The Massachusetts Body of Liberties was adopted by the Massachusetts General Court in 1641. It is America’s first legal code and is considered to be a spiritual ancestor to the united states Constitution Bill of Rights.
Emphasizing individual rights:
- free speech
- trial by jury
- right to bail
- right to written notice of court proceedings
The Massachusetts Body of Liberties granted more rights to the citizens of Massachusetts than by Great Britain. King Charles II revoked the Body of Liberties and reinstated English law in Massachusetts in 1684. NOTE: The Bible determined TEN of the Capital Laws
Massachusetts Body of Liberties
The free fruition of such liberties Immunities and privileges as humanitie, Civilitie, and Christianity call for as due to every man in his place and proportion without impeachment and Infringement hath ever been and ever will be the tranquillitie and Stabilitie of Churches and Commonwealths. And the denial or deprival thereof, the disturbance if not the ruin of both.
We hold it therefore our duty and safety whilst we are about the further establishing of this Government to collect and express all such freedoms as for present we foresee may concerned us, and our posterity after us, And to ratify them with our sollemne consent.
Wee doe therefore this day religiously and unanimously decree and confirm these following Rites, liberties and privileges concerning our Churches, and Civil State to be respectively impartiallie and inviolably enjoyed and observed throughout our Jurisdiction forever.
1. No man’s life shall be taken away, no man’s honour or good name shall be stayed, no man’s person shall be arrested, restrained, banished, dismembered, nor any ways punished, no man shall be deprived of his wife or children, no man’s goods or estate shall be taken away from him, nor any way indammaged under colour of law or Countenance of Authoritie, unless it be by virtue or equity of some expresse law of the Country warranting the same, established by a general Court and sufficiently published, or in case of the defect of a law in any particular case by the word of God. And in Capital cases, or in cases concerning dismembring or banishment according to that word to be judged by the General Court.
2. Every person within this Jurisdiction, whether Inhabitant or foreigner shall enjoy the same justice and law, that is general for the plantation, which we constitute and execute one towards another without partialitie or delay.
3. No man shall be urged to take any oath or subscribe any articles, covenants or remonstrance, of a publique and Civil nature, but such as the General Court hath considered, allowed and required.
4. No man shall be punished for not appearing at or before any Civil Assembly, Court, Council, Magistrate, or Officer, nor for the omission of any office or service, if he shall be necessarily hindered by any apparent Act or providence of God, which he could neither foresee nor avoid. Provided that this law shall not prejudice any person of his just cost or damage, in any civil action.
5. No man shall be compelled to any publique worke or service unless the presse be grounded upon some act of the general Court, and have reasonable allowance therefore.
6. No man shall be pressed in person to any office, worke, wares or other publique service, that is necessarily and sufficiently exempted by any natural or personal impediment, as by want of years, greatness of age, defect of minde, fayling of sences, or impotencie of Lymbes.
7. No man shall be compelled to go out of the limits of this plantation upon any offensive wares which this Commonwealth or any of our friends or confederats shall voluntarily undertake. But only upon such vindictive and defensive wares in our own behalf or the behalf of our friends and confederats as shall be enterprized by the Counsel and consent of a Court general, or by authority derived from the same.
8. No man’s Cattel or goods of what kind soever shall be pressed or taken for any publique use or service, unless it be by warrant grounded upon some act of the general Court, nor without such reasonable prices and hire as the ordinary rates of the Country do afford. And if his Cattle or goods shall perish or suffer damage in such service, the owner shall be sufficiently recompensed.
9. No monopolies shall be granted or allowed amongst us, but of such new Inventions that are profitable to the Country, and that for a short time.
10. All our lands and heritages shall be free from all fines and licenses upon Alienations, and from all hariotts, wardships, Liveries, Primer-seisins, year day and wast, Escheats, and forfeitures, upon the deaths of parents or Ancestors, be they natural, casual or Judicial.
