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  • Haydn Wheeler

"Let that be a warning to join, keep out of unlawful assemblies"

Updated: Mar 8, 2022

Place Yard 1647, courtesy of the Guildhall Library

The Clubmen movement with its call for a stop to the Civil War and a return to talks with King and Parliament has at its core a rooting in the provinces, and that is where its strength of power was held in 1645. The demands made and the non-acceptance of a state defined by warring parties and a winner takes all shaping of a country was a challenge and problem for both warring parties. An organised assembly (association) such as the Clubmen in the early stages of the the Civil War is worth reflection.

Burford, Clubmen Banner.

Links to the Clubmen can be seen in the challenging of the accepted ways of governance by the women's petitioning of 1643.

The Civil War of King and Parliament argument had by default empowered those who were witnessing the warring parties desolation of England. A gathering of women petitioners in 1643 is an example of this empowering, in the very fact it was a women's gathering making demands of men in positions of power.

A report of the women gathering August 3rd 1643

The bloody English Revolution which started in 1642 was now into it's second year. The 8th of August 1643 saw several hundred women gathered outside the Houses of Parliament. A call for the just prerogatives, and privileges of King and Parliament, the true liberties and properties of the subject be restored ans a speedy recourse of the truly reformed protestant religion, and ye renovation of trade was being demanded. This was seen as being rejected by Parliament. Proposals by the the Lords for a reopening of peace talks with the King had fallen by the wayside with both Royalists and Parliamentarians .

Sir Simmond D'Ews the diarist and a member of the Peace Party of 1642 in Parliament described these women now assembled as.

"two or three hundred oyster wives they cried "peace peace" and interrupted divers of the members, both as they went in and came out the House"

After given reassurance or as reported in the The Kingdom's Weekly Intelligencer "with white silk Ribbons in their hats, and cryed for Peace, Committed no great disorder, but when their saw their own time, went home again".

This was not to be the end of the matter though, for the very next day the 9th August the numbers of women gathered in Palace Yard had increased. According to The Parliament Scout newspaper numbers were between 5000-6000 and were with a signed petition for Parliament entitled "The Humble Petition of the Many Civilly-Disposed Women" Clarendon wrote "wives and substantial citizens" or as Rushworth records "a multitude of the meaner sort of women, with white ribbons in their hats"

Remaining in Palace Yard " Peace Peace," rang aloud and for two hours after getting past the Trained Bands (local militia), the entrance to Parliament was blocked and the immediate entrance occupied. What was a call for peace and an end to Civil War with talks between King and Parliament to resume was about to take a turn for the worse. Reports of what followed have to be seen as who in manner the report would favour observer-wise. One account speaks of the scuppering of peace talks by Parliament and a calling for "give us those traitors give us that dog Pym" (Royalist) What we do know is the gathering turned violent. Throwing brickbats (bricks) at the Trained Bands and with men joining in with throwing of stones, the women were then fired upon by the soldiers who were in attendance. The Kingdom's Weekly Intelligencer reports an unlucky fellow being killed by the soldiers, "a Ballad-singer with one arme." This was followed by Sir William Waller's regiment of horse unleashed upon them. With swords held flat ways, the women were cut on face and hands with one woman losing her nose and later dying of her injuries. Running for cover this Troop of Horse dispersed this gathering.

The killing of a young lady with nothing to do with the petitioners by a Trooper, but passing through the Church Yard where previously the women had gathered was reported "let that be a warning not to join, keep out of unlawful assemblies"

The nature of a women's gathering and demands made unto those who they challenged would have been seen as a direct threat and a thing most out of the norm to those men in power of the 17th Century.

Melbourne Herald January 31st 1879

We see the unlawful assemblies being applied later to the Clubmen. After a period of negotiation through July, August 1645 a change to a one of disciplinary was now being enforced late August 1645. A third force in the Clubmen was seen by Parliamentarians, Royalists alike. With an act of law by parliament now upon The Clubmen parliaments use of state intervention was a thing of most use as a tool. For it suited a when to apply and when not through the latter parts of the 1st Civil War.

Fairfax was now in the south west in the summer of 1645 with a disciplined army. The exploits and plunder by Royalists Goring's Crew (as it was known) in the south wast would now have consequence.

Fairfax recruitment of parties of Clubmen must be seen as specific to Goring's actions and reputation in the south west. A common cause in his defeat was a mutual agreement. It was Parliament that decreed the Clubmen an illegal body to assemble on August 23rd 1645 at the very time of Fairfax and his joining of by parties of Clubmen. The ignoring of gatherings by Clubmen was a thing of convenience by parliament when it suited them as previously mentioned.

The unlawful assemblies tag is a handy tool with an open ended interpretation.

Of course the Leveller Women in 1648-49 were later to make demands with petition, as the war continued. The future as yet unwritten, and a shaping of what was to be the outcome of a bloody Civil War in settlement was now the question.

Have we not an equal interest with the men of this nation in these liberties and securities contained in the Petition of Right and other good laws of the land?

