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Protestant Dissenting Deputies

Since 1732 these have consisted of two members (chosen annually) from each congregation of the Presbyterian, Congregationalist, and Baptist denominations in and within twelve miles of the City of London. From this large body, which has usually met only once or twice a year, the Committee of Twenty-one has been chosen in order by all legal means to lead the fight for the obtaining of full civil rights for Protestant Dissenters. The origin of the deputies is usually traced to a general meeting of Dissenters in 1732 at the Meeting House in Silver Street, London. Here the necessity of political representation to further the liberties enjoyed by Dissenters was emphasized-especially the need to gain freedom from the corporation and Test Acts (of Charles II's reign) which were still in force and were the basis for preventing Dissenters from playing full part in local government, etc. Through their committee the deputies were an effective force in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century politics; by their influence Nonconformists* gained the right to be buried in churchyards, to register their children in civil registers of births, and to enter the universities of Oxford and Cambridge without offense to their consciences. Also they saw the repeal of the Corporation and Test Acts.

For full details see B.L. Manning, The Protestant Dissenting Deputies (1952). The manuscript records of the Deputies are located in the Guildhall Library, London. In the twentieth century the work of the Deputies has virtually ceased, since the original objectives have all been gained.