Note: This is part of the Leveller Collection of Tracts and Pamphlets.
T.90 [1647.02.10] [Richard Overton], The Commoners Complaint: Or, A Dreadful Warning from Newgate, to the Commons of England (10 February 1647).
[Richard Overton], The Commoners Complaint: Or, A Dreadful Warning from Newgate, to the Commons of England. Presented To the Honourable Committee for consideration of the Commoners Liberties. Wherein (as in a Glasse) every Free-man of England may clearly behold his own immanent insufferable bondage and slavery under the Norman-Prerogative-Men of this Kingdom, represented by the present sufferings of Richard Overton; who for his just Vindication of the Commoners Rights and Freedoms against the Arbitrary Domination of the House of Lords, hath by them bin imprisoned these 6 Months in the Goal of Newgate, his wife and brother also by them most unjustly cast into Maiden Lane prison: And from thence, she (with her tender babe of half a years age in her armes) was, for refusing active subjection to their Arbitrary Orders, dragg’d most barbarously and inhumanely head-long upon the stones through the streets in the dirt and mire (as was her husband formerly (Novemb. 3. 1646) for the said cause) worse then Rebels, Traytors, Thieves, or Murtherers, to the place of execution: And in that most contemptible and villainous manner cast into the most reproachful, infamous Goal of Bride-well: And their 3 small children (as helplesse Orphans bereft of father and Mother, Sister and Brother) exposed to the mercy of the wide world. Whereunto is annexed the repsective Appeales of his wife, and of his brother, unto the High Court of Parliament, the Commons of England assembled at Westminster.
Isa.59.14. And judgment is turned backward, and justice findeth afarre off: for truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter.
Printed Ann Dom. 1646.
1 February 1647.
TT1, p. 491; Thomason E. 375. (7.)
(Placeholder: Text will be added later.)
Martin, a Member of the House of Commons, and Chairman to the honourable Committee, for consideration of the Commoners Liberties, and in him, to all the Members of the said Committee; The Humble Information & Complaint of Richard Overton, prisoner in the infamous Goal of New-Gate; concerning the barbarous cruelties, and inhumant practises of the house of Lords (and of their Prerogative-Agents) exercised upon himself, his wife, children, and whole family, since his legall tryall before the said honourable Committee.
Jam. 213. He shall have judgment without mercy, that hath, shewed no mercy.
Psalm. 41. 1, 2. Blessed is he that considereth the poore, the Lord will deliver him in the time of trouble, the Lord will preserve him, and keep him alive, and he shall be blessed upon the Earth.
Master Chair man,
AS Bondage and Liberty are two contraries, so you cannot truly consider the one, but you must reflect your eye upon the other: For, though one be so destructive to the Being of the other, that, where the one is, the other cannot be; yet, each by other is more eminently distinguished: And looke how much the one is exceeding the other, by so much the other is deficient, & loseth of its property: for, quorum unum altero latius est, non sunt re unum.
Therefore, I humbly conceive, that, to the consideration of the Commoners Liberties, the usurpations, encroachments, & destructions thereof, fall inavoydably into like consideration, even so, as the one cannot be truly considered without the other: If you will cast your eye upon the glory and beauty of the one, your eare must be open to the cry and complaint of the other; And therefore, answerably, as you are by the Soveraign power of the Land ordained and deputed for the due and grave consideration of the Commoners Liberties, you are by the same Authority also impowred for the reception of all Petitions, Informations, and Complaints of the Afflicted Commoners, touching their Birth-right, Liberties, and Freedomes, and thereof to judge, and accordingly to make Report unto the House.
Wherefore Sir, I shall presume to present this honourable Committee, with the late most barbarous inhumanities, and Turkish Cruelties, by the most Arbytrary Tyrannicall House of Lords, and their Prerogative-Butchers perpetrated upon my self, upon my wife, my three smal children, upon my brother, and the rest of my family, in all, consisting of 8 persons, all committed and acted since the late legall consideration and tryal of my cause before you, yet still depending upon the Report of this honourable Committee: As for their former illegal usuapations over me, I shal omit their repetition, they being already made publike unto the world, & only acquaint you with the latter.
See the defiance, & the Arrow against tyrannie. But first, I shal present you with those their illegal cruelties which concern my self (they falling first in order) together with the mutual passages concerning the same, betwixt their Instruments and me, then answerably I shal descend to their barbarous unheard of inhumanities (such as never were acted by their Norman Progenitors, since the Prerogative-Foundation of that Norman house was ever laid, or ever since they bore the name of an House of Peers) now lately upon the 6. and 8. of this instant Ian. 1646, most villainously perpetrated upon my wife, children, and the rest of my family, and commit the mutual passages on both sides (faithfully pend and presented) unto your grave and judicious consideration, to judge impartially betwixt us: And all that I in the behalf of my self, & of mine, shall crave from this honourable Committee, is but the Benefit of what the Lord himself hath commanded, Lev. 19. 15. Ye shall do no unrighteousnesse in judgment, thou shalt not respect the person of the poor, nor honour the person of the mighty, but in righteousnesse shalt thou judge thy neighbour.
