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Title: The Acts of Uniformity
       Their Scope and Effect

Author: T.A. Lacey

Release Date: May 2, 2009 [EBook #28659]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ASCII


Produced by Elaine A. Laizure

The Acts of Uniformity

Their Scope and Effect








_Price One Shilling: net_


The following paper, read at Oxford
before certain members of the University,
in November, 1899, is published at the
request of some who heard it.


The Acts of Uniformity are incidents in a great
movement. They are far from being the most important
of its incidents. Their importance has perhaps
been exaggerated, and their purport is commonly
misunderstood. My object is to place them in their
true relation to other incidents. It is useless to study
them apart; they cannot be understood except as
details of a connected history. I shall confine myself,
however, to a narrow, question: assuming the general
history, I shall ask how the several Acts of Uniformity
come into it, with what purpose and with what ultimate
effect. To study immediate effects would be to
engage in too wide an inquiry.

We owe thanks to the men who drafted the
statutes of the sixteenth century for their long argumentative
preambles. These are invaluable as showing
the occasion and purpose of the Acts. We shall not
go to them for an uncoloured record of facts--their
unsupported assertions will hardly, indeed, be taken as
evidence for facts at all; but they tell us to what facts
the legislator wished to call attention, and in what
light he would have them regarded. The preamble
of the first Act of Uniformity is among the most
illuminating, and with its help we can assemble the
facts in relation to which the purport of the Act must
be determined.

We are in the year 1548. Important changes in
matters of religion had taken place; greater changes
were in prospect. The processions before High Mass
on Sundays and Festivals, conspicuous and popular
ceremonies, had been stopped on rather flimsy grounds,
and a Litany in English substituted--the "English
Procession," as it was called. Many images in the
churches had been destroyed, as superstitious; the
censing of those remaining had ceased. The peculiar
ceremonies of Candlemas, Ash Wednesday, and Palm
Sunday had been omitted in many places. A chapter
of the Bible in English was being read after the
lessons at Mattins, and at Evensong after _Magnificat_.

It was not very clear by what authority these
innovations had been made. There had been royal
proclamations and injunctions; episcopal injunctions
and orders on visitation. There was another change,
perhaps the most striking of all, in which Parliament
had intervened. The first Act of the first Parliament
of Edward VI. required the administration of the Holy
Sacrament of the Altar in both kinds. No penalties
were annexed, though elsewhere in the same statute
severe penalties were appointed for depravers of the
Sacrament. Convocation had concurred, adopting on
December 2, 1547, a resolution of some sort in favour
of communion in both kinds. [1] The records are too
scanty to show exactly what was done. An _Order of
the Communion_ with English prayers, to be inserted
in the usual order of the Mass, was afterwards published,
and brought into general use, on the command
apparently of the King and his Council. Nothing
was said in the Act of Parliament about the mode of
giving communion, and therefore,

  lest every man phantasing and devising a sundry way by
  himself, in the use of this most blessed Sacrament of
  unity, there might thereby arise any unseemly and ungodly

the King put forth this Order to be exclusively
followed. [2] A letter from the Council to the bishops
of the realm explains the source of the Order. It was
drawn up at the King's desire, by

  sundry of his majesty's most grave and well learned
  prelates, and other learned men in the scripture. [3]

This, then, was commanded by public authority. But
there were other innovations of more doubtful origin.
On May 12, 1548, at the commemoration of Henry
VII. in Westminster Abbey, Wriothesley tells us of

  the masse song all in English, with the consecration of the
  sacrament also spoken in English,

the priest afterwards "ministering the communion
after the Kinges booke." In September, at the consecration
of Fernir by Cranmer, Holbeach and Ridley,
something of the same kind was done. The account
in Cranmer's Register is confused, but it says distinctly
that the Holy Eucharist was _consecrata in lingua vernacula_.
The churchwardens of St. Michael's, Cornhill,
this same year paid five shillings

  to the Scolle Mr of Polles, for wrytyng of the masse in
  Englysh & ye benedicites;

doubtless for use in church. [4] In May, again, according
to Wriothesley,

  Poules quire and dyvers other parishes in London song all
  the service in English, both mattens, masse, and evensonge.

At St. Michael's, "viii Sawtters in Englyshe" were
bought. [5] In September, Somerset, as Chancellor,
wrote to the Vice-Chancellor of Cambridge that in all
the Colleges they should

  use one uniform order, rite, and ceremonies in the mass,
  mattins and evensong, and all divine service in the same
  to be said or sung, such as is presently used in the king's
  Majesty's chapel, and none other. [6]

There is nothing to show what was specially intended
here, but a copy of the order in question was sent with
the letter for more information.

