Gerrard Winstanly published The New Law of Righteousness in 1649 and started a little community known as the Diggers the 1st April 1649 on St George’s Hill in Surrey, England. He wrote:
now the time is come, that the Spirit will draw all things into man againe, to live and be at rest in him, as their Governour, as their Lord, and man and the Creation shall become even againe, and so man returning to his Maker, to rest in peace in none but him. The whole Creation shall be go∣verned, preserved & comforted by the one spirit, the King of Righteousnesse, and all bondage, curse and tears shall be done away: And this is that I wait for, being assured it shall be accomplished, having received a taste. Chapter 1 p. 3
The community failed within a year.
Oliver Cromwell served in Parliament from 1640 untl 1649 under the monarchy of Charles the 1st who believed in the divine right of kings. Charles was an Anglican and followed the Book of Common Prayer published in 1549.
The English had a Civil War between 1642–1651 and Charles was defeated by the Scottish and surrendered to them in 1645. Cromwell was fighting against Charles in the war and established the Commonwealth of England after the conviction and hanging of Charles the 1st for treason on 30 January 1649 when he was only 48 years old.
A new type of governments came into being as a result of those wars. Cromwell became Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England, Scotland, and Ireland on 16 December 1653 and served until 3 September 1658.
Gerrard Winstanley wrote The Law of Freedom in a Platform in 1652 in the form of three pamphlets and dedicated them to His Excellency Oliver Cromwell. The first was published November 5th, 1651.
The three verses from the Bible below are used in Winstanley’s book so I have put them here at the beginning of The Law of Freedom.
Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.” Revelations 11:15
Then the sovereignty, power and greatness of all the kingdoms under heaven will be handed over to the holy people of the Most High. His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all rulers will worship and obey him. Daniel 7:27
There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, Ecclesiastes 2:24
The Law Of Freedom In A Platform
True Magistracy Restored
Humbly presented to Oliver Cromwel, General of the Commonwealth’s Army in England, Scotland and Ireland. And to all English-men my Bretheren, whether in Church Fellowship or not in Church Fellowship, both sorts walking as they conceive according to the order of the Gospel: and from them to all the Nations of the World.
Wherein is declared, What is Kingly Government, and What is Commonwealth’s Government.
By Gerrard Winstanley. (1609-1676)
In thee, O England, is the Law arising up to shine, If thou receive and practice it, the Crown it will be thine. If thou reject, and still remain a froward Son to be, Another Land will it receive, and take the Crown from thee.
Rev. 11-15 Dan. 7.27
printed for the author, and are to be sold by Giles Calvert at the Black spred-eagle at the west end of Pauls.”
“To His Excellency Oliver Cromwel, General of the Commonwealth’s Army in England, Scotland and Ireland”— Cromwell 1599-1668
“Sir,—God hath honored you with the highest honor of any man since Moses’ time, to be the head of a People who have cast out an oppressing Pharaoh. For when the Norman Power had conquered our forefathers, he took the free use of our English Ground from them, and made them his servants. And God hath made you a successful instrument to cast out that Conqueror, and to recover our Land and Liberties again, by your Victories, out of that Norman hand.”
“That which is wanting on your part to be done is this, To see the Oppressor’s Power be cast out with his person; and to see that the free possession of the Land and Liberties be put into the hands of the Oppressed Commoners of England. For the Crown of Honor cannot be yours, neither can these Victories be called victories on your part, till the Land and Freedom won be possessed by them that adventured person and purse for them.
“Now you know, Sir, that the Kingly Conqueror was not beaten by you only, as you are a single man, nor by the Officers of the Army joined to you; but by the hand and assistance of the Commoners, whereof some came in person and adventured their lives with you, others stayed at home and planted the Earth, and paid Taxes and gave Free Quarter to maintain you that went to war…. And now you have the Power of the Land in your hand, you must do one of these two things: First, either set the Land free to the Oppressed Commoners who assisted you … and so take possession of your deserved honor. Or, secondly, you must only remove the Conqueror’s power out of the King’s hand into other men’s, maintaining the old laws still; and then your wisdom and honor will be blasted for ever, and you will either lose yourself, or lay the foundation of greater slavery to posterity than you ever knew.”
“You know that while the King was in the height of his oppressing power, the People only whispered in private chambers against him; but afterwards it was preached upon the house-tops, that he was a Tyrant, a Traitor to England’s Peace: and he had his overturn.”
“The Righteous Power in the Creation is the same still. If you and those in power with you should be found walking in the King’s steps, can you secure yourselves or posterities from an overturn? Surely No.
“The Spirit of the whole Creation (who is God) is about the Reformation of the World, and he will go forward in his work. For if he would not spare Kings, who have sat so long at his right hand, governing the world, neither will he regard you, unless your ways be found more righteous than the King’s…. Lose not your Crown; take it up and wear it. But know that it is no Crown of Honor till promises and engagements made by you be performed to your friends. He that continues to the end, shall receive the Crown. Now you do not see the end of your work unless the Kingly Law and Power be removed as well as his person.”
The Complaints of the People.
“It may be you will say to me, What shall I do? I answer, You are in place and power to see all Burthens taken off from your friends the Commoners of England. You will say, What are those burthens?
“I will instance in some, both which I know in my own experience, and which I hear the people daily complaining of and groaning under, looking upon you and waiting for deliverance.
“Most people cry, We have paid taxes, given free-quarter, wasted our estates, and lost our friends in the wars, and the Task-masters multiply over us more than formerly. I have asked divers this question, Why do you say so?
“Some have answered me that promises, oaths and engagements have been made, as a motive to draw us to assist in the wars, that Privileges of Parliament and Liberties of Subjects should be preserved, and that all Popery and Episcopacy and Tyranny should be rooted out. And these promises are not performed. Now there is an opportunity to perform them.
“For first, say they, the current of succeeding Parliaments is stopped, which is one of the greatest privileges (and people’s liberties) for safety and peace. And if that continue stopped, we shall be more offended by an hereditary Parliament than we were oppressed by an hereditary King.
“And for the Commoners, who were called Subjects while the Kingly Conqueror was in power, they have not as yet their Liberties granted them. I will instance them in order, according as the common whisperings are among the people.”
The Power of the Clergy.
“For say they, The Burthens of the Clergy remain still upon us, in a threefold nature.
“First, If any man declare his judgement in the things of God contrary to the Clergy’s report, or the minds of some high Officers, they are cashiered, imprisoned, crushed and undone, and made sinners for a word, as they were in the Popes and Bishops days; so that though their names be cast out, yet their High Commission Court Power remains still, persecuting men for conscience sake, when their actions are unblamable.
“Secondly, In many Parishes there are old, formal, ignorant Episcopal Priests established; and some Ministers, who are bitter enemies to Commonwealth’s Freedom, and friends to Monarchy, are established preachers, and are continually buzzing their subtle principles into the minds of the people, to undermine the peace of our declared Commonwealth, causing a disaffection of spirit among neighbours, who otherwise would live in peace.
“Thirdly, The burthen of Tythes remains still upon our estates, which was taken from us by the Kings and given to te Clergy to maintain them by our labors. So that though their preaching fill the minds of many with madness, contention and unsatisfied doubting, because their imaginary and ungrounded doctrines cannot be understood by them, yet we must pay them large Tythes for so doing: this is Oppression.”
The Power of the Lawyers.
“Fourthly, If we go to the Lawyer, we find him to sit in the Conqueror’s Chair, though the King be removed, maintaining the King’s power to the height….
“Fifthly, Say they, if we look upon the Customs of the Law itself, it is the same it was in the King’s days, only the name is altered; as if the Commoners of England had paid their taxes, given free-quarter, and shed their blood, not to reform, but to baptize the Law with a new name, from Kingly Law to State Law…. And so as the Sword pulls down Kingly Power with one hand, the King’s Old Law builds up Monarchy again with the other.”
The Main Work of Reformation.
“And indeed the main work of reformation lies in this, To reform the Clergy, Lawyers and Law; for all the complaints of the Land are wrapped up within them three, not in the person of a King.”
“Sixthly, If we look into Parishes, the burthens there are many.”
And of Lords of Manors.
“First, For the Power of Lords of Manors remains still over their Bretheren, requiring Fines and Heriots, beating them off the free use of the Common Land, unless their Bretheren will pay them Rent, exacting obedience as much as they did, and more, when the King was in power.
“Now saith the People, By what Power do these maintain their Title over us? Formerly they held Title from the King, as he was the Conqueror’s successor. But have not the Commoners cast out the King, and broken the band of that Conquest? Therefore in equity they are free from the slavery of that Lordly Power.
“Secondly, In Parishes where Commons lie, the rich Norman Free-holders, or the new (more covetous) Gentry, overstock the Commons with sheep and cattle, so that the inferior Tenants and poor Labourers can hardly keep a cow, but half starve her. So that the poor are kept poor still, and the Common Freedom of the Earth is kept from them, and the poor have no more relief than they had when the King (or Conqueror) was in power….
“Now saith the whisperings of the People, the inferior Tenants and Laborers bear all the burthens, in laboring the Earth, in paying Taxes and Free-quarter above their strength, and in furnishing the Armies with soldiers, who bear the greatest burden of the War; and yet the Gentry, who oppress them and live idle upon their labors, carry away all the comfortable livelihood of the Earth.
“For is not this a common speech among the People, We have parted with our estates, we have lost our friends in the wars, which we willingly gave up because Freedom was promised us; and now in the end we have new Task-masters, and our old burthens are increased. And though all sorts of people have taken an engagement to cast out Kingly Power, yet Kingly Power remains in power still in the hands of those who have no more right to the Earth than ourselves.
“For say the people, If the Lords of Manors and our Task-masters hold Title to the Earth over us from the old Kingly Power, behold that power is broken and cast out. And two Acts of Parliament have been made. The one to cast out Kingly Power, backed by the Engagement against King and the House of Lords. The other to make England a Free Commonwealth.”
“If Lords of Manors lay claim to the Earth over us from the Army’s Victories over the King; then we have as much right to the Land as they, because our labors and blood and death of friends, were the purchasers of the Earth’s Freedom as well as theirs. And is not this a slavery, say the people, that though there be land enough in England to maintain ten times as many people as are in it, yet some must beg of their bretheren, or work in hard drudgery for day wages for them, or starve, or steal, and so be hanged out of the way, as men not fit to live on the Earth? Before they are suffered to plant the waste land for a livelihood, they must pay rent to their bretheren for it. Well, this is a burthen the Creation groans under; and the subjects (so-called) have not their birth-right freedom granted them from their bretheren, who hold it from them by Club-Law, but not by Righteousness.”
What is to Rule?
“And who now must we be subject to, seeing the Conqueror is gone? I answer, We must either be subject to a law or to men’s wills. If to a law, then all men in England are subject, or ought to be, thereunto…. You will say, We must be subject to the Rulers. This is true, but not to suffer the Rulers to call the Earth theirs and not ours; for by so doing they betray their trust and run into the line of tyranny, and we lose our freedom, and from thence enmity and wars arise. A Ruler is worthy double honor when he rules well; that is, when he himself is subject to the Law, and requires all others to be subject thereunto, and makes it his work to see the Law obeyed, and not his own will; and such Rulers are faithful, and they are to be subjected unto us therein: For all Commonwealth’s Rulers are Servants to, not Lords and Kings over the people.”
The Land Question.
“But you will say, Is not the land your brother’s? and you cannot take away another man’s right by claiming a share therein with him. I answer, It is his either by Creation Right or by Right of Conquest. If by Creation Right he calls the Earth his and not mine, then it is mine as well as his; for the Spirit of the whole Creation, who made us both, is no respecter of persons. And if by Conquest he calls the Earth his and not mine, it must be either by the conquest of the King over the Commoners or by the conquest of the Commoners over the King. If he claim the Earth to be his from the King’s Conquest, the Kings are beaten and cast out, and that title is undone. If he claim title to the Earth to be his from the conquest of the Commoners over the Kings, then I have right to the land as well as my brother; for my brother without me, nor I without my brother, did not cast out the Kings; but both together assisting, with purse and person, we prevailed, so that I have by this victory as equal a share in the Earth which is now redeemed as my brother, by the Law of Righteousness.”
