1649: The testimony of the Burford Levellers
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A pivotal point in the English Civil War. The king was dead, and the future....???????
Were the soldiers who'd given up livelihood and home, lost friends and loved ones in the 7 year war going to let the gentry grab England for themselves? These champions of democracy sprang up with a positive vision for life after the civil war, they were The Levellers
Hidden English History: It was May 1649, the end of the English Civil
War. A mass of troops were being disbanded in Salisbury without pay and
with little prospect of getting what they had been fighting for. Eight
hundred troops sacked their officers, elected new ones and marched north,
over several days, to Burford, with Cromwell on their heels. Despite his
promise of peaceful negotiations the following day, Cromwell charged into
the town at midnight with 2,000 horsemen.
If the Levellers had held Cromwell to the pledge of a democratic army which he gave in the Solemn Engagement of New Market and Triplo Heath in 1647.... a very different world would have been inherited by the present generation.
T H E
L E V E L L E R S
( Falsly so called )
V I N D I C A T E D,
C A S E
Of the twelve Troops (which by Trea-
By a faithful remnant, late of Col. Scroops,
Printed in the yeer 1649
The Case &c.
It is wel known, and yet fresh in the publike memory; with what monstrous and hateful defamations, as Anti-Scripturists, Libertines, Atheists, Mutiniers, Levellers, &c. we have most falsly and maliciously been deciphered out to the people and Army, on purpose to bury us under the rage and odium of our fellow-souldiers; and utterly to blast, and prejudice the common acceptance, against our late lawful, and concientious Undertaking: And seeing the equity of all transactions most commonly measured by the event, and success that befals them; few considering how God many times suffereth unjust men to prosper, and spred themselves in the world, like the Green Bay Tree; and the just (for their correction and proof) to be subdued and trod underfoot in a season. We are thereby at so great a seeming disadvantage amongst men, That in every thing we are fore spoken, our truths (how palpable and evident forever) are rendered as incredible, and regardless, strength and power being on their side to countenance their actions, our enemies over awing all judgements, and forcing by the might of their lawless Sword, a credit or subjection to their own most perfidious and deceitful ways; so that, as for the fruit or success that we expect, we could still have sat in patience, and not have uttered a word, but the dishonest and treacherous dealings recieved, with the woful ruin of the Nation, therewith sustained in ours (evidently appearing) do so boyl our hearts, and so prevalently press upon our conciences, that we are not able longer to rest in silence; but let the hazard to us be what it will, we shall so far presume upon the publike view, as faithfully and impartially, to set down the true state and maner of our whole proceedings in that our late undertaking, hitherto most falsly and deceitfully represented by the ruling Faction of the Army, and so leave the same to the judgement and timely consideration of all honest and conciencious people, especially of the Army, our fellow soldiers, under the conduct of the Lord Fairfax, and amongst them in a special maner, all those that really in judgement and concience took up Arms for the Rights and liberties of their Native Country, as the whole Army in their Declaration of the 14 of June, 1647 declare they all did. Thus then understanding, that we the soldiers of Col. Scroops Regiment, and others, were allotted for the service of Ireland, without our consent, or of any of our fellow soldiers in Counsel for us, we fell into serious debate (as in reason and honesty we could do no less, considering likewise our late solemn Engagement) whether we could lawfully, In safety of our selves, and our own Native Rights in England submit unto that foreign service or no? And finding by that our old Solemn Engagement at New Market and Triplo Heaths, June 5, 1647. with the manifold Declarations, Promises, and Protestations of the Army, in persuance thereof, were all utterly declined, and most perfidiously broken, and the whole fabrick of the Common-wealth fallen into the grossest and vilest Tyranny that ever English men groaned under; all their Laws, Rights, Lives, Liberties, and Properties, wholly subdued (under the vizard and form of that Engagement) to the Boundless wills of some decietful persons, having developed the whole Magistracy of England into their Martial Domination, ruling the people with a Rod of Iron, as most mens woeful experience can clearly witness; which, with the consideration of the particular, most insufferable abuses and dis-satisfactions put upon us, moved us to an unanimous refusal to go, till our Concience were discharged in the faithful fulfillment of our said Solemn Engagement to our Native Countrey; in which Engagement, we were expresly and particularly obliged against the Service of Ireland, till full satisfaction and security were given to us as Soldiers and Commoners, by a Counsel of our own free Election, according to the rule and tenor of that Engagement, Recorded in the Armies Book of Declarations pag 23, 24, 25, 26, 27. Whereupon we drew up a Paper of some Reasons, by way of Declaration, concerning our said refusal, to deliver to our Colonel; unto which, we all chearfully subscribed, with many of our Officers (especially Cornet Den who then seemingly was extream forward in assisting us to effect our desires) which being delivered a day or two after, immediately our Officers caused a Rendezvous near unto Salisbury, where they declared, That the General intended not to force us, but that we might either go or stay; and so testifying our intents to stay, we were all drawn into the town again, and the Colonel, with the rest of the Officers, full of discontent, threatened us the soldiers; and because we were all, or most of one minde, he termed our Unity a Combination, or Mutiny; yet himself upon our request to know, told us, That he could not assure us, that he would go. Which forementioned Paper, with a Letter, we sent to Commissary General Iretons Regiment, who took it so well, That they were immediately upon their march towards our quarters, to joyn with us, for the making good of their and our Engagement, which we, they, and the rest of the Army had engaged at New-Market and Triplo Heaths.
