Toleration Act

 

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Toleration Acts. At a General Court of Elections, held at Portsmouth, beginning May 19, 1647, for " the colony and province of Providence," after adopting many acts and orders concerning the government and for the punishment of crimes, it was decreed that " These are the laws that concern all men, and these are the penalties for the transgression thereof, which by common consent are ratified and established throughout the whole colony; and otherwise than thus, what is herein forbidden, all men may walk as their consciences persuade them, every one in the name of his God." This act of toleration was so broad and absolute that it would include Christian, Jew, Mohammedan, Parsee, Buddhist, or pagan.

The General Assembly of Maryland, convened at St. Mary's, April 2, 1649, after enacting severe punishments for the crime of blasphemy, and declaring that certain penalties should be inflicted upon any one who should call another a sectarian name of reproach, adopted the declaration that " whereas the enforcing of conscience in matters of religion hath frequently fallen out to be of dangerous consequence in those commonwealths where it has been practiced, and for the more quiet and peaceable government of this province, and the better to preserve mutual love and unity among the inhabitants, . . . no person or persons whatsoever within this province, or the islands, posts, harbors, creeks, or havens thereunto belonging, professing to believe in Jesus Christ, shall from henceforth be anyways troubled or molested or discountenanced for or in respect of his or her religion, nor in the free exercise thereof, within the province or the islands thereunto belonging, nor any way compelled to the belief or exercise of any other religion against his or her conscience." This. was an outgrowth of English statutes. On Oct. 27, 1645, the English House of Commons ordered " that the inhabitants of the Bermudas, and of all other American plantations now or hereafter planted, should, without molestation or trouble, have and enjoy the liberty of conscience in matters of God's worship." In 1647 Parliament passed another act, allowing all persons to meet for religious duties and ordinances in a fit place, provided the public peace was not disturbed. The Maryland toleration act (1649) was the joint work of Roman Catholics and Protestants. The General Assembly at that time was composed of eight Roman Catholics and sixteen Protestants—three councilors, and five burgesses were Roman Catholics, and the governor (William Stone), six councilors, and nine burgesses were Protestants. The act did not establish absolute toleration, as did the act of Rhode Island passed two years before, for it applied only to orthodox Christians, so-called, who accepted the doctrine of the Trinity.

 

 

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