Eduard Bernstein

Cromwell and Communism

Chapter XIII
Conspiracies and Religious Offshoots of the Popular Democratic Movement

ON April 20, 1653, Cromwell had dissolved the Rump Parliament, whereupon the Council of the Army, which he dominated, summoned a Parliament, or more accurately a convention of important representatives of the republican party, which was known as the “Little” or “Barebone’s” Parliament. Composed mainly of persons who united in themselves the puritanical sanctimoniousness and political Radicalism which is peculiar to the Anglo-Saxon world, it showed much zeal for progressive reforms, but in its first blush of enthusiasm it took up so many things at once, and aroused the opposition of so many interests, that Cromwell deemed it advisable to give effect to a resolution passed by the moderate minority of the assembly when the majority was off its guard, and to dismiss the assembly. The Council of the Army then devised and proclaimed an “Instrument of Government”, by virtue of which Cromwell was appointed Lord Protector with almost regal powers, save that he was merely to exercise a short veto of postponement upon Parliament.

Although larger constituencies were prescribed for Parliament, some steps were taken to ensure a greater measure of equality in representation, and provision was made for Ireland and Scotland to be represented according to population, so that the Parliament constituted upon this basis embodied a representative principle which did not receive full recognition until after the Reform Act of 1832. In the present case the franchise for both electors and elected was coupled with an oath to make no change in the government of the country, as vested in Parliament and a single person, which meant a recognition of the Republic and of the Cromwellian Protectorate. Parliament had scarcely met, however, before the majority of its members indicated that they were not prepared to accept the new constitution forthwith. The convinced Republicans on the one hand and the Presbyterians on the other went so far as to call in question the principle of the Protectorate itself. The result was that Cromwell, at the head of his officers, rebuked Parliament, and made continued participation in its debates dependent upon signing a declaration, according to which the signatories pledged themselves not to introduce or support any measures which contravened the conditions upon which they had been elected. The convinced Republicans refused to attach their signatures and left Parliament, which, despite this purging, did not last five months.

It may be left undecided whether the Republicans were particularly wise at a time when the Republic was so weak in the country itself, and was exposed to continuous intrigues from abroad, to address themselves immediately to an alteration of the emergency constitution, which the “Instrument of Government” must be regarded as being. This conduct is explained by the fact that the Protectorate was at first a thinly veiled military regime. They resisted on principle being governed by the sword, although the sword rested in the hand of an able man, who adopted a broad-minded attitude in the religious questions which caused so much friction. Thus they saw in Cromwell only the usurper or the protractor of a detestable tyranny, whilst the latter ridiculed those who in a situation of emergency would approve no step necessary to consolidate the Republic until it had been sanctioned, after the delays incidental to parliamentary procedure, by law.

Such were the antagonisms, which aroused all the more feeling when Cromwell apprehended a number of rebellious Republicans and interned them in fortified places. If a certain amount of ferocity was imported into these acts, they were still the measures of a military dictatorship, against which, after the suppression of the rebellions in the Army, no weapon was available save assassination. From 1654 onwards attempt followed attempt upon the life of the Lord Protector, nearly all of which were undertaken by erstwhile Levellers or advanced sectaries closely allied with them, and instigated or even financed by the Royalists. Such in particular were the plots of Sexby and Sindercomb.

Sexby was Governor of the Isle of Portland, with the rank of captain; then he served under Cromwell as Colonel of Cavalry in Scotland, repeatedly distinguishing himself; but in 1651 he was cashiered by court martial for stopping the pay of some of his soldiers, which he maintained he had done, not in his own interest, but for the public advantage. He had in fact attempted to force the seven or eight men to enter a new regiment which he was forming. Despite his transgression, he was then employed by the State Council of the Republic upon a particularly confidential mission.

