FROM THE MEETING OF THE LONG
PARLIAMENT TO THE OUTBREAK OF THE CIVIL WAR.
26. The Root and Branch Petition.
[December 11, 1640. Rushworth, iv. 93. See Hist. of Eng. ix.
To the Right Honourable the Commons House of Parliament.
The humble Petition of many of His Majesty's subjects in and about
the City of London, and several Counties of the Kingdom,
That whereas the government of archbishops and lord bishops, deans and
archdeacons, &c., with their courts and ministrations in them, have proved
prejudicial and very dangerous both to the Church and Commonwealth, they
themselves having formerly held that they have their jurisdiction or authority
of human authority, till of these later times, being further pressed about the
unlawfulness, that they have claimed their calling immediately from the Lord
Jesus Christ, which is against the laws of this kingdom, and derogatory to His
Majesty and his state royal. And whereas the said government is found by woeful
experience to be a main cause and occasion of many foul evils, pressures and
grievances of a very high nature unto His Majesty's subjects in their own
consciences, liberties and estates, as in a schedule of particulars hereunto
annexed may in part appear: We therefore most humbly pray, and beseech this
honourable assembly, the premises considered, that the said government, with
all its dependencies, roots and branches, may be abolished, and all laws in
their behalf made void, and the government according to God's Word may be
rightly placed amongst us: and we your humble suppliants, as in duty we are
bound, will daily pray for His Majesty's long and happy reign over us, and for
the prosperous success of this high and honourable Court of Parliament.
A Particular of the manifold evils, pressures, and grievances caused,
practised and occasioned by the Prelates and their dependents.
1. The subjecting and enthralling all ministers under them and their
authority, and so by degrees exempting them from the temporal power; whence
2. The faint-heartedness of ministers to preach the truth of God, lest
they should displease the prelates; as namely, the doctrine of predestination,
of free grace, of perseverance, of original sin remaining after baptism, of the
sabbath, the doctrine against universal grace, election for faith foreseen,
free-will against antichrist, non-residents, human inventions in God's worship;
all which are generally withheld from the people's knowledge, because not
relishing to the bishops.
3. The encouragement of ministers to despise the temporal magistracy,
the nobles and gentry of the land; to abuse the subjects, and live
contentiously with their neighbours, knowing that they, being the bishops'
creatures, shall be supported.
4. The restraint of many godly and able men from the ministry, and
thrusting out of many congregations their faithful, diligent, and powerful
ministers, who lived peaceably with them, and did them good, only because they
cannot in conscience submit unto and maintain the bishops' needless devices;
nay, sometimes for no other cause but for their zeal in preaching, or great
5. The suppressing of that godly design set on foot by certain saints,
and sugared with many great gifts by sundry well-affected persons for the
buying of impropriations, and placing of able ministers in them, maintaining of
lectures, and founding of free schools, which the prelates could not endure,
lest it should darken their glories, and draw the ministers from their
dependence upon them.
6. The great increase of idle, lewd and dissolute, ignorant and
erroneous men in the ministry, which swarm like the locusts of Egypt over the
whole kingdom; and will they but wear a canonical coat, a surplice, a hood, bow
at the name of Jesus, and be zealous of superstitious ceremonies, they may live
as they list, confront whom they please, preach and vent what errors they will,
and neglect preaching at their pleasures without control.
7. The discouragement of many from bringing up their children in
learning; the many schisms, errors, and strange opinions which are in the
Church; great corruptions which are in the Universities; the gross and
lamentable ignorance almost everywhere among the people; the want of preaching
ministers in very many places both of England and Wales; the loathing of the
ministry, and the general defection to all manner of profaneness.
8. The swarming of lascivious, idle, and unprofitable books and
pamphlets, play-books and ballads; as namely, Ovid's 'Fits of Love,' 'The
Parliament of Women,' which came out at the dissolving of the last Parliament;
Barns's 'Poems,' Parker's 'Ballads,' in disgrace of religion, to the increase
of all vice, and withdrawing of people from reading, studying, and hearing the
Word of God, and other good books.
9. The hindering of godly books to be printed, the blotting out or
perverting those which they suffer, all or most of that which strikes either at
Popery or Arminianism; the adding of what or where pleaseth them, and the
restraint of reprinting books formerly licensed, without relicensing.
