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Colonial Origins of the American Constitution

Donald S. Lutz

Publication Year: 2012

"Local government in colonial America was the seedbed of American constitutionalism." So begins the introductory essay to this landmark collection of eighty documents created by the American colonists—and not English officials—that are the genesis of American fundamental law and 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. As Professor Lutz points out, the documents are chosen to make possible "a careful examination of [the American] people's attempt at self-interpretation." All of the principal colonial documents are included, as are all documents attempting to unite the colonies, beginning with the New England Confederation of 1643. Bicameralism, popular sovereignty, the separation of powers, checks and balances, limited government, and religious freedom—in sum, the hallmarks of American constitutionalism—were first presented to the world in these writings.

Donald S. Lutz is Professor of Political Science at the University of Houston.

Published by: Liberty Fund


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-5


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pp. v-xiv

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pp. xv-xix

This volume is not just another collection of documents assembled in the hope of illuminating general historical trends or eras . Instead, the set of documents selected for reproduction results from decision rules based on a theory of politics. The theory of politics is drawn from the work of Eric Voegelin, ...

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Introductory Essay

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pp. xx-xl

Local government in colonial America was the seedbed of American constitutionalism- a simple fact insufficiently appreciated by those writing in American political theory. Evidence for neglect can be found simply by examining any book dealing with American constitutional history and noting the absence of references to colonial documents written by Americans. ...

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1. Agreement of the Settlers at Exeter in New Hampshire, July 5, 1639

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pp. 3-4

The first document reproduced in this collection is a typical political covenant. A comparison with the Mayflower Compact [3] shows both the similarity with that earlier document as well as the more developed, detailed content of this one. It is quite certain that the people of Exeter had not read, or even heard of, ...

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2. General Laws and Liberties of New Hampshire, March 16, 1680

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pp. 5-30

This document can be compared with such similar documents as the Pilgrim Code of Law, 1636 [20]; the Massachusetts Body of Liberties, 1641 [22]; the Connecticut Code of Laws, 1650 [52]; the Pennsylvania Charter of Liberties, 1701 [61]; and the three Virginia codes [69, 70, and 72]; all of which functioned as codes of law. ...

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3. Agreement Berween the Settlers at New Plymouth (The Mayflower Compact), November 11, 1620

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pp. 31-32

Also known as "The Plymouth Combination," the Compact was usually referred to by Plymouth inhabitants as "The Combination" and not until 1793 was it termed the "Mayflower Compact, " when it was reprinted for the first time outside of Massachusetts by a historian in New York. ...

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4. Plymouth Oath of Allegiance and Fideliry, 1625

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pp. 33-34

The Oath of Supremacy, begun by Henry VIII to break the power of the Roman Catholic Church, and the Oath of Allegiance, begun by James I in 1605, after the Gunpowder Plot, were both required by Charles I, who reigned from 1625 to 1649. The latter oath did not refer to the king as the head of the church and thus was more acceptable to the Puritans. ...

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5. The Salem Covenant of 1629

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pp. 35-76

Probably the briefest covenant in American history, the Salem document nevertheless presumed that whoever owned it was in total agreement with the Puritan- Calvinistic arm of the English established church. Salem, like many other New England settlements, was initially founded as a popular theocracy ...

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6. Agreement of the Massachusetts Bay Company at Cambridge, England, August 26, 1629

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pp. 36-37

Although not written on American shores, the Agreement at Cambridge was written not by any English authorities but by the colonists themselves before embarking. It stands, therefore, in the same category as the Mayflower Compact, which some historians believe was also composed in England before departure ...

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7. The Watertown Covenant of July 30, 1630

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pp. 38-39

Strictly speaking the Watertown Covenant is a church covenant rather than a political one and was the first collective document made by the Watertown colonists. Those signing it understood the document to be establishing a church-state. Comparison with the Mayflower Compact illustrates how little difference was needed ...