If my brother still say he will be Land Lord (through his covetous ambition) and I must pay him rent, or else I shall not live in the Land, then does he take my right from me, which I have purchased by my money in taxes, free-quarter and blood. And O thou Spirit of the Whole Creation, who hath this title to be called King of Righteousness and King of Peace, judge thou between my brother and me, Whether this be Righteous, etc.
“And now say the people, Is not this a grievous thing, that our bretheren that will be Land Lords, right or wrong, will make Laws, and call for a Law to be made to imprison, crush, nay put to death any that denies God, Christ and Scripture; and yet they will not practice that Golden Rule, Do to another as thou wouldst have another do to thee, which God, Christ and Scripture have enacted for a Law? Are not these men guilty of death by their own Law, which is the word of their own mouth? Is it not a flat denial of God and Scripture?
“Thus, Sir, I have reckoned up some of those burdens which the people groan under. And I being sensible hereof was moved in myself to present this Platform of Commonwealth’s Government unto you, wherein I have declared a full Commonwealth’s Freedom, according to the Rule of Righteousness, which is God’s Word. It was intended for your view about two years ago, but the disorder of the times caused me to lay it aside, with a thought never to bring it to light. Likewise I hearing that Mr. Peters and some others propounded this request—That the Word of God might be consulted with to find out a healing Government, which I liked well, and waited to see such a Rule come forth, for there are good Rules in the Scripture if they were obeyed and practised.
“I laid aside this in silence, and said I would not make it public; but this word was like fire in my bones ever and anon—Thou shalt not bury thy talent in the earth. Thereupon I was stirred to give it a resurrection, and to pick together as many of my scattered papers as I could find, and to compile them into this method, which I do here present to you, and do quiet my own spirit. And now I have set the candle at your door; for you have power in your hand to act for Common Freedom if you will: I have no power.”
“It may be here are some things inserted which you may not like, yet other things you may like; therefore I pray you read it, and be as the industrious bee, suck out the honey and cast away the weeds. Though this Platform be like a piece of timber rough-hewed, yet the discreet workman may take it and frame a handsome building out of it.”
“It may be you will say, If Tythe be taken from the Priests and Impropriators, and Copyhold Services from Lords of Manors, how shall they be provided for again; for is it not unrighteous to take their estates from them?
“I answer, When Tythes were first enacted, and Lordly Power drawn over the backs of the oppressed, the Kings and Conquerors made no scruple of conscience to take it, though the people lived in sore bondage of poverty for want of it; and can there be scruple of conscience to make restitution of this which hath been so long stolen goods? It is no scruple arising from the Righteous Law, but from Covetousness, who goes away sorrowful to hear he must part with all to follow Righteousness and Peace.”
“But shall not one man be richer than another?
“There is no need for that; for riches make men vainglorious, proud, and to oppress their bretheren, and are the occasion of wars. No man can be rich but he must be rich either by his own labors, or by the labors of other men helping him. If a man have no help from his neighbors, he shall never gather an estate of hundreds and thousands a year. If other men help him to work, then are those riches his neighbors’ as well as his; for they be the fruits of other men’s labors as well as his own. But all rich men live at ease, feeding and clothing themselves by the labors of other men, not by their own, which is their shame and not their nobility; for it is a more blessed thing to give than to receive. But rich men receive all they have from the laborer’s hand, and what they give, they give away other men’s labors, not their own. Therefore they are not righteous actors in the Earth.”
Titles of Honour.
“But shall not one man have more Titles of Honor than another?
“Yes: As a man goes through offices, he rises to Titles of Honor, till he comes to the highest nobility, to be a faithful Commonwealth’s Man in a Parliament House. Likewise he who finds out any secret in Nature shall have a Title of Honor given him, though he be a young man. But no man shall have any Title of Honor till he win it by industry, or come to it 174 by age or Office-bearing. Every man that is fifty years of age shall have respect as a man of honor from all others that are younger, as is shown hereafter.”
Of Family Life.
“Shall every man count his neighbour’s house as his own, and live together as one family?
“No; though the Earth and Storehouses be common to every Family, yet every Family shall live apart as they do; and every man’s house, wife, children and furniture for ornament of his house, or anything he hath fetched in from the Storehouses, or provided for the necessary use of his family, is all a propriety unto that Family, for the peace thereof. And if any man offer to take away a man’s wife, children, or furniture of his house, without his consent, or disturb the peace of his dwelling, he shall suffer punishment as an enemy to the Commonwealth’s Government, as is mentioned in the Platform following.”
Of Law and Lawyers.
“Shall we have no Lawyers?
“There shall be no need of them, for there is to be no buying and selling, neither any need to expound Laws; for the bare letter of the Law shall be both Judge and Lawyer, trying every man’s actions. And seeing we shall have successive Parliaments every year, there will be rules made for every action that a man can do.”
“But there are to be Officers chosen yearly in every Parish, to see the Laws executed according to the letter of the Laws; so that there will be no long work in trying of offences, as it is under Kingly Government, to get the Lawyers money, and to enslave the Commoners to the Conqueror’s Prerogative Law or Will. The sons of contention, Simeon and Levi, must not bear rule in a Free Commonwealth.”
Plea for Consideration.
“At the first view you may say, ‘This is a strange government.’ But I pray you judge nothing before trial. Lay this Platform of Commonwealth’s Government in one scale, and lay Monarchy, or Kingly Government, in the other scale, and see which gives true weight to Righteous Freedom and Peace. There is no middle path between these two; for a man must either be a free and true Commonwealth man, or a Monarchial Tyrannical Royalist.”
Answers to further Objections.
“If any say this will bring poverty, surely they mistake: for there will be plenty of all Earthly Commodities, with less labor and trouble then now it is under Monarchy. There will be no want; for every man may keep as plentiful a house as he will, and never run into debt, for common stock pays for all.
“If you say, Some will live idle; I answer, No. It will make idle persons to become workers, as is declared in the Platform: There shall be neither Beggar nor Idle Person.
“If you say, This will make men quarrel and fight; I answer, No. It will turn Swords into Ploughshares, and settle such a peace in the Earth as Nations shall learn war no more. Indeed, the Government of Kings is a breeder of wars, because men being put into the straits of poverty, are moved to fight for Liberty, and to take one another’s estates from them, and to obtain Mastery. Look into all Armies and see what they do more, but make some poor, some rich, put some into freedom others into bondage: and is not this a plague among mankind?
“Well I question not but what Objections can be raised against this Commonwealth’s Government, they shall find an answer in this Platform following. I have been something large, because I could not contract myself into a lesser volume, having so many things to speak of.”
The One Thing Necessary.
“I do not say nor desire that everyone shall be compelled to practice this Commonwealth’s Government; for the spirits of some will be enemies at first, though afterwards they will prove the most cordial and true friends thereunto. Yet I desire that the Commonwealth’s Land … may be set free to all that have lent assistance either of person or purse to obtain it, and to all that are willing to come in to the practice of this Government, and be obedient to the Laws thereof. And for others who are not willing, let them stay in the way of buying and selling, which is the Law of the Conqueror, till they be willing.”
“And so I leave this in your hand, humbly prostrating myself and it before you, and remain, A true lover of Commonwealth’s Government, Peace and Freedom.
“November 5th, 1651.”
To the Friendly and Unbiassed Reader,
“Reader,—It was the Apostle’s advice formerly to try all things, and to hold fast that which is best. This Platform of Government which I offer is the original Righteousness and Peace in the Earth, though he hath been buried under the clod of Kingly Covetousness, Pride and Oppression a long time. Now he begins to have his Resurrection, despise it not while it is small; though thou understand it not at the first sight, yet open the door and look into the house; for thou mayst see that which will satisfy thy heart in quiet rest.”
“To prevent thy hasty rashness, I have given thee a short compendium of the whole.
“First, Thou knowst that the Earth in all Nations is governed by buying and selling, for all the Laws of Kings hath relation thereunto. Now this Platform following declares to thee the Government of the Earth without buying and selling, and the Laws are the Laws of a free and peaceable Commonwealth….
“Every family shall live apart, as now they do; every man shall enjoy his own wife, and every woman her own husband, as now they do: every Trade shall be improved to more excellency than now it is; all children shall be educated and trained up in subjection to parents and elder persons more than now they are: The Earth shall be planted and the fruits reaped and carried into Storehouses by common assistance of every family: The Riches of the Storehouses shall be the common stock to every Family: There shall be no idle person nor beggar in the Land.”
“The Commonwealth’s Government unites all people in a Land into one heart and mind. And it was this Government which made Moses to call Abraham’s seed one House of Israel, though there were many Tribes and many Families. And it may be said, Blessed is the People whose Earthly Government is the Law of Common Righteousness….
“The Government of Kings is the Government of the Scribes and Pharisees, who count it no freedom unless they be the Lords of the Earth and of their Bretheren. But Commonwealth’s Government is the Government of Righteousness and Peace, who is no respecter of persons.”
“Therefore, Reader, here is a trial for thy sincerity. Thou shalt have no want of food, raiment or freedom among bretheren in this way propounded. See now if thou canst be content, as the Scriptures say, Having food and raiment therewith be content, and grudge not to let thy brother have the same with thee.
“Dost thou pray and fast for Freedom, and give God thanks again for it? Why, know that God is not partial. For if thou pray, it must be for Freedom to all; and if thou give thanks, it must be because Freedom covers all people: for this will prove a lasting peace.
“Everyone is ready to say, They fight for their Country, and what they do, they do it is for the good of their Country. Well, let it appear now that thou hast fought and acted for thy Country’s Freedom. But if when thou hast power to settle Freedom in thy Country, thou takest the possession of the Earth into thy own particular hands, and makest thy Brother work for thee, as the Kings did, thou hast fought and acted for thyself, not for thy Country, and here thy inside hypocrisy is discovered.
“But here take notice, That Common Freedom, which is the Rule I would have practiced and not talked on, was thy pretence, but particular Freedom to thyself was thy intent. Amend, or else thou wilt be shamed, when Knowledge doth spread to cover the Earth, even as the waters cover the Seas.
And so Farewell.
End of the first pamphlet
“Where true Freedom lies. Continued
“The great searching of heart in these days is to find out where true Freedom lies, that the Commonwealth of England might be established in peace. Some say, It lies in the free use of Trading, and to have all Patents, Licenses and Restraints removed: But this is a Freedom under the Will of a Conqueror. Others say, It is true Freedom to have Ministers to preach, and for people to hear whom they will, without being restrained or compelled from or to any form of worship: But this is an unsettled Freedom….
Others say, It is true Freedom that the Elder Brother shall be Land Lord of the Earth, and the Younger Brother a Servant: And this is but a half Freedom, and begets murmurings, wars and quarrels.
“All these, and such like, are Freedoms; but they lead to Bondage, and are not the true Foundation-Freedom which settles a Commonwealth in Peace.
“True Commonwealth’s Freedom lies in the free Enjoyment of the Earth.
“True Freedom lies where a man receives his nourishment and preservation, and that is in the use of the Earth…. All that a man labors for, saith Solomon, is this, That he may enjoy the free use of the Earth with the fruits thereof (Eccles. 2. 24). Do not the Ministers preach for maintenance in the Earth? The Lawyers plead causes to get the possessions of the Earth? Doth not the Soldier fight for the Earth? And doth not the Land Lord require Rent that he may live in the fullness of the Earth by the labor of his Tenants? And so from the Thief upon the Highway to the King who sits upon the Throne, does not everyone strive, either by force of Arms or secret Cheats, to get the possessions of the Earth one from another, because they see their Freedom lies in plenty, and their Bondage lies in Poverty?”