If I be found a transgressour, then let me speedily suffer my doome; but if I be found none, then let me have speedy reliefe: I crave no favour, nor boon at your hands; it is onely justice which I desire, and thats but a reasonable suit; a suit, which of Pagans, Turks, & Infidels would not be condemned, and therefore justly may be expected from you.
Thus, then Sir, give me leave to acquaint you, that after my last departure from you in the Palace yard (Novemb. 3. 1646.) and that I was cleared from your presence, and the presence of my friends, and was only left in the hands of my Gaolers, my indignation and detestation (fore-uttered in your presence in the inward Court of Wards) against the Arbytrary tyrannie and usurpation of the house of Lords over the Commoners natural & legal Freedomes and Rights, and over mine in particular burst out afresh; and upon consideration, whether I should be so base to my Country, and to my self in particular, as to yeeld these Arbytrary Lords, so much Villain-service, as to become their Lordships Prerogative-Porter, to carry my self to the stinking, lowsie, barbarous Goal of Newgate again or no; I resolved in my self, that as in heart I defied all injustice, cruelty, tyrannie, and oppression, all arbitrary usurpation and usurpers whatsoever, so in person (come life, come death, come what come would) I would not be so treacherous to my own selfe, to my wife and children, and especially to this Nation (the Land of my Nativity) in general, as personally to yeeld my active submission of any limbe that was mine (either in substance, or in shew) in the least, to any Arbitrary Vipers or Pests, Egyptian Grashoppers, Norman Invaders and Destroyers of the Commoners legal inheritance and birth-right, their liberties and freedoms confirmed to them, both by divine, naturall, and humane Right: or once to set one leg before another in subjection or attendance to any of their Canibal, Canker-worm, Arbytrary Orders Warrants, Significations of their pleasures (so flatly contrary to all good laws, justice, and equity) being as so many Mothes in the Royall Roabe of the State, or rather as so many Wild-Bores out of the Forrest, to root up, devour, disfranchise and destroy this Nation of all her antient legall immunities and freedoms, root and branch; yea, and of those tender Plants and Seeds of the Commoners Rights & Liberties, which, in the dreadfull face of so many late turbulent, tempestuous, impetuous Gifts of opposition rage, bloud-shed, and fury have been implanted and sown in the oppressed Common-field of the state, the which for want of their own naturall Dew and Rain from the Superiour Orbe of Authority, but with-held by some Luciferean Angels of State, Regal, Parliamentary, Sinodian, Sottish and Scottish; the natural, free-Commoners of England have been forced to wet, moysten, and mature the same with their bloud, their flesh, and their bones, &c. that those tender Plants of freedome, equity and justice, might take root, be preserved, spring up, flourish, and bring forth fruit, if not for themselves, yet for their Posterities.
And upon these or the like considerations, I told my Jaylors, that if they had no other Order or Warant for the remanding back of my person to the Goal of New gate I would not set one leg before another in subjection thereto; but was fully resolved, that if they would have me back to the Goale, they should carry me.
But (Sir) least the rarity and strangenesse of this Act should incurre yours and the Committees unjust censure and condemnation, like as of the inconsiderate multitude, whose judgments are guided by custome, more then by reason; be pleased to consider, that,
All State-Deprivation of life, limbe, goods, liberty or freedome, either is, or should be, all and every particle thereof, the just execution of the Law executing: For in Equity, the Action executing is indivisible from the Law, and only & precisely proper thereto and not at all to the party executed: yea, though a man legally guilty of death should be condemned by the same legall Authority (or rather by persons therein intrusted) to cut his own throat; yet were he in equity not bound thereunto, but in so doing should be guilty of his own blood. And the Law of our Land makes no man his own Executioner, but hath provided Ministers and Executioners, as Majors, Sheriffes, Constable, Goalers, Hangmen, &c. for that very end and purpose: And the Law of God leaves it as a matter out of all doubt and dispute, and nature itselfe teaches, that no man shall be his own Butcher or Executioner, for in so doing, he should sin against his own flesh, which is a thing most unnaturall and inhumane.
But my rejection of carrying my own Body to the Goale, was no other but the refusall to be my own Executioner therein: for though it were not of that degree of cruelty and inhumanity to my own flesh, as to cut my own throat; yet was it of the same nature and kind. And therefore if the one must be condemned as unjust, illegall and unnaturall, so must the other in its kind, so that as I was not bound, with my hands to cut my own throat, so with my feete, I was not bound to carry my selfe to prison.
And from hence is it (as I conceive) that the Law hath provided Portage with Carts, Sledges, or the like, for Malefactors to the place of Execution, that they might not any wayes (either actually or apparently) be guilty of their own Execution, a thing abhominated and abhorred of nature.
