Living Texts: Interpreting Milton

By Kristin A. Pruitt; Charles W. Durham | Go to book overview

Belial, Popery, and True Religion:
Milton's of True Religion and
Antipapist Sentiment

HONG WON SUH


1

On 15 March 1672, Charles II issued the Declaration of Indulgence, the second of many attempts at promoting toleration, not only for Nonconformists—those Protestants who refused to take the Anglican sacraments—but also for Roman Catholics. Two days later, the third Anglo-Dutch War was declared. Charles had signed a secret treaty with France in 1670, now called the Treaty of Dover, in which he promised Louis XTV the reestablishment of the rights of Roman Catholics in England and military support for France against the Dutch in return for a substantial sum of money that would ease his financial troubles. He was also to announce his conversion to Catholicism and to receive further stipends for the purpose of financing an army of six thousand provided by the French king, which was to deal with the reaction of English Protestants following the announcement. The nature of the pact was such that, were the terms to leak out, England would have been plunged into utter chaos. Even without the knowledge of the Treaty of Dover, the reaction of English Protestants against the Declaration of Indulgence was immediate and vehement. The fact that Charles sided with a Catholic nation against what was so recently a Protestant ally was enough to raise the suspicion that the Declaration was part of a broader Catholic conspiracy, which it was in a way, although Charles's real motives are not very clear.1 Scores of pamphlets poured out against toleration of Roman Catholics, and Parliament, when it convened in February and March 1673, swiftly passed the Test Act, which enforced penal laws against Roman Catholics and threw out their priests, and also prohibited non-Anglicans from

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