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 & tomorrow in London’s herstory, 1643: Women riot for peace, Parliament

The outbreak of the English Civil War in 1642 came after several years of conflict between king Charles I and a growing number of his subjects, over numerous disputes – freedom religion versus increasing state centralisation or worship; the king’s personal autocracy; royal methods of fundraising including heavier and heavier taxation; economic diversity against monopolies being only some of the leading issues. The slide into war was gradual amidst social unrest, an explosion of propaganda and religious ferment. In the two years before the war began crowds had regularly besieged Parliament or gathered to protest, petition and demand. Street politics flourished; collective complaint became a daily occurrence.

The privation, violence and disruption of war soon began to tell on people’s lives.

On 8 August 1643, several hundred women, wearing white ribbons in their hats and pinned to their breasts, some said to be carrying babies and children, surrounded Parliament, demanding an end to the civil war, which they proclaimed was causing untold deaths and ruining the livelihoods of thousands… The previous night, the House of Commons had voted against accepting the House of Lords six proposals for a peace settlement. This week has been identified by some as a crucial crossroads in the Civil War: militarily the king had the upper hand, the moderates in Parliament were wavering and royalist sympathising Lords and MPs were pressing for peace negotiations. (The vote on the 7th August was in fact only narrowly defeated, allegedly with some underhand procedural shenanigans, while a riotous crowd outside cried ‘No Peace!’)

The morning of the 8th saw an organised demonstration to the Commons, with the stated intention of meeting with Parliamentary leaders, such as John Pym, to present them formally with ‘The Petition of Many Civilly Disposed Women’. MP and diarist Sir Simonds d’Ewes allegedly overheard some threatening violence to any member who was a an ‘enemy to peace’…

At one point in the demonstration they surged to the door of the House of Commons, pushing up the staircase, until soldiers forced them out, beating them with the flats of their swords.

The newspaper Certain Informations reported the event with a heavy dose of misogynistic bile:

‘Yesterday in the afternoon two or three hundred oyster wives, and other dirty and tattered sluts, took upon them the impudency to come to the honourable House of Commons, and cried for Peace and Propositions, and they so filled the stairs that no man could pass up or down, whereupon a man upon the top of the stairs drew his sword and with the flat side struck some of them upon the heads, which so affrighted them that they presently made way and ran down.’

Many of the women were said by others to be the wives of men away fighting.

Walter Yonge, M.P. for Honiton, reported that

 ‘they woulde not bee satisfied, but kepte knocking and beatinge of the outwarde door before the Parliament House, and would have violently forced the same open, and required Mr. Pym, Mr. Strode, and some other members . . . and threatened to take the round heades of the Parliament whome they saide they would caste into the Thames.’

The women retreated, but promised to be back…

… which they were, the next day, in greater numbers, estimated at anywhere from 500 to 6000 strong. Hostile observers judged them to be mostly ‘whores, bawds, oyster-women, kitchenstuff women, beggar women, and the very scum of the suburbs, besides abundance of Irish women’…

The newsbook Mercurius Civicus reprinted the petition carried to the Commons that day:

‘Shewing unto your Honours, hat your poore Petitioners (though the weaker Sex) doe too sensibly perceive the ensuing desolation of this Kingdome, unlesse by some timely meanes your Honours provide for the speedy recovery thereof; Your Honours are the Physitians  that can by God’s speciall and miraculous blessing, (which we humbly implore) restore this languishing Nation, and our Bleeding Sister the Kingdome of Ireland, which hath now almost breathed her last gaspe; We need not dictate to your Eagle Ey’d Judgments the way; Our onley desire is, That God’s glory in the true reformed Protestant Religion may be preserved, the just Prerogatives and Priviledges of King and Parliament maintained, the true Liberties and Properties of the Subject according to the known Lawes of the Land restored, and all Honourable waies and meanes for a speedy peace endeavoured.

May it therefore please your Honours to conceive that some speedy course may be taken for the settlement of the true reformed Protestant Religion for the glory o God, and the renovation of Trade for the benefit of the Subject, they being the soule and body of the Kingdome.

And they with many Millions of afflicted soules groaning under the burthen of these times of distresse (as bound), shall pray, &c.’

‘Six members carried the answer that the house were not enemies to peace, and would consider the petition, and, according to Rushworth, desired them to return to their habitations.’

This day’s protest was cunningly planned or co-ordinated. Some women arrived at Parliament in boats, evading the riverside guards. Others beat up the sentinels on the other side of the House and swarmed in again. They occupied parts of Parliament for two hours, preventing any MPs leaving or entering. When men of the Trained bands (volunteer militia) fired blanks at them they laughed it off, crying ‘Nothing But Powder!’, and pelting the men with bricks. It took a charge by the mounted men of General Waller’s Horse to disperse them.

As the women were returning home they were reportedly met in the Strand by a troop of horse on its way to the house. ‘It fell upon and rode down some of the women, whereof four are said to be killed.’

Several women received serious injuries despite the soldiers again using the flats of their swords; one woman had her nose sliced off and was said to have died later. Sir Thomas Knyvett wrote of ‘diverse men and women being slain’. The Venetian Secretary in England reported ‘ten persons being killed and more than a hundred injured, mostly women.’

Others were arrested and marched off to the Bridewell. Again, the women shouted out that they would come back the next day, with guns and swords this time… In the event, the 10th August was quiet.

The protests led to a crackdown on suspected dissidents in London: ‘Many of the women who went to implore peace have been imprisoned, as well as their husbands, the mere suspicion of desiring it being considered the last degree of criminality. For this reason they have made a fresh general search in the houses, and taken away arms of every sort, even swords, from those not actually serving the parliament. Many have been arrested without any evidence about their sympathies save the indiscretion of soldiers, who permit themselves every liberty, without any reason, and even carry off anything they take a fancy to.’ (Gerolamo Agostini, Venetian Secretary in England, writing to the Doge and Senate of Venice.)

Commentators were outraged by the demonstrations. Women of any sort were not supposed to have political opinions let alone voice them, still less collectively claim any sort of public space to make political demands. The demonstrations were an outrage against the heart of the social order – male power over women, domination of the public and private sphere on every level. The Parliamentary Scout lamented the times: ‘Thus we see, to permit absurdities, is the way to encourage them: tumults are dangerous, swords in women’s hands do desperate things; this is begotten in the distraction of the Civil Wars’. The demonstrations were yet another sign of ‘The World Turned Upside Down’, the proper way of things inverted, complaints of which were increasing as the floodgates of opinion, thought and belief opened wider… The Parliamentarians had made a rod for their own backs to some extent, in their rebelling against the king, trumpeting the ideas of freedom of religion and enlisting mass support in the streets, they gave licence, had tolerated women’s petitioning en masse earlier in the 1640s when the cause was closer to their own… But now the streets, and much more, were opened up to people the MPs had never intended should think and act for themselves. Not only women – but women of ‘the inferior sort’! Working women! Sticking their noses into men’s business, and roughing up men who were properly appointed (by God) to rule over the lower orders and especially females.

The early 1640s were filled with men’s fear of women getting above themselves (as opposed to, er, pretty much every era you can name…). Women were even preaching, in some parts of London – an abomination to virtually anyone who was anyone, on both sides of the war. The virulently hostile reaction to the ‘peace women’, in print and from the soldiers, was the expression of fury – rage that females were usurping man’s rights and position.

At the time, the ‘peace women’ were accused of being opposed to the parliamentary cause and of supporting king Charles. Observers claimed to have overheard shouts of ‘we will have Peace presently and our King’. This may have been true, or the demonstrations may have been manipulated by ‘cavalier’ sympathisers; although that the women would be labelled as royalists was inevitable under the circumstances.

Rumours abounded that these women were ‘sett on and backed by some men of rank and quality.’ Four days after the protests, Mistress Jordan, a citizen of London, petitioned the commons to be allowed to go to Holland, ‘for that she went in great jeoperdy of her life here amongst her own neighbours in that she refused to joyn with them in their tumultuous rising against the parliament.’ Being questioned at the House of Commons, she repeated a statement made by one Master Knowles in Chancery Lane to the effect that many of the women had been with a great earl, ‘who encouraged them to make the disturbance, saying that the lords with one exception and all the commons except four or five were in favour of peace, and that if they came down for three or four days in that manner the peace proposals would pass.’ It was suggested this was the earl of Holland, who had already fled to join the king after the defeat of the Lords’ peace proposals…

Hardly a cast-iron case… To some extent the idea that (male) royalists were the brains behind the protests again represents the total incomprehension of the idea that women could be and were acting for themselves.

Royalist manipulation or not, many folk at the time were disturbed by the rebellion against the king, against a social hierarchy previously stated to have been ordained by God, and blamed the ‘rebels’, Parliamentary leaders, for a fatal breaking of this status quo. Even London, a parliamentary stronghold, was deeply divided.

But the women’s cries of mourning for ‘slain and imprisoned husbands’ told its own tale – a straightforward hatred of war and the death, hardship and destruction it brought. It is not recorded that any of the women pointed out that men, on both sides of the conflict, made war and played soldiers, and women paid the price as much as men, but without any voice in the decision-making… but the thought is bound to have occurred to some… Did any of the women see their demo as a female counterpoint to the largely anti-peace ‘mob’ who had gathered to denounce the peace proposals on the 7th (a crowd said to have been whipped up by the puritan lord mayor of London)? Did it seem to them that their intervention in what has (in hindsight) been viewed as a crucial nexus in the conflict might have derailed the war?

In the event this didn’t happen. The protests subsided, the war continued, and Parliament eventually gained the upper hand. But women’s demonstrations continued, in a wider context of an increased participation of women in ‘public life’. Some of the most notable demonstrations in support of the Levellers were organised by women, who played a major part in the movement. Female preachers and prophets, women quakers and ranters… The world continued to be turned on its head…

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A really great book on women in the English Revolution is Unbridled Spirits, by Stevie Davies.

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An entry in the
2014 London Rebel History Calendar – Check it out online

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Today and tomorrow, in London’s festive history, 1682: Bonfire Night rioters big up the Duke of Monmouth

The late 1670s and early 1680s saw a constitutional crisis in England and Scotland, as a growing group of nobles, with some popular support, attempted to prevent a Catholic heir to the throne from succeeding as king, and resorted to plots, conspiracies and open rebellion when parliamentary methods failed.

The English Civil War had left resentment among some of the population about the monarchy and the penalties which had been imposed on the supporters of the Commonwealth. Fears of a potential Catholic monarch persisted, intensified by the failure of Charles II and his wife to produce any children. This was spiced not only with growing resentment of Charles’ methods of governing and the growing centralised power of the monarchy, but also the widespread survival of veterans of the English Revolution – old Cromwell supporters, civil war soldiers, remnants of the Leveller and Fifth monarchist movements, non-conformists in religion whose freedom to worship had been established in the war then severely curtailed under the restoration… For instance you have figures like Colonel Henry Danvers, a fifth monarchist and republican, who plotted with Clement Ireton and other republican groups around 1665, planning to kill the king, seize the Tower, said to have been plotting establish a republic and redistribute property. (Although this last may have been black propaganda against them?) Danvers had been captured April 1665, but rescued by a mob!

A turbulent mix, with lots of anti-popish populism and suspicion thrown in. Ploys abounded.

