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.185 [1649.03.21] (6.5) [Signed by Robert Ward, Thomas Watfon, Simon Graunt, George Jellis, William Sawyer (or 5 "Beagles"), but attributed to Richard Overton or John Lilburne], The Hunting of the Foxes (21 March 1649).
[Signed by Robert Ward, Thomas Watfon, Simon Graunt, George Jellis, William
Sawyer (or 5 "Beagles"), but attributed to Richard Overton or John Lilburne], The Hunting of the Foxes from New-Market and Triploe-Heaths to White-Hall,
by five small Beagles (late of the Armie.) Or The Drandie-Deceivers Unmasked
(that you may know them.) Directed to all the Free-Commons of England, but
in especiall, to all that have, and are still engaged in the Military Service
of the Common-Wealth. By Robert Ward, Thomas Watson, Simon Graunt, George Jellis,
and William Sawyer, late Members of the Army.
Printed in a Corner of Freedome, right opposite to the Councel of Warre, Anno Domini, 1649.
The Tract contains the following parts:
21 March 1649.
TT1, p. 732; Thomason E. 548. (7.)
(Placeholder: Text will be added later.)
When we remember our solemn Engagement at Newmarket and Triploe-Heaths, and but therewith consider and compare the strange actings that have been, and still are carried on in the name of the Army (as if upon the accompt of that Engagement) we are even startled at the palpable contrariety and disparity that appeareth betwixt them; for the difference is as great and as wide, as betwixt bondage and freedom: So that it hath put us upon consideration to finde out and discover, where the fault lurketh; and upon serious thoughts, wee cannot impute the declinings of the first Principles of the Army, to the Army it self, but rather to some Persons of private and dangerous interests, usurping and surprising the name of the Army; like as it was said of the 11 impeached Members, concerning the Name and Authority of Parliament, imprinting the face and stampe of that Authority upon their prodigious designs, to the great abuse of the Parliament, as this must needs be of the Army. These, as too many such there be, are Foxes of the deepest kinde, more deceitfull and pernitious than their predecessours; and that such there are, wofull experience puts it out of question: and who they are the print of their footsteps is so evident, that you may trace them from step to step, from hole to hole to their Master Den, where you may finde the whole litter of Foxes in conspiracy, and you may know them by their shapes. Thus then to their footsteps.
When in the times of Stapteton & Hollis, the then faction was aspired to that height of tyranny and insolency, as to overtop the authority and native freedom of the People, threatning generall vassalage to the whole Nation, then the private souldiery (to interpose betwixt the people and their destroiers) drew themselves into that solemn Engagement of June 5. 1647. in the attempting and transaction of which they found no small opposition (as may well be remembred) amongst the Officers; and at that time Cromwell highly dissented, notwithstanding the earnest solicitation and importunity of many friends, til he was forced for fear of imprisonment, to fly to the then engaging souldiery (the day after the first Rendezvous) for refuge, and then Cromwell and Ireton, when they saw no other way to preserve themselves and their interest, engaged in the subversion of that domineering, tyrannical faction, and assuming high offices to themselves, acting as generall Officers, without the election of the soldiery, or Commission from the Parliament, being out by the self-denying Ordinance, and the General having no power to make generall Officers.
And being thus seated, even before they were well warmed in their places, they begin to stomack the sitting of the private souldiers in Councel with them; although it is wel known, that the actions of the Army, moving as an Army, in relation to that Engagement, was, first to be concluded of by a Councell, to consist of those generall Officers (who concurred with the Army in their then just undertakings) with two Commission Officers and two soldiers to be chosen for each Regiment; but a Councell thus modelled, was not sutable to their wonted greatnes and ambition, it was somewhat of scorn to them, that a private soldier (though the Representour of a Regiment) should sit cheek by joll with them, and have with an Officer an equall vote in that Councel: This was a thing savoured too much of the peoples authority and power, and therefore inconsistent with the transaction of their lordly Interest; the title of free Election (the original of all just authorities) must give place to prerogative patent (the root of all exorbitant powers) that Councel must change the derivation of its session, and being from Agreement and election of the souldiery to the patent of the Officers, and none to sit there but commission Officers, like so many patentee Lords in the high Court of Parliament, deriving their title from the will of their General, as the other did theirs, from the will of the King: so that the difference was no other, but in the chang of names: Here was (when at this perfection) as absolute a Monarchy, and as absolute a Prerogative Court over the Army, as Commoners, as ever there was over the Common-wealth, and accordingly this Councel was overswarmed with Colonels, Lieut. Colonels, Majors, Captains, &c. contrary to and beyond the tenour of the Engagement.
Hence followed secret murmurings & whisperings amongst the Prerogative Officers against the session and power of the Agitators, and at length palpable endeavors broke forth to suppress them: & so soon as the Officers had wound up themselvs to a faction, sufficient to overtop them, and finding the privity of the Agitators in their Councels was an impediment to their evil interest and ambition, then it was openly given out, That they stood as souldiers, only to serve the State, and might not as free Commons insist upon their liberty; and that the ground of their refusing to disband, was, only the want of Arrears and Indempnity, which, how contrary to their Engagement, Declarations, Representations, See. Hear, O heavens, and judge, O earth! for doth not their Declaration of Jun. 14. 1647. in their persons thus speak.
“We shall before disbanding proceed in our own and the Kingdoms behalf, &c. especially considering, that we were not a Mercinary Army, hired to serve any Arbitrary power of a state, but called forth and conjured by the several Declarations of Parliament to the defence of our own, & the peoples just Rights & Liberties.” And if of our own, then not to destroy our right of Petitioning, for that is in the number of our own, and so formerly owned by themselves. And further some few lines after they thus proceed.
“The said Declaration stil directing us to the equitable sense of all Laws and Constitutions, as dispensing with the very letter of the same, and being supream to it, when the safety and preservation of all is concerned, and assured us. That all Authority is fundamentally seated in the Office, and but ministerially in the Persons:” And then to confirm and justifie their motion, as Commoners in behalf of the People, they cite the Presidents of Scotland, Netherlands, Portugall, and others; adding this, “That accordingly 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 we have assisted you; and that the souldiers may lawfully hold the hands of the Generall (and if of the Generall then of Cromwell, Ireton and Harrison) who will turn his Cannon against the Army, on purpose to destroy them; the Sea-man the hands of that Pilot who wilfully runs the ship upon a rock, as our brethren of Scotland argued, and such were the proceedings of our Ancestours of famous memory, &c.”
