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1647 The Putney Debates

‘The poorest he that is in England hath a life to live as the greatest he…every man that is to live under a government ought first by his own consent to put himself under that government'.

Colonel Thomas Rainborowe uttered these famous words  in 1647 during the civil war in the extraordinary debates between parliamentary army leaders , soldiers and members of a political movement known as the Levellers.  Parliament had captured Charles I and was negotiating with him. The country's future was up for discussion, and Leveller petitions argued for more people to have the right to vote and for a new constitution. Members of the parliamentary army wanted their say (and to get paid!), so they met in a Putney church to discuss the settlement. The more radical ideas were rejected and the debates ended with the news that the ‘man of blood', Charles I, had escaped. A second civil war erupted and, after losing again, Charles I was executed.