The Established Church in 1760 was more secure than at any time in the preceding century and a half. It had survived the dangers of the Hanoverian succession and the risings of 1715 and 1745, and had understandably allied itself with the Whigs, the party which most strongly represented anti-Jacobite opposition to Catholicism. By 1760 the Church had secured its position, though it had done so at the cost of neglecting church reform. In 1760, quieta non movere remained the adage that best exemplifies the Church’s cautious policy to any change. There were many reasons for following such a policy. Dissent and Methodism were growing in popularity, the challenges of American independence and the French Revolution destabilised politics, and economic forces were swiftly eroding the bedrock of rural Anglicanism. In an era of flux the Church clung to a structure, a system of patronage and an association with the State which it inherited from the seventeenth century. This does not, of course, mean that the Church did not also inherit the popular piety and clerical scruples of an earlier age also. It was easy for the Victorian historians to overlook these features. They denigrated the unreformed features of the Church without consideration of the Church’s difficulties, or any understanding of the evolutionary changes that were effected after 1760. Between 1760 and 1830 attitudes to the Church’s structures, finances, deployment of clergy and parish life underwent subtle changes, without which the reforms that followed could not have been achieved.
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