A defrocked Anglican clergyman, Titus Oates, exposed a supposed “Popish Plot” to kill Charles and to put the Duke of York on the throne – largely a combination of conspiracy theory and witch-hunt. The Earl of Shaftesbury, a former government minister and a leading opponent of Catholicism, attempted to have James excluded from the line of succession. Some members of Parliament proposed that the crown go to Charles’s illegitimate son, James Scott, who became the Duke of Monmouth. In 1679, with the Exclusion Bill – which would exclude the King’s brother and heir presumptive, James, Duke of York, from the line of succession – in danger of being passed, Charles II dissolved Parliament. Two further Parliaments were elected in 1680 and 1681, but were dissolved for the same reason. The Exclusion Crisis contributed to the development of the English two-party system: the Whigs were those who supported the Bill, while the Tories were those who opposed it. Ultimately, the succession was not altered, but James was convinced to withdraw from all policy-making bodies and to accept a lesser role in his brother’s government. Monmouth was a protestant, popular, although something of a chancer…

During 1682 tensions were rising across the country, as the king got older and the prospect of his brother succeeding inspired plots, attempted mini-coups… Monmouth was persuaded by the protestant conspirator Lord Shaftesbury to progress through several counties in triumphant and semi-rebellious processions, in 1680s thorugh the southwest of England , and in September 1682 in Cheshire and Merseyside… The rapturous receptions there indicated some of the feeling of dissatisfaction, projected onto a royal playboy, who was flattered into slowly believing he could be a rival for the throne.

Whether or not Monmouth was himself conspiring at this point to seize the throne, he was certainly the figurehead for many who did want to see the Duke of York excluded and even Charles deposed… His popularity when he travelled the country seemed an opportunity, to many notables opposed to any hint of Catholicism, but also to the ‘arbitrary’ royal power and increasingly modern centralised state, that often trespassed on the interests of wealthy aristos and merchants (similar to the questions and conflicts that had led to the Civil war). It would certainly later persuade Monmouth himself that he had a chance of seizing the throne from his uncle.

On Bonfire Night, November 5th, for 80 years a bonanza fest for anti-catholic hysteria, London saw its usual rowdy scenes, with multiple bonfires, drinking, burning of effigies… This year, however, the festivities were jacked up a notch, and the usual good humoured banter seemed to have a subversive edge: about 10 o’clock, 500-600 people marched through the city shouting ‘A Monmouth! No York!’ They then proceeded to try to burn the Mitre Tavern on Poultry, smashed the windows of prominent ‘Tories’ (high church, seen as neo-catholics), and attempted a few lynchings… The rioting continued into the next night. Arrests followed – and 13 men were condemned to death.

Early in 1683, “Six apprentices of the City were found guilty  of a riot committed on the 6th of Nov. last, for which  they were fined twenty marks, and sentenced to stand on  the pillory, which was accordingly performed, two in  Cheapside, one in Cornhill, the others in various parts of  the City, but instead of having any abuse offered them,—  which is usual in such cases— not a pin*s head was  flung at them, instead they had money, oranges, etc thrown to them during their stay before the pillory.”  For the authorities did not venture to place them in the pillory — and ** a bottle of wine was brought to the two in Cheapside to drink the Duke of Monmouth and Lord Shaftesbury’s health.”

Clearly the rioters had a great deal of popular support… What isn’t totally clear is the basis of the rioters’ anger, though it appears from to have been more of the usual Bonfire night anti-catholicism, rather than necessarily radical sentiment… But the two were often mingled together at this time, the idea that Catholicism meant tyranny and protestantism liberty, at its most simplest, but also with more complex religious and political ideologies underlying.

Monmouth gathered support from the remnants of the republican and fifth monarchist undergrounds, who had plotted and schemed against the restored monarchy from 1660s on, though largely futilely and increasingly penetrated by govt spies, and manipulated by political opportunists, leading ‘Whigs’ and anti-catholic nutters… Stalwart civil war era republicans, ex-Cromwellite soldiers, even former levelers and fifth monarchists who had ended up opposing Cromwell, all dipped into the plotting and would up snared in conspiracies like the Rye House Plot, and supporting Monmouth’s 1685 rebellion against James when he became king. To some extent the November 1682 riots were a prelude or an episode in this long murky resistance.

The Rye House Plot was a shadowy London conspiracy which, early in 1683, [Whigs] may well have discussed  murdering the King as he returned to London from the Newmarket races. What the Rye House Plotters actually planned and wanted are much debated.  Some believe Monmouth and other prominent Whigs led by Shaftesbury to be planning the murder or abduction of the king.  on June 12th 1683 Josiah Keeling, a minor Whig figure in the City, made a deposition before Secretary Jenkins saying that a few weeks prior he had been engaged in a conspiracy with old Cromwell supporter Richard Rumbold and others to assassinate the King on his return from Newmarket.

Whether this was true or not, the Tories seized on the admission: many Whigs were forced out of the country, among the Duke of Monmouth (although he tried to convert to Catholicism and grassed up a few of the plotters first, showing his unwavering commitment to the cause).

When Monmouth ‘invaded’ England in 1685, following Charles II’s death and James’ succeeding to the throne, he won most support among the West Country poor, including impoverished and discontented, but notably, among them, a number of former levellers or those who looked back to the Commonwealth and the civil war political ferment for inspiration. People who turned out to cheer Monmouths as he marched through Devon and Somerset openly wore green ribbons – the emblem of the Levellers. Around the campfires of the rebel ‘army’ who rallied to his cause, political discussions were said to have taken place about the kind of kingdom the rebels thought they were fighting for, which directly echoed the highly politicised soldiery of the New Model Army, the Putney Debates, the Agreement of the People… Whether Monmouth himself would have approved or any successful Monmouth regime would have even tolerated such assertions (a dubious question at best), elements of his support were again stating the old Leveller principle that the common people of the nation have a right to a say in the direction of the country, the law – all social strata are concerned in how society is run. The revolutionary potential of this idea had terrified the restored Stuart regime throughout king Charles’s life (most of all when working people rose up, as in the Bawdy House riots or the 1675 silkweavers’ riots in London); its re-appearance in Monmouth’s army have led some to call the rebellion the last Leveller uprising.

However, the radicals’ and non-conformists’ desperate hope that this royal bastard would bring about the triumph of the ‘Good Old Cause’ was not only over-optimistic, but misplaced. There were not enough of them, and large numbers of potential rebels in other areas did not come out in support; possibly very sensibly guessing that it wouldn’t end well. The rebellion was heavily defeated, 100s of rebels killed in the battle of Sedgemoor, and many more brutally executed in the reprisals thereafter; and when king James was ousted 3 years later and replaced with William III, it was by the conservative elements opposed to arbitrary royal power in their own interests. The powerful who masterminded the Glorious Revolution, created a political settlement based on a constitutional agreement, yes, but based on top-down hierarchy, not a radical conception of the nation that would allow all social classes a voice in power.

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2018 London Rebel History Calendar

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Today in London radical history, 1649: executed mutineer Robert Lockyer’s funeral becomes a Leveller demonstation

“I am ready and willing to dye for my Country and liberty and I blesse God I am not afraid to look death in the face in this particular cause God hath called me to.” (Robert Lockyer, 1649)

Robert Lockyer (also spelt Lockier) was born in London in about 1626. He received adult baptism in 1642, when he was 16, together with his mother, Mary, into a sect of the particular Baptists in Bishopsgate, then a suburb on London’s northeastern edge. This seems to have been where Robert grew up and had several relatives – it would also be the scene of the mutiny that would result in his execution.

Although this area had some ‘fair houses for merchant and artificers’, it had experienced a rapid building boom in the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, and along with Spitalfields and Shoreditch the Bishopsgate area had long also been associated with migrants, often denied entry to live or work in London, with various forms of criminal subcultures, and those looking to evade control or close scrutiny by the City authorities… Since 1500 the area’s population had increased, and refugees from the increasing enclosure of common lands, dislocation in the countryside, and the desperate seeking work, had swelled the streets around Bishopsgate. It’s unclear what Lockyer’s background was, whether his family had been resident for generations, or were relatively newly arrived… but the mix of classes, wealth and poverty side by side, the inevitable mix of ideas and resentments that arise in such ‘barrios’ may be relevant to his story.

His background in, or choice to enter, a separatist sect, the particular Baptists, is typical of many of the radicals of the English Civil War. The religious ferment, the spreading of ideas, creeds, the multiplying of branches of the protestant faith and offshoots from it, forms a vital backdrop to the English Revolution. It wasn’t just that freedom to worship as they chose, in small and self-directed congregations, without interference from the Anglican Church authorities with their secular backing from the king, was a huge demand that bubbled up for decades before the 1640s. Many of the sects were also developing radical critiques, both is purely religious terms, and when applied to the social order around them. This was harshly repressed for a century after the Reformation, but with the struggle between parliament and king out in the open, would erupt in a multi-shock volcano of ideas, proposals, and programs, and manifest in word, print and action. They saw themselves as the Saints, God’s own, though their views often diverged at to what God approved of and what kind of world He would want them to build, and as to what role the Saints themselves had in doing God’s will on Earth…

The Baptists in particular produced many political radicals in the English civil war period, as they had in the 16th century, when, known as ‘anabaptists, usually by their enemies, many had held extreme political views, and been involved in insurrections, revolutionary plotting and spreading of subversive social theories. But while the general suspicion of the Anglican church and state authorities, was that Baptists were basically dangerous extremists likely to do a ‘John of Leyden’ and introduce communism and bloodshed against the wealthy at the drop of a hat, many baptists were in reality quiet-living and law-abiding, so long as they could worship as they chose.

The range of ideas among the puritan and other sects was wide – many who sought independence from the established church for their own sect deplored tolerance for others (and catholics could basically whistle), but also feared and denounced the social rebelliousness that seemed to follow religious questioning. Many on the parliamentary side in the war were happy to enlist religious radicals to fight the king’s army, but had little intention of allowing this to imply the radicals had any right to either determine their own congregational path, or worse, start offering opinions on how wider society might be reshaped to the benefit of a wider swathe… A clarion call for freedom of conscience as a battle standard was a dangerous strategy, and it was to backfire on the cautious reformers and even many of the more devout leaders, as they saw subversive ideas spreading among the lower orders…

On the outbreak of the English Civil War in 1642, Robert Lockyer joined the Parliamentary Army (Roundheads) and served as a private trooper. It is telling that he joined the regiment commanded by Colonel Edward Whalley, having first served in Oliver Cromwell’s ‘Ironsides’: this regiment was filled with hardcore puritans and sectaries, who saw the struggle against the king as doing God’s work, but also debated and discussed among themselves, around campfires and on the march, the kind of society the Godly should help create. And by the mid-1640s they were coming to radical conclusions. Richard Baxter, a leading puritan preacher and theologian, chaplain to Whalley’s regiment in 1645-46, observed this, to his horror: “Many honest men of weak judgments and little acquaintance with such matters… [were]… seduced into a disputing vein… sometimes for state democracy, sometimes for church democracy.” Baxter would spent much time denouncing this kind of uppityness among the common sort, who ought to listen to the learned and stop thinking they had the right to question or offer up opinions of their own.

