The young men's and the apprentices'
[John Lilburne, 29 August 1649]
The young men's and the apprentices' outcry. Or an inquisition after the lost fundamental laws and liberties of England
Directed (29 August 1649) in an epistle to the private soldiery of the Army, especially all those that signed the Solemn Engagement at Newmarket-Heath, 5 June 1647. But more especially to the private soldiers of the General's regiment of horse, that hoped to plunder and destroy the honest and true-hearted Englishmen traitorously defeated at Burford, 15 May 1649
By Charles Collins, Anthony Bristlebolt, William Trabret, Stephen Smith, Edward Waldgrave, Thomas Frisby, Edward Stanley, William White, Nicolas Blowd, John Floyd, in the name and behalf of themselves, and the young men and apprentices of the City of London. Who are cordial approvers of the paper called The agreement of the free people, 1 May 1649, and the defeated Burford-men's late vindication, dated 20 August 1649
Lamentations 2: 11-12 'Mine eyes do faile with tears: my bowells are
troubled: my liver is powred upon the earth, for the destruction of the
daughter of my people, because the children and the sucklings swoon in the
streets of the City.
They say to their mothers, where is corne and wine? when they swooned as the wounded in the streets of the City, when their soule was poured out into their mothers bosome.'
We are all of one nation and people; it is the sword only that differs. But how just a title that is over us, your own private thoughts surely are our determiners, however your actions import. For it is not imaginable except amongst bears, wolves, and lions that brethren of one cause, one nation and family, can without remorse and secret check of conscience impose such iron yokes of cruelty and oppression upon their fellows as by the awe and force of your sword rampant is imposed upon the people of this nation. You see it. We are at best but your hewers of wood and drawers of water. Our very persons, our lives and properties are all over-awed to the supportation only of the raging, lawless sword, drenched in the precious blood of the people.
The ancient and famous magistracy of this nation, the Petition of Right, the Great Charter of England (above thirty times confirmed in open and free parliament), with all other the fundamental laws, safeties and securities of the people which our ancestors at an extraordinary dear rate, as with abundance of their blood and treasure, purchased for the inheritance of us and of the generations after us, and for which you pretendedly took up arms against the late king and his party are now all subverted, broken down and laid waste, the military power being thrust into the very office and seat of the civil authority: the king not only most illegally put to death by a strange, monstrous, illegal, arbitrary court such as England never knew; monarchy not only extirpated not rectified without, and besides, the consent of the people (though the actors of that bloody scene have owned and declared them to be the original of all such human authority); but even our parliaments the very interest, marrow, and soul of all the native rights of the people put down, and the name and power thereof transmitted to a picked party of your forcible selecting. And such a parliament as your officers (our lords and riders) have often and frequently styled no better than a 'mock parliament', a 'shadow of a parliament', a 'seeming authority' or the like, pretending the continuance thereof but till a new and equal Representative by a mutual agreement of the free people of England could be elected although now, for subserviency to their exaltation and kingship, they prorogue and perpetrate the same in the name and under colour thereof, introducing a Privy Council, or as they call it a Council of State, of superintendency and suppression to all future successive parliaments for ever, erecting a martial government by blood and violence impulsed upon us, making soldiers to be executioners of orders and warrants, pretending to the civil authority; and in every particular notwithstanding all your famous and glorious declarations of freedom and liberty dealing with us as an absolute conquered and enslaved people: the law being nothing but a mock protection to our lives, liberties and properties; the judges set aside for the executors of it, a mere delusion; our Sheriffs, Mayors, Justices of Peace, Constables, etc. being laid by or made no better than ciphers the choice of them, by will without right appropriated to a few factious men, while the right owners (the people) are robbed of their free and popular elections of them as not daring to execute justice upon the rudest or meanest soldier in England although the law sufficiently warrants them thereunto; but contrariwise, commoners are forcibly con-vented and tried before a Council of War, and some sentenced even unto death, others by a private verbal order made to run the gantlop and whipped most barbarously for refusing to take false and illegal oaths; and the blood of war expressly against the Petition of Right, and for which amongst other crimes the earl of Strafford lost his head as a traitor shed in times of peace: as the blood of Mr Richard Arnell upon 15 November 1647 near Ware; of Mr Robert Lockyer upon 27 April 1649 (so much bewailed and lamented at London); of Colonel Poyer; of Cornet Thompson, Mr Perkins and Mr Church upon 16 May 1649 at Burford contrary to promises, and solemn engagements at the taking of them (as their friends lately defeated with them, in their Vindication of the 20 of August, 1649, fully declare (pp. 6-7) and others yet fresh in our memory doth witness.
