The petition of 11 September
To the right honourable, the Commons of England in parliament assembled. The
humble petition of divers well-affected persons inhabiting the City of London,
Westminster, the Borough of Southwark, Hamlets and places adjacent With the
Parliament's Answer thereunto
That although we are as earnestly desirous of a safe and well-grounded peace
and that a final end were put to all the troubles and miseries of the
commonwealth as any sort of men whatsoever, yet, considering upon what grounds
we engaged on your part in the late and present wars and how far by our so
doing we apprehend ourselves concerned, give us leave before you conclude (as
by the treaty in hand)
to acquaint you: first with the ground and reason which induced us to aid you
against the king and his adherents; secondly what our apprehensions are of this
treaty; thirdly, what we expected from you and still do most earnestly desire.
Be pleased therefore to understand that we had not engaged on your part but
that we judged this honourable House to be the supreme authority of England, as
chosen by and representing the people and entrusted with absolute power for
redress of grievances and provision for safety, and that the king was but at
the most the chief public officer of this kingdom and accountable to this
House, the representative of the people, from whom all just authority is or
ought to be derived for the discharge of his office. And if we had not been
confident hereof, we had been desperately mad to have taken up arms or to have
been aiding assisting in maintaining a war against him — the laws of the
land making it expressly a crime no less than treason for any to raise war
against the king.
But when we considered the manifold oppressions brought upon the nation by
the king, his Lords and bishops, and that this honourable House declared their
deep sense thereof, and that — for the continuance of that power which had
so oppressed us — it was evident the king intended to raise forces and
make war, and that if he did set up his standard it tended to the dissolution
of the government: upon this, knowing the safety of the people to be above law
and that to adjudge thereof appertained to the supreme authority and not to the
supreme magistrate, and being satisfied in our consciences that the public
safety and freedom was in imminent danger, we concluded we had not only a just
cause to maintain, but the supreme authority of the nation to justify, defend
and indemnify us in time to come in what we should perform by direction thereof
— though against the known law of the land, or any inferior authority,
though the highest.
And as this our understanding was begotten in us by principles of right
reason, so were we confirmed therein by your own proceedings: as by your
condemning those judges who in the case of ship-money had declared the king to
be judge of safety; and
by your denying him to have a negative voice in the making of law, where you
wholly exclude the king from having any share in the supreme
authority; then by your
casting the bishops out of the House of Lords, who by tradition also had been
accounted an essential part of the supreme authority; and by your declaring to the Lords
that if they would not join with you in settling the militia (which they long
refused) you would settle it without them — which you could not justly
have done and they had
any real share in the supreme authority.
These things we took for real demonstrations that you undoubtedly knew
yourselves to be the supreme authority — ever weighing down in us all
other your indulgent expressions concerning the king or Lords — it being
indeed impossible for us to believe that it can consist either with the safety
or the freedom of the nation to be governed either by three, or two, supremes,
especially where experience has proved them so apt to differ in their
judgements concerning freedom or safety that the one has been known to punish
what the other has judged worthy of reward, when not only the freedom of the
people is directly opposite to the prerogatives of king and Lords, but the open
enemies of the one have been declared friends by the other (as the Scots were
by the House of Lords).
And whenas most of the oppressions of the commonwealth have in all times
been brought upon the people by the king and Lords, who nevertheless would be
so equal in the supreme authority as that there should be no redress of
grievances, no provision of safety, but at their pleasure: for our parts, we
profess ourselves so far from judging this to be consistent with freedom and
safety, that we know no great cause wherefor we assisted you in the late wars
but in hope to be delivered by you from so intolerable, so destructive a
bondage, so soon as you should through God's blessing upon the armies raised by
you be enabled. But to our exceeding grief we have observed that no sooner God
vouchsafed you victory and blessed you with success, and thereby enabled you to
put us and the whole nation into an absolute condition of freedom and safety,
but, according as ye have been accustomed — passing by the ruin of the
nation and all that blood that has been spilt by the king and his party —
ye betake yourselves to a treaty with him, thereby putting him that is but one
single person and a public officer of the commonwealth in competition with the
whole body of the people whom ye represent, not considering that it is
impossible for you to erect any authority equal to yourselves, and declared to
all the world that you will not alter the ancient government from that of king,
Lords and Commons — not once mentioning (in case of difference) which of
them is supreme, but leaving that point (which was the chiefest cause of all
our public differences, disturbances, wars and miseries) as uncertain as ever.