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8. Massachusetts Election Agreement, May 18, 1631

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pp. 40-81

Although elections had been held in a number of colonies prior to this date, the Massachusetts Election Agreement is probably the oldest formal colonial provision defining an election process. The "commons" referred to here included all freemen , as clarified by an agreement on May 9, 1632. ...

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9. The Oath of a Freeman, or of a Man to Be Made Free, 1631

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pp. 41-42

The law in the Massachusetts Bay Colony that all freemen must be church members was modified in 1632 so that no civil magistrate could be an elder in the church. To give force to this new law an Oath of Freeman was developed. Without the oath, those inhabitants not members of a church would not be bound by the church covenants, ...

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10. The Massachusetts Agreement on the Legislature, May 9,1632

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pp. 43-44

The first formal specification of Massachusetts political institutions, this ordinance, passed at a meeting of the General Court, ratifies the existence of the body passing it. Although the document is brief, a careful reading reveals that the basics of a government are established, which makes it a protoconstitution. ...

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11. Cambridge Agreement, December 24, 1632

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pp. 45-86

Although the institution of the town meeting predates this document and had already been adopted in a number of colonies, this is the oldest surviving agreement establishing the practice. In most instances the town meeting seems to have been adopted without a formal declaration or even a conscious decision. ...

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12. Dorchester Agreement, October 8, 1633

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pp. 46-47

ln addition to establishing a town meeting, this is the oldest surviving record of a smaller representative body being selected to serve in place of the town meeting between meetings. The members of this smaller representative body were usually called town "selectmen." ...

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13. Cambridge Agreement on a Town Council, February 3, 1634

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pp. 48-49

Signed only thirteen months after the town meeting was institutionalized in Cambridge, this document indicates the difficulty that early colonies had with involving the entire population in day-to-day decision making, despite their small size (see The Massachusetts Agreement on the Legislature [10]). ...

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14. Massachusetts Agreement on the Legislature, May 14, 1634

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pp. 50-51

While not a true constitution Like the Pilgrim Code of Law [20], to be written two years later, this document contains a number of recognizably constitutional elements. A General Court, or legislature, is formally established, its powers are outlined, the manner of electing its members is described, and the frequency of its meetings is stipulated. ...

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15. The Oath of a Freeman, May 14, 1634

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pp. 52-53

This is the oath that replaced the original 1631 version [9], and a comparison of the two is instructive. The earlier version reads as though it creates a subject, whereas this oath, at least in part because it rests on individual consent .freely given, reads as though it creates a citizen with political rights and duties. ...

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16. Salem Oath for Residents, April 1, 1634

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pp. 54-55

Although a part of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, Salem established its own town government early in its existence. About the time that the Massachusetts Bay Colony was evolving a more liberal oath, led by Cambridge (see the previous document), Salem was moving in a contrary direction and attempting to exert more careful control over its population. ...

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17. Watertown Agreement on Civil Officers, August 23, 1634

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pp. 56-97

Although at times the records of a colony may have such a richness of expression and content that one gets the impression these settlers did little else but write things down on paper, in most instances the earliest colonial records are quite sketchy. Typically, the first item in the records that survives to our time is brief ...

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18. The Enlarged Salem Covenant of 1636

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pp. 57-59

The earlier covenant of 1629 (The Salem Covenant [5]) was apparently found to be inadequate. This "enlarged" version addresses the specific points of dissension that needed to be settled and thus provides a "window" into the colonists' life as a people. Because Salem in 1636 was a theocracy, ...

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19. Plymouth Agreement, November 15, 1636

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pp. 60-101

One might compare this text with the second paragraph of the Pilgrim Code of Law [20] where a version of the Plymouth Agreement was inserted as part of the prefoce. It is interesting that the paragraph in the Pilgrim Code of Law where this agreement was inserted indicates that both the Mayflower Compact ...

