Note: This is part of the Leveller Collection of Tracts and Pamphlets.
T.94 [1647.04.04] [Richard Overton], A new found Stratagem framed in the old Forge of Machivilisme (4 April, 1647).
[Richard Overton], A New Found Stratagem framed in the old Forge of Machivilisme, and put upon the Inhabitants of the County of Essex. To destroy the Army under his Excellency Sir Thomas Fairfax, and to inslave all the Free-born of England on a sudden: Manifested and laid down, in certain animadversions, upon a Clandestine, illegall Petition, contrived, made, and privatly printed, by a destructive party in London: and then by them sent down to the Ministers of the county of Essex, to publish as on the last Lords day, 4. April, to the people, with directions to take their subscriptions in two sheets of paper: which being done: So many of the Subscribers as can, are to be desired to meet at Stratford Langton, the 18. instant Aprill, and so to come and present the same to both Houses, as the Petition and sense of the whole County : whereas it was never propounded to the County, nor ever heard of among them, before it came down ready in print, from London, to be published by their Ministers, in there severall parishes. With certain Observations and Cautions on the same, conducing to the information, and publick good of the whole Kingdome.
Psalme 37.12, 13. The wicked plotteth against the just, and gnasheth upon him with his teeth· The Lord shall laugh at him: for he seeth that his day is comming.
Published principally for the Meridian of the County of Essex, but may serve for all the Counties of England, 1647.
4 April, 1647.
TT1, p. 503; E. 384. (11.)
(Placeholder: Text will be added later.)
Framed in the old Forge of Machiavelisme, and put upon the Inhabitants of the County of Essex:
The which intended, Clandistine, dissembled, deceitfull Petition, (not more spetious then treacherous) is as followeth, viz.
To the right honourable, the Knights, Citizens and Burgesses, Assembled in Parliament
The humble Petition of the Inhabitants of the County of Essex.
THat in alexigencies having freely, & with the first engaged themselves to the uttermost hazard of their lives, and exhausted their estates, for the support of the Kingdome, in its native rights, and liberties, & by the blessing of God, the successes have been answerable in some degree to their desires, by which we sit in peace and your selves in security, with a full possession of the hearts of the people, and now fearing least by the miscarrying on, of the military charges beyond the necessity of the worke, and the ability of the people, now much weakned by a dearth, sharper then the late devouring sword; you should hazard the losse of your selves, and friends, not so much the alienation of their affections (which yet. Is not to be neglected) as their disablity to serve you which may arise from the Army now on foot, after six moneths cessation of all hostility here, and so bleedingly called, for to the saving of another Kingdome:
And also from so numerous a party in this County, shortly by their quarters like to equall all precedent charges, and to surmount the worst, and heaviest of our former taxes, especially by the manner of being imposed on us
Your Petitioners doe humbly offer to your prudence, the speedy disbanding of the Army, as a plenary expedient against the worst, that in generall may be feared by you and us, and the removall of it from the County, by which you shall continue absolute Masters, and disposers of them, and theirs in all your pious and faithfull undertakings for the future; and that God will assist you for all your safeties, it shall be the dayly prayers of your Petitioners.
O Foolish men of Essex! who hath be witched you? yee did run well, who hath hindred you? for indeed ye were with the first, and most forward, in assisting the Parliament, for the recovering and regaining our then lost Lawes and liberties and (to your everlasting fame be it spoken) yee have (according to the narrative part of the Petition) both hazarded your lives, and exhausted your estates, in the common cause of the Kingdome; but yee are not alone. And will yee doe and suffer all these things in vain, if it be yet in vain? Will yee now foolishly (through the delusion of a treacherous party of corrupt members in both Houses, and covetuous ambitious Clergy, who seeke by fayned words, and false pretences to insnare, and inslave you, and to make themselves Lords over you) deprive your selves of all the blessed fruits which yee are likely, and may (by Gods blessing) suddenly reape and enjoy? if yee your selves doe not let, by being induced causlesty to Petition: or act, for the disbanding of that Army, by whom God hath given you such answerable successes as your selves mention, and caused you as yee confesse) to sit in peace, and the House in security, in which your free acknowledgment, I acknowledge you, farre more noble then the House themselves; for instead of giving God so much glory, or shewing themselves so much as verbally thankfull, by any such acknowledgement, they committed Major Tewledy the other day, only because he told Hollis Earle, and others in effect, the same thing.
