Donald S. Lutz,
Colonial Origins of the American Constitution: A Documentary History 
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About this Title:
A collection of eighty documents which demonstrate how local government in colonial America was the seedbed of American constitutionalism. Most of these documents, commencing with the Agreement of the Settlers at Exeter in New Hampshire, July 5, 1639, and concluding with Joseph Galloway’s Plan of Union, 1774—”the immediate precursor to the Articles of Confederation”—have never before been accessible to the general reader or available in a single volume.
The copyright to this edition, in both print and electronic forms, is held by Liberty Fund, Inc.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
Table of Contents:
Part 1: from covenant to constitution
Part 2: definition of terms
Part 3: analytic overview
Part 4: editorial decisions
[Agreement of the Settlers at Exeter in New Hampshire]
the elders or rulers oath
the oath of the people
General Laws and Liberties of New Hampshire
A Rebellious Son.
Council’s Power in Criminals.
Profaning the Lord’s Day.
Contempt of God’s Word, or Ministers.
Forcible Detaining Possession.
Conspiricie Against This Province, Etc.
Forgery of Deeds.
None to Endeavor to Corrupt Ye Officers.
Breaking Down Fences.
Unlawful Gaming in Publique Houses.
Councill’s Power in Criminals.
Prison Keeper’s Charge.
Judgmt and Execution to Stand Good Yt Were Before Ye Late Change.
general lawes. townships, c, confirmed.
Controversies of Land to Be Tried by a Jury.
Contracts to Be Paid in Specia.
Time and Place for Keeping Courts.
All Tryalls by Jury.
Constables to Clear Their Rate in the Year.
Selectmen Take Accounts.
A List of Males and Estates to Be Taken.
Bounty for Killing Woolf.
Former Laws to Stand.
Constables to Clear Their Rates Within the Year.
Penalty for Refusing to Pay.
Marshalls to Levy Fines.
Marshalls May Call for Assistance.
Where Marshals Shall Make Demands.
Fines to Be Paid Forthwith.
Near Relations Not to Vote.
No Imprisonment Before Sentence.
Legal Notice in Case of Attachment.
Ye Freemen of Each Towne to Chuse Their Officers and Make Orders for Their Townes.—Penalty for Offences.
None to Cast Ballast into the River.
Age to Make a Valid Act.
Any Member of Ye Council or Clark to Grant Attachmts, and How Attachments Are to Be Served.
Plant. or Defendt Not Apearing, to Be Nonsuited.
Ye Defendt Not Apearing, Ye Surety or Goods Attached to Stand.
No Officer to Baile Any Wthout Good Surety.
Judgment to Be Acknowledged Before 2 of Ye Counll, c.
Persons Notified Not Apearing, Ye Penalty.
Plaint. May Wthdraw His Action.
None to Pretend Great Damage to Vex His Adversary.
Actions May Be Reviewed.
Innkeepers to Sell No Strong Drinks to Children or Servants.
A Person Being 3 Mos in Town Shall Be an Inhabitant, Except.
Persons Sent From Other Towns, Ye Towns They Are Sent From to Pay the Charge.
President or Deputy to Have Casting Vote.
None to Bring in or Entertain Strangers Wthout Leave.
Constables to Warn Freemen’s Meetings to Choose Deputies.
Pay for Entry of Actions.
[Agreement Between the Settlers at New Plymouth] (The Mayflower Compact)
[The Plymouth Combination, or The Mayflower Compact]
[Plymouth Oath of Allegiance and Fidelity]
form of oath for all inhabitants
form of the oath given the governor and council at every election
[The Salem Covenant of 1629]
[Agreement of the Massachusetts Bay Company at Cambridge, England]
The true coppie of the Agreement of Cambridge, August 26. 1629.
[The Watertown Covenant of July 30, 1630]
July 30, 1630
[Massachusetts Election Agreement]
The Oath of a Freeman, or of a Man to Be Made Free
The Oath of a Freeman, or a Man to be Made Free
[The Massachusetts Agreement on the Legislature]
A General Court, holden att Boston, May 9th, 1632
Ann Agreement made by A Gennerall Conf for a mounthly meeting.
An agreement made by the whole consent and vote of the plantation made Mooneday 8th of October, 1633.
[Cambridge Agreement on a Town Council]
[Massachusetts Agreement on the Legislature]
The Oath of a Freeman
Att a Genrall Courte, holden att Boston, May 14, 1634.
the oath of a freeman
[Salem Oath for Residents]
At A Court holden att Boston, April 1th, 1634.
the oath of residents
[Watertown Agreement on Civil Officers]
August 23, 1634.
[The Enlarged Salem Covenant of 1636]
Gather my Saints together unto me that have made a Covenant with me by sacrifyce. psa. 50:5:
[Pilgrim Code of Law]
the office of the governor
the oath of the governor
the oath of a freeman
the office of an assistant
the oath of the assistants
the oath of any residing within the government
the oath of a constable
[The Massachusetts Body of Liberties]
A Coppie of the Liberties of the Massachusets Collonie in New England
liberties more peculiarlie concerning the free men.
liberties of woemen
liberties of children
liberties of servants
liberties of forreiners and strangers
off the bruite creature
[The Combination of the Inhabitants upon the Piscataqua River for Government]
[Massachusetts Bicameral Ordinance]
[Massachusetts Ordinance on the Legislature]
The Laws and Liberties of Massachusetts
The Book of the General Lawes and Libertyes Concerning the Inhabitants of the Massachusets Collected Out of the Records of the General Court for the Several Years Wherein They Were Made and Established,
to our beloved brethren and neighbours
deputies for the generall court.
in-keepers, tippling, drunkenes.
suits, vexatious suits.
