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The ChurchinHistory Information Centre


[Britain 1649 - 1829 ]


Dennis Barton

Part 1




His personal attitude      


Toleration in contemporary Europe    


The American Colonies      


The Jewish Community      


The Treaty of Dover was aimed to impose Catholicism


James believed in the 'Divine Right of Kings'  


He suspended the Test Act and issued General Indulgencies


Wished to suspend the Act of Habeas Corpus


Rewarded judge Jeffreys following the 'Bloody Assizes'


He illegally collected Custom and Excise Duties


Favoured the Catholics in Ireland against the Protestants


Enjoyed using torture in Scotland    


Persecuted Richard Baxter    


Changed allies in an unprincipled manner  


Usurped the rights of the Universities  


Restricted office appointments to Catholics  


Imprisoned Anglican bishops    


Tried to 'pack' Parliament      


Placed the interests of France before those of England


Formed a large Catholic army to overawe London


Was hypocritical towards the Huguenots  


Was incompetent, selfish and ignorant of Commerce


Was a fool        


In general        




A Census        


The Great Fire of London      




The Popish Plot        




A free Parliament      


A Williamite army      


A revolution        


The invitation        


William's right to intervene      


Saved the Anglican Church    


The Toleration Act      


The Bill of Rights        


A free Press        


A step towards Democracy    


Led to better legal practice    


The need for anti-Catholicism    


The end of Whig power      
    APPENDIX (Clause 2 of the Treaty of Dover)  



Official History

The official Government sponsored history of this period, in its most forceful form, may be summarized as follows:

When King James II became a Catholic, he sought to re-impose by force the Roman Catholic religion on the Protestant people of England. He believed in the 'Divine Right of Kings', ruled arbitrarily and tyrannically, suspended Acts of Parliament, violated the rights of the Universities, granted indulgences to Catholics so that they were above the law, overawed London with a large army, imprisoned Anglican bishops, tried to 'pack' Parliament with his supporters, and subjugated English interests to those of France. The leaders of English society invited the ruler of Holland, William of Orange, to come and free England and restore the rights of a freedom-loving, just, moderate and responsible Protestant Parliament.

Official history asserts that the 'Glorious Revolution' of 1688 achieved this and the new Protestant Parliament upheld the freedom of the Church of England, issued a Bill of Rights so as to protect civil liberty, promulgated an act of religious toleration, and offered the Crown to William and his wife, Mary.



The Preceding Years

King Charles I was executed in 1649 following the end of the Civil War. His sons, Charles and James, grew up as refugees in France. As the king of France was a child, the country was administered. by two Cardinals in succession. The Catholics had won the earlier wars of religion, and their Church, being that of the majority, was state supported. The Calvinists, known as Huguenots, were permitted freedom of worship in their traditional towns, and full civil rights. The Princes were able to observe the beneficial effects of religious freedom on the happiness and prosperity of the country. This situation was in sharp contrast to the bitterness and armed conflict between Anglicans, Catholics and Calvinists In England, Ireland and Scotland.

Following Cromwell's death in 1658, General Monck occupied London and, with the support of the country, invited Charles to return as King Charles II so as to restore unity and stability to the nation. Both Monck ((MA 70)) and Charles desired to end the religious strife by granting liberty of conscience. In April 1660 Charles issued his 'Declaration of Breda', which included the words:

And because the passion and uncharitableness of the times have produced several opinions in religion, by which men are engaged in parties and animosities against each other, which, when they shall hereafter unite in freedom of conversation, will be composed or better understood, we do declare a liberty to tender consciences, and that no man shall be disquieted or called in question for differences of opinion in matter of religion which do not disturb the peace of the kingdom; and that we shall be ready to consent to such an Act of Parliament as upon mature deliberation shall be offered to us for full granting that Indulgence
((DCDA 57)).



Parliament did not object to the Declaration of Breda so, accompanied by his brother James, Charles returned home in May 1660. Although the country desired a king to provide stability, Parliament restricted his authority. He retained responsibility for the general administration of the country and the conduct of foreign affairs. But Parliament claimed the right to change and make laws. Parliament consisted of the House of Lords, representing the aristocracy, and the Commons representing the richest 10% of the population. Royalists believed that a king should be a father to all his people by ensuring justice between rich and poor and protecting those not represented in Parliament.

The Commons elected in 1661 was strongly Anglican and Royalist, but Charles managed to limit the vengeance they desired to inflict on the mainly Puritan republicans. Charles and James took no part in the campaign against those who had executed their father ((JH 136)), and few were executed for Civil War crimes. But Charles was not able to control the Anglican-Royalist desire to destroy Puritan beliefs. Instead of implementing the Declaration of Breda, by offering a Bill for granting religious liberty, Parliament enacted a set of laws known as the Clarendon Code ((JH 152)).

1. The Corporation Act of 1661 stated that non-Anglicans could not be members of local town Corporations. As these Corporations elected most of the Members of Parliament, this effectively barred non-Anglicans from voting for or sitting in the House of Commons

2. The Act of Uniformity of 1662 enacted that clergy not accepting the Anglican Prayer Book were to be expelled from their livings.  Charles would have preferred 'Comprehension'     (an arrangement whereby both Anglican and Puritan views could be held within the one national Church). The expulsion of 2000 Puritan clergy may not itself have been an unjust act as Cromwell had installed them. The Anglicans were now, understandably, demanding their removal. But the Act also stipulated that Puritans could not be schoolmasters or attend University.

3. The Conventicle Act of 1664 forbade attendance at any non-Anglican religious meeting of more than five persons (other than family meetings). Punishment was fines or imprisonment for the first offence, imprisonment for the second, transportation to America for the third, and death if the convicted person returned.

