Letter of King James VII to the Scottish Privy Council, February 12, 1687

In February 1687 King James II and VII issued a Declaration of Toleration which granted greater liberty of religion in Scotland. James sent the following letter to his Privy Council ordering that the declaration be published and printed.

The letter to the Privy Council makes explicit that, in addition to a desire to ease the religious consciences of his subjects, James also had in mind the political situation in Scotland. He and his government were of the opinion that certain dissenters - i.e. people who did not belong to the Established (Episcopal) Church of Scotland - were loyal subjects of the Crown, and that their loyalty would only increase if they were also permitted to worship according to their consciences; James specifically mentions Catholics as being in this category.

On the other hand, James and his government were also of the opinion that other dissenters, namely field-conventiclers, were already disloyal to the Crown and that any liberty granted to them would only increase their power and ability to foment revolution. For many years these people had opposed the religious policy of the Crown (namely the establishment of episcopal government in Scotland). At the same time they had also opposed the monarchy itself, instead advocating a theocratic government under "King Jesus".

This text was printed as His Majesties letter to His Honourable Privy Council of Scotland, together with their answer at Edinburgh and London by the heir of Andrew Anderson in 1687 (Wing J200).

James R.

Right trusty and right well-beloved cousin and counsellor, right trusty and right well-beloved counsellor, right trusty and entirely-beloved cousins and counsellors, right trusty and right well-beloved cousins and counsellors, right trusty and well-beloved cousins and counsellors, right trusty and well-beloved counsellors, and trusty and well-beloved counsellors, we greet you well.

Whereas by our letter of the 21st day of August last past, we were graciously pleased to inform you of our designs in order to the ease of our Roman Catholic subjects, unto which we had your dutiful answer in some days thereafter, we have now thought fit to publish these our royal intentions, and to give an additional ease to those of tender consciences, so to convince the world of our inclinations to moderation, and to evidence that those of the clergy who have been regular are our most particular care. Though we have given some ease to those whose principles we can with any safety trust, we have at the same time expressed our highest indignation against those enemies of Christianity, as well as government and human society, the Field-Conventiclers, whom we recommend to you to root out with all the severities of our laws and with the most vigorous prosecution of our forces, it being equally our and our people's concern to be rid of them.

As for the other particulars of our royal proclamation here enclosed, we doubt not but they will appear to you most just and reasonable, as they do to us, and that you will in your respective capacities assert and defend our royal rights and prerogatives, which we are resolved to maintain in that splendor and greatness which can only make them safe for us, supports for our friends, and terrors to our enemies. It is evident, we do not mean to encroach on the consciences of any, and what we will not do, we are resolved not to suffer in others.

And therefore it is our will and pleasure, that these our commands be forthwith obeyed and that in order thereunto, this our proclamation be forthwith printed and published in the usual manner in such cases accustomed. And if any shall be so bold as to show any dislike of this our procedure, we desire to be informed thereof by you, to the end we may convince the world that we are in earnest, assuring all that, as we expect obedience therein and a readiness from you and all our judicatures to assert our rights, so it shall be our care on all occasions to show our royal favours to all of you in general and to everyone in particular.

For doing all these things, as well contained in this our letter as in our proclamation aforesaid, these presents shall be to you and all others respectively who may be therein any way concerned a sufficient warrant. And so we bid you heartily farewell.

Given at our court at Whitehall, the 12th day of February, 1686/7, and of our reign the third year.

By His Majesty's command,


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