After all this, all politike means that could be thought upon, were put in practice to work us off from our resolutions, as severing the Troops, and dealing with them apart, not suffering the Soldiers of one Troop to come to any of the other, employing Agents and Preaching Officers from Troop to Troop, to work us to that Service; and craftily, and lyingly, telling each Troop, That the other Troops were listed for the Irish Service, surrupticiously to over-reach, and gain us by that deceit. A crime they most maliciously fix upon others, whom they would make the world believe drew us to that undertaking, as in their Declaration of their proceedings against us, published last May 22. is to be seen, where page 6. speaking scandalously of some persons, naming none, yet strongly implying our four worthy Friends in the Tower [John Lilburne, Richard Overton, William Walwyn and Thomas Prince], they say of them, "That they sent their Emissaries and Agents into all parts, pretending from one Regiment to another; that each Regiment had declared, That so by that Artifice, they might draw each to declare. To the Forces in Wales, and the West, they gave assurances, that the forces about London would revolt; to those about London, that those in Wales, and the West, would do the same." Thus to shroud their own vildness, and to effect their own evil ends, they are not sparing to blast innocent persons with their own wicked devices themselves are so apparently and foully guilty of; and yet wipe their mouths, as if no speck or stain were upon them, and raise the report upon others.
All those devices working nothing upon us (there being no satisfaction given to our just exceptions) our Colonel fell to violent threats, and commanded us to put our Horses in a Field two miles from our Quarters; which though at first we did, yet finding the bitterness of his spirit to increase, and that upon his information, That the General, and Lieutenant General [Fairfax and Cromwell] were preparing a force against us: what could we do less, than to put ourselves into the best posture we could to preserve ourselves, which we immediately did (and in this no man was more forward, and violently earnest, than that perfidious Apostate, Cornet Den.) And for our justification therein, we need go no further than their own words, in the Armies Declaration of the 14 of June, 1647. where to justifie their own opposition and rebellion to the Orders of a full, free, unforced, unravished, and untwice purged Parliament, they tell us, That the Parliament hath declared it no resisting of Magistracy, to side with the just principles, and Law of Nature and Nations, being that Law upon which the Army Assisted; and that the Souldiers may lawfully hold the hands of the General that will turn his Cannon against his Army, on purpose to destroy them.
This being done, we had further Intelligence of the greatness and speediness of the Generals preparations against us and that, Though what we had done, did not amount to so much, as the Army had formerly done at Saffron Walden, upon the Parliaments commanding them for Ireland, yet were we strangely represented to our fellow Souldiers, by the Lieutenant General [Cromwell] in Hide Park, under the notion of Mutiniers, Levellers, and denyers of the Scriptures, of purpose to make them engage against us*; so that now we saw, there was no way of safety left us, but by standing upon our Guard, and capitulating with our Swords in our hands, being encouraged thereto, as well by our own innocency, and the equity of those things, upon which we had grounded our Resolutions: As also for that we could not think our fellow Souldiers of the Army, who with us engaged at New-Market Heath, would fight against us, for upholding the said Solemn Engagement, wherein they were equally concerned and obliged with us, both as Souldiers and Commoners to each other, to us, and the whole Nation, with whom it was made. But indeed, this Treacherous Tragedy was principally managed and acted by (that Turn Coat) Reynolds, and his Regiment; who for most of them were strangers to that Engagement. A company of Blood-thirsty Rogues, Murderers, Thieves, High-way-men, and some that were taken in Colchester, and such as were cashiered out of other Regiments for high misdemeanors, being entertained therein. And these were the men principally designed, and to be trusted against us, as most fittest to fight for the truth of the Scriptures, and such Saints as the Lieutenant General(*)
*Though none act more directly against the tenor thereof than themselves, as is too manifest by their frequent breaking of all Faith and Promises, making nothing of Treachery, dissembling, yea, and lying too (which is not once to be mentioned amongst Saints, as they would have men think of them.) O abominable Hypocrites! Know ye not, that dissembling Piety is double iniquity; but we fear, while ye pretend to Scripture, ye believe neither it, nor the Resurrection: For if ye did, ye would not condemn the Innocent; against Knowledg and Concience, of those things your selves are Guilty. Repent betimes, or else your portion will be with Hypocrites.
