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Cambridge Historical Essays. No. XIX




iontiOlt: FETTER LANE, E.G.

C. y. CLAY, Manager

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THE - "757







" Coffined thoughts of coffined men.''

Cambridge :

at the University Press
191 1




r I IHE following essay is one of two to which the Prince
-■- Consort Prize was awarded in 1910, and is now

published in accordance with the prescribed regulations.
With the permission of the examiners I Jiave made certain
alterations in preparing it for the press, considerably ex-
panding the first chapter, and adding a final chapter of
recapitulation and summary. Also a large number of
minor alterations and additions have been made. Thus
the essay is somewhat increased in bulk, but it has under-
gone no essential change in substance or structure.

In dealing with the actual controversy between the
years 1660 and 1714, as distinct from the intellectual
tendencies which led up to it, I have presented the views
of writers as far as possible in their own words, and have
as a rule tried to bring forward all the main arguments
for toleration used in the particular work under considera-
tion, whether they had been employed in an earlier work
or not. Such a method necessarily involves a good deal
of repetition of arguments, but I have conceived of my
task not as that of pointing out what fresh contribution
(if any) each writer made to the discussion — indeed, if
originality were the test, perhaps few writers in this
period would have deserved mention at all — but rather



as that of following the course of the controversy as it
actually took place, and of setting forth, with as few
considerable omissions as possible, the contemporary views
upon the subject. In a word I have tried, not so much to
speak for the age, as to let the age speak for itself. With
this object in view I have devoted no small share of my
attention to the writers upon the intolerant side. This
was necessary, I think, from two points of view. In the
first place, it is clear that we are insufficiently provided
with means of understanding the attitude of the tolera-
tionists, unless we know what were the views which they
attacked, and on what grounds resistance was made to
their attack. Secondly, the anti-tolerationists were in our
period fighting, so to speak, a rearguard action, and a
knowledge of the position they took up from time to time
is a valuable indication of the point to which the tolerant
forces had advanced.

If, however, I have taken a comprehensive view of my
duties in this respect, I have confined my efforts rather
strictly in another. The question of toleration was closely
connected with the kindred questions of comprehension,
of the tests, and of occasional conformity. While refer-
ences now and then to these questions, and to the ideas
entertained upon them, are of value as throwing light
upon the matter with which we are more immediately
concerned, I have not felt it part of my task to deal at all
with these questions for their own sake.

More open to criticism, perhaps, is my omission of all
reference to the freedom of the press. But the inclusion
of this question would, I think, militate against unity of
treatment, while adding little to the theory of toleration
as set forth in its bearings upon religion, to which aspect


I have confined myself (save for a few references) for
reasons set forth in the first chapter.

In certain cases I have suggested an earlier date for
a book than that found on its title-page, because a reply
to it appeared bearing the date of the previous year. Thus
Parker's Ecclesiastical Polity is dated 1670, but Owen's
reply to it is dated 1669. Presumably Parker's book was
published actually in 1669 bearing the date of the following
year — an example of a practice which seems to have been
not uncommon.

I have tried to make the index full enough to be of
use for purposes of study: for any inconsistencies of
method it may show I plead the excuse that it was
compiled amidst great pressure of other work.

It is unlikely that I have in all cases succeeded in
acknowledging, where acknowledgment is due, my debts
to the authors of books I have consulted : for all such
omissions (which I trust are few) I apologise.

It remains for me to express my thanks to Professor
Gwatkin, to Mr T. R. Glover, Fellow of S. John's College,
and to the Rev. J. K. Mozley, Fellow and Dean of
Pembroke College, for the help they have given me.
To Mr Glover I am especially indebted, not only for
valuable advice given while the essay was still in manu-
script, but also for a very helpful revision of the proofs.

A. A. S.

Pembroke College,

January 18^/^, 1911.