TO THE SUPREME AUTHORITY OF ENGLAND, THE COMMONS ASSEMBLED IN PARLIAMENT. “ The Humble Petition of divers well-affected Women of the Cities of London and Westminster, the Borough of Southwark, Hamlet?; and parts adjacent— Afecters and approvers of the Petition of Sept.11, 1648.

Sheweth—That since we are assured of our creation in the image of God, and of an interest in Christ, equal unto men, as also of a proportionable share in the freedoms of this Commonwealth, we cannot but wonder and grieve, that we should appear so despicable in your eyes, as to be thought unworthy to petition your Honourable House. “ Have we not an equal interest with the men of this nation, in those liberties and securities, contained in the Petition of Right, and other the good laws of the land? Are any of our lives, limbs, liberties, or goods, to be taken from us more than from men, but by due process of law, and - conviction of twelve sworn men of the neighbourhood ? And can you imagine us to he so sotish or stupid, as not to perceive or not to be sensible, when daily those strong defentes of our peace and welfare are broken down, and trod under foot by force and arbitrary power. Would you have us keep at home in our houses, when men of such faithfulness and integrity as the four prisoners, our friends in the Tower, fetched Out of their beds and forced from their houses by soldiers, to the affrighting and undoing of themselves, their wives, children, and families ? Are not our husbands, ourselves, our children, and families, by. 'the same rule, as liable to the like unjust cruelties as they? “ Shall such men as Captain Bray be made .close prisoners, and such as Mr. Sawyer snatched up And carried away, beaten and buffeted-at the pleasure of some officers of the army ; and such-as Mr, Black kept close prisoner, and after most barbarous usage, be forced to run the gantlet, and be most slave like and cruelly whipped; and must we keep at home, in our houses, as if we, our lives, and liberties and all, were not concerned r’ . , “ Nay, shall such valiant religious men as Mr, Robert Lockyer be liable to law marshal, and be judged by his adversaries, and most inhumanly : shot, to death ? Shall the blood of war be shed in the. time of peace? doth not the word of God expressly condemn it?- doth not-the petition of Right declare that no person ought be judged by law martial (except in time of war) and that all commissions given to execute martial law in time of peace, are contrary to the laws and statutes of the land ? Doth not Sir Edward Coke, -in his chapter of murder, in the third part of his Institutes, hold it for good law and like owned and published by the Parliament) that for a General or. other officer pf an army, in time of peace, to put any man, although a soldier, to death, .by colour of martial law, it is absolutely murder in that General? And hath it not, by this House, in the case of the , late Earl of Strafford, been adjudged high treason ? And are we Christians, and shall we sit still and keep at home, while such .men as have born continual testimony against the injustice of all times and unrighteousness of men, be picked out and be delivered up to, the slaughter, and yet must we shew no sense of their, sufferings, no tenderness of affections, no bowels of compassion, nor hear any testimony against so abominable cruelty and injustice? “ Have such men as these continually hazarded their lives, spent their estates and time, lost their liberties, and thought nothing too precious for defence of us, our lives, and liberties, been as a guard by day and a watch by night—and when, for this, they are in trouble and greatest danger, persecuted and hated, even to the death ; and should we be so basely ungrateful as to neglect them in the day of their affliction ? “ No, far be from us, let it be accounted folly, presumption, madness, or whatsoever in us, whilst we have life and breath, we will never leave them, nor forsake them, nor ever cease to importune you (having yet so much hopes of you, as of the unjust judge mentioned Luke 18, to obtain justice, if not for justice sake, yet'for importunity) or to use any other means for the enlargement and reparation of those of them that live, and for justice against such as have been the cause of Mr, Lockier’s death nor will we ever rest until we have prevail! that we, our husbands, children;-friends; and 'servants, may not. be* liable to be- thus abused, violated, ’and butchered at men’s wills and pleasures, “ But if nothing will satisfy but the blood-^.those just men,, those constant, undaunted asserters of the people’s freedom, will satisfy'your thirst, drink also, and be glutted with our blood, arid let us fall together take the blood of one more, and take all • slay one, slay all ! “ And therefore again we entreat yon to review our last petition in behalf of o'or friends above-mentioned, and not to slight 'the things therein contained, because they are presented unto you by .the weak hand of women, it being a 'usual thing with God, by weak means to work -mighty effects—for we are no what satisfied with the answer you gave unto our husbands» and friends, but do equally .-with them remain liable to those snares, laid in your Declaration, which make the abettors of the' book laid to our friends charge, no less than traitors, - when as hardly any discourse can be, touching the affairs of the present times, but falls within the compass of that book—so that ail liberty of discourse is thereby utterly taken away, than which there can be no greater slavery. “ Nor shall we be satisfied, however you deal with our friends, except you free them from under their present extra judicial imprisonment and force, upon them, and give them full reparations for their force- able -attachment, &c. And leave them from first to last to be proceeded against by due process of law, and give them respect for you, answerable to their good and faithful service to the commonwealth* ‘ Our houses being worse than prison to us and our lives worse than death—the sight of our husbands and children, matter of grief, sorrow, and affliction to us, until you grant Our desires and therefore, if ever you intend any good .-to this miserable nation, harden not your hearts', against petitioners, nor deny us in things as evidently just and reasonable you would not be dishonorable to all posterity.

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