Parties of horse and foot (contrary and in direct defiance of the due course and process of law) are sent at unreasonable hours to hale and pull people out of their beds and houses, from their wives and children, without so much as ever summoning of them and without any crime or accusation shown or accuser appearing or the least pretence or shadow of law produced some sent into remote garrisons, where they have been most barbarously used and endeavoured to be starved and tossed from garrison to garrison, others locked up close prisoners with sentinels night and day upon their doors, and all due trials and help at law stopped and denied, and no remedy to be obtained. Yea, free men are most barbarously put out of their legal possessions by force of arms without any manner of trial at law; yea, the law damned and stopped up against them for recovering of their legal rights, and they threatened severely to be punished if they desist not their suits at law; yea, and free men's estates never pretended to be within the compass of the ordinances of sequestrations are seized on to a great value (by some great men's wills, protected by their swords, to do even what they list, without control) without any manner of trial or conviction or any shadow of legal pretence, or ever so much as laying any pretended crime to the party's charge: all which are the very (if not higher) crimes than the earl of Strafford principally lost his head for as a traitor as clearly appears by his Act of Attainder, and by his large printed additional impeachment, 1641, both in English and Irish cases, as clearly appears in the preamble thereof and in Articles 2-8.
But that which is worst of all, the best and most faithful maintainers of the English freedoms are most maligned, abused, and vilified, that it is now become a crime of the greatest peril and penalty to be faithful to the declared interest of parliaments or rights of the people therein a thing so dreadfully complained of by the parliament in the beginning of their first Remonstrance of December 1641. New acts of high treason to that end [are] devised to ensnare and entrap the most conscientious, so that we cannot talk or discourse of our lost freedoms or open our mouths of our oppressions, but we are in as bad a condition as our fore-fathers were in the days of William the Conqueror (that thought any fact crime enough to entitle him to their estates), if not worse by being treason-struck. And besides all this, multitudes of pick-pocket, murdering taxes are heaped and continued upon the old, and in default of payment soldiers are put upon straining, seizing and plundering of our masters' goods and houses, for which violence and villainy they must be largely paid or else they will plunder over again for that. Yea and the late large Act about excise so transcendent and ensnaring in its penalties that no man well knows how to behave himself in his trading for fear of being undone yea, so numberless are our most insufferable cruelties, overspreading and wounding the whole land and people, that our borders are even filled with the lamentations, mournings, tears, sighs and doleful groans of the oppressed and enslaved ruinated people. Trade decayed and fled, misery, poverty, calamity, confusion, yea and beggary grown so sore and so extreme upon the people, as the like never was in England under the most tyrannical of all our kings that were before these in present power, since the days of the Conqueror himself: no captivity, no bondage, no oppression like unto this, no sorrow or misery like unto ours (of being enslaved, undone and destroyed by our late pretended friends, for whose preservation we could have even pulled out our very eyes); the people become desolate and forsaken, wandering, pining, and mourning (like those in Jeremiah's Lamentations unto whose sorrows they said none was like) after their lost fundamental laws, their native, and just freedoms and rights; and there is none to comfort, none to pity, none to relieve, none to help or save. Alas, alas for pity.
For your hearts seem to us as obdurate as the flinty rock, as savage and inhuman as if the flesh and blood, the bones and marrow of the people were become your meat as already it is in effect and instead of encouragement and support to our true friends and real relievers (at least in faithful desire and endeavour) as shall stand in the gap betwixt our destroyers and us, all ways and means are used to impoverish, destroy, and suppress them, and in them to break and vassalage the spirits of all the English which in all ages have had the pre-eminency of other nations that there may not be so much of gallantry or courage left amongst the people that one amongst them shall dare to assert or maintain their freedoms (which Act is not a little aggravated by Mr John Pym, in his remarkable speech against the earl of Strafford, as the highest of treasons against any nation or commonwealth). For if any do but murmur and complain or seek for remedy, though by way of petition or address to the House, presently their House, as with furies, are beset with armed mercenary janissaries, guards and sentinels set upon their doors and passages, no consideration had of the terror or affrightment of our masters, their wives, children or servants, or of reason or law, and their persons as traitors therefore imprisoned for weeks and months; yea, and close imprisonment from the society of all their friends without ever so much as ever seeing either informer, accuser, prosecutor, or witness; yea, or ever seeing indictment, impeachment or charge; yea, or face to face, or in their mittimus or any other formal or legal way ever so much as having any crime or pretence of a crime laid unto their charge by those very men before whom they are brought, and who by the rules of their mere will commit them.
