New Haven Fundamentals

October 27, 1643

It was agreed and concluded as a fundamental order not to be disputed or questioned hereafter that none shall be admitted to be free burghesses in any of the plantations within this jurisdiction for the future but such planters as are members of some or other of the approved churches of New England; nor shall any but such free burghesses have any vote in any election, the six present freemen at Milford enjoying the liberty with the cautions agreed; nor shall any power or trust in the ordering of any civil affairs be at any time put into the hands of any other than such church members, though as free planters all have right to their inheritance and to commence according to such grants, orders, and laws as shall be made concerning the same.

2.All such free burghesses shall have power in each town or plantation within this jurisdiction to choose fit and able men among themselves, being church members as before, to be the ordinary judges to hear and determine all inferior cases, whether civil or criminal, provided that no civil cause to be tried in any of these plantation courts in value exceed £20; and that the punishment in such criminals, according to the mind of God revealed in his word touching such offenses, do not exceed stocking and whipping, or, if the fine be pecuniary, that it exceed not five pounds. In which court, the magistrate or magistrates, if any be chosen by the free burghesses or the jurisdiction for that plantation, shall sit and assist, with due respect to their place, and sentence shall be according to the vote of the major part of each such court. Only if the parties, or any of them, be not satisfied with the justice of such sentences or executions, appeals or complaints may be made from and against these courts to the court of the magistrates for the whole jurisdiction.

3.All such free burghesses through the whole jurisdiction shall have vote in the election of all magistrates, whether governor, deputy-governor, or other magistrates, with a treasurer, a secretary, and a marshal, etc., for the jurisdiction. And for the ease of those free burghesses, especially in the more remote plantations, they may by proxy vote in these elections, though absent, their votes being sealed up in the presence of the free burghesses themselves, that their several liberties may be preserved and their votes directed according to their own particular light, and these free burghesses may, at every election, choose so many magistrates for each plantation as the weight of affairs may require, and as they shall find fit men for that trust. But it is provided and agreed that no plantation shall at any election be left destitute of a magistrate if they desire one to be chosen out of those in church fellowship with them.

4. All the magistrates for the whole jurisdiction shall meet twice a year at New Haven, namely the Monday immediately before the sitting of the two fixed general courts hereafter mentioned, to keep a court called the Court of Magistrates for the trial of weighty and capital cases, whether civil or criminal, above those limited to the ordinary judges in the particular plantations; and to receive and try all appeals brought to them from the aforesaid plantation courts; and to call all the inhabitants, whether free burghesses, free planters, or others, to account for the breach of any laws established, and for other misdemeanors, and to censure them according to the quality of the offense. In which meetings of magistrates less than four shall not accounted a court, nor shall they carry on any business as a court. But it is expected and required that all the magistrates in this jurisdiction do constantly attend the public service at the times before mentioned, and if any of them be absent at one of the clock in the afternoon on Monday aforesaid when the court shall sit, or if any of them depart the town without leave while the court sits, he or they shall pay for any such default twenty shillings fine, unless some providence of God occasion the same, which the court of magistrates shall judge of from time to time. And all sentences in this court shall pass by the vote of the major part of the magistrates therein. But from this court of magistrates appeals and complaints may be made and brought to the general court as the last and highest of this jurisdiction. But in all appeals or complaints from or to what court soever due costs and damages shall be paid by him or them that make appeal or complaint without just cause.

5.Besides the plantation courts and court of magistrates, there shall be a general court for the jurisdiction which shall consist of the governor, deputy-governor, and all the magistrates within the jurisdiction, and two deputies for every plantation in the jurisdiction, which deputies shall from time to time be chosen against the approach of any such general court by the aforesaid free burghesses, and sent with due certificate to assist in the same. All which, both governor and deputy-governor, magistrates and deputies, shall have their vote in the said court. This general court shall always sit at New Haven, unless upon weighty occasion the general court see cause for a time to sit elsewhere, and shall assemble twice every year, namely the first Wednesday in April and the last Wednesday in October. In the latter of which courts the governor, deputy-governor, and all the magistrates for the whole jurisdiction, with a treasurer, a secretary ,and marshal, shall yearly be chosen by all the free burghesses before mentioned. Besides which two fixed courts, the governor, or in his absence the deputy-governor, shall have power to summon a general court at any other time as the urgent and extraordinary occasions of the jurisdiction may require. And at all general courts, whether ordinary or extraordinary, the governor and deputy-governor, and all the rest of the magistrates for the jurisdiction with the deputies for the several plantations, shall sit together til the affairs of the jurisdiction be dispatched or may safely be respited. And if any of the said magistrates or deputies shall either be absent at the first sitting of the said general court, unless some providence of God, hinder, which the said court shall judge of, or depart or absent at the first sitting of the said general court, unless some providence of God, hinder, which the said court shall judge of, or depart or absent themselves disorderly before the court be finished, he or they shall each of them pay twenty shillings fine, with due considerations of further aggravations if there shall be cause. Which general court shall, with all care and diligence, provide for the maintenance of the purity of religion and suppress the contrary, according to their best light from the word of God and all wholesome and sound advice which shall be given by the elders and churches in the jurisdiction so far as may concern their civil power to deal therein.

Secondly, they shall have power to make and repeal laws, and while they are in force, to require execution of them in all the several plantations.

Thirdly, to impose an oath upon all the magistrates for the faithful discharge of the trust committed to them according to their best abilities, and to call them to account for the breach of any laws established or for other misdemeanors and to censure them as the quality of the offense shall require.

Fourthly, to impose an oath of fidelity and due subjection to the laws upon all the free burghesses, free planters, and other inhabitants within the whole jurisdiction.

Fifthly, to settle and levy rate and contributions upon all the several plantations for the public service of the jurisdiction.

Sixthly, to hear and determine all causes, whether civil or criminal, which by appeal or complaint shall be orderly brought to them from any of the other courts or from any of the other plantations. In all which, with whatsoever else shall fall within their cognizance or judicature, they shall, proceed according to the scriptures, which is the rule of all righteous laws and sentences. And nothing shall pass an act of the general court but by the consent of the major part of the magistrates and the greater part of the deputies.

These generals being thus laid and settled, though with purpose that the circumstntials such as the value of the causes to be tried in the plantations courts, the ordinary and fixed times of meetings both for the general courts and courts of magistrates, how often and when they shall sit, with the fines for absences or default, be hereafter considered of, continued, or altered as may best and most advance the course of justice and best suit the occasions of the plantations, the court proceed to present particular business of the jurisdiction.

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