1683: Charter of Liberties and Privileges (New York)
- Collections: The American Revolution and Constitution
56 Charter of Liberties and Privileges
Complete text is taken from The Colonial Laws of New York, vol. 1, 111–16. For the circumstances surrounding this document and the similar charter of 1691, see Charles M. Andrews, The Colonial Period of American History, vol. 3 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1936), chap. 3; and David S. Lovejoy, “Equality and Empire: The New York Charter of Libertyes, 1683,” William and Mary Quarterly, 3d ser., 21 (1964): 493–515.
October 30, 1683
Although essentially based on the British parliamentary model, the structure of New York’s government described in this document looks quite similar to that developed elsewhere in the colonies. The true bicameralism, however, that developed in some of the other colonies is missing in New York because the Governor’s Council is not elective and is really a privy council. The bill of rights is derived from English common law, and although quite liberal by European standards, is less robust than those developed in other colonies using a theological grounding. Also, an appeal to popular sovereignty, implicit or otherwise, is conspicuously missing. Authority instead rests explicitly with the governor, council, and assembly combined under the implied sovereignty of the monarch.
Ffor The better Establishing the Government of this province of New Yorke and that Justice and Right may be Equally done to all persons within the same.
bee It Enacted by the Governour Councell and Representatives now in General Assembly mett and assembled and by the authority of the same.
that The Supreme Legislative Authority under his Majesty and Royall Highnesse James Duke of Yorke Albany &c Lord proprietor of the said province shall forever be and reside in a Governour, Councell, and the people mett in General Assembly.
that The Exercise of the Cheife Magistracy and Administration of the Government over the said province shall bee in the said Governour assisted by a Councell with whose advice and Consent or with at least four of them he is to rule and Governe the same according to the Lawes thereof.
that in Case the Governour shall dye or be absent out of the province and that there be noe person within the said province Comissionated by his Royal Hignesse his heirs or Successours to be Governour or Comander in Cheife there That then the Councell for the time being or Soe many of them as are in the Said province doe take upon them the Administration of the Governour and Execution of the Lawes thereof and powers and authorityes belonging to the Governour and Councell the first in nomination in which Councell is to preside untill the said Governour shall returne and arrive in the said province againe, or the pleasure of his Royall Highnesse his heires or Successours Shall be further knowne.
that According to the usage Custome and practice of the Realme of England a session of a Generall Assembly be held in this province once in three yeares at least. that Every ffreeholder within this province and ffreeman in any Corporation Shall have his free Choise and Vote in the Electing of the Representatives without any manner of constraint or Imposition. And that in all Elections the Majority of Voices shall carry itt and by freeholders is understood every one who is Soe understood according to the Lawes of England.
that the persons to be Elected to sitt as representatives in the Generall Assembly from time to time for the severall Cittyes townes Countyes Shires or Divisions of this province and all places within the same shall be according to the proportion and number hereafter Expressed that is to say for the Citty, and County of New Yorke four, for the County of Suffolke two, for Queens County two, for Kings County two, for the County of Richmond two for the County of West Chester two, for the County of Ulster two for the County of Albany two and for Schenectade within the said County one, for Dukes County two, for the County of Cornwall two and as many more as his Royall Highnesse shall think fitt to Establish.
that All persons Chosen and Assembled in manner aforesaid or the Major part of them shall be deemed and accounted the Representatives of this province which said Representatives together with the Governour and his Councell Shall forever be the Supreame and only Legislative power under his Royall Hignesses of the said province.
that The said Representatives may appoint their owne Times of meeting dureing their sessions and may adjourne their house from time to time to such time as to them shall seeme meet and convenient.
that The said Representatives are the sole Judges of the Qualifications of their owne members, and likewise of all undue Elections and may from time to time purge their house as they shall see occasion dureing the said sessions.
that noe member of the general Assembly or their servants dureing the time of their Sessions and Whilest they shall be goeing to and returning from the said Assembly shall be arrested sued imprisoned or any wayes molested or troubled nor be compelled to make answere to any suite, Bill plaint, Declaration or otherwise, (Cases of High Treason and felony only Excepted) provided the number of the said servants shall not Exceed three.