Some regiments in the victorious New Model Army elected Agitators or agents, who, in alliance with the London Levellers, drew up the Agreement of the People, a program for a widening of the electorate and some measure of social justice. Its four main proposals were to dissolve the current Parliament (suspected of lukewarm sentiment for change and many of whose members had been intriguing with the defeated king Charles to work against the power of the army), radically redraw constituencies to better represent the country, more regular elections, freedom of religious conscience, and equality for all before the law. (To this was added, in later editions, the vote to be extended to all adult male householders, and the exclusion of catholics from freedom of conscience. There are limits, after all.)

It’s not known when Robert Lockyer became a Leveller sympathiser, or whether he was heavily involved in the New Model Army agitators campaign for democracy of 1647, though it is assumed he was involved, as Whalley’s regiment was at the heart of this ferment. It was later said of Lockyer, after his death, that he had supported the Leveller Agreement of the People, and had been present at the abortive mutiny at Ware in November 1647, which had broken out as the more radical elements in the army began to realise that the leadership were outmanoeuvring them and had no plans to implement anything like as ground-breaking a program as the Agreement. The mutiny had followed on from two weeks of argument among the army leadership and agitators at the Putney Debates. Here the Army leadership made it very clear that they very opposed the idea that more people should be allowed to vote in elections and that the Levellers posed a serious threat to the upper classes. As Oliver Cromwell said: “What is the purport of the levelling principle but to make the tenant as liberal a fortune as the landlord. I was by birth a gentleman. You must cut these people in pieces or they will cut you in pieces.”

Lockyer’s regiment was in fact stationed at Hampton Court, (guarding the imprisoned king, though Charles escaped on the 11th November), which was near enough for Lockyer to have ridden to Ware, (though he would have been AWOL at best, risking serious punishment if caught, up to the death sentence for desertion), if he was involved in the plans for a mutiny to impose the Agreement; but this may also be backward-myth making. We will never know. In any case the mutiny was quashed, as the majority of the troops present were persuaded to remain loyal to the Army Grandees, and Leveller/Agitator leaders Thomas Rainborough and John Lilburne realised that active support for a democratic army coup was weaker than they had thought. If Lockyer was present, it was not be the last mutiny he saw.

The Army leadership, represented most vocally by Oliver Cromwell, had ensured that the possibility of the army taking up arms against parliament on the basis of the Agreement could not happen, and in fact a Second Civil War followed as royalists rebelled in Kent and elsewhere. The threat in fact drove Grandees and radicals into temporary alliance against resurgent royalism and its sympathisers in a Parliament determined to put the army back in its place. But the rapprochement lasted only as long as the Second Civil War and the resulting purge of Parliament. When the king and his supporters were again beaten, Leveller demands for some quid pro quo for falling in behind Cromwell and co during this crisis, and rapidly led to the arrest of leading Leveller spokesmen.

This took place in early 1649. But the Grandees continued to pursue radicals in the army who attempted to push for the ideals set out in the Agreement of the People. In March 1649 eight soldiers from various regiments were court-martialled for petitioning the army’s nominal top brass General Fairfax to restore the more electoral structure the army agitators had briefly achieved two years before. The humiliating punishment five of them received – being paraded held up on a wooden pole, their swords broken, and then cashiered – made it clear that protest for democracy – in the army, or society in general – were not to be tolerated.

This formed the immediate background to the confrontation that cost Robert Lockyer his life. Future attempts by grassroots soldiers at independent action, on any issue, would be squashed.

A few weeks later, Captain Savage’s troop of Whalley’s Regiment, then quartered in the City of London, was ordered to quit these quarters and join the regimental rendezvous at Mile End, in preparation to march into Essex. On hearing this, 30 troopers seized the troop’s colours from the Four Swans Inn at Bishopsgate Street where it was stashed, and carried it to the nearby Bull Inn, a noted haunt of radicals at that time. Captain Savage demanded they bring out the colour, mount their horses and proceed to Mile End but they refused, fighting off his subsequent attempt to wrestle the flag off them. Lockyer told Savage that they were ‘not his colour carriers’ and that they had all fought under it, and for all that it symbolised (which could be interpreted in a number of ways, given the widespread debate about what the civil war had been for and how what many soldiers had felt were its aims had been closed down). Lockyer’s companions echoed his words, shouting ‘All, all!’

That a stance by just 30 men worried the army hierarchy can be seen in the quick reaction of Colonel Whalley and Generals Cromwell and Fairfax both hurried to the Bull. Whalley, arriving first with other regimental officers, and a large force of loyal troopers, negotiated with the 30 men. The ‘mutineers’ complained that they had not been paid enough to pay for the quarters they had been occupying in the city. This was a major grouse among civilians who housed soldiers in their homes – whether voluntarily, or in many cases, by force. The army was notoriously slow to cough up pay to its troops, sometimes arrears would run to months or even years, and the cost and inconvenience of quartering soldiers was a severe economic burden for householders. Seeing themselves as they did, as a kind of citizen army, the armed wing of righteous public opinion, some of the democratically-minded among the army were angry that they often could not pay their way, and this issue was a huge one at this time (not to mention the expenses mounted troopers like Lockyer’s company had for themselves – ie gear, horses, which often came to half their daily pay by themselves) . However, there is little doubt that both the 30 men and their superiors both saw this as the tip of a large iceberg, with all the repressed demands of the agitators and levellers looming threateningly below the surface. It was not what Lockyer and his comrades DID that required rapidly putting to an end – it was the potential for an insurrection that could spread to the city, and the wider army.

Although Whalley offered a sum of money to pay these arrears for quartering, the troopers pushed for stronger guarantees that he would offer, and Whalley lost patience, ordering Lockyer to mount, and when he refused, arresting him and fifteen of the other men. A crowd of civilians sympathetic to Lockyer and the rebels had gathered, but were scattered by men who obeyed Whalley’s order to disperse them. At this point Fairfax and Cromwell turned up, and ordered all fifteen to be taken to Whitehall to be court-martialled.

At the court-martial, one man was acquitted, three left to the discretion of the Colonel, five sentenced to ‘ride the wooden horse’ (the same punishment the five soldiers in March had suffered) – and six, including Lockyer, condemned to death. The six petitioned General Fairfax for mercy, promising to be obedient in future, and he pardoned five, but upheld the sentence on Lockyer. This was, Fairfax said, because at the court martial he had attempted to defend himself using the argument that their was no legal justification for the imposition of martial law (in reality, military control of the state) that the army grandees were operating under, in a time of peace – a clear challenge not just to daily gripes about pay but about policy and about whose interests the army were now representing. This defence enraged the court, and his death sentence was upheld not just to punish him, but to give an example to the alliance of army radicals and civilian activists that the Grandees feared was still active and brewing. A group of women supporters of the Levellers who had been visiting Parliament to petition for the release of the civilian Leveller leaders (ignoring the advice of MPs and Grandees to go home and mind their wifely duties and not meddle with the affairs of men!) had gathered outside the court-martial at Whitehall; they greeted the soldiers as they came out of the court, saying that there would be more such men as the accused in other places soon, and that Lockyer was a godly man and a Saint, who the authorities were going to murder.

The brief mutiny had aroused support among the discontented in London, and the possibility of a mutiny becoming an uprising had to be cut off. Whether Lockyer was in fact the ringleader of the protest or not, he was picked out to be a dreadful example for any potential rebels.

On April 27th, Robert Lockyer was marched to St Paul’s Churchyard by soldiers of Colonel Hewson’s regiment, to be shot. Speaking before execution, Lockyer is said to have announced

“I am ready and willin to dye for my Country and liberty and I blesse God I am not afraid to look death in the face in this particular cause God hath called me to.”

He added that he was happy to die if his fellows could be spared, but was troubled that he had been condemned for something so small as a dispute over pay, after fighting for seven years ‘for the liberties of the nation’. Refusing a blindfold, he spoke directly to the soldiers assigned to shoot him, “fellow-soldiers… brought here by your officers to murder me.. I did not think you had such heathenish and barbarous principles in you as to obey your officers in [this]” Major Carter, commanding the firing squad, being visibly shaken by this, Colonel Okey, who had been on the bench at Lockyer’s court-martial, angrily accused him of attempting to incite the firing squad to mutiny, and seizing his coat belt and jacket, distributed them to the firing squad, who then announced themselves ready to obey their orders. The sentence was carried out.

Lockyer’s funeral, two days later on Sunday 29th April, took the form of a political demonstration, a reminder of the strength of the Leveller organisation in London. Lockyer’s coffin was carried in silent procession from Smithfield in the afternoon, slowly through the heart of the City, and then back to Moorfields for the internment in the New Churchyard (underneath modern Liverpool Street Station – recently excavations here for the Crossrail train line has disturbed the bones buried here, presumably including Lockyer, and his fellow civil war radical, John Lilburne). The coffin bore blood-stained rosemary and a naked sword (a threat aimed at the Grandees of the potential for armed rebellion?)

Led by six trumpeters, about 4000 people reportedly accompanied the corpse. Many wore ribbons – black for mourning and sea-green to show their allegiance to the Levellers whose colour this was. A company of women brought up the rear, testimony to the active female involvement in the Leveller movement. If the reports can be believed there were more mourners for Trooper Lockyer than there had been for the martyred Colonel Thomas Rainborough the previous autumn, or king Charles a few months before. As the Leveller newspaper, The Moderate said, a remarkable tribute to a person of ‘no higher quality that a private trooper’ (quality meaning ‘class position’ here).

But while Lockyer’s funeral procession showed the strength of the support for the Levellers and sympathy with army radicals, Lockyer’s execution in fact showed that the Grandees were firmly in control of most of the army, enough at least to put down discontent and isolate troublemakers. Radicals in Whalley’s regiment were scared into submission, many signing a declaration of loyalty in May, and they did not join the subsequent army mutiny at Burford at the end of May, whose (again rapid) defeat marked in reality the end of any threat of an concerted army rebellion in favour of democratic ideals or Leveller principles. Three soldiers were shot 24 hours after the Burford mutiny, after another drumhead court-martial.

Written protest from Leveller spokesmen John Lilburne and Richard Overton, and a petition from Leveller women activists, at Lockyer’s execution fell on deaf ears – the Grandees were secure in the saddle, and knew it. They no longer needed the support of the radicals against the king or the moderate parliamentarians, and knew they could cow much opposition by executions, and ignore objections that martial law was no longer legal. They had also perceptively realised that their preparation to use terror and force was not matched by a similar determination on the radical side – as Colonel Hewson observed: “we can hang twenty before they will hang one.”

As with the other ‘radical’ army mutinies of the late 1640s, the way that Lockyer and many of his fellow soldiers saw themselves – as representing both the righteous of the nation, but also doing God’s work – gave them the justification for asserting their voice against their commanders; many of their commanders shared their background among the Saints, and so they also felt that this argument would be understood, at least. But diverging views as to what the interests of the nation and God’s work consisted of had been opening up since the beginning of the civil war – based on class interests, as much as interpretations of scripture. The actions of Cromwell, in particular, enraged the godly radicals, as they had seen him as one of them, a betrayer of the ‘good old cause’: but his class background meant his practical cleaving to the defence of the ‘men of property’ was always likely.