“Surely, then, oppressing Lords of Manors, exacting Land-lords and Tythe-takers, may as well say their Bretheren shall not breathe in the air, nor enjoy warmth in their bodies, nor have the moist waters to fall upon them in showers, unless they will pay them rent for it, as to say their Bretheren shall not work upon Earth, nor eat the fruits thereof, unless they will hire that liberty of them. For he that takes upon him to restrain his Brother from the liberty of the one, may upon the same ground restrain him from the liberty of all four, viz., Fire, Water, Earth and Air.
“A man had better to have had no body than to have no food for it. Therefore this restraining of the Earth from Bretheren by Bretheren is oppression and bondage; but the free enjoyment thereof is true Freedom.”
Inward and Outward Bondage.
“I speak now in relation between the Oppressor and the Oppressed, the Inward Bondages I meddle not with in this place, though I am assured that if it be rightly searched into, the inward bondages of the mind, as covetousness, pride, hypocrisy, envy, sorrow, fears, desperation and madness, are all occasioned by the outward bondage that one sort of people lay upon another. And thus far natural experience makes it good, that true Freedom lies in the free Enjoyment of the Earth.”
“What is Government in General?
“Government is a wise and free ordering of the Earth and of the Manners of Mankind by observation of particular Laws or Rules, so that all the inhabitants may live peaceably in plenty and freedom in the Land where they are born and bred.”
“What is Kingly Government?
“There is a twofold Government: a Kingly Government and a Commonwealth’s Government.
“Kingly Government governs the Earth by that cheating art of buying and selling, and thereby becomes a man of contention, his hand is against every man, and every man’s hand against him … and if it had not a Club Law to support it, there would be no order in it, because it is but the covetous and proud will of a Conqueror enslaving a conquered people…. Indeed, this Government may well be called the Government of Highwaymen, who hath stolen the Earth from the Younger Bretheren by force and holds it from them by force…. The great Lawgiver of this Kingly Government is Covetousness, ruling in the hearts of mankind, making one Brother to covet a full possession of the Earth, and a Lordly Rule over another Brother…. The Rise of Kingly Government is attributable to a politic wit in drawing the people out of Common Freedomn into a way of Common Bondage: for so long as the Earth is a common Treasury to all Men, Kingly Covetousness can never reign as King.
“What is Commonwealth’s Government?
“Commonwealth’s Government governs the Earth without buying and selling, and thereby becomes a man of peace, and the Restorer of Ancient Peace and Freedom. He makes provision for the oppressed, the weak and the simple, as well as for the rich, the wise and the strong…. All slavery and Oppressions … are cast out by this Government, if it be right in power as well as in name … if once Commonwealth’s Government be set upon the Throne, then no Tyranny or Oppression can look him in the face and live. “If true Commonwealth’s Freedom lies in the free enjoyment of the Earth, as it doth, then whatsoever Law or Custom doth deprive Bretheren of their Freedom in the Earth is to be cast out as unsavoury salt.”
“If you do not run in the right channel of Freedom, you must, nay, you will as you do, face about and turn back again to Egyptian Monarchy; and so your names in the days of posterity shall be blasted with abhorred infamy for your unfaithfulness to Common Freedom; and the evil effects will be sharp upon the backs of posterity.
“Therefore, seeing England is declared to be a Free Commonwealth, and the name thereof established by a Law; surely then the greatest work is now to be done; and that is, to escape all Kingly cheats in setting up a Commonwealth’s Government, so that the power and the name may agree together; so that all the inhabitants may live in peace, plenty and freedom…. For oppression was always the occasion why the spirit of freedom in the people desired change of government…. And the oppressions of the Kingly Government have made this age of the world to desire a Commonwealth’s Government and the removal of the Kings: for the Spirit of Light in man loves Freedom and hates Bondage.”
“Where began the first original of Government in the Earth among Mankind?”
“There are two roots whence Laws do spring. The first root is Common Preservation, when there is a principle in every one to seek the good of others as himself, without respecting persons: and this is the root of the tree Magistracy, and the Law of Righteousness and Peace: and all particular Laws found out by experience necessary to be practiced for common preservation, are the boughs and branches of that tree.”
The Inward Light.
“And because among the variety of mankind ignorance may grow up, therefore this Original Law is written in the hearts of every man, to be his guide and leader; so that if an Officer be blinded by covetousness and pride, and ignorance rule in him, yet an inferior man may tell him when he goes astray. For Common Preservation and Peace is the Foundation-Rule of all Government: therefore if any will preach or practice Fundamental Truths, or Doctrine, here you may see where the foundation thereof lies.”
“The second root is Self-Preservation: when particular Officers seek their own preservation, ease, honor, riches, and freedom in the Earth, and do respect persons that are in power and riches with them, and regard not the peace, freedom, and preservation of the weak and foolish among Bretheren.”
The Root of the Tree Tyranny.
“This is the root of the tree Tyranny, and the Law of Unrighteousness; and all particular Kingly Laws found out by Covetous Policy to enslave one Brother to another, whereby bondage, tears, sorrows and poverty are brought upon many men, are all but the boughs and branches of that tree Tyranny….
Indeed, this Tyranny is the cause of all wars and troubles, of the removal of the Government of the Earth out of one hand into another so often as it is in all Nations. For if Magistrates had a care to cherish the peace and liberties of the common people, and to see them set free from oppression, they might sit in the Chair of Government and never be disturbed. But when their sitting is altogether to advance their own interest, and to forget the afflictions of their Bretheren who are under bondage: this is the forerunner of their own downfall, and oftentimes proves the plague of the whole Land.
“Therefore the work of all true Magistrates is to maintain the Common Law, which is the root of right government, and preservation and peace to everyone; and to cast out all self-ended principles and interests, which is Tyranny and Oppression, and which breaks common peace. For surely the disorderly actings of Officers break the peace of the Commonwealth more than any men whatsoever.”
“All Officers in a true Magistracy of a Commonwealth are to be chosen Officers.
“He who is a true Commonwealth’s officer is not to step into the place of Magistracy by policy or violent force, as all Kings and Conquerors do, and so become oppressing Tyrants, by promoting their self-ended Interests, or Machiavilian Cheats, that they may live in plenty and rule as Lords over their Bretheren. But a true Commonwealth’s Officer is to be a chosen one by them who are in necessity and who judge him fit for that work….
“When the people have chosen all Officers, to preserve a right order in government of earth among them, then doth the same necessity of common peace move the people to say to their Overseers and Officers—‘Do you see our Laws observed for our preservation and peace, and we will assist and protect you.’ And these words assist and protect imply the rising up of the people by force of arms to defend their Laws and Officers against any Invasion, Rebellion or Resistance: yea, to beat down the turbulency of any foolish or self-ended spirit that endeavours to break their common peace.”
Faithful Officers and Faithless Officers.
“So that all true Officers are chosen Officers, and when they act to satisfy the necessities of them who chose them, then they are faithful and righteous servants to that Commonwealth, and then there is a rejoicing in the City. But when Officers do take the possessions of the Earth into their own hands, lifting themselves up thereby to be Lords over their Masters, the people who choose them, and will not suffer the people to plant the Earth and reap the fruits for their livelihood unless they will hire the land of them, or work for day wages for them, that they may live in ease and plenty and not work: These Officers are fallen from true Magistracy of a Commonwealth, and they do not act righteously, and because of this sorrow and tears, poverty and bondages are known among mankind, and now that City mourns.”
“All Officers in a Commonwealth are to be chosen new Ones every Year.
“When public Officers remain long in places of Judicature, they will degenerate from the bounds of humility, honesty and tender care of bretheren, in regard the heart of man is so subject to be overspread with the clouds of covetousness, pride and vain-glory. For though at the first entrance into places of Rule they be of public spirits, seeking the Freedom of others as their own; yet continuing long in such a place, where honors and greatness come in, they become selfish, seeking themselves, and not Common Freedom; as experience proves it true in these days, according to this common proverb—‘Great offices in a Land and Army have changed the disposition of many sweet spirited men.’
“And Nature tells us, that if water stand long, it corrupts; whereas running water keeps sweet and is fit for common use.
“Therefore, as the necessity of Common Preservation moves the people to frame a Law and to choose Officers to see the Law obeyed, that they may live in peace: So doth the same necessity bid the people, and cries aloud in the ears and eyes of England, to choose new Officers, and to remove the old ones, and to choose State Officers every year: and that for these reasons:
“First, To prevent their own evils: for when pride and fulness take hold of an Officer, his eyes are so blinded therewith that he forgets he is a servant to the Commonwealth, and strives to lift up himself high above his Bretheren, and oftentimes his fall prove very great: witness the fall of oppressing Kings, Bishops and other State Officers.“
Secondly, To prevent the creeping of oppression into the Commonwealth again. For when Officers grow proud and full, they will maintain their greatness, though it be in the poverty, ruin and hardship of their Bretheren: Witness the practice of Kings and their Laws, that have crushed the Commoners of England a long time. And have we not experience in these days that some Officers of the Commonwealth have grown so mossy for want of removing that they will hardly speak to an old acquaintance, if he be an inferior man, though they were very familiar before these wars began? And what hath occasioned this distance among friends and bretheren, but long continuance in places of honor, greatness and riches?”
“Thirdly, Let Officers be chosen new every year in love to our posterity. For if burdens and oppressions should grow up in our Laws and in our Officers for want of removing, as moss and weeds grow in some land for want of stirring, surely it will be a foundation of misery not easily to be removed by our posterity, and then will they curse the time when we their forefathers had opportunities to set things to rights for their ease, and would not do it.
“Fourthly, To remove Officers of State every year will make them truly faithful, knowing that others are coming after who will look into their ways, and if they do not do things justly, they must be ashamed when the next Officers succeed. And when Officers deal faithfully with the Government of the Commonwealth, they will not be unwilling to remove: the peace of London is much preserved by removing their Officers yearly.
“Fifthly, It is good to remove Officers every year, that whereas many have their portions to obey, so many may have their turn to rule. And this will encourage all men to advance righteousness and good manners in hopes of honor; but when money and riches bear all the sway in the Rulers’ hearts, there is nothing but tyranny in such ways.
“Sixthly, The Commonwealth hereby will be furnished with able and experienced men, fit to govern, which will mightily advance the honor and peace of our Land, occasion the more watchful care in the education of children, and in time will make our Commonwealth of England the Lily among the Nations of the Earth.
“Who are fit to choose, and fit to be chosen Officers in a Commonwealth.
“All uncivil livers, as drunkards, quarrellers, fearful ignorant men, who dare not speak truth less they anger other men; likewise all who are wholly given to pleasure and sports, or men who are full of talk: all these are empty of substance and cannot be experienced men, therefore not fit to be chosen Officers in a Commonwealth—yet they may have a voice in the choosing.
“Secondly, All those who are interested in the Monarchial Power and Government, ought neither to choose nor to be chosen Officers to manage Commonwealth’s affairs; for these cannot be friends to Common Freedom….
But seeing that few of the Parliament’s friends understand their Common Freedom, though they own the name Commonwealth, therefore the Parliament’s Party ought to bear with the ignorance of the King’s Party, because they are Bretheren, and not make them servants, though for the present they be suffered neither to choose nor be chosen Officers, lest that ignorant spirit of revenge break out in them to interrupt our common peace.
“Moreover, All those who have been so hasty to buy and sell the Commonwealth’s Land, and so to entangle it upon a new accompt, ought neither to choose nor be chosen Officers. For hereby they declare themselves either to be for kingly interest, or else are ignorant of Commonwealth’s Freedom, or both, therefore unfit to make Laws to govern a Free Commonwealth, or to be Overseers to see those laws executed. What greater injury could be done to the Commoners of England than to sell away their Land so hastily, before the people knew where they were, or what Freedom they had got by such cost and bloodshed as they were at? And what greater ignorance could be declared by Officers than to sell away the purchased Land from the purchasers, or from part of them, into the hands of particular men to uphold Monarchial Principles?
