54 CONTEXTS: Crisis of Authority

“Undated engraving depicting the executioner after the beheading of Charles I of England,” by unknown artist, 1649. Wikimedia Commons.


The period from 1640-1660 is rememered in England today as the “civil war” decades when the country was thrown into upheavel and bloodshed over the question of who should govern, and the state of religious freedom in the realm. Writers of this age felt compelled to comment on the chaos, both overtly and obliquely, as evidenced in the texts below. For the first time, we see political writing emerging as its own genre of prose; these forceful and radical voices surely paved the way for the later works of English greats such as Dryden, Pope and Swift. The “writer as witness” proved to be an enduring framework as well that featured narrators who stood at crossroads of history and voiced their experiences and views for the generations to come.

Multiple genres are included in this section: journlaistic accounts that were published in newspapers, political theory, descriptions of contemporary history, and personal memoirs.

Reading: The Execution of King Charles I

The following texts are first-hand accounts of the beheading of King Charles I from newspapers at the time; newspapers were a medium that emerged in the 1620s with the outbreak of the Thirty Years’ War. These “newsbooks” helped encourage deep and meaningful civic involvement and serve today as the primary sources for accounts of the king’s trial and execution. Both events were contentious–Parliament, for its part, wanted to dethrone the King and restrict his powers while The New Model Army, led by Oliver Cromwell, pushed for a more permanent solution, citing concerns that the confined king could rally troops at any moment. When Charles was seized and brought to London, it was eventually decided that he would stand trial for treason. The result was a foregone conclusion and Charles I’s behavior on the scaffold, brave and steadfast by these accounts, earned him the respect of even his most ardent  critics. In 1660, the year the monarchy was restored, Charles I was canonized as a saint.

From The Manner of the Tryal of Charles Stuart King of England (1649)

On Saturday, being the 20th day of January 1648, The Lord President of the High Court of Justice with near fourscore of the Members of the said Court, having sixteen Gentlemen with Partisans, and a Sword and a Mace, with their, and other Officers of the said Court marching before them, came to the place ordered to be prepared for their sitting, at the West end of the great Hall at Westminster, where the Lord President in a Crimson Velvet Chair, fixed in the midst of the Court, placed himself, having a Desk with a Crimson Velvet Cushion before him; the rest of the Members placing themselves on each side of him upon the several Seats, or Benches, prepared and hung with Scarlet for that purpose, and the Partisans dividing themselves on each side of the Court before them.

The Court being thus sat, and silence made, the great Gate of the said Hall was let open, to the end, That all persons without exception, desirous to see, or hear, might come into it, upon which the Hall was presently filled, and silence again ordered.

This done, Colonel Thomlinson, who had the charge of the Prisoner, was commanded to bring him to the Court, who within a quarter of an hour’s space brought him attended with about twenty Officers, with Partisans marching before him, there being other Gentlemen, to whose care and custody he was likewise committed, marching in his Rear. Being thus brought up within the face of the Court, The Sergeant at Arms, with his Mace, receives and conducts him straight to the Bar, having a Crimson Velvet Chair set before him. After a stern looking upon the Court, and the people in the Galleries on each side of him, he places himself, not at all moving his Hat, or otherwise showing the least respect to the Court; but presently rises up again, and turns about, looking downwards upon the Guards placed on the left side, and on the multitude of Spectators on the right side of the said great Hall. After Silence made among the people, the Act of Parliament for the Trying of Charles Stuart, King of England, was read over by the Clerk of the Court; who sat on one side of a Table covered with a rich Turkey Carpet, and placed at the feet of the said Lord President, upon which table was also laid the Sword and Mace.

After reading the said Act, the several names of the Commissioners were called over, every one who was present, being eighty, as aforesaid, rising up and answering to his Call.

Having again placed himself in his Chair, with his face towards the Court, Silence being again ordered, the Lord President stood up and said:

Lord President: Charles Stuart, King of England; The Commons of England Assembled in Parliament, being deeply sensible of the Calamities that have been brought upon this Nation (which is fixed upon you as the principal Author of it) have resolved to make inquisition for Blood, and according to that Debt and Duty they owe to Justice, to God, the Kingdom, and themselves, and according to the Fundamental Power that rests in themselves, They have resolved to bring you to Trial and Judgment; and for that purpose have constituted this High Court of Justice, before which you are brought.

This said, M. Cook Attorney for the Commonwealth (standing within a Bar on the right hand of the Prisoner) offered to speak, but the King having a staff in his Hand, held it up, and laid it upon the said M. Cook’s shoulder two or three times, bidding him hold; Nevertheless, the Lord President ordering him to go on, he said:

M. Cook. My Lord, I am commanded to charge Charles Stuart, King of England, in the name of the Commons of England, with Treason and high Misdemeanors; I desire the said Charge may be read.

The said Charge being delivered to the Clerk of the Court, the Lord President ordered it should be read, but the King bid him hold; Nevertheless, being commanded by the Lord President to read it, the Clerk began. The Charge of the Commons of England, against Charles Stuart, King of England, Of High Treason, and other High Crimes, exhibited to the High Court of Justice. . . .

The Charge being read the Lord President replied:

Lord President. Sir, you have now heard your Charge read, containing such matter as appears in it; you find, that in the close of it, it is prayed to the Court, in the behalf of the Commons of England, that you answer to your Charge. The Court expects your Answer.

The King. I would know by what power I am called hither. . . . by what Authority, I mean, lawful; there are many unlawful Authorities in the world, Thieves and Robbers by the highways: but I would know by what Authority I was brought from thence, and carried from place to place, (and I know not what), and when I know what lawful Authority, I shall answer: Remember, I am your King, your lawful King, and what sins you bring upon your heads, and the Judgment of God upon this Land, think well upon it, I say, think well upon it, before you go further from one sin to a greater; therefore let me know by what lawful Authority I am seated here, and I shall not be unwilling to answer, in the meantime I shall not betray my Trust: I have a Trust committed to me by God, by old and lawful descent, I will not betray it to answer a new unlawful Authority, therefore resolve me that, and you shall hear more of me. . . . I will stand as much for the privilege of the house of Commons, rightly understood, as any man here whatsoever. I see no House of Lords, here that may constitute a Parliament, and (the King too) should have been. Is this the bringing of the King to his Parliament? Is this the bringing an end to the Treaty in the public Faith of the world? Let me see a legal Authority warranted by the Word of God, the Scriptures, or warranted by the Constitutions of the Kingdom, and I will answer.

Lord President. Sir, you have held yourself, and let fall such Language, as if you had been no ways Subject to the Law, or that the Law had not been your Superior. Sir, The Court is very well sensible of it, and I hope so are all the understanding People of England, That the Law is your Superior, that you ought to have ruled according to the Law, you ought to have done so. Sir, I know very well your pretence hath been that you have done so, but Sir, the difference hath been who shall be the Expositors of this Law, Sir, whether you and your Party out of Courts of Justice shall take upon them to expound Law, or the Courts of Justice, who are the Expounders; nay, the Sovereign and the High Court of Justice, the PARLIAMENT of England, that are not only the highest expounders, but the sole makers of the Law. Sir, for you to set yourself with your single judgment, and those that adhere unto you, to set yourself against the highest Court of Justice, that is not Law.

Sir, as the Law is your Superior; so truly Sir, there is something that is Superior to the Law, and that is indeed the Parent or Author of the Law, and that is the People of England, For Sir, as they are those that at the first (as other Countries have one) did choose to themselves the Form of Government, even for justice sake, that Justice might be administered, that Peace might be preserved, so Sir, they gave Laws to their Governors, according to which they should Govern, and if those Laws should have proved inconvenient, or prejudicial to the Public, they had a power in them and reserved to themselves to alter as they shall see cause. . . .This we learn, the end of having Kings, or any other Governors, it’s for the enjoying of Justice, that’s the end. Now Sir, if so be the King will go contrary to that End, or any other Governor will go contrary to the end of his Government; Sir, he must understand that he is but an Officer in trust, and he ought to discharge that Trust, and they are to take order for the animadversion and punishment of such an offending Governor.

This is not Law of yesterday Sir, (since the time of the division betwixt you and your People) but it is Law of old; and we know very well the Authors and the Authorities that do tell us what the Law was in that point upon the Election of Kings, upon the Oath that they took unto their People; and if they did not observe it, there were those things called Parliaments; the Parliaments were they that were to adjudge (the very words of the Author) the plaints and wrongs done of the King and the Queen, or their Children, such wrongs especially when the People could have no where else any remedy. Sir, that hath been the People of England’s case, they could not have their remedy elsewhere but in Parliament. . . .

Sir, that road we are now upon by the command of the highest Courts hath been and is to try and judge you for these great offenses of yours. Sir, the Charge hath called you Tyrant, a Traitor, a Murderer, and a public Enemy to the Commonwealth of England. Sir, it had been well, if that any or all these terms might rightly and justly have been spared, if any one of them at all.

King: Ha!

******The Lord President commands the sentence to be read. Make an O yes, and command silence while the sentence is read. O yes made. Silence commanded. The Clerk read the sentence, which was drawn up in parchment.

Whereas the Commons of England in Parliament had appointed them an High Court of Justice for the trying of Charles Stuart, King of England, before whom he had been three times convented, and at the first time a Charge of High Treason, and other Crimes and Misdemeanors, was read in the behalf of the Kingdom of England, etc.

Here the Clerk read the Charge.

Which Charge being read unto him as aforesaid, he the said Charles Stuart was required to give his Answer, but he refused so to do, and so expressed the several passages at his Trial in refusing to answer.

For all which Treasons and Crimes this Court doth adjudge, That he said Charles Stuart, as a Tyrant, Traitor, Murderer, and a public Enemy, shall be put to Death, by the severing his Head from his Body.

After the sentence read, the Lord President said; This sentence now read and published, it is the act, sentence, judgement, and resolution of the whole Court.

Here the Court stood up, as assenting to what the President said.

From A Perfect Diurnal of Some Passages in Parliament

Tuesday, January 30.

This day the King was beheaded over against the Banquetting House, Whitehall. The manner of execution and what passed before his death take thus :-

He was brought from S.James about ten in the morning, walking on foot through the Park, with a Regiment of Foot for his guard, with colors flying, drums beating, his private guard of partizans with some of his gentlemen before and some behind bareheaded, Doctor Juxon, late Bishop of London, nexte behinde him, and Colonel Tomlinson (who had the charge of him), to the lattery in Whitehall, and so into the Cabinet Chamber, where he used to laye, where he continued at his devotion, refusing to dine (having before taken the Sacrament), onely about 12 at noone he dranke a glasse of claret wine and ate a peice of bread. From thence he was accompanied by Dr. Juxon, Col. Tomlinson, Col. Hacker, and the Guards before mentioned, through the Banquetting House, adjoining to which the Scaffold was erected, between Whitehall Gate and the gate leading into the gallery from S.James. The Scaffold was hung round with black and the floor covered with black, and the Ax and Block laid in the middle of the Scaffold. There were divers companies of Foot and Horse on every side the Scaffold, and the multitude of people that came to be spectators very great. The King, making a pause upon the Scaffold, looked very earnestly upon the Block and asked Col.Hacker if there were no higher, and then spoke thus (directing his speech to the gentlemen on the Scaffold)-

KING:- “I shall be very little heard of anybody here, I shall therefore speak a word unto you here; indeed I could hold my peace very well, if I did not think that holding my peace would make some men think that I did submit to the guilt as well as to the punishment but I think it is my duty to my God first, and to my countrey for to clear myselfe both as an honest man and a good king, and a good Christian. I shall begin first with me innocency. I trothe I thinke it not very needful for me to insist long upon this, for all the worlde knowes that I never did beginne a warre with the two Houses of Parliament, and I call God to witnesse to whom I most shortly make an account that I never did intend for to encroach upon their priviledges, they began upon me, it is the militia they began upon they confest that the militia was mine, but they thought it fit to have it from me, and to be short, if any body will look to the dates of comissions theirs and mine and likewise to the declarations will see clearly that they began these unhappy troubles not I!