Meanwhile steps were being taken for a thorough
reform of the customary services. A committee of
Convocation had been appointed for "examining, reforming,
and publishing the divine service." In
November, 1547, the clergy of the lower house of Convocation
petitioned to have the result submitted to them,
with what success is not known. [7] The _Order of Communion_
was not improbably the work of this committee.
During the year 1548 we know that several divines--probably
the same committee still continuing [8]--were
engaged in the task of drawing up an order of service,
which at a meeting of the bishops held in October
or November was subscribed by all, with the single
exception of Day of Chichester. This was the order
afterwards brought into use, apparently with some
verbal alterations, as the Book of Common Prayer. [9]

Here we see things in great confusion. The cause
of the confusion is not far to seek. The services of
the Church were regulated by custom, and custom
was crumbling to pieces. Uniform in the main, the
services in different places had varied in detail. The
tradition of each place had been maintained partly
by conservative instinct, partly by the pressure of
ecclesiastical discipline. The conservative instinct
was now giving-way to a temper of innovation;
ecclesiastical discipline was paralyzed by the interference
of the Crown. Men could see no reason why
they should not innovate, and the authorities of the
Church were powerless to restrain them. England
was threatened with the state of things prevailing in
Germany, where the clergy and magistrates of every
free town took it upon themselves to revise the order
of divine service; where the bishop of Strassburg, for
example, even in his own city and his own cathedral,
could not prevent the introduction of a strange and
novel ritual. [10]

Into this environment the first Act of Uniformity
was projected. In the preamble of the Act we find
the state of things not unfairly described, with a
discreet avoidance, however, of all reference to the
causes of confusion. Mention is made of the old
diversity of use, and then of the new and far greater
diversity that was coming in. The godly care of the
King, the Protector and the Council, in setting the
bishops and divines to work at reforming the service
of the Church, is gratefully acknowledged. This work
was now concluded "by the aid of the Holy Ghost,
with one uniform agreement." The title of the book
so prepared is recited: _The Book of Common Prayer,
and Administration of the Sacraments, and other Rites
and Ceremonies of the Church, after the Use of the
Church of England_. The enactment then proceeds:

"All and singular ministers in any Cathedral or
Parish Church, or other place within this realm of
England, Wales, Calice, and Marches of the same,
or other the King's dominions, shall from and after
the Feast of Pentecost next coming, be bounden to
say and use the Mattins, Evensong, celebration of
the Lord's Supper, commonly called the Mass, and
administration of each the Sacraments, and all their
common and open prayer, in such order and form as
is mentioned in the same Book, and none other, or

Then follow the penalties. Any minister refusing
to use the Book, or using any other, or
speaking in derogation of the Book, for the first
offence is to forfeit to the King one year's profits
of some one of his spiritual promotions, if he have
any, and to suffer six months' imprisonment. For a
second offence he is to lose all his promotions and
suffer one year's imprisonment. For a third offence
the penalty is imprisonment for life. If he have no
promotion, he is for the first offence to suffer six
months' imprisonment; and for a second, imprisonment
for life. There are penalties for laymen also.
Any person speaking in derogation of the Book, or
interrupting its use, or causing a minister to use any
other form, is for the first offence to forfeit ten pounds,
for a second offence twenty pounds; on a third
occasion he is to forfeit all his goods and chattels and
suffer imprisonment for life. These penalties are to
be enforced by judges of assize, proceeding in the
manner customary on indictment for trespass.

What have we here? A purely penal statute,
imposing the crushing penalties usual at the time.
My purpose is to show the relation of the statute to
the Book of Common Prayer. I observe, then, that
the Book did not originate with the Act. It was
already in existence, the fruit of the work of certain
divines, which is spoken of in the preamble as concluded.
The book was not authorized or brought
into use by the Act. It was already in use, though
by no means in general use. This fact is illustrated
by the title of the Book itself, which sets forth the
contents with some audacity as being _After the Use
of the Church of England_. I am not here concerned
with the question--the very difficult question--of the
authority by which the Book came into existence and
into use. I am only concerned to show that the
authority in question was not the authority of Parliament.
The Act of Uniformity did not authorize the
use of the forms contained in the Prayer-book, for
that was needless; it forbade the use of any other
forms. It did not bring the Book into use, for that
was already done; it brought it into exclusive use,
which is not the same thine. It was not an enabling
Act, but a prohibitory Act. It did not propose or
command a reform; it found the reform already
made. It did not purport to set forth an order of
divine service; it found an order already in existence,
and forbade the use of any other. It was frankly
a persecuting law, and as such may fairly be compared
with the statute of the Six Articles. In that case the
doctrinal articles, as in this case the forms of worship,
were not invented or introduced by authority of
Parliament; the statute in each case merely imposed
a penalty on all who impugned or refused them. The
purpose of the Act was to secure by temporal penalties
an uniformity which the ecclesiastical authorities of
the time were unable to compass, and which it is
possible they did not greatly desire.

