Today in London’s religious history, 1575: twenty Dutch Anabaptists arrested near Aldgate

On 3rd April 1575, twenty Dutch Anabaptists were arrested near Aldgate on the eastern edge of the City of London, at a meeting for Easter. Of these, fourteen were banished, two escaped from prison, and two, Jan Pieters and Hendrick Terwoort, were burned at Smithfield on 22 July.

Anabaptism can best be broadly described as a radical offshoot of the Protestant Reformation, spiritual ancestors of the modern Baptists, Mennonites and Quakers. (Though historians argue about how much influence and connection anabaptists had on later movements like the Baptist churches). However, it’s unlikely anyone called them self an anabaptist in the 1530s; it was a derogatory name given to them by their detractors. The movement’s most distinctive tenet was adult baptism: converts underwent a second baptism, (a ‘crime’ punishable by death under the legal codes of the time.) Members rejected the label Anabaptist (meaning Rebaptizer) – they repudiated their own baptism as infants as a blasphemous formality. They considered the public confession of sin and faith, sealed by adult baptism, to be the only proper baptism. Following the Swiss Reformer Huldrych Zwingli, they held that infants are not punishable for sin until they become aware of good and evil and can exercise their own free will, repent, and accept baptism.

The Anabaptists also believed that the church, the community of those who have made a public commitment of faith, should be separated from the state, which they believed existed only for the punishment of sinners. Most Anabaptists were pacifists who opposed war and the use of coercive measures to maintain the social order; they also refused to swear oaths, including those to civil authorities. For their teachings regarding baptism and for the apparent danger they posed to the political order, they were persecuted pretty much everywhere they emerged, by Protestant and Catholic states alike.

The Anabaptists, like most Protestant Reformers, were determined to restore the institutions and spirit of the primitive church and often identified their suffering with that of the martyrs of the first three Christian centuries. Quite confident that they were living at the end of time, they expected the imminent return of Jesus Christ.

The biblical validity of infant baptism began to be debated in the early years of the Reformation, and the first adult baptism, which took place at Zollikon, outside Zürich, probably on January 21, 1525, was the result of the dissatisfaction of a group of Zwingli’s followers, led by the patrician humanist Konrad Grebel, over Zwingli’s unwillingness to undertake what they considered necessary reforms. Soon thereafter an extensive movement was in progress. Some of the more distinctive convictions of the Swiss movement were set forth in the seven articles of the Schleitheim Confession (1527), prepared under the leadership of Michael Sattler.

The revolutionary implications of their teachings got the early anabaptists expelled from one city after another: however this also served to spread their ideas around Europe. Soon civil magistrates took sterner measures, and most of the early Anabaptist leaders died in prison or were executed.

Despite increasing persecution, new Anabaptist communities and teachings emerged. A unique type of Anabaptism, developed later in Moravia under the leadership of Jakob Hutter, stressed the common ownership of goods modeled on the primitive church in Jerusalem. The Hutterite colonies first established in Moravia survived the Reformation and are now located primarily in the western United States and Canada.  Melchior Hofmann, established a large following in the Netherlands and inspired a number of disciples. He taught that the world would soon end and that the new age would begin in Strasbourg. He was imprisoned in that city in 1533 and died about 10 years later.

Some of Hofmann’s followers, such as the Dutchman Jan Mathijs (died 1534) and John of Leiden (Jan Beuckelson; died 1536), and many persecuted Anabaptists settled in Münster, Westphalia. Hofmann’s disciples were attracted to the city by dramatic changes that occurred there in the early 1530s. Under the influence of the Reformer Bernhard Rothman, Anabaptist sentiment was strong enough there to elect an Anabaptist majority to the city council in 1533. This was followed, under the direction of Mathijs and John of Leiden, by the expulsion and persecution of all non-Anabaptists and the creation of a messianic kingdom under John of Leiden. The city was surrounded in 1534 by an army of Catholics and Protestants, which perhaps encouraged further reforms, including the common ownership of goods (and allegedly polygamy) – justified by biblical scripture. The city was captured in 1535, and the Anabaptist leaders were tortured and killed and their bodies hung in steel cages from the steeple of St. Lambert’s church.

While most so-called Anabaptists were horrified at the episode in Münster, it brought down fiercer repression on all of them. The massive upsurge of Class violence during the German Peasants’ War and the anabaptists’ ideas were clearly linked to the authorities way of thinking: rejection of state and church and refusal to obey the law could only lead to revolution and disorder.

However, the pacifist Anabaptists in the Netherlands and northern Germany rallied under the leadership of the former priest Menno Simons, becoming the Mennonite church.

A number of anabaptists settled in England from the early 1530s, lulled by Henry VIII’s dispute with the pope and flirtations with reform into seeing it as a safer haven than other European countries. But repression awaited them here too, especially after the Münster revolution, which scared the authorities everywhere into cracking down on any whiff of the sect or sympathy for it. Henry imprisoned & burned some; and this treatment continued under Elizabeth I, despite her much-quoted decree that she would not look into men’s souls and persecute them for their beliefs…

Here’s an account of the arrests of the anabaptists in London in 1575, from a chronicle of English Baptism:

“During the persecution which raged in the Netherlands under the Duke of Alva, butcher-general of the Inquisition in that country, numbers fled to other parts of the Continent, or to England, for refuge and safety. In England, at any rate, they ought to have been safe. But the demon of persecution ruled here. In London, on the 3rd of April, 1575, a small congregation of Dutch Baptists convened in a private house, outside the City gates (“without Aldgate”), was interrupted by a constable while at worship, and twenty-five persons were taken before a magistrate, who committed them to prison, but released them after two days’ confinement, on their giving bail for their appearance whenever summoned.

Information being given to the Queen, a Royal Commission was issued to Sandys, Bishop of London, and some others, to examine the parties and proceed accordingly. They appeared before the Commissioners in pursuance of the summons. Their confession of faith was rejected, and they were required to subscribe to four articles, condemnatory of their own principles.

“They proposed to us four questions,” says one of the prisoners, “telling us to say yea or nay—”

“1. Whether Christ had not taken His flesh and blood of the Virgin Mary?

“We answered: ‘He is the Son of the living God.’”

“2. Ought not little children to be baptized ?

“We answered: ‘Not so; we find it not written in Holy Scripture.

“3. May a Christian serve the office of a magistrate?

“We answered: ‘That it did not oblige our consciences; but, as we read, we esteemed it an ordinance of God.

“4. Whether a Christian, if needs be, may not swear?

“We answered: That it also obliged not our consciences; for Christ has said, in Matthew, Let your words be yea, yea; nay, nay. Then we were silent.

“But the Bishop said, that our misdeeds therein were so great that we could not enjoy the favour of God. O, Lord, avenge it not! He then said to us all, that we should be imprisoned in the Marshalsea.”

In the Marshalsea Prison (now called the “Queen’s Bench”), to which they were then conveyed, many efforts were made, by the ministers of the Dutch Church and others, to persuade them to submit and recant. “Master Joris came to us and said, If we would join the Church, that is, the Dutch Church, our chains should be struck off and our bonds loosed. The Bishop, he said, had given him command so to do. But we remained steadfast to the truth of Jesus Christ. He is, indeed, our Captain, and no other; yea, in Him is all our trust. My dear brethren, and sweet sisters, let us persevere until we conquer. The Lord will then give us to drink of the new wine. O Lord, strengthen our faith. As we have received the Lord Jesus Christ, let us go forward courageously, trusting in Him.” Five of them were overpowered, and consented to join the Dutch Church. They made a public recantation in St. Paul’s churchyard, on the 25th of May, standing there before thousands of people, with faggots bound to, their shoulders, as in Popish times. A few days after the remainder appeared again before the Commissioners. “We remembered the Word of the Lord,” says Gerrit van Byler, “‘When they shall lead you before lords and princes, fear not what you shall say, for in that hour it shall be given you.’ So we trusted in the Lord. The questions were again proposed, and subscription demanded; but we said, ‘That we would cleave to the Word of the Lord.”’ Upon this they were declared to be incorrigible heretics, sentenced to death, and given over to the secular arm to be punished.

Bishop Sandys was the spokesman on the occasion. The sentence accorded with his theology. In a sermon preached by him before the Parliament this passage occurs: “Such as teach, but teach not the good and right way; such as are open and public maintainers of errors and heresy; such, in the judgment of God, are thought unworthy to live. Let the false prophet die (Deut. xiii.5). Elias and Jehu did not think themselves imbrued, but rather sanctified, with such blood. I have no cruel heart; blood be far from me. I mind [desire] nothing less. Yet needs must it be granted that the maintainers and teachers of errors and heresy are to be repressed in every Christian commonwealth.”1

Fourteen women and a youth were put on board a vessel and sent out of the country. The youth was whipped from the prison to the wharf. The remaining five were consigned to Newgate, where they were put in heavy irons, thrust into a damp and filthy dungeon swarming with vermin, and not allowed to associate with other prisoners lest the thieves and murderers in the jail should be corrupted by Anabaptist contamination. One of their number, Christian Kernels, sank under the inhuman treatment. He died in the dungeon, after eight days’ confinement. He was “released by death, trusting in God; his dying testimony filled us with joy.”

The Queen was entreated to spare them. But she resented such interference with her prerogative, and would only consent to a month’s reprieve, and that in compliance with the intercession of John Foxe, the Martyrologist, whose truly pathetic and eloquent letter to her Majesty on the subject has been often printed and generally admired. Admirable it was in some respects. It was a gushing forth of Christianized humanity, quite peculiar in that age of steel-clad religion. But good old John was still in the dark. He did not understand soul-freedom. According to him, Baptists had no right to hold and profess their opinions. They were ranked with those “fanatical sects” which “are by no means to be countenanced in a commonwealth,” but ought to be “suppressed by proper correction.” He did not ask, therefore, for their release. All he complained of was “the sharpness of their punishment.” He would have it changed. “There are excommunications, and close imprisonment; there are bonds; there is perpetual banishment, burning of the hand, and whipping, or even slavery itself.” But “to roast alive the bodies of poor wretches, that offend rather through blindness of judgment than perverseness of will, in fire and flames, raging with pitch and brimstone,” he denounced as “a hard-hearted thing, and more agreeable to the practice of the Romanists than the custom of the Gospellers.” If, however, the Queen would not consent to recall the sentence, he implored her to grant “a month or two, in which we may try whether the Lord will give them grace to turn from their dangerous errors, lest, with the destruction of their bodies, their souls be in danger of eternal ruin.”

Foxe wrote also to the prisoners, urging them to acknowledge their errors, to give up their “frantic conceptions,” and telling them that they had “disturbed the Church by their great scandal and offence.” He sent them a copy of his letter to the Queen. In their reply to him, they say: “We are sorry, that you do not understand our matter, and that you have another opinion of us than we wish, since you think that by our curiosity and obstinacy we have not only given offence to the Church of God, but also provoked God himself, and frustrated our salvation. What reason you have thus to think of us we know not; nevertheless, we can assure you that we seek with our whole hearts to serve the one God and Christ in a good conscience, and to edify our neighbour, as far as in us lies. Therefore we gladly receive what the Holy Scripture testifies, and wish to be permitted to adhere to the plainness and simplicity of the Word of God, and not to be urged farther with subtle questions, which our feeble understandings are not able to comprehend, nor by Scripture to justify.”

The prisoners transmitted to the Queen a confession of their faith, accompanied by a “ supplication,” from which we take the following extract:—

“We testify before God and your Majesty, that were we in our consciences able by any means to think or understand the contrary, we would with all our hearts receive and confess it; since it were a great folly in us, not to live rather in the exercise of a right faith than to die, perhaps, in a false one. May it also please your Majesty in your wisdom and innate goodness to consider that it were not right, but hypocrisy in us to speak otherwise than with our hearts we believe, in order to escape the peril of temporal death; that it is impossible to believe otherwise than we in our consciences think; and also that it is not in our power to believe this or that, as evil-doers who do right or wrong as they please. But the true faith must be implanted in the heart of man by God; and to Him we daily pray that He would give us His Spirit, to understand His Word and Gospel.”

“Above all, it is evident to your Majesty that we have not sought to stir up any rebellions or seditions against your Majesty; but, much more, have daily besought the Lord for your happy reign, and the welfare both of your soul and body. Lastly, we have not endeavoured to spread our faith in the land. This we could not do, for we are only unlearned trades-people, unskilled in divinity.”

All was in vain. The Baptists remained firm. The Queen would not relent. On the 15th of July she signed the warrant for the execution of two of them, commanding the Sheriffs of London to burn them alive in Smithfield.

A copy of the warrant is now before us. There is also before us a copy of the warrant for the burning of Archbishop Cranmer, in Queen Mary’s days. These warrants are substantially alike. In fact, they are almost couched in the same language, word for word. Mary, the Papist, dooming to death the Protestant, and Elizabeth, the Protestant, ordering the execution of the Baptist, advance the same pretensions and adopt the same forms of speech. Both of them call their victims “heretics.” Both assume to be “zealous for justice.” Both are “defenders of the Catholic faith.” Both declare their determination to “maintain and defend the Holy Church, her rights and liberties.” Both avow their resolve to “root out and extirpate heresies and errors.” Both assert that the heretics named in the warrants had been convicted and condemned “according to the laws and customs of the realm.” Both charge the Sheriffs to take their prisoners to a “public and open place,” and there to “commit them to the fire,” in the presence of the people, and to cause them to be “really consumed” in the said fire. Both warn the Sheriffs that they fail therein at their peril. Herod and Pontius Pilate forgot their differences when they united in crucifying the Saviour. Papists and Protestants agree in murdering His followers.

Hendrick Terwoort and Jan Pieters were the two whom the Queen appointed to death. Terwoort was a young man, about twenty-five years of age. He was a goldsmith, and in good circumstances. He was married some eight or ten weeks before his imprisonment. Pieters was aged, poor, and had nine children dependent on his daily toil. His first wife had been martyred at Ghent, in Flanders: his second wife was the widow of a martyr. A statement of his circumstances was laid before Sandys, in order to induce him to get permission for Pieters to leave the country, with his wife and children. But the Bishop was inaccessible to pity.

On Lord’s Day, the 17th of July, they were informed that the warrant for their execution had arrived. “Upon Tuesday,” says Gerrit Van Byler, “a stake was set up in Smithfield, but the execution was not that day. On Wednesday, many people were gathered together to witness the death of our two friends, but it was again deferred. This was done to terrify, and draw our friends and us from the faith. But on Friday our two friends, Hendrick Terwoort and Jan Pieters, being brought out from their prison, were led to the sacrifice. As they went forth, Jan Pieters said, ‘The holy prophets, and also Christ, our Saviour, have gone this way before us, even from the beginning, from Abel until now.’” A vast multitude had collected together on the occasion, but few of whom, probably, sympathized with the sufferers. Some preachers were sent to the place of execution to prevent the expression of sympathy by maligning them. One of them exclaimed, “These men believe not on God.” “We believe,” replied Pieters, “in one God, our Heavenly Father Almighty, and in Jesus Christ His Son.” When they were bound to the stake, the articles were again offered to them, and life and pardon promised if they would subscribe. Pieters answered for them both, “You have laboured hard to drive us to you, but now, when placed at the stake, it is labor in vain.” One of the preachers said in excuse, “That all such matters were determined by the Council, and that it was the Queen’s intention they should die.” “But,” rejoined Pieters, “you are the teachers of the Queen, whom it behooves you to instruct better; therefore shall our blood be required at your hands.” No answer could be given to this. Fire was applied, and the souls of the martyrs ascended to God. “How utterly absurd,” says the Dutch Martyrologist, “do all such cruel proceedings and sentences as are here seen appear, when contrasted with the Christian faith! The Christian host is described as sheep and lambs, sent forth among cruel and devouring wolves. Who will be able, with a good conscience, to believe that these English preachers were the true sheep of Christ, since in this matter they brought forth so notably the fruit of wolves ?”

This was a black affair. It was essentially unjust and cruel, and admitted of no palliation. These Baptists owed no allegiance to Elizabeth. They were not her subjects. They were refugees, and claimed her protection as exiles for religion’s sake from their native land. They were living peaceably, doing harm to none. No rioting or disturbance was laid to their charge. All that could be alleged against them was that they did not go to the parish churches, but exercised Christian freedom, and worshipped God as they understood the Scriptures to teach them. For this they were burnt to death by a Protestant Queen.

We are willing to believe that Elizabeth was influenced by her bishops. Sandys and Whitgift were furious against the Baptists. They misrepresented and calumniated them continually. They held them up to public scorn and indignation, as professing sentiments incompatible with the well-being of society. The Queen was instructed by these men to regard the Baptists as hostile to her royal authority. That was touching her in a tender part. The womanly heart was strangely hardened, and she refused to show mercy.

Elizabeth could not plead ignorance respecting the sentiments of the Baptists. In the confession of faith which Terwoort and Pieters sent to her, a revised copy of which was signed by them the day before their martyrdom, they thus plainly stated their views:—

“We believe and confess that magistrates are set and ordained of God, to punish the evil and protect the good; which magistracy we desire from our hearts to obey, as it is written in 1 Peter 2:13, ‘Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake.’ ‘For he beareth not the sword in vain’ (Romans 8:4). And Paul teaches us that we should offer up for all ‘prayers, and intercessions, and giving of thanks; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour, who desires that all men should be saved’ (1 Tim. 2:1-4)He further teaches us ‘to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, and to be ready to every good work’ (Titus 3:1). Therefore we pray your Majesty kindly to understand aright our meaning; which is, that we do not despise the eminent, noble, and gracious Queen, and her wise councils, but esteem them as worthy of all honour, to whom we desire to be obedient in all things that we may. For we confess with Paul, as above, that she is God’s servant, and that if we resist this power we resist the ordinance of God; for ‘rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil.’ Therefore we confess to be due unto her, and are ready to give, tribute, custom, honour, and fear, as Christ Himself has taught us, saying, I Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s’ (Matthew 22:21). Since, therefore, she is a servant of God, we will kindly pray her Majesty that it would please her to show pity to us poor prisoners, even as our Father in heaven is pitiful (Luke 6:36). We likewise do not approve of those who resist the magistrates; but confess and declare, with our whole heart, that we must be obedient and subject unto them, as we have here set down.”

But it availed them nothing. They were Baptists. The Queen was told that the Baptists were incorrigible heretics, and that she would be doing God service if she put them to death. So she lighted again the flames of Smithfield.

We have referred to Sandys and Whitgift. Their writings teem with invectives against the Baptists. In his controversy with Thomas Cartwright, the Puritan, Whitgift endeavoured to show that the arguments employed by Cartwright in defense of separation from the Church of England were similar to those used by the “Anabaptists,” a sect which was “hated” by “all estates and orders of the realm.” He collected a number of extracts from the writings of Zuingli, Calvin, Bullinger, and others, and adopted them as containing true descriptions of the opinions and practices of the “hated” party, adding observations of his own to the same effect. He says that they make contentions wheresoever they come; that the churches are disquieted by them, and magistrates contemned and despised; that “they do with as spiteful words and bitter speeches condemn the Church of England as they do the Papistical Church;” that they count all them as wicked and reprobate which are not of their sect; that they are “great hypocrites;” that they constantly “invent new opinions, and run from error to error;” that they are “stubborn and willful, wayward and froward, without all humanity;” that they seek to “overthrow commonweals, and states of government;” that they “reject all authority of superiors;” that they seek “to be free from all laws, and to do what they list;” and, finally, that all this is “most true, and therefore no slander.” No comment on these monstrosities is required. They are fair specimens of the controversial style of the age.

Doubtless, it was an unpardonable sin in the Baptists that they condemned the interference of the civil power with religion. They were remarkably clear on that subject. Whitgift unwittingly does them justice. He observes that they taught that “the civil magistrate hath no authority in ecclesiastical matters, and that he ought not to meddle in causes of religion and faith”—that “no man ought to be compelled to faith and religion” —and that “Christians ought to punish faults, not with imprisonment, not with the sword, or corporal punishment, but only with excommunication.” These are scriptural truths, which the bishops aforesaid laboured to suppress, because their own nefarious proceedings were inconsistent with them.

When Terwoort and Pieters were led out to die, Gerrit van Byler and Hans van Straten were left in Newgate, uncertain as to their fate. How long they remained there is not known. It is said that they were heavily ironed because they had endeavoured to escape by filing asunder the bars of their dungeon. At length they were discharged, probably because the Government were unwilling to incur the odium of another burning.”

 

 

 

Today in London’s unruly history, 1848: a Chartist riot in Camberwell

In the early 19th Century, with working people being increasingly forced off the land and into urban areas, with the growth of factories and massive spread of Cities, working class people were rapidly becoming politicised and conscious of themselves and their class interests. Working class organisations, radical clubs and early Trade Unions formed a growing network across many cities… London was no exception.

The Chartists are usually quoted to be the’ first national movement of British working class’: they aimed broadly at an increase in political power for working class people, excluded from the vote or political process. Although many of their leaders nationally were of middle class (or even aristocratic) origin, (actually in London they tended to be more artisans or working class) they were a hugely broadly based mass movement, organised around six major demands for political reform that had been the program of the British reformers and radicals since the 1760s…

  1. A vote for every man twenty one years of age, of sound mind, and not undergoing punishment for crime.
  2. The ballot —To protect the elector in the exercise of his vote.
  3. No property qualification for members of Parliament—thus enabling the constituencies to return the man of their choice, be he rich or poor.
  4. Payment of members, thus enabling an honest tradesman, working man, or other person, to serve a constituency, when taken from his business to attend to the interests of the country.
  5. Equal constituencies securing the same amount of representation for the same number of electors,–instead of allowing small constituencies to swamp the votes of larger ones.
  6. Annual Parliaments, thus presenting the most effectual check to bribery and intimidation, since though a constituency might be bought once in seven years (even with the ballot), no purse could buy a constituency (under a system of universal suffrage) in each ensuing twelvemonth; and since members, when elected for a year only, would not be able to defy and betray their constituents as now.

The Chartists’ tactics included huge monster meetings, and a petition to Parliament, presented and rejected three times between 1838 and 1848. The movement was made up of thousands of local branches, whose activities went far beyond pressing for reform, but built a whole culture, of education, songs, history, their own ceremonies and open discussion; they were conscious of their links to radicals of the past and similar movements abroad. and included all kinds of people, women and men, black people… Although many did not advocate the vote for women, others did, and female democratic associations formed a part of the movement.

As their petitions and political pressure failed, many Chartists began to advocate a working class seizure of power by armed force, and divisions split these ‘Physical Force’ Chartists from their ‘Moral Force’ counterparts. Several Chartist uprisings were planned in 1839-40, which failed or were repressed. Plotters,and Chartists involved in organising rallies, strikers and other actions were jailed, transported to the penal colonies.

The Chartists held mass meetings in South London in the 1840s, mainly on Kennington Common, especially in 1842, and then in 1848, the year of the last great Chartist upsurge, when they prepared the third petition. While the plans for presenting the petition were developed, physical force Chartists again prepared uprisings; in London in ‘48 several riots ensued when rallies were attacked by police. Through the Spring and early Summer the capital was in a state of alert: the authorities feared revolution (which was breaking out in France and across Europe), and Chartists hoped and worked for a popular rising to achieve their rights.

Chartist Riot?

In March 1848 this climate led to a riot after a Chartist meeting – which seems to mainly ended in some opportunist looting…

A week after 3 days of riots in newly opened Trafalgar Square in early March, another Chartist meeting was convened, on Kennington Common for 13th March: on the platform were a number of the Chartist leaders. The authorities had taken extensive precautions and troops were under orders to be called out, if necessary, with General Brotherton in command, and the mobilisation of police totalled an extraordinary 3,88i, including eighty mounted men and one hundred in plain clothes, in the vicinity of the Common; 1,141 on the Surrey side of the bridges; and the remainder in reserve.

In the event, no obstruction was offered to 400 or 500 men who about noon – for which time the commencement of the proceedings was announced – departed, so the Camberwell Division of Police later reported, on a signal being given ‘by raising a Pole’. The band took in their Route the most retired arid unfrequented byeways supposed for the purpose of’ avoiding the observations of’ the Police and Special Constables until they reached Bowyer Lane where they commenced an attack upon the small Shop Keepers by breaking their Windows and in some cases forcing down the Shutters and carrying away a quantity of their Goods.

The shops rifled in Camberwell consisted of a pawnbroker’s, three boot and shoemaker’s, a tailor’s, a clothes shop, a confectioner’s, baker’s, broker’s and three general dealer’s. The looters were armed with ‘staves of barrels, and sticks of all descriptions’, including palings. One of the shoemakers told them:—I am a poor man; if you want something, don’t come to me” – 1 said 1 was no maker of laws, I had nothing to lose, and begged them not to distress me.’ He persuaded fifty or sixty to pass on, but when the main body came up they beat in his shop-front arid removed 162 pairs of boots and shoes, worth £35 16s. The principal target was the premises of a pawnbroker and silversmith. His shutters and doors were attacked with ‘Hatchets Hammers Shovels and other offensive and dangerous weapons’ to cries of ‘Hurrah for Liberty’ and ‘Come on, my brave boys, we’ll have our liberty’;”” and ‘watches were thrown into the street over the heads of ‘the people’. He estimated his loss at upwards of £900, including as it did 200 watches and 170 rings.

The whole episode occurred within the space of an hour and only nine arrests were made (by a party of’ mounted police, assisted by special constables) at the time, but since a number of the rioters had been recognised by the locals twenty-five were brought to trial in April. Several witnesses identified among the leaders Charles Lee, a gipsy (not apprehended until a year later), arid David Anthony Duffy,a ‘man of colour’ and unemployed seaman, known to the police as a beggar in the Mint, where he went about without shirt, shoe, or stocking’. (Benjamin Prophett, known as’Black Ben’, was another ‘man of colour’ and seaman.)’ Eighteen men, of’ whom four had previous convictions, were sentenced to from seven to fourteen years’ transportation and three to one year’s imprisonment. The ages of all twenty-six (including Lee) are known: only ten were aged twenty or over (Prophett at twenty-nine was the eldest) and the youngest were three thirteen -year-olds. The Camberwell police superintendent dismissed the offenders as: ‘All Labourers and Costermongers’; yet of the twenty-five tried in 1848 a substantial number had trades, even though most of them were still in their teens. The occupations were: four labourers, three seamen, one fishmonger, costermonger, hawkboy, errand boy, brickmaker, ginger beer maker, bonnet box maker, baker, carpenter, bricklayer, sealing wax maker, glass blower, printer, tailor, currier, shoemaker, twine spinner (rope-maker), and brushmaker (and seller of ‘brooms and brushes).

Although the Camberwell riot was of short duration it was intense and also of historical importance, for it contributed to the hysterical prelude to 10 April 1848 in London” and it was upon 8 and 10 April that the minatory sentences were imposed upon the rioters. It has, however, been overlooked by virtually all historians – and others. The Northern Star did not carry a report of either the riot or the resultant trials. Mayhew mentions the pillaging of a pawnbroker’s shop but assumes that it took place on 10 April (while his collaborator John Binny transcribed the autobiographical narrative of Charles Lee after his return from transportation for life).

The participation of black radicals in the riot is interesting: the early 19th Century radical movement was notable for the involvement of prominent activists of African descent. One of the leaders of the London Chartists was William Cuffay, a Black tailor whose father had been a slave from St Kitts in the Carribbean. Cuffay was prominent in the April 1848 Kennington meeting, and was then arrested in August of that year, accused of involvement in the planning of a Chartist Uprising and transported to Tasmania for life.

Chartists in Camberwell

Camberwell had by 1848 become a stronghold of Chartism in South London. Chartists we know of include John Simpson, of Elm Cottage, Camberwell, a local agent selling tickets for a Chartist-sponsored soiree in honour of radical MP TS Duncombe in 1845; and David Johnston, born in Scotland, a Weaver, then apprentice baker in Edinburgh and Camberwell; he married a Soho baker’s daughter and, with her dowry, bought a baker’s shop in Camberwell; he was elected Overseer of the Poor in St. Giles, Camberwell, 1831, ‘by popular vote’;  and ‘was a keen (moral force) Chartist until rowdies from Kennington wrecked my shop in 1848’. We have to wonder if this wrecking was the same riot of 13th March above?
Johnston left in 1848 for Chicago, Illinois, after labouring work in New York and Philadelphia. Lived and worked in Chicago till 1890, when he died. (Autobiographical Reminiscences of an Octogenarian Scotchman (Chicago, 1885)

John Simpson, mentioned above, was also a subscriber to the Chartist land Plan: a list of those who subscribed a little money to the Chartist Land Company, Feargus O’ Connor’s scheme to settle workers on land to make them self-sufficient. O’Connor was undoubtedly the most influential Chartist leader in the 1840s; but his grand scheme failed (after attracting thousands of poor subscribers). After some years of propaganda the Chartist Co-operative Land Society (later the National Land Company) was founded in 1845. O’Connor’s vigourous propaganda work collected a mass of subscribers and donations, and in 1846 “O’Connorville” was founded at Heronsgate, near Chorleywood, northwest of London. Other estates were bought and let out in smallholding to subscribers picked by ballot. But by the end of 1847, the financial difficulties facing the scheme and the incompetence of its directors, became obvious. In 1848 a House of Commons Committee reported that the Company was illegal, its finances in a state of chaos, and its promises impossible to fulfill.

