Category Archives: New Model

Philip Baker and Elliott Vernon, eds., The Agreements of the People, the Levellers and the Constitutional Crisis of the English Revolution (review)

Baker, Philip and Elliott Vernon. The Agreements of the People, the Levellers and the Constitutional Crisis of the English Revolution. New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2012.

Sorry for the delay. I finished reading the book a little while ago, but had other work to do. I also read (most of) another book, and I will probably post some thoughts on that when I get the chance.

Let me start by saying that I thoroughly enjoyed this book. However, if you are planning on getting started with the Levellers, you should not start here. This book does not provide an overview or context for a lot of what was happening in the 1640s. That is not a criticism; that was not the point of the book. But this book is a big step toward establishing some new orthodoxies about the Leveller movement and the army’s radicalism during the Civil Wars.

A lot of the chapters in this book drew on some ideas put forward by Vernon and Baker in their article “What was the first Agreement of the People?” I believe I discussed it in an earlier post. They argue that first Agreement was not a Leveller document. It was written by soldiers and agitators, led by Wildman, who had little to no direct contact with the civilians who would become the leaders of the Leveller movement. The Agreement itself was a product of the radicalism of some of the army’s own members and a response to what these members thought was an overly generous peace proposal in the Heads of the Proposals. Not all of the contributors to the book entirely go along with this redefinition. In particular, Rachel Foxley, who recently published a book on the Levellers, is not willing to take the Levellers out of the Agreement, citing enough similar phrasings and patterns of thought with earlier pamphlets by later Levellers to show consistency, even if Vernon and Baker are correct about the genesis of the document. For my part, I think that Vernon and Baker’s reading of the origins of the first Agreement make a lot of sense. It never made sense to me that Cromwell and the other senior officers would have been willing to give a serious hearing to the Agreement those fateful days in October and November 1647 if it had not been a product of the army. We simply have to take at face value that it was written by representatives from five regiments and not part of a Leveller plot. More on this point later, but suffice it to say that many of the contributors, particularly in the earlier chapters, support this reading of the first Agreement. This will be the new orthodoxy.

Baker and Vernon also establish a new chronology for the Agreements. Traditionally, historians discussed the first Agreement (Nov. 1647), the second Agreement (the account that Lilburne published in Dec. 1648 purporting to be the version agreed upon by the committee of sixteen), the officers’ Agreement (Jan. 20, 1648), and the third Agreement (May 1649). There was also an Agreement by John Jubbes (Dec. 1648) which was generally ignored or marginalized because Jubbes was not a Leveller. Baker, Vernon, and many of the contributors to the volume rename and reorganize this timeline. After the first Agreement, there is a series of compromises worked out between Wildman and a committee to reconcile the Agreement and the Heads on Nov. 2. Throughout 1648, Levellers and army supporters continued to develop the Agreement to include many of the social and legal reforms promoted by the Levellers, and the various published versions are collectively referred to as New Engagements. The second Agreement is now Foundations of Freedom, because it can no longer be second if the first was not a Leveller document and there were New Engagements in between. Jubbes’s Agreement is reconsidered as an authentic Agreement because if the first Agreement was not a Leveller document, then the fact that Jubbes was not a Leveller should not discount his Agreement. The officers’ Agreement is still referred to as such by most of the contributors, but it was also called the January 1649 Agreement. Finally, the third Agreement is redubbed the May 1649 Agreement, because it can no longer be third. The names reflect the new understanding of the Agreements as an ongoing series of attempts by different parties to resolve England’s constitutional crisis of the 1640s. While the Levellers were heavily involved, they cannot be given pride of place when so many others contributed. The result is messier, but more accurately reflects the complexities of the history. The crux of the Agreement is not Leveller infiltration of the army but the quest to settle England.  As Baker and Vernon write at the end of their introduction (which was a superb survey of Leveller historiography, “the Agreements of the People were documents that represented a particularly early modern attempt to remodel the constitution in a time of political crisis” (20-21).

In the interests of space and time, I will try to limit myself to a few thoughts on each individual chapter.