11. All persons which are of the age of 21 years, and of right understanding and memories, whether excommunicate or condemned shall have full power and liberty to make there wills and testaments, and other lawful alienations of their lands and estates.
12. Every man whether Inhabitant or foreigner, free or not free shall have liberty to come to any publique Court, Council, or Towne meeting, and either by speech or writing to move any lawful, seasonable, and material question, or to present any necessary motion, complaint, petition, Bill or information, whereof that meeting hath proper cognizance, so it be done in convenient time, due order, and respective manner.
13. No man shall be rated here for any estate or revenue he hath in England, or in any foreign partes till it be transported hither.
14. Any conveyance or alienation of land or other estate what so ever, made by any woman that is married, any child under age, Ideott or distracted person, shall be good if it be passed and ratified by the consent of a general Court.
15. All Covenous or fraudulent Alienations or Conveyances of lands, tenements, or any hereditaments, shall be of no validity to defeat any man from due debts or legacies, or from any just title, clame or possession, of that which is so fraudulently conveyed.
16. Every Inhabitant that is an house holder shall have free fishing and fowling in any great ponds and Bayes, Coves and Rivers, so far as the sea ebbs and flows within the precincts of the towne where they dwell, unless the free men of the same Towne or the General Court have otherwise appropriated them, provided that this shall not be extended to give leave to any man to come upon others propriety without there leave.
17. Every man of or within this Jurisdiction shall have free liberty, notwithstanding any Civil power to remove both himself, and his family at their pleasure out of the same, provided there be no legal impediment to the contrary.
Rites Rules and Liberties concerning Judicial proceedings.
18. No man’s person shall be restrained or imprisoned by any authority whatsoever, before the law hath sentenced him thereto, if he can put in sufficient securitize, bayle or mainprise, for his appearance, and good behaviour in the meane time, unless it be in Crimes Capital, and Contempts in open court, and in such cases where some expresse act of Court doth allow it.
19. If in a general Court any miscariage shall be amongst the Assistants when they are by themselves that may deserve an Admonition or fine under 20 sh. it shall be examined and sentenced amongst themselves, If amongst the Deputies when they are by themselves, it shall be examined and sentenced amongst themselves, If it be when the whole Court is togeather, it shall be judged by the whole Court, and not severallie as before.
20. If any which are to sit as Judges in any other Court shall demeane themselves offensively in the Court, The rest of the Judges present shall have power to censure him for it, if the cause be of a high nature it shall be presented to and censured at the next superior Court.
21. In all cases where the first summons are not served six dayes before the Court, and the cause breifly specified in the warrant, where appearance is to be made by the partie summoned, it shall be at his liberty whether he will appeare or no, except all cases that are to be handled in Courts suddainly called, upon extraordinary occasions, In all cases where there appeares present and urgent cause any assistant or officer apointed shal have power to make out attaichments for the first summons.
22. No man in any suit or action against an other shall falsely pretend great debts or damages to vex his adversary, if it shall appeare any doth so, The Court shall have power to set a reasonable fine on his head.
23. No man shall be adjudged to pay for detaining any debt from any Creditor above eight pounds in the hundred for one year, And not above that rate proportionable for all somes what so ever, neither shall this be a coulour or countenance to allow any usurie amongst us contrary to the law of god.
24. In all Trespasses or damages done to any man or men, If it can be proved to be done by the meere default of him or them to whome the trespasse is done, It shall be judged no trespasse, nor any damage given for it.
25. No Summons pleading Judgement, or any kind of proceeding in Court or course of Justice shall be abated, arested or reversed upon any kind of cercumstantiall errors or mistakes, If the person and cause be rightly understood and intended by the Court.
26. Every man that findeth himself unfit to plead his own cause in any Court shall have Libertie to imploy any man against whom the Court doth not except, to helpe him, Provided he give him noe fee or reward for his paines. This shall not exempt the partie him selfe from Answering such Questions in person as the Court shall thinke meete to demand of him.
