A solemn Engagement of the Army

The Levellers page

The english Souldiers Standard

The poore Wise-mans

All the plaine People
of London, and
the Neighbour-Places.

To strengthen them in the houre of temptation,
that they may be happy and exemplary
instruments to all other People,
in preserving the City, Parliament,
and whole Nation,
from imminent and sudden destruction.

Printed in the Yeere 1647.

Deare Friends;

ALTHOUGH ye and your families, are they who in all publike calamities do suffer most, yet seem ye altogether insensible of your owne danger untill it be directly upon you, yee looke not into publike affaires your selves, but trust wholly unto others; and if they either through weaknesse, wilfulnesse, corruption or treacherie faile in their trust or turne oppressors and tyrants, ye remaine liable to be deluded and betrayed by them into tumults, wars, miseries and bondage.

But believe it, yee have need to look about you, and that verie quickly, to see into affaires your selves, and understand how things go, for ye are likely very speedily to be put upon the greatest triall of your wisdom and faithfulnesse that ever men were put upon; which if ye withstand or get cleare through with an upright mind, your peace, freedome, and happinesse will certainly be continued, but if ve yeeld yee will involve yourselves, your wives, children and servants into far greater miseries and extremities then those ye have already past through.

The case is briefly and truly thus, ye remember in what a languishing distracted condition ye were in, before the warre was betrusted to the present Army, then called, The new Modell, and with what faithfulnesse, diligence, expedition and courage thay have vanquish'd the enemy, restored you to your trades and livelihoods, which ye cannot with any conscience, but thankfully acknowledge and remember.

But what they by their fidelity and activity gained abroad, is through want of care utterly destroyed at home; for whilst they supplant the enemy in strength, he is supplyed with authority, and so in effect made Master of that strength by which he hath been vanquished.

Ye will wonder how it should be so, and yet if yee shall judge the tree by the fruits, which is so infallible a rule that it cannot deceive you, ye shall find nothing more evident.

For, what Authority now extant can ye name, that affords this Army any countenance or encouragement? nay, that hath not manifested a jealousie and hatred of them, and that most unjustly, seeing the Army is still the same it was, minding the safety, peace, freedome and happinesse of all peaceable people without any difference at all.

But herein it consisteth, Authority is changed and hath proposed other ends to it selfe now at last, then when this Army was first raised; those men that saw a necessity of their raising, which appeared from the languishing condition of the Kingdome under the former Forces, had then the major Vote and the opposite party were esteemed dis-affected favourers of the enemy, Remora's to the honest proceedings of the House at that time, but are now become by the addition of divers ill affected men of knowne malignity out of the quarters redeemed from the enemy, the swaying party weigh down the ballance, and decree all.

From hence proceeds this different aspect upon the Army; the late bitter Declaration against them for endeavouring to petition their owne Generall in an orderly and peaceable way, for that which many by their losse of health, and all of them by induring the hardships and extremities of war, and hazarding their lives, have dearly earned; these are now judged enemies to the State, disturbers of the peace, even of purpose to turn the faces of honest men against them, and all to maintaine the unjust cause, and work out the wicked designes of tyrants and oppressors.

Divers men by corruptions are growne rich, from small estates or nothing to be very wealthy; and find ing that this Army and such as love them, because they love their Country, are inquisitive and unwilling to see the State abused, and the people defrauded, fearing that the mountaines of wealth they have raised, may yet be returned to their right owners, or the common stock, and that their unjust actions may undergo scrutiny and tryall, have for prevention thereof, desperatly resolved to embroyle us in a new warre, and bring all to the former confusion, if not utter desolation; finding by experience, that they can fish best in troubled waters and escape best in the presse; that corruption and injustice is no otherwise mantainable, but by might and force, and for that very end and purpose have contrived to engage you against the Army, and those that wish them well, by which policie they suppose all your thoughts wil be diverted from thinking upon them and their corruptions.

In order to this, the Army and their friends are made odious to you, as Sectaries, even as heretofore the well-affected party were rendered hateful to you as Puritans; they provoke the Army what they can, by declaring them disturbers of the peace, molesting divers of their Officers and Souldiers, sleighting petitions of many thousands of good and godly people, and burning some of them by the common Hang-man, and by many other signes giving them to see what they and their friends are like to suffer after disbanding, hoping hereby to put them upon extremitie, and enforce them to stand upon their guard, and capitulate for their safety, which they will interpret rebellion, and hold forth to you as a true ground of destroying them, inciting you from thence to take up Armes, and engage in their unjust quarrell, even for the maintenance of their exorbitant wills, and ambitious ends, yea and defence of their lives and ill-gotten estates.