(*)These are of the men that usually asperce the Peoples best Friends with such Language, as Atheists, Levellers, Anti-Scripturists, and who lives more like such than they? for it is they who ruine all, and destroy Propriety, by their Arbitrary and Lawless Power; and who more like Jesuites than themselves for crafty Policy, Lying, and Treachery? and certainly these be the effects, or fruits of Atheism: For by their works you shall know them.
But to return. Hereupon our Officers leaving us, we choose new ones, and disposed of our Colours, and immediately drew up a Declaration, wherein we signified the Resolutions of the General (upon our refusal to go to Ireland) in a slight and unworthy manner to disband us, after our so many years hard and faithful Services; which we then knew to have been practised upon many of our fellow souldiers in Colonel Huesons and Cooks Regiments; and thereupon, we resolved to stand to our former Engagements made at New-Market; which the proceedings of the General and our Officers, did expressly contradict and make voyd. This Declaration was publikely read at our Rendezvous in old Sarum [Iron-Age Hill-Fort NE of Salisbury], where four Troops of Commissarie General Iretons met us, and unanimously assented to by both Regiments; whereupon our conjunction we advanced to Marlborough, and so to Wantage, where Commissioners from the General met us, to wit Major White, Captain Scotten, Captain Pevreral, and Captain Lieutenant Batley, with whom that day we did nothing, but agreed to meet at Stamford Green, the next morning by eight of the Clock, where we were all according to appointment, but the Commissioners not coming, we marched out of the field, on our way towards Abbington; and as we were upon our march the Commissioners came posting after us, and we presently made a hault; then they overtaking us, and told us, They had Order from the General, and Lieutenant General, to hear our Desires, and endevor the Composure of our Differences; then they read a Letter unto us from the General, which took but little effect upon our Spirits; and so marching a little further, two of Colonel Harrisons Troops, to wit, Captain Pecks and Captain Winthrops were marching to their Quarters, where Cornet Den and divers others met them, And read a Declaration to them, and used many glorious invitations of them to desire them to come and joyn with us, making appeare the lawfulness of our cause, telling them that we were resolved to stand to our first principles, and that if there were but ten men would stand for those just things, he would make the eleventh, with divers such like expressions, the two Troops being very willing to be satisfied in the lawfulness of the engagement, telling us they were marching to Thame, and the next morning we should know their resolutions; But as we were marching back againe, before we were half out of the field, we spied a partie of horse, which it seemed was the Apostate Reynolds with his mercenary damme crew (such as in our hearing most desperately swore, That if the Devil would come from hell and give them a groat a day more than the state, they would fight for him against the Levellers or any others) well, upon this we drew out a Folorne hope, and thereupon two Troops of Colonel Harrisons marched with us towards them; they retreated towards New-bridge and kept it by force against us, but we unwilling to shed blood, or to be the original occasion of a new war (though they have often branded us with it as if we wholy sought it) but our actions did then clearly manifest the contrary; for we seeing Souldiers, coming in a Hostile manner against us as aforesaid, did meet them, having forty or fifty of them at our mercy, and could have destroyed them, for we had them two miles from the foresaid bridge, but we did not then in the least offer them any violence or diminish a hair of their heads, but let them go to their body againe, and withall marched to a Ford, because we would not in the least be an occasion of any blood-shed; And having marched through the Ford into the Marsh on the other side, we called our Councel together, who referred the appointment of our quarters to Lieutenant Ray and Cornet Den, who designed us for Burford, where being in the Treatie with the Commissioners, and having intelligence, that the General and Lieutenant Generall were upon their march towards us, many of us severall times, urged to Major White, and prest upon him, that he came to betray us, to which he replyed, That the Generall and Lieutenant Generall had engaged their Honours not to engage against us in any Hostile manner till they had received our Answer, no not so much as to follow their Messengers and Commissioners with force, and being too credulous to the Generals words, knowing that he never broak ingagement with the Cavaleers in that kinde; We gave the more credit to the Major, who seemed extream forward and hastie to make the Composure, pretending so far to approve of our standing for the things contained in our engagement at Triplo-Heath, that himself with our consents drew up a Paper in Answer to the Generall for us, so fully according to our desires as that it gave us satisfaction, so that the Agreement betwixt the Generals Commissioners and us, seemed to be even concluded and at an end; And for full satisfaction take a Copie of the said Letter which is as followeth:
May it please your Excellency.
