Lilburne, John

, a remarkable English enthusiast, was descended from an ancient family in the county of Durham, where his father, Richard Lilburne, was possessed of a handsome estate*, especially at Thickney-Purcharden, the seat of the family upon which he resided, and Lad this son, who was born in 1613. Being a younger child, he was designed for a trade; and was put apprentice at twelve years of age, to a wholesale clothier in London, who, as well as his father, was disaffected to the hierarchy. The youth, we are told, had a prompt genius and a forward temper above his years, which shewed itself conspicuously, not long after, in a complaint to the citychamberlain of his master’s ill-usage; by which, having obtained more liberty, he purchased a multitude of books favourable to his notions of politics and religion; and having his imagination warmed with a sense of suffering and resentment, he became at length so considerable among his party, as to be consulted upon the boldest of their undertakings against the hierarchy, while yet an apprentice.

The consequence he attained flattered his vanity, and he could no longer think of following his trade. In 1636, being introduced by the teacher of his congregation, to Dr. Bastwick, then a star-chamber prisoner in the Gatehouse for sedition, Bastwick easily prevailed with him to carry a piece he had lately written against the bishops, to Holland, and get it printed there. Lilburne, having dis­* It is worth police that he was the when the trial was put off by the

last person who joined itsue in the an- judge* till at last it was ordered, at

cient custom of a trial by battle. It the king’s instance, by parliament, that

was with one Ralph Auxton, for lands a bill should be brought in to take

of the value of 200l. per ann. The away that trial, in 1641. Rushworth’s

two champions appeared in the court, “Collections,” vol. I. armed cap-a-pie, with sand l>ag, &c. | patched this important affair, returned to England in a few months with the pamphlet, Bastwick’s “Merry Liturgy,” as it was called, and a cargo of other pieces of a similar kind. These he dispersed with much privacy, until, being betrayed by his associate, he was apprehended; and, after examination before the council-board and high commission court, to whose rales he refused to conform, he was found guilty of printing and publishing several seditious books, particularly “News from Ipswich,” a production of Prynne’s. Lilburne was condemned Feb. 1637, to be whipped at the cart’s tail from the Fleet-prison to Old Palace Yard, Westminster; then set upon the pillory there for two hours; afterwards to be carried back to the Fleet, there to remain till he conformed to the rules of the court; also to pay a fine of 500l. to the king; and, lastly, to give security for his good behaviour. He underwent this sentence with an undismayed obstinacy, uttering many bold speeches against the bishops, and dispersing many pamphlets from the pillory, where, after the star-chamber then sitting had ordered him to be gagged, he stamped with his feet. The spirit he shewed upon this occasion procured him the nickname of “Free-born John” among the friends to the government, and among his own party the title of Saint. In prison he was loaded with double irons on his arms and legs, and put into one of the closest wards; but, being suspected to have occasioned a fire which broke out near that ward, he was removed into a better, at the earnest solicitation both of the neighbours and prisoners. The first nse he made of his present more convenient situation, was to publish a piece of his own writing, entitled “The Christian Man’s Trial,” in 4to, “Nine arguments against episcopacy,” and several “Epistles to the Wardens of the Fleet.

He wrote several other pamphlets, before the long parliament granted him the liberties of the Fleet, Nov. 1640, which indulgence he likewise abused by appearing on May 3, 1641, at the head of a savage mob, who clamoured for justice against the earl of Stratford. Next day he was seized and arraigned at the bar of the House of Lords, for an assault upon colonel Lunsford, the governor of the Tower; but the temper of the times being now in his favour, he was dismissed, and the same day a vote passed in the House of Commons, declaring his former sentence illegal and tyrannical, and that he ought to have reparation | for his sufferings and losses. This reparation was effectual, although slow. It was not until April 7, 1646, that a decree of the House of Lords passed for giving him two thousand pounds out of the estates of lord Cottington, sir Banks Windehank, and James Ingram, warden of the Fleet; and it was two years after before he received the money, in consequence of a petition to the House of Commons, when he obtained an ordinance for 3000l. worth of the delinquents’ lands, to be sold to him at twelve years purchase. This ordinance included a grant for some part of the sequestered estates of sir Henry Bellingham and Mr. Bowes, in the counties of Durham or Northumberland, from which he received about 1400l.; and Cromwell, soon after his return from Ireland, in May 1650, procured him a grant of lands for the remainder. This extraordinary delay was occasioned entirely by himself.