And whereas it is said in the pretended Petition that the Parliament is in full possession of the hearts of all the people, how true this claw-back insinuation is, I appeale to your own hearts and aske, whether yee do not heare more clamours and complaints then ever heretofore, and doe not see more injustice, cruelty, and oppressions exercised and executed by the Parliament, then ever was by the King, and feel more abundant, and heavy pressures and impositions laid upon you, (even to your necessary food and raiment, and the fruit of your own laboures) then ever were in the worst of former times? so that the people, abhor them and all their actions, they are weary of their burdens; and how then can yee affirme that the Parliament is fully possessed of the peoples hearts, when as they are rather possessed of their hates?
As for that subtill suggestion of feare, in which is implied a specious pretence of a care to avoid a future inconuenience, viz. least by carrying on the Military charges beyond the necessity of the worke (as if there were now no need of the Army, and that if it was disbanded, yee should be troubled no more with such military taxes and charges) and the ability of the people, (as if Essex was so poore and eaten up, which hath been least troubled with quartering) now much weakned with a dearth (not more I hope then other Countries (sharper then the late devouring sword (God for bid, doe not bely God) you should hazard the losse of your selves and friends, and not so much the alination of their affections, as their disability to serve you &c. It is both groundlesse and senslesse for if this Army were now disbanded, the Parliament would still carry on the military charge, by raising them another in this Armies stead, and to that end they have both nominated certain officers which they intend to imply therein, and voted the raising of 60000 l. a moneth to maintain it and the forces in Ireland: So that the taking away this Army, will not take away the military charge from you, and the Parliament it seems would never the lesse hazard the losse of your good affections, and ability to serve them, and therefore yee may even spare that your great care for them, and it is very probable you may suddenly (if you doe not already) find that they have no such great care of you.
And where it is said that by quartering so us any of them, their quarters are like shortly to equall all precedent charges, & to surmount the worst and heaviest of your taxes, especially by the manner of their being imposed on you: Your Taxes sure have either been few, and very small in respect of others, or else the quartering of this Army which is (as I have heard) content with ordinary provisions, and will not abide I am confident longer then is convenient with you, and payeth quarters so often as it receiveth pay, cannot amount to such your incomparable prejudice, as those high and hyperbollical> expressions (of amounting and surmounting) doe sound forth, and import: and as for the manner of their being imposed on you, I doe beleeve it is neither forceably, nor disproportionably: but this particular his Excellency Sir Thomas Fairfax, their Generall (who was never yet taxed for any irregular quarterings) can more distinctly answer; and so I have done with the narative part of your pretended, or intended Petition.
Now whereas in the conclusion, or Petitionary part, yee are humbly to offer the speedy disbanding of the Army, as a plenary expedient, against the worst that may in generall be feared by you and them, and to have it removed out of your County, that so the Parliament (as yee must say, but I hope doe not wish) may be absolute Masters and disposers of you and yours for the future &c. I would have you observe that here is a dainty gul, a notable peece of machiavilisme put upon you, not only to make you the instruments of removing those, who as they have redeemed your rights and liberties, are also ready and willing, and the principall meanes, as the things now stand, to defend and maintain your liberties, and to keep you and yours from sudden vasalage and slavery; but also in plain termes voluntarily to offer your selves slaves; as, that the Parliament shall be the absolute Masters and disposers of you and yours: I hope yee know better what belongs to your own inherent power and native rights, then to make your servants your Masters, or so to own them: as to let your Stewards, have absolute command over you, and all you have; who by the duty of their places are to give you an account of what they have done for you, and how they have disposed that they have already had of you: Thus much for the opening of the Petition: And now I will shew you the illegality, inequality, and ill consequences thereof, if yee be so fond as to subscribe the same, and proceed therein.