WEe are your Excellencies Souldiers, who have engaged our lives under your Excellencies conduct, through all difficulties and hazards in order to the procurement of Freedom, Safety and Peace to this Nation, and our selves as Members thereof, and being lately designed by lot to be divided, and sent over into Ireland for the prosecution of that service, in order to the Peace and safety of this Common-wealth, which we think necessary to be performed, but looking back to take a view of our former proceeding, we finde that we cannot in concience to our selves, in duty to God, this Nation, and the rest of our fellow souldiers undertake that service, but by such a decision as is Agreeable to our solemn Engagement made at New-Market Heath, the 5 of June 1647. where we did in the presence of God, with one consent solemnly engage one to another, not to disband nor divide, nor suffer our selves to be disbanded nor divided, Untill satisfaction and security was received by the judgement of a councell consisting of two Officers and two Souldiers together with the Generall Officers that did concur, such satisfaction and security as that engagement refers unto; And being now departed from our obedience to you because you keep not Covenant with us: yet we shal not in the least harbour any evil thought or prejudice against you, nor use any act of hostility, unlesse necessitated thereunto in our own defence, which we desire God to prevent; All that we desire (and we speak in the presence of God, who knows our hearts) is, that your Excellency will call a Generall Councell according to the solemn Engagement. In the Judgment whereof we will acquiesse, and refer ourselves to them to take an account of our late actions. This being assured we will every man with cheerfulnesse returne to our obedience, and submit to your Excellency and the Judgement of that Councell in all matters that concern us as Souldiers, or Members of this Common-wealth; this we beg of your Excellency to grant, out of the respect of your duty to God, this Nation, and the Army, that we may thereby retain our peace with him and procure the happinesse of this Nation under him, which is the desire of our soules: If you shall deny us this, we must lay at your door all the Misery, Bloodshed and Ruine that will fall upon Nation and Army; for we are resolved as one man by Gods assistance to stand in this Just desire, and although our bodies perish, yet we shall keep our consciences cleer, and we are confident our soules will be at peace; Now till we have a full determination herein, we desire your Excellency will forbear all manner of hostility, or marching towards us for avoyding any inconveniencies that may come to our selves or the Country; these desires with affection being granted we hope the falling out of friends will be the renewing of love, And we shall subscribe and manifest our selves your Excellencies faithfull Souldiers, and servants to this Common-wealth.
