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

Check out the 2020 London Rebel History Calendar online

Today and tomorrow in London’s radical history, 1659: locals fight with soldiers in anti-enclosure struggle, Enfield Chase

Enfield Chase was an ancient royal hunting ground some nine miles outside London to the north. Its many acres comprised arable and grazing land as well as a deer park and over the years legal agreements with tenants of the royal estate had granted rights of common such as grazing and wood collecting, which were of great importance to the local economy in an area with a very high rate of poverty, not that such rights benefited the very poor, who were unlikely to be commoners paying rents and taxes.

The chase was surrounded by villages and hamlets; Edmonton and Tottenham were close by and the largest was Enfield. There were also estates, manors and farms as well as large mansions and lodges. Small rural communities existed at South Mimms, Hadley, Potters Bar and along the road from Southgate to Cockfosters. Barnet provided the nearest significant town although London was only a day away.

By 1154 what had been known as the Park of Enfield or Enfield Wood had been converted into a hunting ground, or chase. It appears it was not known as Enfield Chase until the early 14th century. The royal land comprised the majority of the forest, though aristocratic families owned some areas and maintained hunting lodges on the Chase.

Royal forests were the creation of successive Norman kings, whose obsession with hunting trumped virtually all other imperatives where land use was concerned. Vast areas were declared royal forest, meaning wholly different laws applied and usual rights and uses were banned. Land owned by others, not just the king, could be designated thus.

As with many rural areas, from the 16th century, landowners began to enclose land, fencing off woods and fields, and excluding local residents from using its resources.

Between the 16th and 19th centuries, much of the open land, commons or woods in England and Wales was enclosed for development, usually by rich landowners or sold off for house building. In many of the commons, local people had traditionally benefitted from customary rights of use, mostly grazing of animals & wood for fuel, but also often sowing of small plots on the fringes of commons for market gardens or feeding themselves.

But despite its name, common land was rarely if ever, land held ‘in common’: it was almost always land owned by the Lord of the Manor, on which over time other local people had come to exercise some rights. But these rights often had no legal weight, they were part of an unwritten social contract, of custom and tradition, allowances granted by landowners, often in the face of earlier individual or collective struggles.

As time went on the ‘commoners’, those with acknowledged customary rights, could become wealthy individuals themselves. Thus later struggles sometimes developed into struggles between different local rich or well-to-do persons. Gradually, as capitalism developed, slowly replacing a society of complex vertical social obligations & custom with one based entirely on profit, the impetus was on for landowners to replace traditional land use with intensive agriculture. This demanded the clearing of woodland & the exclusion of the poor from the commons.

Those deprived not only lost traditional ways of making a living, or in many cases ways of topping up incomes as labourers or craftspeople; they were experiencing the change in class relations at first hand, losing everything bar the ability to sell their labour… “In an increasingly legalistic age, an unwritten agreement counted for little in the face of the new law …”

But on Enfield Chase, as elsewhere, this process was not simply imposed on a docile population. Poor labouring people fought for centuries to resist enclosure, both legally through petitioning and court cases, and by direct action. Enclosure quarrels in Enfield provoked a petition in 1575 and riots in 1549, 1589, 1603, 1649 and 1659.

In 1589 forty women, wives of local farm workers, were named on a charge of riotously throwing to the ground the fence round the close of a certain Alice Hayes at ‘Joan Potters’ in the south of the parish. The Enfield women were particularly lively in defending their rights, possibly because the district was much affected by enclosures for the royal Chase.

A mob of women assembled again in 1603, at White Webbs, near the Chase, to maintain their right to gather fire-wood there. According to Vincent Skinner, a Middlesex justice, the women thought that wood should either be burnt in the King’s House or given to the poor, but not carried out of Enfield Town. As in other areas in the Stuart and Tudor period, authorities were not always unsympathetic to anti-enclosure protests, and local magistrates made an agreement to hear the women’s cause and to some extent supported their cause in subsequent petitions.

Such expressions of local feeling were not infrequent. In 1611 when enclosing a further one hundred and twenty acres the King gave an assurance to the Commoners that he would not enclose any more land.

Enclosures of manorial waste, either to extend property or for building, were common.

The upheaval that accompanied the English Revolution had a huge impact on land ownership and pressures for changes in land use. Increased demand for productivity for food production at a time of disruption and hardship due to the civil war led to more enclosures. And the seizure or land owned by defeated and exiled supporters of the royalist side opened up opportunities for those victorious opponents – as had happened during the 16th century reformation and the dissolution of the monasteries, political and religious change helped make some smart operators rich. While radicals like the levellers and diggers may have objected to enclosure from the point of view of the poor who it dispossessed, others of the parliamentary party were enthusiastic ‘modernisers’. To some extent the pre-civil war Stuart regime had in some ways been more conservative regarding land exploitation and common rights and often, when pushed by protest, tried to keep a lid on large-scale enclosure, in the interests of social peace. This meant the regime did sometimes reverse or rule against enclosures by large landowners (but didn’t prevent the Stuart kings from also enclosing land in their OWN interests, as Charles I did with Richmond Park in 1637, or maintaining the strict controls on royal parks and hunting grounds, eg the Game Laws – this was an issue on Enfield Chase).

The Civil War had in part been launched by what could (loosely) be described as the rising bourgeoisie, chafing against restrictions on their ambitious expansion and restraints on their ability to exploit resources. The parliamentary victory gave some vent to these interests; increased enclosure was part of the immediate result. But as the struggles on Enfield Chase illustrate, the upheaval of war also opened up land as the property of defeated royalists was confiscated, and also produced large numbers of soldiers and parliamentary supporters, some of whom with the financial means to buy up land that thus came on to the market, and to begin transforming it to make it more ‘productive’.

If the alliances on the parliamentary side in the War had produced a temporary unity of different class interests and widely divergent political outlooks, this had never been an easy marriage, and tensions had erupted throughout whole conflict, accelerating in the mid-late 1640s with the political struggles of the Levellers and New Model Army agitators, the religious ferment which produced hundreds of independent sects, the social upheaval that gave birth to radical critiques like the ranters, as well as to puritan new testament activists (like the Fifth Monarchists). By 1649-50 class interests and political viewpoints were widely diverging among former allies… and so you find very different attitudes to enclosure developing among people who had been comrades fighting side by side 5-6 years earlier.

As well as the former Army radicals and parliamentary republicans dabbling with buying land and fencing it off, famously the political and social upheaval also produced a radically opposed vision of how land, especially common land, should be used. The True Levellers or ‘Diggers’ perceived the increasing phenomenon of enclosure as an acceleration of a process that began with the expropriation of what had once been a shared resource, a violent theft by the ancestors of the landowning classes of their time, reinforced by all the power of feudal hierarchies, law, religion…

The original ‘Diggers’, broadly communist in outlook, formed around the political activist and theorist Gerrard Winstanley, and in April 1650 occupied common land at St George’s Hill, Weybridge, Surrey, to grow food collectively, with a ideology of sharing the earth’s resources, rejecting ownership of common land and social hierarchies in general. Inspired by this, other ‘digger’ colonies also appeared elsewhere, mainly in across South-east England. This scared and enraged local hierarchies in the neighbourhoods where they appeared, as such communities, although very small, were often formed from the very poor, the people being dispossessed by enclosures, and represented a threat to social order and local tradition, especially as the civil war had opened up large-scale social upheaval and questioning of long-held views; even a small group refusing to continue to observe the social order could spread, inspire, and threaten the status quo. The gentry in Surrey and elsewhere employed soldiers or ex-soldiers, hired thugs, or whipped up hatred of local labourers, to destroy their projects and evict them. Presenting such communities as an enemy and a threat even to others of the lower orders may have been easier to achieve, because the diggers’ vision, as expressed by Winstanley at least, did not simply envision a widening of common rights and access to the resources of common land, but a collective tilling of it, a breaking with tradition and custom to embrace a new relationship to land altogether. ‘Common rights’ would be swept away along with land ownership; the commoners in areas where diggers began to assert this could feel this as a threat to their own slender customary access to the commons, as dangerous as the threat from the lord of the manor’s greedy eye on possible profits from fencing off the land.

The ‘Digger’ movement was reflected in events in Enfield: in 1650, shortly after more anti-enclosure riots on the Chase in 1649, the Diggers were said to have a Colony in the area.

Digger groups apparently were active in both Barnet and Enfield. Some Diggers at Enfield were reputedly from squatting families who had come to the Chase during the war and just after. Squatting had been increasing in forests and on marginal and common land in many areas, for decades, where people could occupy it, as enclosures had increased and access to some areas was restricted. This process had accelerated with the disruption and famine linked to the Civil War; the demobilisation of thousands of former soldiers as the conflict came to an end left large groups of poor men and their families looking for ways to subsist. (It might be interesting to compare this to squatting post-World War 2).

Squatters may even have been tacitly supported by Parliament, both as a safety valve, allowing some cultivation and subsistence as an alternative to the possibility of mass protest – but also in the hope of disrupting traditionalist opponents of the new regime. Some of those with common rights, looking to tradition and custom, ‘how things had always been’, were also inclined to support for the defeated royalist cause, whose proponents still plotted and agitated against the new republic, both in exile, and clandestinely in rural areas. Discontent provided them with potential foot-soldiers; opposition to enclosure was a useful movement to exploit. Squatters’ occupation of common land could disrupt traditional local custom and social relations, so perhaps were seen as useful in generally undermining the existing accepted rights of access, etc.

Anti-enclosure rioting certainly occurred while Diggers were active in the Enfield area, although whether Diggers were involved with the disturbances is unclear. Fifteen men, including a furrier, cordwainer, weaver, butcher and group of labourers, were indicted for the 1649 disturbances. These men were possibly recently discharged soldiers, as they all had access to firearms; they were said to come from among the poorest of the local residents.

In May 1659, a major anti enclosure riot took place on Enfield Chase. Commoners tore down barns, burned fences on land that had been sold to speculators, and led their cattle into corn. This led to a pitched battle with militia.

The immediate cause of this enclosure struggle in 1659 was a scheme drawn up by Parliamentary commissioners, based surveys of the Chase conducted in the 1650. The surveys had been ordered by Parliament to lay down who legally held rights of proprietorship and rights of common. The commissioners’ results were used to allot ownership and codify customary rights, but deprived local inhabitants of many of their “privileges and advantages.” An outcry of protests from the Inhabitants erupted, who claimed that large areas of the Chase were being quietly taken over by ‘Intruders’, outsiders, who had blocked and turned long-used rights of way, had laid out impassable new paths, and were digging and despoiling even the small part of the waste which was allotted to the Inhabitants, who had recently suffered much destruction from a huge fire on the Chase.