It was the time when France, in the interest of the Stuarts, sought to injure the young Republic in every way, among other things, financing pirates, who captured English trading-vessels. At this juncture Sexby received from the secret committee of the State Council, consisting of Cromwell, Scott, and Whitelocke, instructions to proceed to France, and report upon conditions in that country and the sentiments of the people, in order that dangers might be avoided and an interest created. With four companions, Sexby repaired to France, and remained there twenty-one months. He entered into relations, among others, with the Condés and the party of the Fronde, and one of the traces of his activity is a sketch of a Republican constitution for France, found among the papers of Mazarin and of Prince Louis Condé. This document, drafted “in the name of Prince Condé and Conti and of the town of Bordeaux”, bears the title L’Accord du Peuple, and on closer examination turns out to be a simple translation of the Levellers’ Agreement of the People. It was to be employed as a manifesto of the Republicans of Bordeaux and of the remainder of Guienne. Condé’s secret agent, Lenet, wrote on the draft: “Memoires données a son altesse de Conti par les sieurs Saxebri et Arrondel que je n’approuve pas.” Saxebri was manifestly Sexby, and Arrondel was one of his companions. This opinion is shared by Mr. S.R. Gardiner, who called my attention to Sexby’s mission to France after the first edition of this book had appeared.

Edward Sexby, whom we met in a former chapter as an agitator in the Army and confidant of Lilburne, was undoubtedly a man of great abilities and extraordinary energy. He was a soldier who had risen from the ranks, and advanced step by step to the position of a colonel. It was largely due to him that the Newmarket Heath meeting in the spring of 1647 was held, when the Army pledged itself to uphold democracy.

In the consultations between Cromwell’s staff and the agitators in the autumn of the same year, at Putney, Sexby was the doughty champion of the more advanced section. When the franchise was discussed, he pointed to the thousands of soldiers who, poor as himself, had ventured their lives for their “birthright and privileges as Englishmen”. Why were they to be told that unless they had a fixed estate they had no birthright? He, for one, would surrender his right to no man. [1]

His criticism of the political strategy of the heads of the Army is drastic:

We sought to satisfy all men, and itt was well; but in going [about] to doe it we have dissatisfied all men. Wee have laboured to please a Kinge, and I thinke, except we goe about to cutt all our throates, we shall nott please him; and wee have gone to support an house wh. will prove rotten studds, I meane the Parliament which consists of a Company of rotten members.

Cromwell and Ireton still favoured a policy of mediation, but before long they recognized that Sexby had accurately forecasted the situation.

In the summer of 1648 it was Sexby who brought Cromwell a letter from Lilburne making pacific overtures [2], and during the first years of the Commonwealth he remained in the service of the State.

At the end of 1653 we find Sexby again in England, in time to witness the dispersal of the Little Parliament, the driving of the most sincere Republicans out of the first Protectorate Parliament, the internment of Lilburne and other advanced Republicans, and after the dissolution of the first Protectorate Parliament, the complete establishment of military tyranny through the agency of the twelve “major-generals”, who ruled with an iron rod over the districts assigned to them. It is not therefore surprising that Sexby, and other equally sincere zealots, persuaded themselves that it was justifiable to make common cause against Cromwell, even with Royalists, Spaniards, and others, and to accept their financial support. As to co-operation with the Spaniards, the “lawful heir to the throne” had set them the example, and early in 1654 a proclamation had been issued, promising an annuity of £500, the rank of a colonel, and other honours to anyone “whosoever will, by sword, pistol or poison”, kill the “base mechanic fellow, by name Oliver Cromwell”.

But however seductive this offer might prove to “men of spirit in straitened circumstances” (Carlyle), no one managed to earn the promised reward, as Cromwell never rode out without a strong bodyguard, and took other steps to ensure the safety of his person. The disgruntled Levellers now took up the matter, and they did not mind risking their lives. As the money raised by Sexby did not suffice to finance a rising on a large scale, the only course left open was to make an attempt on Cromwell’s life, and some of Sexby’s confederates were bold enough to mix with Cromwell’s bodyguards, so as to get at him when he was riding in Hyde Park. But they did not succeed, and one of them, Miles Sindercomb, proposed to try a different plan. Sexby gave him £1,600 for this purpose, and went abroad to procure further funds.