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20. Pilgrim Code of Law, November 15, 1636

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pp. 61-67

Much more than a code of Law, this document Lays out the fundamentaL values and political institutions of the community and is a candidate for the honor of being the first true written constitution in the modern world. It was revised in 1658 and then again in 1671. ...

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21. Dedham Covenant, 1636

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pp. 68-69

Once again we see an attempt to minimize the need for governmental intrusion into community affairs. In this instance section 3 lays out a process of mediation to regulate social conflict. Whereas section 2 reflects determination to maintain a homogeneous community with respect to values, ...

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22. The Massachusetts Body of Liberties, December 1641

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pp. 70-87

By 1641 the colony had existed long enough to require a systematic summary of the laws already enacted, which would also serve as a bulwark against arbitrary government. The General Court adopted a code that was proposed by Nathaniel Ward of Ipswitch. ...

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23. The Combination of the Inhabitants upon the Piscataqua River for Government, October 22, 1641

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pp. 88-89

It is instructive to compare this document with The Mayflower Compact [3]. The two are surprisingly similar, although it is certain those writing this document did not consult the earlier one. The major difference is that here God is not called upon as a witness, and therefore it is not a covenant but a compact. ...

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24. Massachusetts Bicameral Ordinance, March 7, 1644

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pp. 90-91

It was not unusual for colonial legislatures to have two parts that together constituted the whole. One part elected by the towns (here the deputies) would elect the rest of the legislature (here termed the magistrates). Because the two parts sat together as the legislature, there was only an implicit bicameralism. ...

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25. Massachusetts Ordinance on the Legislature, November 13, 1644

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pp. 92-94

This is a comprehensive ordinance altering the size and mode of electing the legislature (see documents 10, 14, and 24 for the original formation of this legislature and intervening alterations). Note that even though this is an ordinance passed by the legislature, it must be approved by the electorate before it becomes law ...

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26. The Laws and Liberties of Massachusetts, 1647

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pp. 95-135

Essentially an organized codification of the laws passed in earlier years, with a number of new laws added, this organic act contains everything we might today expect in a constitution and indeed functioned as a constitution for the colony. The document has many notable features. ...

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27. Massachusetts Ordinance on Legislative Procedure, October 18, 1648

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pp. 136-138

The following ordinance qualifies as a founding document because it creates and describes the duties of elected officers of the legislature. Very little survives concerning colonial legisattive processes, so this document is doubly interesting because it is the oldest surviving description of how a colonial legislature went about its business. ...

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28. Towns of Wells, Gorgiana, and Piscataqua Form an Independent Government, July 1649

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pp. 139-140

This document is typical of those written during the Cromwellian era, when the interruption of the monarchy cast into doubt the continued legality of the charters written earlier in the century and coherent instructions from England were not forthcoming. ...

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29. The Cambridge Agreement of October 4, 1652

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pp. 141-142

This agreement is simultaneously a reformation of the civil polity and a set of instructions from the town meeting to those individuals selected to act in their name between meetings. The practice of town meetings giving instructions to the elected officers and representatives was a common one in the colonies and was extended ...

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30. Puritan Laws and Liberties, September 29, 1658

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pp. 143-157

A revision of the Pilgrim Code of Law, 1636 [20], this is simultaneously a code of law, an amended version of the earlier constitution, and thus a constitution itself. The colony of Plymouth, almost from the beginning, was composed of several towns, each with its own covenant and town meeting. ...

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31. An Act of the General Court, June 10, 1661

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pp. 158-160

The charter of 1629 creating the Massachusetts Bay Company not only had the standard provision providing for local self government but also had the peculiarity of foiling to make any specific reference to parliamentary authority. This was interpreted to mean, at least by the colonists, ...

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32. Providence Agreement, August 20, 1637

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pp. 161-162

Roger Williams, who refused to take any of the oaths required by the Massachusetts Bay Colony because he believed any oath constituted taking God's name in vain, moved with his followers to Providence, which was founded using this document. The simple covenant formula is familiar, ...

