A Declaration of the Commons of England assembled in Parliament, of their true Intentions concerning the Ancient and Fundamental Government of the Kingdom.
The Government of the Church, The present Peace; Securing the people against all Arbitrary Government, and maintaining a right understanding between the Two Kingdoms of England and Scotland, according to the Covenant and Treaties.
Die Veneris, 17. April. 1646.
Ordered, That four thousand of these Declarations be printed for the use of the Parliament, and that the Knights and Burgesses of the several Counties do take care they be forthwith sent down and published in the respective counties and places for which they serve.
Ordered, that it be referred to Sir Arthur Haslerig, Sir John Evelin, Mr. Allen, and Mr. Ball, or any two of them, to distribute the said Declarations to the Messengers that are to be sent into the several counties; and that fewer than one hundred be not sent to one country, and as many more as they shall see cause; and are likewise to take care that they may be published, set up and fixed in every Parish Church, by the Church Wardens, or other Officers of the said Parish, which the said Church-Wardens are hereby required and enjoined to see published, set up and fixed in the said Parish Churches accordingly.
We the Commons in Parliament assembled, well remembering that in the beginning of this War, divers Protestations, Declarations and Suggestions were spread abroad by the King, and those that did adhere unto him, whereby our sincere Intentions for the public good were misrepresented, and the minds of many possessed with a belief, That our Resolutions and proceedings were grounded upon needless fears and jealousies, and that there was no necessary and just cause of the present War; the untruth and deceitfulness whereof, by the good hand of God miraculously discovering the secrets of our Enemies, disposing and blessing our Affairs, time and experience have since fully manifested, to the undeceiving of those that were seduced thereby; which mistakes of the people by this artifice and cunning of the Enemy, for some time much blemished the Justice of this Cause, and not only prolonged the War, but hazarded the success thereof: And if the Enemy by these means had prevailed, how dangerous the Consequences would have been is most apparent.
And now observing, that when it hath pleased God so to bless our endeavours, and the Actions of our Forces and Armies, as that the Enemy is in despair to accomplish his designs by War; and we are brought into good hopes of attaining and enjoying that which with so much expense of blood and treasure we have contended for; There are still the same spirits stirring, and humors working as in the beginning, though under other disguises, and upon other grounds, putting false constructions as well upon what hath already passed the Houses, as upon the things under present debate, and misrepresenting our Intentions in the use we desire to make of this great success which God hath given us, and the happy opportunity to settle Peace and Truth in the three Kingdoms, not ceasing, as well in Print as otherwise, to beget a belief that we now desire to exceed or swerve from our first Aims and Principles in the undertaking this War, and to recede from the Solemn League and Covenant, and Treaties between the two Kingdoms; and that we would prolong these uncomfortable troubles and bleeding distractions, in order to alter the Fundamental Constitution and Frame of this Kingdom, to leave all Government in the Church loose and unsettled, and ourselves to exercise the same Arbitrary power over the persons and estates of the Subjects, which this present Parliament hath thought fit to abolish, by taking away the Star-Chamber, High Commission, and other Arbitrary Courts, and the Exorbitant Power of the Councel Table.
All which being seriously considered by us, although our Actions and Proceedings from time to time, since the beginning of this Parliament, and particularly in the managing this great Cause, are the best Demonstrations of our sincerity and faithfulness to the Public; yet foreseeing, that if credit be given to such dangerous insinuations and false surmises, the same will not only continue the present calamities, and involve us into new and unexpected embroilments; but likewise, inevitably endanger the happy issue and success of our endeavors, which by Gods blessing we may otherwise hope for.
We do Declare, That our true and real Intentions are, and our Endeavours shall be to settle Religion in the Purity thereof, according to the Covenant, to maintain the ancient and Fundamental Government of this Kingdom, to preserve the Rights and Liberties of the Subject, to lay hold on the first opportunity of procuring a safe and well grounded Peace in the three Kingdoms, and to keep a good understanding between the two Kingdoms of England and Scotland, according to the grounds expressed in the Solemn League and Covenant and Treaties; Which we desire may be inviolably observed on both parts.
And, lest these generals should not give a sufficient satisfaction, we have thought fit, to the end men may be no longer abused into a misbelief of our Intentions, or a misunderstanding of our Actions, to make this further enlargement upon the particulars:
And first concerning Church-Government, we having so fully declared for a Presbyterial Government, having spent so much time, taken so much pains for the settling of it, passed most of the particulars brought to us from the Assembly of Divines (called only to Advise of such things as shall be required of them by both or either of the Houses of Parliament) without any material alteration, saving in the point of Commissioners; And having published several Ordinances for putting the same in execution, because we cannot consent to the granting of an Arbitrary and unlimited Power and Jurisdiction, to near Ten thousand Judicatories to be erected within this Kingdom, and this demanded in such a way as is not consistent with the Fundamental Laws and Government of the same, and by necessary consequence excluding the Power of the Parliament of England in the exercise of that Jurisdiction, and whereof we have received no satisfaction in point of Conscience or Prudence; Nor have we yet resolved how a due regard may be had, that tender Consciences, which differ not in any Fundamentals of Religion, may be so Provided for, as may stand with the Word of God, and the Peace of the Kingdom.