In the end, the program of the New Model Army agitators and the Levellers was forward thinking, and garnered wide support, but at a time of weariness of war, divisions and violence, not enough backing to push through into actual social change. The army mutinies all failed because, whatever widespread sympathy radical views inspired, only a minority were prepared to defy orders, whether for immediate grievances, or for larger social aims. Many of the reforms that the Levellers fought for, and Robert Lockyer and his comrades argued over in the army in the later 1640s, were later won, and are now widely help up as our democratic rights. Whether Lockyers of today would accept that, or push forward for more radical interpretations, for a wider redistribution of the wealth, power and responsibility in society… we can only speculate.

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2018 London Rebel History Calendar

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Today in London rebel history: ranter Jacob Bothumley has his tongue bored through, for blasphemy, 1650.

The Ranters formed the extreme left wing of the sects which came into prominence during the English Revolution, both theologically and politically. Theologically these sects lay between the poles of 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 with its emphasis upon God’s mercy and universality, its rejection of the moral law, and with it, of 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 all these beliefs to, and sometimes even a little beyond, their furthest logical conclusions, which, when acted upon, soon brought them into conflict with law and authority. The conviction that God existed in, and only in, material objects and men led them at once to a pantheistic mysticism and a crudely plebeian materialism, often incongruously combined in the same person. Their rejection of scripture literalism led sometimes to an entirely symbolic interpretation of the Bible and at others to a blunt and contemptuous rejection. Their belief that the moral law no longer had authority for the people of a new age enjoying the liberty of the sons of God led to a conviction that for them no act was sinful, a conviction that some hastened to put into practice.

The political views of the Ranters were the outcome of this theology. God existed in all things.

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. The Ranters, and they alone at this date, spoke for and to the most wretched and submerged elements of the population, slum dwellers of London and other cities, though to what extent their message reached these depths it is now hardly possible to say. In Coppe and Clarkson, in Foster and Coppin there is, in different degrees and forms, a deep concern for the poor, a denunciation of the rich and a primitive biblical communism that is more menacing and urban than that of Winstanley and the Diggers. Like the Diggers, and unlike Lilburne and his followers, they were ready to accept the name of Leveller in its most radical implications, but with the difference that for 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”.  It is hardly accidental that the Ranters began to come into prominence soon after the Leveller defeat at Burford and would seem to have attracted a number of embittered and disappointed former Levellers. Where Levelling by sword and by spade had both failed what seemed called for was a Levelling by miracle, in which God himself would confound the mighty by means of the poorest, lowest and most despised of the earth.

The ideas of the Ranters were not new. They may be traced across Europe and across the centuries from the time, to go back no further, of Joachim of Fiore in the twelfth century, with his doctrine of the three ages, in the last of which, shortly to be expected, the sons of God would enjoy perfect spiritual liberty. To trace the course of these ideas in any detail would take me far beyond my present scope – a few salient points only may be noted. A generation or so after Joachim, the Amurians in France added to his doctrine of the three ages a neo-platonic pantheism which declared that “all things are one because whatever is, is God”. Later, in Germany, the loosely connected groups which are known under the general name of the Brethren of the Free Spirit turned this idea into a way of living. While Joachim had expected the age of the spirit in the near future, the Brethren claimed that it was already here and exercised themselves the promised liberty of the sons of God. Sharing the perfection of God all that they did must of necessity be good: sin for them ceased to have a meaning. In the sixteenth century these beliefs received a new social dimension from Thomas Munzer, the leader of the great peasant insurrection of 1525, and among the Anabaptists of Munster. Through various channels they began to reach England, especially the artisans of London and East Anglia. As early as 1646 Thomas Edwards was denouncing those who declared,
That by Christs death, all the sins of all men in the world, Turks, Pagans, as well as Christians committed against the moral Law and the first covenant, are actually pardoned and forgiven, and this is the everlasting gospel; and thatthere is a salvation that shall be revealed in the last time which was not known to the Apostles themselves.

But it was among the Ranters above all that such beliefs and others related to them are found in the fullest and most uncompromising forms. What made them different in kind from their medieval predecessors was the fact that they were the heirs of a successful revolution which they still hoped to see carried to a victorious end. This is why Laurence Clarkson wrote on the title-page of A Single Eye that it was printed “in the Year that the Powers of Heaven and Earth Was, Is and Shall be, Shaken, yea Damned, till they be no more for Ever” and Abiezer Coppe that his Fiery Flying Roll was a “word from the Lord to, all the Great Ones of the Earth” printed “in the beginning of that notable day when the secrets of all hearts are laid open”. Many Ranters and their hearers had been in the forefront of the revolution and their sense of participation gave their message a force and universal applicability previously absent.

The central Ranter doctrine, from which all else logically flows, concerns the nature of God and man and their relationship. John Holland, whose book, The Smoke of the Bottomlesse Pit, though hostile, contains perhaps the clearest and most objective account of Ranter doctrine, writes:
They maintain that God is essentially in every creature, and that there is as much of God in one creature, as in another, though he doth not manifest himself so much in one as in another: I saw this expression in a Book of theirs, that the essence of God was as much in the Ivie leaf as in the most glorious Angel. . . . They say there is no other God but what is in them, and also in the whole Creation, and that men ought to pray and seek to no other God but what was in them.
The titles they give God are these: They call him The Being, the Fulnesse, the Great Motion, Reason, the Immensity.

But the groups and individuals labelled ranters were quickly and heavily repressed by Cromwell’s more orthodox, if puritan regime.

As an example: On Monday, 11 March 1650 Jacob Bothumley, a Leicester shoemaker who had risen to the rank of Quartermaster in the parliamentary army, was tried by a court martial at Whitehall upon several articles of blasphemy contained in his book The Light and Dark sides of God (printed for the pro-Leveller printer William Larner at the Black-more in Bishopsgate-street, 1650).

Bothumley was reported to have taken part in possibly heretical services in Leicester earlier in the deacde, along with his family: At one Bury’s house 2 ministers Mr. Higginson and Mr. Burdin stood by while Bottomley the shoemaker of Leicester prayed.” Bury may be the same person as Jeremiah Burroughs’ who was a noted puritan preacher, an opponent of the civl war presbyterian parliament; Bothumley’s family were said to have been ostracised for hosting Burroughs’ preaching in their house. He was also in trouble for causing a disturbance in All Saints Church. Like many civil war radicals, he served in the Army, which is where he wrote his book. Bothumley is generally lumped in the doctrines of the group called ‘ranters’ by their detractors of the time, and he was treated by the authorities as many other ‘ranters’ were – his books condemned and burned, and he physically punished.

The town authorities of Leicester were sufficiently alarmed by The Dark and Light Sides of God to send it to London for advice, since it seemed to them to be “of a very dangerous consequence and lets open a very wide dore to Atheisme and profanes”.

If there was a central Ranter doctrine, it concerned the nature of God and man and their relationship. As Bothumley wrote:
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.

Bothumley’s book hints at a spiritual struggle, a process which features in many ranter literature of the time; though he describes it in in much less detail than Salmon or Coppe:

I was continually suffering the torment of Hell, and tossed up and down, being condemned of my self … And this is that I found til God appeared spiritually, and shewed me that he was all glory and happiness himself and that flesh was nothing … God … brought me into the glorious liberty of the

Sons of God, whereas I was before in bondage to sin, law, an accusing Conscience which is Hell.

As a result of Leicester alerting the government, Bothumley was tried in London, and condemned to have his tongue bored through with a red hot iron and his sword broken over his head, to be cashiered from the army and to have his book burned before his face in the Palace Yard, Westminster and at the Exchange, London. Sentence was executed on Thursday, 14 March 1650. Copies of his book were also sent to Leicester and Hertford – where he had probably preached – to be burned. This attempt by military authorities to prevent Bothumley from spreading his opinions through the spoken and written word was partially successful, but he continued as an active Ranter in Leicester, to which he returned after his Army service, and Quaker George Fox met him at nearby Swannington in 1655:

“And the next day Jacob Bottomley came from Leicester, a great Ranter, but the Lord’s power stopped him and came over them all….
And we sent to the Ranters to come forth and try their God, and there came abundance who were rude, as aforesaid, and sung and whistled and danced, but the Lord’s power so confounded them that many of them came to be convinced.”

By about 1660, however, he appears to have become sufficiently respectable to be appointed library keeper and sergeant-at-mace in Leicester. He did dispute with Quakers at some point, but his only other publication apart from The Light and Dark Sides of God, his only other publication was A brief Historical Relation of the most Material Passages and Persecutions of the Church of Christ (printed for William Redmayne at the Crown upon Addle Hill, 1676). Dedicated to the Mayor and Aldermen of Leicester, this ‘little Treatise’ compiled from the first, second and third books of John Foxe’s Actes and Monuments was intended to show the sufferings of those in former ages ‘whom God hath called out and made eminent, in the witnessing of his truth’.

Read The Dark and Light Sides of God

More on the ideas and fate of the ranters can be read here

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An entry in the
2018 London Rebel History Calendar

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Yesterday in publishing history: scandalous and seditious pamphlets banned, 1643.

“Oh printing! How has thou disturb’d the Peace of Mankind!”
(Andrew Marvell)

The spread of printing, the beginnings of regular challenge to the social, religious, political status quo, is intimately bound up with the early life of the pamphlet.

The printed pamphlet appears almost from the earliest beginnings of printing, though there were handwritten pamphlets before that (certainly there are reports of heretical tracts circulated among the Lollards in the late 14th and early 15th centuries, which must have been handwritten); it is with the spread of the printing press that the political pamphlet was really born.

The very form of the pamphlet – short, cheap, to the point – lent itself to spread of ideas among wider sections of society. Partly this arises from their practicality, convenience: a pamphlet can be easily concealed, stuffed in a pocket or passed secretly- useful if your ideas are illegal, suspect, samizdat. More than this, there’s always been an immediacy, accessibility, a sense of openness and egalitarianism about them… as well as disposability. You have to contrast printed pamphlets and broadsheets, mass produced, cheap, with the laboriously beautiful (mainly religious) works, hand copied by monks, seen by the few, all written in Latin or other rarefied languages… The pamphlet by definition, was like a shock to the system… Crucially early pamphlets were often 8 pages, printed on quarto size paper – meaning they were cheap, and could be printed, folded, cut and shifted quickly…

This egalitarian influence was reflected in the way pamphlets (and broadsheets, ballads etc) were sold: by balladsellers, hawkers, so called mercury women, selling them in the streets.

They were also passed around, hand to hand, one copy might be shared, or read aloud even by one literate person to others who couldn’t read (much the same as newspapers were later). This culture, in the street and pub, slum and garret, was the ever-widening venue for a growing democratisation of ideas: the street hawkers of broadsheets and pamphlets were generally politically radical, associated with popular groups like the Levellers…

Pamphlets were also clandestinely distributed in times of repression: they could be scattered about the streets and nailed to doors, thrown around in crowds… Edward Sexby’s Killing No Murder (1657), justifying the right to assassinate Oliver Cromwell, was distributed in this way; smuggled in from Holland, bundles passed out to sympathisers in the radical Baptist and fifth monarchist underground and disillusioned republicans, then scattered in the streets, at night, including at Charing Cross and other important public meeting points… (This aroused fierce repression, leading to Sexby’s arrest and death in prison).