that All bills agreed upon by the said Representatives or the Major part of them shall be presented unto the Governour and his Councell for their Approbation and Consent All and Every which Said Bills soe approved or Consented to by the Governour and his Councell shall be Esteemed and accounted the Lawes of the province, Which said Lawes shall continue and remaine of force untill they shall be repealed by the authority aforesaid that is to say the Governour Councell and Representatives in General Assembly by and with the Approbation of his Royal Highnesse or Expire by their owne Limittations.
that In All Cases of death or removall of any of the said Representatives The Governour shall issue out Sumons by Writt to the Respective Townes Cittyes Shires Countryes or Divisions for which he or they soe removed or deceased were chosen willing and requireing the ffreeholders of the Same to Elect others in their place and stead.
that Noe freeman shall be taken and imprisoned or be disseized of his ffreehold or Libertye or ffree Customes or be outlawed or Exiled or any other wayes destroyed nor shall be passed upon adjudged or condemned But by the Lawfull Judgment of his peers and by the Law of this province. Justice nor Right shall be neither sold denyed or deferred to any man within this province.
that Noe aid, Tax, Tallage, Assessment, Custome, Loane, Benevolence or Imposition whatsoever shall be layed assessed imposed or levyed on any of his Majestyes Subjects within this province or their Estates upon any manner of Colour or pretence but by the act and Consent of the Governour Councell and Rpresentatives of the people in Generall Assembly mett and Assembled.
that Noe man of what Estate or Condition soever shall be putt out of his Lands or Tenements, nor taken, nor imprisoned, nor dishereited, nor banished nor any wayes distroyed without being brought to Answere by due Course of Law.
that A ffreeman Shall not be amerced for a small fault, but after the manner of his fault and for a great fault after the Greatnesse thereof Saveing to him his freehold, And a husbandman saveing to him his Wainage and a merchant likewise saveing to him his merchandize, And none of the said Amerciaments shall be assessed but by the oath of twelve honest and Lawfull men of the Vicinage provided the faults and misdemeanours be not in Contempt of Courts of Judicature.
all Tryalls shall be by the verdict of twelve men, and as neer as many be peers or Equalls And of the neighbourhood and in the County Shire or Division where the Fact Shall arise or grow Whether the Same be by Indictment Information Declaration or otherwise against the person Offender or Defendant.
that In all Cases Capitall or Criminall there shall be a grand Inquest who shall first present the offence and then twelve men of the neighbourhood to try the Offender who after his plea to the Indictment shall be allowed his reasonable Challenges.
that In all Cases whatsoever Bayle by sufficient Suretyes Shall be allowed and taken unlesse for treason or felony plainly and specially Expressed and menconed in the Warrant of Committment provided Alwayes that nothing herein contined shall Extend to discharge out of prison upon bayle any person taken in Execution for debts or otherwise legally sentenced by the Judgment of any of the Courts of Record within the province.
that Noe ffreeman shall be compelled to receive any Marriners or Souldiers into his house and there suffer them to Sojourne, against their willes provided Alwayes it be not in time of Actuall Warr within this province.
that Noe Comissions for proceeding by Marshall Law against any of his Majestyes Subjects within this province shall issue forth to any person or persons whatsoever Least by Colour of them any of his Majestyes Subjects bee destroyed or putt to death Except all such officers persons and Soldiers in pay throughout the Government.
that from hence forward Noe Lands Within this province shall be Esteemed or accounted a Chattle or personall Estate but an Estate of Inheritance according to the Custome and practice of his Majesties Realme of England.
that Noe Court or Courts within this province have or at any time hereafter Shall have any Jurisdiction power or authority to grant out any Execution or other writt whereby any mans Land may be sold or any other way disposed of without the owners Consent provided Alwayes That the issues or meane proffitts of any mans Lands shall or may be Extended by Execution or otherwise to satisfye just debts Any thing to the Contrary hereof in any wise Notwithstanding.
that Noe Estate of a feme Covert shall be sold or conveyed But by Deed Acknowledged by her in Some Court of Record the Woman being secretly Examined if She doth it freely without threats or Compulsion of her husband.
that All Wills in writeing attested by two Credible Witnesses shall be of the same force to convey Lands as other Conveyances being registered in the Secretaryes Office within forty dayes after the testators death.
