Scottish Declaration of Toleration, February 12, 1687

When King James VII succeeded to the throne of Scotland in 1685, the country had an established church with an episcopal form of government. There were a large number of Presbyterians in the country, some of whom held radical political views and sought not only a change in religious affairs but also a change in the form of government. There were also a small number of Catholics who were subject to a variety of penal laws which severely limited their participation in public life.

James determined to alter this religious situation. In November 1685 he dispensed some 26 Catholics from taking the oath required by the Test Act in order to act as tax collectors; this oath had required Catholics to renounce fundamental beliefs such as transubstantiation. The following March James announced his intention to remove all the penal laws and to permit Catholics to hold public office just as Episcopalians.

The February 1687 Declaration of Toleration permitted moderate Presbyterians to worship in private houses. But radical Presbyterians (called "field-conventiclers" on account of the fact that they sometimes worshipped outside) were still to remain subject to the penal laws against them. The declaration permitted Quakers to worship in any place. It disabled all laws which had been passed against Catholics, allowing them to hold public office and to worship in houses or their own chapels. Finally it replaced the oath required by the Test Act with a simple oath of allegiance to the king.

The text was printed at Edinburgh by the heir of Andrew Anderson in 1687 (Wing J250). It can also be found on pages 285-287 of State Tracts (London: Richard Baldwin, 1692; reprinted by Scholarly Resources, 1973).

James the Seventh, by the Grace of God, King of Scotland, England, France and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, etc., to all and sundry our good subjects, whom these presents do or may concern, greeting.

We have taken into our royal consideration the many and great inconveniences which have happened to that our ancient Kingdom of Scotland of late years, through the different persuasions in the Christian religion, through the great heats and animosities amongst the several professors thereof, to the ruin and decay of trade, wasting of lands, extinguishing of charity, contempt of the royal power, and converting of true religion, and the fear of God, into animosities, names, factions, and sometimes into sacrilege and treason. And being resolved, as much as in us lies, to unite the hearts and affections of our subjects, to God in religion, to Us in loyalty, and to their neighbours in Christian love and charity, have therefore thought fit to grant, and by our sovereign authority, prerogative royal, and absolute power, which all our subjects are to obey without reserve, do hereby give and grant our royal toleration, to the several professors of the Christian religion after named, with, and under the several conditions, restrictions, and limitations after-mentioned.

In the first place, we allow and tolerate the moderate Presbyterians to meet in their private houses, and there to hear all such ministers, as either have, or are willing to accept of our indulgence allanerly, and none other, and that there be not anything said of done contrary to the well and peace of our reign, seditious or treasonable, under the highest pains these crimes will import; nor are they to presume to build meeting-houses, or to use out-houses or barns, but only to exercise in their private houses, as said is. In the mean time, it is our royal will and pleasure, that field-conventicles, and such as preach, or exercise at them, or who shall any ways assist or connive at them, shall be prosecuted according to the utmost severity of our laws made against them, seeing from these rendezvouses of rebellion, so much disorder hath proceeded, and so much disturbance to the government, and for which after this our royal indulgence for tender consciences there is no excuse left.

In like manner, we do hereby tolerate Quakers to meet and exercise in their form, in any place or places appointed for their worship. And considering the severe and cruel laws made against Roman Catholics (therein called papists) in the minority of our royal grand-father of glorious memory, without his consent, and contrary to the duty of good subjects, by his regents, and other enemies to their lawful sovereigns our royal great grand-mother Queen Mary of blessed and pious memory, wherein, under the pretence of religion, they clothed the worst of treasons, factions, and usurpations, and made these laws, not as against the enemies of God, but their own; which laws have still been continued of course without design of executing them, or any of them ad terrorem only, on supposition, that the papists, relying on an external power, were incapable of duty and true allegiance to their natural sovereigns and rightful monarchs; we of our certain knowledge and long experience, knowing that the Catholics, as it is their principle to be good Christians, so it is to be dutiful subjects; and that they have likewise on all occasions shown themselves good and faithful subjects to us and our royal predecessors, by hazarding and many of them actually losing their lives and fortunes in their defence (though of another religion) and the maintenance of their authority against the violences and treasons of the most violent abettors of these laws; do therefore, with advice and consent of our Privy Council, by our sovereign authority, prerogative royal, and absolute power, aforesaid, suspend, stop, and disable all laws or acts of Parliament, customs or constitutions, made or executed against any of our Roman Catholic subjects, in any time past, to all intents and purposes, making void all prohibitions therein mentioned, pains or penalties therein ordained to be inflicted; so that they shall in all things be as free in all respects whatsoever, not only to exercise their religion, but to enjoy all offices, benefices, and others which we shall think fit to bestow upon them in all time coming. Nevertheless, it is our will and pleasure, and we do hereby command all Catholics at their highest pains, only to exercise their religious worship in houses or chapels; and that they presume not to preach in the open fields, or to invade the Protestant churches by force, under the pains aforesaid, to be inflicted upon the offenders respectively; nor shall they presume to make public processions in the high-streets of any of our royal burghs, under the pains above mentioned.

