Indemnity and Oblivion Act
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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. Disappointed Royalists commented that the Act meant "indemnity for his enemies and oblivion for his friends." 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. 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.
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. 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”. 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”.
Timeline for the English legislation
- British History On-line House of Commons Journal Volume 8 (www.british-history.ac.uk)
- 9 May 1660, Pardon and Oblivion First reading
- 12 May 1660, Pardon and Oblivion Second reading.
- 17 May 1660, Bill of Pardon and Oblivion to go to committee
- 11 July 1660 Pardon and Oblivion That the Title of this Bill be, “An Act of free and general Pardon, Indemnity, and Oblivion” Passed and was sent to the House of Lords.
- 16 20 July 1660 Proceedings of Regicides Ordered, That the Instrument for proclaiming the High Court of Justice for judging of the late King’s Majesty, together with the Journal of their Proceedings, be sent to the Lords, to be by them made use of.
- 7 August 1660 Lords reminded of Bills Including the “The Act of General Pardon, Indemnity, and Oblivion”
- 11 Aug 1660 Pardon and Oblivion Back from House of Lords with Provisoes, Alterations, and Additions. Passed to committee.
- 13 August 1660 Passed amendments and the Bill was sent to the House of Lords.
- Lords desire a Conference conference concerning the Act of Indemnity.
- 28 August 1660 Pardon and Oblivion The House agreed to the final amendments to which a joint house conference had agreed and ordered that the Bill of “General Pardon, Indemnity, and Oblivion” be sent to the Lords, as it was now amended. The reply came back from the House of Lords that his Majesty, would “be pleased to come To-morrow Morning, to pass the Bill, as is desired”.
- British History On-line House of Lords Journal Volume 11 (www.british-history.ac.uk)
- 29 August 1660 Bills passed One of which was “An Act of Free and General Pardon, Indemnity, and Oblivion”.
The Act was repealed by the Statute Law Revision Act 1948.
- 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.
- 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.
- Kenyon, J.P.. The Stuart Constitution 2nd Edition Cambridge University Press 1986 p.336
- Kenyon, J.P. The Popish Plot Phoenix Press Reissue 2000 p. 154
- 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.
- House of Commons Journal Volume 8, 5 June 1660.
- House of Commons Journal Volume 8, 7 June 1660
- 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.
- Milton Agonistes By Tony Tanner for the New York Times April 6, 1997.
- 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]”.
- C.H. Firth, R.S. Rait (eds), Acts and Ordinances of the Interregnum, 1642-1660, 1911 pp. 565-577
- C.H. Firth, R.S. Rait (eds), Acts and Ordinances of the Interregnum, 1642-1660, 1911 pp. 1299-1304