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CHAPTER 14|Document 4
The Concessions and Agreements of the Proprietors, Freeholders, and Inhabitants of the Province of West New-Jersey3 Mar. 1677Boyd 83--89
The Charter or fundamentall Laws of West New Jersey agreed upon
That these following concessions are the common Law or fundamentall Rights of the province of West New Jersey[Volume 1, Page 430]
That the common Law or fundamentall Rights and priviledges of West New Jersey are Individually agreed upon by the Proprietors and freeholders thereof to be the foundation of the Government which is not to be altered by the Legislative Authority or free Assembly hereafter mentioned and constituted But that the said Legislative Authority is constituted according to these fundamentalls to make such Laws as agree with and maintaine the said fundamentalls and to make no Laws that in the least contradict differ or vary from the said fundamentalls under what pretence or allegation soever.
But if it so happen that any person or persons of the said free Assembly shall therin designedly willfully and Malitiously move or excite any to move any matter or thing whatsoever that contradicts or any wayes subverts any fundamentall of the said Laws in the constitution of the Government of this province it being proved by seaven honest and reputeable persons he or they shall be proceeded against as Traitors to the said Government.
That these Concessions Law or great Charter of fundamentalls be recorded in a faire table in the assembly house and that they be read at the beginning and disolveing of every Generall free assembly And it is further agreed and Ordained that the said Concessions Common Law or great Charter of fundamentalls be writt in faire tables in every Common Hall of Justice within this Province and that they be read in sollemn manner foure times every yeare in the presence of the People by the chiefe Magistrates of those places.
That no Men nor number of Men upon Eearth hath power or Authority to rule over mens consciences in religious matters therefore it is consented agreed and ordained that no person or persons whatsoever within the said Province at any time or times hereafter shall be any waies upon any pretence whatsoever called in question or in the least punished or hurt either in Person Estate or Priveledge for the sake of his opinion Judgment faith or worship towards God in matters of Religion but that all and every such person and persons may from time to time and at all times freely and fully have and enjoy his and their Judgments and the exercise of their consciences in matters of religious worship throughout all the said Province.
That no proprietor Freeholder or Inhabitant of the said Province of West New Jersey shall be deprived or condemned of Life limb Liberty estate Property or any wayes hurt in his or their Priveledges Freedoms or Fra[n]chises upon any account whatsoever without a due tryall and Judgment passed by twelve good and Lawfull men of his neighbourhood first had and that in all causes to be tried and in all tryalls the person or persons araigned may except against any of the said Neighbourhood without any reason Rendred (not exceeding thirty five) and in case of any vallid reason alledged against every person nominated for that service.
And that no proprietor Freeholder free denison or Inhabitant in the said Province shall be attached arrested or imprisoned for or by reason of any debt dutie or other thing whatsoever (cases fellonious criminall and treasonable excepted) before he or she have personall summon or summons left at his or her last dwelling place if in the said Province by some legall Authorized Officer constituted and appointed for that purpose to appeare in some Court of Judicature for the said Province with a full and plaine account of the cause or thing in demand as alsoe the name or names of the person or persons at whose suite and the Court where he is to appeare And that he hath at least fourteen dayes time to appeare and answer the said suite if he or she live or inhabitt within forty Miles English of the said Court and if at further distance to have for every twenty miles two dayes time more for his and their appeareance and so proportionably for a larger distance of place.