But to returne, during the time of treaty, while the Commissioners thus assured us all security, one of them, to wit, Captain Scotten privately slipt from us, and to others, to wit, Captain Bayley and Peverill left notes at every Town of our strength and condition, whilst Major White held us in hand, and told us, that if they fell upon us, he would stand between the bullets and us: So that when notice had been sufficiently given, and we with all the meanes that could be used, wrought into a secure condition at Burford, & after the setting of our Guard, which was commanded by Quarter-Master More who was thereupon appointed, by his brother Traytor, Cornet Den (who himself) since his coming to London hath avowedly declared to Ma. W. W. [William Walwyn] to this effect, that his beginning and continuing with the Burford Troops was out of premeditated and complotted designe, that so at last he might the easier bring on their destruction, holding all the time he was with them, correspondency with the Generalls creatures, which said Quarter-Master More after he had set the guard in this slight manner, and possest us with as much security as he could, and under the pretence of going to refresh himself and horse, did most villanously and treacherously leave the guard without any Orders, and himself in person posted away to the Generals forces and brought them in upon us, marching in the head of them with his sword drawn against us; And Quarter-master More being afterward called Traitor by some of the Souldiers, Captain Gotherd of Scroops Regiment made answer, he was none, for that he did nothing but what he was sent to do; so that most Treacherously, that same night the Generals forces came pouring on both sides of the Towne of Burford, where we had not been above three houres, swearing, Damme them and sink them, and violently fell upon us, and so by a fraudulent and Treacherous surprize defeated us, not expecting it during the Treatie, especially from them with whom we had joyned these seven years for the defence of Englands Liberties and Freedoms, and though divers of us had fair quarter promised us by Colonel Okey, Major Barton and the rest of the Officers then with them, as that not a hair of our heads should perish, yet did they suffer their souldiers to plunder us, strip us, and barbarously to use us, worse than Cavaliers, yea Cromwell stood by to see Cornet Thomson, Master Church and Master Perkins murthered, and we were all condemned to death, although Colonel Okey, Major Barton and others of the Grandees had ingaged that not a hair of our heads should perish, when they surrendred themselves unto them, Thompson being then at the head of a party of two Troops of horse, and the other with their fellow Souldiers made good their Quarters while they had the conditions promissed them, and then Cromwel, after this horrid murther was committed upon the three forementioned, contrary to Okeys, Bartons and others of their promises at their taking them, came to us in the Church, and making his old manner of dissembling speaches, told us it was not they that had saved our lives, but providence had so ordered it and told us that he could not deny but that many of the things that we desired were good, and they intended to have many of them done, but we went in a mutinous way, and disobeyed the Generals Orders; but withall he told us that we should not be put off with dishonourable terms because we should not become a reproach to the common Enemie: but we desire all unbyassed men to judge, whether ten shillings a man and a peece of paper for seven yeers Service, be honourable terms: the paper being good for nothing but to sell to Parliament mens Agents who have set them a work to buy them for three shillings, or four shillings in a pound at most; and we are forced to sell them to supply our wants, to keep us from starving, or forcing us to go to the highway, by reason they will not pay us one penny of our Arrears any other way but by papers, that so they may rob us and the rest of the Souldiers of the Armie of their seven yeers Service, to make themselves and their adherence the soul possessors of the late Kings Lands for little or nothing; and for ought we know, the moneys they buy our Debenters withall, is the money the Nation cannot have any account of. But this their dealing is not onely so to us, whom they pretend disobeyed their commands; but they dealt so basely by other Souldiers who never resisted their unjust Commands, as we beleeve no age can parallel; For in the first place they turned them off with two months pay. Secondly they have taken away three parts of their Arrears for Free-quarter, though the Country (whose victuals, grasse and corn they eat) be never the better; and do also force them to sell their papers at the rate aforesaid. And deer fellow-Souldiers think not, because you are in Arms a little longer than we, that you shall speed better than we, which thay have disbanded before you; but be assured, that when they have their own ends served on you, as they have already on us, you shall have as bad conditions of them, and may be, worse, if it be possible, then we have had before you; and may also reward you for your good services, by raising a company of mercenary Rogues, to cut your throats, as they did trayterously to cut ours at Burford.
But to return, from this sad and long digression: by this their serpentine craft, and our own over credulous innocency, we were overthrown, and our hopefull beginnings for the rescue and deliverie of our selves and the Nation from the thraldome, in us all Assertors of the Freedoms of England, and to put an utter inconfidence and jealousie for ever amongst such upon all future engagements, they made that wretched Judas Den, to that end their pandor and slave: they pretendedly spare his life after his condemnation to death, although now upon good grounds and intelligence, (yea partly from his own confessions as is noted before) we do beleeve that from the beginnings of our proceedings, he was their appointed Emissary (as well as the forementioned Quartermaster) to be most zealous and forward of any man for us, the better to compasse our ruine and lead us like poor sheep to the slaughter; they enjoyne Den, to preach Apostacy to us in the Pulpit of Burford Church, to assert and plead the unlawfulnesse of our engagements, as much as before the lawfulnesse to vindicate, and justifie all those wicked and abhominable proceedings of the Generall, Lievetenant Generall and their officers against us, howling and weeping like a Crocadile, and to make him a perfect Rogue and villain upon everlasting Record, to which like the most abhorred of mankind to bring about their pernicious ends upon the people, he willingly submitted, and in that paper at the advantage of this wicked and treacherous overthrow of ours endeavoured to bury our solemn Engagement at New market heath in our ruines, as if long since cancell'd and of no longer force or obligation, pretending that by petition we had call'd home our councell of Agitators and so dissolv'd our engagement at New-market heath, And so the Army absolved from all further observation thereof.