Here out of their owne mouths it is contest, That the souldiery are not, nor ought to be mercinary; and that the General (and so consequently all the Officers) may be opposed by the souldiery in case of an immanent destruction to them; and how absolutely destructive it is to them, to be deprived of their right as Commoners, and not suffered upon pain of death or cashierment to petition the Parliament, but to be rendred meerly mercinary to the lusts and ambitions of two or three persons, to serve their pernicious ends, let the world judge: This is a case so plain, so obvious and evident, as none can deny, but that it is a palpable subversion of the Right of the Souldiery; and therfore in such a case they are bound to oppose their Officers, and it is no resisting of the General, nor of the Officers, no more than it is a resisting Magistracy, to side with the just Principles and law of Nature and Nations, as themselves have owned and contest, and if they will not stand to it, they must be kept to it.
And besides, if the equity of the Law be superiour (as they say) to the letter, and if the letter should controll and overthrow the equity, it is to be controld and overthrown it self, and the equity to be preserved, then the rule of the same reason doth tell them, that the Officer is but the form or letter of the Army; and therefore inferiour to the equitable or essentiall part, the Souldiery, and to be controlled and overthrown themselves, when they controll and overthrow the Souldiery in the essentials of their being, life, liberty and freedom, as the souldiery are, when by the Officers rendred meerly mercinary, and denied their right of addresse by way of Petition to the Parliament, for to be tortur’d, enslav’d and opprest, and not suffer’d to complain, but tormented and abused for complaining (although to the Parliament, the undoubted right of an English-man) is the highest cruelty, villany and slavery can be imagined, even Tyranny at the height, and therfore to be opposed by the Souldiery.
And thus, and upon these fundamentals of Nature and Reason the Netherlands made their resistance against the King of Spain. Thus rose the Scots up in arms, and entered this Kingdom, immediately before this Parliament, without all formal countenance or allowance of King or Parliament, since owned and justified by this Parliament. Thus this Parliament took up arms against the King: and thus the Parliament of France now taketh up armes: yea thus this Army enter’d upon their solemn Engagement against the oppressing party at Westminster. And thus may the souldiery renue and revive the same, and even oppose, contradict, dispute and overrule the commands of their Officers themselvs to the contrary, and be equally justifiable with the foregoing presidents. But to return to the matter in hand.
When Cromwell and Ireton, and their faction of self interessed Officers thought they had got the souldiery fast by the brain, as to dote sufficiently upon their transaction and conduct of busines, they then decline the Agitators, decline the Engagement, sleight their Declarations and Promises to the people and Army, rendring the Agitatours but as ciphers amongst them, corrupting some with places, overruling and overawing others, and so bringing the transactions of the Army in order to their solemn Engagement, only to themselves, under the impression and name of his Excellency, and his Councel of War, & so by degrees, step after step they cast out the interest of the souldiery from amongst them, destroied the Engagement, and broke the faith of the Army.
So that the honest souldiery not seeing any redresse, the rights and freedoms of the Nation not cleared or secured, no indempnity or security for arrears, or provision for present pay, no determinate period of time set, when the Parliament should certainly end, no publike vindication of the Army from that most horrid Declaration against the souldiery for petitioning, nor of suppressing and burning Petitions, abusing and imprisoning petitioners, &c.
These things the souldiery beholding and observing, endeavored to restore their Agents to a competent power and ability, to make good the faith of the Army to the people, but then they found the hottest opposition from Cromwell and Ireton with his faction of Officers, as who ever cals but to mind the busines of Ware, when Col. Eyer was imprisoned, and M. Arnold a private souldier was shot to death for promoting and assisting the work of the souldiery in reference to the solemn Engagement of the Army, may know.
And then it may be remembred how insolent & furious Cromwell deported himself against the honest observers of the faith of the Army, it being then made death to observe the Engagement, or but speak for the Agitators: O let that day never be forgotten! let not the bloud of that innocent person be here had out of remembrance, till justice be had for the same; neither let our Engagement or the perfidious perjured subverters thereof be forgotten; for here the Engagement was utterly cast aside, and the Adjutators laid by, and after that no more Agitators would be permitted, but the sentence of death, imprisonment, and cashierments for all that endeavored the reviving thereof was denounced: here the right of the soldiery was clearly destroied, and the Gen. Officers became lords of the name of the Army, assuming the same to themselves, and fitting the impression thereof upon all their future actings, to the abuse and surprisall of the Army; although in deed and in truth no transacting since by Cromwell, Ireton, and their Officers, though in the name of the Gen. Councel of the Army, wil be accounted or imputed to the act of the Army, for it is no Gen. Councel, neither doth it represent the Army, neither hath it the Authority or Commission of the Army therin; for it is another Councel, differing from that of the Engagement of the Army, that was by election, this is by force and obtrusion, in that the soldiery were represented, in this only the Officers, that is to consist of those Gen. Officers concurring with the Engagement, two Com. Officers, and two soldiers chosen out of every Regiment, this is only a Councel of war, whose power doth extend to no transaction in the name of the Army, as Commoners, but only to matters of war, as souldiers: therefore their propositions and tamperings with the King, their march up to London, their violent secluding of so many members from Parl. their triall and execution of the King, of D. Hamilton, Holland, and stout Capel, their erection of the high Court, of the Counsel of State, and their raigning in, & overruling the House, their stopping the Presses, committing violent outrages and cruelties therupon, their usurpation of the civil Authority, &c. are not to be esteemed as actions of the Army, they are not to be set upon the score of the soldiery, for the soldiery hath no mouth in their Councels, neither have they therin to do.