Many of the ‘intruders’ were great officers in the Army: they included Adjutant General John Nelthorpe, Colonel Joyce (who had played a prominent part in capturing king Charles during the Civil War), and Colonel Webbe, who was in fact the Surveyor General – a handy post to hold if you were on the make in land speculation yourself… They had bought up ‘debentures’ – a kind of IOU issued to soldiers to show how much pay they were owed. Often (not just during the Civil War) army pay was months or even years in arrears. The Civil War parliament, stretched for cash, and facing army mutinies in the late 1640s, allowed debentures to be used as a down-payment on purchases of land (often land confiscated from royalists). This killed several birds with one stone – defusing rank ‘n’ file discontent, cutting its debts, rewarding its supporters at the expense of political opponents, as well as buying off ambitious officers. Poor soldiers were selling debentures at prices between one shilling and sixpence to two shillings and sixpence in the pound – money in the hand to hungry folk offering greater immediate value than the land on offer.

According to JM Patrick’s account of the events of 1659: “The troubles began about May, 1659, “several of the Inhabitants destroyed some of the new enclosures erected by these intruders, and drove in cattle upon the standing grain, “to the great loss and damage of the purchasers.” In their view the trespass was lawful, “the pretended purchasers having no title.” The Intruders complained to the Council of State, who ordered local justices to protect the Intruders and to make use of two troops of horse which were sent to aid them if needed.

According to the Inhabitants, when the troops arrived in Enfield, they were given strong beer and money by the Intruders. The soldiers then fell upon some of the Inhabitants, slashed several of them and their servants, and even attacked poor labouring men who passed that way. Naturally the victims fought back. The Intruders then made legal complaints about the injuries suffered by their side. At first the Inhabitants refused to give evidence against their neighbours; threats forced them to give some evidence, but they refused to maintain it on oath. As a result of the declarations of the Intruders, several of the Inhabitants were bound over. When the jury could not find a bill because of insufficient evidence, justice Hobert, one of the Trustees of the Chase, forced them back. They found an indictment against some men who had nothing to do with the riot but who had previously said that they would put their sheep and cattle into the new enclosures to test their title. The other accused persons were acquitted.

The Inhabitants’ triumph was short; for “there was a design by some of the said justices, who were purchasers and trustees and men concerned therein and judges in the cause upon the Bench, to find a bill against those persons to take off the courage of the proprietors and commoners from their claims to the common, that they might the better force the proprietors’ common from them in the said Chase!” To aid this design, the Intruders protested to Whitehall that the slow proceedings against the first offenders were encouraging others to imitate their misdeeds. Accordingly the Council of State urged the Justices to take speedier action.

Meanwhile the Inhabitants laid countercharges against the Intruders and their agents, and an indictment was found against several of them. A warrant was issued to apprehend three of the enclosers, but justice Hobert, who was “a great agent and stickler against the said proprietors and a great offender in the destruction of wood in the said Chase, called to see the warrant and had and did then tear the same in pieces.” The Inhabitants were thus left without legal remedies; they could not even look for their cattle in the Chase because of threatened violence.

The threat became actual. Soldiers hired by the Intruders shot several sheep and ate them, killed valuable cattle and challenged the commoners to fight. On July 10, some drunken soldiers shot at Inhabitants who were walking on the common. On the next day, a number of the Inhabitants, according to their own account of the fray, armed themselves with cudgels, mattocks and forks, and challenged the authority of the soldiers. Seventeen soldiers and their commander marched against them, fired, killed one man and wounded others. The Inhabitants then turned upon the soldiers, captured nine or ten, and took them before justice Rich. After examining their confessions and the testimony of witnesses, he sent them to Newgate prison. They admitted that they were hired for sixpence a day more than their ordinary pay and that they had no authority from their chief cornmanders. Such was the Inhabitants’ story.

In the Intruders’ accounts of the fray, the behaviour of the “country people” at Enfield was cited as a horrid example of.the depravity of human nature. Thirty soldiers, under proper orders and leadership, had been sent to oust the trespassing cattle in a peaceful manner. They were attacked by about a hundred and sixty country fellows; ten of their number fought for almost an hour and finally yielded, “being so mightily overpowered… So that, this bloody conflict being ended, a guard was put upon the prisoners till they had cleared the field of the dead bodies, which is said to be two men and one woman of the countrymen’s side, besides many wounded; and one soldier, the Sergeant, was carried off… in a dying condition.” “Out of his favour to these inhuman fellows,” Justice Rich sent the other nine prisoners to Newgate, “with their wounds bleeding.” 16 The Inhabitants then fell upon the enclosures, set fire to the hedges, burnt up the stackwood, destroyed a barn and demolished houses. Their example, it was said, might well “inflame the whole nation.”

A brief account, written from the Intruders’ point of view, appeared in the government organ, Mercurius Politicus. Clearly the Intruders were too well entrenched and too influential in the Law Courts, Parliament, Council of State, and Army, for humble yeomen, tenant farmers and other commoners to be able to resist them by “legal” means. The resistance of the Inhabitants was suppressed. On July 16, the House of Commons issued orders concerning the riot. These were read in the churches on the following day.  Now assured of their predominance, the Intruders trampled upon the rights of the small proprietors and commoners. They or their hirelings wounded some of the inhabitants of Edmonton and killed a mare in the Chase, “at the insolency of which soldiers and purchasers of Enfield Chase without title, the country stands amazed.” But amazement was all; some troops of horse, sent by Parliament, restored order.

There were no further disturbances. In August, 1659, the much enduring Inhabitants suffered twenty-three deaths in a severe outbreak of the plague. With the Restoration, the Chase was given to the Duke of Albemarle, but the enclosures remained. Subsequently, almost the entire Chase was converted to tillage.

The small yeomen, tenant farmers and others who had traditional rights over the Chase probably had the better legal and moral case. The unscrupulous behaviour of the Intruders seems to prove this. Nevertheless, the Inhabitants were undoubtedly ‘unprogressive’: their small property rights stood in the way of the efficient development of the productive resources of the Chase.

The encroaching moneyed interests had the resources and the drive to exploit and develop the Chase; the locals with rights of woodcutting and pasturage on the Chase, had neither the power, resources or inspiration to take full advantage of its productivity.”

This was a fundamentally different vision of how land should be used; as a whole the enclosure process formed a fork in the road. Capitalist development in agriculture would undeniably lead to greater food production, wool production, increases in imports, to massive profits; this produced vast increases in wealth for the owners of the land and onward to vast funds which financed both the industrial revolution and to the British Imperial project. This process also inevitably meant the exclusion of millions from access to rural resources, to the reduction of independent or semi-independent commoners to the status of day labourers, to a massive influx of the rural dispossessed into the cities to look for alternative ways to support themselves.

“A peculiar feature of the enclosure troubles at Enfield was that while the Inhabitants protested loudly against the Intruders, they seem to have made no effort to eject some poor families who settled upon the Chase. Possibly the squatters’ encroachment was abetted by the Intruders in their desire to weaken the claims of their opponents. Certainly the toleration extended to this group differs from the eagerness with which persons with rights of common joined local lords of manors to eject the Diggers from common land which they had occupied in 1649. Perhaps the Inhabitants of Enfield were too much exhausted by the agrarian conflict, the fire and the plague to take any effective action.

Shortly after the Restoration, the residents of Enfield, including tenant farmers, prepared a petition complaining that two or three hundred families had settled on the Chase during the late unhappy times; they were destroying the timber and, if not restrained, would become chargeable to the parish. Therefore the petitioners asked leave to bring in a bill to Parliament to enclose their common fields and to establish a fund for employing the poor. The economic transition from the common fields to private ownership was thus to be greatly furthered; but details about what, if anything, was done at this time are lacking.

The scheme for employing the poor was possibly inspired by William Covell, a preacher and landowner at Enfield. He was the author of a compromise solution for the agrarian troubles there: workers’ co-operatives were to be established and financed by wealthy benefactors in order to use the resources of the Chase not primarily for profits, but to satisfy the needs of the community and to raise its general standard of living. Though his plans were never carried out, they are significant in the history of radical social thought; they have interesting parallels in some of the ideas of the Diggers; and they exemplify an aspect of Puritan utopianism.” (Patrick)

The events of 1659 were far from the last battles over enclosure on Enfield Chase. With the restoration of Charles II in 1660 common rights were restored, although violence was still present on the Chase during the 1660s. In November 1660 the farms which had been set up during the English republic were subjected to a campaign of hedge breaking; several of those ‘Intruders’ targeted by the 1659 rioters complained their new properties were attacked.

The commoners themselves were looking to re-establish a flexible ‘customary’ use of the chase as can be seen in several examples. In the early 1660s Robert White beat a gamekeeper who was attempting to impound his sheep. No doubt White felt aggrieved at such actions now that the chase had supposedly been spared systematic enclosure. Presumably White felt that the chase was now there for the benefit of himself and other locals. Also during the 1660s commoners continued to use the Chase as a fuel reserve. William Fairweather and his son were caught chipping trees and had their tools confiscated. It was of course to no avail and it was reported that they were soon back at work. John Clerke, an Edmonton smith, was caught cutting trees. When told to stop by the woodward he disregarded the order and simply continued. In 1669 Richard Garret, Nicholas Thompson and Robert James were all warned by the underkeeper to stop lopping trees on the Chase. They struck the underkeeper and continued with their work.

No sooner had the common rights at Enfield Chase been restored by Charles II than the fate of the common fields were immediately put in doubt. Lord Rainton and other large local landowners in the parish petitioned for enclosure of the Enfield common fields in 1660. Although unsuccessful in this attempt Rainton was influential as a local large landowner as well as being the MP for Middlesex between 1681-85. His local authority allowed him to make several enclosures on the Chase sometime alter the restoration to the annoyance of the commoners. In 1672 commoners drove their sheep in Rainton’s enclosures destroying ten acres of wheat and oats, and a further ten acres of grass. One of the commoners, a Mr Joseph Collet, threatened to open all Rainton’s enclosures notwithstanding ‘all Mr Raintons injunctions and all his perjured witnesses’ The following year Rainton found himself involved in legal action against some of his more powerful neighbours, including the Duke of Albemarle who had taken offence at Rainton’s enclosing activities.

Over the following decades, between 1660 and 1700, about 100 squatter cottages were reported on Enfield Chase: the increasing dispossessed and disenfranchised poor, being driven out by enclosure, who had nowhere else to go, making a living from marginal land.

In 1676 John Hale, the clerk of Enfield manor court, complained to Charles II that people from South Mimms, Enfield, Edmonton and Hadley were “an abundance of loose, idle and disorderly persons … and make great havock and wast of your majesty’s best timber and underwood on Enfield Chase.”

