Thursday, November 14, 2013

Speaking of Coincidences! Two Champions of Religious Toleration Born

Two allies in the effort to bring religious toleration and freedom of conscience to England were born on the same date, in 1633 and 1644, respectively: James, the Duke of York (later James II) and William Penn, the Quaker founder of Pennsylvania.

On October 14, 1633, King Charles I and Queen Henrietta Maria welcomed the birth of their second son and third child, further securing the succession. James was titled the Duke of York. During the English Civil War he was captured by Fairfax but escaped to Holland.

He served in the armies of France and of Spain while on the Continent after the fall of the monarchy and the execution of his father. He secretly married Anne Hyde, the daughter of Lord Clarendon in 1660, but continued his womanizing ways. Anne bore him two daughters, Mary and Anne. When Charles II returned to England and the throne, James became the Lord High Admiral and declared himself a Catholic in 1672.

Anne Hyde, the Duchess of York had also become a Catholic and died in 1671--James then married Mary Beatrice of Modena, a Catholic Italian princess.
Of course, the crucial event of his life--at least as it influenced his reign--was the birth of his only son, James Francis Edward on June 10, 1688. In combination with his efforts to make religious toleration and freedom of conscience the law the in England, this birth of a Catholic prince led to the Glorious Revolution, as his daughter Mary and her husband William of Orange deposed him in 1688.

His reputation for courage in battle suffered after the invasion of William of Orange. He panicked and fled for France. Before the Battle of the Boyne he suffered nose bleeds and did not execute a successful battle plan. The Encyclopedia Britannica in 1910 offered this harsh assessment:

"The political ineptitude of James is clear; he often showed firmness when conciliation was needful, and weakness when resolution alone could have saved the day. Moreover, though he mismanaged almost every political problem with which he personally dealt, he was singularly tactless and impatient of advice. But in general political morality he was not below his age, and in his advocacy of toleration decidedly above it. He was more honest and sincere than Charles II, more genuinely patriotic in his foreign policy, and more consistent in his religious attitude. That his brother retained the throne while James lost it is an ironical demonstration that a more pitiless fate awaits the ruler whose faults are of the intellect, than one whose faults are of the heart."

The line, "But in general political morality he was not below his age, and in his advocacy of toleration decidedly above it" does give James the credit he deserves although it does not go far enough. James did not just advocate toleration or tolerance; his Declaration of Indulgence addresses freedom of conscience for his subjects.

Also, as I have alluded to Edward Corps' The Court in Exile before, he seems to have repented both for the moral harm he did in being unfaithful to both his wives and for the political errors he made in ruling while he lived in France at St. Germain-en-Laye. James became prayerful and devout, and more sincerely lived up to his religious beliefs.
James II's ally in the campaign for religious liberty and freedom of conscience was William Penn, born on November 14 in 1644. He was an early Quaker leader, the founder of Pennsylvania, and, in a way, the founder of Philadelphia, according to this wikipedia article. On October 21, 1692William and Mary removed him from the governorship of Pennsylvania, accusing him of being a Papist--all because he had worked with James II on religious freedom in England.

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