that A widdow after the death of her husband shall have her Dower And shall and may tarry in the Cheife house of her husband forty dayes after the death of her husband within which forty dayes her Dower shall be assigned her And for her Dower shallbe assigned unto her the third party of all the Lands of her husband dureing Coverture, Except shee were Endowed of Lesse before Marriage.
that All Lands and Heritages within this province and Dependencyes shall be free from all fines and Lycences upon Alienations and from all Herriotts Ward Shipps Liveryes primer Seizins yeare day and Wast Escheates and forfeitures upon the death of parents and Ancestors naturall unaturall casuall or Judiciall, and that forever; Cases of High treason only Excepted.
that Noe person or persons which professe ffaith in God by Jesus Christ Shall at any time be any wayes molested punished disquieted or called in Question for Difference in opinion or Matter of Religious Concernment, who doe not actuall disturb the Civill peace of the province, But that all and Every such person or prsons may from time to time and at all times freely have and fully enjoy his or their Judgments or Consciencyes in matters of Religion throughout all the province, they behaveing themselves peaceably and quietly and not useing this Liberty to Lycentiousnesse nor to the civill Injury or outward disturbance of others provided Alwayes that this liberty or any thing contained therein to the Contrary shall never be Construed or improved to make void the Settlement of any publique Minister on Long Island Whether Such Settlement be by two thirds of the voices in any Towne thereon which shall alwayes include the Minor part Or by Subscriptions of perticuler Inhabitants in Said Townes provided they are the two thirds thereon Butt that all such agreements Covenants and Subscriptions that are there already made and had Or that hereafter shall bee in this Manner Consented to agreed and Subscribed shall at all time and times hereafter be firme and Stable And in Confirmation hereof
It is Enacted by the Governour Councell and Representatives; That all Such Sumes of money soe agreed on Consented to or Subscribed as aforesaid for maintenance of said public Ministers by the two thirds of any Towne on Long Island Shall alwayes include the Minor part who shall be regulated thereby And also Such Subscriptions and agreements as are before mentioned are and Shall be alwayes ratified performed and paid, And if any Towne on said Island in their publick Capacity of agreement with any Such minister or any perticuler persons by their private Subscriptions as aforesaid Shall make default deny or withdraw from Such payment Soe Covenanted to agreed upon and Subscribed That in Such Case upon Complaint of any Collector appointed and Chosen by two thirds of Such Towne upon Long Island unto any Justice of that County Upon his hearing the Same he is hereby authorized impowered and required to issue out his warrant unto the Constable or his Deputy or any other person appointed for the Collection of Said Rates or agreement to levy upon the goods and Cattles of the Said Delinquent or Defaulter all such Sumes of money Soe covenanted and agreed to be paid by distresse with Costs and Charges without any further Suite in Law Any Lawe Custome or usage to the Contrary in any wise Notwithstanding.
provided Alwayes the said sume or sumes be under forty shillings otherwise to be recovered as the Law directs.
and whereas All the Respective Christian Churches now in practice within the City of New Yorke and the other places of this province doe appeare to be priviledged Churches and have beene Soe Established and Confirmed by the former authority of this Government bee it hereby Enacted by this Generall Assembly and by the authority thereof That all the Said Respective Christian Churches be hereby Confirmed therein And that they and Every of them Shall from henceforth forever be held and reputed as priviledged Churches and Enjoy all their former freedomes of their Religion in Divine Worshipp and Church Discipline And that all former Contracts made and agreed upon for the maintenances of the severall ministers of the Said Churches shall stand and continue in full force and virtue And that all Contracts for the future to be made Shall bee of the same power And all persons that are unwilling to performe their part of the said Contract Shall be Constrained thereunto by a warrant from any Justice of the peace provided it be under forty Shillings Or otherwise as this Law directs provided allsoe that all Christian Churches that Shall hereafter come and settle within this province shall have the Same priviledges.
Fundamentals of West New Jersey
The text is reproduced as found in Thorpe, Federal and State Constitutions, 2565–67.
The middle colonies, developed later than those in New England and the South, did not have the freedom to develop from the bottom up on their own as some of the early colonies did. A strong governor was a central reality from the beginning. In New Jersey, as in New York, the legislature and constitution were added to the political system rather than founding it, and the English system was essentially used as a model. Central to that model was the principle that there should be no taxation without representation. Because the Glorious Revolution had not yet occurred in Britain, the colonies were still under the king through the charters he had granted them rather than under Parliament. Financial support was therefore not forthcoming for the king’s colonial governors unless the king asked for it—and he would rather do other things with any levy he could extract—hence the need for local legislatures to vote such support from the colonists. In order for a meaningful, viable legislature to exist, however, some major chunks had to be carved out of the governor’s powers. As a result, the New Jersey document is interesting because its central focus is a set of limits on the governor, which together make room for the legislature.