Other Camberwell Land Plan subscribers included

  • John Cheshire, of James St, Camberwell New Rd,
  • Richard Ackenhead, who lived in Arms place, Coburg Rd, and also (later) in St Marks Place, Kennington, was a cordwainer
  • William Clipsham, a joiner, of Nelson St, Spilsbys, Camberwell
  • William Cook, a labourer, of 5 Westmoreland St, Southampton St, Camberwell
  • William Coombes, 9 Regent St, Camberwell, a labourer
  • George Cooper, a labourer, also of Regent St
  • Daniel Dempsey, labourer, 12 Regent St Camberwell

Regent St seems to have been a Chrtist hotspot

John Counningham, Susanna Cotts, James St, Camberwell, and William of the same name – brothers?

  • William Greengrass, labourer, James St Camberwell New Rd

(Again, James Street a sounds a very radical place…)

  • George Richard Day, a law clerk, 1 Surrey Place, Camberwell
  • Baziel Fisk, shoemaker, 1 Tangue Place James St Camberwell New Rd
  • Thomas Heath, joiner, Portland St Camberwell
  • John Keen, tailor, 13 Neat St, Coburgh Rd,Camberwell
  • John King, waiter, 15 Neat St
  • Edward North, carpenter, Windham Rd, Camberwell

who may have been same as Edward North, who lived in Bereford Place, Wyndham Rd, Camberwell, but later listed as a hawker…

  • James Rhodes, dairyman, Southampton St, Camberwell
  • George Rutherford, 3 Pitt St, Camberwell

(There’s also a George Rutherford listed in Wyndham rd as a labourer…)

  • John Wilkins, baker, 1 Acorn Place Camberwell

There’s an interesting pattern tho if you look at where these addresses mostly if not all are – all north of Camberwell Church Street, probably poorer housing then as it is now, if you compare it to what lies south of Church Street. Check out Booth’s Poverty maps and you can see that class-wise, Church Street/Camberwell New Road broadly marked a boundary, delineating something of a north-south wealth divide in Camberwell.

 

Today in London radical herstory, 1914: International Womens Day march sees launch of newspaper the Woman’s Dreadnought

“The first part of the procession, which was headed by boys and young men , dressed in a sort of cowboy dress, had just entered the square when Miss Sylvia Pankhurst got off the bus…her arrest was effected as soon as she stepped into the street . and though she endeavoured to force her way into the procession she was hurried away in a taxicab before the main body of the processionalists realised she had been captured. When the fact became known there was a wild rush in the direction taken by the cab, but the police, after a brief tussle, restored order and “The first part of the procession, which was headed by boys and young men , dressed in a sort of cowboy dress, had just entered the square when Miss Sylvia Pankhurst got off the bus…her arrest was effected as soon as she stepped into the street . and though she endeavoured to force her way into the procession she was hurried away in a taxicab before the main body of the processionalists realised she had been captured. When the fact became known there was a wild rush in the direction taken by the cab, but the police, after a brief tussle, restored order and the procession joined the meeting in the square. …Miss Patterson exclaimed, ‘We feel that the time has come for action. Follow the flags. See if we can find something to do’ and proceeded towards Whitehall with strong contingent of men, women and boys …The arrest of Miss Patterson was a signal for wild disorder, many of her supporters throwing themselves on her captors. Eventually mounted police dispersed the crowd. Altogether ten persons were arrested”.  (Manchester Guardian, 9 March 1914, p.9.)

On 8 March 1914 the East London Federation of a Suffragette held an International Women’s Day demonstration in Trafalgar Square, to demand votes for women. The march saw launch of its newspaper, the Women’s Dreadnought.

The march was met by mounted police who waded in to inflict considerable violence on the demonstrators. Five women and five men were brought to court the following day, where an angry magistrate complained “Half Scotland Yard had turned out to keep a lot of desperadoes in order!”


The East London Federation of the Suffragettes (ELFS), had only two months before had formally split from the largest militant suffragette organisation, the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU), which had engineered their expulsion, mistrustful of the ELFS’s emphasis on centring the campaign for the vote among working-class women in London’s East End.

Leading light in the ELFS was socialist suffragette Sylvia Pankhurst, whose political divergence from her mother Emmeline and sister Christabel was only past of the story. Sylvia had undertaken hunger strikes in prison to the point that the authorities temporarily released her to ensure she did not die in their custody, and was at constant risk of re-arrest and imprisonment (she was in fact re-arrested again on the 8th March demonstration).

Sylvia Pankhurst would later recall that the WSPU leader (who was also Sylvia’s older sister), Christabel Pankhurst, demanded that the ELFS form a separate organisation on the grounds that

‘a working women’s movement was of no value: working women were the weakest portion of the sex: how could it be otherwise? Their lives were too hard, their education too meagre to equip them for the contest. ‘Surely it is a mistake to use the weakest for the struggle! We want picked women, the very strongest and most intelligent!’ 

The ELFS completely rejected this view that richer women were more effective suffragettes, publishing an impassioned defence of the necessity of campaigning ‘from below’ in the first edition of the Dreadnought:

‘Some people tell us that it is neither specially important that working women should agitate for the Vote, nor specially important that they should have it. They forget that comparatively, the leisured comfortably situated women are but a little group, and the working-women a multitude.

‘Some people say that the lives of working-women are too hard and their education too small for them to become a powerful force in winning the Vote, many though they are. Such people have forgotten their history. What sort of women were those women who marched to Versailles?

‘Those Suffragists who say that it is the duty of the richer and more fortunate women to win the Vote, and that their poorer sisters need not feel themselves called upon to aid in the struggle appear, in using such arguments, to forget that it is the Vote for which we are fighting. The essential principle of the vote is that each one of us shall have a share of power to help himself or herself and us all. It is in direct opposition to the idea that some few, who are more favoured, shall help and teach and patronise the others’.

The ELFS’s insistence on applying to the struggle the principle of self-representation that they saw embodied in the vote also entailed a rejection of Christabel Pankhurst’s assumption that all women shared the same interests and therefore richer women could fight on behalf of working-class women.

The ELFS had a strong alliance with East End socialists & workers in particular trades, especially the East End dockers. ELFS members had supported dock strikes in 1912, & the organisation continued to work closely with dockers. Many dockers wives became suffragettes. In March 1913, dockers had supported a march to Holloway, where suffragette Scott Troy was on hunger strike; Troy had organised support to help feed 1000s of dockers families during 1912 strike. ELFS had a branch which operated at the East India Dock Gate, the entrance to one of the biggest docks and a well-known speakers corner for trade unions and socialists. Every Sunday in spring & summer the ELFS staged processions that began or ended at the dock gates.

Sylvia Pankhurst speaks

The ELFS also distinguished themselves from the WSPU and other suffrage groups, in that they campaigned for universal adult suffrage – many working men also could not vote. This brought them closer to workers’ organisations, which remained suspicious of the WPSU in some ways.

Although Sylvia Pankhurst was the focus of EFLS activity, other leading women included Charlotte Drake, ex-barmaid, labourers wife & mother of 5; Melvina Walker, a one-time lady’s maid and dockers wife, whose tales of the high society she had served made her a popular speaker; Nellie Cressell mother of 6, who later became Mayor of Poplar; Annie Barnes and Julia Scurr, later councillors in Stepney & Poplar; Jennie MacKay, ex of the Social Democratic Federation (SDF), also later a councillor; Louise Somerville, veteran of the Socialist League and Amy Hicks, also ex-SDF.

The 8 March was held to commemorate International Women’s Day, (initially called for at an international socialist conference in Copenhagen in 1910 by the German socialist Clara Zetkin, to draw attention to the struggles of working-class women). Choosing this day for their demonstration highlighted the working-class and internationalist politics that characterised the ELFS.

Melvina Walker

The demonstration was also notable, as it saw the launch of a new publication, the ELFS’s own newspaper, The Woman’s Dreadnought, edited by Sylvia Pankhurst.

The paper was started by Pankhurst at the suggestion of Zelie Emerson, after Pankhurst had been expelled from the Women’s Social and Political Union by her mother and sister.

On the drawing board it was titled Workers’ Mate, but appeared as The Woman’s Dreadnought, with a weekly circulation of anywhere between 10-20,000. It cost a penny; it was advertised by Graffiti campaigns around the East End. Police harassed the women and men who sold it on the streets.

Despite frequent violent re-arrests, imprisonments and hunger strikes, Sylvia Pankhurst ensured the newspaper came out each week; even a policeman arresting her in May 1914 asked her ‘how I found the time for it’. During Sylvia’s regular spells of imprisonment, Norah Smyth alternated as acting editor with Jack O’Sullivan. Smyth used her photography skills to provide pictures for the newspaper of East End life, particularly of women and children living in poverty.

East London Federation of Sufragettes street stall

Until World War 1 began, it covered London-based, mostly East End news: including women’s suffrage, battles with borough councils, fights with police, women’s lives… When WW1 began, it also began to voice opposition to the slaughter, resistance to conscription, and campaigns around the austerity and shortages the war brought. It was viewed by the authorities as having such a dangerous influence that its offices were subject to repeated police raids.

The Dreadnought would go through several incarnations over the next ten years, as the emphasis of the organisation around Sylvia would change and evolve, through suffrage campaigns, resistance to world war and austerity, support for revolution… In July 1917 the name was changed to Workers’ Dreadnought, which initially had a circulation of 10,000. Its slogan changed to “Socialism, Internationalism, Votes for All”, and then in July 1918 to “For International Socialism”, reflecting increasing opposition to Parliamentarism in the party.

Norah Smyth

On 19 June 1920 Workers’ Dreadnought was adopted as the official weekly organ of the Communist Party (British Section of the Third International). Pankhurst continued publishing the newspaper until 1924.

The first edition of the Dreadnought declared: ‘the chief duty of The Dreadnought will be to deal with the franchise question from the working women’s point of view’. ELFS members, for the most part women who worked in manual jobs, became the Dreadnought’s journalists, reporting on the concerns of their own communities and workplaces which, Sylvia Pankhurst later wrote, ‘produced far truer accounts than any Fleet Street journalist, for they knew what to ask and how to win the confidence of the sufferers.’ One of these members was Florence Buchan, a jam factory worker who had been sacked when her employers found out she was a suffragette, whose first article exposed the dangerous conditions in jam factories. Her interviews with local striking workers conveyed the sacrifices they made, but also their spirit and humour. Women workers at a preserves and tea packing factory told her that when they tried to go on strike the foreman had locked them in the workroom, and when the women told the male workers what had happened they gave the foreman ‘a good thrashing’; the women concluded ‘there are too many bosses’.

Hoping to engage widely with the local community, Sylvia Pankhurst initially wanted the Dreadnought to be free but this proved unaffordable so they charged a halfpenny for it (half the cost of most political publications) in the first four days after printing after which they distributed the remaining copies from the 20,000 print-run house to house around the East End free of charge.

Going door to door also helped the ELFS to in its aim to connect their political campaign with the economic and social issues of the local community. ELFS members would knock on every door in a particular street, ask the women at home about their lives and then report the conversations they had with the women in the Dreadnought, revealing the problems of ordinary people’s lives. In one such report one woman told of the domestic abuse she was habitually subjected to when her husband discovered they had run out of money – ‘they ask you what you’ve done with it all, and then they start on you’, while others spoke of unemployment, hunger and extortionate rents. The ELFS reporter then summarised her political conclusions from the conversations:

‘Denial to the Government which calls these women unoccupied.

‘One came face to face with the unemployed problem.

‘With Poverty. – Housing Question. – Women as Slaves. – Sweating of Women. – Insurance Act as a failure. – Great faith in women. Suffragettes to be found in slums.’

The Dreadnought gained a reputation for amplifying the voices of people that the establishment did not want to hear. The fact that the Dreadnought carried stories which it received from people writing into paper about injustices they wanted publicised demonstrates the trust and credibility the publication had built up.

During World War 1, the East London Federation of Suffragettes opposed the war, (unlike the leading suffrage organisations, the WPSU and the NUWSS). Sylvia insisted on the Fed and the paper taking this view, which did lead to some ‘pro-war’ ELFS activists leaving, and lost the ELFS much support; initially, as the war was popular and opposition considered traitorous. Several well-off backers who had funded the organisation pulled out, outraged at its anti-war stance.

The Mothers’ Arms toy making workshop

However, as the war went on, and deaths mounted, conscription was introduced, and shortages and privations started to it, the ELFS started to regain support. Gradually, the group evolved from a political organisation into a feminist social welfare movement, focusing on the daily needs of East End women. From this they developed political and social demands reflecting the impact the war was having on the poor: for control of food so people wouldn’t go hungry; against rent rises and wage cuts. A rent strike was attempted in August 1914. At this time some East End women were taking direct action – seizing food from shops without paying. At their Bow HQ, a former pub renamed the ‘Mother’s Arms’, the ELFs set up two cost-price restaurants to feed those with little money, and workshops where women could make items to sell to get by.

Cost price eating at the Mothers’ Arms

In the First World War the Dreadnought also exposed the way in which imprisoned Conscientious Objectors were being deported to the warzone in France where, under army jurisdiction, they could be shot. Its front pages reported the dangers of the chemicals women war workers were exposed to in the factories, something that was down-played and denied by their employers. Despite the establishment’s attempts to suppress all information about the mutiny in the British army at the notorious army camp at Étaples in France in late September 1917, the Dreadnought was able to report this news on its front page because a soldier wrote in:

‘The men out here are fed up with the whole b___y lot.

‘About four weeks ago about 10,000 men had a big racket in Etaples, and they cleared the place from one end to the other, and when the General asked what was wrong, they said they wanted the war stopped. That was never in the papers.’

Throughout its existence the Dreadnought sought to represent the most radical section of contemporary social movements. Formed to give expression to the working women’s campaign for the vote, it opposed the First World War from the moment it broke out and in 1914 it became the first English publication to print the anti-war speech of the German socialist Karl Liebknecht.

In June 1917 The Woman’s Dreadnought changed its name to The Workers’ Dreadnought, reflecting the increasing breadth of the campaigns it was taking up. The newspaper championed the Bolshevik Revolution and printed the writings of leading revolutionaries across Europe. In 1920 Sylvia Pankhurst became the first newspaper editor in Britain to employ a black journalist when she invited the Jamaican poet Claude McKay to work on the Dreadnought.

The Dreadnought consistently opposed racism and imperialism and sent its reporters to Ireland to expose atrocities committed by British troops. The paper also (uniquely among the UK left at the time) opposed colonialism, and attacked racism among some East End workers – explicitly linking socialism to anti-racism & anti-colonial struggles. In contrast, other contemporary left papers like the Daily Herald were overtly racist.

Influenced by the Russian Revolution, the ELFS transformed itself into the Workers Socialist Federation, reflecting a change in orientation: towards revolutionary socialism. In a marked change of course from their origins in the suffrage movement, the WSF adopted an anti-parliamentary communist stance, and opposed participation in elections as a bourgeois distraction from the class struggle. They also rejected affiliation to the Labour Party, in contrast to large parts of the Communist scene in the UK (and in contradiction to Lenin’s advice).  The WDF did not forget conflicts with the Labour hierarchy during the war. The Workers’ Dreadnought now advocated soviets and workers control of production, and promoted the forming of workers committees in several London factories; it also flirted with syndicalism/industrial unionism, which was seeing a revival as part of a new post-war upsurge in industrial militancy in 1918-19, which saw a plethora of strikes. Billy Watson, who attempted to set up a London Workers Committee to unite workers’ struggles from below, wrote a regular industrial column for the Dreadnought in 1917.

Pankhurst developed her own theory of ‘social soviets’: councils of working class inside AND outside workplaces, to include people not in work, eg housewives, unemployed, elderly, children… This was an advanced position for a leftist of the times (where the workplace was generally considered the only place for class struggle to take place). He vision was of a local & decentralised form of socialism, under workers’ control. This all reflected Sylvia’s interest in practical problems of how socialism would run on a local level, food, welfare etc – all of which arose from the ELFS practical experience during WW1.

The WSF were the first communist group to make contact with the Bolsheviks after the October 1917 Revolution; over the next few years the group’s relationship to the situation in Russia would in many ways define its trajectory. The WSF affiliated to the communist Third international in 1919. But in the same year, Sylvia Pankhurst went to Italy, Germany, Holland, making contacts with the left fractions of the communist movement, with whose positions she clearly agreed, on elections, parliamentary participation, in particular. This would get the WSF denounced by Lenin in 1920 in his ‘Leftwing Communism: An Infantile Disorder’. While the WSF was heavily involved in struggles in London against the UK plan for military intervention in Soviet Russia, news coming from the USSR increased Sylvia’s distrust of the directions the Soviet revolution was taking. Nevertheless, the WSF reformed (in alliance with Aberdeen, Holt & Croydon Communist groups, Stepney Communist League, Gorton Socialist Society, the Labour Abstentionist Party, & the Manchester Soviet) into the Communist Party (British Section of the Third International) in 1920: the first UK Communist Party. Lenin also thought this move premature.

After many raids during the war, the Dreadnought’s spreading of communism was guaranteed to attract more police attention. The Dreadnought offices were raided again under the draconian Defence of the Realm Act, for publication of articles which referred to discontent in the navy: the CP(BSTI) had some contacts among rebel sailors, eg black sailor Reuben Samuels, and Dave Springhall.

Claude Mackay

It was through Jamaican-born Claude Mackay that these contacts had been made. Though later better known as a poet and writer, a crucial figure in the Harlem Renaissance, in 1919-20, McKay was living in London, and had become a communist. He fused communist ideas with anti-colonial and anti-racist thinking, and bridged the black nationalist and socialist scenes, critical of where both fell short from within. As well as writing for the Dreadnought (at times during Sylvia’s imprisonment he virtually edited several issues), he also frequented a mostly black soldiers’ club in Drury Lane, and the International Socialist Club in Shoreditch (successor to the 19th century old Communist Club  A militant atheist, he also joined the Rationalist Press Association. During this period that his commitment to socialism deepened and he read Marx assiduously. At the International Socialist Club, McKay met Shapurji SaklatvalaA. J. CookGuy AldredJack TannerArthur McManusWilliam Gallacher, and George Lansbury. He attended the Communist Unity Conference that established the Communist Party of Great Britain.

In April 1920, the Daily Herald, a socialist paper published by George Lansbury, included a racist article written by E. D. Morel. Entitled “Black Scourge in Europe: Sexual Horror Let Loose by France on the Rhine“, it insinuated gross hypersexuality on black people in general. Lansbury refused to print McKay’s response. This response then appeared in Workers’ Dreadnought. In response to the “Black Horror on the Rhine” stories that the Daily Herald was running, McKay wrote:

“Why this obscene maniacal outburst about the sex vitality of black men in a proletarian paper?” Rape is rape; the colour of the skin doesn’t make it different. Negroes are no more over-sexed than Caucasians; mulatto children in the West Indies and America were not the result of parthenogenesis. If Negro troops had syphilis, they contracted it from the white and yellow races. As for German women, in their economic plight they were selling themselves to anyone. I do not protest because I happen to be a Negro … I write because I feel that the ultimate result of your propaganda will be further strife and blood-spilling between whites and the many members of my race … who have been dumped down on the English docks since the ending of the European war … Bourbons of the United States will thank you, and the proletarian underworld of London will certainly gloat over the scoop of the Christian-Socialist pacifist Daily Herald.”

The Dreadnought office was raided in October 1920, after the paper published the articles about discontent among sailors, and Sylvia Pankhurst was charged under DORA for publishing these articles. Mackay, in a room at the top of the building, was warned by Pankhurst’s secretary, Mackay smuggled the original letters from which they derived out of the building, and burned them. He escaped arrest, but Sylvia was sent to prison for six months in 1921 for publishing them. At her trial she defiantly called for the overthrow of capitalism, telling the court: ‘this is a wrong system, and has got to be smashed.’ 

Mackay left Britain shortly after, feeling things were getting too hot for him. He later spent time in the Soviet Union, though he distanced himself from communism in later life.

The Dreadnought was in the news again only a few weeks later, after a crowd attacked women working there who had disrupted the first November 11th Armistice Day commemorations.

The CP(BSTI) entered into negotiations with other socialist groups to form a united Communist Party, including the British Socialist Party (BSP) – the anti-war majority of the old Social Democratic Federation – and the mainly Scottish-based Socialist Labour Party. Throughout the protracted discussions, the ‘communist left’ attempted to form a left bloc in or allied to any new Communist Party, which many had realised would be dominated by more right wing members of the BSP. The 21 theses laid down by the Communist International caused some debate, as they included stipulations Pankhurst and the left communists had serious issues with. 4 CP(BSTI) branches refused to agree to them & left. Although the majority of the CP(BSTI) did unite with the new Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) in January 1921, by this time problems had led to division between Pankhurst & others, and she was in immediate conflict with the new party hierarchy. All CP publications were supposed (under the 21 Theses) to be subordinated to party control, and the Workers’ Dreadnought was not accepted as a party paper; Sylvia was ordered to cease publication. The new party also did little to support her while she was in jail. Though she joined the CPGB on her release, she maintained contact with the European left communists – the KAPD, left factions & the Workers Opposition. She was ordered to give up the Dreadnought, and refusing to do so, was expelled from the CPGB in September 1921.

After her expulsion, Pankhurst & a few others (including Melvina Walker & Nora Smythe) formed a Communist Workers Party (CWP), but this was only ever a small propaganda sect. They attempted to revive their old speaking places and links in the East End but the group never really took off. Sylvia also refused to unite with another left communist grouping in Britain, the Anti-Parliamentary Communist Federation, mainly due to personality differences…

Sylvia carried on publishing the Dreadnought, and allied herself and the CWP to the Fourth International of left wing communist groups, including the KAPD, & Belgian, Dutch, Bulgarian, Czech left communists (known as International of Opposition Parties). They shared their criticisms of developments in Russia, and built up links also to the Workers Opposition in the USSR.

But being excluded from the CPGB pushed Sylvia and her group to the margins, and movements they had built up were declining or divided. CWP-backed alternatives to the mainstream communist-backed union movements or the National Unemployed Workers Movement were either small and weak or short-lived. Revolutionary Growing more out of touch, the CWP collapsed by 1924. Lack of support, money and energy led Sylvia to halt publication of the Workers’ Dreadnought in July 1924.

Although Sylvia eventually moved out of the East End, she remained active politically, and would go on to be an early campaigner against the rise of fascism, as well as outspokenly fighting for international solidarity with Ethiopia when it was invaded by fascist Italy. She died in Ethiopia in 1960. The ELFS and its successors had done some amazing work in the East End, from agitating among working class women and men over the vote, through grassroots day to day solidarity in the face of war and repression, resisting the war effort, supporting revolution and correctly criticising the USSR’s turn to authoritarianism and the western communist parties’ slavish falling into line and opportunism. Like many another suffragette, her health was irrevocably damaged by hunger strikes in prison; but she never stopped trying to change the world for the better…

Read Copies of the Women’s/Workers’ Dreadnought in the British Newspaper Archive

Worth a read: Sylvia’s accounts of her activism, in The Suffragette Movement, and The Home Front (about the ELFS in WW1).
Also Barbara Wilmslow, Sylvia Pankhurst, a good account of the various phases of Sylvia’s political journey.

Today in London’s parklife, 1999: Crystal Palace eco-camp stormed by police

After the 1851 ‘Great Exhibition’, showcase for the British Empire, glamfest for capitalism, the entire glass “Crystal Palace”, which housed the Exhibition in Hyde Park, was dismantled and moved to a new permanent site on parkland at Sydenham in the south London suburbs. The area subsequently took its name from the building, and park and area became known as Crystal Palace. The destruction of the building by fire in 1936 left the top of the park still landscaped, with terraces and amazing views, but gradually this area fell into decline as it was left largely ignored.

The Park was built on the northern edge of what had previously, for centuries, been known as Penge Common, which had been enclosed in the 1820s after a protracted struggle over who owned it. Suffice to say, open space here has always been subject to struggle over its use – between landowners and peasants, between local communities and councils and corporate interests… [check out Martin Spence’s excellent ‘The Making of a Suburb: Capital Comes to Penge’, for more on the enclosure of Penge Common… and see pengepast]

Sixty years after the Crystal Palace burned down, the site was threatened by the local council of Bromley within whose borders the park lay, and who had taken over managing the park when the Greater London Council was abolished. Bromley proposed a wholly inappropriate development for the site – a 20-screen cinema multiplex with restaurants, bars and rooftop parking for a thousand cars, housed in a building, which was described by a local newspaper as having the appearance of an aircraft terminal.

This was no the first threat to the park – when the Crystal Palace Company went bankrupt in 1911, the whole park was due to be sold at public auction by Knight, Frank and Rutley. If that had taken place we would have had ranks of terraced houses instead of “a great, life-enhancing breathing space for south London”. There followed weeks of the protest; the subsequent sale led to the park being saved as open space.

A map of the park from the 1911 auctioneers’ brochure

In 1989 Bromley proposed the development of the site for hotel and leisure purposes, it culminated in the passing by the House of Commons of the Bromley London Borough Council (Crystal Palace) Act 1990, which limits development on the site.

In the late 1990s, Bromley Council’s plans to sell off the top end of South London’s Crystal Palace Park, to allow the development of a huge multiplex cinema complex, were widely opposed by locals.

The plans would have involved:

  • An 18 screen multiplex cinema 950′ long by 70′ high.
  • 9 eateries including fast food and takeaways.
  • 3 ‘leisure boxes’, contents to be decided by profit alone. Bowling alley? Video arcades?
  • Rooftop car parking for 950 cars.
  • Giant vehicle ramps on 3 sides of building.
  • Opening hours 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. 365 days a year.
  • Concrete tunnel entrance and roads in park.
  • Illuminated traffic signage.
  • Roads expanded to increase capacity.

A broadly based local Crystal Palace Campaign was formed by local residents and businesses, angered by the “monstrous edifice” which Bromley wished to impose on the landscape and the complete disregard for the site’s history.

Their objections included:

  • Loss of 12 acres of green open space, protected as Metropolitan Open Land.
  • Destruction of 200 trees.
  • Vast unsightly building, the size of 2 football stadiums, vehicle ramps, tunnel entrance and illuminated signage do not belong in a park.
  • Degradation of the historic site of the Crystal Palace, protected as Grade 2* listed historic park.
  • Noise, especially at night, with hundreds leaving at 2 a.m.
  • 17,000 vehicle movements each Saturday on narrow, Victorian residential streets, causing congestion and pollution. Traffic is the major cause of asthma in our children
  • Crime. Major leisure venues attract it.
  • Parking overflow. On-site provision is only 50% of what is needed.
  • Threat to local trade, leading to spiral of decline on the village high street.
  • Loss of village atmosphere. The surrounding area is a Conservation Area

There was virtually no local support for the development. The campaign held many meetings, demos, lobbies, etc., and led to strong legal challenges to the plans, including a High Court case, in London where the Crystal Palace Campaign sought judicial review of Bromley’s outline planning permission. The legal objection turned on the question of style. The Crystal Palace Act of 1990 stated that any building on the Park site should be “in the style and spirit of the former Crystal Palace”.

In parallel with this more orthodox campaign, an eco-protest camp was squatted in the threatened part of the park, in April 1998, by activists mainly drawn from the anti-roads movement, which had been growing throughout the 1990s and had been involved in high profile campaigns at Twyford Down, against the M11 in East London, and at Newbury… and many more…

The ‘Crystal Pallets’ camp remained occupied 24/7 for over a year, with treehouses and barricades built.

On 3rd March 1999, most of the camp was violently evicted by the police who arrived hidden in double decker buses lying down between the seats. We was there, in a tree.
Two protestors stayed in tunnels underground for three more weeks…

Here’s an account of the camp, from Earth First mag, Do or Die Issue 8.

Storming the Palace

Park Life in South London

Rising from flat suburban S. London and crowned with a huge 160ft television transmission tower, Crystal Palace Park boasts the tallest hill in the capital’s south. In one of London’s more surreal green spaces ornamental gardens, a football stadium, and geese covered lakes mix with grand stone staircases that go nowhere and 30ft hollow 19th Century metal dinosaurs.

This was the second site of the great exhibition in the last century, a celebratory extravaganza glorifying the power of the British Empire and its global reach. The vast glass palace which had held displays and artifacts from every corner of the world burnt down in the 1930s, ironically just as the Empire was beginning to face a re-emerging opposition in the Third World. All that remains now are piles of rubble, the odd column and the dinosaurs. Nineteenth century scientists misunderstood the bones they discovered so the monsters are hopelessly mis-shapen. Used in the Second World War as bomb shelters their main function now seems to be to create a bizarre backdrop for local kids to take drugs by moonlight. Already well established as a place of drama and weirdness, Crystal Palace seemed ideally suited for the direct action to come.

For three years locals had fought the local Councils plan to build a multiplex cinema but their legal campaign had got them nowhere. The multiplex will destroy the highest part of the park including the now wooded and wilded Palace foundation site. Following hot on the heels of the defence and eviction of a tree site in Kingston Park, it was almost by natural selection that the action site at Crystal Palace was established. So just after midnight on April Fools Day ’98 a crew of eighteen people (and two dogs) quietly reclaimed the site of the Palace.

The Rise of ‘Crystal Pallets’

By dawn we had tents, nets and squatting notices up, quickly followed by the first visit from the enemy who were politely told they were trespassing and could they fuck off and knock next time. It wasn’t long before the media circus arrived, fresh, alert and looking for Swampy. From day one the press and TV crews were invasive, seeking to dominate and exploit us while remaining aloof about their aims. With a degree of wisdom gained from our experiences maybe we can learn to control the media feeding frenzy by simply issuing statements whilst hand picking selective interviews.