That upon the recording of the summons and non appeareance of such person and persons a writt or attachment shall or may be issued out to arrest or attach the person or persons of such defaulters to cause his or their appeareance in such Court returnable at a day certaine to answer the penalty or penalties in such suite or suites and if he or they shall be Condemned by legal tryall and Judgment the penalty or penalties shall be paid and satisfied out of his or their reall or personall Estate so Condemned or cause the person or persons soe condemned to lie in execution till satisfaction of the debt and damages be made Provided alwaies if such person or persons soe condemned shall pay and deliver such Estate Goods and Chattells which he or any other person hath for his or their use and shall sollemnly declare and averr that he or they have not any further Estate Goods or chattells wheresoever to satisfie the person or persons (at whose suite he or they are Condemned) their respective Judgments and shall alsoe bring and produce three other persons as Compurgators who are Well knowne and of honest reputation and approved of by the Commissioners of that division where they dwell or inhabitt which shall in such open Court likewise sollemnly declare and averr that they believe in their Consciences such person and persons soe Condemned hav not wherewith further to pay the said condemnation or Condemnations he or they shall be thence forthwith discharged from their said imprisonment any Law or custome to the contrary thereof heretofore in the said Province notwithstanding and upon such summons and default of appeareance recorded as aforesaid and such person and persons not appeareing within forty dayes after it shall and may be lawfull for such Court of Judicature to proceed [Volume 1, Page 431] to tryall of twelve Lawfull men to Judgment against such defaulters and issue forth execution against his or their estate real and personall to satisfie such penalty or penalties to such debt and damages soe recorded as farr as it shall or may extend.
That there shall be in every Court three Justices or Comissioners who shall sitt with the twelve men of the Neighbourhood with them to heare all causes and to assist the said twelve men of the neighbourhood in case of Law and that they the said Justices shall pronounce such Judgment as they shall receive from And be directed by the said twelve men in whom only the Judgment resides and not otherwise. And in case of their neglect and refusall that then one of the twelve by consent of the rest pronounce their owne Judgment as the Justices should have done. And if any Judgment shall be past in any case civill or Criminall by any other person or persons or any other way then according to this agreement and appointment it shall be held null and void and such person or persons soe presumeing to give Judgment shall be severely fined and upon complaint made to the generall Assembly by them be declared incapeable of any office or trust within this Province.
That in all matters and causes civill and Criminall proofe is to be made by the sollemn and plaine averrment of at least two honest and reputeable persons And in case that any person or persons shall beare false witness and bring in his or their evidence contrary to the truth of the matter as shall be made plainly to Appeare that then every such person or persons shall in civill causes suffer the penalty which would be due to the person or persons he or they beare witness against. And in case any witness or witnesses on the behalfe of any person or persons indicted in a criminall cause shall be found to have borne false witness for feare gaine Mallice or favour and thereby hinder the due execution of the Law and deprive the suffering person or persons of their due satisfaction That then and in all other cases of false evidence such person or persons shall be first severely fined and next that he or they shall forever be disabled from being admitted in Evidence or into any publick office employment or service within this Province.
That all and every person and persons whatsoever who shall prosecute or prefere any indictment or information against others for any personall injuries or matter Criminall or shall prosecute for any other Criminall cause (Treason Murther and Fellony only excepted) shall and may be Master of his owne process and have full power to forgive and remitt the person or persons offendeing against him or herselfe only as well before as after Judgment and Condemnation and pardon and remitt the sentence fine and punishment of the person or persons offending be it personnall or other whatsoever.
That the tryalls of all Causes Civill and Criminall shall be heard and decided by the vardict or Judgment of twelve honest men of the neighbourhood only to be summoned and presented by the Sherriffe of that division or propriety where the fact or trespass is Committed and that no person or persons shall be compelled to fee any Attorney or Councellor to plead his cause but that all persons have free liberty to plead his owne cause if he please And that no person nor persons imprisoned upon any account whatever within this Province shall be obliged to pay any Fees to the officer or officers of the said prison either when committed or discharged.
That in all public Courts of Justice for tryall of causes Civill or criminall any person or persons inhabitants of the said Province may freely come into and attend the said Courts and heare and be present at all or any Such tryalls as shal be there had or passed that Justice may not be done in a corner nor in any Covert manner (being intended and resolved by the help of the Lord and by these our Concessions and fundamentalls that all and every person and persons Inhabiting the said Province shall as farr as in us lies be free from oppression and slavery.
Boyd, Julian P., ed. Fundamental Laws and Constitutions of New Jersey, 1664--1964. New Jersey Historical Series, vol. 17. Princeton: D. Van Nostrand Co., Inc., 1964.
© 1987 by The University of Chicago