Many historians imply that Sexby was a common bravo, whose only object was to make money; but apart from the fact that Sexby’s antecedents and his intimate relations with other Levellers and Radical politicians of the period, which continued to the end, cast doubts on this assumption, it is totally refuted by the correspondence during the years 1655-57 between Charles Stuart and his principal agent, Hyde, on the one hand, and the Royalist party leaders, Colonel Talbot, Colonel Silas Titus, Sir Marmaduke Longdale, and Lord Ormond, as well as the Jesuit Father Talbot, on the other. In this correspondence Sexby is frequently mentioned, but invariably only as a highly gifted man, of firm character, whose fierce hatred against Cromwell might be utilized, but with whom they would have to treat very carefully on account of his political convictions. We subjoin a few passages only from this correspondence, which throws much light on the political occurrences and intrigues of the time. [3] Relations with Sexby, Overton, and other “Levellers” having already been established in the spring of 1655 through Count Fuensaldania, Sir M. Langdale, who was the first to inform Charles Stuart of these negotiations, wrote on September 9, 1655, that in an interview held at Brussels Overton and Sexby had declined to suggest that their party should form an alliance with the King. He (Langdale) would warn the King against these people, they should be made use of, but not trusted. Foreigners were the best agents because they had no political interests. On January 7,1656, Colonel Talbot wrote to Ormond, then staying with the King, that he found Sexby was Cromwell’s greatest enemy. But Sexby and his associates detested the King’s cause no less than Cromwell’s. On March 17th he instructed Ormond how he, or the King himself, was to behave in a projected interview with Sexby. They should emphasize Magna Charta and the powers of a freely elected Parliament. But if it became necessary to countenance extreme ( “unreasonable”) demands, it should be done – and the advice is most significant – subject to the reservation “as soon as a freely elected Parliament should demand this of his Majesty”. Meanwhile Ormond had entered into negotiations with the Leveller Rumbold, and, on June 21st, sought to ascertain from him whether Rumbold’s friend, Wildman, was in correspondence “with a certain Sexby”, and what Wildman thought of this man. On August 25th Father Talbot wrote to the King that Sexby was “not more favourably disposed towards the King than before”, and on October 12th he wrote asking that the King should write a letter which would satisfy Sexby that the King was ready to entertain his political demands, adding that Sexby had “as much moral honesty and sense of honour as could be expected or desired in anyone who is not a Cavalier”.

On October 17th Father Talbot reported to Ormond that the King had instructed him to go to Sexby to persuade him to listen to reason, and that he was authorized to make great offers to Sexby personally. But it was not until a month afterwards that the Jesuit was in a position to announce to the King that Sexby was ready to have a private interview with him on condition that he need not bend his knee to the King. And this demand was agreed to. About the end of 1656 Sindercomb’s attempt was made, from which, however, as Colonel Titus writes to Hyde, Sexby had dissuaded him because too much was left to chance and too many people had to be taken into confidence.

On July 13th Titus reported that Sexby was again in England and much dissatisfied with him because he (Titus) adhered too closely to the King. After Sexby’s arrest Titus writes (on November 12th) he hoped that Sexby, who had gone mad in prison, would never recover his reason, and he reiterates this Christian wish on December 13th, after hearing that Sexby’s condition was improving.

Whatever might be thought of the wisdom of these negotiations of the Levellers with King Charles II, it will at any rate be admitted that this correspondence puts Sexby’s political integrity beyond doubt.

