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Source: The Struggle for Sovereignty: Seventeenth-Century English Political Tracts, 2 vols, ed. Joyce Lee Malcolm (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1999). Vol. 1.
A Declaration of the Parliament of England, Expressing the
Grounds of Their Late Proceedings, and of Setling the Present
Government in the Way of a Free State (1649).
Charles Stuart, king of England, was executed on 30 January
1649. The kingdom was left without a ruler. Members of the
House of Commons turned to the urgent task of remodeling the government.
The House of Lords had opposed bringing the king to trial.
When the Lords now offered to assist with the rebuilding, a majority
of the Commons turned their wrath on them. On 6 February a resolution
stating that the House of Lords was “useless and dangerous
and ought to be abolished” passed the Commons without a division.
The following day, 7 February, the Commons, now calling itself the
Parliament of England, passed a resolution that “the office of a king
in this nation, and to have the power thereof in any single person, is
unnecessary, burdensome, and dangerous to the liberty, safety and
public interests of the people of this nation, and therefore ought to be
abolished.” This too was carried without a division.
Bold decisions. Yet it was not until 17 March and 19 March that
these resolutions that abolished the House of Lords and monarchy were transformed into acts. Executive authority was entrusted to a
Council of State of some forty-one members. Two days later, on 22
March, the Parliament published a declaration that publicly justified
their “late proceedings.” These proceedings included the trial and execution
of the king as well as the abolition of the House of Lords and
This short but crucial constitutional document has been strangely
neglected by constitutional scholars and historians. The text printed
below was taken from the single English edition published. The declaration
was also published in Latin as “Parliamenti Anglia Declaratio”
and, presumably looking to good foreign relations, in other
languages as well. Three months later a protest from the Scots Parliament
was published objecting to the trial and execution of the late
king. And a little more than a year later, on 31 May 1650, an anonymous
tract appeared that directly attacked Parliament’s declaration.
A Declaration of the Parliament of England, Expressing the
Grounds of Their Late Proceedings, and of Setling the Present
Government in the Way of a Free State (1649).
The Parliament of England, Elected by the People whom they Represent,
and by them Trusted and Authorized for the Common good,
having long contended against Tyranny; and to procure the wellbeing
of those whom they serve, and to remove Oppression,Arbitrary
power, and all Opposition to the Peace and Freedom of the Nation, Do
humbly and thankfully acknowledge the Blessing of Almighty God
upon their weak endeavors, and the hearty Assistance of the wellaffected
in this Work, whereby the Enemies thereunto, both publique
and secret, are become unable for the present, to hinder the perfecting
And to prevent their power to revive Tyranny, Injustice,War, and
all our former Evils, the Parliament have been necessitated to the late
Alterations in the Government, and to that Settlement which they
judge most conducible to the honor of God, and the good of the Nation,
the only end and duty of all their Labors.
And that this may appear the more clearly and generally, to the
satisfaction of all who are concerned in it, they have thought fit to
Declare and publish the Grounds of their Proceedings.
They suppose it will not be denied,That the first Institution of the
Office of King in this Nation, was by Agreement of the People, who
chose one to that Office for the protection and good of them who chose
him, and for their better Government, according to such Laws as they
did consent unto.
And let those who have observed our Stories, recollect how very
few have performed the Trust of that Office with Righteousness, and
due care of their Subjects’ good.
And how many have made it their study and labor, to satisfie their
particular Ambition and Power, with high Pressures and Miseries upon their Subjects; and with what horrid prodigality of Christian
blood, upon Punctilio’s of their own Honor, Personal Titles, and Distastes.
And in the whole Line of them, how far hath the late King exceeded
all his Predecessors, in the destruction of those whom they
were bound to preserve; and instead of spreading his Protection to
all, scarce permitting any to escape the violence of his fury.
To manifest this Truth, it will not be improper to take a short view
of some passages in his Reign; wherein he much further out-went all
his Forefathers in evil, than any Example can be found of punishment.
