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4. PETITION OF RIGHT, 1628 1
CHARLES I, almost immediately upon succeeding to the throne, began to quarrel with his subjects. He twice dissolved Parliament, levied forced loans, arbitrarily imprisoned those who refused to make such loans, and otherwise played the tyrant. When Charles's third Parliament met in 1628, it immediately began the consideration of these grievances. The king attempted to satisfy his opponents by a simple confirmation of the Great Charter, such as had often been issued, and often disregarded, by former monarchs. Parliament refused to be cajoled, however, and under the leadership of Sir Edward Coke passed the Petition of Right. The king ratified it, much against his will, in order to obtain a grant of money from the legislature. This statute, which has the form of a petition, was the first important restriction of the powers of the Crown since the accession of the Tudor dynasty.
PETITION OF RIGHT, 1628
... To the King's most excellent Majesty 1. Humbly show unto our sovereign lord, the king, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons in Parliament assembled, that, whereas it is declared and enacted by a statute made in the time of the reign of King Edward I, commonly called Statutum de Tallagio non Concedendo,o that no tallage or aid shall be laid or levied by the king or his heirs in this realm, without the good-will and assent of the archbishops, bishops, earls, barons, knights, burgesses, and other the freemen of the commonalty of this realm; and by authority of [the] Parliament held in the five-and-twentieth year of the reign of King Edward III, it is declared and enacted that from thenceforth no
1 Statutes of the Realm, v, 24–25 (3 Charles I, c. 1).
2 This supposed statute is not found, however, in any authoritative record. It was probably a preliminary draft of the baronial demands granted in the Confirmation of the Charters by Edward I in 1297. 3 This statute, also, does not appear upon the statute books.
many of them
person should be compelled to make any loans to the king against his will, because such loans were against reason and the franchise of the land; and by other laws of this realm it is provided that none should be charged by any charge or imposition called a benevolence, nor by such like charge; by which statutes before mentioned, and other the good laws and statutes of this realm, your subjects have inherited this freedom, that they should not be compelled to contribute to any tax, tallage, aid, or other like charge, not set by common consent in parliament.
II. Yet nevertheless of late divers commissions directed to sundry commissions in several counties, with instructions, have issued, by means whereof your people have been in divers places assembled and required to lend certain sums of money unto your Majesty, and
their refusal so to do have had an oath of administered to them, not warrantable by the laws or statutes of this realm, and have been constrained to become bound and make appearance and give utterance before your Privy Council and in other places, and others of them have been therefore imprisoned, confined, and sundry other ways molested and disquieted; and divers other charges have been laid and levied upon your people in several countries, by lord lieutenants, deputy lieutenants, commissioners for musters, justices of [the] peace, and others, by command or direction from your Majesty, or your Privy Council, against the laws and free customs of the realm.
III. And whereas also by the statute called “The Great Charter of the liberties of England” it is declared and enacted that no freeman may be taken or imprisoned, or be disseised of his freehold or liberties, or his free customs, or be outlawed or exiled, or in any manner destroyed, but by the lawful judgment of his peers or by the law of the land.
IV. And in the eighth-and-twentieth year of the reign of King Edward III, it was declared and enacted by authority of Parliament that no man, of what estate or condition that he be, should be put out of his land or tenements, nor taken, nor imprisoned, nor disherited, nor put to death, without being brought to answer by due process of law.
V. Nevertheless, against the tenor of the said statutes, and other the good laws and statutes of your realm to that end provided, divers of your subjects have of late been imprisoned without any cause showed. And when for their deliverance they were brought before
your justices, by your Majesty's writs of habeas corpus, there to undergo and receive as the court should order, and their keepers commanded to certify the cause of their detainer, no cause was certified, but that they were detained by your Majesty's special command, signified by the lords of your Privy Council, and yet were returned back to several prisons, without being charged with anything to which they might make answer according to the law.
VI. And whereas of late great companies of soldiers and mariners have been dispersed into divers counties of the realm, and the inhabitants, against their wills, have been compelled to receive them into their houses, and there to suffer them to sojourn against the laws and customs of this realm, and to the great grievance and vexation of the people.
