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Fundamental Agreement, or Original Constitution of the Colony of New Haven, June 4, 1639

(With Comments Added by this website)

THE 4th day of the 4th month, called June, 1639, all the free planters assembled together in a general meeting, to consult about settling civil government, according to GOD, and the nomination of persons that might be found, by consent of all, fittest in all respects for the foundation work of a church, which was intended to be gathered in Quinipiack.

It should be noted that the meeting was concerning the establishment of civil government for this community. For this community, there was NO distinction between civil government and the church1. (Please read our paper entitled, "Which Law for You?")

After solemn invocation of the name of GOD, in prayer for the presence and help of his spirit and grace, in those weighty businesses, they were reminded of the business whereabout they met, (viz.) for the establishment of such civil order as might be most pleasing unto GOD, and for the choosing the fittest men for the foundation work of a church to be gathered.

First and foremost on their agenda was setting forth the establishment of civil order that would be most pleasing to GOD. Second, was the business of choosing the most qualified men upon which the administration of the CHURCH1 / CIVIL ORDER would be carried out.

Again, it seems there is no distinction in their minds between civil government and church.1

For the better enabling them to discern the mind of GOD, and to agree accordingly concerning the establishment of civil order, Mr. John Davenport propounded divers queries to them publicly, praying them to consider seriously in the presence and fear of GOD, the weight of the business they met about, and not to be rash or slight in giving their votes to things they understood not; but to digest fully and thoroughly what should be propounded to them, and without respect to men, as they should be satisfied and persuaded in their own minds, to give their answers in such sort as they would be willing should stand upon record for posterity.

This being earnestly pressed by Mr. Davenport, Mr. Robert Newman was intreated to write, in characters, and to read distinctly and audibly in the hearing of all the people, what was propounded and accorded on, that it might appear, that all consented to matters propounded, according to words written by him.

Apparently it was of the utmost importance that they took their time in making sure EVERYONE understood their discussions and what was being laid out before them. They wanted to make sure that after their agreement was made, no one could come back and say they did not know or understand what the terms of the agreement were.

Compare this to what goes on in local, state and federal governments, today. Most - if not all - of the "laws" that are put in place are written in secret and rarely are the "laws" read aloud for everyone to know and understand what the terms of the "laws" are.

These "founding fathers" seemed to go to great lengths to make sure their efforts were open and forthright.

Query I. WHETHER the scriptures do hold forth a perfect rule for the direction and government of all men in all duties which they are to perform to GOD and men, as well in families and commonwealth, as in matters of the church ? This was assented unto by all, no man dissenting, as was expressed by holding up of hands. Afterwards it was read over to them, that they might see in what words their vote was expressed. They again expressed their consent by holding up their hands, no man dissenting.

"Query" is the question laid out for discussion and vote. The very first subject for discussion, was whether or not the Bible would be considered the perfect rule for their community. Most people think that "ruling" - whether found in "government" today, or even in the Scriptures, is a person that is put in place for the purpose of enforcing - at the barrel of a gun, if need be - the "laws" that have been established.

Look at "ruling and rulers" this way. As if, "ruling" originates from "ruler" - as in a "measuring stick." The "ruler" that God would have is a "measuring stick" that has as it's measurements, the Laws, the precepts, the commands embodied as - the Will of God for His people. Godly "rulers" are "measuring according to the Will of God."

God ordained "Rulers" are not those who are elected by people to carry out the will of the people. They are put in place to carry out the Will of God - measuring (ruling) according to the Scriptures.2

It cannot be overemphasized enough, that these people established the fact that the RULE of Law in their community would be the Scriptures. And again, their "government" was indisinct from their "church."

The next thing to see of GREAT VALUE here is the manner in which they voted. Their vote was NOT A SECRET BALLOT. Their vote was done by a public holding up of hands.

I am amazed at how many people think that the secret ballot box is such a great thing. The reality is that the secret ballot box is one of the greatest tools of those that oppose Christ and His ways, have and use. Men love darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil3. Jesus said that nothing that is done in secret will not be exposed.4

The only way to ever have an open and honest vote, is for it to be done in public - where everyone knows how everyone is voting! That statement will probably be met with resistance, but if you think it through, you will see that transparency and openness can only be achieved this way. There is great wisdom as to why these "founding fathers" held a public vote.

