Liberty Vindicated Against Slavery, 1646 John Lilburne Project 1 Assignment for Literature and Digital Diversity, Northeastern University, Spring 2021 S.N. London 1646 Transcribed from Early English Books Online No distinctive initial capital An excellent letter written by a Prisoner, to a worthy Member of the House of Commons, to give further evidence to the premises Unnumbered Page Noble Sir, In the beginning of these troubles, I suffered a hard imprisonment under the Commissioners of Array (half a year) for refusing to submit to their usurped authority, afterwards for the same I was driven in Exile, and my means all that time possessed by them, and so I lived as a banished man from my country for two years, until the Reducement that I just mentioned to the obedience of Parliament. I was sent to give in a charge against some with us, whom the Parliament had declared traitors, yet again put into the highest places of trust and command in our Country by Mr. B. contrary to his oath and trust, upon the Houses receiving our charge, I expected that Mr. B. and others complained of, should have put in their answers, but instead as I have mentioned, I was put to answer interrogatories against my self, tending to the betraying the trust reposed in me. To which interrogatories, I desired time to advise to answer, there on I was committed by the House of Commons unheard, nor never so much as called to their bar, (a thing which the Heathen Romans abhorred to do) upon the bare (though false) report of Mr. L. made to the house that is to say that I contemptiously refused to answer, it never being my intention to do anything in contempt of the House. Here I have lain nine months to my ruin, and the ruin of my wife and children, while the common enemies of the Kingdom (of whom we complain) are continued in their authorities,contrary to law, you have by the Act made for the abolishing of the Star Chamber, confirmed Magna Charta and the Petition of Right, chose and amonst others the 4. chap. of the Statute of the 34. of Ed. 1. By which Statute it is granted, That all men of this Kingdom shall have their laws Liberties, and Free customs, as they have used the same, when they had them at the best. And if any Statutes have been made or custom brought in to the contrary thereof, the same to be void and frustrats in the future And that this custom of committing men to prison, Unnumbered Page for refusing to answer interrogatories this way, is contrary to Law, and the liberty we have enjoyed, is clear and manifest. Sir you know that by Magna Charta, chap. the 29. No man is to be imprisoned but by the judgement of his peers and equals, or by the law of the land, which is expounded by the Statute of the 25. of Ed. 3. chap. 4. To be by indictment man may be put to answer, without presentment before justices, or matter of record, according to the old Law of England, See the 28. of Ed. 3. chap. 3. and the 37. of Ed. 3. chap. 18.Touching long imprisonment, as it is most unjustly and wickedly practiced at this day. The Law has ever held the same so odious; that it has provided, if the prisoner be not speedily and timely brought to his trial or freed, he may be free of charge without delay or denial, the warrant directed to the sheriff for bailing him out of prison, though convict of murder, Magna Charta chap. 26. But alas we have but the shadow of it, we by the refinement of Lawyers, are only free men in name, the English mans freedom is now become worse then the Turkish slavery, how many of us lie and languish in your murdering prisons to the provoking of the God of Justice unto wrath against you & our wives & children thereby exposed to all want & misery; whose loud cries and tears no doubt will draw down vengeance from the just hand of Heaven upon you if not speedily prevented by administration of justice. We have often with all earnestness, petitioned and solicited for liberty, yet can not since the first Session of this Parliament get one Ordinance passed for it, whereas Traitors and Murderers of their brethren can have (since the surrender of Oxford) score of Ordinances psssed for their liberty, peace and welfare. The just God of Heaven and Earth be judge between you and us (that are not freed) yea many of us are still imprisoned without any legal charge brought against us yet can we have no benefit of these lawes, which are not denied to these enemies, murderers and destroyers of their native Country. O where justice may not those royal: Plunderers well justify all their Robberies and Depredations, as either our House of Commons, or the House of peersthese kinds of Imprisonments, and commitments: No is it not the rarest injustice, when done under the color of Justice? Sir I assure you, it were less grievious to us to die at once, then thus to be enslaved and famished in your cruel Prison houses, where to all misery and contempt, and of the worst of men and thereby the hearts of our wives and aged parents are broken with sorrow and grief. Sir, be pleased also to consider, how by these and the like doings,the affections of many thousands of the people is estranged from you, who have formerly adventured all to die in your name. And if this course be continued, we shall not think Unnumbered Page say less,then that the Parliament makes us a bondage and miserable people. And some already do not spare to say that the Parliament is now become the burden of the Kingdom: If you intend to enslave us still, deal plainly with us and let us know it. You were entrusted by the people for their good, and not for the continuation of their slavery. We have not been failing on our parts, and by the blessing of God, have so far brought the common enemy of the Kingdom under your power, that there is none that dare to stand up against you, but some few in holds, so as there is now no let nor other excuse left, why the course of justice should be any longer obstructed and hindered. The recovery of which was the very end and cause of all our fightings. Let us then have justice, which without showing yourselves to be most unjust men, you cannot any longer deny unto us.Let not Manchester, B. and some other Achans amongst you, be denied justice, If they be wrongfully accused, they ought to be vindicated, if they be guilty of the accusations against them, you cannot be guiltless in not doing justice upon them, let neither their wealth, nor honor, nor their eminent places, serve them for a covering,or be any Sanctuary unto them, God is no respecter of persons in judgement and are not you placed here between God and us, to do justice. But if you have respect of persons, you dishonor God, commit sin, and stand convinced as transgressors of the Law. James 2.9. The Lord also farther said That you shall do no unrighteousness in judgement. Thou shall not respect the Person of the poor, nor honor the Person of the mighty, but in righteousness shall thou judge thy neighbour Levit. 19 15. For whosoever they be that pervert justice and judgement, are accursed of God, see Deut. 27.19. If therefore you would be accepted and numbered amongst the Sons of Wisdom, and not among those that are under this course, do justice freely, speedily and impartially, let it never be said of our highest court of Judicatory, as was sometimes of The Roman Senate The censor forgives the crows and harasses the doves. Why should your friends perish in your abominable houses while that yours, and the kingdoms professed Enemies, the capital transgressors of the Laws are suffered freely to walk London streets, to enjoy their liberties with their ill gotten wealth, and to be so much honored and trusted, as to sit and vote amongst you in you Councel as the village of the Lawyer does, who endeavoured, counceled, & by threatenings attempted to have had the framework delivered up to the King, which when he could not effect, neither by threats nor by treachery, he then caused Sir John Hotham to be proclaimed Traitor by two Heralds at arms, for keeping the town the Parliament and Kingdoms use. Oh the misery of these times! Behold,the whole Kingdom cries aloud for Justice, the spoiled for reparations, and we your poor enslaved Prisoners illegally committed, and unjustly detained in your several prisons, Unnumbered Page Servitude do cry out for justice and their just liberty and enlargement, according to law and justice. As a result of which noble Sir, if by your meanes and mediation, we (after so long expectation and delay) may obtain these our just desires, millions and multitudes will have cause to bless God for you and eternize your name to all posterity, as one of the chief means, of restoring our antient Birth-right & liberty, of which number (though the least and unworthiest he is and will be one, neither unthankful nor forgetful of so noble a favor for the general, nor of what shall be most freely and nobly accomplished by you for the gaining of his liberty in particular who is a free man in bonds, &c. 28. of the 17: Month. FINIS. language related to enslavement language related to morality language related to legality and justice language related to wealth and economics language related to class status and social hierachy