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“ will of his sovereign, and contending for the
supremacy of the law."
The intolerants prevailed, and the petition of the dissenters was rejected. His majesty, however, was pleased to exercise his dispensing power in favour of some protestant Walloons settled at Thorney, in the isle of Ely, by granting them, by his letters patent, leave to use their liturgy in their own language, and to regulate their other religious concerns, by their own discipline. About the same time, by a strong exercise of his spiritual supremacy, he addressed a letter to the archbishop of Canterbury, by which he directed what topics the established clergy should discuss, and what they should avoid in their sermons; and made other regulations respecting their discipline *
The dissenters filled England with their complaints against the act. Perceiving that they made a considerable impression on the public mind, his majesty, about four months after his sanctioning it, issued a declaration of indulgencet. He mentions in it the promises of liberty of conscience contained in his declaration at Breda; he observes that he had been zealous to settle the uniformity of the church of England; promises to maintain it, and then, “ as
as to what concerned those, who, living peaceably, did not conform themselves to it ' through scrupulous and misguided conscience,”
* Dated 14 October 1662. Ralph has inserted it at length in his History.
+ 26 December 1662.
he declares, that, in the approaching sessions, he “ would endeavour to induce parliament to concur “ with him in an act, which might enable him to “ exercise, with a more universal satisfaction, that “
power of dispensing, which he conceived to be " inherent in him.”
Whatever hopes were raised by this declaration, they were of short duration : no alleviation of the act of uniformity took place; and two acts were passed for suppressing conventicles, the name usually given to the religious meetings of the dissenters*. By the first, persons preaching in them, were prohibited from coming within five miles of any town corporate or borough, under the penalty of 40l. The operation of this act was limited to three years :--on its expiration, another was passed, which provided, that, whenever five persons, above those of the same household, should assemble in a religious congregation, each should be liable, for the first offence, to be imprisoned for three months, or to pay 5l. ; for the second, to be imprisoned six months, or to pay 10l.; and for the third, to be transported seven years, or to pay 100 l.
In this manner, - to avail ourselves of the candid acknowledgments of Humeľ" all the king's kind
promises of toleration and indulgence to tender “ consciences, were eluded and broken." Lord
* 16 Car. II, c. 1. (1664.) 'An act to prevent and suppress seditious conventicles.
22 Car. II, c. 1. (1670,) with the same title. The first of these acts expired at the end of three
years. + Hist. c. xliii.
Clarendon* defends the monarch against this charge on three grounds ;-“The presbyterians,” says his lordship, “complained that the king had “ violated his promise made to them in his declara“ tion at Breda, which was urged with great unin“ genuity and without any shadow of right, for his “ majesty had thereby referred the whole settlement “ of all things relating to religion, to the wisdom of “ parliament.”—Hume justly replies," It is true " that Charles, in his declaration from Breda, had
expressed his intention of regulating that indul
gence, by the advice and authority of parliament: " but this limitation could never reasonably be ex“ tended to a total infringement and violation of “ all his engagements.” To the noble historian's two other excuses,—that the indulgence was promised to the scrupulous, not to the factious; and that the sovereign was willing, and sought to perform his promise, but that the decided hostility of parliament put it beyond his power,--no answer is necessary. Lord Clarendon mentions 'frequently the malignity of the sectaries : Hume justly observes, that the chief cause of that malignity was the restraint, under which they laboured : in this, as on all such occasions, the removal of the cause would, though perhaps slowly, have removed the effect.
It is observable, that the monarch, in his declaration of indulgence, intimates those pretensions to the dispensing power, which were afterwards openly avowed, both by him and his successor in the throne. From this circumstance, Hume and other respectable historians have suggested, that, even at this time, the monarch had formed a settled plan of affording to the roman-catholics a legal toleration of their religion; and that his severities to the protestant dissenters proceeded from refined policy. He calculated, --if we should believe these writers,—that, to avoid the grinding operation of these severities, the protestant dissenters would gladly avail themselves of any exertions of the dispensing power, which the crown should make in their favour; and thus, having themselves profited of them, could not afterwards consistently call in question, either the monarch's title to the prerogative, or the justice of his exercising it in favour of others.' A passage in Burnet's History may be thought to render this probable*: but nothing certainly could be more contrary to any views of this nature, than the principles and feelings of Clarendon, by whose counsels his majesty was, at this time, solely guided in all his measures, and particularly in those, which were then taken against the protestant dissenters. The minister's strong and persevering hostility to them, and to the romancatholics, is the greatest blot in his character, otherwise highly estimable.
* Life, vol. ii. p. 156.
One circumstance, of particular hardship, attended the expulsion of the dissenting ministers from their livings. When the monks and nuns were expelled from their religious abodes by Henry the eighth, and when the catholic clergy were deprived of their benefices by Elizabeth, some allowances were made to them; and when the presbyterians ejected the established hierarchy, a fifth of each living had been left to the ejected clergymen; but on the expulsion of the non-conformist ministers, no such allowances were made : it was recommended by the peers, but was absolutely rejected by the commons.
* Vol. i. p. 179.
· The several acts of parliament noticed in this chapter, had the effect of changing the name of puritans into that of protestant non-conformists. The acts for suppressing conventicles considerably increased their sufferings. By virtue of them, says Neale *, the gaols in the several counties were quickly filled with dissenting protestants; the houses of the ministers were broken open, their hearers taken into custody, the legal penalties of 20l. upon the minister, 201. upon the house, and 51. on each hearer, were exacted: if not paid, they were levied by the sale of the cattle and goods of the offenders; and if these did not suffice to answer them, the parties were hurried to prison and kept in close confinement for three or even six months. Several were fined, several excommunicated, for not coming, to church, and some were sentenced to abjure the realm. To avoid these severities, several occasionally frequented the churches of the establishment: this was termed Occasional Conformity : it was defended by some presbyterian divines; but the independents, anabaptists, and quakers, universally disclaimed it. The firmness of the quakers, always
* Hist. vol. ii. c. vii. In the present chapter we frequently use his words.