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1648/9: The Agreement of the People

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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: 81.: The Agreement of the People.

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81. The Agreement of the People.

[January 151 , 1648/9. Old Parliamentary History, xviii. 519. See Great Civil War, iv. 295.]

An Agreement of the People of England, and the places therewith incorporated, for a secure and present peace, upon grounds of common right, freedom and safety.

Having, by our late labours and hazards, made it appear to the world at how high a rate we value our just freedom, and God having so far owned our cause as to deliver the enemies thereof into our hands, we do now hold ourselves bound, in mutual duty to each other, to take the best care we can for the future, to avoid both the danger of returning into a slavish condition and the chargeable remedy of another war: for as it cannot be imagined that so many of our countrymen would have opposed us in this quarrel if they had understood their own good, so may we hopefully promise to ourselves, that when our common rights and liberties shall be cleared, their endeavours will be disappointed that seek to make themselves our masters. Since therefore our former oppressions and not-yet-ended troubles have been occasioned either by want of frequent national meetings in council, or by the undue or unequal constitution thereof, or by rendering those meetings ineffectual, we are fully agreed and resolved, God willing, to provide, that hereafter our Representatives be neither left to an uncertainty for times nor be unequally constituted, nor made useless to the ends for which they are intended. In order whereunto we declare and agree,

First, that, to prevent the many inconveniences apparently arising from the long continuance of the same persons in supreme authority, this present Parliament end and dissolve upon, or before, the last day of April, 1649.

Secondly, that the people of England (being at this day very unequally distributed by counties, cities, and boroughs, for the election of their Representatives) be indifferently proportioned; and, to this end, that the Representative of the whole nation shall consist of 400 persons, or not above; and in each county, and the places thereto subjoined, there shall be chosen, to make up the said Representative at all times, the several numbers here mentioned, viz.

