The Levellers

1647: A pact between Cromwell and The Levellers

This pamphlet is in print and available from your bookshop ISBN 0 9528073 3

This 'Engagement' came about after a disagreement between Parliament and Cromwell's army during the English Civil War. It had fallen into utter obscurity and its historical importance has not, to my knowledge, been recognised.

What it represents is an ultimatum to parliament to stop negotiations with the king. The threat was that if the negotiations did not stop immediately the army would progress day by day towards the House of Commons until negotiations ceased. The ultimate sanction was a military attack on the Commons itself which the army grandees would, for reasons of political credibility, have wanted to avoid at all costs.
This was an audacious thing for the unelected army to do and could be taken as military dictatorship by Cromwell's faction. Because of this worry the ultimatum (couched in the most polite language possible) was justified by the assertion that the army had made its decison based not on the arbitrary will of a few, but at an army council meeting where two elected soldiers, or agitators, from each regiment, were able to vote.

Two years later the officers' promise, contained in this document, to allow two agitators from each regiment at army council meetings, had been discarded by Cromwell.

But not by The Levellers, who held the grandees' to their pledge not to disband nor divide the army unless it was agreed to by the agitators.
Their mutiny in Salisbury ended in tragedy but this was the document that they used to justify their refusal to make the choice of either disbanding without pay or going to fight in Ireland.  It was read aloud to Parliamentary troops, many of whom then joined the ill-fated mutiny.


A
SOLEMNE ENGAGEMENT
of the Army under the Command
of his Excellency Sir THOMAS FAIRFAX;
with a Declaration of their Resolutions,
as to disbanding; and a briefe Vindication
of their principles and intentions in relation
to divers scandalous things suggested
against them.

Together with the representations of the dis-satis-
factions of the Army, in relation to the late Resoluti-
ons for so sodain disbanding: shewing the particu-
lars of their former grievances; wherein they did remaine
unsatisfied: and the reasons thereof, unanimously
agreed upon, and subscribed by the Officers and
Souldiers of the severall Regiments, at
the Randezvous neare New-Market on
fryday and saturday June 4. and 5.

Presented to the Generall, and by him to be humbly
presented to the P A R L I A M E N T.

With his Excellencies Letter to the Speaker
June the 8. sent with the same.

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London ; Printed for George Whittington, at the Blew
Anchor in Cornhill neare the Royall Exchange.
1 6 4 7 .


Mr. SPEAKER:

In my Last I promised to send you by the next an Account of the Proceedings and Resolutions of the Army at the late Randezvous: I have sent you the same in two Papers unanimously agreed upon there, by both Officers and Souldiers: I finde in one of them divers things which your later proceedings since the Resolution of disbanding may have given satisfaction unto: But the Army having then no knowledge thereof, it was thus passed and delivered to mee, and I cannot but send it to them: you may see what they then did remaine unsatisfied in.
Understanding, that his Majesty and your Commissioners were much straitened and disaccommodated in the House at Childerley, I went thither yesterday to advise with your Commissioners about the disposal of his Majesty, for more conveniency to himselfe and them, then that place did afford: The Commissioners were pleased wholly to refuse giving of any advice or opinion at all in the businesse, and therefore the King declaring his Resolution not to goe back to Holdenby, unlesse he were forced, yet complaining much of the inconveniency he suffered where he was, and pressing for a remove to New-Market, and your Commissioners not judging it inconvenient for him to be there: I ordered Col. Whalley this day to attend his Majesty, and the Commissioners thither, with a trusty and sufficient Guard of two Regiments of Horse, which accordingly was this day done, and his Majesty, with the Commissioners, gone to New-Market, but not through Cambridge. This businesse taking up the sole time yesterday, and it being necessary his Majesty should be disposed of: Before the place of Randezvous could well be resolved on, this morning at a Councell of Warre, it was judged inconvenient, and scarce possible to draw to a Randezvous to morrow early enough to dispatch anything; Therefore it is appointed on Thirsday morning at nine of the Clock: and in regard of his Majesties going to New-Market, it was thought fit by the Councell of Warre, that the place of Randezvous might be altered from New-Market-Heath to Triploe- Heath, five miles from this Towne: I shall take care that your Commissioners if they come to New--Market, may have notice of this alteration from the former appointment.
I remaine


Your most humble servant,

Cambridge June 8.
1 6 4 7 .

T. F A I R F A X.

_____________________________________________________________________________

For the Honorable William Lenthall,
Esquire, Speaker of the Honourable
House of Commons.