Ch. 1: Edward Vallance, “Oaths, Covenants, Associations and the Origins of the Agreements of the People: The Road to and from Putney”

This chapter argued that the Agreements adapted the use of loyalty oaths that proliferated in the 1640s and 50s, particularly the Covenant, from their earlier medieval, communal roots into “natural rights-based individualism” in a “quintessentially ‘early modern’ transitional phase” (30). Time is given to looking at Collinson’s take on the 1584 bond of association and earlier precedents of oaths of association. The Levellers came to emphasize the contractual language and invitation to mass political involvement, making the oaths a kind of social contract. Vallance notes the importance placed upon engagements and covenants by the Levellers and the soldiers, pointing out that the debate that preceded the famous debate over the franchise was an extended debate over the keeping of those oaths. Therefore, the radicalism of the Levellers does not rest in the franchise or any particular part of their platform (though there were radical elements), but in taking “the sectional democracy of the medieval commune and transform[ing] it radically, into a national written constitution, guaranteeing fundamental, natural, human rights” (43).

One thing that Vallance notes, which I have not seen elsewhere, but I am quite behind on my Leveller historiography, is that Rainsborough’s famous “greatest hee” speech was borrowed from Lilburne’s The Charters of London (1644).

I think that many historians are reimagining the Levellers as radicals who happened to get along for a while. Historians long struggled over what to call the grouping. Is it a party? Is it a movement? This view of the Agreement and the Levellers emphasizes the view of the Levellers as part of the fracturing Independent alliance (also not a new interpretation, but increasingly in vogue). These were men who read parliamentary declarations in a particular way, and thus drew on the same material as Independents and even Presbyterians, but drew wildly different conclusions. In this case, it is a matter of how they interpreted oaths. Is there any greater symbol for variant interpretation than the Solemn League and Covenant? Both Presbyterians and Independents found ways to bash each other with it.

Ch. 2: Jason Peacey, “The People of the Agreements: The Levellers, Civil War Radicalism and Political Participation”

At heart, this chapter was about the people: who they were and what they were required to do, according to the Agreements. Peacey compares the various documents and finds that while all of them required a mechanism for popular approval, the Levellers were radical in that they imagined that the people bound themselves to maintain the Agreement in an active way. There would be frequent elections, impeachments, free press, and regular political reporting to keep MPs accountable.

I am always a fan of Peacey’s work. However, I struggled with this one a little. I think that the analysis and argument were strong and I am always amazed at his grasp of the historiography (seriously, I sometimes wonder if I have read as many books in my entire life as he cites in a single article), but got bogged down in the language from time to time. This sentence got me: “the texts of the various Agreements thus contained a range of different ideas and they performed different functions for different groups, and within individual schemes they could be understood to have had multiple uses” (66). Still, if this is what I can expect to find out of his new book (which I have not been able to read yet because no school in the University System of Georgia seems to have it), I am on board.

Ch. 3: Alan Orr, “Constitutionalism: Ancient, Modern and Early Modern in the Agreements of the People

Orr argues that the Levellers were not trying to create anything new. Rather, the focus of the Agreements and the Levellers was about the restoration of the English birthright, no matter how mythical. The goal was to return to a time before the Norman Conquest and restore the English birthright to its proper state of freedom. This included creating a unicameral parliament and abolishing the power of the Lords.

The article is well argued and clearly written. Considering how much time the Levellers and others spent considering birthright, not to mention the extended debate at Putney, it is surprising that there has not been more discussion of what exactly the birthright meant.

Ch. 4: Philip Baker, “The Levellers, Decentralization and the Agreements of the People

Baker argues that the Leveller platforms and the Agreements were shaped the Levellers experiences, good and bad, with local government, particularly London’s. The Levellers and the Agreements developed over time was “a reaction against longer-term changes in civic governance as in more recent national developments” (98). The Levellers particularly wanted to decentralize the English government. The emphasis on decentralization in the Leveller tracts is well known, but the examination of their knowledge of city governments is revealing.