Like Sexby, Miles Sindercomb had entered the Parliamentary Army as a young lad full of enthusiasm, and in 1649 had, as a corporal, joined the Levellers in their rebellion in favour of the Agreement. He had been taken prisoner at Burford, when he would have undoubtedly shared the fate of the other corporals taken at the same time – but for the fact that the night before the execution he succeeded in making good his escape. He went to Scotland, and there joined the Parliamentary Army, or, as it was then called, the Commonwealth Army, and quickly advanced to the rank of a paymaster. In 1654 he took part in the attempt to put Colonel Robert Overton, who was a good Republican, in the place of Monk, the commanding general, whom the Republicans and Levellers in the Army (and as subsequent events showed, not without justice) considered an “unreliable customer”. The plot being discovered, Sindercomb was cashiered by Monk, whereupon he returned to London and entered into relations with Sexby and other conspirators. His plan, when Sexby went to the Continent, was to remove Cromwell by means of a kind of infernal machine. For this purpose he took a house at Hammersmith, facing the street which Cromwell must pass on his way from Hampton Court to Whitehall. But his experiments failed; he gave up this plan and conceived the idea of setting fire to Whitehall, where Cromwell resided in winter, so that during the confusion the “tyrant” might be secured. He had enlisted one hundred persons in support of this plan, and had one hundred horses in readiness for them. He and one of his fellow-conspirators were seen loitering about Whitehall on January 8, 1657, and at half-past twelve at night a basket filled with fireworks “enough to burn through stones”, and tied up with a lighted fuse, was discovered by the smell of burning which it emitted. The guard at once reported the matter. All sentries, life-guards, etc., were questioned, and a life-guardsman who knew of the plot (and who possibly may have been a spy) made a full confession. Sindercomb was overpowered, and, notwithstanding a desperate resistance, conveyed to the Tower. On February 9th he was sentenced to death by the High Court for high treason. On the eve of the day fixed for his execution, February 14, 1657, he took poison, which his sister had secretly given him on her farewell visit. The daily report said that “he was of that wretched sect of soul-sleepers who believe that the soul falls asleep at death”. He left a declaration to the effect that his soul did not trouble him. We know who the soul-sleepers were. It was a name assumed by the adherents of the materialistic theory of Richard Overton. In a pamphlet published shortly after his death, however, from the pen of a violent opponent of Cromwell, Sindercomb is extolled in fervent terms and placed on a level with the best among the champions of freedom in ancient days, it being said, among other things, that “he has shown as great a mind as any Rome could boast of”.

The pamphlet in question is the famous one entitled Killing no Murder. On its appearance it made an unprecedented stir, and the demand for it was so great that no copy could be had for less than 5s. As the title suggests, it commends attempts at assassination, the subject of course being Cromwell. It is written in an extraordinarily effective style, and its chief result was utterly to spoil Cromwell’s enjoyment of his power and dignities. The all-powerful Protector took elaborate precautions whenever he drove or rode out. The pamphlet was written in exceedingly caustic and clever style, but its authorship was never ascertained, though William Allen was named as the author on the title page. After the Restoration, Colonel Titus, who had gone over to the Royalists, passed himself off as the author, but the statement of this “Flunkey” (Carlyle), promoted to Chamberlain, is not very trustworthy, as it was made for the sole purpose of procuring material advantages for himself. Previous to this Sexby, whose mouth had meanwhile been closed for ever, had already owned to the authorship, and the language of the pamphlet, which, notwithstanding all its violence and acerbity, is dignified, would, in conjunction with the fervent tribute paid in it to the memory of Sindercomb, rather suggest that the author was one who held the same opinion as the latter. The only circumstance which might cast any doubt on Sexby’s statement is that it was made in the Tower and under circumstances which did not altogether preclude the possibility that it was forced from him by violence.

Soon after Sindercomb’s death Sexby had secretly returned to London, probably to reorganize the disbanded conspirators. It was during this time that Killing no Murder appeared, and in July Sexby again tried to take ship to the Netherlands. Notwithstanding his disguise and the full beard he had grown, he was recognized by the Government officials, arrested, and imprisoned in the Tower. According to the statement of the Lieutenant the Tower, Sir John Barkstead, and other witnesses, he is said to have confessed that he had received money from the agents and allies of Charles Stuart to promote attempts on Cromwell, that he was the instigator of Sindercomb’s attempt and the author of the pamphlet Killing no Murder. [4] He is said to have lost his reason soon after, and his death ensued in January 1658.

