Rescissory Act 1661

Rescissory Act 1661

The Rescissory Act restoring Episcopacy, 1661 passed on the March 28, 1661 in the Scottish Parliament. At one stroke, it annulled the legislation of the last twenty years, covering the time of the Commonwealth and Civil wars. This Act virtually made return to Episcopacy, so that monarchy and Episcopacy came back together. After bishops had been procured, consecrated, and seated in the Scottish Parliament, severities against the Presbyterians, who formed the great bulk of the nation, especially in the centre and south and west of Scotland, went on steadily increasing. This was "a general act rescissory", that is, an act rescinding every proceeding of all the "pretended parliaments," conventions, committees, etc, since the commencement of the troubles (1633) in Scotland. It was objected that two of these parliaments were sanctioned by the presence respectively of the late and present king. Middleton replied, that in both cases the king was not morally a free agent; and an act which obliterated at once the legislation of several years, and vested the government of the kingdom in church and state almost absolutely in the king, was carried with only thirty dissentients. This extravagant act was followed by a recess of some weeks. Meanwhile, the king issued his proclamation for restoring church government by bishops in Scotland, and the newly appointed Scotch prelates having received ordination from Sheldon, bishop of London, in Westminster Abbey, went back to Scotland to take the government of the kirk, and their places in the Scotch parliament. It appears to have been directly due to the reactionary enthusiasm of the Restoration Parliament itself.

The idea of the Act Rescissory was first mentioned as a joke among the Lords of the Articles, and was afterwards agreed to at a meeting when few of them were sober. Sir George Mackenzie of Tarbet, known as the "passionate cavalier," was loudest supporter for the Act Rescissory.

One distressing result of this Rescissory Act was that all the ministers who obtained livings from 1649 to 1661 were held not to have been appointed at all, and therefore were at once thrust out of their jobs. They numbered nearly 400, and their expulsion caused great distress and sorrow in the Kingdom, more especially as they were succeeded by very inferior men. The extinction of this Act brought into operation the old law of 1592, by which the Church Courts were bound to induct any minister presented by the Crown or any lay patron; and thus, after an interregnum of 12 years, patronage came into full vigour, and it so continued till after the Revolution, when it was modified by the Act of 1690.


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