Therefore, although the parliament in several declarations have declared that they have received petitions for the removal of things established by law and we must say, and all that know what belongeth to the course or practice of parliament will say, that we ought so to do and that both our predecessors and his majesty's ancestors have constantly done it, there being no other place wherein laws that by experience may be found grievous and burdensome can be altered or repealed, and there being no other due and legal way wherein they which are aggrieved by them can seek redress, and that it is no tumult to deliver petitions by popular multitudes (1 part Book of parliament's declarations, pp. 23, 201-2, 209, 532-35, 548, 691, 720) yea, and your very selves and your juggling officers quarrelled with and took up arms against the parliament (your creators and original lords and masters) for prohibiting you to petition and make known your grievances to them, and sufficiently envy and exclaim against them for so doing and impeach some of them as traitors therefore (as clearly appears in your own Book of declarations, pp. 10-11, 17, 23, 33, 35, 44, 60-2, 83, 85, 118); and yet nothing but the boundless wills and humours of those fore-mentioned men of blood, rages and rules over us.
And is this all the return and fruit that people are to expect at your hands? Doth your Solemn Engagement at Newmarket (and Triploe Heath) with your declarations, remonstrances, vows and protestations unto us all, centre in this bed-roll of cruelties? We pray you give us leave to make enquiry amongst you after those things, and give losers leave to complain. Remember you not with what cheerfulness and alacrity our fellow-apprentices the glory and flower of the youth of this nation and multitudes of ourselves yet surviving, ran in to your assistance out of a conscientious intent to uphold and maintain the fundamental constitution of this commonwealth, viz. the interest and right of the people in their parliaments (it being most rational and unquestionably just that the people should not be bound but by their own consent given to their deputies in parliament, which by the laws and customs of England ought, wholly new, to be annual, to deliver and clear the land from its heavy pressures and bonds) not engaging in the least against the person of the king, as king, or with any thoughts of pretence of destroying, but regulating, kingship, and merely for the removal of all those cruelties and oppressions he had laid upon the people by his will, contrary to law?
This you know to be true. Your own papers extant to the world are our record and witnesses, as might plentifully be recited, but they are known to all men that know your affairs. You cannot deny it. But where is the fulfilment of all your glorious words, registered in your Book of declarations in which (p. 14) you say you shall 'through the grace of God' discharge your duties to the parliament, etc. and also demonstrate that 'the good and quiet of the kingdom' is much dearer to you than any 'particular concernment' of your own? And on p. 23, the General to both Houses in his letter of 6 June 1647 assures the parliament it is his study and care to avoid a new war, and further thus saith: 'so I find it to be the unanimous desire and study of the Army that a firm peace in this kingdom may be settled, and the liberties of the people cleared and secured accordingly to the many declarations by which we were invited and induced to engage in the late war', most seriously there promising them they will not meddle 'to the advancement of any particular party or interest whatsoever'. And in your Solemn engagement of the 5 June 1647, p. 26, you promise and engage to God, the kingdom, and to each other that you 'will not disband, divide, nor suffer yourselves to be disbanded nor divided' (either for Ireland, or any other place else) until 'we' have 'first such satisfaction' (as you say) 'to the Army in relation to our grievances and desires heretofore presented, and such security that we of ourselves (when disbanded and in the condition of private men) or other the freeborn people of England (to whom the consequence of our case about petitioning doth equally extend) shall not remain subject to the like oppression, injury or abuse as in the premises hath been attempted and put upon us while an Army'.
Oh that there had been an heart in you to have made this good before your gross apostasy from all your engagements and promises, that has already occasioned so much misery, war and bloodshed. Or oh that yet there were hearts within you vigorously and effectually to go about the accomplishment and fulfilment thereof and thereby prevent all the miseries, bloodshed and desolations that for want thereof undoubtedly must and will ensue which you are bound and tied unto both before God and man, as is (in our judgements) unanswerably proved in the foresaid treacherously defeated Burford men's Vindication, pp. 8-10. But to return: in your said Engagement, on the fore-recited p. 26, you positively there disown and disclaim all purposes or designs in our late or present proceedings to advance or inflict upon a particular interest, to the overthrow of magistracy, etc. 'Neither' (say you) 'would we (if we might or could) advance or set up any ... particular party or interest in the kingdom (though imagined never so much our own) but shall much rather (as far as may be within our sphere or power) study to promote such an establishment of common equal right and freedom to the whole, as all might equally partake of.'
And in that most choice and best of declarations made by the whole army of soldiers as well as officers, 14 June 1647, tendered to the parliament, concerning their just and fundamental rights and liberties of themselves and the kingdom (A declaration of the engagements, pp. 36-7) you say: 'That we may no longer be the dissatisfaction of our friends, the subject of our enemies' malice to work jealousies and misrepresentations upon, and the suspicion (if not astonishment) of many in the kingdom in our late or present transactions and conduct of business, we shall in all faithfulness and clearness profess and declare unto you these things which have of late protracted and hindered our disbanding:
the present grievances which possess our army and are yet unremedied, with our desires as to the complete settlement of the liberties and peace of the kingdom which is that blessing of God than which of all worldly things nothing is more dear unto us or more precious in our thoughts, we having hitherto thought all our enjoyments (whether of life or livelihood or nearest relations) a price but sufficient to the purchase of so rich a blessing, that we, and all the free-born people of this nation may sit down in quiet under our vines, and under the glorious administration of justice and righteousness, and in full possession of those fundamental rights and liberties without which we can have little hopes, as to human consideration, to enjoy either any comforts of life or so much as life itself, but at the pleasures of some men ruling merely according to will and power.'