In the dissolution of the Parliament the second year of his Reign,
and afterwards he shewed an unnatural forgetfulness, to have the violent
Death of his Father examined.1The sad business of Rochell and
the Isle of Ree,2 the poor Protestants of France do yet lament. The
Loans, unlawful Imprisonments, and other Oppressions, which produced
that excellent Law of the Petition of Right, were most of them
again acted, presently after the Law made against them; which was
most palpably broken by him almost in every part of it, very soon
after his Solemn Consent given unto it. His Imprisoning and prosecution
of Members of Parliament, for opposing his unlawful Will; and of
divers worthy Merchants, for refusing to pay Tunnage and Poundage,
because not granted by Parliament, yet exacted by him expresly
against Law; and punishment of many good Patriots, for not submitting
to whatsoever he pleased to demand, though never so much
in breach of the known Law.The multitude of Projects and Monopolies,
established by him; His Design and Charge to bring in German Horse to awe us into Slavery;3 and his hopes of compleating all by his
Grand Project of Ship-Money, to subject every man’s Estate to whatsoever
proportion he only pleased to impose upon them.The private
Solicitations, promises of Reward, and Threats from him unto the
Judges of Law, to cause them to do his Will, rather than equal Right,
and to break his and their own Oathes. The Oppressions of the
Councel-Table, Star-Chamber, High-Commission, Court-Marshal; of
Wardships,Purveyances, Knighthood,Afforrestations, and many others
of the like nature, need no large repetition, remaining yet in most of
The exact Slavery forced upon those in Ireland, with the Army of
Papists to maintain it, and the position of being loose and absolved
from all Rules of Government, was but a patern for the intended
The long intermission of our Parliaments, and the determination to
be troubled with no more, and the great mistake in first sending the
new Service-Book into Scotland, raised their opposition against him,
and gave no encouragement to the English to engage against them;
which with the doubtfulness of success, produced the last short Parliament,
which was only considered as to serve the King’s pleasure, to
cloak his breach of the pacification with Scotland; and with twelve Subsidies
demanded by him to buy out his unlawful and unjust exaction of
Ship-money. But failing in his expectation therein, he suddenly and
wilfully, to the terror of most men, dissolved it. The Scots upon the King’s breach of his faith with them, and perceiving the discontents
amongst us, came with an Army into England.The King by many unjust
and unlawful means, raised and brought a great force into the
North to oppose them, where being moved by worthy Petitions from
several parts, and by the honorable Endeavors of many Noble Persons,
but principally by perceiving the backwardness of his Subjects of
both Kingdoms, at that time to engage in the destruction of one another;
for which end, such numbers of gallant men were prepared by
him, whose Office was to be the preserver of them. And seeing no
other way, he did at last condescend to do that part of his duty to call
this Parliament. Vast sums of money were required and raised of the
people of England, to gratifie those by whom they had been highly
damnified; and both Armies paid by them, who neither occasioned
nor consented to the raising of either. But above all, the English Army
was labored by the King, to be engaged against the English Parliament:
A thing of that strange impiety and unnaturalness, for the King
of England to solicite his Subjects of England, to sheath their Swords
in one another’s bowels, that nothing can answer it, but his own,
being born a forreigner; nor could it easily have purchased beliefe, but
by his succeeding visible Actions in full pursuance of the same.
The first Execution of this design of Misery, fell upon our poor
Brethren in Ireland, where so many stores of thousands of them were
with such wonderful cruelty murthered, that scarce any bowels but
are fill with compassion at it;5 and yet some of the Murtherers themselves
have not forborn to affirm, They had the King’s Commission
for their Actions.
His late and slender proclaiming of them Rebels; his Consent to a
Cessation when the Rebels gained all advantages, and the Protestants
were destroyed by it; his intercepting and taking away provisions and supplies going unto them, are no good testimonies of his clearnesse
from that blood which cried loud for vengeance.
But to return to England, where appeared matter enough of
mourning. Upon the King’s coming in Person to the House of Commons
to seize the five Members, whither he was followed with some
hundreds of unworthy debauched persons, armed with Swords and
Pistols, and other Arms; and they attending at the door of the House,
ready to execute whatsoever their Leader should command them.
And upon some other Grounds (whereby doubts being raised in
the people, that their grievances would not be redressed, they grew
into some Disorders) the King took occasion from thence to remove
from London, where presently Forces appeared for him of his own
Company at Kingston.