Preface v-vii


The Theories of Persecution and Toleration . 1-44

Tolerant Tendencies in English Thought in the

Seventeenth Century 45-8;$

From the Restoration to the Toleration Act . 84-23t>

Locke on Toleration 237-274

From the Toleration Act to the Death of Anne . 275-305

General Review 306-331


I. Argument of pages 9-33 . . . . . 332-333

II. Table of Events, 1660-1714 .... 334-335

III. Summary of the Principal Penal and Test Acts,

1660-1714 335-340

IV. The Date of Stillingfleet's "Irenicum" . 341-345

Bibliography 346-350

Index . . 351-364



Toleration is the practical recognition of the xiie
rie^ht of the individual to form and to act upon his 9^^^*^^ »/

° , , ^ toleration

own opinions on the great issues of life generally, as
against the claim of external authority to prescribe
limits to thought and practice. As a matter of fact
the battle for toleration has been fought and won contested
(so far as it has been won) mainly in relation to one ^g^i^tionlo
of those issues, religion. And it is not difficult to religion,
see why this should have been so. In the absence of
systematized scientific knowledge, theology usui-ped because of
dominion over departments of thought to which it tilnslf^"^'
had no just claim; and consequently the progress oi theology,
thought in these departments has been quite irrele-
vantly challenged on theological grounds, and the new
opinions have been treated as a matter of religion.
And in the proper sphere of religion, which affords (2) activity
the widest field for speculation, the prescribed limits iimimion&
of speculation have been most jealously guarded. on,theo-
But while the limits themselves have been specially specula-
insisted upon, within those limits considerable activity '*^"'
s. I


of thought has generally prevailed; it is not sur-
prising, therefore, that speculative minds have fre-
quently overrun the mark and come into collision

(3) import- with authority. Besides this, decisions in religious
relfgious ^^^t^^s being generally regarded as of the highest
decisions, import, there is the strongest impulse on the one

side for a man to decide for himself and to maintain
his decision, and on the other for authority to enforce
the decisions already received. Hence arises a
struggle from a divergence of opinion which in affairs
of less moment might have been avoided or dis-

(4) their regarded. Decisions in religious matters, again, tend
lofhow^ more than those in some other departments of
themselves thought^ to show themselves in practice. If I come
inproc ice. ^^ (Jigggnt from the established religion, I am likely

to show my dissent by attending the worship of
some other religious body, if there is oiie to suit
my views, or by abstaining from public worship
altogether ; but a change in opinion from the theory
of the divine right of kings to a belief in repub-
licanism, or from the corpuscular to the undulatory
theory of light, does not lead me to any such overt
act, unless indeed I feel impelled to join or found
some society for the propagation of republicanism or
the undulatory theory of light. It is possible of
course that even though I dissent from the established
religion I may take no action which gives indication
of the fact, but the probability that I shall do so is
much greater than in either of the alternative cases

^ Not necessarily than in any other. That a man is, for
instance, a vegetarian may be much more conspicuous than that
he is an agnostic or a Plymouth Brother.


mentioned, because religion by its very nature claims
to govern a man's practice, which politics and physics
do not\ Here we touch the crucial point in the
question of toleration. The clash of the individuaO
with authority is naturally most severe and finds its /
most ample justification in cases where the former
feels himself impelled not merely by intellectual
interest or emotion or wilfulness, but by conscience,
to a course which the latter has forbidden^ And
though nowadays we are learning to distinguish
between religion and morality, in the period to which
the main body of this essay is devoted religion was
practically the invariable ultimate background of
conscience ^

These considerations, then, explain why the
question of toleration is so intimately bound up
with religion. Further, there is no motive to
persecution in matters not directly bearing on
religion, which does not operate in religious per-
secution, but there are motives to the latter which
do not operate in the former ; if, then, we can make
clear the reasons for which men have come to
tolerate even divergent forms of religion, we shall