The Leveller demand for decentralization was at least in part sparked by perceptions of parliamentary tyranny. It was their experiences in being part of the “unacknowledged republic” of England (there are a few points in this chapter in which the reader is reminded of John Morrill; this is one of them) and the self-governing city of London that led them to believe such decentralization desirable. Baker shows that William Walwyn and Thomas Prince both occupied positions in London, and that Prince and Wildman worked for other city governments, too. In addition, Baker shows that their experiences with groups in London (Lilburne’s fight with the Stationers’ Company and Merchant Adventurers, Prince being denied a voice in an election, Walwyn’s plan to raise a citizen army to guard the Tower) all are represented in some way in the Agreements. These experiences and fears of losing local autonomy as the English government continued to centralize encouraged the Levellers to push for decentralization.

In the late 1970s, Morrill argued that Leveller and army aims were incompatible, something that the soldiers eventually realized, because the Leveller emphasis on decentralization would have made it impossible for the army to find relief for its material grievances (“The Army Revolt of 1647”). This chapter drew on an explored this aspect further in a very interesting way. I am curious as to why I have not heard more about the Levellers in city government. Baker argues that the leadership and the rank-and-file of the army opposed this decentralization, and so relevant proposals were withdrawn from later Agreements. However, Baker also argues that the Levellers themselves lost some of their steam for decentralization as their experiences with national and local governments made them doubt the “support and the judgment of their fellow man”(108). I really liked that last point.

Ch. 5: Rachel Foxley, “Freedom of Conscience and the Agreements of the People

This was a fascinating piece. Foxley is explaining the roots of the Levellers’ views on religious toleration and how those were different from Ireton and others.’ Religious toleration was fundamental to the Levellers in ways that it was not to others. It was the same as having political liberty.

The Levellers believed that, because compulsion in religion was not a power that an individual had, it could not be given by the people to the state. This is a fairly well known Leveller position. However, Foxley illustrates that the Levellers believed that the power of religion needed to be listed as a reserve from the government to make clear that it had no authority there. This was fundamental, because the Levellers believed that true government came from the people, not from God. For Ireton, magistrates did have divine approval. This illustrates the radicalism of the Leveller emphasis on government as a human institution, a belief that cost them the support of London congregations and put them at odds with the army grandees. Therefore, for Ireton, any Agreement should say that the government could not compel in matters of religion, but he fully believed that it had the authority to restrict in matters of religion, particularly to marginalize Catholics and prelacy.

The Levellers also argued that a person’s conscience was God-given, and therefore it was up to each person to make his or her own decisions, based on the way that God spoke to him or her. Foxley points out that this was also the motivation behind outlawing the draft. “Perhaps, indeed, it would not be going too far to say that the exercise of (individual) conscience in politics became one of the shibboleths that divided grandees from more radical army men” (16).

Ch. 6: Ian Gentles, “The New Model Army and the Constitutional Crisis of the Late 1640s”

This is a good article for getting context and background for the develops in the army and its relationship with the Levellers in the later 1640s. There is not a single argument that I can discuss here; it is more of a narrative.

Ch. 7: Frances Henderson, “Drafting the Officers’ Agreement of the People, 1648-49: A Reappraisal”

I am sometimes envious of Dr. Henderson and the amount of time she has been able to spend with the Clarke Papers. It seems like she is always finding something new and interesting. In this case, she is looking over an interim copy of the officers’ Agreement from Dec. 14, 1648. The discussion is very detailed, and I am not sure how much I can get into, especially considering this post’s current word count. Henderson argues that this draft of the Agreement in the Clarke Papers is a working draft of the Agreement, and not the Agreement decided on by the committee of 16 established by Lilburne and Ireton to draft a new Agreement. Henderson argues that Lilburne was writing truthfully when he wrote that he published the committee’s Agreement on Dec. 15, the day after he walked out of the Whitehall Debates. Henderson then uses the draft to show what the General Council had been up to on Dec. 12th and 13th, dates for which we have few sources to show what was being debated. The chapter ends with a transcript of the interim draft.