And in the same declaration (pp. 38-9) you further say thus: 'Nor will it now (we hope) seem strange or unreasonable to rational and honest men who consider the consequence of our present case to their own and the kingdom's (as well as our) future concernments in point of right, freedom, peace and safety, if, from a deep sense of the high consequence of our present case both to ourselves in future and all other people, we shall, before disbanding, proceed in our own and the kingdom's behalf to propound and plead for some provision for our and the kingdom's satisfaction and future security in relation to those things; especially considering that we were not a mere mercenary army, hired to serve an arbitrary power of a state, but called forth and conjured by the several declarations of parliament to the defence of our own and the people's just rights and liberties; and so we took up arms in judgement and conscience to those ends, and so have so continued them, and are resolved, according to your first just desires in your declarations and such principles as we have received from your frequent informations and our own common sense concerning those our fundamental rights and liberties, to assert and vindicate the just power and rights of this kingdom in parliament for those common ends premised against all arbitrary power, violence and oppression, and against all particular parties and interests whatsoever; the said declarations still directing us to the equitable sense of all laws and constitutions, as dispensing with the very letter of the same, and being supreme to it when the safety and preservation of all is concerned, and assuring us that all authority is fundamentally seated in the office and but ministerially in the persons.'
And on p. 41, speaking in general of purging some evil members out of the parliament, you declare your carriage towards them shall be such 'as that the world shall see we aim at nothing of private revenge and animosities, but that justice may have a free course, and the kingdom be eased and secured by disenabling such men at least from place of judicature, who, desiring to advantage and set up themselves and their party in a general confusion have endeavoured to put the kingdom into a new flame of war, than which nothing is more abhorrent to us'. And in the same declaration, spending the 42nd and 43rd pages in most excellent expressions of the excellency and benefit of frequent and successive parliaments (totally new) and the mischief, bondage and vassalage of the long continuance of any parliament, on p. 44, you say: 'And thus a firm foundation being laid in the authority and constitution of parliaments for the hopes at least of common and equitable right and freedom to ourselves and all the freeborn people of this land, we shall for our parts freely and cheerfully commit our stock or share of interest in the kingdom into this common bottom of parliaments, and though it may (for our particulars) go ill with us in one voyage, yet we shall thus hope (if right be with us) to fare better in another.'
And in the last end of that transcendent declaration (p. 46), you conclude thus: 'We have thus freely and clearly declared the depth and bottom of our hearts and desires in order to the rights, liberties and peace of the kingdom; wherein we appeal to all men whether we seek anything of advantage to ourselves or any particular party whatever, or to the prejudice of the whole; and whether the things we wish and seek for do not equally concern and conduce to the good of others in common with ourselves according to the sincerity of our desires and intentions (wherein, as we have already found the concurrent sense of the people in divers counties by their petitions to the General expressing their deep resentment of these things and pressing us to stand for the interest of the kingdom therein, so we shall wish and expect the unanimous concurrence of all others who are equally concerned with us in these things and wish well to the public)'.
And on pp. 52-3, being written to the Lord Mayor, Aldermen, and Commons of the City of London in Common Council assembled, it is thus said: 'To conclude, we say from our hearts that as our especial ends are the glory of God and the good of this whole land, so our endeavours shall be to prosecute the same without prejudice to the being or well-being of parliaments in general, the maintenance whereof we value above our own lives or (as we have formerly said) of this parliament in particular, but altogether in order to the good and peace of this nation, and with a most tender regard to your city.'
And on pp. 57-8, it's said that: 'In our last representation it may appear what our desires are as members of the commonwealth in behalf of ourselves and all others for the clearing, settling and securing of the rights, liberties and peace of the kingdoms; for the justness, reasonableness, necessity and common concernment whereof unto all, we dare appeal to the whole kingdom and to the world.' And on p. 76 to the Lord Mayor of London, etc., it is said that: 'It is a sudden and substantial settlement of the whole we desire, in a general, safe, and well-grounded peace and the establishment of such good laws as may duly and readily render to every man their just rights and liberties; and for the obtaining of these, not only our intentions had led us to, but we think that all the blood, treasure and labour spent in this war was to the accomplishing those very things, which are of that concernment both to ourselves and posterities that neither we nor they can live comfortably without them.' And therefore their help is much preferred for to bring things to a 'happy conclusion, to the satisfaction of all honest men's expectation, and that in all our undertakings we shall be found men of truth, fully and singly answering the things we have held forth to the kingdom in our several declarations and papers without bias or base respects to any private end or interest whatsoever.