[Massachusetts Ordinance on Legislative Procedure]
[Towns of Wells, Gorgiana, and Piscataqua Form an Independent Government]
[The Cambridge Agreement of October 4, 1652]
At a Genrall meeting of the Towne ye 4th (10) 1652.
[Puritan] Laws and Liberties
the oath of a ffreeman.
the office of the gour:
the oath of the gour:
the office of ann assistant.
the oath of an assistant.
the oath of the treasurer.
the oath of a grandjuryman.
the oath of the clarke of the court.
[An Act of the General Court]
concerning our liberties
concerning our duties of allegiance to our sovereign lord, the king
[Government of Pocasset]
The 7th day of the first month, 1638
The 7th of the first month, 1638.
Pocasset. On the 28th of the 2d [month], 1639
[The Government of Portsmouth]
Aprill the 30th, 1639
Plantation Agreement at Providence
Report of Arbitrators at Providence, containing proposals for a form of government Providence the 27th of the 5th mo. in the yeare (so called) 1640.
[Organization of the Government of Rhode Island]
The Generall Court of Election began and held at Portsmouth, from the 16th of March, to the 19th of the same mo., 1641.
Acts and Orders of 1647
Acts and Orders
the engagement of the officers
for the province of providence.
touching the common law.
Adulterie and Fornication.
Touching Liars and Perjured Persons.
Breach of Covenant.
touching the generall recorder.
touching the publick treasurer.
touching the generall sargant.
touching the inquest for tryars.
Charter of Providence
Charter of Providence
[General Assembly of Rhode Island Is Divided into Two Houses]
Plantation Covenant at Quinnipiack
Fundamental Orders of Connecticut
Structure of Town Governments
Fundamental Articles of New Haven
[Connecticut Oath of Fidelity]
An Oath for Paqua’ and the Plantations There:
Capitall Lawes of Connecticut, Established by the Generall Court the First of December, 1642
The Government of Guilford
New Haven Fundamentals
[Majority Vote of Deputies and Magistrates Required for the Passage of Laws in Connecticut]
Connecticut Code of Laws
established by the general court, may, 1650
juryes and jurors
Preface to the General Laws and Liberties of Connecticut Colony Revised and Published by Order of the General Court Held at Hartford in October 1672
[Division of the Connecticut General Assembly into Two Houses]
[A Letter from Governor Richard Nicolls to the Inhabitants of Long Island]
Charter of Liberties and Privileges
Fundamentals of West New Jersey
Concessions to the Province of Pennsylvania
Charter of Liberties and Frame of Government of the Province of Pennsylvania in America
the frame, c—april 25, 1682
laws agreed upon in england, c.
An Act for Freedom of Conscience
[Pennsylvania Charter of Liberties]
Orders Devised and Published by the House of Assembly to be Observed During the Assembly
Act for Establishing the House of Assembly and the Laws to Be Made Therein
An Act For the Establishing the house of Assembly and the Laws to be made therein
An Act for Church Liberties
An Act for Swearing Allegeance
An Act What Persons Shall Be Called to Every General Assembly and an Act Concerning the Calling of General Assemblies
an act concerning the calling of general assemblies, 1638
An Act for the Liberties of the People
[Maryland Toleration Act]
Acts and Orders of Assembly assented vnto Enacted and made at a Generall Sessions of the said Assembly held at St Maries on the one and twentieth day of Aprill Anno Domini 1649 as followeth viz:
an act concerning religion
Articles, Laws, and Orders, Divine, Politic, and Martial for the Colony in Virginia
Articles, Lawes, and Orders, Divine, Politique, and Martiall for the Colony in Virginea: first established by Sir Thomas Gates Knight, Lieutenant Generall, the 24th of May 1610. exemplified and approved by the Right Honourable Sir Thomas West Knight, Lord Lawair, Lord Governor and Captaine Generall the 12th day of June 1610. Againe exemplified and enlarged by Sir Thomas Dale Knight, Marshall, and Deputie Governour, the 22nd of June, 1611.
[Laws Enacted by the First General Assembly of Virginia]
Constitution for the Council and Assembly in Virginia
To all people to whom these presents shall come, be seen, or heard, the Treasurer, Council and Company of Adventurers and Planters of the City of London for the first colony in Virginia send greeting.
[Laws and Orders Concluded by the Virginia General Assembly]
Act Relating to the Biennial and Other Assemblies and Regulating Elections and Members in North Carolina
Act to Ascertain the Manner and Form of Electing Members to Represent the Province
Act to Ascertain the Manner and Form of Electing Members to Represent the Inhabitants of This Province in the Commons House of Assembly
[The New England Confederation]
[The Albany Plan of Union]
president-general and grand council
election of members
place of first meeting
proportion of members after the first three years
meetings of the grand council, and call
assent of president-general and his duty
power of president-general and grand council; treaties of peace and war
laws to govern them
raise soldiers and equip vessels, c
power to make laws, lay duties, c
general treasurer and particular treasurer
money, how to issue
laws to be transmitted
death of the president-general
officers, how appointed
vacancies, how supplied
The Articles of Confederation
Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union between the states of Newhampshire, Massachusetts-bay, Rhodeisland and Providence Plantations, Connecticut, New-York, New-Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North-Carolina, South-Carolina and Georgia.
Appendix: Unadopted Colonial Plans of Union
[William Penn’s Plan of Union]
a briefe and plaine scheam
[Joseph Galloway’s Plan of Union]
A Plan of a proposed Union between Great Britain and the Colonies
Multivolume Works of Colonial Documents
Multivolume Works of State Documents