Enclosure continued to occupy the minds of local people here. In 1689 the Enfield vestry resolved that ‘We, whose names are hereby subscribed inhabitants of the parish of Enfield, do hereby promise and agree to stand by each other, in the behalf of ourselves and the rest of the parishioners, in endeavouring to restore our rights and privileges on Enfield Chase. And that the charge that we, or any of us, shall be at about the recovery and setting of the same, shall be defrayed out of the parish stocks’.

There were 21 signatures attached to the resolution. This was perhaps the way in which many instances of enclosure resistance were initiated.

In 1691 the Enfield vestry agreed to Sir John Battle enclosing his common field land upon payment of £60 to the parish funds. Local people strongly disagreed with the acquiescence of the vestry who had not represented the wider community in agreeing to such a deal. The commoners would now lose winter grazing rights due to the deal struck by the vestry. This was unacceptable and the commoners had destroyed the enclosures by 1703, thus re-opening the land to common usage and prompting Battle to appeal to the vestry to enforce their earlier agreement.

In November 1703 the commoners of Monken Hadley opened a voluntary subscription to the threat of losing their common rights on Enfield Chase with each attaching their name. Petitions of course consciously brought commoners together to fight as a group. This involved setting out demands and targeting their audience.

Once organised commoners could exert pressure on their more powerful neighbours which could include influential landlords; thus in 1718 landlords petitioned against Major General Pepper, who had leased the Chase, and had enclosed 30 acres of waste to the detriment of their tenants who had right of common there. Pepper became a hated figure of landlords, farmers and commoners alike in north-east Middlesex, due to his enclosing and oppressive tendencies. When Popper asked for a commission of local gentlemen to help him to stop wood being stolen from the Chase not one person would come forward.

Like previous owners, the lords Cottington, Rainton and Palmer, Pepper found himself struggling to enclose, and keep enclosed, land previously used by generations of Middlesex commoners.

In the 1720s General Pepper was shot at, in what seems to have been an assassination attempt, or at least a heavy warning; he had been engaged in a long often fruitless war with poachers and ‘woodstealers’ who were generally supported by a large section of the local population, and had had a number arrested and jailed – some were eventually hanged.

In 1783, only a small common, a rough lot and a small wood remained unenclosed; even these disappeared when an enclosure act was passed in 1801. At first, efforts to improve the gravelly clay soil of the Chase had little success, for much capital had to be expended to clear, drain and marl it. Obviously the Inhabitants could not have afforded to develop it properly for themselves.

Despite the centuries of resistance, between 1777 and 1801, what remained of Enfield Chase was finally enclosed.

Enclosure didn’t mark the end of struggles here however…

Charles Lamb witnessed the firing of several barns and haystacks at Enfield in December 1830, in the wake of the Captain Swing riots and commented that ‘it was never good times in England since the poor began to speculate upon their condition. Formerly they jogged on with as little reflection as horses. The whistling ploughman went check by jowl with his brother that neighed. Now the biped carries a box of phosphorus in his leather breeches, and in the dead of night the half-illuminated beast steals his magic potion into a cleft in the barn, and half the country is grinning with new fires’.

After Swing there were further threatening letters at Enfield, into 1831. It’s worth noting that when the crop failed in 1830, Irish migrant labourers rioted at nearby Barnet,

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An entry in the
2015 London Rebel History Calendar – Check it out online

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Today in radical history: a New-yeeres Gift from Gerrard Winstanley, 1650.

The English civil war of the 1640s opened up space in British society for radical new political, social, religious and economic ideas, many strands of thought emerging from the struggles between king and parliament, and subsequently as splits grew among parliamentary supporters.

Among the numerous religious sects, political factions and loose movements that arose, one if the most radical was the True Levellers, popularly called the Diggers.

The True Levellers  established a squatters’ colony on St George’s Hill, on April 1st 1649, moving onto common land and beginning to dig and plant crops. It was an attempt to kick start a reclaiming of the common lands – more than a reclaiming, but a transformation of what had always (or for centuries anyway) belonged to the landowners, into a shared resource, property of none but for use by all.

From the start, of course, this brave launching of communism in Surrey faced fierce repression by the authorities, locally, through the judges, backed by force of soldiery, and from the pulpit. Their crops were repeatedly destroyed, they were arrested and beaten up, and disrupted at every turn. From St George’s Hill they were forced to move to Cobham Heath, where they tried to make a new start.

Although sympathy for the ‘Diggers’ was widespread, (with communist experiments inspired by or linked to the Surrey land squats cropping up in Enfield, Barnet, Buckinghamshire, Northamptonshire, possibly Nottinghamshire…)

… but numbers were small and the power of the landed classes, their supporters, and the ideas they imposed on the landless, too great. Although the civil war had thrown up religious and political innovation, broken down many hierarchies and opened up avenues to all sorts of possibilities, the True Levellers and their allies were defeated or demoralised.

The leading theorist and central to the George Hill and Cobham Heath projects was Gerrard Winstanley.

Before, throughout and after the time he was attempting to practically inspire revolutionary change, Winstanley was also, in parallel, publishing a series of pamphlets, discussing religious and then radical political ideas.

On January 1st, 1650, Winstanley published A New-yeeres Gift sent to the Parliament and Armie…

In this pamphlet Winstanley discusses power, and social relations. He appeals to the MPs and leaders of the parliamentary army, to recognise that although the king has been removed and executed, ‘kingly power’ remains in place. Winstanley distinguishes between two opposing forms of Kingly power however; the prevailing order, of power for oppression and domination of one group of men over others, which he sees as deriving from the devil; against this he sets another Kingly power, coming from God, which manifests as love for each other, working together collectively for the common good. The existing social order, the evil kingly power, Winstanley identifies specifically as the power of the landowners, the clergy and the lawyers. The power of the landlords comes from their ownership of land, which comes only from force, the seizure of all land by king William at the Norman conquest. The power of the clergy and law exists to maintain the rich in power. He relates this directly not only to the entire structure of hierarchy and allegiance in England, but in specific examples to the ways landlords lawyers and churchmen have attacked the True Levellers attempt to work land in common, in defence of the existing Kingly power.

Always a clever thinker and lively reader, Winstanley’s observations on power, social relations are pioneering; he also turns the twisting arguments of lawyers, used to bamboozle and confuse, back on them, arguing that as all title to land and social authority came from the king, and he has been removed, all title and power emerging from the crown in the social pyramid no longer has any viability, and the landlords ownership of land is void…

2017: Kingly Power remains strong all around us; the ‘Diggers’ fight for a global commonwealth based on shared production for shared need, and against wealth, property and greed, continues… if the ultimate goal seems far off, the dreams, ideas and inspiration of 1649-50 is alive and kicking. Happy New Year (may 2017 improve on last year eh?!)

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A New-yeers Gift
FOR THE
PARLIAMENT
AND
ARMIE:
SHEWING,
What the 
KINGLY Power is; 
And that the CAUSE of those
They call
DIGGERS
Is the life and marrow of that Cause the Parliament
hath Declared for, and the Army Fought for;

The perfecting of which Work, will prove England 
to be the first of Nations, or the tenth part of the city
Babylon, 
that fals off from the Beast first, and that sets the Crown
upon Christs head, to govern the World in
Righteousness:

______________________________________________

By Jerrard Winstanley a lover of Englands freedom and
Peace.
_____________________________________________________________

Die Pride and Envie; Flesh, take the poor’s advice.
Covetousnesse be gon: Come, Truth and Love arise.
Patience take the Crown; throw Anger out of dores:
Cast out Hypocrisie and Lust, which follows whores:
Then
 England sit in rest; Thy sorrows will have end;
Thy Sons will live in peace, and each will be a friend.

_____________________________________________________________

London, Printed for Giles Calvert, 1650.

A

New yeers Gift
SENT TO THE
PARLIAMENT
AND
ARMIE.

Gentlemen of the Parliament and Armie; you and the Common people have assisted each other, to cast out the Head of oppression which was Kingly power, seated in one mans hand, and that work is now done, and till that work was done you called upon the people to assist you to deliver this distressed bleeding dying nation out of bondage; And the people came and failed you not, counting neither purse nor blood too dear to part with to effect this work.

The Parliament after this have made an Act to cast out Kingly power, and to make England a free Common-wealth. These Acts the People are much rejoyced with, as being words forerunning their freedome, and they wait for their accomplishment that their joy may be full; for as words without action are a cheat, and kills the comfort of a righteous spirit, so words performed in action does comfort and nourish the life thereof.

Now Sirs, wheresoever we spie out Kingly power, no man I hope shall be troubled to declare it, nor afraid to cast it out, having both Act of Parliament, the Souldiers Oath, and the common peoples consent on his side; for Kingly power is like a great spread tree, if you lop the head or top-bow, and let the other Branches and root stand, it will grow again and recover fresher strength.

If any ask me, What Kingly power is? I Answer, there is a twofold Kingly power. The one is, the Kingly power of righteousnesse, and this is the power of Almightie God, ruling the whole creation in peace, and keeping it together. And this is the power of universal love, leading people into all truth, teaching every one to doe as he would be done unto. Now once more striving with flesh and blood, shaking down every thing that cannot stand, and bringing every one into the Unitie of himself, the one Spirit of love and righteousnesse, and so will work a through restauration. But this Kingly power is above all, and will tread-all covetousness, pride, envy, and self-love, and all other enemies whatsoever, under his feet and take the kingdom and government of the Creation out of the hand of self-seeking and self-honouring Flesh, and rule the alone King of Righteousness in the earth; and this indeed is Christ himself, who will cast out the curse; But this is not that Kingly power intended by that Act of Parliament to be cast out, but pretended to be set up, though this Kingly power be much fought against both by Parliament, Armie, Clergy, and people; but when the are made to see him, then they shall mourn, because they have persecuted him.

But the other Kingly power, is the power of unrighteousness, which indeed is the Devil; And O that there were such a heart in Parliament and Army, as to perform your own Act; then People would never complain of you for breach of Covenant, for your Covetousness, Pride, and too much Self-seeking that is in you. And you on the other-side would never have cause to complain of the Peoples murmurings against you. Truly this jarring that is between you and the People is, The Kingly power; yea that very Kingly power which you have made an Act to cast out; therefore see it be fulfilled on your part; for the Kingly power of Righteousness expects it, or else he will cast you out for Hypocrites and unsavory Salt; for he looks upon all your Actions, and truly there is abundance of Rust about your Actings, which makes them that they do not shine bright.

