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Source: Samuel Rawson Gardiner, The Constitutional Documents
of the Puritan Revolution, 1625-1660, selected and edited by Samuel
Rawson Gardiner (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1906). Chapter: 35.: The
Act for the Abolition of the Court of High Commission.
Copyright: The text is in the public domain.
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35. The Act for the
Abolition of the Court of High Commission.
[July 5, 1641. 17 Car. I. cap. 11. Statutes of the Realm, v. 112. See Hist. of Engl. ix. 404.]
An Act for the repeal of a branch of a Statute primo Elizabethae, concerning Commissioners for causes ecclesiastical.
I. Whereas in the Parliament holden in the first year of the reign of the late Queen Elizabeth, late Queen of England, there was an Act made and established, entitled ‘An Act restoring to the Crown the ancient jurisdiction over the State ecclesiastical and spiritual,’ and abolishing all foreign power repugnant to the same: in which Act, amongst other things, there is contained one clause, branch, article or sentence whereby it was enacted to this effect: namely, that the said late Queen’s Highness, her heirs and successors, Kings or Queens of this realm, should have full power and authority by virtue of that Act, by Letters Patents under the Great Seal of England, to assign, name and authorise when and as often as Her Highness, her heirs or successors, should think meet and convenient, and for such and so long time as should please Her Highness, her heirs or successors, such person or persons being natural born subjects to Her Highness, her heirs or successors, as Her Majesty, her heirs or successors, should think meet to exercise, use, occupy and execute under Her Highness, her heirs and successors, all manner of jurisdictions, privileges, and preeminence in any wise touching or concerning any spiritual or ecclesiastical jurisdiction within these her realms of England and Ireland, or any other Her Highness’s dominious and countries, and to visit, reform, redress, order, correct and amend all such errors, heresies, schisms, abuses, offences, contempts and enormities whatsoever, which by any manner spiritual or ecclesiastical power, authority or jurisdiction can or may lawfully be reformed, ordered, redressed, corrected, restrained, or amended, to the pleasure of Almighty God, the increase of virtue and the conservation of the peace and unity of this realm. And that such person or persons so to be named, assigned, authorised and appointed by Her Highness, her heirs or successors, after the said Letters Patents to him or them made and delivered as aforesaid, should have full power and authority by virtue of that Act and of the said Letters Patents under Her Highness, her heirs or successors, to exercise, use and execute all the premises, according to the tenor and effect of the said Letters Patents, any matter or cause to the contrary in any wise notwithstanding; and whereas by colour of some words in the foresaid branch of the said Act, whereby Commissioners are authorised to execute their commission according to the tenor and effect of the King’s Letters Patents, and by Letters Patents grounded thereupon, the said Commissioners have, to the great and insufferable wrong and oppression of the King’s subjects, used to fine and imprison them, and to exercise other authority not belonging to ecclesiastical jurisdiction restored by that Act, and divers other great mischiefs and inconveniences have also ensued to the King’s subjects by occasion of the said branch and commissions issued thereupon, and the executions thereof: therefore for the repressing and preventing of the foresaid abuses, mischiefs and inconveniences in time to come, be it enacted by the King’s Most Excellent Majesty and the Lords and Commons in this present Parliament assembled, and by the authority of the same, that the foresaid branch, clause, article or sentence contained in the said Act, and every word, matter and thing contained in that branch, clause, article or sentence shall from henceforth be repealed, annulled, revoked, annihilated and utterly made void for ever, anything in the said Act to the contrary in any wise notwithstanding.
II. And be it also enacted by the authority aforesaid, that no Archbishop, Bishop, nor Vicar General, nor any Chancellor, Official, nor Commissary of any Archbishop, Bishop or Vicar General, nor any Ordinary whatsoever, nor any other spiritual or ecclesiastical Judge, Officer or Minister of Justice, nor any other person or persons whatsoever exercising spiritual or ecclesiastical power, authority or jurisdiction by any grant, licence or commission of the King’s Majesty, his heirs or successors, or by any power or authority derived from the King, his heirs or successors, or otherwise, shall from and after the first day of August, which shall be in the year of our Lord God one thousand six hundred forty and one, award, impose or inflict any pain, penalty, fine, amercement, imprisonment or other corporal punishment upon any of the King’s subjects for any contempt, misdemeanour, crime, offence, matter or thing whatsoever belonging to spiritual or ecclesiastical cognizance or jurisdiction, or shall ex officio, or at the instance or promotion of any other person whatsoever, urge, enforce, tender, give or minister unto any churchwarden, sidesman or other person whatsoever any corporal oath, whereby he or she shall or may be charged or obliged to make any presentment of any crime or offence, or to confess or to accuse him or herself of any crime, offence, delinquency or misdemeanour, or any neglect or thing whereby, or by reason whereof, he or she shall or may be liable or exposed to any censure, pain, penalty or punishment whatsoever, upon pain and penalty that every person who shall offend contrary to this statute shall forfeit and pay treble damages to every person thereby grieved, and the sum of £100 to him or them who shall demand and sue for the same; which said treble damages and sum of £100 shall and may be demanded and recovered by action of debt, bill or plaint in any Court of Record wherein no privilege, essoine, protection or wager of law shall be admitted or allowed to the defendant.
III. And be it further enacted, that every person who shall be once convicted of any act or offence prohibited by this statute, shall for such act or offence be from and after such conviction utterly disabled to be or continue in any office or employment in any Court of Justice whatsoever, or to exercise or execute any power, authority or jurisdiction by force of any Commission or Letters Patents of the King, his heirs or successors.
IV. And be it further enacted, that from and after the said first day of August, no new Court shall be erected, ordained or appointed within this realm of England or dominion of Wales, which shall or may have the like power, jurisdiction or authority as the said High Commission Court now hath or pretendeth to have; but that all and every such Letters Patents, Commissions and Grants made or to be made by His Majesty, his heirs or successors, and all powers and authorities granted or pretended or mentioned to be granted thereby, and all acts, sentences and decrees, to be made by virtue or colour thereof shall be utterly void and of none effect.