“But though this be a fault, let it be borne withal, it was ignorance of Bretheren; for England hath lain so long under kingly slavery that few knew what Common Freedom was; and let a restoration of this redeemed land be speedily made by those who have possession of it. For there is neither Reason nor Equity that a few men should go away with that Land and Freedom which the whole Commoners have paid taxes, free-quarter, and wasted their estates, healths and blood, to purchase out of bondage, and many of them are in want of a comfortable livelihood.
“Well, these are the men that take away other men’s rights from them, and they are members of the covetous generation of self-seekers, therefore unfit to be chosen Officers or to choose.
“Who then are fit to be chosen Officers?
of Common Freedom, whether they be Members in Church Fellowship, or not in Church Fellowship, for all are one in Christ.
“Choose such as are men of peaceable spirits, and of a peaceable conversation.
“Choose such as have suffered under Kingly Oppression, for they will be fellow-feelers of others’ bondages.
“Choose such as have adventured the loss of their estates and lives to redeem the Land from bondage, and who have remained constant.
“Choose men of courage, who are not afraid to speak the truth; for this is the shame of many in England at this day, they are drowned in the dung-hill mud of slavish fear of men.
“Choose Officers out of the number of those men that are above forty years of age, for these are most likely to be experienced men, and to be men of courage, dealing truly and hating covetousness.”
Payment of Representatives.
“And if you choose men thus principled who are poor men, as times go, for the Conqueror’s Power hath made many a righteous man a poor man, then allow them a yearly maintenance from the Common Stock, until such time as a Commonwealth’s Freedom is established, for then there will be no need of such allowances.”
The Main Source of Ignorance.
“What is the reason that most men are so ignorant of their Freedoms, and so few fit to be chosen Commonwealth’s Officers?
“Because the old Kingly Clergy, that are seated in Parishes for lucre of Tythes, are continually distilling their blind principles into the people, and do thereby nurse up ignorance to them. For they observe the bent of the people’s minds, and make sermons to please the sickly minds of ignorant people, to preserve their own riches and esteem among a charmed, befooled and besotted people.”
After this passing shot at his old adversaries, Winstanley proceeds to consider the Offices and Institutions suitable for his ideal community, for a Free Commonwealth. He first summarises their function as a whole, and of the special duty incumbent on all public officials, as follows:
“All the Offices in a Commonwealth are like links of a chain; they arise from one and the same root, which is necessity of Common Peace; therefore they are to assist each other, and all others are to assist them, as need requires, upon pain of punishment by the breach of the Laws. The Rule of Right Government being thus observed, may make a whole Land, nay the whole Fabric of the Earth, to become one Family of Mankind, and one well-governed Commonwealth.”
The Work of a Father or Master of a Family.
A Father is to cherish his children till they grow wise and strong; and then as a Master he is to instruct them in reading, in learning languages, Arts and Sciences, or to bring them up to labor, or employ them in some Trade or other, or cause them to be instructed therein, according as is shown hereafter in the Education of Mankind. A Father is to have a care that all his children do assist to plant the Earth, or by other Trades provide necessaries; so he shall see that every one have a comfortable livelihood, not respecting one before another. He is to command them their work, and see they do it, and not suffer them to live idle; he is either to reprove by words, or whip those that offend; for the Rod is prepared to bring the unreasonable ones to experience and moderation. That so children may not quarrel like beasts, but live in Peace, like rational men, experienced in yielding obedience to the Law and Officers of the Commonwealth: every one doing to another as he would have another do to him.”
The Work of a Peacemaker.
“In a Parish or Town may be chosen three, four or six Peacemakers, according to the bigness of the place: and their work is twofold.
First, In general to sit in Council to order the affairs of the Parish, to prevent troubles, and to preserve common peace.
Secondly, If there arise any matters of offence between man and man, the offending parties shall be brought by the Soldiers [Policemen] before any one or more of these Peacemakers, who shall hear the matter, and endeavour to reconcile the parties and make peace, and so put a stop to the rigour of the Law, and go no further. But if the Peacemaker cannot persuade or reconcile the parties, then he shall command them to appear at the Judges’ Court at the time appointed to receive the Judgement of the Law.
“If any matter of public concernment fall out wherein the Peace of the City, Town or Country is concerned, then the Peacemakers in every town thereabouts shall meet and consult about it; and from them, or any six of them, if need require, shall issue forth any orders to inferior Officers. But if the matter concern only the limits of a Town or City, then the Peacemakers of that Town shall from their Court send forth orders to inferior Officers for the performing of any public service within their limits.
“Thirdly, If any proof be given that any Officer neglects his duty, a Peacemaker is to tell that Officer, between them two, of his neglect. If the Officer continue negligent after this reproof, the Peacemaker shall acquaint either the County Senate, or the National Parliament therewith, that from them the offender may receive condign punishment.
“And it is all to this end that the Laws be obeyed; for a careful execution of Laws is the life of Government.”
“In a Parish or Town there is to be a four-fold degree of Overseers, which are to be chosen yearly. The first is an Overseer to preserve peace, in case of any quarrels that may fall out between man and man….
The second office of Overseer is for Trades.
This Overseer is to see that young people be put to Masters, to be instructed in some labour, trade, service, or to be waiters in Storehouses, that none may be idly brought up in any family within his circuit….
Truly the Government of the Halls and Companies in London is a very rational and well-ordered government; and the Overseers for Trades may well be called Masters, Wardens, and Assistants of such and such a Company, for such and such a particular Trade….
Likewise this Overseer for Trades shall see that no man shall be a Housekeeper and have servants under him till he hath served under a Master seven years, and hath learned his Trade: and the reason is, that every Family may be governed by staid and experienced Masters, and not by wanton youth. And this Office of Overseer keeps all people within a peaceful harmony of Trades, Sciences, or Works, that there be neither Beggar nor Idle Person in the Commonwealth.
The third Office of Overseership is to see particular Tradesmen bring in their work to the Storehouses and Shops, and to see that the waiters in Storehouses do their duty…. And if any Keeper of a Shop or Storehouse neglect the duty of his place … the Overseer shall admonish him and reprove him. If he amend, all is well; if he doth not, the Overseer shall give orders to the Soldiers to carry him before the Peacemaker’s Court, and if he reform upon the reproof of that Court, all is well. But if he doth not reform, he shall be sent by the Officers to appear before the Judge’s Court, and the Judge shall pass sentence—That he shall be put out of that House and Employment, and sent among the Husbandmen to work in the Earth: and some other shall have his place and house till he be reformed.”
“Fourthly, all ancient men, above sixty years of age, are General Overseers. And wheresoever they go and see things amiss in any Officer or Tradesmen, they shall call any Officer or others to account for their neglect of duty to the Commonwealth’s Peace; and they are called Elders.”
The Office of a Soldier.
“A Soldier is a Magistrate as well as any other Officer; and indeed all State Officers are Soldiers, for they represent power; and if there were not power in the hands of Officers, the spirit of rudeness would not be obedient to any Law or Government, but their own wills. Therefore every year shall be chosen a Soldier, like unto a Marshall of a City, and, being the Chief, he shall have divers soldiers under him at his command to assist in case of need. The work of a Soldier in times of peace is to fetch in Offenders, and to bring them before either Officer or Court, and to be a protector to the Officers against all disturbances.”
The Work of a Task-master.
“The Work or Office of a Task-master is to take those into his oversight as are sentenced by the Judge to loose their Freedom, to appoint them their work, and to see they do it.”
The Work of a Judge.
“The Law itself is the Judge of all Men’s Actions; yet he who is chosen to pronounce the Law is called Judge, because he is the mouth of the Law: for no single man ought to judge or to interpret the Law. Because the Law itself, as it is left us in the letter, is the mind and determination of the Parliament and of the people of the Land, to be their Rule to walk by and to be the touch-stone of all actions. And the man who takes upon him to interpret the Law, doth either darken the sense of the Law, and so make it confused and hard to be understood, or else puts another meaning upon it, and so lifts up himself above the Parliament, above the Law, and above all people in the Land.
“Therefore the work of that man who is called Judge is to hear any matter that is brought before him; and in all cases of difference between man and man, he shall see the parties on both sides before him, and shall hear each man speak for himself, without a fee’d Lawyer; likewise he is to examine any witness who is to prove a matter on trial before him. And then he is to pronounce the bare letter of the Law concerning such a thing: for he hath his name Judge, not because his will or mind is to judge the actions of offenders before him, but because he is the mouth to pronounce the Law, who, indeed, is the true Judge: Therefore to this Law and to this Testimony let everyone have regard who intends to live in Peace in the Commonwealth.”
“For hence hath arisen much misery in the Nations under Kingly Government, in that the man called the Judge hath been suffered to interpret the Law. And when the mind of the Law, the Judgement of the Parliament and the Government of the Land, is resolved into the breasts of the Judges, this hath occasioned much complaining of Injustice in Judges, in Courts of Justice, in Lawyers, and in the course of the Law itself, as if it were an evil Rule. Because the Law which was a certain Rule was varied, according to the will of a covetous, envious or proud Judge. Therefore no marvel though the Kingly Laws be so intricate, and though few know which way the course of the Law goes, because the sentence lies many times in the breast of a Judge, and not in the letter of the Law. And so the good Laws made by an industrious Parliament are like good eggs laid by a silly goose, and as soon as she hath laid them, she goes her way and lets others take them, and never looks after them more, so that if you lay a stone in her nest, she will sit upon it as if it were an egg. And so, though the Laws be good, yet if they be left to the will of a Judge to interpret, the execution hath many times proved bad.”
“What is the Judge’s Court?
“In a County or Shire there are to be chosen—A Judge, the Peacemakers of every Town within that Circuit, the Overseers, and a band of Soldiers attending thereupon: and this is called the Judge’s Court or the County Senate. The Court shall sit four times in the year, or oftener if need be….
If any disorder break in among the people, this Court shall set things to right. If any be bound over to appear at this Court, the Judge shall hear the matter, and pronounce the letter of the Law, according to the nature of the offence. So that the alone work of the Judge is to pronounce the Sentence and mind of the Law: and all this is but to see the Law executed and the Peace of the Commonwealth preserved.”
“What is the Work of a Commonwealth’s Parliament in General?”
“A Parliament is the highest Court of Equity in a Land; and it is to be chosen every year…. This Court is to oversee all other Courts, Officers, persons, and actions, and to have a full power, being the Representative of the whole Land, to remove all grievances, and to ease the people that are oppressed.”
A Parliament is the Father of the Commonwealth.
“A Parliament hath its rise from the lowest Office in a Commonwealth, viz., from the Father in a Family. For as a Father’s tender care is to remove all grievances from the oppressed children, not respecting one before another; so a Parliament are to remove all burdens from the people of the Land, and are not to respect persons who are great before those who are weak; but their eye and care must be principally to relieve the oppressed ones, who groan under the Tyrant’s Laws and Powers: the strong, or such as have the Tyrant’s Power to support them, need no help.
“But though a Parliament be the Father of a Land, yet by the Covetousness and Cheats of Kingly Government the heart of this Father hath been alienated from the children of the Land, or else so overawed by the frowns of a Kingly Tyrant, that they could not or durst not act for the weaker children’s ease. For hath not Parliament sat and rose again, and made Laws to strengthen the Tyrant in his Throne, and to strengthen the rich and the strong by those Laws, and left Oppression upon the backs of the oppressed still?”
His Hopes for the Future.
“But I’ll not reap up former weaknesses, but rather rejoice in hope of amendment, seeing our present Parliament hath declared England to be a Free Commonwealth, and to cast out Kingly Power: and upon this ground I rejoice in hope that succeeding Parliaments will be tender-hearted Fathers to the oppressed children of the Land. And not only dandle us upon the knee with good words and promises till particular men’s turn be served, but will feed our bellies and clothe our backs with good actions of Freedom, and give to the oppressed children’s children their birthright portion, which is Freedom in the Commonwealth’s Land, which the Kingly Law and Power, our cruel step-fathers and step-mothers, have kept from us and our fathers for many years past.
