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Petitions and the "Invention" of Public Opinion in the English Revolution

Author(s): David Zaret


Source: American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 101, No. 6 (May, 1996), pp. 1497-1555
Published by: The University of Chicago Press
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Petitions and the "Invention" of Public


Opinion in the English Revolution1
David Zaret
Indiana University

Currentaccountsofthecapitalistand Protestant
originsofthedemocraticpublicsphereare inconsistent
and speculative.This empirical accountexplainsthetransition
in politicalcommunication
from
normsofsecrecyto appeals to publicopinion.Popularcommunicative changein the EnglishRevolutionanticipated,in practice,the
democratictheoryof the public spherewhen printingtransformed
a traditionalinstrument
of communication-thepetition.Petitions
had medievaloriginsand traditionsthat upheld normsof secrecy
and privilegein politicalcommunication.Economic and technical
propertiesofprinting-namely,heightenedcommercialism
and the
capacityto reproducetexts-demolishedthesenormsby changing
the scope and contentofcommunication
by petition.This practical
innovationappears in all factionsin the revolution.But among
radical groups,the politicaluse of printedpetitionsled to novel
theoriesand to democraticspeculationon constitutional
provisions
thatwould ensurethe authorityof public opinionin politics.This
analysiscontradicts
keyassumptionson communicative
changethat
fuel pessimisticassessmentsof the modernpublic spherein postmodernismand criticaltheory.
The firstamendmentto the U.S. Constitutionconcludesby upholding
the right"to petitionthe governmentfora redressof grievances."To
the contemporary
eye, the referenceto petitionsseems archaic, far less
centralto thepublicspherethanothercommunicative
rights.But archaic
appearancesbelie the historicalsignificance
of petitioning
forthe origins
of democracy,especiallyfor its "public sphere," where political dis1 This researchwas carriedout withsupportfroma NationalEndowment
forthe
Humanitiesfellowship
and travelgrant,a grant(54-329-06)fromtheLillyEndowment,and a researchleave supplement
fellowship
and travelgrantfromIndiana
I am especiallygrateful
University.
to ThomasF. Gierynforextensivecomments
on
severaldraftsof thispaper. Helpfuladvice and suggestions
also came fromJeffrey
Alexander,RobertAntonio,RichardBlackett,JohnR. Hall, JohnLucaites,Paul
Seaver,and David Underdown.Directcorrespondence
to David Zaret,Department
of Sociology,IndianaUniversity,
BallantineHall 744,Bloomington,
Indiana47405.

? 1996byThe University
ofChicago.All rightsreserved.

0002-9602/96/10106-0001$01.50

AJS Volume 101 Number6 (May 1996): 1497-1555

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1497

AmericanJournalof Sociology
course arises fromrival appeals to public opinionin a marketplaceof
ideas withnormativeauthority
forsettinga politicalagenda. In the 17th
century,innovativeuse of petitionsfacilitatedthe "invention"of public
opinion.This developmentsupersedednormsof secrecyand privilegein
political communication;but it was a practicaland not a theoretical
innovation,an unintendedconsequenceofcommunicative
change.Printing in the English Revolutionpushed petitioningand othertraditional
communicativepracticesin new directionsthat alteredthe contentas
well as the scope of politicalcommunication.It appealed to an anonymous body of opinion,a public that was both a nominalobject of discourseand a collectionof writers,readers,printers,and petitionersengaged in political debates. Unacknowledged change in petitioning
supplieda practicalprecedentfor"people's public use of theirreason,"
whichHabermas ([1962] 1989, p. 27) describesas an elite, 18th-century
development.
This episodeofpetitioning
revealsdemocracy'spracticalorigins,when
publicopinion,wellbeforetheEnlightenment,
beganto mediatebetween
the stateand civil society.Petitionsprovidevital clues forold questions
aboutthetimingand causes ofthebirthofa publicsphere,to whichsociological accountsofferinconsistent
answers. For England (e.g., Bendix
1978;Habermas 1989;Marshall 1966),theseaccountsplace thisdevelopmentin the 17thor 18thcenturyand citecapitalismand Protestantism
as
principalcauses. No agreementexistsover preciselywhat in capitalism
had democraticimplicationsfora public spherein
and/orProtestantism
issuesunderliesthisimprecision;
politics.Neglectofcommunicative
specutocommunilationis theinevitableconsequenceofdevotinglittleattention
of a public
cative practicesthat are, afterall, centralto any definition
sphere.When discussedby sociologists,communicativeissues are conintermsofprinting's
forthescopeofcommuceivednarrowly
implications
nication:facilitatingmore rapid and extensivedisseminationof novel
ideas. That theprintcultureitselfwas a sourceofnovelty-a pointdeveloped by historiansofprinting-remainsunexamined.Instead,thereflecofProtestant
tivepronouncements
theologiansand Enlightenment
philosophersare interpreted
by sociologistsas valid indicatorsofcommunicative
a liberal-democratic
practicesthatconstitute
publicsphere.The turnfrom
theologyand philosophyto communicative
practiceis thepointofdepartureforempiricalanalysisoftheoriginsofpublicopinion.
In theoriginsofthepublicsphere,petitionsare botha cause and an indicatorof othercauses (e.g., printing).Petitionswere notthe onlyvehicle
forpoliticalmessagesinthisera. In sermons,newspapers,pamphlets,and
officialordinancesand declarations,messageswentfromthepoliticalcenterto theperiphery.But formessagesin theoppositedirection,periphery
to center,petitionswerea principaldevice. This explainstheimportance
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EnglishRevolution
role
ofpetitionsforexploringtheoriginsofthepublicsphereand printing's
inpetitioninthatdevelopment.The changewroughtbytheuseofprinting
ing duringthe English Revolutionprovidesempiricalevidence forexplaininghowappealstopublicopinionsupplantednormsofsecrecyinpolitics. Originally,petitioning
was a medievalcommunicative
practicewith
rulesconcerning
formand content.It was a privilege(inthemedievalsense)
fromsecrecynormsthatotherwiseprohibited
thatexemptedpetitioners
lopopulardiscussionofpoliticalmatters.The traditional
petitionreferred
itdid notload itsmessagewithnormacal grievancesto centralauthority;
tive claims about the "will of the people." Rules forpetitionscoexisted
withmoregeneralnormsofsecrecyand privilegein politicalcommunication. For example,disclosureofparliamentary
debateswas a crime,and
inpoliticaldiscoursewas mostlylimitedtothereceivpopularparticipation
ingend ofsymbolicdisplaysofauthority.
The politicaluse ofprintedpetitionsin theEnglishRevolutionviolated
traditionsand secrecynorms.Petitionsbecame a device that
petitioning
and invokedtheauthority
ofpublicopinion,a meansto lobby
constituted
Parliament.This practicaldevelopmentled to new ideas in politicsthat
as criteriaof
attachedimportanceto consent,reason,and representation
came
thevalidityof opinionsinvokedin publicdebate. Some petitioners
thatwould enforce
to see theneed forformalconstitutional
arrangements
the authorityof public opinion.Thus, novel claims forthe authorityof
opinionsprangfrominnovationsin petitioning
practices.Many petitions
in the 1640sdid not come fromcorporateentities-as traditiondictated
forpetitionsdealingwithpublicissues-but fromassociationsofprivate
to modernpoliticalparties.However,
persons,whichwere forerunners
ambivalenceborderingon denial bestdescribescontemporary
responses
to innovativepetitioning.
Traditionalrhetorical
featuresofpetitionswere
a resourcefordenials of innovation.Contemporaries
defendedpetitions
theyliked by treatingthem as deferential,
juridical, and spontaneous
formthatdepoliticizedgrievance
expressionsofgrievance-the rhetorical
in traditionalpetitions-and attackedthose theydislikedby exposing
organizationalpracticesthat contradictedapolitical appearances. Yet
morethan illogicor expediencyunderliesthesereactions;theyexhibita
patternshaped by communicativepracticesthat evolved in advance of
supportivetheoreticalformulations.
In tracingthe public sphereto a reworkingof traditionsforpetitions,
thisstudyprovidesan alternativeto sociologicalaccountsthatcommand
littlesupportfromcurrenthistoricalscholarship.Researchby revisionist
historians(see the discussionin "Revisionism"below) has demolished
presuppositions
routinelyinvokedby sociologiststo show the relevance
of capitalismand Protestantism
fordemocraticdevelopmentsin the 17th
that proximatecauses
century.The analysisin thisstudydemonstrates
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AmericanJournalof Sociology
of the "invention"of publicopinionderivefromeconomicand technical
and thecapacityto reproaspectsof printing:heightenedcommercialism
duce textsin communication.Beyond printing,the most conspicuous
featureof this developmentis "the paradox of innovation"(see below),
a commondevelopmentin whichindividualsdo notacknowledgeinnovative behaviorin which theyparticipate.Hence, I place "invention"in
quotationmarkswhenI steala phrasefromKeithBaker's study,"Public
Opinion as a PoliticalInvention,"which treatspublic opinionin 18thcenturyFrance as a linguisticinnovationwithlinks to older traditions
of authority
(Baker 1990,pp. 167-99). In Englandtheoppositesituation
arose in the 17thcentury:innovativecommunicativepracticeappeared
forwhichnew words,like public opinion,were not coined.
THEORETICAL ISSUES
Widespreadagreementexistson theimportanceofa publicsphere,where
consticompeteinopendebatesthatsimultaneously
rivalpoliticalinterests
tuteand invokepublicopinion.In a liberaldemocracy,publicopinionis
the ultimatesourceof authorityforbroadlysettinga legislativeagenda.
betweencivil societyand state. . . cannotfullyaccount
"The distinction
ofdemocracy."Equally iminto
comes
beingwiththeformation
forwhat
whose
existenceblurstheconven.
rise
"of
a
..
publicspace
portantis the
and
(Lefort1988,p.
between
the
non-political"
political
tionalboundaries
one attribute
is
not
merely
of
opinion
the
public
35). Accordingly, authority
of
for
example,
a
many,
ofliberaldemocracybut, rather, presupposition
and
44). The
1992,
p.
Stephens
Stephens,
the franchise(Rueschemeyer,
acH.
in
T.
Marshall's
for
(1966)
pointis widelyacknowledged, example,
in
Habermas's
of
(1989)
the
historical
rights,
citizenship
of
expansion
count
analysisof criticaluses of reasonin publicdebates,and in optimisticacoftheriseofciviccultureand universalsociologists
countsbyfunctionalist
ism in democraticsocieties(forapplicationsto earlymodernEngland see
Hanson [1970]and Little[1970]).Recentworkon "civilsociety"(e.g., Coof public
hen and Arato 1992; Somers1993) also pointsto the centrality
opinion,forthe veryidea of civil societyrefersto a societalcommunity
whose axial principleof solidaritydemarcatesit frompoliticaland economicrealmsbased on powerand money:publicopinionis theprincipal
stateand civilsociety.
linkbetweentheliberal-democratic
Capitalismand Protestantism
Afteragreementon theimportanceofthepublicsphere,consensusdisappears over thedate and causes ofitsorigins.England is widelyacknowl1500

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EnglishRevolution
edgedto be a paradigmaticcase,2in bothclass-centered
and functionalist
accountsthatemphasize,respectively,
imperativesof capitalistdevelopmentand thecentrality
of Protestantism
fortheearlypublic sphere.But
theuniformity
ofreferences
to theimportanceofcapitalismor Protestantism coexistswith wide disagreementover when the public sphereappeared and preciselywhat in capitalismand Protestantism
had democraticimplicationsforpublic life.
Habermas (1989) tracesthe public sphereto the 18thcenturyand to
privilegedsocial groups,notablythebourgeoisie,who participatedin an
eliteworldofletters.Gould (1987)agreesaboutthecentrality
ofthebourgeoisiebut putsdemocracticinitiativesin themiddleofthe 17thcentury.
Bendix(1964, p. 122; 1978,p. 109),Parsons(1977, pp. 152, 168-73) and
Wuthnow(1989, pp. 218-19) concurwithHabermason the 18th-century
of the bourgeoisie.
originsof the public spherebut not on the centrality
Marshall(1966) emphasizesthecentrality
ofthelandedgentryin the 17th
and 18thcenturies.Alexander'sanalysis(1988, p. 207; and see Calhoun
1988, pp. 225, 229) of the news media places "the differentiation
of a
public spherein the late 18thand early 19thcenturies."More recently,
Goldstone's(1991, pp. 125-34, 457-58) demographicaccountof the English Revolutionidentifies"middling"social groups (e.g., yeomanry,
urban craftsmen)
as promotersof democraticinitiatives;but Bearman's
(1993) networkanalysislocateschangeamongthelocal gentryin thelate
16thcenturyas theprincipalsourceof ideologicalconflictin the English
Revolution.Bearmanand Goldstonedo agreeon thecentrality
ofProtestantismfor democracy-as do many sociologists(e.g., Bendix 1978;
Gould 1987; Kalberg 1993; Little 1970; Mayhew 1984; Parsons 1977).
Yet the inconsistency
in referencesto the class characterof the public
to itsreligioussources.Alongwithevery
spherealso appearsin references
class betweenthe verybottomand top, sociologistshave invokedevery
conceivableaspectofProtestantism
to explaintheoriginsofuniversalistic
discoursein thepublicsphere:thepriesthoodofall believers,justification
by faith,the communionof the saints,covenanttheology,Presbyterianism, predestination,
the sanctityof conscience,and more (e.g., Bendix
1978, pp. 309-13; Little 1970; Mayhew 1984; Parsons 1977, p. 132;
Prager1985,p. 188;fora morecompletelist,see Zaret 1989,pp. 167-68).
This critiqueof earlierworkrequirestwo caveats. First,criticismof
speculative,inconsistentreferencesto capitalismand Protestantism
as
2 Neoevolutionary
modelsrecastsequencesofWestEuropeanand especiallyEnglish

historyas developmental
stages(e.g., Parsons1977).In Bendix(1978) a historicist
variantemphasizes"demonstration
effects"
ofEnglisheventsforsubsequentpolitical
in othersocieties.Habermas(1989)advancesa normative
developments
variantthat
uses Englishhistory
to exploredevelopmental
tendencies
whoseimplicituniversalism
remainsunderdeveloped.
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AmericanJournalof Sociology
causes of the public spheredoes notimplytheirutterirrelevance.I suggestthattheircausal relevancebe exploredat thelevelofcommunicative
practice-printingis a preeminent
instanceof earlycapitalistenterprise
(Eisenstein1980). Second, sociologistshave notcompletelyignoredcommunicativeissues. Habermas (1989, pp. 16, 24) notesthe importanceof
printingfor"the new domain of a public spherewhose decisive mark
was the publishedword." Bendix devotesmoreattentionto this point
in remarkson "intellectualmobilization"(1978, pp. 256-58, 261-67;
see also Calhoun 1988). Mayhew (1984, pp. 1285-87) and Wuthnow
(1989, pp. 201-11) referto the new vocation of publicistcreated by
pamphleteering.
Yet these remarkstreatcommunicativedevelopments
in theprinting
revolutiontoo narrowly,as a factorthatfacilitateschange
by disseminating
new ideas morerapidlyand to a broaderaudience. As
Eisensteinhas shownin heranalysisoftheimpactofearlymodernprintingon learnedculture(1980,pp. 691-92; see also Chartier1987;Darnton
1979), noveltyin the mode of communicationcan have intimatelinks
withnovel ideas. The culturalimpactof printinggoes beyondissues of
access and distribution.
The printing
ofpetitionsas propagandanotonly
increasedthe scope of communicationbut also creatednovel practices
thatsimultaneously
and invoketheauthority
ofpublicopinion
constitute
in politicaldiscourse.
The Paradox of Innovation
Emphasis on the importanceof unintendedconsequencesfurther
distinguishesthe accountadvanced herefrompriorsociologicalwork on the
ofrevisionist
histopublicsphereand also accommodatescentralfindings
riography.The absenceofa formalphilosophicrationaleforcommunicative change in the English Revolution,along with persistenceof old
traditionsthat placed deferenceand patronageat the core of politics,
towardpoliticalapexplainstheambivalentreactionsof contemporaries
peals to public opinion. This developmentwas unintended,occurring
initiallyat thelevelofpracticewhereit was neithersanctionednoranticiThat this developmentwas not the
pated by theoreticalformulations.
fromtheuniformdistribuoutcomeof democraticcreedswill be inferred
tionof novelpetitioning
practicesamongall partiesin theEnglishRevolution,mostof whomdisavowedany democraticcreed.
Reluctanceto acknowledgeinnovationderivesfromthe view that it
was antithetical
to order.In the 17thcentury,"Historywas notthestudy
of the past as we would understandit but a glass in whichman might
observe universaltruths"(Sharpe 1989, p. 41). This was the point of
on politicsand religion,as in the unexceptional
departureforreflection
view of Sir JohnCoke, a lifelongofficialin theearlyStuartgovernment:
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EnglishRevolution
"I ever held it safestin mattersof governmentratherto improvethe
receivedordinaryways thanto adventureupon any innovation"(quoted
in Young 1986, p. 62). Later, Puritanpreachersfueledthe outbreakof
the revolutionwith grim warningsabout innovation."Take heed of
innovatingin religion,"theypreach;"Innovationhas been ever held so
dangerousthat the fear thereofbroughtour prudentstate to a pause"
(E177[11] 1641, p. 62).3 One clericperceptively
worriesthat "while we
complain of innovations,we shall do nothingbut innovate"(E179[7]
1642, p. 6). Even as Pym and Strafford
foughteach other,theyagreed
"in an ideologicalrejectionofchange"(Russell 1990,p. xvii). Veneration
of precedentled all sides to invokethe"ancientconstitution"
and "primitive church"as models, respectively,for contemporary
political and
religiousinstitutions.Accordingly,M.P.'s ransackedmedieval records
forprecedentsto justifyparliamentary
initiativesagainstthe monarchy.
Even radical ideas were "frequently
expressedin a phantasmagorichistoricismlike the Levellers'dreamsof the halcyondays of Edward the
Confessor"(Kishlansky1982, pp. 164-65). Marx and Weber notedthis
in
paradox in 17th-century
England:Marx in remarkson traditionalism
the EnglishRevolutionat the beginningof The 18thBrumaireofLouis
Bonaparte; Weber in the claim that innovativeeconomicorientations
arisingout of Puritanismwere whollyunintended.
Although17th-century
England may be a rich site forexploringthe
paradox of innovation,it is hardlyunique to this era. FollowingShils
(1981), we know that innovationcan be stimulatedby traditionsthat
value it. Kuhn pointsout thatan "essentialtension"requiresthesuccessful scientistsimultaneouslyto be a "traditionalist"and "iconoclast"
(Kuhn 1977, p. 227). Hobsbawm (1983) describes"inventedtraditions";
Calhoun (1983), the"radicalnessoftradition."These exampleslend supportforthe suppositionthatparadoxicalfeaturesof innovationaccentuate two generalaspectsof interpretative
processes:first,a propensityto
on experience(even if continuity
imposeinterpretative
continuity
arises
out of neophilia);second,the tacitnatureof interpretative
activitythat
sustainsimpressionsof continuity(or normality).In the case at hand,
the paradox of innovationarises fromthe reluctanceto acknowledge
communicativeinnovationthatviolated(1) communicative
normsof secrecyand privilegein politicsand (2) more generalsocial normsthat
predicatedpoliticson deferenceand patronage.
HISTORIOGRAPHIC ISSUES

Petitionsoccupya prominent
place in earlymodernrevolutions.Though
historicalworkon England has no counterpart
to theelaboratehistorio3See theappendixforan explanation
oforiginalsourcesused in thisstudy.