Query II. WHEREAS there was a covenant solemnly made by the whole assembly of free planters of this plantation, the first day of extraordinary humiliation, which we had after we came together, that as in matters that concern the gathering and ordering of a church, so likewise in all public officers which concern civil order, as choice of magistrates and officers, making and repealing laws, dividing allotments of inheritance, and all things of like nature, we would all of us be ordered by those rules which the scripture holds forth to US; this covenant was called a plantation covenant, to distinguish it from a church covenant. which could not at that time be made a church not being then gathered, but was deferred till a church might be gathered, according to GOD. It was demanded whether all the free planters do hold themselves bound by that covenant, in all businesses of that nature which are expressed in the covenant, to submit themselves to be ordered by the rules held forth in the scripture t

They are now clarifying the fact that their civil order - choice of magistrates and officers, making and repealing laws, etc., would be based on the Scriptures. It appears they believe that men are allowed by God to make law. This is completely accurate. When make are making laws that are based on God's Laws - those laws are perfectly acceptable and carry the full weight of Law - just as if they had been originally written in the Scriptures.

For instance, does a man have authority from God to "rule" his family? Does he have authority from God to set boundaries for his children based on each family's needs? Of course he does, so long as those rules are in agreement with the Laws of God. Would a Godly man require ungodliness from his family? No. Should children obey their parents when the parents demand obedience with respect to the orderly structure of the household? Absolutely. If a child disobeys their parents Godly "rule" are they ultimately disobeying God? Yes.5

In this query, are the men backtracking when earlier they did not distinguish between civil government and "church?" I do not believe so. I believe the usage of the word "church" in this query is more accurate in what the word "church" really means, in that the word "church" is correctly used if an actual "brick and mortar building" is what is being discussed.

The word "ecclesia"6 is the called out Christian community of believers, which is what these people were and they were establishing Godly Government as outlined in Romans 12 and 13 and I Peter 2.

What they did, was an excellent example of Ephesians 5 when the believers are commanded to "Submit yourselves one to another in the fear of God."

THIS also was assented unto by all, and no man gainsayed it; and they did testify the same by holding up their hands, both when it was first propounded, and confirmed the same by holding up their hands when it was read unto them in public. John Clark being absent, when the covenant was made, doth now manifest his consent to it. Also Richard Beach, Andrew Law, Goodman Banister, Arthur Halbridge, John Potter, Robert Hill, John Brocket, and John Johnson, these persons, being not admitted planters when the covenant was made, do now express their consent to it.

I find this very interesting that new members of the community, or those who were not present when these votes were taken place, were asked to consent to what had happened in the meeting.

Apparently, in those days, men were asked whether they consented to their Government, as opposed to being forced at the barrel of a gun, to align themselves and acquiesse to whatever "government" they may find surrounding them at any given time.

Lysander Spooner argued in 1867 that men could not be bound by commitments of their fathers or forefathers. His supposition was that every man should be given the option to submit to or not submit to the "government" currently in place where he was born.7

In the days of slavery, would it seem reasonable that a child born to slaves would have the opportunity to "opt out" of his parents slavery? Or, is it better that since he was born from slave parents, that he is also bound to be a slave?

Query III. THOSE who have desired to be received as free planters, and are settled in the plantation, with a purpose, resolution and desire, that they may be admitted into church fellowship, according to CHRIST, as soon as GOD shall fit them "hereunto, were desired to express it by holding up hands. According all did express this to be their desire and purpose by holding up their hands twice (viz.) at the proposal of it, and after when these written words were read unto them.

Query IV. All the free planters were called upon to express, whether they held themselves bound to establish such civil order as might best conduce to the securing of the purity and peace of the ordinance to themselves and their posterity according to GOD In answer hereunto they expressed by holding up their hands twice as before, that they held themselves bound to establish such civil order as might best conduce to the ends aforesaid.

They understood that the only way to secure purity and peace to themselves and their posterity was to have their "ordinance" according to God. This is in perfect agreement with the footnotes found in the Geneva Bible8 of 1599 where an "ordinance" is defined as having its origins with God - not man.

Interestingly, the people were asked to vote on this TWICE - making sure everyone in attendance knew that their Government was being established on the Ordinance of God.

