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A robust call for freedom of the press and a more detailed analysis of the forces that were propelling a class of, what Lilburne and his Leveller followers saw as, entirely unrepresentative and duplicitous people into power.
Parliament's reaction was swift, Lilburne, Walwyn, Overton and Thomas Prince (treasurer of the Leveller Party and a wholesale Cheese merchant by profession) were rounded up by Cromwell's soldiers by order of Parliament to be tried for treason.
Or a sad Representation of the uncertain and dangerous condition of the
To the Supreme Authority of England, the Representors of the People
in Parliament assembled.
By severall wel affected persons inhabiting the City of London, Westminster, the borough of Southwark, Hamlets, and places adjacent, presenters and approvers of the late large Petition of the Eleventh of September. 1648.
All persons who are assenting to this Representation, are desired to subscribe it, and bring in their Subscriptions to the Presenters and Approvers of the foresaid Petition of the 11 of Sept.
London, Printed in the Year, 1649. To the Supreme Authority of ENGLAND, the Representors of the People, in Parliament Assembled.
of the uncertain and dangerous Condition of the Common-wealth : By the Presenters and Approvers of the Large Petition of the 11. of September, 1648.
If our hearts were not over-charged with the sense of the present miseries and approching dangers of the Nation, your smal regard to our late serious Apprehensions, would have kept us silent; but the misery, danger, and bondage threatned is so great, imminent, and apparent, that whilst we have breath, and are not violently restrained, we cannot but speak, and even cry aloud, until you hear us, or God be pleased otherwaies to relieve us.
Nor should you in reason be with-held from considering what we present you withal, through any strangeness that appeareth therein; For what was more incredible, than that a Parliament trusted by the people to deliver them from all kinds of oppression, and who made so liberal effusion of their bloud, and waste of their estates (upon pretense of doing thereof) should yet so soon as they were in power, opress with the same kind of oppressions, which yet was true in the times of Hollis and Stapletons faction, and who, (as the King and Bishops had done before) laboured for an Army to back and perpetuate them therein.
Nor were our Petitions then presented (wherein we justly complained of those oppressions, and fore-warned them of the danger ensuing) the less considerable for their burning them by the hand of the common hangman; Nor the Petitioners the more blame-worthy for being reproched with the names of Atheists, Hereticks, and seditious Sectaries (as now with Jesuite, and Leveller) Aspersions being the known marks of corrupt States-men, and usually working no other effect, but the discredit of the Aspersers. Yet were there then many who believed their reports of us, and they were as impatient with us, for our taxing them with their wicked and pernicious designs, as others are now for our presuming to detect them, who are so high in present power and reputation: But it is now evident, that it is possible for our Physitians to bring us into a more dangerous condition than they found us.
And though experience hath made us wofully sensible, that nothing is more dangerous to any people than their bearing with unjust, covetous, or ambitious practises in those they trust; Yet did we forbear to interpose our judgements, or to oppose those mens designs, until they had made a large progress toward our bondage, and endeavoured to grasp the power of the army into their hands, thereby to enforce their Tyrannie upon us; insomuch that it was almost too late to give check to their wicked intentions: so unwilling were we to believe it possible for men who all along pretended liberty and redress of grievances, to degenerate so soon into the grossest Principles and practises of long setled Tyrannies.
And much more do our Consciences bear us witness of our backwardness to believe any evil intentions in those who not only were most vigorous and successful against the common enemy but seemed so sensible of the injustice and trechery of that prevalent faction in Parliament, as to engage with the utmost of their might, as if they had really intended to deliver the Nation from that dangerous thraldom, so that we both durst, and did many of us, venture our lives upon their fidelity; Yea so powerful, perswasive, and contentful were their first Engagement, Papers, and Remonstrances, so fraught with self-denying Doctrines, tender regard to the peace of the Nation, and satisfaction to all interests: as even lulled all peaceable People into a sound sleep of security, casting all their care upon the General Councel of the Army, as upon a People they thought could never have the face to decline either those principles, or to neglect the performance of so many engagements, promises, and protestations, made as in the presence of the all-seeing God, frequently calling upon him, the searcher of all hearts, to bear witness to their integrity and sincerity therein: Insomuch that we (who alwaies with some warinesse observed them) many times denyed our own understanding rather than we would draw hasty conclusions from evident testimonies of their defection.
