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Historical texts  >  An Agreement of the People


AN

AGREEMENT

OF THE

PEOPLE

FOR

A firme and present Peace, upon grounds of common-right and freedome;

As it was proposed by the Agents of the five regiments of Horse;
and since by the general approbation of the Army,
offered to the joynt concurrence of all the free COMMONS of ENGLAND.

The Names of the Regiments which have already appeared for the Case,
of The Case of the Army truly stated,
and for this present Agreement, VIZ.

  1. Gen. Regiment.
  2. Life-Guard
  3. Lieut. Gen. Regiment
  4. Com. Gen. Regiment.
  5. Col. Whaleyes Reg.
  6. Col. Riches Reg.
  7. Col. Fleetwoods Reg.
  8. Col. Harrisons Reg.
  9. Col. Twisldens Reg.
Of
Horse
  1. Gen. Regiment.
  2. Col. Sir Hardresse Wallers Reg.
  3. Col. Lamberts Reg.
  4. Col. Rainsboroughs Regiment.
  5. Col. Overtons Reg.
  6. Col. Lilburns Reg.
  7. Col. Backsters Reg.
Of
Foot.

Printed Anno. Dom. 1647.



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 our selves 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 chargable 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 endeavors 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 uncertainly for the time, nor made useless to the ends for which they are intended. In order whereunto we declare:

I. 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.(1)

II. 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.

III. That the people do of course choose themselves a Parliament once in two years, viz., upon the first Thursday in every second March, 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.

IV. 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.(2)

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 willful sin; nevertheless the public way of instructing the Nation (so it be not compulsive) is referred to their discretion.

2. That the matter of impressing 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.(3)

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.(4)

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, suffering 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.


Dear Country-men, and fellow-Commoners,

For your sakes, our friends, estates and lives have not been dear to us; for your safety and freedom we have cheerfully endured hard Labours and run most desperate hazards, and in comparison to your peace and freedom we neither do nor ever shall value our dearest blood and we profess, our bowels are and have been troubled, and our hearts pained within us, in seeing and considering that you have been so long bereaved of these fruits and ends of all our labours and hazards, we cannot but sympathize with you in your miseries and oppressions. Its grief and vexation of heart to us, to receive your meat or monies, while you have no advantage, nor yet the foundations of your peace and freedom surely laid: and therefore upon most serious considerations, that your principal right most essential to your well being is the clearness, certainty, sufficiency and freedom of your power in your representatives in Parliament, and considering that the original of most of your oppressions & miseries has been either from the obscurity and doubtfulness of the power you have committed to your representatives in your elections, or from the want of courage in those whom you have entrusted to claim and exercise their power, which might probably proceed from their uncertainty of your assistance and maintenance of their power, and minding that for this right of yours and ours we engaged our lives; for the King raised the war against you and your Parliament, upon this ground, that he would not suffer your representatives to provide for your peace, safety and freedom that were then in danger, by disposing of the Militia and otherwise, according to their trust; and for the maintenance and defense of that power and right of yours, we hazarded all that was dear to us, and God has borne witness to the justice of our Cause. And further minding that the only effectual means to settle a just and lasting peace, to obtain remedy for all your grievances, & to prevent future oppressions, is the making clear & secure the power that you betrust to your representatives in Parliament, that they may know their trust, in the faithful execution whereof you will assist them. Upon all these grounds, we propound your joining with us in the agreement herewith sent unto you; that by virtue thereof, we may have Parliaments certainly called and have the time of their sitting and ending certain & their power or trust clear and unquestionable, that hereafter they may remove your burdens, & secure your rights, without oppositions or obstructions, & that the foundations of your peace may be so free from uncertainty, that there may be no grounds for future quarrels, or contentions to occasion war and bloodshed; and we desire you would consider, that as these things wherein we offer to agree with you, are the fruits & ends of the Victories which God has given us: so the settlement of these are the most absolute means to preserve you and your Posterity, from slavery, oppression, distraction, & trouble; by this, those whom your selves shall choose, shall have power to restore you to, and secure you in, all your rights; & they shall be in a capacity to taste of subjection, as well as rule, & so shall be equally concerned with your selves, in all they do. For they must equally suffer with you under any common burdens, & partake with you in any freedoms; & by this they shall be disenabled to defraud or wrong you, when the laws shall bind all alike, without privilege or exemption; & by this your Consciences shall be free from tyranny & oppression, & those occasions of endless strife, & bloody wars, shall be perfectly removed: without controversy by your joining with us in this Agreement, all your particular & common grievances will be redressed forthwith without delay; the Parliament must them make your relief and common good their only study.

