1649: A Declaration of Parliament
- Collections: The English Civil War
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 the monarchy.
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 thereof.
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 our Memories.
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 Model here.4
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 Edgehill.
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 unto us.
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 lawless Creditors.
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 Countreyman).
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 sufficient inclination.
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 oblige them.
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 them.
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.
Key Documents of Liberty
- -1750: The Code of Hammurabi (Johns translation)
- -1750: The Code of Hammurabi (King translation)
- 1117: Articles of the Communal Charter of Amiens
- 1215: Magna Carta
- 1215: Magna Carta (Latin and English)
- 1602: Coke, Preface to the 2nd Part of the Reports (Pamphlet)
- 1619: Laws enacted by the First General Assembly of Virginia
- 1620: The Mayflower Compact
- 1621: Constitution for the Council and Assembly in Virginia
- 1628: Petition of Right
- 1629: Agreement of the Massachusetts Bay Company
- 1637: Providence Agreement
- 1638: Act for Church Liberties (Maryland)
- 1638: Act for the Liberties of the People (Maryland)
- 1639: Fundamental Orders of Connecticut
- 1640/1: The Triennial Act
- 1641: Massachusetts Body of Liberties
- 1641: The Act for the Abolition of the Court of Star Chamber
- 1641: The Act for the Abolition of the Court of High Commission
- 1641: The Tonnage and Poundage Act
- 1642: Organization of the Government of Rhode Island
- 1642: Propositions made by Parliament and Charles I’s Answer
- 1644: Williams, Bloody Tenet, of Persecution (Letter)
- 1647: Acts and Orders (Rhode Island)
- 1647: Laws and Liberties of Massachusetts
- 1647: The Agreement of the People, as presented to the Council of the Army
- 1647: The Putney Debates
- 1648/9: The Agreement of the People
- 1649: A Declaration of Parliament
- 1649: Ball, Rule of a Free-Born People (Pamphlet)
- 1649: Maryland Toleration Act
- 1649: Rous, Lawfulness of Obeying the Present Government (Pamphlet)
- 1658: Coke, Prohibitions del Roy (Pamphlet)
- 1660: Milton, A Free Commonwealth (Pamphlet)
- 1661: Act of the General Court (of Mass.)
- 1675: Shaftesbury, Letter from a Person of Quality (Pamphlet)
- 1675: Shaftesbury, Speech in Parliament (Pamphlet)
- 1679: Habeas Corpus Act
- 1682: Act for Freedom of Conscience (Penn.)
- 1682: Charter of the Liberties and Frame of Government of Pennsylvania
- 1683: Charter of Liberties and Privileges (New York)
- 1689: English Bill of Rights
- 1692: Shower, Reasons for a New Bill of Rights (Pamphlet)
- 1701: Pennsylvania Charter of Liberties
- 1736: Brief Narrative of the Trial of Peter Zenger
- 1744: Williams, Rights and Liberties of Protestants (Sermon)
- 1763: Otis, Rights of British Colonies Asserted (Pamphlet)
- 1765: Resolutions of the Stamp Act Congress
- 1766: Mayhew, The Snare Broken (Sermon)
- 1774: Declaration and Resolves of the 1st Continental Congress
- 1776: Declaration of Independence (various drafts)
- 1776: Hutchinson, Strictures upon the Declaration of Independence
- 1776: Paine, Common Sense (Pamphlet)
- 1776: Virginia Declaration of Rights
- 1776: Witherspoon, Dominion of Providence over the Passions of Men (Sermon)
- 1778: Articles of Confederation
- 1785: Madison, Memorial and Remonstrance against Religious Assessments
- 1786: Jefferson, Virginia Bill Establishing Religious Freedom
- 1787: Brutus, Essay II (Pamphlet)
- 1787: Brutus, Essay V (Pamphlet)
- 1787: Brutus, Letter I (Pamphlet)
- 1787: Centinel, Letter I (Pamphlet)
- 1787: Jay, Address to the People of N.Y. (Pamphlet)
- 1787: Letters from the Federal Farmer, Letter No. III
- 1787: Letters from the Federal Farmer, No. VII (Pamphlet)
- 1787: Madison’s Notes of Debates in the Federal Convention
- 1787: Mason: Objections to the Proposed Constitution (Letter)
- 1787: Northwest Ordinance
- 1787: P. Webster, The Weakness of Brutus (Pamphlet)
- 1787: Ramsay, Address to the Freemen of Sth. Carolina (Speech)
- 1787: Selections from the Federalist (Pamphlets)
- 1787: US Constitution
- 1787: Virginia and New Jersey Plans
- 1787: Wilson, Address to the People of Philadelphia (Speech)
- 1788: Amendments recommended by the Several State Conventions
- 1789: French Declaration of the Rights of Man
- 1789: Madison, Speech Introducing Proposed Amendments to the Constitution
- 1790: Hamilton, First Report on Public Credit
- 1790: Jefferson, Memorandum on the Compromise of 1790
- 1790: Price, Discourse on the Love of Our Country (Sermon)
- 1791: Hamilton, Opinion as to the Constitutionality of the Bank of the US
- 1791: Jefferson, Opinion against the Constitutionality of a National Bank
- 1791: Madison, Speech on the Bank Bill
- 1791: US Bill of Rights (1st 10 Amendments) - with commentary
- 1793: French Republic Constitution of 1793
- 1793: Helvidius (Madison), No. 1 (Pamphlet)
- 1793: Pacificus (Hamilton), No. 1 (Pamphlet)
- 1796: George Washington’s “Farewell Address” (Speech)
- 1798-1992: US Bill of Rights Amendments (XI-XXVII)
- 1798: Alien and Sedition Acts
- 1798: Counter-resolutions of Other States
- 1798: Kentucky Resolutions
- 1798: Kentucky Resolutions (Jefferson’s Draft)
- 1798: Virginia Resolutions
- 1799: Report of the Virginia House of Delegates
- 1801: Jefferson, 1st Annual Message
- 1801: Jefferson, 1st Inaugural Address
- 1802: Jefferson, Letter to the Danbury Baptist Association (Letter)
- 1830: French Charter of 1830
- 1863: Emancipation Proclamation
- 1863: The Gettysburg Address
- 1865: U.S. Constitution, Thirteenth Amendment
- Pocket Guide to Political and Civic Rights