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To the right Honorable Sir THOMAS FAIRFAX K. (His Excellency) General of all the Forces raiſed for the regaining of Englands Liberty; the Honorable the Commanders in chief, and others the Commanders and Soldiers of that pious and victorious Ar­my; Now appearing (as Englands Champions) for the maintai­nance of Gods honor, and this their native Countries juſt Liberty, Peace, and Tranquillity.

The humble Petition of all the inſlaved Chriſtians in the ſeveral Slaughter-houſes of this Kingdom (called Gaols and Priſons) being your Brethren & Fellow-Common of England (conceived to be about 10000. in number) impriſoned for Debt, and by Arbitrary Power, and other illegal reſtraints, contrary to the Law of God, and all other Nations both Chriſtian and Pagan, and flatly againſt the Contents of the great Charter of Englands Liberty, formerly purchaſed, and now againe re­gained by the blood of many thouſands of the Commons of England. in all humility complaining, Sheweth,

THat by the ancient and fundamental common Laws of EnglandaaMirror of Juſtice cha. 5. Int. 1. num. 57 declared and aſſerted by the great Charter of our Libertiesbb9 of Hen. 3. cha, 8. Magna Charta, no mans perſon was to be Impriſoned for Debt, nor his Sureties to be troubled, if the principal Debtor were able to pay: But their Eſtates on­ly made liable (in the two third parts thereof) to ſatisfie the Debt: Which Statute being the inexpugnable fortreſs of Englands Freedom, Hath not only been 32. times confirmed by ſeveral Acts of Parlia­ment, in former Kings reigns,ccCooks Inſtit. 4 part P. 35. Anno 3. Caro. Anno 17. Caroli but alſo hath been ſince ratified by our Soveraign Lord King Charls, both by the Petition of Right, 3o Car. and by Act paſſed by his Majeſties royal aſſent this preſent Parliament (Anno 17. Caroli.) Againſt which Charter, All Statutes and Judg­ments formerly made or given, or hereafter to be made or given, aredd28 of Ed. 1. c. 1. 42 Ed. 3 cha, 1. by ſeveral Acts declared to be null and voyd:eeFleta p. 1. c. 26. Bracton P. 3. fol. 105. & 137. Britton c. 5. fo. 14. Mirror c. 2. ſ ct. 9. alſo c. 5. ſect 1. 8 Ed. 2 Fits Coron. 432. 7 Edw. 3 BR. rot. 44. 24 He. 8 Diet 249. Ple Com. 360. Cook l. 3. fo. 44. lib. 8. fo. 100. vox plebis P. 55, 56, 57. Op­preſſed mans Oppreſſion P. 2, 3, 4. And that neither thoſe that are impriſoned for Debt at the Kings ſuit only, nor any o­thers committed for Treaſon, Felony, Murther, or Treſpaſs, before conviction or attainder, ought to be put into Irons, or otherwiſe to be puniſhed, but only to be ſafely kept; Priſons being only for cuſto­dy and not for puniſhment to the Priſoners. ffMirror c. 4. ſect. 9.And whereas by the ſaid common Laws of England, Gaolers that detain their Priſoners in Priſon, by colour of right for their fees until they dye, or cauſe their Priſoners to periſh by famine, beating or wounding, by hard uſage, ſtrickt or cloſe Dureſs, or by putting them into Irons or Dungeons which procure their death, are guilty of Homicide or Man-ſlaughter.


That by the ſaid Laws, Gaolers or Guardians of Priſons are prohi­bited to ſpoil their Priſoners of their goods, or to take any thing from them, for, by, or under any pretence of Fees, either at their coming into the Priſon or going outggMirror c. 5. ſect. 1. Mirror 52, 53.: And whereas likewiſe, all manner of Extortions, Oppreſſions and illegal vexation of Sherifes, Gaolers, and Priſon-Keepers, exerciſed and practiced upon their Priſoners, is ſtrictly prohibited and defended by divers good and wholſome Laws and Statutes of this Realmhh4 Ed. 3. c. 10 23 He. 6. c. 10. 3 Ed. 1. c. 26. 25 Ed. 3 c. 17. Liberty againſt ſlavery fo. 4, 5, 7.: And Gaolers and Guardians of Pri­ſons (and Sherifes) are to take nothing for the execution of their offi­ces, but only of the King, except 4 pence to be required and taken of the Priſoner at the time of his diſcharge and not before, conferred on them by the Statute of the 23. of Henry 6. chap. 10.