From thence, he travelled to the North, endeavoring to raise Forces
there, inticed many Members of both Houses to desert the Parliament
and Trust reposed in them by their Countrey, and to join with
him in bringing destruction upon their Brethren, and upon themselves.
Instead of doing Justice, he protected Delinquents from it. At
Nottingham he set up his Standard; from Wales and the Marches, he
got together a powerful Army, and gave the first Onset of Battel at
He possest and fortified Oxford his Head-quarter, and many other
Towns and places of strength, and prosecuted a fierce and bloody War
against the Body of all his own Subjects represented, and then sitting
in Parliament; a thing never before attempted by any King in this Nation,
and which all men have too sad cause with much grief to remember.
Their Towns and Habitations burnt, and demolished; their pleasant
Seats wasted; their Inheritances given away to those that were most
active in doing mischief; their Servants, Brothers, Friends, and Childrenmurthered.
Thus his own people, whom by the duty of his Office
he was bound to protect from all injury, were by himself in person, pursued with fire and sword, imprisonments, tortures, death, and all the
Calamities of War and Desolation.
Notwithstanding all this, and in the heat of it, many Addresses were
made by the Parliament unto the King for Peace; but in none of them
could an Agreement be obtained from him; when the least word of
his consent, would have stopped that issue of blood, and torrent of misery,
which himself had opened in all the parts of his Kingdom.
When the great God of Battel had determined very much in favor
of the Parliament, and the King’s strength was almost fallen away; so
that he thought it unsafe to trust himself any longer with his owne
Forces, yet would he not then vouchsafe to come in unto the English,
but rendered himself to his Countrey-men the Scots, giving unto them
the honor both of receiving him, and parting with him again upon
their own terms.
After his Restraint, yet further Addresses were made unto him by
the Parliaments of both Kingdoms for Peace, with Propositions, not
heightened by success. But these would not be granted, there being
new and hopeful designs of his in hand, for bringing new miseries
upon his people, which an Agreement upon those Propositions might
easily have prevented. After this passed the Votes for no further Addresses
to be made unto him.
The last Summer the effect of those designs, even whilest he was
under restraint, began to break forth; a newvein of blood was opened
in the King’s name; a plot laid (as the Terms of their own boasting
were) as deep as Hell; the Army divided into several bodies; the fire
brake forth in many parts of the Kingdom at once; and for fear lest
the numbers of their English should be too small, or their Compassion
to their Countrymen too great, a Malignant party in Scotland is
easily invited hither. And although at first they understood the
Covenant in that Sence, and prosecuted the ends thereof, in joining
with the Parliament of England, and fighting against the King’s party;
yet now their judgements are rectified to prosecute the same ends by joining with the King’s party, and fighting against their fellow-
Covenanters, The Parliament of England. But God will not be
mocked; and though this Cloud of fresh Calamities, both here and
from the North, threatened the poor Nation, and in all human probability
was pouring utter ruine upon us; yet the visible hand of God,
as many times formerly, so now mightily and miraculously appeared
for us, and led the Army (whom he was pleased to make his Instruments)
with that Courage,Wisdom, and Fidelity, as amazed and
subdued our enemies, and preserved (under him) all that can be dear
During these distractions (and by what means is sufficiently
known, and related more fully in a late Declaration)6 and eighth
Address must be made unto the King, contrived by his party, the Votes
of Parliament to the contrary revoked, and Commissioners sent to the
Isle of Wight.
Where, instead of yielding to their just desires, whilest they were
treating with him for peace, even then was he plotting to raise a new
War against them, and to draw more blood of his people.To this end
his two elder Sons were in hostility, and armed with power of granting
Commissions further to destroy the people committed to his charge.
Upon all these and many other unparalleled offences, upon his
breach of Faith, of Oaths and Protestations, upon the cry of the blood
of Ireland and of England, upon the tears of Widows and Orphanes,
and Childelesse parents, and millions of persons undone by him, Let
all the world of indifferent men judge, whether the Parliament had
not sufficient cause to bring the King to Justice.
