Thursday, December 13, 2018

Pacts anticipate "By the People" - 1625 Plymouth Oath of Allegiance & Fidelity

Upon their arrival in Plymouth Colony, William Brewster and the additional chief men, as they were called, agreed to take the Oath of Supremacy, acknowledging the King of England as the supreme ruler and head of the Church of England and denying power to the Pope. In the early 1620s, the Oath of Allegiance and Fidelity was actually a single oath given in Plymouth, which was not actually a New England colony as it lacked a charter and its government functions were actually those of a corporation.  The Oath of Allegiance and Fidelity required that the individual taking it not enter into any action or say anything that could lend itself to the overthrow or the destruction of the “Colonie, or Corporation of this towne Plimouth in New England.” Interestingly enough, it never mentioned the King of England.

By 1636, every freeman (any established member of the colony who was not under legal restraint) was required to take the Oath of a Freeman, swearing allegiance to the sovereign lord “King Charles, his heires & successors” in addition to doing nothing to overthrow the Colony of “New Plymouth.” By 1658 the Oath of a Freeman was revised to omit King Charles and reverted back to the “State and Government of England.”  All of these agreements were decided by men, as women in America did not get the right to vote until 1920.

Plymouth Oath of Allegiance & Fidelity 1625  
You shall sweare by the name of the great God…& earth & in his holy fear, & presence that you shall not speake, or doe, devise, or advise, anything or things, acte or acts, directly, or indirectly, By land, or water, that doth, shall, or may, tend to the destruction or overthrowe of this present plantation, Colonie, or Corporation of this towne Plimouth in New England.

Neither shall you suffer the same to be spoken, or done, but shall hinder & opposse the same, by all due means you can.

You shall not enter into any league, treaty, Confederace or combination, with any, within the said Colonie or without the same that shall plote, or contrive any thing to the hurte & ruine of the growth, & good of the said plantation.

You shall not consente to any such confederation, nor conceale any known unto you certainly, or by conje but shall forthwith manifest & make knowne by same, to the Governours of this said towne for the time being.

And this you promise & swear, simply & truly, & faithfully to performe as a true Christian [you hope for help from God, the God of truth & punisher of falshoode].


You shall swear, according to that wisdom, & measure of discerning given unto you; faithfully, equally & indiffrently without respect of persons; to administer Justice, in all causes coming before you. And shall labor, to advance, & furder the good of this Colony, & plantation, to the utmost of your power; & oppose any thing that may hinder the same. So help you God.