But if it be objected, it is onely in Capitall matters, as of death, and the like, I answer, that from the equity whereon that is founded, the other is necessarily implyed, one equity being relative and essentiall unto both, and so need not be expressed in the lesse: for by the equity and authority for the greater, the like is justified and commanded to be for the lesse, for omne majus includit minus the lesse is included in the greater, so that the equity in the greater cannot be denyed to the lesse.
Therefore, in case I were legally a prisoner, yet were I not bound therby to set one leg before another in my own executiõ although there were no precise prescript therfore in the letter of the law to discharge me therof, which needs no further probation; yet for exemplary illustration, be pleased to consider, that in the case of a Generalls Commission, it is needlesse to enjoyn him by litterall expression, not to turne the mouthes of his Cannons against his own Souldiers, for that is so necessarily and naturally implyed, that it is needlesse to be expressed: & as it is in the millitary, even so & much more is it in the pollitick capacity, the millitary being but thereto subservient.
Yet further, though the letter of the Law should enjoyn its Condemnants to be their own executioners, yet were that by its own equity condemned, nuld, and made voyd, for the letter must be subject to the equity: and look how much the letter transgresseth the equity, even so much it is unequall, and is of no validity or force, for the Law taken from its originall reason and end is made a shell without a kernel, a shaddow without a substance, a Carkesse without life: for the equity and reason thereof is that which gives it a legall being and life, and makes it authoritative and binding, if this be not granted, injustice may be a Law, tyranny may be a Law, lust, will, pride, covetousnesse, and what no? may be Lawes; for if equity be not the bounder of the Law, over the corrupt nature of man, all will fall into confusion, and one man will devoure another.
Besides, as no man by Law may be his own Judge, so by the same reason no man may be his own Executioner, for as in equity it appropriateth sole Judgement to it self, so to it selfe it maketh sole Challenge to its execution: for the contraction and unity of reason betwixt them may not be divided. So that in reason as it is bound to the one, in reason it is bound to provide for the other, & the guilty be suspended from both, and to the Law wholly made passive, both for Judgment and execution.
But, if any, for want of president, shall condemn this Act of mine; to such its proved rationally will answer, that reason hath no president; for, reason is the fountain of all just presidents, and so used, granted and applyed by this very Parliament. 1 Book. declar. fol. 264. 298. 709. 726.
And from this accustomary pedant vassalage formerly the pursevants (and such like catchpole devouring vermine) have made use for argument sake against those which have complained of their Imprisonment to the Parliament, saying, they did not carry them to prison, but, that they went into prison; But I think I have prevented the use of that objection against me.
Thus Sir, if the Law impose no such obligation upon its Subjects, then can that which is contradictory thereto so vassalage any? if the Law fetch not that within its compasse and bounds, then much lesse may that which is coutrary thereto, which was my then present condition, for I was not in their hands, then under any legall warrant of the Law of the Land, but under an arbitrary order of the House of Lords, directly contrary to the very Being of the Law of the Land: Therefore for me to be my own Executioner or its Executioner upon my selfe (for going or carrying cannot be denyed to be in a great measure its Execution) were to prefere the Law of Lust, or Will, before the Law of the Land: to do more for that Power which is contrary to the very being of the Law, then the very Law it selfe doth require in its own behalfe, and if that were not to make the Law of none effect, judge ye. To do that homage to such a power which is not due to the Law (for no more is due to the Law then the Law doth require, and the Law doth require no more then its due) is to make Lust and Will predominant thereto, to make Will to take the Will of the Law, to abrogate Law, and in the roome thereof to introduce an arbitrary power.
And therefore as their Lordships in that their arbitrary capacity found Warrants, so should their Lordships find Leggs to obey them, for I was resolved, mine should not be enslaved to that their usurpation to do their Arbitrary Drudgery, I would rather loose my life, then in that kind to do them that vassalage: My Leggs were borne as free as the rest of my Body, and therefore I scorne that Leggs, or Armes, or hands of mine should do them any villeine-service for as I am a Freeman by Birth, so I am resolved to live and dye, both in heart word and deed, in substance and in shew, maugre the Arbitrary mallice of the House of Lords: yea if ought else I can devise to shew my actuall enmity and defiance against their arbitrary power, i’ll do it, though it cost the life of me, and myne, and therefore I care not who lets them know, that, that Act of mine was done in despite and defiance of their Warrant.
But in case you object, that I knew well enough, that if I would not go, they would carrie me, therefore it had been better for me to have gone, then to have exposed my selfe to their cruelty.
1. If I had known they would have hanged me, must I therefore have hanged my selfe?
2. A good conscience had rather run the hazard of cruelty then to abite an haires bredth of contestation and opposition against illegality, injustice, and tyranny.
