[Richard Overton], An Alarum to the House of Lords (31 July 1646).

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Note: This is part of the Leveller Collection of Tracts and Pamphlets.



Bibliographical Information

ID Number

T.71 [1646.08.01] [Richard Overton], An Alarum to the House of Lords: Against their insolent Usurpation of the Common Liberties, and Rights of this Nation (1 August 1646).

Full title

[Richard Overton], An Alarum to the House of Lords: Against their insolent Usurpation of the Common Liberties, and Rights of this Nation. Manifested by them, in their present Tyrannicall Attempts against that Worthy Commoner, Lieutenant Col. John Lilburne, Defendour of the Faith, And of his Countries Freedoms, both by his Words, Deeds and Sufferings, against all Tyrants in the Kingdome; Whether Black-coats, Papists, Kings, Lords, etc. Printed in the Yeer. 1646.

The pamphlet contains the following parts:

  1. An Alarum
  2. Postscript


Estimated date of publication

31 July 1646.

Thomason Tracts Catalog information

TT1, p. 454; Thomason E. 346. (8.)

Editor’s Introduction

(Placeholder: Text will be added later.)

Text of Pamphlet

IN the first place Wee demand a Reason of you, to know; Why you (which are such arrogaters of Titles of Honour, should of all others,) slight Him so farre, as to style him onely John Lilburne, and neither Mr. John Lilburne, though you know him to be a true borne Gentleman, Nor Lieutenant Collonell, though you know him to be a Valiant and Faithfull Souldier for his Countreys Liberties.

Wee cannot suppose you doe it because you know him to be a true and Reall Christian: with whom the vanity of Titles and Honours, are not regarded: No certainly, Wee have no such Pious thoughts of you, Wee suppose you esteeme those markes of the Gentiles too much, to do it out of that true respect; We may be bold to stile them Markes of Gentiles, Wee have our Saviours own Warrant for it, who saith, The Kings of the Gentiles exercise Lordship over them, &c. But it shall not be so among you: Whosoever will be chief among you, (Christians,) let him be your servant: Gracious LORDS, or Favourable LORDS, titles that could not be propper amongst Christians; with whom there was no Ruler, nor Government, but by common Election and consent, agreeable to Our House of Commons; every Ruler had his Rule; Which he was to observe out of duty: and could not be gracious or favourable, which necessarily implyes a Power assumed above the Rule, and denominates those that exercise such a Power, to be Lords in an overruling sense, a thing which stands neither with Justice nor Christianity.

But if Titles were of any value, or Honour of any esteeme, hee deserveth the Title of Lieutenant Collonell, and the honor he hath gotten in the field in defence of his Countreys Liberties, as well as any of you, your Titles or Honours, if not better and more Worthily; for by what meanes some of you came by yours, is very uncertaine, but, this is certaine, that most of you gained no part of it your selves: and the common wayes your Auncesters gained it for you, was generally by adhering to Kings, in subduing and oppressing the Commons, or by pleasing their Lusts, Mallice, Revenge, or Covetousnesse; for so Histories manifest, and those that have been made Lords in our times, have been advanced by the same occasions;

As for Example, What was Sir Lionell Cranfield advanced for, but for betraying the secrets of the City, and devising wayes to shackle the People; being now Earle of Middlesex? What was Coventry advanced for, but for his great abillities in deceivings, and various wayes to oppresse the People, heaping Masses of wealth by extremity of Bribery, Extortion, (and Cruelty, which Mr. Norton and Wiseman full dearly felt:) for which Vertues, his sonne, and sonnes sonne forsooth, must be Lords for ever? How came Mountague to be Lord Privie-Seale and Earle of Manchester, but by the most palpable corruption that ever wast and his Sonne must now remaine an Earle, and Speaker in the House of Peeres; Wee need not enlarge; for your selves know very well how, and by what meanes you came to be Lords; and for what ends; and cannot denie, if honour were the Reward of true vertue: but that Lilburne deserveth more, then what you would, or can take from him.

And therefore, in the Charge you bring against him, (if yet you will persist,) afford him his Title, or lay downe your owne Tytles; use him not alltogether like a slave, though you have made Newgate his habitation, and from thence have removed him to the Tower of London; Whether to murder him privately from the Peoples Knowledge, We cannot tell; but We judge little lesse.

Times may alter, and when you have done your uttermost, hee will be proved, both by his Life and Death, an honest and faithfull man to his long enslaved Country; for freeing whereof, hee hath suffered and done more then all your Lordships.

