Henry Sacheverell and the Riot Act, 1714
Sacheverell preached his famous sermons—that the church was in danger from the neglect of the Whig ministry to keep guard over its interests—the one at Derby on 15 August 1709 entitled The Communication of Sin, the other at St Paul’s Cathedral on 5 November 1709, entitled The Perils of False Brethren, in Church, and State.
In The Perils of False Brethren, in Church, and State, the threat to the church from Catholics was dealt with in three minutes; the rest of the one-and-a-half-hour sermon was an attack on Nonconformists and the “false brethren” who aided them in menacing church and state.
Sacheverell’s trial lasted from 27 February to 21 March 1710 and the verdict was that he should be suspended for three years and that the two sermons should be burnt at the Royal Exchange. This was the decree of the state, and it had the effect of making him a martyr in the eyes of the populace and (along with heavy taxes on Londoners) bringing about the first Sacheverell riots that year in London and the rest of the country, which included attacks on Presbyterian and other Dissenter places of worship, with some being burned down. The rioting in turn led to the downfall of the government ministry later that year and the passing of the Riot Act in 1714.
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