Support from the local residents came quickly. For about three years their protest had failed, suddenly there was a new focus for their energies. People from all around this ancient hill top site arrived with food, clothes, shelter, tools, and mountains of pallets. If you haven’t been to a direct action site you won’t understand the sheer possibilities that lie in pallets. Nearly every structure, every treehouse, barricade and bender is made from them. The site was thus nicknamed ‘Crystal Pallets’.

Being a Sports Council site, no lottery cash could be thrown at the Palace, so the Tory council cooked up the old recipe of ‘regeneration’. Alarm bells woke up a dedicated band of local residents, who having exhausted their ‘democratic’ rights, accepted what they knew in their hearts was the only course of action left-the direct one.

Within six weeks a comfortable, if toxic, home for dozens was built. Toxic because after the Palace had burned down, the site was used to dump blitz rubble, resulting in an unusual concentration of lead in the soil. To add to this, the council had allowed flytipping including lots of asbestos! Anyway, back to the story. The support, both moral and material, continued to flood in. Surveys showing 85% local opposition to the development were the norm, and thousands were adding their names to petitions. Therefore it was no surprise to learn that Bromley Council were obstinately digging their heels in. They wanted these ‘filthy illegal squatters’ orf their land or…erm, they’d evict (surprise). Full moons came and went and with them, new direction, new impetus. According to the multiplex’s architect Ian Ritchie, ‘Building is an act of economic and cultural virility’

Mid-Summer Madness

Over the summer swathes of the Palace posse travelled, marched and danced to various parties/protests. The tour started from home on Beltane (May 1st), where spaced out goats played with the animals resident and visiting. Come the G8 Global street party on May 16th we put on our gladrags, tarted it up to the hilt and ‘ad it with them in Birmingham. The atmosphere in and around the sound system was fucking wild, fucking wicked, yet anyone near the upturned car won’t need reminding of the eerie intense few seconds as some lunatic attempted to set it on fire. A word of advice: Get the car near the pigs, not your family before you light the blue touch paper and retire. All day and night Birmingham had a electric air, resonant with the vibration of creative unified resistance.

With summer came the usual problems on site. Consumption of drugs increased and a mainly lunched out recycling program led to communal areas being spaces to avoid. In amongst the rats, flies, filth and beer cans, alcoholics flourish. Fighting authority takes sobriety.

Other things flowering and fruiting that summer were our fruit, veg, herbs and flowers. Attempting to work with a permaculture ethic, we harvested beans, tomatoes, courgettes, potatoes, nasturtiums, onions, blackberries and more I forgot. Establishing productive gardens can be as important as climbing up trees. Not everyone can live in trees but we can all look after plants. Rediscovering old skills for a brighter future.

Whilst the festivities all around were going on security was breached at the Palace three times or more. Firstly by the Police Forward Intelligence Team (FIT) who took the piss by storming onto site and filming this and demanding that. More vigilance was needed if the community was to keep the state off and be a true temporary autonomous zone.

Coupled with an influx of Babylon’s waifs and strays who took advantage of the welcoming atmosphere, site life took on a more strenuous and stressful atmosphere. During July thefts from site were happening, and regularly. Tools, money, even Tasmanian passports were going missing from under our noses. We have but ourselves to blame for not being a tight-knit crew.

These lapses, with ensuing witch hunts fuelled by paranoia, combined with the constant bombardment of microwaves from the TV mast meant focus and momentum was lost, and the days were noticeably getting shorter… and all the while Bromley Council were shuffling and squirming, issuing writs and threats. The camp decided to take the fight to them (you gotta raise the stakes). Having ignored three years of protest and the voices of all who lived there we decided a big fuck off party might change the perspective slightly.

The full moon on August 8th 1998 saw sound systems, over 500 people and as much stimulation as a person can shove up their nose hit the top ridge adjacent to the site.

The sun rose to a fantastic vibe, new friends, and a spotlessly clean aftermath heralded what was to be a noise-filled early Autumn. There was a ‘village fair’ which it must be said we lunched out, punk nights, more sound systems interwoven with regular candlelit vigils.

We knew as we entered into September the game had taken a new twist. The legal challenge by the liberal Crystal Palace Campaign was faltering- and badly. No surprise there (see Never Trust the Middle Classes box). The pagan festival of Samhain approached and the merry big band from Palace started to look inwards with thoughts of evictions.

Defenses that looked all Summer like they would remain fantasies took shape as we poured tonne after tonne of concrete on to madly unstable land.

The earth we walked for nearly a year was as it turned out perfect ground for our engineers of sketchy construction. As holes appeared and got deeper (digging spurred on by rumours of existing tunnel networks), from the surface rose Faulty Towers of scaffolding.

With more spikes than a punx picnic, more wired than any amphetamin assassin, the original damaged leaning tower of piss ‘eds increasingly dominated the landscape. Come eviction it was over forty foot high and well over 400 cans of Strongbow Super old. Memories of it still fresh bring smiles to faces.

With winter fast approaching, the debris on site both animate and inanimate was piling up. For some it was time to move off site and recuperate, for those living on site the need to party was never far away.

What do you do when the local redneck pub just up the road gets boarded up? Get sound systems and your mates and rock it that’s what. A posse quickly reclaimed it (obviously feeling very at home there), and caused the Council yet more headaches.

During those dark, dark nights around Winter Solstice actions were planned and carried out against the partnerships who wanted to develop the top ridge. Hitting multinationals is easy – they are everywhere, but faceless property developers like London and Regional Properties are more tricky. Owned by a Dutch company and based in an off-shore Guernsey bank account, these bastard wide boys were almost unreachable, suffice to say we knew where the directors lived.

Eviction Paranoia & Eviction Reality

With Yule came the first major eviction paranoia.The fear was based around unfinished defenses, oh, and the small matter of Bromley being granted an order to evict, at their leisure, with pleasure. We got our minds on the job in hand. Amazing dedication to the cause saw towers appear in all directions and as we entered the final year of the millennium rumours and counter-rumours did the rounds. Again!!

It seemed, paranoia aside, that it was possible and plausible that the Forces of Darkness would strike quickly after the New Year. With this in mind local residents dug deep for the umpteenth time to supply the crew with brew, and vegans with… whatever those funny people eat and drink.

It came to pass that definitely, for certain, 100% they were coming in on the 4th of January. Warnings were issued countrywide and a posse of around 70 people climbed up trees, went down tunnels or locked on and a vigil of around 40 locals anxiously waited from 6am to welcome the state.

Meanwhile at the Epsom site (see article’s end) around 300 police with double that number of security laid siege to the Silver Birches. They met fierce resistance from the sole occupier who moaned about being woken up. Game Over Epsom. Sigh of relief for Palace.

Gypsies paid us 20 per load so that they could dump tires on our site – which we used for defenses. Business flourished as did the barricades – shame about the wildlife. More Swampification by the corporate media, intent on highlighting tedious trivialities. When will we learn?

Storm clouds gathered over the hilltop as the daylight hours grew longer. Many nights and days were spent in various states of mind watching the natural light shows. We had it all there, from temperatures above 100f to downpours, lightning and double rainbows. Ain’t nature wonderful?

After Imbok (yet another pagan date for your diary), the eviction wind up got into gear with the barricading and trial runs happening at the 121 Squat centre just down the road in Brixton (see p. 132). Judging by appearances in February, many on site were starting to wish the eviction on themselves and who can blame them?

At the full moon on the third of March the state moved in to restore their order and repossess this most toxic of squats. People and defenses were readyish for the battle to commence. All through the night before people rushed about sorting out where the last minute drinks were being had. With dawn, there was the arrival of various substances and again lots of media. Whose fuckin’ eviction is this anyway!?

Up in the Faulty Tower our vantage point wasn’t great. Bloody trees were obscuring all the action but it was good enough to see over 350 cops storm in quickly, most in riot gear. Within ten minutes or so a lot of ground support was gone, people failing to get into lock-on positions in the chaos.

The massive operation brought all traffic to a grinding halt. Pensioners and school kids were unwittingly caught up in a military manoeuvre. A half hour into the eviction and the scale of it all was vividly apparent. Fearing a take over of the TV mast masses of pigs had gathered around it getting microwaved to fuck. I mean as if we would…

Fencing contractors ordered by Bromley to break the law duly obliged, fencing off a right of way, flouting the instructions of two High Court judges. Come nightfall that first day, one could only imagine what everyone else was feeling. Underground, up trees, locked on in holes or on your own up a 25 foot tower that had no shelter, no bedding and no food. Dedication to duty does not sum up feelings of admiration for the women and men, girls and boys, who time and time again put their arses on the line. Altruistic beautiful people every single one of ’em.

Evictions are to be enjoyed (if possible) and frankly we were having a giggle constantly baiting baby-faced coppers who couldn’t resist stroking saplings. By day two of the eviction twice as many security had either been arrested for shoplifting, stealing videos or for fighting as had been arrested on our side.

Most of the trees were cut down before nightfall and as we curled up that night, our thoughts were on our brothers and sitters in much more perilous positions than us. Up on the Faulty Tower we went to sleep knowing they were coming to get us – and soon. One of our lot, freezing cold and starving and without brew for two days was still refusing to get off what was a hugely significant strategic tower on top of a bunker. Babylon was duly unimpressed.

Things were getting very surreal. Police were giving us Mexican waves at sunrise. On day three they asked us to sing Happy Birthday to one of their mates.”Is that before you smash our skulls in and spray CS gas in our eyes – or after?” We didn’t bother.

After deliberating for some time they took out the tower quite swiftly. About five hours elapsed before it was finally cleared. This turned into a blessing for it enabled us up there to be re-united with the posse on the terraces just in time for us to witness a pissed chief druid/biker who thinks he’s King Arthur wobble then fall backwards tumbling down the bank. Monarchy – HA!

Typical post-eviction celebrations ensued, fully in the knowledge that three of our mates were still underground. Drinks were drunk for them, repeatedly! Unless having worked and lived underground it is difficult to comprehend the changes in your awareness. Days turned to weeks. On the eighth our Lancashire comrade emerged from his bunker after a butane bottle leaked underground.

Words aplenty have been spoken about the two naughty kids staying underground in their ten by six ft bunker for 19 days. By staying down they massively increased the cost of the eviction. They refused to speak either to the media, police or tunnel teams (see box to the right). This admirable show of no compromise, either with the state or spectacle should be found at evictions more often. Many of us could do a lot worse than following their good example.

The last bunker dwellers were taken off site nearly three weeks after the eviction had started, making Crystal Palace the longest eviction in British history. However, the fight wasn’t over, for a few faced prison on unrelated charges, one of whom after spending 19 days underground was banged up for a month using a 25 year old anti-union law. It just shows the extent of Babylon’s annoyance. I’m sure the 2 million eviction bill must have upset them a bit. Still, they bleeding started it.

So the complex Bromley have about the complex they want has not vanished. As we go to press Babylon is tied up in red tape of its own making. Many of us went back to our homes outside South London while other Palaceites have remained, living as a community squatting in Streatham. Whether still in the area or not we all valued the time and experiences our great Mother produced there. As did loads of residents who changed and adapted to the new climate (of resistance).

The zeitgeist seems to force more and more into taking action, and with each week new people join the hoards.

A Surreal Day In Epsom

It was the first working day of 1999. The headquarters of Shell had been occupied and the London Underground offices had been invaded in solidarity with tube strikers. At the same time around 70 of us had responded to an eviction scare at the Crystal Palace action camp.

Although the eviction alert turned out to be false alarm, we soon found out that whilst we had been waiting for the bailiffs to arrive the eviction at the Epsom anti-road/car park camp elsewhere in South London had begun. Energy and enthusiasm at the Crystal Palace camp was low and many people were reluctant to leave the site. However one vehicle left immediately hoping that security at Epsom would still be minimal and that they’d be able to get on site. Later, I jumped into a car with a few others. During the journey we received a call from the first van who warned us of the scale of the police presence and that the only person to have been at the camp when the eviction began had already been arrested and taken to court. We decided to continue but to go straight to the court to support the person who had been arrested. Arriving at one of the police road blocks stopping all ‘suspicious’ looking vehicles going into the town, we quickly became aware of the size of the police operation. After a brief delay we drove to the court building. It was from this point on that the day became increasingly bizzare.

The camp at Epsom was small with very few people living there and serious resistance to the eviction was unlikely. Despite this being obvious to the local police, whose headquarters were located directly opposite the camp, the scale of the security measures taken was phenomenal. Several hundred police and security surrounded the site whilst bailiffs and climbers cleared the trees and structures that had been built by those resisting the development. Their operation, however, stretched much further than the boundaries of the camp.

Shortly after being refused entry to the court building by five cops, an unmarked white van drew up, the side door opened and several members of the Metropolitan Police FIT team jumped out. They approached us immediately, addressing the person I was with by her first name. Slightly shocked our natural response was to get up and leg it. As we turned the first corner I noticed a person not in police uniform speak into their coat. He also began to chase us along with the two cops from FIT. They were all fairly unfit, so we managed to lose them quite easily. After hiding for a while behind a public toilet we ventured back out onto the High Street. There were cops on almost every street corner. We began walking back to the Court where, along with the person who’d been arrested, we bumped in to a few other’s who had been involved in the campaign.

Keen to find somewhere to get tea and chill out we left the court together. A van full of police in black boiler suits followed us slowly as a group of police photographers took pictures whilst some members of FIT attempted to strike up conversations. Keen not to lead a police convoy to the house of the friendly person who had offered us a room to relax we split up. A couple of people went back to the car we had arrived in, only to be followed by a police van, whilst others of us went into tourist shops to avoid the photographers. Undeterred FIT continued their harassment. Each of us was being tailed by two or three cops, one of whom had either a stills or video camera. Trying to minimise the number of pictures they could get of us we tried to use paper bags from a gift shop as make-shift masks.

It was clear that the cops following us were under instructions not to let us go anywhere without keeping us under observation. Perhaps the local police were expecting either a much larger response to the eviction alert, or for the few people who turned up at the site to attempt to re-occupy the camp or damage the machinery being used to clear the trees. Unfortunately there was no possibility of our being able to achieve either of these things. We called the person driving the car we had arrived in, arranged a meeting point and travelled back to Crystal Palace – followed, of course, by a van full of cops and several members of the FIT team. A truly bizzare day!

Power to the People’s Towers!

Right: During the eviction the Faulty Tower stood firm for two days. Building towers can be a very effective defence tactic in fighting developments. Left: In 1975 as part of the vast resistance to the building of the Toyko Airport at Narita, Japanese peasants built two 62 metre high towers. Standing at the end of the first runway the towers prevented the take off or landing of any planes. Tens of thousands defended the towers, masked up, wearing helmets and wielding pikes. ‘Surrounded by fields, gleaming emerald that day in the rain, the tower exuded strength. It’s steel girders, meshing and intermeshing like the joined arms of it’s defenders. As if the secret forces of the earth had come together to replenish the struggle of those pledged to defend it, against those who would spread the pall of death’-from Libero No.3 (Japanese Anarchist mag) 1976

Two Statements From The Bunker

1) For years politicians have been selling our future to multinational companies. Ordinary people are constantly excluded from decisions about their own environment. The only way for us to resist this is by direct action. Every day we remain, we cost them money, which makes the scheme less viable.

As anarchists we hope that by resisting this development, we will not only protect this historic site, but will move one step closer to a future in which neither politicians, nor business, but people themselves control every aspect of their own lives.

2) Contrary to some opinions, our action was not a media stunt but direct action. Our aim was to protect the site and hinder those who seek to profit from it’s destruction.

As anarchists we understand direct action to be the only way people are empowered, and real change achieved.There is no spectacle that the capitalist media could create that would do justice to the reality of the campaign, or the community that has grown from it. The collective action of this community is more important than any personality or individual efforts.As capitalist media cannot be expected to fairly represent any action that undermines the capitalist system, we will not be saying any more.

Never Trust the Middle Classes

“The treehouses are built, the tunnels dug and the small community is already on eviction alert. A world away, in the rarefied atmosphere of QC Anthony Scrivener’s Gray’s Inn chambers, barrister and Bromley resident Philip Kolvin [far right!] is leading his campaign of ‘professional resistance’ against the council.” (from the Trade magazine Estates Gazette, 20th February 1999.)

Kolvin’s Campaign (nicknamed Babylon’s Protest) purposefully set itself apart from the site, groups and locals involved in direct action, while simultaneously reaping the financial reward of the televised resistance. Mistakenly thinking they were giving money to the site many donated to the ‘campaign’ which instead went on countless fruitless legal manouevres. Money flooded in to the campaign coffers (30,000+) while those on site often went without food or basic action supplies – relying often on what they could skip and steal.

The last two eco-warriors left the tunnels on March 25th.

However, the time and cost of evicting the camp, fighting legal challenges etc, held development off for several years, to the point where in 2001, Bromley Council announced the collapse of the plan.

There’s lots of archived campaign material and history relating to the multiplex plans here

The future of the top of the Park remained a subject of local debate… Here’s a series of updated articles briefly detailing some of the negotiations and plans that have emerged since…

Various plans have come and gone since 2001. In 2003, plan for a modern building in glass was submitted to the Bromley council; ironically proposed by Philip Kolvin, campaigner against the multiplex, who was accused of being an opportunist and self-promoter…

In 2007, a £67 million master plan was drawn up by the London Development Agency which included the building of a new sports centre, the creation of a tree canopy to mimic the outline of the palace, the restoration of the Paxton Axis walkway through the park, but it also included a controversial proposal for housing on two parts of the park. It won government backing in 2010, and the plans were upheld by the High Court in 2012 after a challenge by the Crystal Palace Community Association.

The owners of Crystal Palace F.C. announced plans to relocate the club back to their original home (now the site of the National Sports Centre) from their current Selhurst Park home; this also never happened.

In 2013, a plan to build a replica of the destroyed Crystal Palace was proposed by a Chinese developer. Bromley Council however cancelled the exclusivity agreement with the developer in 2015.

More recently, the running of the park is to be taken over this year from Bromley by the Crystal Palace Park Trust, an independent community trust. As the history of the community’s relations has shown, ‘public’ ownership of space, as with other ‘assets’ has a long and chequered history. ‘Public’ bodies nominally under ‘our’ control do not always manage space, housing, health, (etc) in anything like the interests of ‘the public’. And what is the public? A catch-all term that obscures the vast variety of competing and struggling interests that we are enmeshed in…

We will have to see how ‘community’ control of the Park pans out… as ‘community’, like ‘public’, is a term that can cover a multitude of sins. ‘Community’ management can reflect a narrow caste imposing their vision of a space, or can genuinely encompass how splintering ideas and alternative needs intersect.

Open space is often a zone of contestation. Open spaces all over England have been the focus of dispute and struggle for a thousand years. Apart from everyday uses – in medieval times collecting firewood, grazing animals; later drying clothes, recreation, sports, just walking or hanging out – apart from providing space for everyone, often they were gathering places for the outcast and for rebellious or radical mobs, or places for illicit sex. The poor, the outcast, the sexually promiscuous or unlawful, the homeless, have faced numberless attempts to exclude them by better off residents or City authorities, including campaigns to end rowdy and troublesome fairs, build on ‘wastelands’, enclose ‘unproductive’ commons and marginalise the already precarious, to fence off squares, arrest and drive out beggars, prostitutes (or women simply labelled as such), gays (in centuries when gay sex was illegal and punishable by death), the homeless, etc. The authorities saw open spaces as centres of disorder, immorality; by the 19th century po-faced social reformers had come to see open and unorganised space as immoral in itself, leading to the landscaping of ‘wasteland’, the creation of properly laid out parks – a process which was thought to have a civilising effect on the people who used it.

These conflicts have not gone away – from the restrictive bylaws of the parks to modern control orders, parts of the ‘community’ and the ‘public’ clash constantly over how space is used, respectability and unruly… Echoing also the largely middle class legal campaign against the Crystal Place multiplex and the uneasy alliance with the activist hippy riot of the eco-camp; anti-enclosure struggles historically also often had their legalistic and riotous sides (as at nearby One Tree Hill…) Which in reality both generally contributed to spaces being saved, but was not always the end of the dispute over what the space should BE.

Also – we kind of LIKE the top of Crystal Palace Park wilder and unmanaged; landscaping that had gone to seed, weeds growing over the terraces… Wilderness, re-wilding of Victorian strait-lacedness… The camp too was like another new world being half-built and struggling to emerge (though it had its problemos)… No to multiplexes in parks, yes, but also no to every park being planned and mowed…

Martin Spence, in talking about the enclosure of Penge Common, has thrown up a question about ‘commons’ – if we posit a new commons, shared collective inheritance for us all (echoing the vision of shared traditional use of the land on the old ‘commons’) – what should that consist of? Can our shared use of open space be expanded into a ‘commons’? Commons traditionally were also venues for struggle BETWEEN users, between parishes as well as between classes.

We need a new commons… based not in the past but in the future. The main thing to take from the numberless struggles to preserve open space is that people won because they considered the places they were defending to be theirs, to belong to them, even when that stood in opposition to the legal ‘reality’… Although sometimes relying on those traditions and common rights as the basis for legal argument didn’t work, often when it formed the backbone for direct action and a collective campaigning approach, this sense of the commons being ‘ours’ could overcome all the power of law, profit and parliament. This is a lesson worth taking when we think about how we view open space: although we can take many inspirations from our history, reliance on the past can not be a defence, we need to be re-forging a sense that the resources of the world are for all of us, for people’s enjoyment, not for the profit of a few.

We need to be redefining what is ours, collectively, in opposition and defiance of the laws and fences built to exclude us; and not just when it comes to green or urban space, but for the whole world. In the midst of 21st century London, a whirlwind of global profit, backed by a government with a determined ruling class agenda, is uprooting communities, altering the landscape, destroying or severely hamstringing any right to social housing, welfare, health, education, for increasing numbers of us.

 

Today in London anti-racist history, 1981: the Black People’s Day of Action protests the New Cross Fire

On Sunday 18th January 1981, 13 black youths, all between the ages of 15 and 20 years old, were killed in a fire at a birthday party for Yvonne Ruddock and Angela Jackson, at 439 New Cross Road, in the heart of the South London neighbourhood of New Cross.

The victims of the New Cross fire were Humphrey Brown, 18, Peter Campbell, 18, Steve Collins, 17, Patrick Cummings, 16, Gerry Francis, 17, Andrew Gooding, 14, Lloyd Richard Hall, 20, Patricia Denise Johnston, 15, Rosalind Henry, 16, Glenton Powell, 15, Paul Ruddock, 22, Yvonne Ruddock, 16, and Owen Thompson, 16.

Twenty seven others were seriously injured.

Anthony Berbeck, caught up in the fire, was believed to have committed suicide following the trauma of the event, in July 1983.

The police initially concluded that the fire was caused by a firebomb, and many believed that it was a racist attack – not unreasonably, as racial attacks and racist fire-bombings had been endemic against black and asian communities throughout the previous decade.

“The suspicion was that it was a racial attack. A lot of that was happening in the country at the time, in the East End of London, everywhere. So it seemed perfectly reasonable to believe the place had been fire-bombed. I genuinely believe that, and everybody believed that at the time. A policeman told Mrs Ruddock on the night of the fire that there was a fire-bomb – from his mouth came the words.” 

Over the preceding two decades, elements of the political class and the media had stoked a climate of racism in which horrific levels of brutality, including murder, became routine. The incidence of racist attacks was closely related to government and media-inspired resentment against immigration; of the 64 racist murders between 1970 and 1986, 50 occurred in the five years – 1976 and 1978-81 – when immigration scares ‘reached fever pitch’.

The New Cross fire occurred in the context of racist arson attacks across South London, particularly in New Cross and Deptford. In 1971, three petrol bombs had been thrown into an African-Caribbean party in Sunderland Road in Ladywell. The immediate response of the police was to arrest eight members of the Black Unity and Freedom Party on their way home from visiting victims in Lewisham hospital. Both the Moonshot youth club in New Cross and the Albany centre in Deptford had been burnt out by fascists in the preceding few years.

After initially suggesting that the New Cross Fire might be a racist attack, the police quite quickly back-pedalled on the racial aspect of the tragedy. Police officers had told Mrs Ruddock twice, within the first couple of hours of the fire, that it had been caused by a petrol bomb. The first officer to point to arson was on the scene outside the house, the second at King’s College Hospital. Other witnesses reported the suspicious behaviour of a man who pulled up and drove off in White Austin Princess. Four days later, the South East London Mercury reported that the police were trying to trace the driver of the vehicle which was parked outside the house (22 January 1981)

Survivors and witnesses were grilled by the police and treated with suspicion, and hostility, even at the inquest: “I was one of the last people to give evidence, and so I had to watch everyone – you know, all my friends go in and do their bit, and then it was me. And I was scared. But I used the inquest as an opportunity to let everyone know what had happened the night when the police did interview me, ‘cos I felt as if they were asking me the questions and then they were answering them themselves. So I used that as an opportunity to say, Well, okay, this was what was happening. But I think the build-up to it was a lot worse than the actual day was. Bishop Wood was a big help. And he was in there with me, and I suppose I needed someone in there with me, anyway. And he was my support, really, yeah. It was an experience, for my age. It was an experience, and not one I’d like to go through again in a hurry. Yeah, it was terrible. Every morning, you’d pull up at the court and it would be sort of, like, cameramen and all that, every day…. There were times when I did feel, especially when 1 was being interviewed by the police, I felt like, Hold on, I am the victim here, yet I feel as if I’m a suspect.”

Family members and the local black community felt the attack was ignored and belittled – there was little serious press coverage or official sympathy. Police fed stories to the media about gate-crashers and cannabis at the party, detained black youth for questioning and twisted evidence at every turn to ‘prove’ that the fire was not started by racists. Despite the fact that the New Cross massacre was the worst atrocity suffered by black people in Britain, it took the Day of Action to force MPs to raise it in parliament. Local Labour MP, John Silkin, said not one word in the House of Commons and for three weeks did not send even a message of condolence to the families. As one woman stated at a press conference, if the fire had taken place in a dog’s home and killed 12 dogs, there would have been more response.

“The action committee – which was Darcus Howe then, and Mrs Phoenix – they wrote a letter to the Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, and one to the Queen. And they never get a reply until six weeks after. Six weeks after! That’s when they get the reply. But, I think it was two weeks after the New Cross march, they had one in Ireland and forty-eight died. That was a Sunday, too, ‘cos that happened this Saturday night, some disco, and forty-eight people die. And straight away condolence went from here to there, and we had to wait for six weeks reply. That was bad! Bad, that very bad. Something happen in your country and you write to the authorities and you didn’t get no response from them. And six weeks after the time, that couldn’t look good, and 1 felt very bad about that. That wasn’t good enough, six weeks.”

To the families, friends of the dead, and wider communities they came from, the lives and deaths of black people were considered unimportant; black lives did not matter.

Racist attacks on black people in Britain had been part of black communities’ lives since the 1950s; the activities of fascist groupings like the National Front and the British Movement had been both capitalising on white British racism and encouraging and whipping it up though the 1970s.

An inquiry was launched, led by South London head of CID, Commander Graham Stockwell This enraged black activists, as Stockwell had been instrumental in reinstating the incitement to riot charges against the Mangrove Nine (including Darcus Howe). Stockwell’s form was not lost on the campaigners. Darcus Howe was convinced that the decision to put Stockwell in charge of the investigation was essentially “a political decision, because he knew some of the characters in the game”. Relations between the police and the local community were already strained, with the Metropolitan Police accused of lacking urgency.  There was a rejection of moves by police to bring the black community behind the Community Relations Councils (CRCs) and the Commission for Racial Equality, as this was seen as undermining an independent struggle for justice.

The NCMAC also established a Fact Finding Commission on 20 Jan 1981 to compile its own evidence through interviews with survivors and with the bereaved.  It not only carried out an independent investigation as to what had happened, but also found out through such interviews about the methods that the police were using to obtain their information.  Allegations were made that some of those interviewed by police had been forced into signing false statements under pressure. The Fact Finding Committee discovered that the police were detaining the young survivors of the fire, in some cases without their parents’ permission, and pressurising them into signing statements saying the fire was the result of a fight at the party. 11-year-old Denise Gooding, whose 14-year old brother Andrew had died in the fire, was questioned in a police station for many hours before finally being released at 1 a.m. During the interrogation, she was repeatedly told by officers not to lie, just to tell them there was fighting in the house. NCMAC would eventually expose how child witnesses were made to sign false statements under police duress at the Inquest into the fire, by which point the Met had abandoned the theory of a fight as the cause of the fire altogether. However, as La Rose later pointed out, the movement had been forced to “exercise every ounce of alertness and vigilance to stop the police framing a group of young blacks who were at the party”.

Rumours of a racist attack carried out by far right groups were too easily overlooked by the police.

For many Black Londoners the New Cross Fire was the last straw. The fire was to have a long and traumatic impact on black consciousness in the UK – in the short term it galvanised a sudden and angry movement in response. New Cross was after all, the arena for mass resistance to a National Front march in 1977: locals were less and less prepared to be pushed around by racists or treated like shit by the police.

The New Cross Massacre Action Committee, chaired by John La Rose, was mobilised to protest at the apparent bias and mishandling of the police investigation into the fire, to challenge the indifference shown by the government, and to highlight distorted media coverage.  Fuelled by a history of attacks on black people, including several incidents in the Lewisham, New Cross and Deptford areas, suspicions soon arose about police methods of detection and inherent racism.

The New Cross Massacre Action Committee coalesced around three members of the Black Parents Movement – Darcus Howe, John La Rose, and Roxy Harris, together with Alex Pascall – who formed a delegation and visited Mrs Gee Ruddock, owner of 439 New Cross Road, at the house of black community leader Sybil Phoenix.  Mrs Ruddock had lost both of her children in the fire.

