Sidmouth Bill

In 1811 a measure was introduced in Parliament by Lord Sidmouth at a time of political nervousness in government circles, to deal with the perceived threat of a growing number of preachers licensed under the Toleration Act. It would have effectively put in jeopardy Methodism's use of local preachers and even threatened the itinerancy itself. As a threat to religious liberties it was opposed by the Committee of Privileges, led by Thomas Allan and Joseph Butterworth, and by the Protestant Dissenting Deputies. A public petition was organized and in the face of growing opposition the Bill was dropped after its second reading. The incident marked a significant point in Methodism's self-awareness and a mutual hardening of attitudes on both sides of the Anglican/Nonconformist divide.

  • Methodist Magazine, 1811, pp.628-40
  • George Pellew, Life of Lord Sidmouth (1847) vol. 3 pp. 38-66
  • W.R. Ward, Religion and Society in England 1790-1850 (1972) pp.54-62
  • David Hempton, Methodism and Politics in British Society 1750-1850 (1984) pp.98-104
  • J.Munsey Turner, Conflict and Reconciliation: Studies in Methodism and Ecumenism in England 1740-1982 (1985) pp.120-26
  • David Hempton, The Religion of the People: Methodism and Popular Religion c.1750-1900 (1996) pp.110-13