I shall not deal with the fortunes of the Prayerbook
under the Act, or with the violent changes
effected apart from the Act during the two or three
years that followed. One incident, however, calls for
notice. There were in London at this time numerous
refugees of the reformed persuasion, chiefly from the
Belgic provinces. These men organized themselves
into a congregation, worshipping after their own
rites. The King granted them the disused church
of the Austin Friars. Here they came under the
notice of the Lord Mayor, and of Ridley, the bishop
of London, who attempted to enforce the Act of
Uniformity against them. The matter was debated
with much acrimony, and the Council intervened with
a royal letter forbidding any interference with the
congregation. So far as I know, this was the only
act of toleration perpetrated during the reign of
Edward VI. [11]

The second Act of Uniformity need not detain
us. The Prayer-book had been elaborately revised,
still without the initiative or concurrence of Parliament.
The statute of 1549, however, hindered the use of the
revised Book; to use it was a penal offence. It was
therefore necessary to put the revised Book in the
legal position occupied by the unrevised Book. This
was done by the Act of the fifth and sixth of
Edward VI., in which opportunity was taken to add
some pious reflections, which may breathe the spirit
of Northumberland and the Council, and some further
penalties, which may seem to us more in accordance
with the spirit of the time. There was a clause
cautiously relaxing the bonds in which the ecclesiastical
jurisdiction was held, in order that it might
come to the assistance of the champions of Uniformity.
The only other point of interest is the statement that
the revised Book was "annexed and joined" to the
statute, a precedent which was followed in 1662.

In the second session of Mary's first Parliament
the Acts of Uniformity were repealed. But the
appetite for legislation was aroused. Mary, too, had
ideas about legal uniformity. She had no handy and
comprehensive service-book, the use of which could
be enforced; but the vague standard of what was
customary at a certain date was set up:

  All such Divine Service and Administration of Sacraments,
  as were most commonly used in the Realm of
  England in the last year of the reign of our late
  Sovereign Lord King Henry the Eight,

were alone to be used. Strangely enough, no penalties
were appointed for the disobedient. [12]

Elizabeth, immediately upon her accession, began
to take measures quietly and cautiously for returning
to the Edwardian position. She revived the use of
the English Litany in her chapel, and encouraged it
elsewhere. So far nothing was done seriously contrary
to the statute of Mary, for the Litany as now
used varied but little from that used under Henry
VIII. Others, however, went further. The returning
exiles, and those who had secretly sympathized
with them, began to use the Edwardian Prayer-book. [13]
There were no statutory penalties to restrain them,
and the bishops looked on helpless, or acquiescent.
Even in the Queen's chapel, it is said, the English
service was used on Easter Day. [14] Long before the
Prayer-book was restored to its legal position. Parkhurst
was able to write to Bullinger, perhaps with
some exaggeration, that it was again in general use:
_Nunc iterum per totam Angliam in usu passim est_. [15]

It was the Prayer-book as used in the last year
of King Edward which was thus revived. But meanwhile
a committee of divines was at work revising it.
Little is known of their proceedings, or of the authority
under which they acted, nor am I concerned with this
question. [16] There is in the Record Office a paper
which roundly asserts that Convocation went over the
Book and approved the alterations before it was
brought into Parliament. The document is undated,
but the calendar assigns it to the year 1559. It
is, however, certainly not of this date, and though
interesting from another point of view, it cannot be
taken to have any value as evidence of fact. [17] The
statement cannot be reconciled with what we know
of the proceedings of Convocation at the time.

Parliament met on the 23rd of January, 1559, and
after some abortive attempts at legislation a Bill for
Uniformity was brought into the House of Commons
on April 18, and passed within two days; in the
House of Lords it was keenly debated, but passed
without amendment on April 28, [18] all the bishops
present dissenting. By this third Act of Uniformity
all the provisions of the former statutes were revived.
The same penalties were enacted, with one addition--a
fine of one shilling for absence from church on
Sundays or holy days, to be levied by the churchwardens
of each parish. The Prayer-book is not
said to be annexed to the Act, [19] but is identified by
reference to the statute of the fifth and sixth of
Edward VI., by which it is said to have been
"authorized." Certain changes to be made in the
Book so identified are specified: it is to be used

  with one alteration, or addition of certain Lessons
  to be used on every Sunday in the year, and the form
  of the Litany altered and corrected, and two sentences
  only added in the delivery of the Sacrament to the

