The New International Encyclopædia/Declaration of Indulgence

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DECLARATION OF INDULGENCE. This name is applied to several acts of the last two Stuart kings, but particularly to the proclamation of James II., in 1687, suspending the operation of the penal statutes directed against the Roman Catholics and the Protestant Nonconformists, and of all acts imposing a test as a qualification for holding lay or ecclesiastical office. In this way, James hoped to gain, in favor of his Catholic policy, the adherence of the Protestant dissenters, many of whom were suffering severe persecution under those laws. Several hundred addresses of thanks were presented to the King; but the majority of the dissenting clergy would not accept toleration on such terms. The great leaders, Baxter, Howe, and Bunyan, declined the Indulgence at the price of a breach of the law and the encouragement of Romanism.

The clergy, generally, refused to read the proclamation in their churches, as commanded by a royal order of May, 1688. The seven bishops, with Archbishop Sancroft at their head, signed a firm but moderate petition to the King, refusing to publish a declaration which they knew to be illegal. James commanded the Ecclesiastical Commissioners to deprive these bishops of their sees, but this was going too far, even for that body; and on the suggestion of Jeffreys, a prosecution before the King's Bench for seditious libel was substituted. So threatening was the popular indignation, that the accused prelates were acquitted, although the jury was packed and the judges were mere tools of the Crown. The declaration cost James the allegiance of the Anglican Church, and precipitated the Revolution of 1688. Consult: Howell, State Trials, xii. (London, 1809-28); and D'Oyly, Life of William Sancroft (London, 1840). See Sancroft.