Insomuch as we who upon these grounds have laid out ourselves every way to
the uttermost of our abilities — and all others throughout the
land, soldiers and others who have done the like in defence of our supreme
authority and in opposition to the king — cannot but deem ourselves in the
most dangerous condition of all others: left without all plea of indemnity for
what we have done, as already many have found by the loss of their lives and
liberties either for things done or said against the king, the law of the land
frequently taking place and precedency against and before your authority, which
we esteemed supreme, and against which no law ought to be pleaded. Nor can we
possibly conceive how any that in any ways assisted you can be exempt from the
guilt of murders and robbers by the present laws in force if you persist to
disclaim the supreme authority, though their own consciences do acquit them as
having opposed none but manifest tyrants, oppressors and their adherents.
And whereas a personal treaty, or any treaty with the king has been long
time held forth as the only means of a safe and well-grounded peace, it is well
known to have been cried up principally by such as have been disaffected unto
you. And though you have contradicted it, yet it is believed that you much fear
the issue — as you have cause sufficient except you see greater alteration
in the king and his party than is generally observed, there having never yet
been any treaty with him but was accompanied with some underhand dealing, and
whilst the present force upon him (though seeming liberty) will in time to come be certainly
pleaded against all that shall or can be agreed upon. Nay, what can you confide
in if you consider how
he has been provoked, and what former kings have done — after oaths, laws,
charters, bonds, excommunications and all ties of reconciliations — to the
destruction of all those that had provoked and opposed them; yea when
yourselves so soon as he had signed those bills in the beginning of this
parliament saw cause to tell him 'That even about the time of passing those
bills, some design or other was one fact which if it had taken effect would not
only have rendered those bills fruitless but have reduced you to a worse
condition of confusion than that wherein the parliament found you.'
And if you consider what news wars, risings, revolting invasions and
plottings have been since this last cry for a personal treaty, you will not
blame us if we wonder at your hasty proceedings thereunto, especially
considering the wonderful victories which God has blessed the Army withal. We
profess we cannot choose but stand amazed to consider the inevitable danger we
shall be in, though all things in the propositions were agreed unto: the
resolutions of the king and his party have been perpetually, violently and
implacably prosecuted and manifested against us, and that with such scorn and
indignation that it must be more than ordinary bonds that must hold them. And
it is no less a wonder to us that you can place your own security therein or
that you can ever imagine to see a free parliament any more in England.
The truth is — and we see we must now speak it or for ever be silent
— we have long expected things of another nature from you, and such as we
are confident would have given satisfaction to all serious people of all
1. That you would have made good the supremacy of the people in this honourable
House from all pretences of negative voices either in king or Lords.
2. That you would have made laws for election of Representatives yearly and
of course without writ or summons.
3. That you would have set express times for their meeting, continuance and
dissolution — as not to exceed 40 or 50 days at the most, and to have a
fixed, expressed, time for the ending of this present parliament.
4. That you would have exempted matters of religion and God's worship from
the compulsive or restrictive power of any authority upon earth, and reserved
to the supreme authority an uncompulsive power only of appointing a way for the
public — whereby abundance of misery, prosecution and heart-burning would
for ever be avoided.
5. That you would have disclaimed in yourselves and all future
Representatives a power of pressing and forcing any sort of men to serve in
wars, there being nothing more opposite to freedom, nor more unreasonable in an
authority empowered for raising monies in all occasions, for which (and a just
cause) assistants need not be doubted — the other way serving rather to
maintain injustice and corrupt parties.
6. That you would have made both kings, queens, princes, dukes, earls, lords
and all persons alike liable to every law of the land, made or to be made; that
so all persons, even the highest, might fear and stand in awe, and neither
violate the public peace nor private right of person and estate — as has
been frequent — without being liable to account as other men.
7. That you would have freed all commoners from the jurisdiction of the
Lords in all cases; and have taken care that all trials should be only of
twelve sworn men, and no conviction but upon two or more sufficient, known,
8. That you would have freed all men from being examined against themselves,
and from being questioned or punished for doing of that against which no law
has been provided.
9. That you would have abbreviated the proceedings in law, mitigated and
made certain the charge of all particulars.
10. That you would have freed all trade and merchandising from all
monopolising and engrossing by Companies or otherwise.
11. That you would have abolished excise and all kinds of taxes except
subsidies, the old and only just way of England.
