Papists Act 1778

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The Papists Act of 1778 is an Act of the Parliament of Great Britain (18 George III c. 60) and was the first Act for Catholic Relief. Later in 1778 It was also enacted by the Parliament of Ireland.

Before the Act, a number of "Penal laws" had been enacted in Britain and Ireland, which varied between the jurisdictions from time to time but effectively excluded Catholics from public life.

By this Act, an oath was imposed, which besides a declaration of loyalty to the reigning sovereign, contained an abjuration of the Pretender, and of certain doctrines attributed to Catholics, as that excommunicated princes may lawfully be murdered, that no faith should be kept with heretics, and that the Pope has temporal as well as spiritual jurisdiction in Britain.[1]

Those taking this oath were exempted from some of the provisions of the Popery Act 1698. The section as to taking and prosecuting priests was repealed, as well as the penalty of perpetual imprisonment for keeping a school. Catholics were also enabled to inherit and purchase land, nor was a Protestant heir any longer empowered to enter and enjoy the estate of his Catholic kinsman.

The passing of this act was the occasion of the Gordon Riots (1780) in which the violence of the mob was especially directed against Lord Mansfield who had balked at various prosecutions under the statutes now repealed.

This Act was repealed by the Promissory Oaths Act 1871 (c.48).

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