Constitutional Government

CHAPTER 17 | Document 3

Royal Commission for Regulating Plantations

28 Apr. 1634Bradford 422--25

CHARLES by the grace of GOD King of England, Scotland, France, and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, ETC.

To the most Reverend father in Christ, our well beloved and faithful counsellor William, by divine Providence Archbishop of Canterbury, of all England Primate and Metropolitan; Thomas Lord Coventry, Keeper of our Great Seal of England; the most Reverent father in Christ our well beloved and most faithful counselor, Richard, by divine Providence Archbishop of York, Primate and Metropolitan; our well beloved and most faithful cousins and counselors, Richard Earl of Portland, our High Treasurer of England; Henry Earl of Manchester, Keeper of our Privy Seal; Thomas, Earl of Arundel and Surrey, Earl Marshal of England; Edward Earl of Dorset, Chamberlain of our most dear consort the Queen; and our beloved and faithful councillors, Francis Lord Cottington, Councillor and Undertreasurer of our Exchequer; Sir Thomas Edmonds knight, Treasurer of our household; Sir Henry Vane knight, comptroller of the same household; Sir John Cook knight, one of our Privy Secretaries, And Francis Windebank knight, another of our Privy Secretaries, Greeting.

Whereas very many of our subjects and of our late father's of beloved memory, our sovereign lord James, late King of England, by means of license royal, not only with desire of enlarging the territories of our empire but chiefly out of a pious and religious affection, and desire of propagating the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, with great industry and expenses have caused to be planted large colonies of the English nation in divers parts of the world altogether unmanured and void of inhabitants, or occupied of the barbarous people that have no knowledge of divine worship. We being willing to provide a remedy for the tranquility and quietness of those people, and being very confident of your faith and wisdom, justice and provident circumspection, have constituted you, the aforesaid Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Keeper of the Great Seal of England, the Archbishop of York, etc. and any five or more of you, our Commissioners. And to you and any five or more of you, we do give and commit power for the government and safety of the said colonies drawn, or which out of the English nation into those parts hereafter shall be drawn, to make laws, constitutions and ordinances pertaining either to the public state of these colonies or the private profit of them. And concerning the lands, goods, debts and succession in those parts, and how they shall demean themselves towards foreign princes and their people, or how they shall bear themselves towards us and our subjects, as well in any foreign parts whatsoever or on the seas in those parts or in their return sailing home or which may pertain to the clergy government, or to the cure of souls among the people there living, and exercising trade in those parts, by designing out congruent portions arising in tithes, oblations and other things there, according to your sound discretions in political and civil causes, and by having the advice of two or three bishops for the settling, making and ordering of the business for the designing of necessary ecclesiastical and clergy portions, which you shall cause to be called and taken to you. And to make provision against the violation of those laws, constitutions and ordinances, by imposing penalties and mulcts, imprisonment if there be cause and that the quality of the offense do require it, by deprivation of member or life, to be inflicted. With power also (our assent being had) to remove and displace the governors or rulers of those colonies for causes which to you shall seem lawful and others in their stead to constitute. And require an account of their rule and government, and whom you shall find culpable, either by deprivation from their place or by imposition of a mulct upon the goods of them in those parts to be levied, or banishment from those provinces in which they have been governor or otherwise to cashier according to the quantity of the offense. And to constitute judges and magistrates political and civil, for civil causes and under the power and form which to you, five or more of you, shall seem expedient. And judges and magistrates and dignities to causes ecclesiastical, and under the power and form which to you, five or more of you, with the bishops vicegerents (provided by the Archbishop of Canterbury for the time being) shall seem expedient; and to ordain courts, pretorian and tribunal, as well ecclesiastical as civil, of judgments; to determine the forms and manner of proceedings in the same, and of appealing from them in matters and causes as well criminal as civil, personal, real and mixed, and to their seats of justice, what may be equal and well ordered and what crimes, faults or excesses of contracts or injuries ought to belong to the ecclesiastical court, and what to the civil court and seat of justice.

Provided, nevertheless, that the laws, ordinances and constitutions of this kind, shall not be put in execution before our assent be had thereunto in writing under our signet, signed at least; and this assent being had and the same publicly proclaimed in the provinces in which they are to be executed, we will and command that those laws, ordinances, and constitutions, more fully to obtain strength and be observed, and shall be inviolably of all men whom they shall concern.

Notwithstanding, it shall be for you, or any five or more of you, (as is aforesaid) although those laws, constitutions and ordinances shall be proclaimed with our royal assent, to change, revoke and abrogate them and other new ones, in form aforesaid, from time to time frame and make as aforesaid; and to new evils arising, or new dangers, to apply new remedies as is fitting, so often as to you it shall seem expedient.

Furthermore, you shall understand that we have constituted you, and every five or more of you, the aforesaid Archbishop of Canterbury; Thomas Lord Coventry, Keeper of the Great Seal of England; Richard Bishop of York, Richard Earl of Portland, Henry Earl of Manchester, Thomas Earl of Arundel and Surrey, Edward Earl of Dorset, Francis Lord Cottington, Sir Thomas Edmonds knight, Sir Henry Vane knight, Sir Francis Windebank knight, our Commissioners to hear and determine according to your sound discretions all manner of complaints either against those colonies or their rulers or governors, at the instance of the parties grieved, or at their accusation brought concerning injuries from hence or from thence between them and their members to be moved and to call the parties before you. And to the parties or to their procurators from hence or from thence being heard, the full complement of justice to be exhibited. Giving unto you or any five or more of you power that if you shall find any of the colonies aforesaid or any of the chief rulers upon the jurisdictions of others by unjust possession or usurpation or one against another making grievance or in rebellion against us, or withdrawing from our allegiance, or our commandments not obeying, consultation first with us in that case had, to cause those colonies or the rulers of them for the causes aforesaid, or for other just causes, either to return to England or to command them to other places designed, even as according to your sound discretions it shall seem to stand with equity and justice or necessity. Moreover, we do give unto you and any five or more of you power and special command over all the charters, letters patents and rescripts royal of the regions, provinces, islands or lands in foreign parts, granted for rising colonies, to cause them to be brought before you. And the same being received, if anything surreptitiously or unduly have been obtained, or that by the same privileges, liberties and prerogatives hurtful to us or to our crown or to foreign princes, have been prejudicially suffered or granted, the same being better made known unto you, five or more of you, to command them according to the laws and customs of England to be revoked, and to do such other things which to the profit and safeguard of the aforesaid colonies and of our subjects resident in the same, shall be necessary. And therefore we do command you that about the premises at days and times which for these things you shall make provision, that you be diligent in attendance as it becometh you; giving in precept also and firmly enjoining we do give command to all and singular chief rulers of provinces into which the colonies aforesaid have been drawn, or shall be drawn, and concerning the colonies themselves, and concerning others that have been interest therein, that they give attendance upon you and be observant and obedient unto your warrants in those affairs, as often as and even as in our name they shall be required, at their peril.

In testimony whereof we have caused these our letters to be made patent.

Witness ourself at Westminster the 28th day of April, in the tenth year of our reign.

By writ from the Privy Seal,

Anno Domini 1634     Willies

The Founders' Constitution
Volume 1, Chapter 17, Document 3
The University of Chicago Press

Bradford, William. Of Plymouth Plantation, 1620--1647. Edited by Samuel Eliot Morison. New York: Modern Library, 1967.

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