12. That you would have laid open all late enclosures of fens and other
commons, or have enclosed them only or chiefly for the benefit of the
13. That you would have considered the many thousands that are ruined by
perpetual imprisonment for debt, and provided to their enlargement.
14. That you would have ordered some effectual course to keep people from
begging and beggary in so fruitful a nation as through God's blessing this is.
15. That you would have proportioned punishments more equal to offences that
so men's lives and estates might not be forfeited upon trivial and slight
16. That you would have removed the tedious burden of tithes, satisfying all
impropriators and providing a more equal way of maintenance for the public
17. That you would have raised a stock of money out of those many
confiscated estates you have had for payment of those who contributed
voluntarily above their abilities before you provided for those that disbursed
out of their superfluities.
18. That you would have bound yourselves and all future parliaments from
abolishing propriety, levelling men's estates or making all things
19. That you would have declared what the duty or business of the kingly
office is, and what not, and ascertained the revenue past increase or
diminution, that so there might never be more quarrels about the same.
20. That you would have rectified the election of public officers for the
City of London and of
every particular Company therein, restoring the commonalty their just rights
most unjustly withheld from them, to the producing and maintaining of corrupt
interest opposite to common freedom and exceedingly prejudicial to the trade
and manufactures of this nation.
21. That you would have made full and ample reparations to all persons that
had been oppressed by sentences in High Commission, Star Chamber and Council
Board, or by any kind of monopolisers or projectors — and that out of the
estates of those that were authors, actors or promoters of so intolerable
mischiefs (and that without much attendance).
22. That you would have abolished all committees and have conveyed all
business into the true method of the usual trials of the commonwealth.
23. That you would not have followed the example of former tyrannous and
superstitious parliaments in making orders, ordinances or laws, or in
appointing punishments concerning opinions or things supernatural, styling some
'blasphemies', others 'heresies', whenas you know yourselves easily mistaken
and that divine truths need no human helps to support them — such
proceedings having been generally invented to divide the people amongst
themselves and to affright men from that liberty of discourse by which
corruption and tyranny would soon be discovered.
24. That you would have declared what the business of the Lords is, and
ascertain their condition, not derogating them the liberties of other men,
that so there might be an end of striving about the same.
25. That you would have done justice upon the capital authors and promoters
of the former or late wars, many of them being under your power, considering
that mercy to the wicked is cruelty to the innocent and that all your lenity
doth but make them all the more insolent and presumptuous.
26. That you would have provided constant pay for the Army now under the
command of the Lord General Fairfax, and given rules to all judges and all
other public officers throughout the land for their indemnity and for saving
harmless all that have any ways assisted you, or that have said or done
anything against the king, queen, or any of his party since the beginning of
this parliament — without which, any of his party are in a better
condition than those who have served you, nothing being more frequent with them
than their reviling of you and your friends.
The things and worthy acts which have been done and achieved by this army
and their adherents — however ungratefully suffered to be scandalised as
sectaries and men of corrupt judgements — in defence of the just authority
of this honourable House and of the common liberties of the nation and in
opposition to all kind of tyranny and oppression, being so far from meriting an
odious Act of Oblivion
that they rather deserve a most honourable Act of Perpetual Remembrance to be a
pattern of public virtue, fidelity and resolution to all posterity.
27. That you would have laid to heart all the abundance of innocent blood
that has been spilt and the infinite spoil and havoc that has been made of
peaceable, harmless people by the express commissions of the king, and
seriously to have considered whether the justice of God be likely to be
satisfied or his yet-continuing wrath appeased by an Act of Oblivion.
These and the like we have a long time hoped you would have minded, and have
made such an establishment for the general peace and contentful satisfaction of
all sorts of people as should have been the happiness of all future
generations, and which we most earnestly desire you would set yourselves
speedily to effect, whereby the almost dying honour of this most honourable
House would be again revived and the hearts of your petitioners and all other
well-affected people be afresh renewed unto you. The freedom of this nation
(now in perpetual hazard) would be firmly established, for which you would once
more be so strengthened with the love of the people that you should not need to
cast your eyes any other ways (under God) for your security. But if all this
avails nothing, God be our guide — for men show us not a way for our
The House received this petition, and returned answer thereunto which was to
this effect, viz. that the House gave them thanks for their great pains and
care to the public good of the kingdom, and would speedily take their humble
desires into their serious consideration.
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