Anon., The Fundamental Lawes and Liberties of England (9 July, 1653).


Note: This is part of the Leveller Collection of Tracts and Pamphlets.


Editor’s Introduction

(Placeholder: Text will be added later.)


Bibliographical Information

ID Number

T.237 [1653.07.07] Anon., The Fundamental Lawes and Liberties of England (9 July, 1653).

Full title

Anon., The Fundamental Lawes and Liberties of England claimed, asserted, and agreed unto, by severall Peaceable Persons of the City of London, Westminster, Southwark, Hamblets, and Places adjacent; commonly called Levellers.

Presented to the serious consideration of all the Free-people of this Common-Wealth. July the 9. 1653.

Estimated date of publication

9 July, 1653.

Thomason Tracts Catalog information

TT2, p. 27; Thomason E.705 [5]



Text of Pamphlet

IT is a Maxime of Common Right yielded and granted of all hands, of Parliament and Army throughout their several Papers, That the People of England are a free People, the sole Original of their own Authority, and in no wise to be subjected to the Iron yoak of an imposed Government, the Agreement and Election of the Free People being the true Fountain of the Supreme and of all subordinate Authorities of this Land; and what is of other Derivation, the same not to be admited or submitted unto; but declined as Arbytrary, and Forreign.

1 For the People in general have all Law and Authority within themselves, managing their publike Affaires by their Own elected Parliaments or Common councels of England,

2 Judging, deciding, and determining all Matters and Causes whatsoever by their Juries,

3 And in all things betwixt party and party, whether of Bargains, Sales, Conveyances, Bonds, or Releases, the Agreement, Consent, or Contract of the party and parties concerned, is the Law of the Land, Fundamental and unalterable.

So that the People are the Beginning, Medium, and End of, and through the whole Frame of England’s Lawes and Government thus founded and laid by Our Fathers, whose Heires we are, and which we must claim as our chiefest Birth-right and Inheritance: All is prepar’d and ready to our hands, our Lawes made, our Government founded: Our work is not now to tear up these Foundations, to innovate or introduce any new Constitution or Frame of Government, but to maintain, defend, & preserve the Old freed from the Encroachment and Usurpations of Kinges, Lords, and Priests. And within these antient indisputable Boundaries are our Parliaments or grand Councels to be confined: beyond this they are not to swell; hither are they to go, and no farther.

And it is the Inheritance of our Children, which our selves have not power to give away from them.

It is out of the limits of our Trust; for the People, who are the Trusters, are as well limited as their Elected Trustees: they cannot confer more then they have in themselves: this Generation cannot of right dis-inherite the next.

Thus is our Government (if rightly considered) certain and stable, as the Foundations of the Earth, not to be tost and varied from this to that at Will and Discretion (the Parent of Factions, Discentions, and War) but to be preserved as sacred and unalterable: And then the Commonwealth, as it shall be free, so shall it be safe and quiet in it self.

And now the wars being over, we cannot look upon our selves as a conquered people, to receive our Laws and Government at the hand of a Conqueror, Conquest being a Title more proper amongst Beares and Wolves, then amongst the free people of England. The Army being raised not against the People, or for subversion of their Rights, but for the maintenance of their Fundamental lawes and liberties; in doing whereof, they have had the cordial assistance of all the well-affected of this Nation, as part whereof we alwayes esteemed them to be: So that, in subduing the common enemy, we subdued not our selves, nor lost our Birth-rights.

And therefore we cannot deem it any Crime to lay claim unto the Fundamental lawes and liberties of our dear and native Countrey, the constant Claim of our Fore-fathers through all succession of Governments and Changes in this Nation; and to agree unto, maintain, and assert the same, hoping that the Gentlemen convened in Councel at Westminster, will never go about to take that from Us, they never gave Us, Our Lawes and Liberties; but will improve this blessed Opportunity now in their hands, to restore us to the full fruition and enjoyment thereof, which will engage Us freely of our own accords, as occasion shall be offered, to hazard and spend our lives, and all that is near and dear unto Us in their just defence.

