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James Sharp
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James Sharp

This article is about the 17th century minister. For information on the 20th century lawyer, see James E. Sharp.

In the English Civil War, following the execution of the King, the Presbyterian minister James Sharp (1613 1679), a skilled negotiator, became prominent as a leader of the moderate wing of the Scottish church called the "Resolutioners." Among the Covenanters, a group of Scottish Presbyterians who bound themselves by oath to protect and defend their Scottish Presbyterianismism from the introduction of bishops and other Episcopalian features. This group split into two factions, the Resolutioners and Protesters, differing over how much power should be given to the king in the ordering of church affairs.

Sharp was from conservative, Royalist Banffshire in the northwest of Scotland, a graduate of the University of Aberdeen and a regent of St. Andrews University.

He was captured (1651) by Oliver Cromwell's Parliamentarian forces and imprisoned until 1652. The author of A true representation of the rise, progresse and state of the present divisions of the Church of Scotland, (1657) was sent to London to represent the interests of the Resolutioners. In London, Sharp became involved with George Monck in Monck's schemes for the restoration of the monarchy, which Sharp conditionally supported. About the same time he privately shifted his loyalties to the restoration also of episcopacy in Scotland, a position that would be equated with treason by Scottish Presbyterians. A few months after the restoration of Charles II Sharp was allowed to return to St Andrews and the following year (1661), he was appointed Archbishop of St. Andrews and primate of Scotland. In the face of Presbyterian resistance, he embarked on a severe policy repressing the principles of the Covenanters he had formerly represented, enforcing policies, such as the Act of Supremacy (1669) which gave the King complete authority in the Church. In 1668 James Mitchell attempted to assassinate the archbishop; when he was finally caught six years later, confessed and was executed in 1678, Mitchell became a Presbyterian folk hero and Sharp was even less popular. He was assassinated by a group of Covenanters on Magus Moor, outside St. Andrews, who had in fact been waiting to kill someone else. In popular Scottish history Sharp is pictured as a turncoat in league with the Devil.

Another 17th century "Archbishop Sharp" was John Sharp (1643-1714), Archbishop of York.

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