he term Dissenter refers to a number of Protestant denominations -- Presbyterians, Baptists, Quakers, Congregationalists, and others -- which, because they refused to take the Anglican communion or to conform to the tenets of the restored Church of England in 1662, were subjected to persecution under various acts passed by the Cavalier Parliament between 1661 and 1665. Examples of the attempts which were made to discourage them were the Act of Uniformity, which required all churches in England to use the Book of Common Prayer, and punished those who would not comply, and the Five Mile Act, which prohibited ministers who were ejected because of the Act of Uniformity from coming within five miles of their former parishes or of any town or city.
After the Toleration Act was passed in 1689, Dissenters were permitted to hold services in licensed meeting houses and to maintain their own preachers (if they would subscribe to certain oaths) in England and Wales. But until 1828 such preachers remained subject to the Test Act, which required all civil and military officers to be communicants of the Church of England, and to take oaths of supremacy and allegiance. Though this act was aimed primarily at Roman Catholics, it nevertheless excluded Dissenters as well.
Content first created 1988; last modified 12 August 2002