10. The publishing and venting of Popish, Arminian, and other dangerous
books and tenets; as namely, ' That the Church of Rome is a true Church, and in
the worst times never erred in fundamentals; ' ' that the subjects have no
propriety in their estates, but that the King may take from them what he
pleaseth; ' 'that all is the King's, and that he is bound by no law; ' and many
other, from the former whereof hath sprung,
11. The growth of Popery and increase of Papists, Priests and Jesuits in
sundry places, but especially about London since the Reformation; the frequent
venting of crucifixes and Popish pictures both engraven and printed, and the
placing of such in Bibles.
12. The multitude of monopolies and patents, drawing with them
innumerable perjuries; the large increase of customs and impositions upon
commodities, the ship-money, and many other great burthens upon the
Commonwealth, under which all groan.
13. Moreover, the offices and jurisdictions of archbishops, lord
bishops, deans, archdeacons, being the same way of Church government, which is
in the Romish Church, and which was in England in the time of Popery, little
change thereof being made (except only the head from whence it was derived),
the same arguments supporting the Pope which do uphold the prelates, and
overthrowing the prelates, which do pull down the Pope; and other Reformed
Churches, having upon their rejection of the Pope cast the prelates out also as
members of the beast. Hence it is that the prelates here in England, by
themselves or their disciples, plead and maintain that the Pope is not
Antichrist, and that the Church of Rome is a true Church, hath not erred in
fundamental points, and that salvation is attainable in that religion, and
therefore have restrained to pray for the conversion of our Sovereign Lady the
Queen. Hence also hath come.
14. The great conformity and likeness both continued and increased of
our Church to the Church of Rome, in vestures, postures, ceremonies and
administrations, namely as the bishops' rochets and the lawn-sleeves, the
four-cornered cap, the cope and surplice, the tippet, the hood, and the
canonical coat; the pulpits, clothed, especially now of late, with the Jesuits'
badge upon them every way.
15. The standing up at Gloria Patri and at the reading of the
Gospel, praying towards the East, the bowing at the name of Jesus, the bowing
to the altar towards the East, cross in baptism, the kneeling at the
16. The turning of the Communion-table altar-wise, setting images,
crucifixes, and conceits over them, and tapers and books upon them, and bowing
or adoring to or before them; the reading of the second service at the altar,
and forcing people to come up thither to receive, or else denying the sacrament
to them; terming the altar to be the mercy-seat, or the place of God Almighty
in the church, which is a plain device to usher in the Mass.
17. The christening and consecrating of churches and chapels, the
consecrating fonts, tables, pulpits, chalices, churchyards, and many other
things, and putting holiness in them; yea, reconsecrating upon pretended
pollution, as though everything were unclean without their consecrating; and
for want of this sundry churches have been interdicted, and kept from use as
18. The Liturgy for the most part is framed out of the Romish Breviary,
Rituals, Mass-book, also the Book of Ordination for archbishops and ministers
framed out of the Roman Pontifical.
19. The multitude of canons formerly made, wherein among other things
excommunication, ipso facto, is denounced for speaking of a word against
the devices abovesaid, or subscription thereunto, though no law enjoined a
restraint from the ministry without subscription, and appeal is denied to any
that should refuse subscription or unlawful conformity, though he be never so
much wronged by the inferior judges. Also the canons made in the late Sacred
Synod, as they call it, wherein are many strange and dangerous devices to
undermine the Gospel and the subjects' liberties, to propagate Popery, to spoil
God's people, ensnare ministers, and other students, and so to draw all into an
absolute subjection and thraldom to them and their government, spoiling both
the King and the Parliament of their power.
20. The countenancing plurality of benefices, prohibiting of marriages
without their licence, at certain times almost half the year, and licensing of
marriages without banns asking.
21. Profanation of the Lord's Day, pleading for it, and enjoining
ministers to read a Declaration set forth (as it is thought) by their
procurement for tolerating of sports upon that day, suspending and depriving
many godly ministers for not reading the same only out of conscience, because
it was against the law of God so to do, and no law of the land to enjoin
22. The pressing of the strict observation of the saints' days, whereby
great sums of money are drawn out of men's purses for working on them; a very
high burthen on most people, who getting their living on their daily
employments, must either omit them, and be idle, or part with their money,
whereby many poor families are undone, or brought behindhand; yet many
churchwardens are sued, or threatened to be sued by their troublesome
ministers, as perjured persons, for not presenting their parishioners who
failed in observing holy-days.