Unless, therefore, as was asserted at the time, and as his speedy end seems to indicate, Sexby’s confessions were wrung from him by torture, his statements would at any rate be much more trustworthy than those of the wretched Titus. But after all, it is not impossible that the name given on the title page of the pamphlet was not, as has hitherto been assumed, or suggested, a pseudonym, but the actual name of the author. As a matter of fact there existed a William Allen, who was a staunch Republican, and who (and this is of the greatest importance in this respect) had close relations with Sexby. It was in April 1647 – and it is strange that no one should hitherto have referred to this fact – that three “agitators”, viz., William Allen, Edward Sexby, and Thomas Sheppard, on behalf of their comrades, presented to the Generals Cromwell, Fairfax, and Skippon a declaration which at that time was by no means unwelcome to them, and which most openly expressed the distrust of the Army towards Parliament. Skippon mentioned this letter in Parliament, which thereupon ordered an examination of the three delegates. The matter finally ended in the great demonstrations of Newmarket and Triploe Heath, followed soon after by the occupation of London by the Army and the purging of the eleven Presbyterian members of Parliament who were hostile to the Army. In short, William Allen was, together with Sexby, one of the first “agitators”, hence it is not impossible that he was still alive in 1657, and that he then directed his pen against Cromwell. [5]

But if, on the other hand, William Allen was dead or had disappeared, the choice of his name would all the more point to his old comrade Sexby as the author. [6]

Killing no Murder appeared at about the same time when Parliament invited Cromwell to alter the constitution and accept the royal dignity (the so-called “Humble Petition and Advice”). After some consideration Cromwell declined the Crown. However favourably the Army was then disposed towards him, it had nevertheless raised its voice against this. But before Cromwell had come to any decision, civilian elements and members of the Army who had returned to civilian life attempted a Republican insurrection in London. Supporters of the “Fifth Monarchy” – we should say nowadays the Republican doctrinaires – agreed with others similarly disposed to meet on April 9th in Mile End, armed themselves, and provided with arms and ammunition for others, and to call on the people to stand up for the hoped-for “Kingdom of God”. They relied on the sympathy which these endeavours met with among the populace, in the Army, and with many retired or dismissed officers.

But they had not reckoned with the vigilance of Cromwell and his spies. When the leaders of the conspiracy, on the morning of the appointed day, arrived at the meeting-place, Cromwell’s horsemen were already on the spot. They arrested some twenty persons and seized the proclamation and pamphlets brought by them, as well as a flag bearing the emblem of a sleeping lion, the “lion of the tribe of Judah”, with a motto, “Who shall rouse him up?” During the following days several more persons suspected of secretly promoting or favouring the conspiracy were arrested, and “the fifth monarchy was safe behind bars and bolts”. But no trial ensued; most of those arrested were lodged for some time in the Tower and others were confined in safe places. [7]

Venner’s first attempt was followed, after the dissolution of the third Parliament of the Protectorate (February 1658), by an attempted Royalist rising, in May 1658, a Presbyterian divine, Doctor Hewit, being the ringleader, but in this case also Cromwell’s men put out the fire at once. An “anarchist” movement by Levellers, Anabaptists, “fifth monarchy” men, etc., against the newly established constitution, was likewise nipped in the bud. But on August 30th of the same year Cromwell succumbed to a violent intermittent fever, continued struggles and emotions having prematurely undermined his health.

The events that followed show how little his death could further the cause for which the Levellers had struggled. Other persons, other groups of the propertied classes, were struggling for dominion, but no movement could be expected from the people. [8]

After the Restoration, the abuses which the Levellers had combated flourished again. Crown lands were squandered, the oppression and expropriation of the farmers by the landlords increased. The landed nobility discarded the last of their feudal obligations, and instead granted to the King a “Civil List”, the burden of which was thrown on the impotent masses in the form of indirect taxes, excise duties, etc. The Whig Revolution of 1688 – the replacement of the Stuarts by the House of Orange – so far from benefiting the rural population, only served to change matters for the worse. The remainder of the Crown lands were squandered and spoliations of common land were legalized in the famous “Enclosure Acts”. “About 1750 the yeomanry” the independent peasantry) “had almost disappeared, and so had, in the last decade of the eighteenth century, the last trace of the common land of the agricultural labourer”. [9]