But it was objected (and it was the late King’s own Assertion) That
those in his high place are accountable for their Actions to none but God, whose Anointed they are. From whence it must follow,That all
the men of this Land were only made for the sake of that one man
the King, for him to do with them what he pleaseth; as if they had
been all created for no other purpose, but to satisfie the lusts, and to
be a sacrifice to the perverse will of a Tyrant.
This will not easily be believed to be so ordained by God, who punisheth,
but never establisheth injustice and oppression; whom we finde
offended when the people demanded a King, but no expression of his
displeasure at any time, because they had no King. Such an unaccountable
Officer were a strange Monster to be permitted by mankinde.
But this doctrine is better understood by the present age, than in former
times, and requireth the less to be said in confutation of it, being
enough to confute itself.
For the phrase of Anointed, no learned Divine will affirm it to be
applicable to the Kings of England, as to those of Judah and Israel, or
more to a King than to every other Magistrate, or Servant of God; or
that the words Touch not mine anointed, were spoken of Kings, but
unto Kings, who were reproved, and enjoined to do no harm to the
Prophets and Saints of God, there understood to be his Anointed.
Another Objection was, That to bring a King to trial and capital
punishment, is without precedent.
So were the Crimes of the late King; and certainly, the children of
Israel had no known Law or Precedent to punish the Benjamites for
their odious abuse of the Levite’sWife; yet God owned the Action.
There wants not precedent of some of his Predecessors, who have
been deposed by Parliaments, but were afterwards in darkness, and in
corners basely murthered.This Parliament held it more agreeable to
Honor and Justice, to give the King a fair and open trial, by above an
hundred Gentlemen, in the most publike place of Justice, free (if he
had so pleased) to make his own defence; that part of his Crime being
then only objected against him, of which the Parliaments of both his
Kingdoms had by their joint Declaration formerly declared him guilty.
With his Offences, were joined all along a strange obstinacy and implacableness,
and incessant labour for the destruction of his People;
which (with the unerring Truth (wherein is no dispensation for
Kings) that No satisfaction shall be taken for the life of a Murtherer, but
he shall surely be put to death; and, That the Land cannot be cleansed of
the Blood that is shed therein, but by the Blood of him that shed it)
brought on and effected the work of Justice upon him.
The King being dead, The next consideration fell upon his Children;
from these Branches could be expected no other, than the same
bitter Fruit which fell in the Reign of the Father, who had engaged
Them in his own ways and quarrel; and the two Eldest so early appearing
in actual Arms and Hostility against the Parliament,No more
Safety or Security could be hoped for from Them, than from their Predecessor;
nor in human probability, as Affairs then stood, any safe way
for a sure Peace, and prevention of future Troubles, and to avoid a Succession
of Misery; but by taking away the Succession of that, from
whence it hath always risen, and would certainly spring again, if permitted
to take new Root, the Designs and practices of Kings, their flatterers
and evil Councellors.
The Objection is obvious of Injustice, to disherit those who have
a Right and Title to the Crown. Surely, the elder Right is the People’s,
whom they claim to Govern. If any Right or Title were in the eldest
Son, the same is forfeited by the Father’s act, in other cases; even of
Offices of Inheritance, which being forfeit for breach of Trust, (a Condition
annexed to every Office) none will deny, but that the same excludeth
the Children as well as the Officer. But here the elder Sons
Leavied War against the Parliament; and it cannot be alledged,That
the yonger Children were born to anything.
But the same Power and Authority which first erected a King, and
made him a publique Officer for the common good, finding them perverted,
to their common Calamity, it may justly be admitted at the
pleasure of those whose Officer he is, whether they will continue that Officer any longer, or change that Government for a better, and instead
of restoring Tyranny, to resolve into A Free State.
Herein the Parliament received encouragement, by their observation
of the Blessing of God upon other States;The Romans, after their
Regifugium of many hundred years together, prospered far more than
under any of their Kings or Emperors.The State of Venice hath flourished
for One thousand three hundred years. How much do the
Commons in Switzerland, and other Free States, exceed those who
are not so, in Riches,Freedom,Peace, and all Happiness?Our Neighbors
in the United-Provinces, since their change of Government, have
wonderfully increased in Wealth, Freedom,Trade, and Strength, both
by Sea and Land.