Now because we are earnestly desirous of the peace and good of all our Country-men, even of those that have opposed us, and would to our utmost possibility provide for perfect peace and freedom, & prevent all suits, debates, & contentions that may happen amongst you, in relation to the late war: we have therefore inserted it into this Agreement, that no person shall be questioned for anything done, in relation to the late public differences, after the dissolution of this present Parliament, further than in execution of their judgement; that thereby all may be secure from all sufferings for what they have done, & not liable hereafter to be troubled or punished by the judgment of another Parliament, which may be to their ruin, unless this Agreement be joined in, whereby any acts of indemnity or oblivion shall be made unalterable, and you and your posterities be secure.

But if any shall enquire why we should desire to join in an Agreement with the people, to declare these to be our native Rights, & not rather petition to the Parliament for them; the reason is evident: No Act of Parliament is or can be inalterable, and so cannot be sufficient security to save you or us harmless, from what another Parliament may determine, if it should be corrupted; and besides Parliaments are to receive the extent of their power, and trust from those that betrust them; and therefore the people are to declare what their power and trust is, which is the intent of this Agreement; and it's to be observed, that though there have formerly been many acts of Parliaments every year, yet you have been deprived of them, and enslaved through want of them, and therefore both necessity for your security in these freedoms, that are essential to your well-being, and woeful experience of the manifold miseries and distractions that have been lengthened out since the war ended, through want of such a settlement, requires this Agreement and when you and we shall be joined together therein, we shall readily join with you, to petition the Parliament, as they are our fellow Commoners equally concerned, to join with us.

And if any shall inquire, Why we undertake to offer this Agreement, we must profess, we are sensible that you have been so often deceived with Declarations and Remonstrances, and fed with vain hopes that you have sufficient reason to abandon all confidence in any persons whatsoever, from whom you have no other security of their intending your freedom, than bare Declaration: And therefore, as our consciences witness, that in simplicity and integrity of heart, we have proposed lately in the Case of the Army stated, your freedom and deliverance from slavery, oppression, and all burdens: so we desire to give you satisfying assurance thereof by this Agreement whereby the foundations of your freedoms provided in the Case, etc. shall be settled unalterably, & we shall as faithfully proceed to, and all other most vigorous actings for your good that God shall direct and enable us unto; And though the malice of our enemies, and such as they delude, would blast us by scandals, aspersing us with designs of Anarchy, and community; yet we hope the righteous God will not only by this our present desire of settling an equal just Government, but also by directing us unto all righteous undertakings, simply for public good, make our uprightness and faithfulness to the interest of all our Countrymen, shine forth so clearly, that malice itself shall be silenced and confounded. We question not, but the longing expectation of a firm peace, will incite you to the most speedy joining in this Agreement: in the prosecution whereof, or of anything that you shall desire for public good; you may be confident, you shall never want the assistance of

Your most faithfull fellow-Commoners, now in Arms for your service.

Edmond Bear
Robert Everard
Lieut. Gen. Regiment
George Garret
Thomas Beverley
Com. Gen. Regiment
William Pryor
William Bryan
Col. Fleetwood's Regiment
Matthew Weale
William Russell
Col. Whaley's Regiment
John Dover
William Hudson
Col. Rich's Regiment

Agents coming from other Regiments unto us, have subscribed the Agreement to be proposed to their respective Regiments, and you.


For Our much honoured, and truly worthy Fellow-Commoners, and Soldiers, the Officers and Soldiers under Command of His Excellency Sir Thomas Fairfax.

Gentlemen and Fellow Soldiers;

The deep sense of many dangers and mischiefs that may befall you in relation to the late War, whensoever this Parliament shall end, unless sufficient prevention be now provided, has constrained us to study the most absolute & certain means for your security; and upon most serious considerations, we judge that no Act of Indemnity can sufficiently provide for your quiet, ease, and safety; because, as it has formerly been, a corrupt Party (chosen into the next Parliament by your Enemy's means) may possibly surprise the house, and make any Act of Indemnity null, seeing they cannot fail of the King's Assistance and concurrence, in any such actings against you, that conquered him.

And by the same means, your freedom from impressing also, may in a short tme be taken from you, though for the present, it should be granted; we apprehend no other security, by which you shall be saved harmless, for what you have done in the late war, than a mutual Agreement between the people & you, that no person shall be questioned by any Authority whatsoever, for anything done in relation to the late public differences, after the dissolution of the present house of Commons, further than in execution of their judgement; and that your native freedom from constraint to serve in war, whether domestic or foreign, shall never be subject to the power of Parliaments, or any other; and for this end, we propound the Agreement that we herewith send to you, to be forthwith subscribed.

And because we are confident, that in judgement and Conscience, you hazarded your lives for the settlement of such a just and equal Government, that you and your posterities, and all the freeborn people of this Nation might enjoy justice & freedom, and that you are really sensible that the distractions, oppressions, and miseries of the Nation, and your want of your Arrears, do proceed from the want of the establishment, both of such certain rules of just Government, and foundations of peace, as are the price of blood, and the expected fruits of all the peoples cost: Therefore in this Agreement we have inserted the certain Rules of equal Government, under which the Nation may enjoy all its Rights and Freedoms securely; And as we doubt not but your love to the freedom and lasting peace of the yet distracted Country will cause you to join together in this Agreement.

