Even prior to Clarendon’s downfall, there had been almost continuous talk of a revision of the Act of Uniformity in order that the more moderate Presbyterians might be brought into the Church. With the Chancellor’s discharge, the advocates of a more comprehensive policy took heart and began openly to advocate such a revision. Several pamphlets appeared in 1667 and 1668 suggesting various schemes of comprehension, and two bills were prepared — one in the fall of 1667 and the other in the spring of 1668 — which were to be introduced into parliament. Both were roughly of the same dimensions. Ordination in either the Presbyterian or the Anglican form would be deemed satisfactory, kneeling at communion would no longer be mandatory, the wearing of the supplice was to be at the individual cleric’s determination, the use of the cross in baptism was no longer to be required and the word “consent” was to be omitted from the oath prescribed by the Act of Uniformity. However, the second of these two bills was the more liberal. In addition to comprehension for the Presbyterians, it offered all Protestant faiths the freedom to worship publicly upon complying with some minor legal requirements.1 Sheldon’s old friend and Staffordshire neighbor, Sir Orlando Bridgman, proposed this latter measure.


Lower House Toleration Bill Privy Council Anglican Form Reliable Ally 
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  1. 1.
    Stoughton discusses these two bills, III, 373.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Bate, p. 58.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    P. A. Wright-Henderson, The Life and Times of John Wilkins (London, 1910), p. 115.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    D. Wilkins, IV, 587, tells of the king’s encouragement to Bishop Wilkins. Stoughton discusses the comprehensionist conferences held at this time, III, 373.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Parker, p. 36.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Ibid., p. 37.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    This may have been either Herbert Croft, bishop of Hereford, who later came out in favor of Comprehension, or it could have been Sheldon’s old associate, Thomas Barlow, who took part in these talks, and was subsequently made bishop of Lincoln in 1675.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Stoughton, III, 371.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Ibid., p. 378.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    See Add. Mss. C. 307, where the Swadling pamphlet is preserved.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    This pamphlet began a literary encounter with Andrew Marvell, the Puritan poet, which ran for the next four years. At the end of that time Parker is supposed to have admitted that the odds were in Marvell’s favor. See Parker, Introduction.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Add. Mss. C. 308, Sheldon to all bishops, July 4, 1667.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
  14. 14.
    In support of this view see the Journals of the House of Lords for numerous occasions when the lower house sent messages to the upper persistently demanding certain actions by that body to support the Church. See VI, 389, where the Lords would have passed the Quaker Bill, but the Commons insisted on adding punitive amendments against several other sects as well; on XI, 540, the House of Commons objected to a clause in the Bill of Uniformity as reported from the Lords, insisted on adding several amendments making it more rigorous. For other similar instances, see XI, 495; XI, 557; XI, 561; XII, 21.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    For an account of how the archbishop was able to do this, see below pp. 135 ff.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Pepys’ Diary, II, 812. There was a flurry of nonconformist activity in 1668. Buckingham was encouraging them, and they apparently were sure the penal laws were at last to be taken off.Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Stoughton relates this incident, III, 378.Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Tanner Ms. 45, Bishop of Lichfield to Sheldon, Feb. 15, 1667/8. The duke mentioned here is undoubtedly Buckingham who was actively encouraging the dissenters at this time. See Secret History, II, 372.Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Parker, p. 40. Sheldon’s activities in relation to the lower house were manifold at this time. Both Parker and Hacket bear witness to his adroit politicking. Both of these of course might be termed biased observers since they were both close to Sheldon and admired him greatly. However, Cosin, who took a more jaundiced view of the archbishop — they had fallen out in 1662 over Cosin’s treatment of a friend of the king’s, and later again in 1665 over Cosin’s leasing of Church lands for several lives, contrary to Sheldon’s instructions — implies the same range of activity in a letter written in 1666. He said: “What designs soever there are against the Church, I doubt not your Grace’s power, zeal, and prudence will be very able to withstand them.” Add. Mss. C. 305, Duresme to Sheldon, March 23, 1665/6.Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    For the Sheldon party’s reaction to his good news, see another letter from Hacket to Sheldon, March 16, 1667/8, Tanner Ms. 45, where the bishop of Lichfield almost chortles over “the constancy of the votes of the House of Commons for the suppressing of conventicles and nonconformists.”Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Stoughton describes this meeting, III, 384.Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    Bate, p. 62.Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    See earlier this chapter where Sheldon was writing legislation; also see Chapter VII for further information on this matter.Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    Cardwell, Annals, I, 276.Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    For Sheldon’s letter to his own commissary on this problem, written in June, 1669, see Wilkins, IV, 588. The archbishop sent identical instructions to the bishops.Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    Stoughton reports this conversation, III, 384.Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    Wilkins, III, 384. The reasons for the king’s shift in policy can only be surmised, since his whole policy was subject to many devious and sudden twists and turns in this period. He opposed the Conventicles Act, and it may have been that he wished to show that uniformity could be enforced wihout it. Thus when Parliament met, he could argue that such penal laws were no longer needed.Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    Add. Mss. C. 308, Sheldon to the bishop of London, no date, 1669.Google Scholar
  29. 29.