This Kingly power, is covetousness in his branches, or the power of self-love, ruling in one or in many men over others, and enslaving those who in the Creation are their equals; nay, who are in the strictness of equity rather their Masters: And this Kingly power is usually set in the Chair of Government, under the name of Prerogative, when he rules in one, over other: And under the name of State Priviledge of Parliament, when he rules in many over others: and this Kingly power, is alwayes raised up, and established by the Sword, and therefore he is called the Murderer, or the great red Dragon, which fights against Michael, for he enslaves the weakness of the People under him, denying an equal freedom in the Earth to every one, which the Law of Righteousness gave every man in his creation. This I say is Kingly power under darkness, and as he rules in men, so he makes men jar one against another, and is the cause of all Wars and Complainings; he is known by his outward actions, and his action at this very day fills all places; for this power of darkness rules, and would rule, and is that only Enemy that fights against Creation and National Freedom: And this Kingly power is he, which you have made an Act of Parliament to cast out. And now you Rulers of England, play the men, and be valiant for the Truth, which is Christ: for assure your selves God will not be mocked, nor the Devil will not be mocked; for First you say and profess you own the Scriptures of Prophets and Apostles, and God looks that you should perform that Word in action: Secondly you have Declared against the Devil, and if you do not now go through with your work, but slack your hand by hypocritical self-love, and so suffer this dark Kingly power to rise higher and Rule, you shall find, he will maule both you, and yours to purpose.

The life of this dark Kingly power, which you have made an Act of Parliament and Oath to cast out, if you search it to the bottom, you shall see it lies within the iron chest of cursed Covetousness, Who gives the Earth to some part of mankind, and denies it to another part of mankind: and that part that hath the Earth, hath no right from the Law of creation to take it to himself, and shut out others; but he took it away violently by Theft and Murder in Conquest: As when our Norman William came into England and conquered, he turned the English out, and gave the Land unto his Norman Souldiers every man his parcel to inclose, and hence rose up Propriety; for this is the fruit if War from the beginning, for it removes Propriety out of a weaker into a stronger hand, but still upholds the curse of Bondage; and hereby the Kingly power which you have made an Act, and Sworn to cast out, does remove himself from one chair to another; and so long as the Sword rules over brethren, (mind what I say) so long the Kingly power of darkness Rules, and so large as yet is his Kingdom; which spreads from Sea to Sea, and fills she Earth; but Christ is rising who will take the Dominion and Kingdom out of his hand, and his power of Righteousness, shall rise and spred from East to West, from North to South, and fill the Earth with himself, and cast the other cursed power out, when Covetousness sheaths his Sword, and ceases to rage in the field; he first makes sharp Laws of Bondage, That those that are conquered, and that by him are appointed not to enjoy the Earth, but are turned out, shall be Servants, Slaves, and Vassals to the Conquerers party: so those Laws that upholds Whips, Prisons, Gallows is but the same power of the Sword that raged, and that was drunk with Blood in the field.

King Charles, it is true, was the Head of this Kingly power in England, and he Reigned as he was a Successor of the last Norman Conquerer: and whosoever you be, that hath Propriety of Land, hath your Titles and Evidences made to you in his or his Ancestors Name, and from his and their Will and Kingly Power; I am sure, he was not our Creator, and therefore parcelled out the Earth to some, and denied it to others, therefore he must needs stand as a Conquerer, and was the Head of this Kingly power, that burden and oppresses the People, and that is the cause of all our Wars and Divisions; for if this Kingly power of Covetousness, which is the unrighteous Divider, did not yet Rule: both Parliament, Army, and rich People ‘, would cheerfully give consent that those we call Poor should Dig and freely plant the Waste and Common Land for a livelihood, seeing there is Land enough, and more by half then is made use of, and not be suffered to perish for want. And yet O ye Rulers of England, you make a blazing profession, That you know, and that you own God, Christ, and the Scriptures: but did Christ ever declare such hardness of heart? did not he bid the rich man go and sell all that he hath and give to the Poor? and does not the Scripture say, If thou makest a Covenant, keep it, though it be to thy loss: But truly it will not be to your loss, to let your fellow Creatures, your equals in the Creation, nay those that have been faithful in your Cause, and so your Friends; I say it will not be to your loss to let them quietly improve the Waste and Common Land, that they may live in peace, freed from the heavie burdens of Poverty; for hereby our own Land will be increased with all sorts of Commodities, and the People will be knit together in love, to keep out a forreign Enemy that endeavours, and that will endeavour as yet, to come like an Army of cursed Ratts and Mice to destroy our inheritance; so that if this Freedom be quietly granted to us, you grant it but to your selves, to English-men, to your own flesh and blood: and you do but give us our own neither, which Covetousness, in the Kingly power hath, and yet does hold from us; for the Earth in the first Creation of it, was freely given to whole mankind, without respect of Persons; therefore you Lords of Mannors, and you Rulers of England, if you own God, Christ and Scripture, now make Restitution, and deliver us quiet possession of our Land, which the Kingly power as yet holds from us.

While this Kingly power raigned in one man called Charls, all sort of people complained of oppression, both Gentrie and Common people, because their lands, inclosures, and Copie-holds were intangled, and because their Trades were destroyed by Monopolizing Patentees, and your troubles were that you could not live free from oppression in the earth: Thereupon you that were the Gentrie when you were assembled in Parliament, you called upon the poor Common People to come and help you, and cast out oppression and you that complained are helped and freed, and that top-bow is lopped off the tree of Tyrannie, and Kingly power in that one particular is cast out; but alas oppression is a great tree still, and keeps off the son of freedome from the poor Commons still, he hath many branches and great roots which must be grub’d up, before every one can sing Sions songs in peace.

As we spie out Kingly power we must declare it, and cast it out, or else we shall deny the Parliament of England and their Acts, and so prove Traitors to the Land, by denying obedience thereunto. Now there are Three Branches more of Kinglie power greater then the former that oppresses this Land wonderfully; and these are the power of the Tithing Priests over the Tenths of our labours; and the power of Lords of Mannors, holding the free use of the Commons, and wast Land from the poor, and the intolerable oppression either of bad Laws, or of bad Judges corrupting good Laws; these are branches of the Norman conquest and Kingly power still, and wants a Reformation.

For as the first, William the Conqueror promised, That if the Clergie would preach him up, so that the people might be bewitched, so as to receive him to be Gods Anointed over them, he would give them the Tenths of the Lands increase yeerly; and they did it, and he made good his Promise; and do we not yet see, That if the Clergie can get tithes or Money, they will turn as the Ruling power turns, any way; to Popery, to Protestantisme; for a King, against a King, for Monarchy, for State-Government; they cry who bids most wages, they will be on the strongest side, for an Earthly maintenance; yea, and when they are lifted up, they woud Rule too, because they are called Spiritual men: It is true indeed, they are spiritual; but it is of the spiritual power of Covetousness and Pride; for the spiritual power of Love and Righteousness they know not; for if they knew it, they would not persecute and raile against him as they do.

The Clergie will serve on any side, like our ancient Laws, that will serve any master: They will serve the Papists, they will serve the Protestants, they will serve the King, they will serve the States; they are one and the same Tools for Lawyers to work with under any Government. O you Parliament-men of England, cast those whorish Laws out of doors, that are so Common, that pretend love to every one, and is faithful to none; for truly, he that goes to Law, as the Proverb is, shall die a Beggar: so that old Whores, and old Laws, picks mens pockets, and undoes them: If the fault lie in the Laws, and much does, burn all your old Law-Books in Cheapside, & set up a Government upon your own Foundation: do not put new Wine into old Bottles; but as your Government must be new, so let the Laws be new, or else you will run farther into the Mud, where you stick already, as though you were fast in an Irish Bogge; for you are so far sunke, that he must have good eyes that can see where you are: but yet all are not blind, there are eyes that sees you: but if the fault lies in the Judges of the Law, surely such men deserve no power in a Reforming Common-wealth, that burdens all sorts of People.

And truly Ile tell you plain, your Two Acts of Parliament are excellent and Righteous: The One to cast out Kingly power; The Other to make England a Free Common-wealth: build upon these Two, it is a firm Foundation, and your House will be the glory of the World; and I am confident, the righteous Spirit will love you: do not stick in the Bogge of Covetousness; Let not self-love so be-muddy your brain, that you should lose your selves in the thicket of bramble bush-words, and set never a strong Oak of some stable Action for the Freedome of the poor Oppressed that helped you when you complained of Oppression. Let not Pride blind your eyes, that you should forget you are the Nations Servants, and so prove Solomons words good in your selves, That Servants ride on Horse-back and Coaches, when as Princes, such as Chose you, and set you there, go on foot: and many of them, through their love to the Nation, have so wasted themselves, that now they can hardly get Bread, but with great difficulty. I tell you this is a sore Evil, and this is truth; therefore think upon it, it is a poor mans Advice, and you shall finde weight in it, if you Do as well as Say.

Then Secondly for Lords of Mannors, They were William the Conquerors Colonels and Favourites, and he gave a large circuit of Land to every one, called A Lord-ship, that they might have a watchful eye, that if any of the conquered English should begin to Plant themselves upon any Common or waste Land, to live out of sight or out of slavery, that then some Lord of Mannour or other might see and know of it, and drive them off, as these Lords of Mannors now a dayes, endeavours to drive off the Diggers from Digging upon the Commons; but we expect the Rulers of the Land will grant unto us their Friends, the benefit of their own Acts against Kingly power, and not suffer that Norman power to crush the poor Oppressed, who helped them in their straits, nor suffer that Norman power to bud fresher out, & so in time may come to over-top our deer bought Freedom more then ever.

Search all your Laws, and Ile adventure my life, for I have little else to lose, That all Lords of Mannors hold Title to the Commons by no stronger hold then the Kings Will, whose Head is cut off; and the King held Title as he was a Conqueror; now if you cast off the King who was the Head of that power, surely the power of Lords of Mannors is the same; therefore performe your own Act of Parliament, and cast out that part of the Kinglie power likewise, that the People may see you understand what you Say and Do, and that you are faithfull.

For truly the Kinglie power reigns strongly in the Lords of Mannors over the Poor; for my own particular, I have in other Writings as well as in this, Declared my Reasons, That the common Land is the poor Peoples Proprietie; and I have Digged upon the Commons, and I hope in time to obtain the Freedom, to get Food and Raiment therefrom by righteous labour, which is all I desire; and for so doing, the supposed Lord of that Mannor hath Arrested me twice; First, in an Action of £20. Trespass for Plowing upon the Commons, which I never did; and because they would not suffer me to Plead my own Cause, they made shift to pass a Sentence of Execution against some Cows I kept, supposing they had been mine, and took them away; but the right owner reprieved them, & fetched the Cowes back; so greedy are these Theeves and Murderers after my life for speaking the truth, and for maintaining the Life and Marrow of the Parliaments cause in my Actions.

