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.150 [1648.09.11] (5.15) Anon, The Petition of 11 September 1648 (11 September, 1648).
[Anon. but sometimes attributed to Walwyn, Overton, or Lilburne], [The Petition of 11 September 1648], To the Right Honourable, the Commons of England In Parliament Assembled. The humble Petition of divers wel affected Persons inhabiting the City of London, Westminster, the Borough of Southwark, Hamblets, and places adjacent.
11 September, 1648.
TT1, p. 672; Thomason E. 464. (5.).
(Placeholder: Text will be added later.) Note: there is a broadsheet version and a pamphlet version.
in Parliament assembled.
The humble Petition of Thousands wel-affected persons inhabiting the City of London, Westminster, the Borough of Southwark, Hamlets, and places adjaciet.
THat although we are as earnestly desirous of a safe and well-grounded Peace, and that a finall end were put to all the troubles and miseries of the Common-wealth, as any sort of men whatsoever: Yet considering upon what grounds we ingaged on your Part in the late and present Wars, and how far (by our so doing) we apprehend our selves concerned, Give us leave (before you conclude us by the Treaty in hand) to acquaint you first with the ground and reason which induced us to aid you against the King and his Adherents. Secondly, What our Apprehensions are of this Treaty. Thirdly, what we expected from you, and do still most earnestly desire.
Be pleased therefore to understand, that we had not ingaged on your part, but that we judged this honorable House to be the supreme Authority of England, as chosen by, and representing the People; and intrusted with absolute power for redresse of Grievances, and provision for Safety: and that the King was but at the most the chief publike Officer of this Kingdom, and accomptable to this House (the Representative of the People, from whom all just Authority is, or ought to be derived) for discharge of his Office: And if we had not bin confident hereof, we had not bin desperately mad to have taken up Armes, or to have bin aiding and assisting in maintaining a War against Him; the Laws of the Land making it expresly a crime no lesse than Treason for any to raise War against the King.
But when we considered the manifold oppressions brought upon the Nation, by the King, his Lords and Bishops; and that this Honourable House declared their deep sense thereof; and that (for continuance of that power which had so opprest us) it was evident the King intended to raise Forces, and to make War; and that if he did set up his Standard, it tended to the dissolution of the Government: upon this, knowing the safety of the People to be above Law, and that to judge thereof appertained to the supreme Authority, and not to the supreme Magistrate, and being satisfied in our Consciences, that the publike safety and freedom was in imminent danger, we concluded we had not onely a just cause to maintain; but the supreme Authority of the Nation, to justifie, defend and indempnifie us in time to come, in what we should perform by direction thereof; though the highest.
And as this our understanding was begotten in us by principles of right reason, so were we confirmed therein by your own proceedings, as by your condemning those Judges who in the case of Ship-money had declared the King to be Judge of Safety; and by your denying him to have a Negative voice in the making of Lawes; where you wholly exclude the King from having any share in the supreme Authority: Then by your casting the Bishops out of the House of Lords, who by tradition also, had bin accounted an essentiall part of the supreme Authority; and by your declaring to the Lords, That if they would not joyn with you in setling the Militia, (which they long refused) you would settle it without them, which you could not justly have done, had they had any reall share in the supreme Authority.
These things we took for reall Demonstrations, that you undoubtedly knew your selves to be the supreme Authority; ever weighing down in us all other your indulgent Expressions concerning the King or Lords; it being indeed impossible for us to believe, that it can consist either with the safety or freedom of the Nation, to be governed either by three or two Supremes, especially where experience hath proved them so apt to differ in their Judgments concerning freedom or safety, that the one hath bin known to punish what the other hath judged worthy of reward; when not only the freedom of the people is directly opposite to the Prerogatives of the King and Lords, but the open enemies of the one have bin declared friends by the other, as the Scots were by the House of Lords.