27. If any plantife shall give into any Court a declaration of his cause in writing, The defendant shall also have liberty and time to give in his answer in writing, And so in all further proceedings betwene partie and partie, So it doth not further hinder the dispach of Justice then the Court shall be willing unto.
28. The plantife in all Actions brought in any Court shall have liberty to withdraw his Action, or to be nonsuited before the Jurie hath given in their verdict, in which case he shall alwaies pay full cost and chardges to the defendant, and may afterwards renew his suite at an other Court if he please.
29. In all actions at law it shall be the liberty of the plantife and defendant by mutual consent to choose whether they will be tryed by the Bensh or by a Jurie, unless it be where the law upon just reason hath otherwise determined. The like liberty shall be granted to all persons in Criminall cases.
30. It shall be in the liberty both of plantife and defendant, and likewise every delinquent (to be judged by a Jurie) to challenge any of the Jurors. And if his challenge be found just and reasonable by the Bench, or the rest of the Jurie, as the challenger shall choose it shall be allowed him, and tales de cercumstantibus impaneled in their room.
31. In all cases where evidences is so obscure or defective that the Jurie cannot clearely and safely give a positive verdict, whether it be a grand or petit Jurie, It shall have liberty to give a non Liquit, or a spetiall verdict, in which last, that is in a spetiall verdict, the Judgement of the cause shall be left to the Court, And all Jurors shall have liberty in matters of fact if they cannot finde the maine issue, yet to finde and present in their verdict so much as they can, If the Bench and Jurors shall so suffer at any time about their verdict that either of them cannot proceede with peace of conscience the case shall be referred to the General Court, who shall take the question from both and determine it.
32. Every man shall have liberty to replevy his Cattell or goods impounded, distreined, seised, or extended, unless it be upon execution after Judgement, and in paiment of fines. Provided he puts in good securitize to prosecute his replevin, And to satisfie such demands as his Adversary shall recover against him in Law.
33. No mans person shall be arrested, or imprisoned upon execution or judgment for any debt or fine, If the law can finde competent meanes of satisfaction otherwise from his estate, and if not his person may be arrested and imprisoned where he shall be kept at his own charge, not the plantife’s till satisfaction be made, unless the Court that had cognizance of the cause or some superior Court shall otherwise provide.
34. If any man shall be proved and Judged a commen Barrator vexing others with unjust frequent and endlesse suites, It shall be in the power of Courts both to denie him the benefit of the law, and to punish him for his barratry.
35. No mans corne nor hay that is in the feild or upon the Cart, nor his garden stuffe, nor any thing subject to present decay, shall be taken in any distresse, unles he that takes it doth presently bestow it where it may not be imbesled nor suffer spoile or decay, or give securitize to satisfie the worth thereof if it comes to any harme.
36. It shall be in the liberty of every man cast condemned or sentenced in any cause in any Inferior Court, to make their appeale to the Court of Assistants, provided they tender their appeale and put in securitize to prosecute it, before the Court be ended wherein they were condemned, And within six dayes next ensuing put in good securitize before some Assistant to satisfie what his Adversarie shall recover against him; And if the cause be of a Criminall nature for his good behaviour, and appearance, And everie man shall have liberty to complaine to the General Court of any Injustice done him in any Court of Assistants or other.
37. In all cases where it appeares to the Court that the plantife hath wilingly and witingly done wronge to the defendant in commenceing and prosecuting an action or complaint against him, They shall have power to impose upon him a proportionable fine to the use of the defendant or accused person, for his false complaint or clamor.
38. Everie man shall have liberty to Record in the publique Rolles of any Court any Testimony given upon oath in the same Court, or before two Assistants, or any deede or evidence legally confirmed there to remaine in perpetuam rei memoriam, that is for perpetuall memoriall or evidence upon occasion.