But when after they had once sleighted the Agitators. and discountenanced those Officers and Souldiers, who first engaged against the destructive Votes of Parliament; such as stood firm to their engagements at New-market, and Triploe Heath: when we saw they not only neglected them, but adhered to persons sent from Parliament and City, in those corrupted times, and fell immediately to plead for Negative Voyces in the King, and Lord; checking and controuling those that opposed: When we understood their General Councels (which according to their engagements ought to have consisted only of two select Commission Officers, and two private Souldiers, chosen by every Regiment, with such General Officers as assented to the Engagement, and no other) were neverthelesse overgrown with Collonels, Lieut. Collonels, Majors, and others, not chosen; and many of them dissenters from the said Engagement; and that some few eminent persons presum'd above measure therein, and in effect overawed and controuled those Councels: and that the contrivance of a Counsel of State, was the great engine which those Councels laboured to bring about: when we found them not only to Court the King, by kissing his hand, and the like, and that a correspondency was held between him and the General Officers, and Agents sent to and fro continually, whereby they came to so neer a close, as that their Proposals were not only received, but corrected and amended by the King, before they were sent to the House, till they became very consistent with his ends and Prerogative: and those Officers so engaged thereby as to be moved to impatience towards any that spake a sillable against this their trafique and intercourse with him: upon which likewise, they concluded an agreement with the opposing Citizens of London, without so much a calling the Agitators to advize thereupon. Seeing, Hearing, and Understanding these things, no marvel if we were staggered in our Beleefe of their integrity.
But that a person so deeply charged as the Earl of Manchester, and other grand self-seekers of this House should be entertained with so great respect, and guarded to their places in Parliament, and that notwithstanding the prevailing power of the Army, those who had usurped the Authority of the House, and Voted a new warre, were neverthelesse permitted to sit and Vote there, and that contrary to the importunate desires of the Agitators, and the Remonstrance of the Army: and then one of the first fruits of this their conjunction was the passing of an Ordinance of Tythes, upon trebble dammages, which the corrupt Clergy had presented (in the absence of the Speaker) to Pelhams Parliament; and the burning of Mr Biddles Book, by the Common Hangman; and imprisoning his person: and that notwithstanding their glorious March through London, the prerogative Prisoners in the Tower, New-gate, and else where, were utterly neglected, and the Councel of those friends sleighted, who had been instrumental, even to the losse of some, and the hazard of all their lives, to make an easie and unbloudy passage for the Army into Southwark and the City. Upon observation of these and abundant more particulars, which we could enumerate, we concluded, that the Councels of the Army were not steered as at their first engagement, by the select persons chosen thereunto, not for the ends in that engagement expressed; but by some other powerfull and ever-ruling influences, that intended other matters then were pretended, and that laboured by all possible means to convert the honest endeavours of good men in the Army, and else-where, and the happy successs God had blessed them withall, to the advantage of their Lusts, Pride, and Domination: And as time came on, it more and more appeared, that they intended meerly the establishment of themselves in power and greatnesse, without any regard at all to the performance of their promises and engagements, or any respect to the faith and credit of the Army, or to the peace and prosperity of the Common wealth, and that they walked by no rules or principles either of honesty or conscience; but (as meer pollititians, were governed altogether by occasion, and as they saw a possibility of making progress to their designs, which course of theirs they ever termed a waiting upon providence, that with colour of Religion they might deceive the more securely.
Now that this may appeear no slander, we entreat that without partiality, their after proceedings may be throughly scan'd: as first, at Kingston it was proposed by the Agitators, friends of London, Southwark, and the places adjacent, that the Tower, City, and Borough, might be secured by the well-affected Inhabitants, and not by Souldiers, that so trade and traffique might be preserved, which otherwise would be driven away (as it soon after proved) And that it was hoped they intended not to secure any place by Souldiers, when the wel-affected Inhabitants were able to secure it. Which advise proceed as well from our respects to the City and neighbour places, as upon fears of what we know to be the practise of other Tyrants (and therefore doubted would be exercised by those) namely, the garisoning great Town, thereby to keep the people, as wel in poverty, as in continual aw and subjection.
Which advise, though assented unto by the Agitators, was yet rejected by the grand Officers, and a new Regiment raised, to the futher charge of the Common-wealth; the Proposers themselves being dismissed with reproches, and the Agitators thrust out, and not permitted to observe how they were dealt withal.
At which time also its very remarkable with how much height of State they observed the King at Hampton Court, visiting him themselves, and permiting thousands of people dayly to visit him, to kiss his hand, and to be healed by him, whereby his party in the City, and every where, were exceedingly animated, his Agents being as familiar at the head-quarters, as at the Court. Then on a sudden, when the House complyed not with their purposes, in all hast it was to be purged, and thereupon they publish a large Remonstrance, Aug. 18. stuffed with publicke reasons, to shew the justness and necessity thereof: but the House again complying, through the sight of their Remonstrance, though no whit changed in respect of its corruption; & they finding, if it were purged, it would not be for their design; they make nothing of their former resolution, but continue it in its corrupt condition, and sit with them themselves.
