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Historical texts  >  The Bloody Project (1648)


THE Bloody PROJECT,

Or a discovery of the New Designe, in the present War.

BEING
A perfect Narrative of the present proceedings of the severall Grandee Factions, for the prevention of a Just Peace, and promoting of a causelesse Warre, to the destruction of
THE KING, PARLIAMENT & PEOPLE.
Whereunto is annexed Several Expedients for a happy Accomodation tending to the satisfaction of all Parties, without the further effusion of blood.
By W. P. Gent

Printed in this Yeare of dissembling, 1648.


In all undertakings, which may occasion war or bloodshed, men have great need to be sure that their cause be right, both in respect of themselves and others: for if they kill men themselves, or cause others to kill, without a just cause, and upon the extremest necessity, they not only disturb the peace of men, and families, and bring misery and poverty upon a Nation, but are indeed absolute murderers.

Nor will it in any measure satisfy the Conscience, or God's justice, to go on in uncertainties, for in doubtful cases men ought to stand still, and consider, until certainty do appear, especially when killing and slaying of men (the most horrid work to Nature and Scripture) is in question.

Far be it from any man hastily to engage in any undertaking, which may occasion a War, before the cause he is to fight for, be rightly, and plainly stated, well considered, and thoroughly understood to be just, and of absolute necessity to be maintained; nothing being more abominable in the sight of God or good men, than such persons who run but to shed blood for money, or to support this or the other Interest, but neither consider the cause for which they engage, nor aught else, but pay, interest, honour, etc. Such are they who so eagerly endeavour to support the interest of a King, by the destruction of the People's Interest, the Interest of the Scots against the English, the Interest of the Independents, by the ruine of the Presbyterians: and because it best consists with their present honour, profit or humours, make it their business to pick quarrels, and increase divisions, and jealousies, that so they may fish in the waters which they themselves have troubled.

But let such know, whoever they be, that though they may and do for a while brave it out, and flourish, yet a time is coming, and draws on apace, when for all the murders they caused, and mischiefs they have committed, they shall come to judgement, and then their Consciences will be as a thousand witnesses against them.

But especially let men pretending conscience take heed how they either engage themselves, or persuade others to engage to fight and kill men, for a cause not rightly stated, or not thoroughly understood to be just, and of necessity to be maintained; for it is one of the most unreasonable, unchristian, and unnatural things that can enter into the mind of man, though it be to be feared that more than a few that have of late both in the City and Country, (and at present are) active to engage in killing and slaying of men cannot aquit themselves of this abomination.

I beseech you, (you that are so forward and active to engage in the defence of the Kings, Presbyterian, or Independent interest, and yet know no just cause for either) consider, was it sufficient that the King at first invited you in general terms to join with him, for the defence of the true Protestant Religion, his own just Prerogatives, the Privileges of Parliament, and the Liberty of the Subject; but never declared in particular what that Protestant Religious was he would have defended, or what Prerogative would please him, what privileges he would allow the Parliament, or what Freedoms the People?

Or was it sufficient think you now, that the Parliament invited you at first upon general terms, to fight for the maintenance of the true Protestant Religion, the Liberties of they People, and Privileges of Parliament; when neither themselves knew, for aught is yet seen, nor you, nor anybody else, what they meant by the true Protestant Religion, or what the Liberties of the People were, or what those Privileges of Parliament were, for which yet nevertheless thousands of men have been slain, and thousands of Families destroyed?

It is very like that some of you that joined with the King upon his invitation thought, that though the King had formerly countenanced Popery, and Superstition, had stretched his Prerogative to the oppression and destruction of his People, by Patents, Projects, etc. yet for the future he would hve been more zealous for the truth, and more tender of his People, and not have persisted (notwithstanding his new Protestations) to maintain his old Principles.

