Henry Denne

The Levellers designe discovered:
Or the anatomy of the late unhappie mutinie: presented unto the souldiery of the army under the command of his Excellency, the Lord Fairfax, for the prevention of the like in others.
Written by Henry Denne, an actor in this tragędy

London 1649

 

How great and dangerous a mutiny happened lately in a part of the army is not unknown to the nation. How great and manifold miseries were thereby threatened unto the languishing commonwealth is beyond expression. The mutinous and turbulent spirit that was amongst us not being included within the quarters of one regiment but diffused (like evil blood through the veins) into many regiments of the army, wherein this discontented humor hath affected infected diverse.  I - having had too much experience by bearing too great a part in this discontented rebellion - shall do what I can to discover unto the world both the causes and effects thereof; that by the manifestation of the weakness of the groundwork and by the declaration of the hideous consequences, men being undeceived, they who are any way entangled may be recovered out of that dangerous and destructive faction, they who are yet free may have their thoughts prevented. That dangers of like nature may be anticipated and a right understanding settled. That peace and union, love and concord may knit and unite the joints of this present army so together that neither open enemy nor pretended friend may be able by force or flattery to divide it.

The first and great occasion of this unexpected mutiny was this:  our regiments with some others were by lot designed for the service of Ireland. The service we granted both very honorable and also necessary for the prevention of war and settling of peace in this nation. Yet did we believe that there stood between us and Ireland, an engagement made by the army at that famous rendezvous at Triploe Heath, June 5 1647, binding us neither to suffer dividing nor disbanding of this army until such satisfaction were given as in that engagement required. It was though essentially conducing to the satisfaction of the army, to the reconciliation of differences, to the procuring of national freedom, and to the relief of Ireland, to require such a Council to be set up again in the army, consisting of two commission officers and two agitators chosen by every regiment of horse and foot, together with the concurring general officers. In this we were very bold (I do not say wise) propounding to his Excellency this condition to be performed before we could submit unto his Excellency's order. This performed, we were content to refer ourselves to the censure of this Council. That which gave us boldness herein, and that which beguiled us was this:  That we did not conceive how the engagement could possibly admit of a dispensation.

Such a Council being by that engagement appointed as a representative of the army, ought (as we did then believe) to be still continued unless we would prove perfidious covenant-breakers. I could not (I confess) untie this knot, but here I was entangled and ensnared, and therefore for that present thought myself bound in duty to God and men to prosecute this engagement. Hence it was (many being of the same mind) that 12 troops of horse were drawn together and looking upon superior commanders as tyrannical covenant-breakers. We marched contrary to his Excellency's expresses, being heightened with the zeal of the performance of our engagement.

And touching this thing, we were further persuaded that it did hold forth such strength of reason that the greater part of the army would suddenly have joined with us. And this was the cause why I joined with that party, dividing from the army, notwithstanding there appeared less safety and greater hazard. And I believe this cord drew on may honest-hearted men who did conscientiously seek to make good that engagement. But herein I confess a double error. First, had this engagement been to be prosecuted, yet ought not we to have moved beyond our sphere, and to break one engagement by the prosecution of another, to disobey his Excellency's order under any pretence.  Our second error was in not pre-acquainting his Excellency and his Council of War with our grievances, in whom we have found so great meekness and moderation that we could not have missed expected satisfaction.

But that further answer may be given and thereby the snare may be broken and no more be entangled, I shall declare what satisfaction I have received, that so I may give the same satisfaction unto others. Such a Council indeed, the engagement required, and such a Council was constituted in the army - acting and transacting of matters pertaining to the discipline of the army. And so long was this Council continued until the inconvenience thereof was so far manifest that most of the regiments of horse and foot did petition his Excellency to send back the several agitators unto their respective regiments until he should be pleased to re-summon them; professing a willingness in themselves to submit unto his Excellency with his Council of War, according to the pristine discipline of the army. His Excellency having received this petitions did not immediately send back the agitators (as requested). But having first summoned a council and communicated the petitions unto them, it was by them concluded that according to the petitions of the several regiments, the Council of agitators should be dissolved until his Excellency should see cause to re-summon them. Now this being so, his Excellency cannot be charged with violation of that engagement, neither doth there remain any obligation on his Excellency to have continued or revived any such Council. Much less is it warrantable in the soldiery of the army to assume that power to themselves, seeing they suffered a dissolution by the same power by which they had their first constitution.