Thus it may well be conceived, that their clothing themselves with the glorious Garments of that Engagement, with their manifold Declarations, Remonstrances, &c. was but in order to what time hath since made manifest, to heave out Stapleton and that faction, to grasp the sole dominion into their own hands: for by their fair speeches and fawning dissimulations, they courted the Souldiery and honest party of the Common-wealth into a strong delusion, even to believe their lyes, their enchantments, and sorceries: Never were such Saints, such curious Angels of light; Pharaohs Egyptian Sorcerers were short of these in their Art. And when by that means they had compassed their ends against Hollis and his, they were so far from insisting upon the premises of their former promises and vows, that they resolve upon an Hocas Pocas trick with the King, and so set upon the work (to make him a Pandor to their dominion and power, to make him a skreen betwixt them and the people) and they drive it to a bargain, Cromwel to be made Earl of Essex, and that (beside his George and blew Ribband) to be a Knight of the Garter, his own son to be Bed chamber-man to the Prince, and his Son in law Ireton, either Lord Deputy of Ireland, or at least Field Marshal General of Ireland, and his own Son (that commanded the Gen. Life Guard) said that the King had cast himself upon his father and brother Ireton, to make his terms for him, and restore him again: [Margin note: This was delivered by Lieut. Col. John Lilburne, and offered by him to be made good upon his life, at the Bar of the House of Commons.] And to that end, they frame expedients sutable to his Prerogative Principles, cunningly interweaving the same in their business called the Proposals for the selling a just and lasting Peace (as they called it) in the heads whereof were couched the several foundations of Regal Tyranny, seating the whole power and authority of this Nation, fundamentally in the Kings will, making the same supreme, or a law paramount, to all the determinations of Parliament: This is the unanimous voice of the 1, 2, and 3. particulars, under the first general Proposal, and the last is a seal to them all. But this expedient failing them, as to their exorbitant intents, they cast off those robes of Royalty with which they had rendred themselves acceptable with the King’s adherents, and laid aside the King and them, finding the way of an Agreement of the People to be much affected and endeavoured after among the Souldiery, they also invest themselves with that Robe, to hide their deformity from the Army; and the better to allay all motions after the same, they confess and acknowledge the excellency and goodness of the premisses, they only find the same unseasonable; and this was drest out in such taking Saint-like language, as the religious people might best be surprised, not suspecting any venemous thing to be lurking under the leaf of their holy and sacred pretences: they call Fasts (a certain fore-runner of mischief with them) cry, and howl, and bedew their cheeks with the tears of hypocrsie and deceit, confess their iniquity and abomination in declining the cause of the people, and tampering with the King; and humbly, as in the presence of the all-seeing God, acknowledge the way of an Agreement of the People, to be the way to our Peace and Freedom; and even then, as soon as they had wiped their eys and their mouths, they proceed even to death, imprisonment or cashierment of all such in the Army as promoted or owned that Agreement; and to fan and cull all such Asserters of the Peoples Freedoms out of the Army, they proceed to disband 20. out of a Troup; by which the honest party of the Souldiery was very much weakned, and all the promoters of Freedom discouraged, and the people struck into desperation; which gave rise unto the second war amongst our selves, and invasion of the Scots: But the same by the great blessing of God being over, they finding the old affection of the Souldiers not yet quenched or much cooled, and great motions in the several Regiments after the Freedom of the Nation; they then formalize again, and to keep the honest party in suspense, and to wait upon their motions, and to cease from their own; and the better to make way to the ambitious intents of those Grandees, they then as a cloke, take up the way of an Agreement again, to present themselves amiable unto us; and a great pudder they make in their Councel about an Agreement, and one they brought forth, but such an one as was most abhorred by such as most fought after the way of an Agreement; so inconsistant it was with the true foundations of equal Freedom and Right; but by this means they so far prevailed over the most constant and faithful friends to the People, as to beget an acquiescence in them for a season, till they in the mean time so far effected their business, as to the introduction of an absolute platform of Tyranie, long since hatched by Ireton, for it was he who first offered that expedient of Government by way of a Councel of State, which was soon after the Armies engagement neer New-market-heath, and which ever since he hath kept in the vail, but now the vail is taken away, and it is now presented to the view of all men; But no sooner was this Monster born into the world, but it devours up half of the Parliament of England, and now it is about adorning it self with all Regal magnificence, and majesty of Courtly attendance, &c. and like the 30. Tyrants of Athens, to head it self over the people: This is, and yet this is not our new intended King, there is a king to succeed, this is but his Vice-roy: O Cromwel! whither art thou aspiring? The word is already given out amongst their officers, That this Nation must have one prime Magistrate or Ruler over them, and that the General hath power to make a law to bind all the Commons of England: This was most daringly and desperately avowed at White-hall; and to this temper these Court-Officers are now a moulding, he that runs may read and fore-see the intent, a New Regality! And thus by their Machiavilian pretenses, and wicked practises, they are become masters and usurpers of the name of the Army, and of the name of the Parliament; under which Visors they have levell’d and destroyed all the Authority of this Nation: For the Parliament indeed and in truth is no Parliament, but a Representative Class of the Councel of War; and the Councel of War but the Representative of Cromwel, Ireton, and Harrison; and these are the all in all of this Nation, which under these guises and names of Parliament, Army, General Councel, High Court, and Councel of State, play all the strange pranks that are play’d.
Deer Countreymen and fellow-souldiers, you that by your adventerous hazards and bloud have purchased a precedency in your Native and just Rights; Consider and weigh these things in your hearts, for surely none are more deeply concerned than your selves, none are more highly infringed of their Rights than you; You are not so much as suffered (how oppress’d or abus’d your selves, how sensible of the miseries of the publike soever) to represent your desires or apprehensions to the Parliament; while you are souldiers, you (in their account) are no Free-men, neither have an equal right in the Common-wealth with other of your fellowmembers therein. The General now tells us, if we will petition, we must lay down our swords; these were his own words unto us. It seems he hath forgot the contest of the Army (in which he concurred) with Stapleton and Hollis about their right of Petitioning as Souldiers; Why then (if this must be their received maxime) did he and the General Councel (as by usurpation they call it) present their petition, since we presented ours, and not lay down their swords and their high places, and petition as private Commoners? We are confident it would be an happy day for England, would they but practise that doctrine they preach unto others; But alas deer friends, it is but in this case with them as in all others, they condemned Stapleton and Hollis, because they were not the Stapletons and Hollis’s themselves; they condemned privat correspondencies with the King, because they were not the corresponders themselves; they condemned the force offered to the Parliament by the tumult of Apprentices, &c. because they were not the forcers themselves; they condemned that monstrous declaration of the Parliament against the Souldiers petitioning; they condemned the imprisoning petitioners, and burning petitions, because they were not the Declarers, Imprisoners, and Burners themselves: As who, that doth but consider their waies, may not plainly discern.