And therefore they may (amongst other of the free-born people of England) be pleased to take notice, That amongst other of our Liberties and free Customs of England, these following, as our Fundamentals, we claim and expect in behalf of our selves, and all the rest of the free people of this Commonwealth; and let none think it strange, or that it is our presumption: For our Liberties are our own, and our Childrens after Us; they are not of Grace or Favour: And therefore we crave them not at an Almes, but claim them as Our and our Childrens Right.

  • 1  And first, that the Government of England is not to be Arbytrary.
  • 2  That the Supreme Authority cannot be devolved upon any person, or persons, but by Election of the free people.
  • 3  That yearly Parliaments (to be chosen of course by the people) is the onely Supreme lawful Government of England.
  • 4  That all Officers and Magistrates of the Common-wealth are to be ordained and commissioned onely by the Election of the People of the several places where they are to officiate; none to be in publike place above a year.
  • 5  That no other wayes of Tryals be in England for life, limb, liberty, or estate, but by Juries of any person of what quality soever: all other wayes of Tryals; as, by Commissioners, Committees, High-Courts of Justice, Councels of State, Privy Councels, Councels of War, Courts Spiritual, &c. being but the branches of Popish, Regal, and Arbytrary Power innovated upon the Liberties of the People.
  • 6  That Parliaments have not power to continue their Sitting above a year.
  • 7  That Parliaments are not Executioners of the Law.
  • 8  That the whole execution thereof be referred to particular Courts of Justice.
  • 9  That no man is to be judged before due Tryal, or by a Law made after the Fact committed.
  • 10  That Punishments are to be proportioned to the Offences, an Eye for an Eye, a Tooth for a Tooth, and Blood for Blood.
  • 11  That the Iuries of England are Iudges of matter of Law, as well as matter of Fact.
  • 12  That upon all Tryals Witnesses on both sides may be sworn, the Accuser and the Accused brought face to face, and all Courts to be publike and open.
  • 13  That no man is to be compelled to swear or answer to Questistions, to accuse himself or Relations.
  • 14  That no coercive Power is to be admitted or exercised in matters of Religion.
  • 15  That the maintenance of a Clergy, by way of Tythes, or other enforced Maintenance, is not to be imposed, or submitted unto.
  • 16  That all Suits be ended, past all Appeal within a short prefixed time, in the Hundred, and Country Courts onely.
  • 17  That Bale in no Case is to be denied, Tryals to be speedy, and tedious and hard Imprisonments no longer to be suffered.
  • 18  That the right of the Poor, in their Commons, may be preserved, and freed from the Usurpations, Enclosures, and Encroachments of all manner of Projectors, Undertakers, &c. and that all servile Tenures of Lands, as by Copy-holds, or the like, be abolished and holden for naught.
  • 19  That no Fees are to be taken by Gaolers of their prisoners.
  • 20  That all proceedings in the law are to be free, without charges or Fees from the parties to the Officers.
  • 21  That no mans Body is to be imprisoned for Debt; but all Estates to be liable to make satisfaction.
  • 22  That no man is to be impressed to serve in the Wars.
  • 23  That the Militia is to be in the Power of the several Counties, and the persons intrusted therewith, elected by the people from time to time.
  • 24  That all persons be equally and alike subject to the Law.
  • 25  That Trade to all parts beyond the seas be equally free to all English-men; that no Monopolies, Pattents, Ingrossings, Fore stallings, Excize, or Customes, be longer admitted or continued, and that all publike Monies be raised by the old way of Subsidies.
  • 26  That it is the English-man’s liberty, concerning Iuries, upon any Tryal, to make his challenge or exception against 35, without shewing cause, and against as many more as just cause can be alleadged against, until the party do evidently see, that his Tryers do stand indifferent.
  • 27  That all Statute-laws, Acts and Ordinances of Parliament, and all corrupt Customs or practises, of what Antiquity soever, contrary to these Fundamentals of Freedom, are to be holden for naught; not to be obeyed or used in England.
  • 28  That the grand Councels or Parliaments of England, have not power to diminish, violate or alter any of these Fundamentals; These being the just and lawful Claim the standing, unalterable liberties of the people; and which we lay down as the Land-marks, the very Basis and Foundations of Freedom, the very Elements and first Principles of Common Right, and as without which the Government of England cannot be a Free Government, nor this Nation a Free Commonwealth; these being the onely Bars against Monarchy and Arbitrary Power, and the true Conservators of the publike Peace and weal of the people, and which by this our Agreement and Claim we own; And profess as in the presence of God, to live and dye in the just maintainance and profession thereof.