And now they have Arrested me again in an Action of £4. trespas for digging upon the Comons, which I did, & own the work to be righteous & no trespas to any: This was the Attorney ofKingstone’s Advice, either to get Money on both sides, for they love Mony as deerly as a poor mans dog do his breakfast in a cold morning (but regard not justice) or else, That I should not remove it to a higher Court, but that the cause might be tryed there, and then they know how to please the Lords of Mannors, that have resolved to spend hundreds of pounds but they will hinder the poor from enjoying the Commons; for they will not suffer me to plead my own Cause, but I must not Fee an enemie, or else be condemned and executed without mercy or Justice as I was before, and so to put me in Prison till I pay their unrighteous Sentence; for truly Attourneys are such neat workmen, that they can turn a Cause which way those that have the biggest purse will have them: and the Countrie knows very well, That Kingstone court is so full of the Kinglie power; that some will rather lose their Rights, then have their causes tryed there: one of the Officers of that court, told a friend of mine, That if the Diggers cause was good, he would pick out such a jurie as should overthrow him: And upon my former Arrest, they picked out such a jurie as Sentenced me to pay £10. damages for Plowing upon the commons, which I did not do, neither did any witness prove it before them: So that from Kingstone Juries, Lords of Mannors, and Kinglie power, Good Lord deliver us.

Do these men obey the Parliaments Acts, to throw down Kinglie power? O no: The same unrighteous doing that was complained of in King Charls dayes, the same doings is among them still: Monies will buy and sell Justice still: and is our 8 yeers Wars come round about to lay us down again in the kennel of injustice as much or more then before? are we no farther learned yet? O ye Rulers of England, when must we turn over a new leaf? Will you alwayes hold us in one Lesson? surely you will make Dunces of us; then all the Boyes in other Lands will laugh at us: come, I pray let us take forth, and go forward in our learning.

You blame us who are the Common people as though we would have no government; truly Gentlemen, We desire a righteous government with all our hearts, but the government we have gives freedom and livelihood to the Gentrie, to have abundance, and to lock up Treasures of the Earth from the poor, so that rich men may have chests full of Gold and Silver, and houses full of Corn and Goods to look upon; and the poor that works to get it, can hardly live, and if they cannot work like Slaves, then they must starve. And thus the Law gives all the Land to some part of mankind whose Predecessors got it by conquest, and denies it to others, who by the righteous Law of Creation may claim an equall portion; and yet you say this is a righteous government, but surely it is no other but self-ishness, which is the great Red Dragon the Murtherer.

England is a Prison; the variety of subtilties in the Laws preserved by the Sword, are bolts, bars, and doors of the prison; the Lawyers are the Jaylors, and poor men are the prisoners; for let a man fall into the hands of any from the Bailiffe to the Judge, and he is either undone, or wearie of his life.

Surely this power the Laws, which is the great Idoll that people dote upon, is the burden of the Creation, a Nurserie of Idleness, luxurie, and cheating, the only enemie of Christ the King of righteousness; for though it pretend justice, yet the Judges and Law-Officers, buy and sell Justice for money, and wipes their mouths like Solomons whore, and says it is my calling, and never are troubled at it.

Two things must cast out this Idoll: First, Let not people send their children to those Nurseries of Covetousness, The Innes of Court. Secondly, let not people live in contention, but fulfill Christs last commandment, Love; and endeavour to practice that full point of the Law and the Prophets, Doe as you would be done by, and so cast out envie and discontent. Woe to you Lawyers, for your trade is the bane and miserie of the world; your power is the only power that hinders Christ from rising; the destruction of your power will be the life of the World; it is full of confusion, it is Babylon, and surely its fall is neer, in regard the light of truth is rising, who will continue your power, but save your persons by the words of his mouth, and brightnesse of his coming.

The Lawyers trade is one of the false Prophets, that says, Lo here is Christ, Ile save you in this Court, and lo there is Christ, Ile save you in that Court: but when we have tried all, we are lost, and not saved, for we are either utterly made Beggars by this Saviour, the Law, or else we are nursed up in hardnesse of heart and cruelty against our fellow creature whom we ought to love and preserve, and not destroy: This Saviour jeeres righteousness, and bids every man save himself, and never regard what becomes of another, and so is a plain destroyer of the Creation; Surely that Wo pronounced against Lawyers by the Man Christ must be fulfilled, delay is no payment: Therefore you Parliament and Army that have power in your hands, reform the Law; and suffer none to be called to practice Law but reformed ones; nay suffer every man to plead his own cause, and choose his own Lawyer, where he finds the most ingenuous man: Wel, every mans burthen in this Age fills their mouths with words of Lamentation against Law and Lawyers sufficiently; therefore you that have an opportunitie to ease the cry of the oppressed, shut not your eies and eares, but cast out this covetous corruption whereby corrupt Lawyers doe oppress the People; it is another Branch of the Kingly power.

You Gentlemen of Surrey, and Lords of Mannors, and you Mr Parson Platt especially, that lay almost a fortnight waiting and tempting the Lord Fairfax to send Souldiers to drive off the Diggers, when he granted your Desire, it was but to secure the Shereiff, for he did not give them commission to beat us, which we thank him for; and we thank the Souldiers for their moderation, that they would not strike poor wormes, Englands and the creations faithfull friends, though you would have moved them thereunto. My Advice to you Gentlemen is this, Hereafter to lie still and cherish the Diggers, for they love you, and would not have your finger ake if they could help it; and why should you be so bitter against them? Oh let them live by you, some of them have been Souldiers, and some countrie-men that were alwayes friends to the Parliaments cause, by whose hardship and meanes you enjoy the creatures about you in peace; and will you now destroy part of them that have preserved your lives? O do not do so; be not so besotted with the Kinglie power; hereafter let not the Attourneyes or Lawyers neatly councel your Money out of your purses, and stir you up to beat and abuse the Diggers, to make all rational men laugh at your folly, and condemn you for your bitterness: If you have yet so much Money give it not away to destroy men, but give it to some poor or other to be a Stock, and bid them go and Plant the common; this will be your honour, and your comfort; assure your selves you never must have true comfort tell you be friends with the poor; therefore come, come, love the Diggers, and make restitution of their Land you from them; for what would you do if you had not such labouring men to work for you?

And you great Officers of the Army and Parliament, love your common Souldiers, (I plead for Equity and Reason) and do not force them by long delay of Payment to sell you their deer bought Debenters for a thing of naught, and then to go and buy our common Land, and crown Land, and other Land that is the spoil one of another, therewith: Remember you are Servants to the commons of England, and you were Volunteers in the Wars, and the common people have paid you for your pains so largely, that some of us have not left our selves hardly bread to eat; and therefore if there be a spoil to be gathered of crown Lands, Deans, Bishops, Forrests Lands and commons, that is to come to the poor commons freely; and you ought to be content with your wages, unless you will denie Christ and the Scriptures; and you ought not to go and buy one of another that which is common to all the Nation; for you ought neither to buy nor sell other mens Proprietie by the Law of creation; for Christ gives you no such Warrant. As soon as you have freed the Earth from one intanglement of Kinglie power, will you intangle it more, and worse by another degree of Kinglie power? I pray consider what you do, and do righteously: We that are the poor commons, that paid our Money, and gave you free Quarter, have as much Right in those crown Lands and Lands of the spoil as you; therefore we give no consent That you should buy and sell our crown Lands and waste Lands, for it is our purchased inheritance from under Oppression, it is our own, even the poor common peoples of England: It was taken from us, and hath been held from us by former conquests, whereof the Norman conquest was the last, which is cast out by yours and our joynt Assistance; therefore you cannot in Equity take it from us, nor we cannot in Equity take it from you, for it is our joynt purchased inheritance; we paid you your wages to help us to recover it, but not to take it to your selves, and turn us out, and buy and sell it among your selves; for this is a cheat of the Kinglie swordlie power which you hold up; and we profess to all the world, in so doing you denie God, Christ, and the Scriptures whom ye professed you own: for God, Christ, and Scriptures owne no such practice: Likewise we profess to all the Creation, That in so doing you rob us of our Rights; & you kill us, by denying to give us our livelihood in our own inheritance freely, which is the crown Land and Comon Land and waste Lands, Bishops & Deans, which some of you begin to say you are not satisfied in your conscience to let us have; I, well spoke tender hearted Covetousness; if you do so you will uphold the Kinglie power, and so disobey both Acts of Parliament, and break your Oath, and you will live in the breach of those Two Commandments, Thou shalt not kill: Thou shalt not steal; by denying us the Earth which is our Livelyhood, and thereby killing us by a lingring death.

Well, the end of all my Speech is to point out the Kingly power, where I spie it out, and you see it remains strongly in the hands of Lords of Mannors, who have delt discourteously with some who are sincere in heart, though there have some come among the Diggers that have caused scandall, but we dis-own their wayes.

The Lords of Mannors have sent to beat us, to pull down our houses, spoil our labours; yet we are patient, and never offered any violence to them again, this 40 weeks past, but wait upon God with love till their hearts thereby be softened; and all that we desire is, but to live quietly in the land of our nativity, by our righteous labour, upon the common Land which is our own, but as yet the Lords of the Mannor so formerly called, will not suffer us, but abuse us. Is not that part of the Kingly power? In that which follows I shall cleerly prove it is, for it appears so cleer that the understanding of a child does say, It is Tyranny, it is the Kingly power of darkness, therefore we expect that you will grant us the benefit of your Act of Parliament that we may say, Truly Englandis a Common-wealth, and a free people indeed.

Sire, Though your Tithing Priests and others tell you, That we Diggers do deny God, Christ, and the Scripture, to make us odious, and themselves better thought of; yet you will see in time when the King of Righteousness whom we serve does cleer our innocencie, That our actions and conversation is the very life of the Scripture, and holds forth the true power of God and Christ. For is not the end of all preaching, praying, and profession wrapped up in this action, (namely, Love your enemies, and doe to all men, as you would they should do to you, (or this is the very Law and the Prophets. This is the New Commandement that Christ left behind him. Now if any seem to say this, and does not do this, but acts contrary, for my part I owne not their wayes, they are members that uphold the curse.

Bare talking of righteousnesse, and not acting, hath ruled, and yet does rule king of darkness in the creation; and it is the cause of all this immoderate confusion and ignorance that is in men.

But the actings of righteousnesse from the inward power of love, shall rule King of righteousnesse to the creation now in these later dayes, and cast the other Serpent and fiery Scorpion out; for this is Christ the restoring power: and as he rises up, so multitude of words without action (which is hypocrisie) is to die, his judgment hastens apace.

If any sort of people hold the earth to themselves by the dark Kingly power, and shut out others from that freedom, they deny God, Christ, and Scriptures, and they overthrow all their preaching praying, and profession; for the Scriptures declare them to be Hypocrites, Scribes and Pharisees, that say, and do not; they have words, and no deeds: Like Parson Platt the Preacher at Horsley in Surrey, a Lord of Mannor (by marriage) of the place where we digg, who caused a poor old mans house that stood upon the Common, to be pulled down in the evening of a cold day, and turned the old man, and his wife, and daughter to lie in the open field, because he was a Digger: and he, and other Lords of Mannors, and Gentlemen sent their servants up and down the Town, to bid their Tenants and neighbours, neither to give the Diggers lodging nor victuals., on pain of their displeasure. Though this Parson Platt preach the Scriptures, yet I’ll affirm, he denyes God, Christ, and Scriptures, and knowes nothing of them; for covetousness, pride, and envie hath blinded his eyes. A man knowes no more of righteousness than he hath power to act; and surely, this cruelty of preaching Platt is an unrighteous act.