One takeaway from this piece, other than the usefulness of knowing what the General Council was up to during this busy period, is that Ireton was not playing the Levellers for fools. Lilburne came to believe that the debates over the Agreement were a ploy to keep the Levellers busy while the army set about executing the king and establishing its own power. The “painstaking” amount of work exhibited here suggests that Ireton and the army had every intention of settling the country through such an Agreement.

Ch. 8: Elliot Vernon, “‘A Firme and Present Peace; Upon Grounds of Common Right and Freedome’: The Debate on the Agreements of the People and the Crisis of the Constitution, 1647-59”

This chapter examined the Agreements as attempts to solve England’s constitutional crisis and the reception of the Agreements at large. This chapter examines how the Levellers became so closely associated with the first Agreement, despite that fact that it was not a Leveller document and that there was not group called “Levellers” before Putney. The innovative take on this part of Leveller history is that, simply, it was convenient for detractors to mash the two concepts together.

Vernon argues that the term Leveller came from the growing fears of social and religious disorder. Heresiographers, like Thomas Edwards, had stoked fears of social revolution. With the appearance of the Agreement and the threat of military imposition of that Agreement, people became convinced that there was a plot to kill the king and level society. The Agreement was the proof of such a plot, and it “would never lose this association in the polemical debates of the late 1640s and early 1650s” (200).

The Agreement also made people afraid of a future where people had too much freedom and society, as a democracy, would tear itself apart. It was perhaps made worse by the “secular formalism” of the proposed government that irked many fellow radicals. This included army divines like Joshua Sprigge and Sedgwick, who called it an “Agreement with death” (I always liked that one).

I like this piece because it ties together loose ends. It explains the appellation of Leveller, its links to the Agreement which was not originally a Leveller document, and how it played on fears across a broad political and religious spectrum. It is no wonder that no Agreement ever became the English constitution, despite eventually having the support of the army.

Ch. 9: Ann Hughes, “Diggers, True Levellers and the Crisis of the English Revolution”

Hughes makes the excellent point here that the Diggers and the Levellers were not related. Hughes has had a great deal of experience with the Diggers lately as one of the editors of the works of Gerrard Winstanley, and she notes that Winstanley himself rarely made common cause with the Levellers (I think it showed up in one or two pamphlets, but was probably more of an attempt at finding common cause rather than a demonstration of it) and that they wanted fundamentally different things. The Levellers wanted to create secular government, Winstanley wanted to God to help humanity recreate the beginning of the world. Winstanley’s project was inherently divine in nature. It was just convenient for commentators to lump the two groups together because the Levellers drew more attention, whereas the Diggers were what people thought that the Levellers were trying to be. In other words, the Diggers were actually trying to level men’s estates, so why not put them together with the group had been dubbed Levellers?

Ch. 10: David L. Smith, “The Agreements of the People and the Constitutions of the Interregnum”

This chapter traces the influence of the Agreements on reform and constitutional developments in the 1650s. Smith notes that the Rump had begun some piecemeal reforms regarding elections, religion, and justice. However, it was the Instrument of Government that showed the most influence from the Agreements, primarily in the franchise and distribution of seats, mainly drawing on the officers’ Agreement. However, with the Humble Petition and Advice, there was a distinct move away from the Agreements over religious toleration, the franchise, the distribution of seats, and the creation of a second house of parliament. The piece was frequently cited throughout the rest of the volume and is worth a read.

Wrap it up

Sorry for finishing so abruptly, but I saw how long this review was getting. The volume is really worth a read. I do think that Leveller and army history is being rewritten right now, and this book is making a significant contribution.

I hope that I will be able to keep up this more regular pace for writing posts. I am not sure what I will review next. I have some other recent books to look at, like Foxley’s book, I have some books on public history that I am reading, and I need to buckle down on some of my own research. I want to keep working on the history of the London agent, perhaps looking at what I can find on Sir Thomas Clarges and Capt. Adam Baynes. I am not sure if I have the money on hand to get copies of the volumes of Baynes’s correspondence at the BL right now, though. I may also want to go back in time and look at a Jacobean or an Elizabethan agent, but I am better prepared to work on another Civil War era agent. I will figure that out soon, hopefully. Suggestions are welcome.

