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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 originsofthedem-


ocraticpublicsphereare inconsistent and speculative.This empiri-
cal accountexplainsthetransition in politicalcommunication from
normsofsecrecyto appeals to publicopinion.Popularcommunica-
tive 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
analysiscontradictskeyassumptionson communicative changethat
fuel pessimisticassessmentsof the modernpublic spherein post-
modernismand 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 petitioningforthe origins
of democracy,especiallyfor its "public sphere," where political dis-

1 This researchwas carriedout withsupportfroma NationalEndowment forthe


Humanitiesfellowship and travelgrant,a grant(54-329-06)fromtheLillyEndow-
ment,and a researchleave supplement fellowshipand travelgrantfromIndiana
University.I am especiallygrateful
to ThomasF. Gierynforextensivecomments on
severaldraftsof thispaper. Helpfuladvice and suggestionsalso 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 1497

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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.Print-
ing in the English Revolutionpushed petitioningand othertraditional
communicativepracticesin new directionsthat alteredthe contentas
well as the scope of politicalcommunication.It appealed to an anony-
mous body of opinion,a public that was both a nominalobject of dis-
courseand a collectionof writers,readers,printers,and petitionersen-
gaged 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 whichsocio-
logical accountsofferinconsistent answers. For England (e.g., Bendix
1978;Habermas 1989;Marshall 1966),theseaccountsplace thisdevelop-
mentin the 17thor 18thcenturyand citecapitalismand Protestantism as
principalcauses. No agreementexistsover preciselywhat in capitalism
and/orProtestantism had democraticimplicationsfora public spherein
politics.Neglectofcommunicative issuesunderliesthisimprecision;
specu-
lationis theinevitableconsequenceofdevotinglittleattention tocommuni-
cative practicesthat are, afterall, centralto any definitionof a public
sphere.When discussedby sociologists,communicativeissues are con-
ceivednarrowly intermsofprinting's implicationsforthescopeofcommu-
nication:facilitatingmore rapid and extensivedisseminationof novel
ideas. That theprintcultureitselfwas a sourceofnovelty-a pointdevel-
oped by historiansofprinting-remainsunexamined.Instead,thereflec-
tivepronouncements ofProtestant theologiansand Enlightenment philoso-
phersare interpreted by sociologistsas valid indicatorsofcommunicative
practicesthatconstitute a liberal-democraticpublicsphere.The turnfrom
theologyand philosophyto communicative practiceis thepointofdepar-
tureforempiricalanalysisoftheoriginsofpublicopinion.
In theoriginsofthepublicsphere,petitionsare botha cause and an indi-
catorof othercauses (e.g., printing).Petitionswere notthe onlyvehicle
forpoliticalmessagesinthisera. In sermons,newspapers,pamphlets,and
officialordinancesand declarations,messageswentfromthepoliticalcen-
terto theperiphery.But formessagesin theoppositedirection,periphery
to center,petitionswerea principaldevice. This explainstheimportance

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EnglishRevolution

ofpetitionsforexploringtheoriginsofthepublicsphereand printing's role


inthatdevelopment.The changewroughtbytheuseofprinting inpetition-
ing duringthe English Revolutionprovidesempiricalevidence forex-
plaininghowappealstopublicopinionsupplantednormsofsecrecyinpoli-
tics. Originally,petitioningwas a medievalcommunicative practicewith
rulesconcerning formand content.It was a privilege(inthemedievalsense)
thatexemptedpetitioners fromsecrecynormsthatotherwiseprohibited
populardiscussionofpoliticalmatters.The traditional petitionreferred lo-
cal grievancesto centralauthority; itdid notload itsmessagewithnorma-
tive claims about the "will of the people." Rules forpetitionscoexisted
withmoregeneralnormsofsecrecyand privilegein politicalcommunica-
tion. For example,disclosureofparliamentary debateswas a crime,and
popularparticipation inpoliticaldiscoursewas mostlylimitedtothereceiv-
ingend ofsymbolicdisplaysofauthority.
The politicaluse ofprintedpetitionsin theEnglishRevolutionviolated
petitioning traditionsand secrecynorms.Petitionsbecame a device that
constituted and invokedtheauthority ofpublicopinion,a meansto lobby
Parliament.This practicaldevelopmentled to new ideas in politicsthat
attachedimportanceto consent,reason,and representation as criteriaof
thevalidityof opinionsinvokedin publicdebate. Some petitioners came
to see theneed forformalconstitutional arrangements thatwould enforce
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
persons,whichwere forerunners to modernpoliticalparties.However,
ambivalenceborderingon denial bestdescribescontemporary responses
to innovativepetitioning. Traditionalrhetorical featuresofpetitionswere
a resourcefordenials of innovation.Contemporaries defendedpetitions
theyliked by treatingthem as deferential, juridical, and spontaneous
expressionsofgrievance-the rhetorical formthatdepoliticizedgrievance
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
century.The analysisin thisstudydemonstrates that proximatecauses

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of the "invention"of publicopinionderivefromeconomicand technical


aspectsof printing:heightenedcommercialism and thecapacityto repro-
duce textsin communication.Beyond printing,the most conspicuous
featureof this developmentis "the paradox of innovation"(see below),
a commondevelopmentin whichindividualsdo notacknowledgeinnova-
tive behaviorin which theyparticipate.Hence, I place "invention"in
quotationmarkswhenI steala phrasefromKeithBaker's study,"Public
Opinion as a PoliticalInvention,"which treatspublic opinionin 18th-
centuryFrance 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
rivalpoliticalinterests competeinopendebatesthatsimultaneously consti-
tuteand invokepublicopinion.In a liberaldemocracy,publicopinionis
the ultimatesourceof authorityforbroadlysettinga legislativeagenda.
"The distinction betweencivil societyand state. . . cannotfullyaccount
forwhat comes intobeingwiththeformation ofdemocracy."Equally im-
portantis the rise"of a publicspace . .. whose existenceblurstheconven-
tionalboundaries between thepolitical and non-political"(Lefort1988,p.
the
35). Accordingly, authority ofpublic opinionis notmerely one attribute
a
ofliberaldemocracybut, rather, presupposition of many, for example,
the franchise(Rueschemeyer, Stephens, and Stephens 1992, p. 44). The
for
pointis widelyacknowledged, example, in T. H. Marshall's (1966) ac-
count ofthe historicalexpansion of citizenship rights,in Habermas's (1989)
analysisof criticaluses of reasonin publicdebates,and in optimisticac-
countsbyfunctionalist sociologistsoftheriseofciviccultureand universal-
ism in democraticsocieties(forapplicationsto earlymodernEngland see
Hanson [1970]and Little[1970]).Recentworkon "civilsociety"(e.g., Co-
hen and Arato 1992; Somers1993) also pointsto the centrality of public
opinion,forthe veryidea of civil societyrefersto a societalcommunity
whose axial principleof solidaritydemarcatesit frompoliticaland eco-
nomicrealmsbased on powerand money:publicopinionis theprincipal
linkbetweentheliberal-democratic stateand civilsociety.