    Lords Journals, XII, 287.Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    Works of Andrew Marvell (London, 1836), II, 316.Google Scholar
  31. 31.
    See Feiling, p. 144, for this incident.Google Scholar
  32. 32.
    Bate, p. 67.Google Scholar
  33. 33.
    Neal, historian of the Puritans, repeats this letter, II, 674.Google Scholar
  34. 34.
    Cardwell, II, 276.Google Scholar
  35. 35.
    Harl. Mss. 7377, Sheldon to Mr. John Bradshaw, June 27, 1670.Google Scholar
  36. 36.
    Stoughton, III, 387.Google Scholar
  37. 37.
    See a letter from Sheldon to Bishop Piers, June 14, 1669, Add. Mss. C. 308, where Sheldon has great hopes for the 1670 Conventicles Act.Google Scholar
  38. 38.
    Parker, p. 134. There can be no question of the effectiveness of this period of intense persecution. The bitter invective employed in all Puritan writings for this period, indicates that they were being severely hurt. They directed most of their attacks at the archbishop whom they assumed was the originator and director of this brutal persecution. See an anonymous pamphlet, The Act of Parliament Against Religious Meetings (London, 1670), where on p. 6 the author ascribes this whole program of oppression to “Gilbert, Archbishop of Canterbury, who being not a creature of God’s making nor any part of divine ordinance, must answer the darkness of his original.”Google Scholar
  39. 39.
    Bate, p. 59.Google Scholar
  40. 40.
    Stoughton reproduces this letter, III, 388.Google Scholar
  41. 41.
    Bate, p. 90.Google Scholar
  42. 42.
    Ibid., p. 98.Google Scholar
  43. 43.
    Dr. Wilde’s Humble Thanks for his Majesty’s Gracious Declaration for Freedom of Conscience (London, 1672).Google Scholar
  44. 44.
    Tanner Mss. 43, Morley to Sheldon, Sept. 9, 1672.Google Scholar
  45. 45.
    Add. Mss. C. 305, Sparrow to Sheldon, no date, but written in March or April, 1672.Google Scholar
  46. 46.
    Tanner Mss. 43, bishop of Lincoln to Sheldon, Aug. 29, 1672.Google Scholar
  47. 47.
    Harl. Mss. 7377, Sheldon to a cleric in Ireland, no date, but in the midst of the indulgence crisis. He wrote essentially the same thing to Bishop Fuller of Lincoln on Aug. 29, 1672. See letter in Tanner Ms. 43.Google Scholar
  48. 48.
    Bate discusses the impact of this fear, p. 84.Google Scholar
  49. 49.
  50. 50.
  51. 51.
  52. 52.
    See Sheldon’s instructions to the Bishop of Lincoln on these points, Harl. Mss. 7377, Sheldon to Lincoln, Sept. 7, 1672.Google Scholar
  53. 53.
    Bate repeats this story, p. 103. Most of the bishops, however, respected the king’s licenses. Peter Mewes, shortly to be bishop of Bath and Wells, got up out of his sickbed at Oxford, to halt the lynching of some dissenters by some university students. He detested the whole business, however, and would have preferred to let them suffer. See Add. Mss. C. 302, Mewes to Sheldon, June 26, 1672.Google Scholar
  54. 54.
    Stoughton, III, 405.Google Scholar
  55. 55.
    Tanner Ms. 43, Morley to Sheldon, Sept. 23, 1672.Google Scholar
  56. 56.