The heads of this designe are the corrupt men in the House of Commons, even such as have been formerly of the enemies party abroad, and done him services here at home, by discovering our counsels (as appeareth by interception of some of their letters,) partaking with the conspirators in the City (as in Wallers plot) opposing the raising of this Army, (by which the worke hath been so speedily ended) appearing crosse in all debates of the House for redresse of grievances, or relief of the oppressed and much abused people, constantly manifesting, That they have proposed other ends to themselves, then the common good of the Nation.

Assistant to these is the Mayor of London, hitherto past over, (when the well-affected party had most sway in the City) as a man favouring the enemy, and never manifesting any affection to the Parliament, in their undertaking to make us a free people: also many of the Aldermen and great men of the Citie whose interest depends upon Prerogative, and is supported by the subjection of the plaine people.

The City Militia likewise in reference to this project was altered, because the former men who had shewed themselves faithfull to the Common-wealth and City, were not (it seems) judged fit instruments for this secret work; and yee the Commoners of London likewise, they hope, will by some deceitfull trick or other follow, though to the destruction of your selves, your wives and families.

This makes them so confidently give out, that if the Army will not disband, that ye the plaine men of this City, your sons and servants shall make a new Army to compell them; they verily thinke yee are not so well principled as to collect your thoughts (on such a sudden as they intend to surprize you) and consider what a dangerous businesse to the whole Kingdome ye go about, but that ye will doe it for no other reason, but because they bid you: that ye will forget the good services that the Army have done, the speedie overthrow of a powerfull enemy, the so sudden recovery of trading by the ending of a long and languishing warre, which if continued, had in probability utterly wasted your Traine Bands, and hazzarded the ruine both of City and Kingdome.

These benefits (they think) they can easily make you forget, with old tales of private mens preaching, Conventicles, rebaptizing; and now by clamours of rebellion, and contempt of authority, which both the present necessity, and the common safety of the People requireth as a duty, and is purposely procured by themselves, for the maintenance of their tyranny and corruptions.

But look back into what is past, and survey the actions of these men, their weekly donations of great summes amongst themselves, their pride and Lordlinesse: Compare them with the Army; see if the Army have not made themselves poor, to make the Common-wealth rich, whilest these men have made themselves rich and us poore.

Consider whether these men, and their Agents, who shall be most forward to egg you on, and cry an Alarme, have not made advantages of your troubles, swolne great by the losse of your Friends and Neighbours bloods, whilest they that ingaged most heartily, are disrespected, the poor Souldiers unpaid, the widdow and fatherlesse by warre little regarded, so small recompence made, as there is scarce a livelihood afforded to them that have lost their limbs out of affection to their Countrey, whilest those that shall appeare most earnest for a new warre, are such as know the way very well how to thrive by it, have gained thousands by the former, found the sweetnesse of having the Common-wealth money at their dispose: And as they have been liberall every week, in converting the Common-wealths Treasury to their owne particular coffers, so hope they (with all possible speed, and by all indirect means) to be yet more bountifull, and for every hundred, give one another a thousand.

Consider, that warres are easily and suddenly, and out of a heat begun, but very hardly and slowly ended: Let late experience make us wise, so to foresee evills, as we may prevent them. The Scots will be ingaged againe, and forraigne Forces called in, which is already attempted by private Agents, from the aforesaid corrupt and ill-affected party in the Parliament.

This Citie may avoid all their malice, and crush all their wicked designes in the birth, before they come forth, if they will but abate their unjust and causelesse eagernesse against men of different opinions, and equally consider the just cause, desires and intentions of the Armie, and the peaceablenesse of those people in the Citie and Countrey, who did lately petition for libertie, and that their ends herein are evidently the good and peace of all men.

Take it to heart also, that we are in as much bondage as before this Padiament; all sorts of men are insensible of it, and full of complaints; the very oppressions cried out upon at the beginning of this Parliament, and removed, are not onely now again practised, but many new ones brought upon us; besides that which alone amounts to all the rest, the EXCISE, which (upon pretence of paying publike debts, and supplying other to-be-invented necessities) is like to be a lasting burden upon us.

Customes are still as much inhanced as ever, without any convoy and protection of Merchants, which is the end of paying them, and the poore Seamen and Marriners wrack'd to the utmost point of extreamity: infinite sums have been dispended, and yet debts both unpaid, and the publike Treasury emptied.