So we question not: but every true English man that loves the peace and freedom of England will concur with us; and then your Arrears and constant pay (while you continue in Arms) will certainly be brought in out of the abundant love of the people to you. And then shall the mouths of those be stopped, that scandalize you and us, as endeavouring Anarchy, or to rule by the sword; & then will so firm a union be made between the people and you, that neither any homebred or foreign Enemies will dare to disturb our happy peace. We shall add no more but this, that the knowledge of your union in laying this foundation of peace, this Agreement, is much longed for, by

Yours, and the People's most faithful Servants.


Postscript.

GENTLEMEN.

We desire you may understand the reason of our extracting some principles of common freedom out of those many things proposed to you in the Case truly stated, and drawing them up into the forme of an Agreement. It's chiefly because for these things we first engaged against the King. He would not permit the people's Representatives to provide for the Nation's safety, by disposing of the Militian, and other ways, according to their Trust, but raised a War against them, and we engaged for the defence of that power, and right of the people, in their Representatives. Therefore these things in the Agreement, the people are to claim as their native right, and price of their blood, which you are obliged absolutely to procure for them.

And these being the foundations of freedom, it's necessary, that they should be settled unalterably, which can be by no means, but this Agreement with the people.

And we cannot but mind you, that the ease of the people in all their Grievances, depends upon the settling those principles or rules of equal Government for a free people, & were but this Agreement established, doubtless all the Grievances of the Army and people would be redressed immediately, and all things propounded in your Case truly stated to be insisted on, would be forthwith granted.

Then should the House of Commons have power to help the oppressed people, which they are now bereaved of by the chief Oppressors, and then they shall be equally concerned with you and all the people, in the settlement of the most perfect freedom: for they shall equally suffer with you under any Burdens, or partake in any Freedom. We shall only add, that the sum of all the Agreement which we herewith offer to you, is but in order to the fulfilling of our Declaration of June the 14. wherein we promised to the people, that we would with our lives vindicate and clear their right and power in their Parliaments.

Edmond Bear
Robert Everard
Lieut. Gen. Reg.
George Garret
Thomas Beverley
Com. Gen. Reg.
William Pryor
William Bryan
Col. Fleetwood Reg.
Matthew Wealey
William Russell
Col. Whaley Reg.
John Dover
William Hudson
Col. Rich Reg.

Agents coming from other Regiments unto us, have subscribed the Agreement, to be proposed to their respective Regiments and you.


Notes and Links

(1)
This document served as the focus for debates held in Putney Common between top officers of the New Model Army, known as 'Grandees,' and representatives chosen by the regiments, known as 'agitators.' There is no official record of the conclusion of these debates, but the following was reported in A Letter from Several Agitators to the Regiments:
We sent some of them to debate in love the matter and manner of the Agreement. And the first article thereof, being long debated, it was concluded by vote in the affirmative:- Viz., That all soldiers and others, if not servants or beggars, ought to have their voices in electing those which shall represent them in Parliament, although they have not forty shillings per annum in freehold land. And there were but three voices against this your native freedom.
"any other person or persons"
This refers, of course, to the monarch, and anyone else he or she might appoint to take part in government.
(2)
The ninth and tenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution derive directly from this last clause:
IX. The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
X. The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, or prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
"the late public differences"
The first civil war was fought from 1642 to 1646. In 1629, Charles I had dissolved Parliament, and for eleven years tried to rule on his own authority, to raise taxes, etc. On the occasion of a war on Scotland, he finally felt obliged to recall Parliament, but when they convened they took him to task for his abuses of power. By 1642, the two sides were mustering their own armies, and the war followed.
(3)
This is a demand for amnesty for what the soldiers may have done while fighting for Parliament in the civil war, and in the confrontation between the Army and Parliament in the spring and summer of 1647.
"that every person may be bound alike"
The essential break with remnants of feudalism, this puts the levelling principle on the political agenda for evermore.
(4)
Compare the sense of this clause with that of the preface to the Constitution:
We, the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
"him that intended our bondage"
Refers to Charles I, who the soldiers believed had forced the war upon Parliament and so upon everyone who had taken up the Parliamentary cause. Soon after the debates in Putney Common, even while the Agreement was being published, the king escaped from house arrest (or was secretly released), which created a crisis atmosphere in which the Levellers were unable to push the Agreement any further.
  Charles rallied royalist supporters and, this time in alliance with the Scots, fought a second round of civil war, but was again defeated. He was then tried by Parliament and executed, for treason against the people of England.