And on p. 97 is recorded a notable proposal to the parliament from Reading, 18 July 1647, which doth sufficiently condemn your late tyrannical dealing with some of the very parties therein mentioned. The proposal thus follows. 'We do earnestly desire that all persons imprisoned in England or the Dominion of Wales, not for delinquency in relation to the late war but for other pretended misdemeanours, and whose imprisonment is not by the regulated course of law but by order from either House of parliament or of committees flowing from them, may be put into a speedy, regular and equitable way of trial; or if the necessity of settling the general affairs of the kingdom admit not their present trial, then they may have present liberty (upon reasonable security) for their appearance at a certain day to answer what shall be charged against them in a legal way; and that when they should be tried, if they appear wrongfully or unduly imprisoned, they may have reparation according to their sufferings.
In particular we desire this may be done in behalf of Lieutenant-Colonel John Lilburne, Master John Musgrave, Master Overton and others in their condition: imprisoned in and about London.' Read also more fully to this purpose, pp. 101, 105, 110, 112, 118, 128, 132, 137 as also the large remonstrance from Saint Albans of the 16 of November 1648, pp. 6, 8-9, 12, 14-15, 22-3, 29, 43, 45, 47, 48, 57, 62. (But especially pp. 65-9.)
But after this large (but yet profitable and necessary) digression, let us seriously expostulate with you and put you in mind of your most wicked and gross apostasy such as the world never saw nor read of before, from men that profess God and godliness in a strict manner and would be reputed the choicest saints in England and cry out unto you with astonishment and admiration, and thus interrogate your very consciences (where God alone ought to sit king). Oh hear you not the blood of our dear fellow-apprentices and of the rest of the good people of England split for the redemption of this enthralled nation (especially since your first contest with the parliament) cry aloud in your ears and hearts wherever you go for vengeance upon you, the people's perfidious abusers, betrayers and destroyers? Oh do not you hear them cry out unto your very consciences:
Oh give our fathers, our mothers, our brothers, our sisters, and others of our near and dear relations the full and speedy accomplishment of all your fore-mentioned enravishing promises and engagements, by virtue of the power and efficacy of which you stole away their hearts and spirits from all their relations, and made them with willingness and cheerfulness become sacrifices for your assistance, for that end principally (if not only): that they that survived might enjoy the full and ample fruition of all your glorious promises and engagements for common freedom, distributive justice and righteousness upon the earth. Oh do you hear their blood cry unto you? Oh mock not nor dally with God any longer, but without delay give our friends and countrymen the promised price of all our blood by the full and speedy paying of all your vows and engagements made unto God for that end lest for all your perjury, apostasy and perfidiousness He create a mighty and unresistable spirit of revenge amongst the people, and knit together their otherwise divided hearts in one, as one man to rise up in one day to destroy you with a more fatal scouring destruction than you have already destroyed others (yea the highest in the nation) pretendedly for oppressions, breach of oaths, faith and covenants; yea to sweep you away from the land of the living with an overflowing deluge of destruction, as the enslaved women about six or seven hundred years ago did the Danes in one night throughout England.
Oh do not your hearts at all relent? Can you consider this your forecited unparalleled and horrible defection and apostasy, and not tremble and be amazed and even confounded? Is there less remorse of conscience in you than was in Belshazzar, who at his seeing the hand writing upon the wall, changed his countenance, and his thoughts troubled him so that the joints of his loins were loosed and his knees smote one against another though otherwise in as great jollity and prosperity as any of yourselves or officers. Or have you less apprehension of the majesty of God than was in the heathen Roman governor, Felix, who when he heard Paul reason or preach of righteousness, temperance and judgement to come, trembled and feared and durst not proceed in fury against him, although much thereunto provoked by his adversaries (Acts 24). Sure all sense and compunction of conscience is not totally departed from you? Hear us therefore in the yearning bowels of love and kindness. We entreat and beseech you with patience and do not abuse us for complaining and crying out for the knife has been very long at the very throats of our liberties and freedoms, and our burdens are too great and too many for us. We are not able to bear them and contain ourselves. Our oppressions are even ready to make us despair or forthwith to fly to the prime laws of nature, viz. the next violent remedy at hand: light it where it will or upon whom it will. They are become as devouring fire in our bones ready to burn us up, rendering us desperate and careless of our lives, prizing those that are already dead above those that are yet living who are rid of that pain and torment that we do and must endure by sensibly seeing and beholding, not only the dying, but the daily burial of our native liberties and freedoms, that we care not what becomes of us, seeing that we are put into that original state or chaos of confusion wherein lust is become a law; envy and malice are become laws, and the strongest sword rules and governs all by will and pleasure. All our ancient boundaries and landmarks are pulled up by the roots and all the ties and bonds of human society in our English horizon totally destroyed and extirpated. Alas for pity.
