The Government's Response
The Government was sure that the Northumbrian Catholics had been responsible for the 1715 Rising and was determined to punish them and to ensure they would be stripped of their power.
In 1716 the Government passed two acts to make sure that this happened. It was felt that the most effective way of stripping the Catholics of their power would be to take away their lands and titles and leave them in poverty. The first acted stated that anyone convicted of High Treason before 1 June 1716, whatever their religion, was to be stripped of their estates.
The estates were to be disposed of by a 'Commission to Enquire into the Estates of Certain Traitors and Popish Recusants'. Entailed and marital estates were exempt, and all just claims and debts owed on the estates were to be recognised by the Commission. Estates given to superstitious uses were to be forfeited, and, by reporting a superstitious use to the Commission, an informer could win a reward of a quarter of the estate's value. Although in theory aimed at all traitors regardless of religion, the Commission generally focused on Catholic estates.
The second act was specifically aimed at the Catholics, ordering all Catholic landowners to register their entire estates and incomes. They would then be assessed for contributions to pay for the costs that their treachery had caused the Government. This act was clearly biased against the Catholics, as there was no suggestion that the Anglican rebels should make any contribution from their estates.
Nor did it acknowledge that nationally many Catholics had stayed out of the rebellion or even supported the Government. Led by the Duke of Norfolk, many Catholics took a special vow of loyalty to the House of Hanover, and in an attempt to prevent any further persecution, the Papacy ordered English Catholics to take the vow of loyalty.
The Papacy expressed the view that the Catholics in the rebellion had lost too much already, and that, in future, passive disobedience was the most that could be asked of them. The court at Saint-Germain was furious, and the Hanoverian Government refused to scrap the Commission or any other anti-Catholic legislation.