The alterations are said to be "appointed by this
statute." I call attention to these points, because
they seem to show that Elizabeth and her Parliament
assumed the function of amending the Book, and
claimed for it a purely statutory authority. Such an
assumption is strangely inconsistent with the subsequent
actions of the Queen, and we are the more
struck by the contrast if we reflect that the Act was
introduced in the House of Commons. In 1571, when
the Commons began to stir matters of the same kind,
Elizabeth sent them more than one sharp message
forbidding them to meddle with such concerns. The
speed, moreover, with which the Bill passed the
Commons leaves little room for doubt that all was
fully prepared beforehand, the revision of the Book
completed, and the enforcement of its use alone
made matter of parliamentary debate. In the
Lords there was considerable discussion, and the
Book was roughly handled by the opposing bishops;
but the debate proceeded on the Book as a whole,
and there is no trace of any legislative action dealing
with its details. At the same time it is right to observe
that the power of Parliament to impose the Book was
challenged, and no other sanction appears to have
been contemplated. [20] The only possible conclusion
seems to be that the Book was revised by the committee
of which I have spoken, and that as very few
changes were made, no fair copy of the whole Book
was submitted to Parliament, but the alterations were,
for the purpose of reference, mentioned in the Act.
Even this was done without much precision. The
wording of the alterations is not specified. More
remarkable still is the fact that in all the printed
copies of the Book yet other alterations were imported,
by what authority is not known. It would seem that
no copy of the Prayer-book ever existed which
answered exactly to the description given in the Act
of 1559. [21] It is impossible, therefore, to say that the
form of the Book was precisely determined by authority
of Parliament. The purport of the Act was to enforce
the use of the Book in a form otherwise determined.
That form was settled, with some measure of ecclesiastical
sanction, in the time of Edward VI. What
sanction there was for the trifling changes now made
is not very clear, and possibly men were not meant
to inquire too closely.

The obscurity which veils the proceedings of 1559
does not reappear on the occasion of the next revision.
In 1660, on the restoration of the monarchy, the use of
the Book of Common Prayer, which had been forbidden
under severe penalties during the rule of the Long
Parliament and of Cromwell, revived as a matter of
course. The Ordinances of the previous eighteen
years were void in law. Indeed, the Elizabethan Act
of Uniformity remained theoretically in force. Charles,
however, in the Declaration of Breda, had intimated
in some ambiguous words that no attempt should be
made to compel conformity. [22] The presbyterian divines,
Reynolds, Calamy and others, who waited upon him
in Holland, begged him not to insist on the use of the
Prayer-book, even in his own chapel. He refused
their request, replying that

  though he was bound for the present to tolerate much
  disorder and undecency in the exercise of God's worship,
  he would never in the least degree, by his own practice,
  discountenance the good old Order of the Church, in
  which he had been bred. [23]

The discussions that followed the Restoration
turned chiefly on the question of church-government,
with which I am not concerned, except so
far as to point out that until the powers of the
bishops were thoroughly re-established they were
practically unable to enforce, by spiritual censures,
the use of the prescript order of divine worship. Still
it remained as prescribed, and was gradually returning
to general use.

In October, 1660, the divines of the presbyterian
party once more approached the King with suggestions
for a settlement of uniform practice. In regard to the
Liturgy, they had no objection to a fixed form imposed
by law, provided it was not too rigorously
insisted upon; but to the forms contained in the Prayer-book
they were rootedly opposed. The King seized
the opportunity, and in his declaration of October 25
undertook to appoint a committee of divines of both
persuasions to review the Book; in the mean while,
he wrote---

  Our will and pleasure is, that none be punished or
  troubled for not using it, until it be reviewed, and
  effectually reformed. [24]

On the 25th of March following were issued Letters
Patent for the committee thus promised. The conferences
held at the Savoy were, however, practically
fruitless, and the committee was dissolved by lapse of
time on the 24th of July. In the mean time, however,
the Convocation of the province of Canterbury had
been busy. Meeting on the 8th of May, 1661, the
Synod drew up a form of prayer for the 29th of May,
the anniversary of the Restoration, and also an office
for the baptism of adults, which was approved on the
31st of May. [25] In another group of sessions beginning
on the 21st of November, the Synod, in accordance with
letters of business received from the Crown, took in
hand an exhaustive revision of the Prayer-book. This
was completed on the 20th of December, when a fair
copy of the Book as revised was subscribed by the
whole Synod. [26]

All this was done without the consent or concurrence
of Parliament. The Commons became suspicious.
Action under the statute of Elizabeth was
suspended by royal command, and the Convocations
were proceeding as if it were no longer in force. On
June 25, 1661, a committee of the House of Commons
was appointed

  to view the several laws for confirming the Liturgy of
  the Church of England, and to make search, whether
  the original Book of the Liturgy annexed to the Act
  passed in the fifth and sixth years of the reign of King
  Edward the Sixth, be yet extant; and to bring in a
  compendious Bill to supply any defect in the former
  laws, and to provide for an effectual conformity to the
  Liturgy of the Church, for the time to come. [27]

This resolution begins the history of the fourth and
last Act of Uniformity, which deserves a detailed
examination. A Bill was introduced on June 29, and
since the original Book could not be found, a printed
copy of the year 1604 was annexed. It was read a
third time on July 9, and sent up to the Lords. [28]
Nothing more was heard of it for several months.
The object of the Commons was simply to enforce
with greater efficacy the existing law. But this would
have rendered futile the labours of Convocation in
revising the Prayer-book. The use of the revised
Book would be forbidden under penalty. The Lords
therefore held their hand. The Bill sent up from the
Commons was at length read the first time on January
14, 1662. Three days later it was read a second time
and committed. [29] The committee met several times
and adjourned, waiting until they might see the revised
Book prepared by Convocation. [30] At length, on
February 24, this Book, certified under the Great
Seal, was sent by the King to the House of Lords.
On March 13 the committee reported the Bill with
several amendments and additions. Before these were
considered, the alterations in the Book were read over
to the House, but not in any way discussed, and a vote
of thanks to the Convocation for the pains taken in
the matter was adopted. [31] On April 9 the Bill passed
the third reading, with the revised Book annexed in
place of the former printed copy, and so was returned
to the Commons. [32]