We had rather die than live this life of languishing death in which our masters possess nothing to buy themselves or us bread to keep us alive that they can call their own. Therefore it's no boot for us to serve out our times and continue at our drudging and toiling trades while these oppressions, cruelties and inhumanities are upon us and the rest of the people, exposing thereby the nation not only to domestic broils, wars and bloodsheds (wherein we are sure our bodies must be the principal butts) but to foreign invasions by France, Spain, Denmark, Sweden, etc. as was well observed by our endeared and faithful friends of the fore-mentioned late treacherously defeated party at Burford in their book of the 20 of August, 1649, entitled The Levellers (falsely so-called) vindicated, or the case of their 12 troops truly stated, pp. 11-12, which we cannot but seriously recommend (with them) to your serious perusal and judgement.
And we desire to know of you (but especially the private soldiery of the General's regiment of horse, who we understand had a hand in seizing upon and plundering our true friends at Burford) whether you do own the abominable and palpable treacherous dealings of your General and Lieutenant-General Cromwell and their perfidious officers with them, or not? (That so we may not condemn the innocent with the guilty and may know our friends from our foes.) As also we desire you to tell us whether you do approve of the total defection of your army under which it now lies, from their faith and Solemn engagement made at Newmarket Heath, 5 June 1647 not one of those righteous ends in behalf of the parliament and people on which your vow was made being yet fulfilled or obtained, but on the contrary (as we have before rehearsed) a whole flood-gate of tyrannies are let in upon us, and even overwhelm us; and whether you justify all those actions done in the name of the Army upon your account, and under pretext of that engagement since the Engagement itself was broken, and your Council of Agitators dissolved? And whether you will hold up your swords to maintain the total abolition of the people's choicest interest of freedom, viz. frequent and successive parliaments by an Agreement of the People, or obstruct the annual succession? Whether you do allow of the late shedding of the blood of war in time of peace, to the subversion of all our laws and liberties? And whether you do countenance the extirpation of the fundamental freedoms of this commonwealth (as their revocation or nullity of the Great Charter of England, The Petition of Right, etc.)? And whether you do assent to the erection of arbitrary prerogative courts, that have or shall over-rule or make void our ancient ways of trials in criminal cases by a jury of twelve men of the neighbourhood? And whether you will assist or join in the forcible obtrusion of this martial and tyrannical rule over us? Also whether you will fight against and destroy those of our friends that shall endeavour the composure of our differences, together with the pronouncement of our freedoms and settlement of our peace (your plenty and prosperity) accordingly as it was offered by the four gentlemen prisoners in the Tower of London upon 1 May 1649 (as a peace-offering to this nation) by the Agreement of the People?
Lastly, we earnestly beseech you to acquaint us whether from your hands from your power we may expect any help or assistance in this our miserable distressed condition, to the removal of those iron bands and yokes of oppression that have thus enforced us to complain and address ourselves thus to your serious consideration?
For we cannot choose but acquaint you that we are seriously resolved, through the strength and assistance of God (with all the interest we have in the world) to adhere to the righteous things contained in our treacherously-defeated friends' forementioned late Vindication very much approving of that unparalleled expedient of an Agreement of the Free People they propose in the latter end thereof for the firm settling of the peace, liberties and freedoms of this distracted nation, which has so much justice, righteousness and safety in it that we hope it will in a very short time level all self-interests before it and make it clearly appear to him that claims the greatest personal share in the government of this nation that there is no way to obtain the true love of the understanding English people (without which he will never obtain his desired crown) but by a cheerful, hearty and real promotion of such principles therein contained as do sufficiently tie his hands from cutting the people's throats at his will and pleasure, the endeavouring of which exposed his father to that fatal end that befell him (which may be a seasonable caveat to all princes etc. to take heed of that desperate rock, viz., the attempting to govern the people by will and not by law, by force and not by love the only and alone durable and permanent tie or bond amongst the sons of men).
We say that expedient of an Agreement of the Free People appears to us to have so much equity, righteousness and common safety in it that we are resolved to bury all by-past distastes at the greatest of Englishmen that shall heartily and cordially sign and put forth their power and interest to promote the establishment of the principles therein contained; and in the adhering to and standing by all such as shall be in any danger for walking in such paths, we shall through the strength of the Lord God omnipotent (to the uttermost of our power and abilities) resolvedly hazard our lives and all that is dear to us.