Then they fall to work again about the King, and send the propositions of New-castle to him, which they knew, and were agreed he should not sign; in the meantime, the so wrought the King by deep promises, and hopes of restauration, as that he inclined much to countenance the Army, gave out words in their favour, and in his answer to the House, prefer'd their Proposals, before the Parliaments Propositions; in lieu thereof, the great ones of the Army themselves, endeavoured the revival of a Treaty, and some of them in the House, were very violent against motions of no more Address, and expressed it was the sense of the Army that further Address should be made, and that except they would make Addresses of another nature to the King, they could not promise them the assistance of the Army; and accordingly they take pains to work every man at the head-quarters; upon which, petitions were attempted in the Army, in favour of a Treaty, and some conscientious, but weak people, were drawn to second their design, with a Petition for a Personal Treaty, which they had ready at the House dore.
These strange and mysterious proceedings, occasion'd a new face of things in the Army, many of the Officers being much distasted thereat, & whole Regiments chusing new Agents to look after the publike, as fearing things were runing head-long into a most dangerous condition: The far greater number of the Officers, would not by any means indure to hear of the Armies compliance with the King, and the Agents finding all former engagements, promises, and declarations broken, and utterly neglected, and the Common wealth in danger of utter dissolution, produce an Agreement of the People, upon grounds of Common right, for uniting of all unprejudiced people therein; the great Officers very much oppose it a while, as having set up another Interest: but seing the same take with the Army, profess though at present their judgements could not so far close with it as to act for it, yet they would never oppose it. Hereupon the whole frame of the design alters, and the matters in projection with them, were how to dis-ingage themselves, and be rid of the King, and how likewise to discountenance and keep under the discerning party in the Army. In order to the first, they cast about how to get the King into the Isle of Wight, where they might both easier keep others from him, and the more entirely possess him themselves; and that he might with willingness be hurried thither, they work upon his fear; suggesting to him, that there was an intention in some violent persons to murder him, and perswade him to leave that in a letter, as the cause of his remove. To make which the more credible, they wrought L.Col. Hen. Lilburn to asperse his brother John (who then stood in the way of the great men of the Army) with a base & abhorrid resolution of being one that intended to murder the King; to the proof whereof they would never suffer the Asperser to be brought (though solicited thereunto by a Petition from divers well-affected persons but insteed thereof, for that perfideous service, they advanced him to the government of Tinmouth Castle, above his brother Robert, where retaining the leven of his Apostacy, which the Gen. Officers had laid in him, he sufferd the deserved reward of a perfidious traytor.
And though the General Officers enclined him to this revolt themselves, as well by their example, as by coutenancing him in the beginning thereof; and though for the same he incurred the extreme displeasure of his Father, and Kindred, yet are both his Father and kindred by the Officers themselves and their Associates aspersed with the fact, as if tainted with guilt and contammination thereof.
Thus did they kill two birds with one stone, framing a Name for them which of all others is most distasteful to the People, and was therefore most likely to beget a beleef of the pretended assassination.
Where (by the way) we desire it may be observed, that notwithstanding the word Leveller was framed and cast upon all those in the Army (or elsewhere) who are against any kind of Tyranny, whether in King, Parliament, Army, Councel of State, &c. And though it was not so much as beleeved to concern those upon whom they cast it, the inventer having often professed as much, yet have they both themselves and by their Instruments industriously propagated the same, and insinuated both this and other slanders of us into the hearts of all the easy and credulous people they could meet withall.
But to returne, The King thus removed, they judge themselves at good leisure to deal with the Agreers for the People, and so suddainly violent they became in that work, that at the first Randezvous neer Ware, they shot a Souldier to death, for pursuing the Agreement for the People: unworthily abused Major Skott, a Member of this House, sent him up a prisoner, and accused him and Col. Rainsborough for appearing in behalf of the Agreement, and therewithall sent Col. Ayres, Major Cobbet, Capt. Bray, and many others after them prisoners to Windsor, where, as Parties, Judges, and Juries, the Officers did what they would against them, sentencing some to death, others to disgracefull punishments, restraining and releasing at pleasure, and with as much Arbitrarinesse as ever was in the world, and could not be deswaded though Mr Saltmarsh and others bore full testimony against the cruelty and injustice thereof. Hereupon at the House they procured at once the imprisonment of five cordial Citizens, for justifying the Agreement of the People, and requiring Justice for the bloud of the Souldier that was shot at Ware, disfranchised them, and under the notion of London Agents forbad their meetings. And when now they thought they had moulded and qualified the Army to their own bent, and had gratified their complying Officers, with the cruelty upon the Levellers, (for so they have stiled all who have manifested any sence of Common Right) and had found that they could be nothing so great, rich, and potent, upon a close with the King, and that it would be impossible for them to hold either Officer or Souldier firm to them, in case of such composure, Hereupon uterly to frustrate his hopes that way, they prevail with the House to Vote no more Addresses; and so vanisht away all their glorious flattery of the King and his Party, and their notorious disimulation appeared, abusing thereby the Fifth of the Army, and making it cleer to all discerning men, that such as could so break with one sort of men, will make no Conscience of keeping faith with any.
