The Law of Freedom in a Platform. Gerrard Winstanley (1652)
It was the apostle’s advice formerly, to try all things, and to hold fast that which is best. This platform of government which I offer is the original righteousness and peace in the earth, though he hath been buried under the clods of kingly covetousness, pride and oppression a long time.
Now he begins to have his resurrection, despise it not while it is small; though thou understand it not at the first sight, yet open the door and look into the house, for thou mayst see that which will satisfy thy heart in quiet rest.
To prevent thy hasty rashness, I have given thee a short compendium of the whole.
First, thou knowest that the earth in all nations is governed by buying and selling, for all the laws of kings hath relation thereunto.
Now this platform following declares to thee the government of the earth without buying and selling, and the laws are the laws of a free and peaceable commonwealth, which casts out everything that offends; for there is no pricking briar in all this holy mountain of the righteous law or peaceable ruler.
Every family shall live apart, as now they do; every man shall enjoy his own wife, and every woman her own husband, as now they do; every trade shall be improved to more excellency than now it is; all children shall be educated, and be trained up in subjection to parents and elder people more than now they are. The earth shall be planted, and the fruits reaped and carried into store-houses, by common assistance of every family. The riches of the store-houses shall be the common stock to every family. There shall be no idle person nor beggar in the land.
And because offences may arise from the spirit of unreasonable ignorance, therefore was the law added.
For if any man abuse his neighbour by provoking words, by striking his person, by offering offence to his neighbour’s Cafe or children, or to his house or furniture therein, or to live idle upon other men’s labours, here are laws to punish them sharply, and officers to see those laws executed, according to the right order of commonwealth’s government, for the peace of every family in the land.
This commonwealth’s government unites all people in a land into one heart and mind. And it was this government which made Moses to call Abraham’s seed one house of Israel, though they were many tribes and many families. And it may be said, ‘Blessed is the people whose earthly government is the law of common righteousness’.
While Israel was under this commonwealth’s government, they were a terror to all oppressing kings in all nations of the world; and so wig England be, if this righteous law become our governor. But when the officers of Israel began to be covetous and proud, they made a breach or, as Isaiah said, The rulers of the people caused them to err; and then the government was altered and fell into the hand of kings like other nations, and then they fled before their enemies and were scattered.
The government of kings is the government of the scribes and Pharisees, who count it no freedom unless they be lords of the earth and of their brethren. But Commonwealth’s government is the government of righteousness and peace, who is no respecter of persons.
Therefore Reader, here is a trial for thy sincerity. Thou shalt have no want of food, raiment or freedom among brethren in this way propounded. See now if thou canst be content, as the Scriptures say, having food and raiment, therewith be content, and grudge not to let thy brother have the same with thee.
Dost thou pray and fast for freedom, and give God thanks again for it? Why know that God is not partial; for if thou pray, it must be for freedom to all; and if thou give thanks, it must be because freedom covers all people, for this will prove a lasting peace.
Everyone is ready to say, they fight for their country; and what they do, they do it for the good of their country. Well, let it appear now that thou hast fought and acted for thy country’s freedom. But if, when thou hast power to settle freedom in thy country, thou takest the possession of the earth into thy own Particular hands, and makest thy brother work for thee as the kings did, thou has fought and acted for thyself, not for thy country; and here thy inside hypocrisy is discovered.
But here take notice that common freedom, which is the rule I would have practised and not talked on, was thy pretence;- but particular freedom to thyself was thy intent. Amend, or else thou wilt be shamed, when knowledge doth spread to cover the earth, even as the waters cover the seas And so farewell.