Nor did the Restoration improve the situation of the town workers. The reader will remember what Thorold Rogers says on this subject, as quoted in my second chapter. Artisans and workers remained for a long time without any political rights, and although they sometimes improved their economic condition, it was done not through but rather in the teeth of legislation. These classes did not again, either in the seventeenth or in the first half of the eighteenth century, offer notable resistance to the now absolute political dominion of the property owners. Their political champions had been wiped out with the suppression of the Levellers, the spirit of opposition no longer ventured to manifest itself except in occasional riots or in the form of religious sects, and even those sects which outlived the Restoration underwent a change. They tended to lose their revolutionary character and to become respectable.

The moderate Independents – the “gentlemen” – were politically absorbed in the Whig movement, which in 1688 received powerful financial support from the wealthier ones among them. Towards the end of the seventeenth century they represented such a financial power that neither Charles II nor his brother ventured to attack their churches, and were glad to borrow money from them. Some of the “Independents” were founders of the Bank of England. Under the protection of these influential persons, a few Independent congregations managed to subsist, keeping alive radical traditions, and even to this day the Congregationalists, which is a collective name for the Independents, supply their contingent to the advanced political movement.

Some of the more intractable among the Independents at the revolutionary era amalgamated with scattered remnants of the Anabaptist movement to form Baptist communities. It is not easy at the present day to determine exactly the connection between the English Baptist movement and the offshoots of the original Anabaptist movement. Moreover, this would serve no purpose, as from the outset there were various factions among the Anabaptists, moderate and radical, bourgeois and communistic, for all of whom the name of Anabaptist was long used indiscriminately. At the period with which we are dealing the sectarian movement was in a constant state of agitation, one sect recruiting itself from the other, the signification of their names thus being constantly liable to changes. In the case of the “Fifth Monarchy” men important differences have also to be recognized. The Baptists themselves comprise various subdivisions, but all of them, as well as the Methodist (Wesleyan) sect founded about the middle of the eighteenth century, draw their chief support from the ranks of the working classes.

But the English Baptists of modern times do not derive from communistic Anabaptists. Whatever was left of the latter after the Revolution had accomplished its work and the Restoration was impending, we must seek not among the surviving Baptist or Anabaptist communities, but among the early Quakers. This sect, which was a product of the second phase of the Revolution, the period of disillusionment, tended to assimilate the most advanced religious and social elements of the Revolution. We have seen that Lilburne and Winstanley, after the failure of their efforts, joined the Quaker movement. It is fair to assume that, without abandoning their aims, they doubted the methods that had previously been adopted. They discovered, as so often happens in similar cases, that as political agitation had failed to arouse the masses, what was requisite was the creation of a new morality. And at the outset Quaker morality was no doubt strongly tinged with communism. Nor, were the first Quakers mere harmless religious visionaries or, dreamers of dreams. When Lilburne joined them, they counted propagandists who, although renouncing violent methods, still aimed at reform, and the first person who occupies a prominent position in socialist history after the Restoration is the Quaker John Bellers. For these reasons a subsequent chapter will be devoted to the Quakers.




1. Gardiner, History of the Great Civil War, vol.iii., 2nd ed.,p.389. Cromwell’s reply to this speech is most significant. It was in his eyes an unbecoming language, “because it did savour so much of will”. Why could not the meeting avoid abstract considerations, and content itself with discussing the question how far the existing franchise could safely be enlarged? Might not, for instance, copyholders be admitted to vote as well as freeholders? (The whole of the debates are fully reproduced in the Clarke Papers, vol. i. pp.226 ff.)