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33. Government of Pocasset, March 7, 1638

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pp. 163-164

Consult the comments accompanying the Providence Agreement [32] for the historical setting of this document. A typical political covenant, this document is distinguished by references to biblical passages containing the underlying principles. The reader might want to consult these passages. ...

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34. Newport Agreement, April 28, 1639

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pp. 165-206

This is the document drawn up by the dissenting minority that withdrew from the settlement at Pocasset (see the discussion of the Providence Agreement [32]). It is not an oath but rests on the agreement among the people, implying popular sovereignty. It was drawn up in Pocasset before they left. ...

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35. The Government of Portsmouth, April 30, 1639

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pp. 166-167

See the discussion of the Providence Agreement [32] for events leading up to this agreement. The Portsmouth agreement is unusual in that it is a compact; however, those signing it invoke the authority of the king, although he is unaware his authority is being used. ...

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36. Plantation Agreement at Providence, August 27, 1640

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pp. 168-171

The Providence Agreement, 1637 [32] created a highly democratic political system centered around a town meeting. This document does not replace that one but supplements it. Apparently the town meeting was spending too much time resolving disagreements between individuals, ...

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37. Organization of the Government of Rhode Island, March 16-19, 1642

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pp. 172-175

Finding themselves sharing an island in Narragansett Bay, the towns of Portsmouth and Newport united using a document that mixed a few general principles and brief institutional descriptions with, among other miscellany, ordinances on the killing of foxes and deer. ...

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38. Warwick Agreement, August 8, 1647

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pp. 176-177

Unlike Providence, Pocasset, Portsmouth, and Newport, Warick did not write its own founding document prior to the granting of an official charter in 1644 because its inhabitants did not feel it lawfou to erect their own government without explicit authority from England. ...

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39. Acts and Orders of 1647

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pp. 178-203

The Acts and Orders of 1647, like the Pilgrim Code of Law, 1636 [20] and Fundamental Orders of Connecticut, 1639 [43], is a complete document of foundation and qualifies as a true constitution. Like these other early colonial constitutions, the Acts and Orders creates a federal system wherein the towns composing it ...

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40. Charter of Providence, March 14, 1649

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pp. 204-206

This is not a true charter insofar as it does not proceed from the king. Rather it is typical of many early colonial documents because it proceeds from powers of self-government frequently granted in the original charters from England. It is one of the earliest examples of a town charter being granted from what we would today consider the state level ...

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41. General Assembly of Rhode Island Is Divided into Two Houses, March 27, 1666

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pp. 207-208

Several colonies independently made this important move to a bicameral legislature—Massachusetts (Massachusetts Bicameral Ordinance [24]) and Connecticut (Division of the Connecticut General Assembly [54]) are others noted in this collection. To a certain extent these moves to bicameralism were attempts to emulate the structure and processes of the British Parliament, ...

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42. Plantation Covenant at Quinnipiack, April 1638

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pp. 209-250

Although the framers used the title shown above, it is more frequently referred to in history books as the "New Haven Plantation Covenant." This document was adopted shortly after the group arrived from Boston. It was to function as a temporary, general agreement until the people could become familiar enough with each other's religious views, ...

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43. Fundamental Orders of Connecticut, January 14, 1639

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pp. 210-215

Along with the Pilgrim Code of Law [20] and the Fundamental Articles of New Haven [46], this document is a candidate for being the earliest written constitution in America. It describes itself internally as a "combination" and "confederation," although one could with equal truth call it a compact. ...

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44. Guilford Covenant, June 1, 1639

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pp. 216-257

Signed aboard ship before the colonists reached America, this agreement essentially creates a people who agree to form a future government. The rather vague covenant form used here (there is no true oath) was supplemented in 1643 by a political compact that laid out the government (see The Government of Guilford [49]). ...