And so likewise many of you that joined with the Parliament, who had formerly seen, felt, or considered the persecution of godly conscientious people by the Bishops and their Clergy, with the reproaches cast upon them, and their grievious and destructive imprisonment, did believe the Parliament under the notion of Religion, intended to free the Nation from all compulsion in matters of Religion, and from molestation, or persecution for opinions, or non-conformity; and that all Laws or Statutes tending thereunto should have been repealed: But since you find (by killing and destroying their opposers) you have enabled them to perform all things that might concern your freedom, or be conducible to the peace of the Kingdom. But do you now find that they do mean that, or the contrary? And will your consciences give you leave any longer to fight or engage in the cause of Religion, when already you see what fruits you and your friends reap thereby?

And no doubt many of you understood by the Liberties of the People, that they intended to free the Commons in Parliament the people's Representative, from a Negative voice, in King, or Lords, and would have declared themselves the highest Authority, and so would have proceeded to have removed the grievances of the Common-wealth: And when you had seen Patents, Projects, and Shipmoney taken away, the High Commission and Starchamber abolished, did you ever imagine to have seen men and women examined upon Interrogatories, and questions against themselves, and imprisoned for refusing to answer? Or to have seen Commoners frequently sentenced and imprisoned by the Lords? Did you ever dream that the oppressions of Committees would have exceeded those of the Council-table; or that in the place of Patents and Projects, you should have seen an Excise established, ten-fold surpassing all those, and Shipmoney together? You thought rather that Tithes would have been esteemed an oppression, and that Trade would have been made perfectly free, and that Customs if continued, would have been abated, and not raised for the support of domineering factions, and enrichment of four or five great men, as they have been of late times, to the sorrow and astonishment of all honest men, and the great prejudice of the Trade of the Nation.

Doubtless you hoped that both Laws and Lawyers, and the proceeding in all Courts should have been abbreviated, and corrected, and that you should nevermore have seen a Begger in England.

You have seen the Commonwealth enslaved for want of Parliaments, and also by their sudden dissolution, and you rejoiced that this Parliament was not to be dissolved by the King; but did you conceive it would have sat seven years to so little purpose, or that it should ever come to passe, to be esteemed a crime to move for the ending thereof? Was the perpetuating of this Parliament, and the oppressions they have brought upon you and yours, a part of that Liberty of the People you fought for? Or was it for such a Privilege of Parliament, that they only might have liberty to oppress at their pleasure, without any hope of remedy? If all these put together make not up the cause for which you fought, what was the Cause? What have ye obtained to the People, but these Liberties, for they must not be called oppressions? These are the fruits of all those vast disbursements, and those thousands of lives that have been spent and destroyed in the late War.

And though the Army seemed to be sensible of these gross jugglings, and declared and engaged against them, and professed that they took not pains as a mercenary Army, hired to fight for the Arbitrary ends of a State, but in judgement and conscience, for the preservation of their own and the People's just Rights and Liberties: Yet when they had prevailed against those their particular opposers, and accomplished the ends by them aimed at, all these things were forgotten, and those people that appeared for the People's Freedoms, by them esteemed and proceeded against as Mutineers, or Incendiaries.

In like manner, the present Ruling Party of Presbyterians make a great show of their apprehensions of the great slavery and servitude brought upon the People, by the exercise of an Arbitrary power in the Parliament, and by the jurisdiction of the Sword in the hands of the Army: They tell us that by this means the Trade of the Nation is destroyed, and that without the removal of these things, the peace of the Nation cannot be secured: And it is exceeding true: But I beseech you consider, whether they do not revive the same Play, and drive the same Design, which was acted by the Parliament at first, and by the Army the last Summer.

First, they cry out against the exercise of an arbitrary power in the Parliament, and yet labour to invest it in the King, nay challenge the exercise of it by themselves: for what greater arbitrary power can there be in the world, than that a Priest or two, and a few Lay Elders, under the name of a Presbytery, should have power to bind or loose, bring in or case out, save or destroy at their pleasure, and enforce all persons within the limits of their jurisdiction, to believe as they believe, and submit to whatever they command, or else to be by them delivered over to Satan.