But to trace the foot-steps of those Foxes yet a little further, we shall discover their dealings with us. When they heard that the Soldiers were about a petition in behalf of themselves and the people for whom they had engaged, they thereat were highly offended and enraged, and desperate motions upon it were made in their Conventicle (by themselves stiled the General Councel) some moved for an Act of Parliament, that they might have power to try, judge, condemn, and punish all such, whether of the Army or not of the Army, as should disturb them (as they now call it) by petition to the Parl. or otherwise; and upon the modest reply of one, who desired that the execution of civil affairs, might be left to the Magistrate, Col. Huson answered, we have had tryal enough of Civil Courts, we can hang 20. before they will hang one, and in the Lobby at the Parl. dore, the said Huson breathing out bitter invectives against us Petitioners, who then were waiting at the dore for an answer to our petition, said thus openly, O that any of them (speaking of the Petitioners) durst come into my Regiment, they should never go out; we shall never be quiet till some of them be cut off for examples, and then the rest will be quash’d; there are 10. about this Town that better deserve to be hanged, than those Lords that are at their Tryal before the high Court. And now the Colonels, Lieut. Col. Maj. Capt. of this Gen. Councel, are now moulding up to that sweet temper, insomuch that about March 6. they concluded on the Act, it must now be death to petition, or for any Countryman to talk to us concerning ours and their Freedom: This enforceth us to put you in remembrance of their former words, for out of their own mouths they are judged.
In the Book of the Armies Declaration, pag. 17. we humbly represent in their and our behalfs, as followeth: 1. That whereas it pleased the Honourable Houses of Parliament, having received information of a dangerous Petition in the Army, to declare and immediately to publish in print to the Kingdom, that that Petition did tend to put the Army in distemper and mutiny, to obstruct the relief of Ireland, and put conditions on the Parliament: And declaring the Petitioners if they shall continue in the promoting and advancing that Petition, shall be lookt upon, and proceeded against, as enemies to the State, and disturbers to the publick Peace.
We cannot chuse, but with sadnesse of Spirit be deeply sensible that so humble and innocent Addresse could beget so strange an Interpretation.
Yet now Stapleton and Hollis being removed, are not they in the same steps? do not they call the Humble and Innocent Addresses of the Souldiers to the Parliament, Disturbance to their proceedings, and to the Publick Peace? And do not they seek for worse than a Declaration, an Act of Parliament, to put to death for Petitioning? And even as Stapleton and Hollis would have divided and broken the Army, under the pretence of relief for Ireland, do not these men now do the like? it was formerly opposed and condemned by them, it is now their own expedient.
In the particular charge against the 11. Members, pag. 83. Article 5. That the said M. Hollis, Sr Philip Stapleton, and M. Glyn, have been and are obstructers and prejudices of several Petitioners to the Parliament, for redresse of publick grievances: And the said Mr Hollis, and Sr Philip Stapleton, in the moneth of May, last past, did abuse and affront divers Petitions, offering to draw their swords upon Major Tuleday, and others of the said Petitioners, causing Nicholas Tew to be imprisoned in Newgate, and to be detained a long time there, for no other cause, but for having a Petition about him, which was to be presented to the House: O how carefull were they then, of, the freedom of the People to Petition!
In the eighth Article, fol. 85. Hollis is charged with procuring of the foresaid Declaration against the Souldiers petitioning, as a thing to the great dishonour of the Parliament, to the insufferable injury, the just provocations, discouragement, and discontent of the Army, &c.
O Crumwell, O Ireton, how hath a little time and successe changed the honest shape of so many Officers! who then would have thought the Councel would have moved for an act to put men to death for Petitioning? who would have thought to have seen Souldiers (by their Order) to ride with their faces towards their Horse tailes, to have their Swords broken over their Heads, and to be casheered, and that for Petitioning, and claiming their just right and title to the same? Such dealing as this was accounted in their Representation of Iune the 4. and 5. 1647. to be against the right both of a Souldier and a Subject. And in pag. 33. it thus saith, And if our liberty of Petitioning for our due be denyed us, and be rendred such a crime (as by the said Order and Declaration.) we cannot but look for the same, or worse, hereafter, not only to our selves, but to all the free-born People of the Land in the like case. And so this President (if it stand good) would extend in the consequence of it, to render all Souldiers under this Parliament the worst of slaves, and all Subjects little better. And though there hath been of late in other mens cases, too many dangerous presidents of suppressing Petitions, and punishing or censuring the Petitioners, &c.
Then they could say, (pag. 35.) Let every honest English man lay his hand on his heart, weigh our case, and make it his own, (as in consequence it is) and then judge for us and himself. But if we now lay our hands on our hearts, and weigh their present case, what may we say for them or our selves? we may forbear pronouncing the sentence they have said for themselves and us.
In the Declaration, Iune 14. 1647. fol. 44. We desire, that the right and freedom of the People, to represent to the Parliament by way of Petition, their grievances may be cleared and vindicated.
In the Remonstrance, June 23. 1647. fol. 58. They account the suppressing of Petitioning in the Army, an infringement of the Rights and Liberties, both of Souldiers and Subjects. And (fol. 60. of the same Declaration,) a putting the faithfull servants of the Parliament and Kingdom out of the protection of the Law. Divers other passages of moment out of their own Declarations, Remonstrances, &c. might be cited: but here is sufficient to condemne their violence against, and justifie the Souldiery in Petitioning.
