John Lilburne

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Lilburne, John


Bom circa 1614 in Greenwich; died Aug. 29, 1657, in Eltham, Kent. Prominent figure in the 17th-century English Civil War (in Russian, the Bourgeois Revolution). Leader and ideologist of the Levelers.

The younger son of a minor gentry landowner, Lilburne was apprenticed to a London cloth merchant in 1630. He joined a Puritan sect. Imprisoned in 1638, he was freed by the Long Parliament in 1641. Lilburne was active in the first civil war, of 1642–46, and was promoted to the rank of lieutenant colonel. In 1645 he refused to recognize the Covenant. As a protest against the policies of the Presbyterians, he retired. In a series of pamphlets Lilburne supported bourgeois-democratic ideas concerning popular sovereignty and the natural rights of man. As a radical petit bourgeois democrat, Lilburne held that the issue of political reforms was foremost. Opposing the monarchial form of government and the existence of a house of lords, he supported a republic and attacked all feudal privileges. He advocated equality for all before the law and defended freedom of religious belief, the inviolability of individuals and property, and freedom of the press. Against the background of the bourgeois revolution, these demands were directed toward the complete destruction of the feudal estate system and an affirmation of the principles of the bourgeois democratic republic. Lilburne’s demands for elimination of monopolies and patents, abolition of tithes, and reduction of tax burdens were of considerable importance for extending the revolution. At the same time he opposed elimination of private ownership.

In 1646, by order of the House of Lords, Lilburne was again thrown into prison. The Agreement of the People, prepared by Lilburne and his followers in 1647, was a program document for the Levelers. Lilburne was freed in 1648. He sharply criticized the position of the Independents, who came to power in 1649; the Independents had rejected plans for democratic transformations. In March 1649, Lilburne was once more arrested and imprisoned in the Tower. But even here he did not cease his struggle. In the spring of 1649 he and his supporters published A Manifestation ... and An Agreement of the Free People of England, which contained summaries of their political and socio economic views. His trial (October 1649) turned into a personal triumph, ending with a verdict of not guilty. However, in 1652 he was exiled from England. Returning to his native land in 1653, he was again arrested. In spite of the court’s verdict of not guilty, he was a virtual prisoner almost until his death.

In spite of his petit bourgeois limitations, Lilburne played an enormous role in the English revolution and was one of the most prominent representatives of the democratic movement.


In Russian translation:
Lilburne, J. Pamflety. Moscow, 1937.


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Yesterday we reported on two North East-born champions of democracy and civil rights, John Lilburne and Thomas Spence, who feature on the first pages of the comic.
35) The historical John Lilburne was a vehement opponent of the proprietorial organisation of language: in England's Birth-Right Justified (1645), which Lindsay called the 'key-book to the advancing wave of democratic emotion that threatened to go entirely beyond the bourgeois objective and to demand real freedom for all', (36) Lilburne attacked 'the Patent of ingrossing the Preaching of the Word only to such men as weare Black and rough garments'.
The book details the actions of key figures including John Lilburne, Richard Overton, Thomas Rainsborough, and Oliver Cromwell.
He clearly identifies with the lineage of English radicalism; he has claimed John Lilburne as his political inspiration, and the organisers of Levellers' Day have celebrated his success as one of their own.
60) John Lilburne 1614-1657: Leveller who spoke out for greater equality in the English Civil War.
22) John LILBURNE y OTROS, "Agreement of the people (1649)", en AA.
Not quite as great a leveller as Mark Chadwick, lead singer of The Levellers, or John Lilburne, a key figure in the 17th-century political movement of the same name, but a great leveller nonetheless.
And the voices of litigants, some prominent in the political struggles of the day, like John Lilburne and Granville Sharpe, and other more ordinary people usually hidden from the eyes of the historian, also directly contribute to Halliday's analysis.
Halliday demonstrates that the judges did not rationalize their decisions in terms of a transcendent theory of rights and freedoms, which is the claim made by more radical advocates such as John Lilburne during the Commonwealth and Granville Sharp, the anti-slavery campaigner in the late eighteenth century.
He was counsel for John Lilburne, a "Leveller", or radical protester, charged with smuggling seditious books.
John Lilburne, a "Leveller so-called" in his own words, had argued during the 1640s that humans possessed certain rights that could not be abridged by governmental agents.
Meanwhile the free-thinking John Lilburne is once again put on trial for his life, but this time by his fellow revolutionaries.