It must therefore seem very strange of us, if any sober and modest men should entertain a thought, that we should settle no Government in the Church when our unwillingness to subject ourselves and the people of this Land to this vast Power, hath been a great cause that the Government hath not been long since established: And we desire it may be observed, that we have had the more reason, by no means to part with this Power out of the hands of the Civil Magistrate, since the experience of all Ages will manifest, That the Reformation and purity of Religion, and the Preservation and Protestation of the People of God in this Kingdom, hath, under God, been by the Parliaments and their exercise of this Power: And our full Resolutions still are, sincerely, really and constantly, through the grace of God, to endeavor the Reformation of Religion in the Kingdoms of England and Ireland, in Doctrine, Worship, Discipline and Government, according to the Word of God, and the Example of the best Reformed Churches, and according to our Covenant.
Whence it may appear to all men, That those Rumors and Aspersions whereby the minds of men are so disturbed for want of the present settling of Church-Government are to be applied to those, who having a sufficient Power and Direction from the Houses on that behalf, have not as yet put the same in execution.
And whereas a safe and good Peace is the right end of a just War, there is nothing we have more earnestly desired, nor more constantly labored after, and to that purpose, both Houses of Parliament have framed several Propositions to be sent to the King, such as they hold necessary for the present and future safety and good of this Kingdom; some of which are transmitted from both Houses to our Brethren of Scotland, where they now remain; Whose consent, that they may speedily be sent to the King, we shall not doubt to obtain, since the Parliament of England is and ought to be sole and proper Judge of what may be for the good of this Kingdom: The same liberty having been always by us admitted to the Kingdom of Scotland in all things that concern that Kingdom; wherein we are so far from altering the Fundamental Constitution and Government of this Kingdom, by King, Lords and Commons, that we have only desired, that with the consent of the King such powers may be settled in the two Houses, without which we can have no assurance, but that the like or greater mischiefs than these which God hath hitherto delivered us from, may break out again, and engage us in a second and more destructive War.
Whereby it plainly appears, our intentions are not to change the frame of Government within this Kingdom, but to obtain the end of the Primitive Institution of all Government, The safety and weal of the People; not judging it wise or safe, after so bitter experience of the bloody consequences of a pretended Power of the Militia in the King, to leave any colorable Authority in the same for the future attempts of introducing and Arbitrary Government over this Nation, and protecting Delinquents, Enemies of our Religion and Liberties, by force from the Justice of Parliament, the first and chiefest grounds of the Parliaments taking up Arms in this Cause.
And although the necessity of War hath given some disturbance to Loyal proceedings, stopped the usual course of Justice, enforced the Parliament, for the preservation of this State, to impose and require many great and unusual payments from the good Subjects of this Kingdom, and to take extraordinary ways for procuring of Moneys for their pressing occasions; It having pleased God to reduce our affairs into a more hopeful condition than heretofore: We do Declare, That we will not, nor any by colour of any Authority derived from us, shall interrupt the ordinary course of Justice in the several Courts and Judicatories of this Kingdom, nor intermeddle in cases of private interest otherwhere determinable, unless it be in case of Mal-Administration of Justice, wherein we shall see and provide, that right be done, and punishment inflicted as there shall be occasion, according to the Laws of the Kingdom, and the trust reposed in us. And as both Houses have already, for the ease and benefit of the people, taken away the Court of the Wards and Liveries, with all Tenures in Capite, and by Knight service, so we will take especial care, that as speedy and as great ease may be had in future levies of Money, by reducing of Garrisons, and otherways, as the pressing occasions of the Kingdom can possibly admit, and will provide by bringing Delinquents to due punishment (who have unnaturally fomented and maintained this present War against the Parliament and Kingdom) That there may be a fair possibility of satisfying the disbursements, clearing the engagements, and repairing the losses of those who have faithfully and cheerfully laid out themselves, and suffered for the Public service, unless by too great credulity given to false Suggestions, we shall be disabled from effecting what we desire.
Lastly, whereas both Nations have entered into a Solemn League and Covenant, and Treaties have been made and concluded between the two Kingdoms of England and Scotland, we have had an especial regard to the Treaties, and have not (to our best judgments) failed of the performance of anything which was on our part to be performed. And for the Covenant, we have been and ever shall be very careful duly to observe the same, that as nothing hath been done, so nothing shall be done by us, repugnant to the true meaning and intention thereof, and do presume, no interpretation of it (so far as it shall concern the Kingdom of England) shall by any be endeavored to be imposed on us, other than we ourselves do know to be suitable to the first just ends for which it was agreed; and we do expect, That the people of England should not receive impressions of any forced constructions of that Covenant, which in case of any doubt arising, is only to be expounded by them by whose Authority it was Established in this Kingdom, who will not depart from those grounds and principles upon which it was framed and founded.