THEN Mr. Davenport declared unto them, by the scripture, what kind of persons might best be trusted with matters of government; and by sundry arguments from scripture proved that such men as were described in Exod. xviii. 2, Dent. 1. 13, with Dent. xvii. A, and 1 C!or. vi. 1, 6, 7, ought to be intrusted by them, seeing they were free to cast themselves into that mould and form of commonwealth which appeared best for them in reference to the securing. the peace and peaceable improvement of all CHRIST his ordinances in the church according to GOD, whereunto they have bound themselves, as hath been acknowledged.

Whereas modern "governments" find some sort of twisted sanctity that their elected officials are not required to pass a "religious test"9 - these people made it clear that ONLY those men who met Biblical qualifications would be trusted with matters of government. They even listed the passages where such qualifications are outlined.

This is without question, totally opposite of the way these matters carry on today. Somehow, the modern day methods are revered as holy by many people - and the old paths, and the old ways are scoffed at and seen as incorrect and less preferred.

The days of men calling evil good and good evil, were not limited to a specific time and place. It is inevitable that men will fall into this snare when they leave the Kingdom of God and seek to establish their own "governments" based on their Constitution, and their laws made in pursuance thereof, and their treaties...

HAVING thus said he sat down praying the company freely to consider, whether they would have it voted at this time or not. After some space of silence, Mr. Theophilus Eaton answered it might be voted, and some others also spake to the same purpose, none at all opposing it. Then it was propounded to vote.

Query V. WHETHER free burgesses shall be chosen out of the church members, they that are in the foundation work of the church being actually free burgesses, and to choose to themselves out of the like estate of church fellowship, and the power of choosing magistrates and officers from among themselves, and the power of making and repealing laws, according to the word, and the dividing of inheritances, and deciding of differences that may arise, and all the businesses of like nature are to be transacted by those free burgesses. This was put to vote and agreed unto by lifting up of hands twice, as in the former it was done. Then one man stood up and expressed his dissenting from the rest in part; yet granting, 1. That magistrates should be men fearing GOD. 2. That the church is the company where, ordinarily, such men may be expected. 3. That they that choose them ought to be men fearing GOD; only at this he stuck, that free planters ought not to give this power out of their hands. Another stood up and answered, that nothing was done, but with their consent. The former answered, that all the free planters ought to resume this power into their own hands again, if things were not orderly carried. Mr. Theophilus Eaton answered, that in all places they choose committees in like manner. The companies in London choose the liveries by whom the public magistrates are chosen. In this the rest are not wronged, because they expect, in time, to be of the livery themselves, and to have the same power. Some others intreated the former to give his arguments and reasons whereupon he dissented. He refused to do it, and said, they might not rationally demand it, seeing he let the vote pass on freely and did not speak till after it was past, because he would not hinder what they agreed upon. Then Mr. Davenport, after a short relation of some former passages between them two about this question, prayed the company that nothing might be concluded by them on this weighty question, but what themselves were persuaded to be agreeing with the mind of GOD, and they had heard what had been said since the voting; he intreated them again to consider of it, and put it again to vote as before. Again all of them, by holding up their hands, did show their consent as before. And some of them confessed that, whereas they did waver before they came to the assembly, they were now fully convinced, that it is the mind of GOD. One of them said that in the morning before he came reading Deut. xvii. 15, he was convinced at home. Another said, that he came doubting to the assembly, but he blessed GOD, by what had been said, he was now fully satisfied, that the choice of burgesses out of church members and to intrust those with the power before spoken of is according to the mind of GOD revealed in the scriptures. All having spoken their apprehensions it was agreed upon, and Mr. Robert Newman was desired to write it as an order whereunto every one, that hereafter should be admitted here as planters, should submit, and testify the same by subscribing their names to the order: Namely, that church members only shall be free burgesses, and that they only shall choose magistrates and officers among themselves, to have power of transacting all the public civil affairs of this plantation; of making and repealing laws, dividing of inheritances, deciding of differences that may arise, and doing all things and businesses of like nature.

This is possibly - aside from the Scriptures themselves - the most powerful paragraph written in the history of America.

"...the power of making and repealing laws, according to the word..." This is the correct understanding of Romans 12 & 13 and I Peter 2:13.

Today, many people feel as if their "leaders" are out of control and that what is being done by their "leaders" is not something they are responsible for. That is not what these people believed. They said that if their "rulers" stopped measuring according to the word, then the magistrates and officers would be removed. This demonstrates that they believed they were ALL accountable for the actions of their "chosen" civil order. Let EVERY soul be subject!

Every single thing they agreed to and voted on, was because they believed it was the mind of God - the Will of God for His people according to the Word.