3. If they had had any legall jurisdiction over my leggs, then at their Commands my leggs were bound to obey: And then (in that case) I confesse it had been better to obey, then to have exposed my person to the cruelty of threatning mercilesse Goalers: But being free from their Jurisdiction from the Crowne of my head to the Soale of my foote, I know no reason, why I should foote it for them, or in the least dance any attendance to their Arbitrary Warrants; their Lordships may put up their pipes, except they will play to the good old tune of the Law of the Land, otherwise their Orders and Warrants are never like to have the Service of my leggs or feet, for they were never bred to tread in their Arbitrary Steps, but I shall leave their Orders and their execution to themselves. And therefore, Sir, concerning that action of mine, I shall continue in the said esteeme thereof, till my defence be made voide, and it be legally proved, that by the Law of the Land, I was bound to set one legge before another in attendance to that Order.
And further touching this matter, I desire you to remember, that in the inward Court of Wards, when I discovered those resolutions, in the Audience of divers Gentlemen there present, unto you, I told you, that I was no longer under the Arbitrary power of that illegall warrant of the Lords, but under the power of the House of Commons, from which I was resolved not to depart, which in some measure you seemed to oppose, whereat I demanded of you, How then I came there? And if I were not brought thither by vertue of an Order from that Committee? So that though being formerly Commanded by the Lords Order to be kept in the Custody of Newgate till their pleasures should be further signifyed, whereof to that time there had been no further signification at all, yet notwithstanding I was brought from thence by vertue of an Order from that Committee, contrary to the end and intent of that Order of the Lords, so that I conceived, & still do conceive that though that Warrant were not void of it selfe, yet were it made voide by that Order of their own, under the power and protection of which Order I was, so that being there, I would not depart from the roofe & verge of your Authority, and this you know was the substance of my words, and thereupon indeed, I sate me downe in the window, and told my Goaler, (but one at that time being present) that if he would have me to prison, he should carry me: no withstanding you would give him no further charge of me, for conceiving from the equity of the Law (which though contradicted by the letter is absolutely binding and valid) that I could not be remanded back unto prison without a new Commitment, I demanded of you, if you would commit me? and I told you, that is you would, I then would goe, but that you plainly denied with an absolute No, then I asked you if you would command me to go and I would, but that you also denyed, then I told you, that if you would but intreate me for formallity sake, (without any relation to that Order of the Lords) to go, I would go, but if you would neither commit, command, nor intreat me, then I would not go, nothing then being against me for my imprisonment, but that Order of the Lords, And as I was resolved I told you, that I would not obey it to set one leg before another after its humour. Therefore Sir, how you can blame me, either of illegality or so much as of disrespect unto you, or this Honourable Committee I cannot see, for no Law did I break, and to prevent all misconstructions I offered you more, then by Law I needed to have done.
Had there been the letter of the Law directly against me, yet if it were contradicted by the equity of the Law, I had not been at all bound thereunto, except to oppose it: for the Letter if it controll and overthrow the equity, it is to be controlled and overthrowne it selfe, upon perill of treason to the equity, and the equity to be preserved as the thing onely legally obligatory and binding.
But (Sir) there was neither letter nor equity of the Law against me, but that which was directly contrary to both: for the Lords warrant was directly oppugnant and destructive both to the legall letter and equity.
Therefore (Sir) I conceive that I was in no measure bound thereunto, but was as free legally, as in case that warrant of the Lords never had been. So that I had good cause, in case you would have had me part with my liberty, to demand, if that you would commit me, command me, or entreate me, and upon your denyall of all these to tell you, that then I would not go: For do you think that I am such a foole to part with my liberty, for nothing? Sir, our liberties have been bought at a dearer grace, then so to be trifled and slighted away, especially to captivate the same to the exhorbitant wills of the Lords, and to cast my selfe in prison during their boundlesse pleasures.
Had you committed me, commanded me, or entreated me; and thereupon I had gone, and been caught in my own net, yet had I been delivered from a worse, and of two evills the lesse is to be chosen, for thereby the pretended power of the House of Lords over me (even in its very formality) had been utterly routed; and my selfe absolutely cleared from their prerogative Bondage. But at that time you were not aminded to do it, but left me to their Lordships Arbytrary power.
But now Sir, I would not have you think from these demands of mine, that I would be subject to an arbitrary power more in you then in the other, for truly in those demands there was tacitly couched a supposition of that which I knew could not be granted, and therefore I was the freer in my proposall thereof, having an assurance that they would never be granted, yet I thought I would make try all, but and if I had been imprisoned thereon, after I had given their Lordships that Fob, you should have heard from me with a witnesse; for I cannot suffer oppression and be silent.
Sir excuse my prolixity about this matter, for by reason of the rarity and the common condemnation thereof, I have therefore the more enlarged my selfe, for the better removall of all scruple thereon. Now Sir I shall further acquaint you with the mutuall proceedings betwixt the Goalers and me, and judge indifferently and impartially betwixt us.