1. For the illegallity: That which is to go under the name of a County or Corporation ought to be first publickly propounded to all the Inhabitants of that County or Corporation, that there may be a generall meeting, debate, & consultation about the matter intended, and to be concluded, by & among themselves: Otherwise it is clandestine, and surruptitious comprehending rather faction, then publick concurrence & therefore may justly be rejected: And such is this Petition, For it was never publickly propounded, nor debated, or consulted by the Inhabitants of the County of Essex, but was (as manifestly appears) secretly devised, and framed by a private party, of Lords and Commons, yea, and ready printed, before the matter was either made known or published among you; and then it was sent down to the Ministers to publish on the fourth of this instant moneth, with order to take your subscriptions in two sheetes of paper, now is not here an obtrusion on your priviledges and immunities, and an illegall, unjust and indirect course used, both in the framing of this petition, and getting your subscriptions? (even just such meanes as Parliament men, use in the elections of new members) and therefore it is not to be accepted, but the contrivers ought rather to be found out and punished; and again it wants one qualification, which is especially requisite in all Petitions, and much more in such as concerns the publick, and are presented to the Parliament, that is necessity of the thing desired, but this is not petitio nessec[Editor: illegible word], a necessary petition for, if the Parliament intend his Army (as they say) for Ireland it is much more necessary to keep them in a body intire, then to disband them; for then they will disperse, and most will depart to their own homes, and never goe upon the service: and in case they doe nor intend or [Editor: illegible word] shall goe for Ireland, then it is as needfull to keep them together, for seeing that the Parliament doe conclude that there is yet a necessity of keeping up an Army still within this Kingdome, is it not better (I pray you) to have this Army which we know, and of whose fidelity and Christian behaviour we have hade such sufficient experiment continued, then a new Army raised, of I know not whom and what? It may be of such as the generall part of the Earle of Essexes, or Massies Brigade, and others were; whose ill manners, besides other unseen all consequences yee wil unhappily find to be a mountain to your backs in comparison of the present Mole hill quarterings.
And now for the inequality of this Petition : it containes mighty earnest desires to have this Army speedily disbanded, seems to complain greatly of their quartering but never moves or mentions one word that their arreares may be paid them, or that from henceforth more constant pay may be made them, that so they may for the future pay their [Editor: illegible word] better. Have they deserved for all they have done Country-men) for you, and the whole Kingdome, no better reward, then to be disbanded and turned off with nothing? What not so much as their due (the price of their lives) for preserving of yours? Is this equall? Are yee also unjust and ingratfull? Aske your daily Thresher, your plow-man, and dayes Labourer if they will be contented with the like dealing? A bad accompence; yet, let them be, comforted. God is their [Editor: illegible word] and their great reward.
As for the evill consequences of this Petition (or of the like) incase yee should persist and proceed therein, and that it should (as it ought not to) be granted, they are many and more then I, or you, or the most part of this blind Kingdome, doth or can fore-see or apprehend but I will only hint at one head or two, and so commend all to the judgements of the world and your consideration.
