The Act Against Puritans
35 Elizabeth, Cap. 1
Gee, Henry, and William John Hardy, ed.,
Documents Illustrative of English Church History
(New York: Macmillan, 1896), 492-8.
Hanover Historical Texts Project
Scanned and proofread by Heather Haralson, May 1998.
Posted by Raluca Preotu, July 1999.
Proofread and pages added by Jonathan Perry, March 2001.
THIS Act was the culmination of the measures taken by Elizabeth to repress Puritanism. Her legislation began with the Supremacy Act (ante, No. LXXVIII), and was continued by the Uniformity Act (ante, No. LXXIX), and the proclamation of 1573 addressed to the bishops appointing a special commission of oyer and terminer. Account must also be taken of the proceedings of the courts of Star Chamber and High Commission. The Act of 1593 was continued by 3 Car. I, cap. 4, saving certain clauses repealed by 3 Jac. I, cap. 4, and was further continued by 16 Car. I, cap. 4. The Toleration Act (post, No. CXXIII) may be considered to have finally abrogated the Act of Elizabeth.
[Transcr. Statutes of the Realm, iv. pt. 2, p. 841.]
For the preventing and avoiding of such great inconveniencies and perils as might happen and grow by the wicked and dangerous practices of seditious sectaries and disloyal persons; be it enacted by the Queen's most excellent majesty, and by the Lords spiritual and temporal, and the Commons, in this present Parliament assembled, and by the authority of the same, that if any person or persons above the age of sixteen years, which shall obstinately refuse to repair to some church, chapel, or usual place of common prayer, to hear divine service established by her majesty's laws and statutes in that behalf made, and shall forbear to do the same by the space of a month next after, without lawful cause, shall at any time after forty days next after the [Page 493] end of this session of Parliament, by printing, writing, or express words or speeches, advisedly and purposely practise or go about to move or persuade any of her majesty's subjects, or any other within her highness's realms or dominions, to deny, withstand, and impugn her majesty's power and authority in causes ecclesiastical, united, and annexed to the imperial crown of this realm; or to that end or purpose shall advisedly and maliciously move or persuade any other person whatsoever to forbear or abstain from coming to church to hear divine service, or to receive the communion according to her majesty's laws and statutes aforesaid, or to come to or be present at any unlawful assemblies, conventicles, or meetings, under colour or pretence of any exercise of religion, contrary to her majesty's said laws and statutes; or if any person or persons which shall obstinately refuse to repair to some church, chapel, or usual place of common prayer, and shall forbear by the space of a month to hear divine service, as is aforesaid, shall after the said forty days, either of him or themselves, or by the motion, persuasion, enticement, or allurement of any other, willingly join, or be present at, any such assemblies, conventicles, or meetings, under colour or pretence of any such exercise of religion, contrary to the laws and statutes of this realm, as is aforesaid; that then every such person so offending as aforesaid, and being thereof lawfully convicted, shall be committed to prison, there to remain without bail or mainprise, until they shall conform and yield themselves to come to some church, chapel, or usual place of common prayer, and hear divine service, according to her majesty's laws and statutes aforesaid, and to make such open submission and declaration of their said conformity, as hereafter in this Act is declared and appointed.
Provided always, and be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, that if any such person or persons, which shall offend against this Act as aforesaid, shall not within three [Page 494] months next after they shall be convicted of their said offence, conform themselves to the obedience of the laws and statutes of this realm, in coming to the church to hear divine service, and in making such public confession and submission, as hereafter in this Act is appointed and expressed, being thereunto required by the bishop of the diocese, or any justice of the peace of the county where the same person shall happen to be, or by the minister or curate of the parish; that in every such case every such offender, being thereunto warned or required by any justice of the peace of the same county where such offender shall then be, shall upon his and their corporal oath before the justices of the peace in the open quarter sessions of the same county, or at the assizes and gaol-delivery of the same county, before the justices of the same assizes and gaol-delivery, abjure this realm of England, and all other the queen's majesty's dominions for ever, unless her majesty shall license the party to return, and thereupon shall depart out of this realm at such haven or port, and within such time, as shall in that behalf be assigned and appointed by the said justices before whom such abjuration shall be made, unless the same offender be letted or stayed by such lawful and reasonable means or causes, as by the common laws of this realm are permitted and allowed in cases of abjuration for felony; and in such cases of let or stay, then within such reasonable and convenient time after, as the common law requires in case of abjuration for felony, as is aforesaid; and that the justices of peace before whom any such abjuration shall happen to be made, as is aforesaid, shall cause the same presently to be entered of record before them, and shall certify the same to the justices of assizes and gaol-delivery of the said county, at the next assizes or gaol-delivery to be holden in the same county.
And if any such offender, which by the tenor and intent of this Act is to be abjured as is aforesaid, shall refuse [Page 495] to make such abjuration as is aforesaid, or after such abjuration made, shall not go to such haven, and within such time as is before appointed, and from thence depart out of this realm, according to this present Act, or after such his departure shall return or come again into any her majesty's realms or dominions, without her majesty's special licence in that behalf first had and obtained; that then, in every such case, the person so offending shall be adjudged a felon, and shall suffer as in case of felony, without benefit of clergy.