A single Justice of the Peace could inflict these penalties, thereby depriving those accused of trial by jury.

4. The Five Mile Act of 1665 stipulated that non-Anglican clergy and school teachers were not to come within five miles of any city or Corporate town. Since most Puritans lived in the towns, this deprived them of both religious leadership and education for their children.

Although these laws were aimed at the Puritans, Catholics could also be prosecuted under them. Charles had worked hard to prevent this new repressive legislation, but being unsuccessful he issued a Declaration of Indulgence on December 16th 1662, while Parliament was recessed. The Indulgence dispensed with the penalties of the recently passed Act of Uniformity ((JH 153)). 500 Puritans were released, including John Bunyan carrying his part-written "Pilgrim's Progress" but, on reconvening, Parliament forced Charles to withdraw his Indulgence.

While Parliament could pass laws, the king still controlled the Executive and the power of administration, so was free to choose his advisors and appoint individuals to civic positions. In 1667 he formed a group of advisors, which became known as the 'Cabal', and its composition indicated his ideals. It consisted of three Anglicans, representing various strands of belief, a Catholic and a Puritan. Charles issued another Declaration of Indulgence in 1672, permitting Puritans to open churches and Catholics to worship in private houses ((FCT 104)), but he was again forced to withdraw it by Parliament refusing 'Supply' ((FCT 105)). 'Supply' was the taxes required by the king to administer the country.

In 1673 Parliament passed the Test Act, which prohibited non-Anglicans from holding any civil or military office ((WE 451)). This forced the mixed faith Cabal to dissolve and James, the brother of Charles and by now at heart a Catholic, to retire as High Admiral. The English Parliament had passed the Act, so it did not apply to Scotland. This enabled Charles to appointed James as High Commissioner for Scotland in 1679. But in the same year Parliament forced Charles to issue a Royal proclamation for the stricter enforcement of laws against Catholics.

Under these laws it was illegal to:

a) Absolve, persuade or withdraw anyone from the Established Church ((GC89)).

b)  Take part in a Catholic service ((GC 73)).

c)  Aid, shelter or maintain a Catholic priest ((GC 90)).

d)  Be absent from Anglican services on a Sunday ((GC 73)).

e)  Send a child abroad to a Catholic school, or send money for this purpose ((FCT 116))

The penalty for the first three was death, for d) a heavy fine, while for e) the sender was disabled from any suit at law and from holding property.

Catholics had developed a great variety of ways to avoid these laws, as far as was possible, with the aid of non-Catholic relatives and friends. A friendly magistrate could find a legal loop hole in the law; Charles used his position to grant pardons to captured priests on condition that they left the country; fines were not levied consistently etc. But with such laws hanging over their heads, and often being applied, Catholics could only exist in a secretive and quiet manner, often paying blackmailers, bribing officials, and frequently moving residence.

By 1679 James had become a Catholic, so an Exclusion Act was proposed in that year so as to exclude James from the throne on the death of Charles. Charles proposed that while a Catholic was on the throne, Parliament would be responsible for all civil and military appointments, but this compromise was not accepted. To prevent the Act being passed, Charles dissolved Parliament in May 1679.

Republicans now fed the agitation for the recall of Parliament. Their opponents called them 'Whigs' (from the term 'wheyamore' as applied to the extreme Scottish Covenanters - 'whey' being the word for sour milk). The Whigs called the king's supporters 'Tories', this being the name of a band of rebel Irish bandits, thus implying that they were neo-Catholics. The Whigs had little support and hardly any standing in the country, but a small number of landowners, who controlled elections, gave them influence in Parliament     ((JH 216)). In 1680 Parliament was recalled and a further Exclusion Act was proposed in the Commons.

The Whig argument that James, as a Catholic, should not be governor of the Anglican State Church, was answered by the proposal that the Anglican bishops should administer the Church while a Catholic was on the throne. The Whigs again refused to compromise because it would have made the passing of an Exclusion Act less likely. The Bill was eventually passed and the Commons again refused to pass 'Supply' until Charles accepted it.

William of Orange took a great interest in English politics because his wife, Mary, was James' daughter. If Charles and James continued to remain without a male heir, she would become queen. William realised that the Whig attempt to exclude James was not because they were specifically anti-Catholic, but in order to achieve the republican aim of subordinating the Crown to Parliament. If an Exclusion Act was promulgated, it would establish the right of Parliament to intervene in the hereditary right of succession and be a serious blow to the status of the Monarchy. So if the Whigs were successful Mary, when she became queen, would be no more than a figure-head.  Her authority could be restricted by conditions made prior to her 'election' as Queen.

War was expected between France and Holland, and king Louis XIV of France feared that if Charles died and James was excluded, Mary as queen would make England an ally of Holland. So Louis provided Charles with sufficient income to make him independent of Parliament. This enabled Charles to prevent the promulgation of the Exclusion Bill, by suspending Parliament in March 1681. Charles now aimed to ensure that the next elections would return a friendly majority of MPs. The Town Corporations, which elected many of the MPs, existed by royal charter. So Charles could threaten to amend a Charter if the members of a Corporation were un-cooperative. But on 6th February 1685, just prior to the elections, Charles died and James became King James II of England and James VII of Scotland.



A quarter of an hour after his brother died, James entered the Privy Council and made an impromptu speech, which included the words: 'I shall make it my endeavour to preserve this government in Church and State as it is now by law established' ((MAB 56)). This conformed with his policy of maintaining the Anglican religion as the Established Church. He did not state what his policy would be with regard to other religions.

The first clash of James with the newly elected Parliament occurred when it assembled in 1685, and demanded that a Royal proclamation be issued 'for putting the laws into execution against all dissenters whatsoever from the Church of England'. James refused and brow-beat the MPs into withdrawing the motion ((FCT 272)).