So that as the guilt of these enormous crimes that are laid against me I hope in God, that God will make me clear of it. I will not. I am in charity, God forbid that I should lay, and upon the two Houses of Parliament there is no necessity of either. I hope they are free of this guilt for I doe believe that ill instruments between them and me has been in the chiefe cause of all this bloodshed.

So that by way of speaking as I finde myselfe clear of this I hope, (and pray God) that they may too, yet for all this God forbid that I should be so ill a Christian as not to say that God’s judgements are just upon me. Many times he does pay justice by an unjust sentence that is ordinary. I only say this, that an unjust sentance (meaning Strafford) that I suffered for to take effect is punished now, by an unjust sentance upon me, that is so far I have said, to show you that I am an innocent man. Now, to show you that I am a goo Christian I hope there is (pointing to Doctor Juxon) a goode man that will beare me witnesse that I have forgiven all the world and even those in particular that have been the chiefe causers of my death : who they are God knowes I do not desire to knowe. I pray God forgive them ! But this is not all, my charity must goe farther; I wish that they may repent, for indeed they have committed a great sin in that particular. I pray God with St.Stephen that this be laid not to their charge, may not only so, but that they may take the right way to the peace of the kingdom, for charity commands me not onely to forgive particulat men, but to endeavour to the last .html the peace of the kingdom.

(So) Sirs I doe with all my soul, and I doe hope (there is some here will carry it further) that they endeavour the peace of the kingdom. Now (Sirs) I must show you both how you are out of the way, and will put you in a way. First you are out of the way, for certainly all the way you ever have had yet as I could find by anything, is in the way of conquest, certainly this is an ill way, for conquest.

(Sirs) in my opinion is never just, except there be a good just cause, either for matter of wrong or just title, and then if you goe beyond it, the first quarrell that you have to it, that makes it unjust at the end that was just at first. But if it be onely matter of conquest then it is a great robbery, and so (Sirs) I do think that the way that you are in is much out of the way. Now Sirs, for to put you in the way believe it you will never doe right, nor God will never prosper you untill you give him his due, the king his due (that is my successors, and the people their due. I am as much for them as any of you, you must give God his due by regulating rightly his Church (according to his Scripture which is now out of among themselves must settle this, when that every opinion is freely and clearly heard, for the king the laws of the land will clearly instruct you for that, therefore because it concerns my own particular, I only give you a touch of it.

For the people, and truly I desire their liberty and freedom as much as anybody whomsoever; but I must tell you that their liberty and their fredome consists in having of Government those lawes by which their life and their goods may be most their own. It is not for having share in Government, Sir, that is nothing pertaining to them. A subject and a sovereign are clean different things, and therefore until they do that I mean that you doe put the people in that liberty as I say, certainly they will never enjoy themselves. Sirs it was for this that now I am come here! If I would have given way to an arbitary way, for to have all lawes changed according to the power of the sword, I needed not to have come here. And therefore I tell you (and I pray to God it be not laid to your charge) that I am the Martyr of the People. In troth, Sirs, I should not hold you much longer, for I will only say this to you, that in truth I could have desired some little time longer, because that I would have put this that I have said in a little more order, and a little better digested than I have done, and therefore I hope that you will excuse me. I have delivered myconscience, I pray God that you doe take those courses that are best for the good of the kingdoms and your own salvation.”

Dr. JUXTON :-“Will your Majesty (though it may be very well known your Majesties affections to religion) yet it may be expected that you should somewhat for the world’s satisfaction.”

KING :-“I thank you very heartily, my Lord, for that I had almost forgotton it. In troth, Sirs, my conscience in Religion, I think, is very well known to the world ! and therefore I declare before you all that I die a Christian, according to the profession of the Church of England as I found it left me by my father, and this honest man, I think, will witnesse it.” Then turning to Col. Hacker, he said, ” Take care that they do not put me to pain; and fit this , and if it please you –” But thena gentleman comming near the ax the King said, “Take heed of the ax, pray take heed of the ax.” Then the King speaking to the executioner, said, ” I shall say but very short prayers, and then thrust out my hands.” Then the King called to Dr. Juxton for his nightcap, and having put it on he said to the executioner, “Does my hair trouble you?” who desired him to put it all under his cap, which the King did accordingly by the help of the executioner and the Bishop. Then the King turning to Dr. Juxton, said, “I have a good cause and a gracious God on my side.”

Dr JUXTON:-“There is but one stage more! This stage is turbulent and troublesome; it is a short one! But you may consider it will soon carry you a very great way; It will carry you from earth to Heaven! and there you shall finde a great deale of cordiall joy and comfort.”

KING:-“I go from a corruptible to an incorruptible crown, where no disturbance can be.”

Dr. JUXTON:-“You are exchanged from a temporall to an eternall crown; a good exchange.”

Then the King took off his cloak and his George – giving his George to Dr. Juxton, saying, “Remember!” (it is thought for the Prince) and some other small ceremonies past. After which the King, stooping down, laid his necke upon the blocke, and after a very little pause, stretching forth his hands, the executioner at one blow severed his head from his body. Then his body was put in a coffin covered with black velvet and removed to his lodging chamber in Whitehall.

Reading: Political Writings

Sir Robert Filmer (c. 1588 – 1653) was an English political theorist who defended the divine right of kings. His best-known work, Patriarcha, published posthumously in 1680, was the target of numerous Whig attempts at rebuttal, including Algernon Sidney’s Discourses Concerning Government, James Tyrrell’s Patriarcha Non Monarcha and John Locke’s Two Treatises of Government. Filmer also wrote critiques of Thomas Hobbes, John Milton, Hugo Grotius and Aristotle. Patriarcha, or The Natural Power of Kings is a 1680 book by the English philosopher Robert Filmer, defending the divine right of kings on the basis that all modern states’ authority derived from the Biblical patriarchs (who he saw as Adam’s heirs), history and logic. Concurrently, he criticized rival theories claiming the basis of a state should be the consent of the governed or social contract.

From Patriarcha 

SINCE the time that school divinity began to flourish there hath been a common opinion maintained, as well by divines as by divers other learned men, which affirms:

“Mankind is naturally endowed and born with freedom from all subjection, and at liberty to choose what form of government it please, and that the power which any one man hath over others was at first bestowed according to the discretion of the multitude.”

This tenet was first hatched in the schools, and hath been fostered by all succeeding Papists for good divinity. The divines, also, of the Reformed Churches have entertained it, and the common people everywhere tenderly embrace it as being most plausible to flesh and blood, for that it prodigally distributes a portion of liberty to the meanest of the multitude, who magnify liberty as if the height of human felicity were only to be found in it, never remembering that the desire of liberty was the first cause of the fall of Adam.

But howsoever this vulgar opinion hath of late obtained a great reputation, yet it is not to be found in the ancient fathers and doctors of the primitive Church. It contradicts the doctrine and history of the Holy Scriptures, the constant practice of all ancient monarchies, and the very principles of the law of nature. It is hard to say whether it be more erroneous in divinity or dangerous in policy.

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hat the patriarchs…were endowed with kingly power, their deeds do testify; for as Adam was lord of his children, so his children under him had a command and power over their own children, but still with subordination to the first parent, who is lord-paramount over his children’s children to all generations, as being the grandfather of his people.

4. I see not then how the children of Adam, or of any man else, can be free from subjection to their parents. And this subjection of children being the fountain of all regal authority, by the ordination of God himself; it follows that civil power not only in general is by divine institution, but even the assignment of it specifically to the eldest parents, which quite takes away that new and common distinction which refers only power universal and absolute to God, but power respective in regard of the special form of government to the choice of the people.

This lordship which Adam by command had over the whole world, and by right descending from him the patriarchs did enjoy, was as large and ample as the absolutest dominion of any monarch which hath been since the creation. For dominion of life and death we find that Judah, the father, pronounced sentence of death against Thamar, his daughter-in-law, for playing the harlot. “Bring her forth,” saith he, “that she may be burnt.” Touching war, we see that Abraham commanded an army of three hundred and eighteen soldiers of his own family. And Esau met his brother Jacob with four hundred men at arms. For matter of peace, Abraham made a league with Abimelech, and ratified the articles with an oath. These acts of judging in capital crimes, of making war, and concluding peace, are the chiefest marks of “sovereignty” that are found in any monarch.

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It may seem absurd to maintain that kings now are the fathers of their people, since experience shows the contrary. It is true, all kings be not the natural parents of their subjects, yet they all either are, or are to be reputed, the next heirs to those first progenitors who were at first the natural parents of the whole people, and in their right succeed to the exercise of supreme jurisdiction; and such heirs are not only lords of their own children, but also of their brethren, and all others that were subject to their fathers. And therefore we find that God told Cain of his brother Abel, “His desires shall be subject unto thee, and thou shalt rule over him.” Accordingly, when Jacob bought his brother’s birthright, Isaac blessed him thus: “Be lord over thy brethren, and let the sons of thy mother bow before thee.” [2]

As long as the first fathers of families lived, the name of patriarchs did aptly belong unto them; but after a few descents, when the true fatherhood itself was extinct, and only the right of the father descends to the true heir, then the title of prince or king was more significant to express the power of him who succeeds only to the right of that fatherhood which his ancestors did naturally enjoy. By this means it comes to pass that many a child, by succeeding a king, hath the right of a father over many a greyheaded multitude, and hath the title of Pater Patriae.

To confirm this natural right of regal power, we find in the Decalogue that the law which enjoins obedience to kings is delivered in the terms of “Honour thy father,” as if all power were originally in the father. If obedience to parents be immediately due by a natural law, and subjection to princes but by the mediation of a human ordinance, what reason is there that the laws of nature should give place to the laws of men, as we see the power of the father over his child gives place and is subordinate to the power of the magistrate? If we compare the natural rights of a father with those of a king, we find them all one, without any difference at all but only in the latitude or extent of them: as the father over one family, so the king, as father over many families, extends his care to preserve, feed, clothe, instruct, and defend the whole commonwealth. His war, his peace, his courts of justice, and all his acts of sovereignty, tend only to preserve and distribute to every subordinate and inferior father, and to their children, their rights and privileges, so that all the duties of a king are summed up in an universal fatherly care of his people.

