Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index

The Levellers

Alternate meaning: The Levellers (band).

The Levellers were a 17th century English political faction. The Levellers were one of the largest factions on the Parliamentarian side during the English Civil War. Some consider The Levellers to be the first true English political party. They were organised at the national level, with offices in a number of London inns and taverns; a newspaper (The Moderate), and were extremely well-supported from within the ranks of the New Model Army.

The Levellers political ambitions were fundamentally middle-ground, and involved a remodelling of the English political process along the lines of a more egalitarian and less class-driven regime. Their views were in stark contrast to groups such as The Diggers, also known as The True Levellers led by Gerrard Winstanley, which called for a total destruction of the existing order and replacement with a communistic and agrarian lifestyle based around the precepts of the early Christians.

The whole basis of Leveller politics was original in that it was not founded on religious doctrine. What the Levellers sought was a secular republic, without religious direction from the state. In common with later liberals they called for the abolition of tithes, the feudal fee charged to pay for the state church. They argued for complete religious tolerance, a position which was markedly radical for the time.

The most vocal of the Leveller leaders was John Lilburne.

External link