John Lilburne, A Plea for Common-right and Freedom (28 December, 1648).

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

Editor’s Introduction

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Bibliographical Information

ID Number

T.171 [1648.12.28] John Lilburne, A Plea for Common-right and Freedom (28 December, 1648).

Full title

John Lilburne, A Plea for Common-right and Freedom. To His Excellency, the Lord General Fairfax, and the commission-officers of the armie. Or, the serious addresses, and earnest desires of their faithful friends, inhabiting in the cities of London and Westminster, the borough of Southvvark, Hamblets, and places adjacent: promoters and presenters of the late large-petition of the eleventh of September, MDCXLVIII. As it was presented to his Excellency, Decemb. 28. 1648. By L.C. Iohn Lilburn. George Middlemore. Rob. Davis. Ed. Tench. Dan. Linton. Will. Bottome. Rob. Cobbett. Richard Overton. Iohn Harris. Tho. Dassern. Tho. Goddard. Tho. Prince. Sam. Blaicklock. Andr. Dednam. Iohn Walters. Rich. Pechel.
London, Printed by Ja. and Jo. Moxon, for Will. Larnar, at the signe of the Black-Moor neer Bishops-gate. 1648.

Estimated date of publication

28 December, 1648.

Thomason Tracts Catalog information

Thomason E. 536. (22) [page not found].



Text of Pamphlet


The Lord General FAIRFAX, and the Commission-Officers of the Army.

The serious Addresses, and earnest Desires of Your faithful Friends, inhabiting in the Cities of London and Westminster, the Borough of Southwark, Hamblets, and Places Adjacent. Promoters and Presenters of the late Large Petition, of the eleventh of September, 1648.


THat upon serious consideration of a perverse and partial demeanour of a prevalent party in Parliament towards those who stood firm to them in their greatest necessities, and how by insensible degrees they brought in divers Interests directly opposite and destructive to them; and under pretence of zeal to God, joyned in Covenant for their extirpation, under the notion of Sectaries: and how, notwithstanding their beginnings were gentle, and the most plausible Interpretations put upon their doings, yet in short space after, violent effects followed; as, the erection of the Inquisition Committee, where Collonel Leigh had the Chair, the burning of Petitions by the hand of the Common Hang-man, Imprisoning Petitioners, the persecuting Ordinance against what they were pleased to call Heresie and Schisme, and those several oppressive Ordinances, enforcing tripple Damages for non-payment of Tythes; all which gave rise to the cruel Remonstrance of the then Common-Councel of London, and to many desperate and treasonable engagements: From all which proceeded a violent opposition against the Army under your command, as, an Army of Sectaries: and so passed on from one degree of evil to another, until at length they brought themselves into a most miserable and dangerous condition, being neither able to help themselves nor others, but are justly at the mercy of chose they despised, serving only as the Pillar of Salt, warning all men to beware how they forsake their just principles, or neglect their first and fastest friends, or their counsels, or let ship opportunities of doing good, for any allurements in the world. And we heartily desire it may prove so to every one of you in particular, and to the whole Army in general, and we are yet hopeful it will be so; though when we call to mind how and with what danger we appeared with Petitions to the Parliament in your behalf, and with what extreme hazard of our lives, and all we had, we made way for your easie and unbloudy entrance into Southwark, and passage to and through the City, whereas others whom you immediately took into your bosoms, and rejected us, either durst not, or would not own you: When we call to mind how our wholesom counsels all along have bin rejected, as about a guard for the Tower and City, by well-affected house-keepers in and about the City and Borough, as a means to continue trade and quietness, and not by a new raised Regiment of a mercenary establishment, as those others ill advised, which by its consequence proved to be but partial and pernitious counsel. When we consider how exceedingly we were condemned in our solicitous endeavours for purging the House of those corrupt members that voted the King to London, and denounced war against you, though you your selves had Remonstrated the same, and when mischiefs have since besain for want thereof. When we remember how unkindly (to say no more) many were used for endeavouring the performance of your engagements, promises, and declarations, and what troubles and dangers befel the Nation and this Army for default therein; and how for all our most affectionate endeavours for common Peace and Freedom, we were rewarded only with the groundless aspersion of Levellers, and other vile reproches; whilst those who most abused us, were still most acceptable with you.