John Milton (1608 – 1674) was an English poet and intellectual who served as a civil servant for the Commonwealth of England under its Council of State and later under Oliver Cromwell. In order to understand where Milton inherits his ideas about the government and kings, we must go back to when the power of the king was first challenged with the creation of the Magna Carta. Before the time of John Milton, the king had ultimate power; there was nothing put in place to stop a king from being tyrannical. That all changed in the year 1215 when Stephen Langton, an English cardinal of the Catholic church and archbishop of Canterbury, wrote the Magna Carta. The Magna Carta was a charter of rights that King John of England was made to agree to in order to put checks on his powers and restore peace between the unpopular king and a group of rebel barons. This is the theoretical and practical origin of the concept of “checks and balances” in government. In the following excerpt, Milton outlines his political outlook.  He begins by explaining what keeps tyrants in power; that is, bad men who love “…not freedom but servitude.” He describes these men as being motivated by nothing but money to line their own pockets for which they will demonstrate most loyalty to those who rule over them. Milton describes how the apathy of some men and their empty promises do nothing but empower the tyrants and lead other men to be “…apt enough to civil wars.”. Later, he insists that no man should be “so stupid to deny, that all men naturally were born free,” as they are made in the image of God to be superior to all other creatures; men were made to “command and not to obey.” Milton concludes his argument by saying that kings should only be there to serve the people; therefore, the men being ruled should have a say in how they are governed. – by Abdullah Hadid

From The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates

If men within themselves would be governed by reason, and not generally give up their understanding to a double tyranny, of custom from without, and blind affections within; they would discern better what it is to favour and uphold the tyrant of a nation. But being slaves within doors, no wonder that they strive so much to have the public state conformably governed to the inward vicious rule, by which they govern themselves. For indeed none can love freedom heartily, but good men: the rest love not freedom, but license: which never hath more scope, or more indulgence than under tyrants. Hence is it, that tyrants are not oft offended, nor stand much in doubt of bad men, as being all naturally servile; but in whom virtue and true worth most is eminent, them they fear in earnest, as by right their masters; against them lies all their hatred and suspicion. Consequently neither do bad men hate tyrants, but have been always readiest, with the falsified names of Loyalty and Obedience, to colour over their base compliances. And although sometimes for shame, and when it comes to their own grievances, of purse especially, they would seem good patriots, and side with the better cause, yet when others for the deliverance of their country endued with fortitude and heroic virtue, to fear nothing but the curse written against those “that do the work of the Lord negligently,”[2] would go on to remove, not only the calamities and thraldoms of a people, but the roots and causes whence they spring; straight these men, and sure helpers at need, as if they hated only the miseries, but not the mischiefs, after they have juggled and paltered with the world, bandied and borne arms against their king, divested him, disanointed him, nay, cursed him all over in their pulpits, and their pamphlets, to the engaging of sincere and real men beyond what is possible or honest to retreat from, not only turn revolters from those principles, which only could at first move them, but lay the strain of disloyalty, and worse, on those proceedings, which are the necessary consequences of their own former actions; nor disliked by themselves, were they managed to the entire advantages of their own faction; not considering the while that he, toward whom they boasted their new fidelity, counted them accessory; and by those statutes and laws, which they so impotently brandish against others, would have doomed them to a traitor’s death for what they have done already. It is true, that most men are apt enough to civil wars and commotions as a novelty, and for a flash hot and active; but through sloth or inconstancy, and weakness of spirit, either fainting ere their own pretences, though never so just, be half attained, or, through an inbred falsehood and wickedness, betray ofttimes to destruction with themselves men of noblest temper joined with them for causes, whereof they in their rash undertakings were not capable.

* * *

No man, who knows aught, can be so stupid to deny, that all men naturally were born free, being the image and resemblance of God himself, and Were, by privilege above all the creatures, born to command, and not to obey: and that they lived so, till from the root of Adam’s transgression, falling among themselves to do wrong and violence, and foreseeing that such courses must needs tend to the destruction of them all, they agreed by common league to bind each other from mutual injury, and jointly to defend themselves against any that gave disturbance or opposition to such agreement. Hence came cities, towns, and commonwealths. And because no faith in all was found sufficiently binding, they saw it needful to ordain some authority, that might restrain by force and punishment what was violated against peace and common right. This authority and power of self-defence and preservation being originally and naturally in every one of them, and unitedly in them all; for ease, for order, and lest each man should be his own partial judge, they communicated and derived either to one, whom for the eminence of his wisdom and integrity they chose above the rest, or to more than one, whom they thought of equal deserving: the first was called a king; the other, magistrates: not to be their lords and masters, (though afterward those names in some places were given voluntarily to such as had been authors of inestimable good to the people,) but to be their deputies and commissioners, to execute, by virtue of their intrusted power, that justice, which else every man by the bond of nature and of covenant must have executed for himself, and for one another. And to him that shall consider well, why among free persons one man by civil right should bear authority and jurisdiction over another; no other end or reason can be imaginable. These for a while governed well, and with much equity decided all things at their own arbitrement; till the temptation of such a power, left absolute in their hands, perverted them at length to injustice and partiality. Then did they, who now by trial had found the danger and inconveniences of committing arbitrary power to any, invent laws either framed or consented to by all; that should confine and limit the authority of whom they chose to govern them: that so man, of whose failing they had proof, might no more rule over them, but law and reason, abstracted as much as might be from personal errors and frailties. “While, as the magistrate was set above the people, so the law was set above the magistrate.” When this would not serve, but that the law was either not executed, of misapplied, they were constrained from that time, the only remedy left (hem, to put conditions and take oaths from all kings and magistrates at their first instalment to do impartial justice by law: who upon those terms and no other, received allegiance from the people, that is to say, bond or covenant to obey them in execution of those laws, which they, the people, had themselves made or assented to. And this ofttimes with express warning, that if the king or magistrate proved unfaithful to his trust, the people would be disengaged. They added also counsellors and parliaments, not to be only at his beck, but with him or without him, at set times, or at all limes, when any danger threatened, to have care of the public safety.

* * *

It being thus manifest, that the power of kings and magistrates is nothing else but what is only derivative, transferred, and committed to them in trust from the people to the common good of them all, in whom the power yet remains fundamentally, and cannot be taken from them, without a violation of their natural birthright; and seeing that from hence Aristotle, and the best of political writers, have defined a king, “him who governs to the good and profit of his people, and not for his own ends;” it follows from necessary causes, that the titles of sovereign lord, natural lord, and the like, are either arrogancies, or flatteries, not admitted by emperors and kings of best note, and disliked by the church both of Jews (Isa. xxvi. 13,) and ancient Christians, as appears by Tertullian and others. Although generally the people of Asia, and with them the Jews also, especially since the time they chose a king against the advice and counsel of God, are noted by wise authors much inclinable to slavery.

Secondly, that to say, as is usual, the king hath as good right to his crown and dignity, as any man to his inheritance, is to make the subject no better than the king’s slave, his chattel, or his possession that may be bought and sold: and doubtless, if hereditary title were sufficiently inquired, the best foundation of it would be found but either in courtesy or convenience. But suppose it to be of right hereditary, what can be more just and legal, if a subject for certain crimes be to forfeit by law from himself and posterity all his inheritance to the king, than that a king for crimes proportional should forfeit all his title and inheritance to the people? Unless the people must be thought created all for him, he not for them, and they all in one body inferior to him single; which were a kind of treason against the dignity of mankind to affirm.

Thirdly, it follows, that, to say kings are accountable to none but God, is the overturning of all law and government. For if they may refuse to give account, then all covenants made with them at coronation, all oaths, are in vain, and mere mockeries; all laws which they swear to keep, made to no purpose: for if the king fear not God, (as how many of them do not!) we hold then our lives and estates by the tenure of his mere grace and mercy, as from a god, not a mortal magistrate; a position that none but court-parasites or men besotted would maintain!

* * *

It follows, lastly, that since the king or magistrate holds his authority of the people, both originally and naturally for their good in the first place, and not his own; then may the people, as oft as they shall judge it for the best, either choose him or reject him, retain him or depose him though no tyrant, merely by the liberty and right of freeborn men to be governed as seems to them best.

Gerrard Winstanley (1609 – 1676) was an English Protestant religious reformer, political philosopher, and activist during The Protectorate of Oliver Cromwell. Winstanley was the leader and one of the founders of the English group known as the “True Levellers” or Diggers for their beliefs, and for their actions. The group occupied public lands that had been privatized by enclosures and dug them over, pulling down hedges and filling in ditches, to plant crops. True Levellers was the name they used to describe themselves, whereas the term Diggers was coined by contemporaries. He was a staunch supporter of Parliament’s struggle for liberty from “kingly power” but, like many, was disappointed by Cromwell’s rule which felt like more of the same. The treatise below was published in 1650 as an appeal to those who had fought with the Parliamentarians but were similarly dissatisfied; in it, he argues for the ending of economic and social inequality.


From A New Year’s Gift Sent to the Parliament and Army

Winstanley first gives a rapid sketch of recent events, as follows:

“Gentlemen of the Parliament and Army; You and the Common People have assisted each other to cast out the head of oppression, which was Kingly Power seated in one man’s hand, and that work is now done, and till that work was done you called upon the people to assist you to deliver this distressed, bleeding, dying Nation out of bondage. And the people came and failed you not, counting neither purse nor blood too dear to part with to effect this work.

“The Parliament after this have made an Act to cast out Kingly Power and to make England a free Common-wealth. These Acts the people are much rejoiced with, as being words forerunning their freedom, and they wait for their accomplishment that their joy may be full. For as words without actions are a cheat, and kill the comfort of a righteous spirit, so words performed in action do comfort and nourish the life thereof.

“Now, Sirs, wheresoever we spy out Kingly Power, no man I hope shall be troubled to declare it, nor afraid to cast it out, having both Act of Parliament, the Soldier’s Oath, and the Common People’s Consent on his side. For Kingly Power is like a great spread tree; if you lop the head or top bough and let the other branches and root stand, it will grow again and recover fresher strength.

“If any ask me, what Kingly Power is? I answer, there is a twofold Kingly Power. The one is the Kingly Power of Righteousness, and this is the power of the Almighty God, ruling the whole Creation in Peace, and keeping it together. And this is the Power of Universal Love, leading people unto all truth, teaching everyone to do as he would be done unto…. But the other Kingly Power is the power of Unrighteousness…. This Kingly Power is the Power of Self 134Love, ruling in one or in many men over others, and enslaving those who in the Creation are their equals; nay, who are in the strictness of equity rather their masters. And this Kingly Power is usually set in the Chair of Government, under the name of Prerogative, when he rules in one over another; and in the name of State Privilege of Parliament, when he rules in many over others…. While this Kingly Power ruled in a man called Charles, all sorts of people complained of oppression, both Gentry and Common People, because their lands, enclosures and copyholds were entangled, and because their Trade was destroyed by Monopolising Patentees, and your troubles were that you could not live free from oppression in the earth. Thereupon you that were the Gentry, when you were assembled in Parliament, you called upon the Common People to come and help you to cast out oppression: and you that complained are helped and freed, and that top-bough is lopped off the Tree of Tyranny, and Kingly Power in that one particular is cast out. But, alas! oppression is a great tree still, and keeps off the Sun of Freedom from the poor Commons still. He hath many branches and great roots which must be grubbed up, before everyone can sing Zion’s song in peace.”

After again praising the two Acts of Parliament—“the one to cast out Kingly Power; the other to make England a free Common-wealth”—and detailing his grievances against the Tything Priests and Lords of Manors, he continues:

“Search all your Laws, and I’ll adventure my life, for I have little else to lose, that all Lords of Manors hold Title to the Commons by no stronger hold than the King’s Will, whose head is cut off; and the King held title as he was a Conqueror. Now if you cast off the King who was the head of that power, surely the power of Lords of Manors is the same. Therefore perform your own Act of Parliament, and cast out that part of the Kingly Power likewise, that the People may see that you understand what you say and do, and that you are faithful. For truly the Kingly Power reigns strongly in the Lords of Manors over the Poor. For my own particular, I have in other writings, as well as in this, declared my reasons why the Common Land is the Poor People’s propriety; and I have digged upon the Commons; and I hope in time to obtain the freedom to get food and raiment therefrom by righteous labour: 135which is all I desire. And for so doing the supposed Lord of that Manor hath arrested me twice. First in an Action of £20 trespass for plowing upon the Commons, which I never did…. And now they have arrested me again in an Action of £4 trespass for digging upon the Commons, which I did, and own the work to be righteous and no trespass to any. This was the Attorney at Kingstone’s advice, either to get money from both sides … or else that I should not remove the action to a Higher Court, but that the cause might be tried there. For they know how to please Lords of Manors, that have resolved to spend hundreds of pounds but they will hinder the Poor from enjoying the Commons.”

