Selected Works of the Levellers
The Levellers were a group of English reformers mainly active during the period from 1645 through 1649, who originated many of the ideas that eventually became provisions of the U.S. Constitution, especially the Bill of Rights. Inspired by the Petition of Right of 1628, and led by John Lilburne, beginning as a lieutenant of Oliver Cromwell, they initially supported the Protectorate, but then turned against it when Cromwell failed to make the reforms they demanded. The response was the prosecution of most of its leaders, who were either imprisoned or executed. Their proposals continued, however, to inspire political philosophers and future generations of reformers. They appear to have influenced their contemporary, Thomas Hobbes, and later writers such as James Harrington and John Locke. Their proposals were revived during the Revolution of 1688 to produce the English Bill of Rights in 1689, which led to the Whig party in Britain that supported many of the reforms for Britain sought by the Americans during the War of Independence.
During the period of their greatest activity, the Levellers produced a number of political documents, which have been gathered and published by various editors. We present several of those collections here, which have some overlap in their contents.
Andrew Sharp Collection
Published as The English Levellers by Cambridge University Press in 1998, the following selections provide an introduction to some of the key ideas of the Levellers and the debates their ideas provoked. For more on this edition, see publication information.
|Introduction: the English Levellers, 1645-1649||vii|
|A note on the texts||xxxv|
|1||John Lilburne, 'On the 150th page': An untitled broadsheet of August 1645||3|
|2||William Walwyn, Toleration justified and persecution condemned. 29 January 1646||9|
|3||John Lilburne, Postscript to The freeman's freedom vindicated. 16 June 1646||31|
|4||Richard Overton with William Walwyn's collaboration, A remonstrance of many thousand citizens. 7 July 1646||33|
|5||Richard Overton, An arrow against all tyrants. 12 October 1646||54|
|6||William Walwyn, Gold tried in the fire. 4 June 1647||73|
|7||Several hands, An agreement of the people for a firm and present peace upon grounds of common right and freedom. 28 October 1647||92|
|8||Members of the New Model Army and civilian Levellers, Extract from the debates at the General Council of the Army, Putney. 29 October 1647||102|
|9||John Lilburne and others, The petition of 11 September 1648||131|
|10||John Lilburne, England's new chains discovered. 26 February 1649||140|
|11||William Walwyn, and on behalf of John Lilburne, Thomas Prince and Richard Overton, A manifestation. 14 April 1649||158|
|12||John Lilburne, William Walwyn, Thomas Prince and Richard Overton, An agreement of the free people of England. 1 May 1649||168|
|13||John Lilburne, The young men's and the apprentices' outcry. 29 August 1649||179|
William Haller and Godfrey Davies Collection
Published as The Leveller tracts 1647-1653 in 1944, the following selections cover some of the later documents. For more on this edition, see publication information.
[These documents under construction.]
Don M. Wolfe Collection
Published as Leveller manifestos of the Puritan revolution in 1944, the following selections provide a comprehensive exposition of the positions of the reformers. For more on this edition, see publication information.
[These documents under construction.]
Not properly part of the Leveller movement, there were some who sided with their positions:
History and Commentary
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Created: 2000 March 3 | Updated: 2005 July 6