Clarendon Code

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Clarendon Code, 1661–65, group of English statutes passed after the Restoration of Charles II to strengthen the position of the Church of England. The Corporation Act (1661) required all officers of incorporated municipalities to take communion according to the rites of the Church of England and to abjure the Presbyterian covenant. The Act of Uniformity (1662) required all ministers in England and Wales to use and subscribe to the Book of Common Prayer; nearly 2,000 ministers resigned rather than submit to this act. The Conventicle Act (1664) forbade the assembling of five or more persons for religious worship other than Anglican. The Five-Mile Act (1665) forbade any nonconforming preacher or teacher to come within 5 mi (8.1 km) of a city or corporate town where he had served as minister. These laws, named after Edward Hyde, earl of Clarendon, chief minister of Charles II at the time of their passage, decreased the following of numerous dissenting sects, especially the Presbyterians. Clarendon himself opposed their enactment, but after their passage he worked for their enforcement. Charles II, to court popularity with dissenters and to ease the position of Roman Catholics (with whom he was in sympathy), attempted to interfere with the operation of these laws by his unsuccessful declarations of indulgence in 1662 and 1672. As a political device to weaken the Whigs, the Clarendon Code was largely superseded by the Test Act of 1673, although some of the statutes, in modified form, remained in force for some time.

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Clarendon code. The title given, inaccurately, to the statutes passed after the Restoration re-establishing the Church of England under government by bishops and compelling the nation to conform. They embodied the principles, interests, and vindictiveness of the cavalier majority in Parliament rather than the judgement of Lord Clarendon, Charles II's chief minister. The Uniformity Act (1662) required clergy to have episcopal ordination and use only the Book of Common Prayer. Some 1,000 were ejected for refusing. The Conventicle Act (1664) penalized all religious meetings outside the church. The Five Mile Act (1665) banned dissenting ministers from corporate towns. In 1672 Charles tried to suspend these statutes by issuing a Declaration of Indulgence.

J. R. Jones