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Religion in Georgian Britain Religion in Georgian Britain

Does it matter? • Protestantism was a key to national identity [Colley] • Religious Does it matter? • Protestantism was a key to national identity [Colley] • Religious identity could unify different British nations • Religion infused many important movements, habits and attitudes: political parties, Jacobitism, Ireland, slavery, women, luxury and commerce, empire, the Enlightenment, the press, class, riots • The question was also asked in the C 18 th – in the face of new ideas (deism, atheism) and perceptions of growing irreligion and indifference • Relations between church and state are back on the political agenda – how far should we tolerate nonmajority beliefs? how far should one branch of Christianity be protected by law? how far should religion dictate education? How far should clerics be involved in politics? How far should morality be a public concern?

The Church of England: vibrant or not? • J. C. D. Clark: GB was The Church of England: vibrant or not? • J. C. D. Clark: GB was an ‘ancien regime’ in which religion and law were the basis of the state, intertwined props of each other until the repeal of the Test and Corporation Act in 1828. Clark sees the endurance of a confessional type of politics, and a continuing loyalty to the Church of England. There was a long-lasting popular Anglicanism: ‘church and king’. • The turning point in politics of religion in GB is thus early C 19 th

The Whig view of religion in Georgian Britain • The Glorious Revolution of 1688 The Whig view of religion in Georgian Britain • The Glorious Revolution of 1688 ushered in a period of religious toleration, after which people accepted religious differences and ceased to think of politics in religious terms, instead stressing the separation of church and state, and the preservation of liberty by civil institutions. C 18 th was an age of reason, in which religious conflict was subsumed by more secular politics. • The turning point is thus 1689

Challenges facing the Church of England • Inequality – 1812 inquiry found that over Challenges facing the Church of England • Inequality – 1812 inquiry found that over 1000 parishes (out of c. 10, 000) had no resident minister; 1833 report found 47% of clergy had incomes of less than £ 200 pa. • Urbanisation and rising populations: Manchester had one parish church for 20, 000 in 1750. Parish structure not responsive to social change. • Splits within the church: low-church vs highchurch; non-jurors; evangelicalism [waves in 1740 s and 1780 s]. • From Catholicism and Dissenting Protestant denominations

Anti-popery • Long tradition – part of the self-understanding of Protestants since Luther in Anti-popery • Long tradition – part of the self-understanding of Protestants since Luther in 1520 s • Rationale for the Glorious Revolution: get rid of J 2 to overcome ‘popery and arbitrary government’. RCs excluded from toleration. • Association with Jacobitism—foreign threat. Penal measures introduced after plots. Catholic priests banned 1700. 1714 and 1717 compulsory registration of property; barred from practising as barristers; excluded from office by Test acts of 1673 and 1678. • Protestant monarch part of the Revolution settlement (and hence why the Georgians even came to the throne)

Anti-popery as part of British national identity. Hogarth’s The Gates of Calais Anti-popery as part of British national identity. Hogarth’s The Gates of Calais

Anti-popery resurgent? • Problem of what to do with Catholics in Quebec – 1774 Anti-popery resurgent? • Problem of what to do with Catholics in Quebec – 1774 (Quebec Act) given toleration. • Association with Irish Catholicism. Irish immigration consolidated trend of increasing Catholic numbers c. 1770: 750, 000 by 1850 (60, 000 in 1720) • 1778 act to relieve Catholics: to repeal act vs priests and to allow Catholics to buy and sell property. • 1779 Protestant Association headed by Lord Geoge Gordon. Large crowds and petitioning— popular anti-popery.

Lord George Gordon Lord George Gordon

Gordon Riots • 2 June 1780 60, 000 gathered in London to present petition. Gordon Riots • 2 June 1780 60, 000 gathered in London to present petition. Mob decided to destroy Catholic property. Some rioters imprisoned in Newgate so it was attacked. 7 June other prisons were attacked and Bank of England. 210 killed; 75 died in hospital. 450 arrests.