Was there ever a generation of men so Apostate so false and so perjur’d as these? did ever men pretend an higher degree of Holinesse, Religion, and Zeal to God and their Country than these? these preach, these fast, these pray, these have nothing more frequent then the sentences of sacred Scripture, the Name of God and of Christ in their mouthes: You shall scarce speak to Crumwell about any thing, but he will lay his hand on his breast, elevate his eyes, and call God to record, he will weep, howl and repent, even while he doth smite you under the first rib. Captain Joyce and Captain Vernam can tell you sufficient stories to that purpose.
Thus it is evident to the whole World, that the now present interest of the Officers is directly contrary to the interest of the Souldiery: there is no more difference betwixt them, than betwixt Christ and Belial, light and darknesse: if you will uphold the interest of the one, the other must down; and as well you may let them bore holes through your ears, and be their slaves for ever, for your better distinction from free men: for what are you now? your mouths are stopped, you may be abused and enslaved, but you may not complain, you may not Petition for redresse; they are your Lords, and you are their conquered vassals, and this is the state you are in: If a Souldier commit but a seeming fault, especially if by their tentred far fetcht consequences they can make it but reflect on their prerogative greatnesse: Oh to what an height that crime as they call it, is advanced? what aggravations and load is laid upon it? and if there be never an Article in their out-landish Mercinary Articles of Warre, that will touch them; yet they find one in their discretionary conclave, that will doe the businesse, for there must be no standing against the Officers; they must be impeached only by their Peers, the Souldier must not say Black is their eye; if they say the Crow is white, so must the Souldier; he must not lisp a sillable against their treacheries and abuses of the State, their false Musters, and cheating the Souldiery of their pay, though it be their constant and familiar practise: that Souldier that is so presumptuous as to dare to Article against an Officer, must be casheered: Quartermaster Harby was but the other day casheered, but for delivering in a Charge of Delinquency against Lieut. Col. Ashfield, for his perfideous confederacy with treacherous Lilburn, that betrayed Tinmouth Castle: and dayly honest men are casheered for complaining against their Officers: no interest must now stand in the Army, that is against the interest of the Officers, we must all bow to their Lordships, and lay down our necks under their feet, and count it our honour that they will but be pleased to tread upon us, but like worms we must not turn again, upon pain of death, or casheerment. This makes us call to mind the saying of Ireton to honest Major Cobbett of Snow hill, who for joyning with the Agents of the Army asked him, if he were not deluded in his understanding in joyning with the giddy headed Souldiers: and advised him not to run against the interest of himselfe and the Officers. And now we have plainly found what that interest was, it was long a forging, but is now brought forth: but like a Viper, we hope it will gnaw out their own bowels.
But now dear friends, that you may see that their Conclave of Officers at White Hall hath suckt into it the venome of all former corrupt Courts, and interests that were before them, we shall shew you how the Court of the High Commission, the Star chamber, the House of Lords, the King and his Privy Councel are all alive in that Court, called the General Councel of the Army.
First if you do but remember, the King to his death stood upon this principle. That he was accomptable to none but God; that he was above the Parliament, and above the People. And now to whom will these be accomptable? to none on Earth. And are they not above the Parliament? they have even a Negative voice thereover: Formerly the Commons could passe nothing without the concurrence of the Lords, now they dare passe nothing without the concurrence of the Conclave of Officers: we were before ruled by King, Lords, and Commons; now by a General, a Court Martial, and House of Commons: and we pray you what is the difference? the Lords were not Members both of the House of Lords, and of the House of Commons, but those are Members both in the House of Officers, (the Martial Lords,) and in the House of Commons. The old Kings person, and the old Lords, are but removed, and a new King and new Lords, with the Commons, are in one House; and so under a more absolute arbitrary Monarchy than before. We have not the change of a Kingdom to a Common wealth; we are onely under the old cheat, the transmutation of Names, but with the addition of New Tyrannies to the old: for the casting out of one unclean Spirit they have brought with them in his stead seven other unclean Spirits, more wicked than the former, and they have entered in, and dwell there; and the last state of this Common wealth, is worse than the first.
Now as for their High Commission and Star-chamber practises, if you will be pleased to view over an Epitomy of our several Examinations before them; you may have a perfect Embleme of those Courts before your eyes; and to that end (and not out of any vain-glorious folly,) we have subjoyned an Abstract of their Interrogatives, with our Answers; together with their Sentence they passed upon us. But first we desire you to take notice, that the matter which they made the occasion of advantage to proceed against us, was a Paper which we delivered to the General, a Copy whereof (lest you should not have seen it) we herewith present you: and then we shall proceed to our Examinations.
We have lately made our humble addresse unto the peoples Representors in Parliament, concerning some relief to our selves and the Commonwealth, by way of Petition, the meanest and lowest degree of an English mans Freedome that we know of, and yet the same (to our astonishment) hath much distasted and imbittered divers of our Superiour Officers (in this Councel convening) against us, as we perceive, and that even unto death.
We therefore being willing to avoid all occasion of offence and division, and to cleare our selves from all imputations thereof, that in Justice and Reason may be conceived against us, desire, that you would be pleased to consider, that we are English Souldiers engaged for the Freedoms of England; and not outlandish mercenaries, to butcher the people for pay, to serve the pernitious ends of ambition and will in any person under Heaven. That we do not imagine our selves absolved from the solemn Engagement at Newmarket Heath, but to be still obliged before God and the whole world to pursue the just ends of the same; and you may remember your many promises and Declarations to the people upon that accompt, which like the blood of Abel cries for justice upon the perfidious infringers and perverters thereof in this Army. You may further remember, that it hath been a principle by you asserted and avowed, that our being Souldiers hath not deprived us of our Right as Commoners, and to Petition the people in Parliament, we do account in the number of our Birthrights; and you may remember that in the time of the domination of Stapleton & Hollis, you complained against their then endeavour to suppresse the liberty of the Souldiers to petition, as an insufferable infringement of the right of the Army and people; and we hope you did not then condemn it in them, to justifie it in your selves: when the power was theirs, it was then condemned; but now it is yours, how comes it to be justified? In the point of Petitioning, we expected your encouragement, and not to have manacles and fetters laid upon it: it is not the bare name or shadow thereof will satisfie us, while we are gull’d of the essence of it self; it is a perfect freedome therein we desire, not therein to be subjected under the Gradual Negative voices of a Captain, a Colonel, your Excllency, or this Councel, to passe the test from one Negative voice to another for its approvement, we account as the most vexatious Labyrinth of thraldom that in this point can be devised, worse then all the opposition and infringements of Stapleton and Hollis; we had rather that in plain terms you would deny us our right of petitioning, and pronounce and proclaim us absolute Slaves and Vassals to our Officers, then secretly to rob us of the right it self. God hath in some measure opened our eyes, that we can see and perceive; and we desire plain dealing, and not to be met half-way with smooth Expedients, and Mediums facing both wayes, with specious and fair pretences, to overtake our sudden apprehensions, and unawares steal upon us, and so be defeated, as too often we have been, to the woe and misery of the people, and of us: but The burnt child dreads the fire.