And if this had been formerly known unto some of us, I am persuaded many had been prevented in this precipitate action.

This that hath been spoken (though it now seems weak) was the first and chief ground of our discontent, which beak forth into irregularity and high disobedience. Some other grounds there are which did add fuel to this fire and blow up the sparkles which did here begin to be kindled. A second ground was, that many aspersions which are cast upon some general officers of the army (to the blasting of their fame and reputation) have proved as a whet-stone to set a rough edge upon the resolutions of many and to stir them up into further discontent. I need not repeat what is written or spoken by some men. As to myself, I profess I did never believe them - and I bless God, I see less cause to believe them than ever. I have thought strange that men should think to dishonor them whom the Lord hath honored. But truly I observe great credulity (the character of lightness) in very many whom I could wish otherwise minded. I desire that diligent search be made whether this proceed not either from jealous, which always suspecteth the worse, or from envy, repining at the felicity of other men. Yet lest some should say - that there is no smoke but some fire, all these accusations cannot be false - I shall plainly show that much such smoke hath been where no fire was to be found, and that the best men (especially in authority) have been partakers of this portion. And tacitly to answer another objection, I shall show, that good men have sometimes been infected with the forenamed contagion. Moses was the meekest man in his time upon the earth, yet did the conspirators charge him as fiercely and heinously as any officer of the present army is charged this day in taking too much upon him, lifting up himself, making himself a prince over the people. And this is not only spoken by sons of Belial, but by those that were men of renown and famous among the people, yea, countenanced because believed by the whole congregation of Israel. Now unless we will say that all the congregation were evil, we must be forced to confess that good men are sometimes overtaken with this fault of accusing and condemning others when there is no cause. Experience will teach us not  to be too credulous to give ear to reports, lest we be induced to believe that which we have no ground for. If flying reports might be taken for evidence we should in all ages find very few good men but we should be ready to condemn the generation of the just.

Another complaint exasperating the minds of some is that one tyrant is pulled down and a second set up in his room. I confess this complaint were of great weight if it were true. But truly I suppose this ariseth from the want of discerning of true government from tyranny. As flattery was wont of late years to extol tyranny as if it had been the perfection of government, so ignorance and envy is ready to brand true and lawful government with the name of tyranny. I see the difference between the one and the other and I desire other men may discern it. A tyrant makes his will the law; the other makes the law his will. And truly, if we exclaim against tyranny when our rulers govern not according to lust but according to law and rule, we shall incur a just suspicion that it is not tyranny but magistracy that we complain of.

Another thing that hath much disturbed the minds of men and filled them with discontent is the slow motion of the Parliament as to the taking away of oppressions and easing the grievances of the people. In answer to this, we are to consider the Parliament before and after the army's entrance into London. As to the former consideration, I am so far from admiring their slow motion that it is a wonder to me that they moved at all - any other way than backward. And I do admire the great providence of God who withheld them from turning all things upside down while the House was filled with so many me of corrupt interests. As to the Parliament in the second consideration - since the army's approach to London - we have cause to bless God that they have done so many things for us, which our eyes have seen. And what is not yet done is in promise already performed unto us, with assurance of such celerity as matters of so great weight will possibly admit. And for answer unto this complaint, there needeth not any to a patient spirit and the impatient ar not capable of an answer. In conclusion of this, I shall declare my thoughts, that although some men do not cease to cast dust in the faces both of Parliament and the Council of the Army, yet hath not that cloud been thick enough to hinder the appearance of those beams of justice, mercy, pity clemency, moderation which shine forth in them, which have drawn me to so reverend an esteem of both as I cannot now conveniently set forth, lest I should incur suspicion of falling from one extreme into another.