Then he gives utterance to the sense of indignation which filled his heart in the following bitter and contemptuous words:

“Do these men obey the Parliament’s Acts, to throw down Kingly Power? O no! The same unrighteous doing that was complained of in King Charles’ days, the same doing is among them still. Money will buy and sell Justice still. And is our eight years’ war come round about to lay us down again in the Kennel of Injustice as much or more than before? Are we no farther learned yet? O ye Rulers of England, when must we turn over a new leaf? Will you always hold us in one lesson? Surely you will make Dunces of us; then all the Boys in other Lands will laugh at us! Come, I pray, let us take forth and go forward in our learning!”

Winstanley’s zeal for the cause he had espoused was, however, too real to allow him to continue long in this strain, so he immediately adopts a more persuasive tone, as follows:

“You blame us who are the Common People as though we would have no government. Truly, Gentlemen, we desire a righteous government with all our hearts. But the Government we have gives freedom and livelihood to the Gentry, to have abundance, and to lock up Treasures of the Earth from the Poor; so that rich men may have chests full of gold and silver, and houses full of corn and goods to look upon, while the Poor who work to get it can hardly live; and if they cannot work like slaves, then they must starve. Thus the Law gives all the Land to some part of mankind, whose predecessors got it 136by conquest, and denies it to others, who by the Righteous Law of Creation may claim an equal portion. And yet you say this is a Righteous Government, but surely it is no other than selfishness.”

His indignation again gets the mastery of him, and he continues bitterly:

“England is a prison; the varieties of subtilties in the Laws preserved by the Sword are the bolts, bars and doors of the prison; the Lawyers are the Jailers; and Poor Men are the prisoners. For let a man fall into the hands of any, from the Bailiff to the Judge, and he is either undone or weary of his life. Surely this power, the Law, which is the great Idol that people dote upon, is the burden of the Creation, a nursery of idleness, luxury and cheating, the only enemy of Christ, the King of Righteousness! For though it pretends Justice, yet the Judges and Law Officers buy and sell Justice for money, and say it is my calling, and never are troubled at it.”

He then makes the following manly appeal to his persecutors:

“You Gentlemen of Surrey, and Lords of Manors, and you Mr. Parson Platt especially … my advice to you is this, hereafter to lie still and cherish the Diggers, for they love you and would not have your finger ache if they could help it, then why should you be so bitter against them? O let them live beside you. Some of them have been Soldiers, and some Countrymen that were always friends to the Parliament’s cause, by whose hardships and means you enjoy the creatures about you in peace. And will you now destroy part of them that have preserved your lives? O do not do so; be not so besotted with the Kingly Power…. Bid them go and plant the Commons. This will be your honor and your comfort; for assure yourselves that you can never have true comfort till you be friends with the Poor. Therefore, come, come, love the Diggers, make restitution of their land you hold from them; for what would you do if you had not such laboring men to work for you?”

A pertinent question, truly, and one which those whom he addressed, as well as those who are to-day in their places, would find it somewhat inconvenient to answer.

He then appeals to the Officers of the Army in the following bold and manly words:

“And you, great Officers of the Army and Parliament, love your common Soldiers (I plead for Equity and Reason) and do not force them, by long delay of payment, to sell you their dearly bought Debentures for a thing of nought, and then to go and buy our Common Land, and Crown Land, and other Land that is the spoil, one of another therewith. Remember you are Servants to the Commons of England, and you were volunteers in the Wars, and the Common People have paid you for your pains largely…. As soon as you have freed the Earth from one entanglement of Kingly Power, will you entangle it more? I pray you consider what you do, and do righteously. We that are the Poor Commons, that paid our money and gave you free-quarter, have as much right in those Crown Lands and Lands of the spoil as you. Therefore we give no consent that you should buy and sell our Crown Lands and Waste Lands; for it is our purchased inheritance from under oppression! it is our own, even the poor Common People’s of England…. We paid you your wages to help us recover it, but not to take it yourselves and turn us out, and to buy and sell it among yourselves…. If you do so, you uphold the Kingly Power, and so disobey both Acts of Parliament, and break your Oath; and you will live in the breach of these two commandments, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, by denying us the Earth which is our livelihood, and thereby killing us by a lingering death.”

Winstanley then summarises his contentions, as follows:

“Well, the end of all my speech is to point out the Kingly Power where I spy it out. And you see it remains strongly in the hands of Lords of Manors, who have dealt so discourteously with some who are sincere in heart, though there have some come among the Diggers that have caused scandal, but we disown their ways.

“The Lords of Manors have sent to beat us, to pull down our houses, spoil our labours; yet we are patient, and never offered any violence to them again these forty weeks past, but wait upon God with love till their hearts thereby be softened. 138All that we desire is but to live quietly in the Land of our Nativity by our righteous labour upon the Common Land, which is our own; but as yet the Lords of the Manors, so formerly called, will not suffer us, but abuse us. Is not that part of the Kingly Power? In that which follows I shall clearly prove it is; for it appears so clear that the understanding of a child does say, ‘It is tyranny; it is the Kingly Power of Darkness.’ Therefore we expect that you will grant us the benefit of your Act of Parliament, so that we may say—Truly England is a Common-wealth, and a Free People indeed.”

Winstanley then declares that despite all their trouble and anxiety the Diggers were still “mightily cheerful,” and resolved “to wait upon God to see what He will do … taking it a great happiness to be persecuted for righteousness’ sake by the Priests and Professors that are the successors of Judas and the bitter spirited Pharisees that put the man Christ to death.” He then again advances the reasons on which he bases the equal claims of all to the use of the earth, denounces the sources whence the exclusive claims of the few have sprung, more especially the tyrannical claims of Lords of Manors, boldly claiming that from this tyranny of man to man England should have been freed by the recent casting out of kingly power—and continues:

“Therefore I say, the Common Land is my own Land, equal with my Fellow Commoners; and our true propriety by the Law of Creation. It is every ones, but not one single ones. Yea, the Commons are as truly ours by the last excellent two Acts of Parliament, the foundation of England’s new Righteous Government aimed at, as the Elder Brothers can say the Enclosures are theirs. For they ventured their lives and covenanted with us to help them preserve their Freedom; and we adventured our lives and they covenanted with us to purchase and to give us our Freedom, that hath been hundreds of years kept from us.”

The first part of this pamphlet concludes as follows:

Damona non Armis sed Morte subegit Jesus.
“By patient sufferings, not by Death,Christ did the devil kill:And by the same still to this day,His foes he conquers still.

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

In the opening of the second part of this pamphlet Winstanley reverts somewhat to his earlier mystical style, and still further expounds the eternal struggle between the Spirit of Self Love and the Spirit of Universal Love, denouncing the former as the source of all social ills, extolling the latter as the source and inspirer of peaceful and equitable social life. “In our present experience,” he contends, “Darkness or Self Love goes before, and Light or Universal Love follows after”; and hence “Darkness and Bondage doth oppress Liberty and Light.” He illustrates this contention, as well as the essential difference of the spirits animating the Diggers and their opponents, by relating how one of the Colonels of the Army told him—“That the Diggers did work upon Georges Hill for no other end than to draw a company of people into arms; and that our knavery was found out, because it takes not that effect”: on which Winstanley comments as follows:

“Truly thou Colonel, I tell thee, thy knavish imagination is thereby discovered, which hinders the effecting of that Freedom which by Oath and Covenant thou hast engaged to maintain. For my part and the rest, we had no such thought. We abhor fighting for Freedom; it is acting of the Curse, and lifting him up higher. Do thou uphold it by the Sword; we will not. We will conquer by Love and Patience, or else we count it no Freedom. Freedom gotten by the Sword is an 140established Bondage to some part or other of the Creation. This we have declared publicly enough. Therefore thy imagination told thee a lie, and will deceive thee in a greater matter, if Love doth not kill him. Victory that is gotten by the Sword is a Victory Slaves get one over another; but Victory obtained by Love is a Victory for a King!

Surely, surely, if all other writings of Winstanley had perished, this one passage would have given us sufficient insight into his philosophy, into the noble principles animating his life, to entitle him to our admiration and respect.

He then continues:

“This is your very inward principle, O ye present Powers of England, you do not study how to advance Universal Love. If you did it would appear in action. But Imagination and Self Love mightily disquiet your mind, and makes you to call up all the Powers of Darkness to come forth and help you to set the Crown upon the head of Self, which is that Kingly Power you have oathed and vowed against, but yet uphold it in your hands…. All this falling out and quarrelling among mankind is about the Earth, and who shall, and who shall not enjoy it, when indeed it is the portion of everyone, and ought not to be striven for, nor bought, nor sold, whereby some are hedged in and others are hedged out. Far better not to have had a body than to be debarred the fruit of the Earth to feed and clothe it. And if every one did but quietly enjoy the Earth for food and raiment, there would be no wars, prisons, nor gallows, and this action which men call theft would be no sin. For Universal Love never made it a sin, but the Power of Covetousness made it a sin, and made Laws to punish it, though he himself lives in that sin in a higher manner than those he hangs and punishes…. Well, He that made the Earth for us as well as for you will set us free, though you will not. When will the Veil of Darkness be drawn off your faces? Will you not be wise, O ye Rulers?”

After further expatiating on the blessings inherent in Righteousness and Universal Love, and on the inevitable evil consequences of Self Love or Covetousness, he indicates the practical steps by which these evils might be removed, as follows:

“If ever the Creation is to be restored, this is the way, which lies in this two-fold power:

“First, Community of Mankind, which is comprised in the Unity of the Spirit of Love, which is called Christ within you, or the Law written in the Heart, leading Mankind unto all Truth, and to be of one heart and one mind.

“The Second is Community of the Earth, for the quiet livelihood in food and raiment, without using force or restraining one another.

“These Two Communities, or rather one in two branches, is that true Levelling which Christ shall work at His more glorious appearance. For Jesus Christ, the Saviour of all Men, is the greatest, first and truest Leveller that ever was spoken of in the world.

“Therefore you Rulers of England, be not afraid nor ashamed of Levellers, hate them not; Christ comes to you riding upon these clouds. Look not upon other Lands to be your pattern. All Lands in the World lie under Darkness, so doth England yet, though the nearest to Light and Freedom than any other. Therefore let no other Land take your Crown….

“At this very day poor people are forced to work, in some places for 4, 5, and 6 pence a day, in other places for 8, 10, and 12 pence a day, for such small prices that now, corn being dear, their earnings cannot find them bread for their families. Yet if they steal for maintenance, the murdering Law will hang them…. Well this shows that if this be Law, it is not the Law of Righteousness. It is a murderer; it is the Law of Covetousness and Self Love. And this Law that frights people and forces people to obey it by prisons, whips and gallows, is the very Kingdom of the Devil and Darkness, which the Creation groans under at this day.”

After this characteristic outburst, he gives them the following equally characteristic advice:

“Come, make peace with the Cavaliers, your enemies, and let the oppressed go free, and let them have a livelihood. Love your enemies, and do to them as you would have had them do to you, if they had conquered you. Well, let them go in peace, and let Love wear the Crown. For I tell you and your Preachers, that Scripture which saith ‘The Poor shall inherit the Earth,’ is really and materially to be fulfilled. For the Earth is to be restored from the bondage of Sword-propriety, 142and is to become a Common Treasury in reality to the whole of mankind. For this is the work for the true Saviour to do, who is the true and faithful Leveller, even the Spirit and Power of Universal Love, that is now rising to spread itself in the whole Creation, who is the Blessing, who will spread as far as the Curse has spread, to take it off and cast it out, and who will set the Creation in peace.”