KENT, with the Boroughs, Towns, and Parishes therein, except such as are hereunder particularly named 10
Canterbury, with the Suburbs adjoining and Liberties thereof 2
Rochester, with the Parishes of Chatham and Stroud 1
The Cinque Ports in Kent and Sussex, viz. Dover, Romney, Hythe, Sandwich, Hastings, with the Towns of Rye and Winchelsea 3
SUSSEX, with the Boroughs, Towns, and Parishes therein, except Chichester 8
Chichester, with the Suburbs and Liberties thereof 1
SOUTHAMPTON COUNTY, with the Boroughs, Towns, and Parishes therein, except such as are hereunder named 8
Winchester, with the Suburbs and Liberties thereof 1
Southampton Town and the County thereof 1
DORSETSHIRE, with the Boroughs, Towns, and Parishes therein, except Dorchester 7
Dorchester 1
DEVONSHIRE, with the Boroughs, Towns, and Parishes therein, except such as are hereunder particularly named 12
Exeter 2
Plymouth 2
Barnstaple 1
CORNWALL, with the Boroughs, Towns, and Parishes therein 8
SOMERSETSHIRE, with the Boroughs, Towns, and Parishes therein, except such as are hereunder named 8
Bristol 3
Taunton-Dean 1
WILTSHIRE, with the Boroughs, Towns, and Parishes therein, except Salisbury 7
Salisbury 1
BERKSHIRE, with the Boroughs, Towns, and Parishes therein, except Reading 5
Reading 1
SURREY, with the Boroughs, Towns, and Parishes therein, except Southwark 5
Southwark 2
MIDDLESEX, with the Boroughs, Towns, and Parishes therein, except such as are hereunder named 4
London 8
Westminster and the Duchy 2
HERTFORDSHIRE, with the Boroughs, Towns, and Parishes therein 6
BUCKINGHAMSHIRE, with the Boroughs, Towns, and Parishes therein 6
OXFORDSHIRE, with the Boroughs, Towns, and Parishes therein, except such as are hereunder named 4
Oxford City 2
Oxford University 2
GLOUCESTERSHIRE, with the Boroughs, Towns, and Parishes therein, except Gloucester 7
Gloucester 2
HEREFORDSHIRE, with the Boroughs, Towns, and Parishes therein, except Hereford 4
Hereford 1
WORCESTERSHIRE, with the Boroughs, Towns, and Parishes therein, except Worcester 4
Worcester 2
WARWICKSHIRE, with the Boroughs, Towns, and Parishes therein, except Coventry 5
Coventry 2
NORTHAMPTONSHIRE, with the Boroughs, Towns, and Parishes therein, except Northampton 5
Northampton 1
BEDFORDSHIRE, with the Boroughs, Towns, and Parishes therein, 4
CAMBRIDGESHIRE, with the Boroughs, Towns, and Parishes therein, except such as are hereunder particularly named 4
Cambridge University 2
Cambridge Town 2
ESSEX, with the Boroughs, Towns, and Parishes therein, except Colchester 11
Colchester 2
SUFFOLK, with the Boroughs, Towns, and Parishes therein, except such as are hereafter named 10
Ipswich 2
St. Edmund’s Bury 1
NORFOLK, with the Boroughs, Towns, and Parishes therein, except such as are hereunder named 9
Norwich 3
Lynn 1
Yarmouth 1
LINCOLNSHIRE, with the Boroughs, Towns, and Parishes therein, except the City of Lincoln and the Town of Boston 11
Lincoln 1
Boston 1
RUTLANDSHIRE, with the Boroughs, Towns, and Parishes therein 1
HUNTINGDONSHIRE, with the Boroughs, Towns, and Parishes therein 3
LEICESTERSHIRE, with the Boroughs, Towns, and Parishes therein, except Leicester 5
Leicester 1
NOTTINGHAMSHIRE, with the Boroughs, Towns, and Parishes therein, except Nottingham 4
Nottingham 1
DERBYSHIRE, with the Boroughs, Towns, and Parishes therein, except Derby 5
Derby 1
STAFFORDSHIRE, with the City of Lichfield, the Boroughs, Towns, and Parishes therein 6
SHROPSHIRE, with the Boroughs, Towns, and Parishes therein, except Shrewsbury 6
Shrewsbury 1
CHESHIRE, with the Boroughs, Towns, and Parishes therein, except Chester 5
Chester 2
LANCASHIRE, with the Boroughs, Towns, and Parishes therein, except Manchester 6
Manchester and the Parish 1
YORKSHIRE, with the Boroughs, Towns, and Parishes therein, except such as are hereafter named 15
York City and the County thereof 3
Kingston upon Hull and the County thereof 1
Leeds Town and Parish 1
DURHAM COUNTY PALATINE, with the Boroughs, Towns, and Parishes therein, except Durham and Gateside 3
Durham City 1
NORTHUMBERLAND, with the Boroughs, Towns, and Parishes therein, except such as are hereunder named 3
Newcastle upon Tyne and the County thereof, with Gateside 2
Berwick 1
CUMBERLAND, with the Boroughs, Towns, and Parishes therein 3
WESTMORELAND, with the Boroughs, Towns, and Parishes therein 2
WALES.
ANGLESEA, with the Parishes therein 2
BRECKNOCK, with the Boroughs and Parishes therein 3
CARDIGAN, with the Boroughs and Parishes therein 3
CARMARTHEN, with the Boroughs and Parishes therein 3
CARNARVON, with the Boroughs and Parishes therein 2
DENBIGH, with the Boroughs and Parishes therein 2
FLINT, with the Boroughs and Parishes therein 1
MONMOUTH, with the Boroughs and Parishes therein 4
GLAMORGAN, with the Boroughs and Parishes therein 4
MERIONETH, with the Boroughs and Parishes therein 2
MONTGOMERY, with the Boroughs and Parishes therein 3
RADNOR, with the Boroughs and Parishes therein 2
PEMBROKE, with the Boroughs, Towns, and Parishes therein 4

Provided, that the first or second Representative may, if they see cause, assign the remainder of the 400 representers, not hereby assigned, or so many of them as they shall see cause for, unto such counties as shall appear in this present distribution to have less than their due proportion. Provided also, that where any city or borough, to which one representer or more is assigned, shall be found in a due proportion not competent alone to elect a representer, or the number of representers assigned thereto, it is left to future Representatives to assign such a number of parishes or villages near adjoining to such city or borough, to be joined therewith in the elections, or may make the same proportionable.