In Commonwealths, they finde Justice duly administered, the great
Ones not able to oppress the poorer, and the Poor sufficiently provided
for; the seeds of Civil War and Dissention, by particular Ambition,
Claims of Succession, and the like (wherein this Nation hath
been in many Ages grievously embroiled) wholly removed, and a just
Freedome of their Consciences, Persons and Estates, enjoined by all
sorts of men. On the other side, looking Generally into the Times of
our Monarchs, what Injustice, Oppression and Slavery were the Common
People kept under? Some great Lords scarce affording to some of
their Servants,Tenants or Peasants, so good meat, or so much rest, as
to their Dogs and Horses. It was long since warned in Parliament by a
Privy Councellor to the late King,That we should take heed, lest by losing
our Parliaments, it would be with us, as with the Common people in
a Monarchy, where they are contented with Canvas clothing, and Wooden
shoes, and look more like Ghosts than Men. This was intended for the
fate of England, had our Monarch prevailed over us.To bring this to
pass, their Beasts of Forrests must grow fat, by devouring the poor
man’s Corn; for want of which, he, and his Wife and Children must
make many a hungry Meal. A Tradesman furnishing a great man with
most part of his Stock; or a Creditor with Money, and expecting due satisfaction and payment, is answered with ill words, or blows, and
the dear-bought Learning,That Lords’ and Kings’ servants are priviledged
from Arrests and Process of Law.Thus many poor Creditors and
their Families, have perished in the Injustice and prodigality of their
A poor Waterman, with his Boat or Barge; a poor Countreyman
with his Teem and Horses, and others of other callings,must serve the
King for the King’s pay; which (if they can get) is not enough to finde
themselves bread, when their wives and children have nothing, but
the husbands’ labor to provide for them also.
For that one Exaction of the Court, called Purveyance (about which
our Ancestors made so many good and sharp Laws; yet none of them
could be kept) it hath been lately computed to cost the Countrey more
in one year, than their Assessments to the Army.
These are some of those generally observed, and more publike
exactions, which were obvious not to the understanding only, but to
the sence of the many grieved sufferers; but if the vast expence of
the Court in ways of luxury and prodigality be considered; As on the
one side by a standing ill ordered diet: for a number of drones and
unprofitable burthens of the Earth, by chargeable Feasts; and vainglorious
Masques and Plays (their Sabbath days’ exercise or preparations)
together with the other (less sinful, but no less) chargeable
provisions for Sports and Recreations; for which thousands of Acres,
scores of Miles, and great parts of whole Counties have been separated
from a much better and publike improvement.
On the other side, by those profuse donations of yearly sallaries and
pensions granted to such as were found, or might be made fit instruments
and promoters of Tyranny; or else such as had relation to the
King in native or personal respects. In which latter kind may be shewed
accompts of above fifty thousand pounds per an. that was paid out of
the Exchequer to Favorites of the Scotish Nation; besides the secret supplies from the privy purse & otherwise, best known to the Receivers
(which may perhaps be one reason why they are so zealous to
uphold the Kingly power in this Nation, whereof the King was their
He that observes so many hundreds of thousands communibus annis
expended in those ways, and shall know that the legal justifiable Revenue
of the Crown (besides the customs and some other perquisites
charged with the maintenance of the Navy and Forts) fell short of
One hundred thousand pounds, might justly wonder what secret underground
supplies fed those streams of vanity and mischief; were it
not as notorious, that the Projects, Monopolies, sales of Offices, Bribes,
Compositions for breach of penal Laws, and the like ways of draining
the people’s purses as wickedly got, so were only fit thus to be imployed.
By occasion whereof, the Court arrived at that unhappy
height, as to be the great nursery of luxury and intemperance, the corrupters
of the maners and dispositions of many otherwise hopeful
Branches, sprung from the noblest Families, and an universal perverter
of Religion and goodness therein, making good the Proverb, Ex eat
Aula qui vult esse pius.
