Proclamations, Royal

Proclamations, Royal.

These documents in former times were almost equal in authority to an act of the constitutional legislature. They often interfered with religion, and dealt largely in reformation of manners. In 1529 king Henry VII issued a proclamation "for resisting and withstanding of most damnable heresyes sowen within the realme by the discyples of Luther and other heretykes, perverters of Christes relygyon." In June, 1530, this was followed by the proclamation "for dampning (or condemning) of erroneous bokes and heresies, and prohibitinge the havinge of holy scripture translated into the vulgar tonges of englishe, frenche, or dutche." "And that having respect to the malignity of this present tyme, with the inclination of people to erronious opinions, the translation of the newe testament and the old into the vulgar tonge of englysshe, shulde rather be the occasion of conltynuance or increase of errours amonge the said people, than any benefit or commodite towards the weale of their soules." It was therefore determined that the Scriptures should only be expounded to the people as heretofore, and that these books "be clerely extermynate and exiled out of this realme of Englande for ever." Under Edward VI there is a proclamation against such "as innovate any ceremony," and who are described as "certain private preachers and other laiemen, who rashly attempt of their own and singular wit and mind, not only to persuade the people from the old and accustomed rites and ceremonies, but also themselves bring in new and strange orders according to their phantasies. The which, as it is an evident token of pride and arrogancy, so it tendeth both to confusion and disorder." There is a proclamation also to abstain from flesh on Fridays and Saturdays; enforced on the principle, not only that "men should abstain on those days, and forbear the pleasures and the meats wherein they have more delight, to the intent to subdue their bodies to the soul and spirit, but also for worldly policy." Charles II issued a proclamation against "vicious, debauched, and profane persons," i.e. "a sort of men of whom we have heard much, and are sufficiently ashamed; who spend their time in taverns, tippling-houses, and debauchery; giving no other evidence of their affection to us but in drinking our health, and inveighing against all others who are not of their own dissolute temper; and who, in truth, have more discredited our cause, by the license of their manners and lives, than they could ever advance it by their affection or courage. We hope all persons of honor, or in place and authority, will so far assist us in discountenancing such men, that their discretion and shame will persuade them to reform what their conscience would not; and that the displeasure of good men towards them may supply what the laws have not, and, it may be, cannot well provide against; there being by the license and corruption of the times, and the depraved nature of man, many enormities, scandals, and impieties in practice and manners, which laws cannot well describe, and consequently not enough provide against, which may, by the example and severity of virtuous men, be easily discountenanced, and by degrees suppressed." Some parties in Scotland who had no objection to national fasts, or even to the royal recommendation of them, yet objected to royal command and dictation as worded in the usual form, they being charged to keep the fast "as they tender the favor of Almighty God, and would avoid his wrath and indignation." According to counsel learned in the law, obedience to such mandate is not imperative, for it is affirmed —

"1. That in England, where by statute the sovereign is head of the Church as well as of the State, that headship applies only to the clergy and members of the National Church, and does not include those who are not of her communion.

2. That in Scotland-where seceding or dissenting churches (except it be the nonjurors) stand not upon any statute of toleration, but upon the free basis and constitution of the country-no such relation exists, but is excluded by the act of 1690 (c. 5), ratifying the Confession of Faith; whereby an antagonistic principle is established, it being declared that 'there is no other Head of the Church but the Lord Jesus Christ,' and that he, 'as King and Head of the Church, hath therein appointed a government in the hand of church-officers distinct from the civil magistrate,' who 'may not assume to himself the administration of the Word and sacrament, or the keys of the kingdom of heaven.'

3. That, in point of fact, proclamations for the observance of national fasts and thanksgivings in Scotland were, for a considerable period after the date of that act, and until the union between England and Scotland, passed by the three estates of the Scottish Parliament, and not by the sovereign alone. And,

4. That no statute can be found authorizing such proclamations in Scotland; and the phraseology used in them seems to have grown out of the practice in England, or to be founded on what appears to be an unwarranted extension of the two statutes cited in the proclamation of June, 1857, which refer exclusively to prayers for royal personages, and apply at most to ministers and preachers of two denominations."

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