Now to this, is to be considered, that the said engagement was radicall upon the grounds of common freedom, safetie and securitie to the Nation, and upon that account and to that end onely undertaken and solemnly made, and all righteous othes, vows, and covenants are indissolveble and of force till their full and perfect accomplishment; the Apostacy and defection of no man, though of him or those that vowes, or makes such oaths or engagements can absolve or untie them; and this no man that hath any spark or Conscience or Christianitie in him can deny. Therefore it was most deceitfully and corruptly urged, that the fame power that gave it a being dissolved it; for till the vowes of that engagement be paid unto the people, it standeth firm and obligatorie, till then the gates of hell are not able to prevail against the being and obliging powers thereof; and we are sure none can say, the genuine ends and intents of that engagement are yet obtained, but a thousand times further off, then at the making of that vow: besides, as that engagement enjoynes, what securitie or satisfaction then their private or publick rights, both as Souldiers and commoners, have we of the rest of our fellow souldiers yet recieved from a councell consisting of two Souldiers chosen out of every Regiment, two commission officers with such Generall officers onely as assented to that undertaking when or where was it? Indeed had such a Councell so concluded, and we the souldiers by our unanimous testimony and subscription (as we did to our engagement) testifie our satisfaction, there might have been some plausible pretence for its dissolution; but to this day it is evident to the whole world that no such thing hath been, and this was the expresse letter and intent of that New-market engagement; and to urge a petition for recalling the Agitators is a blinde excuse; for put the case there had been such an one, and that of Generall, Officers and Souldiers, yet the foundation of that Vow standeth sure to us all, it is immovable till its own proper end, viz. the accomplishment of the righteous end therein contained, affix its period: which we earnestly desire, may be conscienciously and seriously laid to heart by all our fellow-souldiers in solemn covenant with us; for there is a God that over-seeth, and one day (when there will be no Articles of War to prevent) will call us to a strict reckoning for the breach of our faith and vows one to another, and the Nation and account with us for all the blood, ruine, misery and oppression that thereby hath ensued, and still dependeth upon that most monstrous Apostacie. That pretended petition at that day will be found to be but a broken reed to lean upon, it will nothing abate of the guilt: and how-ever it is now highly urged to wipe off all worldly dishonour from the iron Rulers of our age, we are not such strangers to the Army, if any such Army Petition were, as not to know it: Sure wee are, no such Petition can be produced from any single Troop, Company, or Regiment, much lesse from the Armie. And though some such endeavours were for the promotion of so wicked and vile an enterprise, and now as evilly made use of; yet it never fell under the cognizance of the Army, neither yet of any single entire Regiment, Troop or Company; and the Engagement by the Army was made as an Army, by unanimous consent, and therefore no otherwise dissolvable, but unanimously as an Army and that neither otherwise than righteously, after the tenour and true intent of that Engagement, as we have clearly evinced, and therein discharged our Consciences: See further upon this Subject a late Book of Aug. 1649. Lieut. Col. John Lilburns, Intituled, An Impeachment of High Treason against Oliver Cromwell, and Henry Ireton Esquires page 4,5. See also the 40, 41, 42, 43, 81, pages of the second edition of his Book of the eight of June 1646. Intituled, The Legall Fundamentall Liberties of the People of England, asserted, revived, and vindicated.
Thus we have truly stated the case of our late proceedings and differences betwixt our Officers and us, and hope sufficiently to beget a right understanding and approvement, especially with all honest and conscientious people, of the equity of our late undertakings: however to those that are and shall come after, we have published and left upon record a perfect view and Prospect of our condition, that if the present Perusers shall not, yet happily that those that are to come may be thereby provoked to consideration thereof, and equall resentment with us of the righteous ends of that now betrayed, deferred, Engagement of the Army, which we chiefly desire and expect at the hands of our Fellow Souldiers, that they may not longer like their Leaders be numbred amongst such as will not be limited or circumscribed within any Bounds, Engagements, Oaths, Promises, or Protestations, but levell, break, frustrate and throw off all, (as if no tyes betwixt man and man were to be on mankind) to bring about the corrupt ends of their ambition and avarice, as not only in this case of ours, but in all others of their publike undertakings since the beginning of the Armies Engagement is clearly manifest, and yet all their successes, and advancements over the People, gaind by their perjury, fraud, equivocations, treacheries and deceipts they ascribe to the immediate approving hand of God, and seal over their delusions with the glorious exercise of Religious formalities to the eye of the People, by which a thick mist, as thick as the Egyptian darkness is lately come over the eyes of the greatest pretenders to true puritie and Religion, and many conscientious people therewith bewitched into the favour and approvement of their alone Jesuitical, wicked, desperate and bloody wayes, even to the opposition and persecution of the most faithfull and constant promoters of, and sufferers for, the just freedoms of the Nation.