As for the Claims of Kings, Lords or Priests, though they challenge great Antiquity in this Nation, yet are they no other then the Fundamentals of Bondage and Tyranny.

Prerogative and Supremacy with that of unknown, unlimited Parliament Priviledge, being the very Mothes and Caterpillars of the Fundamental Laws and Liberties of the Free people of England. For these and all lawes in favour of them, are but the Claim of Domination and Greatness over the people. Wheras this our Claim in behalf of the people, is of certain Maxims & Foundations of our Government, that tends not to the particular advantage of our selves (or any other sort of men) but to the common and universal good and benefit of all, and therefore inconsistent with the other.

The people cannot be a Free people, while the Supream power or Authority is wrested out of their hands, into the hands of one particular, or some few; so much of their Authority as they let go, so much of Bondage they let in; and the prime Badge and principle of their Freedom is, Their own Election; while that is wanting, they are meer slaves, at will and Discretion.

The consideration of which, cannot but put us in minde of the many solemn Vows and promises of the present Army, as to the restoration of the Fundamental Laws and Liberties of England, one place or two we shall recite; Declar. June 14. 1647. they there tell us, That their Desires as to the compleat settlement of the liberties of the people is that blessing of God, then which (of all worldly blessings) nothing was more dear unto them, or more pretious in their thoughts; and all their enjoyments of life or livelihood, or nearest relations, but a price sufficient to the purchase of so rich a blessing, that themselves and all the free born people of this Nation, may sit down in quiet under their own Vines, and under the glorious administration of Justice and Righteousness, and in full possession of those FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS and LIBERTIES, without which we can have little hopes (it is their own words) as to humane consideration, to enjoy any comforts of life, or so much as life it self, but at the pleasures of some men ruling meerly according to will and power.

And in the same Declaration they may remember they professed themselves, Not a meer mercinary Army, hired to serve any Arbitrary power, but called forth and conjured by the several Declarations of Parliament, to the Defence of their own and the peoples just and Fundamental Rights and Liberties, and so took up Armes in judgement and Conscience to those ends; and so resolved to continue, against all Arbitrary power, Violence and oppression. And in their Solemn Engagement made at New-Market Heath, June 5. 1647. they did promise and engage to God and to the People, not to divide nor disband, nor suffer themselves to be divided nor disbanded, untill the full enjoyment of our Freedoms; most seriously promising in several of their papers, not to meddle with the advancement of any particular party or interest whatsoever, but onely minde the COMMON RIGHT and interest of the people.

And therefore it cannot but be matter of amazement unto us, that any Officer or Soldier who hath thus promised and protested for the Fundamental Laws and Liberties of the people, should now question, whether there be any Fundamental Laws and Liberties or no? yea, and affirm, that two lines of them are not to be produced; as we were answered at the delivery of our Petition in the behalf of Lieutenant Colonel John Lilburne (now Prisoner in Newgate, as against the Fundamental Laws of England, so against these Vowes of the Army) whose Liberty forthwith we Claim and Expect; as also the liberty of all others imprisoned contrary to these or any one of these Fundamentals of Common Right.

And of no less astonishment it is unto us, That after we had presented to the General and the Officers of the Army, our Advice concerning the Restoration of the Fundamental Lawes and Liberties of England, we were told at a publike meeting by one of the Councel of Officers, That the things therein presented to their consideration were acknowledged to be just and good, but our persons were so obnoxious to them, that if the Gospel should be brought by our hands to them, and they knew it came downe from Heaven unto us, yet would they reject it for our sakes, or to this effect.

Yet we hope these are but words of passion, such as they will not justifie; for indeed they are of a very ill kinde, of an ill savour unto us, and such as they cannot in conscience or honour seem in the least to countenance; yet if they should as God forbid) or be offended at us for this our Claim and Agreement, we must notwithstanding persist in our affections, and constant peaceable acknowledgement of our Fundamental Rights, and the God of Heaven and Earth be Judge betwixt them and us.