“The particular Work of a Parliament is Four-fold—Firstly,
“As a tender Father, a Parliament is to empower Officers and give orders for the free planting and reaping of the Commonwealth’s Land, that all who have been oppressed, and kept back from the free use thereof by Conquerors, Kings, and their Tyrant Laws, may now be set at liberty to plant in Freedom for food and raiment, and are to be a protection to them who labor the Earth, and a punisher of them who are idle.
“But some may say, What is that I call Commonwealth’s Land? I answer, All that land which hath been withheld from the inhabitants by the Conqueror, or Tyrant Kings, and is now recovered out of the hands of that oppression by the joint assistance of the persons and purses of the Commoners of the Land. For this Land is the price of their blood. It is their birthright to them and to their posterity, and ought not to be converted into particular hands again by the Laws of a Free Commonwealth. In particular, this Land is all Abbey Lands, formerly recovered out of the Pope’s Power by the blood of the Commoners of England, though the Kings withheld their rights therein from them. So likewise all Crown Lands, Bishops’ Lands, with all Parks, Forests, Chases, now of late recovered out of the hand of the Kingly Tyrants, who have set Lords of Manors and Taskmasters over the Commoners, to withhold the free use of the land from them. So likewise all the Commons and Waste Lands, which are called Commons because the Poor was to have part therein. But this is withheld from the Commoners, either by Lords of Manors requiring quit-rents, and overseeing the poor so narrowly that none dares build him a house upon this Common Land, or plant thereupon, without his leave, but must pay him rents, fines, and heriots, and homage as unto a Conqueror. Or else the benefit of this Common Land is taken away from the Younger Bretheren by the rich Land Lords and Freeholders, who overstock the Commons with sheep and cattle, so that the Poor in many places are not able to keep a Cow unless they steal grass for her.
“And this is the bondage the Poor complain of, that they are kept poor in a Land where there is so much plenty for everyone, if Covetousness and Pride did not rule as King in one Brother over another: and Kingly Government occasions all this. Now it is the work of a Parliament to break the Tyrant’s bands, to abolish all their oppressing Laws, and to give orders, encouragements and directions unto the poor oppressed people of the Land, that they forthwith plant and manure this their own Land, for the free and comfortable livelihood of themselves and posterities. And to declare to them, it is their own Creation-Rights, faithfully and courageously recovered by their diligence, purses and blood from under the Kingly Tyrant’s and Oppressor’s Power.
“The Work of a Parliament—Secondly,
“Is to abolish all old Laws and Customs which have been the strength of the Oppressor, and to prepare and then to enact new Laws for the ease and freedom of the people, but yet not without the people’s knowledge.
“For the work of a Parliament herein is three-fold:
“First, When old Laws and Customs of the Kings do burden the people, and the people desire the remove of them, and the establishment of more easy Laws: it is now the work of a Parliament to search into Reason and Equity, how relief may be found for the people in such a case, and to preserve a Common Peace. And when they have found a way by debate of counsel among themselves, whereby the people may be relieved, they are not presently to establish their conclusions for a Law. But in the next place they are to make a public declaration thereof to the people of the Land, who choose them, for their approbation. And if no objection come in from the people within one month, they may then take the people’s silence as a consent thereto. And then, in the third place, they are to enact it for a Law, to be a binding rule to the whole Land. For as the remove of the old Laws and Customs is by the people’s consent, which is proved by their frequent petitionings and requests; so the enacting of new Laws must be by the people’s consent and knowledge likewise. And here they are to require the consent, not of men interested in the old oppressing Laws and Customs, as Kings used to do, but of them who have been oppressed. And the reason is this: Because the people must be all subject to the Law, under pain of punishment, therefore it is all reason that they should know it before it be enacted, so that if there be anything of the Counsel of Oppression in it, it may be discovered and amended.”
Answers to two Objections.
“But you will say, If it must be so, then will men so differ in their judgements that we shall never agree.
“I answer: There is but Bondage and Freedom, particular Interest or common Interest; and he who pleads to bring in particular interest into a Free Commonwealth, will presently be seen and cast out, as one bringing in Kingly Slavery again.
“Moreover, men in place and office, where greatness and honor is coming in, may sooner be corrupted to bring in particular interest than a whole Land can be, who must either suffer sorrow under a burdensome Law, or rejoice under a Law of Freedom. And surely those men who are not willing to enslave the people will be unwilling to consent hereunto.
“The Work of a Parliament—Thirdly,
“Is to see all those burdens removed actually, which have hindered or do hinder the oppressed People from the enjoyment of their Birth-Rights.
“If their Common Lands be under the oppression of Lords of Manors, they are to see the Land freed from that slavery.
“If the Commonwealth Land be sold by the hasty counsel of subtle, covetous and ignorant Officers, who act for their own particular interest, and so hath entangled the Commoners’ Land again, under colour of being bought and sold: then a Parliament is to examine what authority any had to sell or buy the Commonwealth’s Land without a general consent of the People: For it is not any one’s, but every one’s Birth-Right. And if some through covetousness and self-interest gave consent privately, yet a Parliament, who is the Father of the Land, ought not to give consent to buy and sell that Land which is all the children’s birth-right, and the price of their labors, moneys and blood.
“They are to declare likewise that the Bargain is unrighteous; and that the Buyers and Sellers are Enemies to the Peace and Freedom of the Commonwealth. For indeed the necessity of the People chose a Parliament to help them in their weakness. Hence when they see a danger like to impoverish or enslave one part of the people to another, they are to give warning and so prevent that danger. For they are the Eyes of the Land: and surely those are blind eyes that lead the People into Bogs to be entangled in Mud again, after they are once pulled out. And when the Land is once freed from the Oppressor’s Power and Laws, the Parliament is to keep it so, and not suffer it by their consent to have it bought or sold, and so entangled in Bondage upon a new account.
“For their faithfulness herein to the People, the People are engaged in love and faithfulness to cleave close to them in defence and protection. But when a Parliament have no care herein, the hearts of the People run away from them like sheep who have no Shepherd.”
The Cause of all Grievances.
“All grievances are occasioned either by the covetous wills of State Officers, who neglect their obedience to the good Laws, and then prefer their own ease, honor, and riches before the ease and freedom of the oppressed people. A Parliament is to cashier and punish those Officers, and place others who are men of public spirit in their rooms.
“Or else the People’s grievances arise from the practice and power that the King’s Laws have given to Lords of Manors, covetous Landlords, Tythe Takers, or unbounded Lawyers, being all strengthened in their oppressions over the people by that Kingly Law. And when the People are burthened herewith, and groan waiting for deliverance, as the oppressed People of England do at this day, it is then the work of a Parliament to see the People delivered, and that they enjoy their Creation’s Freedom in the Earth. They are not to dally with them, but as a father is ready to help his children out of misery when they either see them in misery, or when the children cry for help, so should they do for the oppressed people.
“And surely for this end, and no other, is the Parliament chosen. For the necessity for Common Preservation and Peace is the Fundamental Law both to Officers and People.
“The Work of a Parliament—Fourthly,
“Is this: If there be occasion to raise an Army to wage war, either against an Invasion of a Foreign Enemy, or against an Insurrection at home, it is the work of a Parliament to manage that business for to preserve Common Peace.
“And here their work is three-fold:
“First, To acquaint the People plainly with the cause of the War, and to show them the danger of such an Invasion or Insurrection. And so from that cause require their assistance in person, for the preservation of the Laws, Liberties and Peace of the Commonwealth, according to their engagement when they were chosen, which was this: Do you protect our Laws and Liberties, and we will protect and assist you.
“Secondly, A Parliament is to make choice of understanding, able and public-spirited men to be Leaders of an Army in this case, and to give them Commissions and Power, in the name of the Commonwealth, to manage the work of an Army.
“Thirdly, A Parliament’s work in this case is either to send Ambassadors to another Nation which has invaded our Land, or that intends to invade, to agree upon terms of peace, or to proclaim war; or else to receive and hear Ambassadors from other Lands for the same business, or about any other business concerning the peace and honor of the Land.
“For a Parliament is the Head of a Commonwealth’s Power; or, as it may be said, it is the great Council of an Army, from whom originally all Orders do issue forth to any Officer or Soldier. For if so be a Parliament had not an Army to protect them, the rudeness of the people would not obey their proceedings; and if a Parliament were not the representative of the People, who indeed is the body of all power, the Army would not obey their orders.
“So then a Parliament is the Head of Power in a Commonwealth. It is their work to manage public affairs in times of War and in times of Peace; not to promote the interests of particular men, but for the Peace and Freedom of the whole Body of the Land, viz., of every particular man, that none be deprived of his Creation Eights, unless he hath lost his Freedom by transgression, as by the Laws is expressed.”
The Rise of a Commonwealth’s Army.
“After that the necessity of a People in a Parish, in a County and in a Land, hath moved the People to choose Officers to preserve common peace, the same necessity causeth the People to say to their Officers—Do you see our Laws observed for our common preservation, and we will assist and protect you.
“These words, assist and protect, implies the rising of the People by force of arms to defend their Laws and Officers, who rule well, against any invasion, insurrection or rebellion of selfish Officers or rude people: yea, to beat down the turbulency of any foolish spirit that shall arise to break our common peace. So that the same Law of Necessity of Common Peace, which moved the People to choose Officers, and to compose a Law to be a Rule of Government: the same Law of Necessity of Protection doth raise an Army. So that an Army, as well as other Officers in a Commonwealth, spring from one and the same root, viz., from the necessity of Common Preservation.”
An Army is Two-fold: viz., a Ruling Army, or a Fighting Army.
“A Ruling Army is called Magistracy in times of Peace, keeping that Land and Government in Peace by Execution of the Laws, which the Fighting Army did purchase in the field by their blood out of the hands of Oppression. All Officers, from the Father in a Family to the Parliament in a Land, are but the heads and leaders of an Army; and all people arising to protect and assist their Officers, in defence of a right-ordered Government, are but the body of an Army. And this Magistracy is called the Rejoicing of all Nations, when the foundations thereof are Laws of Common Equity, whereby every single man may enjoy the fruits of his labor, in the free use of the Earth, without being restrained or oppressed by the hands of others.
“Secondly, A Fighting Army, called Soldiers in the Field, when the necessity of preservation, by reason of a foreign invasion, or inbred Oppression, doth move the people to arise in an Army to cut and tear to pieces either degenerate Officers, or rude people, who seek their own interests, and not Common Freedom, and through treachery do endeavour to destroy the Laws of Common Freedom, and to enslave both the Land and the People of the Commonwealth to their particular wills and lusts….
The use or work of a Fighting Army in a Commonwealth is to beat down all who arise to endeavour to destroy the Liberties of the Commonwealth. For as in the days of the Monarchy an Army was used to subdue all who rebelled against Kingly Propriety, so in the days of a Free Commonwealth, an Army is to be made use of to resist or destroy all who endeavour to keep up or bring in Kingly Bondage again….
Therefore, you Army of England’s Commonwealth, look to it. The Enemy could not beat you in the field, but they may be too hard for you by Policy in Counsel, if you do not stick close to see Common Freedom established. For if so be that Kingly Authority is set up in your Laws again, King Charles has conquered you and your posterity by policy, though you seemingly have cut off his head. For the Strength of a King lies not in the visible Appearance of his Body, but in his Will, Laws, and Authority, which is called Monarchial Government. But if you remove Kingly Government, and set up true and free Commonwealth’s Government, then you gain your Crown and keep it, and leave peace to your posterity: otherwise not. And thus doing makes a War either lawful or unlawful.”
“An Army may be Murtherers and Unlawful.
“If an Army be raised to cast out Kingly Oppression, and if the Heads of that Army promise a Commonwealth’s Freedom to the oppressed people, in case they will assist in person and purse, and if the people do assist and prevail over the Tyrant, those Officers are bound by the Law of Justice (who is God) to make good their engagements. And if they do not set the Land free from the branches of the Kingly Oppression, but reserve some part of the Kingly Power to advance their own particular interest, whereby some of their friends are left under as great slavery to them as they were under the Kings, those Officers are not faithful Commonwealth’s Soldiers, they are worse Thieves and Tyrants than the Kings they cast out, and that Honor they seemed to get by their Victories over the Commonwealth’s Oppressor, they lose again by breaking Promise and Engagement to their oppressed friends who did assist them.