Meanwhile the Convocation had, on March 5,
commissioned three bishops to watch any alterations
which might be imported into the Book by either
House of Parliament. [33] On April 15 the Commons
appointed a committee to compare the revised Book
with the copy of 1604, and on the following day, upon
the report of the committee, resolved by a narrow
majority not to allow any debate on the alterations
made. They reserved, however, the right to do so
had they wished. [34] The clauses of the Bill were carefully
gone through; a proviso inserted by the Lords,
that no man should be deprived for not using the
surplice or the Cross in Baptism, was thrown out; [35]
several amendments were carried, and a conference of
the two Houses was held for their consideration. [36]

On this occasion occurred two most significant
incidents. The first arose out of the wish of the
Commons to insert a proviso for

  reverend and uniform gestures and demeanours to be
  enjoined at the time of divine service.

It was agreed in Conference that this matter was more
proper for Convocation than for Parliament, and, therefore,
by a vote of the House of Lords, Convocation
was requested

  to prepare some canon or rule for that purpose, to be
  humbly presented unto his majesty for his assent. [37]

The other incident arose from the discovery of the
Commons' committee that in one of the rubrics of the
revised Book the word _persons_ appeared to be written
by mistake for _children_. On this

  the Lord Bishop of Durham acquainted the House that
  himself, and the Lord Bishop of St. Asaph, and the
  Lord Bishop of Carlisle, had authority from the Convocation
  to mend the said word, averring it was only a mistake
  of the scribe, and accordingly they came to the
  clerk's table, and amended the same. [38]

In fact, on April 21, the bishops in Convocation had
heard from the Chancellor of the mistake, and had
taken measures accordingly, adding Cosin of Durham
to their committee of March 5 appointed for such
an emergency. [39]

The Act received the royal assent on May 19.
I have dealt so fully with its course through Parliament
because of the character of the incidents. In
itself it does not contain much that is new as regards
my subject. The preamble recites the statute of
Elizabeth, and relates the fact of its non-observance,
and the neglect of the Book of Common Prayer during
the late troublous times; takes note of the King's
commission for the review of the Book and its subsequent
revision by Convocation; and records the
message in which the King recommended to Parliament
that the Book so revised should "be the Book"
appointed to be used everywhere in the kingdom.
This accordingly is enacted, and in the twenty-fourth
section all the existing laws on the subject, including
of course the statute of Elizabeth, are confirmed as
referring to the revised Book and none other. The
revised Book, as in 1552, is thus put in exactly the
same legal position as the original, and the authentic
copy, as on that occasion, is, for the purpose of
reference, annexed and joined to the Act. The other
lengthy clauses of the Act contain elaborate provisions
for preventing nonconformity, but with one exception
they do not throw any further light on the relation of
the legislature to the Prayer-book. The exception is
the fifteenth section, which provides

  that the penalties in this Act shall not extend to the
  Foreiners or Aliens of the Forein Reformed Churches
  allowed, or to be allowed by the King's Majesty, his
  heirs and successors, in England.

An exception which had hitherto been made, as we have
seen, by a stretch of prerogative, was now established
by law. The exception illustrates the purpose of the
Act. No sect or congregation of native-born dissenters
was to be allowed any relief from the penalties imposed
by law. The guarded promise of toleration made by
the King before and after his restoration was ignored.
The use of the forms of worship provided by the
authorities of the Church was to be forced on the
whole nation.

The conclusion that I would draw from this
analysis of proceedings will be fairly obvious. The
Prayer-book did not originate with Parliament, nor
was it in any true sense authorized by the Crown in
Parliament. The action of the legislature on the first
and the last occasion is perfectly intelligible. A Book
of Common Prayer was in existence, drawn up and
approved by ecclesiastical authority, on the first
occasion it is not quite clear after what fashion, on the
last occasion by the unquestioned exercise of synodical
powers. This Book, so approved, was then, by
authority of Parliament, imposed upon the whole
nation. This being clearly the case on the two
occasions when the procedure is free from ambiguity,
I think we may fairly argue for the same construction
of those proceedings, on the other two occasions, which
are more open to question. The policy of the Acts
of Uniformity is to be taken as a whole. The writer
of the paper in the Record Office to which I have
referred, purporting to give an account of what was
done in 1559, explains that parliamentary action is
limited to enforcing the use of the Book by penalties.
Further authority than this, he says emphatically, is
not in the Parliament. Writing early in the seventeenth
century he sets out exactly the procedure
followed in 1662. He describes, in fact, the policy of
Uniformity, which was, therefore, not peculiar to the
last occasion. [40]