Further we desire you to consider. That the strength, the honour and being of the Officer, yea and of this Councel (under God) doth consist in the Arme of the Souldier. Is it not the Souldier that endureth the heat and burden of the day, and performeth that work whereof the Officers beareth the glory and name? For what is, or what can the Officer do without the Souldier? If nothing, why are they not ashamed to deny us our right to petition?
We have long waited in silence, even while we could perceive any hopes of any reall redresse from them. But now finding the Military power in an absolute usurpation of the Civill Jurisdiction, in the place of the Magistrate executing that authority, by which the sword of the Magistrate, and the sword of war is incroached into the self same hands under one Military head, which we disclaim and abhorre, as not having any hand or assent therein at all. And we find a strange and unexpected constitution of a Councell of State, Such as neither we or our fore fathers were ever acquainted with, intrusted with little lesse then an unlimited power, & with the whole force both of Sea and Land, into which is combined the most pernitious interests of our rotten State, Lords, Lawyers, Star-Chamber Judges, and dissenters from the proceedings against the King, And which hath already swallowed up half our Parliament, and we fear to be an expedient to cut off our Parliaments, for ever; for if this Councel of State survive the Parliament, how shall we obtain a new Representative, if the Parliament sit but till a new one be ready to take their places, farwell Parliaments farwell Freedoms.
Further we find, the just and legall way of triall by twelve men of the neighbourhood in criminall cases, utterly subverted in this new constitution of an High Court, a President for ought we know, to frame all the Courts of England by, and to which our selves may be as well subjected as our enemies. And considering not one oppression is removed, not one vexation in the Law abated, or one punctillio of freedom restored, or any fair hopes at all appearing, but oppression heaped upon the back of oppression, double cruelty upon cruelty, we therefore from those many considerations, betook our selves as English men to make our address unto the Parliament, as the proper refuge and authority of the people for our and their addresse, in which by birth we challenge a right, as also by the price and purchase of our hazard and blood; and our Civill Rights we cannot yeeld up, we shall first rather yeeld up our lives.
And thus after the weak measure of our understandings, we judge we have given a rationall and full accompt of the occasion and reason of our Petitioning, and we hope satisfactory to your Excellency and this Councell, humbly praying that you will make a charitable and fair construction thereon.
And we further desire, that you will take speciall notice of the serious Apprehension of a part of the people in behalf of the Common wealth, presented to the House by Lievt. Col. John Lilburn, & divers other Citizens of London, and the Burrough of Southwarke, Feb. 26. now published in print. To the which with due thankfulnesse to those our faithful friends the promoters and presenters thereof, we do freely and cheerefully concur, to stand or fall in the just prosecution thereof, as the most absolute medium to our peace and freedom that hath been produced, and we hope it will produce an happy effect upon this Councell, to prevent the otherwise inavoidable dissolation and devision that will ensue upon us all, which to prevent, shall be the faithfull endeavours of.
1. Being call’d in before the Court, the President demanded of him whether he owned the Letter, or no: he answered, Yea; and did admire he should be committed to prison for delivering his judgment to them.
2. They asked him where the said Letter was written, and who was present at the writing thereof: He answered, he thought that Court had abominated the Spanish Inquisition, and Star-chamber practice, in examining him upon Interrogatories, contrary to their own Declarations; and he would rather lose his life, then betray his Libertie.
3. They told him, he had not wit sufficient to compose such a Letter: He answered. The Letter he did own; and as for worldly wisdom, he had not much; but he told the Court, he hoped he had so much honesty as would bear him out in this action; and desired them to remember what Paul spake, how that God did chuse the foolish things of the world to confound the mighty.
4. They said, That notwithstanding what he might think of himself touching honesty, they would not be afraid to proceed in Judgment against him: To which he answered, they might do what they pleased, for he was in their hands, and they might take away his life if they would: but he assured they would bring innocent bloud upon their own heads. They answered, They did not much passe what he did say.
5. They did ask why they did print the Letter: To which hee answered, That he had been in prison, and it was impossible he or they should print in prison.
6. They asked how he proved the Civill and Military sword to be both in one hand. To which he answered. That some that sate in Councel with them, did likewise sit in the Parliament and Councell of State, contrary to what they had propounded to the People in their Agreement.
7. They asked what he had to say concerning the Councel of State. He answered, They did consist of corrupt persons; viz. Starchamber Judges, corrupt Lords, dissenters from the Proceedings against the late King, and of taking away the House of Lords: and trusted with little lesse then an unlimited power: now considering the persons, he told them, it seem’d to him very dangerous.
8. They asked him what he had to say concerning the subversion of our Liberties by the High Court of Justice. He answered: that it was a President (for ought he knew) to frame all the Courts in England by; considering that the lesser doth conform it self to the greater, and to which himself might be brought to tryall as well as others and so deprived of all liberty of exception against Triers.
9. They asked what he said concerning that clause, That no oppression was removed; the King and House of Lords being taken away, the chief cause of all oppression. To which he answered, That it was not the taking away of the King and House of Lords that made us free from oppression; for it was as good for him to suffer under the King, as under the keepers of the Liberties of England; both maintaining one and the same thing; viz. the corrupt administrations in the Law, treble dammage for Tythes, persecution for matter of Conscience, and oppression of the poor.
10. They asked what he thought of the serious apprehension of part of the People, in behalf of themselves and the Commonwealth, delivered to the Parliament by Lieutenant Col. John Lilburn and divers others: To which he being about to answer, they put him forth with confidence that he did own it.
