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Toleration Act, 1689. As the Act's title, ‘for exempting [dissenters] from the penalties of certain laws’, indicates, it did not grant whole-hearted toleration but has been hailed as ‘the grand landmark … in the history of dissent’, for after comprehension failed, it legally sanctioned schism. Those unable to accept Anglican liturgy could worship in unlocked meeting-houses, licensed by the bishop, provided that the minister subscribed to the Thirty-Nine Articles except on baptism and church government. Catholics and unitarians were excluded. Non-Anglicans continued to suffer civil disabilities imposed by the Clarendon code until 1828. By the 1720s even the Whigs, now landed gentry, despising the mainly urban dissenters, made no attempt to extend civil rights.
Revd Dr William M. Marshall