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Anon, The Clergy’s late Carriage to the King - Joyce Lee Malcom, The Struggle for Sovereignty: Seventeenth-Century English Political Tracts, vol. 2 
The Struggle for Sovereignty: Seventeenth-Century English Political Tracts, 2 vols, ed. Joyce Lee Malcolm (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1999). Vol. 2.
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Anon, The Clergy’s late Carriage to the King
Clergy’s late Carriage
In a Letter to a Friend.
Allowed to be Published this 2d Day of July, 1688.
This anonymous tract in the form of a letter appeared three days after the trial and acquittal of the Archbishop of Canterbury and six other bishops for seditious libel. The bishops had been cited for their petition to James questioning his dispensing power in ecclesiastical matters and refusing to order his Declaration of Indulgence to be read from the pulpit as he had commanded.
On 27 April 1688 James had reissued his Declaration of Indulgence for religious toleration with its suspension of the penal laws. While the king claimed he would present the Declaration to the next Parliament for its approval, he issued it on the strength of his prerogative powers alone. Unlike his earlier declaration, this time the king ordered that it be read on two consecutive Sundays in every Anglican church. On 18 May the Archbishop of Canterbury and six other bishops presented a petition to James asking that the order be withdrawn. They pointed out that they had an obligation to defend the Act of Uniformity and that in 1663 and again in 1673 Parliament had rejected the use of the suspending power in such cases. Their petition was published the next day whereupon the seven bishops were charged with seditious libel and clapped in the Tower. Their trial took place on 29 June.
The trial was distinguished by the eminence of all concerned—theaccused, the defense counsel who included a former lord chief justice, a former judge, and two former attorneys- and solicitors-general. While the chief justice claimed the suspending power was not at issue he allowed it to be discussed. Indeed, two of the puisne judges argued against the suspending power and for acquittal. To great public jubilation the jury returned a verdict of not guilty. The next day James dismissed the two outspoken judges from the bench.
“The Clergy’s Late Carriage to the King” defends James and presents arguments in support of his suspension of penal laws. Beyond this it points out the embarrassing inconsistency in the attitude of Anglican clergy who always professed themselves believers in divine right monarchy, but were prepared to oppose their king when they disliked his orders. The charge was true enough, although passive resistance, as preached by the Church of England, permitted loyal subjects to refrain from obeying illegal commands so long as they passively suffered any necessary punishment. At any rate the charge of inconsistency highlights the difficult situation in which divine right clergy found themselves and their solution in extremis. The tract appeared in a single edition.
Perhaps I am in the wrong, but I beg your Pardon if I can’t think so, when I don’t know it. On the contrary, I grow more assured in my Opinion, since the other Night, by all the Reflections I could make upon what past between us. It seems, I say unaccountable to Good Sense, Duty, Modesty, and everything that becomes a dutiful Subject (to say nothing of the Christian) that the King was not only not obeyed by the Clergy, where it was no Sin to do it, but where the Obedience was purely Ministerial. Had it been to renounce their own Religion, or to receive His, it had been something; but when it was to secure every Religion from Violence and Persecution: Nay, when it was a Declaration of His Mind about a good Work, and not of Theirs: No new Declaration of Liberty of Conscience, but a Publication of what He had done last Year; and that what was New in it, was only the King’s Resolution to have a Parliament next Winter, in order to have that past into a Law, which the Bishops seemed only to dislike for want of being done by Law and Still to resist their King and Head, I say, this is something surprizing. In short, the Declaration was in its first part meerly Historical, what the King had done April 1687,1 the last part what He would do, to wit, have a Parliament in November next at farthest to Establish this Liberty of Conscience. And as this was in truth the Business of the Declaration, the other but the Preface to it, so with trouble I say it, that this makes their Disobedience the more suspected, and unreasonable; for they refuse to tell the World, the King would have a Parliament to confirm the Liberty, which yet they profess to be for, in Parliament. I say, this looks with an ill Air, and carries too great a contradiction for Men of their Function and Learning; and yet so it must be, or they are insincere in their Petition. But this is not all; The Reverence these Gentlemen have always profest for the Monarchy, Their Opinion of the mighty Power of it, The Character they have fixt on those that have been scrupulous to obey it, in Cases less clear than this, is an aggravation of their Misfortune; for at this rate no inferiour Minister is so much as obliged to report the Act of a Superiour, if it is not suitable to his own Judgment. A Clark of a Court may refuse to read an Inditement, because he thinks the Man Innocent that is impeached at the Bar by it. No Sheriff ought to read a Proclamation, or execute an Offender unless his Judgment concur with that of the Prince or the Judge. It carries (whatever they think of it) the power of Questioning the Commands of Superiours into all the capacities and relations of Life, even where it is no matter of Faith. If I bid my Servant go tell a Man I deal with, He has used me very dishonestly, at this rate he may refuse for this reason, That truly he has a better opinion of him, and therefore won’t go of my Errand. Had the King set up for Lawmaking, or intended finally to abrogate Laws, or suspend Laws made against anything that was evil in itself, or Laws that preserve Property instead of those that take it away; or that it had touched upon matters of Faith, or the Worship of God, or intrenched upon any Priviledge that belongs to the Church of England; or if He had required them to read the Opinion of the Judges about the Dispencing Power, or a Treatise in defence of it, in order to Endoctrinate the People, they might have had room for some Exception, and yet in this latter Case perhaps they had been little more than Ministerial too. But when it was only to tell his Subjects, in the most effectual way (more going to Church than to Market) that whereas He did emit a Declaration in 1687 for Liberty of Conscience, (the Historical part) He resolved in November next, at farthest, to hold a Parliament for the Confirmation of it: Give me leave to say, without offence, It looks as if the Exception were a Cavil and not a Scruple.