Nay if you look into those of that great party of the Magistracy of this City, that are the great promoters of the present work: do there any man in the world exercise a more arbitrary power? Do not many of them act only by the Rule of will and pleasure, and have they not openly professed themselves to be obliged to observe no other Rule than Discretion?

And though they decry against the power of the Sword in the hands of the Independents, yet do they not with all their might, labour to get it into the hands of the Presbyterians? and being there, will they not do that themselves, which they complain of in others? will they not say that there are gain-sayers whose mouths must be stopped, and with the Sword rather than fail, and though Royalists or Independents may not use the Sword to enforce their Principles, yet Presbyterians may, as if all knowledge of the truth were centred in a Presbytery, consisting of half Scotch, half English, part Puritan, part Cavalier, luke-warm christianity, neithe hot nor cold, zealous for the truth which they know not, only by hearsay, and only because they love not Independency, that being too pure, nor Episcopacy, that being too profane, they will be between both (but not in a golden Mean, for that were well), but more zealous than either in outward performances, but for the power of godliness. -- I cease to judge, but we say we may know the tree by its fruit, and certain I am that Thistles never bore Figs.

But if you shall examine what grounds of freedom they propose in all their Papers; what equal Rules of justice they offer to be insisted on as a sure foundation for lasting peace? Surely if you look but seriously into the bottom of their design, you will find that the peace they aim at is only their own; not the Nation's, and that their own ease, honour and dominion, is the only thing they pursue, and so they could enjoy ease and plenty, and stretch themselves upon Beds of Down, they would never care what the poor Country should suffer.

To be short, all the quarrel we have at this day in the Kingdom, is no other than a quarrel of Interests, and Parties, a pulling down of one Tyrant, to set up another, and instead of Liberty, heaping upon ourselves a greater slavery than that we fought against: certainly this is the Liberty that is so much strove for, and for which there are such fresh endeavours to engage men; but if you have not killed and destroyed men enough for this, go on and destroy, kill and slay, till your consciences are swollen so full with the blood of the People, that they burst again, and upon your death-beds may you see yourselves the most horrid Murderers that ever lived, since the time that Cain killed his brother without a just Cause; for where, or what is your cause? Believe it you have a heavy reckoning to make, and must undergo a sad repentence, or it will go ill with you at the great day, when all the sophistry of your great Reformers will serve you to little purpose, every man for himself being to give an account for the things which he hath done in the body, whether they be good or evil: Then it will serve you to little purpose to say, the King, Parliament, Army, Independents, Presbyterians, such an Officer, Magistrate, or Minister deluded me; no more than it did Adam, to say the woman whom thou gavest, etc. It being thus decreed in heaven, the soul which sinneth shall surely die.

[...]

For shame therefore (Royalists, Presbyterians, Independents,) before you murder another man hold forth your Cause plainly and expressly; and if any Adversaries appear either within or without the Land, reason it out with them if it be possible, deal as becomes Christians, argue, persuade, and use all possible means to prevent another War, and greater bloodshed; your great ones, whether the King, Lords, Parliament men, rich Citizens, etc. feel not the miserable effects thereof, and so cannot be sensible; but you and your poor friends that depend on Farmes, Trades, and small pay, have many an aching heart when these live in all pleasure and deliciousness: The accursed thing is accepted by them, wealth and honor, and both comes by the bleeding miserable distractions of the Commonwealth, and they fear an end of trouble would put an end to their glory and greatness.

Oh therefore all you Soldiers and People, that have your Consciences alive about you, put to your strength of Judgment, and all the might you have to prevent a further effusion of blood; let not the covetous, the proud, the blood-thirsty man bear sway amongst you; fear not their high looks, give no ear to their charms, their promises or tears; they have no strength without you, forsake them and ye will be strong for good, adhere to them, and they will be strong to evil; for which you must answer and give an account at the last day.