But in case our fellow Souldiers will not remember their vows, but still slight & desert the same, their sin be upon their own heads, we have discharged our selves: yet considering they may again possibly incline to their countries redemption (as labouring more under ignorance than willfulnes) we shall offer them and all others that bear good will to the Nation, what in reason and Equity is most conducing to a safe and well grounded peace amongst us, and which by its greatest Adversaries cannot be denyed but to be righteous and just, though contradictory to the lawless Lordship and ambitions of their Officers.
And first, We desire it may be considered, that our Hostile engagements against the late King, was not against his Oppressions and Tyranny on the People, and for their removall, but the use and advantage on all the successe God hath been pleased to give us is perverted to that personall end, that by his removall the Ruling sword-men might intrude into his Throne, set up a Martiall Monarchie more cruell, Arbitrarie and Tyrannicall then England ever yet tasted of, and that under the Notion of a Free State, when as the People had no share at all in the constitution thereof, but by the perjurie and falseness of the Lieutenant Generall and his Son in Law Ireton with their Faction was enforced and obtruded by meer conquest upon the People, a Title which Mr John Cook in his Book Intituled, King Charles his Case, &c. there confesseth to be more fit for Wolves and Bears then amongst men, and that such Tyrants that doe so govern with a rod of Iron, doe not govern by Gods permissive hand of approbation, and in such Cases its lawfull for a People to rise up and force their deliverance, See page 8, 10.
Now, rather then thus to be vassallaged, and thus trampled and trod under foot by such that over our backs, and by the many lives, and losse of our blood from us and our fellow-souldiers, have thus stept into the chair of this hatefull Kingship and presumption over us, in despight and defiance of the consent, choice, and allowance of the free-people of this Land (the true fountain and original of all just power, (as their own Votes against Kingly Government confesse) we will chuse subjection to the Prince [Charles I 's son, Charles II to be], chusing rather ten thousand times to be his slaves then theirs, yet hating slavery under both: and to that end, to avoid it in both, we desire it may be timely and seriously weighed,
That whereas a most judicious and faithfull Expedient to this purpose, hath as a peace-offering been tendered to the acceptance of the free people of England, intituled, An Agreement of the People, dated May 1 1649, from our four faithfull Friends, now close prisoners in the Tower of London, we cannot but judge, that that way of Settlement, to wit, by an Agreement of the People, is the onely and alone way of attonement, reconciliation, peace, freedom, and security (under God) to the Nation; it being impossible by way of Conquest to allay the feud, divisions, parties and Quarrels amongst us, which if not stopt, will certainly devour us up in Civil and domestick Broils, though we should have none from abroad; for the Sword convinceth not, it doth but enforce; it begetteth no love, but fomenteth and engendereth hatred and revenge; for bloud thirsteth after bloud, and vengeance rageth for vengeance, and this devoureth and destroyeth all where it cometh. And though our present Rulers have setled themselves and their conquest-Government over us; yet are we farther from peace and reconciliation then ever: the discontents and dissatisfactions amongst the people in the Kings time, (which at length burst into desperate Warr) was not the hundreth part so great as the discontents that are now; and if so much did follow the lesser, can better be expected from the greater? never were there such repinings, heart-burnings, grudgings, envyings and cursings in England as now, against the present Governours and Government; never such fraction and division into parties, banding, biting, countermining and plotting one against another for preheminency and majority then now; and of all this nothing is the cause, but this way of force and martiall obtrusion: And can it be imagined such counterplottings, repinings and divisions can be with safety and peace ? it is impossible : Insurrections, tumults, revoltings, war and commotions are the proper issues of the wayes of such violence, and no better is to be expected : none but intruders, usurpers and tyrants can be for the way of force ; such as would be but servants to the people, and not make the people their servants, cannot but abhor it, and lay down their glory at the feet of the people : these (that now ramp and rage over us) were they other than Tyrants, could do no lesse : they draw near it indeed in words, but are as far as hell from it in actions ; they vote and declare the People the supreme Power, and the originall of all just Authority; pretend the promotion of an Agreement of the people, stile this the First yeer of Englands Freedom, intitle their Government a Free State, and yet none more violent, bloudy and perverse enemies thereto; for not under pains of death, and confiscation