Capitalismand Protestantism
Afteragreementon theimportanceofthepublicsphere,consensusdisap-
pears over thedate and causes ofitsorigins.England is widelyacknowl-

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edgedto be a paradigmaticcase,2in bothclass-centered and functionalist


accountsthatemphasize,respectively, imperativesof capitalistdevelop-
mentand thecentrality of Protestantism fortheearlypublic sphere.But
theuniformity ofreferences to theimportanceofcapitalismor Protestant-
ism coexistswith wide disagreementover when the public sphereap-
peared and preciselywhat in capitalismand Protestantism had demo-
craticimplicationsforpublic life.
Habermas (1989) tracesthe public sphereto the 18thcenturyand to
privilegedsocial groups,notablythebourgeoisie,who participatedin an
eliteworldofletters.Gould (1987)agreesaboutthecentrality ofthebour-
geoisiebut 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
originsof the public spherebut not on the centrality of the bourgeoisie.
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 En-
glish 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 ofProtes-
tantismfor 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
spherealso appearsin references to itsreligioussources.Alongwithevery
class betweenthe verybottomand top, sociologistshave invokedevery
conceivableaspectofProtestantism to explaintheoriginsofuniversalistic
discoursein thepublicsphere:thepriesthoodofall believers,justification
by faith,the communionof the saints,covenanttheology,Presbyterian-
ism, 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
developments in othersocieties.Habermas(1989)advancesa normative variantthat
uses Englishhistoryto exploredevelopmentaltendencieswhoseimplicituniversalism
remainsunderdeveloped.

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causes of the public spheredoes notimplytheirutterirrelevance.I sug-


gestthattheircausal relevancebe exploredat thelevelofcommunicative
practice-printingis a preeminent instanceof earlycapitalistenterprise
(Eisenstein1980). Second, sociologistshave notcompletelyignoredcom-
municativeissues. 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 heranalysisoftheimpactofearlymodernprint-
ingon 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 constituteand invoketheauthority ofpublicopinion
in politicaldiscourse.

The Paradox of Innovation


Emphasis on the importanceof unintendedconsequencesfurther distin-
guishesthe accountadvanced herefrompriorsociologicalwork on the
publicsphereand also accommodatescentralfindings ofrevisionist
histo-
riography.The absenceofa formalphilosophicrationaleforcommunica-
tive change in the English Revolution,along with persistenceof old
traditionsthat placed deferenceand patronageat the core of politics,
explainstheambivalentreactionsof contemporaries towardpoliticalap-
peals to public opinion. This developmentwas unintended,occurring
initiallyat thelevelofpracticewhereit was neithersanctionednorantici-
pated by theoreticalformulations. That this developmentwas not the
outcomeof democraticcreedswill be inferred fromtheuniformdistribu-
tionof novelpetitioning practicesamongall partiesin theEnglishRevo-
lution,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
departureforreflection on politicsand religion,as in the unexceptional
view of Sir JohnCoke, a lifelongofficialin theearlyStuartgovernment:

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"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 "prim-
itive 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 phantasmagorichis-
toricismlike the Levellers'dreamsof the halcyondays of Edward the
Confessor"(Kishlansky1982, pp. 164-65). Marx and Weber notedthis
paradox in 17th-century England:Marx in remarkson traditionalism in
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"requiresthesuccess-
ful scientistsimultaneouslyto be a "traditionalist"and "iconoclast"
(Kuhn 1977, p. 227). Hobsbawm (1983) describes"inventedtraditions";
Calhoun (1983), the"radicalnessoftradition."These exampleslend sup-
portforthe suppositionthatparadoxicalfeaturesof innovationaccentu-
ate two generalaspectsof interpretative processes:first,a propensityto
imposeinterpretative continuity on experience(even if 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 se-
crecyand privilegein politicsand (2) more generalsocial normsthat
predicatedpoliticson deferenceand patronage.

HISTORIOGRAPHIC ISSUES
Petitionsoccupya prominentplace in earlymodernrevolutions.Though
historicalworkon England has no counterpart
to theelaboratehistorio-
3See theappendixforan explanation
oforiginalsourcesused in thisstudy.

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graphicliteratureon petitionsin the FrenchRevolution,petitionshave


been an importantresourcein studiesof the EnglishRevolution.Their
prominencein key eventsmakes it possibleto constructa summaryac-
count of the revolutionin termsof petitions,which I provide forthe
benefitof readerswho are unfamiliarwith 17th-century Englishhistory.
When the ShortParliamentmetearlyin 1640,it receivedcountypeti-
tions 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 kingimpris-
oned one M.P. forrefusinga requestto turnover petitionsand com-
plaintspendingbeforethe CommitteeforReligion(CSPD 1858-97, 16:
142; Rushworth1721, 3:1167-68). Subsequentpetitionsrequestedthe
kingto call anotherparliament.Whenthisparliament-theLong Parlia-
ment-convened in November,moreagreementexistedon the need for
modestreligiousand politicalreforms (e.g., limitingthepowerofbishops,
more parliamentaryconsultationin fiscal and foreignpolicy). M.P.'s,
who would later take different sides, presentedcountypetitionsthat
recitedextensivelysolicitedgrievances(see Morrill1993, p. 45). Agree-
mentdissipatedwhencountypetitionsin 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 parlia-
mentarians.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 increasinglyconservativePresbyterian policiesled to competitivepeti-
tion 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),

4 Unlessemployed inan explicitlyreligious (e.g.,Presbyterian


context Inde-
discipline;
pendentchurches)the terms"Presbyterian" and "Independent"referto political
factions.These religiousand politicalcommitmentsdid notalwayscoincide(see Un-
derdown1971,pp. 15-23).

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initiallyto rescueParliamentfromthe 1647 coup in London and, subse-


quently,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
with theirpetitionsat Westminister, as they[the Puritans]did at the
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 increas-
inglyfocusedon theunwillingness ofParliamentto receiveLevellerpeti-
tions. In Cromwell'sdissolutionof the purged (Rump) Parliament,a
priorAugust 1652 petitionfromthe Council of Officersforradical legal
and politicalreforms "is a keydocument,sinceeightmonthslaterCrom-
well and the officers were able to justifytheirdissolutionof the Rump
largelybecause so littleactionhad been takenon [thatpetition]"(Wool-
rych1982, 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.
Analysisofthecontentand signatures ofthesepetitionssuppliescritical
evidencefordivergentaccountsoftheaims,ideology,and social composi-
tionofparticipants in therevolution.This holdsforworkthatemphasizes
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 noncon-
formity (Tolmie 1977). The rise and fall of the Levellersis a storyre-
countedby 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 peti-
tions as least indicativeof local sentiment(Everitt 1973, pp. 60-61;
Fletcher1981, pp. 191-92; Morrill1974, pp. 45-48; Underdown1971,

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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; Un-
derdown 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 subsequentliberal-
democraticideas? Skerpan's(1992, p. 73) analysisof politicalrhetoricin
the 1640s missesthe noveltyin the statusof petitionsas "public docu-
ments."These petitionshave been described(Brailsford1976, p. 189;
Pearl 1961, pp. 173, 229-30; Wolfe 1967, p. 261) as an extensionor
revivalofwell-acceptedprinciplesofpetitioning, butthisview,too,over-
looks change in petitioningthat violated traditionalrestrictions on the
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
perspectives:it was "a salutaryreactionagainstvariousformsofmodern-
ization theory"-or any sociologicalexplanation(Morrill1993, p. 35).
Revisionismpromotesidiographichistory:it enjoins researchers"to
abandon thepursuitof grandoverarching theoriesand insteadto ponder
the facts"(Cogswell 1990, p. 551). Immersionin primarysources has
l'histoiree've'nementielleas its goal, "to returnto the sources free of
preconceptions" (Sharpe 1985, p. x; see also Russell 1990, p. x). At the
empiricallevel,revisionist studies(e.g., Morrill1974, 1976;Russell 1990,