By whom else should the Ecclesiastical Head speak to the Ecclesiastical Body? for it therefore seems to me reasonable that they should have read it in their Churches, because they are the State Meeting-Houses, and the Clergy the State Mouthes. Will they claim their Legal Priviledges, and not bate an Ace of being the Church of England as by Law Established, and yet refuse to let the Head speak by them the Mouth, His mind to the People, his Ecclesiastical Body? Can this consist with Ecclesiastical Headship and Obedience? where no Assent or Consent was exacted from them, nor were they to require it of the People; but as I said before, a meer Report of the King’s Mind, referring to a publick future Act, of which the People’s Information was requisite for their own Benefit and Content, as well as the King’s Service. I say, for the Clergy to refuse their Head, and this Head too, that they so generally and earnestly desire to wear upon their Shoulders, and at this time of Day, and about a thing they say they have a due tenderness to, has an appearance as if they would widen Breaches and highten Animosities, ay, ripen and head them, too, instead of suppressing them. I say, it looks so, for I would fain have a better opinion of their Loyalty and Conscience than to think they meant it. However this Conduct goes too far, thus to strive and chicane with their Prince, and by popular pretences to raise themselves upon the breath of the Rabble above the duty they owe Him, this is at least the appearance of Evil, and unbecomes Men of Peace and Religion, to be sure such as pretend to be the Successors of the Apostles, that command Obedience for Conscience’ sake, where Conscience was not imposed upon, and has been pleaded by this very Clergy against Dissenters, to urge their Conformity where matters of Faith and Worship to God were concerned.
Though this, I say, and not Religion, be the Case, yet such is the Malice of the World, as to say it, and such has been their Weakness, as to give occasion for it. I confess that has been the uneasiest part to me, that they have acted, I mean their Mock Martyrdom, to force Suffering and act it to a Farce. What else can be their Blessing People ten deep of a side, with Have a care of your Religion, be faithful to your Religion, the Lord strengthen you &c. and whilst not one tittle of their Religion, but the Liberty of other Men’s was the Case: What shall an honest Man think of this? when the plain English of the matter was that they went to the Tower for not reading a Declaration for settling of Liberty of Conscience by Law, to hinder them from ever making Martyrs of other Men anymore for Conscience’ sake. This is the Point before God and Man, after all the bustle their Nonresisting Principle has suffered them to make; and ’tis this I am scandalized at, to see a jest acted so much in Earnest, and Religion made one, and profained too, by such forced pretences. God give them Repentance and confirm the King in his wise course of Moderation: For the Liberty when settled will shame its Enemies, and save and encrease the number of its Friends, for whatever is suggested by ill Men, ’tis Liberty of Conscience that is aimed at. Liberty built upon a Rock and not a Sand: To be framed to exclude any one Party from the Power of endangering the rest: Can we honestly fear Popery should break this Liberty, when it even becomes a security against the more refined Popery of the Church of England? What will prevent the less cannot admit the greater. The Net which will catch a little Fish, will not let a greater pass. How unjust therefore are the Jealousies of those, and how impudent their Words that prejudge that matter, and will not leave it to the only place where the Trial of the sincerity of all Parties can be made? I mean a Parliament. To that time I refer the whole Controversy, and do beg all Parties to prepare to make the Session happy in trying not how to divide, but unite upon this great Point; where if the Bishops shew their conversion to Liberty, by a tenderness truly due to Conscience in every Party, I shall heartily change the opinion, their contrary practise, for so many Years past, has constrained me to entertain about them, but till then I have greater reason to count their present Zeal A fit of Art, than they have to suspect the Court of insincerity in the business of the present Declaration: A thought that Seven Years ago would have been with them Insufferable in a Dissenter, especially about any Act of power in the Clergy’sfavour. What then can one call Their crime, that in the name of Religion, and Law, can bring themselves to contest their King’s command, upon his Judges’ Opinions, in a case of so much mercy and goodness? For such an one this is, and the effect of it Heaven hath already blest. It is what might have become the greatest, and best of Princes of former Ages, but it looks as if it had been reserved for the glory of him that now Sways the English Scepter; and I confess I can’t refrain hoping this goodness of his, will give Example, even where his power can’t give Law.
London, Printed for H. L. and I. K. and Sold by most Booksellers in London and Westminster.
Revolution and Allegiance
[1. ]Reference is to James II’s Declaration of Indulgence of 4 April 1687 granting liberty of conscience to all his English subjects.