“For what difference is there between a professed Tyrant, who declares himself a Tyrant in words, laws and deeds, as all Conquerors do, and him who promises to free me from the power of the Tyrant if I’ll assist him; and when I have spent my estate and blood, and the health of my body, and expect my bargain by his engagements to me, he sits himself down in the Tyrant’s Chair, and takes the possession of the Land to himself, and calls it his and none of mine, and tells me he cannot in conscience let me enjoy the Freedom of the Earth with him, because it is another man’s right.”
His Account of his own Circumstances.
“And now my health and estate is decayed and I grow in age, I must either beg or work for day-wages, which I was never brought up to, for another; when the Earth is as freely my Inheritance and Birth-Right as his whom I must work for. And if I cannot live by my weak labors, but take where I need, as Christ sent and took the Asses Colt in his need, there is no dispute, but by the Kings and Laws, he will hang me for a thief.”
The true Function of a Commonwealth Army.
“A Monarchial Army lifts up mountains and makes valleys, viz., advances Tyrants and treads the oppressed in the barren lanes of poverty. But a Commonwealth’s Army is like John the Baptist, who levels the Mountains to the Valleys, pulls down the Tyrant, and lifts up the Oppressed: and so makes way for the Spirit of Peace and Freedom to come in to rule and inherit the Earth.
“By this which has been spoken an Army may see wherein they may do well and wherein they may do hurt.”
The Office of the Post-Master.
“In every Parish throughout the Commonwealth shall be chosen two men (at the time when the other Officers are chosen), and these shall be called Post-Masters. And whereas there are four parts of the Land, East, West, North, South, there shall be chosen in the chief City two men to receive what the Post-Master of the East Country brings in”; and so on. “Now the work of a Country Post-master shall be this: They shall every month bring up or send by tidings from their respective Parishes to the chief City, of what accidents or passages fall out, which is either to the honor or dishonor, hurt or profit, of the Commonwealth. And if nothing have fallen out in that month worth observation, then they shall write down peace or good order in such a Parish.
“When these respective Post-masters have brought up their Bills or Certificates from all parts of the Land, the Receiver of these Bills shall write down everything in order from Parish to Parish in the nature of a Weekly Bill of Observation. And those eight Receivers shall cause the Affairs of the Four Quarters of the Land to be printed in one Book with what speed may be, and deliver to every Post-master a Book, that as they bring up the affairs of one Parish in writing, they may carry down in print the Affairs of the Whole Land.”
“The benefit lies here, that if any part of the Land be visited with Plague, Famine, Invasion or Insurrection, or any casualties, the other parts of the Land may have speedy knowledge, and send relief. And if any accident fall out through unreasonable action, or careless neglect, other parts of the Land may thereby be made watchful to prevent like dangers. Or if any through industry or through ripeness of understanding have found out any secret in Nature, or new invention in any Art or Trade, or in the tillage of the Earth, or such like, whereby the Commonwealth may more flourish in peace and plenty, for which virtues those persons received honor in the places where they dwelt; then, when other parts of the Land hear of it, many thereby will be encouraged to employ their Reason and Industry to do the like; that so in time there will not be any Secret in Nature, which now lies hid (by reason of the iron age of Kingly Oppressing Government) but by some or other will be brought to light, to the beauty of our Commonwealth.”
“The Work of a Commonwealth’s Ministry, and why one Day in Seven may be a Day of Rest from Labor.
“If there were good Laws and the People be ignorant of them, it would be as bad for the Commonwealth as if there were no Laws at all. Therefore it is very rational and good that one day in seven be still set apart, for three reasons:
“First, That the People in such a Parish may generally meet together to see one another’s faces, and beget or preserve fellowship in friendly love.
“Secondly, To be a day of rest, or cessation from labor; so that they may have some bodily rest for themselves and cattle.
“Thirdly, That he who is chosen Minister (for that year) in that Parish may read to the People three things. First, the affairs of the whole Land, as it is brought in by the Post-Master. Secondly, to read the Law of the Common-wealth, not only to strengthen the memory of the ancients, but that the young people also, who are not grown up to ripeness of experience, may be instructed to know when they do well and when they do ill. For the Law of a Land hath the power of Freedom and Bondage, life and death, in its hand, therefore the necessary knowledge to be known; and he is the best Prophet that acquaints men therewith, that as men grow up in years they may be able to defend the Laws and Government of the Land. But these Laws shall not be expounded by the Reader; for to expound a plain Law, as if a man would put a better meaning than the letter itself, produces two evils: First, the pure Law and the minds of the people will be thereby confounded, for multitude of words darken knowledge. Secondly, the reader will be puffed up in pride to contemn the Law-makers, and in time that will prove the father and nurse of tyranny, as at this day is manifested by our Ministry.”
What shall be spoken of.
“But because the minds of people generally love discourses, therefore, that the wits of men, both old and young, may be exercised, there may be speeches made in a threefold nature:
“First, To declare the acts and passages of former ages and governments, setting forth the benefit of freedom by well-ordered Governments, as in Israel’s Commonwealth, and the troubles and bondage which hath always attended oppression and oppressors, as the State of Pharaoh and other tyrant kings, who said the Earth and People were theirs, and only at their disposal.
“Secondly, Speeches may be made of all Arts and Sciences, some one day some another, as in Physics, Chyrurgery, Astrology, Astronomy, Navigation, Husbandry, and such like. And in these speeches may be unfolded the nature of all herbs and plants, from the Hysop to the Cedar, as Solomon writ of. Likewise men may come to see into the nature of the fixed and wandering Stars, those great powers of God in the heavens above. And hereby men will come to know the secrets of Nature and Creation, within which all true knowledge is wrapped up, and the light in man must arise to search it out.
“Thirdly, Speeches may be made sometimes of the nature of mankind, of his darkness and of his light, of his weakness and of his strength, of his love and of his envy, of his inward and outward bondages, of his inward and outward freedoms, etc. And this is that at which the ministry of Churches generally aim; but only that they confound their knowledge by imaginary study…. And thus to speak, or thus to read the Law of Nature (or God) as He hath written His name in every body, is to speak a pure language, and this is to speak the truth as Jesus Christ spake it, giving to everything its own weight and measure. By this means in time men shall attain to the practical knowledge of God truly, that they may serve Him in spirit and in truth: and this knowledge will not deceive a man.”
His Answer to Objections.
“‘I,’ but saith the zealous but ignorant Professor, ‘this is a low and carnal Ministry indeed; this leads men to know nothing but the knowledge of the earth and the secrets of nature; but we are to look after spiritual and heavenly things.’
“I answer: ‘To know the secrets of nature is to know the works of God; and to know the works of God within the Creation, is to know God himself; for God dwells in every visible work or body. Indeed, if you would know spiritual things, it is to know how the Spirit or Power of Wisdom and Life, causing motion or growth, dwells within and governs both the several bodies of the stars and planets in the heavens above, and the several bodies of the earth below, as grass, plants, fishes, beasts, birds and mankind. For to reach God beyond the Creation, or to know what he will be to a man after the man is dead, if any otherwise than to scatter him into his essences of fire, water, earth and air, of which he is composed, is a knowledge beyond the line or capacity of man to attain to while he lives in his compounded body. And if a man should go to imagine what God is beyond the Creation, or what he will be in a spiritual demonstration after a man is dead, he doth, as the proverb saith, but build castles in the air, or tells us of a world beyond the Moon or beyond the Sun, merely to blind the reason of man.
“‘I’ll appeal to yourself in this question, What other knowledge have you of God but what you have within the circle of the Creation? For if the Creation in all its dimensions be the fullness of Him that fills all with Himself; and if you yourself be part of this Creation: where can you find God but in that line or station wherein you stand? God manifests Himself in actual Knowledge, not in Imagination. He is still in motion, either in bodies upon earth or in the bodies in the heavens, or in both; in the night and in the day, in Winter, in Summer, in cold, in heat, in growth or not in growth.’”
The Cause of Ignorance, Evil and Sorrows.
“But when a studying imagination comes into man, which is the devil, for it is the cause of all evil and sorrows in the world; that is he who puts out the eyes of man’s knowledge, and tells him he must believe what others have writ or spoke, and must not trust to his own experience. And when this bewitching fancy sits in the Chair of Government, there is nothing but saying and unsaying, frowardness, covetousness, fears, confused thoughts, and unsatisfied doubtings, all the days of that man’s reign in the heart.”
Examine the Ways of Men, not only their Precepts.
“Or, secondly, examine yourself and look likewise into the ways of all Professors, and you shall find that the enjoyment of the earth below, which you call a low and a carnal knowledge, is that which you and all Professors (as well as the men of the world, as you call them) strive and seek after. Wherefore are you so covetous after the world, in buying and selling, counting yourself a happy man if you be rich, and a miserable man if you be poor? And though you say, Heaven after death is a place of glory where you shall enjoy God face to face, yet you are loth to leave the earth and go thither.
“Do not your Ministers preach for to enjoy the earth? Do not professing Lawyers, as well as others, buy and sell the Conquerer’s justice that they may enjoy the earth? Do not professing Soldiers fight for the earth, and seat themselves in that Land which is the birth-right of others, as well as theirs, shutting others out? Do not all Professors strive to get earth, that they may live in plenty by other men’s labors? Do you not make the earth your very rest? Doth not the enjoying of the earth please the spirit in you? and then you say God is pleased with your ways and blesseth you. If you want earth, and become poor, do you not say, God is angry with you? Why do you heap up riches? why do you eat and drink, and wear clothes? Are not all these carnal and low things of the earth? and do you not live in them and covet them as much as any, nay more than many which you call men of the world?
“It being thus with you, what other spiritual and heavenly things do you seek after more than others? What is in you more than in others? If you say there is, then surely you should leave these earthly things alone to the men of the world, as you call them, whose portions these are, and keep you within the compass of your own sphere, that others seeing you live a life above the world in peace and freedom, neither working yourselves, nor deceiving, nor compelling others to work for you, they may be drawn to embrace the same spiritual life by your single hearted conversation. Well I have done here.”
“Let us now examine your Divinity.”
“Let us now examine your Divinity, which you call heavenly and spiritual things; for herein speeches are made, not to advance knowledge, but to destroy the true knowledge of God. For Divinity does not speak the truth, as it is hid in everybody, but it leaves the motional knowledge of a thing as it is, and imagines, studies or thinks what may be, and so runs the hazard of true or false. This Divinity is always speaking words to deceive the simple, that he may make them work for him and maintain him, but he never comes to action himself, to do as he would be done by; for he is a monster who is all tongue and no hand.
“This Divining Doctrine, which you call spiritual and heavenly things, is the thief and the robber, he comes to spoil the Vineyard of a man’s peace, and does not enter in at the door, but he climbs up another way. And this Doctrine is two-fold: First, it takes upon him to tell you the meaning of other men’s words and writings, by his studying or imagining what another man’s knowledge might be, and by thus doing darkens knowledge, and wrongs the spirit of the Authors who did write and speak those things which he takes upon him to interpret. Secondly, he takes upon him to foretell what shall befall a man after he is dead, and what that world is beyond the Sun and beyond the Moon, etc. And if any man tell him there is no reason for what you say, he answers, you must not judge of heavenly and spiritual things by reason, but you must believe what is told you, whether it be reason or no.”
Wherein it is Wanting.
“There is a three-fold discovery of falsehood in this Doctrine. First, it is a Doctrine of a sickly and weak spirit, who hath lost his understanding in the knowledge of the Creation, and of the temper of his own heart and nature, and so runs into fancies, either of joy or sorrow. If the passion of joy predominate, then he fancies to himself a personal God, personal Angels, and a local place of glory, which he saith, he, and all who believe what he hath, shall go to after they are dead. If sorrow predominate, then he fancies to himself a personal Devil, and a local place of torment that he shall go to after he is dead: and this he speaks with great confidence.