Later that year James permitted a few Catholics to be officers in the army. Parliament demanded their dismissal and refused 'Supply' ((MAB 61)). To prevent their dismissal, and to assert his authority, James prorogued Parliament in November. Arthur Bryant has written:

'As a devout Catholic it was his divine mission to help the faithful men and women, who had stood fast by their Faith under the persecutions of the cruel laws which were now administered in his name, to relieve them from humiliating disabilities and to give them their share in the civic privileges of their country. As a just sovereign it was his duty to give all his subjects, of whatever creed, the right to worship God in their own way and to utilise their talents regardless of discriminating oaths and tests. And if some of them opposed freedom of conscience for their own selfish reasons, he must enforce that freedom. ...For James, right and reason was on his side'. ((ABA 59)).

James inaugurated large-scale reforms in civic and religious liberty during the three years during which Parliament was prorogued. But the Whigs, whose motive was more political than religious, saw the opportunity to destroy royal power. If they could exclude or depose a king, no matter what the pretext, the principle of hereditary Monarchy superior to Parliament would be abrogated.

Charles appears to have accepted Catholicism intellectually about 1659     ((MA 72)). But as an astute politician knew that an open avowal would place the political initiative in the hands of the Whigs. He therefore delayed becoming a Catholic until he was on his death-bed.

The Whigs launched a bitter, skilful and intensive propaganda campaign against James, depicting every libertarian reform as a threat to Protestant freedom. This was possible because for 150 years governments had ingrained into the English mind a phobic fear of the Pope. Most people believed that Catholicism was a tyrannical and unprincipled creed. They had been taught that power hungry and corrupt bishops led the Catholic Church and were willing to use any subterfuge to gain power.

The Whigs were therefore able to depict every libertarian move by a Catholic king as a trick and temporary expedient. It was the fundamental political need to depict Catholicism in frightening colours, so as to engineer a republican revolution, that led to that outpouring of anti-James and anti-Catholic propaganda which has became embedded in history books.



CHURCH IN HISTORY aims to present factual material upon which readers are able to form their own judgements. But to be objective when describing a person's character, especially when he has been the subject of much controversy, presents a difficulty. Yet an outline of the character of James is necessary when examining this period.

a) After the 1688 'Revolution' the victors painted a grotesque picture of James as being stupid, unprincipled, slow-witted, incompetent, indecisive, cruel, spiteful, arrogant, selfish and cowardly. This picture was blended into a caricature of the Catholic Faith as being a threat to freedom and civic justice. Examples of the numerous accusations made against James are considered in another chapter. It is the accumulative effect of these which has formed the image of James to be seen in many popular English history books.

b) Those who become aware of the injustice done to his memory may be tempted to answer the use of emotive words by his detractors, with emotive words of praise. Some Jacobite literature at the time depicted James as a 'saint' ((GS 7)).

c) The works of several modern authors have provided a picture of James based on historical facts. These have been used in the following outline:

The parents of James were both devoutly religious, his father being an Anglican and his mother a French Catholic. His mother had been granted special permission to practice her Faith in England. James as a child had little home life due to his father being away fighting the Civil War, and his mother being sent to France for safety. Because of the war his formal education was seriously retarded ((JH 22)), although later in life he became fluent in French and Spanish ((JH 23)). He was captured by the Parliamentarians at the age of 9, but escaped to Holland when 15 ((JH 33)).

He chose the army as a career and rose to become an internationally known military figure ((JH 127)), serving with distinction ((JPK 105)) as the right-hand man of Turenne, the greatest general of the age ((JH 106)). He transferred to the Spanish army in 1657. Such transferences were common at that time, and in 1660 he was offered command of the Spanish army in Portugal ((JH 127)). But before he accepted the offer, the English Parliament asked his brother Charles to return home and be crowned king. James chose to accompany his brother back to England in that year.

During his army days he looked after his men and never shirked a dangerous duty. 'He showed dismay, despair and concern for those he loved, but never fear' ((JH 65)). He was easy to get on with but, as with all men who have held high military command, he could never be entirely accessible to all, so his authority tended to isolate him ((JH 132)).

While in exile he was able to mix freely with people of various beliefs. The bulk of the population of France and Spain was Catholic, but that of Holland, Calvinist. The English Royal Court was mainly Anglican. Turenne was a Protestant Huguenot, and James' son-in-law, William, a Calvinist. He would have noticed that Catholic France allowed its Protestants freedom of worship and full civil rights, while Spain, considered to be the most narrow-minded of Catholic countries, offered him, an Anglican, a senior post in its army at a time when Catholics were barred from even being a private in the English army.

He was known for having several women ((JH 132)), but on November 24th 1659 he contracted a private binding engagement with the devout Anglican, Anne Hyde. By the second half of 1660, Anne was carrying his child. Charles had just been crowned king with James next in line. Anne, who had been maid of honour to James' sister Mary in Holland, was a commoner. If James became king, Mary's former servant would be queen of England.

This was a cause of great political embarrassment, and extraordinarily strong pressure was placed on James to put her aside. James refused and went through an English marriage ceremony on 5th September 1660 ((FCT 65)), although the previous contract was so strict that any child would have been legitimate according to English law ((FCT 64)).

Despite James having several mistresses, the couple seem to have been happy together, and both became interested in Catholicism. James read an Anglican tract aiming to clear the Church of England from the guilt of schism, but it had the opposite effect and he started to examine the whole subject in depth ((JH 178)).

In 1668 he asked a priest whether he could be a secret Catholic, as his public conversion would cause grave political problems for his brother. He was told that this was not possible. Later the Pope gave him the same reply ((JH 182)).