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1993;Sharpe 1992)showthat-even in theEnglishRevolution-localism


and loyaltyto verticallyintegratedcommunities outweighclass divisions
and oftenideologicalconvictionwhen deferenceand patronageremain
the commoncoin of politics.This workdemolishessuppositionscentral
to sociologicalaccountsaboutthebourgeoisnatureoftheEnglishRevolu-
tion. Opponentsof revisionismconcedethat"it has yetto be shownthat
thosewho supportedParliamentand thosewho supportedtheCrown...
differedsystematically in social class terms"(Brenner1993, p. 643).5
Suppositionsabout modernizingtendenciesin Puritanismfare equally
poorly.Its oppositionto churchand stateis now tracedto an aversionfor
innovation(Collinson1981; Lake 1982; Tyacke 1987),notto democratic
impulses.
Sociologistscan set aside revisionism'sepistemologicalclaims-we are
properlyskeptical about inquiryuncontaminatedby presuppositions.
Empiricalissuesare moretroublesome.Invokingtheinevitability ofthe-
orywill notrescuesociologicalaccountsof an EnglishRevolutionled by
an insurgentbourgeoisie or "middling classes" with a tradition-
repudiating,democraticideologysuppliedby Puritanism.Littlesupport
for such claims existseven among "postrevisionists" (e.g., Cust 1985;
Eales 1990; Hughes 1987)whoseworkattributes a social basis forpoliti-
cal 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

5"Most historiansreject the idea that the civil war was a class conflict,"acknowl-
edges 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.

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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,therheto-
ric of petitionsconceals the organizationof petitioning
and the evident
intentto lobby Parliament.These issues are illuminatedby a "metade-
bate" over the propriety of petitioningthataccompaniessubstantivepo-
litical disputes. This occurs in privateletters,pamphlets,diaries, and
newspapers,as partisansand observersdescribe,attack,and defendpeti-
tions.Evidence fromthesesourcesis crucialfordrawinginferences that
go beyondexplicitclaimsmade by petitioners-a necessarystepforana-
lyzingtheparadoxof innovation.Thus, petitionsshouldbe read in con-
junctionwithotherprimaryprintedand manuscriptmaterials.

TRADITIONAL PETITIONS AND SECRECY NORMS


IN POLITICAL COMMUNICATION
Priorto the EnglishRevolution,the absence of anythingresemblingap-
peals to public opinion in politicsderivesfromnormsof secrecyand
privilegethatstrictly limitpoliticalcommunication. In theory,no public
space forpoliticaldiscourseexistsoutsideParliament,wherea customary
rightoffreespeechin the15thcentury had evolvedintoa formalprivilege
underthe Tudors. Confinedto Parliament,thisfreedomis (in the medi-
eval sense) a privilegedemarcatedby secrecynorms,whose violation,
even by M.P.'s, is a punishableoffense.For commoners,normsof se-
crecyand privilegereflectan unchallengedassumption,no different in
early Stuart England than under Elizabeth, when Thomas Smith ex-
plainedthatcommonpeople"have no voice or authority in our common-
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 govern-
ment(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 supportfromProtes-
tantemphasison the corruptionof reason. Contemporaries saw nothing
remarkablein writingsby the firsttwo Stuartkings,who cite patriar-
chalism,thedivinerightof kings,and reasonsof stateto denythelegiti-
macy of public politicaldiscussion.King James(1622) describedroyal
accountsof policythe same way that CalvinistsdescribedGod saving

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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,
severalpracticesaffordedlimitedopportunities forpoliticalcommunica-
tionin prerevolutionary England (see Zaret 1994, pp. 180-84). Political
communicationin some formis as old as kingship,implicitin its com-
memorativearchitecture,coinage, and coronationrituals. But many
practiceslimitcommunicationto symbolicdisplays of authority,to a
culturalframeof reference forunderstanding 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


Secrecynormsprecludedpopulardiscussionofpoliticalmattersbutcoex-
isted with establishedproceduresforexpressinggrievanceby petition.
Traditionsgoverningpetitionsarose in medieval society,when parlia-
mentsmet as high courtsthat receivedand triedpetitions.More than
16,000 petitionswentto parliamentsthatmetfromthe 13thto the 15th
centuries.These documentsare juridicalin natureand complainof mis-
carriageof justice or requestrelieffromtaxes, forestlaws, and other
regulations.In a three-weeksession, the 1305 Parliamentdealt with
nearly500 petitions,small pieces of parchmentwithnotationsthatindi-
cate theprescribedremedy,ifany(Maitland 1893,pp. xxvi-xxvii,xxxii,
lv, lxvii-lxxiii).Later developmentsreflectgrowingcomplexity
in medi-
eval institutions.Unlike unevenlycomposed petitionsin the reign of
Edward I, petitionsacquire a characteristicformfor addressingand
phrasingunder Richard II-their precisionand elaborationoftenre-

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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
century,distinctions are drawnbetweenprivatepetitionsand commons
petitionsthat raise "grievancesregardedas being of commoninterest."
In thisdevelopmentparliamentsadded legislativedutiesto theiroriginal
juridical functions.But by the early 16thcentury,anotherinnovation
supersededpetitions;legislationnow proceededby "bill," whichdeline-
ated 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 con-
flictbetweenthem.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).

Petitioning Traditionsin the 17thCentury


In early17th-century England, petitionswereobjectsof popularknowl-
edge, well suitedto a hierarchicalworldin whichdeferenceand patron-
age functionedlike money.The word "petition"was a commonfigure
of speech, used literallyand metaphorically to signifya deferentialre-
quest forfavoror forredressof a problem.Letterwritersseekingoffice
or advancementtypicallycalled theirrequest a petition.On Sundays
clericsexplainedthat prayeris a petitionto God and the faithfulare
humblepetitioners.7 Worldlypetitionsrequestoffice,alms, or relieffrom
debt,delay ofjustice,or imprisonment. Institutionalizedmeansexistfor
submitting themto thosein authority. parliamentbegan witha medi-
A
eval ritual,theappointment of receiversand triersof petitions.Petitions
to kingswerereceivedby secretariesofstate,frompetitioners withinflu-
ence or money,and by the Court of Requests from poor suitors.This
last pointcalls attentionto popular access to petitioning.Rich and poor
it
alike petitioned; provided a substitute for personal connections to the
court.Whenplague threatened London in 1625, Sir Edward Coke argued
that Parliamentshould establishno committeesto receivepetitionsbe-
cause 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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Petitionson everyconceivablegrievancewentto all seats of authority,


and not onlyto parliamentsor kings.They came fromcollectivities and
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
who had ruined"a mostflourishing school": "to the generalgriefof us
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 themfromhos-
tile clericswho sat in an overheadgalleryin the towncathedral(Evans
1979,p. 113). Tailors sentpetitionsto thedean and chapterat Salisbury,
protesting competition frompersonswho did notbelongto theircorpora-
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 griev-
ances pointsto the importancecontemporaries attachedto the rightto
petition.