“Secondly, This is the doctrine of a subtle running spirit, to make an ungrounded wise man mad….
For many times when a wise understanding heart is assaulted with this Doctrine of a God, a Devil, a Heaven and a Hell, Salvation and Damnation after a man is dead, his spirit being not strongly grounded in the knowledge of the Creation nor in the temper of his own heart, he strives and stretches his brain to find out the depth of that doctrine and cannot attain to it. For, indeed, it is not knowledge, but imagination. And so by poring and puzzling himself in it, he loses that wisdom he had, and becomes distracted and mad. If the passion of joy predominate, then he is merry, and sings, and laughs, and is ripe in the expression of his words and will speak strange things: but all by imagination. But if the passion of sorrow predominate, then he is heavy and sad, crying out, He is damned; God hath forsaken him, and he must go to Hell when he dies; he cannot make his calling and election sure. And in that distemper many times a man doth hang, kill or drown himself. So this Divining Doctrine, which you call spiritual and heavenly things, torments people always when they are weak, sickly or under any distemper. Therefore it cannot be the Doctrine of Christ the Saviour.
“Or, thirdly, This Doctrine is made a cloak of policy by the subtle Elder Brother, to cheat his simpler Younger Brother of the Freedoms of the Earth. For, saith the Elder Brother, ‘The Earth is mine, and not yours, Brother; and you must not work upon it, unless you will hire it of me; and you must not take the fruits of it, unless you will buy them of me, by that which I pay you for your labor. For if you should do otherwise, God will not love you, and you shall not go to Heaven when you die, but the Devil will have you, and you must be damned in Hell.’
“If the Younger reply, and say—‘The Earth is my Birth-Right as well as yours, and God who made us both is no Respecter of persons. Therefore there is no reason but I should enjoy the Freedoms of the Earth for my comfortable livelihood, as well as you, Brother.’
“‘I,’ but saith the Elder Brother, ‘You must not trust to your own Reason and Understanding, but you must believe what is written and what is told you; and if you will not believe, your Damnation will be the greater.’
“‘I cannot believe,’ saith the Younger Brother, ‘that our Righteous Creator should be so partial in his Dispensations of the Earth, seeing our bodies cannot live upon Earth without the use of the Earth.’
“The Elder Brother replies, ‘What, will you be an Atheist, and a factious man, will you not believe God?’
“‘Yes,’ saith the Younger Brother, ‘if I knew God said so, I should believe, for I desire to serve Him.’
“‘Why,’ saith the Elder Brother, ‘this is His Word, and if you will not believe it, you must be damned; but if you will believe it, you will go to Heaven.’
“Well, the Younger Brother, being weak in spirit, and not having a grounded knowledge of the Creation, nor of himself, is terrified, and lets go his hold in the Earth, and submits himself to be a Slave to his Brother, for fear of damnation in Hell after death, and in hopes to get Heaven thereby after he is dead. And so his eyes are put out, and his Reason is blinded. So that this divining spiritual doctrine is a cheat. For while men are gazing up to Heaven, imagining after a happiness, or fearing a Hell after they are dead, their eyes are put out, that they see not what are their Birth-Rights, nor what is to be done by them here on Earth while they are living. This is the filthy Dreamer and the Cloud without rain. And indeed the subtle Clergy do know that if they can but charm the people by this their divining doctrine, to look after riches, Heaven and Glory when they are dead, that then they shall easily be the inheritors of the Earth, and have the deceived people to be their Servants.
“For my own part,” he continues, “my spirit hath waded deep to find the bottom of this divining spiritual Doctrine; and the more I searched, the more I was at a loss. I never came to quiet rest and to know God in my spirit, till I came to the knowledge of the things in this Book. And let me tell you, They who preach this divining doctrine are the murderers of many a poor heart, who is bashful and simple, and who cannot speak for himself, but who keeps his thoughts to himself.”
“Mankind in the days of his youth is like a young colt, wanton and foolish, till he be broken in by education and correction; the neglect of this care, or the want of wisdom in the performance of it, hath been and is the cause of much division and trouble in the world. Therefore the Law of a Common-wealth doth require that not only a Father, but that all Overseers and Officers should make it their work to educate children in good manners, and to see them brought up in some trade or other, and to suffer no children in any Parish to live in idleness and youthful pleasures all their days, as many have been; but that they may be brought up like men and not like beasts. That so the Commonwealth may be planted with laborious and wise experienced men, and not with idle fools.”
“Mankind may be considered in a four-fold degree, his childhood, youth, manhood, and old age. His childhood and his youth may be considered from his birth till forty years of age. Within this compass of time, after he is weaned from his mother, his parents shall teach him a civil and humble behaviour towards all men. Then send him to school, to learn to read the Laws of the Common-wealth, to ripen his wits from his childhood, and so to proceed with his learning till he be acquainted with all Arts and Languages….
But one sort of children shall not be trained up only to book-learning, and to no other employment, called Scholars, as they are in the Government of Monarchy. For then through idleness they spend their time to find out policies to advance themselves to be Lords and Masters over their laboring bretheren, which occasions all the trouble in the world.”
“Therefore, to prevent idleness and the danger of Machivilian cheats, it is profitable for the Commonwealth that children be trained up in trades and some bodily employment, as well as in learning languages or the histories of former ages. And as boys are trained up in learning and in trades, so all maids shall be trained up in reading, sewing, kniting, spinning of linnen and woollen, music, and all other easy neat works, either for to furnish Storehouses with linnen and wooll cloth, or for the ornament of particular houses with needlework. If this course were taken, there would be no idle person or beggar in the Land, and much work would be done by that now lazy generation for the enlarging of the Common Treasury.”
Invention to be encouraged.
“In the managing of any trade let no young wit be crushed in his invention. If any man desire to make a new trial of his skill in any trade or science, the Overseer shall not injure him but encourage him therein; that so the Spirit of Knowledge may have his full growth in man, to find out the secrets in every art. And let everyone who finds out a new invention have a deserved honor given him; and certainly when men are sure of food and raiment, their reason will be ripe and ready to dive into the secrets of the Creation, that they may learn to see and know God (the Spirit of the whole Creation) in all his works. For fear of want and care to pay Rent to Task-Masters hath hindered many rare inventions. So that Kingly Power hath crushed the Spirit of Knowledge, and would not suffer it to rise up in its beauty and fullness, but by his Club Law hath preferred the Spirit of Imagination, which is a deceiver, before it.
“There shall be no buying and selling of the Earth, nor of the fruits thereof.
“For by the Government under Kings the cheaters hereby have cozened the plain-hearted of their Creation Birth-rights, and have possessed themselves in the Earth, and call it theirs, and not the others, and so have brought in that poverty and misery which lies upon many men. And whereas the wise should help the foolish, and the strong help the weak, the wise and strong destroy the weak and simple … and so the Proverb is made true—Plain dealing is a jewel, but he who uses it shall die a beggar. And why? Because this buying and selling is the nursery of cheats; it is the Law of the Conqueror, the Righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees…. And these cunning cheaters commonly become the Rulers of the Earth…. For not the wise poor man, but the cunning rich man was always made an Officer and a Ruler; such a one as by his stolen interests in the Earth would be sure to hold others in bondage of poverty and servitude to him and his party. Therefore there shall be no buying and selling in a free Common-wealth, neither shall anyone hire his Brother to work for him.”
“If the Common-wealth might be governed without buying and selling, here is a Platform of Government for it, which is the ancientest Law of Righteousness to Mankind in the use of the Earth, and which is the very height of Earthly Freedom. But if the minds of the people, through covetousness and proud ignorance, will have the Earth governed by buying and selling still, this same Platform, with some few things subtracted, declares an easy way of Government of the Earth for the quiet of people’s minds, and the preserving of peace in the Land.
“How must the Earth be planted?
“The Earth is to be planted and the fruits reaped and carried into Barns and Storehouses by the assistance of every family. If any man or family want corn or other provisions, they may go to the Storehouses and fetch without money. If they want a horse to ride, go into the fields in Summer, or to the Common Stables in Winter, and receive one from the Keepers, and when your journey is performed, bring him where you had him, without money. If any want food or victuals, they may either go to the butchers’ shops and receive what they want without money, or else go to the flocks of sheep or herds of cattle, and take and kill what meat is needful for their families, without buying and selling. The reason why all the riches of the Earth are a Common Stock is this: Because the Earth and the labors thereupon are managed by common assistance of every family, without buying and selling, as is shown more largely in the Office of Overseers for Trades and the Law for Storehouses. The Laws for the right ordering thereof, and the Officers to see the Laws executed, to preserve the peace of every family, and to improve and promote every trade, is shown in the work of Officers and the Laws following.”
Who alone will object.
“None will be an enemy to this Freedom, which, indeed, is to do to another as a man would have another do to him, but Covetousness and Pride, the spirit of the old grudging, snapping Pharisees, who give God abundant of good words in their sermons, in their prayers, in their fasts, and in their thanksgivings, as though none should be more faithful servants to Him than they. Nay, they will shun the company, imprison, and kill every one that will not worship God, they are so zealous. Well now, God and Christ hath enacted an everlasting Law, which is Love, not only one another of your own mind, but love your enemies too, such as are not of your mind: and having food and raiment therewith be content.
Now here is a trial for you, whether you will be faithful to God and Christ in obeying His Laws; or whether you will destroy the man-child of true Freedom, Righteousness and Peace, in his resurrection. And now thou wilt either give us the tricks of a Soldier, face about, and return to Egypt, and so declare thyself to be part of the Serpent’s seed that must bruise the heel of Christ. Or else to be one of the plain-hearted Sons of Promise, or Members of Christ, who shall help to bruise the Serpent’s head, which is Kingly Oppression, and so bring in everlasting Righteousness and Peace into the Earth. Well, the eye is now open.”
“Storehouses shall be built and appointed in all Places and be the Common Stock.
“There shall be Storehouses in all places, both in the Country and in Cities, to which all the fruits of the Earth, and other works made by Tradesmen, shall be brought, and thence delivered out again to particular Families, and to every one as they want for their use; or else to be transplanted by ships to other Lands to exchange for those things which our Land will not or does not afford. For all the labors of Husbandmen and Tradesmen within the Land, or by Navigation to or from other Lands, shall be upon the Common Stock. And as everyone works to advance the Common Stock, so everyone shall have a free use of any commodity in the Storehouse for his pleasure and comfortable livelihood, without buying or selling or restraint from any. Having food and raiment, lodging, and the comfortable societies of his own kind, what can a man desire more in these days of his travel? Indeed, covetous, proud, and beastly minded men desire more, either to lay by them to look upon, or else to waste and spoil it upon their lusts, while other Bretheren live in straits for the want of the use thereof. But the Laws and Faithful Officers of a Free Commonwealth do regulate the irrational conduct of such men.
“There are two Sorts of Storehouses, General and Particular.
“The general Storehouses are such houses as receive in all commodities in the gross…. And these general Storehouses shall be filled and preserved by the common labor and assistance of every Family, as is mentioned in the Office for Overseer for Trades. And from these Public Houses, which are the general stock of the Land, all particular Tradesmen may fetch materials for their particular work as they need, or to furnish their particular dwellings with any commodities.
“Secondly, There are particular Storehouses, or Shops, to which the Tradesmen shall bring their particular works; as all instruments of iron to the Iron-shops, hats to the shops appointed for them, and so on…. They shall receive in, as into a Storehouse, and deliver out again freely, as out of a Common Storehouse, when particular persons or families come for everything they need, as now they do by buying and selling under Kingly Government. For as particular Families and Tradesmen do make several works more than they can make use of … and do carry their particular works to Storehouses; so it is all Reason and Equity that they should go to other Storehouses to fetch any other commodity which they want and cannot make. For as other men partake of their labors, so it is reason they should partake of other men’s.”