VII. And whereas, also, by authority of Parliament in the fiveand-twentieth year of King Edward III it is declared and enacted that no man shall be forejudged of life or limb against the form of the Great Charter and the law of the land, and by the said Great Charter and other the laws and statutes of this your realm no man ought to be adjudged to death but by the laws established in this your realm, either by the customs of the said realm or by acts of Parliament. And whereas no offender of what kind soever is exempted from the proceedings to be used and punishments to be inflicted by the laws and statutes of this your realm: nevertheless of late time divers commissions under your Majesty's Great Seal have issued forth, by which certain persons have been assigned and appointed commissioners with power and authority to proceed within the land, according to the justice of martial law, against such soldiers or mariners, or other dissolute persons joining with them, as should commit any murder, robbery, felony, mutiny, or other outrage or misdemeanor whatsoever, and by such summary course and order as is agreeable to martial law, and as is used in armies in time of war, to proceed to the trial and condemnation of such offenders, and them to cause to be executed and put to death according to the law martial.
VIII. By pretext whereof some of your Majesty's subjects have been by the said commissioners put to death, when and where, if by the laws and statutes of the realm they had deserved death, by the same laws and statutes also they might, and by no other ought to have been, judged and executed.
IX. And also sundry grievous offenders, by color thereof claiming an exemption, have escaped the punishments due to them by the laws
and statutes of this your realm, by reason that divers of your officers and ministers of justice have unjustly refused or forborne to proceed against such offenders, according to the same law and statutes, upon pretense that the said offenders were punishable only by martial law, and by authority of such commissions as aforesaid; which commissions and all other of like nature are wholly and directly contrary to the said laws and statutes of this
realm. X. They do therefore humbly pray your most excellent Majesty that no man hereafter be compelled to make or yield any gift, loan, benevolence, tax, or such like charge, without common consent by act of Parliament. And that none be called to make answer, or to take such oath, or to give attendance, or be confined, or otherwise molested or disquieted concerning the same or for refusal thereof. And that no freeman, in any such manner as is before mentioned, be imprisoned or detained. And that your Majesty would be pleased to remove the said soldiers and mariners, and that your people may not be so burdened in time to come. And that the aforesaid commissions, for proceeding by martial law, may be revoked and annulled. And that hereafter no commissions of like nature may issue forth to any person or persons whatsoever, to be executed as aforesaid, lest by color of them any of your Majesty's subjects be destroyed or put to death, contrary to the laws and franchise of the land.
XI. All which they most humbly pray of your most excellent Majesty as their rights and liberties, according to the laws and statutes of this realm; and that your Majesty would also vouchsafe to declare that the awards, doings, and proceedings, to the prejudice of your people in any of the premises, shall not be drawn hereafter into consequence or example; and that your Majesty would be also graciously pleased, for the further comfort and safety of your people, to declare your royal will and pleasure that in the things aforesaid all your officers and ministers shall serve you according to the laws and statutes of this realm, as they tender the honor of your Majesty and the prosperity of this kingdom.
5. NEW ENGLAND CONFEDERATION, 1643 1 The precarious position of the New England colonies, exposed to attack by the Indians, the Dutch, and the French, together with the apprehension of possible danger from the mother country, then in the throes of civil war, brought about the loose and temporary confederation described below. It was established by commissioners of the several colonies, who met at Boston in May, 1643. As explained in the last article, the Plymouth representatives did not ratify the document until the following September. Neither the Rhode Island settlements nor those in Maine were ever included in the confeder-ation. Though dissolved in 1684, the confederation proved to be of great service to the colonies in their dealings with their common enemies, and it furnished a precedent for colonial union in the eighteenth century.
New ENGLAND CONFEDERATION, 1643
Government of the Massachusetts, the Plantations
tion therewith Whereas, we all came into these parts of America, with one and the same end and aim, namely, to advance the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to enjoy the liberties of the Gospel in purity with peace; and whereas in our settling (by a wise providence of God) we are further dispersed upon the seacoasts and rivers than was at first intended, so that we cannot (according to our desire) with convenience communicate in one government and jurisdiction; and whereas we live encompassed with people of several nations and strange languages, which hereafter may prove injurious to us and our
1 Records of the Colony or Jurisdiction of New Haven, 1653–1664, pp. 562–566. Edited by C. J. Hoadly. Hartford, 1858.