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AmericanJournalof Sociology
graphicliteratureon petitionsin the FrenchRevolution,petitionshave
been an importantresourcein studiesof the EnglishRevolution.Their
prominencein key eventsmakes it possibleto constructa summaryaccount of the revolutionin termsof petitions,which I provide forthe
benefitof readerswho are unfamiliarwith 17th-century
Englishhistory.
When the ShortParliamentmetearlyin 1640,it receivedcountypetitions on two principalissues, anti-Puritaninnovationand prerogative
taxes. As a partisanreportnoted, "This day the petitions[were] read
of Middlesex, Suffolk,Northamptonshire,
which petitionsstunnedthe
royalistsmore than anything"(Cope and Coates 1977, p. 234). After
the abruptdissolutionof the ShortParliamentin May, the kingimprisoned one M.P. forrefusinga requestto turnover petitionsand complaintspendingbeforethe CommitteeforReligion(CSPD 1858-97, 16:
142; Rushworth1721, 3:1167-68). Subsequentpetitionsrequestedthe
kingto call anotherparliament.Whenthisparliament-theLong Parliament-convened in November,moreagreementexistedon the need for
modestreligiousand politicalreforms
(e.g., limiting
thepowerofbishops,
more parliamentaryconsultationin fiscal and foreignpolicy). M.P.'s,
who would later take different
sides, presentedcountypetitionsthat
recitedextensivelysolicitedgrievances(see Morrill1993, p. 45). Agreementdissipatedwhencountypetitionsin 1641-42 sided withParliament
or king on controlover the militiaand the fate of episcopacy; some
petitionscontainas manyas 20,000 signatures,but mosthave threeto
10,000signatures.In thewinterof 1642-43 rivalpetitionsforpeace and
war policiesdelineatedthe hardeningpositionsof Royalistsand parliamentarians.At this time the Royalistnewspaper,MercuriusAulicus
(hereafterMA), appeared; its firsteditiongave extensivecoverage to
peace petitions(MA [1643-44] 1971, 1:20-23). Petitionsin thespringand
summerof 1643 markemergenceof theIndependents,whose opposition
to increasingly
conservativePresbyterian
policiesled to competitivepetition campaigns.4One by Presbyteriansin January1646 "marked the
openingof the greatCitycampaignthatdeterminedthe futurecourseof
the tolerationcontroversy"
(Tolmie 1977, p. 131). Anotherin December
1646 "set offthe chain of eventsthatresultedin the finalsplitwiththe
armyand, ultimately,the army'sinvasionof London in the summerof
1647" (Brenner1993, p. 478; and see Pearl 1972; Underdown1978, p.
195). Attacks on the rightof soldiersto petitionpoliticizedthe New
Model Armyand promptedit into action (Woolrych1987, pp. 43-44),
inan explicitly
Indediscipline;
religious
context
(e.g.,Presbyterian
4 Unlessemployed
and "Independent"referto political
pendentchurches)the terms"Presbyterian"
did notalwayscoincide(see Unfactions.These religiousand politicalcommitments
derdown1971,pp. 15-23).
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EnglishRevolution
initiallyto rescueParliamentfromthe 1647 coup in London and, subsequently,to expel moderatesfromthe Parliament(Pride'sPurge) and to
demand the executionof the king. In 1648, a letterof intelligenceto
Edward Hyde reportsthat"all countieswill be set to appear in person
as they[the Puritans]did at the
with theirpetitionsat Westminister,
beginningof the Parliament[in 1640],whichcoursedid . .. give a great
stroke to the benefitof that faction, & will conduce as much . . . now to

the good of his Majesty" (MSS Clarendon30, folio 207). The ensuing
petitioncampaign(Ashton1994, chap. 4) signaledthe abortiveRoyalist
revoltthat sealed the fateof Charles I. At thistime,a radical Leveller
programemerged,the cumulationof ceaseless petitioningthat increasinglyfocusedon theunwillingness
ofParliamentto receiveLevellerpetitions. In Cromwell'sdissolutionof the purged (Rump) Parliament,a
priorAugust 1652 petitionfromthe Council of Officersforradical legal
"is a keydocument,sinceeightmonthslaterCromand politicalreforms
well and the officers
were able to justifytheirdissolutionof the Rump
largelybecause so littleactionhad been takenon [thatpetition]"(Woolrych1982, p. 40). Subsequentpetitioncampaignsfacilitatedthe fall of
the Protectorate
and the recallof theRump Parliament(Woolrych1972,
pp. 189-92). In 1660 countypetitionsfora reinstatedParliamentrained
down on GeneralMonk as he marchedhis armyto London and set in
motioneventsleadingtowardthe restoration
of the Stuartmonarchy.
ofthesepetitionssuppliescritical
Analysisofthecontentand signatures
evidencefordivergentaccountsoftheaims,ideology,and social composiin therevolution.This holdsforworkthatemphasizes
tionofparticipants
class conflictand popular initiativein the revolution(Manning 1991),
divisionsbetween"court"and "country"(Zagorin 1970), the centrality
of "localism"and the "countycommunity"
(Everitt1973; Morrill1974),
and also work that militatesagainst revisionistemphasis on localism
(Eales 1990;Holmes 1974;Hughes 1987).Petitionshave been extensively
used in studiesof London (Brenner1993; Pearl 1961, 1972), the Long
Parliamentand the New Model Army(Kishlansky1983; Underdown
1971; Woolrych1987),the secondcivil war (Ashton1994), and nonconformity
(Tolmie 1977). The rise and fall of the Levellersis a storyrecountedby summarizingpetitions(forcollectionssee Haller and Davies
[1944]; and Wolfe[1967]). A fewstudiesexploredetailsof an individual
petition(Fletcher1973;Woods 1980),rhetoricin petitions(Skerpan1992,
pp. 73-77), and petitionsfromwomen (Higgins 1973). Disagreement
existsoverthevalue ofpetitionsas indicatorsoflocal opinion.For county
petitions,Fletcherand Underdownsuggestit can be high,Everittand
Morrillarguetheopposite,and Underdownand Everittsee radical petitions as least indicativeof local sentiment(Everitt 1973, pp. 60-61;
Fletcher1981, pp. 191-92; Morrill1974, pp. 45-48; Underdown1971,
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AmericanJournalof Sociology
pp. 93, 110n; 1985,pp. 138-39; see also Hughes 1987,pp. 132-33, 136).
For armypetitions,old claimsabout Levellerinfluencehave givenway
to emphasison autonomyand spontaneityin grievancesfromsoldiers
(Kishlansky1983, pp. 180, 189-90, 205-6; Woolrych1987, pp. 54, 59,
73-84).
Debate over the causes and natureof the English Revolutionis the
principalpointof departureforthisliterature.What remainsunexplored
are the principalissues in this article:how petitioningchanged in the
EnglishRevolutionand the role printingplayedin thisdevelopment.A
chapteron petitionsin Fletcher's(1981, pp. 191-227) account of the
outbreakof revolutionis now recognizedas authoritiative
(see Russell
1993,p. 455, n.3). Yet Fletcherobservesonlythatpetitionswerequickly
printed"as public utterancesintendedforgeneralconsumption"(1981,
p. 198). He and othersnote the importanceof petitionsas propaganda
formobilizingopinionand forming
factionsat thelocal level (e.g., Eales
1990, p. 130; Fletcher1981, p. 283; Underdown1985, p. 138) and for
the rise of adversarial,partypolitics(e.g., Brenner1993, pp. 368-74,
436-50, 471-79; Kishlansky1983, pp. 78-90, 277-78; Pearl 1972; Underdown 1985, pp. 228-29; WoolTych1987, pp. 24-25, 168-71). But
how did this mostuntraditionaluse of petitionscome about, and what
is its connectionto printingand its relevancefor subsequentliberaldemocraticideas? Skerpan's(1992, p. 73) analysisof politicalrhetoricin
the 1640s missesthe noveltyin the statusof petitionsas "public documents."These petitionshave been described(Brailsford1976, p. 189;
Pearl 1961, pp. 173, 229-30; Wolfe 1967, p. 261) as an extensionor
revivalofwell-acceptedprinciplesofpetitioning,
butthisview,too,overon the
looks change in petitioningthat violated traditionalrestrictions
expressionof grievancein petitions.
Revisionism
Over thelast two decades, historicalworkon earlymodernEngland has
been dominatedby "revisionism"-a graveyardforoptimismabout a
convergenceofhistoricaland sociologicalscholarship.A majorproponent
notesthatthe revisionistrevoltopposed morethan"Whig"and Marxist
it was "a salutaryreactionagainstvariousformsofmodernperspectives:
ization theory"-or any sociologicalexplanation(Morrill1993, p. 35).
Revisionismpromotesidiographichistory:it enjoins researchers"to
theoriesand insteadto ponder
abandon thepursuitof grandoverarching
the facts"(Cogswell 1990, p. 551). Immersionin primarysources has
l'histoiree've'nementielle
as its goal, "to returnto the sources free of
preconceptions"
(Sharpe 1985, p. x; see also Russell 1990, p. x). At the
studies(e.g., Morrill1974, 1976;Russell 1990,
empiricallevel,revisionist
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EnglishRevolution
1993;Sharpe 1992)showthat-even in theEnglishRevolution-localism
and loyaltyto verticallyintegratedcommunities
outweighclass divisions
and oftenideologicalconvictionwhen deferenceand patronageremain
the commoncoin of politics.This workdemolishessuppositionscentral
to sociologicalaccountsaboutthebourgeoisnatureoftheEnglishRevolution. Opponentsof revisionismconcedethat"it has yetto be shownthat
thosewho supportedParliamentand thosewho supportedtheCrown...
in social class terms"(Brenner1993, p. 643).5
differedsystematically
Suppositionsabout modernizingtendenciesin Puritanismfare equally
poorly.Its oppositionto churchand stateis now tracedto an aversionfor
innovation(Collinson1981; Lake 1982; Tyacke 1987),notto democratic
impulses.
claims-we are
Sociologistscan set aside revisionism's
epistemological
properlyskeptical about inquiryuncontaminatedby presuppositions.
Empiricalissuesare moretroublesome.Invokingtheinevitability
oftheorywill notrescuesociologicalaccountsof an EnglishRevolutionled by
an insurgentbourgeoisie or "middling classes" with a traditionrepudiating,democraticideologysuppliedby Puritanism.Littlesupport
for such claims existseven among "postrevisionists"
(e.g., Cust 1985;
Eales 1990; Hughes 1987)whoseworkattributes
a social basis forpolitical conflict.6
Sources
Petitionsare a commoncategoryof 17th-century
manuscriptand printed
materials.They containgrievancesand requests,of a publicand private
nature,fromindividualsand collectivities.
The principalsourceforthis
analysisis a subsetofpetitions,selectedfromthose(about 500) thatraise
public issues and, individuallyor in collections,were printedbetween
1640 and 1660. Most appearedin theearlypartof the periodthatis the
focusof this study,fromthe openingof the Long Parliament,in 1640,
to the executionof King Charlesin 1649.
These must be used with caution. Appearancescan be deliberately
misleadingin textsprintedas propaganda;"Petitionsoftendo as much
to obscureas to illuminatepublic opinion"(Underdown1985, p. 231).
Patternsof deception,even forgeries
(when knownas such), are useful.
But corroboratingevidence fromother sources is indispensable.The
historiansreject the idea that the civil war was a class conflict,"acknowledges a leading proponentofthisview, who offersonlya weak responseto revisionism:
"Evidence of class hostilityhas proved impossible to ignore completely"(Manning
1991, pp. 41-42).
6 The force of revisionism,for sociological concerns,is hardlylessened by noting its
excesses, e.g., overemphasison consensus in the early Stuart era.
5"Most

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JournalsoftheHouse ofCommonsoftenrecordonlya bland responseto
a petitionthat,liketheMay 1646petitionfromLondon,provokedheated
debate (MSS Add. 31116, folio 271; Whitelock1853, 2:26; fora 1644
petitionsee Journalsof the House of Commons1643-44, p. 372; MSS
Add. 31116,folio179v,MSS Harl. 166,folio151). In addition,therhetoric of petitionsconceals the organizationof petitioning
and the evident
intentto lobby Parliament.These issues are illuminatedby a "metadebate" over the propriety
of petitioning
thataccompaniessubstantivepolitical disputes. This occurs in privateletters,pamphlets,diaries, and
newspapers,as partisansand observersdescribe,attack,and defendpetitions.Evidence fromthesesourcesis crucialfordrawinginferences
that
go beyondexplicitclaimsmade by petitioners-a necessarystepforanalyzingtheparadoxof innovation.Thus, petitionsshouldbe read in conjunctionwithotherprimaryprintedand manuscriptmaterials.
TRADITIONAL PETITIONS AND SECRECY NORMS
IN POLITICAL COMMUNICATION
Priorto the EnglishRevolution,the absence of anythingresemblingappeals to public opinion in politicsderivesfromnormsof secrecyand
limitpoliticalcommunication.
In theory,no public
privilegethatstrictly
space forpoliticaldiscourseexistsoutsideParliament,wherea customary
had evolvedintoa formalprivilege
rightoffreespeechin the15thcentury
underthe Tudors. Confinedto Parliament,thisfreedomis (in the medieval sense) a privilegedemarcatedby secrecynorms,whose violation,
even by M.P.'s, is a punishableoffense.For commoners,normsof sein
crecyand privilegereflectan unchallengedassumption,no different
early Stuart England than under Elizabeth, when Thomas Smith exin our commonplainedthatcommonpeople"have no voice or authority
wealth,and no accountis made of thembut onlyto be ruled" (quoted
in Hill 1974,p. 186;see also pp. 181-204). Religion(Puritanor otherwise)
suppliedno reason to dissentfromthisview-Hooker repeatsCalvin's
stricturesthat "privatemen" have no rightpubliclyto discuss government(Hooker [1593] 1845, 1:102; cf. Calvin [1536] 1962, 2:656-57).
This outlook reflectspoliticaland religiouspresuppositionsthat put
deferenceand patronageat thecoreofpolitics.The idea thatirrationality
inverselycorrelateswith social rank, a centralthemein organic and
patriarchalconceptionsof politics,receivedadded supportfromProtessaw nothing
tantemphasison the corruptionof reason. Contemporaries
remarkablein writingsby the firsttwo Stuartkings,who cite patriarchalism,thedivinerightof kings,and reasonsof stateto denythelegitimacy of public politicaldiscussion.King James(1622) describedroyal
accountsof policythe same way that CalvinistsdescribedGod saving
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EnglishRevolution
souls: both were acts of grace. Afterhe dissolvedthe 1621 Parliament,

James published an explanation in which "we were content . . . to

to all our
descendmanydegreesbeneathour self,firstbycommunicating
people the reasons of a resolution of state .

. And lastly .

. opening to

themthat forbiddenark of our absolute and indisputableprerogative,


concerningthe call, continuingand dissolvingof Parliament."His son,
Charles,publishedaccountsof decisionsto dissolveParliamentsin 1625
and 1626; but "he was carefulto explainthathe was not bound to give
an account of his 'Regal Actions'to anyoneexceptGod" (Sommerville
1986, p. 34).
Of course,politicalcommunication
existed.In contrastto reflections
upholdingnormsof secrecyand privilegein politicalcommunication,
forpoliticalcommunicaseveralpracticesaffordedlimitedopportunities
tionin prerevolutionary
England (see Zaret 1994, pp. 180-84). Political
communicationin some formis as old as kingship,implicitin its commemorativearchitecture,coinage, and coronationrituals. But many
practiceslimitcommunicationto symbolicdisplays of authority,to a
forunderstanding
culturalframeof reference
reciprocalclaims between
subjectsand rulers.Otherpracticesinvolvedmorethansymbolicdisplays
and facilitatedopportunities
to send messagesfromthe peripheryto the
politicalcenter.These include electionsand ritualsof restivebehavior
by crowds.In addition,circulationof news in hand-copiedformwas at
thistimea commonpracticeamongthe gentryand aristocracy(see Cust
1986). But these practiceswere restricted;autonomyand the scope of
political discussionwere inverselyrelated to accessibility-theywere
lowestwherepopularaccess was greatest.
Medieval Originsof Petitioning
Secrecynormsprecludedpopulardiscussionofpoliticalmattersbutcoexisted with establishedproceduresforexpressinggrievanceby petition.
Traditionsgoverningpetitionsarose in medieval society,when parliamentsmet as high courtsthat receivedand triedpetitions.More than
16,000 petitionswentto parliamentsthatmetfromthe 13thto the 15th
centuries.These documentsare juridicalin natureand complainof miscarriageof justice or requestrelieffromtaxes, forestlaws, and other
regulations.In a three-weeksession, the 1305 Parliamentdealt with
nearly500 petitions,small pieces of parchmentwithnotationsthatindicate theprescribedremedy,ifany(Maitland 1893,pp. xxvi-xxvii,xxxii,
lv, lxvii-lxxiii).Later developmentsreflectgrowingcomplexity
in medieval institutions.Unlike unevenlycomposed petitionsin the reign of
Edward I, petitionsacquire a characteristicformfor addressingand
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quired the use of scrivenersand lawyers,whose fees forthese services
appear in guild records(Meyers1937, pp. 386-88). By the early 14th
are drawnbetweenprivatepetitionsand commons
century,distinctions
petitionsthat raise "grievancesregardedas being of commoninterest."
In thisdevelopmentparliamentsadded legislativedutiesto theiroriginal
juridical functions.But by the early 16thcentury,anotherinnovation
supersededpetitions;legislationnow proceededby "bill," whichdelineated an act, and not by petition,thoughprivate acts are still called
"petitions"(Butt 1989,p. 268; Elton 1983,3:118, 128, 132; Sayles 1988,
pp. 48-57). Parliamentsstill"petition"monarchsin cases of acute conflictbetweenthem.Yet in the early 17thcentury,M.P.'s display keen
awarenessof the antiquariannatureof thisuse of petition,notinghow
its humbleovertonesare well suitedto issues on which theyhad little
leverage."We have fallenfroma bill to a petition,and lowerwe cannot
go," observedWentworthin debates over royalprerogativethat led to
the 1628 Petitionof Right(Parliament1977-83, 3:582; see also 3:273).
Traditionsin the 17thCentury
Petitioning
England, petitionswereobjectsof popularknowlIn early17th-century
edge, well suitedto a hierarchicalworldin whichdeferenceand patronage functionedlike money.The word "petition"was a commonfigure
to signifya deferentialreof speech, used literallyand metaphorically
quest forfavoror forredressof a problem.Letterwritersseekingoffice
or advancementtypicallycalled theirrequest a petition.On Sundays
clericsexplainedthat prayeris a petitionto God and the faithfulare
Worldlypetitionsrequestoffice,alms, or relieffrom
humblepetitioners.7
meansexistfor
Institutionalized
debt,delay ofjustice,or imprisonment.
A
themto thosein authority. parliamentbegan witha medisubmitting
of receiversand triersof petitions.Petitions
eval ritual,theappointment
withinfluto kingswerereceivedby secretariesofstate,frompetitioners
This
from
suitors.
Court
of
poor
Requests
ence or money,and by the
Rich
and
poor
to
to
access
petitioning.
popular
last pointcalls attention
the
connections
to
a
for
it
substitute
personal
alike petitioned; provided
in
Sir
Edward
Coke
London
argued
threatened
1625,
court.Whenplague
that Parliamentshould establishno committeesto receivepetitionsbecause of "the dangerof infectionby drawingthe meanersortof people
about us" (Parliament1873, pp. 11-12).
7 To convey a key Protestanttenet, a popular preacher explains, "Faith obtains, as
a poor petitioner,what the Lord promises in special favor" (Ball 1632, p. 247). In
1639, Sir Robert Harley, subsequentlya prominentmemberof the Long Parliament,
instructshis son that fear of God "is the constant petitioneron your behalf at the
throneof grace" (MSS Add. 33572, folio 310).