The King’s Old Laws cannot serve a Free Commonwealth.”
Of kingly Laws.
“The King’s Old Laws cannot govern in times of Bondage and in times of Freedom too. They have indeed served many masters, Papish and Protestant. They are like old Soldiers, who will but change their name, and turn about, and as they were. The Reason is because they are the prerogative will of those, under any Religion, who count it no Freedom to them unless they be Lords over the minds, persons and labors of their bretheren.
“They are called the King’s Laws, because they are made by the King. If any say they were made by the Commoners, it is answered, They were not made by the Commoners as the Commoners of a Free Commonwealth are to make Laws. For in the days of the King none were to choose or be chosen Parliament Men, or Law Makers, but Lords of Manors, and Freeholders, such as held title to their Enclosures of Land, or Charters for their Liberties in Trades, under the King, who called the Land his, as he was the Conqueror or his successor. All inferior people were neither to choose nor be chosen. And the reason was because all Freeholders of Land and such as held their Liberties by Charter, were all of the King’s interest; and the inferior people were successively of the rank of the conquered ones, and servants and slaves from the time of the Conquest.
“Further, when a Parliament was chosen in that manner, yet if any Parliament Man, in the uprightness of his heart, did endeavour to promote any freedom contrary to the King’s will or former customs from the Conquest, he was either committed to prison by the King or by the House of Lords, who were his ancient Norman successive Council of War; or else the Parliament was dissolved and broke up by the King. So that the old Laws were made in times under Kingly Slavery, not under the liberty of Commonwealth’s Freedom, because Parliament Men had to have regard to the King’s prerogative interest to uphold his conquest, or else endanger themselves. As sometimes it is in these days, some Officers dare not speak against the minds of those men who are the chief in power, nor a Private Soldier against the mind of his Officer, lest they be cashiered their places and livelihood. And so long as the promoting of the King’s will and prerogative was to be in the eye of the Law Makers, the oppressed Commoners could never enjoy Commonwealth’s Freedom thereby. Yet by the wisdom, courage, faithfulness and industry of some Parliament Men, the Commoners have received here a line and there a line of freedom inserted into their Laws: as those good lines of freedom in Magna Charta were obtained by much hardship and industry.
“Secondly, They were the King’s Laws, because the King’s own creatures made the Laws: Lords of Manors, Freeholders, etc., were successors of the Norman soldiers from the Conquest, therefore they could do no other but maintain their own and the King’s interest. Do we not see that all Laws were made in the days of the King to ease the rich Landlord? The poor laborers were left under bondage still; they were to have no freedom in the earth by those pharisaical Laws. For when Laws were made and Parliaments broke up, the poor oppressed Commoners had no relief; the power of Lords of Manors, withholding the free use of the Common-land from them, remained still. For none durst make any use of any Common-land but at the Lord’s leave, according to the will and law of the Conqueror. Therefore the old Laws were called King’s Laws.”
Of Commonwealth’s Laws.
“These old Laws cannot govern a Free Commonwealth; because the Land is now to be set free from the slavery of the Norman Conquest, and the power of Lords of Manors and Norman Freeholders is to be taken away. Or else the Commoners are but where they were, if not fallen lower into straits than they were. The Old Laws cannot look with any other face than they did; though they be washed with Commonwealth’s water, their countenance is still withered. Therefore it was not for nothing that the Kings would have all their Laws written in French and Latin, and not in English; partly in honor to the Norman Race, and partly to keep the Common People ignorant of their Creation Freedom lest they should rise to redeem themselves. And if those Laws should be writ in English, yet if the same Kingly Principles remain in them, the English language would not advantage us anything, but rather increase our sorrow by our knowledge of our bondage.”
“What is Law in general?”
“Law is a Rule, whereby men and other creatures are governed in their actions for the preservation of Common Peace.”
The Two-fold Nature of Law.
“This Law is two-fold: First, it is the power of Life (called the Law of Nature within the Creatures) which doth move both man and beast in their actions, or that causes grass, trees, corn and all plants to grow in their several seasons. And whatsoever anybody does, he does it as he is moved by this inward Law. And this Law of Nature moves two-fold, viz., irrationally or rationally.”
The Law of the Flesh.
“A man by this inward Law is guided to actions of present content, rashly, through a greedy self-love, without any consideration, like foolish children, or like the brute beasts. By reason whereof much hurt many times follows the body. And this may be called the Law of the Members warring against the Law of the Mind.”
The Law of the Mind.
“Or where there is an inward watchful oversight of all motions to action, considering the end and effect of those actions, so that there be no excess in diet, in speech, or in action break forth, to the prejudice of a man’s self or others: and this may be called the Light in Man, the Reasonable Power, or the Law of the Mind. And this rises up in the heart by an experimental observation of that peace or trouble which such and such words, thoughts and actions bring the man into. And this is called the Record on High; for it is a record in a man’s heart above the former unreasonable power: and it may be called the witness or testimony of a man’s own conscience: and this moderate watchfulness is still the Law of Nature, but in a higher resurrection than the former. It hath many terms, which for brevity sake I let pass.”
Their Struggle for Supremacy.
“This two-fold work of the Law within man strive to bring forth themselves in writing to beget numbers of bodies on their sides. That power which begets the bigger number always rules as King or Lord in the creature and in the Creation, till the other side overtop him: even as light and darkness strive in day and night to succeed each other. Or as it is said—“The strong man armed keeps the heart of man till a stronger than he came and cast him out.”
The Written Law.
“This written Law, proceeding either from reason or unreasonableness, is called the Letter, whereby the creation of mankind, beasts and earth are governed, according to the will of that power which rules….
As for example, if the experienced, wise and strong man bears rule, then he writes down his mind to curb the unreasonable Law of Covetousness and Pride in inexperienced man, to preserve Peace in the Commonwealth. This is called the Historical or Traditional Law, because it is conveyed from one generation to another by writing: as the Laws of Israel’s Commonwealth were writ in a book by Moses, and so conveyed to posterity. And this outward Law is a bridle to unreasonableness; or as Solomon writ, It is a whip for the fool’s back, for whom only it was added.”
“Secondly, Since Moses’ time the power of unreasonable covetousness and pride hath sometimes risen up and corrupted that Traditional Law. For since the power of the sword rises up in Nations to conquer, the Written Law hath not been to advance Common Freedom and to beat down the unreasonable self-will in mankind, but it hath been framed to uphold the self-will of the Conqueror, right or wrong, not respecting the Freedom of the Commonwealth, but the Freedom of the Conqueror and his friends only. By reason whereof much slavery hath been laid on the backs of the plain-dealing men; and men of public spirit, as Moses was, have been crushed, and their spirits damped thereby: which hath bred first discontents, and then more wars in the Nations….
But hereby the true nature of a well-governed Commonwealth hath been ruined; the will of Kings set up for a Law; and the Law of Righteousness, the Law of Liberty, trod under foot and killed. This Traditional Law of Kings is that Letter at this day which kills true freedom and is the fomenter of wars and persecutions.
“This is the soldier who cut Christ’s garments into pieces, which was to remain uncut and without seam. This law moves the people to fight one against the other for those pieces; viz., for the several enclosures of the Earth, who shall possess the Earth, and who shall be Rulers over others.”
The everlasting Law.
“But the true ancient Law of God is a Covenant of Peace to the whole of mankind. This sets the Earth free to all. This unites both Jew and Gentile into one Brotherhood, and rejects none. This makes Christ’s garment whole again; and makes the Kingdoms of the World to become Commonwealths again. It is the Inward Power of Right Understanding, which is the True Law that teaches people in action, as well as in words, to do as they would be done unto.”
Short and pithy Laws are best to govern a Commonwealth,”
“The Laws of Israel’s Commonwealth were few, short and pithy; and the Government thereof was established in peace so long as Officers and People were obedient thereunto. But those many Laws in the days of the Kings of England, which were made some in times of Popery and some in times of Protestantism, and the proceedings of the Laws being in French and Latin, hath produced two great evils in England.
First, it hath occasioned much ignorance among the people, and much contention. And the people have mightily erred through want of knowledge, and thereby they have run into great expense of money by suits of Law; or else many have been imprisoned, whipped, banished, lost their estates and lives by that Law which they were ignorant of till the scourge thereof was on their backs. This is a sore evil among the people.
“Secondly, The people’s ignorance of the laws hath bred many sons of contention. For when any difference falls out between man and man, they neither of them know which offends the other; therefore, both of them thinking their cause is good, they delight to make use of the Law; and then they go and give a Lawyer money to tell them which of them was the offender.
The Lawyer, being glad to maintain his own trade, sets them together by the ears till all their money be near spent; and then bids them refer the business to their neighbors to make them friends, which might have been done at the first. So that the course of the Law and Lawyers hath been a mere snare to entrap the people and to pull their estates from them by craft. For the Lawyers do uphold the Conqueror’s Interest and the People’s Slavery; so that the King, seeing this, did put all the affairs of Judicature into their hands: and all this must be called Justice, but it is a sore evil.
“But now if the Laws were few and short, and often read, it would prevent those evils. Everyone, knowing when they did well and when ill, would be very cautious of their words and actions, and thus would escape the Lawyer’s craft.
As Moses’ Law in Israel’s Commonwealth: ‘The People did talk of them when they lay down and when they rose up, and as they walked by the way, and bound them as bracelets upon their hands:’ so that they were an understanding people in the Laws wherein their peace did depend. But it is a sign that England is a blinded and snared generation; their Leaders, through pride and covetousness, have caused them to err, yea and perish too, for want of the knowledge of the Laws, which hath the Power of Life and Death, Freedom and Bondage in its hand. But I hope better things hereafter.”
“Here is the Righteous Law, Man wilt thou it maintain?
It may be, as hath still, in the World been slain.
Truth appears in Light, Falsehood rules in Power;
To see these things to be, is cause of grief each hour.
Knowledge, Why didst thou come, to wound and not to cure?
I sent not for thee, thou didst me inlure.
Where knowledge does increase, there sorrows multiply,
To see the great deceit which in the World doth lie.
Man saying one thing now, unsaying it anon,
Breaking all Engagements, when deeds for him are done.
O Power where art thou? thou must mend things amiss;
Come, change the heart of Man, and make him Truth to kiss:
O Death, where art thou? wilt thou not tidings send?
I fear thee not, thou art my loving friend.
Come take this body, and scatter it in the Four,
That I may dwell in One, and rest in peace once more.
The Digger Movement in the Days of the Commonwealth 1906 Lewis Henry Berens died 1913 Digger Movement Wikipedia
Earlier he wrote:
The New Law of Righteousnes budding forth, in restoring the whole creation from the bondage of the curse. Or A glimpse of the new heaven, and new earth, wherein dwels righteousnes. The link will take you to the fee book in public domain.
Giving an alarm to silence all that preach or speak from hear-say, or imagination.
By Gerrard Winstanley
printed for Giles Calvert, at the black spread-Eagle at the west end of Pauls, 1649.
“And when reason’s voice,
Loud as the voice of nature, shall have waked
The nations; and mankind perceives that vice
Is discord, war and misery; that virtue
Is peace, and happiness and harmony;
When man’s maturer nature shall disdain
The playthings of its childhood;—kingly glare
Will lose its power to dazzle; its authority
Will silently pass by; the gorgeous throne
Shall stand unnoticed in the regal hall,
Fast falling to decay; whilst falsehood’s trade
Shall be as hateful and unprofitable
As that of truth is now.”—Shelley.
“Look on yonder earth:
The golden harvests spring; the unfailing sun
Sheds light and life; the fruits, the flowers, the trees,
Arise in due succession; all things speak
Peace, harmony and love…. Is Mother Earth
A step-dame to her numerous sons, who earn
Her unshared gifts with unremitting toil;
A mother only to those puling babes
Who, nursed in ease and luxury, make men
The playthings of their babyhood, and mar,
In self-important childishness, that peace
Which men alone appreciate?”—
Queen Mab, Book III, Percy Bysshe Shelley.