of lands and goods, may any man challenge and promote those rights of the nation, so lately pretended to by themselves : if we ask them a Fish, they give us a Scorpion, if bread, they give us a stone. Nothing but their boundlesse, lawlesse wils, their naked swords, Armies, arms and ammunition is now law in England; never were a people so cheated, so abused and trod under foot ; enough to inrage them (as once the children of Israel against Adoram) to stone them to death as they passe the streets ; which some could not certainly escape, were it not for the fiery sword, vengeance that surrounds them, which at the best is but the arm of flesh, for their shelter and protection, and may fail ere they are aware : all sorts of people watch but for their opportunity, and if it once come like a raging sea on Pharaoh and his host they will swallow and devour them up alive : and sure, this kind of constitution of Government thus by force in despite of the people obtruded and setled, thus grutched, cursed and hated, will never bring any peace, quiet or rest unto this Nation, it will be but as a continuall fire in their bones: therefore this conquest Constitution is not the way of Englands peace : There is but two wayes, by Conquest, or Agreement ; by fire and sword, or by compact and love; and both these are contrary to each other as light is to darkness, and take their title from contrary ends ; and the way of love must needs be of God, for God is love, and all his ways are love ; therefore we are bold of all other ways and Expedients whatsoever, to commend only this way of love, of popular Agreement to the publick consideration for a well founded and safe setled peace : and upon this account, and no other, can any security or enjoyment be expected to any publick transactors in this English Theatre, whether Prince or others. We beleeve, he that now judgeth otherwise, will at the length, it may be, when it is too late, finde himself as much deceived, as he that lost his head against his own Palace gate.
Therefore considering there can be no sure building without a firm foundation, and for prevention of further homebred divisions and backslidings into blood, we desire our fellow Souldiers for their severall Regiments of Horse and Foot to chuse their respective Agents to consider this way of Peace, that yet at length they may be instrumentall in saving (as now they are in destroying) this Nation ; but considering what unsetledness, and wavering from their principles, hath appeared among them, and how slender grounds we have of their return from Apostacy, we heartily desire that all serious and well-affected people, that have any bowels of compassion in them to an afflicted, distressed nation, any sence of piety, justice, mercy or goodness in them, any hatred to oppression or remorse of spirit, at the afflicted, or desire of deliverance, or freedome from their worse then Egyptian bondage, that they would lay the miserable condition of the Nation to heart and unite themselves in their endeavours for a new, equall, and speedy Representative ; and we humbly offer this motion as a just expedient to that end that they would chuse two or three or more faithfull persons from their severall and respective Counties of the Land to come up to London to demand the freedom and release of the Owners and Publishers of the foresaid Agreement unjustly detained in Prison by Wil and Force, to debate and consult with them &c. of some way if possible to accomplish the said Agreement, before a deluge of Intestine insurrections and Forraign Invasions from Ireland, Scotland, Swethland, Denmarke, France, and Spain, sweep us away from the Land of our Nativity ; and for our parts we doe declare, that though we have been thus abused and defeated, we have still the hearts of Englishmen in us, and shall freely (if there be occasion) spend the Remainder of our strength and blood, for the redemption and purchase of an Agreement of the People, upon the foresaid principles, the which for the satisfaction of such as have not seen it, We have hereunto annexed the forementioned draught of the said Agreement of our 4. imprisoned Friends in the Tower of London, as containing those things our souls like and approve of as the most exactest that our eyes have seen, and commend the effectual promoting of it to the serious consideration of all the true hearted friends of this miserable and distressed Nation, and rest
The Nations true Friends and hearty Wel-wishers while
we have a drop of blood running in our Veines.
Signed at London this 20 of August 1649, by us
John Wood, Robert Everard, Hugh Hurst,
Humphry Marston, William Hutchinson, James Carpen,
in the behalf of our selves, and by the appointment of the rest of our fore-mentioned Friends of the three forementioned Regiments.
F I N I S .
ISBN 0 9528070 0 9
From an original pamphlet in the Bodleian Library, Oxford.
Publisher: Tony Gosling, 10 Highwood Close ORPINGTON, Kent BR6 8HT.
Brailsford, H. N.,The Levellers and the English Revolution, Spokesman, Nottingham, ISBN 0 85124 154 9.
More information on The Leveller mutiny at http://www.britannia.com/tours/craig/2stage2.html
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