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EnglishRevolution
Petitionson everyconceivablegrievancewentto all seats of authority,
and
and not onlyto parliamentsor kings.They came fromcollectivities
individualswho voice publicand privategrievances,requestfavors,and
enterpleas in juridicalproceedingsbetweenprivateparties.Apprentices
petitionedLondon's Court of Aldermenwhen marriage(a violationof
apprenticeship
indentures)blockedtheiradmissionto thefreedomof the
city;?10 would unblockit (MSS Rep. 54, folios47, 57, 90-91). A petition
to the mayorand aldermenof Chester,who controlleda small school in
a nearbychapelry,complainedabout the incompetenceof its teachers
school": "to the generalgriefof us
who had ruined"a mostflourishing
all, the springtime of our school is turnedinto an autumn,the little
plants we send thereare no sooner budded but blasted" (MSS Rawl.
C421, folios 19, 20). Puritan aldermenin Norwich complained that
"spit," "shit,"and an occasional chair raineddown on themfromhostile clericswho sat in an overheadgalleryin the towncathedral(Evans
1979,p. 113). Tailors sentpetitionsto thedean and chapterat Salisbury,
frompersonswho did notbelongto theircorporaprotesting
competition
tionbut who practicedthe tradeon the chapter'sproperty;if two were
admittedat a "reasonablefine"to thecorporation,thedean promisedto
evicttheothers(MSS Harl. 2103,folio167). Finally,theearl ofWarwick
received a petition fromAmerica, from"one of my Negroes . . . that his

wifemay live with him"; the earl thoughtit "a requestfullof reason"
(MSS Eng. hist. C1125, folio 10). The varietyof petitionersand grievances pointsto the importancecontemporaries
attachedto the rightto
petition.
The Rightto Petition
Contemporariesheld strongviews on the rightto petition,which was
It was "theindisputableright
applicableto individualsand collectivities.
of themeanestsubject"(E341[5] 1646,p. 6). When theLong Parliament
met in November1640, an M.P. attackedthe crownforseizingpapers
of membersat the dissolutionof the ShortParliament,reasoningthat
"the searchof papers was a greaterinjurythanthe imprisonment
of the
body. For by that I sufferin my own personalone, but by the other,
myselfand all my friendsand many petitionersmightbe drawn into
danger, so as no man will eithercomplainor let us know his griefs"
(D'Ewes 1923, p. 168). The rightto petitionwas upheld even when
persistent petitioners annoyed petitioned authorities (Parliament
1977-83, 5:129, 131). When petitionspouredintothe Long Parliament,
the patience of M.P.'s reached the breakingpoint when receiptof a
junior insteadof seniorfellowshipprompteda disappointedprofessorat
to the Magna Carta stalled proCambridgeto petition-but references
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posals to receive no more petitions(D'Ewes 1923, p. 415). In 1646,
M.P.'s invokedtherightto petitionin heateddebateovera Presbyterian
petitionthat challengedParliament'srule over the church. Some saw
thisas contemptof Parliament,but otherM.P.'s arguedthatpetitioners
"oughtnotbe so chargedforall thesubjectsmaypetitionand show their
reasons why freely"(Harington[1646-53] 1977, p. 15). Confrontedby
an insurgentRoyalistmovementin 1648, the House of Commons instructeda committeeto framean orderagainst"all tumultuary
meetings
underpretenseof petitions,withan assertionof the subject'slibertyto
petitionin a due manner."The orderrefersto "the rightand privilege

of the subjects . . . to present unto the Parliament theirjust grievances,

by way of petition"(Journalsof the House of Commons1646-48, pp.


563, 567; Journalsof the House of Lords 1647-48, p. 273). Royalist
theirrightto present"just desiresof the oppressed
petitionersaffirmed
in a petitionary
way (the undoubtedrightof the subject) and the very
lifeof theirlibertyitself"(669f.12[20] 1648).
Invocationoftraditionlies at thecoreofthiscontemporary
affirmation
of the rightto expressgrievance"in a petitionary
way" and of the duty
of officialsto receivepetitions.Modernisttenetsof the Enlightenment
are clearlyirrelevant.Contemporary
perspectiveson therightto petition
relyon a medievalconceptionof right:to petitionis to entera privileged
communicativespace, analogous to privilegesthat followadmissionto
the "freedom"of a municipalcorporation.Petitionsaffordsubjectslimited immunityto normsthat otherwiserestrictpublic commentaryon
politicalmatters.Radical petitionsagainstbishopsand episcopacywere

defended with the claim that "freedom . . . to make our grievances

knownis a chiefprivilegeofParliament"(E146[24] 1642,p. 2). Agitators


in the New Model Armyinvokedthe rhetoricof "privilege"and "liberty"to defendtheirrightto petitionParliamentforredressofgrievances
(Clarke [1647-52] 1992, 1:56). But thiscustomarylanguagealso appears
on theotherside. A staplefeatureof Royalistideologyis thechargethat
the Long Parliamentaimed at "arbitraryrule" when it interfered
with
In 1643 (E65[32] 1643, pp. 24-25; E67[23] 1643,
Royalistpetitioning.8
p. 3; HMC Cowper 1888, p. 311) and again in 1648, Royalistsdefend
the right to petition, "the birthrightof the subject . . . [that] once lost,

mustbe succeededwithslaveryand tyranny"(E453[37] 1648, p. 1; and


see E443[8] 1648,p. 3; E441[25] 1648,pp. 6-7). Because Royalists,army
agitators,Puritans,and Levellers understoodthe rightto petitionin
termsof tradition-a "primitivepractice,"accordingto one Leveller
8 In analyzing the idea of "public interest"Gunn (1969, p. 122) errs in describingthe

rightto petitionas an extensionof "radical ideology."

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EnglishRevolution
(E378[13] 1647, p. 9)-its assertionby all parties invoked the same
that we usuallyassociate withradical Leveller ideology.9
"birthrights"
Restrictions
on Petitions
Initially,it seemsodd thattherightto expressgrievanceby petitionwas
so stronglyentrenchedin a societywhose politicswere predicatedon
deferenceand patronage.But like othermedieval rights,the rightto
on expressionsof grievance
petitionwas farfromabsolute.Restrictions
in petitionsprovided only limited immunityagainst secrecy norms.
theirnature can be
Though no formallaw definedthese restrictions,
inferredfromprevailingpracticesand fromnegativereactionsto "factious" petitions.First, a petitiondid not invoke or imply normative
claims for the "will of the people"; second, the rhetoricof petitions
portrayedgrievanceas an apoliticalconveyanceof information,
by emphasizingdeferential,
juridical, and spontaneousattributesof the grievance; and, third,grievancesshouldbe local and neithercriticalof laws,
nor made public.
indicativeof discontentwithauthority,
1. "Voxpopuli" is not "lex suprema."-Permissiblemessagesfromthe
to thepoliticalcenterdid notincludeclaimsabout thesupremperiphery
acy of popular will over petitionedauthority.In debate over rival
"peace" and "war" petitionsfromLondon citizens, a radical M.P.,
HenryMarten,was reprimandedin the House of Commons"forsaying
forour proceedingsfromthe peothat we oughtto receiveinstructions
ple" (MSS Add. 31116,folio14). The view in Parliamentwas no different
thantheone in theleadingRoyalistnewspaper,MercuriusAulicus,over
the impropriety
of petitionsperceivedto be "directingin a mannerwhat
theywould have done" (MA [1643-44] 1971, 1:107; and see MSS Add.
31116, folio170; MSS Harl. 166, folio216).o
An important
extensionofthispointinvokedsecrecynormsin political
communication:
petitionsshouldnottakecognizanceofbusinesspending
in Parliament."A great debate was in the House" in 1644 over "a
9 Traditionalreligiousmetaphors
werealso important.
The commonplace
on prayer
as a petitionto God was used to justifyLevellerpetitions.Womenpetitioners
requestedthatParliamentnot "withholdfromus our undoubtedrightof petitioning,
sinceGod is everwillingand readyto receivethepetitions
of all. . . The ancient
laws of England are not contrary
to the will of God" (669f.17[36]1653; and see
E579[9] 1649,p. 1).
10 In 1647and 1648Parliamentary
declarations
assert,"It is therightof thesubject
to petition.. . It is therightoftheParliament
tojudge ofsuchpetitions"
(Journals
oftheHouse ofCommons1646-48,p. 375; see also JournalsoftheHouse ofLords
1647-48,p. 273).

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seditiouspetitiondeliveredin by some citizensof London" (MSS Harl.
166, folio 151). In prematurely
thankingParliamentfora vote that led
to formation
oftheNew Model Army,thepetitionviolatedsecrecynorms
"in takingnotice of a vote passed in the House beforeit came to be
made public in an Ordinance"(MSS Add. 31116, folio 179v). The next
London'sCommonCouncilafterthecounyearParliamentreprimanded
cil had forwardedpetitionsfromcitizensthatreferred
to ongoingdeliberationsoverthechurch.Whenthesecitizenslaterpresenteda new petition
in lay commisagainstParliament'sdecisionto vestdisciplinary
authority
sioners(and not in presbyteries),
theyjustifiedthis step because "now
was passed, theyhad libertyto
the Ordinance[forlay commissioners]
petition"(HMC Sixth Report 1877, pp. 104-5; MSS Williams 24.50,
folio68). In 1645MercuriusBritanicusechoedParliament'sposition-as
did Presbyterians
and Independentsin mutualrecriminations-whenthe
newspaperattackeda Presbyterian
petition:it is "prejudicialand derogatoryto the gravityand majestyof a Parliament;that when they are
of anything,men should presumeto instructthem"
upon determination
(E308[5] 1645, p. 919; see also Journals of the House of Commons
1645-46, p. 348; E323[2] 1646,pp. 44, 67; E340[5] 1646, p. 4).
2. Rhetoricalconventions.
-Deferential rhetoricpervades petitions.
Aided by juridical and religiousmetaphors,it portrayspetitionersas
"humble" suitorswho "pray" and "supplicate"for relieffromgrievances. This rhetoricrestricted
expressionof grievanceso that petitions
did not invokeor implypopular will as a sourceof authority.Instead,
submittedto
grievanceappears as a neutralconveyanceof information,
thateschewsprescribing
solutions.
thewisdomof theinvokedauthority,
Lobbying-a principalmotiveformobilizingpublic opinionin democraticpolitics-is prohibited.This appears in a petitionto thekingfrom
London in September1640(Rushworth1721,3:1264). Populardesirefor
conveninga Parliamenthad grownrapidlysince the dissolutionof the
Short Parliament,in May, and the subsequentmilitaryfiascothat, in
August,resultedin a Scottisharmyof occupationin northernEngland.
In asking the king to convene Parliament,the "humble petitioners"
recitegrievancesabout taxation,religion,and themilitarysituation,and
reportthat theyhave found"by experiencethattheyare not redressed
by the ordinarycourseof justice." Thus, theyadvance theirpetitionso
that "theymay be relievedin the premises."(This last phrase is stilla
termofartforlawyers.)This rhetoric
depoliticizespetitionsbyconcealing
the intentto lobby, to promotepreferredsolutionsto grievances,for
this would signal contemptof authority."We come," declared London
apprenticesin a petitionfor peace in 1643, "to embowell our grievances . . . beforeyou, not presumingto dictateto your graverjudgements"(669f.6[101]1642).
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In additionto deferential
and juridicalrhetoric,petitionsappear to be
a spontaneousexpressionof grievance.In thiscontext,the antithesisof
spontaneity
is faction.(The pointdisplayslinksto ideas in classicalrhetoric thathold spontaneousutterancesto have moreprobativevalue than
premeditatedones.) The expressionof grievanceby petitionwas compared to the sensationof pain froman injured limb: "So questionless
may the membersof the body politic,findingthemselveswounded or
weakened... by humblepetitionsue untothe King and Parliament...
the veryheartand head." Justas pain spontaneouslyconveysinformationto the brain,petitionsideallyare a spontaneousmessage,a neutral
devoidofnormativeclaimsforsubordinating
conveyanceofinformation,
politicsto popularwill. The authorof thispoint,in a tractthatdefends
petitionsagainstbishops,describestherightto petitionin termsof "freedom of information"
(E146[24] 1642, pp. 2-3). But this idea does not
derivefromspecifically
Puritanor parliamentarian
commitments.
"Conveyinginformation
by the humbleway of petitions"is how a Royalist
petitionfromHereforddescribesand defendsa petitionfromKentwhose
defianttone led to its suppressionin 1642 (669f.6[49]1642). Levellers
defendedtheright"to frameand promotepetitions,foryourbetterinformationof all such thingsas are . . . grievousto the commonwealth"
(E428[8] 1648,p. 12). WhenParliamentrefusedto receivepetitionsfrom
femaleLevellers,the lattercriticizedM.P.'s who "scornedinformation,
despised petitions"(669f.17[26] 1653). Like deferentialand juridical
theportrayalofgrievanceas spontaneousinformation
rhetoric,
maintains
fatalaccusations
apoliticalappearancesin petitions.It deflectspotentially
of "faction"by divertingattentionaway fromthe premeditationand
organizationthat invariablylay behindpetitionswith many signatures
thathad been gatheredin campaignsoftenorganizedby parishor ward.
These campaignsin London mightbe tied to sectarianchurchesand in
the countryside
to assize and quartersessions,whenpoliticaldiscussions
among the assembledgentryin tavernsled to a petitionlaterpresented
forendorsement
by a grandjury. An inevitablediscrepancythusexisted
betweenappearanceand reality:what a petition'srhetoricportraysas a
spontaneousexpressionofgrievanceis, in fact,a productofcoordination
and planning.
Yet thisdiscrepancywas a resourceas well as a liability,forit enabled
to put an acceptablefaceon requeststhatmightotherwisebe
petitioners
perceivedas factious.An elaborategame of impressionmanagementby
petitiontooka treasonableturnin August1640,when 12 peerspetitioned
King Charles to summonwhat was to be the Long Parliament.This
occurredwitha coordinatepetitioncampaignby theCityof London and
the gentryin counties,who sent petitionsto the same end. Intelligence
of the entireoperationwas passed to the Scots,thena hostileoccupying
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armyin the northof England; theytoo would petitionCharlesto call a
parliament(Donald 1989, pp. 227-28). Yet the king never receiveda
petitionfromHerefordthatwas partofthiscampaignbecause itsframers
feared,on September19, thatit would notarrivebeforean Assemblyof
"If it come to his majestyafter
Peers to be convenedon thetwenty-fifth:
that day, it will savor of faction"(MSS Add. 70086, unfoliated).An
essential tensionbetween organizationand spontaneityin petitioning
was, then,a delicateissue.
on content.-Other rulesalso limitedexpressions
3. Otherrestrictions
of grievanceso that petitionsappeared as an apoliticalconveyanceof
information.The rightto petitionpertainedto individualsas well as
collectivities;
but,ifgrievancehad a publiccomplexion,petitionsusually
came fromcorporateentities,forexample,guildhalls,wardmoots,common councils,and assize and quartersessions.Petitionson public issues
fromprivatepartiesweremoreopen to accusationsoffaction-no small
matterin a societywherethe ideal of organicunitymade factiontantamountto sedition.In addition,grievancesin petitionsshould be local,
"A petitionmustbe according
thatis, experienceddirectlyby petitioners;
to verityand particularity,"
notedSir Edward Coke in the 1628 Parliament(Parliament1977-83, 3:480). Violationofthispreceptunderliesthe
negativeresponseto an April 1640 petitionfromthe militiain Hertford:
"It cannotbe imaginedthatthispetitionwas framedby thosewhom it
concerns,but by some factiousand indiscretepersons"(HMC Salisbury
1971, p. 131). Otherrules furtherseparatedthe ideal petitionfroman
It should neithercriticizespecificlaws nor
ideologicalpronouncement.
Agreementexistedover the
implypopular discontentwithgovernment.
seditiousnessof petitioningagainst a specificlaw or ruling.Criticism
leveled by King Charles against personswho sought"to publish peti(El 12[26]
tions... againsttheknownlaws and establishedgovernment"
1642, p. 5) was also advanced by the king'sopponents(Harington1977,
p. 25; Luke [1644-45] 1963,p. 281). In 1605Sir FrancisHastingsencounteredthiscriticismwhenhe was questionedby thePrivyCouncil forhis
role in a PuritanpetitionfromNorthampton.It was "seditious,malideferential.Hastings was
cious, factious";neitherlocal nor sufficiently
a SomersetM.P., and the petitionalleged "that a. thousand[Puritans]
are discontented."They were not "discontented,"protestedHastings,
but "grieved"(Hastings[1574-1609] 1969, pp. 90-91). Later, armyagitatorsused identicalwordsto defenda petitiondenouncedby Parliament
in 1647; therewas no "discontent,"only"grievances"(Clarke [1647-52]
is meaningless;but contem1992, 1:31,36, 50-53). For us thedistinction
porariesdrew finedistinctionsbetweenapoliticalconveyanceof grievance by petitionand factiousdiscontent.
Finally,petitionswerenotto be made public.Therewas nothingnovel
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in the complaintof a royalofficeholder,
Sir Thomas Roe, about circulation of manuscriptcopies of a 1640 petitionfromYork framedat the
summerassizes: "I am sorryto findthe copy of the Yorkshirepetition
spread abroad to all hands . . . but all is out of order" (CSPD 1858-97,
16:565).The rightto petitiondid notcreatea publicsphere;it established
a privilegeforpetitioners
to communicatedirectlyto thosein authority.
Petitionersstronglyaffirmedthis privilege.At the electionof London
M.P.'s to the Long Parliament,"a petitionwas givenby the multitude"
to the electedmembersfordeliveryto Parliament."Some of the people
cried out to have this petitionread out," but, afterdebate, this was
voted down, "the major part . . . saying they would not have their

grievancespublishedbut in Parliament"(MSS Add. 11045,folio 128v).