“’I was in a meeting of the Black Parents’ Movement. There was an alliance between the Black Parents’ Movement, Race Today, which I edited, and the Black Youth Movement. That would be at Finsbury Park, around John Larose’ and the New Beacon Bookshop, and we were there on Sunday night and a phone call came, I think it was via Sibyl Phoenix, to tell us that this terrible thing had happened on the Saturday. And the first thing we did was to stop the meeting, adjourned it, and went. And we met Mrs Ruddock and Sibyl Phoenix and they invited all of us down on the Monday to the Moonshot Club, youth club.” (Darcus Howe)

The Pagnell St/Moonshot Youth Club in Pagnell Street, New Cross, was a local community centre established for and by black youth: survivors had gathered here in the early hours of Sunday morning. Sybil Phoenix, who ran the Moonshot, had arrived at the scene of the fire while bodies were still being carried from the building. Phoenix had been asked by the police to try to find people who had been at the party to help identify the badly burned bodies. She was to play a crucial role supporting the bereaved through the devastation of the days and weeks that followed.

On the Sunday after the fire (20th January 1981), a mass meeting was held at the Pagnell Street Community Centre in New Cross, attended by over 1000 people.

“And we thought, or I certainly thought, Well, we’re going to meet a committee of about ten people. When we got there there were three hundred people. John and I were, by and large, two of the major figures in that alliance, so I said, “John, this is trouble. This is it.” But, you see, I wasn’t surprised that much, because the black people were starting to gather.” (Howe)

At the beginning of the meeting, Lewisham Police Commander John Smith arrived uninvited to address those present: his words were drowned out by angry shouts of ‘ Go away murderer! ’. Smith, visibly shaken, by the experience, later called his reception ‘ rather sad ’. Flanked by Scotland Yard Press Officer, Bob Cox, he left the building without speaking. So much anger against the Met was hardly surprising – police had failed to investigate a string of suspected racist attacks in the area properly. The Met’s failures, particularly when dealing with suspected arson, were legion. The Moonshot club itself had burnt down in December 1977 a few weeks after reports of it being identified as a target for attack during a local meeting of the National Front. Nonetheless, the police excluded arson as a possible cause. Similarly, the police’s decision to rule out foul play when The Albany Theatre in Creek Road, Deptford, burnt down in August 1978 caused rage locally.

“And then we decided to have a public meeting. This is Monday, for Saturday, and when we went down there were about three thousand people.”

The second meeting ended with a demonstration to 439 New Cross Road, which blocked the main road (the A2) for several hours.

A series of public meetings were held across London to encourage support.  There were also regional committees set up across the country, in Leicester, Manchester and Rugby, as well as committees in North, West, and South East London.

“And we started to meet every Tuesday. It was a kind of black assembly – hundreds of people came every Tuesday. John Larose was chair. We had a committee which I was on, the officers were officers of Race Today in Brixton, by which time we could organise. We took a political decision to do that, for one simple reason: every single week you would hear clashes between the police and blacks all over London and it was becoming something of importance. There were other issues at large, and I said, “Well, if they’re going to kill so many kids in a fire, we have to mobilise and show them we got some power in this place, and only way to do that is to call a general strike of blacks.” That was at the back of my mind. I discussed it with Race Today people. I said, “Let’s see how it goes ‘cos I think we can pull this one off.” (Darcus Howe)

It was the Black People’s Assembly which decided on holding a Black People’s Day of Action, on a working day, set for Monday 2nd March 1981. The committee planned a campaign of support for a demonstration on that day.

“So we decided to call a day of action, the meeting, and they decided it should be on a weekday, a working day, and I thought, “Well, let’s see how it goes.”

John La Rose, the chair of the NCMAC, recalled in an interview:

‘People would be saying, “Man we have got to do something about this thing. The police cannot get away with this thing!” That kind of talk went on. And they said, “Yes we’ll go on a march.” “Where are the guns?” That kind of talk…And I said, “Have you heard of a man called Brigadier Frank Kitson, Low Intensity Operations? If you haven’t read his book then you should read it. Because if you are talking about going to Parliament with guns then you have to take on Kitson.” He had been the Commander in Northern Ireland, he was GOC in Britain. I said, “Let’s talk seriously, you are starting at the end, let’s start at the beginning.”

‘We had that sort of interchange all the time at the meetings, very open, free meetings. So they said, “OK we’ll go on a march.” We said, “Well, what day are we going to march?” Because the normal marches took place on a Sunday, when nobody’s working, everyone’s home, the people said that they wanted it to be on a day when the British are bound to take notice. So what day? We had to disrupt British society; that was absolutely clear. That is what we were saying in that movement. We wanted to snarl up traffic all over London.

‘So we decided it must be a Monday; that came from within the audience. We wanted to make this place realise that we’re serious and we’re going to disrupt the whole of British society. We aren’t going to work that day…

‘What demonstrations in the past usually did was to march on Hyde Park into Whitehall. We said we were going to go where the people are going to know that this is happening, we’re going to march in all those areas – like Peckham – before we come to Blackfriars Bridge. That way you are going to hit that area of London with all those people who are really concerned about what’s happening in the whole New Cross area, and then march through the financial centre, the City, and shake up the place, terrify them.x

The Black People’s Day of Action saw the biggest political mobilisation of black people seen in Britain up to that point. 20,000 black people and their supporters marched over a period of eight hours from Fordham Park in New Cross, through Peckham, Elephant and Castle, across Blackfriars Bridge, into Fleet Street, Regent Street, then Cavendish Street and finally into Hyde Park, with banners and placards with slogans including: ‘Thirteen Dead and Nothing Said’, ‘No Police Cover‑Up’, ‘Blood Ah Go Run If Justice No Come’, ‘New Cross Massacre Cover Up’; ‘Forward to Freedom’, ‘Babylon will fall’; ‘No stopping us now we are on the move’; ‘No Rights, No Obligations’.

Attempts by the police to control and restrict the scope of the march had failed. As the Day of Action drew closer, Darcus Howe entered into tense negotiations with the authorities over the route and date of the march. Howe and John La Rose headed a small delegation which met with Inspector Pollinghorne, who had been placed in charge of policing the march, at Brixton Police Station in late February. The NCMAC proposed route of the march went from New Cross over Blackfriars Bridge, through the City and Fleet Street, past Scotland Yard and the Houses of Parliament before finishing in Hyde Park some 17 miles later.

The route was symbolic. It had been picked so the protestors could express their disapproval at the distorted press coverage of the fi re, protest at the police’s handling of the investigation and so that the parents of the dead and members of NCMAC could hand in a statement to Parliament voicing concern at the lack of a government response.

Inspector Pollinghorne objected to the length and route of the march and said it should go through the Old Kent Road, a route which the campaign had already rejected. Howe defended the NCMAC’s preferred route, which had been designed to maximise the support and participation of the black community by going via Camberwell and Peckham. Pollinghorne demanded to know how long it would take the protestors to walk the 17 miles. Howe replied: ‘ you’re a military man, Inspector, we plan to advance a mile a day ’. At this, Pollinghorne walked out. The meeting lasted barely 5 minutes.

The police, in particular, felt large demos of angry black people to be a challenge to their control of the streets. London’s Black population felt they could be burned to death, without much comment, but god forbid they take to the streets in anger.

Darcus Howe recalled that the weather on the morning of Monday 2 March was beautiful; not cold but temperate and bright. He arrived at Fordham Park next to the Moonshot in good time and watched the marchers assemble in awe as wave upon wave came down the hill into the valley to join him in the park. Buses, organised by the NCMAC, kept arriving carrying black people from across the country. Hundreds of school children walked out of their schools to join the demonstration.

“The start of the demonstration was in a valley. You came down a hill in this little valley. And I was there, commander in chief, really, on the day, dealing with the stuff. I was in charge of the big truck, and I was in charge of the mike. So I was settled in. I was there on time, and beautiful weather, not cold, just temperate, bright sun, and waves and waves and waves and waves and waves of black people coming down that hill. It was a Charge of the Light Brigade… And off we went: “Thirteen dead and nothing said.” That was the slogan. “Thirteen dead and nothing said.” So the whole organisation of the march was around the fact that we can’t get an explanation from anybody.” (Darcus Howe)

“In the wake of the New Cross Fire we took a decision very early in the first meeting that it was a massacre politically. We decided that the protest would be Black~led and we decided that we would mobilise the whole country from a central co~ordinating group. I can remember very vividly being part of the debate. It was clear that we didn’t want it to be part of a commission or whatever because those bodies are not political bodies. If we were to wage any struggle, it had to be a political struggle, purely based on the resources of the community. You don’t apply for grants to take political action!” (Trevor Sinclair)

The march had been planned carefully. The stewards, who wore identification berets, were briefed by Howe to show discipline and restraint in the face of police provocation, ‘otherwise the march would collapse into a mass violence and the point would not be made’. With the Collective acting as chief stewards, he knew that if anything went wrong ‘ we would be held responsible ’.

The police had said they wanted the march to start at 11.30 a.m. At 11 a.m., Howe called over to one of the officers and said ‘ Let ’ s go ’ in the hope it would upset any plans they might have to disrupt the march along the route. It was tactical flourishes like this which led Linton Kwesi Johnson to christen Howe with the nickname ‘ General ’. Tactics aside, Howe opines that the police were unprepared in a second sense. From studying James, from his experiences in the Caribbean and America, from travelling the country during the Lindo Campaign, from the Basement Sessions, and his run-ins with the police, Howe was prepared for the Day of Action. The event was unprecedented, but Howe’s years of experience organising campaigns and his theoretical understanding of the dynamics involved in mass protest meant that he was as prepared as anyone for the march. The police, by contrast, had no idea what they were dealing with. “They underestimated us. . . . They thought we were a load of little, stupid, black people.” The police were caught off guard by the scale of the march and the sophistication of the organisation. “There had never seen that size demonstration of black people before. So the police didn’t know culturally what to do”. (Howe).

As the march set off along New Cross Road, Howe could see that many thousands had missed school or work to protest. By the time that the front of the march arrived at the remains of 439 New Cross Road half a mile away and stopped to pay its respects to the 13 young lives lost in the inferno, the tail end of the march had not yet left the Fordham Park.

“… undoubtedly, [it was] black people, in the leadership of the march. In the main, if you look at street demonstrations, even street demonstrations around issues that affect black people, you get a sense that white people were somehow in command of events. They’d organised it. This was black organised, black led and you felt that. So it was very much a black community event. And then the numbers who joined it, that was significant, as you went along. But also in some parts of the march the hostility, directed by people who were undoubtedly racist…” (Darcus Howe)

As the mass of people passed through Southwark towards Blackfriars Bridge, the organisers reckoned that somewhere in the region of 25,000 people may have been on the march. When the chief stewards tallied their numbers together at the end, the final figure they arrived at was a little over 20,000. There was a sense that the police were frightened, that they had never seen anger from the black community on this scale before and that the movement which had mobilised that day ‘shook them to their roots’ .

When the march got to Blackfriars Bridge, it started to rain. A small delegation consisting of John la Rose and the victims ’ families left the head of march to take their protest to Parliament. A group of about 50 young people at the front of the march pressed ahead and overtook the lorry only to find they were confronted by rows of police blocking the entrance to Blackfriars Bridge. The police were determined to stop the demonstration from crossing the bridge. The bridge was symbolic. This was the first protest march since the Chartist Procession of 10 April 1848 to attempt to cross Blackfriars Bridge and the police were determined to block it. As a result, fighting broke out as the youth struggled to break through the police lines and fought to free comrades arrested by the police. “. . . Runners amongst the stewards were despatched to bring forward the truck trapped way back from the pitched battle. Chaos was increased as contradictory directives were issued by the police commanders. As Lewisham police tried to ease a way for the truck to move forward, the City police continued with blocking manoeuvres. The impasse was broken as the truck nosed its way through the seething mass, Rasta flag flying aloft. Strengthened now by the presence of the lorry, the crowd with one last heave laid siege to the police line, and with a resounding cheer, broke through the cordon.”

Among those arrested during the melee by police officers who called him a ‘ cunt ’ and ‘ bastard ’ was the Policy Studies Institute undercover researcher who was writing a police-funded study of young black attitudes towards the police….!

“We come across Blackfriars Bridge. No demonstration had crossed that bridge since the Chartists and, suddenly, the police threw a cordon across the road and say, “You are not going anywhere.” And the driver of that huge wagon, I said, “Drive!” Just leant towards him. “Drive that.” Brrrrm! And the police . . . “What? Are you going to stand before a truck?” I don’t know any police officer that brave. And we crossed the bridge into Fleet Street, running…” (Howe)

Once they had crossed the Thames, the protestors regrouped and continued their demonstration through the City and into Fleet Street. Marching in tight formation past the Red Tops and broadsheets, the protestors offered up the cries of ‘ Thirteen Dead and Nothing Said ’ and ‘ Fleet Street Liars ’. All the participant accounts concur in reporting abuse that the marchers received from the offices in Fleet Street.

“And then as we came up Fleet Street there, the taunting and the abuse that rained down upon us from the Express building in particular, I will never forget that.” (Paul Boateng)

As they passed by The Sun‘s offices ‘ there was a torrent of racial abuse from people working in the building . . . “ Go Back Home you Black Bastards ” , the usual banal kind of things that these people say ’… people leaning out of windows making ‘ monkey noises ’ and throwing banana skins at the crowd.

Against the chants of ‘ Justice, Justice ’ and the jeers of journalists, Fleet Street also saw renewed confrontation between the protestors and the police.

“In Fleet Street the whole mood of policing changed. The police imposed themselves on marchers, pushing, shoving, and kicking people off pavements. Scuffles broke out up and down Fleet Street, and, unlike Peckham, it was the police and not the stewards who stood guard in front of shops.”

In an isolated incident, which the vast majority of protesters were oblivious to, one small group broke off from the demonstration to smash and loot a jeweller’s shop. As police tried to stop them, an officer was injured. Obviously this was the incident that dominated the newspapers the next day. Despite the aggressive police tactics, of the thousands who marched that day, only 25 were nicked and charged with minor offences by the police.


There continued to be clashes and altercations with the police for the remainder of the march. Police rode horses into families with young children at Cumberland Gate in an apparent attempt to break up the march and stop it reaching Hyde Park.

Notwithstanding the provocative methods used to police the march, it did finally reach its destination at Hyde Park 7 hours aft er it had set out from Fordham Park. Thousands of protestors gathered around the lorry to listen to speeches by Howe and others.

From New Cross to Hyde Park, traffic in central London was brought to a standstill. Youth fought to break through police lines at Blackfriars Bridge and the march surged into the heart of the City… ‘city gents cowered in their offices terrified at the sight of the oppressed demanding justice’. The symbols of wealth – a bank and a jeweller’s shop – ‘fell victim to a hail of bricks and stones: journalists who quite rightly are seen as siding with the racist British state got rough justice…when a youth was arrested the march came to an immediate halt shouting “Let him go!” which police were forced to do as the marchers refused to move without their captured comrade.’

The racist response of the millionaire press to the 2 March was predictable. The Sun raved of ‘a frenzied mob’. Headlines screamed ‘The Day the Blacks Ran Riot in London’.

For many on the black communities, the Day of Action felt like the birth, or rebirth, of a large-scale black people’s movement in the UK; the sense of strength it gave people in the midst of the horror and tragedy of the fire help cement community and political unity of a kind…

If many first generation West Indians who moved to the UK responded to the racism, police attacks, discrimination, they faced by trying to keep their heads down, not making a fuss, putting up with, (if not completely accepting as fair) shit jobs, overcrowded housing and constant abuse, hoping it would gradually disappear over time. (This is not true of all, witness the self defence organised in 1958 against racist rioters in Notting Hill.) As their children grew up, however, a new angrier attitude evolved.

“Those of us who came here in the late 50s and early 60s were constrained by the myth that we were going home sooner or later, that we would earn some money and go, and therefore tended to put up with things that we knew were wrong – but there are young blacks who were born here, who have grown up here, who eat bangers and mash, egg and chips” (Darcus Howe)

This generation reacted to police oppression with a completely different attitude: this was their home, they had little intention of “returning” to islands they barely knew if at all, and were determined to make space for themselves in Britain; to force institutions and society to respect black people and their rights.

“British rulers had maintained that young blacks, who were born here or grew up here, would follow the social pattern laid down for their parents. Young blacks, they hoped, would meekly accept those jobs that refused to do; they would bow, bend before and make accommodations with their employers; they would be hesitant and cautious in their opposition to police malpractice. Undoubtedly some did, but the major tendency among the youth was a rejection, a total and militant rejection to these established ways of immigrant life.” (Race Today, 1982)

The feeling of a growing widespread resistance to racism, both organised and unofficial, murderous and repressive or simply daily harassment, was amplified five weeks later when Brixton erupted into uprising in response to years of racist policing and in particular Operation Swamp ’81.

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Postscript: Inquests into the Fire

The New Cross Massacre Action Committee closely monitored the Inquest proceedings, which began at County Hall in London on 21 Apr 1981.  Four theories were advanced from the police: 1) a firebomb attack from outside the building; 2) an opportunist arson attack from outside the building; 3) a deliberate fire from inside the building; 4) an accidental fire from inside the building.  However, it was soon clear that racial motives were being ruled out as theories 1 and 2 were abandoned, despite the revelation from forensics that a possible incendiary device had been found at the scene.  The speed and force of the fire had also caused a police officer at the scene to conclude that a petrol bomb had been thrown into the house, but this theory was dismissed.  The Coroner, Dr. Arthur Gordon Davies, refused to take any notes of evidence during the hearing, preferring to read from police statements.  The jury returned an open verdict.

Families with the support of the NCMAC appealed for the inquest verdict to be quashed and demanded a new inquest, considering the hearing to have been biased.  The fact that the Coroner refused to take notes during the hearing was ruled illegal under Section 6 of the Coroner’s Act 1887, and the Attorney General authorised the Appeal lodged by the relatives of the dead.  The integrity of the initial investigation was also called into question.  On 10 May 1982, the relatives won leave to Appeal, and an Appeal date was set for 5 July 1982.  However, the inquest jury refused to quash the open verdict. Despite attempts by the courts to avoid a second inquest, the NCMAC and relatives of the victims demanded that a new inquest should take place.

An International Commission of Inquiry was also planned by the NCMAC, although it never took place.  In an unfortunate decision, the Courts decided to hear the Appeal during the same period planned for the International Commission of Inquiry.  The latter had already been postponed from Jan 1982 due to the unavailability of some of the Commissioners chosen.  In Jun 1983, the NCMAC was at last planning to hold its own independent inquiry, but decided to postpone it again after detectives suggested that they might be on the verge of a breakthrough. This subsequently turned out to be misleading.

The Committee also established a Fire Fund to support the families involved, to raise money to help families to bury their dead, and to care for the injured.  The fund was chaired by Alex Pascall, member of NCMAC, and broadcaster of the daily Black Londoners BBC Radio London programme.  Access to broadcasting proved invaluable for interviewing relatives and members of the NCMAC, reporting on the New Cross Massacre Campaign, encouraging public support, and analysing social and political tensions.  A total of £27,000 was raised.

Annual vigils and memorial services continued to be held on the anniversary of the fire. The New Cross Memorial Trust was also set up in 1981 by the families of the victims.  Following a request from black community leader Sybil Phoenix, Lewisham council erected a memorial to the victims of the New Cross fire in 1997.

Despite repeated requests, the opportunity for a second inquest did not come until 1997, when the police re-opened the investigation.  Calls for a new inquest were twice rejected, until the High Court finally agreed in 2002.  A second Inquest began in Feb 2004, 23 years after the New Cross fire occurred.  An open verdict was again returned.

 

Today in London educational history, 1999: Occupation at Goldsmiths against tuition fees

Part of Goldsmiths College, New Cross, was occupied 26th February – March 5th 1999. 300 students took over college admin building, after eight students were expelled because they couldn’t pay £1000 a year tuition fees that had been imposed on them. A court granted the college an eviction order, but the occupying students refused to leave till the eight reinstated. A few weeks previously, students had held a demonstration, blocking New Cross Road outside, over same issue.

The occupiers wanted the letters of expulsion to be replaced by advice on funding for the fees from the university authorities.

The students also called for a commitment from the college that “no student should be excluded due to an inability to pay fees” and that the student union should be informed 10 days before a letter of expulsion is sent to a student.

The protest drew the solidarity of many folk outside the College, including Comedian Rob Newman, who performed a free show within the occupied building at Goldsmiths, attended by 500 students, and bands Silver Sun and Jolt, who played gigs there in support.

The occupation ended on March 5th, after a meeting of students on the Friday evening, following the High Court order. Student leaders claimed the occupation as a victory, saying that the threat of expulsion for non-paying students had been lifted, and that the university authorities promised better communication with the students’ union in future.

The Goldsmiths’ protest was part of a wave of occupations at universities including Oxford, Sussex and University College London.

Looking for ways to promote further protests in the autumn, a national conference of students involved in protests against the fees was held and a “think-tank” – the Education Funding Society – was set up to develop arguments against the principle of charging fees. Goldsmiths students also published a ‘Rough Guide to Occupations’.

Many of the 1999 student protestors come from the generation of young people who were first-time voters in the New Labour landslide election victory of 1997, but who now questioned the government’s commitment to well-funded education system.

“I voted Labour to get out the Tories, but they haven’t made enough use of their majority. They had the entire country behind them, but they didn’t push up spending in education as much as they could,” said the union’s finance officer, Denis Fernando.

The students argue not only that the current levying of fees will deter the less-advantaged from entering higher education, but there is a long-term move towards a two-tier university system.

They claimed that in future fees would rise, particularly in the most successful universities, so that access to the most sought-after places would depend as much on money as ability; and that the downgrading of the principle of free tuition would see a move towards greater involvement of private finance in higher education, with a business-sponsored private university sector emerging.

The 1999 anti-fees protests proved to be foresighted, as tuition fess were raised across the board and increased massively. The 1999 occupations foreshadowed the much larger student agitation of 2010-111, which saw hundreds of occupations and massive demos which led to fighting with the police, the takeover of the Tory HQ at Millbank, a run-in with prince Charles…

A few days after the Goldsmiths occupation ended, another college occupation started, at Camberwell College of Art (a couple of miles away), in protest at lack of tutors, equipment, space, grants and hours of access, college management used various methods to harass them, including bogus fire alarms, threats to prosecute, turning off heating & hot water. 8 students involved were later taken to court by the College authorities.

Goldsmiths was also occupied several times in 2009-2010 during the mass student agitation against tuition fees… in 2013 and 2015

and more recently, in 2019 there was the Goldsmiths Anti Racist occupation

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An entry in the 2015 London Rebel History Calendar

Check out the 2015 London Rebel History Calendar online

 

 

Today in London legal history, 1811: Leigh and John Hunt acquitted of seditious libel, after denouncing flogging in the army

Edward Leigh Hunt (1784-1859), was a romantic writer, editor, critic and comrade/contemporary of Byron, Shelley, and Keats, and an innovative poet. He is also remembered for being sentenced to prison for two years on charges of libel against the Prince Regent (later king George IV), being one of the most outspoken and effective journalists in the age of the French Revolution.

Leigh Hunt’s published his first book of poetry, Juvenilia in 1801, aged 17: it became a sensation and went to four editions in as many years.  Hunt later published over 50 volumes of prose, poetry, and drama, and a mass of influential reviews, articles, and essays.  He began writing theatrical reviews in The News (1805) and The Statesman (1806), two newspapers published by his brother John Hunt, before they together launched a widely-read weekly newspaper, The Examiner in 1808, clearly expressing his opinion on political subjects. This was to get him into trouble with the authorities, and the brothers were brought to trial several times. Acting in their own defence, they were repeatedly acquitted

Leigh took on the job of editor and leader-writer. The Examiner soon became popular. It was thoroughly independent, owing no allegiance to any political party, but it advocated liberal politics, with the aim of supporting the cause of reform in parliament, liberal opinion in general, as well as trying to enthuse its readers with modern literature. The Examiner’s literary side was central to launching the careers of the young romantic poets of Hunt’s circle.  He influenced and reviewed both John Keats and Percy Shelley, and was the first to publish Keats poetry. He became an intimate friend of both Percy and Mary Shelley, and staunchly defended the poet’s genius. Many of the romantic poets and writers, like Hunt, inclined to radical or pro-reform ideas, while their writing was also considered innovative and ground-breaking. Hunt was a crucial focal individual at the centre of the literary and publishing world during the Romantic and Victorian early 19th century

But it was its political writing led The Examiner to be looked upon with suspicion by those in power.

In September 1810, the Hunt brothers republished an article from a Stamford newspaper, entitled ‘One Thousand Lashes’, attacking the brutality of the army’s flogging of serving soldiers, written by John Scott. Scott and the two Hunts were charged with seditious libel: the government reasoning that suggesting, as the article had done, that soldiers in Napoleon’s army were more humanely treated than soldiers in British army, was calculated to undermine national security.

The offending article read:

‘One Thousand Lashes!!’
(from the Stamford News)

“The aggressors were not dealt with as Buonpoarte would have treated his refractory troops.” (the Attorney General)

“Corporal Curtis was sentenced to receive ONE THOUSAND LASHES, but after receiving two Hundred, was, on his own petition, permitted to volunteer into a regiment on foreign service.- William Clifford, a private in the 7th royal veteran battalion, was lately sentenced to receive ONE THOUSAND LASHES, for repeatedly striking and kicking his superior officer. He underwent part of his sentence by receiving seven hundred and fifty lashes, at Canterbury, in presence of the whole garrison. – A garrison court martial has been held on board the Metcalf transport, at Spithead, on some men of the 4th regiment of foot, for disrespectful behaviour to their officers. TWO THOUSAND SIX HUNDRED LASHES were to be inflicted among them. – Robert Chillman, a private in the Bearstead and Malling regiment of local militia, who was lately tried by a court martial for disobedience of orders, and mutinous and improper behaviour while the regiment was embodied, has been found guilty of all the charges, and sentenced to receive EIGHT HUNDRED LASHES, which are to be inflicted on him at Chatham, to which garrison he is to be marched for that purpose.” – London Newspapers.

The Attorney-general said what was very true; – these aggressors have certainly not been dealt with as Buonoparte would have treated his refractory troops; nor indeed as refractory troops would be treated in any civilised country whatever, save and except only this country. Here alone, in this land of liberty, in this age of refinement – by a people who, with their usual consistency, have been in the habit of reproaching their neighbours with the cruelty of their punishment – is still inflicted a species of torture, at least as exquisite as any that was ever devised by the infernal ingenuity of the Inquisition. No, as the attorney-general justly says, Buonoparte does not treat his refractory troops in this manner; there is not a man in his ranks whose back is seamed with the lacerating cat-o-nine-tails; his soldiers have never yet been brought up to view one of their comrades stripped naked, – his limbs tied with ropes to a triangular machine – his back torn to the bone by the merciless cutting whipcord, applied by persons who relieve each other at short intervals, that they bring the full unexhausted strength of a man to the work of scourging. Buonoparte’s soldiers have never yet with tingling ears listened to the piercing screams of a creature so tortured: they have never seen the blood oozing from his rent flesh; they have never beheld a surgeon, with dubious look, pressing the agonised victim’s pulse, and calmly calculating, to an odd blow, how far suffering may be extended, until in its extremity it encroach on life. In short, Buonoparte’s soldiers cannot form any notion of that most heart-rending of all exhibitions on this side of hell, – an English military flogging.

Let it not be supposed that we intend these remarks to excite a vague and indiscriminating sentiment against punishment by military law: – no, when it is considered that discipline forms the soul of an army, without which it would at once degenerate into a mob; – when the description of persons which compose the body of what is called an army, and the situations in which it is frequently placed, are also taken into account, it will, we are afraid, appear but too evident, that the military code must still be kep distinct from the civil, and distinguished by greater promptitude and severity. Buonoparte is no favourite of ours, God wot – but if we come to balance accounts with him on this particular head, let us see how matters will stand. He recruits by force – so do we. We flog those whom we have forced – he does not. It may be said he punishes them in some manner; that is very true. He imprisons his refractory troops – occasionally in chains – and in aggravated cases, he puts them to death. But any of these severities is preferable to tying a human creature up like a dog, and cutting his flesh to pieces with whipcord. Who would not go to prison for two years, or indeed almost any term, rather than bear the exquisite, the almost insupportable, torment occasioned by the infliction of seven hundred or a thousand lashes? Death is mercy compared with such sufferings. Besides, what is a man good for after he has had the cat-o-nine-tails across his back? Can he ever again hold up his head among his fellows? One of the poor wretches executed at Lincoln last Friday, is stated to have been severely punished in some regiment. The probability is, that to this odious, ignominious flogging, may be traced his sad end; and it cannot be doubted that he found the gallows less cruel than the halberts. Surely, then, the attorney-general ought no to stroke his chin with such complacency, when he refers to the manner in which Buonoparte treats his soldiers. We despise and detest those who will tell us that there is as much liberty now enjoyed in France as there is left in this country. We give all credit to the wishes of some of our great men; yet while any thing remains to us in the shape of free discussion, it is impossible that we should sink into the abject slavery in which the French people are plunged. But although we do not envy Buonoparte’s subjects, we really (and we speak the honest conviction of our heats) see nothing peculiarly pitiable in the lot of his soldiers when compared with that of our own. Were we called upon to make our election between the services, the whipcord would at once decide us. No advantage whatever can compensate for, or render tolerable to a mind but one degree removed from brutality, a liability to be lashed like a beast. It is idle to talk about rendering the situation of a British soldier pleasant to himself, or desirable, far less honourable, in the estimation of others, while the whip is held over his head – and over his head alone, for in no other country (with the exception, perhaps, of Russia, which is yet in a state of barbarity) is the military character so degraded. We once heard of an army of slaves, which had bravely withstood the swords of their masters, being defeated and dispersed by the bare shaking of the instrument of flagellation in their faces. This brought so forcibly to their minds their former state of servitude and disgrace, that every honourable impulse at once forsook their bosoms, and they betook themselves to flight and to howling. We entertain no anxiety about the character of our countrymen in Portugal, when we contemplate their meeting the bayonets of Massena’s troops, – but we must own that we should tremble for the result, were the French general to dispatch against them a few hundred drummers, each brandishing a cat-o’-nine-tails.”