For the effectual promotion of which said Agreement we are necessitously compelled to resolve in close union to join ourselves or our commissioners chosen for that end in council with our foresaid Bur-ford friends or their commissioners; and to resolve to run all hazards to methodise all our honest fellow prentices in all the wards of London and the out-parishes to choose out their agents to join with us or ours; to write exhortative epistles to all the honest-hearted freemen of England in all the particular counties thereof to erect several councils amongst themselves, out of which we shall desire and exhort them to choose agents or commissioners, empowered and entrusted by them, speedily to meet us and the agents of all ours, and the Agreement of the People adherents, at London, resolvedly to consider of a speedy and effectual method and way how to promote the election of a new and equal Representative or parliament by the Agreement of the Free People seeing those men that now sit at Westminster and pretendedly style themselves the parliament of England, and who are (as they say, although most falsely) in the Declaration for a Free State, dated 17 March 1649, p. 27, 'entrusted and authorised by the consent of all the people of England whose representatives they are', make it their chiefest and principalest work continually to part and share amongst themselves all the great, rich, and profitablest places of the nation, as also the nation's public treasure and lands, and will not ease our intolerable oppressions, no nor so much as of late receive our popular petitions, having upon Thursday last, 23 August 1649, rejected that most excellent of petitions ready at their door to be presented to them by divers honest men (our true-hearted neighbours of Surrey) the true copy of which for the worth of it although it be at large already printed in Friday's Occurrences and the Tuesday Moderate), we desire here to insert.
To the supreme authority of this nation, the Commons of England assembled in parliament: the humble petition of the oppressed of the County of Surrey, which have cast in their mite into the treasury of this commonwealth
That, as the oppressions of this nation in time foregoing this parliament were so numerous and burdensome as will never be forgotten, so were the hopes of our deliverance by this parliament exceeding great and full of confidence, which, as they were strengthened by many acts of yours in the beginning, especially towards conscientious people without respect unto their judgements or opinions, so did the gratitude of the well-minded people exceed all precedents or example, sparing neither estate, limb, liberty or life to make good the authority of this honourable House as the foundation and root of all just freedom. Although we many times observed (to our grief) some proceedings holding resemblance rather with our former bondage, yet did we impute the same to the troublesomeness of the times of war, patiently and silently passing them over as undoubtedly hoping a perfect remedy so soon as the wars were ended. But perceiving our expectations in some particulars frustrated, and considering some late dealings with some of our friends, etc., the consideration of which lies so heavy on our spirits, that for prevention thereof we conceive ourselves bound in conscience and duty to God to set before you once more the general grievances of the commonwealth and the earnest desires of the ingenuous and well-minded people.
First, that the Petition of 11 September last, and the Agreement of the people may be reassumed, and the particulars thereof speedily established.
Secondly we most earnestly beg, with many other of your faithful friends in all the counties of England, that that most irksome and intolerable oppression of tithes, which is retained in no reformed church but is neverthless more firmly established than ever by your ordinance for treble damages made in the parliament's corruption, and yet no Act against it, which causes our hearts to be discouraged and brought into much fear and doubt of the removal of these and other bondages by this Representative wherefore we cannot pass it by, but again entreat that the ordinances for tithes may be speedily revoked and that a more equal way of maintenance be provided for the public ministry.
Thirdly, that all proceedings in law may be in English; that a short time may be inserted for the trial of all causes (and that by twelve men of the neighbourhood); and that none may be debarred of freedom to plead his own or his neighbour's cause (as by law any man may and ought to do, as clearly appears by the Statute of 28 Ed. I cap. 11) before any court of justice, although no lawyer. And that no member of your House be suffered to plead as a lawyer, whilst a member thereof.
Fourthly, that some course may be taken for the future to pay the Army, not laying such intolerable burdens and taxes on the people which we are not able to bear; and so we shall for ever stand by you and all representatives for the freedom of this nation, as formerly, desiring that we may obtain speedily a new and equal Representative.
We say: considering what is before premised we are necessitated and compelled to do the utmost we can for our own preservation and for the preservation of the land of our nativity, and never by popular petitions address ourselves to the men sitting at Westminster any more or to take any notice of them than as of so many tyrants and usurpers, and for time to come to hinder (as much and as far as our poor despised interest will extend to) all others whatsoever from subscribing or presenting any more popular petitions to them and only now as our last paper-refuge mightily cry out to each other of our intolerable oppressions in letters and remonstrances, signed on the behalf and by the appointment of all the rest by some of the strongest and fittest amongst us (that we hope will never apostatise, but be able through the strength of God to lay down their very lives for the maintaining of that which they set their hands to).