Thus Sir, as I have told you, having declared my set resolution to my attendant Goalers, away I was borne to the Boate, and when I was landed at Black-Fryers, they would have forced me along up the hill on my feete, yea, they intreated me, but at that time I was not minded to be their DRVDG, or to make use of my feet to carry the rest of my body to the Goale, therefore I let them hang as if they had been none of my own, or like a couple of farthen Candles dangling at my knees, and after they had dragged me in that admire-able posture a while, the one took me very reverently by the head, and the other as reverently by the feete, as if he had intended to have done Homage to His Holinesses great Toe, and so they carried me: but truly Sir, I laughed at the conceit in my sleeve. But this their reverend usage did not continue long, for they grew verie irreverend and deboyst of a sudden, for ever when they were a little wearie, they let my bodie fall upon the stones, and then againe most vallarrouslie like men well appointed for the Cause, they tooke me by the head and shouldiers, and just as if I had been a dead Dog, they drag’d and trayl’d my body upon the stones, and without all reverence to my cloth, drew me through the dirt and mire, and plucked me by the hair of the head, just as if the Iohn of all Sir Johns had got little Martin by the feathers, notwithstanding the peoples severall exclamations against their inhumane incivility and tyrannie towards me, and their severall desires to carrie me in a Chaire: And indeed in case I had been legallie their prisoner, yet had they no authoritie, to keepe me in evill custodie, incivilie or innumanely to use me, but were bound onely to keep me in safe custody, and therein to use me like a man, and therefore in case they would not have so honoured me, as to have made me a Chairman, they might have carried me in a Porters Basket, or in a Cart, (provided it had not been Westward) or in some other such decent necessary Toole, And in this like unheard of barbarous manner they brought me into the lower roome in Newgate; called the Lodge, and there they threw me down upon the Bords, and having Sir Edward Cookes 2. part instit. upon Magna Charta the Mr. Briscoe offered to wrest it out of my hands: Then I demanded of him if he intended to rob me, and he told me he would have it from me whether I would or no.
To whom I replyed, that he should not, if to the utmost of my power I could preserve it from him, and I would do my utmost, where upon I clapped it in my Armes, and I laid my selfe upon my belly, but by force, they violently turned me upon my back then Briscoe (just as if he had been staving off a Dog from the Beare) smote me with his fist, to make me let go my hold, whereupon as loud as I could, I cryed out, murther, murther, murther. And thus by assault they got the great Charter of Englands Liberties and Freedoms from me; which I laboured to the utmost of power in my to preserve and defend, and ever to the death shall maintain, and forthwith without any warrant poore Magna Charta was clapt up close prisoner in Newgate, and my poore fellow prisoner derived of the comfortable visitation of friends: And thus being stript of my armour of proofe, the Charter of my legall Rights, Freedoms, and Liberties, after the aforesaid barbarous manner they hurried me up into the common Goale, and as they carried me up staires, as their custome is, when they bring in a fellon, they gave 3. knocks at the door, and so they cast me into that Goale as a fellon, and then because they would be sure I should have a paire of prerogative fetters, they clapt 2. great Irons with a Chaine betwixt them upon my leggs, and Ile assure you, Sir, me thought they were the comlyest gingling Spurres that ever I wore in my life, and if your worship will be but pleased to travell with me to the Land of Liberty, come but and take horse at Newgate, and you shall be furnished Ile warrant you, after the gallantest manner, and if need be for the conduct, we caraise up the Trained Bands of Newgate, even thousands, and ten thousands of lice to guard you: which indeed and in truth may too soone be the generall portion of all the best Members in the House, if you be not active, vigulant, and faithful to your friends.
And in those Irons I continued that night and till the next day at evening, and then Woleston the vice Master Goaler of Newgate sent to me by one of his substitute Goalers, the Turn-key, to speake with me below, to whom I returned this answer, go tell your master that I do not owe him so much service, as to come downe to him to speak with him in Irons, he knowes well enough where I am, if he have any businesse with me let him come and speak with me, and he came againe, and againe, with the like message; and I returned the same answer: in the meane time one of his underling Goalers asked me if I would pay for my Irons, and then they should be knocked off, but I told him, I neither set him a work to knock them on, neither would I set him a work to knock them off, and he that sets you a work let him pay you your wages, for you shall not have a farthen of me, then departing and as I conceive, acquainting Woelston there with, he returned againe with his hammer in his hand, and told me, he must knock them off, and so he did: And when I came down to Woleston, he would needs have made me believe, that I sent to speake with him, and to desire him to take off my Irons, and to be removed to the Masters side againe; but I told him no such matters, for indeed that was farre from me, in thought, word, or deed: for I scorne to crouch or debase my Spirits to the lawlesse cruelty of any mercilesse tyrants or Goalers whatsoever: they may devoure my Carkase, and make that bend and break with their cruelty, but I trust in God, that in heart and action to the umost of my power in the pursuance of justice and truth, I shall bid defiance to the last gaspe of breath to all their oppressions and tyrannies whatsoever.