From reading which, it can be seen that the article was hardly subversive; the writer exhibited the required patriotism and support for Britain’s war on France, but only questioned the morality wisdom of flogging men nearly to death and its effect on morale. But suggesting that men would prefer to serve in the French army than the British was way too much for the authorities in time of war, when maintaining military discipline and the covenant of the British nation with the army was crucial. There had been a history of dissent against the long war against revolutionary/Napoleonic France, from radicals inspired by the French Revolution, from crowds enraged at methods of forced recruitment, from a population war weary and hungry, and not least from the Irish and Scots, the Irish in particular feeling the British lash on them selves (not forgetting that huge swathes of the British army were recruited in Ireland and Scotland.) There had been mutinies in the navy in 1797; felt (with not so much justification in fact) to have been whipped up by radicals. Soldiers and sailors had been involved in the various abortive radical plots at revolution in 1798-1802… Encouraging dissent in the ranks could have been very dangerous for the stretched and nervous British imperial war effort.

The Hunts’ trial for seditious libel took place in the Court of the King’s Bench, on February 22, 1811, before Lord Ellenborough, Ellenborough, the president of the Court of the King’s Bench (and, ironically, a fan of Hunt’s teen poetry volume, Juvenilia). Prosecuting, the Attorney-General, Sir Vicary Gibbs, (whose remarks had sparked the original Stamford article) argued that the article constituted ‘inflammatory libel’, likely to encourage military disaffection. Prominent pro-reform journalist William Cobbett had been found guilty of treasonous libel in June 1810 after objecting in his Political Register to the flogging at Ely of local militiamen, and sentenced to two years’ imprisonment in Newgate Prison. The government was hoping for a similar result; Gibbs made reference to Cobbett’s case in his opening remarks, and drew direct parallels between the cases.

The Hunts were defended by a young Scottish lawyer, Henry Brougham, an opponent of slavery and Whig politician and advocate of political reform (later Lord High Chancellor and an architect of the 1832 Reform Act). In court Brougham argued that there was a right to free discussion on public matters such as this, and condemned the brutality of the military authorities in using flogging for control and discipline. The jury was sympathetic and despite a heavily biased and hostile summing up from judge Ellenborough, the Hunt brothers were quickly acquitted.
However, a corresponding trial of the publishers of the original paper in Stamford resulted in conviction, although Brougham argued similarly in that trial.

A few years later, another article in the Examiner would get the Hunts into even bigger trouble, and this time, they wouldn’t escape prison. After he wrote an article in the Examiner calling the Prince Regent ‘a corpulent man of fifty… a violator of his word, a libertine over head and ears in disgrace, a despiser of domestic ties the companion of gamblers and demireps, a man who has just closed half a century without one single claim on the gratitude of his country or the respect of posterity’, he and John Hunt were prosecuted again for seditious libel, and despite another robust defence from Brougham, were convicted. Lord Ellenborough again presided, and revelled in his revenge for their earlier escape, sending them to prison for two years.

Hunt continued to edit The Examiner from prison, and entertained some of the most famous literary figures of the time while inside, including Lord Byron and Maria Edgeworth.

Today in London aeronautical herstory, 1909: Muriel Matters flies suffragette airship over West London

Steampunk rebels eat your heart out…

If you thought the scene in the old Ealing Comedy film Kind Hearts and Coronets, where the suffragette aunty flies a hot air balloon to distribute ‘Votes for Women’ leaflets from the air, was made up – think again…

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Women’s struggle to win the right to vote in the United Kingdom in the first couple of decades of the 20th century was long and full of both inspiring actions and fierce repression.

As well as traditional methods of campaigning, lobbies, meetings, leafleting, some activists carried out direct actions, sabotage, arson and destruction of property. As the male establishment continued to lock women out, suffragettes developed novel ways of grabbing media attention, devising elaborate and eye-catching stunts.

One lesser known but brilliant action employed red hot technology: the launch of the suffragette airship, flown over London in 1909 by Muriel Matters.

Muriel Matters

Muriel Matters was born in Australia and became a professional actress. Moving to England, she got involved with the direct action wing of the suffragette movement. She became politically active after being challenged by the anarchist Prince Kropotkin to use her skills for ‘something more useful’ than the dramatic recitals she was earning a living from, after she performed at his home…

Kropotkin asserted that “Art is not an end of life, but a means.” Matters took this on board, and soon became involved with the Women’s Social & Political Union, and then the Women’s Freedom League (WFL), to further the cause of women’s suffrage. She later wrote that her encounter with Kropotkin, “proved to be the lifetime in a moment lived – my entire mental outlook was changed.”

Throwing herself into campaigning for the vote, Matters travelled the south east counties of England in 1908 as “Organiser in Charge” of the first “Votes for Women” caravan, holding meetings, spreading the word and helping found WFL branches. In October 1908, she took part in a WFL protest at the Houses of Parliament, chaining herself to a grille in the Ladies Gallery of the House of Commons, while declaiming a pro-suffrage speech. As a result becoming one of the very first women to make a speech in Parliament… (if unauthorised)! She was jailed for a month in Holloway for this action. She also formed the League of Light, an organisation to support women, particularly stage actresses, who were oppressed or abused by their employers.

The Women’s Freedom League ‘Votes for Women’ Caravan

On 16 February 1909, King Edward VII officially opened Parliament for the coming year. As a part of the usual bombastic festivities a procession was to be held to the Houses of Parliament, led by His Majesty.  To gain attention to the suffrage cause, Matters’ decided to hire a dirigible air balloon (similar to a modern-day blimp in appearance) and intended to shower the King and the Houses of Parliament with pamphlets headlined with the words “VOTES FOR WOMEN”.

Thirty years later she recalled the trip:

“That morning I went to Hendon and met Mr Henry Spencer who had his airship all ready near the Welsh Harp [These days renamed the Brent Reservoir.] It was quite a little airship, eighty eight feet long (25m), and written in large letters on the gas bag were three words, Votes For Women. Below this was suspended an extremely fragile rigging carrying the engine and a basket, like those used for balloons. We loaded up about a hundredweight of leaflets, then I climbed into the basket, Mr Spencer joined me, and we rose into the air.”

The dirigible, with ‘Votes for Women’ painted on one side and ‘Women’s Freedom League’ on the other, ascended to an altitude of 3,500ft (1,000 metres). “It was very cold,” Muriel recalled, “but I got some exercise throwing the leaflets overboard.”  She later described how Spencer had to climb out of the basket repeatedly and clamber ‘like a spider’ across the dirigible’s framework to make adjustments to the engine. “Suddenly I realised that if he fell off, I hadn’t the first idea how to manoeuvre the airship.” she said. “Not that I was terribly bothered about that. I was too busy making a trail of leaflets across London.”

Matters scattered 56lbs weight of handbills on the streets and houses below as she flew, with other leading members of the Women’s Freedom League, Edith How-Martyn and Elsie Craig, following behind by car.

However, airships and dirigibles, in these early days of steampunk, were difficult to manoeuvre, especially in adverse weather conditions… They tended to drift with the wind, having limited power of their own – in this case a small motor. The wind on the day in question blew somewhat against the suffragette Air Force, frustrating Muriel’s plan to fly over the Palace of Westminster, Instead they drifted around the outskirts of London, passing over Wormwood Scrubs, Kensington, Tooting, eventually crash-landing in the upper branches of a tree in Coulsdon in Surrey, after a flight lasting an hour and a half in total.

Despite failing to fly over the king’s procession, Matters considered the aerial adventure a great success. “The flight achieved all we wanted”, she said. “It got our movement a great deal of publicity, as you can imagine. In those days, the sight of an airship was enough to make people run for miles!”

Muriel’s airship adventure was also the first powered flight from what later became the London Aerodrome at Hendon, which was to feature prominently in both World Wars, and site of various pioneering aviation experiments, among them the first airmail, the first parachute descent from a powered aircraft, the first night flights, and the first aerial defence of a city.

Muriel Matters continued with her political life as an active member of the suffragettes lecturing all over the world.

Like many of her comrades in the Women’s Freedom League and the core group of Sylvia Pankhurst’s East London Federation of Suffragettes (and in marked contrast to the bulk of the women’s suffrage movement), Muriel opposed the slaughter of the First World War. In June 1915, one year after the outbreak of the war, Matters declared her opposition to the war in an address entitled “The False Mysticism of War”.

Returning to London from lecture tours abroad in 1916, Muriel became involved with the “Mothers Arms” project in East London led by Sylvia Pankhurst. With the help of others, she educated working class children in the Montessori method in addition to feeding and clothing them. (She had previously studied under Maria Montessori in Barcelona).

After the war, Muriel ran (unsuccessfully) as Labour Party candidate for the seat of Hastings in the General Election of 1924, on a largely socialist platform advocating a fairer distribution of wealth, work for the unemployed and furthering the equality of the sexes.

Muriel Matters died on 17 November 1969 in St. Leonards on Sea nursing home aged ninety-two.

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Being obsessed by airships as well as radical history, Muriel Matters’ flight over West London blew our minds when we read about it. Imagine if this had not been an isolated event, but the start of a free feminist flotilla; airborne activists defeating the male establishment’s control of the streets by taking over the skies… Imagine if we could build such a fleet today; dirigibles or drone-powered; link them together to form free-floating libertarian communist cities in the lower atmosphere, outside the alleged national airspace of the so-called nations… Our theory heavier than cannonballs, our dreams lighter than air…

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An entry in the 2020 London Rebel History Calendar – buy a paper copy here

Check out the 2020 London Rebel History Calendar online

 

Today in London radical herstory, 1907: Women’s Suffrage campaigners first big demonstration for the vote, the ‘Mud March’

On 9 February 1907, the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies held the first large-scale women’s procession through London, from Hyde Park Corner to Exeter Hall; on the Strand, (now the site of the Strand Palace Hotel).

Around 3,000 women took part, from a range of social classes and occupations, and representing over 40 suffrage organisations. The march was organised by Phillippa Strachey, daughter of leading suffragist Lady Strachey. The women’s suffrage movement had adopted a myriad of tactics, but had never really attempted a mass demo before; the success of the Mud March inspired the NUWSS and the WSPU to organise many larger and larger marches over the next few years.

The torrential rain led to this demonstration becoming known as the “Mud March”: “mud, mud, mud” was the dominant feature of the day, wrote Millicent Garret Fawcett.

The movement for women’s suffrage had become divided between the ‘constitutional’ wing, broadly grouped around the NUWSS, and those who supported direct action, who had largely joined Emmeline Pankhurst’s Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU).

The NUWSS continued to lobby, campaign, work through the main political parties, and try to convince politicians as female suffragists had done for several decades. The WSPU held that this approach had been failing to achieve the vote for women for so long that new tactics were needed – more militant and confrontational. WSPU demonstrations, heckling and harassing of politicians, and disrupting of political meetings had been achieving publicity beyond what the constitutional suffragists had managed… Although at this time, relations between the NUWSS and WSPU were still reasonably cordial, and certainly not as acidic as they became later, the more respectable wing felt the pressure to up their game a bit, to show they still had as much influence…

In January 1906 the Liberal Party, led by Henry Campbell-Bannerman, had won an landslide general election victory. Before the election many Liberal MPs had made vague or more definite promises that the new administration would introduce a bill to legislate for women’s suffrage, But after the election, safe in power, Campbell-Bannerman refused to act on the vote for women, saying that it was “not realistic” to introduce new legislation.In response, the WSPU organised a march in protest, attended by 300–400 women.To show that there was support for a suffrage bill, the Central Society for Women’s Suffrage proposed holding a mass procession in London to coincide with the opening of Parliament in February.

Plans for the march highlighted the divisions that were already opening up in the suffrage movement. The Women’s Cooperative Guild would attend only if certain conditions were met, and the British Women’s Temperance Association and Women’s Liberal Federation (WLF) would not attend if the WSPU was formally invited, objecting to the WSPU’s criticism of the government. The WLF was an arena where much of the suffrage movement thus far had been operating. At the time of the march, ten of the twenty women who sat on the NUWSS executive committee were connected to the Liberal Party.

The procession designed to raise public awareness for a private member’s bill for women’s suffrage at the opening of the Parliament.

The march was noted at the time for its wide-ranging class representation. The leadership of he suffrage movement was often highly aristocratic, and this was reflected in the prominent figures heading the march, including Lady Frances Balfour, sister-in-law of Arthur Balfour, the former Conservative prime minister; Rosalind Howard, the Countess of Carlisle, of the Women’s Liberal Federation; the poet and trade unionist Eva Gore-Booth; and the veteran campaigner Emily Davies. But the middle class was also heavily present – professional women – doctors, schoolmistresses, artists – and there were also large contingents of working women from various cities, marching under banners announcing their varied trades: bank-and-bobbin winders, cigar makers, clay-pipe finishers, power-loom weavers, shirt makers. If the leadership of the NUWSS and WSPU was generally posh, women’s suffrage was a cutting issue right down to the active layers of the working class.

The march was led by Millicent Fawcett, leader of the NUWSS, Lady Strachey, Lady Frances Balfour, and Keir Hardie, also prominent suffragists. The Artist’s Suffrage League designed posters and postcards advertising the march, and designed and made around 80 embroidered banners for the march itself.

Despite the wet weather, thousands of people turned out to watched the march. The sight of thousands of women from across social divides marching together was enough of a novelty to persuade people to brave the rain. Press from across Europe and America were fascinated by the diversity of women involved. At the time, it was perceived that women were reluctant to make displays of themselves in public. As such, the participants in the march were considered to be even more dedicated to the suffrage because they were willing to put themselves through such an experience. Kate Frye was on the march, and she obviously relished taking part, writing in her diary that she “felt like a martyr of old and walked proudly along.”

The rally at the end of the march was chaired by Walter McLaren, and his wife, Eva, a member of the Women’s Liberal Federation, gave a speech. Other speakers were made by Eva Gore Booth (Women’s Trades Council) and Esther Roper (Women’s Textile Workers’ Committee), and Millicent Garrett Fawcett, president of the NUWSS, Lady Strachey, Keir Hardy, and Israel Zangwill.

Although the militant WSPU was not officially represented, many of its members attended the demo, including Christabel Pankhurst, Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence, Annie Kenney, Anne Cobden-Sanderson, Nellie Martel, Edith How-Martyn, Flora Drummond, Charlotte Despard and Gertrude Ansell. At this point “belonging to both organisations, going to each others’ events and wearing both badges was quite usual”, though heavy divisions were opening up and would sharpen over the coming months.

At 2.30 pm the march, having formed a line down Rotten Row, set off in the drenching rain, led by a brass band, and followed by a phalanx of carriages and motor cars, many of which carried flags bearing the letters “WS”, red and white banners and bouquets of red and white flowers. Despite the rain, thousands of onlookers thronged the pavements to enjoy the novel spectacle of “respectable women marching in the streets”.

Some of the press was heavily critical of the demo, including modern liberal darlings, The Observer, whose leading article the day after the march read:

“It is not so much who is to mind the baby … but a question concerning the fundamental idea of sex, and the effects physical, mental and economic, that any revolutionary change in the conditions of women’s life must have on the vital civic duty and natural function of women—which is the healthy propagation of race. … What is aimed at is nothing less than complete sex emancipation; the right of women not only to vote, but to enter public life on equal conditions with men. It is a physical problem before all things, and an economic problem of great complexity and difficulty. … It is the fact that woman are not educated to take any rational interest in politics, history, economics, science, philosophy or the serious side of life, which they, as the embodiment of the lighter side, are brought up, and have been brought up since the days of Edenic beginnings, to consider as the privilege and property of the stronger sex. The small section of women who desire the vote completely ignore the educational feature of the whole question, as they do the natural laws of physical force and the teachings of history about men and Government”

Lovely.

The Observer also recorded that “there was hardly any of the derisive laughter which had greeted former female demonstrations”, although The Morning Post reported “scoffs and jeers of enfranchised males who had posted themselves along the line of the route, and appeared to regard the occasion as suitable for the display of crude and vulgar jests”.  The Daily Mail —which supported women’s suffrage (unusually progressive, for them?) —carried an eyewitness account, “How It Felt”, by Constance Smedley of the Lyceum Club. Smedley described a divided reaction from the crowd “that shared by the poorer class of men, namely, bitter resentment at the possibility of women getting any civic privilege they had not got; the other that of amusement at the fact of women wanting any serious thing … badly enough to face the ordeal of a public demonstration”.

A commemorative napkin designed to remember the Mud March

Approaching Trafalgar Square the march split in two (along, er, class lines!): representatives from the northern industrial towns held an open-air meeting at Nelson’s Column, which had been arranged by the Northern Franchise Demonstration Committee. The main march continued to Exeter Hall, for a more respectable indoor rally chaired by the Liberal politician Walter McLaren, whose wife, Eva McLaren, was one of the scheduled speakers. Keir Hardie, leader of the Labour Party, told the indoor meeting that if women won the vote, it would be thanks to the “suffragettes’ fighting brigade” (possibly meaning the actions of the WSPU, a comment that got him loudly hissed by several Liberal women on the platform) Hardie spoke strongly in favour of the meeting’s resolution, which was carried, that women be given the vote on the same basis as men, and demanded a bill in the current parliamentary session. Daggers were certainly out between the constitutionalists and the militants: at the Trafalgar Square meeting, Eva Gore-Booth referred to the “alienation of the Labour Party through the action of a certain section in the suffrage movement”, and asked the party “not to punish the millions of women workers” because of the actions of a small minority. But when Hardie arrived from Exeter Hall, he expressed the hope that “no working man bring discredit on the class to which he belonged by denying to women those political rights which their fathers had won for them”.

The march was considered so successful that Pippa Strachey was asked to organise all the NUWSS’s later large marches.

Four days after the march, the NUWSS executive met with the Parliamentary Committee for Women’s Suffrage to discuss a private member’s bill. The same day, the suffragettes held their first “Women’s Parliament” at Caxton Hall, after which 400 women ‘rushed’ the Commons to protest against the omission from the King’s Speech, the day before, of a women’s suffrage bill; over 60 were arrested, and 53 chose prison over a fine.

On 26 February 1907 the Liberal MP for St Pancras North, Willoughby Dickinson, published the text of a Women’s Enfranchisement Bill, proposing that women should have the vote subject to the same property qualification that applied to men. This would have enfranchised between one and two million women. Although the bill received strong backing from the suffragist movement, in the House of Commons, some of the MPs who might have normally supported votes for women regarded it as giving more votes to the propertied classes, while doing nothing for working women. On 8 March Dickinson introduced his bill in the House of Commons for its second reading (pleading that members should not be swayed by their distaste for the WPSU’s militant actions; the “Ladies Gallery” was kept closed during the debate in case of protests by the WSPU). But the debate was inconclusive and the bill was “talked out” (filibustered) without a vote. After a mammoth effort in supporting the bill, lobbying MPs and campaigning, this feeble end affronted many on the NUWSS; the damp squib respectable campaigning had achieved had the effect of increasing support for the more militant WPSU.

The success of the Mud March, despite the foul weather, helped establish the large-scale organised procession as a key tactic for the campaign for women’s suffrage in Britain. The demo was the largest-ever public demonstration in support of woman’s suffrage thus far; although progress on the parliamentary front seemed as far off as ever, the demo had huge significance in the general suffrage campaign. It brought the constitutionalists’ tactics closer to those of the WSPU. The ‘humiliating’ idea of parading in the street also established a theme of martyrdom in the movement, which was to increase over the next decade (especially among the upper class women for whom public appearances were supposed to be carefully choreographed). Ray Strachey wrote:

“In that year the vast majority of women still felt that there was “something very dreadful in walking in procession through the streets; to do it was to be something of a martyr, and many of the demonstrators felt that they were risking their employments and endangering their reputations, besides facing a dreadful ordeal of ridicule and public shame. They walked, and nothing happened. The small boys in the streets and the gentlemen at the club windows laughed, but that was all. Crowds watched and wondered; and it was not so dreadful after all … the idea of a public demonstration of faith in the Cause took root.”

The Mud March marked a sea change in public perception of the NUWSS – from being seen as a “regional debating society” it entered into the sphere of national politics. The failure of Dickinson’s bill also led to a new direction in NUWSS strategy; it began to intervene directly in by-elections, on behalf of the candidate of any party who would publicly support women’s suffrage.

The stage was set for seven years of intense campaigning, that would accelerate into near civil war…

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An entry in the 2020 London Rebel History Calendar – buy a paper copy here

Check out the 2020 London Rebel History Calendar online

Today in publishing history, 1650: House of Commons orders burning of of A Fiery Flying Roll by ranter Abiezer Coppe.

“Howl, howl, ye nobles, howl honourable, howl ye rich men for the miseries that are coming upon you.

For our parts we that hear the Apostle preach will also have all things in common; neither will we call anything that we have our own…. Wee’l eat your bread together in singleness of heart, wee’l break bread from house to house.”
(
Abiezer Coppe, A Fiery Flying Roll, 1650)

The so-called Ranters formed the extreme left wing of the sects which came into prominence during the English Revolution of the 1640s-50s. If theologically the English Revolutionary sects lay somewhere between orthodox Calvinism, (with its emphasis on the power and justice of God as illustrated in the grand scheme of election and reprobation, with its insistence upon the reality of Hell in all its most literal horrors and upon the most verbal and dogmatic acceptance of the Scriptures), and of antinomianism (stressing God’s mercy and universality, rejecting moral law and thus rejecting Hell in any but the most figurative sense, and its replacement of the authority of the Scriptures by that of the inner light).
The Ranters pushed antinomian beliefs to the extreme – their beliefs, when acted upon, soon brought them into conflict with law and authority.

Ranter theory combined both pantheistic mysticism and a plebeian materialism – seemingly contradictory, but often expressed in the same breath… Ranters rejected the belief in the literalism of biblical texts, instead plumping for their own symbolic interpretation of the Bible, or to rejecting the whole caboodle. From developing belief that the moral law no longer had authority for the people of a new age enjoying the liberty of the sons of God, many drew the conclusion for them no act was sinful – which some wasted no time putting into practice.

The political views of the Ranters followed logically from this theology. God existed in all things:

“I see that God is in all Creatures, Man and Beast, Fish and Fowle, and every green thing, from the highest Cedar to the Ivey on the wall; and that God is the life and being of them all, and that God doth really dwell, and if you will personally; if he may admit so low an expression in them all, and hath his Being no where else out of the Creatures.”

But man alone could be conscious of his Godhead and this gave to all a new and equal dignity. The poorest beggars, even

“rogues, thieves, whores, and cut purses” are “every whit as good” as the great ones of the earth.”

Many of the Ranters (unlike pretty much all the other political and religious groupings of the time), attempted to speak for and to the most wretched and submerged elements of the population, eg the slum dwellers of London and England’s other cities (though to what impact is unknown). Ranter writings share a deep concern for the poor; most denounce the rich, and several voice something like a primitive biblical communism. Like Winstanley and the Diggers (and unlike Leveller John Lilburne and his followers), they happily accepted the name of Leveller in its most radical implications – but to them, God himself was the great Leveller, who was to come shortly “to Levell with a witnesse, to Levell the Hills with the Valleyes, to lay the Mountaines low”. 

The Ranters began to attract attention soon after the defeat of the Leveller-inspired mutiny of radical New Model Army elements at Burford in 1649 – this was very much a theology the of defeated and disillusioned, to some extent of activists (many ex-Levellers and civil war veterans) for whom the war had not brought the just society they had dreamed of and fought for. Levelling by sword and political activity had failed (some also refer to the failure of ‘spade levelling’, ie the Digger projects of 1649-50; many ranters now placed their faith in Levelling by miracle. God himself would confound the mighty, through the agency and in the interests of the poorest, lowest and most despised of the earth.

The Ranter movement, such as it was, came into sudden prominence towards the end of 1649, reached its peak in the following year and thereafter survived only in fragments. It was never a coherent political movement united by any political programme in any sense. It is difficult to separate the true ideas the ranters expressed from the many hostile publications that denounced them and exaggerated or misrepresented them – however, what is know about their actions and the writings they did leave suggest ideas and activities calculated to totally outrage orthodox society, particularly when puritanism was basically politically and socially triumphant.

Although many accusations of lewd behaviour and what was then considered outrageous beliefs were charged to the ranters by their many detractors, it seems genuinely true that many ranters believed that all things should be held in common, that they were beyond the moral condemnation of moral authority, and that a joyous social life should be free and easy for all.

The Ranters Last Sermon, an attack on ranting ideas, acknowledges that ‘They taught, That it was quite contrary to the end of Creation, to Appropriate anything to any Man or Woman; but that there ought to be a Community of all things.”

Ranters’ social gatherings were noted; they ate together, drank wine, smoked tobacco (generally regarded at the time as an act of doubtful morality), danced and sang. Samuel Shepherd calls them “The Joviall Crew”.

Another hostile commentator, Ephraim Pagitt, admitted:

“They are the merriest of all devils, for extempore lascivious Songs, not extempore Prayer, but as absurd and nonsensicall, for healths, musick, downright baudry and dancing, the two last of which commonly proceed and follow the conjunction of the fellow creatures, which is not done in corners.”

These festive Ranter meetings may not have been just an expression of camaraderie and having fun (important as that was) – perhaps they also embodied ritual. Was the collective meal, a sharing of bread, a kind of sacrament? The Ranters parodies of the Christian sacraments seem like a striving towards a ritual of their own.

Hostile pamphlets also printed three alleged Ranter hymns – one a drinking song, one advocating sexual liberty and a third ridiculing orthodox religion. AL Morton compares this to the importance of singing among the American IWW, 250 years later: the early 19th century IWW “were also fond of irreverent parodies of hymns. Under the Commonwealth the old laws of settlement had broken down and one of the very real if temporary freedoms the Revolution had brought was the freedom to move about in search of work. It may well be that among these migratory workers, unattached and prepared to break with tradition, the Ranters found many of their supporters. This would at least help to explain the rapidity with which they seem to have spread to all parts of the country.”

Attack on the ranters charged them with sexual promiscuity: “They say that for one man to be tied to one woman, or one woman to be tied to one man, is a fruit of the curse; but they say, we are freed from the curse; therefore it is our liberty to make use of whom we please.

Edward Hide Junior, a hostile critic, but usually fairly accurate in his descriptions, wrote that the ranters believed “that all the women in the world are but one mans wife in unity and all the men in the world are but one womans husband in unity; so that one man may lie with all the women in the world in unity, and one woman may lie with all men in the world, for they are all her husband in unity”.

Abiezer Coppe both developed ‘Ranter’ attitudes the furthest, and became the best known and best-remembered of ranters. Coppe was born in Warwickshire and in 1636 went to Oxford, first to All Souls College, then to Merton College; here he (according, admittedly, to later detractors) became notorious for immoral behaviour: “And it was then notoriously known that he would several times entertain for one night or more a wanton huswife in his Chamber… in the little or old quadrangle, to whom carrying several times meat, at the hour of refection, he would make answer, when being asked by the way, what he would do with it, that it was a bit for his cat.”

It was later also alleged that after Coppe had turned Ranter “‘twas usual with him to preach stark-naked many blasphemies and unheard of villanies in the day-time, and in the night to be drunk and lye with a wench that had been also his hearer stark naked.”

Such accusations are typical of many that were made against Coppe – many of which he repudiated with what seems genuine indignation. Pamphlets written against the Ranters, he writes, are scandalous and “bespattered with Lyes and Forgeries, in setting me in front of such actions which I never did, which my soul abhors; such things which mine eyes never beheld, such words which my tongue never spake, and mine cars never heard.

All like that false aspersion – Viz, that I was accompanied to Coventry with two she-disciples, and that 1 lay there with two women at once. Which two she-disciples were Captain Blak, and other Souldiers, who have hurried me from Gaol to Gaol; where I sing Hallelujahs to the Righteous judge, and lie in his bosome, who is everlasting loving kindness.”