2. Clarendon, the contemporary historian of the Revolution, reports that Cromwell had repeatedly shared his quarters for the night, “a familiarity which he frequently bestowed on people whom he used for important missions and with whom he could not otherwise converse so freely as during those hours” (History of the Rebellion, vol.xv, p.133).

3. Extracts from it are given in Calendars of Clarendon State Papers.

4. See Cobbett, State Trials, vol.v. pp. 844, 845, and 852ff.

5. Thus, for instance, a letter dated July 28, 1655, from the Jesuit Father Talbot to the King states that Sexby, who had been in Brussels, had received letters from friends in England, giving him absolute authority to act. “He is certain, among others, of Lord Grey of Groby, Wildman, Allen, and several Anabaptists.” It is possible that the Allen here mentioned may be the General Adjutant Allen who was an Anabaptist and no doubt sided against Cromwell. But the “agitator” Allen too had no doubt advanced meanwhile to a higher military rank, and his contemporary Edm. Ludlow actually identifies him in his memoirs with General Adjutant Allen, which he would scarcely have thought of doing otherwise. Carlyle disputes this identity, but Mr. Firth has brought forward strong evidence in favour of it. (See Clarke Papers, vol.i, p.432.)

6. A comparison of the Letter of the Agitators with the pamphlet quoted here places the identity of the authors of both almost beyond any doubt. A feature distinguishing this pamphlet from others of the period is not so much the circumstance that it generally justifies attempts on Cromwell’s life, but the crushing and trenchant style of argument, to the effect that Cromwell had forfeited his life because he had actually outdone, item by item, every offence laid to the charge of Charles I. I have not met with a single pamphlet of this period which is written so sarcastically, so tersely, and with such acid pungency of argument. And the same arguments, the same trenchant style, are also met with in the letter of the “agitators,” in the denunciation it contains of the Parliament ruled by the Presbyterians. Dealing with the proposal to change the quarters of the Army; it states that it was “but a mere cloak for some who have lately tasted of sovereignty, and being lifted beyond their ordinary sphere of servants, seek to become masters and degenerate into tyrants.” (Compare Gardiner’s Civil War, vol.iii, chapter 48.)

7. The chief leader of this conspiracy was Th. Venner, a wine-cooper. On January 6, 1661, after the Restoration, and when the restored monarchy had avenged itself on the “regicides” with exquisite cruelty, Venner, with a handful of equally daring followers, whom he had incited by his speeches, attempted a new rising for the “Kingdom of Christ”. They were at most some sixty men, but they threw the whole city into a turmoil. Before the superior numbers of the citizen guards and soldiers they fled into a wood situated in the north of London, between Highgate and Hampstead, but returned to London on January 9th, this time numbering thirty-one men only, who were in a completely frenzied state of mind, quite convinced that neither steel nor bullets could touch the soldiers of Christ, and that His Kingdom was close at hand. They “have routed all the train bands that they met with, put the King’s life-guards to the run, killed about twenty men, broke through the city gates twice; and all this in the daytime, when all the city was in arms.” Thus Pepys, in his Diary (January 10, 1661). Pepys adds, after having stated their number: “We did believe them to be at least 500. A thing that never was heard of, that so few men should dare and do so much mischief. They were finally surrounded on all sides, but broke through into a house, which they defended for some time against thousands. After half of them had fallen, the remainder were taken by force (none of them surrendering voluntarily), only to die on the gallows, Venner being among the number. Venner and a certain Pritchard were drawn and quartered and their meeting-house was pulled down.

8. What influence Lilburne’s name possessed even years after his death is shown, among other things, by a pamphlet published at that time of “anarchy” entitled: “Lilburne’s ghost, with a whip in one hand to scourge tyrants out of authority, and balme in the other, to heal the sores of our (as yet) corrupt state, or some of the late dying principles of freedom revived and unveiled, for the lovers of Freedome and Liberty, Peace and Righteousness to behold. By one who desires no longer to live than to serve his country.” London, 1659. The publication champions the principles of the “agreement”.

9. Marx, Capital, vol.i, p.746.


Last updated on 21.11.2002