Is it possible that the blessing of God fell on these people so strongly that this why God "blessed America?" I believe the blessing of God was so strong - because of these people's community - that the blessing lasted well beyond their lives and was so great that even when men grew and rebelled against this type of established Government - they reaped the benefits of what these people stood for.

Could this ever happen again for God's people?

THIS being thus settled, as a fundamental agreement concerning civil government, Mr. Davenport proceeded to propound something to consideration about the gathering of a church' and to prevent the blemishing of the first beginnings of the church work, Mr. Davenport advised, that the names of such as were to be admitted might be publicly propounded, to the end that they who were most approved might be chosen; for the town being cast into several private meetings, wherein they that lived nearest together gave their accounts one to another of GOD'S gracious world upon them, and prayed together and conferred to their mutual edification, sundry of them had knowledge one of another, and in every meeting some one was more approved of all than any other; for this reason and to prevent scandals, the whole company was intreated to consider whom they found fittest to nominate for this work.

Query VI. WHETHER are you all willing and do agree in this, that twelve men be chosen, that their fitness for the foundation work may be tried; however there may be more named yet it may be in their power who are chosen to reduce them to twelve, and that it be in the power of those twelve to choose out of themselves seven, that shall be most approved of by the major part, to begin the church.

THIS was agreed upon by consent of all, as was expressed by holding up of hands, and that so many as should be thought fit for the foundation work of the church, shall be propounded by the plantation, and written down and pass without exception, unless they had given public scandal or offence. Yet so as in case of public scandal or offense, every one should have liberty to propound their exception, at that time, publicly against any man, that should be nominated, when all their names should be writ down. But if the offence were private, that mens names might be tendered, so many as were offended were intreated to deal with the offender privately, and if he gave not satisfaction to bring the matter to the twelve, that they might consider of it impartially and in the fear of GOD.

The example shown here of how these people constructed their civil order should cause all who claim the name of Christ to plead with God to have the opportunity to be part of such an undertaking.

The principle, "Come out from among them and be ye separate, saith the Lord....and I will be to them their God, and they will be my people..." is an everlasting principle and is the desire for God for His people across all generations.10

Do I know how this can be carried out? No. Should the people of God be actively involved in serious discussions as to how this could be accomplished? You be the judge.

The Federal and State Constitutions Colonial Charters, and Other Organic Laws of the States, Territories, and Colonies Now or Heretofore Forming the United States of America.
Compiled and Edited Under the Act of Congress of June 30, 1906 by Francis Newton Thorpe
Washington, DC : Government Printing Office, 1909.


1 Church. Please read Which Law for You?

2 Romans 13:4; Hebrews 13:7

3 John 3:19

4 Luke 8:17

5 Ephesians 6:1

6 Ecclesia. Strong's 1577. a calling out, a popular meeting, especially a religious congregation, Christian community of members on earth or saints in heaven or both. For a more thorough study of the word "church" please read "Which Law for You?"

Greek Ekklēsia, (“gathering of those summoned”), in ancient Greece, assembly of citizens in a city-state. Its roots lay in the Homeric agora, the meeting of the people. The Athenian Ecclesia, for which exists the most detailed record, was already functioning in Draco’s day (c. 621 bc). In the course of Solon’s codification of the law (c. 594 bc), the Ecclesia became coterminous with the body of male citizens 18 years of age or over and had final control over policy, including the right to hear appeals in the hēliaia (public court), take part in the election of archons (chief magistrates), and confer special privileges on individuals. In the Athens of the 5th and 4th centuries bc, the prytaneis, a committee of the Boule (council), summoned the Ecclesia both for regular meetings, held four times in each 10th of the year, and for special sessions. Aside from confirmation of magistrates, consideration of ways and means and similar fixed procedures, the agenda was fixed by the prytaneis. Since motions had to originate in the Boule, the Ecclesia could not initiate new business. After discussion open to all members, a vote was taken, usually by show of hands, a simple majority determining the result in most cases. Assemblies of this sort existed in most Greek city-states, continuing to function throughout the Hellenistic and Roman periods, though under the Roman Empire their powers gradually atrophied.

7 Lysander Spooner. www.lysanderspooner.org

8 Geneva Bible. Good source of information: www.genevabible.org/

9 The U.S. Constitution, Article 6 "...but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States."

10 II Corinthians 6:16-17; Revelation 18:4

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