Two of Charles I advisers drafted and persuaded the king to issue a document, His Majesty’s Answer to the Nineteen Propositions of Both Houses of Parliament, in which the king, eager to dismiss his image as a monarch, declared that England was a mixed government and not a condescending monarchy. The Answer was a critical turning point in constitutional history because in it the king proclaimed that England possessed a balanced government, not an absolute monarchy as the people predominantly considered the government under him to be. It was an admission that royalists immediately began pressing the king to retract. But the Answer quickly became part of the English constitutional canon.
The Nineteen Propositions was a set of proposals sent from the Lords and Commons to King Charles on June 1, 1642 after the King had left London and set up his court at York.
The opening paragraph of the Nineteen Propositions introduces the document as a petition which Charles, in his “princely wisdom,” will be “pleased to grant.” The propositions follow in nineteen numbered points:
- Ministers serving on the King’s Privy Council must be approved by the House of Commons and the House of Lords.
- Matters that concern the public must be debated in Parliament, not decided based upon the advice of private advisers.
- That the Lord High Steward of England, Lord High Constable, Lord Chancellor, or Lord Keeper of the Great Seal, Lord Treasurer, Lord Privy Seal, Earl Marshall, Lord Admiral, Warden of the Cinque Ports, Chief Governor of Ireland, Chancellor of the Exchequer, Master of the Wards, Secretaries of State, two Chief Justices and Chief Baron, may always be chosen with the approbation of both Houses of Parliament; and in the intervals of Parliament, by assent of the major part of the Council, in such manner as is before expressed in the choice of councilor.
- Parliament must control the education of the King’s children.
- Parliament shall approve of the marriage of the King’s children to any person, from home or abroad.
- Laws against Jesuits, Catholic priests, and Catholic recusants must be strictly enforced.
- The vote of Catholic Lords shall be taken away, and the children of Catholics must receive a Protestant education.
- A reformation of the Church government must be made.
- The King will accept the ordering of the militia by the Lords and Commons.
- Members of Parliament who have been put out of office during the present session must be allowed to return.
- Councilors and judges must take an oath to maintain certain Parliamentary statutes.
- All judges and officers approved of by Parliament shall hold their posts on condition of good behavior.
- The justice of Parliament shall apply to all law-breakers, whether they are inside the country or have fled.
- The King’s pardon must be granted, unless both houses of Parliament object.
- Parliament must approve the King’s appointees for commanders of the forts and castles of the kingdom.
- The unnecessary military attachment guarding the King must be discharged.
- The Kingdom will formalize its alliance with the Protestant States of the United Provinces (the Dutch) in order to defend them against the Pope and his followers.
- The King must clear the five members of the House of Commons, along with Lord Kimbolton, of any wrongdoing.
- New peers of the House of Lords must be voted in by both Houses of Parliament.
It concluded “And these our humble desires being granted by your Majesty, we shall forthwith apply ourselves to regulate your present revenue in such sort as may be for your best advantage; and likewise to settle such an ordinary and constant increase of it, as shall be sufficient to support your royal dignity in honour and plenty, beyond the proportion of any former grants of the subjects of this kingdom to your Majesty’s royal predecessors.”
Although moderate Parliamentarians regarded the Propositions as a basis for further discussion with the King, others regarded them as an ultimatum. Not unexpectedly, they were firmly rejected. The King’s Answer was published on 18 June and was delivered to the Long Parliament on June 21, 1642, and it was ordered that it be displayed in the churches of England and Wales. At least six editions were also published.. It declared that Parliament’s proposals threatened the ancient constitution of the kingdom. If the King agreed to them, he would effectively be deposing himself and his posterity.
After the rejection of the Nineteen Propositions, both sides began openly preparing for an armed confrontation. When examined in the context of longstanding tense relations between British monarchy and Parliament, The Nineteen Propositions can be seen as the turning point between attempted conciliation between the King and Parliament and war.
In August 1642 the government split into two factions: the Cavaliers (Royalists) and the Roundheads (Parliamentarians), the latter of which would emerge victorious with Oliver Cromwell as its leader. The idea of mixed government and the three Estates, popularized by Charles’s Answer to the Nineteen Propositions, remained dominant until the 19th Century.
Nineteen propositions made by both Houses of Parliament, to the Kings most excellent Majestie with his Majesties answer thereunto. [Par.] By the … read and published throughout England (1642) Paperback – December 13, 2010
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