The Rightto Petition


Contemporariesheld strongviews on the rightto petition,which was
applicableto individualsand collectivities.
It was "theindisputableright
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
Cambridgeto petition-but references to the Magna Carta stalled pro-

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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 in-
structeda 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
petitionersaffirmed theirrightto present"just desiresof the oppressed
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.Petitionsaffordsubjectslim-
ited 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 "lib-
erty"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
Royalistpetitioning.8In 1643 (E65[32] 1643, pp. 24-25; E67[23] 1643,
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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(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
petitionwas farfromabsolute.Restrictions on expressionsof grievance
in petitionsprovided only limited immunityagainst secrecy norms.
Though no formallaw definedthese restrictions, theirnature can be
inferredfromprevailingpracticesand fromnegativereactionsto "fac-
tious" 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 em-
phasizingdeferential, juridical, and spontaneousattributesof the griev-
ance; and, third,grievancesshouldbe local and neithercriticalof laws,
indicativeof discontentwithauthority, nor made public.
1. "Voxpopuli" is not "lex suprema."-Permissiblemessagesfromthe
periphery to thepoliticalcenterdid notincludeclaimsabout thesuprem-
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
that we oughtto receiveinstructions forour proceedingsfromthe peo-
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 re-
questedthatParliamentnot "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 prematurelythankingParliamentfora 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
yearParliamentreprimanded London'sCommonCouncilafterthecoun-
cil had forwardedpetitionsfromcitizensthatreferred to ongoingdeliber-
ationsoverthechurch.Whenthesecitizenslaterpresenteda new petition
againstParliament'sdecisionto vestdisciplinary authorityin lay commis-
sioners(and not in presbyteries), theyjustifiedthis step because "now
the Ordinance[forlay commissioners] was passed, theyhad libertyto
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 deroga-
toryto the gravityand majestyof a Parliament;that when they are
upon determination of anything,men should presumeto instructthem"
(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 relieffromgriev-
ances. This rhetoricrestricted expressionof grievanceso that petitions
did not invokeor implypopular will as a sourceof authority.Instead,
grievanceappears as a neutralconveyanceof information, submittedto
thewisdomof theinvokedauthority, thateschewsprescribing solutions.
Lobbying-a principalmotiveformobilizingpublic opinionin demo-
craticpolitics-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 griev-
ances . . . beforeyou, not presumingto dictateto your graverjudge-
ments"(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 classicalrheto-
ric thathold spontaneousutterancesto have moreprobativevalue than
premeditatedones.) The expressionof grievanceby petitionwas com-
pared 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 spontaneouslyconveysinforma-
tionto the brain,petitionsideallyare a spontaneousmessage,a neutral
conveyanceofinformation, devoidofnormativeclaimsforsubordinating
politicsto popularwill. The authorof thispoint,in a tractthatdefends
petitionsagainstbishops,describestherightto petitionin termsof "free-
dom of information" (E146[24] 1642, pp. 2-3). But this idea does not
derivefromspecifically Puritanor parliamentarian commitments. "Con-
veyinginformation 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,foryourbetterinfor-
mationof 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
rhetoric,theportrayalofgrievanceas spontaneousinformation maintains
apoliticalappearancesin petitions.It deflectspotentiallyfatalaccusations
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
petitionersto put an acceptablefaceon requeststhatmightotherwisebe
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
Peers to be convenedon thetwenty-fifth: "If it come to his majestyafter
that day, it will savor of faction"(MSS Add. 70086, unfoliated).An
essential tensionbetween organizationand spontaneityin petitioning
was, then,a delicateissue.
3. Otherrestrictionson content.-Other rulesalso limitedexpressions
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,com-
mon councils,and assize and quartersessions.Petitionson public issues
fromprivatepartiesweremoreopen to accusationsoffaction-no small
matterin a societywherethe ideal of organicunitymade factiontanta-
mountto sedition.In addition,grievancesin petitionsshould be local,
thatis, experienceddirectlyby petitioners; "A petitionmustbe according
to verityand particularity,"notedSir Edward Coke in the 1628 Parlia-
ment(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
ideologicalpronouncement. It should neithercriticizespecificlaws nor
implypopular discontentwithgovernment. Agreementexistedover the
seditiousnessof petitioningagainst a specificlaw or ruling.Criticism
leveled by King Charles against personswho sought"to publish peti-
tions... againsttheknownlaws and establishedgovernment" (El 12[26]
1642, p. 5) was also advanced by the king'sopponents(Harington1977,
p. 25; Luke [1644-45] 1963,p. 281). In 1605Sir FrancisHastingsencoun-
teredthiscriticismwhenhe was questionedby thePrivyCouncil forhis
role in a PuritanpetitionfromNorthampton.It was "seditious,mali-
cious, factious";neitherlocal nor sufficiently deferential.Hastings was
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, armyagi-
tatorsused identicalwordsto defenda petitiondenouncedby Parliament
in 1647; therewas no "discontent,"only"grievances"(Clarke [1647-52]
1992, 1:31,36, 50-53). For us thedistinction is meaningless;but contem-
porariesdrew finedistinctionsbetweenapoliticalconveyanceof griev-
ance by petitionand factiousdiscontent.
Finally,petitionswerenotto be made public.Therewas nothingnovel

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in the complaintof a royalofficeholder, Sir Thomas Roe, about circula-


tion 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 privilegeforpetitionersto 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 petitionscur-
rentlypendingin Parliament.Independentsheld Presbyterian attackson
petitionsbeforeParliamentto be "contraryto the courseof Parliament
and thelibertyofthesubjects"(E5 16[7]1647,p. 11). WhenIndependents
used thistactic,Presbyterians objectedto "obstructingthe courseof the
people of England'sfreepetitioning" (E352[3] 1646,p. 9; E355[13] 1646,
p. 36; E368[5] 1646, p. [259].)
Thus, communicativerules for petitioningpermittedexpressionsof
grievance,but onlyin a restricted formthathas littlein commonwith
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,whenprintedpetitionsfrompri-
vate associationssimultaneouslyconstitutedand invoked public opin-
ion-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
manipulation.This complexity reflectsthedual natureof public opinion
as a nominaland real entity.Nominally,it is a discursivefiction;qua
public opinionit collectivelyexistsonly when instantiatedin political
discourse.Yet real individualsparticipatein politicaldiscourseas writ-
ers, readers,printers,and petitioners.Like today'sopinionpolls, peti-
tions 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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the minimalsense thatcontemporaries valued themas toolsto influence


opinion;second,thatpetitionshave linksto debatesin civil societyand
werenotmerelyliteraryinterventions foistedupon an unsuspecting pub-
lic. Having establishedthesepoints,we can thenexaminethe printing
connectionand the paradoxof innovation.

Petitionsas Propaganda
The propaganda value of petitionsderived,not only fromtheirlegiti-
macy,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.
Observersremarkedon the"extraordinary nature"of thispetition,from
"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 theestab-
lished 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
understandings, to presentto yourgraveconsideration, thesefewlines"
(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 [1625-
42]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(Oxin-


den 1933, pp. 232, 285-86); and a countrycleric (Josselin[1616-83]
1976,pp. 88, 91, 97-98, 122-23, 127). Survivingevidenceprovidestan-
talizingclues about thecare withwhichpetitionsmightbe read. A news-
letterin 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). An-
othernotessimilaritiesin the Twelve Peers Petitionand petitionsfrom
the Scots (CSPD 1858-97, 17:62). Parliamentary diaristsand journalists
oftenreferto the repetitivequality of countypetitionsin 1642 (see
Fletcher1981, p. 191), describingpetitionsas "tendingto the same ef-
fect"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 petitionthatHertfordpetitionerspro-
posed 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 importantto notethatpopularinterestin petitionsdid notdepend
on the abilityto read them.11Petitionswereread aloud and discussedin
churchesand taverns,oftenin conjunctionwithefforts to obtainsigna-
turesor marks.The assemblingof parishioners on Sundaysaided collec-
tionofsignatures;so did theparochialauthority ofclerics(Fletcher1981,
pp. 195-96). In 1641, membersof the clergyat ChesterCathedralan-
nounced "that therewas somethingmore to be done than reading of
prayers."One describedthe currentPuritanpetitioncampaignforabol-
ishingtheestablishedliturgy,"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 implica-
tions 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 petitionfromLanca-
shirewere 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). Perhapstheclearestindi-
cationof 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),Pres-
byterians(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 ma-
neuversand 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 Com-
mons receivedthe petitionwith20,000 signatures;on April 29 another
M.P. wrote"The London petitionforexpeditionofjusticeis transmitted
by us to the Lords, witha special enforcement of our own; upon which
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 intelli-
gence reportssent to Hyde, we can followthe course of petitioncam-
paigns 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 instruc-
tive. 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 se-
cretlyas 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 Parlia-
ment'srecords;but, notsurprisingly, it is reportedin MercuriusAulicus
(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