Petitionersused thislogic to denounceprintedattackson petitionscurrentlypendingin Parliament.Independentsheld Presbyterian
attackson
petitionsbeforeParliamentto be "contraryto the courseof Parliament
and thelibertyofthesubjects"(E5 16[7]1647,p. 11). WhenIndependents
the courseof the
used thistactic,Presbyterians
objectedto "obstructing
people of England'sfreepetitioning"
(E352[3] 1646,p. 9; E355[13] 1646,
p. 36; E368[5] 1646, p. [259].)
Thus, communicativerules for petitioningpermittedexpressionsof
formthathas littlein commonwith
grievance,but onlyin a restricted
modernconceptionsof the public sphereas a forumforfreeand open
debate over conflicting
politicalgoals. The traditionalpetitionwas well
suitedto a societywherepoliticalconflictand factionswere understood
as deviantbehavior.What remainsto be examined,then,are new uses
forpetitionsin the EnglishRevolution,whenprintedpetitionsfromprivate associationssimultaneouslyconstitutedand invoked public opinion-a historically
novel communicative
practicethatunderliesmodern
conceptionsof the public sphere.
PETITIONS AND OPINION-POPULAR?

ELITE? MANIPULATED?

Petitionsin theEnglishRevolutionhave a complexrelationship


to public
opinion.They representindividualopinionsbut are also a tool fortheir
thedual natureof public opinion
manipulation.This complexity
reflects
as a nominaland real entity.Nominally,it is a discursivefiction;qua
public opinionit collectivelyexistsonly when instantiatedin political
discourse.Yet real individualsparticipatein politicaldiscourseas writers, readers,printers,and petitioners.Like today'sopinionpolls, petitions are devices that mediate betweennominaland real momentsof
public opinion. Thus, to assertthat innovativeuses of petitionsled to
the "invention"of public opinion in the English Revolutioninvolves
two claims:first,thatpetitionswereimportant
as propaganda,at least in
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valued themas toolsto influence
the minimalsense thatcontemporaries
opinion;second,thatpetitionshave linksto debatesin civil societyand
foistedupon an unsuspecting
pubwerenotmerelyliteraryinterventions
lic. Having establishedthesepoints,we can thenexaminethe printing
connectionand the paradoxof innovation.
Petitionsas Propaganda
The propaganda value of petitionsderived,not only fromtheirlegitimacy,whichwe have alreadyexamined,but also frompopularinterest
in them. Evidence on thisis hardlyconclusive,but what existsreveals
widespread interestin petitionsand petitioners.In London this was
heightenedby the processionsthattook a petitionto Parliament.In the
countrysidepetitionswere hot topics at assize sessions (Woods 1981).
Perceptionsof unprecedentedpopular participationin petitioningalso
heightenedinterest.In 1641, well beforepoliticalpetitioninghad fully
developed,one observerthoughtthat"no timenorhistorycan show that
such great numbersof oppressedsubjects of all sortsever petitioned"
(Oxinden [1607-42] 1932, p. 286). 'This commentrefers,in part, to a
petition(669f.4[55]1642) presentedto Parliamentby London's porters.
nature"of thispetition,from
Observersremarkedon the"extraordinary
"the lowest and inferiorsort of the people in the City," who "coming
in [Westminster],
all withwhitetowelsover theirshoulders,delivereda
petitionwith 1500 hands" (PJ 1982, pp. 259, 265; HMC Cowper 1888,
p. 306). The senseof noveltyattachedto thisdevelopmentalso holdsfor
petitionsfromthe otherside. A hostilereporton a Cornwall petition
(669f.4[64]1642)thatstridently
upholdsroyalprerogativeand theestablished liturgydescribeshow a Cornwall cleric"solicitedhedgersat the
hedge, plowmenat the plow, threshersin the barns" (Buller 1895, p.
33). SatiricalpetitionsridiculedpopularsupportfortheLong Parliament
in petitionsfromwomen, the insane, and even "infants,babies and
sucklings."A fictivepetitionfromthe last observes that "all sorts of
people . . . some of all degreesand conditionshave petitionsto thishigh
court";we "have therefore
thoughtgood, and accordingto our infantile
thesefewlines"
to presentto yourgraveconsideration,
understandings,
(MSS Ashmole830, folio294; see also E180[17] 1641; E404[30] 1647).
Even beforethe printingof petitionsbecame routinein 1642, letters
and diaries oftenreferto petitionsin 1640 and 1641 (HMC Beaulieu
1900,pp. 129, 131, 134-35; HMC De L'Isle 1966,p. 371; HMC Various
1903, pp. 257-58, MSS Tanner 63, folios32, 43; MSS Tanner 65, folio
209; MSS Tanner 66, folio 181; D'Ewes 1845, 2:242-43; Rous [162542]1856, pp. 91-94). Interestin petitionsappears in diaries kept by a
London artisan,Nehemiah Wallington(1869, 2:14-19), who refersto
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100 petitionsbetween1640and 1642;a memberoftheKentgentry(Oxinden 1933, pp. 232, 285-86); and a countrycleric (Josselin[1616-83]
1976,pp. 88, 91, 97-98, 122-23, 127). Survivingevidenceprovidestantalizingclues about thecare withwhichpetitionsmightbe read. A newsletterin 1642reportsthatthekingin York receiveda supportivepetition
and thathe "aftergives an answer,both so concurringas if, some say,
it was made by consentof parties"(HMC Beaulieu 1900, p. 148). Anothernotessimilaritiesin the Twelve Peers Petitionand petitionsfrom
diaristsand journalists
the Scots (CSPD 1858-97, 17:62). Parliamentary
oftenreferto the repetitivequality of countypetitionsin 1642 (see
Fletcher1981, p. 191), describingpetitionsas "tendingto the same effect"as ones previouslypresented(e.g., E201[23] 1642, p. 5, and see p.
2; PJ 1987, pp. 2, 6, 23, 32, 38, 46). But an unusuallyassertivepassage
in the versionof a January1642 petitionthatHertfordpetitionersproposed to send to the Lords startledM.P.'s-it reprimandedthe House
ofLords for"wantofcompliancebythishonorablehousewiththeHouse
of Commons"(E133[15] 1642, p. 2). "God's wounds, here is a petition
indeed,"remarkedone M.P. Othersnotedthatthe Hertfordpetitionto
the Lords had "not only what was expressedin theirpetitionto this
House but otherparticularsalso, and thatin too broad and plain terms"
(PJ 1982, pp. 161, 171; see also HMC Cowper 1888, p. 304).
It is important
to notethatpopularinterestin petitionsdid notdepend
on the abilityto read them.11Petitionswereread aloud and discussedin
churchesand taverns,oftenin conjunctionwithefforts
to obtainsignaturesor marks.The assemblingof parishioners
on Sundaysaided collectionofsignatures;so did theparochialauthority
ofclerics(Fletcher1981,
pp. 195-96). In 1641, membersof the clergyat ChesterCathedralannounced "that therewas somethingmore to be done than reading of
prayers."One describedthe currentPuritanpetitioncampaignforabolishingtheestablishedliturgy,"to preventwhichdangerthenobilityand
gentryof this countryhave drawn a petition."The petitionwas read;
all who "had receivedany benefit"fromthe liturgyshould "repair to
the communiontable and subscribeto the petition."Some leftwithout
signingand were challengedby a prebendwho "asked the people what
theymeantto go out" when"mostof the best of the cityhas subscribed
to it" (MSS Nalson 13, folio66). On the otherside, radical petitioning
in Londonreliedon Independentchurches(see Tolmie 1977,pp. 144-72).
AfterLevellerpetitionswereburnedon a Saturdayin May 1647,a letter
of intelligence to Hyde reports, "The next day . . . there was a sermon

in Coleman Street[a radical stronghold],


a verypassionateexhortation
" Elsewhere (see Zaret 1994, pp. 184-86), I discuss literacyin thisera and its implications forappeals to public opinion in politics.

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persuadingthe people to remainfirmto the cause and to sign another
petitionof the like nature"(MSS Clarendon20, folio227v).
Well-foundedpresuppositions
about popularinterestin and access to
petitionsthuslay behindtheiruse in printas politicalpropagandaby all
sides. The publicationof Thomas Aston'scollectionof Royalistpetitions
(E150[28] 1642) prompteda proposal,in An Appeale To The WorldIn
theseTimesofExtreameDanger(E107[26] 1643,p. 3), forcompilingand
printinga collectionof pro-Parliamentpetitions.The intentto direct
printedpetitionsto a public at large and not merelyelite opinionalso
appears in the prefaceto a pamphletthatdefendsa July1643 petition.
The firstmanifestoof a nascentIndependentparty,its argumentswill
be "usefulto the less knowingsort of men" (E61[21] 1643, signature
A2v). Later,Independentattackson a Presbyterian
petitionfromLancashirewere said to be moreconcernedwithhow the petitionfared"with
the people" ratherthanParliament(E352[3] 1646,p. 8). Royalistreports
in 1643 of "petitioning
forpeace" were intended"to incensethe people
againsttheParliament"(E65[11] 1643,p. 227). Perhapstheclearestindicationof the motiveto influencethe opinionof an anonymouspublic is
thepracticeof printingcopies of petitionsforuse in gatheringsignatures
and then publishinganothereditionto distributeamong the public at
large-a tacticused byRoyalists(669f.11[47]1647; E518[11] 1647),Presbyterians(669f.10[58]1646; 669f.10[63]1646),Independents(669f.12[63]
1648; E452[7] 1648; E452[38] 1648), Levellers(E548[16] 1649 is bound
withtwo titlepages; one is addressedto potentialsubscribers,the other
to the general public), and proponentsof the "good old cause"
(669f.20[71]1657; E936[5] 1658).
Politicalleadersin Parliamentused petitionsto createthe appearance
of popularsupportfortheirpolicies.Coordinationof parliamentary
maneuversand petitioningwas a politicalart practicedto perfectionby
Pym. In 1641 a massivepetitionfromLondon citizensaided his efforts
in the House of Commonsto overcomeresistancein the House of Lords
to proceedingagainstStrafford
bya billofattainder."The earl has many
friendsin the Lords," an M.P. reportson April 17: "To balance the
Lords thereis a petitionpreparingin the City with 20,000 or 30,000
hands subscribed"(HMC Cowper 1888, p. 278). On April 24 the Commons receivedthe petitionwith20,000 signatures;on April 29 another
M.P. wrote"The London petitionforexpeditionofjusticeis transmitted
of our own; upon which
by us to the Lords, witha special enforcement
theyhave read the bill of attaindertwice"(MSS Osborn fb. 94, no. 7).
On May 7 the bill passed the Lords. The highvalue placed by political
eliteson petitionsas propagandaalso appliesto theotherside. In intelligence reportssent to Hyde, we can followthe course of petitioncampaigns in eventsleadingto the abortivePresbyterian
coup in 1647 and
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theRoyalistuprisingof 1648(MSS Clarendon29, folios68, 72, 158, 161,
165, 227, 263; MSS Clarendon31, folios37v-38, 43, 56, 73, 67v, 77v,
79v, 80, 83v, 85v, 88, 99). Effortsto suppresspetitionsare also instructive. On all sides theyinvolvefinepoliticalcalculationas well as brute
force.In 1641 an M.P. reports,"All art is used to keep petitionsfor
episcopacyfrombeing presentedto the House" (HMC Cowper 1888,
p. 295). That year the kinginstructedLondon's mayorto suppressthe
anti-Strafford
petition:but let "his Lordshiphave a care to do that secretlyas of himself,and notby any commandfromhis Majesty" (CSPD
1858-97, 17:538). The nextyear Presbyterians
enlistedan Independent
cleric,Philip Nye, to work discretelyto kill plans by Independentsto
petitionagainstthe SolemnLeague and Covenant,whichallied England
withScottishPresbyterianism.
No traceofthisepisodeappearsin Parliait is reportedin MercuriusAulicus
ment'srecords;but, notsurprisingly,
(see Gardiner1883,pp. 5-6; MA [1643-44] 1971, 2:55-56). In 1647 and
1648 M.P.'s were oftenat the centerof effortsto stop petitionsfrom
radicals(MSS Tanner 58, folio50) and Royalists(JournalsoftheHouse
ofCommons1646-48, pp. 130, 134, 563).
Petitionsas Indicatorsof Public Opinion
betweenpetitionsand publicopinOnlypartofthecomplexrelationship
ion appears when we examinepetitionsas propaganda.As propaganda,
petitionsnominallyconstitute
publicopinionas a means to influencethe
is thereversemovement?
realopinionsofindividuals.But howimportant
Do petitionshave tangiblelinksto opinionsheld at the individuallevel,
to discussionand debate in civilsociety,or are theymerelyliteraryproductionswithno discerniblerelationto a publicsphere?Answersto these
questionsrequirean assessmentof the importanceof manipulationand
outrightdeceitin practicesthatled to the framingand signingof petitions.
Manipulationand deceitwere topicsof contemporary
speculationon
a hiddenagenda. MercuriusAulias unwitting
toolsto further
petitioners
cus chargedthatthe war partyin the House of Commonshad allocated
thisroleto London citizens;Levellersthoughtthata "malignant"faction
in theHouse of Commonsput London's CommonCouncil in thisroleaccommodationpetitionsto Parliamentwere"firstcontrivedand plotted
laid to be actedin CommonCouncils"
bythemselves,and thencunningly
(MA [1643-44] 1971, 1:392; E452[21] 1648,p. 2; and see E522[38] 1648,
p. 5). The "elementof charade"thatFletcher(1981, p. 194) discernsin
some countypetitionsin the early 1640s was noted by contemporaries.
Afterthe king's failed attemptto arrestfive parliamentaryleaders in
January1642,thefirstpetitionto protestthismove came fromBucking1521

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ham. Skepticismgreetedpresenterswho stated,in the Commons,that
theywere "not counseledtheretoby any but hurriedalong withapprehensionsof the dangersthis honorableHouse was in." D'Ewes noted
the petitionwas alreadyin print.Whitelock"did dislikethismannerof
petitioning,"
despitehis supportforthe fiveleaders,because one of the
its promofive-John Hamden, a BuckinghamM.P.-had orchestrated
tion(PJ 1982, p. 36; Whitelock[1605-75] 1990, p. 130).
These examples show the danger of takingpetitionsat face value.
to "parrot"petiacknowledgedthisdangerin references
Contemporaries
tions,local petitionsthatreiteratedthe substanceof a London petition.
Though Royalistsused thistactic(MSS Clarendon29, folio72), parrot
petitionsare usuallyassociatedwiththe otherside, as in the following
formsof
cynicalverse:"Though set formsof prayerbe abomination/Set
petitionsfindgreat approbation"(MSS Rawl. poet 62, folio 51). The
1640 Root and Branch petitionfromLondon forPuritanreformwas a
one fromKentin January1641,
modelforcountypetitions.In presenting
Edward Dering, a prominentKent M.P., remarksthat "if it were not
the spawn of the London petition"it was "a parrottaughtto speak . . .
by rote calling forRoot and Branch" (E197[1] 1641, p. 9). Later, this
point was raised against Independent and Presbyterianpetitions
(E350[12] 1646, p. 3; E352[3] 1646, p. 13). But as Underdownpoints
out, such coordination"does notnecessarilyprovethata particularpetitionhad no local support"(Underdown1978, pp. 195-96; and see Russell 1993, p. 108). Elite involvementcould imposenationalpoliticalperspectiveson petitionsfromlocalitieswhereopinionmightbe insularand
of opinionthat occurredin the framing
unideological.But the filtering
of petitionscould also move in the oppositedirection:it mightconceal
in Parliament.The
sharpviews at thelocal level thatwereinconvenient
case of Dering and the Kent petitionis instructive.In presentingit to
thereof. . . until
Parliament,Deringboasts,"I dealt withthepresenters
(withtheirconsent)I reducedit to less thana quarterofitsformerlength,
and taughtit a new and moremodestlanguage."This "modest"version
of papistsforspecificrefersubstitutesbland remarkson countenancing
moderatesits
ences to contentiousreligiousissues (e.g., predestination),
the
omits
a
that
denies
and
vitriolicanticlericalism,
kingto be
passage
above the law (E197[1] 1641, p. 9; 669f.4[9]1641; Larking 1862, pp.
30-33). The London CommonCouncil modifiedpetitionsfromcitizens
12 In 1647 officers
eliminated
before forwardingthem to Parliament.
12 In December1646theLondonCommon
that,likemany
Councilprepareda petition
totheCouncil.
earliercitizens'petitions
thisstepbyenclosing
fromthatbody,justified
theCommonCouncilpetitionwas "to alter,add or dimindrafting
The committee
shouldthinkrequisite."The printedversionof
ish . . . whattheyin theirdiscretion
the Councilpetitionappendedthe citizenspetition"withsome omissionsand few

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''more offensivecomplaints"as theyconsolidatedregimentalpetitions
fromsoldiersintoone petitionfromthearmy;in 1652 Cromwellmoderto theRump Parliament(Woolated passages in a petitionfromofficers
rych1982, pp. 41-42; 1987, p. 91).
Thus, coordinationbetweenlocal activistsand nationalpoliticalelites
does notnecessarilyimplyfraudin petitions.It mightfacilitateexpression
of local opinion. For example,complaintsabout "malignant"clericsin
parish petitionsofteninvolve coordinationbetweenlocal activistsand
prominentM.P.'s, includingHarley, Dering,Barrington,and D'Ewes.
A Herefordjusticeofthepeace wroteto Harleyabout a malignantcleric:
"I am advised to prefera petitionuntothe Parliamentagainsthim,and
to that purposehave sent my man to solicitthe business,if you think
necessary"(MSS Add. 70106, Kyrleto Harley,unfoliated;see also MSS
Add. 70003, folio 111; MSS Stowe 184, folio33). Amongthe papers of
Barringtonis a draftof a parishpetition,witheditorialrevisions(e.g.,
forthe parish
"suffered"is substitutedfor"groaned")and instructions
activists:"You should do well to get as manyhands to thispetitionas
can be . .. & ifyouhave heardthevicaror his curatepreachinganything
to truedoctrine,to agreeupontheparticularsamongyourselves,
contrary
that you may be able to prove it" (MSS Egerton2651, folio 98). But
initiativecould flow in the otherdirection.A local activistwritesto
D'Ewes "to put you in mind of that petitionand articlesagainst the
vicar of our parish, wherewithwe have troubledyou and you stand
entrusted"(MSS Harl. 383, folio 199).
The issue of manipulationalso arises in connectionwith effortsto
gathersignaturesto petitions.Here, too, appearancescan be deceiving.
Even whenpetitionshad thousandsofsignatures"understanding
observers had learntthat the numberof signaturesand marksattachedto a
petitiontestifiedmore to the vigourwith whichit had been organized
than the degreeof enthusiasmforits contentsin a particularlocality"
(Fletcher1981,pp. 194-95; see also Everitt1973,p. 90; Harley 1854,p.
111). Allegationsof fraudand deceitflewon bothsides. Hyde (1849, 1:
286-87) claimsthatPuritanpetitionsforradicalreformused a moderate
textto getsignatures.Puritanssaid thisaboutpetitionsfortheestablished
liturgyin Cornwalland Chester:"The hands of themenof Chesterwere
not underwritten
to thispetitionbut to the subsequentbriefdeclaration
of the intentof the petition."Organizersof thispetitionrespondedwith
a parish petitionwhose signersaffirmedtheirsignatures(MSS Harl.
4931, folio 118v, MSS Add. 36913, folio 131; Buller 1895, p. 31). Few
recordsshed lighton individualdecisionsto signa petition,so it is diffialterations" (MSS JCC 40, folio 199v; E366[15] 1646, p. 2; see also MA [1643-44]
1971, 1: 194).