When the parliament had voted an army to oppose the king, Lilburne entered as a volunteer, was a captain of foot at the battle of Edge-hill, and fought well in the engagement at Brentford, Nov. 12, 1612, but being taken prisoner, was carried to Oxford, and would have been tried and executed for high treason, had not his parliamentary friends threatened retaliation. After this, as he himself informs us, he was exchanged very honourably above his rank, and rewarded with a purse of 300l. by the earl of Essex. Yet, when that general began to press the Scots’ covenant upon his followers, Lilburne quarrelled with him, and by Cromwell’s interest was made a major of foot, Oct. 1643, in the new-raised army under the earl of Manchester. In this station he behaved very well, and narrowly escaped with his life at raising the siege of Newark by prince Rupert; but at the same time he quarrelled with his colonel (King), and accused him of several misdemeanours, to the earl, who immediately promoted him to be lieutenant-colonel of his own regiment of dragoons. This post Lilburne sustained with signal bravery at the battle of Marston-moor, in July; yet he had before that quarrelled with the earl for not bringing colonel King to a trial by a court* martial; and upon Cromwell’s accusing his lordship to the House of Commons, Nov. 1644, Lilburne appeared before the committee in support of that charge. Nor did he rest until he had procured an impeachment to be exhibited in the House of Commons in August this year, against colonel King for high crimes and | misdemeanours. Little attention being paid to this, he first offered a petition to the House, to bring the colonel to his trial, and still receiving no satisfaction, he published a coarse attack upon the earl of Manchester, in 1646. Being called before the House of Lords, where that nobleman was speaker, on account of this publication, he not only refused to answer the interrogatories, but protested against their jurisdiction over him in the present case; on which he was first committed to Newgate, and then to the Tower. He then appealed to the House of Commons; and upon their deferring to take his case into consideration, he charged that House, in print, not only with having done nothing of late years for the general good, but also with having made many ordinances notoriously unjust and oppressive. This pamphlet, which was called “The Oppressed man’s oppression,” being seized, he printed another, entitled “The Resolved man’s resolution,” in which he maintained “that the present parliament ought to be pulled down, and a new one called, to bring them to a strict account, as the only means of saving the laws and liberties of England from utter destruction,” This not availing, he applied to the agitators in the army; and at length, having obtained liberty every day to go, without his keeper, to attend the committee appointed about his business, and to return every night to the Tower, he made use of that indulgence to engage in some seditious practices. For this he was recommitted to the Tower, and ordered to be tried; but, upon the parliament’s apprehensions from the Cavaliers, on prince Charles’s appearing with a fleet in the Downs, he procured a petition, signed by seven or eight thousand persons, to be presented to the House, which made an order, in August 1648, to discharge him from imprisonment*, and to make him satisfaction for his sufferings. This was not compassed, however, without a series of conflicts and quarrels with Cromwell; who, returning from Ireland in

* See the trial, which was printed power of the law, as well as fact. In

by him under the name of " Theodo- the same print, over his head, appear

rus Verax," to which he prefixed, by the two faces of a medal, upon one of

way of triumph, a print of himself at which were inscribed the names of the

full length, standing at the bar with jury, and on the other these words:

Coke’s Institutes in his hand, the book " John Lilburne saved by the power of

that he made use of to prove that flat- the Lord, and the integrity of his jury,

tering doctrine, which he applied with who are judges of law as well as fact,

singular address to the jury, that in October 26, 1649." them alone was inherent the judicial | May 1650, and finding Lilburne in a peaceable disposition witli regard to the parliament, procured him the remainder of his grant for reparations above-mentioned. This was gratefully acknowledged by his antagonist, who, however, did not continue long in that humour; for, having undertaken a dispute in law, in which his uncle George Lilburne happened to be engaged, he petitioned the parliament on that occasion with his usual boldness in 1651; and this assembly fined him in the sum of 7000l. to the state, and banished him the kingdom. Before this, however, could be carried into execution, he went in Jan. 1651-2, to Amsterdam; where, having printed an apology for himself, he sent a copy of it, with a letter, to Cromwell, charging him as the principal promoter of the act of his banishment. He had also several conferences with some of the royalists, to whom he engaged to restore Charles II. by his interest with the people, for the small sum of 10,000l. but no notice was taken of a design which, had it been plausible, could never have been confided to such a man. He then remained in exile, without hopes of re-visiting England, till the dissolution of the long parliament; on which event, not being able to obtain a pass, he returned without one, in June 1657; and being seized and tried at the Old Bailey, he was a second time acquitted by his jury. Cromwell, incensed by this contempt of his power, which was now become despotic, had him curried to Portsmouth, in order for transportation; but the tyrant’s wrath was averted, probably by Lilburne* s brother Robert, one of his major-generals, * upon whose bail for his behaviour he was suffered to return. After this, he settled at Khham, in Kent, where he passed the short remainder of his days in tranquillity, giving, however, another proof of his versatile principles, by joining the quakers, among whom he preached, in and about Eltham, till his death, Aug. 29, 1657, in his forty- ninth year. He was interred in the then new burial place in Moor-fields, near the place now called Old Bedlam; four thousand persons attending his burial.

