Unpublished Declaration of King James II, February 28, 1696

The following declaration was prepared for publication immediately before the so-called "Calais Expedition", an invasion of England planned for March 1696. Although King James II went to Calais, the expedition never set sail: a storm scattered the fleet of transports and the Duke of Berwick (James' natural son) reported the hesitation of the English Jacobites. The propaganda surrounding the so-called "Assasination Plot" (a privately organised plan to kidnap the Prince of Orange) curtailed any further plans of invasion.

A copy of the text "printed by William Weston, printer & stationer to the Kings most Excellent Majesty" (i.e. printed at St. Germains) is among the Stuart Papers at Windsor (volume 1, number 101). A slightly abbreviated version of this text can be found in the Calendar of the Stuart Papers, Historical Manuscripts Commission (London: 1902), I, 110-112.

James the Second, by the Grace of God, King of England, Scotland, France, and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, etc., to all our loving subjects of our Kingdom of England, greeting.

Whereas it has now pleased the Divine Providence to furnish us with means and enable us to enter again into the possession of our kingdoms, we being desirous of nothing more than a right understanding between us and our people so necessary to both, and that none may be frightened by the memory of past miscarriages from returning to their duty, and being restored to the same happy condition they were in before they departed from their allegiance to us, have thought fit by this our declaration to make known our gracious intentions towards them in the manner following.

We do therefore in the first place by this our royal declaration under the Great Seal of England absolutely and effectually for us, our heirs and successors pardon, remit, and discharge all crimes of high treason, misprision of treason, and all other crimes and offences whatsoever, any ways concerning or relating to the procuring, abetting or maintaining the late invasion and usurpation of our kingdoms committed or done by any of our subjects of what degree or quality soever, excepting always such persons who at or after our landing in England shall willingly, advisedly, or maliciously, by land or by sea oppose us, and those forces that accompany our person in our present undertaking for the asserting of our just rights and recovering the possession of our kingdoms, or, who after notice given of our being landed, shall resist and oppose those loyal persons, who according to their duty shall endeavour to resort to our Standard or shall, in any part of our dominions, assert and maintain the justice of our cause; excepting also such persons who being trusted and employed by us in parts beyond the seas shall have betrayed our councils, and all such other person or persons who residing any time in France under pretence of attending us in our exile, or to be employed in our service when occasion should offer, have contrary to their allegiance held any criminal correspondence with our enemies, or with any of our subjects then in rebellion against us; provided nevertheless that whoever is not prosecuted at law for the crimes last mentioned within the space of two years from the time of our landing, shall thenceforth be reputed innocent and shall enjoy the full benefit of this pardon.

And for the further quieting the minds of all our subjects and for the making these our gracious intentions more satisfactory and effectual, we do declare and promise that in our first Parliament we will pass a general act of oblivion without any exceptions of persons otherwise than above excepted; and we beseech God so to incline the hearts of our people, that without the effusion of blood, righteousness and mercy may take place; and for that end, we further promise that all such as shall appear instrumental in the recovery of our right, we will reward according to their respective degrees and merits.

We further declare that we will with all speed call a free Parliament, that by their advice and assistance we may be enabled to repair the breaches caused by the late usurpation, to redress all grievances, and to free our people from the insupportable burden of taxes and impositions they now lie under, that so our Kingdom of England may flourish again as formerly and stand firm upon the ancient and legal foundation. And to that end we likewise declare that we will give our royal assent to any bill that shall be tendered to us for the confirmation of judicial proceedings during the time of the late usurpation (such proceedings in matters criminal only excepted that have been prosecuted or adjudged against any person or persons for any thing done by them in obedience to our commission or command or otherwise for our service, as by their duty and allegiance they were bound to do) and to all such other bills as shall be thought necessary to establish a general tranquillity in the nation, or to secure our people in the undisturbed enjoyment of their religion, rights, liberties, and properties, for we are satisfied that the true interest and glory of a king is the happiness of his subjects.

We likewise promise upon our royal word to protect and secure our subjects of the Church of England by Law established in the full enjoyment of all their legal rights, privileges, and immunities, and in the secure possession of all their churches, universities, colleges, and schools, and that upon all vacancies of bishoprics, and other dignities or benefices within our disposal, care shall be taken to have them filled with worthy members of their own Communion. But to the end that all our subjects may live easily and peaceably under our government, we shall likewise with all earnestness recommend it to our ensuing Parliament, that by their advice and concurrence such a liberty of conscience may be settled within our Kingdom of England, as we and they shall think necessary for the quiet and happiness of our people.

And we do hereby further declare that all officers and soldiers by sea or by land now engaged in the usurper's service, who shall after notice of our landing at any time before they engage in any fight or battle against our forces, quit the said illegal service, and return to their duty, shall not only have their pardons, as aforesaid, but shall likewise be satisfied and paid all arrears due to them from the usurper, and that all foreigners that are within our kingdoms in his pay, who shall as aforesaid not engage against us or any of our forces, shall likewise have our gracious pardon and their arrears satisfied, and care shall be taken for their transportation to their respective countries or elsewhere as they shall reasonably desire.

Moreover we promise and declare that all sea officers and seamen in the English fleet, now under the power and in the pay of the Prince of Orange, who upon notice of our landing in England, shall return to their duty and declare for us, shall not only have the benefit of this our full and free pardon and indemnity for all they have done against us in time of the usurpation, but shall moreover have all their arrears duly paid to them; and all sea officers shall have from us the same commissions they enjoyed in the usurper's service at the time of our landing.

And lastly to remove all jealousies from the minds of our people, we promise and declare that as soon as it shall please God to establish us in the quiet possession of our kingdoms, we will immediately dismiss from our service, and send out of the land all the foreign troops which we shall have been obliged to make use of in the recovery of our rights. And, that our enemies may not terrify our good subjects with the apprehension of great sums that must be repaid to France, we positively assure them that our dearest brother, the Most Christian King, expects no other compensation for the assistance he has given us, but the glory of having succoured an injured king.

Given at our court at St. Germain en Lay [sic] this twenty eighth day of February in the twelfth year of our reign.


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