Their next work was to mew-mould the City, and make it theirs, for which purpose they brought some Regiments of Horse and Foot, to White Hall and the Muse, to the extreme discontent of the City, and provoke them further by keeping their Lord Mayor, and some of their Aldermen in the Tower, without admitting them to a Legal Tryal, though upon Petitions and earnest Desires: at last they were referred to be tryed by the Lords, contrary to the known Law of the Land; but their jurisdiction being disclaimed, after a while they were released without any Tryal at all, their end being accomplisht, which was the terror of the City, and changing the Magistrates thereof, so as should best serve their designes.
About this time also they began to exercise their Marshal power over persons not of the army, and did sentence Mr William Thomson to death at White Hall. And then also they began to new moddel the Army, and for that end, (though the new raised Regiment for the Tower was thought no burthen , yet upon pretence of easing the charge of the Common wealth, the Life-Guard must be disbanded, because consisting of discerning men, faithfull to their Country and former promises, and many others of like principles were pickt out of every Regiment; the designe being by weeding the choisest and best resolved men, to make the Army wholy mercenary, slavish, and the Executioners of a few mens lusts and lawlesse Pleasures.
All which those good men perceiving and resolving thereupon not to be disbanded according to the Agreement at New-market, till the ends therein expressed were fully gained, they were enforced thereunto by Tyrannicall Sentences of Imprisonment and Death (though the Officers themselves had formerly refused to disband upon command of Parliament upon the same grounds and strength of the same engagement:) By all which 'tis evident, that according to the maxime of Polititians, they judge themselves loose, where other men are bound; and that all obligation are to them Transitory and Ceremoniall, and that indeed every thing is good and just only, as it is conducing to their corrupt and ambitious interests.
And thus the most hopefull opportunity that ever England had for recovery of our Freedome, was spent and consumed, in such their uncertain, staggering motions, and arbitrary, irrationall Proceedings, whereby all partyes became extreamly exasperated, as People that had been meerly mock'd and cheated by faire promises, and under the most religious Pretences, &c. Hereby the Army, that had but few monethes before been the joy and hope of all sorts of Rationall people, was made a by-word, a hissing, and Reproach to the whole Nation: insomuch that those (in hope of their large good Promises, and protests in their Declarations) who thought nothing too precious for them, now grudged them bread, & were ready to stone them in all places where they came; Trade fled, Poverty increased, and discontents abounded, till at length broke out such a flame, as no time had ever seen before; and no doubt was the proper issue of such horrid delusion, ministring such matter for a generall Rising and Revolt, as all former policies could never attain to, and more threatning the ruine of the Nation, then all the former forces and stratagems of the enemies: and which is rightly to be imputed to the unjust partiall and perfidious dealings of these men.
But when they saw what a strange predicament they had brought themselves into, and which they would never beleeve, till it was come upon them no more than now they will) they had befor manifested a greater obstinacy, then now they did a serious Repentance (which yet as the sequell proves, was but counterfeit) though (as God knoweth) we were overjoyed to beleeve it reall: Acknowledging, with the greatest expressions of sorrow, that they had walked by corrupt Pollitick Principle; That they had been to blame in Actings against honest men; That the name of Leveller, Jesuite or the like reproaches, should never be more heard amongst them, that if ever the Nation be happy, it must be by a conjunction in the Levellers Principles, calling upon all, to lay by all Discontents, to forget and forgive, and to unite all against the Common enemy and promising with greatest asseverations, That if God, upon our joynt endeavors, should be pleased to deliver us out of this Sea of danger, that they would never divide from just Principles, nor in the least discountenance honest men as they have done, nor endeavor to set up a party, but cast themselves upon an agreement of the People for the future settlement of the Peace of the Nation: but how and what performance they have made, that we shall intreat may be impartially observed in the ensuing story; And for a full and timely proofe of their Relapse, & Discovery of their dissituation; No sooner had they (through Gods blessing and the assistance of their reconciled friends) finished their worke at Colchester, but presently they call to question certaine Persons, that had appeared at St. Albanes in behalf of Captaine Reynalds, chusing rather to forsake the Service, then to be commanded by Captaines that had been violent against them that had drunke the Kings health upon their knees, and profest they could rather fight against the Levellers then Cavaliers, and these (according to their old wont) they sentenc'd to Death, and soon after releast them, as finding or supposing this kinde of Discipline most essentiall, to the breaking and debasing the spirits of the English.