39. In all actions both reall and personal betweene partie and partie, the Court shall have power to respite execution for a convenient time, when in their prudence they see just cause so to doe.
40. No Conveyance, Deede, or promise whatsoever shall be of validity, If it be gotten by Illegal violence, imprisonment, threatening, or any kind of forcible compulsion called Dures.
41. Everie man that is to Answere for any criminall cause, whether he be in prison or under bayle, his cause shall be heard and determined at the next Court that hath proper Cognizance thereof, And may be done without prejudice of Justice.
42. No man shall be twise sentenced by Civil Justice for one and the same Crime, offence, or Trespasse.
43. No man shall be beaten with above 40 stripes, nor shall any true gentleman, nor any man equall to a gentleman be punished with whipping, unles his crime be very shamefull, and his course of life vitious and profligate.
44. No man condemned to dye shall be put to death within fower dayes next after his condemnation, unles the Court see spetiall cause to the contrary, or in case of martiall law, nor shall the body of any man so put to death be unburied 12 howers unless it be in case of Anatomie.
45. No man shall be forced by Torture to confesse any Crime against himself nor any other unless it be in some Capital case, where he is first fullie convicted by cleare and suffitient evidence to be guilty, After which if the cause be of that nature, That it is very apparent there be other conspiratours, or confederates with him, Then he may be tortured, yet not with such Tortures as be Barbarous and inhumane.
46. For bodilie punishments we allow amongst us none that are inhumane Barbarous or cruel.
47. No man shall be put to death without the testimony of two or three witnesses or that which is equivalent thereunto.
48. Every Inhabitant of the Country shall have free liberty to search and veewe any Rooles, Records, or Regesters of any Court or office except the Council, And to have a transcript or exemplification thereof written examined, and signed by the hand of the officer of the office paying the appointed fees therefore.
49. No free man shall be compelled to serve upon Juries above two Courts in a year, except grand Jurie men, who shall hould two Courts together at the least.
50. All Jurors shall be chosen continuallie by the freemen of the Towne where they dwell.
51. All Associates selected at any time to Assist the Assistants in Inferior Courts, shall be nominated by the Townes belonging to that Court, by orderly agreement amonge themselves.
52. Children, Idiots, Distracted persons, and all that are strangers, or new comers to our plantation, shall have such allowances and dispensations in any cause whether Criminal or other as religion and reason require.
53. The age of discretion for passing away of lands or such kind of herediments, or for giveing, of votes, verdicts or Sentence in any Civil Courts or causes, shall be one and twentie years.
54. Whensoever any thing is to be put to vote, any sentence to be pronounced, or any other matter to be proposed, or read in any Court or Assembly, If the president or moderator thereof shall refuse to performe it, the Major parte of the members of that Court or Assembly shall have power to appoint any other meete man of them to do it, And if there be just cause to punish him that should and would not.
55. In all suites or Actions in any Court, the plaintife shall have liberty to make all the titles and claims to that he sues for he can. And the Defendant shall have liberty to plead all the pleas he can in answere to them, and the Court shall judge according to the intire evidence of all.
56. If any man shall behave himself offensively at any Towne meeting, the rest of the freemen then present, shall have power to sentence him for his offence. So be it the mulct or penaltie exceede not twentie shilings.
57. Whensoever any person shall come to any very suddaine untimely and unnaturall death, Some assistant, or the Constables of that Towne shall forthwith sumon a Jury of twelve free men to inquire of the cause and manner of their death, and shall present a true verdict thereof to some neere Assistant, or the next Court to be helde for that Towne upon their oath.
Liberties more peculiarlie concerning the free men.
58. Civil Authoritie hath power and liberty to see the peace, ordinances and Rules of Christ observed in every church according to his word. so it be done in a Civil and not in an Ecclesiastical way.
59. Civil Authoritie hath power and liberty to deale with any Church member in a way of Civil Justice, notwithstanding any Church relation, office or interest.