That contrary to theſe good Statutes (and the great Charter of Englands Liberty) the perſons of the free-commons of England are ſtill moſt unjuſtly and cruelly (for an unlimited time) inſlaved in the ſeveral Gaols and Priſons, and thereby inhumanly robbed of their juſt and precious Liberties, Eſtates and Callings, whereby they, their wives and children are expoſed to the cruel wills of their Oppreſſors, and ſo become the very ſpecticle of miſery; not pityed by any, nor hitherto by the State regarded nor relieved: Notwithſtanding their many ſe­veral Petitions (for theſe 6 years paſt) preſented to them for Releaſe from this Aegyptian bondage. That in purſuance of their uncon­trouled inhumane cruelties, Gaolers and Priſon-keepers have and dayly do inforce from Priſoners their goods and moneys, illegal fees and ex­ceſſive Chamber-rent; viz. Fees of a Mark, five Mark, five pound, and ten pound, and for Chamber-Rent from each Priſoner no leſs then 5 s. 8 s. 10 s. 16 s. yea from ſome 20 s. a week, and in the Common Wards, where nothing of Right ought to be by them re­quired or taken; they exact from each poor priſoner (although two lodged in one bed) no leſs then 14. pence a week, beſides divers others unexpreſſible exactions. That many hundreds of priſoners have been (as ſome ſtil are) by Gaolers and Priſon-keepers and their helliſh Subſtitutes cloſe impriſoned in Chambers and Dungeons, for divers days, moneths and years, aſſaulted, bearen, wounded, robbed, and violently at midnight dragg'd out of their own beds and lodged are then sold bare ground; Tormented and decripped by Iron Fetters, ſtarved and violently murthered; yea, ſome kept in Irons (hands and feet) till their Excrements coming from their body rotted their funda­ments; Others being by their creditors diſcharged, are notwithſtand­ing by Gaolers detained in Priſon meerly for their own unjuſt exacting3 fees, where many have thus miſerably periſhed: And alſo uſually comm­ing Felons & Murtherers with Debtors, contrary to the Statute of ſafety: Thus Priſons are none other then places of Torment, ruin, and deſtru­ction to the Commons of England; and Gaolers and Priſon-Keepers none other then tormenters and lawleſs executioners of their own cruel wils, who, although complained of, yet the Priſoners juſt com­plaints are not heard, but they ſtil ſuffered to perſiſt in theſe their cruel illegal courſes, and like vipers ſucking the vital blood of the poor Pri­ſoners, and defrauding them of their Legacies and Collection moneys gathered in every County of this Realm, and Courts of Juſtice for their relief, they murther the poor innocent, to whom they deny the priviledg which is by them dayly afforded unto Felons.

The premiſes juſtly weighed, and for that Impriſonment of the bo­dy for 10, 20, 30, or 40. years, diſcounts not one penny of Debt to the Creditor, but only for a time brings the Grift of wicked gain to the Lawyers and Attornies covetous mills of ungodly contention, with inevitable ruin to the Debtor, his wife, children and family; Lawyers, Attornies and Gaolers being none other then poor, diſtreſſed, inſlaved Englands Canker-worms, and devouring Caterpillers of mens Eſtates, Liberties and lives. The Law of England being a Law of mercy and preſervation to the people, and not a law of Tyranny, Oppreſſion and Deſtruction, as hitherto it hath been and ſtill is i; By which law the the two third parts only of the Debtors Eſtate is made liable to the ſatisfaction of his juſt Debts, the reſt being reſerved to the Debtor for his future ſubſiſtance and education of his children, and the perſons acquitted from future trouble for the ſame.