Thirdly. That the people do, of course, choose themselves a Representative once in two years, and shall meet for that purpose upon the first Thursday in every second May, by eleven in the morning; and the Representatives so chosen to meet upon the second Thursday in the June following, at the usual place in Westminster, or such other place as, by the foregoing Representative, or the Council of State in the interval, shall be, from time to time, appointed and published to the people, at the least twenty days before the time of election: and to continue their sessions there, or elsewhere, until the second Thursday in December following, unless they shall adjourn or dissolve themselves sooner; but not to continue longer. The election of the first Representative to be on the first Thursday in May, 1649; and that, and all future elections, to be according to the rules prescribed for the same purpose in this Agreement, viz. 1. That the electors in every division shall be natives or denizens of England; not persons receiving alms, but such as are assessed ordinarily towards the relief of the poor; no servants to, and receiving wages from, any particular person; and in all elections, except for the Universities, they shall be men of twenty-one years of age, or upwards, and housekeepers, dwelling within the division for which the election is: provided, that (until the end of seven years next ensuing the time herein limited for the end of this present Parliament) no person shall be admitted to, or have any hand or voice in, such elections, who hath adhered unto or assisted the King against the Parliament in any of the late wars or insurrections; or who shall make or join in, or abet, any forcible opposition against this Agreement. 2. That such persons, and such only, may be elected to be of the Representative, who, by the rule aforesaid, are to have voice in elections in one place or other. Provided, that of those none shall be eligible for the first or second Representative, who have not voluntarily assisted the Parliament against the King, either in person before the 14th of June, 1645, or else in money, plate, horse, or arms, lent upon the Propositions, before the end of May, 1643; or who have joined in, or abetted, the treasonable engagement in London, in 1647; or who declared or engaged themselves for a cessation of arms with the Scots that invaded this nation the last summer; or for compliance with the actors in any insurrections of the same summer; or with the Prince of Wales, or his accomplices, in the revolted fleet. Provided also, that such persons as, by the rules in the preceding Article, are not capable of electing until the end of seven years, shall not be capable to be elected until the end of fourteen years next ensuing. And we desire and recommend it to all men, that, in all times, the persons to be chosen for this great trust may be men of courage, fearing God and hating covetousness; and that our Representatives would make the best provisions for that end. 3. That whoever, by the rules in the two preceding Articles, are incapable of electing, or to be elected, shall presume to vote in, or be present at, such election for the first or second Representative; or, being elected, shall presume to sit or vote in either of the said Representatives, shall incur the pain of confiscation of the moiety of his estate, to the use of the public, in case he have any visible estate to the value of £50, and if he has not such an estate, then shall incur the pain of imprisonment for three months. And if any person shall forcibly oppose, molest or hinder the people, capable of electing as aforesaid, in their quiet and free election of representers, for the first Representative, then each person so offending shall incur the penalty of confiscation of his whole estate, both real and personal; and, if he has not an estate to the value of £50, shall suffer imprisonment during one whole year without bail or mainprize. Provided, that the offender in each such case be convicted within three months next after the committing of his offence, and the first Representative is to make further provision for the avoiding of these evils in future elections. 4. That to the end all officers of state may be certainly accountable, and no faction made to maintain corrupt interests, no member of a Council of State, nor any officer of any salary-forces in army or garrison, nor any treasurer or receiver of public money, shall, while such, be elected to be of a Representative: and in case any such election shall be, the same to be void. And in case any lawyer shall be chosen into any Representative or Council of State, then he shall be incapable of practice as a lawyer during that trust. 