These and the like evil effects we thought worthy our fear, and of your serious consideration, and enquiry from what evil influence they might proceed, that so there might be timely prevention before it grew too powerfull.

Yet were we not so alienated by any hard measure we had found, but that (your necessities being urgent through the general risings, invasions and revolts) we (ceasing to dispute our grievances) cordially assisted you in our several places to the utmost of our power, as hoping thereby to have buried the remembrance of all dis-satisfactions, and God blessing your endeavours against the enemy, to incline you both really and affectionately to the settlement of the Peace of the Nation upon those grounds of Common Right and Freedom, which had been long held forth, and were well understood and approved by the Army and their friends in all places; as appeareth by their general concurrence in our large Petition of the 11. of Septemb. 1648.

And we were very much satisfied, that your last Remonstrance terminated in proposing An Agreement of the People, as the only proper means for quieting the long and wofull distractions of the Nation, and the matter of our foresaid Petition of the 11. of Sept. as requisite to be seriously considered: both which intimated a neerer compliance with our desires than we had formerly found; but much more satisfactory it was, that you allowed us to chuse out certain friends from amongst us, to be joyned with you, in the drawing up of an Agreement for the People, to be offered unto them for their union therein.

And which (though with great expence of time and much contest) was at length effected: so that our hopes revived, and our confidence was great, that the work would then go on currantly amongst you without stop or interuption.

But since the same hath been tendered to the consideration of your Councel, the long time spent already therein, and the tedious disputes and contests held thereupon, and that in things so essential unto our Freedom, as without which we account the Agreement of no vallue: for what freedom is there to Consciencious people where the Magistrate shall be intrusted with a Restrictive power in matters of Religion? or to judge and punish in cases where no Law hath been before provided? which are the points that as yet remain in suspence, and about which most of the time hath been spent; though they are such as wherein all the cordial friends of this Army are fully satisfied, as clearly appeareth by their adbering to our foresaid Petition of the 11. of Septemb. And when we consider how many in this Councel have appeared in behalf of these unreasonable Powers in the Magistrate, how they have been countenanced that have spoken for them, and how dis-countenanced that have spoken against them, and that at length, Interests directly opposite to Freedom of Conscience in point of Gods Worship, are nevertheless called for to receive satisfaction, whose principles and Covenant lead to no less then persecution in matters of that nature, and which (upon the least hope of power) they have eagerly practised, as, in Col. Leighs Committee; and since at present reproches of Leveller, Jesuite, and the like, begin a fresh to be as rife as ever, which usually have fore-run the destruction of good endeavours.

We profess; these are such manifest effects of evil influences, and do so evidently demonstrate, that both you and we are almost overgrown with destructive Interests, and administers so much occasion to doubt the Agreement pretended, is not really, or not effectually intended in that fulness of Right, Freedom, and Redress of Grievances, as all true hearted friends expected: That we deem it a fresh, worthy all our fears, and of your more then ordinary intention, to discover from whence those evil and dangerous effects do proceed; lest before you are aware (as it befel the wel-minded Members in Parliament) you be entangled in such perplexities, that when you would, it shall not be in your povver to help your selves, or to free this Common-vvealth from misery and bondage. All which, as a people under God preserved by you, and embarqued in one and the same bottom vvith you, and vvhose preservation in honour and prosperity vve heartily desire: We judged our selves bound in Conscience thus timely to advertise you of. And doe most earnestly entreat, that you vvould bend your utmost endeavours both joyntly and severally, to a full and cleer discovery of the original and grovvth of any evil that threatens your disturbance or obstruction in your pursuance of the Peace and Freedom of the Common-vvealth; and by all good means to prevent your and our being overgrovvn vvith destructive Interests, or vvith persons promoting the same: that you vvill employ all your might to the speedy Production of so full and ample Agreement for the people, as (to the restoring all true Freedom, and for removing of all knovvn Grievances) may deserve the stamp of so successful an Army, and that therein you would have regard to what is right, and consisting vvith the Freedom of your most faithful Friends, trusting God vvith the success, rather than to deviate from Principles of Right, and for politick ends become pleasers of unreasonable men, who pretend Conscience for power to deprive us of the very life of all our Liberties, as in the particulars forementioned is fully manifested, and who when you shall need them will (as they have done) prove but as a broken reed, that to these just and necessary ends you will instantly reduce your Councel into a certain method of orderly proceeding, which will much conduce to the furthering and clearing of your debates and resolutions, wherein we are now exceedingly concerned.