Your poor diſtreſſed and unjuſtly inſlaved Petitioners do therefore humble beſeech you (in the bowels of compaſſion) to commiſerate this their grievous unlimited oppreſſive condition of being; and according to the rules of juſtice and charity (and the pious ſenſibility of your unjuſtly inſlaved Brethrens miſery) to be pleaſed, amongſt other your weighty and humble Addreſſes to the high and honorable Court of Parliament, to preſent theſe our grievances & juſt requeſts with deſire, That according to the fundamental Laws of the land, the perſons of all the Commons of England may be reſtored to their ancient, legal and juſt Liberties (as at the firſt); and that the current of Juſtice may be freely opened to all; That ſo the poor Commons of England may not ſtill be inforced (by mercenary Lawyers and contentious Attornies) to buy Juſtice for the corrupt price of iniquity; nor at ſuch high rates as hitherto they have been inforced to do, to the utter4 ruin of their Eſtates, Houſes, and Families: Your Petitioners not be­ing able to acquit themſelves from this inhumane ſlavery, by the abominable, unlimited, chargeable courſe of the law, practiced by all the mercenary inſtruments of contention, in Petty-fogging latine and Pedlers French, by theſe ſupporters of contention; And alſo that Gaolers and Priſon-Keepers may be regulated in their illegal, unlimited tyrannical power, potency, cruelty, and exactions, that ſo we and the poſterity of this whole Nation being freed from this Aegyptian bon­dage, may have juſt cauſe to eternize the memory of your Excellency and the reſt of the honorable Commanders and plous Souldiery (truths faithful Champions) as of the true and faithful reſtorers of the ancient and juſt birth-right, and liberty of the inſlaved Commons of England: And your Petitioners, their wives, and children, and families (as bound] ſhal ever pray for a bleſſing on your faithful endeavors, and for the ſpeedy ſucceſſes of this bleeding Kingdoms cauſe by you taken in hand, to Gods glory and Englands Peace and Tranquillity.

Subſcribed for themſelves, and all others their impriſoned and un juſtly inſlaved brethren and fellow-Commons of England, By
  • John Baynes.
  • Rubine Cunningham.
  • Richard Carter.
  • John Robinſon.
  • Richard Raynolds.
  • George Biſhop.
  • Richard Gardner.
  • Richard Fletcher.
  • Thomas Madgwicke.
  • William Hayſe.
And I rebuked the Nobles and Rulers, ſaying, You exact uſury every one of his brother, and I ſet a great Aſſembly a­gainſt them; For I was very angry when I heard the cry [of the oppreſſed] and I ſaid, Our fleſh is as the fleſh of our Bre­thren, our children as their children: and lowe bring into bondage our ſons and our daughters: And I ſaid, It is not good, that which ye do; ought ye not to walk in the fear of our God, Nehemiah 5.5, 6, 7, 9? But ye have not proclaimed Liberty every me unto his neighbour, Ier. 37.17. For if thy brother be waxen poor and faln to de­cay, then thou ſhalt relieve him, yea though he be a ſtranger, that he may live with thee: Ye ſhal not oppreſs one another, Levit. 26.17.35. And ye ſhal do no un­righteouſneſs in Judgment: But in righ­teouſneſs ſhalt thou judg thy neighbour,Levit. 19.15. Jer. 9.5, 6, 8, 9.

To the right Honorable the LORDS and COMMONS in PARLIAMENT aſſembled at Weſt minſter. 1643.The humble Petition of divers wel affected Commons of England, in the behalf of themſelves and others their inſlaved Fellow Commons,〈…〉for Or•••and other illegal reſtraints, within the ſeveral Priſons in the Kingdom, conceived to be about 10000. in number (at the leaſt) Complaining,


THat theſe their fellow Commons Inſlaved, having former­ly, by ſeveral Petitions addreſſed themſelves to this Ho­norable aſſembly, for their undeniable Birth-right (which is their Liberty) and aquittance from this unlimitted Im­priſonment faſtened on them, and us; And the poſterity of this whole Nation, By the covetous Inſtruments of contention, through their unexpreſſible abuſe of Magna Charta, which is the only Sure Contract and perpetual Law, between the King and his Subjects, In all which They nor We, have hitherto reaped any Redreſs Accor­ding to our juſt Expectation: That in the 3. year of the King, The body of this Common-wealth being Senſible of many Sufferings, Oc­caſioned by the breach of Magna Charta, The Lords and Commons then aſſembled in Parliament, Petitioned his Majeſty for Confirma­tion thereof (Which Implies their conſents to it) To which his Majeſty then aſſented and ſince Confirmed (Which Implies an Act, and a legal confirmation) whereby we truly apprehend, That all latter Statutes made in Contradiction thereof, Tending to the betray­ing of the Subjects Liberty (By inſlaving their Perſons) are abſo­lutely become Null, and cannot now ſtand in force, as by the 42. of Ed. 3. c. 1. appeareth, For the leſſer muſt needs give Place to this Grea­ter. It having alſo bin maintained in this Honorable aſſembly, That the Commons muſt be eaſed in their Perſons from this Slavery of Im­priſonment being a free born people and no Slaves nor villians, Impri­ſonment being flatly againſt Magna Charta, which is the only foun­damental Mother Law of this Kingdom, Purchaſed (and now again Regained) by the blood of many thouſands of our Anceſtors,26 Edw. 3. c. 4 Freinds and Allies.