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45. Structure of Town Governments, October 10, 1639

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pp. 217-220

Most of the so-called colonies were actually collections of owns, each of which had established its own form of self-government. The establishment of a colony-wide government, usually a legislature in which each town was represented, in effect created what we would now recognize as a federal system. ...

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46. Fundamental Articles of New Haven, June 4-14, 1639

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pp. 221-226

Originally organized under the Plantation Covenant at Quinnipiack [42] written about a year earlier, the settlers had cause to reconsider the nature of their government. Specifically, they considered whether full citizenship should be limited to members of the church. ...

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47. Connecticut Oath of Fidelity, 1640

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pp. 227-228

This document is sometimes referred to as the Connecticut Oath of Agreement. It can be compared with documents 4, 5, 9, 15, 16, and 65, as well as with the oaths internal to such longer codes, compacts, and constitutions, as found in documents 20, 26, 39, and 43. ...

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48. Capitall Lawes of Connecticut, Established by the Generall Court the First of December, 1642

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pp. 229-231

The text is a portion of a longer ordinance passed on that day by the legislature. This document should be compared with the equivalent section in The Massachusetts Body of Liberties [22]. To some people today these lists of capital laws look harsh. Colonial codes of law, however, usually had such lists, and they are important for several reasons. ...

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49. The Government of Guilford, June 19, 1643

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pp. 232-234

Until this time the government of Guilford had been in conformity with the grant from Lord Say and Brook to Theophilus Eaton. As a part of New Haven Colony, the government of Guilford was entitled to one Magistrate in whom was invested all executive and judicial powers. The settlers were either freemen or planters. ...

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50. New Haven Fundamentals, October 27, 1643

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pp. 235-238

While not as well known as the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut [43], the New Haven Fundamentals is every bit as interesting. Both should be seen as the primary constitutional precursors to the 1662 Connecticut Charter, which was formed when the colonies of Connecticut and New Haven were united into a royal colony. ...

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51. Majority Vote of Deputies and Magistrates Required for the Passage of Laws in Connecticut, February 5, 1645

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pp. 239-240

The Fundamental Orders of Connecticut, 1639 [43] created a unicameral legislature with two parts. The Deputies, elected by the towns, were to represent local interests and assemble periodically with the Magistrates to form the full, legal General Court. ...

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52. Connecticut Code of Laws, 1650

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pp. 241-249

This code, sometimes cited as ''Mr. Ludlow's code," after the man who drew it up, or "The Code of 1650, "appears at the end of volume 2 of The Public Records of the Colony of Connecticut. It is immediately preceded by the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut [43], which is termed the "Constitution of 1639" ...

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53. 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

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pp. 250-252

After Connecticut and New Haven colonies merged in 1662 so that the combined colony had approximately the borders we associate with the state of Connecticut today (a later agreement with New York would trade the Connecticut towns on Long Island for what are now the westernmost towns of Connecticut), ...

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54. Division of the Connecticut General Assembly into Two Houses, October 13, 1698

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pp. 253-294

In this document Connecticut altered somewhat the joint govrnment that had resulted from the 1662 charter. Because the charter was given by the king, there was a danger that such a unilateral amendment might be viewed as disloyalty. The colonists, therefore, were careful to reaffirm their allegiance to the king ...

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55. A Letter from Governor Richard Nicolls to the Inhabitants of Long Island, February 1665

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pp. 254-255

Colony-wide governments were often, but not always, built up 'from below through federations of already existing towns or colonies. William Penn organized his colony of Pennsylvania from above, as did Lord Calvert, in Maryland. Richard Nicolls was not a charter holder like Penn and Calvert but was instead a governor deputed by the charter holder, ...

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56. Charter of Liberties and Privileges, October 30, 1683

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pp. 256-262

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 Governors Council is not elective and is really a privy council. ...

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57. Fundamentals of West New Jersey, 1681

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pp. 263-265

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, ...

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58. Concessions to the Province of Pennsylvania, 1681

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pp. 266-270

Williamm 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 ...