Forasmuch as it hath pleased God, to bring us into this Province of West New Jersey, and settle us here in safety, that we may be a people to the praise and honour of his name, who hath so dealt with us, and for the good and welfare of our posterity to come, we the Governor and Proprietors, freeholders and inhabitants of West New Jersey, by mutual consent and agreement, for the prevention of innovation and oppression, either upon us or our posterity, and for the preservation of the peace and tranquility of the same; and that all may be encouraged to go chearfully in their several places: We do make and constitute these our agreements to be as fundamentals to us and our posterity, to be held inviolable, and that no person or persons whatsoever, shall or may make void or disanul the same upon any pretence whatsoever.
i. That there shall be a General Free Assembly for the Province aforesaid, yearly and every year, at a day certain, chosen by the free people of the said Province, whereon all the representatives for the said Province, shall be summoned to appear, to consider of the affairs of the said Province, and to make and ordain such acts, and laws, as shall be requisite and necessary for the good government and prosperity of the free people of the said Province; and (if necessity shall require) the Governor for the time being, with the consent of his Council, may and shall issue out writts to convene the Assembly sooner, to consider and answer the necessities of the people of the said Province.
ii. That the Governor of the Province aforesaid, his heirs or successors for the time being, shall not suspend or defer the signing, sealing and confirming of such acts and laws as the General Assembly (from time to time to be elected by the free people of the Province aforesaid) shall make or act for the securing of the liberties and properties of the said free people of the Province aforesaid.
iii. That it shall not be lawful for the Governor of the said Province, his heirs or successors for the time being, and Council, or any of them, at any time or times hereafter, to make or raise war upon any accounts or pretence whatsoever, or to raise any military forces within the Province aforesaid, without the consent of the General Free Assembly for the time being.
iv. That it shall not be lawful for the Governor of the said Province, his heirs or successors for the time being, and Council, or any of them, at any time or times hereafter, to make or enact any law or laws for the said Province, without the consent, act and concurrence of the General Assembly; and if the Governor for the time being, his heirs or successors and Council, or any of them, shall attempt to make or enact any such law or laws of him or themselves without the consent, act and concurrence of the General Assembly; that from thenceforth, he, they, or so many of them as shall be guilty thereof, shall, upon legal conviction, be deemed and taken for enemies to the free people of the said Province; and such act so attempted to be made, to be of no force.
v. That the General Free Assembly from time to time to be chosen as aforesaid, as the representatives of the people, shall not be prorogued or dissolved (before the expirance of one whole year, to commence from the day of their election) without their own free consent.
vi. That it shall not be lawful for the Governor of the said Province, his heirs or successors for the time being, and Council, or any of them, to levy or raise any sum or sums of money, or any other tax whatsoever, without the act, consent and concurrence of the General Assembly.
vii. That all officers of State, or trust, relating to the said Province, shall be nominated and elected by the General Free Assembly for the time being, or by their appointment; which officer and officers shall be accountable to the General Free Assembly, or to such as the said Assembly shall appoint.
viii. That the Governor of the Province aforesaid, his heirs, or successor for the time being, or any of them, shall not send ambassadors, or make treaties, or enter into an alliance upon the publick account of the said Province, without the consent of the said General Free Assembly.
ix. That no General Free Assembly hereafter to be chosen by the free people of the Province aforesaid, shall give to the Governor of the said Province for the time being, his heirs or successors, any tax, or custom for a longer time than for one whole year.
x. That liberty of conscience in matters of faith and worship towards God, shall be granted to all people within the Province aforesaid; who shall live peaceably and quietly therein; and that none of the free people of the said Province shall be rendered uncapable of office in respect of their faith and worship.
Upon the Governors acceptance and performance of the proposals herein before expressed, we the General Free Assembly Proprietors and freeholders of the Province of West New Jersey aforesaid, do accept and receive Samuel Jenings as Deputy Governor.