5. For the more convenient election of Representatives, each county, wherein more than three representers are to be chosen, with the town corporate and cities, if there be any, lying within the compass thereof, to which no representers are herein assigned, shall be divided by a due proportion into so many, and such parts, as each part may elect two, and no part above three representers. For the setting forth of which divisions, and the ascertaining of other circumstances hereafter expressed, so as to make the elections less subject to confusion or mistake, in order to the next Representative, Thomas Lord Grey of Groby, Sir John Danvers, Sir Henry Holcroft, knights; Moses Wall, gentleman; Samuel Moyer, John Langley, Wm. Hawkins, Abraham Babington, Daniel Taylor, Mark Hilsley, Rd. Price, and Col. John White, citizens of London, or any five or more of them, are intrusted to nominate and appoint, under their hands and seals, three or more fit persons in each county, and in each city and borough, to which one representer or more is assigned, to be as Commissioners for the ends aforesaid, in the respective counties, cities and boroughs; and, by like writing under their hands and seals, shall certify into the Parliament Records, before the 11th of February next, the names of the Commissioners so appointed for the respective counties, cities and boroughs, which Commissioners, or any three or more of them, for the respective counties, cities and boroughs, shall before the end of February next, by writing under their hands and seals, appoint two fit and faithful persons, or more, in each hundred, lathe or wapentake, within the respective counties, and in each ward within the City of London, to take care for the orderly taking of all voluntary subscriptions to this Agreement, by fit persons to be employed for that purpose in every parish; who are to return the subscription so taken to the persons that employed them, keeping a transcript thereof to themselves; and those persons, keeping like transcripts, to return the original subscriptions to the respective Commissioners by whom they were appointed, at, or before, the 14th day of April next, to be registered and kept in the chief court within the respective cities and boroughs. And the said Commissioners, or any three or more of them, for the several counties, cities and boroughs, respectively, shall, where more than three representers are to be chosen, divide such counties, as also the City of London, into so many, and such parts as are aforementioned, and shall set forth the bounds of such divisions; and shall, in every county, city and borough, where any representers are to be chosen, and in every such division as aforesaid within the City of London, and within the several counties so divided, respectively, appoint one place certain wherein the people shall meet for the choice of the representers; and some one fit person, or more, inhabiting within each borough, city, county or division, respectively, to be present at the time and place of election, in the nature of Sheriffs, to regulate the elections; and by poll, or otherwise, clearly to distinguish and judge thereof, and to make return of the person or persons elected, as is hereafter expressed; and shall likewise, in writing under their hands and seals, make certificates of the several divisions, with the bounds thereof, by them set forth, and of the certain places of meeting, and persons, in the nature of Sheriff, appointed in them respectively as aforesaid; and cause such certificates to be returned into the Parliament Records before the end of April next; and before that time shall also cause the same to be published in every parish within the counties, cities and boroughs respectively; and shall in every such parish likewise nominate and appoint, by warrant under their hands and seals, one trusty person, or more, inhabiting therein, to make a true list of all the persons within their respective parishes, who, according to the rules aforegoing, are to have voice in the elections; and expressing who amongst them are, by the same rules, capable of being elected; and such list, with the said warrant, to bring in and return, at the time and place of election, unto the person appointed in the nature of Sheriff, as aforesaid, for that borough, city, county or division respectively; which person so appointed as Sheriff, being present at the time and place of election; or, in case of his absence, by the space of one hour after the time limited for the peoples’ meeting, then any person present that is eligible, as aforesaid, whom the people then and there assembled shall choose for that end, shall receive and keep the said lists and admit the persons therein contained, or so many of them as are present, unto a free vote in the said election; and, having first caused this Agreement to be publicly read in the audience of the people, shall proceed unto, and regulate and keep peace and order in the elections; and, by poll or otherwise, openly distinguish and judge of the same; and thereof, by certificate or writing under the hands and seals of himself, and six or more of the electors, nominating the person or persons duly elected, shall make a true return into the Parliament Records within twenty-one days after the election, under pain for default thereof, or, for making any false return, to forfeit £100 to the public use; and also cause indentures to be made, and unchangeably sealed and delivered, between himself and six or more of the said electors, on the one part, and the persons, or each person, elected severally, on the other part, expressing their election of him as a representer of them according to this Agreement, and his acceptance of that trust, and his promise accordingly to perform the same with faithfulness, to the best of his understanding and ability, for the glory of God and good of the people. This course is to hold for the first Representative, which is to provide for the ascertaining of these circumstances in order to future Representatives.