As first, to agree what certain number of Officers, and no lesse, shall make a Councel, which we humbly conceive, ought not to be lesse, than the major part of the Commission Officers, at the Head Quarters, and adjacent thereunto, not excluding of others.

2. That all persons in Councel may sit in a distinct orderly way, so as they may be observed by the President when they are inclined to speak.

3. That you will agree how many times any person may speak to a Question.

4. That you will free your Determinations from all pretences of a Negative Voice, and from all dis-countenance and check by any superior Officer.

And being so regulated, 1. That you will consider and resolve, what is the most proper way for advance of Officers so as to preserve them intire to the interest of the People, and from a servile condition, or necessary dependance upon the favour or will of any: and seriously to consider, whether your Articles of Martial Law (as now they are) are not of too Tyranous a nature for an Army of Free-born English men, and to reduce the same to reason and an equal constitution.

2. To take special care of the principles of any Officer to be admitted, that they be not tainted with those of Arbytrary power or of persecution for matters of Religion.

3. That there be no disbanding of any sort of men, but by consent of the General Councel nor admission or listing of any for Horse or Foot, but according to provision made by the said Councel; it being reported that very many of late are listed of bad and doubtfull condition: by all which means, if conscionably observed, (and we trust you will not be the lesse sencible because we advise) the growth of any corrupt interest will be effectually prevented. And if it shall seem good or any way usefull unto you, we shal chuse and appoint four of our Friends alwayes to attend and assist though not to Vote with you. Nor will these things or these desires of ours seem strange unto you, if you shall consider at how high a rate we have al-along vallued our just Liberties; and how by breaking all Authoritie you have taken upon your selves the care, protection and restoration thereof, you will not only cease to wonder, but resolve, that we have cause to mind you thereof, and of whatsoever we observe may be prejudicial thereunto, being well assured, that is highly concerns you in the condition you have put your selves, not to be strait or narrow hearted to your friends in point of Liberty, or removal of known grievances, but to be as large in both as the utmost reason of these knowing Times can plead for or desire; and as lesse then that is not expected from you in the Agreement you have in hand; So if lesse in a tittle, it will not be regarded, but very much under-vallue your Affection to the Common wealth, as, being that without which your extraordinary proceedings, in overturning all the visible supream authority of the Nation, can never be justified before God or man.

And therefore as in all your Remonstrances, Papers, and Declarations you have made the Liberties of the People your Banner and Standard, for which you have contested: so (now you having assumed all Power into your own hands) let it appear to the world you meant so indeed: and as no strength hath been able to hinder you, so now let no craft or policie of man hold you in suspence till new troubles arise, and the season be over; but since you are thus far ingaged, do it with all your might, that God may be glorified in your successe, we and all good men encouraged to stand by you, and the People enjoy their long wished for Peace, whom wee desire may be made absolutely Free and Happy by this Army for which ends only it was raised; that so this Army, your Excellency, and the worthy Officers thereof may be the joy and rejoycing of this Nation to all future Generations.

Iohn Lilburne.

George Middlemore.

Rob, Davis.

Ed. Tench,

Dan. Linton.

William Bottome.

Robert Cobbet.

Richard Overton.

Iohn Harris.

Tho. Daffern.

Tho. Goddard.

Thomas Prince.

Sam. Blaicklock.

Andr. Dednam.

Iohn Walters.

Rich. Pechel.