Onlypartofthecomplexrelationship betweenpetitionsand publicopin-
ion appears when we examinepetitionsas propaganda.As propaganda,
petitionsnominallyconstitute publicopinionas a means to influencethe
realopinionsofindividuals.But howimportant is thereversemovement?
Do petitionshave tangiblelinksto opinionsheld at the individuallevel,
to discussionand debate in civilsociety,or are theymerelyliterarypro-
ductionswithno discerniblerelationto a publicsphere?Answersto these
questionsrequirean assessmentof the importanceof manipulationand
outrightdeceitin practicesthatled to the framingand signingof peti-
tions.
Manipulationand deceitwere topicsof contemporary speculationon
petitionersas unwittingtoolsto further a hiddenagenda. MercuriusAuli-
cus chargedthatthe war partyin the House of Commonshad allocated
thisroleto London citizens;Levellersthoughtthata "malignant"faction
in theHouse of Commonsput London's CommonCouncil in thisrole-
accommodationpetitionsto Parliamentwere"firstcontrivedand plotted
bythemselves,and thencunningly laid to be actedin CommonCouncils"
(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 fromBucking-

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ham. Skepticismgreetedpresenterswho stated,in the Commons,that


theywere "not counseledtheretoby any but hurriedalong withappre-
hensionsof the dangersthis honorableHouse was in." D'Ewes noted
the petitionwas alreadyin print.Whitelock"did dislikethismannerof
petitioning,"despitehis supportforthe fiveleaders,because one of the
five-John Hamden, a BuckinghamM.P.-had orchestrated its promo-
tion(PJ 1982, p. 36; Whitelock[1605-75] 1990, p. 130).
These examples show the danger of takingpetitionsat face value.
Contemporaries acknowledgedthisdangerin references to "parrot"peti-
tions,local petitionsthatreiteratedthe substanceof a London petition.
Though Royalistsused thistactic(MSS Clarendon29, folio72), parrot
petitionsare usuallyassociatedwiththe otherside, as in the following
cynicalverse:"Though set formsof prayerbe abomination/Set formsof
petitionsfindgreat approbation"(MSS Rawl. poet 62, folio 51). The
1640 Root and Branch petitionfromLondon forPuritanreformwas a
modelforcountypetitions.In presenting one fromKentin January1641,
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 particularpeti-
tionhad no local support"(Underdown1978, pp. 195-96; and see Rus-
sell 1993, p. 108). Elite involvementcould imposenationalpoliticalper-
spectiveson petitionsfromlocalitieswhereopinionmightbe insularand
unideological.But the filtering of opinionthat occurredin the framing
of petitionscould also move in the oppositedirection:it mightconceal
sharpviews at thelocal level thatwereinconvenient in Parliament.The
case of Dering and the Kent petitionis instructive.In presentingit to
Parliament,Deringboasts,"I dealt withthepresenters thereof. . . until
(withtheirconsent)I reducedit to less thana quarterofitsformerlength,
and taughtit a new and moremodestlanguage."This "modest"version
substitutesbland remarkson countenancing of papistsforspecificrefer-
ences to contentiousreligiousissues (e.g., predestination),moderatesits
vitriolicanticlericalism, and omitsa passage that denies the kingto be
above the law (E197[1] 1641, p. 9; 669f.4[9]1641; Larking 1862, pp.
30-33). The London CommonCouncil modifiedpetitionsfromcitizens
before forwardingthem to Parliament. 12 In 1647 officers eliminated

12 In December1646theLondonCommon Councilprepareda petition that,likemany


fromthatbody,justified thisstepbyenclosing totheCouncil.
earliercitizens'petitions
The committee draftingtheCommonCouncilpetitionwas "to alter,add or dimin-
shouldthinkrequisite."The printedversionof
ish . . . whattheyin theirdiscretion
the Councilpetitionappendedthe citizenspetition"withsome omissionsand few

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''more offensivecomplaints"as theyconsolidatedregimentalpetitions


fromsoldiersintoone petitionfromthearmy;in 1652 Cromwellmoder-
ated passages in a petitionfromofficers to theRump Parliament(Wool-
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.,
"suffered"is substitutedfor"groaned")and instructions forthe parish
activists:"You should do well to get as manyhands to thispetitionas
can be . .. & ifyouhave heardthevicaror his curatepreachinganything
contrary to truedoctrine,to agreeupontheparticularsamongyourselves,
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 observ-
ers 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 diffi-

alterations" (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
everydaylife,popularparticipation in London petitionsmade a decisive
breakwithtraditionalpractice.Petitionsorganizedat theward or parish
level mightbypassthemayor,aldermaniccourt,and CommonCouncil-
onlytheyhad authority to issuepetitionson behalfofthecitycorporation.
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 citizenpeti-
tionersto oppose or lobbymunicipalcorporations-and notonlyin Lon-
don. In Norwich,competingpetitionsfromIndependentand Presbyte-
rian 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 pe-
titions.Growingrelianceon printedinformation for organizingthese
petitionssupplementscommunicative contactsbased on primaryassocia-
tions(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,unitinglike-
mindedindividualsin 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 peti-
tion (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).
These populardevelopments in petitioningderivedfrommass 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 precedentforhighlypoliti-
cized petitions.In 1649 Lilburnedefendedthe manypetitionsissued by
Levellerswho merely"trodin theverypaththattheythemselves(I mean
both Parliamentand Army)chalkedout unto us" when, two yearsear-
lier,theyhad impeachedPresbyterian M.P.'s "fortraitors,forobstruct-
ingand prejudgingofpublicpetitionsto theParliament"(Lilburne[1649]
1944b,p. 448). Presbyterian petitionscitedthe precedentof armypeti-
tions(E423[16] 1648,p. 17) and petitionsagainst"thebishopsand others
in the beginningof this Parliament"(E377[4] 1647, pp. 1-2). An anti-
armypetitionin 1648 also citestheprecedentof petitioning at thebegin-
ningof 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 publishedbroad-
sides,declarations,pamphlets,newspapers,and petitionsas propaganda.
For petitions,this developmentviolated traditionalrules that limited
expressionofgrievanceto apoliticalflowsofinformation fromtheperiph-
eryto 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
purposeof influencingindividualopinions.Communicativechangethus
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 ofcommu-
nicationin 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 ap-
probationof multitudes"was the goal, then printingwas essential.It