You have but ill Counsell, and abuse your selves grosly, in using him in this Tyrannous manner; What gaine you by sending him from one prison to another, but a worse Name and Repute then the Star-chamber, that sent him but to the Fleet; you plainly shew, you intend to take away his Life, which that Tyrannous Court never pretended; and for his Close Imprisonment, and to keep him from pen Inke and Paper; from the comfort of his Friends; yea from the very sight of him at his Prison-window, or of their administring any refreshment of food or the like unto him, though earnestly desired, and endeavoured by divers of his and the Kingdomes friends, even since his comming into the Tower; and now forsooth his friends may speak with him, but it must be in the presence of his Keeper, but not with any sense of his, and our Nationall Rights and Freedoms, but rather at a Gin or a Trap to catch some of his, and the Nations best friends into your Prerogative Clutches; for none must be permitted to see him, but must first give in his Name, and the place of his habitation; a pretty devise, could your Lordships but catch old Birds with chaffe!

But by this We may discerne your most insufferable encroachmente upon our Common Rights, daily increasing upon us; which in time, if not prevented, will wholly enslave and Vassallage us all; for it is come to this already;

That the FREEEMEN of ENGLAND cannot goe to see their fellow COMMONER, without hazzard of their Freedoms.

An act so unreasonable, and destructive to us, that Wee cannot but take notice of it; and let you know, That Wee cannot, neither will WEE suffer such intollerable Affronts at your hands.

If timely Cautions will not availe with you, you must expect to be bridled, for Wee are resolv’d upon our Naturall Rights and Freedoms, and to be enslaved to none, how Magnificent soever, with Rotten Titles of Honour. For doe you imagine there is none abroad of his minde, who though hee were dead and destroyed by you, would prosecute those Workes and Discoveries of the Peoples Rights, which he hath begun; Yes, more then you are aware of, that can, nay, & are resolv’d to paint forth your Interest to the Life, if you will not content you selves the sooner with whats your own; and leave the Commonners to the Commons.

But let Us see, what you have against this Worthy Christian.

1. For his high contempt against your House: In Protesting, that (hee being a Commoner,) you had no jurisdiction over him: and this is so evidently just, and agreeable to Magna Charta, (that little Reminder of Light,) that all sorts of judicious men agree with him herein: and the Opinion of all the Judges will be as soone credited for the legality of Ship-money, as for The Lords jurisdiction over the Commons.

And for refusing to kneel at your Barre, as his Reason would not permit him in so submisse a way to own the Authority he had disclaimed, so his Conference ought to be satisfyed out of Scripture of the Lawfulnesse of such Ceremonies.

2. For two scandalous, seditious, and most dangerous Pamphlets, sending to raise Sedition in the Realme; and to subvert the fundamentall Lawes and Government of this Kingdome.

A most high Charge, and pretended to be proved out of two Pamphlets, one whereof is intituled, The Just mans Justification: and this Treatise affords, (for a great part of it,) onely a Relation of Colonell King abuse of his trait, and that a Charge depended against him for the same, unto which Mr. Lilburne was a materiall Witnesse: by Occasion whereof King Arrests, and sues him upon pretence of being called Traytor by him this first occasions Mr. Lilburne, to looke into the Proceedings of the Law: findes it full of tricks and quillets, snares, formes and puntillians, Irrationall, and tending to his Ruine, and the perpetuall vexation of the People: and for safeguard of himself, Petitions the Honourable House of Commons: that the Charge, and Articles against King, might be tryed by a Counsell of Warre, before King should be permitted to proceed against him, as being confident, King would be proved a Traytor thereby: This Petition hee could never get delivered, or read in the House: then, to save himself, hee writes this discourse to Judge Reeves; and therein laies open the unreasonablenesse of the Lawes, and Proceedings in Law, now in force in this Nation: And in true Love and Zeal to his abused Country; falls afterwards upon the extreame want of publick Justice, complaines of partiallity, and respect of Persons, shewes it to be against the minde and will of God, in whose sight there is no difference at all; but hee that sheddeth, (or causeth to be shed,) mans blood, by man shall his blood be shed, wherein hee useth a comparison, which to squeamish stomacks is somewhat offensive, but true enough; for God judgeth not as man judgeth: the poor Tradesman, and the Rich; the Noble and Ignoble, are all one in his sight: that soule that sinneth, it shall die.

