The question most asked of me, who were The Clubmen? A valid start to the topic of, yet with the answer in my reply I can struggle with. A precise over view, an adding up of the parts of, or is it in a close resemblance of the different associations in aims? Researching the stories of you can be distracted by the personnel within and stories of and not the overview. Being asked this question of recent by the ever excellent series Cromwellian Conversations, it prompted me to look back again at that very word Clubmen and those defined as.
Click on picture for link to Cromwellian Conversations
A Mr Hunt and a Mr Green of the Somerset Archaeological And Natural History Society argued a point at their annual evening meeting in 1877. Who were and why the name of as a body of people? The minutes of the meeting make for colourful reading. Mr Hunt who talks of the Clubmen of "a rudely sort who carried clubs", asked of Mr Green, "by what authority did he have for saying that the name Clubmen derived from their associating, clubbing together for a mutual protection?"
Mr Green argues his belief the word Clubmen as an associating can be seen in the accounts of the meetings recorded and in reply of by Royalists and Parliamentarian commanders who came into contact with Clubmen alike. He talks of the The Prince of Wales in Wells Somerset and his encounter with, "received a petition from some thousands of Clubmen, most in arms". This is disapproved of with public meetings frowned on and it, a unwarrantable course of assembling together. Further in a description is giving "they gave passes to their associates and they have rules and orders they worked under".
When we look at the arrest of Mr Dale in 1645 by troops while he was returning from Wincanton and near Salisbury. We see when accused of him being a spy in his reply asserted "he is no such thing but a Clubmen, no other end to this association but then to defend themselves from plunder" .
Looking at the word Clubmen itself in description as did Mr Green, the word Clubmen we can also see a blurring of who the naming of this tag pinned on resides also. Those that wrote declarations only and organised from 1645 only? Those that came together in a form of local militia only in a defence against what was being put upon them from the first stirrings of civil war? Or those that were not in either army but were seen by both warring sides as a group with a voice in a war they were in the midst of, and as such a needing a name to put to report and observe maybe recruit on side? Carrying of clubs? All of the above?
Looking at where this term club arrived from maybe helps. An early 12th century description link can be found in the Swedish and Danish slimily spelt word Klubba. This is derived from the Germanic word klumbon, literally meaning clump. Here we see a first in seeing as a mass, clump of. The weighty end of a club is as such a mass. Now let us jump back to the description when implied to The Clubmen. In reports of by both warring sides we see those involved in as being in the club business, a club army, even just the word club is used by Humphrey Willis himself when writing from Weymouth, he talks of those being in the honest club.
The forming of association, a mutual league in our own defence are all descriptions The Clubmen used themselves.
As now we see the word club in a forming of, belonging to a mass can link into an organising of, a common associated name, belonging to. We use the word belonging to. A term that carries weight in how others look upon you. As we see belonging to and us such under, no matter how loosely, a set of rules. Rules, views of, cause defines the club.
The body of writings by The Clubmen occurred in their writing declarations, petitions of 1645. These are a set of desires and resolutions with a wanting of control, order in their own lives aimed at those causing chaos upon them and hence such, those causing said chaos bringing order upon themselves also, a community living under rules.
What we know through their writing declarations is a common goal of a cease to hostilities, a Parliament and King reconciled and an order, civility brought back to their community. The word community itself in a modern sense has a feel of locality a joining of those within belonging to a sense of, all effected by actions upon as a generality can be lost if not under order.
Of course all are in a community, we are all part of its sweeping inclusion within. What could be called sections of community within a more micro analyst implied, this town, the borough of. Were The Clubmen based in meaning the whole. The Clubmen as localised bodies had effect but a broader brush needs to be seen.
George Lawson the cleric of More in Shropshire who witnessed The Clubmen risings of 1645 spoke of community being the highest of all priority's. If a loss of state, King in seeing community as the upmost priority it was of for those of that community to correct if just. He described this as real majesty and personal majesty. Personal majesty involves governance, administration, law. We are subjects under the personal with subjection of categories under ie, soldier to commander and so on until we are all under a greater obligation that covers all.
King and Parliament here are joined at the hip. Supreme power, personal with the King, Parliament, legislator. Hence If the king refuses to work with government then there is no longer a identifiable joining, in fact two forms of power and supreme bodies. When this occurs those agreeing to be under this recognised governance no longer have to comply with. This does not mean King and Parliament as a body of governance but the King in person and members of that Parliament. The generality, community now free of obligation. Acts by said parties put the community with a duty to act on.
The Clubmen were fully aware of where they stood under law and with a commons they lived within. Their declarations are clear in as stated above of a wanting of a return to an order of governance. The actions leading up to 1642 and civil war here can be seen in their declarations also. A balance of power and commons not a dominance of one over the other. A fear of conquest over resolve was a worry. Differences managed by governance agreed, not put upon.
The Clubmen were a necessity. The actions of taxation, plunder and loss of life upon person and persons and property were an immediate. In this they were organised in forming in mass to defend from. As the war continued and an ending of could be felt if quickened by choosing side the immediate took priority. A relief from a war most horrid and a more disciplined soldier in the forming of the New Model Army had effect.
A resounding answer to who were The Clubmen in part only can be seen in the effects of war upon them and actions they took in their own defence. The understanding of a broader question regards how the state is shaped and then its place upon the generality underpins The Clubmen declarations also. The Clubmen declarations state "we the generality", there lays another open question, who were, are?