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London's Liberty in Chains Discovered:

John Lilburne

Source: http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/hart-tracts-on-liberty-by-the-levellers-and-their-critics-vol-3-1646#lf1542-03_head_046

Title Page

London's Liberty In Chains



Published by

Lieutenant Colonel John Lilburn

prisoner in the Tower of London,

Octob. 1646.


Jer. 22. 15. 16. 17.

Shalt thou reign, because thou closest thyself in Cedar? Did not thy Father eat and drinke, and do judgement and justice, and then it was well with him?

He judged the cause of the poor and needy, then it was well with him: Was not this to know me, saith the Lord?

But thine eyes and thine heart are not, but for thy covetousness, and for to shed innocent blood, and for oppression and violence to do it.

Therefore thus saith the Lord concerning Jehoiakim the son of Josiah King of Judah, they shall not lament for him, saying, Ah Lord, or ah his glory.


It is to be observed, that the illegal election of great ministers and officers for the administration and execution of justice, and where the people have been and are deprived of this their just right and liberty; there have ever all actions and practises of injustice and oppressions abounded: freedom and liberty being the only jewels in esteem, with the commonalty, as a thing most previous unto them, and meriting that men should expose themselves to all danger, for the preservation and defence thereof against all tyranny and oppression of what nature and condition soever.

For prevention therefore of these mischiefs and miseries, (which through evil government of magistrates by their injustice and other the oppressive practices) do usually fall upon kingdoms and cities. And for that all lawful powers reside in the people, for whose good, welfare, and happiness, all government and just policies were ordained: and forasmuch as that government which is violent and forced, (not respecting the good of the common people, but only the will of the commander) may be properly called tyranny: (the people having in all well-ordered and constituted commonwealths, reserved to themselves the right and free election of the greatest ministers and officers of state.) Now although the tyranny whereby a city or state oppresseth her people, may for the present seem to be more moderate then that of one man; yet in manythings it is more intolerable: and it will clearly appear, that the miseries wherewith a tyrant loadeth his people, cannot be so heavy as the burthens imposed by a cruel city.

Therefore all free cities, lest their government should become a tyranny, and their governors, through ambition and misgovernment, take liberty to oppress and enslave the people to their lusts and wills; have in their first constitutions provided, that all their officers and magistrates should be elective by votes and approbation of the free people of each city; and no longer to continue than a year, (as the annual consuls in Rome.) By which moderation of government, the people have still preserved their ancient liberty, enjoyed peace, honour, and accord: and have thereby avoided those calamities incident to people subjected to the laws and arbitrary dominion of their insulting lords and magistrates (or masters;) of all which this honourable city, and metropolis of this kingdom, upon the first erecting of this island into a monarchy, or kingdom, by that valiant, wise, and victorious prince, Alfred, who first freed the land from under the Danish yoke and slavery, under which it had a long time groaned did with the approbation of their King, and states, then assembled in parliament, for their well-being, and more peaceable good government, agree, and by a perpetual law, ordain, that all their governors, and magistrates, should be annual and elective, by the free votes of the freemen of the city, then, and yet, called by the names of barons, and burgesses of London, as appears by their general charters of confirmation of their liberties, by several princes (before and since the conquest) although in process of times, their titles, and names of their offices, be changed yet the power and right of election still remains, and ought to continue in the body of commonalty, and not in any particular or select persons of any company, or brotherhood whatsoever. And for illustration, and more clear manifestation hereof, I need none other evidence, or proof, than the charter of King John, granted to the citizens before the incorporation of any company: the first company that was incorporate, about the year of our lord, 1327. Being more than an hundred years after the date and grant of the aforesaid charter; which hath been since by sundry kings and parliaments confirmed. Their charter I have here set down at large; which, compared with the protestation, will make good your right, and justify your claim to vote in electing the Mayor of this city.

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