Consider the grievances complained of in the late Petition which was burned, and collect from thence what usage ye are like to finde, unlesse ye resolve to sit downe under oppression, and expect no redresse of grievances, which those honest men petitioning for in a discreet, peaceable, and humble manner, were abused, reproached, some of them imprisoned, the rest threatned, all termed seditious, and what not, even as men formerly were for moving against Ship-money, and the oppressions of those times.

In this lamentable condition, the honest and plaine people being still now, as they were then, in greatest danger, and wicked men most secure, and not only most countenanced by Authority, but endeavoured to be brought into all places thereof; judge, ye citizens of London, and other neighbour-places, whether the Army have not just cause, to stand upon their guard, and whether it be not high time for them again to appear for the defence and protection of the distressed people of this land; judge likewise what kind of enemies to the common wealth, peace, freedom, and safety of this Nation they are that shal oppose them herein, how inexcusable and evidently guilty of procuring their owne bondage, and maintaining abused authority, to their owne misery, if not destruction: yet this is the strong temptation wherewith ye are likely very suddenly to be assaulted.

The bait they will use will be the suppressing of Hereticks and Schismaticks, which henceforth ye shall find to be but nick-names for any that oppose Tyrants and Oppressors, by which they have ever endeavoured to make those odious to the rude multitude, whose honestie and conscience could not otherwise be blemished

Looke therefore with a cleare eye upon the Army and those that love and affect them, whether in Parliament or elsewhere, and see if they be not the truest promoters of just freedome, least advancers of themselves; and when ye are tried, may ye prove like gold seven times fined in the fire; so shall your wisdome, faithfulnesse, thankfulnesse and integrity appeare in this sad day of Englands greatest extremity, when a major vote of Parliament must of necessity be disobeyed.

But this is an age of wonders: what greater wonder I pray, is there in this Nation, then a continuall Parliament, already drawing to the end of the seventh yeare; or that this Parliament should begin in suppressing the High-commission, Star-chamber, Bishops, Popish Lords and all oppressors, make a most bloody war against them, subdue them by a faithfull Army, and now act, tolerate, and justifie the same oppressions, under other notions, hate none so much as those that abhor oppression, and likewise vex, molest, and suffer to be hanged those very Souldiers that preserved their own lives, even in their greatest extremities, and that for actions necessarily and warrantably performed in prosecution of their own services.

And because all admonitions are most acceptable when the causes thereof are cleared, and proved to be good and just, by true examples, and forcible reasons, I will give an instance for your better satisfaction, in the things whereof I forewarne you, and so fore-arme you, Yee cannot but remember, that as those peaceable people who were at the beginuing of this Parliament, called Round-heads, and afterwards Independents, and by such other Titles as best please the Clergy to devise, and the rude multitude to expresse, did adventure their lives voluntarily day and night, in guarding and defending the Parliament against all their enemies, who were like to swallow them up, before they had either guard or Army to take their part; and did not this worthy Army the like unto them, when no other Army could doe the businesse?

Dit not yee your selves, and many thousands of others, bestow a great part of your estates freely and voluntarily to help, further, and assist the Parliament in all their publick affaires for the Common-weale, and safety of the people: and yet now, who are more despised, hated and persecuted by means or conivance of the Parliament, then both yee, they, and the Army, who have been their truest and best friends? And likewise, who have been more assessed and extorted in advancing more and more summes to fill their Coffers, then those who gave them most freely and liberally at the first; yea, and too many of them more then they could well spare.

Therefore, deare friends, remember this seasonable and loving premonition, while it is yet time, that when yee have done all yee can, and perhaps past the bounds of your abilities, yee may easily perceive both by former experience your selves, and infinite discontents, murmurings and out-cries of others, that if yee doe not persist both in fulfilling their wils in what they wil command concerning your bodies, and in yeelding what they will demand of your Estates, yea, or refuse them in any jot, or trifle they require, though never so unjust, ye will be subject to loose all ye have done, and their favour too.

These are wonders indeed, besides hundreds of others which might be expressed; but these if well weighed will put you upon examination how it is possible such things as these should be.

The Army doubtlesse doth highly esteme the authority of Parliament, being rightly constituted, and intending the well-fare and safety of the people, and such a Parliament both the Army and the well-affected of the Kingdome thought this would have proved; for which they have fought, as for their own and the peoples liberties.

But when through the policies, feastings, private letters, making use of interests and relations, with many other indirect practices, elections shall be corrupted, and not freely made by the people, but in effect the one part of the Parliament procure the election of the other when by meanes hereof the ill affected party is growne most potent, and the peoples faithfull friends are overpowred, when their courses shall tend evidently to make themselves great, upon the peoples ruins, even to prevent the end for which a Parliament is called, is there any just cause to the contrary, but the same necessity and publike safety that justifieth the Parliament against the King, will also justifie the Army against them, by the same rule of right reason, and law of equity, as the souldiers of an Army may oppose the Generall, when he turneth the mouth of his Cannon upon them.