In a Free State, these, and multitude of the like grievances and mischiefs
will be prevented; the scituation and advantages of this Land,
both for Trade abroad, and Manufactures at home, will be better understood,
when the dangers of Projects, Monopolies, and obstructions
thereof, are together with the Court, the Fountain of them removed,
and a Free Trade, with incouragement of Manufacturies, and provision
for poor be setled by the Common-wealth, whereunto the same is most
agreeable; and which the former Government had never yet leasure
effectually to do.
Upon all these before mentioned, and many other weighty considerations,
The Representatives of the People now Assembled in Parliament,
have judged it necessary to change the Government of this Nation from the former Monarchy, (unto which by many injurious
incroachments it had arrived) into a Republique, and not to have any
more a King to tyrannize over them.
In Order hereunto, and for the better settlement of this Commonwealth,
it being found of great inconvenience, That the House of
Lords (sitting in a Body by themselves, and called by Writ to treat and
advise, yet) in the making of Laws, and other great Affairs, should
any longer exercise a Negative Vote over the people, whom they did
not at all represent; And likewise, a Judicial power over the Persons
and Estates of all the Commons, whereof they are not competent Judges;
and that their power and greatness did chiefly depend upon the power
and absoluteness of a King, whereunto they had lately expressed a
And it being most evident,That (especially in these times of Exigency)
neither the Government of Republique, nor the common safety
could bear the Delays and Negatives of a House of Lords, It was therefore
thought necessary, wholly to Abolish and take the same away.
Leaving nevertheless unto those Lords, who have been, and shall
be faithful to the Commonwealth, the same priviledge of choosing, and
being chosen Representative of the People, as other persons of Interest
and good affections to the Publique have Right unto; and which is
not improbable to have been the way of our Ancestors, when both
Lords and Commons formerly sat together.
But an Objection is frequently made, concerning the Declaration of
the Houses, of April, 1646, for Governing the Kingdom by King,
Lords and Commons, and other Declarations for making him a great
and happy Prince.
It was fully then their intent, being at that time confident, That
the King’s ill Councel once removed from him, he would have conformed
himself to the desires of his People in Parliament, and the Peers
who remained with the Parliament, would have been a great cause of
his so doing. But finding, after seven fruitless Addresses made unto him, that he yet both lived and died in the obstinate maintenance of
his usurped Tyranny, and refused to accept of what the Parliament
had declared. And to the upholding of this Tyranny, the Lords were
all obliged, in regard of their own Interest in Peerage; whereby they
assumed to themselves an exorbitant Power, of Exemption from paying
of their just Debts, and answering Suits in Law; besides an Hereditary
Judicatory over the People, tending to their Slavery and Oppression,
The Commons were constrained to change their former
Resolutions, finding themselves thus frustrated in their Hopes and
Intentions so declared.Which change being for the good of the Commonwealth,
no Commoner of England can justly repine at. Neither
could the King or Lords take any advantage thereof, because they
never consented thereto; and where no Contract is made, there none
can be said to be broken. And no Contract is truly made, but where
there is a Stipulation on both sides, and one thing to be rendered for
another; which not being in this case, but refused, the Commons were
no ways tied to maintain that Declaration; to the performance of
which, they were not bound by any Compact or acceptance of the
other part, and to the alteration whereof, so many Reasons for the
preservation of the People’s Liberties did so necessarily and fully
Another Objection is,That these great Matters ought (if at all) to
be determined in a full House, and not when many Members of Parliament
are by force excluded, and the Priviledge so highly broken,
and those who are permitted to sit in Parliament, do but Act under a
force, and upon their good behavior.
To this is answered,That every Parliament ought to Act upon their
good behavior; and few have Acted, but some kinde of force hath at
one time or other been upon them; and most of them under the force
of Tyrannical Will, and fear of ruine by displeasure thereof; some
under the force of several Factions or Titles to the Crown. Yet the
Laws made, even by such Parliaments, have continued, and been received and beneficial to succeeding Ages. All which, and whatsoever
hath been done by this Parliament, since some of their Members deserted
them, and the late King raised Forces against them, and several
Disorders and Affronts formerly offered to them (if this Objection
take place) are wholly vacated.