Now Sir, having discovered their oppressions and grievances against me, I shall now make bold to present this honorable Committee with the salvage and barbarous inhumanity exercised upon my Wife, and upon the rest of my Family: Thus then be pleased further to consider, that those Norman Prerogative-Invaders, have not been here with content thus to rob me in particular of my just liberty and freedome, and for these six moneths to incarcerate and corrode my person in their prerogative-devouring-jawes of Newgate, but to fil up the measure of their iniquity against me, they send forth their Blood-hounds, the Bishops old Catch-poles, the Master and Wardens of the Company of Stationers, to surprize my wife and my brother, and to bring them up to their Prerogative-Barre, who for refusing to be intangled and enslaved to their High-Commission Star-chamber-bondage of catching Interrogatories, were both upon the sixth of this instant January 1646. committed by them to Mayden-lane-prison. But being not therewith content, the next day, without all remorse or compassion over my helplesse children, just as if they had intended to destroy me root and branch, they send forth their Catch-poles again to my house to fetch away my Brother-in-law, and my sister (his wife) which, for their present necessity, were forced to live with me, and onely remained for the over-sight, ordering and tendance of my three children in the absence of their Father and Mother. But he being out of the way; & she, by the great mercy of God, escaping their hands, (through their ignorance of her face) fled, & hid her selfe and some adjacent neighbours (touched with compassion and pitty over the poore, afflicted, destitute, helplesse children) took them, for the present, into their houses; and so, Father, Mother, Children, and All, being driven out of House and home, the Doores were shut up; and I, and mine, exposed to utter ruine and confusion by those insulting, domineering, mercilesse Usurpers and Tyrants, The House of Lords.
But here, their most inhumane, tyrannicall desires not ceasing, out of the boundlesse limits of their arbitrary domination, they issue forth yet another prerogative-order against my wife, not counting it miserable and dishonourable enough, that she should lye in the Goale at Mayden-lane, but, as much as in them lyes, for ever to obliterate the honour of her modesty, civility, and chastity; they order, that she shall be cast into the most infamous Goale of Bride-well, that common Centre and receptacle of bauds, whores, and strumpets, more fit for their wanton retrograde Ladies, then for one, who never yet could be taxed of immodesty, either in countenance, gesture, words, or action.
Now, this order being brought to her by the City Marshall to command her away to Bride-well, she thereupon refused (as by Law she was bound, as hath been proved before this Honourable Committee in the case of Lieut: Coll. Iohn Lilburne, and of mine) to yeeld in the least manner any subjection or obedience thereto, but to the utmost testimony of her weake power made opposition and resistance against it, for in plain down-right termes (like a true bred Englishwoman brought up at the feet of Gamaliel) she told the Marshall that she would not obey it, neither would she stir after it, so much as to set one legg before another in attendance thereto: yet, Sir, this rejection and contempt here of the Lords usurped jurisdiction was not uttered without all due respect and acknowledgment of your indubitable Authority, for she told him, that if he brought any Order or Warrant from the House of Commons, she would freely and willingly yeeld all humble obedience and subjection thereto, which was as absolute an evidence of her acknowledgment and submission unto Englands legitimate lawfull authority as the other was of defiance and contempt to all arbitrary usurpation whatsoever.
Now the Gentleman Goaler hearing her resolution and honest intentions for the freedoms of her Country, that rather then she would yeeld any subjection or connivence to the arbitrary usurpations of any, how great or powerfull soever, she would expose her selfe to the mercilesse cruelty of the whole House of Norman-prerogative tyrants, I say no sooner had this Turky-cock Marshall heard of her uprightnesse to the Commons of England, but up he brisled his feathers and looked as bigg and as bugg as a Lord, and in the height and scorne of derision (just as if he had been Speaker to the House of Peers protempore) out he belched his fury and told her, that if she would not go, then she should be carried in a Porters Basket, or else draged at a Carts Arse.
But she modestly reply’d that he might do as it seemed good unto him, for she was resolved on her course, but thereat his worship being put into a prerogative chase; out he struts in his Arbitrary Fury, as if he would have forthwith leavied whole Armies, and Droves of Porters and Cart-men, to advance the poore little harmlesse innocent woman and her tender Babe to Bridewell:
But going (as I conceive to consult with their Lordships what was best to be one) he upon his returne finding her constant to her honest and just resolutions, out againe he slings in his wonted fury, and finding some of her friends attending to see the event of the businesse, he shut them out of the doores and abused them with infamous scurrilous reproaches, nicknames, and derisions, with severall menacies to imprison them, threatning them to fetch a warrant to bring them before the now (present pretended illegall) Lord Mayor of London; but departing in that insolent turbulent chase, he sent for a couple of Porters, but when they came to her, like honest & discreet men, they told him, that they would not meddle with a woman that was with child, and had a young sucking Infant in her Armes, least in so doing they might doe that to day which they might answer for to morrow.