In testimony whereof I have hereunto put my hand and seal, the day and year above written.
Thomas Ollive, Speaker, to the General Free Assembly per order and in the name of the whole Assembly.
The fundamentals aforesaid being signed and sealed by the Deputy Governor, were ordered and appointed by the said Deputy Governor, and General Free Assembly, to be recorded the day and year first aforesaid, by me Thomas Revell, clerk to the General Assembly.
Concessions to the Province of Pennsylvania
Text is taken from Votes and Proceedings of the House of Representatives of the Province of Pennsylvania, 1682–1776, vol. 1 (Philadelphia: B. Franklin and D. Hall, printers, 1752), xxiv–xxvi.
William Penn sought to create a refuge in America for Quakers and other dissenting religious minorities. Regardless of his intent, he, like all colonial founders, had to induce enough people to migrate for the colony to be viable. As documents 58–61 show, Penn was of a generous bent of mind and did not hesitate to provide the strongest inducements possible—political, religious, and those of economic liberty. The document below lays out the original inducements, which are largely of an economic nature. In return Penn extracts his own concessions—free, fair, and orderly economic behavior plus equitable treatment of the Indians. His plan worked. Pennsylvania grew more rapidly than any other colony and in less than a century, even though starting three-quarters of a century after Virginia, surpassed Virginia and Massachusetts in population (not counting slaves). On the eve of the Revolution Philadelphia was the largest city in the colonies, with approximately 40,000 inhabitants versus runners-up New York City (25,000) and Boston (16,000).
Certain conditions, or concessions, agreed upon by William Penn, Proprietary and Governor of the province of Pennsylvania, and those who are the adventurers and purchasers in the same province, the eleventh of July, one thousand six hundred and eighty-one.
That as soon as it pleaseth God that the abovesaid persons arrive there, a certain quantity of land, or ground plat, shall be laid out, for a large town or city, in the most convenient place, upon the river, for health and navigation; and every purchaser and adventurer shall, by lot, have so much land therein as will answer to the proportion, which he hath bought, or taken up, upon rent: but it is to be noted, that the surveyors shall consider what roads or high-ways will be necessary to the cities, towns, or through the lands. Great roads from city to city not to contain less than forty foot, in breadth, shall be first laid out and declared to be for high-ways, before the dividend of acres be laid out for the purchaser, and the like observation to be had for the streets in the towns and cities, that there may be convenient roads and streets preserved, not to be encroached upon by any planter or builder, that none may build irregularly to the damage of another. In this, custom governs.
ii. That the land in the town be laid out together after the proportion of ten thousand acres of the whole country, that is, two hundred acres, if the place will bear it: however, that the proportion be by lot, and entire, so as those that desire to be together, especially those that are, by the catalogue, laid together may be so laid together both in the town and country.
iii. That, when the country lots are laid out, every purchaser, from one thousand, to ten thousand acres, or more, not to have above one thousand acres together, unless in three years they plant a family upon every thousand acres; but that all such as purchase together, lie together; and, if as many as comply with this condition, that the whole be laid out together.
iv. That, where any number of purchasers, more or less, whose number of acres amounts to five or ten thousand acres, desire to sit together in a lot, or township, they shall have their lot, or township, cast together, in such places as have convenient harbours, or navigable rivers attending it, if such can be found; and in case any one or more purchasers plant not according to agreement, in this concession, to the prejudice of others of the same township, upon complaint thereof made to the Governor, or his Deputy, with assistance, they may award (if they see cause) that the complaining purchaser may, paying the survey money, and purchase money, and interest thereof, be entitled, enrolled and lawfully invested, in the lands so not seated.
v. That the proportion of lands, that shall be laid out in the first great town, or city, for every purchaser, shall be after the proportion of ten acres for every five hundred acres purchased, if the place will allow it.
vi. That nowithstanding there be no mention made, in the several deeds made to the purchasers; yet the said William Penn does accord and declare, that all rivers, rivulets, woods, and underwoods, waters, watercourses, quarries, mines, and minerals, (except mines royal) shall be freely and fully enjoyed, and wholly by the purchasers, into whose lot they fall.
