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Gerrard Winstanley

In his own words

Extracts from Gerrard Winstanley’s writings

The New Law of Righteousnes (January 1649)

… talking of love is no love, it is acting of love in righteousnesse, which the Spirit Reason, our Father delights in. And this is to relieve the oppressed, to let goe the prisoner, to open bags and barns that the earth may be a common treasury to preserve all without complainings; for the earth was not made for a few to live at ease upon, and to kil such as did not observe the Law of their own making, but it was made for all to live comfortably upon, and the power of life and death is reserved in the hand of the Spirit, not in the hand of flesh: None ought to kil, but such as can make alive; therefore let every one walk righteously in the Creation, and trust the Spirit for protection. Mat 7:12…

… Was the earth made for to preserve a few covetous, proud men, to live at ease, and for them to bag and barn up the treasures of the earth from others, that they might beg or starve in a fruitful Land, or was it made to preserve all her children, Let Reason, and the Prophets and Apostles writings be Judge, the earth is the Lords, it is not to be confined to particular interest.

None can say, Their right is taken from them; for let the rich work alone by themselves, and let the poor work together by themselves; the rich in their inclosures, saying, This is mine; The poor upon their Commons, saying This is ours, the earth and fruits are common.

And who can be offended at the poor for doing this?...

The True Levellers Standard Advanced (April 1649)

In the beginning of Time, the great Creator Reason, made the Earth to be a common Treasury, to preserve Beasts, Birds, Fishes, and Man, the Lord that was to govern this Creation; for Man had Domination given to him, over the Beasts, Birds, and Fishes; but not one word was spoken in the beginning, that one branch of mankind should rule over another…

… But when once the Earth becomes a Common Treasury again, as it must, for all the Prophecies of Scriptures and Reason are Circled here in this Community, and mankind must have the Law of Righteousnesse once more writ in his heart, and all must be made of one heart, and one mind.

Then this Enmity in all Lands will cease, for none shall dare to seek a Dominion over others, neither shall any dare to kill another, nor desire more of the Earth then another; for he that will rule over, imprison, oppresse, and kill his fellow Creatures, under what pretence soever, is a destroyer of the Creation, and an actor of the Curse, and walks contrary to the rule of Righteousnesse: (Do, as you would have others do to you; and love your Enemies, not in words, but in actions)…

… Take notice, That England is not a free-people, till the poor that have no Land, have a free allowance to dig and labour the Commons, and so live as Comfortably as the Landlords that live in their Inclosures… 

A Watch-Word to the City of London and the Armie (August 1649)

Not a full yeere since, being quiet at my work, my heart was filled with sweet thoughts, and many things were revealed to me which I never read in books, nor heard from the mouth of any flesh, and when I began to speak of them, some people could not bear my words, and amongst those revelations this was one, That the earth shall be made a common Treasury of livelihood to whole mankind, without respect of persons; and I had a voice within me bad me declare it all abroad, which I did obey, for I declared it by word of mouth wheresoever I came, then I was made to write a little book called, The new Law of righteousnesse, and therein I declared it; yet my mind was not at rest, because nothing was acted, and thoughts run in me, that words and writings were all nothing, and must die, for action is the life of all, and if thou dost not act, thou dost nothing. Within a little time I was made obedient to the word in that particular likewise; for I tooke my spade and went and broke the ground upon George-hill in Surrey, thereby declaring freedome to the Creation, and that the earth must be set free from intanglements of Lords and Landlords, and that it shall become a common Treasury to all, as it was first made and given to the sonnes of men…

… all men have stood for freedom, thou hast kept fasting daies, and prayed in morning exercises for freedom; thou hast given thanks for victories, because hopes of freedome; plenty of Petitions and promises thereupon have been made for freedome, and now the common enemy is gone, you are all like men in a mist, seeking for freedom, and know not where, nor what it is: and those of the richer sort of you that see it, are ashamed and afraid to owne it, because it comes clothed in a clownish garment, and open to the best language that scoffing Ishmael can afford, or that railing Rabsheka can speak, or furious Pharaoh can act against him; for freedom is the man that will turn the world upside downe, therefore no wonder he hath enemies.

A New-yeers Gift for the Parliament and Armie (January 1650)

…True Religion, and undefiled, is this, To make restitution of the Earth, which hath been taken and held from the Common people, by the power of Conquests formerly, and so set the oppressed free. Do not All strive to enjoy the Land? The Gentry strive for Land, the Clergie strive for Land, the Common people strive for Land; and Buying and Selling is an Art, whereby people endeavour to cheat one another of the Land. Now if any can prove, from the Law of Righteousness, that the Land was made peculiar to him and his successively, shutting others out, he shall enjoy it freely, for my part: But I affirm, It was made for all; and true Religion is, To let every one enjoy it. Therefore, you Rulers of England, make restitution of the Lands which the Kingly power holds from us: Set the oppressed free; and come in, and honour Christ, who is the Restoring Power, and you shall finde rest.

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