Fourthly. That 150 members at least be always present in each sitting of the Representative, at the passing of any law or doing of any act whereby the people are to be bound; saving, that the number of sixty may make a House for debates or resolutions that are preparatory thereunto.

Fifthly. That the Representative shall, within twenty days after their first meeting, appoint a Council of State for the managing of public affairs, until the tenth day after the meeting of the next Representative, unless that next Representative think fit to put an end to that trust sooner. And the same Council to act and proceed therein, according to such instructions and limitations as the Representative shall give, and not otherwise.

Sixthly. That in each interval between biennial Representatives, the Council of State, in case of imminent danger or extreme necessity, may summon a Representative to be forthwith chosen, and to meet; so as the Session thereof continue not above eighty days; and so as it dissolve at least fifty days before the appointed time for the next biennial Representative; and upon the fiftieth day so preceding it shall dissolve of course, if not otherwise dissolved sooner.

Seventhly. That no member of any Representative be made either receiver, treasurer, or other officer, during that employment, saving to be a member of the Council of State.

Eightly. That the Representatives have, and shall be understood to have, the supreme trust in order to the preservation and government of the whole; and that their power extend, without the consent or concurrence of any other person or persons, to the erecting and abolishing of Courts of Justice and public offices, and to the enacting, altering, repealing and declaring of laws, and the highest and final judgment, concerning all natural or civil things, but not concerning things spiritual or evangelical. Provided that, even in things natural and civil, these six particulars next following are, and shall be, understood to be excepted and reserved from our Representatives, viz. 1. We do not empower them to impress or constrain any person to serve in foreign war, either by sea or land, nor for any military service within the kingdom; save that they may take order for the forming, training, and exercising of the people in a military way, to be in readiness for resisting of foreign invasions, suppressing of sudden insurrections, or for assisting in execution of the laws; and may take order for the employing and conducting of them for those ends; provided, that, even in such cases, none be compellable to go out of the county he lives in, if he procure another to serve in his room. 2. That, after the time herein limited for the commencement of the first Representative, none of the people may be at any time questioned for any thing said or done in relation to the late wars or public differences, otherwise than in execution or pursuance of the determinations of the present House of Commons, against such as have adhered to the King, or his interest, against the people; and saving that accomptants for public moneys received, shall remain accountable for the same. 3. That no securities given, or to be given, by the public faith of the nation, nor any engagements of the public faith for satisfaction of debts and damages, shall be made void or invalid by the next or any future Representatives; except to such creditors as have, or shall have, justly forfeited the same: and saving, that the next Representative may confirm or make null, in part or in whole, all gifts of lands, moneys, offices, or otherwise, made by the present Parliament to any member or attendant of either House. 4. That, in any laws hereafter to be made, no person, by virtue of any tenure, grant, charter, patent, degree or birth, shall be privileged from subjection thereto, or from being bound thereby, as well as others. 5. That the Representative may not give judgment upon any man’s person or estate, where no law hath before provided; save only in calling to account and punishing public officers for abusing or failing in their trust. 6. That no Representative may in any wise render up, or give, or take away, any of the foundations of common right, liberty, and safety contained in this Agreement, nor level men’s estates, destroy property, or make all things common; and that, in all matters of such fundamental concernment, there shall be a liberty to particular members of the said Representatives to enter their dissents from the major vote.