Particular areas of cities, particular streets, were associated with printing, bookselling, publishing…. eg in the early modern City of London, St Paul’s Churchyard, Cripplegate Ward; parts of Seven Dials in Covent Garden… some of these were also well known for radical ideas, religious dissent, debates, the coffee house culture of discussion…. Publishing didn’t really get going as a capitalist industry till the 18th century: small publishers and booksellers, were the main producers for centuries. Non-conformists in religion and politics were always strongly represented in this culture. The radicals who wrote some of the classic pamphlets and books that defined the English Civil War, or marked the period of the French Revolution in England – Lilburne, Winstanley, Paine, Godwin, Priestley, Mary Wollstonecraft, among others – moved, met, discussed, in this environment, for example.

Pamphlets were by some, mainly among the learned, looked down on, sneered at, considered of little value. Thomas Bodley (founder of Oxford university’s famous Bodleian Library) was against preserving pamphlets in libraries: they were “not worth the custody in suche a librarie.” There was a kind of snobbery, an association of the form with déclassé ideas, disreputable subjects. But also because in early decades of printing, the size of a book signified prestige: pamphlets almost by definition came from those without money to print bigger works.

They were dismissed as poor quality, shabby, ephemeral, and associated with slander, scurrilous attacks, unrespectable and vulgar opinions; with unreliable, unruly or heretical and subversive overtones.

Just a couple of typical sneers at pamphlets, which also reflect the shock to the system that this kind of publishing represented; Samuel Daniel called them:

”These Pamphlets, Libels and Rhymes
These strange confused tumults of the minde…”

While Gabriel Harvey referred to “such luxurious, and rioutous Pamphlets… O straunge fancies, o monstrous newfanglednesse…” (1592).

The very words used for these publications had disreputable associations: at one point in the 16th century the word pamphelet also meant prostitute, suggesting these publications were kind of dirty, immoral, promiscuous, available to all, but for sale, to any bidder…

… and another word for a short stitched publication was libel, from French libelle, originally simply meaning ‘small book’, but its use as political and religious weapon in french wars of religion, often through satire, lead gradually to the modern meaning of libel as we use it: something slanderous, dangerous and possibly seditious.

But though pamphlets were deliberately labeled as unrespectable, a kind of sleazy cousin of the more upstanding book, their appeal rapidly became so broad that the authorities and respected authors stooped to use the form, (sometimes with the air of a banker forced to clean a toilet) From Henry VIII on, Tudor and Stuart administrations used pamphlets, backed by the state or often more at arms length, by proxy, through sympathisers, to mobilise public opinion in face of rival royal claimants, religious schisms, foreign invasion threats and catholic sedition… as well as reply to popular heretical tracts.

All forms of printing were subject to controls and censorship from the earliest. In 1559 queen Elizabeth instructed the Court of High Commission (the supreme church court) that part of their duties included the licensing and monitoring of pamphlets, plays and ballets, to make sure that “nothing therein should be either heretical, seditious or unseemly for Christian ears”. Every legally published title required prior approval, a licence to publish, from an appointed censor (generally an episcopalian cleric), who inevitably exercised an ‘uneven hand’, since that approval was withheld from texts challenging political or ecclesiastical authority.

Printers and booksellers were forced to submit to licensing and thus censorship by the crown, church authorities or the Stationers Company for a century and a half or more.

Illicit printers were often had up for their activities; in the 1640s printers could be tried in Parliament itself… Offending, heretical, subversive pamphlets were often ordered to be burned publicly, as sometimes were their authors…

But the rules were widely flouted (especially for heretical or politically subversive causes, but also in the production of dubious texts and images produced for profit) and underground presses proliferated, printing not only religious works outside accepted church teaching, but also early porn, dodgy poetry, sensationalist news and fantastic tales, news of monstrous births, outlaws, final speeches of the hanged, etc. Groups like the Levellers ran underground printing presses, which were often raided at the height of their struggle with Cromwell in the late 1640s, but as one was closed down, another would open up…

The 16th century wars of religion were instrumental in galvanizing the rise of the pamphlet. In France in the 1580s-1590s, real civil war between catholics and protestants was mirrored in a war of words; in England, similarly, pamphlets appeared replying, arguing to others – the orthodox protestant church was attacked not only by catholics backed from abroad, but by more radical puritans pushing for more extreme forms.

Which is why the term ‘pamphlet war’ appeared in the 1590s. As did the word ‘pamphleteer’, someone who made a living or was well known for writing pamphlets… From 1580s pamphlets began to replace the broadsheet ballad as the leading way of spreading news in print.

And as they became more popular and read more widely, innovators began to develop new forms and styles, and methods of production. Pamphleteers began to play with the look of pamphlets, experimenting with typography, adopting satirical pseudonyms and publication addresses, (taking the piss out of the strict rules of the licensing system, which required a publishers name and address) or deliberately plain language, as opposed to the complex wordiness used in orthodox theological debate. Some of these developments were partly by necessity of the form – eg you have to express yourself shortly and sharply if you have restricted space, heretical writers (under sentence of death if caught) have to disguise their name and address… But necessity was turned to sharp advantage. The form of the pamphlet resulted from AND influenced its content.

The rapid increase of pamphlets appearing in different languages across Europe, was also very important. Latin, language of the church and universities, used in most books (even by the reforming Humanists) excluded the unlearned (ie almost everyone). Publishing in English in England, for example, involved a real opening up of ideas, knowledge, opinion to whole new classes, and pamphleteering played a leading part in that process.

Pamphlets came into their own in 17th century, most particularly during the English Revolution. Through the early half of the 17th century, a previously relatively narrow social/economic order was threatened by a welling up of radical religious, political and social ideas.

Among those sections of society concerned to keep to, or return things to, the traditional path, to more closed forms of social relations, many (of those expressing these views in print) laid part of the blame for the breakdown of traditional mores on the pamphlet, and more specifically on the loosening of controls on printing, from the royal patronage of the early Tudors to a more commercial and ideological free for all. The tone was pretty much summed up as, look, you let the plebs write too much, read too much, express themselves, and look what happened – civil war etc. Within the parliamentary side itself, the moderates and those in power trod a double path of trying to loosen king Charles/episcopate control and censorship over their views, while trying to keep a lid on the more radical opinions bursting out among their own ‘supporters’/allies… so you get leading Puritan Minister Richard Baxter denouncing the explosion of cheap print, books, pamphlets: “Every ignorant, empty braine… hath the liberty of the Presse… whereby the number of bookes is grown so great that they begin with many to grow contemptible” (1648); he later (1653) he identified “the… Licentiousness of the Press of late… a design of the Enemy to bury and overwhelm… Judicious, Pious, Excellent Writings.”

Marvell also weighed in: “Oh printing! How has thou disturb’d the Peace of Mankind! That Lead, when moulded into bullets, is not so mortal as when founded into Letters.”

Both Milton and Marvell likened the output of the press to the dragon’s teeth sown by Cadmus in the Greek myth, that ‘sprang up armed men’. Words were dangerous seeds… that can bring forth subversive actions.

Repression and censorship and the struggle to find ways around it was actually a constant process through the years of the English civil war. In the years immediately before the war actually broke out, acute political and religious battles produced a ferment of ‘libelles’, which the government and church leaders viciously cracked down on. For printed matter, regulations originating in the sixteenth century required every prospective publication to be licensed by a censor and then recorded in the register in the Stationer’s Office. After 1637, the rules got tighter: printed materials had to include the name of the person who authorized the publication. The Star Chamber, a “royal prerogative court”, administered these rules – it could punish offenders with fines, imprisonment, or various kinds of corporal mutilation. In the seventeenth century the Star Chamber ordered ever more vicious punishments, climaxing in the mutilation of Puritans Henry Burton, John Bastwick and William Prynne in 1637 for publishing puritan rhetoric. Their merciless punishment scandalised many.

The challenge to the king, his circle and the high church establishment, which began in Scotland in 1637 and culminated in the outbreak of civil war, led to the crumbling of government enforcement of censorship in early 1641, as Parliament dissolved Charles I’s prerogative courts, including the Star Chamber, removing the mechanisms by which censorship and licensing laws had been enforced.

This unleashed a flood of publishing, an unrivalled broadening of written democracy, “the most effusive public participation in national politics to date. In the Freedom of the Press in England, 1476-1776, Frederick Siebert shares some helpful statistics on the quantity of printed output: “An analysis preserved in the Thomason collection in the British Museum shows that although only twenty-two pamphlets were published in 1640, more than 1,000 were issued in each of the succeeding four years. The record number of 1,966 appeared in 1642”

However, the vast majority of MPs, having whipped popular participation in the movement against the king, particularly using the press, once they gained control, decreed that the press must be controlled in the interests of the state and of religion. The Parliament which had challenged the king over its own authority and asserted the economic, political and social power of the rising classes it was coming to represent, was in no way prepared to see unfettered freedom of expression for the lower orders and every radical tom, puritan dick or freethinking harry. They could be enlisted to fight the king, but should not expect to determine their own destiny, or even to be able to express their own views in print.

“As it turned out, neither the Independents nor the Presbyterians, the Royalists nor the Roundheads, Parliament nor the Army, the Council of State nor Cromwell, had any real solution for the problem of printed news. Each cried out for a measure of freedom while rising to power; each sought to buttress acquired authority through some measure of control. To what extent and in what directions this control should be exercised was the immediate question presented to each.

When free speech was favourable to Parliament’s agenda to overthrow the Crown, the Roundheads encouraged it. When it threatened their own stability, they snuffed it out with oppressive censorship laws. Power had shifted away from the monarch but, according to the demands of print culture — linear, rational, hierarchical by the vary nature of the dominant medium — a tyrannical central government under the Parliamentary forces, and ultimately King Charles II remained inexorable.”

Censorship was in fact re-established by Parliament in 1643, after the fighting war had started against king Charles. Successive orders issued from Parliament to try and control printing and publishing; the one empowering the Committee for examinations to appoint people to search, seize and imprison those engaged in producing ‘Scandalous and lying’ pamphlets, on 9 March 1643, was merely one in a long series. The fact that they had to keep making such orders illustrates the truth: their censors were failing to keep a lid on the radical ferment bubbling up from below.

Tens of thousands of pamphlets, maybe as many as a hundred thousand different titles, were issued during the civil war/commonwealth period, reflecting both sides of the civil war, royalist and parliamentarian, but also the fracturing political positions on the parliamentarian side, and the radical religious and social views that flowered in the 1640s and 50s. There was an extraordinary increase in productivity in the 1640s: an annual output of 625 titles in 1639 jumped to 850 in 1640, to over 2000 in 1641 and over 3,666 in 1642. Some evidence of this bountiful crop is borne out by George Thomason’s collection of pamphlets gathered from 1640/1 to 1660: he recognised that the war of ideas being waged through pamphlets was of historical significance, amassing 20,000 different titles himself, (so actual production must have been huge… ).

It is, though, worth remembering, that literacy was still very narrow in modern terms… 30 percent of adult males in 1640s England were considered literate, this rose to 60% by the mid-18th century; though this is unreliable, as it may have only meant they could sign their names, not that they could necessarily read at all, let alone at length.