By all appearances (and to me it is visible) that there is a strong endevour and designe by a company of false, traiterous, and deceitfull men; in both Houses of Parliament, and of proud, coveteous Priests, who have combined in one, for the accomplishment of their owne domination & power over us, suddenly to inthrall & inslave us; that so they may keep their abominable actions from being questioned, and themselves from deserved shame and justice, and there is no let for them in the way to it but this Army, the which they know right well will not be corrupted, but doth expect to have their Oathes and Declarations fulfilled, and therefore doe these ill men work by all means possibly to disband and dissolve it, and in particular by the contriving and sending you this Petition to own and subscribe, that they may take thereby a seeming just cause, as desired of the Country, to proceed in their distructive purpose, the which if they can bring to passe, then will they raise up an Army of wicked men, ready, and reserved for that end, which shall be a standing Army for their defence, in the execution of all their injustice and oppressions, and by the helpe of the inland Garrisons (whereof I am sure there is now no need) will they tyrannize (not like Lords and Kings, but worse then either great Turke, or grim Tarter) over us: and and where then I pray, is our Lawes and our liberties, for which this Army hath fought; and which they have redeemed for us with their sword, and for which we have paid so deare? And thus yee will have the last clause of the Petition fulfilled really, to your sorrow and woe; for yee shall not more be ruled by a known Law, as free men of England, but curbed and governed by the sword, as the Peasants be of France, and the inslaved Bores of Flanders who indeed (as your Petition is) are wholly and all they have at their lawlesse Masters dispose, Nay they will not tyrannize over your bodies only, but your soules also; for then you must put on the Presbyterian yoake; it is already so agreed between them and our dear Brethren of Scotland, and because they cannot otherwise set up amongst us that antichristian inslaving government, they will doe it by the sword, and so we shall have a Religion established, as Mahomet established his Alchoran, for if yee will not obey, yee must expect either smart, pecuniary punishment, or destroying, imprisonment: and yee may see the proud Priests footing even in this Petition: is it not commended unto them, and are not they to attempt you on a sudden, and to surprise your judgements by fained words and speeches? and I beleeve you see not their end in it, it is because they know that this Army is generally an enemy to their pride, and pompous Lordly livings, crying down their Diana, their Tyth-monging and unlawfull calling, wheresoever they come, whereby their trade (for so they make their preaching only and alone to be) is in danger to be set at naught; and it is by their craft (as Demetrius said) that they get their wealth, and therefore would they stir up you, under the pretence that the quartering of the Army, is a burden to you, to Petition to have them disbanded, at least to have them removed.
But I hope Country-men yee are more wise, then to be acted by other mens councels, to father a child that is none of your own, that was formed, borne, and brought forth, before it came to your knowledge or sight: can any man tell better then your selves, where your shooe pincheth you, and what is most expedient for you to doe? Never render your selves so rediculous, as to be led like children and fooles by the nose; to be made stalking horses for other mens designes, whose interests are dissonant, and inconsistant with yours.
As for this poor Army, what evill hath it done, wherein hath it so highly offended? for which of all its good deeds is it so oppressed, despised, hated, and persecuted? Is it (when all others falsified) for proving faithfull, or for accomplishing your deliverance, beyond your own faith or expectation) in so short a time: pardon them these offences, another Nation would doe it, and hold them dear, their very enemies cannot but justifie them, and yet so great is their malice towards them, that because they petitioned the House but for their Arrears, an act of indempnity to save them harmelesse, a more constant pay, that they might be able to pay their quarters, and some few other most just and reasonable things; they unjustly declared against them in print, as mutinous, and obstructers to the releife of Ireland, wheras (God knowes) there are many thousands spare Soldiers besides in this Kingdome, whom they might if they would) send thither.
And when their Officers, Lieutenent generall Hamond, Commissary Ireton, and others appealed to the House: and desired that these malicious suggestions might be proved, or the Authors punished, and the Army vindicated; they could not obtain so much as civill right, as the authors of these false aspertions which were Rossiter and Harley) to be called forth; an act both base and shamefull but what is to be expected, where justice is fortified with impudence.
One word more to you sweet men of Essex. Whose poultery hath this Army destroyed? whose goods have they spoyled, or whose sheep or calves have they stolne, or whose persons have they confronted, terrified or abused in their Houses, or what markets have they hindred by robbing of passengers, and infesting the roades and high wayes, as too many others yee know who have been lesse provoked, have done? If none of this be done, what just cause then have yee, I say yee, more then all other Counties, where they have been, to complain or petition against them? I could tell you: that yee have every man sat at home under his Vine, and under his fig tree with full tables in peace and safety, when these poor soules have been in the field in the face of death, in frost, snow, rain, cold, heat, wet, and dirt, by day, by night, in hunger and thirst, to keep back from you, and to suppresse the fury of your bloodthirsty enemies: and can you, or any christian man think on this, and so ill reward this precious Army? In reason it is impossible, but experience proves the contrary, so full of bitternesse, rage and malice, hath the Devill filled the hearts of some men against them; but of you I have better hopes, presuming that yee will not be so easily removed from your own steadfastnesse, nor be perswaded through the deluding subtilty of any, to act in the least against those, who have indured so many difficulties, passed so many perrils, obtained so many victories, and never accounted their own lives deare unto them for your sakes. Whatsoever others may doe, either, through ignorance or malice, yet let it not be said, that the County of Essex (a County that hath alwaies been esteemed prudent and religious) did shew it selfe ingratfull or despightfull to the preservers both of their religion and lives.
