The Levellers and The Diggers

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  • The Levellers and the Diggers
    • Diggers
      • Gerrard Winstanley was a Digger and political writer
      • They were otherwise known as 'True Levellers'
      • The ideas and actions of the Digger movement offered a fundamental challenge to the nature of politics and society at the time, but their influence was limited
      • Unlike the Levellers, the Diggers believed in total social and political equity
      • Regression
        • The Diggers failed at St George's Hill
          • Their ultimate failure was due to the hostility of those who owned the land. After a year of hostility the Digger community collapsed here
          • Winstanley claimed that the Diggers idea of equality through communal living had been confirmed through a vision from God
      • Long-term Significance
        • Direct action
        • Communism
        • Liberation Theology
        • Environmentalism
    • Levellers
      • John Lilburne was a Leveller who created pamphlets
        • He had been imprisoned but could still exercise influence through agitators such as Sexby
      • Aims
        • They wanted political, legal and economical change
        • They petitioned, organised demonstrations and marched in London
        • Parliament was accused of being concerned with its own interests
      • Influence within the New Model Army
        • Parliament rejected Leveller plans and so they looked for other sources of support
          • The army had many discontents
        • Leveller demands in 1647 included the dissolution of the Long Parliament and its replacement by a new Assembly
      • The "Manifesto" 1647
        • The Case of the Army Truly Stated
          • The document summarised the soldiers' grievances and wove them into a wider case for political reform
          • It didn't necessarily call for the removal of the king, but representatives were regarded as being superior to any monarch
          • It didn't constitute a clear and coherent set of constitutional laws but did advance revolutionary and effectively democratic theories of government
          • In order to exercise control on representatives, the people were to have new elections every two years and parliamentary seats were to be based on population
            • Government would be further limited by certain fundamental laws which guaranteed political rights and liberties, including religious toleration
        • The Agreement of the People
          • This was a redraft of the case of the army
      • Putney Debates, October - November 1647
        • The Army Council and Levellers met at the Putney Church
        • The main issue being debated was franchise
          • Ireton was strongly in favour of the representation of property and interests rather than people
          • Cromwell's role was to contain the hostility of the debate
            • His main concern was the unity of the army
        • Ireton's criticisms were later accepted by the Levellers when they reduced the right vote to all free men
          • They removed the rights of servants, wage labourers and paupers
        • The debates were brought to a premature end when the king escaped from army custody and made his way to the Isle of Wight
        • The debates turned out to be a defeat for the Levellers because the debates weren't public and there was threat of a second civil war
      • Repression
        • Levellers were seen as a threat by the grandees because of their political views (they wanted every man to have the vote)
          • Lilburne attacked the grandees in his production of "England's New Chains Discovered"
            • They betrayed what the people had fought for
        • In March 1649, Levellers including Lilburne were arrested
          • They still continued their propaganda war
        • Influence over the army was brought to an end by the determination of the Rump. They had money to pay the army
      • Significance
        • By 1649 there was little reference to the Levellers
          • They were crushed at Burford
        • It is unlikely that they ever received widespread support
          • They built up support in London and some in the army


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