I shall describe it negatively. The Parliament
was not legislating for the regulation of divine worship.
In 1662, as we have seen, both Houses, while stiffly
maintaining their right to interfere, expressly declined
that task, and declared it the proper work of Convocation.
This was not from want of interest. The
Commons were eager to have some further rules for
"reverend gestures." But these things were to be
regulated rather by canon than by statute. The Convocation
was not even asked to prepare something for
submission to Parliament; "some canon or rule,"
enacted by Convocation with royal assent, would be
the sufficient and proper authority. [41] There could be
no clearer proof, that, according to the mind of Parliament,
Convocation has full powers, and is the proper
authority, for dealing with such matters.

But even if this be so, it is urged, on the other
hand, that what is contained in the Prayer-book is
actually prescribed and stands by authority of Parliament.
The Book annexed is treated as a schedule
of the Act of Uniformity. It is, says Dr. Stephens,

  part of the statute law of the land; and all the legal
  and equitable principles of construction which apply
  to statutes in general, equally apply to the Book of
  Common Prayer. [42]

This opinion, supported as it is by a general
consent of high authorities, I venture to contest.
What is meant by the Book being "annexed" to
the statute? Physically, it was attached by strings
to the parchment on which the Act was engrossed.
Was it legally a part of the statute? Was it a
schedule? The procedure in Parliament, I submit,
makes against this opinion. Can the schedule of a
Bill in Parliament be amended otherwise than by the
vote of the two Houses? But when a mistake was
found in the Book annexed, it was corrected, as we
have seen, not by the clerk under authority of Parliament,
but by three bishops under authority of Convocation.
Could any part of a Bill in Parliament
have been so amended? The matter was trivial;
there was the less reason for abnormal measures;
and Parliament has always been jealous about small
matters of procedure, and never more so than at that
period. I submit that the Book annexed cannot be
regarded as an integral part of the statute.

But if the Prayer-book is thus external to the
statutes which require its use, can its meaning be
affected by any of the provisions of those statutes?
If the wisdom of Parliament had enacted on some
occasion that Aldrich's Logic and the Elements of
Euclid should be read in the Universities, would it
follow that the rules of the syllogism and the axioms
of geometry are to be interpreted by "the principles
of construction which apply to statutes"? Or since
geography is by statutory authority taught in our
elementary schools, are we to infer that the world
revolves on its axis subject to the British Constitution?

The Prayer-book is a liturgical document, and surely
it should be interpreted by the principles which apply
not to statutes, but to liturgies in general.

If the Acts of Uniformity are not laws for regulating
divine worship, what are they? I should call
them, briefly, laws of persecution. They were intended
to enforce on all men by criminal process the
observance of the Church's forms. That is persecution,
I suppose, if anything can be so called. I shall
not indulge in any moral reflexions on persecution.
They may be taken for granted. I shall only note
the dry fact that within thirty years of the last enactment
the whole purpose of the statutes was destroyed
by the Act of Toleration. A good part of them has
been formally repealed, as may be seen by a glance
at their text as printed in the Revised Statutes.
What remains? A singular ruin. The effect of the
law has been turned upside down. It was intended
only to restrain dissenters; dissenters are now the
only people to whom it does not apply. It was intended
only to prevent unauthorized variations from
the Prayer-book; it is effective now to prevent
authorized variations alone. The one effect of the
Acts of Uniformity at the present time is to render
it practically impossible for the authorities of the
Church to make the smallest amendment of the text
of the Book of Common Prayer. In doing this they
would run counter to the law which orders the use
of this Book and none other. Unauthorized variations,
on the other hand, are unchecked by the Acts
of Uniformity. So far as they are restrained at all,
they are restrained by the general disciplinary powers
of the Church. Theoretically those who indulge in
them are liable to the statutory penalties imposed by
the Act of Elizabeth. Practically these cannot be
enforced; their savagery makes it impossible. They
stand as they were enacted in 1549, and again ten
years later; they are now intolerable. I am told that
no attempt has been made to enforce them since the
year 1796, nor is there any chance of their being
revived. The Acts of Uniformity, so far as they
relate to the Prayer-book, have therefore no present
effect but to hinder the activity of the Church. They
began with fierce persecution on behalf of the Church.
They end by being merely a nuisance.


State Papers, Domestic, Elizabeth, Vol. VII., No. 46.

Ther returned into England upon Queene Maryes death
that had bin Bishops in K. Ed. 6 tyme

1. Coverdale.

2. Scorye.

3. Chenye.

4. Barlowe.

Ther remaned Bishops for some tyme that were Bishops
in Queene Maryes tyme,

1. Oglethorpe, B. of Carleile who crowned Q. Eliz.

2. Kichin, B. of Landafe,

Ther were Bishops in the Parlament holden primo Eliz.
and in the Convocation holden at the same tyme

Edmunde B. of London.

John B. of Winton.