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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
parishagainsttheir"superstitious" vicar was printedas a broadside:at
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 parliamen-
tarians. 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 peti-
tionsthatadvocatesrepressionof 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 petitionsfrompoliti-
cal 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 behindbotheconomically-
and ideologically-motivateddecisions to printpetitions.The conse-
quence 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 conflictbe-
tweenRoyalistand parliamentary factionsled to rivalpetitionsforpeace
and war policies,The KingdomesWeeklyIntelligencerreprinteda Lon-
don petitionfromthe war factionto counter"malignant"reports,sent
"intoall parts,"thatcovered"onlypetitioning forpeace" (E65[11] 1643,
p. 227). News reportsmightbe briefand circumspectforhighlycontro-
versialpetitions,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
petitioning was interpretedto tendto a distemperand a mutiny"(E389[3]
1647, p. 534).
It seemslikelythattherelationship betweenprinting and popularinter-
est in petitionswas reciprocal,thatpopularinterestin petitionscould be
stimulatedby growingaccess to them.Initially,access was limitedby
scribalmodesof transmission forpetitionsin theearly1640s. This relied
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 peti-


tioning.Not onlydid printingmake petitionsmoreaccessibleto readers
but also to subscribers,therebyfacilitatingmassivepetitionscampaigns
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 peti-
tionformoreactivepursuitofthewar againstthekingat theMerchants
Tailors Hall from4 A.M. until8 P.M. (E61[3] 1643). An accountof this
petition-in-progress, which substantiallyreproducedthe ticket, was
available to readersof the newspaperSpecial Passages (E61[9] 1643, p.
7; and see E83[46] 1643). Petitionswere now printedforthe use of peti-
tioners,oftenwith instructionsabout gatheringsignaturesand about
meetingto presentthe signed petitionsin a processionto Parliament.
Copies of The humblePetition of manythousandpoore people contain
the followingline at the bottom:"For the use of the petitionerswho are
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
ofprintingformassivepetitioncampaignsshouldnotbe 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 alter-
ationsin itscontent,we mustconsiderprinting's impositionofdialogicor-
der on conflict-a consequenceof an increasein abilitymassivelyand
swiftly to reproducetextsthatwas notlimitedto petitions(see Zaret 1994,
pp. 192-93). Politicaldiscoursein printedtextsencouragedreadersto in-
terpretconflictbetweenkingand 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 theParlia-
mentbysomethousandsofcitizens;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 printedre-
sponsesto petitions.A Lancashirepetitionpresentedto thekingat York
inMay 1642urgeshimto returnto Londonand Parliament,"therepresen-
tativebodyofyourkingdom."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 Maj-
esty... recommends toyourviewand consideration histwomessagesand
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
above, violatedtraditionalprivilegesattachedto communicating to Par-
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
may explain why Presbyterian petitioners in Norwichrefusedto allow

13 See Smith(1994,p. 139):in 1649"theLevellerviewoffailednegotiations


between
themselves,Armyand Parliamentis viewedas an accountof texts(remonstrances,
letters)notachievingtheirgoalsin politics."
petitions,

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copies to be made of theirpetitionto the city'sCommonCouncil-the


clerk'swifewas an Independent(E355[13] 1646,pp. 22-24). Yet Presby-
terianswere equally adept at preemptivepractices.In A SectaryDis-
sected,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
qualityappears in manyLevellerpetitions.Title pages to
self-referential
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 Septemberpeti-
tion). So one consequenceof routinelyprintingpetitionsas a political
tool is referencesto unmetrequestsadvanced in formerpetitions,which
pushed petitioningin the directionof what we now call lobbying.The
titlepage of anotherLevellerpetitionin 1649 listsrequestsadvanced in
threepriorpetitions,datingback to 1647, intendedto secure"the peo-
ple'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 dialogicor-
der 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 oftheestablishedchurchattackPuritanpetitionsagainstbish-
ops 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 1648cross-
petitionsderivedfromcomplex,multifaction politicsinvolvingPresbyteri-
ans, Independents,theNew Model Army,Levellers,and resurgent Royal-
istswhosepetitionsprotested"arbitrary authority" in centralizedcontrols
imposedby Parliamentvia countycommittees.This complexityappears
in Plain English (E350[11] 1646), whose defenseof a London Presbyte-
rian petition(E338[7] 1646) involvesnegativereferences to an anti-tithe
petitionfromHertford(E382[2] 1647),a 1642 prowarpetitionfromLon-
don 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'simpositionof 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 or-
deredthesedocumentsprintedand distributed (669f.11[104]1647).When
one of the king'sjudges rode the summerassize circuitin 1642, he re-
ceived countypetitionstoo favorable(in his view) to Parliament'sposi-
tion on controlover the militia.The judge attributedtheircontentand
the alacritywithwhichtheywerepresentedto thewidespreadavailabil-
ity of printedmaterialson the militiaissue "so generallywell known,
postedup upon all public places" (CSPD 1858-97, 18:375; forthe peti-
tions,see E112[14] 1642).
Printingwas not the sole sourceof a capacityto constructpublic life
in termsofideologicalconflict.This can appear in handcopiedcommuni-
cations. But printingextendedthis capacityto a far broaderaudience
than was possiblein scribalcommunication and therebymoved political
communicationin new directions.Framersof petitionsproducedtexts
foran anonymousaudienceof readers,a publicpresumednotonlyto be
capable of rationalthoughtbut also to possess moral competencyfor
resolvingrivalpoliticalclaims.Proliferationofprintedpoliticalmaterials
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,
from,respectively, commercialmotivesthat ensureda plentifulsupply
of printedpoliticalmaterialsand the ease with which textscould be
reproduced.

THE PARADOX OF INNOVATION AND PETITIONS


Printingpromotedthe innovativeuse of petitions,which "invented"
public opinionin politicsin a distinctivelymodernform,thatis, where
is
public opinion nominally constituted in textsforthe purposeof influ-

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encingindividualopinionsin and outsideParliament.Yet ambivalence


borderingon denial best describescontemporary responsesto thisdevel-
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
encounterexpressionsof principledsupportforliberal-democratic views
of publicopinionin politics.
on the centrality
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,
p. 4). In additionto the illicitmove fromconveyinginformation to lob-
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 contra-
dicted"(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 corporateen-
tity-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 re-
buked 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 cross-
petitionin 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). Puri-
tans 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 con-
demnin others,. . . interposing in anythingbeforethem[Parliament]by
way of petition,or havingmeetingsforthatend" (E323[2] 1646, p. 44;
see also pp. 67-68; see also E341[5] 1646,p. 6). The referenceto "meet-
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
(E368[5] 1646, p. 93), now in volume3 of Gangrcena, denouncesa Kent
petition against Presbyterianism, which the Presbyterian-dominated
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
sectarieshave been to people petitioning the Parliamentto make known
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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Thus, petitioners on all sidesinvokedpublicopinionbut preferrednot


to acknowledgethis innovativeuse of printedpetitions.Opportunism
and politicalnecessityare notirrelevantforunderstanding thisresponse
to innovativepetitioning.Yet thisresponsealso exhibitsa pattern,one
shaped by communicativepracticesthathad run ahead of politicaland
social theory.No principleddefensewas offered forthatwhichis implicit
in innovativepetitioning, namely,invokingthe opinionof a public to
justifysettinga legislativeagenda. Instead, contemporariesrelied on
traditionalrhetoricto justifytheirpetitionsand traditionalhierarchical
notionsto attackpetitionsby theiradversaries.We shall see, however,
thatpracticalexperiencewithinnovativepetitioning led somecontempo-
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 con-
sentand reasonin thepublicsphere.In addition,limitations of petitions
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 claimtheauthorityofpublicopinion,contempo-
raries confrontedthe issue of numbersversus social composition.Did
numbersor social compositionof supporterscarrymoreweightin choos-
ingbetweenrivalpetitions?Confronted bya hostilepetitionfromparish-
ioners,one clericinvokessocial composition.A cross-petition
on his be-
half"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-