In 1670 Anne became a Catholic ((FCT 108)), but died of cancer at the age of 34 in 1671 ((JH 184)). James stopped receiving Anglican Communion in 1672 ((JH 192)), and In 1673 refused to take the Test Act oath, thus implying that he believed in Catholic teaching, even though he was not a member of that Church ((JH 193)).

As Charles was childless ((FCT 110)), James was pressed to contract a politically arranged marriage with the 15 year old Mary of Modena, which took place in 1673. James' daughter had married William of Orange at the same young age. At Easter in the same year, James received Catholic Communion and ceased attending Anglican services ((FCT 125)). About this time he broke with his mistress, but didn't keep to his good resolution ((FCT 87)). In his Memoirs he deplored his failure to control his sexual instinct as a serious negative aspect in his life ((CP 460)).

In friendship he was loyal and strong ((JH 66)), but lacked the quick wit of his brother ((MA 155)). Those who disagreed with him called him obstinate, but others saw this as a sign of determination ((JH 133)). He was against excessive eating and drunkenness. He only had wine at meal times and often preferred tea ((FCT 62)).

He was opposed to duelling and swearing, and condemned bad behaviour in London theatres, insisting that everyone had a ticket and did not sit on the stage making noises which distracted the audience ((MA 159)). He played the guitar, but preferred to hear better performers playing it ((MA 97)). Outdoor sports were his main interest, such as fox and stag hunting, greyhound coursing, walking and golf.

He was a brilliant horseman from his French cavalry days and a great dog lover, taking his pet with him everywhere ((IN 111)). He was without avarice and disliked gambling ((JH 133)) and, when king, gradually paid off his deceased brother's debts ((FCT 237)).

James had a soldier's rather than a politician's mind ((FCT 180)). Soldiers tend to reduce options to what is and is not possible. They reject the impossible and immediately do the possible. Fundamentally honest, loyal and direct, he was unable to cope with politicians because he was thrown off balance by treachery and deceit ((JH 66)).

His virtues of honesty and plain speaking, the trust he put in his servants, of consistency, sincerity and openness of purpose, ill-equipped him for the political world which he inherited ((JRJ 56)). He was unable to think through complex problems, to sense and adapt himself to rapidly changing situations, or to profit from experience. Charles knew when to retreat, James didn't. He simplified everything into black and white, in the deceptive terms of loyalty or treachery, obedience or rebellion ((JRJ 54)).

By character, ability and practice he was not suited for supreme command. He could exercise command perfectly adequately for long periods of time, but lacked the 'flair' and instinct to make the right decisions from a crucial and confusing choice of options ((JH 236)). He was intensely patriotic, and outwardly full of pride and obstinacy, yet he turned from one set of advisors to another looking for support, counsel and consolation. He depended greatly on the firm views of his wives ((MAB 20)).

James was methodical, diligent and conscientious over reading papers, seeing ambassadors and inspecting troops, yet he lacked the requisites of statesmanship: resilience, adaptability and tact ((MAB 19)). His innate stubbornness would never have permitted him to become the mere officer of either the Pope or the French king ((MAB 19)). He disliked Charles' cynical tolerance of ministerial opportunists playing a double game. James would not disguise his real thoughts and feelings, tolerate dishonesty or time-servers, sacrifice loyal servants or allow innocent men to be punished. He believed that a king should rely on his own authority and integrity, not on intrigues.

He believed that the Civil War and his father's defeat and execution could have been prevented if a tougher policy had been followed. Like Elizabeth I, he considered that Parliament should be obedient and kept in order ((MAB 19)). James was quick-tempered and intolerant of procrastination, dilatoriness and uncertainty, and easily lost patience with those who failed to see his vision  ((JH 133)).

In practice he was easily deceived and had little judgement of men ((JRJ 55)). James fully realised the political risk his loyalty to principle was entailing, and admitted more than once that: "If he agreed to live quietly and treat his religion as a private matter he could have been one of the most powerful kings ever to reign In England" ((JPK 145)).

The differences between Charles and James were well illustrated when Charles was dying. Even then Charles was concerned about the political harm his request for a priest would cause his brother.

But James said to the French ambassador: "I will hazard all rather than not do my duty on this occasion" ((JPK 142)). He had an easy way out of all his problems — take Anglican Communion. But in an age when expediency justified almost any shift of allegiance, his adherence to principle made him vulnerable to his political enemies ((JH 133)). Whereas William of Orange felt that Providence guided his every footstep, James thought that Providence inspected his and sometimes disapproved ((MAB 18)).

He had six close friends: Jermyn, Tyrconnel, Rochester, Churchill, Faversham, and Dartmouth. Two were Catholic, and four Anglican ((JPK 146)). His two most loyal assistants were the Anglican Samuel Pepys and William Penn the Quaker. Most of his leading assistants right up to the end of his reign were Protestants ((MA 295)).




The first time we hear of James' attitude to religion is during his exile in France. He said he would continue as a Protestant but: "He would not discharge servants who were Papists". ((MA 72)). In 1669 James told Dr. John Owen, who had been chief Ecclesiastical Advisor to Cromwell, that he: "had no bitterness against the non-conformists: he was against all persecution for conscience sake, looking upon it as an unchristian thing and absolutely against his conscience" ((MA 184)).

It was James' influence with Charles that persuaded him to find legal loop-holes in order to release George Fox, the Quaker leader, from prison in 1674 ((COP 162 and 165)). It was on James' recommendation that Robert Barkley, another Quaker, was released. Barkley later publicly stated that James had always testified for liberty of conscience ((JH 185)). William Penn recalled: "On all occasions when he was Duke, he never refused me . . . when I had any poor sufferers for conscience sake to solicit his help for. ((MA 184)).