The premiſes Conſidered, and for that it is wel known, that im­priſonment of the body for 10. 20. 30. or 40. years together, diſ­counts not one penny Debt to the Creditor, but only (For a time) brings Griſt to the Lawyers and Atturnies mills of Wicked contention,6 Gain〈…〉and his Subſtitutes, with〈…〉to the Poor Debtor (his Wife, children, and Family) who by this Cruelty is Debarred of his precious Liberty; livelyhood, and calling: your petitioners therefore humbly pray, that according to the pious Rule of Juſtice and Charity, and the fundamental Law of this Land. All the perſons of the Commons of England may be Reſtored to their ancient Legal and juſt Liberty (as at the firſt) and the Current of Juſtice freely opened to all, which your Petitioners humbly Con­ceive cannot be truly Effected: ſo long as Lawyers and Atturnies (The Covetous Mercinary Inſtruments of contention) be permitted to ſit in the Houſe, who are Conceived to be the only Obſtructions of Juſtice in this Kingdom. This being done, your Petitioners aſ alſo their unjuſtly Inſlaved Brethren wil then (as is hoped) be Inabled to partake of Juſtice Freely: and not ſtil be Inforced (by Lawyers and Atturnies) to buy it for the Corrupt price of Iniquity, nor at ſuch high Rates as hitherto they have done, to the utter Ruin of their E­ſtates, Houſes and Families: And that according to Magna Charta, the Debtors Eſtates, (if any Remaining) may be made Lyable (In the two third parts thereof) to the ſatisfaction of their Juſt Debts, By which great Charter, a Charitable Conſideration is had to the fu­ture Subſiſtence of the Debtors, their wives and children, and alſo that Priſons may be Regulated, and Priſon keepers, abridged of their Illegal, unlimitted, Tyrannical Power, Potency, and Exactions. That ſo we and all our Poſterities being freed from this Aegyptians bon­dage, may have Juſt cauſe to Eternitie the memory of his Majeſty, and of this Honorable aſſembly, as of the Reſtorers of their Ancient and Juſt Birth-right and Liberty.

1646.To the Honorable the Houſe of Commons in Parliament aſſembled. The humble Petition of divers wel affected Commons of England, in the behalf of their poor in ſlaved Brethren, languiſhing in ſeveral Priſons within this Kingdom.

Moſt humbly ſheweth,

THat this Honorable Aſſembly was pleaſed ſome 5. years ſince to heare the Petition of the poor priſoners for Debt, and to refer the ſame to a Committee (whereof Henry Martine Eſquire was then Chair­man) for the drawing up of an Ordinance for their remedy and redreſs, which was done accordingly, But yet hitherto unhappily obſtructed, whereby many poor Priſoners (their wives and children) for want of timely redreſs, have ſince periſhed, and many others are conſumed and utterly diſabled to ſubſiſt. Now for that the ſaid Ordinance was long ſince reſolved on, and by M. Mar­tine brought into this Honorable Houſe to be read; Yet there hitherto obſtru­cted, ſo as the hearts of the oppreſſed (though this long delay) ready fayne7 within them, their miſeries being thereby augmented, and for that alſo, a great number, who have with al fidelity ſerved the Parliament, and have not received their pay (Due) are at this preſent Impriſoned for their debts, which they can no ways ſatisfy until they have received their arrears for the ſaid ſervice, by which means many of them have periſhed, and the reſt likely to periſh miſerably, and their families to be utterly ruined.