And because Col. Rainsborough had ever opposed their unjust Proceedings, they withdaw him from the Army by a plausible but onely a Tittular command at Sea, whereby the the straitness of his Commission, he not having thereby the command of the Shippes or Officers, he could neigther restrain their Revolt , nor preserve himself from being expulsed at the Seamans pleasure out of that employment.
Then upon his return, the ruling Officers finding him as inflixible to their ends as formerly they put him upon that dangerous and unhappy Service before Pomfret (notwithstanding a commander had been appointed thereunto by the Committee of Yorke) whether he went with much Reluctancy and discontent, as wondering at the Cause of his being design'd thither, and expressing as much to his Friend, his sad soul presaging the misfortune, which after befell him, But that which gives greatest cause of grief and suspect to his friends is, that his Brother receives no furtherance, but rather, all discouragement that may be in searching after, and prosecuting the causers of that so bloody and inhuman a Butchery.
In the North, though during the Service and Necessaries of the Army, the Levellers, (as they are call'd) were countenanc'd, and taken into the Boosme, who thereupon (forgetting all former affronts and disrespects) did liberally hazzard their lives, without suspition of fraud and delusion; Yet the Necessities being over, and the enemies subdued, they renew fresh disgraces, and fall into a greater Odium, and contempt then ever.
First, divers Souldiers for Petitioning in the behalfe of Major Reinolds, that he might serve in the room of Major Huntington, were therfore rated and threatned to have their skulles broake, and some of them struck for so Petitioning; Major John Cobit, who with the extreamest hazard of his life, had regain'd Tinmouth Castle, where his Superiour Commander had through the dangers and Difficulties, by storme regained, and a Member of Parliament taken from his duty there & contrary to the self denying Ordinance, made Governor thereof. Major White, who in all the desperate services in the North, had performed the duty of Lieutenant Colonel and Major both in the Generall Regiment, yet because a constant man to his Promises and Principles, was refused the Lieftenant Colonelship and a man of a more complying Spirit fetch'd from another Regiment to officiate therein.
And this was the usage not onely to those Gentlemen, but to all others whether Officers, or souldiers in North or South (for their Counsells were one in both) that did retaine a sense and Resolution to prosecute those good things intimated in their former Ingagements.
And as before, upon their first great Successe against the City, when now again it justly was expected they should have made use of so notable and unexpected Blessings to the benefit & advantage of the Common-wealth, (as their late repentances, promises and Pretences gave men cause to hope) the event proved they intended another use thereof, for (having now subdued all their enemies), they proceed with greater confidence to their former purposes, of making themselves absolute masters over the Common-wealth, wherein there yet appears one main obstacle, and that was an unanimous and universal Resolution in all Well-minded People (especially in that numerous P E O P L E that concurred in the P E T I T I O N of the Eleventh of September to center in an Agreement of the People, which if not evaded, it would be impossible for them) to goe through with their Worke: hereupon againe they cry out for Union, and imploy their Agents to get meetings, and Treaties with those that were most forward for an agreement & contract with them to center in an Agreement, and that the Matter of the Petition of the Eleventh of September (as was desired) should be the substance of that Agreement: There being no other way then by the yeelding in shew: to amaze this busie watchfull party and to keep them quiet, whilst they went on with other pieces of their worke.
For what else, hath all the time spent thereabouts produc'd, but a meer amusing blinding and deluding all that cordially desired the same, it being (before they left it) so obscur'd and perplext in the sence thereof, so short of what was in ended, and so corrupted in the mean time, whilst they had fixt good mens eyes and thought upon that Worke, they secretly and swiftely prosecute their other Designes as principal in their purposes, where in questionless they had not had the assistance of good men, but that it was verily beleeved in shew of driving on their owne Designe, they wer really and cordially producing a perfect and complete Agreement of the People, as large both in grounds of Freedome, and redresse of grievances, as the Petition of the Eleventh of September, in the uttermost extent thereof did import.
Many of which Petitioners were not satisfyed but that such an Agreement of the People might then have been obtained without any of those extraordinary sudden and violent Courses lately taken, neither in bringing the Army to the City breaking the House in pieces, or removing the King by such and extra-judiciall Proceedings and Court of Justice, as had no place in the English Government, and did really foresee, there would be nothing but abuse in their pretence of an Agreement of the People: and that their own domination, in and by a counsell of State, was the maine thing aimed at, and intended.