Wood characterizes him as a person “from his youth much addicted to contention, novelties, opposition of government, and to violent and bitter expressions;” “the idol of the factious people;” “naturally a great troubleworld in all the variety of governments, a hodge-podge of religion, the chief ring-leader of the levellers, a great | proposal-maker, and a modeller of state, and publisher of several seditious pamphlets, and of so quarrelsome a disposition, that it was appositely said of him (by judge Jenkins), * that, if there was none living but he, John would be against Lilburne, and Ltlburne against John.‘ ’ Lord Clarendon instances him” as an evidence of the temper of the nation; and how far the spirits at that time (in 1653) were from paying a submission to that power, when nobody had the courage to lift up their hands against it.“Hume says that he was” the most turbulent, but the most upright and courageous of human kind;“and more recent biographers have given him credit for the consistency of his principles. We doubt, however, whether this consistency will bear a very close examination: it is true that he uniformly inveighed against tyranny, whether that of a king, a protector, or a parliament; but such was his selfish love of liberty, that he included under the name of tyranny, every species of tribunal which did not acquit men. of his turbulent disposition, and it would not be easy from his writings to make out any regular form of government, or system of political principles, likely to prove either permanent or beneficial. In these, however, may be found the models of all those wild schemes which men of similartempers have from time to time obtruded upon public attention. As matters of curiosity, therefore, we shall add a list of his principal publications: i.” A.Salva Libertate.“2.” The Outcry of the young men and the apprentices of London; or an inquisition after the loss of the fundamental Laws and Liberties of England,“&c. London, 1645, August 1, in 4to. 3.” Preparation to an Hue and Cry after sir Arthur Haselrig.“4.A Letter to a Friend,“dated the 20th of July, 1645, in 4to. 5.A Letter to William Prynne, esq.“dated the 7th of January, 1645. This was written upon occasion of Mr. Prynne’s” Truth triumphing over Falshood, Antiquity over Novelty.“6.London’s Liberty in Chains discovered,“&c. London, 1646, in 4to. 7.” The free man’s freedom vindicated; or a true relation of the cause and manner of Lieutenant-Colonel John Lilburne’s present Imprisonment in Newgate,“&c. London, 1646. 8.” Charters of London, or the second part of London’s Liberty in Chains discovered,“&c. London, 1646, 28 Decemb. 9.” Two Letters from the Tower of London to Colonel Henry Martin, a member of the House of Commons, upon the 13th | and 15th of September 1647.“10.” Other Letters of great concern,“London, 1647. 11.” The resolved man’s resolution to maintain with the last drop of his blood his civil liberties and freedoms granted unto him by the great, just, and truest declared Laws of England,“&c. London, 1647, in 4to. 12.” His grand plea against the present tyrannical House of Lords, which he delivered before an open Committee of the House of Commons, 20 Octob. 1647,“printed in 1647, in 4to. 13.” His additional Plea directed to Mr. John Maynard, Chairman of the Committee,“1647, in 4to. 14.” The Outcries of oppressed Commons, directed to all the rational and understanding in the kingdom of England and dominion of Wales,“&c. Febr. 1647, in 4to. Richard Overton, another Leveller, then in Newgate, had an hand in this pamphlet. 15.Jonah’s Cry out of the Whale’s Belly, in certain Epistles unto Lieutenant General Cromwell and Mr. John Goodwin, complaining of the tyranny of the Houses of Lords and Commons at Westminster,“&c. 16.” An Impeachment of High Treason against Oliver Cromwell and his son-in-law Henry Ireton, esquires, late Members of the forcibly dissolved House of Commons, presented to publick view by Lieutenant-Colonel John Lilburne, close prisoner in the Tower of London, for his zeal, true and zealous affection to the liberties of this nation,“London, 1649, in 4to. 17.” The legal fundamental Liberties of the People of England revived, asserted, and vindicated,“&c. London, 1649. 18.” Two Petitions presented to the supreme authority of the nation from thousands of the lords, owners, and commoners of Lincolnshire,“&c. London, 1650, in 4to. In a paper which he delivered to the House of Commons, Feb. 26, 1648-9, with the hands of many levellers to it, in the name of” Addresses to the Supreme Authority of England,“and in” The Agreement of the people," published May 1, 1649, and written by him and his associates Walwyn, Prince, and Overton, are their proposals for a democratic form of government. 1


Biog. Brit.