The Leveller Movement: A Study in the History and Political Theory of the English Great Civil War

The Leveller Movement: A Study in the History and Political Theory of the English Great Civil War

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The Leveller Movement: A Study in the History and Political Theory of the English Great Civil War

The Leveller Movement: A Study in the History and Political Theory of the English Great Civil War

Read FREE!

Excerpt

The establishment in England of a democratic government limited and bounded by law-- that in a word was the vision pursued in the midst of the political strife and confusion of the Great Civil War by the men ordinarily called Levellers. To trace the evolution of this idea and of the corollaries to it that completed the Leveller platform, to show the political machinery devised by the Levellers to promote it, and in short to sketch the history of the Leveller movement as a whole is the purpose of this essay.

The political ideas of the Levellers at the outset were perceptibly molded by two different intellectual forces. The first of these originated in the series of controversies in the years 1640-43 through which the Long Parliament advanced from the doctrine of the supremacy of the law to the doctrine of parliamentary sovereignty. The second force came from the ecclesiastical dispute centering around the Westminster Assembly that gave form and spirit to the Independent idea of church government, originating in compact and limited by the supreme law of Christ. In the course of translating this idea into politics the Levellers in successive drafts of Agreements of the People developed the concept of a written constitution originating in a compact of the sovereign people and, therefore, superior to govern-

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