You our fellow-countrymen, the private soldiers of the Army, alone are the instrumental authors of your own slavery and ours. Therefore as there is any bowels of men in you, any love to your native country, kindred, friends or relations, any sparks of conscience in you, any hopes of glory or immortality in you, or any pity, mercy, or compassion to an enslaved, undone, perishing, dying people: oh help! help! Save and redeem us from total vassalage and slavery; and be no more like brute beasts, to fight against us or our friends, your loving and dear brethren after the flesh to your own vassalage as well as ours. And as an assured pledge of your future cordialness to us and the true and real liberties of the land of your nativity, we beseech and beg of you (but especially those amongst you that subscribed the Solemn engagement at Newmarket Heath, 5 June 1647) speedily to choose out from amongst yourselves two of the ablest and constantest faithful men amongst you in each troop and company, now at last (by corresponding each with other and with your honest friends in the nation to consider of some effectual course beyond all pretences and cheats) to accomplish the real end of all your engagements and fightings, viz. the settling of the liberties and freedoms of the people which can never permanently be done but upon the sure foundation of a popular agreement who (viz. the people) in justice, gratitude, and common equity cannot choose but to voluntarily and largely make better provisions for your future subsistence by the payment of your arrears than ever your officers or this pretended parliament intends, or you can rationally expect from them: witness their cutting off three parts of your arrears in four for free-quarter and then necessitating abundance of your fellow-soldiers, now cashiered, etc., to fill their debentures at two shillings and six pence, three shillings, and at most four shillings per pound, by means of which you that keep your debentures are necessitated to vie with the greatest bidder in the purchase of the late king's lands, whilst they are able to give about thirty years' purchase for that you cannot give eight year's purchase for; and if you will not give with the most you must have no land so that the most of your debentures are likely to prove waste papers; and those that purchase will have but a slippery security of their possessions by reason of general discontents amongst all sorts of people, and particularly by so extraordinarily disengaging and cheating so many soldiers (as they have done) of their just expected recompense of reward.
And also, as a further demonstration of the cordialness of your hearts to us, our Burford friends, and your own and our liberties: we desire you to take some speedy course for the faithful restoring to the right owners all such houses, money, clothes, etc. as you, or any of you, plundered or stole from our true friends (cheated and defeated) at Bur-ford; and publish some kind of demonstration of your or any of your remorse of conscience for your being instrumental in destroying of them there, that stood for your good, freedom, and arrears as much (and as well) as their own especially considering they have by their foresaid Vindication made it evident and apparent (and we understand they are ready face to face to prove) that both your General and Lieutenant-General Cromwell broke their solemn faith with them and treacherously surprised them, and so dealt worse and more vilely with them than ever they did with the worst of cavaliers, with whom in that kind they never broke faith with in their lives. But more especially we desire the last fore-mentioned thing at your hands; because upon that traitorous and wicked defeat of those our true friends (and wilfully murdering of three of them) that really stood for the nation's interest, liberties, and freedoms your General, and Cromwell, with the rest of their faction, made a most transcendent feast to insult over the liberties and freedoms of the servants of the most high God, as though by that most vile act they had subdued and buried all the liberties of the nation in eternal oblivion and foiled the Lord of life and glory himself from distilling any more spirit of courage and resolution into any to stand for them.
And in that wickedest of feasts, not only in a great measure imitated Belshazzar (Daniel 5) that made a great feast to a thousand of his lords, and fetched out the vessels that by the spoil of the people of God his father Nebuchadnezzar had got out of the Temple of the Lord, and drank wine in them, and praised the gods of gold and of silver, of brass, of iron, of wood and of stone, but also imitated the greatest of the enemies of Christ, who at the slaying of the two witnesses (Revelation 11) rejoiced over them and made merry and sent gifts one to another (as in gold and silver plate, etc. was most largely done to your General Fairfax and Lieutenant-General Cromwell) the reason of which is there tendered, which is: 'because the two prophets' (of Truth and Justice) 'tormented them that dwelt on the earth'. But with comfort and joy we cannot but observe the next words to them, which is, that within a little season after, the spirit of life from God 'entered into them' (as we hope and doubt not, but it will abundantly now do upon the true standers for justice and righteousness amongst men): 'and they stood upon their feet, and great fear fell upon them that saw them', and great earthquakes followed, in the nick of which is proclamation made, that 'the kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ: and he shall reign for ever and ever'. Unto which we heartily say, Amen, Amen.
So with our hearty and true love remembered to you all, expecting your, or some of your speedy answer, we commit you to God, and rest.
London this 29 August, 1649
Your faithful though abused countrymen
Signed in the behalf of ourselves and the unanimous consent of the agents of the young men and apprentices of the City of London, that love and approve of the Agreement of the People, dated 1 May 1649, and the vindication of the late defeated men at Burford, entitled The Levellers vindicated.
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