After this they were all committed to prison again: and after three hours call’d again before the Court, and there Sentence read; at which time he told the Court, That they might as well take away his coat as his sword, it being his own proper goods, and never drew it against any but the Nations declared Enemies: and he did appeal from them, to a just God, before whom both they and he should one day appear to give an account of their actions: For the speaking of which, they told him, that by the Articles of War he did deserve death. He told them, it was more than he knew; and so was carried again to prison. And for this deportment, the Marshal General told him he had no more breeding then a Pig.
The President asked him whether he did own the Letter: He answered, he did. Then they asked him when he saw the Letter: He told them, before he came to the Generall. They demanded, how long before: Hee told them, two hours. They asked, when, and at what house, and where he did see it first? But apprehending they had not wherewithall to condemn him, but High Commission like sought an advantage out of his mouth, he replyed, if they had any thing against him as matter of Charge, he desired that they would draw it up against him, and if they would give him time, he would answer it. Yes (said Colonel Baxter) and then he that wrote the Letter, would write the Answer. To which he replyed, It was his pleasure to say so. Then the Judge Advocate asked him, whether he did apprehend the Martiall Sword and the Magisteriall Sword were encroached into one another. He answered, he did apprehend it was so; because he did see daily, that many Souldiers did go about to draw and pull men out of their houses, as well as the Civill Magistrate, yea and more. Then he was asked whether he did own all the Letter: He answered, he did own it all. They told him, there were many lyes in it; and asked whether he did own them. But he replyed, that (as he conceived) there was none: he had set his hand to it, and would own it. Many more such like catchizing Interrogatories they put to him; but as frivolous as these.
The President first demanded of him, whether he did own the Letter: He answered, he did own it. Then Col. Huson standing in the Court, told him, he had proclaimed open Wars against the Generall and the Councell. He answered, that Colonel Huson had past sentence upon him, it was in vain for him to say any thing. One of them replyed, that he knew not the practice of the Court. He answered, that they had no reason to accuse or condemn him for declaring his mind in reference to his Freedom, because they had declared in their own declarations, that in such things a man might write and speak his own mind freely. Nevertheless (he told them) if they had a Charge against him, and would produce it, he would answer it, if they would give him time; although they were not capable to judge him, because they declared he had abused the General and the Councel: and he had never heard, that they who were the Accusers, ought also to be the Judges.
Colonel Baxter asked him, Who wrote the Letter. He answered He came not to accuse himself or friends. Then he asked where it was written, and in whose house? He answered, In London. Baxter asked, why he gave orders to have it printed so quickly? He replied, How can you prove that? Then the Judge Advocate told him, it would have been better for him if he had confest, he had found more mercy from the Court, for his obstinacie would gain him nothing. To whom he replied, They had a limited power, and could do nothing but what God permitted them, and they must once appear before a righteous Judge: but as for their Censure, he valued it not. So he was remanded back to prison.
They demanded if he would own the Letter? He answered, he would, his hand was to it. They asked if he did write it? He answered, he did own it; and desired to know whether they would judge him in matters relating to the freedom of the Commonwealth by their Martial Law? They told him they would, being a Souldier. To which he replied, He was also Commoner of England: but if by their Martial Law he must be judged, he desired to know by what Article, in regard he had broken none? It was answered, upon the Article for Mutinie; and it was death. He replied, he had made no disturbance in the Army; and told them, that in the time of the predominance of Stapleton and Hollis, they then declared the Souldiery might petition the Parliament; but now the power was in their hands, the Souldiery had lost the Liberty thereof; and so desired God and the whole world might be Judge betwixt them. And upon his desiring of them to know whether they had seen the Agreement or no, they answered they had. He replied, it was therein concluded, that the Military sword & the Civil sword should not be encroached under one head. They answered, it was so, but that was left to the next Parliament to alter. But we wish they would tell us when that shall be; it is to be feared, it is never intended; for it is scarce imaginable they will ever venture the test of a new Representative, except they keep it under the sword, as they do this: let us have but a free successive Parliament, and wee’ll run the hazard of it.
Thus he that considereth their catching questions, and but remembreth the High-Commission and Star-Chamber proceedings shall find no difference betwixt these Courts, but in name. Wherefore all English Souldiers or Commoners, that have the least spark of true love to themselves and their Countries freedom, are bound now or never, to unite them selves against those Apostates, those Jesuites and Traitors to the people: Those are the Levellers indeed; for what have they not levelled? There is no trust or confidence ever any more to be had in them: for they have broken their faith with all parties, by which they have advanced themselves to this height of dominion into which they are intruded; and now they reigne as Kings, and sit upon the Throne of their Predecessor, whom they removed, to take succession over the people.
And now we shall give you a Copy of their Sentence they passed upon us, the which Baxter being President (as they call it) pronounced as followeth.
Gentlemen; for so I think I may without offence call you, for as yet you are Souldiers, but truly you are not long to continue so: For you are guilty of high crimes, as your Letter here by you owned doth manifest, being scandalous to the Parliament, Counsel of State, High Court of Justice, and tending to breed mutinie in the Army, for which you have in an high measure deserved death; but through the great mercie of the Court that is waved, and truly they have waved the Sentence again and again, and now they are come as low as possibly they can: and it being late, I shall declare unto you your severall Sentences, which are as followeth.
You shall ride with your faces towards the Horse-tailes, before the heads of your severall Regiments, with your faults written upon your breasts, and your swords broken over your heads, and so be cashiered the Army as not worthy to ride therein; & a Proclamation to be made, that none shall receive you into any Troop, Company, or Garison. And this I would have you look upon as a great mercy of the Court.
Which sentence was accordingly executed upon us, in the Great Palace-yard at Westminster, March 6.
Thus you may see to what passe we are brought. What they have done to us, in the consequence thereof it doth extend equally to you all; for what they have done to us to day, you are liable to suffer to morrow. Thus you may see, they are Wolves in Sheeps clothing, Foxes in the habit of Saints; and their foosteps are in some measure traced and laid open unto you, from their beginning of engageing with the Army to their present Residence in White-Hall: So that from hence we may safely conclude with the saying of Col. Disborrough to Mr. Bull: that they did not intend to keep the Engagement, but provided the Acquiessing businesse at Ware on purpose to make void their engagement, we shall say no more at present, only add a coppy of a petition to the Parliament on which the Soldiers of the Army are proceeding.