Richard B. of Wigorne.

Ralph B. of Covent and Lichfeilde.

Thomas B. of Lincolne.

James B. of Exon.

The Booke of Comon Prayer, published primo Eliz.
was first resolved upon and established in the Church in
the tyme of K. Ed. 6. It was re-examined with some small
alterations by the Convocation consistinge of the said
Bishops and the rest of the clergy in primo Eliz. which
beinge done by the Convocation and published under the
great scale of Englande ther was an Acte of Parlament for the
same booke which is ordinarily printed in the beginninge of
the booke; not that the booke was ever subjected to the
censure of the Parlament but being aggreed upon and
published as afforesaid, a law was made by the Parlament
for the inflictinge of penalty upon all such as should refuse
to use and observe the same; further autoryty then so is
not in the Parlament, neyther hath bin in former tymes
yealded to the Parlament in thinges of that nature but the
judgment and determination therof hath ever bin in the
Church, therto autorised by the Kinge which is that which
is yealded to H. 8. in the statute of 25 his raygne.
[Endorsed] Bishops.


Another copy follows, No. 47, written with modernised
spelling. It is endorsed as follows:

(1) _Bishops_.

(2) _Power of the Convocn in framing the Book of Common
Prayer &c. and of the Act of Parlt Sr. Th. Wilson's hand_.

The second endorsement of No. 47 (wrongly given in the
Calendar as "Progress of the Convocation, etc.") is in the
handwriting of Sir Joseph Williamson, Keeper of the State
Paper Office, and from 1674 to 1679 Secretary of State. Sir
Thomas Wilson was a confidential servant of Robert, Earl of
Salisbury, who often employed him in matters of secret
police. He was made Keeper of the S.P. Office in 1605 and
died in 1629. A comparison with his letters and notes
preserved in the Record Office shows that the copy in his
handwriting is the earlier one, No. 46. It is written, however,
more formally and with more archaic spelling than his
original papers. It would therefore seem to be a copy of an
older original. I venture to suggest that it may have been
written for Salisbury's use in 1604, when revision of the
Prayer-book was being discussed. There is nothing to show
the provenance of the original, but the errors in point of fact
make against an early date. Cheney is said to have been
a bishop in the time of Edward VI.; he was in fact raised
to the episcopate in the year 1562. Oglethorpe is said, like
Kitchen, to have retained his bishopric under Elizabeth. He
was in fact deposed on June 21, 1559, and died in the following
December. The statement that the Prayer-book was
submitted to the Convocation, "consisting of the said
Bishops," is all but demonstrably false.

[1] Wilkins, _Concilia_, iv. 6; Strype, _Cranmer_, vol. i. p. 156; Cardwell,
_Synod_., p. 421.

[2] Proclamation prefixed to _The Order of the Communion_, printed by
Grafton, March 8, 1547/8.

[3] Cardwell, _Doc. Ann_., vol. i. p. 72. As the bishops were required
"to cause these books to be delivered to every parson, vicar, and curate,"
within their several dioceses, the more scrupulous among these might
fairly argue that they accepted the order on the authority of the diocesan.
But it may be doubted whether such a refinement occurred to many at
that time.

[4] Overall, _Accounts of the Churchwardens_, etc., p. 67.

[5] _Ibid_., p. 68. There exist among the MSS. of the British Museum
many English renderings of parts of the Mass and the Divine Service,
anterior to the Book of Common Prayer, with musical notation. These
will shortly be discussed by Mr. W. H. Frere in the _Journal of Theological

[6] C.C.C.C. MSS. 106, fo. 495, cited in Gasquet and Bishop, _Edward
VI. and the Book of Common Prayer_, p. 147, from Cooper's Annals of
Cambridge, ii. p. 18.

[7] Cardwell, _Synod_., p. 420; Strype, _Cranmer_, vol. i. p. 155. The
petition of the clergy expressly says that this had been done _ex mandato
convocationis_. Cranmer's notes on the proceedings, given in Cardwell,
make them say that "by the commandment of King Henry VIII. certain
prelates and other learned men were appointed to alter the service in the
Church." It is probably an instance of two ways of regarding the same
thing, and is not uninstructive.

[8] I venture on this suggestion as to the character of the much discussed
"Windsor Commission," but it is beside my subject to debate the
point. It seems to reconcile the many assertions that the Prayer-book
was prepared by authority of Convocation with other assertions that all
was done by a committee appointed by the Crown. See the preceding
note. The statements are collected in Gasquet and Bishop, pp. 148-156.

[9] See Gasquet and Bishop, p. 178, and the notes of the debate on the
Sacrament printed by them from MS. Reg. 17 B. xxxix., in their Appendix
v. pp. 403, 404.

[10] The _Interim_ of 1548 was an attempt of Charles V. and the Diet of
Augsburg to grapple with this state of things, and was so far analogous
to the English Act of Uniformity, and a precedent for it.

