Front Page Titles (by Subject) 28.: The Levellers' Dissatisfaction with the Debates From John Lilburne, A Plea for Common Right and Freedom (28th Dec. 1648) a - Puritanism and Liberty, being the Army Debates (1647-9) from the Clarke Manuscripts with Supplementary Documents
Return to Title Page for Puritanism and Liberty, being the Army Debates (1647-9) from the Clarke Manuscripts with Supplementary Documents
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
28.: The Levellers’ Dissatisfaction with the Debates From John Lilburne, A Plea for Common Right and Freedom (28th Dec. 1648) a - Arthur Sutherland Pigott Woodhouse, Puritanism and Liberty, being the Army Debates (1647-9) from the Clarke Manuscripts with Supplementary Documents 
Puritanism and Liberty, being the Army Debates (1647-9) from the Clarke Manuscripts with Supplementary Documents, selected and edited with an Introduction A.S.P. Woodhouse, foreword by A.D. Lindsay (University of Chicago Press, 1951).
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
The Levellers’ Dissatisfaction with the Debates
And we were very much satisfied that your last Remonstrance terminated in proposing an Agreement of the People as the only proper means for quieting the long and woeful distractions of the nation, and the matter of our foresaid Petition of the eleventh of Sept[ember] as requisite to be seriously considered; both which intimated a nearer compliance with our desires than we had formerly found. But much more satisfactory it was, that you allowed us to choose out certain friends from amongst us, to be joined with you in the drawing up of an Agreement for the people, to be offered unto them for their union therein. And which (though with great expense of time and much contest) was at length effected, so that our hopes revived and our confidence was great that the work would then go on currently amongst you without stop or interruption.
But since the same hath been tendered to the consideration of your Council, the long time spent already therein and the tedious disputes and contests held thereupon, and that in things so essential unto our freedom, as without which we account the Agreement of no value! For what freedom is there to conscientious people where the magistrate shall be entrusted with a restrictive power in matters of religion, or to judge and punish in cases where no law hath been before provided? Which are the points that as yet remain in suspense, and about which most of the time hath been spent, though they are such as wherein all the cordial friends of this Army are fully satisfied, as clearly appeareth by their adhering to our foresaid Petition of the eleventh of Septemb[er]. And when we consider how many in this Council have appeared in behalf of these unreasonable powers in the magistrate; how they have been countenanced that have spoken for them, and how discountenanced that have spoken against them, and that at length; [how] interests directly opposite to freedom of conscience in point of God’s worship are nevertheless called for, to receive satisfaction, whose principles and Covenant lead to no less than persecution in matters of that nature, and which (upon the least hope of power) they have eagerly practised, as in Col[onel] Leigh’s committee; and since at present reproaches of Leveller, Jesuit, and the like begin afresh to be as rife as ever, which usually have forerun the destruction of good endeavours, we profess these are such manifest effects of evil influences and do so evidently demonstrate that both you and we are almost overgrown with destructive interests, and administer so much occasion to doubt the Agreement pretended is not really, or not effectually, intended in that fulness of right, freedom, and redress of grievances as all true-hearted friends expected, that we deem it afresh, worthy [of] all our fears, and of your more than ordinary intention to discover from whence those evil and dangerous effects do proceed, lest before you are aware (as it befell the well-minded members in Parliament) you be entangled in such perplexities that, when you would, it shall not be in your power to help yourselves, or to free this commonwealth from misery and bondage.
All which . . . we judged ourselves bound in conscience thus timely to advertise you of, and do most earnestly entreat that . . . , to prevent your and our being overgrown with destructive interests . . . , you will employ all your might to the speedy production of so full and ample [an] Agreement for the people as (to the restoring all true freedom and for removing of all known grievances) may deserve the stamp of so successful an Army. * * *
That to these just and necessary ends you will instantly reduce your Council into a certain method of orderly proceeding, which will much conduce to the furthering and clearing of your debates and resolutions, wherein we are now exceedingly concerned.
As first, to agree what certain number of officers, and no less, shall make a Council, which, we humbly conceive, ought not to be less than the major part of the commission[ed] officers, at the Headquarters and adjacent thereunto, not excluding of others.
2. That all persons in council may sit in a distinct orderly way, so as they may be observed by the president when they are inclined to speak.
3. That you will agree how many times any person may speak to a question.
4. That you will free your determinations from all pretences of a negative voice, and from all discountenance and check by any superior officer.
And [this] being so regulated:
1. That you will consider and resolve what is the most proper way for advance of officers, so as to preserve them entire to the interest of the people, and from a servile condition or necessary dependence upon the favour or will of any; and seriously to consider whether your Articles of Martial Law (as now they are) are not of too tyrannous a nature for an army of free-born Englishmen; and to reduce the same to reason and an equal constitution.
2. To take special care of the principles of any officer to be admitted, that they be not tainted with those of arbitrary power or of persecution for matters of religion.
3. That there be no disbanding of any sort of men but by consent of the General Council, nor admission or listing of any for horse or foot but according to provision made by the said Council, it being reported that very many of late are listed, of bad and doubtful condition.
By all which means, if conscionably observed (and we trust you will not be the less sensible because we advise), the growth of any corrupt interest will be effectually prevented. And if it shall seem good or anyway useful unto you, we shall choose and appoint four of our friends always to attend and assist, though not to vote with you. Nor will these things or these desires of ours seem strange unto you if you shall consider at how high a rate we have all along valued our just liberties, and how by breaking all authority you have taken upon yourselves the care, protection, and restoration thereof. You will not only cease to wonder, but resolve that we have cause to mind you thereof and of whatsoever we observe may be prejudicial thereunto, being well assured that it highly concerns you in the condition you have put yourselves not to be strait or narrow-hearted to your friends in point of liberty, or removal of known grievances, but to be as large in both as the utmost reason of these knowing times can plead for or desire. And as less than that is not expected from you in the Agreement you have in hand, so, if less in a tittle, it will not be regarded, but very much undervalue your affection to the commonwealth, as being that without which your extraordinary proceedings in overturning all the visible supreme authority of the nation, can never be justified before God or man. * * *1
 Signed by Lilburne, Overton, Prince, and thirteen others.
[472. (a)] A Plea for Common-right and Freedom. To his Excellency, the Lord General Fairfax, and the Commission-officers of the Armie. Or, the serious addresses, and earnest desires of their faithful friends . . . Promoters and presenters of the late Large-Petition of the eleventh of September, MDCXLVIII. As it was presented to his Excellency, Decemb. 28. 1648. By L. C. John Lilburn . . . Richard Overton . . . Tho. Prince [thirteen others named]. London Printed by Ja. and Jo. Moxon, for Will. Larnar . . . 1648 [Dec. 29].