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59. Charter of Liberties and Frame of Government of the Province of Pennsylvania in America, May 5, 1682

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pp. 271-286

It is an understatement to term the following document impresive. The preface clearly and efficiently lays out its underlying theory, which blends biblical principles with contemporary political theory. Although it is his colony, Penn establishes the principle of popular sovereignty. ...

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60. An Act for Freedom of Conscience, December 7, 1682

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pp. 287-289

William Penn was deeply committed to religious freedom, but his commitment was not absolute. Although anyone who professed a belief in God could live undisturbed, one had to believe in Jesus Christ in order to vote and hold office (see the Pennsylvania Frame of Government [59], Articles xxxiv and xxxv of the Laws Agreed Upon in England). ...

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61. Pennsylvania Charter of Liberties, 1701

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pp. 290-296

The 1682 Frame of Government [59], amplified by the Frame of 1683, was replaced by the 1696 Frame. The 1683 document is not reproduced in this collection because its changes were minor. The 1696 document is not reproduced because of its considerable length and essential redundancy with the 1682 document. ...

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62. Orders Devised and Published by the House of Assembly to be Observed During the Assembly, February 25, 1638

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pp. 297-298

One of the core commitments in American political thought is to a political process that is highly deliberative. To a certain extent the English commitment to rule of law lay behind colonial decision making processes, as well as the pragmatic belief that several heads are better than one; ...

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63. Act for Establishing the House of Assembly and the Laws to Be Made Therein, 1638

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pp. 299-301

There had been an assembly of some sort in Maryland since 1635, but this document begins the recorded history of representative government in the colony. The proprietary government in Maryland was much like that in Pennsylvania, which is to say the governor representing the proprietor had almost unlimited power. ...

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64. An Act for Church Liberties, 1638

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pp. 302-343

One of the first colonial statements on religious freedom, this act is notable for extending the principle to Catholics. Later in the century a Protestant majority would temporarily rescind the right for Catholics but a few years later would include them again. ...

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65. An Act for Swearing Allegeance, 1638

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pp. 303-304

The problem of political obligation was handily solved in this era not by some formal theory of consent but rather by the expedient of having all inhabitants take an oath if they wished to remain inhabitants. Colonists were supposedly required to take an oath of fidelity to the king of England, a requirement that engendered some controversy among the colonists. ...

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66. An Act What Persons Shall Be Called to Every General Assembly and an Act Concerning the Calling of General Assemblies, 1638

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pp. 305-307

This simple act comes close to defining the entire form of government in Maryland at the time. The nature and role of the legislature, the process of elections, the definition of the suffrage, the process of passing legislation—all are established here. ...

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67. An Act for the Liberties of the People, 1638

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pp. 308-349

Along with the Pilgrim Code of Law [20] and the Massachusetts Body of Liberties [22], this is one of the earliest attempts to specify and protect the rights of citizens inhabiting a colony as distinct from the rights of proprietors. Each of these three documents takes a different approach to the problem. ...

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68. Maryland Toleration Act, April 21, 1649

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pp. 309-313

Passed in accordance with instructions from Lord Baltimore, this document protected Maryland from the charge of intolerance toward Protestants. When the Protestants were in charge of the colony for a time after 1654, Catholics were not protected in their faith, but this document was reinstated with the restoration of Lord Baltimore as proprietor. ...

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69. Articles, Laws, and Orders, Divine, Politic, and Martial for the Colony in Virginia, 1610-1611

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pp. 314-326

Under its initial charter, Virginia was run by a cumbersome double council. A thirteen-member royal council in London appointed a thirteen-member council in Virginia to carry out its will. The system did not work, and the Virginia governor had to become a virtual dictator to maintain order. ...

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70. Laws Enacted by the First General Assembly of Virginia, August 2-4, 1619

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pp. 327-335

In 1618 he council in London instructed the Virginia governor to initiate the first representative assembly in the colonies. It was felt that the colonists needed to have some voice in local affairs if order and economic prosperity were to be reestablished in the faltering colony. ...