If the Diggers were enemies, (oh you Lords of Mannors) as are not, you ought to love them: I am sure, they love you; a you doubt it, put them to the tryall; you shall find them more faithfull than many of those pick-thank slaves, and belly-god servants to whom your ears are open, when they bring tales full of envie to you against us.

We are told likewise, That to make us who are called Diggers odious, and to incense you against us, there came to the Generall and Councell of State, divers Justices, and others, and told you, that we Diggers were Cavaliers, and that we waited an opportunity, and gathered together to stand up for the Prince.

But all that know us can prove that to be a false report, to the dishonour of those justices; for we have been friends to the Parliaments cause, and so do continue, and will continue; for this work of digging, to make England a free Common-wealth, is the life and marrow of the Parliaments cause. And the two Acts of Parliament, the One, to cast out Kingly power, the Other, to make Englanda free Common-wealth, declares it: and we do obey those Acts, and will obey them, for they hold forth righteousnesse.

But for our rising in arms for the Prince, or any other, let any come and see our strength and work, and they will say, It is a meer envious slander cast upon us, to incense you against us.

Besides, You shall see by and by, That our principles are wholly against Kingly power in every one, as well as in one. Likewise we hear that they told you, that the Diggers do steal and rob from others, This likewise is a slander: we have things stollen from us; but if any can prove that any of us do steal any mans proper goods, as Sheep, Geese, Pigs, as they say, let such be made a spectacle to all the world: For my part, I own no such doing, neither do I know any such thing by any of the Diggers. Likewise they report, that we Diggers hold women to be common, and live in that bestialnesse: For my part, I declare against it; I own this to be a truth, That the earth ought to be a common Treasury to all; but as for women, Let every man have his own wife, and every woman her own husband; and I know none of the Diggers that act in such an unrationall excesse of female communitie: If any should, I professe to have nothing to do with such people, but leave them to their own Master, who will pay them with torment of minde, and diseases in their bodies.

These and such-like tales, we hear, are brought to you, to incense you against us: but we desire you to mark them that bring them for we partly know who they be, and we can tell them to their faces, they were Cavaliers, and had hands in the Kentish Rising, and in stirring up that offensive Surrey Petition, which was the occasion of bloodshed in Westminster-yard, and they would rejoyce to see the Prince come in with an Armie to over-top you: for we know, they love you not but from the teeth outwards, for their own ends: And these are the proud Hamans, that would incense you against the Mordecaies of the Land, even our true-hearted friends, the Diggers. Well, in the midst of our slanders we rejoyce in the uprightness of our hearts, and we do commit our cause to him that judgeth righteously.

Upon these lying reports, and importunitie to the General, it seems the General granted the Lords of Mannor to have some souldiers to go along with the Sheriff, to pull down the Diggers houses; and so the souldiers did come: but they were very moderate and rationall men, and as they were sent to secure the Sheriff, so they did: but there was no cause; for, though the Gentlemen possess’d the General, that they feared opposition from the Diggers, yet the souldiers saw they lifted not up a finger in discontent, but fought against those dragons, the Lords of Manors, with the spirit of love and patience: for when the two Lords of Manor sat among the souldiers on horsback and coach, and commanded their fearfull tenants to pull down one of the Diggers houses before their faces, and rejoyced with shouting at the fall; yet some of the Diggers stood by, and were very chearfull, and preached the Gospel to those Turkish Bashaws, which are words of life, and in time will prove words of terrour, to torment their awakened consciences.

And the poor tenants that pulled down the house, durst do no other, becuse their Land-lords and Lords looked on, for fear they should be turned out of service, or their livings; as a poor honest man, because he looked with a cheerfull countenance upon the Diggers (though he was affraid to come neer, or affraid to speak openly, lest his Landlords setting-dogs should smell the sound of his words, and carry a pick-thank tale, which his Lords ears are much open to) a Baily was sent presently to him, to warn him out of his house.

Can the Turkish Bashaws hold their slaves in more bondage than these Gospel-professing Lords of Manors do their poor tenants? and is not this the Kingly power? O you rulers of England, I pay see that your acts be obeyed, and let the oppressed go free.

And when the poor enforced slaves had pulled down the house, then their Lords gave them ten shillings to drink, and there they smiled one upon another; being fearfull, like a dog that is kept in awe, when his Master gives him a bone, and stands over him with a whip; he will eat, and look up, and twinch his tail; for they durst not laugh out, lest their Lords should hear they jeer’d them openly; for in their hearts they are Diggers. Therefore, you Lords of Manors, if you have none to stand for you but whom you force by threatning, then leave off striving against the spirit, and say you are fallen, and come in and embrace righteousnesse, that you may finde mercy betimes.

The next day after this, there came two souldiers and three Country-men to another house which the Diggers had set up, (which the Sheriff the day before had let alone, for, as some say, he was grieved to see what was done,) one of these souldiers was very civill, and walked lovingly with the Diggers round their corn which they had planted, and commended the work, and would do no harm (as divers others were of the same minde) and when he went his way, gave the Diggers 12 d. to drink: but the other souldier was so rude, that he forced those three Country-men to help him to pull down the house, and railed bitterly: the men were unwilling to pull it down; but for fear of their Landlords, and the threatning souldier, they did put their hands to pull it down.

And seeing Parson Platt (the Lord of that Manor) will not suffer the Diggers to have a house, (wherein he forgets his Master Christ, that is persecuted in naked, hungry, and houselesse members) yet the Diggers were mighty cheerfull, and their spirits resolve to wait upon God, to see what he will do, and they have built them some few little hutches like calf-cribs, and there they lie anights, and follow their work adayes still with wonderfull joy of heart, taking the spoyling of their goods cheerfully, counting it a great happinesse to be persecuted for righteoussnesse sake, by the Priests and Professors, that are the successors of Judas, and the bitter- spirited Pharisees that put the man Christ Jesus to death. And they have planted divers Acres of Wheat and Rye, which is come up, and promises a very hopefull crop, committing their cause to God, and wait upon him, saying, O thou King of righteousnesse, do thine own work.

O that you would search and try our wayes narrowly, and see whether we deny God, Christ, Scriptures, as the Priests slander us we do; and you shall finde, that the Scriptures warrant our action, and God in Christ is the life of our souls, and the support of our spirits in the midst of this our sharp persecution from the hands of unreasonable men, who have not faith in Christ, but uphold the Kingly power, which you have Voted down.

Likewise, you shall see, that we live in the performance of that work which is the very life and marrow of the Parliaments Cause, whereby we honour the Parliament and their Cause: as you shall see by this following Declaration, unfolding the foundation whereupon Englands Laws are, or the Freedom of a Common-wealth ought to be built, which is Equity and Reason.

 

In the time of the Kings, who came in as Conquerors, and ruled by the power of the Sword, not only the Common land, but the Inclosures also were captivated under the will of those Kings, till now of late that our later Kings granted more freedom to the Gentry than they had presently after the conquest; yet under bondage still: for what are prisons, whips and gallows in the times of peace, but the laws and power of the sword, forcing and compelling obedience, and so enslaving, as if the sword raged in the open field?

England was in such a slavery under the Kingly power, that both Gentry and Commonaltie groaned under bondage; and to ease themselves, they endeavoured to call a Parliament, that by their counsels and decrees they might find some freedom.

But Charles the then King perceiving that the Freedom they strove for, would derogate from his Prerogative-tyranny, therupon he goes into the North, to raise a War against the Parliament, and took WILLIAM the Conqueror’s Sword into his hand again, thereby to keep under the former conquered English, and to uphold his Kingly power of self-will and Prerogative, which was the power got by former Conquests; that is, to rule over the lives and estates of all men at his will, and so to make us pure slaves and vassals.

Well, This Parliament, that did consist of the chief Lords, Lord of Manors, and Gentry, and they seeing that the King, by raising an Army, did thereby declare his intent to enslave all sorts to him by the sword; and being in distresse, and in a low ebb, they call upon the common people to bring in their Plate, Moneys, Taxes Free-quarter, Excise, and to adventure their lives with them, and they would endeavour to recover England from that Norman yoak, and make us a free people: and the common people assent hereunto, and call this the Parliaments Cause, and own it, and adventure person and purse to preserve it; and by the joynt assistance of Parliament and People, the King was beaten in the field, his head taken off, and his Kingly power voted down; and we the Commons thereby virtually have recovered our selves from the Norman Conquest, we want nothing but posession of the spoyl, which is a free use of the Land for our livelyhood.

And from hence we the common people, or younger brothers plead our propriety in the Common land, as truly our own by vertue of this victory over the King; as our elder brothers can plead proprietie in their Inclosures; and that for three reasons in Englands law.

First, By a lawfull purchase or contract between Parliament and us; for they were our Landlords and Lords of Mannors that held the freedom of the Commons from us, while the King was in his power; for they held title thereunto from him, he being the head, and they branches of the Kingly power, that enslaved the people by that ancient Conquerors Sword, that was the ruling power: For they said, Come and help us against the King that enslaves us, that we may be delivered from his Tyranny, and we will make you a free People.

Now they cannot make us free, unlesse they deliver us from the bondage which they themselves held us under; and that is, they held the freedom of the Earth from us: for we in part with them have delivered our selves from the King: now we claim freedom from that bondage you have, and yet do hold us under, by the bargain and contract between Parliament and us, who (I say) did consist of Lords of Manors, and Landlords, whereof Mr. Drake, who hath arrested me for digging upon the Common, was one at that time: Therefore by the law of Bargain and Sale, we claim of them our freedom, to live comfortably with them in this Land of our Nativity; and this we cannot do, so long as we lie under poverty, and must not be suffered to plant the commons and waste land for our livelihood: for, take away the land from any people, and those people are in a way of continuall death and misery; and better not to have had a body, than not to have food and rayment for it. But (I say) they have sold us our freedom in the common, and have been largely paid for it; for by means of our bloods and money, they sit in peace: for if the King had prevailed, they had lost all, and been in slavery to the meanest Cavalier, if the King would. Therfore we the Commons say, Give us our bargain: if you deny us our bargain, you deny God, Christ, and Scriptures; and all your profession then is and hath been hypocrisie.

Secondly, The Commons and Crown land is our propriety by equall conquest over the Kingly power: for the Parl. did never stir up the people by promises and covenant to assist them to cast out the King, and to establish them in the Kings place and prerogative power; No, but all their Declarations were for the safety and peace of the whole Nation.