The King, Parliament, great men in the City and Army, have made you but the stairs by which they have mounted to Honor, Wealth and Power. The only Quarrel that has been, and at present is but this, namely, whose slaves the people shall be: All the power that any hath, was but a trust conveyed from you to them, to be employed by them for your good; they have misemployed their power, and instead of preserving you, have destroyed you: all Power and Authority is perverted from the King to the Constable, and it is no other but the policy of Statesmen to keep you divided by creating jealousies and fears among you, to the end that their Tyranny and Injustice may pass undiscovered and unpunished; but the people's safety is the supreme Law; and if a people must not be left without a means to preserve itself against the King, by the same rule they may preserve themselves against the Parliament and Army too; if they pervert the end for which they received their power, to wit the Nation's safety; therefore speedily unite yourselves together, and as one many stand up for the defence of your Freedom, and for the establishment of such equal rules of Government for the future, as shall lay a firm foundation of peace and happiness to all the people without partiality: Let Justice be your breastplate, and you shall need to fear no enemies, for you shall strike a terror to your now insulting oppressors, and force all the Nation's Peace to fly before you. Prosecute and prosper.

Vale.

Postscript.

Can there be a more bloody Project then to engage men to kill one another, and yet no just cause declared? Therefore I advise all men that would be esteemed Religious or Rational, really to consider what may be done for the future that is conducible to the Peace of the Nation; If the Peace of the Nation cannot be secured without the Restauration of the King, let it be done speedily and honorably, and provide against his misgovernment for the future; let his powers be declared and limited by Law.

If the Peace of the Nation cannot be secured by the continuance of this Parliament, let a Period be set for the dissolution thereof, but first make certain provision for the successive calling, electing and sitting of Parliaments for the future; let their Priviledges be declared and power limited, as to what they are empowered and what not; for doubtless in Parliament rightly constituted consists the Freedom of a Nation: And in all things do as you would be done unto, seek peace with all men.

But above all things, abandon your former actings for a King against a Parliament, or an Army against both; for the Presbyterians against the Independents, etc. for in so doing you do but put a Sword into your enemies hands to destroy you, for hitherto, which of them soever were in power, they played the Tyrants and oppressed, and so it will ever be, when Parties are supported: Therefore if you engage at all, do it by Lawful Authority, let your Cause be declared, and just also, and let it be for the good of the whole Nation, without which you will not only hazard being Slaves, but also contract upon yourselves and Posterities the guilt of Murderers.

vale.


Notes and Links

"Grandee Factions"
The Grandees were the top officers, including Fairfax and Cromwell, in the army of Parliament, which during the period described here, took power for themselves and went on to execute the king and rule England for more than a decade.
W. P. Gent
This pamphlet was almost certainly written by William Walwyn, a civilian leader of the Levellers who for awhile had been involved in radical city politics and the struggle for religious toleration and the freedom of the press.
In his 1643 pamphlet, The Power of Love, Walwyn asked enemies of the Family of Love, "What family are you of, I pray?" (Cited in Hill, p. 36).
"they"
The pamphlet aims first at those who supported the king in the second round of civil war. But note how, in the paragraphs that follow, the question soon turns against those who continue to fight (without hesitation) for Parliament.
"starchamber"
By the time of the English Civil Wars, the starchamber was widely discredited but was continuing as a principle method of suppressing religious dissent. People were arrested and hauled in to testify. They were required to swear before the court. If they wouldn't they were tortured publicly and imprisoned, and if they would, they were required to testify against themselves and their friends.
"want of Parliaments ... to move for the ending thereof"
For ~ten years Charles I had ruled England without a sitting Parliament. After getting into a war that stretched the budget beyond his current fundraising abilities, in 1641(?) he allowed elections and a new Parliament, which then took it upon themselves to challenge him and his supporters over various issues. This led to the Civil Wars.
The same Parliament, later called the "Long" Parliament, sat throughout the war, though more and more depleted by purges and absenteeism. The "rump" of the Long Parliament was sent home in 1653 by Cromwell, but they were returned to England in 1659-60 when General Monk took power and set about to restore monarchy to England.