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Simon and Pete Seaman kindly looked over an early draft of the list.Any remaining errors are, of course, the fault of the compiler.Once they had arrived at the place of subscription, it is unlikely given that hundreds often subscribed on the same day, that individuals would have read out the whole oath (or had read out to them) before subscribing.To add to the general inconvenience of taking these oaths, the legislation also required a small fee (three pence) to be paid upon making your subscription. The aim of this project has been to attempt to identify all the surviving returns of the 1723 oaths in England.The threat to national security persuaded Parliament to agree to a new sworn ‘association’ which would bind those taking it to defend William against further attempts on his life.The association was consciously modelled on the Elizabethan ‘Bond of Association’ of 1584 which had been formed after the Catholic Throckmorton Plot to kill Elizabeth and replaced her with Mary Queen of Scots. However, the 1696 association, which required those taking it to acknowledge William as ‘rightful and lawful King’, represented a far more significant undertaking than its Elizabethan predecessor.
The method of administration therefore poses a further problem for those wishing to use the returns for genealogical research as, unlike the Protestation or Association rolls, oaths were not necessarily tendered in the subscribers’ parish or hundred of residence.In 1722, a major Jacobite conspiracy was uncovered, the so-called Atterbury plot (named after Francis Atterbury, bishop of Rochester, one of the plotters).Once again, conspiracy provided the justification for testing the nation’s loyalties and while the individual rolls for these oaths don’t seem to have been of the size of those of 1696, they demonstrated a greater interest in securing the loyalty of women and occasionally provided much greater information about the subscribers themselves. It is not completely clear why the practice of tendering oaths to the English public en masse was abandoned after 1723.I am particularly grateful to Dr Simon Dixon, now of the University of Leicester, for his suggestion that a finding list of these returns could be valuable.
It was Simon’s pioneering work on the Devon returns, in conjunction with the Friends of Devon Archives, which first fully opened up the potential of these records for historians.Whereas the 1689 oaths to William and Mary had only been tendered to officeholders, the association was imposed on the public at large, not only in Britain but in its colonies as well.