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Liberty, Conscience, and TolerationThe Political Thought of William Penn$
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Andrew R. Murphy

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780190271190

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: June 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190271190.001.0001

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William Penn and James II, 1685–1688

(p.158) 6 Revolution
Liberty, Conscience, and Toleration

Andrew R. Murphy

Oxford University Press

The accession of James II paved the way for William Penn to play an increasingly prominent political role. Liberty of conscience appeared closer than ever, under a sympathetic king who cultivated Penn’s personal involvement in advancing his tolerationist program of repealing penal legislation and the Test Acts. In insisting that legitimate laws are made by consent-based political institutions, and that they ought to be motivated by civil interest and the common good, Penn was able to endorse immediate toleration through the king’s prerogative powers and simultaneously urge the legitimation of James’s Declarations by Parliament. However, Penn’s association with James would bring about his downfall, as he quickly became identified with an unpopular (and, after 1688, deposed) ruler. This chapter elaborates Penn’s high hopes for James, his theoretical and practical contributions to the tolerationist effort, and the eventual downfall of the campaign for liberty of conscience and James’s reign more generally.

Keywords:   Test Act, Penal laws, 1688 Revolution, James II, William Penn, Declaration (of Indulgence), toleration, liberty of conscience, civil interest

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