A report on the arrest of some Levellers, 29 March 1649
(Catalogue ref: SP 25/62, pp.134-5)
This is a report from a committee of MPs to Parliament. It explains their actions against the leaders of the Levellers.
One of the men they arrested was John Lilburne, a key figure in the Leveller movement.
Before the war of the 1640s it was difficult and dangerous to come up with new ideas and try to publish them. However, during the Civil War censorship was not strongly enforced. Many political groups emerged with new ideas at this time. One of the most radical (extreme) groups was the Levellers.
From 1645 onwards Lilburne and other writers published pamphlets that set out a range of ideas. They organised petitions that gained thousands of signatures. The Levellers wanted the vote to be given to all men, not just rich gentlemen. As well as big political ideas, the Levellers also highlighted important everyday issues. They complained about high food prices that the poor could not afford. They complained about poor pay and late pay for the soldiers in the army. They gained a lot of support from the poor in the towns and among the ordinary soldiers of the New Model Army. Not surprisingly, their ideas were alarming to the nobles and gentry. Their support in the army also worried the army commanders. In May 1649 Levellers in the army led a mutiny, a rebellion against the army leaders at Burford in Oxfordshire.
This document was published soon after the king was executed in 1649, so England was a republic. Many radical thinkers like the Levellers hoped that the new England would be a better place. As this source shows, their hopes were not really fulfilled.
A republic is a nation whose head of state is not a monarch. For example a country that is headed by a President might be called a republic.