Freedom, like many things in life its just there, we tweet politicians and let them know we think they are stupid, some go further and insult the object of their ire, venting our spleen makes us feel good, and we can do it at any time of the day, using a variety of media.
Personally I sometimes think we are not served well by our representatives, incredulous that they don't think as I do on certain subjects, at other times admittedly not so often I am thankful we have such enlightened people governing us.
Today we take for granted certain freedoms, the freedom to vote into power people to represent us, religious freedom, freedom from persecution and many other freedoms which if we lost them we would surely fight hard to regain.
Prior to the English Civil wars the ordinary person had virtually no rights, taxes could be levied upon them and enforced by violence, land owners could evict a person or a whole family for very little reason, and even the Church and its representatives treated the common person very badly, no representation or protection for the common man existed in any real sense.
Kings ruled they thought by the Divine Right of God, their decisions could not be questioned, and basically they did as they pleased with no thought for their subjects.
The Levellers who were a group of radicals wanted to see a huge change in this state of affairs they were asking for, in fact demanding things that surely will seem familiar to our cousins across the ocean.
So what was "The Agreement of The People", ? it was in fact a "Principal Constitutional Manifesto".
In a nutshell its aims were for the people to have certain Inalienable rights, sound familiar ?
How would this be achieved, well by settings limits on the power of the State.
The first draught in October 1647 had four clauses which were,
The Peoples representatives "Members of Paliament", should be elected in proportion to the population of their constituencies.
The existing Parliament should be dissolved on 30th September 1648
Future Parliaments should be elected biennially and sit every other year from April to September.
The biennial Parliament (consisting of a single elected house) should be the supreme authority in the land, with powers to make or repeal laws, appoint officials and conduct domestic and foreign policy.
The overall aim was for the common good of the people, as happens today there was much heated debate between the interested parties, the military represented mostly by Cromwell and Ireton disagreed passionately with some of the aims expressed by the Levellers.
Ironically the bedrock of the Leveller movement was soldiers of Parliament, most of these men came from humble backgrounds and would have suffered grievously during the war, they were men who wanted to see real gains at the wars end and not just a virtual resumption of the status quo.
This disagreement centred mostly around the vote, Cromwell was after all a landowner and believed that only those who held land "with a fixed permanent interest", should have the vote.
So we have a great example here of what we very often see today, and that is vested interests at play, we may think we have progressed a long way since all this took place and in some ways that is true, in others not so.
The Levellers wanted to extend the franchise to all men, Cromwell clamped down hard on the men who agitated for this sentencing some to death. The main players for the Levellers were John Lilburne, Richard Overton, William Walwyn and Gerrard Winstanley.
Lilburne was a great believer in social justice, he believed if all men were equal in the eyes of God, then they should be so before the law. he argued for disestablishment of the Church, no more imprisonment for debt, and an end to any censorship of the press.
At that time the press was controlled by Print Guilds and so were not free in any sense we would recognise today, vested interests at work, as I am writing this I am smiling, nothing really changes in some respects, or does it ?
Interestingly I heard on the radio only a few days ago that during the Gulf war the BBC banned the playing of "War, what is it good for"? by Edwin Starr, I wonder what Lilburne would have made of that ?.
The link below relates to the Levellers in Northamptonshire
The final version of The Agreement included,
Annual elections to Parliament with MP's serving one term only
Abolition of imprisonment for debt
Taxation in proportion to real or personal property
The law should proceed in English and cases should no extend longer than six months
Obviously the Levellers were not to know that in not too many years from that time the Monarchy would be restored, but the idea's they planted would not be killed off, and today a lot of what we have in terms of our freedoms we owe to that movement and the men who led it.
A lot of the things these men fought for are just as relevant today, freedom of the press has been the cause of great debate both in the UK and across the pond.
Taxation, what better subject to cause apoplexy. those that pay it and those that don't and are aided and abetted in doing so.
Elections, those that lead us and how they achieve power and more importantly what they do with that power, or conversely don't do with it.
Anyway I enjoyed writing this, and I hope you enjoy reading it.