Neutralism 

Neuters, neutrals and waverers is a term used with broadness in meaning and had manifested itself by many in language to describe the imposition of many at the outbreak of the English Revolution . The language used to label is decided on many occasions by ones opposing side or sides in an argument. In a war both opposing sides of that war can agree a dislike or an opportunity to recruit where neuters and waverers are concerned. Indeed, a Puritan cry from the pulpit through the English Revolution was that a neuter or waverer on one's religious grounds, is one neutral in religion, and as such evil and a sin.

 

"Rotten-hearted nauseous Neutrals" was the description given by contemporary biographer John Vicars of the Western Clubmen in his accounts of Parliamentary activities in "England's Parliamentary Chronicle 1645-1646".

 

This colourful take on the Clubmen is nothing out of the norm with regards to how warring factions within a war and especially a Civil War deal with a neutralist party.

A divide defined can be of in a true sense with the numbers to validate a divide or as seen and portrayed as once momentum is behind that belief for that divide. Having a neutral view is often giving a 'one sitting on a fence' tag. This suits an agenda of those that oppose a settlement one could argue, choosing a side in fact could continue an unresolved divide. Leaving a divide by victory not of settlement. Only for that divide to fester. .

A 17th century Clubmen description by secretary to Thomas Fairfax  Rushworth, gives a neuters tack in the political sense.

 

"Two captains of the Club-men (as they were called) being a great number of the inhabitants of several parts of Wiltshire, and some counties adjacent, who gathered themselves together, alleging they did but stand on their own defence, to prevent Plundering; and that they would in that posture remain Neuters until the King and his Parliament should agree. (1645)"

1645.9) in Rushw. Hist. Coll. I. 52

 

Being of a neuter stance could find one's fate in the Civil War a dangerous position. Is being of a neutral stance an act of impossibility, you by default if one side gets the upper hand in a conflict becomes a possible threat?    

 

An account by a Mr Elton who was taken prisoner then discharged by Royalist troops on April 5th 1645 gives an account of The Clubmen in Hereford. Tagged under the name neuters ( neuter insurrection ) they had fines imposed on them and a hanging of those who were chiefs among them. An account of The Clubmen stance at Ledbury is also witnessed and an act of plunder on the inhabitants of Winchcombe. "

 

"Cambden's garrison went lately to Winchcombe, where they plundered them so here that the plundered had not a sunday, clothes left on them and cattle drove away"

News and Affairs 1645

 

Neutralism, temporisers, waverers and time-servers find the treason card played against them no matter what century?

 

Halifax, statesman, writer, and politician after the 17th century English Revolution and the man labelled a Trimmer ( a neutral who trims one's sails to suit the winds blowing) called for moderation. "Condemning the madmen of two extremes who make common sense a treason".

 

Trimmer and time-servers were seen as pejorative terms.

A tale of The Earl of Kingston Upon Hull Robert Pierrepont , labelled as a neuter at the break out of civil war in 1642 and desiring a peace when pushed to take sides declared, “when I take up arms with King against Parliament or with Parliament against the King, let a cannon bullet divide me between the two”.

 

His wish came true it appears. A few months later and after taking side with the King, he was taken prisoner at Gainsborough. On being put upon a pinnace and being transported down the river to Hull, Lord Newcastle with his troops on shore fired upon the pinnace. With hearing the shot the Earl came on deck to tell them to cease their fire for he was in danger. With this he was hit by a cannon bullet and as such divided in two. He being in the Parliaments pinnace and then hit by a cannon bullet from the Kings army, his declaration for both sides voiced at the outbreak did occur. A foot in pinnace on Parliament a cannon bullet of King.

 

A tale of the fate of one who sees fit to be voicing a neutral stance at the beginning of the conflict. Prisoner of one side an enemy to the other. Not to be trusted, one who may waver. A man of circumstance and as Hallifax stated, "two extremes who make common sense a treason" who is forced, pulled into choosing side.

 

In the English Revolution divides developed as the war drew on. The outcome of the Civil Wars and shaping of what followed  thereafter had no agreed settlement, as a win by conquest. The Clubmen organised to put pressure on the warring parties to reconcile these divides through necessity.  Neutralism here was seen through the eyes of cynicism by opposing sides. Crypto-royalists or parliamentarian was labelled against The Clubmen. The tagging of with underlying labels could thus undermine The Clubmen's neutralism . 


 

A neutralism approach for a settling of a conflict stance and as a voice inside a warring divide has to win over parties from both sides in that divide. To survive the as said cynicism and undermining by opposing forces is an uphill struggle .  Momentum of the unrest shapes the effect of that neutral stance also, here speed of effect works both ways.  A weariness of the Civil War by 1645 on the people had caused a neutral form of protectionism.  Neutralism in the English Revolution has to be seen as violence being put upon them and plunder of those neutral, with a need to protect from in force if needs must. A call to cease the fight and talk to settle your grievances.

Can a third neutral stance party take a Revolution into a complete Revolution or is compromise always the appearance a third party brings to the table?   

 

We have an example of a 21st century neutral stance via a divide in Spain of 2017, when the call for Catalonia Independence brought a third force also into a divide. A blurring of a binary choice woven around the call for and question around Spain and Catalonia Independence. Now being joined by the Parlem movement, a let's talk input and questioning of choices given. A look at achieving real change in governance, truly representative and the underlying problems, grievances of the generality.

The writing of their grievances in a manifesto and a demand to be listened to was brought to the streets in Spain in October 2017.  