But such Comparrisons (it is to be feared,) are more odious to you, then Injustice, Treachery, Cruelty, or Tyranny: else you would have been as forward to have called Persons of all quallities to justice, (without sparing the highest) as you have been to send him to Newgate: But this your corrupt dealing makes most men beleeve, That your safety and Interest is in preserving the guilty, and in condemning the just and innocent:

Is it scandalous to set forth the Justice of the Lord of heaven? by making true Comparisons with Lords on earth; certainly, true Christian Doctrine is not for these Lordly times.

Is it seditious, for a Free-man unjustly imprisoned, to publish the same to all the World? It was not so judged in the beginning of this Parliament; but then was the beginning of Freedome, and it seemes, Wee are at the end thereof: and at the beginning of a new bondage: otherwise neither his first, nor his second discourse, entittled, The free-mans freedom Vindicated: could possibly be interpreted either scandalous, seditious or dangerous.

Indeed all his Writings have been dangerous to all corrupt Interests of the Common-wealth; as First, to all Arbitrary Power, in King, or Lords, or any other:

Secondly, To the Power and delusion of the Clergy; and their oppression of Conscionable Religious People.

Thirdly, to the most prejudiciall wayes of Our Legall Trialls in all Courts, and to the burdensome Society of Lawyers: that live upon the impoverishing of the industrious and laborious People; things which he proveth to have been forced upon this nation by Conquest, and continued against Reason, and the weale of the People.

Fourthly, to all Monopolists, and engrossers of trade: as the Mendiant Adventurers, and the like: all which he hath (as, on theirs,) proved to the Ruine of the People: and because of this his love to Truth, Justice, and his Countrey; and his opening of these things, and his opposition thereof to the uttermost of his Power: all these mighty Parties, put all their pollicy and strength in one, utterly to destroy him.

But he hath got a good Cause; and all good People, (that desire not to live by the Oppression of others,) on his side; and that your Lordships will finde; for all these things will be laid open as the Sunne, and every man will see wherefore it is you call his Bookes scandalous, seditious, dangerous Pamphlets, and why the Clergy, the Judges, Lawyers, and Monopolists, are his deadly adversaries, even because he deales plainly betwixt you all; and the people, whom you labour by all means joyntly to keep in bondage; and Vassallage to your wills.

This is the Reason, why you say his Bookes tend to Rayse sedition in this Realme, this being Coventries and Canterburies old language, to any that discovered their oppressions and corruptions: it tended to meere Anarchy, and (as you now say,) to subvert the fundamentall Lawes of this Kingdome.

Doth not every one see the unreasonablenesse of our Laws and Government? and doth the Parliament sit for Remedy of the Grievances of the People, and for their safety and weale in all things? and is it now seditious and dangerous for any man to publish his minde concerning the same? rends it to the subverting of the Fundamentall Lawes and Government, for any to appeale to the House of Commons for altering of Lawes or Government evidently appearing prejudiciall to the safety and weale of the People, the end of all Lawes and Government? certainly they sit not to confirm this Kingdomes long contracted bondage; and that wee trust your Lordships and all the rest will finde.

Doth Mr. Lilburne endeavour to bring in any Arbitrary or Tyrannical Power? Doth hee allow, or argue it to be lawfull for men to be put to Oathes Ex Officio, or to be examined upon Interrogatories against themselves or others, against their wills, in Criminall Causes? Doth hee justifie Imprisonment for refusall to Answer? Doth hee acknowledge your Lordships Authority over the Commons? If he doth any of these or the like things, then indeed hee is guilty of the Charge you lay against him: for this were indeed to subvert the very Fundamentall Governments, which is Right Reason; and to destroy the end of Government; the safety and weale of the People; and therefore it will be good for your Lordships in this Charge to reflect upon your selves; the People are now quick-sighted, and not easily deluded: If it were not so, Mr. Lilburne were in a sad Case, for here is no lesse then the whole House of Peers his Accusers, provoked and set against him by all the Judges, Lawyers, Clergy, and great men of the City, and the Case standing thus on his day of Tryall; What hope can hee have when these, besides all those of the Presbyterian judgement are his resolved Adversaries, who in their Common Discourses openly condemne him, and wish him worse then hanged, and so do all Royalists: and doubtlesse those that shall be trusted with manageing the businesse, and such as know well how to forme a Jury for the purpose: Where then is hope? In God, in the Parliament in the People? God will provide, above hope: out of the thicket shall come a Ransome for this his beloved Isaac: The House of Commons have not their Trust and Power in vaine, but will use it in so urgent a necessity; If they now deferre, their Account with God will be heavy; and deliverance will yet come; for God cannot suffer so abominable wickednesse: He can turne the hearts of a whole Presbyterian Jury, (if it should come to that,) in an Instant, and make them to see their owne Liberties burning at the stake in him; That his Sufferings are but a Preface to their Tragedy, when your Lordships please, if they in any thing oppose your Wills: but the House of Commons is wise, and God is just; and wee cannot feare the safety of this our Brother.

