This is strange if not unknown. When Sir John Maynard was imprisoned in 1647, he connected with John Lilburne in the tower. He was one of the 11 members singled out by the New Model earlier that year. John Wildman and John Harris (two other Levellers) then waged a small campaign against the Lords on his behalf. Considering how strongly the Levellers tried to ally with the army, it is strange that they would link Maynard’s case to Lilburne’s. It almost seems like Lilburne made friends with anyone tossed in the Tower with him.
Monthly Archives: April 2008
I’m also working on a project discussing the failure of the first two Agreements of the People. Barbara Taft and Austin Woolrych, who admittedly draws on Taft, both make persuasive arguments. While Taft focuses more on the timing of the second agreement, Woolrych emphasizes the apostacy of the Levellers. I am inclined to argue that the frequent Leveller attempts to divide the army defeated the grandees’ purpose for negotiating with them: to unify the army.
This fits into my larger argument that support of the Levellers within the army was much more widespread than argued by recent historians. Cromwell, Fairfax, and Ireton seemed willing, if unhappy, to go along with debating the first Agreement until Rainsborough hijacked the General Council. Interestingly, the group behind the Case of the Armie was treated with contempt until it was discovered that Sexby (I think it was him, though I’ll need to verify) was involved. Sexby was one the legitimate agitators. To me, this aboutface indicates a desire to reconcile with the more Levellerish section of the army.
In the case of the second Agreement, Leveller recriminations and Lilburne’s A Plea for Common-Right and Freedom, which again threatened the authority of the senior officers, showed the officers for the second time that the Levellers were enemies rather than allies. Why would an Agreement even be seriously considered unless the senior officers believed Levellerism to be a potent force within the ranks, and then why would so many junior officers show such a willingness to defy their seniors during the votes on its articles unless Levellerism was a serious force?
The only real reason I can see for the failure of Agreement is the lack of persistence by men like Ireton and Cromwell, who were in turn most threatened by Leveller attempts to divide the army from its commanders.
I have a new theory regarding the relationship between Mabbott and Henry Walker, the editor of Perfect Occurences. I have been stymied as to why they began feuding in 1648, as they should have been on the same side. Both seem to have had extensive contacts within the army and had the support of many of its officers. Although I am still not entirely sure as the immediate cause of the feud, I have bit better grasp of its nature. Walker may have tried to break the connection between Samuel Pecke (editor of Perfect Diurnall) and the army. Late in September, just before Mabbott was rehired as licenser (and perhaps because of this; Walker certainly would have known that it was to happen), Walker requested that both he and Pecke be allowed to license their own newsbooks. It is clear from other evidence that Pecke and Mabbott, and Pecke and the New Model, were bound in some way.
I am now starting to think that Walker’s motivations were “scoop”-oriented; he had his own connections to the officers and he wanted to be the only one with such connections. Indeed, he petitioned on behalf of Pecke and himself on the same day that he petitioned to have a monopoly on publishing the Army’s Book of Declarations, and some of his later actions also suggest a similar desire. This would explain his and Mabbott’s difficult relationship, despite having so many contacts (for instance, William Clarke) in common. It would also explain why Walker tacitly admits the superiority of the Mabbott-licensed Narrative of the king’s trial by reprinting it in his own newsbooks while continuing to publish his own account of the trial in competition with the Narrative. The next thing to do is to check the list of officers annexed to one of Walker’s petitions who supported his newsbook. I believe it should be located in the Parliamentary Archives. Unfortunately, the calendar of the House of Lords does not name the officers. Fortunately, I will be able to check it myself in June!
I found a reference by Frances Henderson to an item at the Folger Library. For whatever reason, they have a copy of Mabbott’s commission as Cromwell’s agent in 1647. I had so far only seen records of his payments in Clarke’s account books for his work as the army’s agent. I submitted an order form to get a copy of the commission and a few other items. I think it’s going to cost around 20 bucks, but it’s still cheaper than a trip to D.C.!
Also, I discovered that anyone can download the Firth edited Clarke Papers from the Online Library of Liberty. It’s a terrible name, but a useful service. I also discovered a little while ago that you can download just about all of Gardiner by using Google Books. The most useful part of these downloads is that they have been OCRed, so you can search the text from your pdf viewer. I’m hoping they’ll get around to the Calendars of State Papers soon; they’ve already done some.
I’m still slogging away through the Thomason Tracts, taking names. It’s strange, but one publisher, Bernard Alsop, seems to keep trying to copy another one, Robert Ibbitson, but can’t. Alsop will claim to have nearly identical matter in his pamphlet as Ibbitson, but then it will be entirely different. I’m not sure what that means, but it could be significant. In any event, it would certainly seem that Alsop knows in advance what Ibbitson will publish, since their pamphlets come out on the same day.
Right now, I’m working on taking some statistics on Mabbott’s licensing. I’m compiling some spreadsheets, splitting up the different licensers (of course Mabbott is privileged) and the publishers, and I ‘m trying to put each licensed pamphlet into some kind of category for its political persuasion. I’ve already had to start over twice. I have to say, though, that having the Thomason Tracts online is a lifesaver. I’ll be talking about it at SHARP if anyone is interested!