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cultto assesstherelativeweightofinformed
consentversusmanipulation
and coercion.Survivingevidencecontainsreferences
to popular debate
and discussionover a petition.Laypersonssoughtadvice fromparish
ministers;newspapersand sermonsadvertisedthe readinessof clericsto
discussa petitionin circulation(E302[24] 1645,p. 380; E323[2] 1646, p.
110; E341[24] 1646, p. 3; Journalsof the House of Commons1646-48,
p. 436). Reportsof conflictand failed petitionsindicatethat ordinary
personscould resistcoercionby clericsand otherlocal authorities.In
1642 a parishionerwroteto D'Ewes about efforts
by his Isle of Ely vicar
"to have my hand to a petitionon the behalfof the bishops"in which
thevicar"pressedme so farformyreasonsofrefusing,
untilsome coarse
language passed betweenus" (MSS Harl. 383, folio 197; see also MSS
Nalson 13, folio66; Fairfax1848, 2:108; Fletcher1981,p. 289; Oxinden
1933, p. 232; Underdown1985,p. 93).
The contextin whichpotentialsubscribersencounteredpetitionswas
initiallytheextantstructures
ofcivilsociety-its parishes,wards,guilds,
commoncouncils,and quarterand assize sessions.We have alreadyseen
the importanceof parish churchesforpetitionsin the countryside.In
London, wards were the organizationalunit forthe 1640 City Petition
in supportof the Twelve Peers' Petition(MSS Add. 11045, folio 121)
and, later, forPresbyterianpetitions.For one in January1646 "there
was a sermonin everyward; all of themdrove one & the same way"
(MSS Williams24.50, folios56v, 101v; and see 669f.10[41]1645; MSS
Nalson 22, folio 131). Yet even withinthese establishedstructuresof
in London petitionsmade a decisive
everydaylife,popularparticipation
breakwithtraditionalpractice.Petitionsorganizedat theward or parish
level mightbypassthemayor,aldermaniccourt,and CommonCouncilto issuepetitionson behalfofthecitycorporation.
onlytheyhad authority
Petitionsbegan to come forthin the name of the city's"inhabitants."
The PrivyCouncilcomplainedabout thisdevelopmentin London's 1640
petitionthat supportedthe Twelve Peers' Petition"to which many
hands . . . are endeavoredto be gottenin the several wards. . . . And
we cannot but hold it very dangerousand strangeto have a petition
framedin the names of the citizens,and endeavoredto be signedin a
way notwarrantedby thechartersand customsoftheCity"(Rushworth
1721, 3:1262). Royalistsadvanced this criticismagainst the Root and
Branch petition:it was not fromthe corporation,observesDigby, "but
fromI know not what 15,000 Londoners"(Rushworth1721, 4:170-72;
D'Ewes 1923, p. 335). This popular developmentenabled citizenpetitionersto oppose or lobbymunicipalcorporations-and notonlyin London. In Norwich,competingpetitionsfromIndependentand Presbyterian citizens(E352[7] 1646; E355[13] 1646; E358[4] 1646) lobbied the
CommonCouncil over proposalsto petitionParliament.
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In thesepopulardevelopments,
privateassociationsofindividualsmet
in homes, taverns,and sectariancongregations
to debate and sign petitions.Growingrelianceon printedinformation
for organizingthese
petitionssupplementscommunicative
contactsbased on primaryassociations(e.g., residence,family).For example,in rival petitioncampaigns
by proponentsof "peace" and "war" policiesin the winterof 1642-43,
opposingsides metin tavernsand advertisedmeetingson ticketsposted
in public places (E86[35] 1643, p. 16; Pearl 1961, pp. 233-34, 255). In
politics,petitioningbecame the organizationalanalogue to sectarianism
in religion.Both the gatheringof separatechurchesand petitioningcut
acrosstraditionalresidentialaffiliations
by ward and parish,unitinglikemindedindividualsin voluntaryassociations(Tolmie 1977,pp. 139, 142).
Signaturesto petitionsfromradical opponentsof London Presbyterians
were "gatheredall about the suburbs . . . especiallyat conventicles
and privatemeetings"(E339[13] 1646, p. 676). Hostile and sympathetic
accountsdescribeheated debates in privatehouses and tavernsamong
Independentsand Levellers over "different
judgementsfor seasons of
petitions,"thatis, whetherit was tacticallywise to proceedwitha petition (Walwyn [1649] 1944, pp. 351-33, 355; E368[5] 1646, p. [163];
E426[18] 1648, pp. 9-10). It is hardlysurprising,
then,that petitioners
on all sides began to defend"our nativerightto meettogetherto frame
and promotepetitions"(E428[8] 1648, p. 12; see E323[2] 1646, p. 44;
E438[1] 1648, p. 7).
in petitioning
These populardevelopments
derivedfrommass petitions
encouragedbypoliticalelitesas propagandain theearly1640s.But when
Levellersand armyactivistspresentedtheirpetitionsto Parliament,one
M.P. observed,"Petitionswithmultitudesof hands to themwere now
decried by those who formerly
encouragedthem"(Whitelock1990, p.
192). Popular developmentsin petitioning
exhibita cumulativequality,
in whichpriorpracticesuppliesa legitimating
precedentforhighlypoliticized petitions.In 1649 Lilburnedefendedthe manypetitionsissued by
Levellerswho merely"trodin theverypaththattheythemselves(I mean
both Parliamentand Army)chalkedout unto us" when, two yearsearlier,theyhad impeachedPresbyterian
M.P.'s "fortraitors,forobstructingand prejudgingofpublicpetitionsto theParliament"(Lilburne[1649]
1944b,p. 448). Presbyterian
petitionscitedthe precedentof armypetitions(E423[16] 1648,p. 17) and petitionsagainst"thebishopsand others
in the beginningof this Parliament"(E377[4] 1647, pp. 1-2). An antiarmypetitionin 1648 also citestheprecedentof petitioning
at thebeginningof theLong Parliament-it "gave a greatstopto his Majesty'shigh

proceedings against his subjects"-for "our present petition .

. to make

the like stopage of such high proceedingsfromthe subject against his


Majesty" (E438[15] 1648, p. 13). In 1658 proponentsof the "good old
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cause," an abortiveeffort
to reviverevolutionary
fervor,defendedtheir
petitioncampaign, asking, "Is this now become a crime?It was not
accomptedso in thetimeofthefamousLong Parliament"(E936[5] 1658,
p. 7).
PETITIONS AND PRINTING
Populardevelopments
thatwe have examinedin petitionsare inseparable
fromthe connectionto printing.From its adoption in England up to
1640,onlya fewinstancesexistwherea petitionwas printed.After1640,
attackson prerogativeand ecclesiasticalcourtsled to a collapse of the
controlover printingthat had been vested in those courts. All sides
quicklygraspedthetacticalimportanceofprinting,
and publishedbroadsides,declarations,pamphlets,newspapers,and petitionsas propaganda.
For petitions,this developmentviolated traditionalrules that limited
expressionofgrievanceto apoliticalflowsofinformation
fromtheperipheryto thepoliticalcenter.In analyzingthisdevelopment,it is important
to distinguishbetweenprinting'simpact on the scope and contentof
politicalcommunicationin petitions.Beyond facilitating
greateraccess
to petitionsforreadersand signers,printingtransformed
the contentof
petitionsby orientingtheirproductionto ongoingpublic debates and
readersof printedtextsas devicesthatconstituted
publicopinionforthe
individualopinions.Communicativechangethus
purposeof influencing
has strongimplicationsforthe "invention"of public opinionas both a
nominaland real categoryof social life.The followinganalysisexplores
therelevanceofeconomicand technicalfeaturesofprinting
(respectively,
competitionand increasedabilityto reproducetexts)forthe change in
the scope and contentof messagesconveyedby petition.
Scope
The veryact ofprinting
signalsan intentto increasethescope ofcommunicationin petitions.Printedpetitionsopenlyappeal to public opinion,
unlike the traditionalpetitionthat communicatesgrievancediscreetly
fromthe peripheryto the politicalcenter.This distinctionunderliesan
M.P.'s 1642 criticismof a Royalistpeace petition:"Though it were not
deliveredby any of thesubscribersintotheHouse, yetit was read there
last week & is now in print"(MSS Tanner 64, folio 109). In 1648 a
hostileobserverremarkson plans to print3,000 copies of a Leveller
petition:"If it be a petitionto theHouse, whyis it printedand published
to the people, beforethe presentingof it to the House? Is it to get the
approbationof multitudes?"(E427[6] 1648, p. 25). If, indeed, "the approbationof multitudes"was the goal, then printingwas essential.It
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EnglishRevolution
was centralto plans fora Presbyterian
petitionfromthe citythatwent
to Parliamenton May 26, 1646: "They had printedit the day before,&
dispatchedit by 3 o'clock in the afternoon,thoughtheyhad not their
answeruntil7" (MSS Williams24.50, folio79v). Petitionsoftendisplay
signsof the intentto printthemas an appeal to public opinion,such as
the practicenotedabove of printingdifferent
editions,one forgathering
signaturesand one for the public at large. A petitionfroman Essex
vicar was printedas a broadside:at
parishagainsttheir"superstitious"
the bottomis a notice"To the CourteousReader" that describeshow
thiscase supportsthe claim thatclericsare "theoriginalcause of all the
divisionsand schismsin the church"(669f.4[28]1641). At the bottomof
anotherbroadside,a Presbyterian
petitionfromresidentsof a ward to
theirCourtMoot, is a noticethat"like petitionswere presentedin other
wards in London" (669f.10[41] 1645). It and the petitionit prompted
fromtheLondon CommonCouncilwereprintedin one edition(E316[20]
1646).
Though supportersof the Long Parliamentinitiatedthe practiceof
rushingpetitionsintoprint,thiswas notlimitedto Puritansor parliamentarians. The otherside was equally adept at this practice.In 1641 a
Puritanmemberofan Oxfordcollegecomplainsabout a Royalistpetition
issued in the name of several universitycolleges: "The petition,
which . . . was sent to our hall and otherhouses, was printedin our
names beforewe know and is now presentedin our names, thoughof
our hall but elevensubscribed,and above twentynow residentrefused"
(MSS Add. 70003, folio127). The Royalisteditorof a collectionof petitionsthatadvocatesrepressionof sectaries,Sir Thomas Aston,declared
that his intentin publishingit is to "show that the way is open. And
since noiseand numberare takenintoconsideration,
theforwardness
of
assailants [i.e., Puritan petitioners]will . . . put shame upon the defen-

dants to be so farbehind"(E150[28] 1642, signatureA2v).


But ideologicalconviction,Royalistor parliamentarian,
was onlyone
motiveforprintingpetitions.Purelyeconomicmotivesamong printers,
who hoped to profitfromsales of popular items,were also important.
Such motivesin the printingof morethan 200 petitionsand collections
of petitionsbetweenApril 1641 and April 1643 (Fletcher1973, p. 42)
appear in forgedpetitionsthat,along withforgedspeeches,came from
London's Grub Streetpresses. In 1642 a stationerpaid a Cambridge
student2s. 6d. forforginga petitionfromHertford;and in September
and November1641,anotherprinterpublishedtwo petitionsfrompolitical opposites,A New PetitionOf The Papists and The HumblePetition
Of The Brownists,withthe same forgedtext(PJ 1982, p. 165; E169[7]
1641;E178[10]1641). A hastilycomposednewsbookof eventsin Sussex
at the onset of the second civil war in 1648 bears the titleA Petition
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Presented. . . By the Royal Party in Sussex yet it has only a fleeting
referenceto "a very presumptuouspetitionout of Sussex" (E522[38]
1648, p. 5)-the titlepage catersto interestin Royalistpetitionsfora
treatywiththe king.
Presuppositions
about popularinterest
lay behindbotheconomicallyand ideologically-motivateddecisions to printpetitions.The consequence was to greatlyincreasepopular access to petitionsforreaders,
who encounteredprintedpetitionsin multipleformats,oftenfirstin a
broadside edition,designedto be affixedto a public place or used to
gathersignatures,then in a quarto format,eitheralone or with other
petitions.Petitionsto Parliamentwerereportedin newspapersthat,after
1641, appeared in regularweeklyeditions.In 1643, when conflictbefactionsled to rivalpetitionsforpeace
tweenRoyalistand parliamentary
and war policies,The KingdomesWeeklyIntelligencerreprinteda London petitionfromthe war factionto counter"malignant"reports,sent
forpeace" (E65[11] 1643,
"intoall parts,"thatcovered"onlypetitioning
p. 227). News reportsmightbe briefand circumspectforhighlycontroversialpetitions,but readerswould findsomethingabout them.Reports
covered importantpetitions-in-progress
by Independentsin London
(E60[9] 1643, p. 55; E339[14] 1646, signatureZ4). In The Kingdomes
WeeklyIntelligencerreaderslearnedthatarmyactivistswere aggrieved
"thattheirhumbleand innocentaddressuntothe Parliamentby way of
to tendto a distemperand a mutiny"(E389[3]
was interpreted
petitioning
1647, p. 534).
and popularinterbetweenprinting
It seemslikelythattherelationship
est in petitionswas reciprocal,thatpopularinterestin petitionscould be
stimulatedby growingaccess to them.Initially,access was limitedby
forpetitionsin theearly1640s. This relied
scribalmodesof transmission
heavilyon personalconnectionsand privateletters.In September1640,
one memberof the Norfolkgentryinformsanotherthat "if you desire
to see theScot's petitionand theKing'sanswer,myLady May, to whom
my wifehas sentthem,will let you have them"(MSS Tanner 65, folio
112v). Also that montha futurememberof the Long Parliament,Sir
SymondsD'Ewes, writesfromSuffolkto a Puritanaldermanin London,
requestingcopies of petitionsdrawn up by the cityin supportof the
Twelve Peers' Petition(it too was available only in manuscriptform).
The aldermanwas unable to complyfully:"I have heresentyou a true
copy of the City'spetition.I was drivento have it writtenout in haste.
The ministers'petitionI could not get"(MSS Harl. 383, folio88). Three
monthslater, D'Ewes, now a memberof the Long Parliament,sent
manuscriptcopies of petitionsto his wife,"desiringyou, afteryou have
perusedthem,and sufferedour friendsthatwill to copy them,you lay
themup safe forme" (D'Ewes 1845, 2:252).
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Printingquicklysupplantedscribalmodes of communicationin petitioning.Not onlydid printingmake petitionsmoreaccessibleto readers
but also to subscribers,therebyfacilitating
massivepetitionscampaigns
that, on shortnotice, covered London or an entirecounty.In 1645,
Presbyterian
activistsin London circulateda printedpetitionwithblank
spaces in thetitlewherethename of a particularward could be inserted
(669f.10[37]1645). Printingthus became a standardtool forthe art of
petitioningbecause it made petitionsa flexibleweapon that responded
rapidlyto unfoldingpoliticaldevelopments.Fromprinting
pressesissued
small "tickets,"such as one in July1643 froma nascentIndependent
partythat informed"well affectedpersons"thattheycould sign a petitionformoreactivepursuitofthewar againstthekingat theMerchants
Tailors Hall from4 A.M. until8 P.M. (E61[3] 1643). An accountof this
which substantiallyreproducedthe ticket, was
petition-in-progress,
available to readersof the newspaperSpecial Passages (E61[9] 1643, p.
7; and see E83[46] 1643). Petitionswere now printedforthe use of petitioners,oftenwith instructionsabout gatheringsignaturesand about
meetingto presentthe signed petitionsin a processionto Parliament.
Copies of The humblePetition of manythousandpoore people contain
who are
the followingline at the bottom:"For the use of the petitioners
to meet this presentday in More Fields, and fromthenceto go to the
house of Parliamentwith it in theirhands" (669f.4[54]1642). Similar
instructions
appear on petitionsby Anabaptists,Levellers,and, in 1648,
insurgentRoyalists(669f.8[27]1643;669f.11[126]1648; 669f.12[20]1648;
669f.12[39] 1648; 669f.13[89]1649). Appendedto a petitionfromfemale
Levellersin London and adjacent boroughs,who requestrelease of six
imprisonedradical leaders,are theseinstructions:
All thosewomenwho are approvershereofare desiredto subscribeit, and
to deliverin theirsubscriptionsto the women who will be appointedin
everyward and divisionto receivethe same; and to meetat Westminster
Hall upon Monday the 23 of thisinstantApril 1649, betwixt8 and 9 of
clock in the forenoon.(E551[14] 1649, p. 14)

Marginal notations on a Presbyterianpetitionindicate that "many


whereofbeingprintedand handedup and down in therespectivewards
within the city . . . the promoters endeavoring to get them subscribed

by as manyhands as is possible"(MSS Nalson 22, folio131). The utility


ofprinting
formassivepetitioncampaignsshouldnotbe underestimated.
In 1648 royalistsin Essex and Surreyhad 500 copies of petitionsprinted
forgatheringsignatures(669f.12[20]1649; HMC Portland1891, p. 453).
Content
In additionto heightenedaccess to petitions-forpotentialreadersand
signatories-printingled to changein the contentof petitions.Above I
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noted that this aspect of printinghas receivedlittleattentionin earlier
work,whereprinting's
politicalimplications
in theEnglishRevolutionare
conceivedof as increasingaccess to politicalcommunication.For alterationsin itscontent,we mustconsiderprinting's
impositionofdialogicorder on conflict-a consequenceof an increasein abilitymassivelyand
swiftly
to reproducetextsthatwas notlimitedto petitions(see Zaret 1994,
pp. 192-93). Politicaldiscoursein printedtextsencouragedreadersto interpretconflictbetweenkingand Parliament,and subsequentlyamong
parliamentary
factions,as an ongoingdebate.13 Printedtextsrefertoearlier
texts,excerptingfromthemand commenting
on them.Printedpolitical
textsinvitereadersto comparetexts;and, thoughtheypromptreadersto
arriveat "correct"conclusions,printedpoliticaltextsderive rhetorical
forcefromthepresupposition
thattheyreliablyreproducepriortexts.
An exampleofthisimpositionofdialogicorderon conflictappearsin a
prefaceto a Puritantract:"A petitionforpeace is presentedto theParliamentbysomethousandsofcitizens;thepetitionfindsa peaceable answer;
and thatanswer(as I shall now set forth)is opposed by an unpeaceable
reply"(E101[23] 1643, p. 1). Dialogic orderalso appears in printedresponsesto petitions.A Lancashirepetitionpresentedto thekingat York
inMay 1642urgeshimto returnto Londonand Parliament,"therepresentativebodyofyourkingdom."The king'sresponse,in a hastilycomposed
broadside,reprintstheoffending
petitionand referspetitioners
(and the
readingpublic)"to theanswerhe has givento theDeclarationpresented
to him at Newmarket,and to the petitionpresentedto him the 26thof
Marchlastat York,whereinhisMajestysays,youwillclearlyperceivethat
he is not gone but drivenfromhis Parliament."Moreover,"His Majtoyourviewand consideration
histwomessagesand
esty... recommends
Declarationconcerning
Hull, and his messagetouchingthereasonsofhis
refusalto grantthemilitia[bill]"(Lanc Pet 1642).
An increasedabilityto reproducetextsallowed activiststo publish
petitionsfromadversarieswith criticalcommentary.Oftenthe intent
was to head offa favorablereceptionin Parliament,which, as noted
to Parabove, violatedtraditionalprivilegesattachedto communicating
liamentby petition.Before Parliamentreceiveda 1646 petitionfrom
Lancashire Presbyterians,
Independentsin London had it printedin a
criticalpamphlet.Presbyterians
called it a "falsecopy,"but the pirated
versionis accurate;nearlyall differences,
exceptone, appear to be the
resultof transcription
error(E350[12] 1646; E352[3] 1646, p. 7). This
in Norwichrefusedto allow
may explain why Presbyterian
petitioners
13 See Smith(1994,p. 139):in 1649"theLevellerviewoffailednegotiations
between
themselves,
Armyand Parliamentis viewedas an accountof texts(remonstrances,
petitions,
letters)notachievingtheirgoalsin politics."