Truly in my thoughts this Army can never be enough requited, for doe wee not at this day, (next under God) by them enjoy all wee have? Have not they subdued our enemies, and removed our feares, and caused us to dwell in safety? And are not they a contented, patient, well governed people, can you say that God is not amongst them? then certainly they that hate and despite them are of the Devill.
For my part (Country-men and all others whom it may concern) I hold nothing more expedient for you, and me, and all true English men (seeing the publick adversary is subdued, and our Parliament so averse, and indisposed to do us justice and establish our liberties) then to petition forthwith effectually, to have justice speedily, and impartially executed, and our Lawes and liberties established, and a just account rendered of all the monies they have received: and without question when these just things are done, the Army will of its own accord cease and lay down. I account this that unum Necessarium, that one necessary thing, which is now principally to be minded in the Kingdome, & not to petition about quarterings, and removings, and preachings, and places, and any thing indeed, rather then this very, only thing, without which all other our outward enjoyments are nothing, was but one thing done (Law, and liberty established) the wheels of our State would goe easily, commands would be pleasant, discontents would be removed, injustice, oppression and Treason would be banished, and supplanting dividing spirits would be utterly disappointed. In the meane time till this be done, it is the best and only way for the Countries and free commoners of England, to preserve this Army in power and being, and to petition that it may still stand and be continued, and that others (rather then it) may be sent into Ireland, that so in case these just demands be denied, contrary to duty, Oath and Covenant, the poore Commons may have a shelter and defence to secure them from oppression and violence, and his Excellency and every Soldier under him by the duty of his place, and vertue of the Protestation, is bound thereunto. Who knoweth whether wee may not yet have as great need of this Army, as we have ever had? For it is evident and all men may see, that our native rights and liberties are now in more hazard, then they were at the first, and that we are more in jeoperdy, of them by a close trayterous party (our pretended friends) then wee were by our publick professed foes. And our greatest, and most dangerous enemies, are now they of our own House.
Sweet friends, I am a meer stranger to you, but one that am a true lover of my Country, and therefore thought good, as a Member of the same body politicke with you, to give you a few animadversions, with some cautions, and observations; concerning the subtill and deceitfull, dissembled practises, wherewith your homebred adversaries, goe about to make you instruments of your own misery and mischief. And lastly, mark this I beseech you and consider it seriously.
Why cannot the Parliament as well send over those Officers and Soldiers they have intended for a new Army here, to serve in Ireland, as these of this Army? Can they give the Kingdome a satisfying reason? It is more then I and many more can apprehend, if they can: But if here ly not a deep mistery, no better then close treacherie. I am grosly mistaken. Let none therefore so farre delude you, as to draw you to petition for the disbanding of this Army, no, both for your honour and security, discountenance and disclaime it and all such practises and conspiracies against it, for such deeds will favour more of ignorance, malice and invie then of any prudence, justnesse, or necessity, and whereas in the close of the Petition, it is said that the disbanding of this Army is a plenary expedient against the worst in generall that may be feared, let them by no meanes under pretence of benefit, ease, or advantage, deceive you, for it is apparent, and will yet be made more manifest that the disbanding, or otherwise dissolving of this Army, is the only plenary expedient to render us Vassals and slaves, to the will of our enemies, and to bring upon us the worst of miseries, and that suddenly and insensibly, for alasse we are at the pit brinke, and see not.