1 Men's practice no doubt largely conforms to their political
and physical theories, but this is not simply because they hold
those theories, but because of some sanction (e.g. altruism or
self-interest) external to them. That a man's practice should
accord with his beliefs is not a political or physical principle, but
a moral one,

2 Apparently the first attempt to construct a system of morals
without the aid of theology was that of Cumberland, afterwards
Bishop of Peterborough, in his De Legibus Naturae, 1672. Buckle,
History of Civilization in England, i. 425 and n. (Longmans'
Silver Library, 3 vols. 1908).



necessarily include those for which differences on
other subjects are tolerated.
^ |-^ Toleration represents, as we have seen, the with-
I drawal of external authority from control of certain
I redons of human activity ;_ hence it is essentially
Complete negatived It also follows from its nature that it
Tmpotme. can in any case be but partial. The ages of perse-
cution were not completely intolerant; complete
toleration is impossible even in our own. It is
immediately obvious that, human nature being what
it is, an organized state must be prepared to punish
actions even for which the dictates of conscience may
be pleaded. Otherwise the individual would be
given a free hand ; for the excuse, if allowed, might
be raised to cover any action whatever, and the state
cannot discriminate between genuine and counterfeit
pleas of conscience. And even though the plea be
genuine, it may be put forward in defence of actions

1 ' Toleration ' and ' tolerance ' are also used in a more re-
stricted and positive sense. Thus tolerance — the mental attitude
which finds its outward expression in toleration — has been de-
scribed as "an allowance of that which is disapproved. The
subject-matter is man's attitude towards the opinions of his fellow-
men.' It is therefore the mean or middle state in which virtue
consists — persecution being the excess, indifference the defect of
this quality. The attitude of the persecutor is clear — he wishes
to impose his own opinions on his fellow-men. The attitude of
the indifferent man is also clear — he has no opinions and there-
fore is heedless.... The virtue of the tolerant man lies in having
. opinions, but not wishing to impose them by any external pres-
sure, or to enforce them by any means save temperate argument "
(J. O. Bevan, Birth and Growth of Toleration and Other Essays, 3).
This sense is no doubt convenient for ethical classification, but is
only with difl&culty, if at all, applicable to politics : the negative
sense, therefore, is to be understood in this essay.




which the government owes to its subjects in general )

to repress. Some control, then, m-espective of t ^

conscience, the state must claim, (f The question, ■ . •>>
therefore, is one of properly adjusting the boundary )^
between the sphere in which the individual's activity
may be determined by himself without liability to
punishment, and the sphere in which the state claims
controLN During the last few centuries there has
taken place a great extension of the former at the
expense of the latter, and a definite principle has
been recognized for the determination of the boundary
between them.

We may more clearly understand this process of stages m
evolution if we examine it with respect to religion,
and divide it for purposes of thought into three tolera
successive stages. The first stas^e is that in which ^^^^*

. . (1) Perse-

the mere holding of certain views — the mere Sid-cutionofa
herence to a certain religion as such — is in itself a r^^Y/^" ^*
punishable offence. It may be held that a certain crime.
religion, as a religion, is bad; that it will involve
serious consequences after death to those who believe
in it, or that it is an insult to the Almighty \ Per-
secution of this type of course implies that the
authority enacting the persecuting laws either is
itself competent to pronounce upon theological
questions, or is acting under the advice of those who
are so competent; and arises, not indeed only, but
most naturally, in cases where the authority believes
itself to be in possession of the one true religion.
The second stage is entered upon when punish'^

^ And possibly therefore it may be regarded as likely to bring
disaster upon the whole community.


