Petition of the Seven Bishops, May 18, 1688

The following petition was submitted against the order of King James II that his Declaration of Indulgence be read in all churches. It was signed by:

  • William Sancroft, Archbishop of Canterbury
  • William Lloyd, Bishop of St. Asaph
  • Francis Turner, Bishop of Ely
  • John Lake, Bishop of Chichester
  • Thomas Ken, Bishop of Bath and Wells
  • Thomas White, Bishop of Peterborough
  • Sir Jonathan Trelawney, Bart., Bishop of Bristol

In spite of their opposition to James' use of the dispensing power, five of these bishops (Sancroft, Turner, Lake, Ken, and White) remained loyal to the king and were among the nine bishops who refused to take the oath to the Prince and Princess of Orange.

A printed version of much of the text can be found on pages 583 - 584 of Sources of English Constituitonal History, edited by Carl Stephenson and Frederick George Marcham (New York: Harper & Row, 1937).

The humble petition of William, Archbishop of Canterbury, and of divers suffragan bishops of that province now present with him, in behalf of themselves and others of their absent brethren, and of the clergy of their respective dioceses,

Humbly sheweth,

That the great averseness they find in themselves to the distributing and publishing in all their churches your Majesty's late declaration for liberty of conscience proceedeth neither from any want of duty and obedience to your Majesty, our Holy Mother, the Church of England, being both in her principles and constant practice unquestionably loyal nor yet from any want or due tenderness to dissenters, in relation to whom they are willing to come to such a temper as shall be thought fit when that matter shall be considered and settled in parliament and Convocation, but among many other considerations from this especially, because that declaration is founded upon such a dispensing power as hath often been declared illegal in parliament, and particularly in the years 1662, 1672, and in the beginning of your Majesty's reign, and is a matter of so great moment and consequence to the whole nation, both in Church and State, that your petitioners cannot in prudence, honour or conscience so far make themselves parties to it as the distribution of it all over the nations, and the solemn publication of it once and again even in God's house and in the time of His divine service, must amount to in common and reasonable construction.

Your petitioners therefore most humbly and earnestly beseech your Majesty that you will be graciously pleased not to insist upon their distributing and reading your Majesty's said declaration.

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