60. No church censure shall degrade or depose any man from any Civil dignitie, office, or Authoritie he shall have in the Commonwealth.
61. No Magestrate, Juror, Officer, or other man shall be bound to informe present or reveale any private crim or offence, wherein there is no perill or danger to this plantation or any member thereof, when any necessarie tye of conscience binds him to secresie grounded upon the word of god, unless it be in case of testimony lawfully required.
62. Any Shire or Towne shall have liberty to choose their Deputies whom and where they please for the General Court. So be it they be free men, and have taken there oath of fealtie, and Inhabiting in this Jurisdiction.
63. No Governor, Deputy Governor, Assistant, Associate, or grand Jury man at any Court, nor any Deputie for the General Court, shall at any time beare his own chardges at any Court, but their necessary expences shall be defrayed either by the Towne or Shire on whose service they are, or by the Country in general.
64. Everie Action betweene partie and partie, and proceedings against delinquents in Criminall causes shall be briefly and destinctly entered on the Rolles of every Court by the Recorder thereof. That such actions be not afterwards brought againe to the vexation of any man.
65. No custome or prescription shall ever prevaile amongst us in any morall cause, our meaneing is maintaine anythinge that can be proved to be morrallie sinfull by the word of god.
66. The Freemen of every Towneship shall have power to make such by laws and constitutions as may concerne the wellfare of their Towne, provided they be not of a Criminall, but only of a prudential nature, And that their penalties exceede not 20 sh. for one offence. And that they be not repugnant to the publique laws and orders of the Country. And if any Inhabitant shall neglect or refuse to observe them, they shall have power to levy the appointed penalties by distresse.
67. It is the constant liberty of the free men of this plantation to choose yearly at the Court of Election out of the freemen all the General officers of this Jurisdiction. If they please to dischardge them at the day of Election by way of vote. They may do it without shewing cause. But if at any other general Court, we hould it due justice, that the reasons thereof be alleadged and proved. By General officers we meane, our Governor, Deputy Governor, Assistants, Treasurer, General of our wares. And our Admirall at Sea, and such as are or hereafter may be of the like general nature.
68. It is the liberty of the freemen to choose such deputies for the General Court out of themselves, either in their own Townes or elsewhere as they judge fitest. And because we cannot foresee what varietie and weight of occasions may fall into future consideration, And what counsells we may stand in neede of, we decree. That the Deputies (to attend the General Court in the behalf of the Country) shall not any time be stated or inacted, but from Court to Court, or at the most but for one year, that the Country may have an Annuall liberty to do in that case what is most behoofefull for the best welfaire thereof.
69. No General Court shall be desolved or adjourned without the consent of the Major parte thereof.
70. All Freemen called to give any advise, vote, verdict, or sentence in any Court, Counsel, or Civil Assembly, shall have full freedome to doe it according to their true Judgements and Consciences, So it be done orderly and inofensively for the manner.
71. The Governor shall have a casting voice whensoever an Equi vote shall fall out in the Court of Assistants, or general assembly, So shall the presedent or moderator have in all Civil Courts or Assemblies.
72. The Governor and Deputy Governor Joyntly consenting or any three Assistants concurring in consent shall have power out of Court to reprive a condemned malefactour, till the next quarter or general Court. The general Court only shall have power to pardon a condemned malefactor.
73. The General Court hath liberty and Authoritie to send out any member of this Comanwealth of what qualitie, condition or office whatsoever into foreign parts about any publique message or Negotiation. Provided the partie sent be acquainted with the affaire he goeth about, and be willing to undertake the service.
74. The freemen of every Towne or Towneship, shall have full power to choose yearly or for lesse time out of themselves a convenient number of fitt men to order the planting or prudentiall occasions of that Towne, according to Instructions given them in writing, Provided nothing be done by them contrary to the publique laws and orders of the Country, provided also the number of such select persons be not above nine.
