The Clarendon Code, incorrectly named after the 1st Earl of Clarendon, Chief Minister of Charles II after the Restoration Settlement, is the name given to a series of laws passed by the Cavalier Parliament that persecuted Dissenters. Clarendon got the credit for the laws but this was not accurate, as he wanted a more tolerant policy towards Dissenters.
Anglicans dominated the Cavalier Parliament. They were convinced that Dissenters were social revolutionaries. The ‘proof’ they had for this came from a failed London rebellion of the Fifth Monarchy Men in January 1661 who believed that Christ was about to start his reign on Earth.
Out of a fear of social revolution, the Anglicans passed four acts that created the two worlds of Anglicanism and Nonconformity.
The Corporation Act of December 1661 limited municipal office to Royalist Anglicans.
The Act of Uniformity (May 1662) reinforced the Prayer Book of Elizabeth I. This act showed no concessions to the Dissenters and as a result 1,760 ministers and 150 dons and teachers lost their living – and with no compensation.
The Conventicle Act (May 1664) penalised anyone who attended a Dissenters congregation or preached at one. Anyone who allowed his building to be used by Dissenters was also penalised.
The Five Mile Act (October 1665) attempted to force Dissenters out of towns where they ministered. The act forbade them to teach. They were also forbidden to take in lodgers.
As a result of these four acts, Dissenters faced a period of harsh persecution. Despite this, Nonconformity took root in the country especially between 1667 and 1670 when the Conventicle Act expired – and before another was passed.