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The unfortunate Moss family

This is the story of how I depressed myself one day:

The other day I was trying to track down Elizabeth Moss.  The Moss(e) family was connected to William Clarke and Gilbert Mabbott, though the relationship is still unclear to me.  One HMC editor thought that Clarke may have been adopted into the Moss family, though there isn’t enough proof for that kind of assertion.  Certainly, Clarke does receive a letter from someone he calls “Mother Mosse.”

I found that there were a John and Elizabeth Moss who were having children, also named John and Elizabeth, in the later 1640s and early 1650s, this would have made them around the same age as Gilbert and William.  The baptisms were held at St. Margaret’s, the same place that Mabbott would have his children baptized.

My next piece of evidence was a letter (29 October 1650) from Mabbott’s and Clarke’s brother-in-law, Hilliard Kympton, to Clarke.  He said that he was “from my hart sorry for Mr. Moss” and that Elizabeth was “like a woman distracted” and a “miserable wretch.”  He then says the kinds of things that a person says when something terrible had happened.  At this point, I was excited by the mystery, and dug into my materials to see what I could find.

From there I found in an HMC volume two letters, drafted by Clarke, in which Elizabeth was trying to negotiate with the royalists for the release of her husband.  They were dated 1 January 1651.  Okay, so it looks like she was upset because John had been captured by royalists.  It is also clear that Elizabeth and Clarke had been trying to arrange some kind of prisoner transfer, but Cromwell decided that Moss was not worth the trade offered.  Elizabeth then tried to offer money.

I’m still not sure what exactly John Moss did, but it was apparent from the above letters that he was not part of the army, but he was connected to the war effort.  I found in the CSPD that there had been a John Mosse who brought some news to the Committee of Both Houses about the capture of Col. Powell.  At this point, I wonder about this whole family group.  Since I know that Hilliard was also involved with the New Model, it’s clear that there was a whole series of connected families that made their livings as civilian support for the military.  I guess I shouldn’t find that surprising, but I do.

Now I finally find the last piece of the puzzle.  On 25 June 1652, Elizabeth Mosse received £50 from the Council of State, “her husband having lost his life in the service.”  It looks like John was captured by royalists, held for negotiations, and when Clarke and Elizabeth couldn’t convince Cromwell to make a trade and couldn’t put together enough money to make it worthwhile, the royalists executed him.

For some reason, I just keep imagining how painful that must have been.  Can you imagine?  So much anger and pain and guilt.  I don’t know why, I just can’t shake it.  I think it might be because of that letter by Hilliard Kympton.  I just imagine how distraught Elizabeth must have been.  Then, she had the hope of some kind of prisoner exchange. Everything was going to be alright!  Then Cromwell said no, and they didn’t have the resources to pay the ransom.  It’s just awful.

Well, now I’ve gone and depressed myself again.  On a more positive note, Kympton married a Susan Moss, who, I’m guessing, was the offspring of John and Elizabeth.  However, since I know that Kympton remarried once, if not twice, Susan probably didn’t last all that long either.  I still have more looking to do in the parish registers, but at least I’ve figured the broad outlines of the Moss family tragedy.  Now I need a drink.

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Forecast is sunny and warm

I am back in comfortable Santa Barbara, CA now.  It is nice to go outside without a scarf.  I should do a long update after having been gone so long, but I am afraid I do not have the time just yet.  I am presenting at PCCBS this weekend and I need to finish up the paper.  It’s mostly done, but it isn’t very polished, and I think it might be a bit confusing.  Work, work, work.

