The agreement of the People (1649)
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[European Christian Political Foundation]

In this number of the magazine the section on freedom of faith in ‘the agree-ment of the people’ that was the leading document of ‘the levellers’, one of the factions in the English Civil War (1642-1648).

The Levellers

The Levellers were an informal alliance of agitators and pamphleteers who came together during the English Civil War (1642-1648) to demand constitutional reform and equal rights under the law. Levellers believed all men were born free and equal and possessed natural rights that resided in the individual, not the government. They believed that each man should have freedom limited only by regard for the freedom of others. They believed the law should equally protect the poor and the wealthy. The Levellers were the social libertarians of the day (or classic liberals). „Leveller” was a term of abuse, coined by their opponents to exaggerate the threat of their ideas.

The main leader of the Levellers was John Lilburne (known as Freeborn John). Lilburne was a Lieutenant-Colonel in the Parliamentarian Army. Through his extensive writing and publishing of pamphlets, he was able to gain wide support for his ideas among army soldiers and the common people.

Who was John Lilburne?

Lilburne „was, or became, a radical in everything – in religion, in politics, in economics, in social reform, in criminal justice – and his ideas were far ahead of his time. From 1637 when he was but twenty-three years old. until his death twenty years later, he managed to keep his government in a hectic state. In successive order he defied king, parliament, and protectorate, challenging each with libertarian principles. Standing trial for his life four times, he spent most of his adult years in prison and died in banishment. Yet he could easily have had positions of high preferment if he had thrown in his lot with Parliament of Cromwell. Instead, he sacrificed everything in order to be free to attack injustice from any source. He once accurately described himself as `an honest true-bred, freeborn Englishman that never in his life loved a tyrant or feared an oppressor.’”2

In 1649, Lilburne published the „Agreement of the People”, a manifesto for constitutional reform in Britain that gave birth to many of the ideas that are embodied in the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights.

The Agreement Of The People (1649)

This particular version was smuggled out of the Tower of London, where Lilburne and the others were being held captive.

All Leveller soldiers, and they were the majority in many regiments, carried this agreement proudly tucked into their hat-band. The agreement proposed a written constitution to define England’s government, abolish arbitrary power, set limits to authority, and remove grievances.

The Agreement of the People.

An Agreement of the People of England, and the places therewith incorporated, for a secure and present peace, upon grounds of common right, freedom and safety.2

Having, by our late labours and hazards, made it appear to the world at Low high a rate we value our just freedom, and God having so far owned our cause as to deliver the enemies thereof into our hands, we do now hold ourselves bound, in mutual duty to each other, to take the best care we can for the future, to avoid both the danger of returning into a slavish condition and the chargeable remedy of another war: for as it cannot be imagined that so many of our countrymen would have opposed us in this quarrel if they had understood their own good, so may we hopefully promise to ourselves, that when our common rights and liberties shall be cleared, their endeavours will be disappointed that seek to make themselves our masters. Since therefore our former oppressions and not-yet-ended troubles have been occasioned either by want of frequent national meetings in council, or by the undue or unequal constitution thereof, or by rendering those meetings ineffectual, we are fully agreed and resolved, God willing, to provide, that hereafter our Representatives be neither left to an uncertainty for times nor be unequally constituted, nor made useless to the ends for which they are intended. In order whereunto we declare and agree,


Ninthly. Concerning religion, we agree as followeth: – I. It is intended that the Christian Religion be held forth and recommended as the public profession in this nation, which we desire may, by the grace of God, be reformed to the greatest purity in doctrine, worship and discipline, according to the Word of God; the instructing the people thereunto in a public way, so it be not compulsive; as also the maintaining of able teachers for that end, and for the confutation or discovering of heresy, error, and whatsoever is contrary to sound doctrine, is allowed to be provided for by our Representatives; the maintenance of which teachers may be out of a public treasury, and, we desire, not by tithes: provided, that Popery or Prelacy be not held forth as the public way or profession in this nation. 2. That, to the public profession so held forth, none be compelled by penalties or otherwise; but only may be endeavoured to be won by sound doctrine, and the example of a good conversation. 3. That such as profess faith in God by Jesus Christ, however differing in judgment from the doctrine, worship or discipline publicly held forth, as aforesaid, shall not be restrained from, but shall be protected in, the profession of their faith and exercise of religion, according to their consciences, in any place except such as shall be set apart for the public worship; where we provide not for them, unless they have leave, so as they abuse not this liberty to the civil injury of others, or to actual disturbance of the public peace on their parts. Nevertheless, it is not intended to be hereby provided, that this liberty shall necessarily extend to Popery or Prelacy. 4. That all laws, ordinances, statutes, and clauses in any law, statute, or ordinance to the contrary of the liberty herein provided for, in the two particulars next preceding concerning religion, be, and are hereby, repealed and made void.


John Rushworth.



1 Levy, Leonard W., Origins of the Fifth Amendment, New York: Oxford University Press, 1968, p. 272.
2 January 15, 1648/9. Old Parliamentary History, xviii. 519. See Great Civil War, iv. 295.


JOHANNES DE JONG – Manager of the European Christian Political Foundation ( European Christian Political Foundation (ECPF) is an association that acts as the political foundation for the European Christian Political Movement (ECPM). The ECPF supports and underpins the ECPM especially in terms of political content by European co-operation and the introduction of analysis, ideas and policy options.The ECPF shares the basic program and Christian values of the ECPM. As association the ECPF welcomes thinktanks, NGO’s and individual politicians as members if they agree with these values and the Christian-democrat principles as expressed in the basic program. The ECPF aims to be the platform that provides a link between developments at the European level and the national level and also a meeting place for the various Christian thinktanks and NGO’s operating at European and national level. The ECPF plans to publish in-depth studies and actual policy comments. Also the ECPF wishes to build this website to a portal for all those who are inspired by Christian faith in their political work. Johannes holds a masters degree theology and was pastor in the largest protestant church in The Netherlands. He is involved in the ECPM since 2003.




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