The Attack on Newgate 1780 The Attack on Newgate 1780

No Popery or Newgate Reformer, 1780 No Popery or Newgate Reformer, 1780

The road to Catholic Emancipation • 1791 act gave legal existence to Catholic places The road to Catholic Emancipation • 1791 act gave legal existence to Catholic places of worship. 1793 allowed to vote. • Pressure for Catholic emancipation but highly divisive issue for Church of England in 1820 s. • 1828 repeal of Test and Corporation Acts. • 1828 Daniel O’Connell won election in County Clare but as a Catholic was barred from taking his seat. 1829 passage of the act split the Tory party. Extreme hostility of the king. Gave right to sit in parliament and hold office. • Crisis for the Church: seen as the destruction of old political-religious order in place since the Restoration

‘Old’ Dissent • Protestant denominations that originated in the C 17 th: Presbyterians, Independents ‘Old’ Dissent • Protestant denominations that originated in the C 17 th: Presbyterians, Independents (Congregationalists), Quakers, Baptists. • Evans list, compiled between 1715 and 1718 gives a total of almost 356, 000 (7% of population); shows urban strength of dissent. • 1689 Toleration Act gave freedom of worship for Dissenters in licensed meeting houses (if doors left unlocked!). Anti-trinitarians excluded (and atheists)

Lingering Hostility to Dissent after Toleration • Occasional conformity bills 1702 -5, act 1711 Lingering Hostility to Dissent after Toleration • Occasional conformity bills 1702 -5, act 1711 – anyone who attended a conventicle after taking office was to be fined £ 40. Repealed 1719 • 1710 height of anti-Dissenting feeling, because of trial of Dr Henry Sacheverell who had preached vs them. Riots in London, destroying 6 meeting houses. • 1714 Schism act (repealed 1719) – no one to teach without license from bishop and conformist

Unitarians and radical politics • Unitarians – evolved from Presbyterians, anti-trinitarian, believed in the Unitarians and radical politics • Unitarians – evolved from Presbyterians, anti-trinitarian, believed in the primacy of reason, natural rights and therefore often associated with radical politics and reform. • Joseph Priestley, 1791 riots vs his house in Birmingham.

Joseph Priestley calling for the head of George III. His House was destroyed by Joseph Priestley calling for the head of George III. His House was destroyed by a mob.

Meeting of Dissenters Religious and Political 1790 Meeting of Dissenters Religious and Political 1790

Radical Religion • Deism • Atheism • Cult of reason. John Toland, Christianity not Radical Religion • Deism • Atheism • Cult of reason. John Toland, Christianity not Mysterious (1696); Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason (1794) • Not terribly influential but perceived to be threat to orthodox (correct) religion

‘New Dissent’ • 1740 s revitalisation of non-conforming Protestantism. Independents and Baptists doubled in ‘New Dissent’ • 1740 s revitalisation of non-conforming Protestantism. Independents and Baptists doubled in number 17501800. • Methodism: 1738 John Wesley had conversion experience. George Whitfield had similar conversion experience and began popular preaching style. 1739 15, 000 flocked to hear Wesley preach on Kennington Common. Charles Wesley’s hymns—singing draw people into religious experience. In 50 years of evangelism Wesley travelled 250, 000 m and preached 40, 000 sermons. • Methodism was not initially a movement outside the established Church

John Wesley (death mask 1791) John Wesley (death mask 1791)

Growth of Methodism Growth of Methodism

Movements for Moral Reform: the civic consequences of faith? • Social ills: Urbanisation, crime, Movements for Moral Reform: the civic consequences of faith? • Social ills: Urbanisation, crime, gin, immorality, prostitution • Moral reform movements attempt to address social problems – 1689 -c. 1720 (75, 000 prosecutions; Society for Promoting of Christian Knowledge 1699; Society for the Propagation of the Gospel Overseas 1702) – and 1780 s (wake of defeat in America; Sunday School Society 1785; 1787 proclamation against vice and Proclamation Society – 1802 Society for the Suppression of Vice

The end of Christian Britain? The 1851 census • Church of England could only The end of Christian Britain? The 1851 census • Church of England could only claim to be a national church in some areas – in north and Wales chapel-goers were in the majority. • But also a society that no longer overwhelmingly attended public worship • But, does non-attendance equal secularisation?

1851 Census 1851 Census