That we esteem the liberty of addresse by way of Petition to this Honourable House, a prime and most essentiall part of Freedom, and of right belonging to the meanest member of this Common-wealth.
That we humbly conceive our being Souldiers to be so far from depriving us of our share in this Freedom, as that it ought rather to be a confirmation thereof to us; we having with our utmost hazard of our lives been instrumentall in preserving the same.
That the power of the Officers doth onely extend to the Marshalling and disciplining of the Army, for the better management and execution of marshall Affairs, and that we submitting thereunto, do perform the utmost of obedience that can be required of us as Souldiers. All which notwithstanding, as we are in the capacity of Common-wealths men, we judge our selves as free as any other of the People, or as our Officers themselves, to represent by way of Petition, to this Honourable House, either our Grievances, Informations, or whatsoever else may tend either to the Right of our selves, or the benefit of the Common-wealth. And this is no more then what our Officers themselves have declared to be our Right, and without which we should be our selves the worst of slaves.
That the extraordinary actings of the Army, distinctly of themselves, in reference to the Common-wealth, are grounded upon our solemn Engagement at Newmarket and Triploe Heath, June 14. 1647.
That the Souldiery by that Engagement hath an equall Right and Propriety in and to the Transactions of the Army as Commoners.
That the Officers in matters of that concernment are not (without a free election and consent) the Representers of the Souldiers, as Commoners; but are onely their Conductors in Military matters.
That by vertue of our solemn Engagement, nothing done or to be done, though in the name of the Army, can be taken as the sense or the act of the Army, so as to be imputed to the Army, that is not agreed unto by a Councell to consist of those generall Officers who concur with the Engagement, with two Commission Officers, and two Souldiers to be chosen for each Regiment; or by the major part of such a Councell.
That if your Honors conceive it meet in your actings to concur with the actings of the Army, then it is necessary that with the sense of the Officers you also require the sense of the Souldiers, else not to account of it, or trust to it as the sense of the Army; and without this, we conceive, you cannot be safe, for it is small security, as to the act or faith of the Army, to receive the sense of the Officers, without the concurrence of the Souldiers in Councel, as aforesaid.
That being ejected and deprived of our Right and property in that Councell, we still conceive our selves at freedom to Petition this House; but yet in the late exercise thereof (amongst some of us) we have been very much abused and menaced; and Orders thereupon made by the Generall-Councell, to interrupt our free access to this honorable House, subjecting our petitions for approvement, to pass the Test from Officer to Officer, by which the sense and understanding of the Souldier is surprised and overawed to the pleasure of the Officer, that he must neither hear, see, nor speak but by the eyes, ears and mouth of the Officer; so that the Souldiers right of petitioning is hereby taken from them; for to Petition in that case, can be at most but the bare sence of a few Officers; inconsiderable in comparison of the Souldiery, and so not the minde of the Army, for the Officers disjunct, make not the Army.
That to our great grief we are inforced to complain to this honorable House, that some of us, to wit, Simon Grant, Robert Ward, Thomas Watson, William Sawyer and George Jelles were sentenced by the Court Martiall, to ride with their faces towards their Horse tails; to have their Swords broken over their heads, and to be cashiered the Army, as unworthy therein to bear any Arms, counting it as a mercy of that Court, that their lives were spared; the which sentence was accordingly executed upon them in the great Palace-yard at Westminster, March the sixth: and all was but for petitioning this House, and delivering a paper of account of that action to the Generall-Councell, which is ready, if call’d for to be produced. The consideration whereof doth exceedingly agrieve us, to think that we should in vain undergo our former hardships, that in stead of addition to our Freedoms, we should in this opprobrious manner be rendred the worst of slaves, for we take it as done to our selves: and that to be deprived of our Rights both as Souldiers and English-men, as unworthy to petition or bear Arms, and that by such as are such glorious pretenders to Freedom, is a matter of amazement to us, considering the Crime (as they call it) was no other then above-mentioned.
Wherefore from these weighty Considerations we are enforced to apply our selves again unto this honourable House, and to desire,
First, That as heretofore and according to Right we may be as free to petition this Honorable House, as other our fellow-members in the Commonwealth, and that we may with free and uninterrupted accesse approach with our Petitions (though by enforcement) without our Officers, as the Officers have done in declining of us; and that for our clear satisfaction you would declare unto us, that it is the undoubted freedome of the Souldiery to Petition the Parliament, either singly of themselves, or joyntly with their Officers, or with any other well-affected of the Nation whatsoever, otherwise we cannot but look upon our selves as vassals and mercenaries, bound up by the pleasure and understandings of other men.
2. That the power of the Officers and present Councel of the Army may extend only to the Marshalling and Disciplinating thereof; and that in matters which concern the Common-wealth, we may not be concluded by these Debates, or any thing of that nature taken as the Judgment of the whole Army, but of the Subscribers only, unlesse we shall personally or deputatively give our approbation and consent thereunto.
3. That you would require a revocation of their Order prohibiting us from Petitioning, but by our Officers.
4. That our forenamed fellow-Souldiers, by Order of this Honourable House, may berestored to their former places in their respective Regiments.
5. That according to our solemn Engagement, we may not be divided nor disbanded either in part or in whole, or any of us engaged for Ireland, or any service whatsoever, untill full satisfaction and security be given us in relation to our Rights both as Souldiers and Commoners, that we our selves, when in the condition of private men, and all other the free people of England, may not be subject to the like oppression and tyrannie as hath been put upon us.
6. That the desires of our former Petition which in most particulars hath been shadowed forth by a Petition of the Officers, as also the serious Apprehensions of a part of the people, in behalf of the Commonwealth, presented to this House Feb. 26 by Lieut. Colonell Io. Lilburn, may be speedily taken into consideration, and effectually accomplished, that so we may be more and more encouraged to venture our lives in the protection and defence of so good and just Authority.