The pamphlet then concludes with the following words:

“The time is very near when the people generally shall loathe and be ashamed of your Kingly Power, in your preaching, in your Laws, in your Councils, as now you are ashamed of the Levellers. I tell you Jesus Christ, who is that powerful Spirit of Love, is the Head Leveller: and as He is lifted up, He will draw all men after Him, and leave you naked and bare…. This Great Leveller, Christ our King of Righteousness in us, shall cause men to beat their swords into plough-shares, their spears into pruning-hooks, and Nations shall learn war no more. Everyone shall delight to let each other enjoy the pleasures of the Earth, and shall hold each other no more in bondage. Then what will become of your power? Truly he must be cast out as a murderer. I pity you for the torment your spirit must go through, if you be not fore-armed as you are abundantly fore-warned from all places. But I look on you as part of the Creation that must be restored; and the Spirit may give you wisdom to fore-see a danger, as he hath admonished divers of your rank already to leave those high places and to lie quiet and wait for the breaking forth of the powerful day of the Lord. Farewell, once more, Let Israel go free.”

Thomas Hobbes (1588 – 1679), was an English philosopher, considered to be one of the founders of modern political philosophy. In addition to political philosophy, Hobbes contributed to a diverse array of other fields, including history, jurisprudence, geometry, the physics of gases, theology, and ethics, as well as philosophy in general. Hobbes is best known for his 1651 book Leviathan, in which he expounds an influential formulation of social contract theory. Written during the English Civil War (1642–1651), it argues for a social contract and rule by an absolute sovereign. Hobbes wrote that civil war and the brute situation of a state of nature (“the war of all against all”) could be avoided only by strong, undivided government.

From Leviathan

From the Introduction

The Artificial Man

NATURE (the art whereby God hath made and governs the world) is by the art of man, as in many other things, so in this also imitated, that it can make an artificial animal. For seeing life is but a motion of limbs, the beginning whereof is in some principal part within, why may we not say that all automata (engines that move themselves by springs and wheels as doth a watch) have an artificial life? For what is the heart, but a spring; and the nerves, but so many strings; and the joints, but so many wheels, giving motion to the whole body, such as was intended by the Artificer? Art goes yet further, imitating that rational and most excellent work of Nature, man. For by art is created that great LEVIATHAN called a COMMONWEALTH, or STATE (in Latin, CIVITAS), which is but an artificial man, though of greater stature and strength than the natural, for whose protection and defence it was intended; and in which the sovereignty is an artificial soul, as giving life and motion to the whole body; the magistrates and other officers of judicature and execution, artificial joints; reward and punishment (by which fastened to the seat of the sovereignty, every joint and member is moved to perform his duty) are the nerves, that do the same in the body natural; the wealth and riches of all the particular members are the strength; salus populi (the people’s safety) its business; counsellors, by whom all things needful for it to know are suggested unto it, are the memory; equity and laws, an artificial reason and will; concord, health; sedition, sickness; and civil war, death. Lastly, the pacts and covenants, by which the parts of this body politic were at first made, set together, and united, resemble that fiat, or the Let us make man, pronounced by God in the Creation.


From Part 1: Of Man

Chapter 1: Of Sense

CONCERNING the thoughts of man, I will consider them first singly, and afterwards in train or dependence upon one another. Singly, they are every one a representation or appearance of some quality, or other accident of a body without us, which is commonly called an object. Which object worketh on the eyes, ears, and other parts of man’s body, and by diversity of working produceth diversity of appearances.

The original of them all is that which we call sense, (for there is no conception in a man’s mind which hath not at first, totally or by parts, been begotten upon the organs of sense). The rest are derived from that original.

To know the natural cause of sense is not very necessary to the business now in hand; and I have elsewhere written of the same at large. Nevertheless, to fill each part of my present method, I will briefly deliver the same in this place.

The cause of sense is the external body, or object, which presseth the organ proper to each sense, either immediately, as in the taste and touch; or mediately, as in seeing, hearing, and smelling: which pressure, by the mediation of nerves and other strings and membranes of the body, continued inwards to the brain and heart, causeth there a resistance, or counter-pressure, or endeavour of the heart to deliver itself: which endeavour, because outward, seemeth to be some matter without. And this seeming, or fancy, is that which men call sense; and consisteth, as to the eye, in a light, or colour figured; to the ear, in a sound; to the nostril, in an odour; to the tongue and palate, in a savour; and to the rest of the body, in heat, cold, hardness, softness, and such other qualities as we discern by feeling. All which qualities called sensible are in the object that causeth them but so many several motions of the matter, by which it presseth our organs diversely. Neither in us that are pressed are they anything else but diverse motions (for motion produceth nothing but motion). But their appearance to us is fancy, the same waking that dreaming. And as pressing, rubbing, or striking the eye makes us fancy a light, and pressing the ear produceth a din; so do the bodies also we see, or hear, produce the same by their strong, though unobserved action. For if those colours and sounds were in the bodies or objects that cause them, they could not be severed from them, as by glasses and in echoes by reflection we see they are: where we know the thing we see is in one place; the appearance, in another. And though at some certain distance the real and very object seem invested with the fancy it begets in us; yet still the object is one thing, the image or fancy is another. So that sense in all cases is nothing else but original fancy caused (as I have said) by the pressure that is, by the motion of external things upon our eyes, ears, and other organs, thereunto ordained.

But the philosophy schools, through all the universities of Christendom, grounded upon certain texts of Aristotle, teach another doctrine; and say, for the cause of vision, that the thing seen sendeth forth on every side a visible species, (in English) a visible show, apparition, or aspect, or a being seen; the receiving whereof into the eye is seeing. And for the cause of hearing, that the thing heard sendeth forth an audible species, that is, an audible aspect, or audible being seen; which, entering at the ear, maketh hearing. Nay, for the cause of understanding also, they say the thing understood sendeth forth an intelligible species, that is, an intelligible being seen; which, coming into the understanding, makes us understand. I say not this, as disapproving the use of universities: but because I am to speak hereafter of their office in a Commonwealth, I must let you see on all occasions by the way what things would be amended in them; amongst which the frequency of insignificant speech is one.


Chapter 13: Of the Natural Condition of Mankind as Concerning their Felicity and Misery

NATURE hath made men so equal in the faculties of body and mind as that, though there be found one man sometimes manifestly stronger in body or of quicker mind than another, yet when all is reckoned together the difference between man and man is not so considerable as that one man can thereupon claim to himself any benefit to which another may not pretend as well as he. For as to the strength of body, the weakest has strength enough to kill the strongest, either by secret machination or by confederacy with others that are in the same danger with himself.

And as to the faculties of the mind, setting aside the arts grounded upon words, and especially that skill of proceeding upon general and infallible rules, called science, which very few have and but in few things, as being not a native faculty born with us, nor attained, as prudence, while we look after somewhat else, I find yet a greater equality amongst men than that of strength. For prudence is but experience, which equal time equally bestows on all men in those things they equally apply themselves unto. That which may perhaps make such equality incredible is but a vain conceit of one’s own wisdom, which almost all men think they have in a greater degree than the vulgar; that is, than all men but themselves, and a few others, whom by fame, or for concurring with themselves, they approve. For such is the nature of men that howsoever they may acknowledge many others to be more witty, or more eloquent or more learned, yet they will hardly believe there be many so wise as themselves; for they see their own wit at hand, and other men’s at a distance. But this proveth rather that men are in that point equal, than unequal. For there is not ordinarily a greater sign of the equal distribution of anything than that every man is contented with his share.

From this equality of ability ariseth equality of hope in the attaining of our ends. And therefore if any two men desire the same thing, which nevertheless they cannot both enjoy, they become enemies; and in the way to their end (which is principally their own conservation, and sometimes their delectation only) endeavour to destroy or subdue one another. And from hence it comes to pass that where an invader hath no more to fear than another man’s single power, if one plant, sow, build, or possess a convenient seat, others may probably be expected to come prepared with forces united to dispossess and deprive him, not only of the fruit of his labour, but also of his life or liberty. And the invader again is in the like danger of another.

And from this diffidence of one another, there is no way for any man to secure himself so reasonable as anticipation; that is, by force, or wiles, to master the persons of all men he can so long till he see no other power great enough to endanger him: and this is no more than his own conservation requireth, and is generally allowed. Also, because there be some that, taking pleasure in contemplating their own power in the acts of conquest, which they pursue farther than their security requires, if others, that otherwise would be glad to be at ease within modest bounds, should not by invasion increase their power, they would not be able, long time, by standing only on their defence, to subsist. And by consequence, such augmentation of dominion over men being necessary to a man’s conservation, it ought to be allowed him.

Again, men have no pleasure (but on the contrary a great deal of grief) in keeping company where there is no power able to overawe them all. For every man looketh that his companion should value him at the same rate he sets upon himself, and upon all signs of contempt or undervaluing naturally endeavours, as far as he dares (which amongst them that have no common power to keep them in quiet is far enough to make them destroy each other), to extort a greater value from his contemners, by damage; and from others, by the example.

So that in the nature of man, we find three principal causes of quarrel. First, competition; secondly, diffidence; thirdly, glory.

The first maketh men invade for gain; the second, for safety; and the third, for reputation. The first use violence, to make themselves masters of other men’s persons, wives, children, and cattle; the second, to defend them; the third, for trifles, as a word, a smile, a different opinion, and any other sign of undervalue, either direct in their persons or by reflection in their kindred, their friends, their nation, their profession, or their name.

Hereby it is manifest that during the time men live without a common power to keep them all in awe, they are in that condition which is called war; and such a war as is of every man against every man. For war consisteth not in battle only, or the act of fighting, but in a tract of time, wherein the will to contend by battle is sufficiently known: and therefore the notion of time is to be considered in the nature of war, as it is in the nature of weather. For as the nature of foul weather lieth not in a shower or two of rain, but in an inclination thereto of many days together: so the nature of war consisteth not in actual fighting, but in the known disposition thereto during all the time there is no assurance to the contrary. All other time is peace.

Whatsoever therefore is consequent to a time of war, where every man is enemy to every man, the same consequent to the time wherein men live without other security than what their own strength and their own invention shall furnish them withal. In such condition there is no place for industry, because the fruit thereof is uncertain: and consequently no culture of the earth; no navigation, nor use of the commodities that may be imported by sea; no commodious building; no instruments of moving and removing such things as require much force; no knowledge of the face of the earth; no account of time; no arts; no letters; no society; and which is worst of all, continual fear, and danger of violent death; and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.

It may seem strange to some man that has not well weighed these things that Nature should thus dissociate and render men apt to invade and destroy one another: and he may therefore, not trusting to this inference, made from the passions, desire perhaps to have the same confirmed by experience. Let him therefore consider with himself: when taking a journey, he arms himself and seeks to go well accompanied; when going to sleep, he locks his doors; when even in his house he locks his chests; and this when he knows there be laws and public officers, armed, to revenge all injuries shall be done him; what opinion he has of his fellow subjects, when he rides armed; of his fellow citizens, when he locks his doors; and of his children, and servants, when he locks his chests. Does he not there as much accuse mankind by his actions as I do by my words? But neither of us accuse man’s nature in it. The desires, and other passions of man, are in themselves no sin. No more are the actions that proceed from those passions till they know a law that forbids them; which till laws be made they cannot know, nor can any law be made till they have agreed upon the person that shall make it.

It may peradventure be thought there was never such a time nor condition of war as this; and I believe it was never generally so, over all the world: but there are many places where they live so now. For the savage people in many places of America, except the government of small families, the concord whereof dependeth on natural lust, have no government at all, and live at this day in that brutish manner, as I said before. Howsoever, it may be perceived what manner of life there would be, where there were no common power to fear, by the manner of life which men that have formerly lived under a peaceful government use to degenerate into a civil war.

But though there had never been any time wherein particular men were in a condition of war one against another, yet in all times kings and persons of sovereign authority, because of their independency, are in continual jealousies, and in the state and posture of gladiators, having their weapons pointing, and their eyes fixed on one another; that is, their forts, garrisons, and guns upon the frontiers of their kingdoms, and continual spies upon their neighbours, which is a posture of war. But because they uphold thereby the industry of their subjects, there does not follow from it that misery which accompanies the liberty of particular men.