Therefore the common-people being part of the Nation, and especially they that bore the greatest heat of the day in casting out the oppressor: and the Nation cannot be in peace, so long as the Poor oppressed are in wants, and the land is intangled and held from them by bondage.

But the Victory being obtained over the King, the spoyl which is properly in the Land, ought in equity to be divided now between the two Parties, that is, Parliament and Common-people. The Parliament, consisting of Lords of Manors, and Gentry, ought to have their inclosure Lands free to them without molestation, as they are freed from the Court of Wards.

And the Common-people, consisting of Souldiers, and such as paid Taxes and Free-quarter, ought to have the freedom of all waste and common land, and Crown-land equally among them; the Souldiery ought not in equity to have all, nor the other people paid them to have all; but the spoyle ought to be divided between them that stay’d at home, and them that went to Warr; for the Victory is for the whole Nation.

And as the Parliament declared, they did all for the Nation, and not for themselves onely; so we plead with the Armie, they did not fight for themselves, but for the freedom of the Nation: and I say, we have bought our Freedom of them likewise by Taxes and Free-quarter: therefore we claim an equall Freedom with them in this Conquest over the King.

Thirdly We claim an equall portion in the Victory over the King, by vertue of the two Acts of Parliament, the One to make England a Free-Common-wealth; the Other to take away Kingly power. Now the Kingly power (you have heard) is a power that rules by the Sword in covetousnesse and self, giving the earth to some, and denying it to others: and this Kingly power was not in the hand of the King alone; but Lords, and Lords of Manors, and corrupt Judges, and Lawyers especially, held it up likewise; for he was the head, and they, with the Tything-priests are the branches of that Tyrannical Kingly power; and all the several limbs and members must be cast out; before Kingly power can be pulled up root and branch. Mistake me not, I do not say, Cast out the persons of men: No, I do not desire their fingers to ake: but I say, Cast out their power, whereby they hold the people in bondage, as the King held them in bondage. And I say, it is our own Freedom we claim, both by bargain, and by equality in the Conquest; as well as by the Law of righteous Creation, which gives the Earth to all equally.

And the power of Lords of Mannors lies in this: They deny the Common people the use and free benefit of the Earth, unless they give them leave, and pay them for it, either in Rent, in Fines, in Homages, or Heriots. Surely the Earth was never made by God, that the Younger brother should not live in the Earth, unless he would work for, and pay his Elder brother Rent for the Earth: No; this Slavery came in by Conquest, and it is part of the Kingly power; and England cannot be a Free Common-wealth, till this Bondage be taken away. You have taken away the King; you have taken away the House of Lords: Now step two steps further, and take away the power of Lords of Mannors, and of Tything Priests, and the intolerable oppressions of Judges, by whom Laws are corrupted; and your work will be honourable.

Fourthly, if this Freedom be denied the Common people, To enjoy the Common Land; then Parliament, Army and Judges will deny Equity and Reason, whereupon the Laws of a well-governed Common-wealth ought to be built: And if this Equity be denied then there can be no Law, but Club-Law, among the people: and if the Sword must raign, then every Party will be striving to bear the Sword; and then farewel Peace; nay, farewel Religion and Gospel, unless it be made use of to intrap one another, as we plainly see some Priests and others make if a Cloke for their Knavery. If I adventure my life, and fruit of my labour, equal with you, and obtain what we strive for; it is both Equity and Reason, that I should equall divide the Spoil with you, and not you to have all, and I none: And if you deny us this, you take away our Propriety from us, our Moneys and Blood, and give us nothing for it.

Therefore, I say, the Common Land is my own Land, equal with my fellow-Commoners; and our true Propriety, by the Law of Creation: it is every ones, but not one single ones: Yea, the Commons are as truely ours by the last excellent two Acts of Parliament, the Foundation of Englands new righteous Government aimed at, as the Elder brothers can say the Inclosures are theirs: for they adventured their Lives, and covenanted with us to help them to preserve their Freedom: And we adventured our lives, and they covenanted with us, to purchase and to give us our Freedom, that hath been hundreds of yeers kept from us.

Daemona non Armis, sed Morte subegit Jesus.

By patient Sufferings, not by Death,
Christ did the Devil kill;
And by the same, still to this day,
his Foes he conquers still.

True Religion, and undefiled, is this, To make restitution of the Earth, which hath been taken and held from the Common people, by the power of Conquests formerly, and so set the oppressed free. Do not All strive to enjoy the Land? The Gentry strive for Land. the Clergie strive for Land, the Common people strive for Land; and Buying and Selling is an Art, whereby people endeavour to cheat one another of the Land. Now if any can prove, from the Law of Righteousness, that the Land was made peculiar to him and his successively, shutting others out, he shall enjoy it freely, for my part: But I affirm, It was made for all; and true- Religion is, To let every one enjoy it. Therefore, you Rulers of England, make restitution of the Lands which the Kingly power holds from us: Set the oppressed free; and come in, and honour Christ, who is the Restoring Power, and you shall finde rest.

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An entry in the
2017 London Rebel History Calendar – check it out online.

Today in London’s rebel history: 1400 copies of call for Cromwell’s assassination seized, 1657

“There is lately a very vile booke dispersed abroad, called Killinge noe murder. The scope is, to stirre up men to assassinate his highnes…”

“May it please your Highness,
How I have spent some hours of the leisure your Highness has been pleased to give me, this following paper will give your Highness an account. How you will please to interpret it I cannot tell; but I can with confidence say my intention in it is to procure your Highness that justice nobody yet does you, and to let the people see the longer they defer it, the greater injury they do both themselves and you. To your Highness justly belongs the honour of dying for the people; and it cannot choose but be unspeakable consolation to you in the last moments of your life to consider with how much benefit to the world you are like to leave it. ‘Tis then only, my Lord, the titles you now usurp will be truly yours. You will then be indeed the deliverer of your country, and free it from a bondage little inferior to that from which Moses delivered his. You will then be that true reformer which you would be thought. Religion shall be then restored, liberty asserted, and parliaments have those privileges
they have fought for.”
(from the introduction to
Killing No Murder)

‘Killing Noe Murder: Briefly Discourst In Three Quaestions‘ was a pamphlet distributed clandestinely in England, mainly in London, in 1657, setting out rationally the case for the assassination of then military dictator of England, Scotland and Ireland, Oliver Cromwell.

Having risen to power through the 1640s, allying himself with the Levellers and army radicals when he needed their support, then denying their petitions for reform and crushing them; allying himself with the Fifth Monarchist millenarians later, then dashing their dreams of imminent second coming and repressing them… Old Noll had amassed a lot of enemies.

While claimed as the work of one William Allen, the authorship is often disputed, but at the time was attributed to one of three men (or a collaboration of two or more of them): Colonel Silius TitusEdward Sexby or William Allen.

Titus was a royalist plotter, opposing Cromwell on behalf of the exiled “Charles II” (later to become king). Sexby was a former army agitator and leveler sympathizer, who had been a sometime ally and officer under Cromwell, but had become disillusioned with the supreme power Noll had achieved after the dissolution of Parliament by force in 1653. Allen was another ex-New Model Army trooper and a republican plotter.

Sexby, for one, had been planning Cromwell’s death for a couple of years; he had encouraged another old soldier and Leveller, Miles Sindercombe, was arrested in 1657, having taken part in a number of abortive plots to off the dictator. Sexby, later arrested, admitted he had participated, though under coercion in the Tower of London.

However, Titus’ sarcastic style apparently bears strong resemblances to the writing in Killing No Murder (check out the cheeky address to Cromwell in the introduction: “To your Highness justly belongs the honour of dying for the people; and it cannot choose but be unspeakable consolation to you in the last moments of your life to consider with how much benefit to the world you are like to leave it.”

At this point exiled royalists and disappointed ex-civil war radicals, out-manouvered by Cromwell in the late 1640s, were, quite unprincipledwise, ganging together to try to assassinate him. The politics of despair.

Killing No Murder was probably written where it was certainly printed, in the Netherlands. The pamphlet called on those now submitting quietly to Cromwell’s rule to rise up, especially those in the army who had been honest fighters in the civil war and opposed tyranny: “To all officers and soldiers of the army that remember their engagements and dare be honest… For you that were the champions of our liberty, and to that purpose were raised, are not you become the instruments of our slavery? And your hands that the people employed to take off the yoke from off our necks, are not those very hands they that now put it on? Do you remember that you were raised to defend the privileges of Parliament, and have sworn to do it; and will you be employed to force elections and dissolve Parliaments because they will not establish the tyrant’s iniquity, and our slavery, by a law? I beseech you think upon what you have promised and what you do, and give not posterity as well as your own generation the occasion to mention you with infamy…”

It goes on to discuss the rights and wrongs of doing away with tyrants, finding examples and justifications from the bible, from antiquity, and arguing reasonably for Cromwell’s death as a preventive cure for further oppression.

The pamphlet seems to have been smuggled into London by 18 May 1657. The Publick Intelligencer reported on that day that “divers abominable desperate pamphlets” had been scattered about the streets, including at Charing Cross and other places in the City.

Former Leveller John Sturgeon, once a member of Cromwell’s life guard, but now an opponent of the Protectorate) was arrested on 25 May with two bundles of copies on him – about 300 in all. On the 27th St Catherine’s Dock, just east of the Tower of London was searched, and seven parcels, 1,400 copies in all, of the pamphlet were discovered in the house of Samuel Rogers, a waterman. 140 more were found abandoned nearby, on the steps of a local house.

But although 2000 copies had been seized, an unknown number did get circulated. A copy even got thrown into Cromwell’s coach. Cromwell’s spymaster, John Thurloe, sent a copy to Henry Cromwell on 26 May:

“There is lately a very vile booke dispersed abroad, called Killinge noe murder. The scope is, to stirre up men to assassinate his highnes. I have made search after it, but could not finde out the spring-head thereof. The last night there was one Sturgeon, formerly one of his highness’s life-guard, a great leveller, taken in the street, with two bundles of them under his arme. The same fellow had a hand in Syndercombe’s buissines, and fledd for it into Holland, and is now come over with these bookes. I have sent your lordship one of them, though the principles of them are soe abominable, that I am almost ashamed to venture the sendinge it to your lordship.”

Thurloe’s assistant Samuel Morland wrote to John Pell at the start of June that:

“There has been the most dangerous pamphlet lately thrown about the streets that ever has been printed in these times. I have sent you the preface, which is more light, but, believe me, the body of it is more solid; I mean as to showing the author’s learning, though the greatest rancour, malice, and wickedness that ever man could show – nay, I think the devil himself could not have shown more.”

Killing No Murder was in great demand, however, whether because of Cromwell’s undoubted unpopularity, or for novelty value. 5 shillings was the going rate for a copy at one point. Copies were scattered in the streets, left in churches, and passed secretly hand to hand.