Burnet wrote regarding James' attitude, after he had become a Catholic and before he was crowned, that James was firm in his religion and devoted to his priests and: "when I knew him he seemed very positive in his opinion against all persecution for conscience sake" ((MA 156)). Three weeks after his coronation he stopped the payments to informers ((COP 289)). This lifted a great burden of daily fear from thousands of people and prevented blackmail.

During the first months of his reign he hesitated in his attitude to Dissenters and Quakers. Many Dissenters had supported Monmouth's rising, while the Quakers, being pacifist, had tried to seduce army officers and soldiers during the period of Parliamentary rule ((MA 184)). But, as Burnet wrote, "Once Monmouth had been defeated the Dissenters were in high favour at Court" ((MA 184)), and they were allowed to hold their chapel services undisturbed ((MA 186)).

He freed the Quakers from being subject to penalties for not attending Anglican services ((JH 259)). Some of the 1300 Quakers released from prison in the spring of 1686 had been there for 15 years ((COP 297)).

Burnet wrote: "James' maxim in 1686 was the greatest happiness of a universal toleration". It should be noted that Burnet collected intelligence for William prior to his invasion, travelled in the invasion fleet, and acted as a propagandist for William once he was In power ((MAB 76)). So his evidence has a special value. In August 1686 James told the Spanish ambassador that: "He would force no man's conscience, but only aimed at the Roman Catholics being no worse treated than the rest, instead of being deprived of their liberties like traitors" ((MAB 65)).

James wrote "Our Blessed Lord whipped people out of the temple, but I never heard he commanded any should be forced into it. It is by gentleness, instruction and good example, people are gained, and not frightened into it, and I make no doubt if liberty of conscience be well fixed, many conversions will ensue, which is a truth too many of the Protestants are persuaded of" ((JH 180)). He explained to William of Orange that he had: "resolved to give liberty of conscience to all dissenters whatsoever, having ever been against persecution for conscience sake", so "all my subjects may be at ease and quiet, and mind their trades and private concerns" ((MAB 67)).

The year following William's occupation of England and Scotland, James landed with French troops in Ireland, which was now mainly in Irish Catholic control. The French generals and the Irish leaders urged severe measures against the English Protestant settlers, to prevent them rising up behind the Irish lines if William landed. But James told the French Ambassador that he had no desire to cut his subjects' throats ((FCT 470)).

Speaking in the Irish Parliament on May 7th 1689 he proclaimed religious freedom for the Protestants ((FCT 470)), and explained that he had: "always stood for liberty of conscience" ((MA 268)). The Catholic controlled Parliament passed the 1689 Act for religious liberty. The Church of Ireland (i.e. the Episcopalians) condemned the Act for allowing liberty to the Presbyterians ((DO 249)). Another measure of the Parliament assigned religious tithes to the denomination of the person paying
((DO 249)).

Although Charles II believed in religious freedom, he was not willing to risk his throne by preventing all executions during the first part of his reign. The last execution because of religious belief occurred at Marble Arch, London on July 1st 1681 ((MDRL 103)). The victim was 'hung, drawn and quartered'. This butchery was carried out by order of Parliament as a public spectacle.

During the final years of Charles' reign, when he ruled without Parliament, Charles halted these barbarities.

Every reign for over 150 years, whether of a king or queen, regent or protector, republican or royalist, Anglican, Catholic or Calvinist, had seen the execution of people because of their religious beliefs. James' reign was the first to be free of all religious blood-letting. Undoubtedly James was a sincere believer in liberty of conscience ((MA 293)). In the last years before he died in 1701, James reiterated his unshaken belief that his policy of religious toleration, for which he had sacrificed so much, had been correct ((MAB 191)).

Yet there are writers who still unthinkingly depict him as a 'religious tyrant'.


The Whigs asserted that wherever the Catholic Church had power it was intolerant and that as James was a dedicated Catholic he would therefore aim at the extermination of Protestantism by tyrannical means, no matter what he proclaimed in public. The Whigs relied on popular ignorance of European affairs to gain acceptance of this assertion, as it was not based on facts.

Historians have summed up the early Reformation period:

'During the century 1550-1650 there seems on balance little to choose between Catholic and Protestant Europe in matters of religious tolerance' ((AGD 195)). 'In Anglican England and Lutheran Germany, Reformed Holland or Catholic Spain, the citizens had little religious freedom' ((OC 398)). But there were other countries and we read: ' . . . everywhere in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries Catholics were in the vanguard of the movement for toleration. Catholic humanists and Catholic politicians were actively concerned in the promotion of religious liberty both in Europe and, eventually, in America'  ((HK 55)). The two Catholic countries of France and Poland were the first to establish legal toleration of conscience and worship, and free access to most public offices short of the Crown ((HK 145)). By the time Charles and James came to reign between 1660-1688, much of the initial antagonism of the Reformation had cooled down.

Some countries emerged from the Reformation period without minorities. They had escaped the religious divisions and wars which had torn others apart. They guarded their peaceful unity by prohibiting the introduction of other churches. Protestants were barred from Spain and the Italian States, while Catholics were barred from Sweden, Finland, Estonia, Livonia, Denmark and Norway. Whether this policy was wise or unjust is a matter for debate, but it cut across the religious divide, and did not indicate a pattern of Protestant freedom and Catholic intolerance. The rest of continental Europe had mixed populations, and peace was assured by mutual toleration, although it varied greatly in form and scope.


These two nations, united under one Catholic crown, formed the largest state in Europe. The Catholic Church here had not been greatly influenced by the negative aspects of the Renaissance, and was spiritually alive compared with the sometimes corrupt and worldly clerics in pre-Reformation Western Europe.

In this atmosphere the non-Catholics were protected by a declaration of religious liberty in 1573. 'Catholic Poland became the first great European country to recognise religious liberty in its constitutions'. ((HK 121)).