(2) Perse- ment is inflicted upon the adherents of a certain
reli^onas religion, not because of the supposed vicious character
connoting of the religion itself, but because adherence to it is sup-
posed necessarily to connote enmity to the established
order, ecclesiastical, political, or social. An obvious
instance of this type of persecution is given by the
penal laws enacted in England against the Roman
Catholics from the reign of Elizabeth onwards \
The idea of persecuting them simply because they
adhered to the Roman Catholic Church was officially
disavowed ; they were punished not simply because
they were Roman Catholics, but because it was
assumed that a Roman Catholic must necessarily
be disloyal. Thus the priests executed under
Elizabeth were not burnt as heretics, but hanged
as traitors. This stage shows a very distinct advance
on the previous one ; the persecuting authority no
longer takes upon itself to condemn a religion upon
the ground of its effects outside this present world,
but confines its attention to the effects likely to be
produced on contemporary politics, of which it is, no
doubt, more competent to judge. But even so it
runs a great risk of being unnecessarily severe. The
system is based upon the false assumption that men
follow out principles to their logical conclusions, and
sometimes also upon another false assumption as to
what those conclusions are. To return to our instance ;
supposing that Roman Catholicism logically connoted
disloyalty to Queen Elizabeth and her government
(and there was a very great deal to be said for the

* The persecution of the early Christians by the Roman
government is another case in point.


view), it would not necessarily follow — as a matter
of fact we know that it did not follow — that Roman
Catholics were generally disloyal.

The third stage is that which is ffenerallv de- (3) 2'^«

state takes

scribed as religious toleration. In this, no religion no cog-
is punishable, either as beinef in itself a crime or as "^fp^^^ «/
connoting any crime, and no act performed as part of motives.
a religion is punishable unless it is punishable apart
from religious considerations. The state may es-
pecially countenance some particular form of religion
by retaining an established church, but, so far as the
use of force or persuasion is concerned, the attitude
of the state to religion has become purely negative,
promoting nothing, and prohibiting nothing but what
is supposed to be harmful to society from a temporal
point of view.

The first stage, as we have seen, is most natural
to a society in which the one true religion is under-
stood to be unquestionably and exactly known. In
such a case the government is supposed to take up
a positive attitude, and to maintain the welfare of
society by upholding and promoting this one true
religion to the extirpation of all other, and therefore
false, religions.

In the intermediate stage it does not necessarily
take it upon itself to decide that a certain religion
is true, but it does decide that some religions are
false, or rather politically or socially harmful, and
therefore to be suppressed. We still believe that
certain forms of religion are harmful to society —
Mormonism for instance and the religion of the
Thugs — but we do not regard as a crime mere


adherence to those religions, but only such anti-
social acts — to wit, polygamy and strangling — as
may be performed under their sanction. If a man
■ holds the belief that community of goods is divinely
ordained and that he is obliged in conscience to do
all he can to make it general, and if he acts upon
it so far as to treat other people's property as his
own, he must suffer for it quite irrespective of his
conscientious convictions. Similarly, if a Christian
Scientist, disbelieving in the reality of pain and
disease, allows his child to die from want of medical
attendance and general neglect, he must undergo the
same penalties prescribed by law for such cases as
an Anglican or a Mohammedan, who have no re-
ligious reason to plead and may have acted from
mere callousness or brutality. The fact that an act
is performed for reasons of religion neither invests it
with guilt if it is otherwise innocent, nor makes it
innocent if it is otherwise an offence against the
law : of such reasons the state takes no cognizance.
Religion as such has been entirely abandoned to the
extended sphere of internal control.

Develop- The process of extension of that sphere — in other

ment of j i i i n

toleration words the development of toleration — exhibits two

morlf aspects, which, though not entirely separable in fact,

partly in- it is convenient to distine^uish for purposes of thousrht.

tellectuah „ • . c ' •. • • -i i

l^rom some pomts of view it is primarily a moral
movement, from others it is primarily intellectual;
from others again both characteristics are to be ob-
served in close combination. We shall prepare the
way for a better understanding of the nature and
relation of these aspects, if we consider the motives


which have led men to persecute, and the way in
which they have been neutralized partly by moral, and
partly by intellectual, developments These motives motives
may perhaps best be classified under five heads 2. 1^^^^^^^'