As modern blogger Mercurius Politicus relates, the pamphlet was an ideal format for distributing clandestinely, being small, cheap, easy to conceal and fold. “So how did Sexby and his accomplices achieve this? The first step was maximise the numbers who could have read Killing Noe Murder had. The pamphlet is 16 pages of quarto, and hence made up of two sheets of paper. Each set of 8 pages would have been printed as follows: the numbers represent page numbers in the final book.

It was printed on cheap paper – possibly ‘pot paper’, which in the 1620s had sold for between 3s. 4d. and 4s.6d. a ream. A ream contained 500 sheets, so one ream would have supplied 250 copies of the book. The 2,000 copies confiscated by the authorities would hence have cost at least £1 for Sexby and his accomplices to commission. Of course this does not include printer’s costs: by way of comparison, in 1655 Sturgeon had paid the radical printer Richard Moone 40 shillings for 1,000 copies of A Short Discovery of his Highness the Lord Protector’s Intentions. This was 8 pages long so a work double the size might have cost 80 shillings, or £4, for 1,000 copies. Assuming on top of the 2,000 confiscated copies that perhaps another 1,000 or 2,000 copies did survive and go into circulation, the whole enterprise might have cost Sexby £12 to £16.

Parcels of the pamphlet would then have been shipped across to London. Thurloe ordered a search of Dutch boats but had no luck in finding which skipper had shipped them over. It seems likely that John Sturgeon was Sexby’s London agent when it came to receiving and distributing copies. He had fled to the Netherlands after being involved in Miles Sindercombe’s failed plot to kill Cromwell earlier in 1657, so probably accompanied the pamphlets over to England from Amsterdam.

When it came to scattering copies about London’s streets, it’s impossible to know exactly how Sturgeon achieved this. However, it seems likely that he drew on radical political and religious communities within London. Sturgeon was a member of the Baptist church of Edmund Chillenden, which met at St Paul’s. In the 1630s, Chillenden had been involved with John Lilburne in distributing subversive puritan literature, and had subsequently been involved in army politics with Sexby. It seems plausible that his church was the centre for a number of London-based Levellers and Baptists whom Sturgeon may have mobilised to help. Someone else arrested along with Sturgeon was Edward Wroughton, a haberdasher who was a member of Thomas Venner’s Fifth Monarchist congregation at Coleman Street. Members of this church were mostly young men and apprentices, who would be likely candidates for dispersing the pamphlet during the middle of the night.  So it’s possible too that a network of congregations played a part in helping Sexby.”

We will never know how many copies of Killing No Murder did get through, but it did have a huge impact. It’s worth remembering that many people would have been illiterate, but one literate person could relate a pamphlet’s contents to many others who couldn’t read. The diatribe became a major talking point and the Protectorate made a strenuous effort to prevent it circulating, and to round up anyone involved with writing, smuggling or distributing it. Sexby was arrested on his clandestine return to London in June 1657, having arrived to try to firm up further plans to send Cromwell to the puritan heaven he so justly deserved. While being held in the Tower of London he confessed that he had written Killing No Murder. He died there in January 1658.

The plots against Cromwell all failed. Moderate opinion had long ago fallen into support for him as a bulwark against dangerous radicalism, and further war or unrest. But Cromwell survived Sexby by barely eight months. After his death the Commonwealth, politically bankrupt and unstable, collapsed into military faction fighting, ended only with the return of the monarchy in 1660. Many of the civil war radicals who had taken part in, or supported, the plots to do away with Cromwell, would go on to intrigue for a republic for decades to come…

Killing No Murder can be read for free here

And the original pamphlet is online here

Mercurius Politicus blog about civil war publishing and more is also well worth checking out.

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An entry in the 2016 London Rebel History Calendar – check it out online

Today in London’s conspiratorial history: John Wildman nicked, 1655

John Wildman was a republican, associate of the Levellers and Army agitators, and eternal plotter… However, he had an uncanny knack for self-preservation, surviving when many of his comrades went to the gallows…

In the English Civil War Wildman served briefly under Sir Thomas Fairfax. He became prominent, however, as a civilian adviser to the Army agitators, being in 1647 one of the leaders of that section of the army that opposed all compromise with King Charles I, and were organizing to demand an extension to the political franchise.

In December 1647 Wildman wrote a pamphlet, Putney Projects, that attacked Oliver Cromwell and Henry Ireton for betraying the New Model Army’s Declaration of 14 June 1647 in the Heads of Proposals. He may have written parts of The Case of the Army Stated, and he put the views of his associates before the Council of the Army at the Putney Debates that were partly held in Putney parish church between 28 October and 11 November 1647. Here he argued on the soldiers’ behalf that the engagements entered into with the King should be cancelled, monarchy and the House of Lords abolished, and manhood suffrage established. He also demanded that the officers should accept an Agreement of the People just put forth by the five regiments, a document he may had the main hand in drafting.

Wildman and Leveller leader John Lilburne attempted to build a movement to campaign for the Agreement of the People. As a result Wildman and Lilburne were arrested for promoting a seditious petition, and committed to Newgate Prison. In spite of frequent petitions for their release, they remained in prison until 2 August 1648.

On the release of the two prisoners, a new Agreement of the People was drawn up by sixteen representatives of different parties, but, after long debates in the Council of Officers, it was so altered by the officers that Lilburne and other leaders of the levellers refused to accept it. However, it seems that Wildman was satisfied with what the Council of Officers were suggesting because he abandoned further agitation.

Wildman remained in England and became a leading speculator in the forfeited lands of royalists, clergy, and Roman Catholics. He was elected to the First Protectorate Parliament as MP for Scarborough, but by the end of 1654 he was plotting the overthrow of the Protector Oliver Cromwell by means of a combined rising of Royalists and Levellers. As a result he was arrested on 10 February 1655, while dictating A Declaration of the free and well-affected People of England now in Arms against the Tyrant Oliver Cromwell.
He was sent a prisoner first to Chepstow Castle, and afterwards to the Tower of London; not released till a year and a half later.

For the rest of the Protectorate Wildman kept out of prison, but carried on his plotting, frequently communicating with Royalist agents, claiming he was working for the King’s cause, and he signed the address presented to Charles II on behalf of the Levellers in July 1656.

However it seems that Cromwell’s government was aware of these intrigues, so it may be that Wildman saved his own skin by giving information of some kind to Cromwell’s spy master John Thurloe.

Wildman continued to plot, against Cromwell, then against Charles II, and be jailed, or alternatively employed by the government, for decades… It’s unclear whether he was a double agent, trying to play both sides, or was out for what he could get…

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An entry in the 2016 London Rebel History Calendar – check it out online

 

Today in London’s rebel past: a blasphemous sermon in Bishopsgate.

“Abiezer Coppe… did away with sin…” (Leon Rosselson)

On 14th January 1650, Abiezer Coppe delivered a blasphemous sermon in St Helen’s Church , Bishopsgate. He seems to have used the tactic of just pushing his way to the lectern and speaking whether the congregation wanted to listen or not…

A former Baptist army preacher, Abiezer Coppe became one of the most notorious of the so-called Ranters; mystical anarchists would maybe the best way to describe them. Coppe was imprisoned without trial for his blasphemous opinions….

“Shameless in his pleasures, drank and smoke and swore,
Embracing as his fellow creatures beggar, thief and whore”

Coppe was born in Warwickshire and in 1636 went to Oxford, first to All Souls College and then to Merton. Here “all lectures or examples could not reform, or make, him live like a Christian: 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.”

After leaving Oxford he 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.”

“Through the streets of London, Abiezer came,
heard the hungry cries for bread, he was a soul in pain.
When the nobles in their coaches passed, he charged with wild eyes
And gnashed his teeth in anger and then roared up to the skies”

This conversion seems to have taken place in Warwickshire about the middle of 1649 and to have included a command, “Go up to London, to London, that great City”. There Coppe, who emphasised the social aspect of his teaching more, perhaps, than any other Ranter, began in the autumn of that year an appeal to the London poor, in a series of sermons in the streets in which the rich were denounced. The substance of these outbursts was probably incorporated in A Fiery Flying Roll, where he speaks of himself as, “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.”

No doubt this is the episode referred to by later Ranter Lawrence Clarkson in The Lost Sheep, which states that shortly before his own conversion Coppe “had lately appeared in a most dreadful manner”. Coppe’s campaign in the streets, soon to be followed by the publication of A Fiery Flying Roll (January 1st, 1650) marked the beginning of the period of maximum Ranter activity and was followed almost at once by a campaign of persecution and abuse directed 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.”.
The violent and provocative tone of the Roll, together with Coppe’s unconventional behaviour, attracted a great deal of attention and led to an immediate reaction. The Ranters, hitherto almost ignored, began to be written and talked about.

“I’d rather hear a Tinker curse than hear a vicar preach”

It was said of Coppe after he turned Ranter that “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 him and 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.”

Coppe, who had either left London after the publication of A Roll or been taken from it under arrest, was soon in prison in Coventry. On February 1st 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.

“A pox upon the pious, and on what the Scriptures teach…”

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 was the signal for organised police action. Some Ranters, like Coppe and Joseph Salmon, had already been imprisoned. Now began systematic police raids, 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 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.

“The magistrates condemned him, for vile Blasphemy
He pelted them with nutshells, cried “will you my judges be?”

Soon after the passing of the Act Coppe was brought from Coventry to London and examined by a Parliamentary Committee, as was Clarkson and William Rainborough soon after. Both Clarkson and Coppe proved difficult subjects. 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.”

“Community in all things, Abiezer said,
The naked shall have clothing, the hungry must have bread.”

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.”
The sting of his recantation was certainly in its tail.

“Gave his loving freely, a Ranter ’til he died…”

After his release Coppe remained in London, but it is uncertain how far he resumed his Ranting activities, since little is heard of him after this. Fox reports a meeting with him in 1655 which suggests that there had been no great change, provided that his date is correct:

“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 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 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”.

“Hark, ye rich, ye nobles, ye shall reap soon what ye sow
For the day of doom is coming that will lay the mighty low.
And your property will canker, and your houses will decay
And the rust upon your silver will burn your flesh away…

So drink a loving cup, to Abiezer, Abiezer,
He’s a drinking dancing roaring Ranter…
Abiezer Coppe…”

Some quotes stolen from Leon Rosselson’s fine song, ‘Abiezer Coppe’.

A chapter on Coppe and other ranters, from A.L. Morton’s ‘The World of the Ranters, can be found online at:

http://alphabetthreat.co.uk/pasttense/ranters.html

Coppe’s A Fiery Flying Roll can be read at: https://archive.org/details/fieryflyingroll00coppuoft

An entry in the 2016 London Rebel History Calendar – check it out:
http://www.alphabetthreat.co.uk/pasttense/calendar.html