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Divisions between Anglicans and Dissenters
Under Charles II religion was much more influenced by parliament. Cavaliers mostly led
the persecution of dissenters. Charles started his reign hoping to tolerate and there was
evidence of this, because he had the Conventicle act revoked in 1668, which meant
nonconformists could meet freely again. Most MP's were against freedom for
nonconformists, an example of this was in 1669 when the commons refused to grant a
subsidy of £300,000 as a response to the expiry of the conventicle act. In order to get
the subsidies from parliament Charles allowed them to pass another Conventicle act.
Declaration of Indulgence 1672
As a result of political problems for the government and preparations for war with the
Dutch, the king was encouraged to go ahead with trying to forge an antiAnglican
alliance of nonconformists and Catholics. Attempts to ease the restrictions on
nonconformists culminated in the declaration of indulgence.
The penal laws against dissenters and Catholics were suspended. This was done by
Charles' prerogative power. The declaration also allowed public places of worship for
nonconformists with a license but Catholics were still not allowed public worship. To
the gentry it seemed that Charles had abandoned his political alliance with them and
replaced it with an alliance with the dissenters.
There were also still fears of future changes to the Church of England. There was also
still the issue to whether Charles had the prerogative power to change the law, the fear
was still apparent of Charles using his prerogative power to become absolute. So when,
a year later, Charles needed money for the third Dutch war, Charles agreed that in
return for funds he would remove the declaration of Indulgence.
To summarise the declaration: It was not a very wise move by Charles because he was seen
as increasing his prerogative power whilst also reviving fears of dissenters.
Policies towards nonconformists after the Test Act
There was a more ridged religious policy after the Test Act; this was pursued by the Earl
of Danby. He rose to prominence after the fall of Cabal. This act was to try and increase
support for the Church of England. MP's began to become more hostile to dissent
because they wanted to protect what they viewed as a Cavalier regime, from the
preserved threat of absolutism, France, nonconformists and Catholics at home.
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The declaration of Indulgence made MP's want to protect the Church of England; they
didn't trust the king to protect their interests.
Persecution of nonconformists 166778
The height of persecution for nonconformists was in this time period. Baptists and
Quakers were most persecuted. There were around 100,000 nonconformists in Britain
from the census. After restoration the nonconformists lost appeal because it was not a
united movement and because the emphasis on the Bible excluded the illiterate.…read more