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EnglishRevolution
copies to be made of theirpetitionto the city'sCommonCouncil-the
clerk'swifewas an Independent(E355[13] 1646,pp. 22-24). Yet Presbyterianswere equally adept at preemptivepractices.In A SectaryDissected,Or, The Anatomieofan IndependentFlie, stillbuzzingabout City
and Country. . . a scurrilousPetition, intendedto be obtrudedupon
theParliament,theyprintedan Independentpetitionin circulationand
subjectedit to scathingcriticism(E384[17] 1647).
Dialogic orderalso arisesin petitionsthatreferto priorpetitionsfrom
the same partythat had met with less-than-favorable
reception.This
self-referential
qualityappears in manyLevellerpetitions.Title pages to
severalin 1649-50, includingone fromfemaleLevellers,describethem
as petitionsfrom"presentersand promotersof the late large petition
of September11"-it had requestedabolitionof the House of Lords,
toleration,and a trial for the king (669f.13[73]1649; E551[14] 1649;
E579[9] 1649; 669f.15[50]1650; 669f.13[16]1648 is the Septemberpetition). So one consequenceof routinelyprintingpetitionsas a political
to unmetrequestsadvanced in formerpetitions,which
tool is references
pushed petitioningin the directionof what we now call lobbying.The
titlepage of anotherLevellerpetitionin 1649 listsrequestsadvanced in
threepriorpetitions,datingback to 1647, intendedto secure"the people's rationaland just rightsand liberties,againstall tyrantswhatsoever,
whetherin Parliament,Armyor Council of State" (E574[15] 1649; and
see E470[32] 1648, p. 4).
Perhapsthe strongestevidenceof printing'simpositionof dialogicorder on conflictappears in "cross-petitions."
Cross-petitions,
manywith
impressivenumbersof signatories,challengeearlierpetitions,oftenin
printonly a few days, which purportto representlocal opinion. "We
have bettergroundand warrantto representthesenseof the gentryand
commonsof Yorkshire,"assertsa cross-petition
to a petitionissued by
YorkshireRoyalists(669f.6[9]1642).Cross-petitions
firstappearin 1641as
supporters
oftheestablishedchurchattackPuritanpetitionsagainstbishops and ceremonial"corruptions."
Subsequentcross-petitions
gave voice
to rivalviewsoverthemilitiain thespringand summerof 1642,and later
that winterover demandsfor"accommodation"in peace petitionsthat
delineatedroyalistand parliamentary
positions.From 1645to 1648crosspetitionsderivedfromcomplex,multifaction
politicsinvolvingPresbyterians, Independents,theNew Model Army,Levellers,and resurgent
Royalistswhosepetitionsprotested"arbitrary
in centralizedcontrols
authority"
imposedby Parliamentvia countycommittees.This complexityappears
in Plain English (E350[11] 1646), whose defenseof a London Presbyterian petition(E338[7] 1646) involvesnegativereferences
to an anti-tithe
petitionfromHertford(E382[2] 1647),a 1642 prowarpetitionfromLondon citizens(E130[26] 1642), a Leveller petition(E343[11] 1646) and
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Independentcross petitions(eitherE339[12] 1646 or 669f.10[57]1646),
and positive ones to Presbyterianpetitions from London citizens
(669f.10[58] 1646) and Essex and Suffolkministers(E339[11] 1646).
Finally,printing's
impositionof dialogicorderon politicsalso appears
in referencesin petitionsto other printedmaterials,such as printed
speeches,declarationsand ordinances,and laws. Widespreadavailability
of printedpoliticalmaterialsfacilitatedan immanentmode of criticism
in petitionsthatcitesand reproducestextsby opposingparties.In 1643,
London apprenticesdefenda peace petitionwith excerptsfroma May
1642 Parliamentary
declarationand a printedspeech by an M.P. who,
in February 1642, upheld the rightof a "multitude"to subscribeand
presenta petition(E245[2] 1643, p. 7). A Royalistpetitionin December
1647 againstfreequarterand hightaxes citesthe 1628 Petitionof Right
and other parliamentarydeclarations-ironically,Parliamenthad orderedthesedocumentsprintedand distributed
(669f.11[104]1647).When
one of the king'sjudges rode the summerassize circuitin 1642, he received countypetitionstoo favorable(in his view) to Parliament'sposition on controlover the militia.The judge attributedtheircontentand
the alacritywithwhichtheywerepresentedto thewidespreadavailability of printedmaterialson the militiaissue "so generallywell known,
postedup upon all public places" (CSPD 1858-97, 18:375; forthe petitions,see E112[14] 1642).
Printingwas not the sole sourceof a capacityto constructpublic life
in termsofideologicalconflict.This can appear in handcopiedcommunications. But printingextendedthis capacityto a far broaderaudience
and therebymoved political
than was possiblein scribalcommunication
communicationin new directions.Framersof petitionsproducedtexts
foran anonymousaudienceof readers,a publicpresumednotonlyto be
capable of rationalthoughtbut also to possess moral competencyfor
ofprintedpoliticalmaterials
resolvingrivalpoliticalclaims.Proliferation
was, then, both a cause and consequenceof the growingimportance
attachedto appeals to publicopinion.The developmentcertainlycannot
be ascribed to any one set of ideologicalconvictionsadvanced in the
1640s.Rather,itderivesfromeconomicand technicalaspectsofprinting,
commercialmotivesthat ensureda plentifulsupply
from,respectively,
of printedpoliticalmaterialsand the ease with which textscould be
reproduced.
THE PARADOX OF INNOVATION AND PETITIONS

Printingpromotedthe innovativeuse of petitions,which "invented"


modernform,thatis, where
public opinionin politicsin a distinctively
in
texts
forthe purposeof influis
constituted
public opinion nominally
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EnglishRevolution
encingindividualopinionsin and outsideParliament.Yet ambivalence
responsesto thisdevelborderingon denial best describescontemporary
opment,whichincludetheview thatrivalpetitioncampaignsweresigns
ofspiritualfailure:"Let us all makeit ourpracticeto serveGod cordially,
and we shall need no morepetitions"(E339[13] 1646,p. 675). Reluctance
to acknowledgethe legitimacyof appeals to public opinionin petitions
flowsnotonlyfromtraditionalnormsofsecrecyand privilegein political
communication,but also frommoregeneralpreceptson deferenceand
hierarchyin politics.The absence of a formalphilosophicor ideological
rationaleforplacingpublic opinionat the core of politicalpracticealso
explainsthisreluctance.Only in laterstagesin the EnglishRevolution,
afterinnovativepetitioningbecame an establishedpoliticalart, do we
views
encounterexpressionsof principledsupportforliberal-democratic
on the centrality
of publicopinionin politics.
Though theyimitatedParliament'searlysuccess in using printingto
publicizepetitions,Royalistactivistsdisclaimedinnovationand attacked
it whenit appearedin petitionscreatedby theotherside. One pamphlet
defendsits author'sdecision,in 1642, not to sign a petitionagainstthe
bishops because "the making and repealing of laws . . . is a special and

peculiarpower,privilegeand right,properonlyto parliaments,therefore


not to be forced or coacted by me, being no parliament man.

. .

. This

is ratherto be a tyrannicaljudge than a legal witness"(E133[10] 1642,


to lobp. 4). In additionto the illicitmove fromconveyinginformation
bying,this criticismcites noveltyin organizingpetitions:"That which
is to go underthe name of a countyor town oughtto be firstasserted
unto by the sheriff,justice of peace, or other magistrates . . . then the

mattermay be publiclypropoundedand condescendedunto or contradicted"(p. 4). Puritanpetitionswerenotinitiatedfromabove but below,


in "clandestineand surreptitious
actions, going about fromhouse to
house by no commission of authority,to engage people .

. and to make

it as an act of a countyor a town"(E133[10] 1642, p. 3; see Rushworth


1722,4:597). Recall Sir Thomas Aston,who publishedRoyalistpetitions
because he thought"noise and number"wereimportant;yethe decried
this developmentin Puritanpetitions(E163[2] 1641, signatureB4). So
did King Charles,but shiftsin royalviewsshow thegrowingimportance
of petitionsas propaganda. One declarationdenounces petitionsthat
"carriednot the styleof all"-the unanimousview of a corporateentity-and "implied no otherconsentthan such as went visiblyalong
with it" (Rushworth1722, 4:597). But anotherchides Parliamentfor
refusingto receivepetitionsfromthe king'ssupporters-"as ifyou were
onlytrustedby thepeopleofone opinion"-thus implyingthelegitimacy
of partisanpetitions(Rushworth1722, 4:635). Elsewhere the king rebuked petitioners
who urgedhimto deferto Parliament;theirpetitionis
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"groundedupon misinformation
... as in particular,His Majesty says,
He neverintendedyou to be judges betwixthim and his Parliament."
Subsequently,the chastisedpetitionersacknowledged"our unfitnessto
become judges betwixtyour Majesty and Parliament in anything"
(E148[4] 1642, signatureB4; 669f.6[15]1642).
This last commentshows that ambivalence and contradictionalso
marked the other side's reactionto innovativepetitioning.A crosspetitionin March 1642fromparliamentary
activistsin Londondenounces
the "bold publishingin print"of a petitionorganizedby the Royalist
mayorand recorder,"purposelydone, wickedly,seditiously,to make
divisions"(669f.3[58]1642). Presumablynone of thesepoliticalqualities
taintthe printedcounterpetition.
That yearotherpetitionsin supportof
the king and episcopacywere criticizedfor being "of a very strange
nature" (E150[5] 1642, p. 3), "prescribingrules to the Parliament"
(E155[16] 1642,p. 17), and presuming"to interposetheiradvice contrary
to the votesof bothHouses of Parliament"(E148[23] 1642, p. 13). Puritans and parliamentariansreactedno differently
than did the king to
noveluse ofprintedpetitionsto appeal to publicopinion.Similarpatterns
later appear in conflictbetweenIndependentsand Presbyterians,
even
thoughthe use of printedpetitionsas propaganda was now a routine
politicalpractice.A leadingPresbyterian
polemicist,Thomas Edwards,
deflectscriticismto its sourcewhen,in thefirstvolumeof Gangrcena,he
accuses Independentsof "practicingthat themselveswhich they conin anythingbeforethem[Parliament]by
demnin others,. . . interposing
way of petition,or havingmeetingsforthatend" (E323[2] 1646, p. 44;
to "meetsee also pp. 67-68; see also E341[5] 1646,p. 6). The reference
ings" is revealing;Independentscite this activityand warn Parliament
against Presbyterianpetitionsthat "prescribeunto them" (E339[12]
1646,signatureA3v; see also E319[15] 1646,p. 2; E340[5] 1646,pp. 3-4;
E340[24] 1646, pp. 7-8; E352[7] 1646, p. 14). One year later,Edwards
denouncesa Kent
(E368[5] 1646, p. 93), now in volume3 of Gangrcena,
which the Presbyterian-dominated
petition against Presbyterianism,
countycommitteealso attacksin a declaration(E370[25] 1647,signature
A3v) against petitionerswho "take to themselvesa libertyof venting
theirown privatethoughts. . . in mattersconcerningthe public . . .
whichcan produceno othereffectthantheraisingand countenancing
of
contrarypartiesand factionswithinthe country."Yet elsewherein this
volume of GangrcenaEdwards charges,"What enemies many of the
the Parliamentto make known
sectarieshave been to people petitioning
theirgrievances"(E368[5] 1646, p. 259).14
14 The next year Levellers, Independents, and army activistsdecry "clamorous" and
"unusual petitions" (E446[25] 1648, p. 5; E468[32] 1648, p. 4) and deny that their
own petitions sought to "put condition on the Parliament"; these are presented

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not
Thus, petitioners
on all sidesinvokedpublicopinionbut preferred
to acknowledgethis innovativeuse of printedpetitions.Opportunism
thisresponse
and politicalnecessityare notirrelevantforunderstanding
to innovativepetitioning.Yet thisresponsealso exhibitsa pattern,one
shaped by communicativepracticesthathad run ahead of politicaland
forthatwhichis implicit
social theory.No principleddefensewas offered
in innovativepetitioning,
namely,invokingthe opinionof a public to
justifysettinga legislativeagenda. Instead, contemporariesrelied on
traditionalrhetoricto justifytheirpetitionsand traditionalhierarchical
notionsto attackpetitionsby theiradversaries.We shall see, however,
led somecontempothatpracticalexperiencewithinnovativepetitioning
rariesto tentative,new ideas thatexpressa robustconceptionof public
opinionin politicallife.
THE AUTHORITY OF OPINION
What remainsto be assessed is the authorityattributedto opinion in
politics.Out of practicalexperienceswithpoliticalpetitioningemerged
new ideas that attachedunprecedentedauthorityto public opinion in
politics.Initially,thisappearedin debatesovertherepresentative
quality
of petitionsand in tactical effortsthat defendedor attacked opinions
invokedin rival,printedpetitionsthatofferedcompetinginvocationsof
public opinion.This led to remarkablymodernideas on the role of conof petitions
sentand reasonin thepublicsphere.In addition,limitations
as an inherently
reactivedeviceled someto see theneedforconstitutional
reforms
thatwould institutionalize
theauthority
of thepublicsphere.At
thispoint,practicalexperienceswithpetitioning
led to speculationthat
moved politicalthoughtin a liberal-democratic
direction.
NumbersversusSocial Composition
As petitionscompetedto claimtheauthority
ofpublicopinion,contemporaries confrontedthe issue of numbersversus social composition.Did
numbersor social compositionof supporterscarrymoreweightin choosingbetweenrivalpetitions?Confronted
bya hostilepetitionfromparishioners,one clericinvokessocial composition.A cross-petition
on his behalf"was subscribedby mostof the gentryand diversotherpersonsof
quality,honestyand abilityin theparish.And manymorehandsI might
have had, had I regardedthe numberof men above the integrity
and
worthof the persons"(E175[11] 1641, p. 26). Numbers were also in"whollywithsubmission
to yourhonors'wisdomand determination"
(E385[19]1647,
signature
Al; 669f.12[104]
1648;and see E383[24]1647,p. 12; E453[17]1648,p. 3).
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voked; but considerableambivalenceexistedover this as the principal
groundof legitimacyforan opinion.Petitionswithfewsignaturessometimes referapologeticallyto constraintsof time (e.g., 669f.8[41]1643;
669f.11[15]1647; E452[38] 1648, p. 3) or attributevirtueto refraining
frommass subscriptions
(e.g., E714[8] 1653,p. 3; 669f.21[55]1659). Unable to match3,000 signatureson a petitionfavoringthe moderateearl
of Denbigh, the Warwickshirecommitteedeclined"to get up a counter
(Hughes 1987, p. 236;
petition. . . not wishingto fomentdifferences"
opposedto PuritanpetiHMC SixthReport1877,p. 27). Cross-petitions
tionsforreforminconsistently
referto numbersand social composition.
The importanceattachedto numbersappears in reportsto the earl of
Leicester.Afterreceivinga copyoftheLondon Root and BranchPetition
he learned about "a counterpetitionwhich is much labored, that the
hands to thismay over numberthoseof the [theRoot and Branch petition]"(HMC De L'Isle 1966,p. 371).15Still,social statusremainsimportant and appears in the practiceof separatelyrecordingsignaturesby
rank.Traditionalhabitsof thoughtthatuphelddeferenceas a social and
politicalvirtueopposed numbersas a principalcriterionof an opinion's
to thelow statusof signers.
merit.All sides attackpetitionsby referring
Reports"of many hundredsand thousandswho have subscribedtheir
names" to antiepiscopalpetitionsled one cleric to conclude, "It is an
argumentthat episcopacyis pleasingunto God because the multitudes
so much distasteit" (MSS Rawl. D1347, folio 152). On the otherside,
Puritanactivistsin Hereforddenounceda proepiscopalpetition:"Much
pains have been takento gethands, no matterhow foulor mean" (MSS
discredited"femalepetitions
Add. 70003,folio204). Later,Presbyterians
oftheIndependents"(E355[13] 1646,p. 25) whosesignersincluded"rash
youth,sillywomenand maidens"(E350[11] 1646,p. 12), "poor mechanics & silly women" (E355[13] 1646, p. 11); Independentscharged that
"popish, ignorant,and profanepersons" (E350[2] 1646, p. 4) signed
Presbyterian
petitions.
Consentand Reason
to
Debates over the relativemeritsof rival petitionsled contemporaries
attachimportanceto informedconsent,an open exchangeof ideas, and
appeals to reasonin thepetitioning
process.Duringthepetitioncampaign
15 A well-informed
petitions,
"the
that,in responseto antiepiscopal
newsletter
reports
of episcopal
clergysay again thattheycan procureten hands forthe continuing
foreveryone hand thatsubscribesagainstit" (MSS Add. 11045,folio
government
135). In Cornwall,debatein a tavernover a Puritanpetitionled a clericto claim
"theywould get thirtythousandhands in Cornwallto crossthat petition"(MSS
Tanner63, folio22).