After leaving Oxford Coppe turned Presbyterian, then Anabaptist, preaching widely in Warwickshire. He was in prison in Coventry in 1646. Finally after a prolonged spiritual convulsion he became a Ranter. This crisis he has described more vividly and in greater detail than any other Ranter writer:

“First, all my strength, my forces were utterly routed, my house I dwelt in fired; my father and mother forsook me, the wife of my bosome loathed me, mine old name was rotted, perished; and I was utterly plagued, consumed, damned, rammed and sunk into nothing, into the bowels of the still Eternity (my mothers wombe) out of which I came naked, and whereto I returned again naked. And lying a while there, rapt up in silence, at length (the bodys outward forme being awake an this while) I heard with my outward eare (to my apprehension) a most terrible thunder-clap. and after that a second. And upon the second thunder-clap, which was exceeding terrible, I saw a great body of light, like the light of the Sun, and red as fire, in the forme of a drum (as it were), whereupon with exceeding trembling and amazement on the flesh, and with joy unspeakable in the Spirit, I clapt my hands, and cryed out, Amen, Halelujah, Halelujah, Amen. And so lay trembling, sweating and smoking (for the space of half an houre) at length with a loud voice (I inwardly) cryed Out, Lord what wilt thou do with me; my most excellent majesty and eternall glory (in me) answered and sayd, Fear not. I will take thee up into my everlasting Kingdom. But thou shalt (first) drink a bitter cup, a bitter cup, a bitter cup; whereupon (being filled with exceeding amazement) I was throwne into the belly of hell (and take what you can of it in these expressions, though the matter is beyond expression) I was among all the Devils in hell, even in their most hideous crew. And under all this terrour and amazement, there was a little spark of transcendent, unspeakable glory, which survived, and sustained itself, triumphing, exulting and exalting itself above all the Fiends.”

This conversion seems to have taken place in Warwickshire around mid-1649; the vision included a command, “Go up to London, to London, that great City”. Coppe, who expressed the social aspect of his teaching more than any other Ranter, began in the autumn of 1649 to wander the streets of London, giving sermons on the streets (and in the odd church), aimed at the London poor – denouncing the rich.

His pamphlet, A Fiery Flying Roll, both expresses the ideas these sermons touched on, and recounts his career preaching on the street. Coppe describes himself “charging so many Coaches, so many hundreds of men and women of the greater rank, in the open streets, with my hand stretched out, My hat cock’t up, staring on them as if I would look thorough them, gnashing with my teeth at some of them, and day and night with a huge loud voice proclaiming the day of the Lord throughout London and Southwark.”

Coppe’s sermonising in the streets, and then the publication of A Fiery Flying Roll (on January 1st, 1650) opened the period of maximum Ranter activity; quickly followed by a campaign of both official persecution and written abuse against them.

A Fiery Flying Roll described itself as “A Word from the Lord to the Great ones of the Earth”. With it was bound A Second Fiery Flying Roll, addressed “To all the Inhabitants of the Earth”. Coppe’s unconventional behaviour and violent language attracted lots of attention towards him and other ranters.

Coppe described the gospel as

“To the Scribe folly; to the Pharisee blasphemy, who hath [ad unguem] at’s fingers ends, he blasphemeth, is a friend of Publicans and Harlots, he is a glutton, and wine-bibber; and say we not well, that he hath a divil?Which Pharisee, in man, is the mother of harlots, and being the worst whore, cries whore first: and the grand blasphemer, cries out blasphemy, blasphemy, which she is brimful of . . .

But the hour is coming, yea now is, That all his carnal Outward, formal religion, (yea of Scriptural cognizance, so far as its fleshly and formal) and all his fleshly holiness, zeal and devotion shall be, and is, set upon the same account as outward drunkeness, theft, murther and adultery….

Yea the time is coming, that zealous, holy, devout, righteous, religious men shall (one way) dye, for their Holiness and Religion, as well as Thieves and Murtherers for their Theft and Murther….

But once more, the time is coming, that Thieves and Murtherers shall scape, as well as the most zealous and formal professors; and men shall be put to death (or be murthered by men) no more for the one than for the other.”

But cataclysmic as the impending Millennium may be, Coppe still maintains a marked pacifism: as he insisted, he “never drew sword, or shed one drop of any mans blood … all things are reconciled to me, the etemall God (IN HIM) yet sword levelling, or digging levelling, are neither of them his principles.
And now thus saith the Lord: Though you can as little endure the word LEVELLING as could the late slaine or dead Charles (your forerunner who is gone before you) and had as live heare the Devil named as heare of the Levellers (Men-Levellers) which is, and who (indeed) are but the shadowes of the most terrible, yet great and glorious good things to come.

Behold, behold, behold, I the eternall God the Lord of Hosts, who am that mighty Leveller am coming (yea even at the doores) to Levell in good earnest, to Levell to some purpose, to Levell with a witnesse, to Levell the Hills with the Valleyes, and to lay the Mountaines low….

For’ lo I come (saith the Lord) with a vengeance, to levell also your Honour, Riches etc. to staine the pride of all your Glory, and to bring into contempt all the Honourable (both persons and things) upon the earth, 1sa. 23. 9.

For this Honour, Nobility, Gentility, Propriety, Superfluity etc hath (without contradiction) been the Father of hellish horrid pride, arrogance, haughtinesse, loftinesse, murder, malice, of all manner of wickedness and impiety, yea, the cause of all the blood that ever hath been shed, from the blood of the righteous Abell, to the blood of the last Levellers that were shot to death. And now as I live (saith the Lord) 1 am come to make inquisition for blood…

And maugre the subtilty, and sedulity, the craft and cruelty of hell and earth: this Levelling shall up; Not by sword; we (holily) scorne to fight for anything; we had as live be dead drunk every day of the weeke, and lye with whores i’th market place; and account these as, good actions as taking the poor abused, enslaved ploughmans money from him… we had rather starve, I say, than take away his money from him, for killing of men.”

This is not only a critique of the Civil Wars that had rocked the nation, but overtly disses the Leveller attempt to push their programme through mutiny and rebellion. The revulsion to the slaughter of the past eight year is understandable; the sense of futility of achieving change by violence is coloured by the actuality of the defeat the Levellers and their allies were living through.

AL Morton saw Coppe’s ideas as positing a far greater social upheaval than the political changes advocated by John Lilburne and his party, or even Gerard Winstanley’s proposals for joint cultivation on the commons and waste land. Coppe’s writings and sermons melded a passionate attack on the rich and their wealth, looking forward to a primitive Communism which echoed early Christianity and channelled the teachings of the theorist of the 1381 Peasants’ Revolt, John Ball.

Coppe tried to address himself to the poorest and most depressed strata of society, at a time when the slum population of London was suffering terrible hardships as a result of the wartime dislocation of trade and industry; he declares that God, in whose name he writes, will come upon the rich like a highwayman, saying:

“Thou hast many baggs of money, and behold I [the Lord] come as a thief in the right, with my sword drawn in my hand, and like a thief as I am – I say deliver your purse, deliver sirrah! deliver or I’l cut thy throat!

I say (once more) deliver, deliver my money which thou hast to him, and to poor creeples, lazars, yea to rogues, thieves, whores, and cut purses, who are flesh of thy flesh, and every whit as good as thy self in mine eye, who are ready to starve in plaguy Gaols, and nasty dungeons….

The plague of God is in your purses, barns, houses, horses, murrain will take your hogs (0 ye fat swine of the earth) who shall shortly go to the knife, and be hung up i’th roof, except – blasting, mill-dew, locusts, caterpillars, yea, fire your houses and goods, take your corn and fruit, the moth your garments, and the rot your sheep, did you not see my hand, this last year, stretched out?

You did not see.

My hand is stretched out still.

Your gold and silver, though you can’t see it, is cankered, the rust of them is a witnesse against you, and suddainly, suddainly, suddainly, because of the Eternal God, myself, its the dreadful day of Judgement, saith the Lord, shall eat your flesh as it were fire

James 5.I-7.

The rust of your silver, I say, shall cat your flesh as it were fire.”

Like many ranters, and members of the millenarian sects going back to the Brethren of the Free Spirit and beyond, Coppe felt himself one with God, to the extent that in his writing it is sometimes impossible to say whether his ‘I’ is God or Abiezer Coppe. But he was also one with all men, and especially with the poor and miserable.

Coppe had either left London shortly after the publication of A Roll, or been arrested, as he was soon in prison in Coventry. On February 1st 1650, Parliament issued an Order declaring that passages from A Roll had been read before it and contained “many horrid Blasphemies, and damnable and detestable opinions, to be abhorred by all good and godly people”. It was ordered that copies be publicly burnt “by the hand of the Hangman, at New-Pallace-Yard at Westminster, the Exchange, in Cheapside and at the Market-place in Southwark”. Search was to be made and all copies that could be found were to be destroyed.

Image from ‘The Routing of the Ranters’, a pamphlet which attacked ranterism, 1650

In June Parliament set up a Committee to enquire into the Ranters and other heretical groups. On June 21st it reported “on the several abominable Practices of a Sect called Ranters”, and a Bill was prepared which was debated on several days during June and July. On August 9th Parliament passed its Act for the Punishment of Atheistical, Blasphemous and Execrable Opinions. This Act declared a number of heresies to be punishable by six months’ imprisonment, with banishment for a second offence. These included maintaining that God “dwells in the creature and nowhere else”, that “the acts of uncleannes, Prophane Swearing, Drunkenness, and the like Filthiness and Brutishness, are not unholy and forbidden in the Word of God”, that such actions and “the like open wickedness, are in their nature as Holy and Righteous as the Duties of Prayer, Preaching or giving of Thanks to God”, “that such men and women are most perfect, or like to God or Eternity, which do commit the greatest Sins with least remorse or sense”, and that “there is no such thing really and truly as Unrighteousness, Unholiness or Sin, but as a man or woman judgeth thereof; or that there is neither Heaven nor Hell, neither Salvation nor Damnation, or that those are one and the same thing”.

This Act opened the gates for repression against ranters and their ideas. Some, like Coppe and Joseph Salmon, had already been imprisoned: systematic raids followed, often made on evidence provided by informers. The Ranters, however, were by no means silenced or quickly defeated. A Single Eye by Clarkson appeared in September 1650 and Joseph Bauthumley’s The Light and Dark sides of God in November. Opposition to the Act was also shown by William Larner’s publication in 1651 of The Petition of Divers gathered Churches, and others wel affected, in and about London, for declaring the Ordinance of the Lords and Commons for punishing Blasphemies and Heresies, null and void. This Petition was reprinted in 1655.

Soon after the passing of the Act, Coppe was brought from Coventry to London and examined by a Parliamentary Committee, as were two other prominent ramters, Laurence Clarkson and William Rainborough (an ex-New Model Army officer, brother of the more famous ‘Leveller” Colonel Thomas). Clarkson, like Lilburne and Overton before him, stood on his rights as a free citizen, refusing to answer any questions that might incriminate him. Coppe adopted different tactics. The Weekly Intelligencer for October 1st-8th mentioned “the arrogant and wild deportment of Mr Copp the great Ranter, who made the Fiery Roll, who being brought before the Committee of Examinations, refused to be uncovered, and disguised himself into a madness, flinging Apples and Pears about the roome, whereupon the Committee returned him to Newgate whence he came”.

Coppe remained in prison, and in January 1651 issued a partial recantation – A Remonstrance of the sincere and zealous Protestations of Abiezer Coppe Against the Blasphemous and Execrable Opinions recited in the Act of Aug to 1650. Apart from complaints that he had been slandered, this consisted mainly of denials that he had ever held the views attributed to him. This evidently did not satisfy the authorities and he was kept in prison for another five months till he wrote a second and fuller recantation.

How far Coppe’s enforced recantation was sincere it is difficult to say. He did not convince everyone. In September he preached a recantation sermon at Burford which was attacked by John Tickell in an appendix to The Bottomles Pit Smoking in Familisme. Tickell accused Coppe of deceit and equivocation. The Ranters “use to speak one thing and mean another…. Before the late Act they spake boldly, now they dare not.”

But Coppe seems, as far as possible, to have held to the essence of his beliefs. Thus, in his recantation, while denying that there was no sin, he expressed the view that all men are equally sinful in the eyes of God: “Thieves, little thieves, and great thieves, drunkards, adulterers, and adultresses. Murtherers, little murtherers, and great murtherers. All are sinners. Sinners All. What then? Are we better than they? No, in no wise.”

Most significant of all, far from denying any of the social views advanced in A Fiery Flying Roll he reaffirmed them almost defiantly: “As for community, I own none but that Apostolical, saint-like Community, spoken of in the Scriptures. So far as I either do, or should own community, that if flesh of my flesh, be ready to perish; I either will, or should call nothing that I have, mine own. If I have bread it shall, or should be his, else all my religion is in vain. I am for dealing bread to the hungry, for cloathing the naked, for the breaking of every yoak, for the letting of the oppressed go free…. Yet, Know all men by these presents, that I am utterly against the community which is sinful, or destructive to soul or body, or the well being of a Common-wealth…. I own none other, long for none other, but that glorious (Rom. 8) liberty of the sons of God. Which God will hasten in its time.”

After his release Coppe remained in London, but it’s not clear if and how far he resumed his Ranting activities. Quaker George Fox reported a meeting with him in 1655 which suggests that there had been no great change: “During the time I was prisoner at Charing Cross abundance of professors, priests, and officers, and all sorts of people came to see me … and there came one Cobbe, and a great company of Ranters came in that time also, and they began to call for drink and tobacco…”

Following the restoration of the monarchy in 1660, Coppe tried to keep his head down: “the name of Coppe odious, he did at the Kings restauration change it to Higham, and practising Physick at Barnelms [Barnes] in Surrey, and sometimes preaching, went for divers years under the name of Dr Higham”. He died in August 1672 and was buried “on the south side of the church there, under the seats”.

Read a chapter on Coppe and other ranters, from A.L. Morton’s ‘The World of the Ranters, (to which this post owes pretty much everything)

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A Fiery Flying Roll

A
Word from the Lord to all the Great Ones of the Earth, whom this may concern: Being the last WARNING PIECE of the dreadful day of JUDGMENT.

For now the Lord is come

To
1. Inform
2. Advise and warn.
3. Charge
4. Judge and sentence
The great ones

As also most compassionately informing, and most lovingly and pathetically advising and warning London.

With a terrible word, and fatal blow from the Lord, upon the gathered CHURCHES.

And all by his most excellent MAJESTY, dwelling in, and shining through auxilium patris, alias Coppe.

With another FLYING ROLL ensuing (to all the inhabitants of the earth). The contents of both following.

Isa. 23.9, The Lord of hosts (is) staining the pride of all glory, and bringing into contempt all the honourable (persons and things) of the Earth. O London, London, how would I gather thee, as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, &c.
Know then (in this thy day) the things that belong to thy peace——
I knew the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but of the synagogue of Satan,
 Rev.2.9.

Imprinted at London, in the beginning of that notable day, wherein the secrets of all hearts are laid open; and wherein the worst and foulest of villainies, are discovered, under the best and fairest outsides.1649.

THE PREFACE

An inlet into the Land of Promise, the new Jerusalem, and a gate into the ensuing Discourse, worthy of serious consideration.

 My Dear One.
All or none.
Everyone under the Sun.
Mine own.
My most excellent Majesty (in me) hath strangely and variously transformed this form.
And behold, by mine own Almightiness (in me) I have been changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the sound of the trump.
And now the Lord is descended from Heaven, with a shout, with the voice of the Archangel, and with the trump of God.
And the sea, the earth, yea, all things are now giving up their dead. And all things that ever were, are, or shall be visible―are the grave wherein the King of glory (the eternal, invisible Almightiness) hath lain as it were dead and buried.
But behold, behold, he is now risen with a witness, to save Zion with vengeance, or to confound and plague all things into himself; who by his mighty angel is proclaiming (with a loud voice) that sin and transgression is finished and ended, and everlasting righteousness be brought in with most terrible earth-quakes and heaven-quakes, and with signs and wonders following.
Amen.
And it hath pleased my most excellent Majesty (who is universal love, and whose service is perfect freedom) to set this form (the writer of this Roll) as no small sign and wonder in fleshly Israel; as you may partly see in the ensuing Discourse.
And now (my dear ones!) every one under the Sun, I will only point at the gate; through which I was led into that new City, new Jerusalem, and to the spirits of just men, made perfect, and to God the Judge of all.
First, all my strength, my forces were utterly routed, my house I dwelt in fired; my father and mother forsook me, the wife of my bosom loathed me; mine old name was rotted, perished; and I was utterly plagued, consumed, damned, rammed, and sunk into nothing, into the bowels of the still eternity (my mother’s womb) out of which I came naked, and where hereto I returned again naked. And lying a while there, rapt up in silence, at length (the body or outward form being awake all this while) I heard with my outward ear (to my apprehension) a most terrible thunderclap, and after that a second. And upon the second thunderclap, which was exceeding terrible, I saw a great body of light, like the light of the Sun, and red as fire, in the form of a drum (as it were) whereupon with exceeding trembling and amazement on the flesh, and with joy unspeakable in the spirit, I clapped my hands, and cried out, Amen, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Amen. And so lay trembling, sweating, and smoking (for the space of half an hour) at length with a loud voice (I inwardly) cried out, Lord, what wilt thou do with me? My most excellent majesty and eternal glory (in me) answered & said, Fear Not, I will take thee up into mine everlasting Kingdom. But thou shalt (first) drink a bitter cup, a bitter cup, a bitter cup. Whereupon (being filled with exceeding amazement) I was thrown into the belly of hell (and take what you can of it in these expressions, though the matter is beyond expression) I was among all the devils in hell, even in their most hideous hue.
And under all this terror, and amazement, there was a little spark of transcendent, transplendent, unspeakable glory, which survived, and sustained itself, triumphing, exulting, and exalting itself above all the fiends. And, confounding all the blackness of darkness (you must take it in these terms, for it is infinitely beyond expression.) Upon this the life was taken out of the body (for a season) and it was thus resembled, as if a man with a great brush dipped in whiting, should with one stroke wipe out, or sweep off a picture upon a wall, &c. After a while, breath and life was returned into the form again. Whereupon I saw various streams of light (in the night) which appeared to the outward eye, and immediately I saw three hearts (or three appearances) in the form of hearts, of exceeding brightness; and immediately an innumerable company of hearts, filling each corner of the room where I was. And methought there was variety and distinction, as if there had been several hearts, and yet most strangely unexpressably complicated or folded up in unity. I clearly saw distinction, diversity, variety, and as clearly saw all swallowed up into unity. And it hath been my song many times since, within and without, unity, universality, universality, unity, Eternal Majesty, &c. And at this vision, a most strong, glorious voice uttered these words: The spirits of just men made perfect. The spirits, &c. with whom I had as absolute, clear, full communion, and in a twofold more familiar way, than ever I had outwardly with my dearest friends and nearest relations. The visions and revelations of God and the strong hand of eternal invisible almightiness was stretched out upon me, within me, for the space of four days and nights without intermission.
The time would fail if I would tell you all, but it is not the good will and pleasure of my most excellent Majesty in me, to declare any more (as yet) than thus much further: That amongst those various voices that were then uttered within, these were some: Blood, blood, Where, where? upon the hypocritical holy heart &c. Another thus: Vengeance, vengeance, vengeance, Plagues, plagues, upon the inhabitants of the Earth; Fire, fire, fire, Sword, sword &c. upon all that bow not down to eternal Majesty, universal love; I’ll recover, recover, my wool, my flax, my money. Declare, declare, fear thou not the faces of any; I am (in thee) ammunition of rocks &c.
Go up to London,<Note: It’s not being shown to me, what I should do, more than preach and print something, &c. Very little expecting I should be so strangely acted, as to my exceeding joy and delight, I have been, though to the utter cracking of my credit, and to the rotting of my old name of which it damned, and cut out (as a toad to the dunghill) that I might have a new name, with me, upon me, within me, which is, I am——Auxilium Patris> to London, that great City, write, write, write. And behold I writ, and lo a hand was sent to me, and a roll of a book was within, which this fleshly hand would have put wings to, before the time. Whereupon it was snatched out of my hand, & the Roll thrust into my mouth, and I eat it up, and filled my bowels with it, (Ezekiel 2:8, &. ch. 3:1,2,3) where it was bitter as wormwood; and it lay broiling, and burning in my stomach, till I brought it forth in this form.
And now I send it flying to thee, with my heart,
And all,

 per AUXILIUM PATRIS

THE CONTENTS

CHAP. 1. Several strange, yet true and seasonable informations to the great ones. As also an apologetical hint of the author’s principle, &c.

CHAP. 2. Several new, strange, yet seasonable and good advice, and wholesome admonitions, and the last warning to the great ones, as from the Lord.

CHAP. 3. Several dismal, doleful cries, & outcries, which Pierce the ears and heart of his excellent Majesty, and how the King of Kings, the King of Heaven charges the great ones of the Earth.

CHAP. 4. How the judge of heaven and earth, who judgeth righteous judgment, passeth sentence against all those great ones, who like sturdy Oaks & tall Cedars will not bow, and how he intends to break them, and blow them up by the roots.

CHAP. 5. A most compassionate information, and a most loving and pathetical warning and advice to London.

CHAP. 6. A terrible word and fatal blow from the Lord upon the gathered Churches, who pretend most for God, yet defy the Almighty more than the vilest.

The Second Flying Roll.

CHAP.1. The author’s commission to write. A terrible woe denounced against those that slight the roll. The Lord’s claim to all things; together with a hint of a twofold recovery, where through the most hypocritical heart shall be ripped up, &c.

CHAP. 2. How the Lord will recover his outward things (things of this life) as money, corn, wool, flax, &c., and for whom: and how they shall be plagued that detain them as their own. Wherein also are some mystical hints concerning Saint Michael’s day, and the Lord’s day following it this year; as also of the Dominical letter D, &c.

CHAP. 3. A strange, yet most true story, under which is couched that lion, whose a roaring shall make all the beasts of the field tremble, and all the kingdoms of the world quake.
Wherein also (in part) the subtlety of the well-favoured Harlot is discovered, and her flesh burnt with that fire which shall burn down all churches, except that of the firstborn, &c.

CHAP. 4. That the author hath been set as a sign and wonder, &c. as well as most of the Prophets formerly; as also what strange postures that divine majesty (that dwells in his form) hath set the form in; which is the most strange and various effects thereof upon the spectators. His communion with the spirits of just men made perfect. And with God the judge of all hinted at.

CHAP. 5. The author’s strange and lofty carriage towards great ones, and his most lowly carriage towards beggars, rogues, prisoners, gypsies, &c. Together with a large declaration what glory shall arise up from under all these ashes. The most strange and most secret and terrible, yet most glorious design of God, in choosing base things, to confound things that are: and how, a most terrible vial poured out upon the well-favoured Harlot; and how the Lord is bringing into contempt not only honourable persons (with a vengeance) but all honourable holy things also.
Wholesome advice, with a terrible threat to the Formalists: and how BASE things have confounded base things: and how base things have been a fiery chariot to mount the author up into divine glory and unspeakable Majesty: and how his wife is, & his life is in that beauty, which maketh visible beauty seem mere deformity.

CHAP. 6. Great ones must bow to the poorest peasants, or else they shall rue for it; no material sword or human power (whatsoever) but the pure spirit of universal love, who is the eternal God, can break the neck of tyranny, oppression, and abominable pride and cruel murder, &c. A catalogue of several judgments recited, as so many warring-pieces to appropriators, impropriators, and anti-free communicants.

CHAP. 7. A further discovery of the subtlety of the well-favoured Harlot, with a parley between her and the spirit. As also the horrid villainy that be hid under her smooth words, and sweet tongue (in pleading against the letter and history, and for the spirit and Mystery, and all for her own ends) detected. Also upon what account the spirit is put, and upon what account the letter, &c. And what true communion, and what the true breaking of bread is.

CHAP. 8. The well-favoured Harlots clothes stripped off, her nakedness discovered, her nose slit. Her lusting after the young man void of understanding, from corner to corner, from religion to religion: and the spirit pursuing, overtaking, and destroying her, &c.
With a terrible thunderclap in the close.

A word from the Lord to all the great ones
of the Earth (whom this may concern) being the
last warning piece, &c.

  1. The word of the Lord came expressly to me, saying, son of man write a roll, and these words, from my mouth, to the great ones, saying, thus saith the Lord:
    Slight not this roll, neither laugh at it, lest I slight you, and cause all men to slight and scorn you; lest I destroy you, and laugh at your destruction, &c.
  2. This is, (and with a witness, some of you shall find it, to be) an edged tool; and there is no jesting with it, or laughing at it.

 It’s a sharp sword, sharpened, and also furbished–
No sleepy dormouse shall dare to creep up the edge of it.
Thus saith the Lord, you shall find with the witness, that I am now coming
To
1. Inform
2. Advise and warn.
3. Charge
4. Judge and sentence
The great ones

CHAP. 1.

Containing several strange, yet true and seasonable informations to the great ones. As also an apologetical hint of the author’s principle, standing in the front.–

  1. Thus saith the Lord, I inform you, that I overturn, overturn, overturn. And as the bishops, Charles and the Lords have had their turn, overturn, so your turn shall be next (ye surviving great ones) by what name or title soever dignified or distinguished whoever you are that oppose me, the eternal God who am UNIVERSAL LOVE and whose service is perfect freedom and pure libertinism.
  2. <Side Note: An apologetical hint concerning the author’s principle, the result—is negative; he speaks little in the affirmative because not one in a hundred, yea even of his former acquaintance, now know him, neither must they yet.>
    But afore I proceed any further, be it known unto you, that although that excellent majesty which dwells in the writer of this Roll hath reconciled ALL THINGS to himself, yet this hand which now writes never drew sword or shed one drop of any man’s blood. I am free from the blood of all men, though (I say) all things are reconciled to me , the eternal God (IN HIM) yet sword-levelling or digging-levelling are neither of them his principle.
    Both are as far from his principle as the East is from the West or the Heavens from the Earth (though, I say, reconciled to both as to all things else). And though he hath more justice, righteousness, truth and sincerity shining in those low dung-holes (as they are esteemed) than in the Sun, Moon and all the stars.
  3. I come not forth (in him) either with material sword or mattock, but now (in this my day―) I make him my sword bearer, to brandish the sword of the Spirit, as he hath done several days and nights together through the streets of the great City.
  4. And now thus saith the Lord:
    Though you as little endure the word LEVELLING as you could the late slain or dead Charles(your forerunner, who is gone before you―) and had as lief hear the Devil named as hear of the Levellers (men-levellers) which is and who (indeed) are but shadows of most terrible, yet great and glorious good things to come.
  5. Behold, behold, behold, I the eternal God, the Lord of Hosts who am that mighty leveller and coming (yea, even at the doors) to level in good earnest , to level to some purpose, to level with a witness, to level the hills with the valleys and to lay the mountains low.
  6. High Mountains! Lofty Cedars! It’s high time for you to enter into the rocks, and to hide you in the dust, for fear of the Lord, and for the glory of his Majesty. For the lofty looks of man shall be humbled, and the haughtiness of men shall be bowed down, and the Lord ALONE shall be exalted in that day; for the day of the Lord of hosts, shall be upon everyone that is proud, and lofty, and upon everyone that is lifted up, and he shall be brought low. And upon all the Cedars of Lebanon, that are high and lifted up, and upon all the Oaks of Bashan; and upon all the high mountains; and upon all the hills that are lifted up, and upon every High tower; and upon every fenced wall; and upon all the ships of Tarshish, and upon all pleasant pictures.
    And the LOFTINESS of man shall be bowed down, and the haughtiness of men shall be laid low. And the Lord ALONE shall be exalted in that day, and the idols he shall utterly abolish.
    And they shall go into the holes of the rocks, and into the caves of the Earth, for fear of the Lord, and for the glory of his Majesty, when he ariseth to shake terribly the Earth.
    In that day a man shall cast his idols of silver, and idols of gold——to the bats, and to the moles. To go into the clefts of the rocks and into the tops of the ragged rocks, for fear of the Lord, and for the glory of his Majesty. For the Lord is now RISEN to shake terribly the Earth, Isa. 2. 10. to the end of the chapter.
  7. Hills! Mountains! Cedars! Mighty men! Your breath is in your nostrils.
    Those that have admired, adored, idolized, magnified, set you up, fought for you, ventured goods and good name, limb and life for you, shall cease from you.
    You shall not at all be accounted of (not one of you) ye sturdy Oak, who bow not down before eternal majesty, universal love, whose service is perfect freedom, and who hath put down the mighty (remember, remember your forerunner) and who is putting down the mighty from their seats and exalting them of low degree.
  8. O let not (for your own sakes) let not the mother of Harlots in you who is very subtle of heart
    Nor the beast (without you) what do you call ’em? The ministers, fat parsons, vicars, lecturers &c. (who for their own base ends, to maintain their pride and pomp, and to fill their own paunches and purses) have been the chief instruments of all those horrid abominations, hellish, cruel, devilish persecutions in this Nation, which cry for vengeance. For your own sakes (I say) let neither the one nor the other bewitch you or charm your ears, to hear them say, these things shall not befall you, these Scriptures shall not be fulfilled upon you, but upon the Pope, Turk and heathen princes &c.
  9. Or if any of them should (through subtlety for their own base ends) creep into that Mystery of that forementioned Scripture (Isa2.10)
    And tell you, Those words are to be taken in the Mystery only, and they only point out a spiritual inward levelling. Once more for your own sakes, I say, believe them not.
  10. ‘Tis true, the history, or letter, (I speak comparatively) is but as it were hair cloth; the Mystery is fine flax. My flax, saith the Lord, and the thief and the robber will steal from me my flax, to cover his nakedness, that his filthiness may not appear.
    But the hold, I am (now) recovering my flax out of his hand, and discovering his lewdness——verbum sat——
  11. ‘Tis true, the Mystery is my joy, my delight and my life.
    And the prime levelling, is laying low the mountains, and levelling the hills in man.
    But this is not all.
    For lo I come (saith the Lord) with a vengeance, to level also your honour, riches, &c. To stain the pride of all your glory, and to bring into contempt all the honourable (both persons and things) upon the earth.Isa. 23. 9
  12. For this honour, nobility, gentility, propriety, superfluity, &c. hath (without contradiction) been the father of hellish horrid pride, arrogance, haughtiness, loftiness, murder, malice, of all manner of wickedness and impiety. Yea, the cause of all the blood that ever hath been shed——from the blood of the righteous Abel to the blood of the last Levellers that were shot to death. And now (as I livesaith the Lord)I am come to make inquisition for blood, for murder and pride, &c.
  13. I see the root of it all. The axe is laid to the root of the tree(by the eternal God, Myself, saith the Lord). I will hew it down. And as I live, I will plague your Honour, Pomp, Greatness, Superfluity, and confound it into parity, equality, community; that the neck of horrid pride, murder, malice, and tyranny, &c. may be chopped off at one blow. And that myself, the Eternal God, who am Universal Love, may soon the Earth with universal Love, universal peace, and perfect freedom; which can never be by human sword or strength accomplished.
  14. Wherefore bow down, bow down, you sturdy Oaks, and tall Cedars; bow, or by myself I’ll break you.
    He cause some of you (on whom I have compassion) to bow &c. and will terribly plague the rest.
    My little finger shall be heavier on them, than my whole loins were on Pharaoh of old.
  15. And maugre the subtlety and sedulity, the craft and cruelty of hell and earth, this levelling shall up.
    Not by sword; we (holily) scorn to fight for anything. We had as lief be dead drunk every day of the week, and lie with whores in the market place, and account these as good actions as taking the poor, abused, enslaved ploughman’s money from him (who is almost everywhere undone and squeezed to death, and not so much as that plaguy, unsupportable, hellish burden and oppression of tithes taken off his shoulders, notwithstanding all his honesty, fidelity, taxes, free quarter, petitioning &c. for the same,) we had rather starve, I say, than take away his money from him for killing of men.
    Nay, if we might have Captain’s pay and a good fat parsonage or two besides, we would scorn to be swordsmen or fight with those mostly carnal weapons for anything or against anyone or for our livings.
  16. No, no, we’ll live in despite of our foes; and this levelling (to thy torment, O mighty man) shall up, not by sword, not by might, &c. but by my spirit, saith the Lord.
    For I am risen, for I am risen, for I am risen, shake terribly the Earth, and not the Earth only, but heavens also, &c.
    But here I shall cease informing you. You may for your further information (if you please) read my roll to all the rich inhabitants of the earth.
    Read it if you be wise, I shall now advise you.

