Religious Toleration, 1642-1658

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  • Religious Toleration, 1642-1658
    • Protestant Religious Groups
      • Cromwell believed the Civil Wars were God's way of preparing England for religious peace
      • Cromwell thought that religious freedom was a fundamental right
        • As long as people were loyal to the state, they could have their own religious beliefs
          • There were limits to toleration - he disliked blasphemy or fanatics that wanted to force their views upon others
            • Cromwell drew the line at Catholicism; Catholics were the anti-Christ
      • 1. Anti-tolerationists
        • People who wanted religious uniformity and discipline
          • e.g Scots wanted Presbyterianism in church order
      • 2. Conservative tolerationists
        • People who wanted toleration for independent congregations but would accept a national established church
          • Toleration for Baptists and Presbyterians but not Catholics
          • Cromwell was seen as a conservative tolerationist
        • The Toleration Act was introduced in 1650
      • 3. Radical tolerationists
        • People who supported very broad toleration
          • These were a small minority which included Levellers and Quakers
          • They believed that Christianity was non-coercive, it was open to interpretation
      • The Instrument of Government allowed religious freedom so long as it did not cause the "civil injury of others"
      • The cases of Biddle and Nayler highlighted the problem of having religious freedom and social order
      • Baptists, Independents and Presbyterians were appointed as ministers - critics say the quality of church ministers was improved
      • Cromwell attempted to maintain local church system so ordinary people could have worship
    • The Position of Catholics
      • Declaration to Ireland - Cromwell said they were the anti-Chrsit (Drogheda, Wexford)
      • There was some form of toleration for Catholics during the Protectorate - there was freedom for radicals such as the Fifth Monarchists and Quakers
      • The Paris-based Catholics called Holden and White proposed that a Catholic church would sit alongside Protestant churches and would be loyal to the Protectorate
        • They proposed a parliamentary oath of allegiance for all Catholics
    • The Jews
      • Cromwell put a proposal in front of the Council of State
        • A petition was produced by a Dutch Jew to allow Jews to live in England and practice freely as they had been expelled since 1290
          • In December 1655 it was refused
      • Cromwell "unofficially" allowed Jews into England
        • Jews would be converted to Catholicism
    • Conclusion
      • Overall Cromwell was very tolerant for his time
      • He was the first English statesmen to make religious toleration the basis of government policy
      • The treatment of the Irish was intolerant


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