Declaration of Indulgence

Declaration of Indulgence

The Declaration of Indulgence (or the Declaration for the Liberty of Conscience) was two proclamations made by James II of England and VII of Scotland in 1687. The Indulgence was first issued for Scotland on 12 February, and then for England on 4 April 1687.[1] It was a first step at establishing freedom of religion in the British Isles.

The Declaration granted broad religious freedom in England by suspending penal laws enforcing conformity to the Church of England and allowing persons to worship in their homes or chapels as they saw fit, and it ended the requirement of affirming religious oaths before gaining employment in government office.

By use of the Royal suspending power the King lifted the religious penal laws and granted toleration to the various Christian denominations, Catholic and Protestant, within his kingdoms. The Declaration of Indulgence was supported by William Penn who was widely perceived to be its instigator.[2] The declaration was greatly opposed by Anglicans in England and their Episcopalian counterparts in Scotland for it did not appear to guarantee that the Anglican Church would remain the established church.



In Scotland the Indulgence stated that subjects were to obey the King's "sovereign authority, prerogative royal, and absolute power" "without reserve". The Presbyterians initially refused to accept the Indulgence. The King re-issued it on 28 June giving the Presbyterians the same liberties as Roman Catholics; this was accepted by the Presbyterians with the exception of the extremist Covenanters.[3] The Indulgence as well as granting religious liberties to his subjects also reaffirmed the King as absolute.[4]

The English version was welcomed by most non-conformists but as in Scotland the Presbyterians were more reluctant to wholeheartedly accept it. There was concern that the toleration rested only on the King's arbitrary will.[5] The Anglican Church was greatly disturbed by it.


The English Indulgence was reissued on 27 April 1688 leading to open resistance from Anglicans. Few clergy read out the indulgence in Church.[6] The Scottish Declaration was reaffirmed in a second proclamation on May 1688. Some Scottish Episcopalians refused to recognise the Indulgence.

William Sancroft Archbishop of Canterbury and six other Bishops presented a petition to the King declaring the Indulgence illegal. James regarded this as rebellion and sedition and promptly had the seven bishops tried; however, the bishops were acquitted.[7] The Presbyterians supported the Church, and of the dissenters only the Quakers gave thanks to the King for the Indulgence.[8]

The Indulgences was voided when James II was deposed in the Glorious Revolution and the Bill of Rights claimed that the suspending power was illegal.


  1. ^ Harris, Tim Revolution: The Great Crisis of the British Monarch, 1685-1720 Allen Lane (2006) p. 211
  2. ^ Lodge, Richard The History of England - From the Restoration to the Death of William III 1660-1702 (1910) p. 268
  3. ^ Harris, Tim Revolution: The Great Crisis of the British Monarch, 1685-1720 Allen Lane (2006) p. 173
  4. ^ Armitage, David British political thought in history, literature and theory, 1500-1800 Cambridge University Press (2006) pp. 95-96
  5. ^ Harris, Tim Revolution: The Great Crisis of the British Monarch, 1685-1720 Allen Lane (2006) p. 217
  6. ^ Fritze, Ronald H. and Robison, William B. (editors) Historical Dictionary of Stuart England, 1603-89 Greenwood Press (1996) p. 487
  7. ^ Miller, John William and Mary Weidenfeld and Nicholson (1974) p. 87
  8. ^ Harris, Tim Revolution: The Great Crisis of the British Monarch, 1685-1720 Allen Lane (2006) p. 264

See also

External links

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