Many members of Protestant sects fled to Poland from persecutions by other Protestants in central Europe. They were allowed to settle peaceably and in 1645, at a time when Anglicans and Puritans were at war in England, a 'colloquium of Love' was held between Catholics and Protestants to discuss their differences in an atmosphere of mutual respect ((GP 177-190)). At this time Poland was described as: 'heaven for the Jews' ((CA 3)).


For nearly one hundred years the 10% Huguenot minority had been allowed to worship freely in the areas which possessed Protestant communities in 1598. Civic life was open to all, including such senior posts as generals and ambassadors. This peace lasted when France was ruled in succession by a Catholic king and two Cardinals. The persecution being carried out at the time James was on the throne of England was by a king challenging the Pope for authority over the Catholic Church in France. He was not forcing Huguenots to become followers of the Pope or of Papal teachings, but to join his own Gallican Church (a French State Church).


By the end of the Thirty Years War, enormous changes of population had taken place in which most Catholics and Protestants had moved into separate areas of the country. The right of subjects, holding firm religious beliefs, to move to another part of Germany with their possessions, was included in the 1648 Peace Treaty ((GP 233)). So minorities did not exist in most of German speaking Europe. Generally the south became Catholic and the north Protestant. There were minorities in the central and western areas and they had religious freedom. In the extreme south-eastern border areas, nobles used religious and ethnic feelings in attempts to win independence from central government. But this problem was solved in 1681 by the grant of religious freedom in Hungary.


Whig propaganda made much of Dutch 'freedom', yet a third of the population was Catholic and by law not permitted to worship, exercise civic rights or hold positions of responsibility. But the laws were not so harshly enforced as in England. By paying bribes and double taxes to local town councils, a network of churches was preserved.

THE PALATINATE (Between Germany and France)

The Whigs publicised French terrorism against the Protestants of this Principality as 'Catholic' terrorism. But prior to the French invasion there had been full religious freedom under Catholic princes, with Lutherans, Catholics, Jews and Calvinists living peaceably together ((JC 77)). A church existed called 'St. Unity' where Catholics, Lutherans and Calvinists worshipped alternately ((HH 49)). In 1685, just prior to the French invasion, the new Catholic prince had confirmed all religious rights. The mainly Catholic areas of Cleves and Julich were also terrorised but, being further from the French frontier, to a lesser degree ((JRJ208)).

SAVOY (Between France-and Italy)

The Catholic ruler permitted full freedom of worship to his Protestant subjects. Their expulsion in 1686 was due to the French. The main centres of population at Casale and Pinerole, including their castles, were occupied by French troops ((DM 32)). The mainly Catholic rural areas were also being terrorised by the French army so as to crush opposition.


Prior to the Reformation the country was divided into self-governing 'Cantons'. This resulted in many Catholic and Protestant Cantons where minorities were not allowed. In the others both communities lived peaceably together. The Canton of Geneva was the stronghold of Protestantism, but it admitted very few Huguenot refugees from France through fear of being attacked by the French army ((PG 210)).


This very Catholic Italian republic welcomed Huguenot refugees and refused to extradite them despite threats from France ((PMG 252)).


This German Catholic Principality denounced the French persecution of Protestants and welcomed Huguenot refugees ((HK 229)).


The two forces on the European scene opposing religious toleration were Louis XIV of France and the English Whigs. Neither was inspired by religious motives. Louis aimed to provoke a war, or at least mistrust, between Catholic and Protestant rulers so as to divide his political opponents. The Whigs hoped to use fear of Catholicism to overthrow the Monarchy and so establish a republic. As Louis hypocritically claimed to be fighting on behalf of Catholicism, the Whigs were able to convince much of English opinion that the Pope was implicated in his crimes.

The wounds of the Reformation were slowly being healed in a spirit of mutual civic tolerance, and the ideals of Charles and James were part of this European trend. The illiterate mobs rioting in the streets of London were unaware of the true situation, but there was no such excuse for the more educated Whig political leaders.


There was nothing in contemporary Catholicism to suggest, let alone prove, that James' faith would cause him to be a religious tyrant in a land of mixed religions. All the evidence pointed firmly in the opposite direction.


While the Parliaments of England, Ireland and Scotland made laws for their respective countries, the administration of the colonies was the responsibility of the king thereby providing him with greater freedom of action. So it was in America that Charles II and James II were able to promote their policies free from parliamentary interference.

Prior to Charles becoming king in 1660, Anglicanism had been established as the sole permitted religion in the southern colonies. In the north the Puritans had established settlements centred on Massachusetts Bay, and persecuted any who differed from their narrow Calvinist beliefs.

This left a central area, which was claimed by England but not yet settled. In 1664 Charles II made James the Proprietor of this area between the St Lawrence and Connecticut rivers, and of Maryland ((COP 45)).


Dutch settlers had established themselves along the banks of the river Hudson, naming the area NEW NETHERLANDS and their port NEW AMSTERDAM. James, as Admiral of the Fleet and Proprietor, sent a naval force in 1664 which reasserted British sovereignty ((DME 28)). Both area and port were renamed NEW YORK after James, Duke of York. James was given autocratic power by Charles II but had little desire to use it. He consulted local opinion and recognised liberty of conscience and the rights of property ((DME 29)). He ordered the Dutch to be treated with: 'human dignity and gentleness', granting freedom to the Calvinists, Quakers and members of other religions living there ((DME 29)). He granted permission for the continued use of the Dutch language ((SEM 34)).

He instructed the governor to institute an informal policy of religious tolerance towards Catholics ((MS 28)), and in 1683 appointed Thomas Dongan, an Irish Catholic, as governor. Upon his arrival, Dongan called the first elected representative Assembly in the colony and proposed the enactment of a charter of liberties and privileges.