For any breach of Priviledge of Parliament, it will not be charged
upon the remaining part, or to have been within their power of prevention
or reparation; or that they have not enjoyed the freedom of
their own persons and Votes, and are undoubtedly by the Law of Parliaments,
far exceeding that number which makes a House, authorized
for the dispatch of any business whatsoever. And that which at present
is called a Force upon them, is some of their best Friends, called
and appointed by the Parliament for their safety, and for the guard of
them against their Enemies; who by this means being disappointed
of their Hopes to destroy the Parliament, would nevertheless scandalize
their Actions, as done under a force, who, in truth, are no other,
than their own Guards of their own Army, by themselves appointed.
And when it fell into Consideration,Whether the Priviledge of Parliament,
or the Safety of the Kingdom, should be preferred, it is not
hard to judge which ought to sway the Ballance; And that the Parliament
should pass by the breach of Priviledge (as had been formerly
often done upon much smaller grounds) rather than by a sullen declining
their Duty and Trust, to resign up all to the apparent hazard
of Ruine and Confusion to the Nation.
There remains yet this last and weighty Objection to be fully answered,
That the Courts of Justice, and the good old Laws and Customs
of England, the Badges of our Freedom (the benefit whereof our
Ancestors enjoyed long before the Conquest, and spent much of their
blood, to have confirmed by the Great Charter of the Liberties, and
other excellent Laws which have continued in all former changes,
and being duly executed, are the most just, free, and equal of any other Laws in the world, will by the present alteration of Government
be taken away, and lost to us and our posterities.
To this, they hope some satisfaction is already given by the shorter
Declaration lately published;7 and by the Real Demonstrations to the
contrary of this Objection by the earnest care of the Parliament,That
the Courts of Justice at Westminster should be supplied the last Term;
and all the Circuits of England this vacation, with learned and worthy
Judges; that the known Laws of the Land, and the Administration of
them, might appear to be continued.
They are very sensible of the excellency and equality of the Laws of
England being duly executed; of their great Antiquity, even from before
the time of the Norman slavery forced upon us; of the Liberty,
and property, and peace of the Subject, so fully preserved by them; and
(which falls out happily, and as an increase of God’s mercy to us) of the
clear Consistency of them, with the present Government of a Republique,
upon some easie alterations of Form only, leaving intire the
Substance; the name of King being used in them for Form only, but
no power of personal Administration or Judgement allowed to him in
the smallest matter contended for.
They know their own Authority to be by the Law, to which the
people have assented; and besides their particular Interests, (which
are not inconsiderable) they more intend the Common Interest of
those whom they serve, and clearly understand the same, not possible
to be preserved without the Laws and Government of the Nation;
and that if those should be taken away, all industry must cease, all
misery, blood, and confusion would follow, and greater calamities, if
possible, than fell upon us by the late King’s misgovernment, would
certainly involve all persons, under which they must inevitably perish.
These Arguments are sufficient to perswade all men to be well contented
to submit their lives and fortunes, to those just and long approved
Rules of Law, with which they are already so fully acquainted,
and not to believe, That the Parliament intends the abrogation of
But to continue and maintain the Laws and Government of the
Nation, with the present alterations; and with such further alterations
as the Parliament shall judge fit to be made, for the due Reformation
thereof, for the taking away of corruptions, and abuses, delays, vexations,
unnecessary travel and expences, and whatsoever shall be found
really burthensome and grievous to the people.