The Removing the King, the taking away the House of Lords, the overawing the House, and reducing it to that passe, that it is become but the Channell, through which is conveyed all the Decrees and Determinations of a private Counsell of some few Officers, Peers, the erecting of their Court of Justice and their Counsell of State, The Voting of the People the Supreame Power, and this House the Supreame Authority: all these Particulars, (though many of them in order to good ends, have been desired by Wel affected People) are yet become, (as they have managed them) of sole conducement to their ends, and Intents, either by removing such as stood in the way between them and the Power, wealth, or command of the Common-Wealth; or by actually possessing and investing them in the same.
And though all this was foreseen by us, yet so perswasive were their insinuations in the ears of many good & well disposed People, both Souldiers and others, that they have been really carried away with beliefe of them, and reliance upon them, and have thought they could not better imploy their time and abilities then in affording them all furtherance, and assistance that might be.
So that their only Feares remaine upon our Discoveries, to prevent which they use meanes, that either we might not have opportunity to lay open their Treacheries, and Hypocrisies, or not be beleeved if we did it.
In order to the first, They strictly stop the Presse; In order to the second; They blast us with all the Scandalls and false Reports their Witt or Malice could invent against us; and so monstrously wicked have they been in this particular, that they have pry'd into all our Actions, made use of all our acquaintances, and friendly intimacies, and in conclusion, have onely produced such scandalls, as have been customarily used by former Statesmen, and such when scan'd and examined, containe both contrariety in themselves, and have not the least ground of Truth, as concerning us.
By these Arts are they now fastened in their Power, till either by opposition from the enemy which they may well expect God will raise against them as the deserved Recompence of their vile Apostacy; or by the weight and Violence of their many Injustices (which in the wicked course they are in) must every day be multplyed, till they be throwne downe from their usurped greatnesse.
They have already lost the Affections of all People, and are only supported by their present strength; but when once those good men that hold them up, shal perceive how instrumentall they are made, contrary to their intention, in advancing a few lofty and imperious mens designes; and how easy it is for them to convert their abilities & power to better and more common ends exprest in their former engagements, and with the complaints of the agrieved people, and their owne understandings can furnish them withall, they will then lament that they have so long been out of the way, and set themselves with the utmost courage & resolution to free their distressed country from the fears and captivity it now groans under. They may talk of freedom, but what freedom indeed is there, so long as they stop the Presse, which is indeed, and hath been so accounted in all free Nations, the most essentiall part thereof, imploying an Apostata Judas for executioner therein who had been twice burnt in the hand, a wretched fellow, that even the Bishops and Star-chamber would have sham'd to own. What freedom is there left, when honest & worthy Souldiers are sentenc'd and enforc'd to ride the horse with their faces reverst, and their swords broken over their heads for but Petitioning and presenting a Letter in justification of their liberty therein: it this be not a new say of breaking the spirits of the English, which Strafford and Canterbury never dreampt of ; we know no difference of thing. A taste also of Liberty of Conscience they have given us in the Case of a worthy Member of your House; so as we may well judge what is like to follow, if their Reigne continue. And as for Peace; whilst the Supreme Officers of the Army are Supream in your House, in the Councel of State, and all in all in the generall Counsell of the Army when the martiall power is indeed supream to the Civill Authority, what Peace can be expected; we professe we see no councels tending to it, but hereof mighty and vast sums of money to be taxed upon the People per mensem, as if warre were become the only trade or as if the people were bound to maintain Armyes whether they have trade or no; yea whether they have bread or no.
And as for the prosperity of the Nation; what one thing hath been done that tendeth to it? Nay, hath any thing been done since they were in power, but what increaseth the rancor, hatred, and malice, which our late unhappy differences have begotten amongst us, as if they had placed their happiness and security in the total division of the people nothing being offered by them, that hath any face of reconcilement in it, nothing of cheerfulnesse or generall satisfaction, the mother of trade & plenty, that might take away the private remembrances and destinctions of partyes nothing indeed, but what tendeth to implacable bitternesse of spirit, the mother of confusion penry, and beggery.