This was the first Bill of Rights in American history, and specifically guaranteed religious freedom ((MS 28)). James approved the Charter      ((DME 32)) but before it was signed he became king, so it had to go before the all Protestant Privy Council, which vetoed it ((DCDB 228)).

Catholics were not added to the Council until 1686 ((FCT 323)). The Lords of Trade felt the Charter granted more liberties than other colonists enjoyed and placed Assembly on a par with Parliament ((DME 32)). Although the Charter was not enacted, Dongan, under James as king, promoted a spirit of liberty. The colony, during James' quarter century of rule as Proprietor, attracted German Lutherans, English Anglicans, French Huguenots, Jews, Catholics, Quakers and an extremely wide range of other beliefs and those of none, to settle with the original Dutch Calvinists ((DME 32)). When James was overthrown in 1688, a local rebellion drove Dongan out of the colony and initiated a reign of terror against the tiny Catholic community ((MS 29)). The Catholics, Unitarians and non-conforming Protestants were excluded from public office ((HK 213)). A new governor imposed a wide range of discriminatory and persecuting laws ((MS 29)).


In 1664 James transferred the area between the Hudson and Delaware rivers to two lords who were his friends. This new colony offered religious freedom           ((DCDB 30)). A mainly Quaker group, with Catholic and Presbyterian assistance, purchased the colony, and the Assembly made a law to assure liberty of conscience to all ((HK 213)). After the ‘Glorious Revolution’ of 1688 the colony lost its Quaker character and Charter ((HK213)).


The extreme intolerance of this Puritan colony was notorious until 1685, when James as king revoked its Charter and ordered the establishment of religious liberty ((HK185)).


Refugees from the laws of Massachusetts, led by Roger Williams, moved along the coast to establish a colony with religious freedom. In 1663 Charles granted them a Charter so as to make them independent of Massachusetts. The Charter laid down that, on the king's own decision: 'no person within the said colony, at any time hereafter shall be any wise molested, punished, disqualified or called in question for any difference of opinion In matters of religion'. This policy was continued till after the end of the century ((HK189)).


A group of Congregational refugees from Massachusetts, led by Thomas Hooker, settled at Hartford in 1636 and promised religious liberty. Charles granted them a Charter in 1662, and in 1667 James ceded a part of his New York possessions to the new colony ((DME31)).


The captain of James' flagship at the battle of Lowestoft in 1665 was Sir William Penn, and the two men became firm friends. When Sir William was dying he asked James to look after his son, William Penn junior. The young William, who inherited lands from his father, was an outcast from society having become a Quaker ((JH 259)). He conceived the idea of establishing a new colony which would be founded on the principle of religious freedom and equality for all. Charles and James keenly supported the idea but were faced with substantial problems. The only land available was the remainder of James' territory inland from New Jersey ((COP 209)). But by 1681 James had been driven from his posts by the Test Act, and had to stay in Scotland until the anti-Catholic fever had abated. For Charles, who was accused of being a secret Catholic, to allow James a known Catholic, to transfer huge tracts of royal land to a despised Quaker would have been political suicide. Also, there were many who had served Charles while he was in exile and were now looking for favours ((COP 209)).

A way around the difficulty was found. It was announced that: 'The Stuarts' owed Penn senior £16,000 and it would be paid to Penn junior by granting him land ((COP 210)). So officially, when James gave his land, he was paying a debt owed by the king ((COP 213)). James released his land ((COP 213)) and Charles issued a Royal Charter on 4th March 1681 conferring it on Penn  ((COP 213)). The whole affair of: 'paying a debt' was an excuse, as kings rarely repaid their debts at this time ((COP 209)). The area consisted of 28 million acres making Penn the largest landowner, apart from the Crown, in the British Empire ((AWW 35 and 39)).

There was another unusual aspect of this transaction. Penn did not apply for a Charter until April 1680, so all the legal requirements and governmental 'red tape' concerning this huge tract of land were completed in less than nine months ((COP 210)).

A few years later, by which time James was king, customs officers of New Jersey were charging duties on goods passing up the Delaware river, and Penn realised that the economic, and therefore civil independence of his colony was at risk. There had been a dispute as to whether the three counties on the southern bank of the river Delaware were part of Maryland or had come within James' Proprietorship. When the Courts found in favour of James, he handed the counties to Penn so as to ensure Pennsylvania's free access to the sea  ((COP 288)). James signed the documents for this transfer as one of his last acts as he fled from the country in 1688 ((COP 307)). These three counties eventually became the separate state of Delaware.

Pennsylvania, with its good cheap soil, healthy climate and religious freedom, attracted large numbers of immigrants. The colony's growth was unparalleled in American history and soon became the most populous, establishing America's image as the 'Land of the Free'.

Penn was in England when William of Orange invaded, and the victors of the revolution confiscated his lands and, because of his continued support of James, charged him with treason. He was in hiding for three years ((COP 330)) and Pennsylvania was placed under Royal 'protection'. Later, during Queen Anne's reign, Penn was freed from the threat of prosecution and allowed to go to America ((COP 361)). Pressure from England forced him to exclude Catholics from civic life, but the spirit of freedom was now so firmly implanted in the colony that other disabilities were not imposed ((MS 29)).


This colony was the first in the New World to be established on the foundation of the separation of Church and State, and with complete religious liberty   ((HK 185)).

Charles I had permitted the establishment of the colony in 1634. Lord Baltimore, who was the proprietor, the leading gentry and about 36% of the initial settlers, were Catholics ((CE MARYLAND)). Although pressure from the Protestant majority had, by 1660, led to the loss of rights by Jews, Unitarians and some Protestant minorities, for most inhabitants the colony was a haven of freedom.