And when as most of the oppressions of the Common-wealth have in all times bin brought upon the people by the King and Lords, who nevertheless would be so equal in the supreme Authority, as that there could be no redress of Grievances, no provision for safety, but at their pleasure. For our parts, we profess our selves to be so far from judging this to be consistent with freedom or safety, that we know no greater cause wherefore we assisted you in the late Wars, but in hope to be delivered by you from so intolerable, so destructive a bondage, so soon as you should (through Gods blessing upon the Armies raised by you) be inabled.
But to our exceeding griefe, we have observed that no sooner God vouchsafeth you victory, and blesseth you with success, and thereby inableth you to put us and the whole Nation into an absolute condition of Freedom and Safety: but according as ye have been accustomed, passing by the ruine of the Nation, and all the blood that hath been spilt by the King and his Party, ye betake your selves to a Treaty with him, thereby putting him that is but one single person, and a publike Officer of the Common-wealth, in competition with the whole Body of the People, whom ye represent; not considering that it is impossible for you to erect any Authority equall to your selves; and declared to all the world that you will not alter the ancient Government, from that of King, Lords, and Commons: not once mentioning (in case of difference) which of them is supreme, but leaving that point (which was the chiefest cause of all our publike differences, disturbances, wars, and miseries,) as uncertain as ever.
In so much as we who upon these grounds have laid out our selves every way to the uttermost of our abilities: and all others throughout the Land, Souldiers and others who have done the like in defence of your supreme Authority, and in opposition to the King, cannot but deem our selves in the most dangerous condition of all others, lest without all plea of indempnity for what we have done; as already many have found by losse of their lives and liberties, either for things done or said against the King; the law of the land frequently taking place, and precedency against and before your Authoritie, which we esteemed supreme, and against which no law ought to be pleaded. Nor can we possibly conceive how any that have any waies assisted you can be exempt from the guilt of murderers and robbers, by the present laws in force, if you persist to disclaim the supreme authoritie, though their own consciences do acquit them, as having opposed none but manifest Tyrants, Oppressors, and their adherents.
And whereas a Personall Treaty, or any Treaty with the King, hath been long time held forth as the onely means of a safe and wel-grounded Peace; it is well known to have been cryed up principally by such as have been alwaies dis-affected unto you; and though you have not contradicted it, yet it is believed that you much feare the issue thereof; as you have cause sufficient, except you see greater alteration in the King and his party then is generally observed, there having never yet been any Treaty with him, but was accompanied with some underhand-dealing; and whilst the present force upon him (though seeming liberty) will in time to come be certainly pleaded, against all that shall or can be agreed upon: Nay, what can you confide in if you consider how he hath been provoked; and what former Kings upon lesse provocations have done, after Oaths, Laws, Charters, Bonds, Excommunications, and all tyes of Reconciliations, to the destruction of all those that had provoked and opposed them: yea, when yourselves so soon as he had signed those Bills, in the beginning of this Parliament saw cause to tell him, That even in or about the time of passing those Bills, some designe or other was on foot, which if it had taken effect, would not only have rendred those Bills fruitlesse, but have reduced you to a worse condition of confusion, than that wherein the Parliament found you. And if you consider, what new Wars, Risings, Rovolting invasions, and plottings have been since this last cry for a Personall Treaty, you will not blame us if we wonder at your hasty proceedings thereunto: especially considering the wonderfull Victories which God hath blessed the Armies withall.
We professe we cannot chuse but stand amazed to consider the inevitable danger we shall be in, though all things in the Propositions were agreed unto; the resolutions of the King and his party have been so perpetually violently and implacably prosecuted and manifested against us; and that with such scorn and indignation, that it must be more than such ordinary Bonds that must hold them. And it is no lesse a wonder to us that you can place your own security therein, or that you can ever imagin to see a free Parliament any more in England.
The truth is (and we see we must either now speake it, or for ever be silent,) We have long expected things of an other nature from you, and such as we are confident would have given satisfaction to all serious people of all Parties.
Upon the eleventh of September, 1648. this Petition was delivered into the House.
The House received this Petition, and returned answer thereunto, which was to this effect, viz. That the House gave them thanks for their great pains & care to the publike good of the Kingdom, & would speedily take their humble desires into consideration.