    Ibid. Morley here is elated “that the bishoprics are disposed of so well,” and wishes Durham were too.Google Scholar
  57. 57.
    Tanner Ms. 43, Morley to Sheldon, Oct. 14, 1672.Google Scholar
  58. 58.
    See Moriey’s answer, Ibid., Morley to Sheldon, Sept. 9, 1672.Google Scholar
  59. 59.
    Tanner Ms. 43, Sheldon to all bishops, no date, but mention of the indulgence makes it 1673.Google Scholar
  60. 60.
    Harl. Mss. 7377, Sheldon to the bishop of Bangor, Dec. 28, 1672.Google Scholar
  61. 61.
    Lords Journals, XII, 525, gives this speech.Google Scholar
  62. 62.
    Bate, p. 109.Google Scholar
  63. 63.
    Ibid., p. 117.Google Scholar
  64. 64.
    See Tanner Ms. 43, Sept. 9, 1672, a long letter from Morley to Sheldon where he warns the archbishop that he is going to go his own way in religious matters when parliament meets. Also Stoughton reports this same development, III, 428 and 466. I find nothing to indicate that Sheldon shared their fears. To him the papist hysteria was a convenient tool which he could exploit in order to bend parliament to his will.Google Scholar
  65. 65.
    See Bate’s description of this bill, p. 125.Google Scholar
  66. 66.
    Lords Journals, XII, 547, 549, 555, where actions are proposed against recusants.Google Scholar
  67. 67.
    Bate discusses this amendment, p. 127.Google Scholar
  68. 68.
    Parker, p. 314.Google Scholar
  69. 69.
    A. Browning, Thomas Osborne (Glasgow, 1951), I, 135.Google Scholar
  70. 70.
    Bate, p. 140.Google Scholar
  71. 71.
  72. 72.
  73. 73.
  74. 74.
    Bate is explicit on this point and Firth, in his introduction to Bate’s book, is equally certain. Bate, introduction, and p. 142.Google Scholar
  75. 75.
    Feiling, p. 160–161.Google Scholar
  76. 76.
    Browning, I, 161.Google Scholar
  77. 77.
    That these were the arguments urged at court is shown conclusively by a letter from Sheldon to archbishop of York, Cardwell, I, 290, where the primate wrote: “The consideration of the numbers of dissenters hath been an argument much insisted upon, as if their party were too formidable to be suppressed, or that the combination of the... factions being infinite, it were but lost labour to reenforce the censure and the execution of the laws against them.”Google Scholar
  78. 78.
    See a letter from Sheldon to the archbishop of York, Jan. 22, 1675/6, where discussing the census, Sheldon writes, “not that I am immediately commanded by his Majesty so to do, but from the assurances I have from a person near unto him [Danby] that it will be no less for his Majesty’s particular satisfaction than for the general good.” Harl. Mss. 7377.Google Scholar
  79. 79.
    Ibid., Sheldon to all bishops, Jan. 25, 1675/6.Google Scholar
  80. 80.
  81. 81.
    Cardwell, Annals, I, 290. The validity of the Sheldon census has been attacked frequently. T. Richards in “The Sheldon Census,” The Transactions of the Society Cymmrodorion, (1925–26), Supp., pp. 1–19, maintains that Sheldon dictated the returns he wanted in the letter to the bishops ordering the count. Thus he considers Sheldon’s figures unreliable. However, S. A. Peyton in an article in the English Historical Review, Vol. 48, pp. 99–104, compared Sheldon’s figures for Lincolnshire with the records of the Quarter Sessions and the Arch-diaconal courts of the same county and came to the conclusion that “the Compton return [the Sheldon census] covering the portion of Lincoln under review... gives a reasonably correct account of the prevalence of active dissent in both its varieties.” When one compares the number of licenses issued to dissenting congregations by the government in 1672 — some 1500 — with the total number of congregations in England — some 8568 — it becomes apparent that Sheldon’s census was probably a fairly accurate count. (For the latter figure see statistics Sheldon assembled on all holdings in the Church, Add. Mss. C. 302.)Google Scholar
  82. 82.
    Of course occasional conformity became a general practice within a very few years. Yet to Sheldon laws were to be obeyed, and he would have looked upon the 1678 Test Act as a great victory for the Church.Google Scholar

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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 1973

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  • Victor D. Sutch

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