Indemnity and Oblivion Act

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The Indemnity and Oblivion Act 1660 is an Act of the Parliament of England (12 Cha. II c. 11), the long title of which is "An Act of Free and General Pardon, Indemnity, and Oblivion".[1] This act asked King Charles II to pardon everyone involved in the regicide of his father, Charles I, except those who had officiated in his execution. It also said that no action was to be taken against those involved at any later time, and that the Interregnum was to be legally forgotten. [2] Even the general public were not allowed to mention Interregnum and associated events for the next three years. If they did, they were fined a sum depending on their social class. [3]

History[edit]

The Indemnity and Oblivion Act fulfilled the suggestion given in the Declaration of Breda that reprisals against the establishment which had developed during the English Interregnum would be restricted to those who had officiated in the regicide of King Charles I.

The passage of the Indemnity and Oblivion Act through the Convention Parliament was secured by Lord Clarendon, the first minister of King Charles II, and it became law on 29 August 1660 during the first year of the English Restoration.

The lands of the Crown and the established Church were automatically restored, but lands of Royalists and other dissenters confiscated and sold during the Civil War and interregnum were left for private negotiation or litigation, meaning that the government would not help the Loyalists in regaining their property. Disappointed Royalists commented that the Act meant "indemnity for [Charles'] enemies and oblivion for his friends.[4] " Historians, on the other hand, have generally praised the King and Clarendon for the generosity and clemency of the Act, in an age not normally noted for mercy.[5] Twenty years later, during the Popish Plot, Charles tried unsuccessfully to stand against the relentless demand for the execution of Catholic priests, and reminded the public sharply of how many of them had previously benefited from his reluctance to shed blood.[6]

The act is often viewed from the perspective of those who were not pardoned and thus condemned to death. However, the debate in Parliament continued almost every day for over two months and names were added and taken off the list of those who were not to be pardoned. Initially there were only seven on the list to be exempted from the act.[7][8] These were Thomas Harrison, William Say, John Jones Maesygarnedd, Thomas Scot, John Lisle, Cornelius Holland, and John Barkstead. On 7 June, the Commons, mindful of the Declaration of Breda, stated they as the Commons could add to the list others who would not be covered by the general pardon. They immediately added John Cooke, Andrew Broughton, Edward Dendy, and the “Two Persons who were upon the Scaffold in a Disguise”.[9] On 8 June, the Commons voted that “That the Number of Twenty, and no more, (other than those that are already excepted, or sat as Judges upon the late King’s Majesty) shall be excepted out of the Act of general Pardon and Oblivion, for and in respect only of such Pains, Penalties, and Forfeitures, (not extending to Life) as shall be thought fit to be inflicted on them by another Act, intended to be hereafter passed for that purpose”.[10]


One of the people to benefit directly from the Act was John Milton, who was released from prison.[11]

Overview of Sections[edit]

  • I: Preamble
  • II: Supporters of Treason and Crimes Pardoned
  • III: Appeals and Suits Relating to Trespass, etc. Pardoned
  • IV: Acts Instituted by Parliament or Cromwell During Interregnum Discharged
  • V: Pardon of Treasons
  • VI: Grants of Wardships Discharged
  • VII: All Things Not Excepted Shall Be Pardoned
  • VIII: Pardon to Be Expounded in Courts
  • IX – XXII: Exceptions
  • XXIII: Pardon to Acts of Injury Between King and Parliament
  • XXIV: Punishment of Those Who, Within Three Years, "Revive the Memory of late Differences"
  • XXV: Exception of Persons Plotting Irish Rebellion
  • XXVI: Every Person Pardoned May Plead the General Issue
  • XXVII – XXVIII: Exceptions
  • XXIX: Goods Paid into Public Treasury
  • XXX – XXXIV: Exceptions
  • XXXV: Persons Who Appeared and Rendered Themselves
  • XXXVI – XLIII: Exceptions of Specific Persons
  • XLIV: Persons Entrusted by Ordinance 1649 Shall Be Accountable
  • XLV – XLVII: Exceptions
  • XLVIII: Land Purchased (Not Belonging to King or Church) to be Kept by Purchasers
  • XLIX: Exception of Sacrilege

[12] [13]

Timeline for the English legislation[edit]

The Act was repealed by the Statute Law Revision Act 1948.

Irish Act[edit]

An Irish act by the same name “An Act of Free and General Pardon, Indemnity, and Oblivion [for Ireland]” was sent to the Duke of Ormonde on the 16 August 1664 by Sir Paul Davys.[14]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ Charles II, 1660: An Act of Free and Generall Pardon Indemnity and Oblivion., Statutes of the Realm: volume 5: 1628-80 (1819), pp. 226-34. British History Online, Date accessed: 27 February 2007.
  2. ^ "An act of free and general pardon, indemnity and oblivion". Retrieved 12/10/2013.  Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  3. ^ "An act of free and general pardon, indemnity and oblivion". Retrieved 12/11/2013.  Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  4. ^ "Indemnity and Oblivion, Act of". Retrieved 12/11/2013.  Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  5. ^ Kenyon, J.P.. The Stuart Constitution 2nd Edition Cambridge University Press 1986 p.336
  6. ^ Kenyon, J.P. The Popish Plot Phoenix Press Reissue 2000 p. 154
  7. ^ House of Commons Journal Volume 8, 5 June 1660, Proceedings against Regicides That the Seven Persons who, by former Order, are to be excepted out of the Act of general Pardon for Life and Estate, be named here in this House. Resolved, That Thomas Harrison be one of the Seven Persons.
  8. ^ House of Commons Journal Volume 8, 5 June 1660.
  9. ^ House of Commons Journal Volume 8, 7 June 1660
  10. ^ House of Commons Journal Volume 8, 8 June 1660 House of Commons Journal Volume 8, 8 June 1660 The twenty who punishment did not extend to life were added to the list.
  11. ^ Milton Agonistes By Tony Tanner for the New York Times April 6, 1997.
  12. ^ "An Act of Free and Generall Pardon Indempnity and Oblivion.". Retrieved 12/11/2013.  Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  13. ^ "An act of free and general pardon, indemnity and oblivion". Retrieved 12/11/2013.  Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  14. ^ Carte Calendar Volume 40, June-December 1664 Bodleian Library, University of Oxford Includes a number of correspondence on the “Act of Free and General Pardon, Indemnity, and Oblivion [for Ireland]”.
  15. ^ C.H. Firth, R.S. Rait (eds), Acts and Ordinances of the Interregnum, 1642-1660, 1911 pp. 565-577
  16. ^ C.H. Firth, R.S. Rait (eds), Acts and Ordinances of the Interregnum, 1642-1660, 1911 pp. 1299-1304

External links[edit]