The groundbreaking political ideas thrown up in the civil war – Levellers, Diggers, Ranters, fifth monarchism, and all the varied dissenting religious views – found expression through pamphlets, tracts, circulated very widely, often finding echoes among large sections of the population; partly because of the upheaval caused by economic and social crises… Civil war pamphleteering also began to open up the voices of women, not for the first time, (there had already been a small but vital culture of women producing pamphlets in the 16th and 17th centuries), but on an unprecedented scale. Mass petitioning of Parliament through the early years of the civil war, organised by women, was an important development: the women’s petitions were printed up and circulated as pamphlets. Pamphlets as a form allowed women to express themselves in a public sphere in a way that they were otherwise denied, being excluded from universities, the church, the writing of books etc: it formed a vital part of part of an expansion of opportunities for women, of the laying of a direct claim to political expression, to the idea that they had an interest and a voice in the political sphere.

In many ways, some of these pamphlets were collective representations as well as individual works… Some of them had mass circulation, and were being used at the forefront of the exchange of ideas; as one way of developing social policy, though debate, counterblast, agitation…

The civil war years saw a constant battle between censor and subversive printer, with underground presses running the gauntlet of informers, puritan busybodies, to produce the radical ideas that emerged in the pamphlets now grouped under the banner of the Levellers, the Diggers, the Ranters…

Even as the struggle against the king passed into the hands of Cromwell and the puritan bourgeoisie, they were alternately allying with the radical elements, particularly in the army, when they needed their support, and suppressing their presses…

In September, 1649, Parliament under Cromwell reinstituted censorship laws with the Printing Act, thereby suffocating the free expression of the pamphleteers. The new act presented the most detailed list of regulations for the press of the entire seventeenth century: all printing was limited to London, all books and pamphlets had to be licensed( in other words, neutered), and all “scandalous” and “seditious” material was prohibited, and all printed material sent by carrier or post was scrutinised.

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An entry in the
2018 London Rebel History Calendar

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Today in vegan history: Roger Crab, pioneering civil war veggie & prophet dies, Stepney, 1680.

“Among the many crazy sectaries produced from the yeasty froth of the fermenting caldron of the great civil war, there was not one more oddly crazy than Roger Crab… His wandering mind, probably not improved by the skull-cleaving operation, then imbibed the idea, that it was sinful to eat any kind of animal food, or to drink anything stronger than water.”
(The Book of Days,
ed. Robert Chambers)

Roger Crab (1621 – September 11, 1680) was an English soldier, haberdasher, herbal doctor and writer, best known for his ascetic lifestyle which included Christian vegetarianism. Crab fought in the Parliamentary Army in the English Civil War before becoming a haberdasher. But later became a hermit and worked as a herbal doctor. He then joined the Philadelphian Sect and began promoting asceticism through his writings.

Crab was born in Buckinghamshire in 1621. At the time of his birth his mother had an annual income of £20. As a young man, he began trying to find a way to live a perfect life. In 1641 he ceased eating meat, dairy and eggs. He also chose to be celibate.

At the outbreak of the English Civil War in 1642, Crab joined the Parliamentary Army under Oliver Cromwell. During a battle in 1645 he received a serious head wound from a sword. He was convinced that his life had been spared only by an act of God and he subsequently underwent a religious conversion, turning to vegetarianism as a form of spiritual purification.

At some point, he was apparently sentenced to death by Cromwell, but was later sentenced to two years in prison by Parliament. Christopher Hill has suggested that Crab may have been involved with the Levellers in the late 1640s and that his imprisonment resulted from this.

After leaving the army Crab moved to Chesham, where he started work as a haberdasher, which he continued between 1649 and 1652. In 1652 he moved to Ickenham, west of London, where he lived as a hermit:

“Determined to follow, literally, the injunctions given to the young man in the gospel, he sold off his stock in trade, distributing the proceeds among the poor, and took up his residence in a hut, situated on a rood of ground near Ickenham, where for some time he lived on the small sum of three-farthings a week”

Around this time he published his autobiography: “The English hermite, or, Wonder of this age”: subtitled “Being a relation of the life of Roger Crab, living neer Uxbridge, taken from his own mouth, shewing his strange reserved and unparallel’d kind of life, who counteth it a sin against his body and soule to eate any sort of flesh, fish, or living creature, or to drinke any wine, ale, or beere. He can live with three farthings a week. His constant food is roots and hearbs, as cabbage, turneps, carrets, dock-leaves, and grasse; also bread and bran, without butter or cheese: his cloathing is sack-cloath. He left the Army, and kept a shop at Chesham, and hath now left off that, and sold a considerable estate to give to the poore, shewing his reasons from the Scripture, Mark. 10. 21. Jer. 35.” (London: Printed, and are to be sold in Popes-head Alley, and at the Exchange 1655)

Holding that profit was sinful, Crab gave away most of his possessions, and attempted to live modestly, wearing homemade sackcloth clothes. Building up a practice as a herbal doctor, he advised his patients to avoid meat and alcohol. He was said to be a popular doctor among the village women. However, he was accused of witchcraft by a clergyman, possibly because he issued prophecies. He moved to Bethnal Green in 1657, and joined the Philadelphians, a local sect founded by John Pordage.

In common with many of the religious radicals of the era, Crab was an anti-sabbatarian, refusing to observe Sunday as a non-working day. Apparently he was at some point put in the stocks for it. He was also a pacifist (presumably after his stint in the army), and had radical views on the evils of property, the Church and universities.

Crab ate a vegan diet from 1641 until his death in 1680, holding that it was sinful to eat any kind of animal for food. Though unusual in the context of the political and religious upsurge of the mid-17th century, this form of personal stand did crop up among the many radical sects and individuals of the English Revolution. Forgoing the roast mutton, rabbit and other ‘dainty’ dishes of his former life, he lived on an ascetic menu of vegetables. Crab initially included potatoes and carrots in his diet, but later gave them up, eating mostly bran and turnips, before reducing his intake to only rumex (a kind of sorrel leaf) and grass, claiming to spend just 3/4 d. (three farthings a week) a week on food. Late in his life he pushed the boat out and added parsnips to his diet. Sellout. He also refused to drink anything stronger than water. Crab’s asceticism and vegan diet developed from a vow of poverty inspired by the figure of John the Baptist (whom Crab regarded as the first Leveller).

After his death he was buried at St Dunstan’s Church, Stepney, London. His grave is no longer seen, but the slab was imbedded in the walkway. Wikipedia has a transcription of his epitaph:

“Tread gently, reader, near the dust
Committed to this tomb-stone’s trust:
For while ’twas flesh, it held a guest
With universal love possest:
A soul that stemmed opinion’s tide,
Did over sects in triumph ride;
Yet separate from the giddy crowd,
And paths tradition had allowed.
Through good and ill reports he past,
Oft censured, yet approved at last.
Wouldst thou his religion know?
In brief ’twas this: to all to do
Just as he would be done unto.
So in kind Nature’s law he stood,
A temple, undefiled with blood,
A friend to everything that ‘s good.
The rest angels alone can fitly tell;
Haste then to them and him; and so farewell!”

Much of what of known of the life of Roger Crab is derived from the four pamphlets he printed in his lifetime, most notably The English Hermite (1655) and Dragons-Downfall (1657).

Read Crab’s The English Hermite

Some interesting observations on English Civil War era vegetarianism:

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

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Today in London radical history: Richard & Mary Overton’s house raided, both taken to prison, 1646

“You are so busied with the great affaires of the kingdome (as you call it) that you can find no time these sixe years to proclaime liberty to the captive, freedome to the oppressed, to right the cause of the poore, to heare the cry of the fatherlesse and widdow…”
The humble appeal and petition of Mary Overton, p. 9

Mary and Richard Overton, civil rights activists, published dozens of tracts promoting popular sovereignty; religious tolerance even for Jews and Catholics; separation of church and state; public education; freedom of speech; the abolition of imprisonment for debt; the right of commoners to petition Parliament; and a constitutional bill of rights. As a result, they spent much of their married life in trouble with the law.

Mary, eldest child of John and Maria (née Harpam) Tickell, was christened 3 September 1615, in Withern, Lincolnshire. On 23 April 1635, in Withern, she married Richard Overton, also of Lincolnshire. [Born about 1614, Richard Overton matriculated as a sizar from Queens’ College, Cambridge, at Easter 1631; he may also be identified with the Richard Overton(s) named as executor to (brother) Henry Overton, stationer of London (18 November 1646); and another (uncle) Henry Overton of London (1 Jan. 1650/1). ] The couple settled in London, where they became involved with religious nonconformists and political free-thinkers. By 1640, the Overtons had begun operating an unlicensed printshop. Richard was at first the sole author on the Overton booklist, writing without attribution. In November 1640 the Overtons published Richard’s Vox borealis, or the Northern Discoverie, a satire on the First Bishops’ War: a dialogue between “Jamie” and “Willie” figures Charles I as a trucebreaker, the Anglican prelates as war-mongering scoundrels, and the English army as a troop of buffoons who were chased from Berwick by Scottish housewives. Soon after came Questions to be Disputed in Counsell of the Lords Spirituall, which again lampooned the Anglican bishops. Both tracts bore the imprint of “Margerie Mar-Prelate” (from her press in “Thwackcoat-lane, at the Signe of the Crab-tree Cudgell”); but they were in fact printed by Richard and Mary Overton at their secret press in Bell Alley, near Finsbury Field (an establishment referenced in modern scholarship, until recently, as the “Cloppenburg” press, a misnomer). [NB: Bell Alley may well have been the same Bell Alley off Coleman Street, an area that housed numerous radical and dissident elements]. Overton’s first signed pamphlets were his Articles of High Treason Exhibited Against Cheap-Side Crosse (January 1642/3) and New [i.e., revised] Lambeth Fayre (March 1642/3); after which, he and Mary were never free, for long, from government surveillance and persecution, first from the Royalists, then from Cromwell’s government.

In 1641, the Company of Stationers, under direction of the House of Lords, seized the Overtons’ printing press, moveable type, paper, and printed books. For the next two years, Richard Overton’s pamphlets – chiefly anti-Catholic and anti-Laudian satires – were printed by others. But by 1643 the Overtons were back in business with their own underground press, having now a broader, more secular and developing agenda. They formed a loose confederation with John and Elizabeth Lilburne, and William Walwyn; and with the booksellers, Peter Cole and William Larner. Their common agenda: oppose the tyrant, King Charles, and the doctrine of prerogative rule; promote parliamentary governance; and proclaim the “natural” rights of the individual.

From the work of these few visionaries grew the Levellers movement, a coalition of soldiers and civilians whose organised efforts during the Civil War arose from their passionate commitment to individual liberty; for whose cause Richard Overton was the principal theoretician. From 1644-1649 the Levellers inundated London with political tracts; and the House of Commons, with petitions. The House of Lords, offended by this activity, waged a relentless but futile campaign to find the authors and printers of Leveller literature, to incarcerate them, and to confiscate and burn their unlicensed books. The Levellers received scant support from the House of Commons, and endured much persecution from Cromwell, whom the Levellers came to perceive as a new tyrant to replace the old one. Undaunted by repression, Richard Overton wrote, “this persecuted means of unlicensed printing hath done more good to the people than all the bloody wars; the one tending to rid us quite of all slavery; but the other, only to rid us of one, and involves us into another.”

As surveillance and repression escalated, the independent book trade thrived as never before. During the English Civil War, hundreds of unlicensed publications appeared that were critical of church and state. More than one hundred of those titles were from the pen of Richard Overton; and those, chiefly, printed at the Overtons’ clandestine printshop.