The sum of all the Parliament’s design and endeavor in the present
change of Government, from Tyranny to a Free State; and which they
intend not only to declare in words, but really and speedily endeavor
to bring to effect, is this;
To prevent a new War, and further expence and effusion of the
Treasure and Blood of England; and to establish a firm and safe peace,
and an oblivion of all Rancor, and ill will occasioned by the late troubles;
to provide for the due Worship of God, according to his Word,
the advancement of the true Protestant Religion, and for the liberal
and certain maintenance of Godly Ministers; to procure a just Liberty
for the Consciences, Persons, and Estates, of all Men, conformable
to God’s Glory and their own Peace; to endeavour vigorously the
Punishment of the cruel Murderers in Ireland, and the restoring of
the honest Protestants, and this Commonwealth, to their Rights
there, and the full Satisfaction of all Engagements for this Work; to
provide for the settling and just observing of Treaties and Alliances
with foreign Princes and States, for the Encouragement of Manufactures,
for the Increase and Flourishing of Trades at home, and the
Maintenance of the Poor in all Places of the Land; to take Care for
the due Reformation and Administration of the Law and public Justice, that the Evil may be punished, and the Good rewarded; to order
the Revenue in such a Way, that the public Charges may be defrayed,
the Soldiers’ Pay justly and duly settled, that Free-quarter may be
wholly taken away, the People be eased in their Burdens and Taxes,
and the Debts of the Commonwealth be justly satisfied; to remove
all Grievances and Oppressions of the People, and to establish Peace
and Righteousness in the Land.
These being their only Ends, they cannot doubt of, and humbly
pray to the Almighty Power for, his Assistance and Blessing upon
their mean Endeavours; wherein as they have not envied or intermedled,
nor do intend at all to intermedled, with the Affairs of Government
of any other Kingdom or State, or to give any Offence or
just Provocation to their Neighbours, with whom they desire intirely
to preserve all fair Correspondence and Amity, if they please; and
confine themselves to the proper Work, the managing of the Affairs,
and ordering the Government of this Commonwealth, and Matters
in order thereunto, with which they are intrusted and authorized by
the Consent of all the People thereof, whose Representatives, by
Elections, they are. So they do presume upon the like fair and equal
Dealing from abroad; and that they, who are not concerned, will not
interpose in the Affairs of England, who doth not interpose in theirs.
And in case of any Injury, they doubt not but, by the Courage and
Power of the English Nation, and the good Blessing of God, (who
hath hitherto miraculously owned the Justness of their Cause, and,
they hope, will continue to do the same) they shall be sufficiently enabled
to make their full Defence, and to maintain their own Rights.
And they do expect from all true-hearted Englishmen, not only a
Forbearance of any public or secret Plots or Endeavours, in Opposition
to the present Settlement, and thereby to kindle new Flames of
War and Misery amongst us, whereof themselves must have a Share;
but a chearful Concurrence and acting for the Establishment of the great Work now in Hand, in such a Way, that the Name of God may
be honoured, the true Protestant Religion advanced, and the People
of this Land enjoy the Blessings of Peace, Freedom, and Justice to
them and their Posterities.
1. Among the charges presented to the House of Commons against the Duke of Buckingham
was the allegation he had hastened the death of James I.There was even some hint that
Charles himself may have been implicated in this deed.
2. English military expeditions in 1627 and 1628 led by Charles’s favorite, the Duke of Buckingham,
to help the Protestants of La Rochelle and the Isle of Rhé ended in disaster and humiliation.
3. In 1628 Charles allocated scarce funds to levy a thousand mercenary cavalrymen in Germany
and the Low Countries to be brought to England for his service. He later explained that
these men were intended to be sent to help the King of Denmark.The troops were never raised
but there were grave suspicions about his real aim in planning to bring the mercenaries to England.
4. This apparently refers to the administration of Thomas Wentworth, Earl of Strafford,
which, according to S. R. Gardiner, “seemed liable to no rule, and broke in upon the ancient
traditions and the fixed if disorderly habits of the population with all the caprice and violence
of the powers of nature.” S.R. Gardiner, The First Two Stuarts and the Puritan Revolution (rpt.,
New York, 1970), 105.
5. This is a reference to the Irish rebellion that began in October 1641 with the massacre, it
was then believed, of some 40,000 Protestants living in Ireland.
6. This is probably a reference to “A Declaration of the Commons in Parliament expressing
their Reasons for the Adnulling of these ensuing Votes [i.e. the Ordinances of the 8th and
30 June 1648, abandoning the proceedings against the eleven impeached Members, and of the
17 August, ordering the negotiations for the Newport Treaty]” (London, January 1648–49),
Wing E 2560.
7. The declaration referred to is probably “A Declaration of the Parliament of England, in
Answer to the Late Letters” (London, 22 February 1648/49),Wing E1501.