 

“The time has come to say that Spain is a greater country than her rulers.

They have spread hatred, they pit us against each other and divide us.  If we don’t intervene as a society they are going to turn this country into a difficult place in which to live. That’s why it’s time for citizens to take a step forward and take to the streets next Saturday, with white clothes or ribbons and white banners and signs to show them that we don’t want them to use us, to divide us, to lie to us, and that we are many more [than they] and this is not something to be resolved by them, but by the people, by dialogue and coexistence.

In the past few days we have felt rage, and above all, great sadness. We have witnessed things that we have never wanted to see and that hurt us deeply and which are happening as a result of the actions of irresponsible leaders who neither listen nor speak. As citizens we refuse to be forced into a dead end street. Not in our name.

 

We know that coexistence is possible.  Spain is better than her leaders and has demonstrated this on many occasions. It’s time to come together, to show them that they have been incapable and irresponsible, and that there are other ways to do things. Without blocks and without blockages. We need to opt for dialogue, respect and understanding. We are many, we are diverse, we are respectful, and above all we want a better country and not one infinitely worse.

 

Coexistence is created through dialogue, and laws should serve that dialogue. Laws cannot be used as an obstacle, and much less as a means to generate a civil conflict. We need to say enough is enough to this spiral, we need to stop, sit down, and think about our country. It is through democracy, listening , and dialogue that we will reach solid and lasting social agreements (pacts/contracts).

 

Those of us who want a country based on respect, on fraternal dialogue, and democratic coexistence in the face of violence should hang white sheets on our balconies. Instead of building walls, we need a clean sheet to construct a country in which all of us fit.

Spain is a better country than her leaders. Shall we talk?

 

Sourced Spain: shall we talk? CRISTINA FLESHER FOMINAYA 7 October 2017

 

The writing of a manifesto from a grass-roots peoples movement as to a political class,  deciding one's fate has a nod to The Clubmen movement of 1645.

 

The Clubmen were brought about by a quarrel as said not by them but between King and Parliament. This resulted in the writing of petitions and declarations from a people’s perspective and pushing for a settlement. Although not a call for a dismissal of the structure of governance one must see The Clubmen demands as voices with a revolutionary effect in place. The complete rejection of the War put upon them and calls for a peace were being voiced outside the warring parties .  An order brought back was not as said a call for the fall of the King, Parliament structure but a reform of and agreement. As with revolution, a complete revolution still has many voices within that revolution. All voices in that revolution are as such, of that revolution.

 

How change occurs and keeping that change inclusive is the question.

The course of the English Revolution had brought the Waverers and neutrals into a now seen opportunity to recruit for advantage, to bring on side to Royalist or Parliamentarian in the English Revolution. The term Clubmen (by association) formed by neutrals in the spring and summer of 1645 in the Civil War was now recognised as a third force. A thing to put down, recruit, or by a diplomatic route of listening to, was and discussed by Roundhead and Royalist alike.

 

The Parliamentarian New Model commander Fairfax in Dorset and Wiltshire in the early months of Spring and Summer 1645 was negotiating with The Clubmen. A negotiating route had been seen fit. Others around him saw this third force as insolent, a rabble force of nauseas headed neutrals.

 

Neutrals were seen by Fairfax in the light of waverers as the war dragged on and a chance to bring on side or find no quarrel with. The diplomatic hand was at play. Through a fear of sheer numbers The Clubmen could muster or a general grace to hear their grievances, the route of non violence was seen preferable. 

 

The alliances of the Clubmen with different parties in the Civil War is not a product of where they, The Clubmen, saw their advantage or locality, but more of a case where stability did apply and a reaction against who was causing most harm to them. Both sides were seen as being in a war most unnatural and causing miseries.  What was seen by some for the Parliament cause with The Clubmen in Dorset was the view The Clubmen did waver more to the Royalist and as such crypto Royalist. This was not a total case of. A discourse with who is immediately of your locality is of no surprise, alliance with through dialogue is a course most wise and not an agreement of on side. As declared by the Clubmen, they were not in the business of joining sides.  This was to become less of a case as the war continued.

 

Seeing The Clubmen also as revolutionary is itself true regards as in a division between the warring sides they stand alone. The Clubmen were seen as a third sort, an army without a King, lord or even a gentlemen  Revolutionary in the fact that their demands were put to King and Parliament as a third party and not a duty under until a settlement was had. Governing themselves without licence and assembling also. This was moved on quickly by Parliament and made unlawful. This in fact is how The Clubmen saw the warring sides, unlawful. At war, when the bond between the Governance, King and Peers is breached, the community is paramount. Resistance or revolution is in play.  Conquest to power seen as an unjust to the end result. The means don't justify the ends.  The word revolutionary may not fit, for in fact what The Clubmen of 1645 did do was in the eyes of those Godly and just. A play on Cromwell and God's Army itself.

 

The Clubmen were overtaken by events and those that did resist were quashed early. By 1645 the first civil war was nearing an end and the country had become war weary with those that it had touched.  The Levellers would push for reform and an Agreement for the People, later to some extent they would suffer the same fate as The Clubmen. The King would later be put on trial and a Republic born. For a spell in 1645 the community, generality were indeed called upon by necessity and across that generality an understanding of what was required of them.

Dorset Clubmen Map, courtesy of artist Stewart MacArthur. For Hi Res, please get in touch via contact page, or click on map for link to download.

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