It’s taken from a paper I wrote last year that I will be turning into a chapter of my dissertation.  I am looking at the publication of accounts of Charles I’s trial, and Mabbott’s role in disseminating them.  In doing so, I look at Mabbott’s relationship with two other major newsbook editors: Samuel Pecke and Henry Walker.  I find that Mabbott used his (and the army’s) relationship with Pecke to facilitate the dissemination of the version of the trial published in the Moderate.  The version in the Moderate was in turn extracted from the separate published as the Narrative.  To make a long story short, the New Model organized the publication of that account of the trial, using Mabbott and his connections in London to facilitate it.  At the same time, Mabbott’s rivalry with Walker allowed/forced Walker to publish his own account of the trial, the Notes.  Thus, the episode shows an odd mix of personal, official, and public in the production of the news.  That could be interesting, right?

My work lately has been indicating the extreme importance of Mabbott’s personal relationships throughout his careers (licenser, agent, lobbyist, embezzler, etc.) which grew as government continued to professionalize, and I will probably have more to say on that in the future.  Being a parliamentary clerk opened a lot of doors for him.

I have also found out that Mabbott was a bit of a rake, though a very energetic one.  But I digress.

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Filed under Henry Walker, Mabbott, New Model, Samuel Pecke, William Clarke

More newsletters

So I’ve been looking at more of Mabbott’s newsletters.  There isn’t anything terribly groundbreaking in them, but if anyone is looking at the Anglo-Dutch War or is interested in accounts of what the Nominated Assembly was up to, it’s worth a look.  I’ve been cross-checking the newsletters with ones in the Clarke Papers, volume 3.  I’m betting that if I look at the actual papers I’ll find more, but right now I’m still seeing a number of these newsletters showing up in Clarke’s possession as well.  They are largely identical, but with some interesting differences, usually toward the end of the letter.

I’ve been looking at how these letters are written, and I think that they are written on an almost daily basis, meaning that Mabbott writes down the news for a day or two, then comes back and adds more.  The newsletters will often say something like “this business put off till tomorrow,” and the pick it back up in the same letter with “today, the committee for . . . .”  As well, the letters to Hull and to Clarke are often dated on the same day.  Since newsbooks were often written in a very similar manner, there’s more fodder for the newsbooks-from-newsletters argument, the difference being that while the newsbook editor had to allow the printer the necessary time to work, the newsletter writer is taking into account his inability to write letter after letter on the same day.

I also liked this little ps to Mabbott’s letter on June 14, 1653: “Lt Coll Lilburne came yesterday to Towne hee wilbee secured this night.”

The other thing I have been wondering about is how good of an agent Mabbott actually was.  He occasionally reports back to the Hull city fathers about some petition or other that he is pressing on some committee or the like.  There are frequent delays, which he of course says are not his fault.  He does seem to be able to get face time with some important people.  And Mabbott was originally hired as the New Model’s agent, so he was well experienced, and he was also the agent for Leith, though I haven’t looked into that yet.

However, Hull’s use of Mabbott to forward their petitions does support Derek Hirst’s argument in “Making Contact: Petitions and the English Republic” that it was generally believed that you needed the right person to get your petition read.

Well, more work to do.

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A crazy idea

Okay, here’s a crazy idea.  I don’t have any real proof, and it’s probably just a weird coincidence.  There’s a publisher, C. W., that pops up, I think in late 1647, does a lot of work in the second half of 1648, and then more or less disappears, near as I can tell (I did some quick-and-dirty EEBO searching).  I checked Plomer (whose Dictionary of English Printers is now on Google books) and he lists no C. W.s except Charles Webb, whom he lists as active 1658-60.  Glancing on EEBO, I only found a Charles Wright, publishing in the early 1630s.  Now, it looks like William Clarke was behind one of the published versions of the king’s trial, signing it C. W.  Here’s the crazy: I think the publisher C. W. may have been William Clarke, too.