In July 1646, Overton published An Alarum to the House of Lords. MPs in the House of Lords, taking note of that alarum, smelled the rat for whom they had been searching. Their investigation ended on August 11th, with a dawn raid on the home of Richard and Mary Overton. A detachment of musketeers stormed their Southwark home, pulled Richard from bed, ransacked the house, and took many personal belongings, including books and papers. Richard was hauled before the self-serving prerogative bar of the House of Lords. Refusing to answer questions before a tribunal that he considered wholly illegal, Overton was sent to Newgate prison, on a charge of contempt.

Richard did some of his best writing and thinking while in prison. Mary soldiered on at the printing press. Despite Richard’s confinement, the Overtons contrived to publish A Defiance against All Arbitrary Usurpations (a narrative of Richard’s arrest, printed in September); and An Arrow against All Tyrants and Tyranny, Shot from the Prison of Newgate into the Prerogative Bowels of the Arbitrary House of Lords (October).

On 5 January 1646/7, the House of Lords directed the Company of Stationers, by prerogative order, to search out all copies of a seditious pamphlet called Regall Tyrannie Discovered, a book “full of treason and scandall,” published anonymously. All copies were to be burned; the author and printer, to be identified and arrested. The next day, officers of the Stationers Company raided Mary Overton’s house. When the thugs broke down the door, they found Thomas “Johnson” (as he first called himself – actually, Thomas Overton, brother of Robert) stitching printed copies of Regall Tyrannie Discovered. Mary Overton was found to be in possession of these and many other offending tracts by the same anonymous author (her incarcerated husband).

Thomas Overton, and Mary (with her nursing infant), were taken to the new prison in Maiden Lane, where they remained until brought before the Lords’ prerogative bar. From the Journal of the House of Lords for 6 January 1646/7:
“Overton’s wife examined, about the pamphlet called Regal Tyranny: This day Mary Overton, the wife of Overton, was brought to the Bar; who being demanded by the Speaker, Who brought the scandalous pamphlet called Regall Tyranny Discovered, &c., to her shop, and of whom she had them? And she said, She would not answer to Interrogatories; and she would not tell him. … Ordered: That the said Mary Overton shall stand committed to the prison of Bridewell, for her contempt to this House; there to remain during the pleasure of this House.”

The Bridewell (once, a palace of Henry VIII, then a poorhouse) was by now become one of London’s most notorious prisons for female offenders. Mary refused to comply with the warrant commanding her transfer from Maiden Lane: Her husband writes: “Like a true-bred Englishwoman brought up at the feet of Gamaliel, she told the marshal that she would not obey it, neither would she stir after it so much as to set one leg before another, in attendance thereto.”

Mary’s refusal to be escorted on foot to the Bridewell was ill received. Richard Overton reports: “No sooner had this turkey-cock marshal heard of her uprightness to the Commons of England, but up he bristled his feathers, and looked as big and as bug as a Lord … out he belched his fury and told her that if she would not go, then she should be ‘carried in a porter’s basket, or else dragged at a cart’s arse.’”

The Marshall sent for two porters to transport Mary Overton. When they came and found no criminal but only a “poor, little, harmless, innocent woman,” with a “tender babe on her breast,” they refused to take her. A city cartman was summoned. He, too, on “hearing what this woman was, wisely refused to lay hands on her, and departed in peace.”

Taking the labor upon himself, the City Marshall “struts towards her like a crow in a gutter, and with his valiant looks (like a man of mettle) assails her and her babe, and by violence attempt[ed] to pluck her babe out of her arms; but she forcibly defended it and kept it in, despite of his manhood.” The marshal and his cohort then “laid violent hands upon her, and dragged her down the stairs, and in that infamous, barbarous manner drew her headlong upon the stones in all the dirt and mire of the streets.” Suspended under the arms by two cudgels, and clinging still to her crying infant, Mary Overton was dragged the three miles across London to the Bridewell, being reviled along the way with the epithets whore and strumpet.

(Overton warns his readers, “this is the honour that their lordships are pleased to confer on the free commoners’ wives who stand for their freedoms and liberties.”)

At Bridewell, the infant was taken from Mary and delivered to Richard’s impecunious sister and her husband; who stayed that night in Richard and Mary’s house, with the three children. In the morning, deputies from the House of Lords were sent to arrest the sister and brother-in-law. By a stroke of luck, and with the aid of neighbours, the in-laws and the children escaped; but the residence was shut up, leaving the parents in prison without income, and their children homeless.

In February Richard Overton and John Lilburne collaborated on The Out-Cryes of the Oppressed Commons, arguing that arbitrary government had dissolved the social contract; the people were therefore entitled to draft a new Constitution.

Richard’s brother, meanwhile, languished in the Maiden Lane jail; and Mary remained in the Bridewell, her three days for contempt stretching to three months.

Concerned for his family, Overton on the first of February addressed his Commoners Complaint to Henry Martin, MP in the House of Commons, without results. In March was drafted The Humble Appeale and Petition of Mary Overton, a collaborative effort. This was the first of two petitions directly begging Parliament either to charge Mary Overton with a crime and bring her to trial; or to release her from custody. The “Petition of Mary Overton” was smuggled out of prison; printed by one of the secret Leveller presses; and submitted to the House of Commons in March 1647 (The second, shorter, petition was handwritten by Mary, in April, after the death of her infant).

[Nicked From Women’s Works, vol. 4. Mary Overton’s texts follow on pp. 321-332] Wicked Good Gooks.]

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An entry in the
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Today in London’s publishing history: Levellers take over the Moderate newspaper, 1648.

The groundbreaking political ideas thrown up in the english civil war – including the Levellers, Diggers, Ranters, fifth monarchism, and all the varied dissenting religious views – found expression most notably in print. Hundreds upon thousands of pamphlets were printed, tracts, often circulated very widely, and finding echoes among large sections of the population; partly because of the upheaval caused by economic and social crises…

In many ways, some of these pamphlets were collective representations as well as individual works… Some of them had mass circulation, and were being used at the forefront of the exchange of ideas; as one way of developing social policy, though debate, counterblast, agitation…

In the later years of the civil war, there was an explosion not only in pamphlet production, but also this kind of papers of ‘newsbooks’, of which large numbers appeared, some lasting one edition only, some being published for a few weeks or months, some for a year or more. Newsbooks had begun to appear from late 1641, as the county slipped into civil war, and the demand for regular news became important. In this period the state censorship partially lapsed, (as its powerful proponent, Archbishop Laud, fell from power) allowing an increase in free expression, though the war years would see several measures to tighten it again. Newsbooks were intimately bound up with the politics of the civil war and the political, religious and economic conflict that the wars were both born from and helped themselves to create and expand. Royalists, radicals, pro-and anti-parliamentary activists were involved in producing these newsbooks, some representing collective movements and voicing ideas being discussed by wide social movements; others the viewpoint of one, often eccentric writer.

While there was a powerful appetite in some quarters for the ideas expressed, there were also powerful forces mounted to repress this fermenting print culture. Censorship of radical social or religious opinions was exercised through licensing, controlled by the Stationers’ Office, and backed by Parliament. Royalist opinion also came to be banned and closed down as Parliament gradually emerged victorious from the civil wars. Underground presses operated in secret, moving to avoid detection, and being replaced when they were seized. Among the authorities and their supporters many were suggesting that access to print media should be severely restricted, to prevent the spread of dangerous ideas: ideas could only open up the potential for dangerous acts. Allowing ideas into print and allowing people to discuss them was in itself a threat to the established social order. This view had pre-dated the civil war – in fact the eruption of the war and the social movements that had come out of it was held as evidence that you couldn’t let just anyone think, speak, read or act – where would it end?

As well as being consummate pamphleteers, civil war radicals the Levellers also found voice, for a while, through the pages of their own newspaper, the Moderate, which appeared for a few months of 1648-49.

The Moderate launched in June 1648, with a format of twelve pages, much of it content being foreign news. After three issues, in July 1648, it shrank to eight pages, beginning a new series; in the sixth issue of which a regular feature was introduced, an editorial, which coincided with the paper’s becoming the mouthpiece of Leveller arguments, advocating a wider franchise and religious toleration. These arguments gained the Moderate widespread enmity; the Earl of Leicester asserted that the paper “endeavours to invite the people to overthrow all propriety, as the original cause of sin; and by that to destroy all government, magistracy, honesty, civility and humanity.” It consisted of a sheet of eight pages, small quarto size, the chief contents being the news of the day. It lasted for over a year, from July 1648 to the end of September 1649. No complete series of its numbers is extant; they are found, singly and scattered, among the collections of pamphlets of the so-called King’s or Thomason Library in the British Museum.

There is some uncertainty over who edited and wrote for the Moderate. Gilbert Mabbott, official licenser of the press from 1647 to 1649, was certainly associate with the paper’s creation. As licenser, Mabbot theoretically had the power to withhold a license to publish from any newsbooks he thought were subversive; however, he was progressively less successful. His name frequently appears on newsbooks of the period but was often used without his permission. He had attempted to suppress a newsbook called the Moderate Intelligencer in June 1648 after it expressed royalist views, and helped start the Moderate with a view to supplanting it. Mabbott was however, possibly an ally or sympathiser with the Levellers, and either gave over control of the paper of allowed the radicals a free hand in writing articles.

The Moderate was thought to have been edited later by Richard Overton, one of the most articulate theorists and pamphleteers of what was loosely identifiable as the Leveller party.

Despite widespread censorship of the press in 1648-9, including banning of Leveller publications and coinciding with the arrests of Leveller leaders and other radicals, the Moderate managed to keep is licence to publish. It remained openly critical of the government, arousing some ire in Parliament. In July 1649, Sir Henry Mildmay spoke up in the House of Commons, asking whether or not Gilbert Mabbott’s licence should be removed, specifically naming the Moderate as a dangerous publication. Although the Moderate continued to appear, the Council of State began drawing up further restrictions on licensing of publishers; meanwhile Mabbott himself resigned his position as licenser, seemingly because he was both narked at the notoriety he was attracting, as many publishers simply stamped his name in their issues without obtaining licences, but also in protest at the whole licensing system, which he denounced as a plot to enslave free people by keeping them in ignorance, as well as being a monopoly, and a measure which prevented expression by punishing licensees in advance, pre-emptively, rather than after something actionable was said.

German Marxist historian gives an account of the Moderate: “For a comparatively short time, viz., from the middle of the year 1648 to the autumn of the year 1649, information about the movement is forthcoming from a journal, which was described as the organ of the Levellers, and which within certain limits may be so regarded, as it reproduces most of the proclamations and pamphlets of the Levellers published during that time, and so far as it exhibits any tendency at all, represents that of the Levellers. Strange to say, this paper, though the organ of the most extreme political party of the period, bears the singular title of the Moderate. But this name was neither meant in an ironical sense nor was it chosen in a hypocritical spirit. It indicates the calm and impartial style in which the paper was written. Far from smacking of sans-culottism, as the elder Disraeli asserts in his Curiosities of Literature [9], we have nowhere met with a single phrase that could be remotely compared to the vulgar and obscene passages commonly found in the contemporary Royalist press, the Man in the MoonMercurius Elencticus, etc.