Your poor Petitioners therefore in the bleeding ſence of their (unjuſtly inſlaved) brethrens extream ſufferings, do humbly pray; That ye the choſen, convened for their deliverance from oppreſſion and injuſtice, and for the preſervation of their juſt Rights and Liberties, wil now (after ſo long time of their expectancy (in durance and miſery) be pleaſed forthwith to comiſerate their deplorable eſtates, and according to your duty, the fundamental Law of the Land, and Petition of Right; ſeriouſly to conſider the premiſes, and ſpeedily according to juſtice, to aſſign unto every of them their juſt liberty & freedom, from this unjuſt bondage and ſlavery; They having long cryed and none have regarded this their unjuſtly impoſed miſerable Thraldom; in which not only the preſent Petitioners, but the poſterity of all the freeborn Com­mons of England are meerly concerned; this being by you accompliſhed, then not only your Petitioners, but future generations ſhal be ever bound to call you the bleſſed inſtruments of juſtice, for the Regaining of their ancient and juſt Rights and Liberties.

Ye ſhal do no unrighteouſneſs in judgment, Levi. 19.15. Thou ſhalt not oppreſs nor vex the ſtranger, the widdow, the fatherleſs child, nor the poor. For if thou afflict them and they cry unto me, I wil ſurely hurt their cry: And my wrath ſhal wax hot, and I wil kill you with the ſword: and your wives ſhal be widdows, and your children fa­therleſs, Exod. 22.21, 22, 23, 24. Therefore execute true judg­ment, ſhew mercy and compaſſion every man to his Brother, and oppreſs not the widdow, the ſtranger, nor the poor, and let none of you imagine evil againſt his brother in your heart, and execute the judgment of truth and Peace in your Gates, and lve〈◊〉falſe oaths Zach. 7.9, 10. Zach. 8.16, 17. Nor ſel juſtice for the price of iniquity as hitherto you have done. vivat rex.


Many more Petitions of the like nature being from time to time pre­ſented, have bin obſtructed, and the parties greived, not heard nor releived, but their miſerable Bondage rather augmented, and they thereby diſcouraged from renewing their complaines againſt theſe their Aegyptian task-maſters, viz. Lawyers, Attornies, Gaolers, and cruel creditors, Diſtreſſed, and miſerably inſlaved, Englands Can­ker-wormes, and devouring Caterpillers of mens Eſtates, Liberties, and lives, and fomenters of all Contention, Tyranny, and Oppreſſion.

vivat Rex.

About this transcription

TextEnglands dolefull lamentation: or The cry of the oppressed and enslaved commons of England: set forth in two severall petitions, the one delivered to his Majesty June 15. 1647. The other presented to his Excellency Sir Thomas Fairfax Generall, and to the honourable commanders in chief, and to the whole body of that pious and victorious army: with two severall petitions formerly exhibited to the High Court of Parliament. From all their brethren and enslaved fellow commons of England; and from the distressed in the several goals and prisons, (for an unlimited time) within this kingdome of England and principality of Wales, imprisoned for debt, and other unjust illegall restraints. Wherein is set forth many horrid notorious inhumane acts of cruelty ...
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Bibliographic informationEnglands dolefull lamentation: or The cry of the oppressed and enslaved commons of England: set forth in two severall petitions, the one delivered to his Majesty June 15. 1647. The other presented to his Excellency Sir Thomas Fairfax Generall, and to the honourable commanders in chief, and to the whole body of that pious and victorious army: with two severall petitions formerly exhibited to the High Court of Parliament. From all their brethren and enslaved fellow commons of England; and from the distressed in the several goals and prisons, (for an unlimited time) within this kingdome of England and principality of Wales, imprisoned for debt, and other unjust illegall restraints. Wherein is set forth many horrid notorious inhumane acts of cruelty ... 8, 7, [1] p s.n.],[London :Printed in the year of the truely-hoped-for reformation of Englands oppressions and horrid deformation. 1647.. (Place of publication from Wing.) (In two parts. Part 2 caption title reads: To the Right Honourable Sir Thomas Fairfax; pagination is separate, register is continuous.) (Annotation on Thomason copy: "Aug: 17".) (Part 2 is separately identified as Thomason Tract E.402[12].) (Reproduction of the original in the British Library.)
  • Detention of persons -- England -- Early works to 1800.
  • Civil rights -- England -- Early works to 1800.
  • Debt, Imprisonment for -- England -- Early works to 1800.
  • Great Britain -- History -- Civil War, 1642-1649 -- Early works to 1800.

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