"whollywithsubmissionto 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.Petitionswithfewsignaturessome-
times 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). Un-
able to match3,000 signatureson a petitionfavoringthe moderateearl
of Denbigh, the Warwickshirecommitteedeclined"to get up a counter
petition. . . not wishingto fomentdifferences" (Hughes 1987, p. 236;
HMC SixthReport1877,p. 27). Cross-petitions opposedto Puritanpeti-
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 peti-
tion]"(HMC De L'Isle 1966,p. 371).15Still,social statusremainsimpor-
tant and appears in the practiceof separatelyrecordingsignaturesby
rank.Traditionalhabitsof thoughtthatuphelddeferenceas a social and
politicalvirtueopposed numbersas a principalcriterionof an opinion's
merit.All sides attackpetitionsby referring to thelow statusof signers.
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
Add. 70003,folio204). Later,Presbyterians discredited"femalepetitions
oftheIndependents"(E355[13] 1646,p. 25) whosesignersincluded"rash
youth,sillywomenand maidens"(E350[11] 1646,p. 12), "poor mechan-
ics & 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

newsletter
15 A well-informed reportsthat,in responseto antiepiscopal
petitions,"the
clergysay again thattheycan procureten hands forthe continuing of episcopal
government foreveryone hand thatsubscribesagainstit" (MSS Add. 11045,folio
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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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 Presbyte-
rian 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 corpora-
tion,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 peti-
tionsagainstbishops,in 1641, held the relevantissue to be not the peti-
tioners'social compositionbut "theirconsiderations, what theypublish"
(E160[2] 1641, p. 7). Womenpetitioners describe"theirseveralreasons,

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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 sub-
scribedit," the parishionerreplies,"I will not make othermen's exam-
ples, 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 thisna-
tionare accustomedunto),withoutwhichthatwhichis called knowledge
or understanding is nottrueknowledgeor understanding" (E373[5] 1646,
p. 2; and see Walwyn[1649] 1944, p. 356). In 1646, petitionersin Hert-
fordand 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,
and by evidentdemonstration ofsoundreason,sufficient to convinceany
rationalman, unlesshe have a resolutionthathe will not be convinced"
(E389[2] 1647).

Toward Liberal Democracy


Alongwiththeimportanceaccordedto representation, consent,and rea-
son in petitions,novelclaimsappearedfortheauthority ofpublicopinion
in politics.This cumulative,pragmaticdevelopmentwas theunintended
consequenceofthecompetitive use ofprintedpetitions,a practiceguided
notprinciple.It led, however,to new
initiallyby tacticalconsiderations,
ideas that advanced democraticconceptionsof the authorityof public
opinion. For example, a Presbyterian petitioninstructsParliamentnot
to be offendedby its reiterationof pointsalreadypresentedin a petition
thatParliamenthad rejected(E338[7] 1646, p. 7). Greaterpresumption
appears later when Leveller petitioners,citingParliamentarydeclara-
tions, claim a rightto petition"against thingsestablished by law"
(669f.11[98]1647; and see E393[39] 1647,p. 28]. I pointedout thattradi-
tionalstrictures 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
policiesthatcitedpresuppositions heldto be valid forall, suchas the 1628
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 ordi-
nancesto 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
campaignsbegan to perceivelimitations in petitioning.
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 peti-
tionersto 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 petitionersare followedby requestsfor"a solemncon-
tract"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 theinher-
entlyreactivenature of petitionsas a device to organize and invoke
public opinion. Writingsby radical activistsreveal how the practical
experienceof petitioning led to novel ideas on the politicalorderwhen

16 For therelevance
of thispetitioning
forconstitutional
schemesby Harrington
see
Gunn(1969,p. 122).

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petitionersperceivedthatlegitimationof even an expandedroleforpeti-


tioningmightnotamelioratestructural problemsofgovernance.Leveller
writersraise this issue in argumentsabout how petitionsought to be
evaluated by those in authority:"It will not be thoroughly well in En-
gland,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 constitu-
tional law. An even more explicitturnto constitutional reformas an
alternativeto petitioningappears in argumentsfor the Agreementof
the People, set forthby Levellersand armyagitatorsas the basis fora
constitutionalsettlement.Lilburneand othersadvocatedthisstep,"con-
ceiving it to be an improper,tedious, and unprofitablethingfor the
peopleto be everrunningaftertheirrepresentatives withpetitionsforre-
dressof such grievancesas mayat once be removedby themselves"(Lil-
burne[1649] 1944a,p. 160;see also An Agreement [1649] 1944,p. 324).
At thispointwe observesignsof a liberal-democratic agenda forpoli-
tics. Though not a factorin precipitatingParliament'sconflictwiththe
Stuartmonarchy,thisagenda emergedin thecontextofall parties'prac-
ticinginnovativepetitioning, whichprovidedpracticalexperiencewith
use of the printmediumto constituteand invoke public opinion. For
radicalsupportersof Parliament,theseexperienceshighlighted the obso-
lescenceoftraditionalnormsofsecrecyin politicalcommunication. Thus,
innovativecommunicativepracticeshad intimatelinkswithnovel ideas
on theimportanceofpublicopinionin politicallife,and theseideas signal
the advent of liberal-democraticconceptionsof politics.In conjunction
withpetitioning, theseideas appearedinconsistently. Still,thebreakwith
traditionalconceptionsofpoliticalcommunication is unmistakable.Con-
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
EnglishRevolution,well beforethe Enlightenment and across vast reli-
giousdifferencesthatdividedHigh ChurchRoyalistsfromradicalsectari-
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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intellectualdiscoveriesor extensionsof the Reformation or the Scottish


and FrenchEnlightenments. Writingsby elitesin thesemovementshave
been a vital,indeedtheprincipal,sourceofevidencein sociologicalanal-
ysesoftheearlypublicsphere(e.g., Bendix 1978;Cohen and Arato 1992;
Habermas 1989; Wuthnow1989). This is why,in additionto divergent
theoreticalperspectives,wildlyinconsistent answersexistforquestions
about thetimingand socialoriginsofthepublicsphere-too muchspecu-
lativelatitudeexistsin exegeticalaccountsofreflectivewritingsbyphilos-
ophersand theologians.Answersto questionsabout thebirthofthepub-
lic sphereshouldbe soughtin empiricalstudyofcommunicative practices
in popular politicsand not in second-order,philosophicrenditionsof
thesepractices.
Empiricalanalysisrevealsthe centrality of communicativetraditions
(petitions)and change(printing),whichprecipitated unanticipatedconse-
quences 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 regretta-
ble consequenceofidentifying thepublicspherewiththeEnlightenment.
The principalexceptionto thisneglectoftraditionarisesin a line ofwork
thatderivesfromWeberand Hintze(see Bendix 1977,pp. 89-90; Moore
1966, p. 415) and describesdemocraticcitizenshipas a historicalexten-
sion of aristocraticprivilegesand immunities.This studydescribesa
parallel development:the public sphere is an extensionof traditional
communicativeprivilegesand immunitiesforpetitioners,propelledby
economicand technicalaspectsof printing(respectively, its competitive
organizationand itstechnicalefficiency, relativeto hand copied commu-
nications,forproducingtexts).These economicand technicalproperties
ofprinting transformed thetraditionalpetitionintoa devicethatsimulta-
neouslyconstitutes and invokespublicopinion.
Printing'simpact on petitionsnot only increasedaccess to themfor
readersand subscribersbut also reoriented the contentof messagescon-
veyed by them. These appeal to an anonymousaudience, a public, to
whomreasonsare givenin supportofdivergentpoliticalpositions.Politi-
cal discoursenow presupposesa publiccompetencenotsimplyto under-
standbut 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 thecontentofpoliticalcommunica-
tion:printing'simpositionof dialogicorderon conflictpoliticizedgriev-
ances in petitionsby orienting theirproductionfora publicpresumed(1)
capable of understanding rival politicalclaims and (2) in possessionof
normativeauthority forresolvingsuchclaims.Links also involveorgani-
zational issues: the embryonicparty-a voluntaryassociationbased on
shared ideological commitments-grewout of effortsto mobilize re-
sourcesto produceprintedpetitions.These implicationsof printingfor
changein thescope,content,and organization ofpoliticalcommunication
neitherderivedfromnorwere confinedto any one ideologicalagenda in
theEnglishRevolution.The same pointholdsfortheparadoxofinnova-
tionthatmarkstheambivalentresponseofinnovatorsto innovativepeti-
tioning.Only among radical petitioners in laterstagesof the revolution
do we encounterrecognizably democraticideas on theauthority ofpublic
opinion in politics-an intellectualinnovationthat respondedto per-
ceivedlimitations in petitionsas devicesto imposethenormativeauthor-
ityofpublicopinionon politics.Formalphilosophicexpressionsofliberal
democracythus flowedfrompracticalexperiencewith politicaluses of
printedpetitions.
In demonstrating theimportanceof communicative traditionsand de-
velopmentsfortheearlypublicsphere,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
sphere as an extensionof key aspects of Protestantism. Not religious
issues but economicand technicaleffectsof printingattendinnovative
communicative practicesbydifferent factions-forexample,thecompet-
itive use of printedtextsto appeal to public opinion,the impositionof
dialogic orderon politicalconflict,and the growingscope of authority
claimedforopinionsadvanced in petitions.Religionis notirrelevant, but
searchingforits causal relevancein speculationabout affinities between
attributesof Protestantism and liberal-democratic presuppositionsis a
misguidedventure.Elsewhere(Zaret 1994, pp. 185-88) I pointout that
religiousdissentin prerevolutionary Englanddisplayspreciselythesame
economicand technicaleffectsof printingthat appear in politicaldis-

