This Leveller Tract is part of a larger collection of Leveller Agreements of the People, Petitions, Remonstrances, and Declarations (1646-1659) which are some of the earliest attempts to draw up proto-constitutions to limit the power of government and defend the liberties of the people. They are available in an iFrame format or as individual pamphlets which can be viewed or downloaded separately.
T.108 [1647.08.21] (9.11) Anon., A Remonstrance of the Shee-Citizens of London (21 August, 1647).
Anon., A Remonstrance of the Shee-Citizens of London. And of many thousands of other the free-borne Women of England. Humbly shewing their desires for the attaining of a free trade, for the Kings speedie coming to London, for the maning of their works, and for the redresse of their many other grievances, and burdens they now lie under.
Printed in the yeare 1647.
21 August, 1647.
TT1, p. 548; Thomason E. 404. (2.)
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WE the assistants and co-equalls of the famous Citizens of London, the better parts of the Trained Bands, and Common Councell men, having of a long time beheld the many infranchisements, Donatines and immunities attained by our fellow-feelers, the City of London and the parts adjacent, and for our selves in particular, have purchased nor archieved any thing worthy to be recorded and talked of by posterity as an act of speciall grace and concernment, though we confesse that under our husbands wee have been often comforted as with those sweet watry distillations which hath as from a limberk issued from them, yet we must give notice that your blandum mysterium acted by one man alone, cannot content each of us, being inspired with heroik thoughts, such as famous Messalina and Cleopatra owned, we meane that we should bee tied by the leg with the feeble cords of one only mans hamstrings, who through continuall exercise are become most faultringly feeble, for through the hardnesse of these times denying them their former height of nourishment, they grow worse and worse daily in their occupation, and even by nature are debarred to spend so freely on us as in times past, for the removall of which severall inconveniencies, we shall humbly remonstrate.
That whereas this sterrill maladie is occasioned by a strict subjugation of us the free-borne women of England, by a law strictly forbidding any of us to scan the tremeter of any but to each of them to whom we are bound and obliged, we conceive that this prohibition tendeth to the detriment not onely of us but of the whole Kingdom, & that wanting that free commerce which nature licenseth, the Kingdome cannot choose but be disappointed of many generous soules, which if otherwise it is likely to be enriched with, in case of a free propagation, and which doth pierce us through with an earnest and longing contrition; this Island is now thinly inhabited, by reason of the late warres, wherein so many well-tried and able proficients have been untimely massacred, so that not onely themselves are perished for the present, but wee are also utterly deprived of the hopes wee were in of their after able performances for the good of the Kingdome, which consisteth in nothing more then in being fully replenished with people; we therefore with joynt consent, having taken into our consideration, the great decay of Males, that is likely inevitably to happen, if timely prevention, be not thought on, have thought fit to remonstrate that for the future, we shall not beare such seared soules about us, as one woman, to live by the daily and nightly sweat of onely one mans browes when he perhaps though doing his utmost, is not able to satisfie nature, but shall for our owne contentments, the ease of men and for the speedie peopling of the Kingdome, shall every one of us desire the assistance of so many (of whose abillitie we are sufficiently assured) as may produce numerosa proles, a vast Generation, not only to defend us at home, but also to prevent invasions from afarre, and we desire also (since to us by consequence) according as that stiffe slander for the subjects Liberties Col. Lilburn hath noted, belongeth every immunitie of Magna Charta, that in case of our husbands defaults, or debillities, we may our selves trade a broad in the Country, and utter our warres to our best advantage for it is not, as in the youth of the world when Lot was so free of his flesh, that he begot Moab, and Ammon, in his sleep nature, is now growne old, and stoopeth under the weight of time, we must have Eringoes, and Lobsters, to beget that, which in the worlds infancie, a carrot or a crab-fish equalled every thing decaies, and there is a generall declining in all things, there is an alteration, and defect in the condition (of bodies) over the whole frame, and sisteme of nature, the clouds doe forbare to raine downe their geniall showers, neither doe the flowers blush, with such perfumed fires as in the first morning of the world, the fire, which heretofore, was the mother of May creatures, as the Salamander the Pirausta and others, is now growne quite fruitlesse and barren, the ayre, doth not bestow such a vitall, and broodall incubation upon the earth, and if this decay be in the greater Microcosme of nature, it must needs be in the lesse Microcosme of man, and therefore we who are of a substance hot and drie, and every whit as vigorous, as in the first nonage of the world ought not to be debarred of that right, to which we were created, but that the disabillities of one man should be supplied, with the abillities of another, which cannot be attained unlesse we shift our condition, and be licensed a free trade.
Which that we may the sooner attain, we conceive no way conducing more to our desire, then that his Majestie speedily come to London, there to reside with honour and safetie; for let the world know, to our unspeakeable grief, we have these many yeares missed the societie of his retainers, those imbroidered Courtiers, who heighten their longings at more charge, then if each of them constantly kept at rack and manger foure Flanders mares, and the heavenly dew that they were wont daily to water us with, and to our infinit joy, jog us, when we were coacht jogging to mile-end, to Islington, and Braineford, stuffing our bellies with cakes, and creame; and while our husbands good men, were either handselling their wares, or canselling their bonds, not dreaming that we also, were bartering their commodities for our best advantage: we therefore desire, that his Majestie may with all speed repaire to London, as the primary way for us to attaine our wishes, and till then, like the thirstie earth chapt for lack of rain, wee wait for-------
But least preturbances should arise & we sleep too supinely and though the royall partie be subjugated, we be any way damnified, by a wounded foe, we shall not carelesly levell aud let our works be entred by those, of whose trust and fidelitie we have not ample experience, for some may give us an alarum, and yet want ammunition to maintain the fight; may charge us once, and yet afterward prove so lumpish, that afterward they must be forced, and dandled to the incounter; and whom we may be constrained to provoke to the skirmish, defying them with hot trenchers and warme napkins, applied to our bodies; we therefore doe desire that such should man our works, and sleep in our quarters, who shall bee sufficient, not only to please, but defend us from the incursions, of any craftie and disabled enemie; and should it so happen, (as who knowes the issue of things) that we should be surprized, our hopes and assurance is this, that though their onset be never so hot and fierce, yet we shall occasion their retreat, to be coole and tame: yea were they as strong as Sampson or Milo, we shall soone quaile their Courage, if not at the first, yet the second incounter; but this, if they should gaine our works; but we assure our enemies, which may serve as a terror to disswade them from daring, to give an assault; that if we shall not find them well weaponed, (for we hate Souldiers that are not for the punctillo) but either dulled with often service, or their weapons broken near the handles, through their former fool-hardinesse and desperate valour, in daring to scale, though incountered with S. Anthonies Fire, that we shall give to such no quarter, but shall reserve them as Pageants for mirth, at our pleasures to transluce.
NOw if to these our desires our husbands prove refractorie and opposite, we entreat them to consider that wee neither for prayers or threats will any longer be debarred of our just rights, and that they would neither remember that Lucullus Cæsar, Pompey, Anthony, Cato, and divers other gallant men, were--- and knew it, though they would not make a stirre about it, and that there was in all that time but one gullish coxcombe Lepidus that died with anguish.