75. It is and shall be the liberty of any member or members of any Court Council or Civil Assembly in cases of makeing or executing any order or law, that properlie concerne religion, or any cause capitall, or wares, or Subscription to any publique Articles or Remonstrance, in case they cannot in Judgement and conscience consent to that way the Major vote or suffrage goes, to make their contra Remonstrance or protestation in speech or writing, and upon request to have their dissent recorded in the Rolles of that Court. So it be done Christianlie and respectively for the manner. And their dissent only be entered without the reasons thereof, for the avoiding of tediousnes.
76. Whensoever any Jurie of trialls or Jurours are not cleare in their Judgments or consciences conserneing any cause wherein they are to give their verdict, They shall have liberty in open Court to advise with any man they thinke fitt to resolve or direct them, before they give in their verdict.
77. In all cases wherein any freeman is to give his vote, be it in point of Election, makeing constitutions and orders or passing sentence in any case of Judicature or the like, if he cannot see reason to give it positively one way or an other, he shall have liberty to be silent, and not pressed to a determined vote.
78. The General or publique Treasure or any parte thereof shall never be exspended but by the appointment of a General Court, nor any Shire Treasure, but by the appointment of the freemen thereof, nor any Towne Treasurie but by the freemen of that Township.
Liberties of Women.
79. If any man at his death shall not leave his wife a competent portion of his estate, upon just complaint made to the General Court she shall be relieved.
80. Everie marryed woeman shall be free from bodilie correction or stripes by her husband, unless it be in his own defence upon her assalt. If there be any just cause of correction complaint shall be made to Authoritie assembled in some Court, from which only she shall receive it.
Liberties of Children.
81. When parents dye intestate, the Elder sonne shall have a doble portion of his whole estate reall and personal, unless the General Court upon just cause alleadged shall judge otherwise.
82. When parents dye intestate haveing noe heires males of their bodies their Daughters shall inherit as Copartners, unles the General Court upon just reason shall judge otherwise.
83. If any parents shall wilfullie and unreasonably deny any childe timely or convenient mariage, or shall exercise any unnaturall severitie towards them, such childeren shall have free liberty to complaine to Authoritie for redresse.
84. No Orphan dureing their minoritie which was not committed to tuition or service by the parents in their life time, shall afterwards be absolutely disposed of by any kindred, freind, Executor, Towneship, or Church, nor by themselves without the consent of some Court, wherein two Assistants at least shall be present.
Liberties of Servants.
85. If any servants shall flee from the Tiranny and crueltie of their masters to the house of any freeman of the same Towne, they shall be there protected and susteyned till due order be taken for their relife. Provided due notice thereof be speedily given to their maisters from whom they fled. And the next Assistant or constable where the partie flying is harboured.
86. No servant shall be put of for above a year to any other neither in the life time of their maister nor after their death by their Executors or Administrators unless it be by consent of Authoritie assembled in some Court or two Assistants.
87. If any man smite out the eye or tooth of his man-servant, or maid servant, or otherwise mayme or much disfigure him, unless it be by meere casualtie, he shall let them go free from his service. And shall have such further recompense as the Court shall allow him.
88. Servants that have served deligentlie and faithfully to the benefitt of their maisters seaven years, shall not be sent away emptie. And if any have bene unfaithfull, negligent or unprofitable in their service, notwithstanding the good usage of their maisters, they shall not be dismissed till they have made satisfaction according to the Judgement of Authoritie.
Liberties of Forreiners and Strangers.
89. If any people of other Nations professing the true Christian Religion shall flee to us from the Tiranny or oppression of their persecutors, or from famyne, wares, or the like necessary and compulsarie cause, They shall be entertayned and succoured amongst us, according to that power and prudence, god shall give us.
90. If any ships or other vessels, be it freind or enemy, shall suffer shipwrack upon our Coast, there shall be no violence or wrong offerred to their persons or goods. But their persons shall be harboured, and relieved, and their goods preserved in safety till Authoritie may be certified thereof, and shall take further order therein.