And all this the Army do not against, but for Parliaments, as the onely orderly meanes for the peoples safety, and freedome now in such a high time of extreame danger, after the tryall of all other lawfull and possible faire and submissive meanes.

It is not to be imagined, that the Army meaneth in any wise to usurpe the government, or give lawes to their brethren; nothing can be more odious to their spirits, or further from their thoughts: their ayme is only to rescue and succour the people that are oppressed, and defend themselves from the malicious plots and practices of wicked men, untill such time as the right constitution of Parliaments be recovered, the Accompt of the Kingdomes Treasury required, and the Authors of our miseries according to justice punished.

The obstruction whereunto is a great number of tyrannicall and oppressive men in the House, against whom just execptions will be evidently made appeare to all the world; if upon offer of proofe, all these enormities should be set into a way of tryall, this great and much threatning designe, may be prevented, without trouble, warre or bloodshed, wherein it rests in you at this time to do very much.

If ye forbeare to engage against the Army, whom God hath made his instruments to deliver you, and withall, second their just desires for purging out the corrupt Members of the Parliament, ye will not onely herein be an example of wisdome, fidelity and integrity to the whole Nation, but prevent a world of mischiefe and inconvenience, which otherwise might come to passe by your negligence, or rather slavish obedience.

Ye cannot but perceive, that in the great alteration which is made of the Committee of the Militia and the removall of your knowne Commanders in the forces of London, that they intend to engage you against the Army. Is not this evident to all judicious men? For what neede is there of any such change now at this time, and that onely of such persons as are affected to the Army?

Let not faire shewes or pretences of zeale, religion, or reformation of whatsoever kinde any longer delude you, but observe him for a traitor to his Countrey, that would now entangle you in any unjust warre against a most worthy Army, whom God hath so exceedingly blessed, yea and you also and all of us, by their faithfull meanes and effectuall endeavours.

Looke wisely and narrowly to your Officers of trust in all places, and see that they bring forth fruits suitable to your peace, preservation, and freedome, or else shun them as serpents, whose property is to destroy you.

Be not deluded into a groundlesse beliefe, that the Army do intend any kinde of prejudice to any just interest, or propriety in the Common wealth, seeing they have manifested both by word and deed to the world, in despite of the mallice of all their treacherous enemies (though pretended friends) that the outmost extent of their desires, is onely to see equity and justice florish in all Estates, so that no man may be punished under the colour of law or otherwise, without a just cause.

Allow the Army to be as free Englishmen as any whosoever, and your worthy and beloved brethren; have not many of you fought, shed your blood, and adventured your lives in the very same just cause for which they most couragiously do yet (through Gods goodnesse) stand. And would yee now unjustly resigne both that good cause, and so renowned an Army, into the treacherous and bloody hands of such as maliciously hate both them and you, howsoever, they may flatter you at this time for their own base ends, but neither for your own nor the Kingdomes good.

God forbid that so just a cause which hitherto hath been so valiantly prosecuted, should escape so many and violent stormes, and cruell tempests in the main Ocean, and yet perish in the Harbor, and that only for want of prudence and timely care.

But our hope is, that the same just and good God, who hath hitherto preserved you, the Army, Citie, Parliament, and just cause, will also in his due and appointed time, to his own everlasting praise, and the comfort of all that trust in him, perfect his great worke in justice and righteousness, if in the mean time yee will be so truly wise, as to be thankfull for mercies received, and not forgetfull of the worthy instruments he hath employed for your preservation, but doe them good to your utmost abilitiese in the day of their visitation.

So shall God crown all your labours of love with peace, and both your selves, the whole Nation and posterity with freedome.


The Printer to the Reader.

I Desire thee to amend with thy pen, one fault escaped in the printing, by negligence, and the Authors absence, which is in the 3. page and 10. line, namely secretaries for sectaries: And if there be any more faults (as none liveth without some) I also desire that thou wilt shew thy patience by thy silence, and that thou may rather make a profitable use of the sence, then anywise strive about words; even as thou wouldest except the like favour of me or any other in thy absence, if thou be one that shewest thy selfe thus carefull and zealous for the publike: especially now in such extreeme need. Farewell.

F l N l S.

A solemn Engagement of the Army

The Levellers page

The english Souldiers Standard

Last modified: Apr 23, 2001, /english/levtbe.html