To this war of every man against every man, this also is consequent; that nothing can be unjust. The notions of right and wrong, justice and injustice, have there no place. Where there is no common power, there is no law; where no law, no injustice. Force and fraud are in war the two cardinal virtues. Justice and injustice are none of the faculties neither of the body nor mind. If they were, they might be in a man that were alone in the world, as well as his senses and passions. They are qualities that relate to men in society, not in solitude. It is consequent also to the same condition that there be no propriety, no dominion, no mine and thine distinct; but only that to be every man’s that he can get, and for so long as he can keep it. And thus much for the ill condition which man by mere nature is actually placed in; though with a possibility to come out of it, consisting partly in the passions, partly in his reason.

The passions that incline men to peace are: fear of death; desire of such things as are necessary to commodious living; and a hope by their industry to obtain them. And reason suggesteth convenient articles of peace upon which men may be drawn to agreement. These articles are they which otherwise are called the laws of nature, whereof I shall speak more particularly in the two following chapters.


From Chapter 14. Of the First and Second Natural Laws

THE right of nature, which writers commonly call jus naturale, is the liberty each man hath to use his own power as he will himself for the preservation of his own nature; that is to say, of his own life; and consequently, of doing anything which, in his own judgement and reason, he shall conceive to be the aptest means thereunto.

By liberty is understood, according to the proper signification of the word, the absence of external impediments; which impediments may oft take away part of a man’s power to do what he would, but cannot hinder him from using the power left him according as his judgement and reason shall dictate to him.

A law of nature, lex naturalis, is a precept, or general rule, found out by reason, by which a man is forbidden to do that which is destructive of his life, or taketh away the means of preserving the same, and to omit that by which he thinketh it may be best preserved. For though they that speak of this subject use to confound jus and lex, right and law, yet they ought to be distinguished, because right consisteth in liberty to do, or to forbear; whereas law determineth and bindeth to one of them: so that law and right differ as much as obligation and liberty, which in one and the same matter are inconsistent.

And because the condition of man (as hath been declared in the precedent chapter) is a condition of war of every one against every one, in which case every one is governed by his own reason, and there is nothing he can make use of that may not be a help unto him in preserving his life against his enemies; it followeth that in such a condition every man has a right to every thing, even to one another’s body. And therefore, as long as this natural right of every man to every thing endureth, there can be no security to any man, how strong or wise soever he be, of living out the time which nature ordinarily alloweth men to live. And consequently it is a precept, or general rule of reason: that every man ought to endeavour peace, as far as he has hope of obtaining it; and when he cannot obtain it, that he may seek and use all helps and advantages of war. The first branch of which rule containeth the first and fundamental law of nature, which is: to seek peace and follow it. The second, the sum of the right of nature, which is: by all means we can to defend ourselves.

From this fundamental law of nature, by which men are commanded to endeavour peace, is derived this second law: that a man be willing, when others are so too, as far forth as for peace and defence of himself he shall think it necessary, to lay down this right to all things; and be contented with so much liberty against other men as he would allow other men against himself. For as long as every man holdeth this right, of doing anything he liketh; so long are all men in the condition of war. But if other men will not lay down their right, as well as he, then there is no reason for anyone to divest himself of his: for that were to expose himself to prey, which no man is bound to, rather than to dispose himself to peace. This is that law of the gospel: Whatsoever you require that others should do to you, that do ye to them.


From Chapter 15. of Other Laws of Nature

FROM that law of nature by which we are obliged to transfer to another such rights as, being retained, hinder the peace of mankind, there followeth a third; which is this: that men perform their covenants made; without which covenants are in vain, and but empty words; and the right of all men to all things remaining, we are still in the condition of war.

And in this law of nature consisteth the fountain and original of justice. For where no covenant hath preceded, there hath no right been transferred, and every man has right to everything and consequently, no action can be unjust. But when a covenant is made, then to break it is unjust and the definition of injustice is no other than the not performance of covenant. And whatsoever is not unjust is just.

* * *

For the question is not of promises mutual, where there is no security of performance on either side, as when there is no civil power erected over the parties promising; for such promises are no covenants: but either where one of the parties has performed already, or where there is a power to make him perform, there is the question whether it be against reason; that is, against the benefit of the other to perform, or not. And I say it is not against reason. For the manifestation whereof we are to consider; first, that when a man doth a thing, which notwithstanding anything can be foreseen and reckoned on tendeth to his own destruction, howsoever some accident, which he could not expect, arriving may turn it to his benefit; yet such events do not make it reasonably or wisely done. Secondly, that in a condition of war, wherein every man to every man, for want of a common power to keep them all in awe, is an enemy, there is no man can hope by his own strength, or wit, to himself from destruction without the help of confederates; where every one expects the same defence by the confederation that any one else does: and therefore he which declares he thinks it reason to deceive those that help him can in reason expect no other means of safety than what can be had from his own single power. He, therefore, that breaketh his covenant, and consequently declareth that he thinks he may with reason do so, cannot be received into any society that unite themselves for peace and defence but by the error of them that receive him; nor when he is received be retained in it without seeing the danger of their error; which errors a man cannot reasonably reckon upon as the means of his security: and therefore if he be left, or cast out of society, he perisheth; and if he live in society, it is by the errors of other men, which he could not foresee nor reckon upon, and consequently against the reason of his preservation; and so, as all men that contribute not to his destruction forbear him only out of ignorance of what is good for themselves.

As for the instance of gaining the secure and perpetual felicity of heaven by any way, it is frivolous; there being but one way imaginable, and that is not breaking, but keeping of covenant.

And for the other instance of attaining sovereignty by rebellion; it is manifest that, though the event follow, yet because it cannot reasonably be expected, but rather the contrary, and because by gaining it so, others are taught to gain the same in like manner, the attempt thereof is against reason. Justice therefore, that is to say, keeping of covenant, is a rule of reason by which we are forbidden to do anything destructive to our life, and consequently a law of nature.


From Part 2 Of Commonwealth

Chapter 17. Of the Causes, Generation, and Definition of a Commonwealth

HE final cause, end, or design of men (who naturally love liberty, and dominion over others) in the introduction of that restraint upon themselves, in which we see them live in Commonwealths, is the foresight of their own preservation, and of a more contented life thereby; that is to say, of getting themselves out from that miserable condition of war which is necessarily consequent, as hath been shown, to the natural passions of men when there is no visible power to keep them in awe, and tie them by fear of punishment to the performance of their covenants, and observation of those laws of nature set down in the fourteenth and fifteenth chapters.

For the laws of nature, as justice, equity, modesty, mercy, and, in sum, doing to others as we would be done to, of themselves, without the terror of some power to cause them to be observed, are contrary to our natural passions, that carry us to partiality, pride, revenge, and the like. And covenants, without the sword, are but words and of no strength to secure a man at all. Therefore, notwithstanding the laws of nature (which every one hath then kept, when he has the will to keep them, when he can do it safely), if there be no power erected, or not great enough for our security, every man will and may lawfully rely on his own strength and art for caution against all other men. And in all places, where men have lived by small families, to rob and spoil one another has been a trade, and so far from being reputed against the law of nature that the greater spoils they gained, the greater was their honour; and men observed no other laws therein but the laws of honour; that is, to abstain from cruelty, leaving to men their lives and instruments of husbandry. And as small families did then; so now do cities and kingdoms, which are but greater families (for their own security), enlarge their dominions upon all pretences of danger, and fear of invasion, or assistance that may be given to invaders; endeavour as much as they can to subdue or weaken their neighbours by open force, and secret arts, for want of other caution, justly; and are remembered for it in after ages with honour.

Nor is it the joining together of a small number of men that gives them this security; because in small numbers, small additions on the one side or the other make the advantage of strength so great as is sufficient to carry the victory, and therefore gives encouragement to an invasion. The multitude sufficient to confide in for our security is not determined by any certain number, but by comparison with the enemy we fear; and is then sufficient when the odds of the enemy is not of so visible and conspicuous moment to determine the event of war, as to move him to attempt.

And be there never so great a multitude; yet if their actions be directed according to their particular judgements, and particular appetites, they can expect thereby no defence, nor protection, neither against a common enemy, nor against the injuries of one another. For being distracted in opinions concerning the best use and application of their strength, they do not help, but hinder one another, and reduce their strength by mutual opposition to nothing: whereby they are easily, not only subdued by a very few that agree together, but also, when there is no common enemy, they make war upon each other for their particular interests. For if we could suppose a great multitude of men to consent in the observation of justice, and other laws of nature, without a common power to keep them all in awe, we might as well suppose all mankind to do the same; and then there neither would be, nor need to be, any civil government or Commonwealth at all, because there would be peace without subjection.

Nor is it enough for the security, which men desire should last all the time of their life, that they be governed and directed by one judgement for a limited time; as in one battle, or one war. For though they obtain a victory by their unanimous endeavour against a foreign enemy, yet afterwards, when either they have no common enemy, or he that by one part is held for an enemy is by another part held for a friend, they must needs by the difference of their interests dissolve, and fall again into a war amongst themselves.

It is true that certain living creatures, as bees and ants, live sociably one with another (which are therefore by Aristotle numbered amongst political creatures), and yet have no other direction than their particular judgements and appetites; nor speech, whereby one of them can signify to another what he thinks expedient for the common benefit: and therefore some man may perhaps desire to know why mankind cannot do the same. To which I answer,

First, that men are continually in competition for honour and dignity, which these creatures are not; and consequently amongst men there ariseth on that ground, envy, and hatred, and finally war; but amongst these not so.

Secondly, that amongst these creatures the common good differeth not from the private; and being by nature inclined to their private, they procure thereby the common benefit. But man, whose joy consisteth in comparing himself with other men, can relish nothing but what is eminent.

Thirdly, that these creatures, having not, as man, the use of reason, do not see, nor think they see, any fault in the administration of their common business: whereas amongst men there are very many that think themselves wiser and abler to govern the public better than the rest, and these strive to reform and innovate, one this way, another that way; and thereby bring it into distraction and civil war.

Fourthly, that these creatures, though they have some use of voice in making known to one another their desires and other affections, yet they want that art of words by which some men can represent to others that which is good in the likeness of evil; and evil, in the likeness of good; and augment or diminish the apparent greatness of good and evil, discontenting men and troubling their peace at their pleasure.

Fifthly, irrational creatures cannot distinguish between injury and damage; and therefore as long as they be at ease, they are not offended with their fellows: whereas man is then most troublesome when he is most at ease; for then it is that he loves to show his wisdom, and control the actions of them that govern the Commonwealth.

Lastly, the agreement of these creatures is natural; that of men is by covenant only, which is artificial: and therefore it is no wonder if there be somewhat else required, besides covenant, to make their agreement constant and lasting; which is a common power to keep them in awe and to direct their actions to the common benefit.

The only way to erect such a common power, as may be able to defend them from the invasion of foreigners, and the injuries of one another, and thereby to secure them in such sort as that by their own industry and by the fruits of the earth they may nourish themselves and live contentedly, is to confer all their power and strength upon one man, or upon one assembly of men, that may reduce all their wills, by plurality of voices, unto one will: which is as much as to say, to appoint one man, or assembly of men, to bear their person; and every one to own and acknowledge himself to be author of whatsoever he that so beareth their person shall act, or cause to be acted, in those things which concern the common peace and safety; and therein to submit their wills, every one to his will, and their judgements to his judgement. This is more than consent, or concord; it is a real unity of them all in one and the same person, made by covenant of every man with every man, in such manner as if every man should say to every man: I authorise and give up my right of governing myself to this man, or to this assembly of men, on this condition; that thou give up, thy right to him, and authorise all his actions in like manner. This done, the multitude so united in one person is called a COMMONWEALTH; in Latin, CIVITAS. This is the generation of that great LEVIATHAN, or rather, to speak more reverently, of that mortal god to which we owe, under the immortal God, our peace and defence. For by this authority, given him by every particular man in the Commonwealth, he hath the use of so much power and strength conferred on him that, by terror thereof, he is enabled to form the wills of them all, to peace at home, and mutual aid against their enemies abroad. And in him consisteth the essence of the Commonwealth; which, to define it, is: one person, of whose acts a great multitude, by mutual covenants one with another, have made themselves every one the author, to the end he may use the strength and means of them all as he shall think expedient for their peace and common defence.