CHAP. II

Containing several new, strange, yet seasonable admonitions and good advice, as the last warning to the Great Ones of the Earth, as from the Lord.

  1. First Admonition to great ones.Sero sapiunt Phryges, sed nunquam sera est ad bonos mores via. (“The Phrygians became wise too late, but it is never too late to live morally.”)

 Thus saith the Lord: be wise now therefore, O ye rulers, &c. Be instructed, &c. Kiss the sun, &c. Yea kiss beggars, prisoners, warm them, feed them, clothe them, money them, relieve them, release them, take them into your houses, don’t serve them as dogs, without door, &c.
Own them, they are flesh of your flesh, your own brethren, your own sisters, every whit as good (and if I should stand in competition with you) in some degrees better than yourselves.

  1. Once more I say, own them; they are yourself, make someone with you, or else go howling into hell; howl for the miseries that are coming upon you, howl.
    The very shadow of levelling, sword-levelling, man-levelling, frighted you, (and who, like yourselves, can blame you, because it shook your kingdom?) But now the substantiality of levelling is coming.
    The eternal God, the mighty Leveller is coming, yea come, even at the door; and what will you do in that day.
    Repent, repent, repent, bow down, bow down, bow, or howl, resign, or be damned; bow down, bow down, you sturdy Oaks, and Cedars, bow down.
    Veil too, and kiss the meaner shrubs. Bow, or else (by myself saith the Lord) he break you in pieces (some of you) others I will tear up by the roots; I will suddenly deal with you all, some in one way; some in another. Wherefore

Each beggar that you meet
Fall down before him, kiss him in the street.

 Once more, he is thy brother, thy fellow, flesh of thy flesh.
Turn not away thine eyes from thine own FLESH, lest I pull out thine eyes and throw thee headlong into hell.

  1. Mine ears are filled brimful with cries of poor prisoners, Newgate, Ludgate cries (of late) are seldom out of mine ears. Those doleful cries, bread, bread, bread for the Lord’s sake, pierce mine ears, and heart, I can no longer forbear.
    Wherefore hye you apace to all prisons in the kingdom.
  2. Second Admonition to great ones. Bow before those poor, nasty, lousy, ragged wretches, say to them, your humble servants, Sirs, (without a compliment) we let you go free, and serve you, &c.

 Do this, (or as I live saith the Lord) thine eyes (at least) shall be bored out, and thou carried captive into a strange land.

  1. Third admonition to great ones.Give over, give over, thy odious, nasty, abominable fasting, for strife and debate, and to smite with the fist of wickedness. And instead thereof, loose the bands of wickedness, undo the heavy burdens, let the oppressed go free, and break every yoke. Deal of thy bread to the hungry, and bring the poor that are cast out (both of houses and synagogues) to thy house. Cover the naked: hide not thyself from thine own flesh, from a cripple, a rogue, a beggar, he’s thine own flesh. From a whoremonger, a thief, &c. He’s flesh of thy flesh, and his theft, and whoredom is flesh of thy flesh also, thine own flesh. Thou mayest have ten times more of each within thee, than he that acts outwardly in either. Remember, turn not away thine eyes from thine OWN FLESH.
  2. Fourth admonition to great ones.Give over, give over thy midnight mischief.
    Let branding with the letter B alone.
    Be no longer so horridly, hellishly, imprudently, arrogantly, wicked, as to judge what is seen, what not, what evil, and what not, what blasphemy, and what not.
    For thou and all thy Reverend Divines, so-called (who divine for Tithes, hire, and money, and serve the Lord Jesus Christ for their own bellies) are ignorant of this one thing.
  3. That sin and transgression is finished; it’s a mere riddle that they with all their human learning can never read.
    Neither can they understand what pure honour is wrapped up in the King’s motto Honi soit qui mal y pense. Evil to him that evil thinks.
    Some there are (who are accounted the off-scouring of all things) who are noble knights of the Garter. Since which——they could see no evil, think no evil, do no evil, know no evil.
    ALL is religion that they speak and honour that they do.
    But all you that eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, and have not your evil eye picked out, you call good evil, and evil good; light darkness, and darkness light; truth blasphemy, and blasphemy truth.
    And you are at this time of your father the Devil, and of your brother the Pharisee, who still say of Christ (who is now alive) say we not well that he hath a Devil.
  4. Take heed, take heed, take heed.
    Filthy blind Sodomites called Angels men, they seeing no further than the forms of men.
  5. There are Angels (now) come down from heaven, in the shapes and forms of men, who are full of the vengeance of the Lord; and are to pour out the plagues of God upon the earth, and to torment the inhabitants thereof.
    Some of these angels I have been acquainted withal.
    And I have looked upon them as Devils, accounting them Devils incarnate, and have run from place to place, to hide myself from them, shunning their company; and have been utterly ashamed when I have been seen with them.
    But for my labour, I have been plagued and tormented beyond expression. So that now I had rather behold one of these angels pouring out the plagues of God, cursing and teaching others to curse bitterly (Rev. 15, Judges 5, Revel. 10, Neh. 13.25)
    And had rather hear a mighty angel (in man) swearing a full-mouthed oath, and see the spirit of Nehemiah(in any form of man, or woman) running upon an unclean Jew (a pretended Saint) and tearing the hair of his head like a mad man, cursing and making others fall a-swearing, than hear a zealous Presbyterian, Independent or spiritual Notionist pray, preach or exercise. (This will come in request with you next; you may remember that Independency, which is now so hugged, was counted blasphemy, and banishment was too good for it.)
  6. Well! To the pure all things are pure. God hath so cleared cursing, swearing, in some, that that which goes for swearing and cursing in them, is more glorious than praying and preaching in others.
    And what God hath cleansed, call not thou unclean.
    And if Peterprove a great transgressor of the law, by doing that which was odious as killing a man; if he at length (though he be loath at first) eaten that which was common and unclean &c. (I give but a hint) blame him not, much less lift up a finger against or plant a hellish ordinance–against him, lest thou be plagued, and damned to, for thy zeal, blind religion, and fleshly holiness, which now stinks above ground, though formerly it had a good savour.
  7. But O thou holy, zealous, devout, righteous, religious one (whoever thou art) that seest evil, or any thing unclean; do thou swear, if thou darest, if it be but (i’ faith) I’ll throw thee to hell for it (saith the Lord) and laugh at thy destruction.
    While Angels (in the form of men) shall swear, Heart, Blood, Wounds, and by the eternal God, &c. in profound purity, and in high honour, and Majesty.
  8. Well! one hint more; there’s swearing ignorantly, i’th dark, vainly, and there is swearing i’th light, gloriously.
    Well! Man of the Earth! Lord Esau! What hast thou to do with those who swear upon the former account?
    Vengeance is mine, judgment, help, wrath, &c. All is mine (saith the Lord) dare not thou to set thy foot so impudently and arrogantly upon one step of my throne: I am judge myself——be wise, give over, have done——
  9. And as for the latter sort of swearing, thou knowest it not when thou hearest it. It’s no new thing for thee to call Christ Beelzebub and Beelzebub Christ; to call a holy angel a Devil, and a Devil an Angel.
  10. I charge thee (in the name of the eternal God) meddle not with either, let the tares alone, lest thou pull up the wheat also, woe be to thee if thou dost. Let both alone (I say) lest thou shouldst happen of a holy swearing angel, and take a lion by the paw to thine own destruction.
    Never was there such a time since the words stood, as now is.
    Thou knowest not the strange appearances of the Lord, nowadays. Take heed, know thou hast been warned.
  11. Fifth Admonition to great ones.And whatever thou dost, dip not thy little finger in blood any more, thou art up to the elbows already: much soap, yea much nitre cannot cleanse thee, &c.
    Much more have I to say to thee (saith the Lord) but I will do it secretly; and dart a quiver full of arrows into thy heart; and I will now charge thee.

CHAP III.

Containing several dismal, doleful cries, and outcries, which pierce the ears and heart of his Excellent Majesty, the King of Kings, and how the King of Heaven chargeth the great ones of the Earth.

  1. Thus saith the Lord, be silent, O all flesh, before the Lord; be silent; O lofty, haughty, great ones of the Earth.
    There are so many Bills of Indictment preferred against thee, that both heaven and earth blush thereat.
    How long shall I hear the sighs and groans, and see the tears of poor widows; and hear curses in every corner; and all sorts of people crying out oppression, oppression, tyranny, tyranny the worst of tyranny, unheard-of, unnatural tyranny.
    ——O my back, my shoulders. O tithes, excise, taxes, pollings, &c. O Lord! O Lord God Almighty!
    What, a little finger heavier than former loins?
    What are they engaged my goods, my life, &c., Forsook my dearest relations, and all for liberty and true freedom, for freedom from oppression, and more laid on my back, &c.
  2. Mine ears are filled brimful with confused noise, cries, and outcries; O the innumerable complaints and groans that pierce my heart (through and through) O astonishing complaints.
    Was ever the like ingratitude heard of since the world stood? What! Best friends, surest friends, slighted, scorned, and that which cometh from them (in the basest manner) contemned, and some rewarded with prisons, some with death?
    O the abominable perfidiousness, false heartedness; self-seeking, self-enriching, and kingdom-depopulating, and devastating, &c.
    These, and divers of the same nature, but the cries of England.
    And can I any longer forbear?
    I have heard, I have heard, the groaning of my people. And now I come to deliver them saith the Lord.
    Woe be to Pharaoh King of Egypt.
    You Great Ones that are not tacked nor tainted, you may laugh and sing, whom this hitteth it hitteth. And it shall hit home.
    And this which followeth, all whom are concerned with, by what name or title soever dignified or distinguished.
  3. You mostly hate those (called Levellers) who (for aught you know) acted as they did, out of the sincerity, simplicity, and fidelity of their hearts; fearing lest they should come under the notion of Covenant-breakers, if they did not so act.
    Which is so, then were they most barbarously, unnaturally, hellishly murdered; and they died martyrs for God and their country.
    And their blood cries vengeance, vengeance, in mine ears, saith the Lord.
  4. Well! Let it be how it will. These Levellers (so called) you mostly hated, though in outward declarations you owned their tenets as your own principle. (Once more, know that sword——levelling is not my principle. I only pronounce the righteous judgments of the Lord upon the Earth as I durst.)
    So you mostly hate me, saith the Lord (though in outward declarations you profess me and seem to own me) more than a thousand whom you despise, who are nearer the kingdom of heaven than yourselves.
    You have killed Levellers (so-called) you also (with wicked hands) have slain me the Lord of life, who am now risen, and risen indeed, (and you shall know, and feel it with a witness) to level you in good earnest. And to lay low all high hills, and every mountain that is high, and lifted up, &c.
  5. Well! Once more, read Jam5. 1 to 7——ye have killed the just——ye have killed, ye have killed, ye have killed the just.
    The blood crieth in mine ears, vengeance, vengeance, vengeance, vengeance is mine, I will recompense.
    Well! What will you do with Bray, and the poor prisoners elsewhere? You know not what you do.
    You little know what will become of you.
    One of you had best remember your dream about your father’s Moule——
  6. Neither do I forget the one hundred spent in superfluous dishes (at your late Greater London feast, for I know what——) when hundreds of poor wretches died with hunger.
    I have heard a sound in mine ears, that no less than a hundred died in one week, pined, and starved with hunger.
    How will you great ones, for all that feast-day’s dole, &c. hear your doom.

CHAP IV.

How the judge of heaven and earth, who judgeth righteous judgment, passeth sentence against all those great ones, who (like Oaks and tall Cedars) will not bow. And how he intends to blow them up by the roots.

  1. Thus saith the Lord: all you tall Cedars, and sturdy Oaks, who bow not down, who bow not down——this sentence is gone out of my mouth against you, MENE, MENE, TEKEL.
    Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting.
    God hath numbered thy kingdom, and finished it.
    And thou, and all the join with thee, or are (in the least degree) accessory to thy former, or like intended pranks, shall most terribly and most strangely be plagued.
  2. There is a little spark lies under (that huge heap of ashes) all thine honour, pomp, pride, wealth, and riches, which shall utterly consume all that is uppermost, as it is written.
    The Lord, the Lord of hosts, shall send among his fat ones, leanness; and under his glory he should kindle a burning, like the burning of the fire, and the light of Israel shall be for a fire, and his holy one for flame, and shall burn and devour his thorns, and his briars in one day.
    And shall consume the glory of his forest, and of his fruitful field, both soul and body (i.e. this shall be done inwardly and outwardly, and shall be fulfilled both in the history and mystery) and the rest of the trees of his forest shall be few, that a child may write them.
    And the Lord, the Lord of hosts, shall lop the bough with terror, and the high ones of stature shall be hewn down, and the haughty shall be humbled. And you shall cut down the thickets of the forest with iron, and Lebanon shall fall by a mighty one, Isa. 10.
  3. Behold, behold, I have told you.
    Take it to heart, else you’ll repent of every vein of your heart.
    For your own sakes take heed.
    It’s my last warning.
    For the cries of the poor, for the oppression of the needy.
    For the horrid insolency of proud man, who will dare to sit in my throne, and judge unrighteous judgment.
    Who will dare to touch mine anointed, and do my prophets harm.
    For these things sake (now) I am arisen, saith the Lord
    In Auxilium Patris

CHAP V

  1. London, London, my bowels are rolled together (in me) for thee, and my compassions within me are kindled towards thee.
    And now I only tell thee that it was not in vain that this form hath been brought so far to thee, to proclaim the day of the Lord throughout thy streets, day and night, for twelve or thirteen days together.
    And that I have made such a sign and a wonder before many of thine inhabitants’ faces.
  2. Many of them, (among other strange exploits,) beholding me fall down flat at the feet of cripples, beggars, lazars , kissing their feet, and resigning up my money to them; being several times over-emptied of money that I have not had one penny left, and yet have recruited again―
  3. And now my heart! You have been forwardly in all the appearances of God,
    There is a strange one (now on foot) judge it not, lest you be judged with a vengeance.
  4. Turn not away your eyes from it, lest you (to your torment) hear this voice——I was a stranger, and you took me not in.
    Well! Bow down before eternal Majesty, who is universal love, bow down to equality, or free community, that no more of your blood be spilt; that pride, arrogance, covetousness, malice, hypocrisy, self-seeking, &c. may live no longer. Else I tremble at what’s coming upon you.
    Remember you have been warned with a witness.
    Dear hearts farewell.

CHAP VI

  1. He that hath an ear to hear, let him hear what the spirit saith against the churches.
    Thus saith the Lord: woe be to thee Bethaven (The house of vanity) who call us thyself by the name Bethel (the house of God.), it shall be more tolerable (now in the day of judgment,) for Tyre and Sidon, for those whom thou accountest, and callest heathens, than from thee.
  2. And thou proud Lucifer, who exaltest thyself above all the stars of God in Heaven, shalt be brought down into hell; it shall be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah, for drunkards and whoremongers, than for thee. Publicans and Harlots shall, publicans and Harlots do sooner enter into the kingdom of heaven, than you.
    I’ll give thee this fatal blow, and leave thee.
  3. Thou hast affronted, and defied the Almighty, more than the vilest of men (upon the face of the earth) and that so much the more, by how much the more thou takest upon thee the name of Saint, and assumest it to thyself only, damning all those that are not of thy Sect.
  4. Wherefore be it known to all tongues, kindred, nations and languages upon Earth, That my most excellent majesty, the King of glory, the eternal God, who dwelleth in the form of the writer of this Roll (among many other strange and great exploits) hath in the open streets, with his hand fiercely stretched out, his hat cocked up, his eyes set as if they would sparkle out, and with a mighty loud voice, charged 100 of coaches, 100 of men and women of the greatest rank, and many notorious, deboist, swearing, roistering, roaring Cavaliers (so called) and other wild sparks of the gentry, and have proclaimed the notable day of the Lord to them. And that through the streets of the great City and in Southwark. Many times great multitudes following him up and down, and this for the space of 12 or 13 days: And yet (all this while,) not one of them lifting up one finger, not touching one hair of his head or laying one hand on his raiment.
    But many, yea, many notorious vile ones in the esteem of men (yea, of great quality among men) trembling and bowing to the God of Heaven, &c.

 But when I came to proclaim (also) the great day of the Lord (among you) O ye carnal Gospellers.
The Devil (in you) roared out who was tormented to some purpose, though not before his time.
He there showed both his fangs and paws and would have torn me to pieces and have eaten me up. Thy pride, envy, malice, arrogance &c. was poured out like a river of brimstone, crying out, a blasphemer, a blasphemer, away with him: At length threatening me, and being at last raving mad, some took hold of my coat on one side, some on another, endeavouring to throw me from the place where I stood (to proclaim his Majesty’s message) making a great uproar in a great congregation of people: Till at length I wrapped up myself in silence (for a season) for the well-favoured Harlot’s confusion &c.
And to thine eternal shame and damnation (O mother of witchcraft who dwelleth in gathered churches) let this be told abroad. And let her FLESH be burnt with FIRE.
Amen, Hallelujah.

FINIS

*****

A SECOND
Fiery Flying Roll

TO

All the inhabitants of the earth; specially to the rich ones.

OR,
A sharp sickle, thrust in, to gather the clusters of the vines of the Earth, because her grapes are (now) fully ripe. And the great, notable, terrible, (yet glorious and joyful) day of the LORD is come; even the Day of the Lord’s recovery and discovery. Wherein the secrets of all hearts are ripped up; and the secret of little unease of the holy whore, the well-favoured Harlot (who scorns carnal ordinances, and is mounted up into the notion of spirituals) is discovered: and even her flesh burning with unquenchable fire. And the pride of all glory staining.

Together with the narration of various, strange, yet true stories: and several secret mysteries, and mysterious secrets, which never were afore written or printed.

As also, that most strange appearance of eternal wisdom, and unlimited Almightiness, in choosing base things: and why, and how he chooseth them. And how (most miraculously) they (even base things) have been, are, and shall be made fiery chariots, to mount up some into divine glory, and unspotted beauty and majesty. And the glory that ariseth up from under them is confounding both heaven and earth. With the word (by way of preface) dropping in as an inlet to the new Jerusalem.

These being some things of what are experimented.

Per AUXILIUM PATRIS

Howl, rich men, for the miseries that are (just now) coming upon you, the rust of your silver is rising up in judgment against you, burning your flesh like fire, &c.

And now I am come to recover my corn, my wool, and my flax, which thou hast (thievishly and hoggishly) detained from me, the Lord God Almighty, in the poor and needy.

Also howl thou holy whore, thou well-favoured Harlot: for God, and I, have chosen base things to confound thee, and things that are.

And the secrets of all hearts are now revealing by my gospel, who am a stranger, and besides myself, to God, for your sakes. Wherefore receive me, &c. Else expect that dismal doom, depart from me ye cursed, I was a stranger, and ye took me not in.

Printed in the year 1649

CHAP 1.

The author’s commission to write, a terrible woe denounced against those that slight the roll. The Lord’s claim to all things; together with a hint of a two-fold recovery, wherethrough the most hypocritical heart shall be ripped up, &c.

  1. The word of the Lord came expressly to me, saying, write, write, write.
  2. And ONE stood by me, and pronounced all these words to me with his mouth, and I wrote them with ink in this paper.
  3. Wherefore in the name and power of the eternal God, I charge thee burn it not, tear it not, for if thou dost, I would tear thee to pieces (saith the Lord) and none shall be able to deliver thee; for (as I live) it is the day of my vengeance.
  4. Read it through, and laugh not at it, if thou dost I’ll destroy thee, and laugh at thy destruction.
  5. Thus saith the Lord, though I have been a great while in coming, yet I am now come to recover my corn, and I will, and my flax, &c. And to discover thy lewdness, Hos. 2.
    Thou art cursed with a curse, for thou hast robbed me (saith the Lord) of my corn, my wool, my flax, &c. Thou hast robbed me of my tithes, for the tithes are mine, Mal. 3. And the beasts on a thousand hills, yea all thy bags of money, hay-ricks, horses, yea all that thou callest thine own are mine.
  6. And now I am come to recover them all at my hands, saith the Lord, for it is the day of my recovery, and the day of my discovery, &c. And there is a twofold recovery of 2 sorts of things, inward, and outward, or civil, and religious, and through both, and grand discovery of the secrets of the most hypocritical heart, and ripping up of the bowels of the well-favoured Harlot, the holy whore, who scorns that which is called profaneness, wickedness, looseness, or libertinism, and yet herself is the mother of witchcraft, and of all the abominations of the Earth.
    But more of this hereafter.
  7. For the present, I say, thus saith the Lord, I am come to recover all my outward, or civil rights, or goods, which thou callest thine own.

CHAP 2.

How the Lord will recover his outward things (things of this life) as money, corn, &c., and for whom: and how they shall be plagued that detain them as their own. Wherein also are some mystical hints concerning Michaelmas day, and the Lord’s day following it this year; as also of the Dominical letter D, this year.

  1. And the way that I will walk in (in this great notable and terrible day of the Lord) shall be thus. I will either (strangely, & terribly, to thy torment) inwardly, or else (in a way that I will not acquaint thee with) outwardly, demand all mine, and will say on this wise.
  2. Thou hast many bags of money, and behold now I come as a thief in the night, with my sword drawn in my hand, and like a thief as I am,——I say deliver your purse, deliver sirrah! Deliver or I’ll cut thy throat!
  3. Deliver MY money to such as poor despised Maule of Dedington in Oxonshire Whom some Devils incarnate (insolently and proudly, in way of disdain) cry up for a fool, some for a knave, and madman, some for an idle fellow, and base rogue, and some (trulier than they are aware of) for a prophet, and some arrogant fools (though exceeding wise) cry up for more knave than fool, &c. when as indeed, there is pure royal blood runs through his veins, and he’s no less than a King’s son, though not one of you who are Devils incarnate; & have your eyes blinded with the God of this world, know it.
  4. I say (once more) deliver, deliver, my money which thou hast to him, and to poor cripples, lazars, yea to rogues, thieves, whores, and cut-purses, who are flesh of thy flesh, and every whit as good as thyself in mine eye, who are ready to starve in plaguy gaols, and nasty dungeons, or else for myself, saith the Lord, I would torment thee day and night, inwardly, or outwardly, or both ways, my little finger shall shortly be heavier on thee, especially on thee thou holy, righteous, religious Appropriator, than my loins were on Pharaoh and the Egyptians in time of old; you shall weep and howl for the miseries that suddenly coming upon you; for your riches are corrupted, &c. and whilst impropriated, appropriated the plague of God is in them.
  5. The plague of God is in your purses, barns, houses, horses, murrain will take your hogs, O (ye fat swine of the Earth) who shall shortly go to the knife, and be hung up i’th roof, except——blasting, mildew, locusts, caterpillars, yea fire your houses and goods, take your corn and fruit, the moth your garments, and the rots your sheep, did you not see my hand, this last year stretched out?
    You did not see.
    My hand is stretched out still.
    Your gold and silver, though you can’t see it, is cankered, the rust of them is a witness against you, and suddenly, suddenly, suddenly, because by the eternal God, myself, it’s the dreadful day of judgment, saith the Lord, shall eat your flesh as it were fire, Jam. 5. 1. to 7.
    The rust of your silver, I say, should eat your flesh as it were fire.
  6. As sure as it did mine the very next day after Michael the Archangel’s, that mighty angel, who just now fights that terrible battle in heaven with the great Dragon.
    And is come upon the Earth also, to rip up the hearts of all bag-bearing Judases. On this day purses shall be caught, goats led out, men stabbed to the heart, women’s bellies ripped up, specially gammer Demase’s, who have forsaken us, and embraced this wicked world, and married Alexander the coppersmith, who have done me much evil. The Lord reward him, I wish him hugely well, as he did me, on the next day after Michael the Archangel.
    Which was the Lord’s day I am sure on’t, look in your Almanacs, you shall find it was the Lord’s day, or else I would you could; when you must, when you see it, you will find the dominical letter to be G. and there are many words that begin with G. at this time (GIVE) begins with G. Give, give, give, give up, give up your houses, horses, goods, gold, lands, give up, account nothing your own, have ALL THINGS in common, or else the plague of God will rot and consume all that you have.
    By God, by myself, saith the Lord, it’s true.
    Come! Give all to the poor and follow me, and you shall have treasure in heaven. Follow me, who was numbered among transgressors, and whose village was more marred than any man’s, follow me.

CHAP III.

A strange, yet most true story: under which is couched that lion, whose roaring shall make all the beasts of the field tremble, and all the kingdoms of the world quake. Wherein also (in part) the subtlety of the well-favoured Harlot is discovered, and her flesh burnt with that fire, which shall burn down all churches, except that of the first born, &c.

  1. Follow me, who, last Lord’s day Septem. 30. 1649 met him in open field, a most strange deformed man, clad with patched clouts: who looking wishly on me, mine eye pitied him; and my heart, or the day of the Lord, which burned as an oven in me, set my tongue on flame to speak to him, as followeth.
  2. How now friend, art thou poor?
    He answered, yea master very poor.
    Whereupon my bowels trembled within me, and quivering fell upon the worm eaten chest, (my corps I mean) that I could not hold a joint still.
    And my great love within me, (who is the great God within that chest, or corps) was burning hot toward him; and made of the lock all of the chest, to which the mouth of the corps, again to open: thus.
    Art poor?
    Yea, very poor, said he.
    Whereupon the strange woman who, flatterers with her lips, and is subtle of heart, said within me,
    It’s a poor wretch, give him two-pence.
    But my EXCELLENCY and MAJESTY (in me) scorned her words, confounded her language; and kicked her out of his presence.
  3. But immediately the WELL-FAVOURED HARLOT (whom I carried a not upon my horse behind me) but who rose up on me, said:
    It’s a poor wretch give him 6d. and that’s enough for a squire or knight, to give to one poor body.
    Besides (saith the holy Scripturian whore) he is worse than an infidel that provides not for his own family.
    True love begins at home, &c.
    Thou, and my family are fed, as the young ravens strangely, though thou hast been a constant preacher, yet thou hast abhorred both tithes and hire; and thou know us not aforehand who will give you the worth of a penny.
    Have a care of the main chance.
  4. And thus she flattereth with her lips, and her words being smoother than oil; and her lips dropping as the honeycomb, I was fired to hasten my hand into my pocket; and pulling out a shilling, said to the poor wretch here give me sixpence, here’s a shilling for thee.
    He answered, I cannot, I have never a penny.
    Whereupon I said, I would fain have given thee something if thou couldest have changed my money.
    Then saith he, God bless you.
    Whereupon with much reluctancy, with much love, and with amazement (of the right stamp) I turned my horse head from him, riding away. But a while after I was turned back (being advised by my Demilance) to wish him called for sixpence, which I would leave at the next town at one’s house, which I thought he might know (Saphira-like) keeping back part.
    But (as God judged me) I, as she, was struck down dead.
    And behold the plague of God fell into my pocket; and the rust of my silver rose up in judgment against me, and consumed my flesh as with fire: so that I, and my money perished with me, I being cast into the lake of fire and brimstone.
    And all the money I had about me to a penny (though I thought through the instigation of my quondam mistress to have reserved some, having rode about 8 miles, not eating one mouthful of bread that day, and had drunk but one small draught of drink; and had between 8 or 9 miles more to ride, ere I came to my journey’s end: my horse being lame, the ways dirty, it raining all the way, and I not knowing what extraordinary occasion I might have for money.) Yet (I say) the rust of my silver did so rise up in judgment against me, and burnt my flesh like fire: and the 5 of James thundered such an alarm in mine ears, that I was fain to cast all I had into the hands of him, whose visage was more marred than any man’s that ever I saw.
    This is a true story, most true in the history.
    It’s also true in the mystery.
    And there are deep ones couched under it, for it’s a shadow of various, glorious, (though strange) good things to come.
  5. Well! To return——after I had thrown my rusty cankered money into the poor wretch’s hands, I rode away from him, being filled with trembling joy, and amazement, feeling the sparkles of a great glory rising up from under these ashes.
    After this, I was made (by that divine power which dwellest in this Ark, or chest) to turn my horse head——whereupon I beheld this poor deformed wretch, looking earnestly after me: and upon that, was made to put off my hat, and bow to him seven times, and was (as that strange posture) filled with trembling and amazement, some sparkles of glory arising up also from under this; as also from under these ashes, yet I rode back once more to the poor wretch, saying, because I am a King, I have done this, which you need not tell any one.