It makes some sense.  To be a publisher, all a person needed was the capital to pay for everything (ie, no printing skills).  Mabbott’s imprint had disappeared by late 1648, so the army may have needed a new way to get its info out.  That explains C. W.’s frequency in late 1648.  Also, I think the C. W. I saw from 1647 was in September, while Mabbott was temporarily sacked from his post.  C. W. seems to exlusively publish army-related news.  I tried to follow a money trail, but couldn’t find one, by looking at Clarke’s contingencies accounts, though he does pay a Mr. Paxton over £49 for paper, ink, and parchment.  That seems like a lot, but then I’m sure the New Model’s hq went through a lot of paper.   Anyway, that’s my crazy idea for the day; it probably won’t play out.  If anybody actually reads this blog, what do you think?

It’s about 30 minutes later.  I just found something published by a “C. Withrington.”  That’s probably C. W.  However, it’s not military news, and the print looks distinctly different.  I don’t know, it’s probably time to put this in the “too crazy” idea pile.


Filed under New Model, Print Culture, William Clarke

May 1648

I’ve been noticing that H. Becke seems to have become a useful Army printer.  He tends only to print pro-army kinds of stories, always licensed by Mabbott.  Conversely, Ibbitson, who had previously played such a role, has been publishing a lot less.  I don’t know much about Becke, but I’ll see what I can find.

I want to look more into this affair with the petitioners from Surrey.  In May, some rowdy petitioners allegedly threatened some of the MPs and harrassed the soldiers, who eventually opened fire on them.  It looks like there was a real attempt to present the army and parliament’s side of the story, always licensed by Mabbott.

May was a busy month for publishers.  It would seem that Mabbott was knocked back a bit.  He licensed some seemingly Presbyterian works and it looks like there were a lot more unlicensed works than usual.  By the end of the month he seemed to be getting back together again.  However, an “R.W.” and B. A. (Bernard Alsop I think) have been printing some pretty questionable material with his imprimatur.  I’m not yet sure what to make of all of this.  I’m beginning to wonder how much truth there was in Mabbott’s resignation letter, saying that the licenser’s opinion accounted for too much of what got licensed.  If it’s bare narrative, he seems to let a lot of matter through.  On the other hand, he will only license Independent, pro-Army, or occasionaly pro-Parliament polemic.  I guess that makes sense, though it is a little surprising in some ways.  I wonder if Cromwell thought he was getting his money’s worth in Mabbott.

There was one really clever piece of propaganda/news, published by Becke.  There was a letter, with the author expressing his desire for a peaceful solution in Kent (I think it was Kent), worrying about the effects of the army’s victory or its failure.  The next item reported that with a little fighting, there were no casualties, and that Fairfax looked to be finding a peaceful solution to the problem.  LIke I said, clever.

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The Lilburne Infection and more on Walker and Mabbott

I found another pamphlet with folks locked up in the Tower with Lilburne borrowing some of his arguments.  This time, it’s about the Lords not being allowed to try a commoner.  What’s interesting is that this time, at least one of them (the only one I’ve checked up on), was a staunch Presbyterian, imprisoned for his role in the attempted 1647 counter-revolution.  Yet even he borrows from Lilburne.  I can see why Lilburne was considered to be so dangerous.  He was infectious.

I had one other thought on Walker and Mabbott’s relationship.  In one of his petitions to the Lords, Walker complained that Mabbott (among other things) would refuse to license some news items.  Perhaps Walker’s distaste for Mabbott was simply due to Mabbott’s censorship of Walker.  I’m not sure about that, though.  I still need to think about some of the ramifications.  The problem still seems to run deeper than that, especially considering Walker’s connections to the Headquarters.  I’ll keep working on it.

I also ran across a pamphlet on the trial and execution of Sir Walter Raleigh.  I’m sure it has import to early 1648, but I can’t quite tell what.  Since it was licensed, my best guess is that was an attempt to show a particularly “tyrannical” proceeding (part of the campaign to get England ready to fight again), but it’s another thing I still need to think over.  I tried to compare it to reprints of Strafford’s trial or Buckingham’s escapades, but it seems to be a wholly different animal.

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Filed under Henry Walker, Levellers, Long Parliament, Mabbott, New Model, Print Culture

Strange Things in the Archives

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.

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The Agreements of the People

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.

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Mabbott and Walker

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!

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Filed under Henry Walker, Mabbott, New Model