A SOLEMNE
ENGAGEMENT
OF THE
ARMY,
UNDER
The Command of his Excellency
Sr. THOMAS FAIRFAX,

Read, assented unto, and subscribed by all
Officers, and Souldiers of the several Regi-
ments, at the generall Randezvous, neare
Newmarket, on the fift of June,
1647.

Whereas upon the Petition intended and agreed upon in the Army, in March last, to have been presented to the Generall, for the obtaining of our due and necessary concernments as Souldiers; the Honourable House of Commons being unseasonably prepossessed with a Copie thereof, and ( as by the sequell we suppose ) with some strange misrepresentations of the carriage and intentions of the same, was induced to send down an Order for suppressing the Petition, and Within two or three dayes after, upon further misinformation, and scandalous suggestions, of the like or worse nature, and by the indirect practice of some malitious and mischievous persons ( as we suppose ) surprizing or otherwise abusing the Parliament. A Declaration was published in the name of both Houses, highly censuring the said petition, and declaring the Petitioners, if they should proceed thereupon, no lesse then enemies to the State, and disturbers of the publick peace. And whereas at the same time and since, divers eminent Officers of the Army have been brought into question and trouble about the said Petition, whereby both they and the rest of the Officers were disabled, or discouraged for the time, from further acting or appearing therein on the souldiers behalfe; And whereas by the aforesaid proceedings and the effects thereof, the souldiers of this Army ( finding themselves so stop't in their due, and regular way of making knowne their just grievances, and desires to, and by their Officers ) were enforced to an unusuall ( but in that case necessary ) way of correspondence and agreement amongst themselves, to chose out of the severall Troops and Companies severall men, and those out of their whole number, to chose two or more for each Regiment, to act in the name and behalfe of the whole souldiery of the respective Regiments, Troops and Companies, in the prosecution of their rights and desires in the said Petition, as also of their just vindication and writing in reference to the aforesaid proceedings upon and against the same, who have accordingly acted and done many things to those ends, all which the souldiers did then approve as their owne Acts. And whereas afterwards, upon the sending downe of Field-Marshall Skippon, and those other Officers of the Army that were Members of the House of Commons, to quiet distempers in the Army, fresh hopes being conceived of having our desires againe admitted to be made knowne, and considered in a regular way, and without such misrepresentations as formerly, the Officers and souldiers of the Army ( except some few dissenting Officers ) did againe joyne in a representation of their common grievances, and the Officers ( except as before ) did agree upon a Narrative accompt of the grounds, rise, and growth of the discontents in the Army, and their proceedings in relation thereunto, with an overture of the best expedients, to remove or satisfie the same, both which were presented to the same Members of the House, and by them reported to the House, and whereas the Parliament having thereupon voted, and ordered some particulars, onely toward satisfaction of our grievances, hath since proceeded to certaine resolutions of sodaine, disbanding the Army by peeces, which resolutions being taken, and to be executed before full or equall satisfaction given to the whole Army, in any of the grievances, before effectuall performance of that satisfaction in part, which the preceeding Votes seem'd to promise, as to some of the grievances, and before any consideration at all of some others most materiall, ( as by the result of a generall Councell of Warre on Satterday, May 29. ) was in generall declared, and is now more fully demonstrated, in particular by a representation there upon, agreed unto by us: we all cannot but looke upon the same resolutions of disbanding us in such manner, as proceeding from the same malicious, and mischievous Principles and intentions, and from the like indirect practices of the same persons abusing the Parliament, and is as the former proceedings against us before mentioned did, and not without carnall and bloudie purposes ( for some of them have not stuck to declare or intimate ) after the body of the Army should bee disbanded, or the souldiers divided from their Officers: then to question proceed against, and execute their malicious intentions upon all such particular Officers, and souldiers in the Army, as had appeared to act in the Premisses in the behalfe of the Army; and whereas upon a late Petition to the Generall from the Agitants, in behalfe of the souldiers ( grounded upon the preceeding considerations ) relating to the same resolutions of disbanding the same generall Councell of Warre to prevent the danger, and inconveniences of those disturbings, or tumultuous actings, or confluences which the dissatisfaction and Jealousie thereupon also grounded, were like sodainely to have produced in the Army to advise the Generall, first to contract the Quarters of the Army, and then to draw the same to an orderly Randezvous for satisfaction of all, and that his Excellencie would immediately send up to move and desire the Parliament to suspend any present proceeding upon the said Resolution of disbanding, to resume the Consideration of the grievances, and desires sent up from the Army, and not to disband it in pieeces before just and equall satisfaction given to the whole; And where as some of the Regiments appointed for disbanding, upon notice thereof withdrawing themselves from the Quarters adjacent to the appointed Randezvous, & drawing towards the Head Quarters; and the contracting the Quarters according to the said advice of the Councell of Warre.
Wee the Officers and Souldiers of severall Regiments hereafter named, are now met at a generall Randezvous, and the Regiments appointed us aforesaid to be disbanded, have not appeared, nor can appeare; but are resolved not to appeare at the severall and respective Randezvous, appointed as aforsaid for their disbanding; and divers other thing have bin done by severall other partyes, or Members of the Army, necessarily relating to the good & concernment of the whole in these affaires: Now for as much as wee know not how far the malice, Injustice, and Tiranicall Principells of our enemies, that have already prevailed so far to abuse the Parliament and the Army ( as is afore mentioned ) in the past proceedings against the Army may further prevaile to the danger and prejudice of our selves, or any officers, or Souldiers of the Army, or other persons that have appeared to act anything in behalfe of the Army, or how far the same may further prevaile to the danger or prejudice of the Kingdome in raising a new warre, or otherwise: Therefore for the better prevention of all such dangers, prejudices, or other inconveniences that may ensue; and withall for better satisfaction to the Parliament and Kingdome, concerning our desires of confering to the authority of the one, and providing the good and quiet of the other, in the present affaires of disbanding, and for a more assured way whereby, that affaires may come to a certaine issue, ( to which purpose we herein humbly implore the present and continued assistance of God, the Righteous Judge of all ) wee the Officers and Souldiers of the Army subscribing here unto; doe hereby declare, agree, and promise, to and with each other, and to, and with the Parliament and Kingdome as followeth.