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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
classicinstanceofa spuriousrelationship,in whichreligiousand political
variables of interestdisplaythe same economicand technicaleffectsof
printing.
Much the same pointabout spuriousnessapplies to class-centered ap-
proachesto 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"bour-
geois" 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 pre-
cisely,this"bourgeois"characterhas been associatedwithurbanity(Cal-
houn 1988, pp. 225-27; 1992, p. 42), "a bourgeoisieof professionalbu-
reaucratsand 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 Enlighten-
ment-receives supportfromthisstudy.Use of printedpetitionsto con-
stituteand invoke public opinionin the English Revolutionwas tied
neitherto urban areas, nor a statebureaucracy,nor economicdebates.
Grievancesraisedin thesepetitionsare predominantly religiousand polit-
ical in nature.The ineluctableconclusion,then,is thattheemergenceof
a publicspherehas few,ifany,directlinksto capitalismor thebourgeoi-
sie. 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 sociologicalcertaintiesabout 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 forem-
piricallysustainableknowledgeof 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 con-
temporary 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 reproducetexts-
preciselythe same economicand technicalaspects of printinganalyzed
in thisstudy.
Criticaltheoryand postmodernism citetheseputativelynoveldevelop-
mentsto explain why reasoneddebate in the public sphere is, if not
extinct,an endangeredspecies. The one-dimensionalthesis of critical
theoryfocuseson commercialism in communicative change:mass culture
in advanced capitalism destroysthe public sphere by dissolvingthe
boundarythat shieldsit frominstrumental reason. The N-dimensional
thesisof postmodernism focuseson increasedcapacityfortextualrepro-
duction:signification run riotleads to a generaldissipationof reasoned
debate in public life.'7 Not only do these critiqueswronglyattribute
noveltyto growingcommercialism and capacityto reproducetextsin our
time,moreimportantly, theymisstheirconstitutive role in the creation
ofreasonedappeals to publicopinionin 17th-century politics.That mod-
ernistaccomplishment sprangfrompreciselythosecommunicative devel-
opmentswhose antidemocraticcharacteris a fundamentalpremisein
postmodernism and criticaltheory.Empiricalfindings in thisstudyflatly
contradictthis premiseand militateagainstthe pessimismthat follows
ineluctablyfromit. The salutarycontribution of commerceand textual
reproductionin the "invention"of public opinionthus providesan im-
portantpointof departurefora historically balanced assessmentof com-
municativechange that mightmoderaterash claims in contemporary
culturalcriticism.

17 This is an extremesummary ofcomplexissues.Theseincludecontinuities


between
accountof mass
Habermas'searlierwork,whichpresentsa historical-institutional
culture's erosionofthepublicsphere,and morerecentwritings,
whichredescribethis
accountin termsoftheopposition betweeninstrumentalreasonand theideal speech
situationas a regulatoryconceptof communicative reason.For details,see Zaret
(1992, pp. 9-16).

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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 organizedac-
cordingto 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:Brit-
ish 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 historicalmanu-
scripts.
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.

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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.
E65(11) 1643. KingdomesWeeklyIntelligencer, no. 30, 8-15 August.
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 Par-
liament.
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 SectariesAnato-
mized.
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 Citi-
zens.
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 . . . of the Easterne Association.
E441(25) 1648. To... Parliament... The humblePetitionOf... Kent.
E443(8) 1648. A Declaration . . . of Surrey: Concerning their late Peti-
tion.
E446(25) 1648. A NarrativeAnd DeclarationOftheDangerous... Peti-
tioning.
E452(7) 1648. The humble Petition Of Divers Magistrates . . . Citizens
and otherinhabitantsin the CityofLondon.
E452(21)1648. 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 . .. FleetwoodsRegi-
ment.
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.
E551(14) 1649. The humblePetitionOf diverswell-affected Women.
E574(15) 1649. The RemonstranceOf many Thousands of the Free-
People.
E579(9) 1649. The HumblePetitionofthe Well-affected,in . .. London.
E684(33) 1653. The OnelyRightRule For RegulatingLaws and Liberties.
E714(8) 1653. The humblePetitionOfThe Wel-affectedof... Southamp-
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.
669f.6(101)1643. The Humble Petition of the Well-Affected
YongMen
In The Citty.
669f.8(27)1643. [UntitledAnabaptistpetition].
669f.8(41)1643. To The HonorableCommittee AtBury. The humblePeti-
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.
669f.11(15)1647. A PetitionofdiversOfficers oftheArmy.
669f.11(47) 1647. The humble Petition of the Citizens . . . and Soldiers.
669f.11(98)1647. The humblePetitionofmanyfree-bornpeople.
669f.11(104) 1647. The humblePetitionofmanythousands,againstFree
Quarter.
669f.11(109)1647.A Just& SolemnProtestationoftheFree-bornPeople.

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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-menofEn-
gland.
669f.12(63) 1648. The humblePetitionof... Inhabitantsin ... London.
669f. 12(97) 1648. A New Engagement . . . of many thousands of well-
affectedpeople.
669f.12(104) 1648. The HumblePetitionofdiversWell-affected Citizens.
669f.13(16) 1648. The humblePetitionofThousands. . . ofLondon.
669f.13(61) 1648. The PetitionpresentedbytheInhabitantsofNewport-
pagnell.
669f.13(73) 1649. The humblePetitionoffirm... Friendsto Parliament.
669f.13(89)1649. The humblePetitionofdiversInhabitantsoftheCounty
of
669f.14(20) 1649. The humblePetitionofdiverswell-affectedPersons.
669f.14(27) 1649. The HumblePetitionofdiverswell-affected Women.
669f.14(31) 1649. The HumblePetitionofdiversYoungmen.
669f.15(50) 1650. The humblePetitionofdiverswell-affectedpeople.
669f.15(54) 1650. The HumblePetitionofdiverswell-affected People.
669f.17(24) 1653. The humblePetitionofdiverswell-affectedPeople.
669f.17(26) 1653. The humblePetitionofdiversafflictedWomen.
669f.17(36) 1653. The humbleRepresentationofdiversafflictedWomen.
669f.20(71)1657. The HumblePetitionofdiverseCitizens
669f.21(55) 1659. The humble Petition of . .. Hartford.

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