Nay what sence of the heavy burdens of the people have they manifested of late, hath it not been by their procurement that the Judges their creatures have a thousand a yeer allow'd to every one of them above the ordinary fees? which were ever esteemed a heavy oppression in themselves: is there any abridgement of the charge, or oppression in themselves: is there any abridgement of the charge, or length of time in triall of causes? are they touch'd with the generall burthen of Tithes, that canker of industry and tillage? or with that of Exize, which out of the bowells of labourers and poor people enriches the Usurers, and other Catterpillars of the Common wealth: or what have they done to free Trade from the intolerable burden of Customs? except the setting fresh hungry flyes, upon the old sores of the People? What one matterial thing did they offer unto you in their late Petition, which you gave them so many thanks for? terming their desires modest and descreet; when it's evident by the contents, they did it only to stop the mouths of their Souldiers & to amuze them into a pleasing dream, whilst they go on with their designe of absolute domination & which should you in the least oppose, you would finde their modesty no more towards you, then towards you excluded members: In the mean time, where is their Charge against those Members? or why finde they not who amongst them have conferred offices upon each other, and upon their Creatures and relations? or who they were that gave so large Donations of thousands and hundred per annum whilst the Publick Faith is broaken, and Families are ready to starve for emptying themselves to serve the publick necessities; or why discountenance not they all those who have betrayed the trust of Feofees for Bishops, and Delinquents lands? and are become purchasers themselves of great Estates, for very few yeers purchases the due value rightly considered: or why they not blame the Lord chief Justice and Lord chief Barron for keeping their places which were conferred on them? (and the like on others) by this House, when those Members sate there, they have excluded? or why finde they not out those perfidious persons that have made no conscience of breaking the self-denying Ordinance, and persist therein? or is the reason visible why they have nothing to say against those sorts of men, manely, because these are their own and their Creatures cases? Oh wretched England, that seeth, and yet suffereth such intollerable masters; What can be exacted from such Officers, who frequently manifest a thirst after the blood of such People, and souldiers, as are most active for the common Freedom peace & prosperity of the Common-wealth, and against whom they have nothing else to object: or what can be expected from such a Counsel in the Army, as shal agree that the supreame authority should be moved to make a law, That the Counsel of Officers may have Power to have and put to death all such persons, though not of the Army, as they should judge, were disturbers of the Army.
Certainly these things cannot but manifest unto you their very hearts, their inward purposes and Intentions, representing visibly before you and all the World, the most dangerous condition that ever yet this Nation hath been in: And there be any conscience towards God or man to be found amongst you the whole sinews and progresse of this our sad Representation is so fully knowne, and fresh in memory, that it is impossible, but it must worke upon all amongst you that are not Co-partners with them in their Designe, or are not engaged (as the Lawyers are) in some corrupt Interest.
But though this long betrayed and miserable Nation should prove so unhappy, as that there should not be one found amongst you, to owne these known Trueths, which yet ring in every mans eares, throughout the Land; but through feare, or other vile respects, should shut your eyes against the light: it shall be so farre from inducing us, to repent of what we have herein (or in our late Apprehensions) expressed, and set before you, that we shall rejoyce above measure, that we have witnessed to the Trueth ; and against all those Delusions and perfidious Stratagems, lay'd by those men to betray and enslave the Common-wealth, to their own Pride, Ambition, Lusts, Covetousnesse, and Domination, if not Dukeship, or Kingship; their Creatures discoursing of late, That the Power must be reduced to one: what their meaning is, time (if they be not hindred) will manifest: but the Premises duly weighed, doth evidence, what ere it be, it will be as bad, as bad possibly can be.
And as we shall not altogether doubt of the appearance of some, in this Honorable House, that will conscionable perfore that Supreame Trust which is really and essentially resident in your integrity; what ever may be suggested to the contrary: (it being not others treachery, nor anyes violence, that can divest you of that Authority:) but if you all should fayl therein, as God forbid, yet we shall not doubt, but that what we have here presented, and published, will open the eyes, and raise the hearts of so conscionable a number of the Souldiery and People in all places, and make them so sensible of the bondage and danger threatned, as that these men, this Faction of Officers, shall never be able to goe through with their wicked intentions.
It being an infinite shame that they should be suffered to proceed so farre therein, as they have done, there having beene no party hitherto so inexcusable for it is possible, if not probable that the King and his party might at first be induced to offend through error of breeding, long custome, and sway of times, (although that excuse neither him nor them) That Hollis, and that party, might at first be drawne into their violence, against people faithfull to the Common wealth through an erronious Zeale against supposed Secteries, and for uniformity in Presbytery (though that also but little extenuates their offence) but neither the one nor the other can be imagined to have transgressed against so evident light. nor against so many and great obligations of love, and great respects from the people as this party hath done; So that the intentions, and endevours of these men, to enslave the Common-wealth, or their continuing of burthen, without any remorse at the dearnesse of food, and utter losse of trade, exceeds in the nature and measure of it, all the wickednesse of both the other parties put together.