Great efforts were made, without success, by the Protestant settlers to persuade Charles II to replace Lord Baltimore. So there was no further reduction in religious liberty. James continued this policy but Baltimore was expelled soon after James' overthrow in 1688.

The Assembly recognised William of Orange, made Anglicanism the established church and forced all, regardless of belief, to support its upkeep. Catholics were excluded from holding public office, practising the law, inheriting land and owning arms. They were also prohibited from educating their children as Catholics and had to pay double taxation. Any priest found guilty of offering Mass in public was subjected to life imprisonment ((MS 25-28)).


There were many voices calling for religious freedom during this period and philosophers talked about it for another hundred years. But the four men who, due to their position and personal dedication, pioneered religious liberty in America were Baltimore, Charles II, James II and William Penn. Two were openly Catholic and one was a Catholic at heart entering the Church as he was dying.

The 'Glorious Revolution' brought their work to an abrupt end. But the twenty- eight years, during which James and his brother had direct control of colonial policy, played a vital part in planting the principle of religious liberty in American soil, which came to flower in 1787.



About 200 Jews came to England after 1643 and held services in the Portuguese Embassy, protected by the ambassador ((AMH 171)). Catholics were also using this building to attend Mass in secret. Despite opposition from Parliament, Cromwell in 1656 permitted the Jewish community to exist publicly and two synagogues were opened. But in 1660, Thomas Violet led an anti-Jewish campaign, and the mayor and aldermen of London petitioned Charles to: "expel all professed Jews out of your kingdom". Charles refused and promised to protect them ((AMH 216)). Catherine of Braganza, the Catholic wife of Charles, employed two Jews to administer her dowry, so they had powerful friends at Court ((AMH 217)).

Charles was more liberal in granting naturalizations, and by the end of 1661 practically all the leading Jews were English citizens ((AMH 217)). In answer to another anti-Jewish petition, Charles issued an: 'Order in Council' during 1664, guaranteeing protection.

In 1673 Jews were accused of breaking the Conventicle Act of 1664, which prohibited non-Anglican services of more than five people. Charles intervened to stop the legal proceedings, and again assured the Jews of their freedom ((AMH 220)). Early in 1685 an old Elizabethan law was used to charge 48 Jews with failing to attend church, but as soon as James was crowned, he instructed the Attorney-General to stop the prosecution. "His Majesty's intention being that they should not be troubled on his account, but quietly enjoy the free exercise of their religion, whilst they behave themselves dutifully and obediently to his government" ((AMH 221)).

Non-Jewish traders demanded that the: 'Alien Duties Law' be altered with regard to the Jews, but James refused. (Although William of orange showed friendship to the Jews, he permitted the later Whig revolutionary government to amend it). During 1689 the Jewish community was threatened into making a 'voluntary' financial contribution to the Whig cause, to show their 'appreciation' at being allowed to stay in England ((AMH 237)). In 1695 Parliament confirmed that they could continue to practise their religion, but Jews were still being refused naturalization in 1753 ((BW 73)).

During the reigns of the two brothers, Jewish communities developed in Barbados, Jamaica and Surinam, being protected by them from repeated anti-Jewish petitions ((AMH 248-253)).


There were no political advantages in James defending the Jews as they were few and had little influence. It would have been expedient for James to surrender to the anti-Jewish clamour, in order to gain the approval of important and vocal sections of the population. His actions are a further indication of his idealism and sincerity.


A large Dutch fleet set sail at the end of October, but had to return to harbour due to gales. It set out again and was blown north of the mouth of the Thames Estuary. Before the English fleet moored in the Thames could engage the Dutch, the wind changed to the east. The invaders were then blown south and along the English Channel. The easterly wind delayed the English getting out of the estuary ((ECB 96)), and they were unable to overtake the Dutch before they landed at Torbay, Devon, on November 5th.

In the days before steam, much depended on the wind, so William could not plan where to invade nor English spies forewarn their king. So, although Britain had 40,000 troops, half were spread along the coast as far north as Hull. Only 20,000 were available to march from London towards the invaders. It appeared that a battle would take place on Salisbury plain. But as the English approached the Dutch army, James gave the order to retreat on London. Official history has given various reasons for this. It has been said that he was irresolute; that his nose was bleeding; that troops were deserting; that when his daughter Anne left the capital James suffered a psychological blow; that he heard of towns rising against him. These events were of concern to James, but official history has exaggerated their importance.

There was little public support for William during the ten days following his landing ((HTJY 23)). When a few officers went over to him, their men returned to the English lines ((ECB 32)). James was a good military commander and had the reputation for bravery. Official history has played down William's strength, so giving the impression that James' English army was in a strong position and he was foolish to retreat ((JII 337)). In fact, William had over 21,000 men, including the best regiments of the Dutch army, and 5,000 horse. They had better morale, more experience, more modern muskets and modern formidable artillery ((JII 106, 124-125)). It became obvious to James that if he fought against this superior army, he would be defeated with great loss of life.

As the English army retreated, James got his wife and young prince out of the country and then attempted to follow them. When this became known, pro-William individuals in each town were able to take command with little opposition. William's declaration of not desiring the Crown assured many waverers. As he was about to sail to France, James was held by a fisherman and handed over to English troops. They escorted him back to London, where the crowds cheered him ((ECB56)).

When Dutch troops surrounded the Royal palace, James wished to avoid pointless deaths, so instructed his Coldstream Guards not to resist the foreign army ((JII 126)). He was captured and held by the Dutch at Rochester, from where he escaped to France. It suited William's plans for James to have found escape easy.

Part 2

Copyright ©; ChurchinHistory 2003

This version: 29th May 2006

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