21st Century “Levellers”

Human nature. Does it really ever change? Yes, I believe it does, but only to the extent that people know their history and can adapt and course correct with integrity and in a meaningful way. We must ask ourselves if we are yet free….or are we still enslaved all these centuries later.


Be advised, this post refers to language written in the 17th century.

Recently, I learned about the Levellers of 17th century London. I read a pamphlet titled “A Remonstrance of Many Thousand Citizens” written in 1646 by Leveller Richard Overton which contained comments, appeals and accusations that are relevant today. Because I want to respect your time, you can research the Levellers on  your own, via the link above.  While I don’t agree with all the ideologies of the Levellers, I do find wisdom in some of the comments. I urge  you to think about how relevant they are today.

First, who he is addressing:

“We are well assured, yet cannot forget, that the cause of our choosing you to be Parliament men, was to deliver us from all kind of bondage, and to preserve the commonwealth in peace and happiness. For effecting whereof, we possessed you with the same power that was in ourselves, to have done the same; for we might justly have done it ourselves without you, if we had thought it convenient, choosing you, as persons whom we thought fitly qualified and faithful, for avoiding some inconveniences.”

Essentiallly – ‘oh, hey by the way, all you elected and appointed people, who we put in those seats because we thought we could trust you to speak on our behalf and that you WOULD, like, actually congress with us to discover our minds with regard to these issues at hand….’

“But ye are to remember, this was only of us but a power of trust, which is ever revocable and cannot be otherwise, and to be employed to no other end than our own well being”

No interpretation needed.

Then he goes on to lay out the case how their elected/appointed representatives have, basically, reverted to a relationship with the King that is entirely too cozy and have appeared to have totally forgotten that the people who put them in their positions are watching and waiting for them to behave accordingly.

“Ye must also deal better with us concerning the Lords, than you have done. Ye only are chosen by us the People, and therefore in you only is the power of binding the whole nation, by making, altering or abolishing of laws…..We desire you to free us from these abuses, and their {i.e. the Lords’} negative voices, or else tell us, that it is reasonable that we should be slaves; this being a perpetual prejudice in our government, neither consisting with freedom nor safety;

The jig is up. Overton tells them that their actions are clearly seen and not approved. ‘Are we free or are we enslaved? Because you guys are subjecting us to a perpetual enslavement as a result of your subjugation under the Lords.’

“We must deal plainly with you, ye have long time acted more like the House of Peers than the House of Commons: we can scarcely approach your door with a request or motion, though by way of petition, but ye hold long debates ,whether we break not your privileges; … Your members in all impositions must not be taxed in the places where they live, like other men; your servants have their privileges too. To accuse or prosecute any of you is become dangerous to the prosecutors.”

The accusation is leveled – ‘you create an environment where we may not have our voices heard without endangering our freedom. You protect with ferocity the system you have put in place which affords you a certain privilege.’

“Ye have now sat full five years, which is four years longer than we intended, for we could choose you but for, at most, one year; and now we wish ye would publish to all the world the good that you have done for us, the liberty ye have brought us unto.”

Apparently term limits is a centuries long problem.

If we see human history is like a spiral, enclosed in a tunnel formed by foundational principles intended to progress human development, then we can see that we are visiting, again, these lessons. One such lesson is that where the nature of humans who find themselves in positions of power, whether elected or appointed, is to succumb to the temptations of power.

Those who fight for egalitarianism would do well to remind ourselves that the essential elements of the battle have not changed much over time. We must continually remind ourselves and the elected/appointed that they must make better choices this go-round. Otherwise, human development will stay stagnant and odorous from the rot of a body unmoved for too long.

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