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Civil War Pamphlets - The Mournful Cries of Many Thousand Poor Tradesmen (Anonymous)

The Mournful Cries of Many Thousand Poor Tradesmen (Anonymous)


Source: http://oll.libertyfund.org/pages/leveller-tracts-9#9.21


The mournful Cries of many thousand Poor Tradesmen,
who are ready to famish through decay of Trade.
Or, the warning Tears of the Oppressed.
(22 Jan 1648)

OH that the cravings of our stomachs could be heard by the Parliament and city! Oh that the tears of our poor famishing babes were bottled! Oh that their tender mothers' cries for bread to feed them were engraven in brass! Oh that our pined carcasses were open to every pitiful eye! Oh that it were known, that we sell our beds and clothes for bread! Oh our hearts faint, and we are ready to swoon in the top of every Street.

O you Members of Parliament and rich men in the city, that are at ease, and drink wine in bowls, and stretch your selves upon beds of down, you that grind our faces and flay off our skins, will no man amongst you regard, will no man behold our faces black with sorrow and famine, is there none to pity. The sea-monster draws out the breast and gives suck to their young ones, and are our rulers become cruel like the ostrich in the wilderness, Lament. 4. 3.

OH ye Great men of ENGLAND, will not (think you) the righteous GOD behold our affliction, doth not he take notice that you devour us as if our flesh were bread? are not most of you either parliament-men, committee-men, customers, excise-men, treasurers, governors of towns and castles, or commanders in the army, officers in those dens of robbery the courts of law? and are not your kinsmen and allies, collectors of the King's revenue, or the Bishops' rents, or sequestrators? what then are your ruffling silks and velvets, and your glittering gold and silver laces, are they not the sweat of our brows, and the wants of our backs and bellies?

It's your Taxes, customes, and excise, that compels the country to raise the price of food, and to buy nothing from us but mere absolute necessaries; and then you of the city that buy our work, must have your tables furnished, and your cups overflow; and therefore will give us little or nothing for our work, even what you[Note 1] please, because you know we must sell for moneys to set our families on work, or else we famish: Thus our flesh is that whereupon you rich men live, and wherewith you deck and adorn your selves. Ye great men, is it not your plenty and abundance which begets you pride and riot? and do not your pride beget ambition, and your ambition faction, and your faction these civil broils; what else but your ambition and faction continue our distractions and oppressions? Is not all the controversy whose Slaves the poor shall be? Whether they shall be the King's vassals, or the Presbyterians, or the Independent factions? and is not the contention nourished, that you whose houses are full of the spoils of your country, might be secure from accounts, while there is nothing but distraction, and that by the tumultuousness of the people under prodigious oppression, you might have fair pretences to keep up an army, and garrisons, and that under pretence of necessity you may uphold your arbitrary government by committees, &c.

Have you not upon such pretences brought an army into the bowels of the city, and now exchange doth rise already beyond sea, and no merchants beyond sea will trust their goods hither, and our own merchants convey their [Note 2] estates from hence, so there is likely to be no importing of goods, and then there will be no exporting, and then our trade will be utterly lost, and our families perish as it were in a moment.

O ye Parliament men hear our dying cry. Settle the common-wealth, settle the common-wealth! Strive not who shall be greatest until you be all confounded. You may if you will presently determine where the supreme power resides, and settle the just common freedoms of the nation, so that all parties may equally receive justice and enjoy their right, and every one may be as much concerned as other to defend those common freedoms; you may presently put down your arbitrary committees and let us be governed by plain written laws in our own tongue, and pay your ministers of justice out of a common treasury, that every one may have justice freely and impartially.

You have in your hands the King's, Queen's, and Princes' revenue, and Papists' lands, and bishops', and deans', and chapters' lands, and sequestered lands, at least to the value of eighteen hundred thousand pounds by the year. Which is at least five hundred Thousand pounds a year more then will pay the Navy and all the Army, and the forces which need to be kept up in England and Ireland; and out of that the Kingdom's debts would be paid yearly; whereas now you run further into debt daily, and pay one thousand pounds by the day at least for use money; besides you may if you will proclaim liberty, for all to come and discover to a committee of disengaged men, chosen out of every county, one for a county to discover to them what moneys and treasure, your own members and your sequestrators, &c. have in their hands, and you may by that means find many millions of money to pay the public debts. You may find 30000l. in Mr. Richard Darley’s hand 25000l. in Mr. Thorpe's hands[Note3], a member of yours who first proclaimed Sir John Hotham traitor. And thus you may take off all taxes presently, and so secure peace, that trading may revive and our pining, hungry, famishing families be saved.

And O ye soldiers who refused to disband, because you would have justice and freedom, who cried till the earth echoed justice, justice; forget not that cry, but cry speedily for peace and justice, louder than ever. There is a large petition of some pitiful men that’s now abroad, which contains all our desires, and were that granted in all things, we should have trading again, and should not need to beg our bread, though those men have so much mercy as they would have none to cry in the streets for bread.

Oh though you be soldiers, show bowels of mercy and pity to a hunger starved people; go down to the Parliament, desire them to consume and trifle away no more time, but offer your desires for us in that large petition, and cry Justice, Justice; Save, save, save the perishing people; O cry thus till your importunity make them hear you.

O Parliament men, and soldiers! Necessity dissolves all laws and government, and Hunger will break through stone walls, tender mothers will sooner devour you, than the fruit of their own womb, and hunger regards no swords nor cannons. It may be some great oppressors intends tumults that they may escape in a crowd, but your food may then be wanting as well as ours, and your arms will be hard diet. O hark, hark at our doors how our children cry Bread, bread, bread, and we now with bleeding hearts, cry, once more to you, pity, pity, an oppressed enslaved people: carry our cries in the large petition to the Parliament, and tell them if they be still deaf the tears of the oppressed will wash away the foundations of their houses. Amen, Amen so be it.


 [1] And since the late Lord Mayor Adams, you have put in execution an illegal, wicked Decree of the Common Council; whereby you have taken our goods from us, if we have gone to the Innes to sell them to countrymen; and you have murdered some of our poor wives that have gone to inns to find countrymen to buy them.

[2] The merchants have already kept back from the Tower, many hundred thousand pounds, and no bullion is brought into The tower, so that money will be more scarce daily.

[3] Mr. William Lenthall, Speaker of the House, to cover his cozenage, gave two and twenty thousand pounds to his servant Mr. Cole, to purchase Land in his own name, though for his use; which he did, and then died suddenly, and the land fell to his son, and the widow having married a lawyer, keeps the land for the child's use, and saith he knows not that his predecessor received any money from the Speaker, and now Master Speaker sueth in Chancery for the Land. A hundred such discoveries might be made.


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