And whereas the obedience and service of our good subjects is due to us by their allegiance and our sovereignty, and that no law, custom, or constitution, difference in religion or other impediment whatsoever can exempt or discharge the subjects from their native obligations and duty to the Crown, or hinder us from protecting and employing them, according to their several capacities and our royal pleasure; nor restrain us from conferring heritable rights and privileges upon them, or vacate or annul these rights heritable, when they are made or conferred: And likewise considering, that some oaths are capable of being wrested by men of sinistrous intentions, a practice in that kingdom fatal to religion as it was to loyalty: do therefore, with advice and consent aforesaid, cass, annul, and discharge all oaths whatsoever, by which any of our subjects are incapacitated, or disabled from holding places, or offices in our said Kingdom, or enjoy their hereditary right and privileges, discharging the same to be taken or given in any time coming, without our special warrant and consent, under the pains due to the contempt of our royal commands and authority. And to this effect, we do by our royal authority aforesaid, stop, disable, and dispense with all laws enjoining the said oaths, tests, or any of them, particularly the first act of the first session of the first Parliament of King Charles the Second, the eleventh act of the foresaid session of the foresaid Parliament, the sixth act of the third Parliament of the said King Charles, the twenty first and twenty fifth acts of that Parliament, and the thirteenth act of the first session of our late Parliament, in so far allanerly as concerns the taking the oaths or tests therein prescribed, and all others, as well not mentioned as mentioned; and that in place of them, all our good subjects, or such of them as we or our Privy Council shall require so to do, shall take and swear the following oath allanerly:

I, A.B., do acknowledge, testify, and declare, that James the Seventh, by the Grace of God, King of Scotland, England, France, and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, etc., is rightful King and supreme Governor of these Realms, and over all persons therein; and that it is unlawful for subjects, on any pretence, or for any cause whatsoever, to rise in arms against him, or any commissionated by him; and that I shall never so rise in arms, nor assist any who shall so do; and that I shall never resist his power or authority, nor ever oppose his authority to his person, as I shall answer to God: but shall to the utmost of my power assist, defend, and maintain him, his heirs and lawful successors, in the exercise of their absolute power and authority against all deadly. So help me God.
And seeing many of our good subjects have before our pleasure in these matters was made public, incurred the guilt appointed by the acts of Parliament abovementioned, or others, we, by our authority, and absolute power and prerogative royal above-mentioned, of our certain knowledge and innate mercy, give our ample and full indemnity to all those of the Roman Catholic or popish religion, for all things by them done contrary to our laws, or acts of Parliament, made in any time past, relating to their religion, the worship and exercise thereof, of for being papists, Jesuits, or traffickers, for hearing, or saying of mass, concealing of priests or Jesuits, breeding their children Catholics at home or abroad, or any other thing, rite or doctrine, said, performed, or maintained by them, or any of them; And likewise, for holding or taking of places, employments, or offices, contrary to any law or constitution, advices given to us, or our Council, actions done, or generally anything performed or said against the known laws of that our ancient Kingdom: Excepting always from this our royal indemnity, all murders, assassinations, thefts, and such like other crimes, which never used to be comprehended in our general acts of indemnity. And we command and require all our judges, or others concerned, to explain this in the most ample sense and meaning, acts of indemnity at any time have contained: Declaring this shall be as good to every one concerned, as if they had our royal pardon and remission under our great seal of that Kingdom. And likewise indemnifying our Protestant subjects from all pains and penalties due for hearing or preaching in houses; providing there be no treasonable speeches uttered in the said conventicles by them, in which case the law is only to take place against the guilty, and none other present; providing also, that they reveal to any of our Council the guilt so committed: As also, excepting all fines, or effects of sentences already given. And likewise indemnifying fully and freely all Quakers, for their meetings and worship, in all time past, preceding the publication of these presents. And we doubt not but our Protestant subjects will give their assistance and concourse hereunto, on all occasions, in their respective capacities.

In consideration whereof, and the ease those of our religion, and others may have hereby, and for the encouragement of our Protestant bishops, and the regular clergy, and such as have hitherto lived orderly, we think fit to declare, that it never was our principle, now will we ever suffer violence to be offered to any man's conscience, nor will we use force, or invincible necessity against any man on the account of his persuasion, nor the Protestant religion, but will protect our bishops and other ministers in their functions, rights and properties, and all our Protestant subjects in the free exercise of their Protestant religion in the churches. And that we will, and hereby promise, on our royal word, to maintain the possessors of church lands formerly belonging to abbeys or other churches of the Catholic religion, in their full and free possession and right, according to our laws and acts of Parliament in that behalf in all time coming. And we will employ indifferently all our subjects of all persuasions, so as none shall meet with any discouragement on the account of his religion, but be advanced, and esteemed by us, according to their several capacities and qualifications, so long as we find charity and unity maintained. And if any animosities shall arise, as we hope in God there will not, we will show the severest effects of our royal displeasure against the beginners and fomenters thereof, seeing thereby our subjects may be deprived of this general ease and satisfaction, we intend to all of them; whose happiness, prosperity, wealth and safety, is so much our royal care, that we will leave nothing undone which may procure these blessings for them. And lastly, to the end all our good subjects may have notice of this our royal will and pleasure, we do hereby command, our Lyon King at Arms, and his brethren heralds, macers, pursuivants, and messengers at arms, to make timeous proclamation hereof at the Mercat-Cross of Edinburgh; and besides the printing and publishing of this our royal proclamation, it is our express will and pleasure, that the same be passed under the Great Seal of that our Kingdom, per saltum, without passing any other seal or register. In order whereunto, this shall be to the directors of our Chancellery, and their deputies for writing the same, and to our Chancellor for causing our Great Seal aforesaid to be appended thereunto, a sufficient warrant.

Given at our court at Whitehall, the twelfth day of February, 1686 [i.e. 1687], and of our Reign the third year.

By His Majesty's command,


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