The day’s our own.

This was done on the last LORD’S DAY, Septem. 30. in the year 1649, which is the year of the Lord’s recompenses for Zion, and the day of his vengeance, the dreadful day of judgment. But I have done (for the present) with this story, for it is the latter end of the year 1649.

CHAP. IV.

How the author hath been set as a sign and wonder, as well as most of the Prophets formerly. As also what strange postures that divine majesty that dwells in his form, hath set the form in; which is the most strange and various effects thereof upon the spectators. His communion with the spirits of just men made perfect, and with God the judge of all, hinted at.

  1. It is written in your Bibles, Behold I and the children whom the Lord hath given me, or for signs and for wonders in Israel, from the Lord of Hosts, which dwellest in Mount Sion, Isa. 8. 18.
    And amongst those who are set thus, Ezekiel seems to be higher than the rest by the shoulders upwards, and was more seraphical than his predecessors, yet he was the son of Buzi (Ezek. 1.) Which being interpreted is the son of contempt; it pleases me (right well) that I am his brother, a son of Buzi.
  2. He saw (and I in him see) various strange visions; and he was, and I am set in several strange pastures.
    Amongst many of his pranks——this was one, he shaves all the hair off his head: and of his beard, then weighs them in a pair of scales; burns one part of them in the fire, another part he smites about with a knife, another part thereof he scatters in the wind, and a few he binds up in his skirts, &c. And this not in a corner, or in a chamber, but in the midst of the streets of the great city Jerusalem, and the man all this while neither mad nor drunk, &c. Ezek.5. 1.2.3,4 &c. As also in several other chapters among the rest, Chap. 12. 3. &c. Chap. 4. 3. Chap. 24. 3. to the end. This Ezekiel(to whose spirit I am come, and to an innumerable company of Angels, and to God the judge of all.)
  3. (I say) this great courtier in the High Court of the highest heavens, is the son of Buzi, a child of contempt on Earth, and set as a sign and wonder (as was Hosea, who went into a whore, &c.) Hos. 2. When he (I say) was playing some of his pranks, the people said to him, which though not tell us what these things are to us, but thou dost do, Ezek. 24. 19. with the 3. Verse and so forwards, when he was strangely acted by that omnipotentcy dwelling in him; and my that eternal, immortal, INVISIBLE (indeed) Majesty, the only wise God, who dwells in this invisible form, the writer of this roll, (who to his joy) is numbered among transgressors.
  4. The same most excellent Majesty (in this form) had set the form in many strange postures lately, to the joy and refreshment of some, both acquaintances and strangers, to the wonderment and amazement of others; and to the great torment of the chiefest of the sects of professors; who have gone about to shake off their plagues and if they could, some by crying out he’s mad, he’s drunk, he’s fallen from grace, and some by scandalising, &c. And only one, whom I was told of, by threats of caning or cudgelling, who meeting me full with face, was ashamed and afraid to look on me, &c.
  5. But to waive all this.
    Because the Sun begins to peep out, and it’s a good while past daybreak, I’ll creep forth (a little) into the mystery of the former history, and into the inside of that strange outside business.

CHAP. V.

The author’s strange and lofty carriage towards great ones, and his most lowly carriage towards beggars, rogues, and gypsies: together with a large declaration what glory shall arise up from under all this ashes. The most strange and most secret and terrible, yet most glorious design of God, in choosing base things, to confound things that are. And how. A most terrible vial poured out upon the well-favoured Harlot; and how the Lord is bringing into contempt not only honourable persons, with a vengeance, but all honourable, holy things also. Wholesome advice, with a terrible threat to the formalists. How base things have confounded base things: and how base things have been a fiery chariot to mount the author up into divine glory &c. And how his wife is, and his life is in, that beauty, which makes all visible beauty seem mere deformity.

  1. And because I am found of those that sought me not. And because some say, wilt thou not tell us what these things are to us, that thou dost so?
    Wherefore waiving my charging so many coaches, so many hundreds of men and women of the greater rank, in the open streets, with my hand stretched out, my hat cocked up, staring on them as if I would look through them, gnashing with my teeth at some of them, and day and night with a huge loud voice proclaiming the day of the Lord throughout London and Southwark, and leaving divers other exploits, &c. It is my goodwill and pleasure (only) to single out the former story with its parallels.
  2. (Viz.) In clipping, hugging, embracing, kissing a poor deformed wretch in London, who had no more knows on his face, than I have on the back of my hand, (but only two little holes in the place where the nose uses to stand.)
    And no more eyes to be seen than on the back of my hand, and afterwards running back to him in a strange manner, with my money give yet to him, to the joy of some, to the affrightment and wonderment of other spectators.
  3. As also in falling down flat upon the ground before rogues, beggars, cripples, halt, maimed, blind, &c. kissing the feet of many, rising up again and giving them money, &c. Besides that notorious business with the gypsies and gaolbirds (mine own brethren and sisters, flesh of my flesh, and as good as the greatest Lord in England) at the prison in Southwark near St George’s Church.
    Now that which arises up from under all this heap of ashes, will fire both heaven and earth; the one’s ashamed, and blushes already, the other reels to and fro, like a drunken man.
  4. Wherefore thus saith the Lord, Hear O heavens, and Harken O Earth, I’ll overturn, overturn, overturn, I am now astining the pride of all glory, and blinking into contempt all the honourable of the Earth, Esa. 23. 9. Not only honourable persons, (who shall come down with a vengeance, if they bow not to universal love the eternal God, whose service is perfect freedom) but honourable things, as Elderships, Pastorships, Fellowships, Churches, Ordinances, Prayers, &c. Holinesses, Righteousnesses, religions of all sorts, of the highest strains; yea, Mysterians, and Spiritualists, who scorn carnal Ordinances, &c.
    I am about my act, my strange act, my work, my strange work, that whoever hears of it, both his ears shall tingle.
  5. I am confounding, plaguing, tormenting nice, demure, barren Mical, with David’s unseemly carriage, by skipping, leaping, dancing, like one of the fools; violent, base fellows, shamelessly, basely, and uncovered too, before handmaids,——
    Which thing was S. Paul’s tutor, or else it prompted him to write, God has chosen BASE things, and things that are despised, to confound——the things are.——
    Well! Family duties are no base things, they are things that ARE: Churches, Ordinances, &c. Are no BASE things,though indeed Presbyterian Churches begin to live i’th womb, but died there, and rotten stink there to the death of the mother and child. Amen. Not by the Devil, but (by God that’s a base thing) it’s true.
    Grace before meat and after meat, are no BASE things; these are things that ARE. But how long Lord, holy and true, &c.
    Fasting for strife and debate, and to smite with the fist of wickedness,——(and not for taking off heavy burdens, breaking every yoke, Esa. 58.) And thanksgiving days for killing of men for money, I know BASE things, these are things that ARE.
    Starting up into the notion of spirituals, scorning history, speaking nothing but Mystery, crying down Carnal ordinances &c. is a fine thing among many, it’s no base thing (nowadays) though it be a cloak for covetousness, yea, though it be to maintain pride and pomp; these are no base things.
  6. These are things that ARE, and must be confounded by BASE things, which S. Paul said, not God has connived at, winked at, permitted, tolerated, but God hath CHOSEN &c. BASE things.
    What base things? Why Mical took David for a base fellow, and thought he had chosen BASE things, in dancing shamelessly uncovered before handmaids.
    And a barren, demure Mical thinks (for I know her heart saith the Lord) that I chose base things when I sat down, and eat and drank around on the ground with gypsies, and clipped, hugged and kissed them, putting my hand in their bosoms, loving the gypsies dearly. O base! Saith mincing Mical, the least spark of modesty would be as red as crimson or scarlet, to hear this.
    I warrant me, Mical could better have borne this if I had done it to ladies: so I can for a need, if it be my will, and that in the height of honour and Majesty, without sin. But at that time when I was hugging the gypsies, I abhorred the thoughts of ladies, their beauty could not bewitch mine eyes, or snare my lips, or entangle my hands in their bosoms; yet I can if it be my will, kiss and hug ladies, and love my neighbour’s wife as myself, without sin.
  7. But thou Precisian, by what name or title soever dignified, or distinguished, who would blow a kiss to thy neighbour’s wife, or dare to think of darting one glance of one of thy eyes towards her if thou darest.
    It’s meat and drink to an Angel (who knows none evil, no sin) to swear a full mouthed oath, Rev.10. 6. It’s joy to Nehemiah to come in like a madman, and pluck folks’ hair off their heads, and curse like a Devil——and make them swear by God,——Nehem.13. Do thou O holy man (who knowest evil) lift up thy finger against a Jew, a church-member, call thy brother fool, and with a peasecod on him; or swear i’faith if thou darest, if thou dost, thou shalt howl in hell for it, and I will laugh at thy calamity, &c.
  8. But once more hear O heavens, hearken O Earth, thus saith the Lord, I have chosen such base things, to confound things that are, that the ears of those (who scorn to be below independence, yea the ears of many who scorn to be so low as Carnal Ordinances, &c.) that hear thereof shall tingle.
  9. Hear one word more (whom it hitteth it hitteth) give over thy base nasty thinking, formal grace before meat, and after meat (I call it so, though thou hast re-baptised it——) give over thy stinking family duties, and by Gospel Ordinances as thou callest them; for under them all there lies snapping, snarling, biting, besides covetousness, horrid hypocrisy, envy, malice, evil surmising.
  10. Give over, give over, or if nothing else will do it, I’ll at a time, when thou least of all thinkest of it, make thine own child the fruit of thy loins, in whom thy soul delighted, lie with a whore——before thine eyes: that that plaguy holiness and righteousness of thine might be confounded by that base thing. And thou be plagued back again into thy mother’s womb, the womb of eternity: but thou mayest become a little child, and let the mother Eternity, Almightiness, who is universal love, and whose service is perfect freedom, dress thee, and undress thee, swaddle, unswaddle, bind, loose, lay thee down, take thee up, &c.
    ——And to such a little child, undressing is as good as dressing, foul clothes, as good as fair clothes——he knows none evil, &c.——And shall see evil no more,——but he must first lose all his righteousness, every bit of his holiness, and every crumb of his religion, and be plagued, and confounded (by base things) into nothing.

By base things which God and I have chosen.

  1. And yet I show you a more excellent way, when you have passed this.——In a word, my plaguy, filthy, nasty holiness hath been confounded by base things. And then (behold I assure you a Mystery, and put forth a riddle to you) by base things, base things so-called have been confounded also; and thereby have I been confounded into eternal Majesty, unspeakable glory, my life, myself.
  2. There’s my riddle, but because neither all the Lords of the Philistines no nor my Delilah herself can read it,
    I’ll read it myself, I’ll (only) hint it thus.
    Kisses are numbered amongst transgressors——base things——well! By base hellish swearing, and cursing (as I have accounted it in the time of my fleshly holiness) and by base impudent kisses (as I then accounted them) my plaguy holiness hath been confounded, and thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone.
    And then again, by wanton kisses, kissing hath been confounded; and eternal kisses, have been made fiery chariots, to mount me swiftly into the bosom of him whom my soul loves, (his excellent Majesty, the King of glory.)
    Where I have been, where I have been, where I have been, hugged, embraced, and kissed with the kisses of his mouth, whose loves are better than wine, and have been utterly overcome therewith, beyond expression, beyond admiration.
  3. Again, lust is numbered amongst transgressors——a base thing.——
    Now fair objects attract spectator’ s eyes.
    And beauty is the father of lust or love.
    Well! I have gone along the streets impregnant with that child (lust) which a particular beauty had begot: but coming to the place, where I expected to have been delivered, I have providentially met there a company of Devils in appearance, though Angels with golden vials, in reality, powering out full vials, of such odious abominable words, that are not lawful to be uttered.
    Words enough to deafen the ears of plaguy holiness.
    And such horrid abominable actions, the sight whereof were enough to put out holy man’s eyes, and strike him stark dead, &c.
    These base things (I say) words and actions, have confounded and plagued to death, the child in the womb that I was so big of.

14 And by, and through these BASE things (as upon the wings of the wind) have I been carried up into the arms of my love, which is invisible glory, eternal Majesty, purity itself, and unspotted beauty, even that beauty which maketh all other beauty but mere ugliness, when set against it, &c.
Yea, could you imagine that the quintessence of all visible beauty, should be extracted and made up into one huge beauty, it would appear to be mere deformity to that beauty, which through BASE things I have been lifted up into.
Which transcendent, unspeakable, unspotted beauty, is my crowning joy, my life and love: and though I have chosen, and cannot be without BASE things to confound some in mercy, some in judgment, though also I have concubines without number, which I cannot be without, yet this is my spouse, my love, my dove, my fair one. Now I proceed to that which follows.

CHAP. VI.

Great ones must bow to the poorest peasants, or else they must rue for it.
No material sword or human power whatsoever, but the pure spirit of universal love, which is the eternal God, can break the neck of tyranny, oppression, abominable pride and cruel murder, &c. A catalogue of several judgments recited——as so many warning-pieces to appropriators, impropriators, and anti-free-communicants, &c. The strongest, yea purest propriety that may plead most privilege shall suddenly be confounded.

  1. Again, thus saith the Lord, I in thee, who am eternal Majesty, bowed down thy form, to deformity.
    And I in thee, who am durable riches, commanded thy perishable silver to the poor, &c.
    Thus saith the Lord.
    Kings, Princes, Lords, great ones, must bow to the poorest Peasants; which men must look to pull rogues, or else they’ll rue for it.
    This must be done two ways.
    You shall have one short dark hint.
    Wil. Sedgewick(in me) bowed to that poor deformed ragged wretch, that he might enrich him, in impoverishing himself.
    He shall gain him, and be no great loser himself, &c.
  2. Well! We must all bow, and bow, &c. And MEUM must be converted.——It is but yet very little while; and you shall not say that aught that you possess is your own, &c. Read Acts. 2. towards the end, CHAP. 4. 31. to the end, with CHAP. 5. 1. 2. to the 12.
    It’s but yet a little while, and the strongest, yea the seemingly purest propriety, which may mostly plead privilege and prerogative from Scripture, and carnal reason; shall be confounded and plagued into community and universality. And there’s a most glorious design in it: and equality, community, and universal love; shall be in request to the utter confounding of abominable pride, murder, hypocrisy, tyranny and oppression, &c. The necks whereof can never be chopped off, or these villains ever hanged up, cut off by material sword, by human might, power, or strength, but by the pure spirit of universal love, who is the God whom all the world (of Papists, Protestants, Presbyterians, Independents, Spiritual Notionists, &c.) ignorantly worship.
  3. The time is coming, yea now is, that you shall not dare to say, your silver or gold is your own.
    It’s the Lord’s.
    You shall not say it is your own, lest the rust thereof rise up in judgment against you, and burn your flesh as it were fire.
    Neither shall you dare to say, your ox, or your ass is your own.
    It’s the Lord’s.
    And if the Lord have a need of an ass he shall have him.
    Or if 2 of his disciples should come to unloose him, I will not (for a 1000 worlds) call them thieves, lest the ass should beat my brains out, my bread is not mine own, it’s the Lord’s.
    And if a poor rogue should ask for it——the Lord has need of it——he should have it, lest it should stick in my throat and choke me one way or other.
  4. Once more, Impropriators! Appropriators! Go to, weep and howl, &c. Jam. 5. 1. to the 7. The rust of your silver shall rise (is rising up) against you, burning your flesh as it were fire, &c.
    That is (in a word) a secret, yet sharp, terrible, unexpected, and unsupportable plague, is rising up from under all, that you call your own, when you go to count your money, you shall verily think the Devil stands behind you, to tear you in pieces: you shall not put bread in your mouths, but the curse shall come along with it, and choke you one way or other. All your former sweets shall be mingled with gall and wormwood: I give you but a hint.
    It’s the last days.
  5. Well! Do what you will or can, know you have been warned. It is not for nothing that the Lord with the strong wind cut off (as with a sickle) the fullest, fairest ears of corn this harvest, and droppeds them on purpose for the poor, who had as much right to them, as those that (impudently and wickedly, thievishly and hoggishly) style themselves the owners of the land.
  6. It’s not for nothing that such various strange kinds of worms, grubs, and caterpillars (my strong host, saith the Lord of Hosts) have been sent into some grain: neither is in vain, that I the Lord sent the rot among so many sheep this last year; if they had been resigned to me, and you had kept a true communion, they had not been given up to that plague.
  7. It’s not in vain that so many towns and houses have been lately fired over the heads of the inhabitants: neither is it in vain, that I the Lord fired the barning and ricks of a miser in Worcestershire (this year) the very same day that he brought in his own, as he accounted it.
    On the very same day (I say) his barning and ricks were fired down to the very ground, though multitudes of very expert men in the employment came to quench it.
    Of this the writer of this Scroll was an eye-witness.
  8. Impropriators! Appropriators! Misers! A fair warning. More of you shall be served with the same sauce.
    Others of you I’ll deal withal in another way more terrible than this, saith the Lord till you resign.——
    Misers! ‘Specially you holy Scripturian Misers, when you would say grace before and after meat, read James5. 1. to 7. & Hosea 2. 8, 9, 10.

CHAP. VII.

A further discovery of the subtlety of the well-favoured Harlot, with a parley between her and the spirit: As also the horrid villainy (that lies hid under her smooth words, and sweet tongue in pleading against the Letter and History, and for the Spirit and Mystery, and all for her own ends) detected. Also upon what account the spirit is put, and upon what account the letter. Also what the true communion, and what the true breaking of bread is.

  1. But now me thinks (by this time) I see a brisk, spruce, neat, self-seeking, finicking fellow, (who scorns to be either Papist, Protestant, Presbyterian, Independent, or Anabaptist) I mean the Man of Sin, who worketh with all deceiveableness of unrighteousness, 2. Thess. 2.
    Crying down carnal ordinances, (Note: Down they must, but no thanks to him.) And crying up the spirit: (Note: up it must, but no thanks to him.) Cunningly seeking and setting up himself thereby.
    I say, I see him, and have ripped up the very secrets of his heart (saith the Lord) as also of that mother of mischief, that well-favoured Harlot, who both agree in one, and say on this wise to me.
  2. ‘Ah! Poor deluded man, thou hast spoken of the wisdom of God in a mystery, and thou hast seen all the history of the Bible mysterized.
    ‘O fool! Who hath bewitched thee, Art thou so foolish as to begin in the spirit, and wilt thou now be made perfect in the flesh? Keep thee to the spirit, go not back to the letter, keep thee to the Mystery, go not back to the history.
    ‘What? Why dost talk so much of James 5. and Hosea 2. Those words are to be taken in the Mystery, not the History: they are to be taken in the spirit, not as they lie in the letter.’
    Thus you have a hint of the neat young man’s, and of the well-favoured Harlot’s language.
  3. But now behold I am filled with the Holy Ghost, and resolved (Acts 13. 8, 9, &c.) to set mine eyes on her and him, (who are no more twain, but one) and say:
    ‘O full of all subtlety and mischief, thou child of the Devil, thou enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord?
    ‘Be it known to thee, O thou deceitful tongue, that I have begun on the spirit, and will end in the spirit: I’m joined to the Lord, and am one spirit. The Spirit’s my joy, my life, my strength; I will not let it go, it’s my delight.
    ‘The Mystery is mine, (mostly) that which I most delight in, that’s the jewel. The history is mine also, that’s the Cabinet. For the jewel’s sake I will not leave the Cabinet, though indeed it’s nothing to me, but when thou for thine own ends, standest in competition with me for it.
    ‘Strength is mine, so is weakness also.’
  4. I came by water and blood, not by blood only, but by blood and water also.
    The inwardness is mostly mine, my prime delight is there; the outwardness is mine also, when thou for thine own ends, standest in competition with me about it, or when I would confound thee by it.
  5. I know there’s no Communion to the Communion of Saints, to the inward Communion, to communion with the spirits of just men made perfect, and with God the judge of all.
    No other communion of saints do I know.
    And this is blood-life-spirit-Communion.
  6. But another Communion also I do know, which is water, and but water, which I will not be without: my spirit dwells with God, the judge of all, dwells on him, sups with him, in him, feeds on him, with him, in him. My humanity shall dwell with, sup with, eat with humanity; and why not (for a need) with Publicans and Harlots? Why should I turn away mine eyes from mine own flesh? Why should I not break my bread to the hungry, whoever they be? It is written, the Lord takes care of oxen.
    And when I am at home, I take great care of my horse, to feed him, dress him, water him and provide for him.
    And is not poor Maul of Deddington, and the worst rogue in Newgate, or the arrantest thief or cut-purse far better, than 100 oxen, or 1000 such horses as mine?
  7. Do I take care of my horse, and doth the Lord take care of oxen?
    And shall I hear poor rogues in Newgate, Ludgate, cry bread, bread, bread, for the Lord’s sake; and shall I not pity them, and relieve them?
    Howl, howl, ye nobles, howl honourable, howl ye rich men for the miseries that are coming upon you.
    For our part, we that hear the APOSTLE preach, will also have all things common; neither will we call any thing that we have our own.
    Do you (if you please) till the plague of God rot and consume what you have.
    We will not, we’ll eat our bread together in singleness of heart, we’ll break bread from house to house.

CHAPTER VIII.

The well-favoured Harlot’s clothes stripped off, her nakedness discovered, her nose slit, her lusting after the young man, void of understanding, from corner to corner, from religion to religion, and the spirit pursuing, overtaking, and destroying her, with a terrible thunderclap in the close, &c.

  1. And we will strip off thy clothes, who hast bewitched us, and slit thy nose thou well-favoured Harlot, who hast (as in many things, so in this) made the nations of the earth drunk, with the cup of thy fornications: as thus.
    Thou hast come to a poor irreligious wretch, and told him he must be of the same religion as his neighbours, he must go to church, hear the Minister, &c. and at least once a year put on his best clothes, and receive the Communion——he must eat a bit of bread, and drink a sip of wine——and then he has received, &c. And then he hath been at the Communion.
  2. But when he finds this religion too coarse for him, and he would fain make after another, then immediately thou huntest after him, following him from street to street, from corner to corner, from gross Protestantism to puritanism, &c. At length from cross in baptism, and common-prayer-book to Presbyterianism, where thou tellest him he may break bread, with all such believers, who believe their horses and their cows are their own; and with such believers, who have received different light from, or greater light than themselves; branded with the letter B, banished, or imprisoned 14 weeks together, without bail or main prize.
  3. And I could tell a large story, that would reach as far as between Oxonshire and Coventry.
    But though it be in the original copy, yet it is my goodwill and pleasure, out of my great wisdom, to waive the printing of it, and I will send the contents thereof, as a charge and secret plague, secretly into their breasts, who must be plagued with a vengeance, for their villainy against the Lord.
    Well! To return from this more than needful digression, to the discovery, and uncovering of the well-favoured Harlot.
    Thou hast hunted the young man void of understanding, from corner to corner, from religion to religion.
    We left him at the Presbyterians——where such a believer, who believes his horses and his cows are his own, may have his child christened, and may himself be admitted to the sacrament——and come to the communion.
    And what’s that?
    Why after a consecration in a new form, eating a bit of bread, and drinking a sip of wine perhaps once a month, why mother of mischief is this Communion?
    O thou flattering and deceitful tongue, God shall root thee out of the land of the living, is this Communion? No, no, mother of witchcrafts!
  4. The true Communion amongst men, is to have all things common, and to call nothing one hath, one’s own.
    And the true external breaking of bread, is to eat bread together in singleness of heart, and to break thy bread to the hungry, and tell them it’s their own bread &c. Else your religion is in vain.
  5. And by this time indeed thou seest this religion is in vain. And wilt therefore hie thee to another, to wit, to Independency, and from thence perhaps to Anabaptism so-called.
    And these are the well-favoured Harlot will follow thee, and say thou must be very holy, very righteous, very religious.
    All other religions are vain.
    And all in the parish, or in the country, yea all in the kingdom, and all in the world (who are not of thine opinion) are without, are of the world.
    Thou, and thy comrades are saints.
    (O proud Devil! O Devil of devils! O Beelzebub!)
    Well! (saith she) thou being a saint must be very holy, and walk in Gospel-ordinances (saith the well-favoured Harlot) aye and in envy, malice, pride, covetousness, evil surmising, censoriousness, &c. also.
    And on the first day of the week, when the Saints meet together, to break bread, do not thou omit it upon pain of damnation.
    By no means omitted, because thou hast Gospel Ordinances in the purity of them.
    ——Papists——they give wafers.——
    Protestants——give——to all i’th’ parish ragg ragg, and his fellow if they come.
    But we are called out of the world, none shall break bread with us, but ourselves, (the Saints together, who are in Gospel Order)
    Besides the priests of England cut their bread into little square bits, but we break our bread (according to the apostolical practice) and this is the right breaking of bread (saith the well-favoured Harlot.)
    Who hath stepped into this holy, righteous Gospel, religious way, (Gospel-Ordinances so-called) on purpose to dash to pieces the right breaking of bread and in the room thereof thrusting in this vain religion.
  6. A religion wherein Lucifer reigns, more than in any.
    And next to this in the Independents (so-called) both which damn to the pit of hell, those that are 100 times nearer the kingdom of heaven than themselves: flattering themselves up in this their vain religion.
    But take his hint before I leave thee.

[8.] He that hath this world’s goods, and seeth his brother in want, and shutteth up the bowels of his compassion from him, the love of God dwelleth not in him; this man’s religion is in vain.
His religion is in vain, that seeth his brother in want, &c.
His brother——a beggar, a lazar, a cripple, yea a cut-purse, a thief i’th’ jail, &c.
He that seeth such a brother, flesh of his flesh (in want) and shutteth up the bowels of his compassion from him, the love of God dwelleth not in him; his religion is in vain: and he never yet broke bread——that hath not forgot his (meum.)

  1. The true breaking of bread——is from house to house, &c. Neighbours (in singleness of heart) saying if I have any bread, &c. It’s thine, I will not call it mine own, it’s common.
    These are true communicants, and this is the true breaking of bread among men.
  2. And what the Lord’s supper is, none know, but those that are continually (not weekly) but daily at it.
    And what the true Communion is, those and those only know, who are come to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to God the judge of all; all other religion is vain.
    Aye, saith the well-favoured Harlot (in the young man void of understanding) I see Protestantism, Presbytery, Independency, Anabaptism, are all vain. These coverings are too short, too narrow, too coarse for me; the finest of these are but hardened sheets, and very narrow ones also.
    I’ll get me some flax, and make me both fine and larger sheets, &c. I’ll scorn carnal Ordinances, and walk in the Spirit.
    Aye, do (saith the well-favoured Harlot) speak nothing but Mystery, drink nothing but wine, but blood, thou needest not eat flesh, &c.
  3. And so my young man starts up into the notion of spirituals, and wraps up a deal of hypocrisy, malice, envy, deceit, dissimulation, covetousness, self-seeking in this fine linen.
    Being a hundredfold worse devils than before.
    But now thy villainy, hypocrisy, and self-seeking is discovering, yea discovered to many with a witness.
    And though the true and pure levelling, is the eternal God’s levelling the mountains, &c. In man. Which is the

Blood-Life-Spirit levelling.

 Yet the water, or weak levelling, which is base and foolish, shall confound thee.
And hereby, as also by several other strange ways, which thou art least of all acquainted withal. I’ll discover thy lewdness, and show the rottenness of thy heart.
I’ll call for all to a mite, to be cast into the outward treasury.
And will bid thee lay down all at my feet, the Apostle, the Lord, and this is a way that I am now again setting up to try, judge, and damn the well-favoured Harlot by.
Cast all into the Treasury, &c. Account nothing thine own, have all things in common.
The young man goes away sorrowful,——&c.
The well-favoured Harlot shrugs at this.——

  1. When this cometh to pass, a poor wretch whose very bones are gnawn with hunger, shall not go about 13 or 14 miles about thy business, and thou for a reward, when thou hast hundreds lying by thee.
    I will give day but one hint more, and so will leave thee.
    The dreadful day of judgment is stealing on thee, within these few hours. Thou hast secretly and cunningly lain in wait, thou hast craftily numbered me amongst transgressors, who to thy exceeding torment, and indeed a friend of Publicans and Harlots.
    Thou hast accounted me a Devil, saith the Lord.
    And I will rot thy name, and make it stink above ground, and make thy folly manifest to all men.
    And because thou hast adjudged me, I will judge thee (with a witness) expect it suddenly, saith the Lord.

per AUXILIUM PATRIS

 

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An entry in the 2020 London Rebel History Calendar – buy a paper copy here

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