91. There shall never be any bond slaverie, villinage or Captivitie amongst us unles it be lawful Captives taken in just wares, and such strangers as willingly selle themselves or are sold to us. And these shall have all the liberties and Christian usages which the law of god established in Israell concerning such persons doeth morally require. This exempts none from servitude who shall be Judged thereto by Authoritie.
Off the Bruite Creature.
92. No man shall exercise any Tirranny or Crueltie towards any bruite Creature which are usuallie kept for man’s use.
93. If any man shall have occasion to leade or drive Cattel from place to place that is far of, so that they be weary, or hungry, or fall sick, or lambe, It shall be lawful to rest or refresh them, for competant time, in any open place that is not Corne, meadow, or inclosed for some peculiar use.
94. Capital Laws.
- (Deut. 13. 6, 10. Deut. 17. 2, 6. Ex. 22.20)
- If any man after legal conviction shall have or worship any other god, but the lord god, he shall be put to death.
- (Ex. 22. 18. Lev. 20. 27. Dut. 18. 10.)
- If any man or woeman be a witch, (that is hath or consulteth with a familiar spirit,) They shall be put to death.
- (Lev. 24. 15,16.)
- If any person shall Blaspheme the name of god, the father, Sonne or Holie Ghost, with direct, expresse, presumptuous or high handed blasphemie, or shall curse god in the like manner, he shall be put to death.
- (Ex. 21. 12. Numb. 35. 13, 14, 30, 31.)
- If any person committ any wilfull murther, which is manslaughter, committed upon premeditated malice, hatred, or Crueltie, not in a mans necessarie and just defence, nor by meere casualtie against his will, he shall be put to death.
- (Numb. 25, 20, 21. Lev. 24. 17)
- If any person slayeth an other suddaienly in his anger or Crueltie of passion, he shall be put to death.
- (Ex. 21. 14.)
- If any person shall slay an other through guile, either by poysoning or other such divelish practice, he shall be put to death.
- (Lev. 20. 15,16.)
- If any man or woeman shall lye with any beaste or bruite creature by Carnall Copulation, They shall surely be put to death. And the beast shall be slaine, and buried and not eaten.
- (Lev. 20. 13.)
- If any man lyeth with mankinde as he lyeth with a woeman, both of them have committed abhomination, they both shall surely be put to death.
- Lev. 20. 19. and 18, 20. Dut. 22. 23, 24.)
- If any person committeth adultery with a maried or espoused wife, the Adulterer and Adulteresse shall surely be put to death.
- (Ex. 21. 16.)
- If any man stealeth a man or mankinde, he shall surely be put to death.
- (Deut. 19. 16, 18, 19.)
- If any man rise up by false witnes, wittingly and of purpose to take away any mans life, he shall be put to death.
- If any man shall conspire and attempt any invasion, insurrection, or publique rebellion against our commonwealth, or shall indeavour to surprize any Towne or Townes, fort or forts therein, or shall treacherously and perfediouslie attempt the alteration and subversion of our frame of politie or Government fundamentallie, he shall be put to death.
95. A Declaration of the Liberties the Lord Jesus hath given to the Churches.
- All the people of god within this Jurisdiction who are not in a church way, and be orthodox in Judgement, and not scandalous in life, shall have full liberty to gather themselves into a Church Estaite. Provided they doe it in a Christian way, with due observation of the rules of Christ revealed in his word.
- Every Church hath full liberty to exercise all the ordinances of god, according to the rules of scripture.
- Every Church hath free liberty of Election and ordination of all their officers from time to time, provided they be able, pious and orthodox.
- Every Church hath free liberty of Admission, Recommendation, Dismission, and Expulsion, or deposall of their officers, and members, upon due cause, with free exercise of the Discipline and Censures of Christ according to the rules of his word.