And he that carryeth this person is called sovereign, and said to have sovereign power; and every one besides, his subject.

Reading: Writing the Self

Lucy Hutchinson (1620–1681) was an English translator, poet, and biographer, and the first person to translate the complete text of Lucretius’s De rerum natura (On the Nature of Things) into English verse, during the years of the Interregnum. She was born on 29 January 1620 in the Tower of London, where her father, a lieutenant, was stationed. She was married on 3 July 1638 to Colonel John Hutchinson who was one of the signatories of King Charles’s death-warrant, but he later protested against the assumption of supreme power by Oliver Cromwell. After the Restoration of the monarchy in 1660, her husband was arrested for his part in the regicide and imprisoned in Sandown Castle, Kent. However, he was not tried. Lucy went before the House of Lords to gain his release, but to no avail. In 1664, John Hutchinson died in prison. His death deeply affected her and her writing, as attested by her “Elegies” series of poems. Lucy Hutchinson was an ardent Puritan, and she held fast to her Calvinist convictions.


From Memoirs of the Life of Colonel John Hutchinson

Charles I and Henrietta Maria

The face of the court was much changed in the change of the king, for King Charles was temperate, chaste, and serious; so that the fools and bawds, mimics and catamites, of the former court, grew out of fashion; and the nobility and courtiers, who did not quite abandon their debaucheries, had yet that reverence to the king to retire into corners to practise them. Men of learning and ingenuity in all arts were in esteem, and received encouragement from the king, who was a most excellent judge and a great lover of paintings, carvings, gravings, and many other ingenuities, less offensive than the bawdry and profane abusive wit which was the only exercise of the other court. But as in the primitive times, it is observed that the best emperors were some of them stirred up by Satan to be the bitterest persecutors of the church, so this king was a worse encroacher upon the civil and spiritual liberties of his people by far than his father. He married a papist, a French lady, of a haughty spirit, and a great wit and beauty, to whom he became a most uxorious husband. By this means the court was replenished with papists, and many who hoped to advance themselves by the change, turned to that religion. All the papists in the kingdom were favoured, and by the king’s example, matched into the best families; the Puritans more than ever discountenanced and persecuted, insomuch that many of them chose to abandon their native country, and leave their dearest relations to retire into any foreign soil or plantation, where they might, amidst all outward inconveniences, enjoy the free exercise of God’s worship. Such as could not flee were tormented in the bishops’ courts, fined, whipped, pilloried, imprisoned, and suffered to enjoy no rest, so that death was better than life to them; and notwithstanding their patient sufferance of all these things, yet was not the king satisfied till the whole land were reduced to perfect slavery. The example of the French king was propounded to him, and he thought himself no monarch so long as his will was confined to the bounds of any law; but knowing that the people of England were not pliable to an arbitrary rule, he plotted to subdue them to his yoke by a foreign force, and till he could effect it, made no conscience of granting anything to the people, which he resolved should not oblige him longer than it served his turn; for he was a prince that had nothing of faith or truth, justice or generosity, in him. He was the most obstinate person in his self-will that ever was, and so bent upon being an absolute, uncontrollable sovereign, that he was resolved either to be such a king or none. His firm adherence to prelacy was not for conscience of one religion more than another, for it was his principle that an honest man might be saved in any profession; but he had a mistaken principle that kingly government in the state could not stand without episcopal government in the church; and therefore, as the bishops flattered him with preaching up his sovereign prerogative, and inveighing against the Puritans as factious and disloyal, so he protected them in their pomp and pride, and insolent practices against all the godly and sober people of the land.

* * *

But above all these the king had another instigator of his own violent purpose, more powerful than all the rest, and that was the queen, who, grown out of her childhood, began to turn her mind from these vain extravagancies she lived in at first, to that which did less become her, and was more fatal to the kingdom; which is never in any place happy where the hands which were only made for distaffs affect the management of sceptres. If any one object the fresh example of Queen Elizabeth, let them remember that the felicity of her reign was the effect of her submission to her masculine and wise counsellors; but wherever male princes are so effeminate as to suffer women of foreign birth and different religions to intermeddle with the affairs of state, it is always found to produce sad desolations; and it hath been observed that a French queen never brought any happiness to England. Some kind of fatality too, the English imagined to be in her name of Marie, which, it is said, the king rather chose to have her called by than her other, Henrietta, because the land should find a blessing in that name, which had been more unfortunate; but it was not in his power, though a great prince, to control destiny. This lady being by her priests affected with the meritoriousness of advancing her own religion, whose principle it is to subvert all other, applied that way her great wit and parts, and the power her haughty spirit kept over her husband who was enslaved in his affection only to her, though she had no more passion for him than what served to promote her designs. Those brought her into a very good correspondence with the archbishop and his prelatical crew, both joining in the cruel design of rooting the godly out of the land. The foolish protestants were meditating reconciliations with the church of Rome, who embraced them as far as they would go, carrying them in hand, as if there had been a possibility of bringing such a thing to pass; meanwhile, they carried on their design by them, and had so ripened it, that nothing but the mercy of God prevented the utter subversion of protestantism in the three kingdoms. But how much soever their designs were framed in the dark, God revealed them to his servants, and most miraculously ordered providences for their preservation.

Edward Hyde (1607–1659) was an English royalist cleric, nominally Dean of Windsor at the end of his life. Educated at Oxford, he practiced law in the 1630s and by 1641 he was a chief supporter and advisor to Charles I. For this reason, he was exiled during the Interregnum with the boy who would one day become Charles II. After the restoration, he became lord chancellor and prime minister to Charles II. His History of the Rebellion was largely written in the midst o the events that he describes.


From The History of the Rebellion

…about the middle of August, he was seized on by a common tertian ague, from which, he believed, a little ease and divertisement at Hampton Court would have freed him. But the fits grew stronger, and his spirits much abated: so that he returned again to Whitehall, when his physicians began to think him in danger, though the preachers, who prayed always about him, and told God Almighty what great things he had done for him, and how much more need he had still of his service, declared as from God, that he should recover ; and he did not think he should die, till even the time that his spirits failed him. Then he declared to them, “that he did appoint his son to “ succeed him, his eldest son Richard ;” and so expired upon the third day of September, 1658, a and on which he had twice triumphed for several vic tories; a day very memorable for the greatest storm of wind that had been ever known, for some hours before and after his death, which overthrew trees, houses, and made great wrecks at sea; and [the tempest] was so universal, that the effects of it were terrible both in France and Flanders, where all people trembled at it; for, besides the wrecks all along the sea-coast, many boats were cast away in the very rivers; and within few days after, the circumstance of his death, that accompanied that storm, was known.

He was one of those men, quos vituperare ne inimici quidem possunt, nisi ut simul laudent; [whom his very enemies could not condemn without com mending him at the same time :] for he could never have done half that mischief without great parts of courage, industry, and judgment. He must have had a wonderful understanding in the natures and humours of men, and as great a dex terity in applying them; who, from a private and obscure birth, (though of a good family,) without interest or estate, alliance or friendship, could raise himself to such a height, and compound and knead such opposite and contradictory tempers, humours, and interests into a consistence, that contributed to his designs, and to their own destruction; whilst himself grew insensibly powerful enough to cut off those by whom he had climbed, in the instant that they projected to demolish their own building. What Velleius Paterculus said of Cinna may very justly be said of him, ausum eum, qua, nemo auderet bonus; perfecisse, qua, a nullo, nisi fortissimo, per fici possent : [he attempted those things which no good man durst have ventured on; and achieved those in which none but a valiant and great man could have succeeded.] Without doubt, no man with more wickedness ever attempted anything, or brought to pass what he desired more wickedly, more in the face and contempt of religion, and moral honesty; yet wickedness as great as his could never have accomplished those trophies, with out the assistance of a great spirit, an admirable circumspection and sagacity, and a most magna nimous resolution. When he appeared first in the parliament, he seemed to have a person in no degree gracious, no ornament of discourse, none of those talents which use to reconcile the affections of the stander by: yet as he grew into place and authority, his parts seemed to be raised, as if he had had concealed faculties, till he had occasion to use them; and when he was to act the part of a great man, he did it without any indecency, notwithstanding the want of custom.

After he was confirmed and invested protector by the humble petition and advice, he consulted with very few upon any action of importance, nor communicated any enterprise he resolved upon, with more than those who were to have principal parts in the execution of it; nor with them sooner than was absolutely necessary. What he once re solved, in which he was not rash, he would not be dissuaded from, nor endure any contradiction of his power and authority; but extorted obedience from them who were not willing to yield it.

When he had laid some very extraordinary tax and one who had heretofore served him very notably, positively refused to pay his part; and loudly dis suaded others from submitting to it, “as an impo “sition notoriously against the law, and the pro “perty of the subject, which all honest men were “bound to defend.” Cromwell sent for him, and cajoled him with the memory of “the old kindness, “ and friendship, that had been between them; “ and that of all men he did not expect this opposition from him, in a matter that was so necessary for the good of the commonwealth.” But it was always his fortune to meet with the most rude and obstinate behaviour from those who had formerly been absolutely governed by him; and they commonly put him in mind of some expressions and sayings of his own, in cases of the like nature: so this man remembered him, how great an enemy he had expressed himself to such grievances, and had declared, “that all who submitted “to them, and paid illegal taxes, were more to “blame, and greater enemies to their country, “ than they who had imposed them; and that the “ tyranny of princes could never be grievous, but “by the tameness and stupidity of the people.”

When Cromwell saw that he could not convert him, he told him, “that he had a will as stubborn “as his, and he would try which of them two “should be master.” Thereupon, with some terms of reproach and contempt, he committed the man to prison; whose courage was nothing abated by it; but as soon as the term came, he brought his habeas corpus in the king’s bench, which they then called the upper bench. Maynard, who was of council with the prisoner, demanded his liberty with great confidence, both upon the illegality of the commitment, and the illegality of the imposi tion, as being laid without any lawful authority. The judges could not maintain or defend either, and enough declared what their sentence would be; and therefore the protector’s attorney required a farther day, to answer what had been urged. Before that day, Maynard was committed to the Tower, for presuming to question or make doubt of his authority; and the judges were sent for, and severely reprehended for suffering that license; when they, with all humility, mentioned the law and magna charta, Cromwell told them, “their “magna f should not control his actions; “which he knew were for the safety of the com “ monwealth.” He asked them, “who made them “judges? whether they had any authority to sit “ there, but what he gave them P and if his au “thority were at an end, they knew well enough “what would become of themselves; and there “fore advised them to be more tender of that “which could only preserve them;” and so dis missed them with caution, “that they should not “suffer the lawyers to prate what it would not “ become them to hear.”

Thus he subdued a spirit that had been often troublesome to the most sovereign power, and made Westminster-hall as obedient, and subser vient to his commands, as any of the rest of his quarters. In all other matters, which did not con cern the life of his jurisdiction, he seemed to have great reverence for the law, rarely interposing between party and party. As he proceeded with those who were refractory, and dared to contend with his greatness, so towards all who complied with his good pleasure, and courted his protection, he used a wonderful civility, generosity, and bounty. To reduce three nations, which perfectly hated him, to an entire obedience to all his dictates; to awe and govern those nations by an army that was indevoted to him, and wished his ruin, was an instance of a very prodigious address. But his greatness at home was but a shadow of the glory he had abroad. It was hard to discover, which feared him most, France, Spain, or the Low Coun tries, where his friendship was current at the value he put upon it. As they did all sacrifice their honour and their interest to his pleasure, so there is nothing he could have demanded, that either of them would have denied him.