[11] See the letters of Micronius and Utenhovius to Bullinger, _Orig.
Lett_, pp. 568, 570, 587. The patent for the incorporation and protection
of the congregation is given in French by Collier, _Records_, vol. ii.
no. lxv. The date is July 24, 1550, and a _non obstante_ clause bars any
interference "par aucun statute, acte, ordonance, provision, ou restriction,
faits publietz, ordonnez, ou pourveus au contraire."

[12] I Mariae, sess. 2, cap. 2. Gibson, p. 304.

[13] And even this with some freedom. See Machyn's Diary, April 6 and
7, 1559. Jewel wrote to Peter Martyr on April 14: "Itaque factum est
ut multis iam in locis missae etiam invitis edictis sua sponte ceciderint."
_Zurich Letters_, ep. vi.

[14] Venetian State Papers, vol. vii. p. 57. Easter Day fell on March 26
that year. The particulars reported by _il Schifanoya_ are interesting. On
the morrow of St. George's Day, he reports again, mass for the dead was
said for the chapter of the Garter in the usual manner, but the Epistle and
Gospel were said in English. _Ibid_., p. 74.

[15] _Zurich Letters_., ep. xii.

[16] See Caldwell, _Conferences_, pp. 19-21, and 47-54, 2nd ed.

[17] S.P. Dom. Eliz., vol. vii. no. 46. See below, p. 26, and Appendix.

[18] So all authors; I can find no evidence of the date.

[19] Nor was it so annexed in fact. Cardwell is here in error (_Conferences_,
p. 30), and his mistake has been generally followed. If there were any
doubt on the subject, it would be dispelled by the fact that in 1661 the
House of Commons sought the Book annexed to the Act, not of 1559, but
of 1552. See below, p. 21.

[20] See the Bishop of Chester's speech against the Bill, in Cardwell,
_Conferences_, p. 116: "Marke, my lordes, this short discourse, I beseech
your lordshippes, and yee shall perceave, that all catholike princes, heryticke
princes, yea, and infidells, have from tyme to tyme refused to take that
upon them, that your lordshippes go about and chalenge to do." Collier,
vol. ii. p. 430, conjectures that the rubric about kneeling at Communion
was omitted by the committee of revisers, and restored while the Bill was
passing through Parliament; but there is no evidence on either point.
The letter of Guest, to which he refers, probably belongs to an early
stage of the revision, and contemplates other and more striking variations
from the Book as finally revised. See especially the paragraphs in
Cardwell, _Conferences_, p. 51.

[21] See Clay, _Liturgies, etc., of Queen Elizabeth_, pp. xii. seqq.

[22] Clarendon, _History_, vol. iii. p. 747, 8vo, ed. 1707.

[23] Ibid., p. 771.

[24] Cardwell, _Conferences_, p. 295. The Address of the Ministers, the
King's Declaration of October 25, and the Letters Patent of March 25,
are given by Cardwell in full, pp. 277-302.

[25] Cardwell, _Synod_., pp. 640-642.

[26] _Ibid_., pp. 651-660.

[27] _Commons' Journals_, viii. 247. This and the following citations from
the Journals of the two Houses will be found collected in the Report of
the Ecclesiastical Courts Commission, Appendix v.

[28] _Commons' Journals_, viii. p. 296. The "original Book" should mean
the copy actually tied to the Statute of 1552. It was probably intended to
mark in it the alterations mentioned in the Act of 1559. The actual Book
was missing, and apparently no copy of the Prayer-book of that year could
readily be procured. A copy of the year 1604 was probably selected as
being anterior to the changes made by James I. after the Hampton Court
Conference, and so presumably printed in accordance with the Act of
1559. It did not, however, as I have said above, strictly follow the Act.
Two prayers printed "before the reading Psalms" were cancelled before
the book was annexed to the Bill, but the other variations would probably
be unknown to the examiners.

[29] _Lords' Journals_, xi. 364, 366.

[30] _Ibid_., xi. 383.

[31] _Lords' Journals_, xi. 406-408.

[32] _Ibid_., xi. 425.

[33] Cardwell, _Synod_., p. 666.

[34] _Commons' Journals_, viii. 406-408.

[35] _Ibid_., viii. 413.

[36] _Lords' Journals_, xi. 441-442.

[37] _Lords' Journals_, xi. 451.

[38] _Ibid_.

[39] Cardwell, _Synod_., p. 670.

[40] See Appendix.

[41] This fact should suffice to dispose of a theory propounded by some
who attempt to save the face of the Church by representing the Act of
Uniformity as the _ratification_ in Parliament of what had been already
done by the Church. There is no historical basis for such a theory.

[42] _The Book of Common Prayer, etc., with notes, etc_., by A. J. Stephens,
p. clxxiv.

Transcriber's notes: The footnotes were moved to endnotes and renumbered.
Some words, such as "Mr" and "Parlt" are words that have a superscript ending with
no punctuation.

End of the Project Gutenberg EBook of The Acts of Uniformity, by T.A. Lacey


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