You will finde you are not yet LORDS over the Parliament, you have not the least Power to dispose of the Money as of the Common-wealth, much lesse to imprison these Persons at your pleasure, every man sees with what prejudice to the Publike Affaires, the House of Commons have observed you? How often they have been enforced to tell you, That they must defend and preserve the People without your concurrence. every man sees how you daily obstruct and delay Proceedings, and by devises pervert the end of good Motions; how you adhere to any that would hold the People in bondage; How you abhorre all men that Understand their Liberties, and that you hate this good man Mr. Lilburne, for nothing but his great judgement and affection to the Common-Wealth.

Therefore whilst you may possesse your Honours, and great Estates quietly, without placeing your felicity in vexing meaner men, (all covet, all loose,) for the People cannot beare it; and you will doe yourselves and Posterities great injury, if you beleeve they will; their divisions, in which you trust, will deceive you; they will unite, though not totally; yet sufficiently for prevention of so eminent bondage; be not transported with seeming affronts; hee truely honoureth you for your faire demeaneur towards him in his Reparations; hee intended you no affront at all, you have been mitigated too much by the Judges and Lawyers against him; your Honours nor Greatnesse need not be twisted with thefts; Further you the good and quiet of the People, and abandon but that kinde of Power which hath ruined the Bishops, and as many as ever have used it,) and you will be beleeved and honoured of all good men; for it is reall Goodnesse that is the best support of Greatnesse.


IF thou that readest, be impartiall and judicious, that pray safely perceive by the scope of this little Treatise, but more especially by the late great Remonstrance, (not the Citie Remonstrances) be Pearle in a Dunghill; and be Just man in bonds, since Lieutenant Collonell Lilburne was last committed; as well as his Justification and Vindication of Free-mens Liberties, immediately before; or Englands Birth-right; Mulgrave and Larners Bookes, in what a pitifull, lamentable and tortering condition this distressed and perplexed nation is,

And thereby be occasioned to set thy thoughts, meditations and affections at work, chiefly by earnest Prayers to God, that hee would be pleased to open a doore of Mercy unto us, whereby wee may escape these deceivable feares, leading to worse then Egyptian slavery; wherein we, our poore Infants on their Mothers breasts, and others, who know not the right hand from the left; yea, and our whole Posterity, are most pitifully catched and involved, even as Gods owne particular People the Jewes were in the dayes of Haman, except there come such a a hasty and speedy Remedy, as is pleased him in mercy then to send, beyond the expectation of man.

Our present Condition is so much the more lamentable uncomfortable and unsupportable, that Our own voluntary Contributions, both of our Lives and Estates, to free us from cruell Persecutions, Oppressions and Taxations, have made most of us so poore, that wee are not able to helpe or relieve one another; so that Our present misery, and the hardnesse of rich mens hearts for any common good Workes, so long as they themselves are spared, as an Ox, yet ordained for slaughter, are a most speciall meanes to make both them and us capable of slavery.

Which in our [Editor: illegible word], what Wee [Editor: illegible word] to the Queen of Heaven, Wee altogether mocked and scorned you, and still did pass the evill day farre off; but as the wilde Asse, abirst free is light and speedy to run, masketh it all the assaults of the hunters, who pursue for her life, yet when shee is heavy with young, and not so able to flee, shee is easily catched; so is this sinfull and idolatrous Nation, now in the midst of her sinnes and abominations, who because shee would not, nor will not heare the cryes of the Poore, the Widow, the Fatherlesse, the Prisoners, shee shall cry, and not be heard.

Though formerly, when shee abounded as much in her Idolatrous and illegall feasts, as now shee doth in her hypocritticall and unlawfull Falls, even in her pride, vain-glory, abused Peace, and fulness of bread, shee wan’d so wanton, and grew so secure, and frozen in her dregges of Popery, that shee sate downe to eate and drinke, and rose up to play, even untill the LORD sent his Servant Nebuchadnezar, in her ripenesse, when all her regions were white unto the harvest, and thrust in the sickle of these his fearfull Judgements, to reape her, which yet are but begun, except shee repents Only shee still reserveth a remnant, who mourne in secret, in all his Visitations; whom hee preserveth to serve both in and after his most fearfull judgements, which hee powereth forth upon others. Farewell.