vii. That, for every fifty acres, that shall be allotted to a servant, at the end of his service, his quit-rent shall be two shillings per annum, and the master, or owner of the servant, when he shall take up the other fifty acres, his quit-rent, shall be four shillings by the year, or, if the master of the servant (by reason of the indentures he is so obliged to do) allot out to the servant fifty acres in his own division, the said master shall have, on demand, allotted him, from the governor, the one hundred acres, at the chief rent of six shillings per annum.
viii. And, for the encouragement of such as are ingenious and willing to search out gold and silver mines in this province, it is hereby agreed, that they have liberty to bore and dig in any man’s property, fully paying the damages done; and in case a discovery should be made, that the discoverer have one-fifth, the owner of the soil (if not the discoverer) a tenth part, the Governor two-fifths, and the rest to the public treasury, saving to the king the share reserved by patent.
ix. In every hundred thousand acres, the Governor and Proprietary, by lot, reserveth ten to himself, what shall lie but in one place.
x. That every man shall be bound to plant, or man, so much of his share of land as shall be set out and surveyed, within three years after it is so set out and surveyed, or else it shall be lawfull for new comers to be settled thereupon, paying to them their survey money, and they go up higher for their shares.
xi. There shall be no buying and selling, be it with an Indian, or one among another, of any goods to be exported, but what shall be performed in public market, when such places shall be set apart, or erected, where they shall pass the public stamp, or mark. If bad ware, and prized as good, or deceitful in proportion or weight, to forfeit the value, as if good and full weight and proportion, to the public treasury of this province, whether it be the merchandize of the Indian, or that of the planters.
xii. And forasmuch, as it is usual with the planters to over-reach the poor natives of the country, in trade, by goods not being good of the kind, or debased with mixtures, with which they are sensibly aggrieved, it is agreed, whatever is sold to the Indians, in consideration of their furs, shall be sold in the market place, and there suffer the test, whether good or bad; if good, to pass; if not good, not to be sold for good, that the natives may not be abused, nor provoked.
xiii. That no man shall, by any ways or means, in word, or deed, affront, or wrong any Indian, but he shall incur the same penalty of the law, as if he had committed it against his fellow planter, and if any Indian shall abuse, in word, or deed, any planter of this province, that he shall not be his own judge upon the Indian, but he shall make his complaint to the governor of the province, or his lieutenant, or deputy, or some inferior magistrate near him, who shall, to the utmost of his power, take care with the king of the said Indian, that all reasonable satisfaction be made to the said injured planter.
xiv. That all differences, between the planters and the natives, shall also be ended by twelve men, that is, by six planters and six natives; that so we may live friendly together as much as in us lieth, preventing all occasions of heart-burnings and mischief.
xv. That the Indians shall have liberty to do all things relating to improvement of their ground, and providing sustenance for their families that any of the planters shall enjoy.
xvi. That the laws, as to slanders, drunkenness, swearing, cursing, pride in apparel, trespasses, distriesses, replevins, weights, and measures, shall be the same as in England, till altered by law in this province.
xvii. That all shall mark their hogs, sheep and other cattle, and what are not marked within three months after it is in their possession, be it young or old, it shall be forfeited to the governor, that so people may be compelled to avoid the occasions of much strife between the planters.
xviii. That, in clearing ground, care be taken to leave one acre of trees for every five acres cleared, especially to preserve oak and mulberries, for silk and shipping.
xix. That all ship-masters shall give an account of their countries, names, ships, owners, freights and passengers, to an officer to be appointed for that purpose, which shall be registered within two days after their arrival, and if they shall refuse so to do, that then none presume to trade with them, upon forfeiture thereof; and that such masters be looked upon as having an evil intention to the province.
xx. That no person leave the province, without publication being made thereof, in the market place, three weeks before, and a certificate from some justice of the peace, of his clearness with his neighbours and those he dealt withal, so far as such an assurance can be attained and given: and if any master of a ship shall, contrary hereunto, receive and carry away any person, that hath not given that public notice, the said master shall be liable to all debts owing by the said person so secretly transported from the province.
Lastly, That these are to be added to, or corrected, by and with the consent of the parties hereunto subscribed.
Sealed and delivered in the presence of—
- william boelham,
- harbert springet,
- thomas prudyard.
Sealed and delivered in the presence of all of the proprietors, who have hereunto subscribed, except Thomas Farrinborrough and John Goodson, in presence of—
|JOHN JOSEPH MOORE,