The Moderate was one of the first papers to publish explanatory leading articles, or at least the embryo of such. Several of its numbers open with disquisitions on political and even economical problems, and I venture to reproduce these articles so that the reader may judge whether we are justified in describing the Moderate as the pioneer of the Labour Press of our days. The issue of September 4 to 11, 1649 (No.61), commences as follows:

Wars are not only ever clothed with the most specious of all pretences, viz., Reformation of Religion, The Laws of the Land, Liberty of the Subject, etc., though the effects thereof have proved most destructive to them, and ruinous to every Nation; making the Sword (and not the people) the original of all Authorities, for many hundred years together; taking away each man’s Birth-right, and settling upon a few, a cursed propriety (the ground of all Civil Offences between party and party) and the greatest cause of most Sins against the Heavenly Deity. Thus Tyranny and Oppression running through the Veins of many of our Predecessors, and being too long maintained by the Sword, upon a Royal Foundation, at last became so customary, as to the vulgar it seemed so natural (the onely reason why the people at this time are so ignorant of their equal Birth-right, their onely Freedom). At last Divine Providence crowned the slavish people’s attempt with good success against this potent Enemy, which made them Free (as they fancied) from their former Oppressions, Burdens and Slaveries; and happy in what they could imagine, the greatest good, both for their Soul and Body. But Pride, Covetousness, and Self-Interest (taking the advantage of so unvaluable a benefit). And many being tempted to Swim in this Golden Ocean, the Burthens and Oppressions of the people, are thereby not onely continued, but increased, and no end thereof to be imagined. At this the people (who cannot now be deluded, will be eased, and not onely stiled, but really be the original of all Lawful Authority) begin to rage, and cry out for a lawful Representative, and such other wholesome Laws as will make them truly happy. These not granted, and some old Sparks being blown up with the Gales of new Dissentions, the fire breaks out, the wind rises, and if the fewel be dry and some speedy remedy be not taken for prevention, the damage thereby may be great to some, but the benefit conceived greater to all others.

This line of argument sounds very modern. The world moves but slowly, and it gives a feeling of humility to realize how old political wisdom is.

Mr. Isaac Disraeli is annoyed because the Moderate, in its issue of July 31st to August 7, 1649, when some robbers were executed for cattle-stealing, blames the institution of property for the death of these people, arguing that if no private property existed, there would have been no need for them to steal for their living. The article states: “We find some of these Fellons to be very civil men, and say, That if they could have had any reasonable subsistence by friends, or otherwise, they should never have taken such necessitous courses, for support of their Wives and Families. From whence many honest people do endevor to argue, that there is nothing but propriety that is the loss of all men’s lives in this condition, they being necessitated to offend the Law for a livelihood, and being; and not onely so, but they argue it with much confidence, that propriety is the original cause of any sin between party and party, as to civil transactions. And that since the Tyrant is taken off, and that Government altered in nomine, so ought it really to redound to the good of the people in specie; which though they cannot expect it in few yeers, by reason of the multiplicity of the Gentry in Authority, command, etc., who drive on all designes for support of the old Government, and consequently their own interest and the people’s slavery; yet they doubt not, but in time, the people will herein discern their own blindness, and folly.”

From the reports of the Moderate, as well as from other contemporary newspapers, it appears that the Leveller movement was not confined to London and its immediate neighbourhood and the Army, but also had followers in the country. Very interesting in this respect is a correspondence from Derby, in the issue for the last week of August 1649, particularly because we find mentioned in it a class of workers who are nowhere else mentioned in connection with this movement, viz., the miners, who had appealed to Parliament for redress in connection with a dispute with the Earl of Rutland, and the correspondence states that they were determined, if Parliament did not do them justice, to have recourse to “Natural Law”. Their number, including friends and sympathizers, was said to be twelve thousand, and they threatened, in default of a hearing, to form a resolute army. “The party of the Levellers in Town”, the article continues “promises them assistance in the prosecution of their just demands.” But a few days later, a letter from the “Freeholders and Mineowners, etc.”, of the Derbyshire mining district, published in a Cromwellian paper, states that the miners numbered at most four thousand, and that the Levellers did not have a dozen followers in Derby.

Moreover, the miners were accused of having repeatedly sided with the King, while the far more numerous freehold-farmers and mine-owners supported Parliament. This provoked a reply, in No.61 of the Moderate, which asserted that the above-mentioned letter was a fabrication of the Earl of Rutland and his agents; that the farmers and small owners had nothing to do with it. As to siding with the King, it had been stated in the original petition of the miners that the Earl of Rutland, then Mr. Manners, had repeatedly driven miners from their work, with the aid of Cavaliers, and when they complained, had sought to throw suspicion on them by false charges.

No.63 is the last issue of the Moderate. On September 20, 1649, Parliament enacted a press law, which re-established the system of licences, and prescribed severe penalties for the publication of abusive and libellous paragraphs. This undermined the position of the paper. On the other hand, negotiations had just been resumed between the Levellers and representatives of the Army and Parliament, with a view to reaching a compromise, so that it is by no means unlikely that the Moderate ceased to appear because the need for a special organ of the Levellers no longer existed. As a matter of fact, the Moderate reported on September 1st (and its report is confirmed by the Perfect Weekly Account, a paper which was more sympathetic with the Parliamentary party) that four representatives each, of Parliament, the Army, and “those called Levellers”, had held prearranged conferences in order to arrive at a mutual understanding, and if possible a settlement of all differences. “Time will soon show what will be the outcome of all this.” No compromise was effected, but it seems that, after Lilburne’s acquittal in October, a kind of truce followed, as during the subsequent years the Levellers adopted an expectant attitude.”

(Eduard Bernstein, Cromwell and Communism)

As Bernstein mentions, the Moderate and other publications were effectively closed down by parliamentary legislation in September 1649. There is no doubt that the regular publication of the Moderate, as with the flood of Leveller pamphlets over the previous 2-3 years, has been a powerful irritant to Parliament and the army leadership, linked as they had been to army agitation and mutiny, social movements and petitioning in London, as well as voicing protest over enclosures, religious intolerance, poverty, war privations, austerity, the continuing exclusion of the vast majority from political power… Through 1649, Leveller leaders had spent many months in prison, while mutinies against the army leadership, against being forced to continue fighting and being sent to continue the war/genocide then raging in Ireland, had shattered the on-off alliance that had sometimes operated between activists and agitators associated with the Levellers, and the emerging leadership of the New Model Army and its puritan allies in Parliament. The Moderate may have been allowed to continue while this shaky détente existed, but was eventually repressed when it became clear the interests of the ‘Grandees’ and the grassroots had diverged.

The passing of the parliamentary Act in September 1649 outlawed all newsbooks, binding over printers, booksellers, publishers and binders with large sureties to prevent them publishing such items. It also authorised the Stationers Company Master and Wardens to search shops for newsbooks as well as subversive pamphlets, giving them powers to break into premises, locks and chests, and search people. The Act was intended to last for two years. There’s little doubt that the two main targets were John Lilburne (and other Levellers), and the royalist press, which had been spreading virulent anti-government propaganda and wild rumours to inflame people against the new republican regime. The ideas was also to replace the bubbling undercurrents, irregular opinions and political ferment, with consistent propaganda to reconcile public opinion to the Commonwealth, and gradually exclude both radical ideas and pro-monarchist sentiment. After the newsbooks were repressed, two official organs appeared, covering news and parliamentary affairs, in an attempt to restrict the spread of wild rumour, but also with an aim of shaping public opinion in the direction the Commonwealth approved – towards a middle course, away from royalist revivals but also keeping a lid on agitations by the lower orders for wider freedoms and a greater say in public policy.

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Today in London radical history: Leveller printer William Larner arrested & jailed, 1646.

As we have previously discussed, during the English Civil War, the Stationers’ Office, was responsible for censorship and licensing of publications, and spent a good deal of energy chasing down illegal printers issuing pamphlets and newspapers spreading all manner of radical political and religious ideas.

As part of the Stationer’s campaign to shut down these domestic extremists, William Larner was arrested on March 22nd, 1646, by agents of the Stationer, and charged with publishing unlicensed pamphlets.

Larner, from Gloucerstershire, was a bookseller and printer, a member of the Merchant Taylor’s Company, who had been associated with puritan and later Leveller activist John Lilburne since the early 1640s at least, having published a second edition of Lilburne’s A Christian Man’s Triall in December 1641.

He had apparently operated from a succession of bookshops: at the sign of the Golden Anchor, near Paul’s Chain, in 1641 (a street that ran south of St Paul’s Churchyard, now part of Queen Victoria Street); at ‘The Bible’ in East Cheap, 1642 before moving to the Blackmoor in Bishopsgate Street, in the northern suburbs of the City of London..

Larner later served in the parliamentarian army against the king, was invalided out, to resume his trade ‘at the sign of the Blackamoor’. As well as printing unlicensed pamphlets there, he was known to have co-operated with other future Leveller writers Richard Overton, and his brother Robert, and to have been involved with the underground presses producing proto-Leveller tracts at Goodmans Fields, on the so-called the Martin Mar Priest Press, 1645-46, and in the radical heartland of Coleman Street. In 1645, the puritan William Prynne, Lilburne’s former mentor turned bitter enemy, denounced Larner as one of the distributors of Lilburne’s pamphlets (in Larner’s case in Kent). Larner association with Lilburne, the Levellers and army Agitators was to continue until 1649 at least…

When Larner was arrested at his shop, the Stationers’ men found 14 copies of Last Warning to all the Inhabitants of London, a plea for religious toleration. The Stationer, Joseph Hunscott, had been somewhat gutted to see this undergound squib appear, since he had thought his men had put a stop to the succession of illegal ‘libels’ when they seized a clandestine press in Goodmans Fields a few days earlier.

Larner was dragged (with the aid of a constable) before the Lord Mayor of London at the Guildhall, where he was treated as John Lilburne had been before him. He replied, very much in the spirit of ‘Freeborn John’: “I desire the liberty of a Free-man of England not to answer to interrogatories.” He refused to pay the fee to the Stationers, and was jailed. On April 3rd, he was brought before the House of Lords and questioned, accused of being the author, printer and publisher of the Last Warning. A Mr Smith gave evidence that Larner had given him money to buy a printing press for this purpose. Larner didn’t deny this.

Larner’s brother and Jane Hale, both employed by Larner, were also hauled in front of the Lords bar, but they refused to be sworn in or to answer any questions, so they too were committed, to the Fleet Prison.

On April 20th, Hunscott and some of his men went to search Larner and his rooms in prison, finding the manuscript of a pamphlet, A True Relation of all the illegal Proceedings against William Larner; but despite seizing this it was published 12 days later. The rage of the Stationer and the Lords must have been compounded by the appearance the same day of another tract supporting Larner, clearly printed on the same press that had produced the Last Warning. The underground printers were running rings around the authorities, though over the following year repression and increasing division among independent religious congregations and the radical direction the proto-Levellers were moving in made unlicensed printing much more difficult.

Larner was eventually released in October 1646, though his brother and maid (presumably Jane Hale) were still inside three months later (as were other ‘Levellers’). His shop in Bishopsgate was still running in 1650; after which he moved to a bookshop near Fleet Bridge (where Holborn Viaduct now spans the Fleet valley), around 1652, which was still active in 1659. After which he vanishes from history…

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

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