Source Book and Bibliographical Guide for American Church History

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Religion

III. THE GREAT LAW, DECEMBER 10/17, 1682

Clauses Relating to Religion and Morals

Whereas the glory of Almighty God, and the good of mankind, is the reason and end of government, and therefore government, in itself, is a venerable ordinance of God; and forasmuch as it is principally desired and intended by the proprietary and governor, and the freemen of the province of Pennsylvania, and territories thereunto belonging, to make and establish such laws as shall best preserve true Christians and civil liberty, in opposition to all unchristian, licentious, and unjust practices, whereby God may have his due, Caesar his due, and the people their due, from tyranny and oppression of the one side, and insolency and licentiousness of the other, so that the best and firmest foundation may be laid for the present and future happiness of both the governor and people of this province and territories aforesaid, and their posterity.—Be it therefore enacted, by William Penn, proprietary and governor, by and with the advice and consent of the deputies of the freemen of this province, and counties aforesaid, in assembly met, and by the authority of the same, that these following chapters and paragraphs shall be the laws of Pennsylvania and the territories thereof.

1. "Almighty God being only Lord of conscience, father of lights and spirits, and the author as well as object of all divine knowledge, faith, and worship, who only can enlighten the mind, and persuade and convince the understanding of people, in due reverence to his sovereignty over the souls of mankind. It is enacted by the authority aforesaid, that no person now or at any time hereafter living in this province, who shall confess and acknowledge one Almighty God to be the creator, up-holder, and ruler of the world, and that professeth him or herself obliged in conscience to live peaceably and justly under the civil government, shall in anywise be molested or prejudiced for his or her conscientious persuasion or practice, nor shall he or she at any time be compelled to frequent or maintain any religious worship, place, or ministry whatever, contrary to his or her mind, but shall freely and fully enjoy his or her Christian liberty in that respect, without any interruption or reflection; and if any person shall abuse or deride any other for his or her different persuasion and practice in matter of religion, such shall be looked upon as a disturber of the peace, and be punished accordingly. But to the end that looseness, irreligion, and atheism may not creep in under pretence of conscience, in this province, be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, that according to the good example of the primitive Christians, and for the ease of the creation, every first day of the week, called the Lord’s Day, people shall abstain from their common toil and labour, that whether masters, parents, children, or servants, they may the better dispose themselves to read the Scriptures of truth at home, or to frequent such meetings of religious worship abroad as may best suit their respective persuasions.

2. "And be it further enacted, by the authority aforesaid, that all officers and persons commissionated and employed in the service of the government of this province, and all members and deputies elected to serve in assembly thereof, and all that have right to elect such deputies, shall be such as profess and declare they believe in Jesus Christ to be the Son of God, and Saviour of the world, and that are not convicted of ill-fame, or unsober and dishonest conversation, and that are of one and twenty years of age at least. And be it further enacted, by the authority aforesaid, that whosoever shall swear, in their conversation, by the name of God, or Christ, or Jesus, being legally convicted thereof, shall pay for every such offence five shillings, or suffer five days’ imprisonment in the house of correction, at hard labour, to the behoof of the public, and be fed with bread and water only, during that time.

3. "And be it further enacted, by the authority aforesaid, that whosoever shall swear by any other thing or name, and is legally convicted thereof, shall, for every such offence, pay half a crown, or suffer three days’ imprisonment in the house of correction, at hard labour, having only bread and water for their sustenance.

4. "And be it further enacted, by the authority aforesaid, for the better preventing of corrupt communication, that whosoever shall speak loosely and profanely of Almighty God, Christ Jesus, the Holy Spirit, or the Scriptures of truth, and is legally convicted thereof, shall, for every such offence, pay five shillings, or suffer five days’ imprisonment in the house of correction, at hard labour, to the behoof of the public, and be fed with bread and water only, during that time.

5. "And be it further enacted, by the authority aforesaid, that whosoever shall, in their conversation at any time, curse himself or another, or any thing belonging to himself or any other, and is legally convicted thereof, shall pay for every such offence five shillings, or suffer five days’ imprisonment, as aforesaid.

6. "And be it further enacted, by the authority aforesaid, that if any person shall, with malice or premeditation, kill, or be accessory to the death of another person, man, woman, or child, being legally convicted thereof, shall, according to the law of God and all nations, suffer death; and that the estates of all capital offenders shall go one-half to the next of kin of the sufferer, and the remainder to the next kin of the criminal.

7. "And be it further enacted, by the authority aforesaid, that all persons guilty of manslaughter, or chance-medley, shall be punished according to the nature and circumstance of the offence.

8. "And be it further enacted, by the authority aforesaid, that whosoever defileth the marriage-bed, by lying with another woman or man than their own wife or husband, being legally convicted thereof, shall, for the first offence, be publicly whipped, and suffer one whole year’s imprisonment in the house of correction, at hard labour, to the behoof of the public, and longer, if the magistrate see meet; and both he and the woman to be liable to a bill of divorcement, if required by the grieved husband or wife, within the said term of one whole year after conviction; and for the second offence, imprisonment in manner aforesaid during life; and if the party with whom the husband or wife shall defile their beds, be unmarried, for the first offence they shall suffer half a year’s imprisonment, in the manner aforesaid; and for the second offence, imprisonment for life.

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13. "And be it further enacted, by the authority aforesaid, that whosoever shall be convicted of having two wives, or two husbands, shall be imprisoned all their lifetime in the house of correction, at hard labour, to the behoof of his former wife or children, or her former husband or children; and if a man or woman, being unmarried, do knowingly marry the husband or wife of another person, he or she shall be punished after the same manner aforesaid.

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40. "And be it further enacted, by the authority aforesaid, that the days of the week, and the months of the year, shall be called as in Scripture, and not by heathen names, (as are vulgarly used) as, the first, second, and third days of the week; and first, second, and third months of the year, &c., beginning with the day called Sunday, and the month called March.

Text—Hazard: Annals of Pennsylvania, 1609–1682, pp. 619–628.

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Chicago: "Clauses Relating to Religion and Morals," Source Book and Bibliographical Guide for American Church History in Source Book and Bibliographical Guide for American Church History 162–164. Original Sources, accessed September 23, 2018, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=DKV2Q3VMHYRJ3D2.

MLA: . "Clauses Relating to Religion and Morals." Source Book and Bibliographical Guide for American Church History, in Source Book and Bibliographical Guide for American Church History, pp. 162–164. Original Sources. 23 Sep. 2018. www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=DKV2Q3VMHYRJ3D2.

Harvard: , 'Clauses Relating to Religion and Morals' in Source Book and Bibliographical Guide for American Church History. cited in , Source Book and Bibliographical Guide for American Church History, pp.162–164. Original Sources, retrieved 23 September 2018, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=DKV2Q3VMHYRJ3D2.