1. That wee shall chearfully and readily disband when thereunto required by the Parliament or else shall many of us be willing ( if desired ) to ingage in further Services either in England or Ireland, having first such satisfaction to the Army in relation to our Grievances and desires heretofore presented, and such security; That we of our selves ( when disbanded, and in the condition of private men ) or other the free-borne people of England (to whom the consequence of our Case doth equally extend) shall not remaine subject to the like oppression, injury or abuse, as in the premisses hath been attempted and put upon us while an Army by the same men's continuance, in the same credit and power ( especially if as our Judges ) who have in these past proceedings against the Army so farre prevailed to abuse the Parliament and us, and to endanger the Kingdome; and also such security that we our selves, or any member of this Army or others, who have appeared to act any thing in behalfe of the Army in relation to the premisses before recited, shall not after disbanding be any way questioned, prosecuted, troubled, or prejudiced for any thing so acted, or for the entring into, or necessary prosecution of this necessary agreement: ( we say ) having first such satisfaction and security in these things as shall be agreed unto by a Councell to consist of those generall Officers of the Army ( who have concurred with the Army in the premisses ) with two Commission Officers, and two Souldiers to be chosen for each Regiment, who have concurred, and shall concur with us in the premisses and in this agreement. And by the major part of such of them who shall meet in Councell for that purpose when they shall be thereunto called by the Generall.

2. That without such satisfaction and security, as aforesaid, we shall not willingly disband, nor divide, nor suffer our selves to be disbanded or divided.
And whereas we finde many strange things suggested or suspected to our great prejudice concerning dangerous principles, interests and designes in this Army ( as to the overthrow of Magistracy, the suppression or hindering of Presbytery, the establishment of Independent government, or upholding of a generall licentiousnesse in Religion under pretence of Liberty of Conscience, and many such things ) we shall very shortly tender to the Parliament a Vindication of the Army from all such scandals to cleare our Principles in relation thereunto, and in the meane time we doe disavow and disclaime all purposes or designes in our late or present proceedings to advance or insist upon any such interest, neither would we ( if we might and could) advance or set up any other particular party or interest in the Kingdome ( tho imagined never so much our own ) but shall much rather ( as far as may be within our spheare or power ) study to promote such an establishment of common and equall right and freedome to the whole, as all might equally partake of but those that doe by denying the same to others, or otherwise render themselves incapable thereof.

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ISBN 0 9528070 3 3

From an original pamphlet in the Bodleian Library, Oxford.

This pamphlet available in paperback:

Publisher: Tony Gosling, c/o 10 Highwood Close, ORPINGTON, Kent. BR6 8HT.

 

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