impeachment the next year, and of his ruin some time after. Bishop Kennet admits, that the king was inclined to a general indulgence *, " though whether it was from his good nature, or a secret inclination to introduce Popery, is not very decent to determine;" but both he and Echard are of opinion t," that the king's clemency hardened the dissenters against the church; whereas, if they had lost all dependence on a court-interest, and bad found the king and his ministry intent upon the strict execution of the act of uniformity, most of them,” say they, “would at this juncture have conformed." A notorious mistake! the contrary to this being evident to a demonstration throughout the course of this reign. The conformity of honest men does not depend upon the will, but the understanding, and it is very ungenerous at this distance to impeach men's integrity, who underwent a long course of the severest trials to retain it.
Some of the ejected Presbyterians, who were men of piety and learning, complied as far as they could, and made a distinction between lay-conformity and ministerial: they practised the former, and went sometimes to their parish-churches before or after the exercise of their ministry in some private houses; and this they did, not for interest or advantage, but to all appearance to express their catholicism and brotherly lover. Here was the rise of occasional conformity, practised by Dr. Bates, Mr. Baxter, and others, * Page 258.
+ Echard, p. 806. Baxter's Life, part 2. p. 436. Compl. Hist. p. 267.
to their death; but this, instead of being well taken, was the occasion of bringing some of them into trouble ; for Mr. Calamy, late minister of Aldermanbury, being at his parish-church December 28, the preacher happened to disappoint them; upon whichi, at the importunity of the parishioners, Mr. Calamy went up into the pulpit, and preached a sermon upon “ Eli's concern for the ark of God;" a subject much upon their thoughts at that time: but this was so highly resented at court, that he was sent to Newgate next week for sedition, in breaking the king's laws*. It was done in terrorem, says my author, but there was such a clamour among the people, and such a resort of persons of distinction to visit the prisoner, that his majesty thought fit to release him in a few days; which not being done by due course of law, the commons resented it, and presented an address, that the laws for the future might have their free course. This disgusted the king, who was willing to assert his prerogative, and shew some favour to the Presbyterians, that he might cover the Papists ; but lord Clarendon, who was their implacable enemy, and at the head of that party which meditated their ruin, opposed the court measures, and encouraged his friends in both houses to abide by the lawst.
The following summer  there was a fresh discourse of liberty for the silenced ministers; and the court was so far in the design as to encourage them to petition for a general toleration, insinuating this to be the only way of relief, and that the legislature would go on to increase their burdens, and lay them in jails till they complied. The Independents went up to court to speak for themselves, but the Presbyterians refused; upon which Mr. Baxter says, the Independent brethren thought it owing to them that they missed of their intended liberty 1. The court being displeased, lord Clarendon and his friends took the opportunity to awaken their resentments, by fathering upon the Nonconformists some new plots against the government. There was said to be a conspiracy in the north among the Republicans and Separatists, to restore the long-parliament, and put Lambert and Ludlow at their head, though the former was shut up in prison in a remote island, and the other gone into banishment." There had been some unadvised aud angry conversation among
meaner sort of people of republican principles, but it was not pretended that any gentleman of character, much less that the body of the English Nonconformists, were acquainted with it; however, about twenty were tried and condemned at York and Leeds, and several executed. Some very mean persons were indicted at the Old-Bailey for a branch of the same design, as, Tongue, Phillips, Stubbes, Hind, Sellars, and Gibbes: they were not tried separately, but set at the bar together, and condemned in the lump. It was pretended that the fifth-monarchy men, Anabaptists, Independents, * Calamy, vol. 2. p. 6.
+ Rapio, p. 312, 313. Baxter's Life, part 2. p. 430. 433.
and some Quakers, were consenting to some desperate designs, but the authors were never discovered; however, four of these pretended conspirators were executed, who confessed, at the place of execution, that they had heard some treasonable expressions in company, but denied to the last that they were acquainted with any conspiracy against the king; and whoever reads their trials will be inclined to think, that it was a design of those who were at the head of affairs, to inflame the populace against the Nonconformists, in order to bring on them greater severities *.
An act was passed this summer “ for the relief of such persons as by sickness, or other impediments, were disabled from subscribing the declaration in the act of uniformity, and explanation of the said act.” The preamble sets forth, “ that divers persons of eminent loyalty, and known affection to the liturgy of the church of England, were out of the kingdom; and others by reason of sickness, disability of body, or otherwise, could not subscribe within the time limited, and were therefore disabled, and ipso facto deprived of their prebendaries, or other livings, therefore farther time is given them to the feast of the Nativity of our Lord next ensuing; or if out of England, forty days after their returnt:" which shews, that the time limited by the act of uniformity was not sufficient. The journal of the house of lords mentions a clause inserted by their lordships, explaining the subscription and declaration to relate only to practice and obedience to the law, which passed the upper house, though several temporal lords protested against it, as destructive to the church of England; however, when it came down to the commons, the clause was rejected, and the lords did not think fit to insist upon its being restored
While the parliament were relieving the loyalists, they increased the burdens of the Nonconformists; for under colour of the late pretended plots, they passed an act for suppressing seditious conventicles; the preamble to which having set forth, that the sectaries, under pretence of tender consciences, at their meetings had contrived insurrections, the act declares the 35th of queen Elizabeth to be in full force, which condemns all persons refusing peremptorily to come to church, after conviction, to banishment, and in case of return to death, without benefit of clergy. It enacts farther , “ that if any person above the age
of sixteen, after the first of July 1664, shall be present at any meeting, under colour or pretence of any exercise of religion, in other manner than is allowed by the liturgy or practice of the church of England, where shall be five or more persons than the household, shall for the first offence suffer three months' imprisonment, upon
* Kennet's Chron. p. 840, 841. Calamy, vol. 1. p. 305. Rapin, p. 635. + 15 Car. II. cap. 6.
“ Thus it is the declared sense of the legislature, that the unfeigned assent and consent relates not only to the use, but to the inward and entire approbation of all and every thing as expressed in the subscription." Fowler's French Constitution, p. 352, note.
§ 16 Car. II. cap. 1.