Ninthly. Concerning religion, we agree as followeth:—1. It is intended that the Christian Religion be held forth and recommended as the public profession in this nation, which we desire may, by the grace of God, be reformed to the greatest purity in doctrine, worship and discipline, according to the Word of God; the instructing the people thereunto in a public way, so it be not compulsive; as also the maintaining of able teachers for that end, and for the confutation or discovering of heresy, error, and whatsoever is contrary to sound doctrine, is allowed to be provided for by our Representatives; the maintenance of which teachers may be out of a public treasury, and, we desire, not by tithes: provided, that Popery or Prelacy be not held forth as the public way or profession in this nation. 2. That, to the public profession so held forth, none be compelled by penalties or otherwise; but only may be endeavoured to be won by sound doctrine, and the example of a good conversation. 3. That such as profess faith in God by Jesus Christ, however differing in judgment from the doctrine, worship or discipline publicly held forth, as aforesaid, shall not be restrained from, but shall be protected in, the profession of their faith and exercise of religion, according to their consciences, in any place except such as shall be set apart for the public worship; where we provide not for them, unless they have leave, so as they abuse not this liberty to the civil injury of others, or to actual disturbance of the public peace on their parts. Nevertheless, it is not intended to be hereby provided, that this liberty shall necessarily extend to Popery or Prelacy. 4. That all laws, ordinances, statutes, and clauses in any law, statute, or ordinance to the contrary of the liberty herein provided for, in the two particulars next preceding concerning religion, be, and are hereby, repealed and made void.

Tenthly. It is agreed, that whosoever shall, by force of arms, resist the orders of the next or any future Representative (except in case where such Representative shall evidently render up, or give, or take away the foundations of common right, liberty, and safety, contained in this Agreement), he shall forthwith, after his or their such resistance, lose the benefit and protection of the laws, and shall be punishable with death, as an enemy and traitor to the nation. Of the things expressed in this Agreement: the certain ending of this Parliament, as in the first Article; the equal or proportionable distribution of the number of the representers to be elected, as in the second; the certainty of the people’s meeting to elect for Representatives biennial, and their freedom in elections; with the certainty of meeting, sitting and ending of Representatives so elected, which are provided for in the third Article; as also the qualifications of persons to elect or be elected, as in the first and second particulars under the third Article; also the certainty of a number for passing a law or preparatory debates, provided for in the fourth Article; the matter of the fifth Article, concerning the Council of State, and of the sixth, concerning the calling, sitting and ending of Representatives extraordinary; also the power of Representatives to be, as in the eighth Article, and limited, as in the six reserves next following the same: likewise the second and third Particulars under the ninth Article concerning religion, and the whole matter of the tenth Article; all these we do account and declare to be fundamental to our common right, liberty, and safety: and therefore do both agree thereunto, and resolve to maintain the same, as God shall enable us. The rest of the matters in this Agreement we account to be useful and good for the public; and the particular circumstances of numbers, times, and places, expressed in the several Articles, we account not fundamental; but we find them necessary to be here determined, for the making the Agreement certain and practicable, and do hold these most convenient that are here set down; and therefore do positively agree thereunto. By the appointment of his Excellency the Lord-General and his General Council of Officers.

John Rushworth, Sec.

[1 ] For the Agreement of the People as originally drawn up in October, 1647, see No. 74. It is here printed with the subsequent modifications, as presented to the House of Commons on January 20. The petition which accompanied it (Old Parl. Hist. xviii. 516) was dated January 15, and that may therefore be taken as the date when the Agreement received the final approbation of the Council of the Officers.

Last modified April 10, 2014