- No Injunctions are to be put upon any Church, Church officers or member in point of Doctrine, worship or Discipline, whether for substance or cercumstance besides the Institutions of the lord.
- Every Church of Christ hath freedome to celebrate dayes of fasting and prayer, and of thanksgiveing according to the word of god.
- The Elders of Churches have free liberty to meete monthly, Quarterly, or otherwise, in convenient numbers and places, for conferences, and consultations about Christian and Church questions and occasions.
- All Churches have liberty to deale with any of their members in a church way that are in the hand of Justice. So it be not to retard or hinder the course thereof.
- Every Church hath liberty to deale with any magestrate, Deputie of Court or other officer what soe ever that is a member in a church way in case of apparent and just offence given in their places, so it be done with due observance and respect.
- Wee allowe private meetings for edification in religion amongst Christians of all sortes of people. So it be without just offence for number, time, place, and other cercumstances.
- For the preventing and removeing of errour and offence that may grow and spread in any of the Churches in this Jurisdiction, And for the preserveing of trueith and peace in the severall churches within themselves, and for the maintenance and exercise of brotherly communion, amongst all the churches in the Country, It is allowed and ratified, by the Authoritie of this General Court as a lawful liberty of the Churches of Christ. That once in every month of the year (when the season will beare it) It shall be lawful for the minesters and Elders, of the Churches neere adjoyneing together, with any other of the breetheren with the consent of the churches to assemble by course in each severall Church one after an other. To the intent after the preaching of the word by such a minister as shall be requested thereto by the Elders of the church where the Assembly is held, The rest of the day may be spent in publique Christian Conference about the discussing and resolveing of any such doubts and cases of conscience concerning matter of doctrine or worship or government of the church as shall be propounded by any of the Breetheren of that church, will leave also to any other Brother to propound his objections or answeres for further satisfaction according to the word of god. Provided that the whole action be guided and moderated by the Elders of the Church where the Assemblie is helde, or by such others as they shall appoint. And that no thing be concluded and imposed by way of Authoritie from one or more churches upon an other, but only by way of Brotherly conference and consultations. That the trueth may be searched out to the satisfying of every mans conscience in the sight of god according his worde. And because such an Assembly and the worke thereof can not be duely attended to if other lectures be held in the same weeke. It is therefore agreed with the consent of the Churches. That in that weeke when such an Assembly is held, All the lectures in all the neighbouring Churches for that weeke shall be forborne. That so the publique service of Christ in this more solemne Assembly may be transacted with greater deligence and attention.
96. Howsoever these above specified rites, freedomes Immunities, Authorites and privileges, both Civil and Ecclesiastical are expressed only under the name and title of Liberties, and not in the exact forme of Laws or Statutes, yet we do with one consent fullie Authorise, and earnestly intreate all that are and shall be in Authoritie to consider them as laws, and not to faile to inflict condigne and proportionable punishments upon every man impartiallie, that shall infringe or violate any of them.
97. Wee likewise give full power and liberty to any person that shall at any time be denyed or deprived of any of them, to commence and prosecute their suite, Complaint or action against any man that shall so doe in any Court that hath proper Cognizance or judicature thereof.
98. Lastly because our dutie and desire is to do nothing suddainlie which fundamentally concerne us, we decree that these rites and liberties, shall be Audably read and deliberately weighed at every General Court that shall be held, within three years next insueing, And such of them as shall not be altered or repealed they shall stand so ratified, That no man shall infringe them without due punishment.
And if any General Court within these next thre years shall faile or forget to reade and consider them as abovesaid. The Governor and Deputy Governor for the time being, and every Assistant present at such Courts, shall forfeite 20sh. a man, and everie Deputie 10sh. a man for each neglect, which shall be paid out of their proper estate, and not by the Country or the Townes which choose them, and whensoever there shall arise any question in any Court among the Assistants and Associates thereof about the explanation of these Rites and liberties, The General Court only shall have power to interpret them.