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EnglishRevolution
in 1641 betweensupportersand opponentsof the bishops,the staunchly
Puritanspouse of an M.P. inquiresin a letterto herson: "whetherthose
that have put in the petitionsagainstbishopshave taken the hands of
all such as do not understandwhat theyhave put theirhands to. I am

told that it is the way in all counties.

. .

. To me it does not sound

reasonable;for,in myopinion,suchhandsshouldbe takenas understand


it" (Harley 1854, pp. 113-14; see E155[16] 1642, p. 17). This query
reflectswidelypublicizedattacksagainstPuritanpetitionsin 1641-42.
Later, Presbyteriansand Independentsalso upheld the importanceof
informed
consentin tacticaldebatesoverpetitions.Opposinga Presbyterian petition,Independentsobserve that it has "some thousands of
hands" that should be discounted"if one considersthat influence,the
activity,subtlety,promises,threatsof some rigidpersons."They also
announcetheir"anti-petition"
that,unlikethe Presbyterian
one, would
have only"freeand voluntarysubscribers"(E350[12] 1646, pp. 4-6).
A corollaryto informed
consentis thefreeand open exchangeofideas.
Unlike a public petitioncampaign,one conductedin secrecyfacilitated
manipulationor fraud.This pointwas also made by all parties.Duringa
1646campaignby NorwichCityministers
to promotea pro-Presbyterian
petition,one organizerargues that "the petitionis not the clandestine
whisperof a fewcontemptible
ones in corners,but the truesense of the
Parliamentary
partyin thatcounty,in whichthepulse ofthepeople may
be felt"(E352[3] 1646, p. 5; and see E355[13] 1646, p. 18). In London a
supporterreportsthata Presbyterian
petition"was read publicly,which
was, I conceive,the best way, so thatif any had aughtagainstit, they
mightunderstandof it" (E341[24] 1646,p. 3). On the otherside, radical
activistsattackedan anti-army
petitionissuedby Essex Presbyterians
in
1647 who had printedcopies quietlysentfromLondon fordistribution
to clerics.This "clandestine"procedureallegedlyused clericsto coerce
parishionersinto signinga documentthathad no popular input:"That
which is to go underthe name of a countyor corporationoughtto be
firstpubliclypropoundedto all theinhabitantsofthatcountyor corporation,thattheremay be a generalmeeting,debates & consultationabout
thematter"(E384[11] 1647,p. 7; and see E453[17] 1648,p. 3). A petition
on behalf of the "good old cause" notes that the "petitionersdid not
carryon theirbusinessin a secretunderhandway, but openlyas to all
circumstancesof time,place and persons"(E936[5] 1658, p. 8).
Novel claimsalso appear on behalfof reasonas the basis foropinions
advanced in popularpetitions.In responseto proepiscopalpetitionsthat
claim supportfrom"the bettersort of inhabitants,"defendersof petitionsagainstbishops,in 1641, held the relevantissue to be not the petitioners'social compositionbut "theirconsiderations,
what theypublish"
(E160[2] 1641, p. 7). Womenpetitioners
describe"theirseveralreasons,
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AmericanJournalof Sociology
whytheirsex oughtthusto petition,as well as themen"(E134[17] 1642).
A Presbyterian
petitionis thetopicofa pamphletthatcontainsa dialogue
in whicha churchwardenurgesa parishionerto signthe petition.After
the churchwardendeclares, "it is as harmlessa petitionas ever was
subscribedunto, and many honestand understandingmen have subscribedit," the parishionerreplies,"I will not make othermen's examples, but myown reasonthe ruleof myactions. . I look upon it as a
verydangerouspetition"(E340[24] 1646, p. 3). A recounting
of political
developmentsin a Levellerpetitionconcludes,"This our understanding
was begottenin us by principlesof rightreason" (669f.13[16] 1648).
Levellerwritingson petitionsupholdthe need forcriticalknowledgeof
public issues, "advised deliberateconsideration(such as few in thisnationare accustomedunto),withoutwhichthatwhichis called knowledge
or understanding
is nottrueknowledgeor understanding"
(E373[5] 1646,
p. 2; and see Walwyn[1649] 1944, p. 356). In 1646, petitioners
in Hertfordand adjacentcountiesinvokedreasontojustifytheirpetitionagainst
mandatorytithes.The titlepage of theirdefenseproclaimsthat it was

conceived "by some of the said petitioners . . . for the vindication of

themselvesand theirfellows"(a termindicativeof humblesocial status),


in whichtheyprovedtheircase "by good reasonsfromthewordof God,
ofsoundreason,sufficient
and by evidentdemonstration
to convinceany
rationalman, unlesshe have a resolutionthathe will not be convinced"
(E389[2] 1647).
Toward Liberal Democracy
Alongwiththeimportanceaccordedto representation,
consent,and reason in petitions,novelclaimsappearedfortheauthority
ofpublicopinion
in politics.This cumulative,pragmaticdevelopmentwas theunintended
use ofprintedpetitions,a practiceguided
consequenceofthecompetitive
initiallyby tacticalconsiderations,
notprinciple.It led, however,to new
ideas that advanced democraticconceptionsof the authorityof public
opinion. For example, a Presbyterian
petitioninstructsParliamentnot
to be offendedby its reiteration
of pointsalreadypresentedin a petition
thatParliamenthad rejected(E338[7] 1646, p. 7). Greaterpresumption
appears later when Leveller petitioners,citingParliamentarydeclarations, claim a rightto petition"against thingsestablished by law"
(669f.11[98]1647; and see E393[39] 1647,p. 28]. I pointedout thattraditionalstrictures
precludedpetitioning
againsta law; yetviolationof this
strictureoccurredon all sides. In 1648, SurreypetitionersforRoyalist
peace proposalsdefended,againstfierceoppositionfromParliament,the
rightto petition"forredressof grievances,nay,fortheremovalofthings
establishedby law" (E443[8] 1648, p. 3).
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Innovationsin petitioningfurtheradvanced the authorityof public
opinionby use of an immanentmode of politicalcriticism.Royalists,
Levellers, and army agitatorsissued petitionsin supportof divergent
heldto be valid forall, suchas the 1628
policiesthatcitedpresuppositions
Petitionof Right.A RoyalistpetitionfromHereforddecried"arbitrary
government"
and attackedParliament'ssuppressionof a Kent petition,
citingthe 1628 Petitionof Right(669f.6[49]1642). SubsequentRoyalist
petitionsrequestthe army'sdisbandmentand a treatywith the king,
"not as a favor,but [as] our undoubtedrightand hereditaryfreedom,
which you have faithfullyengaged in sundry Remonstrances"
(669f.11[104]1647; see also E441[25] 1648, p. 3; 669f.12[44]1648). On
the otherside, radical petitionsalso use thisimmanentline of criticism;
theyciteand extensively
reproducethePetitionof Right,laws, and ordinancesto argue againstpositionstakenby Parliament-forexample,its
refusalto receivepetitionsfromfemaleLevellers(669f.14[27]1649; and
see 669f.11[98]1647; 669f.11[109]1647; E402[11] 1647, p. 3; 669f.14[20]
1649; 669f.14[31] 1649; 669f.15[50] 1650; 669f.15[54] 1650; 669f.17[24]

1653).
At the same time, some radical participantsin competitivepetition
in petitioning.
campaignsbegan to perceivelimitations
Emphasis on the
rightto petitionled to questionsabout the dutyof Parliamentto heed
petitions.In 1647 one Levellerasks, "To question[by petition]any act
done in theHouse was a breachof theprivilegesof Parliament;but ...
tyrannicallyto suppress . . . [a petition], and illegally to imprison some

of the petitioners. . . was no breach of the privilegeof the subject?"


(E516[7] 1647,p. 14). One yearlaterthistrainof thoughtled some petitionersto perceivea need for constitutional
remedies.'6A regimental
petitionfromNorthumberland
troopersin 1648 observeshow, since the
king's defeat,Parliamenthad become oppressors:"We findthat they
increase and multiplyour oppression,. . . reject and slightthe just
directions and petitions of the people, . . . persecute the promoters and

presenters,and burn theirpetitions"(E475[13] 1648, p. 2). It is not


surprising,
then,thatin thisand othercontemporary
petitions,references
to suppressionof petitioners
are followedby requestsfor"a solemncontract"based on "principlesof commonright"to "be drawn betwixtthe
people and the representers"
(E475[13] 1648, p. 5; and see 669f.12[97]
1648; 669f.13[61]1648). This represents
growingawarenessof theinherentlyreactivenature of petitionsas a device to organize and invoke
public opinion. Writingsby radical activistsreveal how the practical
led to novel ideas on the politicalorderwhen
experienceof petitioning
16 For therelevance
of thispetitioning
forconstitutional
schemesby Harrington
see
Gunn(1969,p. 122).

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of even an expandedroleforpetipetitioners
perceivedthatlegitimation
tioningmightnotamelioratestructural
problemsofgovernance.Leveller
writersraise this issue in argumentsabout how petitionsought to be
evaluated by those in authority:"It will not be thoroughly
well in England,tillParliamentsmake answersto petitioners
accordingto the rule
of fundamentallaw" (E684[33] 1653, p. 13; and see E936[5] 1658, p.
5)-in Leveller thoughtthis refersimpreciselyto naturaland constitutional law. An even more explicitturnto constitutional
reformas an
alternativeto petitioningappears in argumentsfor the Agreementof
the People, set forthby Levellersand armyagitatorsas the basis fora
constitutional
settlement.
Lilburneand othersadvocatedthisstep,"conceiving it to be an improper,tedious, and unprofitablethingfor the
peopleto be everrunningaftertheirrepresentatives
withpetitionsforredressof such grievancesas mayat once be removedby themselves"(Lilburne[1649] 1944a,p. 160;see also An Agreement
[1649] 1944,p. 324).
At thispointwe observesignsof a liberal-democratic
agenda forpolitics. Though not a factorin precipitating
Parliament'sconflictwiththe
Stuartmonarchy,thisagenda emergedin thecontextofall parties'pracwhichprovidedpracticalexperiencewith
ticinginnovativepetitioning,
use of the printmediumto constituteand invoke public opinion. For
radicalsupportersof Parliament,theseexperienceshighlighted
the obsolescenceoftraditionalnormsofsecrecyin politicalcommunication.
Thus,
innovativecommunicativepracticeshad intimatelinkswithnovel ideas
on theimportanceofpublicopinionin politicallife,and theseideas signal
the advent of liberal-democratic
conceptionsof politics.In conjunction
withpetitioning,
theseideas appearedinconsistently.
Still,thebreakwith
is unmistakable.Contraditionalconceptionsofpoliticalcommunication
stitutingand invokingpublic opinion in printedpetitionsobliterated
normsof secrecyand privilege;it also advanced optimisticassessments
of human capacityforreasoneddiscoursethat would later distinguish
Lockean liberalismfrompessimisticassessmentsin Puritanism.
CONCLUSION
We are now in a positionto see whyneitherEnlightenment
philosophy
norProtestanttheologyis an appropriatepointof departureforstudying
the originsof the public sphere. The "invention"of public opinion in
politicsoccurredin practical,communicativedevelopmentsduringthe
and across vast reliEnglishRevolution,well beforethe Enlightenment
thatdividedHigh ChurchRoyalistsfromradicalsectarigiousdifferences
ans. These communicativedevelopmentsproduced liberal-democratic
tenets-forexample,theimportanceofconsent,open debate,and reason
for the authorityof opinionin politics-that sociologistshave seen as
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EnglishRevolution
or the Scottish
intellectualdiscoveriesor extensionsof the Reformation
and FrenchEnlightenments.
Writingsby elitesin thesemovementshave
been a vital,indeedtheprincipal,sourceofevidencein sociologicalanalysesoftheearlypublicsphere(e.g., Bendix 1978;Cohen and Arato 1992;
Habermas 1989; Wuthnow1989). This is why,in additionto divergent
answersexistforquestions
theoreticalperspectives,wildlyinconsistent
about thetimingand socialoriginsofthepublicsphere-too muchspeculativelatitudeexistsin exegeticalaccountsofreflective
writingsbyphilosophersand theologians.Answersto questionsabout thebirthofthepublic sphereshouldbe soughtin empiricalstudyofcommunicative
practices
in popular politicsand not in second-order,philosophicrenditionsof
thesepractices.
Empiricalanalysisrevealsthe centrality
of communicativetraditions
whichprecipitated
(petitions)and change(printing),
unanticipatedconsequences for the originsof a public sphere in democraticsocieties.In
earlierresearchon thepublicsphere,theimportanceoftraditionhas not
been adequatelydeveloped.A sharp,unsustainableoppositionbetween
traditionand reason in Habermas's writingson the public sphere(see
Alexander1985, p. 422; Calhoun 1988,pp. 221-22) is onlyone regrettable consequenceofidentifying
thepublicspherewiththeEnlightenment.
The principalexceptionto thisneglectoftraditionarisesin a line ofwork
thatderivesfromWeberand Hintze(see Bendix 1977,pp. 89-90; Moore
1966, p. 415) and describesdemocraticcitizenshipas a historicalextension of aristocraticprivilegesand immunities.This studydescribesa
parallel development:the public sphere is an extensionof traditional
communicativeprivilegesand immunitiesforpetitioners,propelledby
economicand technicalaspectsof printing(respectively,
its competitive
relativeto hand copied commuorganizationand itstechnicalefficiency,
nications,forproducingtexts).These economicand technicalproperties
ofprinting
transformed
thetraditionalpetitionintoa devicethatsimultaneouslyconstitutes
and invokespublicopinion.
Printing'simpact on petitionsnot only increasedaccess to themfor
readersand subscribersbut also reoriented
the contentof messagesconveyed by them. These appeal to an anonymousaudience, a public, to
whomreasonsare givenin supportofdivergentpoliticalpositions.Political discoursenow presupposesa publiccompetencenotsimplyto understandbut also to make normatively
bindingjudgmentson rival political
claims. The "invention"of public opinionderivesboth fromincreased
availabilityof printedpetitions,promptedby the profitmotiveamong
printers,
and fromtheimpositionofdialogicorderon conflict.It is, then,
not merelyinsufficient
but misleadingto limitprinting'srelevancefor
the earlypublic sphereto increasingthe scope of communication.This
reversesthehistoricalprecedentofpracticeovertheory.Printingdid not
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facilitatedisseminationof novel ideas thatoriginatedelsewhere.It was
a principalsource of novel claims on behalfof the authorityof public
opinion,whichemergedfrompracticalinnovationsin the use of printed
petitions.Links betweenprintingand the public spherethus go beyond
issuesofscope and involvechangein thecontentofpoliticalcommunication:printing'simpositionof dialogicorderon conflictpoliticizedgrievances in petitionsby orienting
theirproductionfora publicpresumed(1)
rival politicalclaims and (2) in possessionof
capable of understanding
normativeauthority
forresolvingsuchclaims.Links also involveorganizational issues: the embryonicparty-a voluntaryassociationbased on
shared ideological commitments-grewout of effortsto mobilize resourcesto produceprintedpetitions.These implicationsof printingfor
changein thescope,content,and organization
ofpoliticalcommunication
neitherderivedfromnorwere confinedto any one ideologicalagenda in
theEnglishRevolution.The same pointholdsfortheparadoxofinnovationthatmarkstheambivalentresponseofinnovatorsto innovativepetiin laterstagesof the revolution
tioning.Only among radical petitioners
do we encounterrecognizably
democraticideas on theauthority
ofpublic
opinion in politics-an intellectualinnovationthat respondedto perin petitionsas devicesto imposethenormativeauthorceivedlimitations
ityofpublicopinionon politics.Formalphilosophicexpressionsofliberal
democracythus flowedfrompracticalexperiencewith politicaluses of
printedpetitions.
In demonstrating
theimportanceof communicative
traditionsand developmentsfortheearlypublicsphere,thisstudymilitatesagainstearlier
accountsthatascribeits originsto capitalismor Protestantism.
It would
certainlybe unwise to deny any importanceto economicand religious
factorsin the emergenceof a publicsphere,but thisrelevanceshouldbe
soughtin connectionto communicative
developments.Religionis hardly
irrelevant,especiallywhen one considersthatthe "invention"of public
opinionoccursin a revolutiondenominatedby religiousissues. Yet little
empiricalsupportexistsforneofunctionalist
argumentsabout the public
Not religious
sphere as an extensionof key aspects of Protestantism.
issues but economicand technicaleffectsof printingattendinnovative
communicative
factions-forexample,thecompetpracticesbydifferent
itive use of printedtextsto appeal to public opinion,the impositionof
dialogic orderon politicalconflict,and the growingscope of authority
claimedforopinionsadvanced in petitions.Religionis notirrelevant,
but
between
searchingforits causal relevancein speculationabout affinities
and liberal-democratic
attributesof Protestantism
presuppositionsis a
misguidedventure.Elsewhere(Zaret 1994, pp. 185-88) I pointout that
religiousdissentin prerevolutionary
Englanddisplayspreciselythesame
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coursein the 1640s: morepopular access and the impositionof dialogic
orderon conflict.The relevanceof religionforthe public spherearises
out ofcomplexlinkagesto printing.But, beyondthis,theaffinity
alleged
to existbetweenreligionand thepublicspherein democraticsocietyis a
in whichreligiousand political
classicinstanceofa spuriousrelationship,
variables of interestdisplaythe same economicand technicaleffectsof
printing.