* * *

He was not a man of blood, and totally declined Machiavel’s method; which prescribes, upon any alteration of government, as a thing absolutely necessary, to cut off all the heads of those, and extirpate their families, who are friends to the old one. It was confidently reported, that, in the council of officers, it was more than once pro posed, “that there might be a general massacre of “all the royal party, as the only expedient to “secure the government,” but that Cromwell would never consent to it; it may be, out of too much contempt of his enemies. In a word,  as he had all the wickednesses against which damnation is denounced and for which hellfire is prepared, so he had some virtues which have caused the memory of some men in all ages to be celebrated; and he will be looked upon by posterity as a brave bad man.

Anne Halkett (1623 – 1699), also known as Lady Halkett, was a religious writer and autobiographer. Halkett’s father Thomas Murray was tutor to King James I’s children. He later became Provost of Eton College. Her mother, Jane Drummond Murray, was governess to the king’s children. When Thomas Murray died, Halkett was educated by her mother. She learned French, dancing, medicine, music, needlework, religion and surgery. Her religious education was extensive, and she read the Bible, said daily prayers and regularly attended church. Halkett’s autobiography (which can be titled as Autobiography or Memoirs, depending on the edition) is a candid record of personal and political events during the English Civil War. It appears to have been written between 1677 and 1678. In it, Halkett gives a detailed account of her courtships and marriage. It is written with narrative suspense, and dialogue is used to capture both Halkett’s own emotions and those of her lovers.

From The Memoires

This gentleman came to see mee sometimes in the company of ladys who had beene my mother’s neibours in St Martin’s Lane, and sometimes alone, butt when ever hee came his discourse was serious, handsome, and tending to imprese the advantages of piety, loyalty, and vertue; and these subjects were so agreeable to my owne inclination that I could nott butt give them a good reception, especially from one that seemed to bee so much an owner of them himselfe.

Affter I had beene used to freedom of discourse with him I told him I aproved much of his advise to others, butt I thought his owne practise contradicted much of his proffesion, for one of his aquaintance had told mee hee had nott seene his wife in a twelvemonth, and itt was imposible, in my opinion, for a good man to bee an ill husband; and therefore hee must defend himselfe from one before I could beleeve the other of him. Hee said itt was not nesesary to give every one that might condemne him the reason of his being so long from her, yett to sattisfy mee hee would tell mee the truth, which was, that hee beeing engaged in the King’s service he was oblieged to bee att London, where itt was nott convenientt for her to bee with him, his stay in any place beeing uncertaine; besides, shee lived amongst her freinds, who, though they were kind to her, yett were nott so to him, for most of that country had declared for the Parleament, and were enemys to all that had or did serve the King, and therefore his wife, hee was sure, would not condemne him for what hee did by her owne consentt. This seeming reasonable, I did insist noe more upon that subject.

[p. 20] Att this time hee had frequentt letters from the King, who imployed him in severall affaires, butt that of the greatest concerne which hee was imployed in was to contrive the Duke of Yorke’s escape outt of St Jarnes (where his Highnese and the Duke of Glocester [Gloucester] and the Princese Elizabeth lived under the care of the Earle of Northumberland and his lady). The dificultys of itt was represented by Coll. B. [Colonel Bampfield]; but his Majestie still pressed itt, and I remember this expresion was in one of the letters: — “I beleeve itt will bee deficult, and if hee miscary in the attempt itt will bee the greatest afliction that can arive to mee; butt I looke upon James’s escape as Charles’s preservation, and nothing can content mee more; therfore bee carefull what you doe.”

This letter, amongst others, hee showed mee, and where the King aproved of his choice of mee to intrust with itt, for to gett the Duke’s cloaths made, and to drese him in his disguise. So now all C. B.’s [Colonel Bampfield’s] busynese and care was how to manage this busynese of so important concerne, which could not bee performed without severall persons’ concurrence in itt, for hee beeing generally knowne as one whose stay att London was in order to serve the King, few of those who were intrusted by the Parliament in puplicke concernes durst owne convearse or hardly civility to him, lest they should have beene suspect by there party, which made itt deficult for him to gett accese to the Duke; but (to be short) having comunicated the designe to a gentleman attending his Highnese, who was full of honor and fidelity, by his meanes hee had private accese to the Duke, to whom hee presented the King’s letter and order to his Highnese for consenting to act what C. B. [Colonel Bampfield] should contrive for his escape, which was so cheerfully intertained and so readily obayed, that being once designed there was nothing more to doe than to prepare all things for the execution.

I had desired him to take a ribban with him and bring mee the bignese of the Duke’s wast and his lengh, to have cloaths made fitt for him. In the meane time C. B. [Colonel Bampfield] was to provide mony for all nesesary expence, which was furnished by an honest cittisen. When I gave the measure to my tailor to inquire [p. 21] how much mohaire would serve to make a petticoate and wastcoate to a young gentlewoman of that bignese and stature, hee considered itt a long time, and said hee had made many gownes and suites, butt hee had never made any to such a person in his life. I thought hee was in the right; butt his meaning was, hee had never seene any woman of so low a stature have so big a wast; however hee made itt as exactly fitt as if hee had taken the measure himselfe. Itt was a mixed mohaire of a light haire couler and blacke, and the under-petticoate was scarlett.

All things beeing now ready, upon the 20. of Aprill, 1648, in the evening, was the time resolved on for the Duke’s escape.

And in order to that, itt was designed for a week before every night as soon as the Duke had suped hee and those servants that attended his Highnese (till the Earle of Northumberland and the rest of the howse had suped) wentt to a play called hide and seek, and sometimes hee would hide himselfe so well that in halfe an howers time they could not find him. His Highnese had so used them to this, that when hee wentt really away they thought hee was butt att the usuall sport.

A litle before the Duke wentt to super that night hee called for the gardiner, who only had a treble key besides that which the Duke had, and bid him give him that key till his owne was mended, which hee did. And after his Highnese had suped, hee imeadiately called to goe to the play, and wentt downe the privy staires into the garden, and opened the gate that goes into the parke, treble locking all the doores behind him. And att the garden gate C. B. [Colonel Bampfield] waited for his Highnese, and putting on a cloake and periwig huried him away to the parke gate, where a coach waited that caried them to the watter side, and, taking the boate that was apointed for that service, they rowed to the staires next the bridge, where I and Miriam waited in a private howse hard by that C. B. [Colonel Bampfield] had prepared for dresing his Highnese, where all things were in a readinese.

Butt I had many feares, for C. B. [Colonel Bampfield] had desired mee, if they came nott there precisely by ten a’ clocke, to shift for my selfe, for then I might conclude they were discovered, and so my stay there could doe noe good, but prejudice my selfe. Yett this [p. 22] did nott make mee leave the howse, though ten a’clock did strike, and hee that was intrusted offten wentt to the landing place and saw noe boate comming was much discouraged, and asked mee what I would doe. I told him I came there with a resolution to serve his Highness, and I was fully determined nott to leave that place till I was outt of hopes of doing what I came there for, and would take my hazard.

Hee left mee to goe againe to the watter side, and while I was fortifying myselfe against what might arive to mee, I heard a great noise of many as I thought comming up staires, which I expected to be soldiers to take mee, but it was a pleasing disapointmentt, for the first that came in was the Duke, who with much joy I took in my armes and gave God thankes for his safe arivall. His Highnese called “Quickely quickely dress me;” and, putting of his cloaths, I dresed him in the women’s habitt that was prepared, which fitted his Highnese very well, and was very pretty in itt. Affter hee had eaten something I made ready while I was idle lest his Highnese should bee hungry, and having sentt for a Woodstreet cake (which I knew hee loved) to take in the barge, with as much hast as could bee his Highnese wentt crose the bridge to the staires where the barge lay, C. B. [Colonel Bampfield] leading him; and imediately the boatemen plied the oare so well that they were soone outt of sight, having both wind and tide with them.

Butt I afterwards heard the wind changed and was so contrary that C. B. [Colonel Bampfield] told me hee was terribly afraid they should have beene blowne backe againe. And the Duke said, “Doe any thing with mee rather than lett mee goe backe againe,” which putt C. B. [Colonel Bampfield] to seeke helpe where itt was only to bee had, and, after hee had most fervently suplicated assistance from God, presently the wind blew faire, and they came safely to there intended landing place. Butt I heard there was some deficulty before they gott to the ship at Graves-End, which had like to have discovered them had nott Collonell Washington’s lady assisted them.

Affter the Duke’s barge was outt of sight of the bridge, I and Miriam wentt where I apointed the coach to stay for mee, and made drive as fast as the coachman could to my brother’s howse, where I staid. I mett none in the way that gave mee any aprehension that [p. 23] the designe was discovered, nor was itt noised abroad till the next day, for (as I related before) the Duke having used to play at hide and seeke, and to conceale himselfe a long time when they mist him att the same play, thought hee would have discovered himselfe as formerly when they had given over seeking him. Butt a much longer time beeing past than usually was spentt in that deverttissementt, some began to aprehend that his Highnese was gone in earnest past their finding, which made the Earle of Northumberland (to whose care he was committed) affter strict search made in the howse of St. James and all thereabouts to noe purpose, to send and aquaint the Speaker of the House of Commons that the Duke was gone, butt how or by what meanes hee knew nott, butt desired that there might bee orders sentt to the Cinque Ports for stoping all ships going outt till the passengers were examined and search made in all suspected places where his Highnese might be concealed.

Though this was gone aboutt with all the vigillancy immaginable, yett itt pleased God to disapointt them of there intention by so infatuating those severall persons who were imployed for writting orders that none of them were able to writt one right, butt ten or twelve of them were cast by before one was according to their mind. This accountt I had from Mr. N. [Serjeant Norfoulke] who was mace-bearer to the Speeker all that time and a witnese of itt. This disorder of the clarkes contributed much to the Duke’s safety, for hee was att sea before any of the orders came to the ports, and so was free from what was designed if they had taken his Highnese.

Though severalls were suspected for being accesory to the escape, yett they could nott charge any with itt butt the person who wentt away, and hee being outt of there reach, they tooke noe notice as either to examine or imprison others.


Source Texts

Halkett, Anne. The Autobiography of Anne Lady Halkett, Camden Society, 1875, is licensed under no known copyright.


Hobbes, Thomas. Leviathan. Printed for Andrew Crooke, 1651, is licensed under no known copyright.


Hutchinson, Lucy. The Life of John Hutchinson, Bartleby, n.d. is licensed under no known copyright.


Hyde, Edward. The History of the Rebeliion and Civil Wars in England, Northwestern University, 1816, is licensed under no known copyright.


The Manner of the Tryal of Charles Stuart King of England.” A Journal of the Proceedings of the High Court of Iustice, University of Michigan, n.d, and is licensed under CC0 1.0 Public Domain Dedication.

Copyright Week: Tools and policies for building and defending a robust public domain - Creative Commons

Milton, John. “From The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates.The Prose Works of John Milton, Westley and Davis, 1835, is licensed under no known copyright.


“A Perfect Diurnal of Some Passages in Parliament,” Shoe Leather Journal, the New York Public Library, 1900, is licensed under no known copyright.


Berens, Lewis. “A New Year’s Gift Sent to the Parliament and Army.” The Digger Movement in the Days of the Commonwealth, Project Gutenberg, 2006, is licensed under no known copyright. 





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An Open Companion to Early British Literature Copyright © 2019 by Allegra Villarreal is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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