If a religion be conceived of as having been (i) re-
directly revealed by God, it is not unnatural to ^^^^'^^^
hold that the honour of God is impugned by the
denial of any doctrine supposed to be essential to

^ Buckle (History of Civilization in England, i. 174-190)
attempts to prove that progress in general and toleration in
particular result not from moral but from intellectual causes.
His argument is as follows : — Progress is twofold, moral and
intellectual : moral systems have not changed ; but intellectual
systems are constantly changing : therefore the causes of progress
are intellectual. But even if his assertion that "in reference to
our moral conduct, there is not a single principle now known to
the most cultivated Europeans, which was not likewise known to
the ancients " (p. 181) were true, it would not be relevant. The
question is not one of formulating a principle, it is one of applying
it in its full meaning and carrying it into practice. Buckle
strangely confuses morality itself with the intellectual apprehen-
sion of its principles. If his theory were sound we must regard
our professors of moral philosophy as our greatest saints. Dealing
with toleration in particular, he lays stress on the disinterested
character of persecution and on the exalted motives from which
persecutors have acted ; but this is merely to prove that ignorance
combined with power is dangerous, and that good intentions are
uo adequate substitute for, or equivalent of, intelligence^ — pro-
positions which no one, presumably, is concerned to deny.
Further he seems to confound religion or religious fanaticism
with morality, and to take no account of the common phenomenon
of the moral sense being excluded from one particular department
of life, e.g. religious or commercial affairs. Intellect may be the
liberator, but it cannot be the driving power of morality. Modern
humanitarianism, for instance, is not in its essence an intellectual
product. But the subject is more suited for a volume than for a

2 For the argument of pp. 9—33 briefly set out in tabular
form, see Appendix I. . ■ ,i; j



that religion, or by the conception of God in any
other manner than that which is — rightly or
wrongly — supposed to be prescribed; and zeal
naturally dictates a persecution, which, as it is
undertaken on behalf of the divine honour, is pre-
sumed to meet with the divine approval; nor is
it difficult for the persecutor to discover or invent
divine commands to be the warrant of his action and
a spur to greater efforts. Thus we have what may
perhaps be called the religious motive for persecution.

(2) theo' Our duty to God being thus properly performed,

our duty to our neighbour must not be forgotten,
and supplies us with a motive equally strong. If our
religion be the one true religion, and the only way to
salvation, it is not cruelty to persecute a man in order
to make him embrace it ; rather is it merciful to
expose him to the most excruciating tortures, if it
is only so that we may win him to that eternal
happiness, which he cannot enter save through con-
version from his errors. The doctrine of exclusive
salvation, then, provides us with a motive which for
purposes of convenience we will label as theological \
The third, fourth and fifth motives are supplied
by the conservatism inherent in the natural man.
Applied to religious affairs this quality has a distinct
bearing both upon doctrine and upon ecclesiastical

(.3) doc' organization. With regard to the former it exhibits
itself in the attempt to suppress any views supposed

1 This not altogether satisfactory name I take from Sir
Frederick Pollock's The Theory of Persecution in his Essays in
Jurisprudence and Ethics, whose system of classification suggested
that adopted here, though differing considerably from it.



to corrupt or to be likely to corrupt the purity of
the church's doctrine, which it is surely worth while to
keep uncontaminated at the cost of some temporal
suffering inflicted on the innovators ; in the latter (4) eccie-
case it finds the objects of its attack in any new- ^'^***^'*^»
fangled notions calculated to disturb the ecclesiastical
status quo by causing divisions or lack of discipline in
the church, if not her actual overthrow.

But a religion may embody opinions directly (5) poim.
inimical to the state in which they are propagated, *^^"^^^*^^-
or to society in general. Or though not directly
inimical to the state or to society they may be con-
sidered to be so indirectly, because inimical to the

Online LibraryAlexander Adam SeatonThe theory of toleration under the later Stuarts → online text (page 1 of 26)