I shall only say this, that I bless God for them; and it were no small degree of ingratitude if we should deny it a great mercy to the nation that God hath raised up such men amongst us. These are the ordinary causes of our discontents which  being weighed in the balance, it will appear that the greatest of all is the unthankfulness of our hearts and impatiency of our spirits, our want of love to cover offences, and our too much envy aggravating what may be amiss. I shall now proceed to show the effects of this distraction if it be lawful to judge of the effects in the cause. The fruits of this mutiny would have proved so bitter that had I many tongues and great strength of invention, I could not sufficiently declare them. But when I shall have done that which I am able, it will appear clearly to the world (though we with faces of brass should deny it) that the sentence passed on us all and the execution upon some was very just and righteous. And that his Excellency's clemency in sparing of us was very great.  Let me speak truly of the consequences likely to have attended this insurrection as they were represented unto me upon serious meditations after I had received the sentence of death, at such time as I judged myself not only unworthy but also incapable of mercy (from men) in respect of my deep crime. And I shall make it appear that if we had not been prevented this mutiny would have proved more dangerous and destructive than the first war raised by the King with his cavalry, or the second revived by the Welsh, the Kentish, the invading Scots and others.

The first and second wars did unite the hearts of the army together and caused the well-affected in the nation, with heart and hand, to join in one. But this would have procured a division between the well-affected, and made a breach in this victorious army by forcing one part to engage against the other and one in fury to destroy the other; and then by ham-string the sinews of this nation rendering all former victories null, bringing upon us a more desperate condition than ever, re-delivering us up into the hands of our conquered yet insulting enemies. Surely hereby great joy had sprung up to the Malignant party, but exceeding sorrow and owe to the well-affected. I cannot but with shame acknowledge blindness of heart and a spirit infatuated when we undertook this desperate and dangerous enterprise. We have therefore cause to say, Blessed be the Lord who gave us into his Excellency's hand. And blessed be his Excellency of the Lord who has been so happy an instrument to withhold our hands from the blood and ruin of our nation.

The first and second war had some basis and foundation to build upon, some appearance of visible authority to countenance it: from which appearance of authority it derived a beginning, in which also it did terminate itself; viz. in the will and pleasure of a King. But this mutiny was without any foundation at all: the name of a king we disclaimed, from the Parliament we had neither received nor required commission, the people knew not our desires and they were more against us than for us for ought we knew. Now what success could be expected from such confusion? Justly did the Lord disown us to teach all men that he is a God of order and not of confusion, to teach us that he needeth not our disobedience to superiors or any evil action to consummate this determination.

The first and second war was managed by men of one interest - as touching the King, they all aimed at his restitution, at the advancing of his prerogative. But we were a heterogenial body, consisting of parts very diverse one from another, settled upon principles inconsistent one with another. So that although the intentions of some men were good and plausible, yet the major part must need be far different, unless we think it possible that light and darkness, good and evil can be concentric together - insomuch that had we proved the stronger party and prevailed, where should we have terminated?  Who can imagine otherwise but that parties amongst us of several dispositions would have every one sough to fulfill his own will? and so we should have run into divisions and subdivisions until we had ended in confusions.

These things I have declared for this end that I may manifest unto my fellow-soldiers that I am ashamed of the late proceedings and do conceive great indignation against myself for being accessory unto such rash attempts, that I may give warning unto others that they may beware and fear to do any such thing. Oh, how necessary it is at all times to draw near unto God for wisdom and understanding to guide us and direct us in all our ways. And lastly I desire all may consider and acknowledge how great the preventing mercy of God hath been towards us at this time that so we may be incited to offer praise and honor and glory to him that liveth for ever and ever.

 

FINIS


 

[Spelling and punctuation modernized]

cavalry = cavaliers

heterogenial = heterogeneous