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71. Constitution for the Council and Assembly in Virginia, July 24, 1621

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pp. 336-338

Athough this document was written in England, it is included here because it was adopted at the behest of the colonists as to both form and content. In effect it legally ratifies what the colonists had established in the previous document [70], which in turn had been authorized by an order from England in 1618. ...

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72. Laws and Orders Concluded by the Virginia General Assembly, March 5, 1624

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pp. 339-344

Shortly after the Virginia General Assembly passed this code of laws, the king reorganized the colony government and officially placed all power in the hands of the Governor, although in fact all of the Governor's actions had to be approved by the Crown-appointed Council of State. ...

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73. Act Relating to the Biennial and Other Assemblies and Regulating Elections and Members in North Carolina, 1715

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pp. 345-349

Established in 1664/1665, the province of Carolina developed two widely separated settlements. Proprietary interest was focused on the Charles Town settlement in the south, with its fine port, while the northern settlement, centered in Albemarle County, received little attention. ...

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74. Act to Ascertain the Manner and Form of Electing Members to Represent the Province, 1721

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pp. 350-358

By 1721 the government of South Carolina had evolved to the point where the local legislature was a fully functioning institution. Most of the foundation documents of South Carolina—like those of Virginia, North Carolina, and Georgia—had been written and adopted in London, ...

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75. Act to Ascertain the Manner and Form of Electing Members to Represent the Inhabitants of This Province in the Commons House of Assembly, June 9, 1761

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pp. 359-364

Established by charter in 1732, Georgia was initially governed by a board of trustees in London with no provision for either a governor or a legislature. An appointed governor was in place by 1743, but an assembly was not authorized until 1751, and even then it had no real power. ...

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76. The New England Confederation, 1643

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pp. 365-369

These articles drawn up and approved by the four colonies of Massachusetts, Plymouth, Connecticut, and New Haven constitute the first attempt in America to join several colonies. The New England Confederation differed in two important respects from earlier documents of union in the colonies, ...

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77. The Albany Plan of Union, 1754

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pp. 370-375

In 1754 the colonies sent representatives to a general congress to conclude a treaty with the Iroquois. Although Benjamin Franklin was much impressed by the Iroquois Confederation, neither this document nor the later Articles of Confederation bears any serious resemblance to the Iroquois system. ...

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78. The Articles of Confederation, November 15, 1777

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pp. 376-386

The Articles of Confederation is a straightforward extension, and the natural culmination, of colonial theoretical and institutional development. Until its adoption, even though they had declared independence, Americans were not constitutionally postcolonial. ...

Appendix: Unadopted Colonial Plans of Union

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pp. 387-388

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79. William Penn's Plan of Union, February 8, 1697

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pp. 389-390

Penn's Plan lists only nine colonies, but these nine encompass the existing settled seaboard. As of 1697 New Hampshire is claimed by Massachusetts, (here identified idiosyncratically as "Boston"); Delaware is included as one of"the jerseys" (so implicitly there are ten colonies); Carolina has not yet been differentiated into north and south, and Georgia is not yet chartered. ...

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80. Joseph Galloway's Plan of Union, 1774

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pp. 391-394

Even though it was never ratified by the colonial legislatures, he Albany Plan of Union, adopted by the Albany Congress in 1754, continued to influence the thinking of American nationalists. In Galloway's Plan, as in the Albany Plan of Union, the appointed executive is termed a "President General" and the legislature is termed a "Grand Council. ...


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pp. 395-396

E-ISBN-13: 9781614878261
E-ISBN-10: 1614878269
Print-ISBN-13: 9780865971578

Page Count: 436
Publication Year: 2012

Edition: None

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Subject Headings

  • Constitutional history -- United States -- Sources.
  • Constitutional history -- United States -- States -- Sources.
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