And therefore upon due consideration of the premises and in utter detestation of their most perfidious and treacherous dealing with the Army, Parliament and Common-wealth; we do in behalf of our selves and all wel-minded people, here before this Honourable House, as in the presence of Almighty God, protest against their breaking the faith of the Army with all parties, their dissolving the Councel of the Agitators, and usurping a power of giving forth the fence of the Army to the Parliament and people, also against the shooting of the Souldiers to death at Ware, and their cruelties exercised on other persons, to the debasing of their spirits, and thereby new moulding of the Army to their owne designes, then playing fast and loose with the King and his party, till they brought a new and dangerous Warre upon the Nation.
We also protest against their dissembled repentances, as in no measure satisfactory for so abominable offences: we also protest against all their late extraordinary Proceedings, in bringing the Army upon the City, (to the ruine of trade) there breaking the House in pieces without charging the Members particularly: And then judging and taking away of mens lives in an extraordinary way, as done for no other end, but to make way for their owne absolute domination: we also protest against the Election and Establishment of those High-Courts of Justice, as unjust in themselves, and of dangerous Presidence in time to come: as likewise against the Councell of State, and putting some of themselves therein contrary to their owne Agreement: we also protest against all other the like meetings of those officers, that on Thursday the 2. of February last, voted for so bloody a Law, as to hang whom they should judge, disturbed the Army, (us having no power either by such Councels, either to give the sence of the Army, or to do any thing in reference to the Common-wealth, more then what any, so many fifty Souldiers or persons not of the Army have power and may lawfully do: though all the Generall officers were continually present.) these we protest against, as things unjust abominable and dangerous and declare that our present not seeking for Justice or reliefe therein, shall be no bar against us for the future, when we shall see cause to seek for Justice and reliefe therein.
And for the truth of our Judgements herein: we should with gladnesse submit unto the determinations of this Honourable House, were not their High hand as yet held over you. And therefore we are enforced to appeale to a new Representive equally chosen in such like manner, as is exprest in our serious apprehensions lately presented unto you, and do likewise desire taht you would encourage the Army in chusing a Representative, consisting of select Persons, chosen by every Regiment of the Army, as at the first at New-market: and shall humbly pray that you will not any more receive the result of a few officers, as the sence of the Army the officers of an Army having no more power to make Laws for an Armie then the officers of the Common wealth to make Laws for the People; both of them being constituted only for the Discipline, and Government thereof. We hope you will proceed t further an Agreement of the People; according to our late desires in our serious Apprehensions, and also speedily take in hand and effect those other things therein desired, tending very much to the abrogation of the bondage intended.
Thus have we once more unburdened our hearts before you, and faithfully discharged our duties to our Country, giving timely warning of the most dangerous thraldom and misery that ever threatned this much wasted Nation, and much we doubt not, wil, by wisdom mixt with som honest resolutions, be timely prevented: which we shall exceedingly rejoyce to see, that so after so many yeers of sorrow, the people may at length be comforted, and the Land enjoy her rest; and that all the world may be enforced to confess That There is a reward for the righteous, and that there is a God that judgeth the earth..
F I N I S.
The Leveller party spokespeople: Lilburne, Walwyn, Overton and Thomas Prince, were arrested in the early hours of Wednesday 28 March 1649. The prisoners had been called in one-by-one a second time by the Council of State, self-appointed junta of the roundheads. The Copuncil werew having second thoughts about these arrests. Walwyn and Prince were not controversial political figures like the other two. The Council feared that their arrests particularly might lose them support in the City of London.
Each of them refused on principle to incriminate himself or his comrades. As the 4 who carried the hopes of the Leveller cause sat in an Ante-room the Council debated their case. Lilburne laid his ear to the door and heard:
Lt. General Cromwell (I am sure of it) very loud, thumping his fist upon the Council table, til it rang again, and heard him speak in these very words or to this effect; I tell you, Sir, you have no other way to deal with these men, but to break them in pieces; and thumping upon the Council table again, he said, Sir, let me tell you that which is true, if you do not break them, they will break you; yea and bring all the guilt of the blood and treasure shed and spent in this kingdom upon your head and shoulders; and frustrate and make void all that work, that with so many years' industry, toil and pains you have done, and so render you to all rational men in the world as the most contemptiblest generation of silly, low-spirited men in the earth, to be broken and routed by such a despicable, contemptible generation of men as they are; and therefore, Sir, I tell you again, you are necessitated to break them.
Quoted in undoubtably the best book on the period:
Brailsford, H.N., The Levellers and the English Revolution, Spokesman, Nottingham, 1976 and still available. ISBN 0 85124 154 9.
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