Much the same pointabout spuriousnessapplies to class-centered


approachesto the publicsphere.Seldomdoes sociologicaldiscussionofthe
earlypublic spherefail to referenceits capitalistor bourgeoischaracter
(see Somers 1993, p. 588). This is simplyunfoundedif it refersto the
social compositionof participantsin the emergentpublic spherein the
English Revolution-only by labeling virtuallyall participants"bourgeois" can this claim accommodategeneralfindingsof revisionismand
specificones advanced in thisstudy.But forHabermas(1989) and others
(e.g., Wuthnow1989),claimsabout the bourgeoischaracterof the early
publicspheredo notimply"thatwhat made thepublicspherebourgeois
was simplythe class compositionof its members.Rather,it was society
that was bourgeois,and bourgeoissocietyproduceda certainformof
public sphere" (Calhoun 1992, p. 7; emphasisin original).More precisely,this"bourgeois"characterhas been associatedwithurbanity(Calhoun 1988, pp. 225-27; 1992, p. 42), "a bourgeoisieof professionalbureaucratsand officeholders"
(Wuthnow1989, p. 206), and the economic
contentof debates thatestablishedthe public sphere-"debate over the
generalrulesgoverningrelationsin the basicallyprivatizedbut publicly
relevantsphere of commodityexchangeand social labor" (Habermas
1989,p. 27). Yet noneoftheseclaims-these, too, locatethebirthofthe
public sphere in the 18th centuryand identifyit with the Enlightenment-receives supportfromthisstudy.Use of printedpetitionsto constituteand invoke public opinionin the English Revolutionwas tied
neitherto urban areas, nor a statebureaucracy,nor economicdebates.
Grievancesraisedin thesepetitionsare predominantly
religiousand political in nature.The ineluctableconclusion,then,is thattheemergenceof
a publicspherehas few,ifany,directlinksto capitalismor thebourgeoisie. Onlyan indirectlinkexists,in thecapitalistorganizationofprinting,
wherecompetitivepressuresstimulatedproductionof printedtextsand
therebyfacilitatedgreatlyincreasedaccess to printedpoliticalmaterials,
includingpetitions.Referencesto capitalistor bourgeoisoriginsof the
publicsphere,whichpositmorethanthisindirectrelationship,
originate
withperspectivesthatno longerderivemuchsupportfromcontemporary
historicalscholarship.
If correct,this account of the "invention"of public opinionrequires
thatwe rejectold sociologicalcertainties
about theoriginsofdemocracy.
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But thisconclusionhas positiveand notmerelynegativeimplications,as
it will (1) reduce the distancebetweensociologicalwork on the public
sphereand contemporary
historicalscholarship,(2) lay the basis forempiricallysustainableknowledgeof the originsof our democraticculture,
and (3) by focusingattentionon communicative
change,open a research
agenda for historicaland culturalsociologythat addresses theoretical
issuespertaining
to communication
thatare ofwidespreadinterestacross
disciplines.This thirdpointleads to a finalset of reflections
on the contemporary
implicationsofthisstudy.These concernexcessivepessimism
on the liberal-democratic
public spherethat flowsfromcriticaltheory
and postmodernism.
Underlyingthis pessimismare grosslyunbalanced
assessmentsof communicativechange that attributenoveltyin our era
to rapid growthin commercialismand capacity to reproducetextspreciselythe same economicand technicalaspects of printinganalyzed
in thisstudy.
Criticaltheoryand postmodernism
citetheseputativelynoveldevelopmentsto explain why reasoneddebate in the public sphere is, if not
extinct,an endangeredspecies. The one-dimensionalthesis of critical
in communicative
theoryfocuseson commercialism
change:mass culture
in advanced capitalism destroysthe public sphere by dissolvingthe
reason. The N-dimensional
boundarythat shieldsit frominstrumental
thesisof postmodernism
focuseson increasedcapacityfortextualreprorun riotleads to a generaldissipationof reasoned
duction:signification
debate in public life.'7 Not only do these critiqueswronglyattribute
noveltyto growingcommercialism
and capacityto reproducetextsin our
role in the creation
time,moreimportantly,
theymisstheirconstitutive
ofreasonedappeals to publicopinionin 17th-century
politics.That moddevelernistaccomplishment
sprangfrompreciselythosecommunicative
opmentswhose antidemocraticcharacteris a fundamentalpremisein
in thisstudyflatly
and criticaltheory.Empiricalfindings
postmodernism
contradictthis premiseand militateagainstthe pessimismthat follows
of commerceand textual
ineluctablyfromit. The salutarycontribution
reproductionin the "invention"of public opinionthus providesan imbalanced assessmentof comportantpointof departurefora historically
municativechange that mightmoderaterash claims in contemporary
culturalcriticism.
17 This is an extreme
between
ofcomplexissues.Theseincludecontinuities
summary
accountof mass
Habermas'searlierwork,whichpresentsa historical-institutional
whichredescribe
this
culture's
erosionofthepublicsphere,and morerecentwritings,
reasonand theideal speech
betweeninstrumental
accountin termsoftheopposition
conceptof communicative
reason.For details,see Zaret
situationas a regulatory

(1992, pp. 9-16).

1544

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EnglishRevolution
APPENDIX
This appendixlists(1) manuscriptsourcesand (2) contemporary
printed
materialsby BritishLibraryshelfmarks
fortheThomasonTracts. Other
printedprimaryand secondarysourcesare given in the referencelist.
The Thomason Tracts consistof nearly24,000 tractsin 2,142 volumes
that cover the years 1640-61. A microfilm
editionof thiscollectionhas
been issued by UniversityMicrofilmsInternational;it is organizedaccordingto the BritishLibraryshelfmarksand can be foundin major
researchlibraries.A chronological
catalogoftheThomasonTractsexists
(A Catalogue of the Pamphlets,Newspapers,and ManuscriptsRelating
to the Civil War, The Commonwealth,
and Restoration,Collected by
GeorgeThomason,1640-1661, editedby G. K. Fortescue[London:British Museum, 1908]) but mustbe used withcare as it containserrorsin
assigningpublicationdates to some individualitems.Shelfmarksforthe
ThomasonTracts are cross-indexed
(in The ThomasonTracts1640-1661
[AnnArbor,Michigan:UniversityMicrofilms
International,1981])with
the catalog systemused in A Short-TitleCatalogueofBooks Printedin
England, Scotland,Ireland, Wales, and BritishAmericaand ofEnglish
Books printedin otherCountries,editedby Donald Wing (New York:
Columbia UniversityPress, 1945). Microfilm
editionsof manyentriesin
the Wing catalog are also available in major researchlibraries.
I supply originalpunctuationand spellingof titlesbut use modern
spellingforextractsquotedin thetext.Londonis theplace ofpublication
unlessotherwiseindicatedfor17th-century
texts.

1. ManuscriptSources
MSS Add. London, BritishLibrary,AdditionalManuscripts.
MSS Ashmole.Oxford,Bodleian Library,AshmoleianManuscripts.
MSS Clarendon.Oxford,Bodleian Library,ClarendonManuscripts.
MSS Egerton.London, BritishLibrary,EgertonManuscripts.
MSS Eng. hist. Oxford,Bodleian Library, English historicalmanuscripts.
MSS Harl. London, BritishLibrary,Harleian Manuscripts.
MSS JCC. London, London CityCorporation.Journalsof the Common
Council.
MSS Nalson. Oxford,Bodleian Library,Nalson Manuscripts.
MSS Osborn. New Haven, BeineckeLibrary,OsbornManuscripts.
MSS Rawl. Oxford,Bodleian Library,RawlinsonManuscripts.
MSS Rep. London, London City Corporation.Repetoriesof the Court
of Aldermen.
MSS Stowe. London, BritishLibrary,Stowe Manuscripts.
1545

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AmericanJournalof Sociology
MSS Tanner. Oxford,Bodleian Library,Tanner Manuscripts.
MSS Williams.London, Dr. WilliamsLibrary,Manuscripts.
2. PrimaryPrintedMaterialsfromthe ThomasonTracts
E60(9) 1642. MercuriusCivicus, no. 7, 6-13 July.
E61(3) 1643. [Announcement
of petition].
E61(9) 1643. Special Passages, no. 1.
E61(21) 1643. Remonstrance
Redivivus.
no. 30, 8-15 August.
E65(11) 1643. KingdomesWeeklyIntelligencer,
E65(32) 1643. A LetterFromMercuriusCivicus To MercuriusRusticus.
Oxford.
E67(23) 1643. CertainQueres,Not Unfitting
To Be Read. Oxford.
E83(46) 1643. [Announcement
of petition].
E86(35) 1643. CertaineInformations,
no. 2, January23-30.
E101(23) 1643. AccomodationCordiallyDesired.
E107(26) 1643. An Appeale to the WorldIn these Times Of Extreame
Danger.
E112(14) 1642. ThreePetitionsPresentedby thegrandInquest.
El 12(26) 1642. The HumblePetitionoftheCitizensofKent.
E130(26) 1642. The True & OriginallCopyof theFirst Petition.
E133(10) 1642. J. W., PetitionsAgainstBishopsAnd theirVotesin Parliament.
E131(15) 1642. Two PetitionsOf the Knights. . . and others. . . of
Hertford.
E134(17) 1642. A True Copie Of The Petitionofthe Gentlewomen.
E142(10) 1642. The PetitionOf theGentry... and Commonalty
of ...
Kent.
E146(24) 1642. The PetitionersVindication.
E148(4) 1642. A LetterFrom... Committees
oftheCommonshouse ...
at Yorke.
E148(23) 1642. A RemonstranceOr DeclarationOfParliament.
E150(5) 1642. A LetterSent By a YorkshireGentleman,to a friendin
London.
E150(28) 1642. A Collection Of sundry Petitions Presented to the
King.
E155(16) 1642. The SomersetPetitionWithan AnswerIn defenceofthe
Parliament.
E160(2) 1641. The PetitionFor The PrelatesBrieflyExamined.
E163(2) 1641. Thomas Aston,A Remonstrance
AgainstPresbytery.
E169(7) 1641. A New PetitionOf The Papists.
E175(11) 1641. Edward Finch,An AnswerTo The Articles. . . Against
Edward Finch
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EnglishRevolution
E177(11) 1641. RichardWard, The PrincipallDuty OfParliamentMen.
E178(10) 1641. The HumblePetitionOf The Brownists.
E179(7) 1641. CalybuteDowning, ConsiderationsTowardA Peaceable
Reformation.
E180(17) 1641. The PetitionOf the WeamenofMiddlesex.
E197(1) 1641. Edward Dering,A Collectionof Speeches made by Sir
Edward Dering.
E245(2) 1643. An HumbleDeclarationoftheApprentices.
E302(24) 1645. PerfectPassages, no. 48, September17-23.
E308(5) 1645. MercuriusBritanicus,no. 103, October27-November3.
E316(20) 1646. The Humble Petition of the Lord Mayor . . . and the

Commonsof the CityofLondon . .. concerningChurchGovernment.


E319(15) 1646. TolerationJustifiedand Persecutioncondemned.
E323(2) 1646. Thomas Edwards, Gangrcena:Or A CatalogueOf . .. the
Sectaries.
E338(7) 1646. The HumbleRemonstrance& Petitionof. . . London.
E339(11) 1646. The HumblePetitionof theMinistersof . .. Suffolk&
Essex.
E339(12) 1646. The Humble .

. Petition Of Divers Inhabitants, In ...

London.
E339(13) 1646. The ScottishDove, no. 136, May 28-June3.
E339(14) 1646. The WeeklyAccount,no. 23, May 27-June3.
E340(5) 1646. The InterestOfEnglandMaintained.
E340(24) 1646. A New Petition: .

. to back the late City Remonstrance.

E341(5) 1646. A Glasse For Weak ey'd Citizens.


E341(24) 1646. Thomas Ale, A Brief narrationOf The truthof some
particulars.
E343(11) 1646. A RemonstranceOfMany ThoussandsCitizens.
E350(11) 1646. Captain Jones,Plain English: Or, The SectariesAnatomized.
E350(12) 1646.A New BirthOfThe CityRemonstrance:
Or,A Lancashire
Petition.
E352(3) 1646. John Tilsley, A true Copie of the Petition . . . of Lanca-

shire.
E352(7) 1646. Vox Populi, Or The Peoples CryAgainstThe Clergy.
E355(13) 1646. An Hue-And-CryafterVox Populi.
E358(4) 1646. Vox Norwici: Or, The CryofNorwich,Vindicatingtheir
Ministers.
E366(15) 1646. The PetitionoftheLord Mayor ofLondon and Common
Councell.
E368(5) 1646. Thomas Edwards. The ThirdPart ofGangrcena.
E370(25) 1647. A DeclarationSet ForthbythePresbyterians
within.
Kent.
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AmericanJournalof Sociology
E373(5) 1646. WilliamOverton,A Wordin Season.
E377(4) 1647. The humblePetitionOf The InhabitantsofSuffolke.
E378(13) 1647. JohnLilburne.The out-cryesofoppressedCommons.
E383(24) 1647. Letters From Saffron-Walden . . . the Copie of a second

Petition.
E384(11) 1647. A New Found StrategemFramed In The Old Forge of
Machivilisme.
E384(17) 1647.A SectaryDissected,Or, TheAnatomieofan Independent
Flie ...
E385(19) 1647. The PetitionAnd VindicationOftheOfficers
oftheArmie.
E389(2) 1647. The HusbandmansPlea AgainstTithes.Or, Two Petitions.
E389(3) 1647. The KingdomesWeeklyIntelligencer,
no. 210, May 18-25.
E393(39) 1647. Rash Oathesunwarrantable.
E402(11) 1647. Englands DolefullLamentation:Or The cryof the . . .
Commons.
E404(30) 1647. EnglandsMad Petition.
E423(16) 1648. The Case OfThe ImpeachedLords, Commons,And Citizens.
E426(18) 1648. GeorgeMasterson,The TriumphStain'd.
E427(6) 1648.A DeclarationOfSome ProceedingsofLt. Col JohnLilburn
E428(8) 1648. [John Lilburne?],A Lash for a Lyar: Or, the Stayner
Stayned.
E438(1) 1648. The ArmiesPetition:Or, A new Engagement.
E438(15) 1648. The Humble Petitions .

E441(25) 1648. To...

. of the Easterne Association.

Parliament... The humblePetitionOf... Kent.

E443(8) 1648. A Declaration . . . of Surrey: Concerning their late Peti-

tion.
E446(25) 1648. A NarrativeAnd DeclarationOftheDangerous... Petitioning.
E452(7) 1648. The humble Petition Of Divers Magistrates

and otherinhabitantsin the CityofLondon.


E452(21)1648.

. . .

Citizens

Londons New Colours displaid: . . . in the Cities . . .

Petition.
E452(38) 1648. A PetitionFor Peace.
E453(17) 1648. The Declarationofthe Well-Affected
Non-Subscribers.
E453(37) 1648. An Impartiall Narration Of The . . . Late Kentish Peti-

tion.
E468(32) 1648. The Copies OfTwo PetitionsFrom . .. FleetwoodsRegiment.
E470(32) 1648. A PetitionFromSeverallRegimentsoftheArmy.
E475(13) 1648. The HumbleRepresentation
of... theRegimentofHorse,
for the CountyofNorthumberland.
E516(7) 1647. Amon Wilbee,Plain TruthWithoutFeare or Flattery.
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EnglishRevolution
E518(11) 1647. The PetitionAnd SolemneEngagementOf The Citizens
ofLondon.
E522(38) 1648. A PetitionPresented. .. By theRoyal Partyin Sussex.
E548(16) 1649. The Second Part OfEnglandsNew-ChainesDiscovered.
Women.
E551(14) 1649. The humblePetitionOf diverswell-affected
E574(15) 1649. The RemonstranceOf many Thousands of the FreePeople.
in . .. London.
E579(9) 1649. The HumblePetitionofthe Well-affected,
E684(33) 1653. The OnelyRightRule For RegulatingLaws and Liberties.
of... SouthampE714(8) 1653. The humblePetitionOfThe Wel-affected
ton.
E936(5) 1658. A True Copy Of A Petition Signed by . . . Well-affected

People.

669f.3(58) 1642. A true Coppy of the Petition of the . . . Common

Councell.

669f.4(9) 1641. The Humble Petition of many of the Inhabitants . . . of

Kent.
669f.4(28)1641. To ... Parliament.The humblePetitionof... Chigwell.
669f.4(54)1642. thehumblePetitionofmanythousandpoorpeople.
669f.4(55)1642. thehumblePetitionof15000 poore labouringmen.
669f.4(64)1642. To ... Parliament.The humblePetitionof.. . Cornwall.
669f.6(9)1642. A New Petitionto theKings mostExcellentMajestie.
669f.6(15) 1642. To The King . .. The humble Petition . . . of York.

669f.6(49)1642. A Declarationor Resolutionofthe CountyofHereford.


YongMen
669f.6(101)1643. The Humble Petition of the Well-Affected
In The Citty.
669f.8(27)1643. [UntitledAnabaptistpetition].
AtBury. The humblePeti669f.8(41)1643. To The HonorableCommittee
tionofthechiefeInhabitantsoftheLibertyofSt. Etheldredand ofHoxon
Hundred, in ... Suffocke.
669f.10(37) 1645. To . . . Parliament. the Humble Petition of
669f.10(41) 1645. To the . . . Common Counsell-men of the Ward of

Farrington.
669f.10(57) 1646. A PetitionOf CitizensofLondon . . . to the Common
Councell.
669f.10(58) 1646. The Humble Petition of divers .

. Citizens.

669f.10(63) 1646. The trueCopyofa Petition,To ... theCityofLondon.


oftheArmy.
669f.11(15)1647. A PetitionofdiversOfficers

669f.11(47) 1647. The humble Petition of the Citizens .

. and Soldiers.

people.
669f.11(98)1647. The humblePetitionofmanyfree-born
669f.11(104) 1647. The humblePetitionofmanythousands,againstFree
Quarter.
669f.11(109)1647.A Just& SolemnProtestationoftheFree-bornPeople.
1549

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AmericanJournalof Sociology
669f.11(126) 1648. The humblePetitionofmanywel-affected
Citizens.

669f. 12(20) 1648. The humble Petition of the Grand Jury . . . of Essex.

669f.12(33)1648. The Manifestofthe CountyofKent.

669f. 12(39) 1648. The humble desires of the . . . Freemen of the City of

London.
669f.12(44) 1648. The unchangeableResolutionsof the Free-menofEngland.
669f.12(63) 1648. The humblePetitionof... Inhabitantsin ... London.
669f. 12(97) 1648. A New Engagement . . . of many thousands of well-

affected
people.
669f.12(104) 1648. The HumblePetitionofdiversWell-affected
Citizens.
669f.13(16) 1648. The humblePetitionofThousands. . . ofLondon.
669f.13(61) 1648. The PetitionpresentedbytheInhabitantsofNewportpagnell.
669f.13(73) 1649. The humblePetitionoffirm... Friendsto Parliament.
669f.13(89)1649. The humblePetitionofdiversInhabitantsoftheCounty
of
669f.14(20) 1649. The humblePetitionofdiverswell-affected
Persons.
669f.14(27) 1649. The HumblePetitionofdiverswell-affected
Women.
669f.14(31) 1649. The HumblePetitionofdiversYoungmen.
669f.15(50) 1650. The humblePetitionofdiverswell-affected
people.
669f.15(54) 1650. The HumblePetitionofdiverswell-affected
People.
669f.17(24) 1653. The humblePetitionofdiverswell-affected
People.
669f.17(26) 1653. The humblePetitionofdiversafflictedWomen.
669f.17(36) 1653. The humbleRepresentation
ofdiversafflictedWomen.
669f.20(71)1657. The HumblePetitionofdiverseCitizens
669f.21(55) 1659. The humble Petition of . .. Hartford.

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