Then the Marshall thinking to bugbear them with the cracking sound of the House of Lords told them, that the Lords had ordered that she should be carried to Bridewell: but one of the Porters wisely answered, that their Lordships Order was for Goalers, and not for Porters to carry her, and for their parts, they would carry no quick flesh, if he had any dead flesh they would carry it, and so they departed and left their Lordships prerogative drudgery to their prerogative vassals.
Then forth againe goes this their Lordship; furious Champion with his prerogative Commission of Array, to raise up new Forces to encounter this weak woman, and her tender Babe on her breast, and having leavied a Cart for the prerogative Warres of the House of Peers, which being brought under the conduct of that most puissant Marshall of London to the prison Gate, the Car-man hearing what this beleagred woman was, wisely refused to lay any hands on her, and departed in peace.
Then this grim Phylistin of the House of Peers, being thus deferred of his forraigne forces, mustered up his Life Guard of Goalers servants, or hangmen Deputies, and therewith resolved to storme her, and advancing to her Chamber doore, first he attempted to circumvent her by his pollicy with fair, hypocriticall, specious promises of his and their Lordships favour and grace, in case she should open the doore and submit her selfe, but she slighted his proffers, & contemned all favour flowing from that most bitter and corrupt prerogative Fountaine.
Whereupon he caused his men to break open the doore, and entring her Chamber, struts towards her like a Crow in a gutter, and with his valiant lookes like a man of mettle assailes her and her Babe, and by violence attempt to pluck the tender Babe out of her Armes, but she forcibly defended it, and kept it in despite of his Man-hood: then he and Christopher Marshall his brother Sam. Tolson, and divers of his servants by the Marshalls Command example & Authority laid violent hands upon her, and drag’d her down the staires, and in that infamous barbarous manner, drew her headlong upon the stones in all the dirt and the mire of the streetes, with the poore Infant still crying and mourning in her Armes, whose life they spared not to hazard by that inhumain barbarous usage, and all the way as they went, utterly to defame and render her infamous in the streets, the fellowes which dragged and carried her on two Cudgels, calling her Strumpet and vild whore, thereby to possesse the people, that she was no woman of honest & godly Conversation, whom they so barbarously abused, but a vile strumpet or whore, and were dragging to Bridewell that common shore & sinke of Bauds & Whores, &c.
For no man could reasonably imagin that any modest civill woman should be so shamefully used, especially in her way to Bridewell; which dishonourable infamous usage was a sufficient matter to blast her reputation for ever, and to beget such a perpetuall odium upon her, that for the future (if ever delivered from her bondage) she should not passe the streetes upon her necessary occasions any more without contumely and derision, scoffing, hissing, and poynting at her, with such or the like sayings, as, see, see, there goes a Strumpet that was dragged through the streetes to Bridewell, and this is the honour that their Lordships are pleased to conferre on the free Commoners wives who stand for their Freedoms and Liberties.
A Charg against the house of Lords Now Sir, I humbly desire this Honourable Committee to consider, whether it be reasonable or sufferable, or any wise sutable to the freedoms of the Commons of England, or to the great trust reposed in you, either for you to suffer, or for them to usurpe such an unlimited prerogative jurisdiction, to deprive husbands of their wives, and wives of their husbands; Fathers and Mothers of their Children, and Children of their Fathers and Mothers; cast them into severall infamous tormenting prisons, hale and drag in most barbarous manner, the Commoners wives and their tender Infants upon the stones of the streetes through all the dirt, and the mire, as if the Commoners, their wives and Children were but as dirt and mire under their Lordships feet, to be trod and trampled upon at their pleasure; also to reproach, revile, and dishonour modest, chaste, and civill women with the imputation and scandall of whores, strumpets, &c. expose whole families to ruine, rout them out of house and home, and instead of pitty and compassion over such tender Infants whom they have made Orphants to their Arbitrary pleasures to turne them (without all remorse and compunction of heart) to the mercy of the wide world, and not in the least to looke after them, take any charge or care over them, or to send them or their imprisoned Parents so much as a crum of bread, or a drop of pottage for their comfort or reliefe; but as much as in them lyes, to expose such tender innocent babes with their parents to famin for want of sustenance and reliefe, as also to send forth their armed men in an hostile manner, with musquets, swords, pistols, &c. to besert and assault the Commoners Houses; forcibly to enter their Bed-Chambers with drawn swords, and pistols ready cocked, even while such persons are in their beds also dayly to commit Burglary, flat fellony, break in peeces the Commoners doores, burst open their locks, their Trunks, Chests, Deskes, &c. pick their pockets, ransacke their, houses, plunder, rob, steale, and felloniously beare away their proper goods and livelyhood, as also to shutt up such as are most faithfull for the freedoms of the Commons of England, close prisoners, deprive them of the benefit of pen, ink, and paper, of the comfortable countenance and visitation of friends, tumble and tosse them from Goale unto Goale, lay most unreasonable fines upon them, as of 2000.l. or the