And furthermore be it enacted by the authority of this present Parliament, that if any person or persons that shall at any time hereafter offend against this Act, shall before he or they be so warned or required to make abjuration according to the tenor of this Act, repair to some parish church on some Sunday or other festival day, and then and there hear divine service, and at service-time, before the sermon, or reading of the gospel, make public and open submission and declaration of his and their conformity to her majesty's laws and statutes, as hereafter in this Act is declared and appointed; that then the same offender shall thereupon be clearly discharged of and from all and every the penalties and punishments inflicted or imposed by this Act for any of the offences aforesaid. The same submission to be made as hereafter follows, that is to say:
'I, A. B., do humbly confess and acknowledge, that I have grievously offended God in condemning her majesty's godly and lawful government and authority, by absenting myself from church, and from hearing divine service, contrary to the godly laws and statutes of this realm, and in using and frequenting disordered and unlawful conventicles and assemblies, under pretence and colour of exercise of religion: and I am heartily sorry for the same, and do acknowledge and testify in my conscience that no other person has or ought to have any power or authority over her majesty: and I do [Page 496] promise and protest, without any dissimulation, or any colour or means of any dispensation, that from henceforth I will from time to time obey and perform her majesty's laws and statutes, in repairing to the church and hearing divine service, and do my uttermost endeavour to maintain and defend the same.'
And that every minister or curate of every parish where such submission and declaration of conformity shall hereafter be so made by any such offender as aforesaid, shall presently enter the same into a book to be kept in every parish for that purpose, and within ten days next following shall certify the same in writing to the bishop of the same diocese.
Provided nevertheless, that if any such offender, after such submission made as is aforesaid shall afterwards fall into relapse, or eftsoons obstinately refuse to repair to some church, chapel, or usual place of common prayer, to hear divine service, and shall forbear the same as aforesaid, or shall come and be present at any such assemblies, conventicles, or meetings, under colour or pretence of any exercise of religion, contrary to her majesty's laws and statutes; that then every such offender shall lose all such benefit as he or she might otherwise by virtue of this Act have or enjoy by reason of their said submission, and shall thereupon stand and remain in such plight, condition, and degree, to all intents as though such submission had never been made.
And for that every person having house and family, is in duty bound to have special regard of the good government and ordering of the same; be it enacted by the authority aforesaid, that if any person or persons shall at any time hereafter relieve, maintain, retain, or keep in his or their house or otherwise, any person which shall obstinately refuse to come to some church, chapel, or usual place of common prayer, to hear divine service, and shall forbear the same by the space of a month together, contrary to the laws and [Page 497] statutes of this realm; that then every person who shall so relieve, maintain, retain, or keep any such person offending as aforesaid, after notice thereof to him or them given by the ordinary of the diocese, or any justice of assizes of the circuit, or any justice of peace of the county, or the minister, curate, or churchwardens of the parish where such person shall then be, or by any of them, shall forfeit to the queen's majesty for every person so relieved, maintained, retained, or kept, after such notice as aforesaid, ten pounds for every month that he or they shall so relieve, maintain, retain, or keep any such person so offending.
Provided nevertheless, that this Act shall not in any wise extend to punish or impeach any person or persons for relieving, maintaining, or keeping his or their wife, father, mother, child or children, ward, brother or sister, or his wife's father or mother, not having any certain place of habitation of their own, or the husbands or wives of any of them; or for relieving, maintaining, or keeping any such person as shall be committed by authority to the custody of any by whom they shall be so relieved, maintained, or kept; anything in this Act contained to the contrary notwithstanding.
And for the more speedy levying and recovering, for and by the queen's majesty, of all and singular the pains, duties, forfeitures and payments which at any time hereafter shall accrue, grow, or be payable by virtue of this Act, or of the statute made in the three and twentieth year of her majesty's reign concerning recusants; be it enacted by the authority aforesaid, that all and every the said pains, duties, forfeitures, and payments, shall and may be recovered and levied to her majesty's use, by action of debt, bill, plaint, information, or otherwise, in any of the courts commonly called the king's bench, common pleas, or exchequer, in such sort, and in all respects, as by the ordinary course of the common laws of this realm any other debt due by any such person in any other [Page 498] case should or may be recovered or levied, wherein no essoin, protection, or wager of law shall be admitted or allowed .
Provided always, that the third part of the penalties to be had or received by virtue of this Act, shall be employed and bestowed to such good and charitable uses, and in such manner and form, as is limited and appointed in the statute made in the twenty-eighth year of her majesty's reign touching recusants.
Provided also, that no popish recusant, or feme covert, shall be compelled or bound to abjure by virtue of this Act.
Provided also, that every person that shall abjure by force of this Act, or refuse to abjure, being thereunto required as aforesaid, shall forfeit and lose to her majesty all his goods and chattels for ever, and shall further lose all his lands, tenements, and hereditaments, for and during the life only of such offender, and no longer, and that the wife of any offender, by force of this Act, shall not lose her dower; nor that any corruption of blood shall grow or be by reason of any offence mentioned in this Act, but that the heir of every such offender, by force of this Act, shall and may, after the death of every offender, have and enjoy the lands, tenements, and hereditaments of such offender, as if this Act had not been made: and this Act to continue no longer than to the end of the next session of Parliament.
Links to English Reformation Pages
 This and the two following provisoes are annexed to the original Act in a separate schedule.
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