23. The great increase and frequency of whoredoms and adulteries,
occasioned by the prelates' corrupt administration of justice in such cases,
who taking upon them the punishment of it, do turn all into monies for the
filling of their purses; and lest their officers should defraud them of their
gain, they have in their late canon, instead of remedying these vices, decreed
that the commutation of penance shall not be without the bishops' privity.
24. The general abuse of that great ordinance of excommunication, which
God hath left in His Church as the last and greatest punishment which the
Church can inflict upon obstinate and great offenders; and the prelates and
their officers, who of fight have nothing to do with it, do daily excommunicate
men, either for doing that which is lawful, or for vain, idle, and trivial
matters, as working, or opening a shop on a holy-day, for not appearing at
every beck upon their summons, not paying a fee, or the like; yea, they have
made it, as they do all other things, a hook or instrument wherewith to empty
men's purses, and to advance their own greatness; and so that sacred ordinance
of God, by their perverting of it, becomes contemptible to all men, and is
seldom or never used against notorious offenders, who for the most part are
25. Yea further, the pride and ambition of the prelates being boundless,
unwilling to be subject either to man or laws, they claim their office and
jurisdiction to be Jure Divino, exercise ecclesiastical authority in
their own names and rights, and under their own seals, and take upon them
temporal dignities, places and offices in the Commonwealth, that they may sway
26. Whence follows the taking Commissions in their own Courts and
Consistories, and where else they sit in matters determinable of right at
Common Law, the putting of ministers upon parishes, without the patron's and
27. The imposing of oaths of various and trivial articles yearly upon
churchwardens and sidesmen, which they cannot take without perjury, unless they
fall at jars continually with their ministers and neighbours, and wholly
neglect their own calling.
28. The exercising of the oath ex officio, and other proceedings
by way of inquisition, reaching even to men's thoughts, the apprehending and
detaining of men by pursuivants, the frequent suspending and depriving of
ministers, fining and imprisoning of all sorts of people, breaking up of men's
houses and studies, taking away men's books, letters, and other writings,
seizing upon their estates, removing them from their callings, separating
between them and their wives against both their wills, the rejecting of
prohibitions with threatenings, and the doing of many other outrages, to the
utter infringing the laws of the realm and the subjects' liberties, and ruining
of them and their families; and of later time the judges of the land are so
awed with the power and greatness of the prelates, and other ways promoted,
that neither prohibition, Habeas Corpus, nor any other lawful remedy can
be had, or take place, for the distressed subjects in most cases; only Papists,
Jesuits, Priests, and such others as propagate Popery or Arminianism, are
countenanced, spared, and have much liberty; and from hence followed amongst
others these dangerous consequences.
1. The general hope and expectation of the Romish party, that their
superstitious religion will ere long be fully planted in this kingdom again,
and so they are encouraged to persist therein, and to practise the same openly
in divers places, to the high dishonour of God, and contrary to the laws of the
2. The discouragement and destruction of all good subjects, of whom are
multitudes, both clothiers, merchants and others, who being deprived of their
ministers, and overburthened with these pressures, have departed the kingdom to
Holland, and other parts, and have drawn with them a great manufacture of cloth
and trading out of the land into other places where they reside, whereby wool,
the great staple of the kingdom, is become of small value, and vends not;
trading is decayed, many poor people want work, seamen lose employment, and the
whole land is much impoverished, to the great dishonour of this kingdom and
blemishment to the government thereof.
3. The present wars and commotions happened between His Majesty and his
subjects of Scotland, wherein His Majesty and all his kingdoms are endangered,
and suffer greatly, and are like to become a prey to the common enemy in case
the wars go on, which we exceedingly fear will not only go on, but also
increase to an utter ruin of all, unless the prelates with their dependences be
removed out of England, and also they and their practices, who, as we under
your Honour's favours, do verily believe and conceive have occasioned the
All which we humbly refer to the consideration of this Honourable
Assembly, desiring the Lord of heaven to direct you in the right way to redress
all these evils.
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