like, ten times beyond the estate of persons so fined, censure them to seven yeare imprisonment, endeavour to enforce the Commoners wives, to dip their hands to the blood of their husbands, and to betray their friend and faithfull lovers of their Country into their mercilesse hands, impose oathes upon servants to betray their Masters Councels, and secrets, imprison, fine, censure, and molest the Commoners of England, for their vindication and defence of the great Charter of their Liberties, and freedoms, for appealing from their usurped jurisdiction to the House of Com: and for refusing to be againe entangled in the Star-Chamber High-Commission abolished Bondage of Interrogatories and the like; as also for those Lords to overturne the fundamentall Lawes of this Kingdom, both for liberty, property, and freedome, endeavouring the Introduction of an Arbitrary Government, and to crush and destroy all such as shall adventure the discoverie of their oppressions or shall (as legally they are bound) resist their arbitrary proceedings, stop all free progresse in the Law, commit the Compter Serjeants, and such Ministers of the Law unto prison for arresting their sons or kindred for debt, and that by the authority of that House, as a contempt offered thereto. All which insufferable oppressions, and cruelties with manifold others, I can and will (God permitting) justifie and prove to their faces, if I shall be called thereto. And I do hereby, before this honourable Committee, and consequently before the whole Commons of England, both represented and representative, Charge the House of Lords (which usually assemble at Westminster and which do arrogate unto themselves a Parliamentarie title, and power without the free election and common consent of the free borne people of England) with those forementioned usurpations and devastations of the Commoners Liberties and Freedoms: Which Charge I am ready everyday upon the peril of my vital blood to make good against them, for the case of Lieutenant Col. Iohn Lilburn of Mr. Learner, of mine, & of some others, if but duly considered, is sufficient to evidence and confirme the truth thereof to every common capacity, as also to their Pregogative Lordships everlasting shame & confusion of face, if not to the utter extirpation of that their unlimited Arbitrary Domination and power, the which I shall faithfully endeavour to the utmost of my power for the freedome and weale of the rest of my Nationall Brethren the free borne Commons of England, though in that hot and desperate service I, and mine, wife, children and all be devoured by their unreasonable cruelty.
Thus Sir having made my complaint unto you, and in mine, to this Honourable Committee, the complaint of the whole Commons of England, all being equally interrested with me in this contest betwixt the Lords and the Commoners both in life, limb, liberty, and estate; I present my cause, and in mine, the cause of the whole Commons of England to your grave and judicious consideration: for, looke what is done unto me or to any other (though never so meane or of inferiour degree) for mine or their vindication and maintenance of the just Rights and freedoms of the Commons of England, is as done unto the whole Commons of England, for by chose their insultings all as well as one, are made lyable to the unlimited cruelty and oppression of their prerogative jurisdiction. And if they may rule by prerogative, then farwell all liberty and property!, all Lawes, justice, and equity; and if it must be so, I pray you beare us no longer in suspence and expection of redresse, but forthwith let our Doom be proclaimed to the whole world, that the Commons of England may know what to trust to; that we may loose our labour no longer in petitioning, appealing, complaining, and seeking for reliefe at your hands, that such as will may sit down as contented slaves with halters about their necks to be hanged up till the pleasure of that House (forsooth) shall be further signified.
Now Sir, I shall use no other provocations, incitations or Arguments to this Honourable Committee, to the discharge of their duty, but shall altogether leave the whole matter hereof to your consciences, whether for justice or injustice, mercy or cruelty; for my part I care not though you and all men forsake me, so long as I know the Lord liveth, who will once judge every man according to his deeds, whether good or evel, and then I am sure I shall have righteous judgment, without respect of persons; and against that, to deprive me thereof, neither the gates of Hell nor the powers of Earth are able to prevaile; that is my comfort, my hope and support, against all afflictions tryalls, and troubles: And therefore in that sure confidence though I be thus enthralled & encompassed on every side with Bands & Afflictions, I am resolved not to yeeld an haires-bredth of subjection, no, not so much, as the appearance of subjection either in word or deed to any arbitrary power, orders, significations of their pleasures, &c. maugre their Prisons, Irons, Halters, &c. either for me or mine: And this I pronounce to this Honourable Committee and to the whole Commons of England in open defyance and contempt of the Arbitrary Domination of the House of Peers, their usurpation and incroachments over the Rights and freedoms of the Commons of England; come what come will, or what the utmost of their usurped might and power can inflict upon me for it,
I scorne their mercy, and dare them to do their worst: let them find Prisons, Dungeons, Irons, Halters, &c. Ile find Carkesse Neck, and Heeles, for one in contempt to their usurped jurisdiction; for resolved I am to break before I bend to their oppressions, &c. Sir I am
From Newgate the place
of my Prerogativ Captivity.
Feb. 1. 1647.
Yours and all mens for
their just Rights and
Freedoms, faithfull, to the