A Petition of the Presbyterian Ministers and People in the North of Ireland, to William and Mary. ( Wodrow Collection f 51, No 48; reproduced in Two Centuries of Life in Down, R J Stevenson.)
The Petition sheweth— That whereas His sacred Matie & Royal Consort of ever blessed memory from their princely clemency & pious affection to their peaceable & loyal subjects were graciously pleased to grant yr Petrr full assurance of their protection in the free exercise of our Religion which hath not been only respected since by His Matie, but faithfully performed & continued by all in chief authority under him in this kingdom, your Excy also being pleas’d of late to strengthen our hopes of Its continuance, & (tho’ we are not conscious to ourselves of forfeiting the favour allow’d us) we are surpris’d to find some officials in this part of the Kingdom indeavouring to deprive us of what we have so long peaceably injoyd, as appears by their pursuing both minry & people in their courts for their non-conformity to the rites & ceremonys of the church, minry for solemnizing marriage clandestinely, as they please to call it, & making void such marriages by obliging persons so rnarry’d to confess publickly themselfs guilty of the damnable sin of fornication to the no small grief of yor Petrs hereby made infamous, their children uncapable of succeeding to their estates & of diverse other priveledges as being bastards all wch we are persuaded is done w`tout the knowledge or consent of the Governt. \herefore we being necessitate to fly for refuge to yor Excy humbly beg yor patient consideration of these few things.
Your Petrs having been a considerable body of Protest : subjects in this Kingdom now abt 80 years who tho’ dissenting from the Establisht church in some things, yet in all revolutions continued loyal and peaceable suffering for our loyaltie, in the time of usurpation to yt K.C. 2d observ’d it, protected yor Petrs & gave the minry a royal pension, & we cant think our late active zeal for the preservation of this kingdom can be forgot by those who found our assistance so heartily granted & usefull,
a. As the Establisht Church doth so we profess marriag to be a holy ordinance of God & a honble state by Christians religiously & publickly to be entred into with pious exhortation & prayer suitable to yt occasion by a minr of the Word, wherefore it hath bin & is our ordinary practise & thro’ God’s assistance our resolution to so do when thereto call’d, not being free in conscience to conform to what the Service Book requires in this matter whereof we are willing & ready to give our reasons when requir ‘d
3. As no minr of our profession hath till now of late ever been troubled on such accot so the civil magistrate hath never made void such marriag or denyd yor Petrs the priveledg proper to laufull marriag.
4. All official courts have hitherto granted administrations, probat of wills, &c to the widows and children of such marriages as they did to others in the like case the parish Minr also constantly receiving his accustomed dues as if they were marry’d by himself whereby we belleve they have judg’d such marriages laufull else we do not understand how they could demand so much money as they have received for many years from yor Petrs. Wherefore may it please yor Excie to consider how grievous it may he to a great part of His Matis subjects if all marriages not solemnized according to the rites of the Establisht church should he declar’d void & their children thereby bastardized seeing hereby not only Presbyt Papists & Quakrs must be great suffers but also many of the conforming clergy & Laity descending of parents so marryd, of whom we are well assurd there he severall in this kingdom, nor can it escape yor wise consideration how unseasonable at this time it is to move such debates wch can’t but create animositys & disunite the affections of Protestants, when not only the consciences of some but the reputation & civil interest of many must be deeply ingag’d. We hope therefore God will direct yor Excy to put a speedy stop to such proceedings as are not only present grievance but may prove of evil consequence to our posterity.
And yor Pet” as in duty bound will ever pray &c