1687: The Declaration of Indulgence

King James II. Portrait by Peter Lely, c. 1650-1675 (Public Domain)


The Declaration of Indulgence is issued by the Catholic James II in early 1987. It is issued in Scotland in February and England in April. Also known as the Declaration for Liberty of Conscience, it grants religious freedom for minorities like Catholics, Protestant dissenters, Unitarians, Jews and Muslims. It also suspends the discriminatory penal laws and revokes the required Protestant oaths in civil and military offices. The declaration marks the first step towards religious freedom in Britain, even if the king explicitly wants to promote his own religion.


“It having pleased Almighty God not only to bring us to the imperial crown of these kingdoms through the greatest difficulties, but to preserve us by a more than ordinary providence upon the throne of our royal ancestors, there is nothing now that we so earnestly desire as to establish our government on such a foundation as may make our subjects happy, and unite them to us by inclination as well as duty; which we think can be done by no means so effectually as by granting to them the free exercise of their religion for the time to come, and add that to the perfect enjoyment of their property, which has never been in any case invaded by us since our coming to the crown; which being the two things men value most, shall ever be preserved in these kingdoms, during our reign over them, as the truest methods of their peace and our glory.”
– King James II, The Declaration of Indulgence, April 1687




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