Monday, October 29, 2007

The Agreement of the People, 1647 (Part of the Putney Debates)

74. The Agreement of the People, as presented to the Council of the Army.

[An agreement of the People for a firm and present peace, &c., E. 412, 21. October 38, 1647. See Great Civil War, iii. 383-394.]

An Agreement of the People for a firm and present peace upon grounds of common right.
Having by our late labours and hazards made it appear to the world at how high a rate we value our just freedom, and God having so far owned our cause as to deliver the enemies thereof into our hands, we do now hold ourselves bound in mutual duty to each other to take the best care we can for the future to avoid both the danger of returning into a slavish condition and the chargeable remedy of another war; for, as it cannot be imagined that so many of our countrymen would have opposed us in this quarrel if they had understood their own good, so may we safely promise to ourselves that, when our common rights and liberties shall be cleared, their endeavours will be disappointed that seek to make themselves our masters. Since, therefore, our former oppressions and scarce-yet-ended troubles have been occasioned, either by want of frequent national meetings in Council, or by rendering those meetings ineffectual, we are fully agreed and resolved to provide that hereafter our representatives be neither left to an uncertainty for the time nor made useless to the ends for which they are intended. In order whereunto we declare: —

That the people of England, being at this day very unequally distributed by Counties, Cities, and Boroughs for the election of their deputies in Parliament, ought to be more indifferently proportioned according to the number of the inhabitants; the circumstances whereof for number, place, and manner are to be set down before the end of this present Parliament.


That, to prevent the many inconveniences apparently arising from the long continuance of the same persons in authority, this present Parliament be dissolved upon the last day of September which shall be in the year of our Lord 1648


That the people do, of course, choose themselves a Parliament once in two years, viz. upon the first Thursday in every 2d March[1], after the manner as shall be prescribed before the end of this Parliament, to begin to sit upon the first Thursday in April following, at Westminster or such other place as shall be appointed from time to time by the preceding Representatives, and to continue till the last day of September then next ensuing, and no longer.


That the power of this, and all future Representatives of this Nation, is inferior only to theirs who choose them, and doth extend, without the consent or concurrence of any other person or persons, to the enacting, altering, and repealing of laws, to the erecting and abolishing of offices and courts, to the appointing, removing, and calling to account magistrates and officers of all degrees, to the making war and peace, to the treating with foreign States, and, generally, to whatsoever is not expressly or impliedly reserved by the represented to themselves: Which are as followeth.

1. That matters of religion and the ways of God's worship are not at all entrusted by us to any human power, because therein we cannot remit or exceed a tittle of what our consciences dictate to be the mind of God without wilful sin: nevertheless the public way of instructing the nation (so it be not compulsive) is referred to their discretion.

2. That the matter of impresting and constraining any of us to serve in the wars is against our freedom; and therefore we do not allow it in our Representatives; the rather, because money (the sinews of war), being always at their disposal, they can never want numbers of men apt enough to engage in any just cause.

3. That after the dissolution of this present Parliament, no person be at any time questioned for anything said or done in reference to the late public differences, otherwise than in execution of the judgments of the present Representatives or House of Commons.

4. That in all laws made or to be made every person may be bound alike, and that no tenure, estate, charter, degree, birth, or place do confer any exemption from the ordinary course of legal proceedings whereunto others are subjected.

5. That as the laws ought to be equal, so they must be good, and not evidently destructive to the safety and well-being of the people.

These things we declare to be our native rights, and therefore are agreed and resolved to maintain them with our utmost possibilities against all opposition whatsoever; being compelled thereunto not only by the examples of our ancestors, whose blood was often spent in vain for the recovery of their freedoms, Buffering themselves through fraudulent accommodations to be still deluded of the fruit of their victories, but also by our own woeful experience, who, having long expected and dearly earned the establishment of these certain rules of government, are yet made to depend for the settlement of our peace and freedom upon him that intended our bondage and brought a cruel war upon us.

[1] I. e. in March in every other year.


Anonymous Anonymous said...


This is a wonderful example of how the power should be handled by "the people". They gathered representatives to remedy the situation in which they found themselves. They needed a new government, and took the initiative to not only knock down the current one they were under, but to attempt to form a new one. I wonder if we would be able to do this today. If we finally got so fed up with our government, would we take the actions necessary to rectify it? It is our right to do so, but it seems that these days we take a more complacent position in our current situation. Our government has gotten out of control, but we have done very little to make the situation better. Nobody is going to hold our hands through this process, but it seems it would be almost impossible for a grassroots uprising. What would it take to get us to take action and use our rights? We already have the threat of nuclear war ahead of us, what could be worse?

1:45 PM  
Blogger Heather said...

It’s remarkable to me that in 1647 people had such a wonderful idea of what government should be. Yet, now in 2007, it seems as if we have drifted away from these thoughts. After reading this I really wonder what has gotten us to the point we are now. There are so many good points that are made in this. And yes, we can see some of them in our Constitution, but do we follow all of them. I also think it’s pretty amazing that people were able to sit down and write such eloquent and legitimate ideas. Whenever I read things like this, I often wonder how people were able to come up with these ideas.

6:19 PM  
Anonymous Marissa Manns said...

This entry follows up on the comment that I posted earlier relating to John Locke and the bees. We are blessed to have had such amazing fore fathers to shape the foundation of both our country and world. Their ideas were revolutionary for the time. They were completely appropriate and much needed. They have provided us with the greatest foundation for government in the world. I feel that we have forgotten about some of the precepts that our country was founded upon. This is very unfortunate. I am so impressed by these enlightenment thinkers. They were willing to step outside of church control. This was difficult enough. They were also willing to go through a process of reevaluation of popular theories of the time. They subscribed to what theories made the most sense logically. It was a necessity for these theories to be the best for the good of the new society as a whole. Thankfully we had theorists like this to mold a newly enlightened world. We would most likely be stuck under church control if it were not the advancements made by these people.

10:57 PM  
Anonymous Eden said...

This is an excellent embodiment of self-government, these representatives gathered together to promote the common good of the community. Coming out of a time of war, these people understood the importance of an efficient government and put forth commendable effort to form such a government. I find the apparent willingness to compromise and sacrifice personal preferences for the common good commendable. The document is reminiscent of our democratic ideals, yet seems to represent them in a more elegant fashion. The continual references to god aside, I feel that the overall piece encourages personal freedom, which had formerly been denied these individuals.

9:20 AM  
Blogger Kayla Meadows said...

Number 5 struck me so strongly in this particular post. How amazing would it be if every law was made with such care and thought as the laws forulated at the birth of our country!

Today, I fear that far too little attention is paid to the changing world we live in. Laws must flex, and I feel that too many are concrete. Flexibility is a valuable asset in all things, including people and their government, but if our very laws don't exemplify it, how can our society develop, accepting change and moving through society with success?

Our government needs to take a few steps back and reconsider the processes that we go through in the passage of laws. They no longer protect our citizens because they don't function as freely as they did in our past.

12:36 PM  
Anonymous Aziza said...

People should read this.

6:58 PM  

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