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K.W.H. Howard The Axminster Ecclesiastica 1660-1689 is an annotated reprint of an old Axminster Church record book. In a FN p. 113 it states

“Act of Oblivion 1686. A general amnesty for those convicted of participation in the Monmouth Rebellion of 1685.”

This is a comment on the text which reads,

“But whilst the judges were in their circuit, a proclamation was issued forth by the king for the releasing of such as had been in the late insurrection.... upon which Act of Oblivion, such as were in bonds... were set at liberty...”

I cannot find anything about this Act of Oblivion on line. Can anyone point me to some information please?

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  • OTOH, "The new Parliament that assembled in May 1685, which gained the name of "Loyal Parliament", was initially favourable to James, and the new king sent word that even most of the former exclusionists would be forgiven if they acquiesced to his rule.[80]" Wikipedia
    – MCW
    Commented Apr 25, 2022 at 11:58
  • 1
    this lists no Acts of Oblivion; but kudo's for a cool question.
    – MCW
    Commented Apr 25, 2022 at 12:01

2 Answers 2

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I find a couple of references to this particular 'Act of Oblivion' or General Amnesty of 1686. The first appears in the Proceedings of the Somersetshire Archaeological and Natural History Society, By Somersetshire Archaeological and Natural History Society. (emphasis mine)

Not far from the Church is the fortified entrance to the town it consists of a stone archway with a Chapel above which is generally supposed to have been a wayside Chapel It is called Hanging Chapel from the circumstance of three persons having been hanged there for being engaged in Monmouth's rebellion by Judge Jeffreys about 1685 their names were Humphrey Pierce Nicholas Venting and John Sellwood James Hurd of Langport was one of the persons excepted from the general amnesty or act of oblivion issued by James II 10th March 1686

Note this entry gives us a date and that the source of this 'act' is the king and not parliament. Another source is from a footnote in Notes & Queries for Somerset and Dorset, Volume 2,edited by Hugh Norris, Charles Herbert Mayo, Frederic William Weaver. This agrees on the date previously mentioned, and provides an original source for their information:

A general amnesty or act of oblivion (with however, many exemptions amongst which Mr Prideaux's name does not appear) was proclaimed by the King on March 10th 1685-6 (British Museum, Anglia 1684-1792 iii. 177-377)

So this original information may be available in more detail in a work in the British Museum archives.

Another work, The Life, Progresses, and Rebellion of James, Duke of Monmouth..., Volume 2, By George Roberts (1844) also indicated the same source in the British Museum.

James II in his proclamation 10th March 1686 declares he is persuaded that many who joined themselves in that rebellion being poor labourers and handicraftsmen were drawn and seduced thereinto by the subtle and crafty insinuations of some ill disposed persons of greater note and quality than themselves and not from their own evil rancour of mind and traitorous aversion to him or his government All who in a traitorous and hostile manner landed with James Scot Duke of Monmouth and were officers or had the name or were reputed officers and the following individuals were EXCEPTED:

This actually goes on to provide the detailed list of those who were excepted (not provided amnesty) from this act.

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To add to what JustCal has written in the other answer, this was indeed a Royal proclamation rather than an Act of Parliament. The use of the term "act" is a bit confusing in this regard, since we normally assume it means parliamentary Acts. Parliament was not sitting at this time - it had prorogued in November 1685 and would not sit again until 1689.

Proclamations etc are not always published as consistently as Acts which may explain why it is hard to track down. However, this was published in the nearest thing to an official newspaper at the time, the London Gazette. A copy can be found here. It is not a great scan, but it is readable.

The Calendar of State Papers for March 1686 has a few other pardons issued later on to individuals - eg on March 12 it mentions a "Pardon to Edmund Prideaux of Ford Abbey, co. Devon" and another to "to Edward Strode of Downeside, co. Somerset" covering "all treasons etc., committed before March 1." - not clear exactly why these additional named pardons, except possibly they were covered by one of the exceptions in the general one?

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  • Excellent answer; thank you
    – MCW
    Commented Apr 26, 2022 at 12:08

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