The Prologue to all the Commons of England.

VVOrthy Freemen of England, the former publique Magi­strates of this Kingdom, by their Machivilian empoysened principles, and specious pretences of common good, whereas nothing lesse was intended, have most cunningly and fraudently cozened you of your native freedoms, to which by the fundamentall lawes and constitu­tions of the Kingdom, yee were born unto, & secretly by wicked patents have stolne away your Birth-right, to set up the particular and self in­terests of private societies: One of which I here present to your serious consideration, as a great grievance and burthen under which the honest Clothier especially, and thousands of poore people groane: yee know for what this Kingdom hath almost been wasted to ashes, yee have spent so much of your estates and blood, viz. the subjects liberty, to which all civil government is subservient. My advice to all is this, especially the clothiers and others, who are deeply interessed, that as they love their bleeding dying Country, their deliverance from so great a thraldome, they would by petitioning, and all lawfull means, be earnest with the Parliament, for the removall of this and all other pressures. They are bound in duty to God, in justice to you, in dischargall of so great a trust committed into their hands, to ease you of all unjust grievances, intole­rable burthens, be therefore active in the work. For very importuni­ties sake, your indeavours will be crowned with a happy successes and (if you faint not) reap the benefit of your labors, which shall alwaies be the desire of him who is willing to serve you.

Thomas Johnson.

WHosoever survayes this Iland in her radiant and shining lustre with community and freedom, cannot but say, o quanta mutatio! oh how great a change! for indeed, this Kingdom is a corporation or society of men under one form of civil government, made by common consent in Parliament, who are all bound by the law, to maintain common freedom, and the generall good of each other.

But particulars, Patent societies swelling with a luciferian spirit, in desiring to ad­vance into a higher room then their fellows, did by seruptitious Patents incorporate themselves, exclusively became destructive to the whole body, and subverters of the true ancient priviledges of the people, and of all societies, those of Marchants are the worst, having no foundation on the lawes; The fellowship and charter of those that stile them­selves Marchants of East-land, is a monopoly of this kind, according to the true genuine sence of the word monopoly, relating to a private company, who ascribe unto themselves the sole exercise and benefit of such a trade, wherein every subject hath equall freedome with them, all which this monopoly doth, and is illegal, being contrary to magna Char­ta, the petition of right, Statutes of monopolics, with divers others, and in particular these 3. following: 1. is of the 14. of Edw. 3.2. Item, Where it is contained in the great Charter, that all Marchants shall have safe and sure conduct to go out of the Realm of England, and to come, and abide, and go through the Realme of England: aswell by water as by land: we at the request of the Prelates, Earles, Barons, and Commons, will and grant for us, and for our heirs and successors, that all Mirchants, Denizens, and Foraigners (except those which be of our enmity) may without let, safely come into the said Realme of England, with their goods and Marchandize, and safely tarry and safely return, paying the customs, subsidies, and other profits reasonably thereof due, so alwaies, that franchise and free customes reasonably, granted by us and our ancestors to the City of London, and other cities and good Townes of our Realm of England, be to them sa­ved. The 2. is of 18. Ed. 3.3. That the ordinance made before this time, upon taking of sorts of wools in every County, be wholy nulled and defeated, and that every man, al­well stranger as privy from henceforth may buy wool, according as they may agree with the seller, as they were wont to do, before the said ordinances, and that the sea be open to all manner of marchants, to passe with their marchandize where it shall please them. By both these statutes it evidently appeareth, that every Englishman may transport his commodity without molestation, to what port beyond sea he pleaseth, and make sale for his best advantage, every Englishman being a native denizen and privy man of this kingdom, according to the true meaning of the saw: for it is imaginable to me, that the law should provide better for aliens, then her own children; the 3. is of 12. H. 7.6. viz. as followeth To the discreet Commons in this present Parl sheweth unto your discreet wis­doms, the Marchant Adventurers inhabiting and dwelling in divers ports of this Realm out of the City of London, that where they have their passage, resort, course and recourse with their goods, wares, and marchandize in divers coasts and parts beyond the sea, aswel into Spain, Portugal, Britan, Ireland, Normandy, France, Civil, Venice, Dansk, Eastland, Freezeland, and other divers and many places, regions and countries being in league and amity with the King our soveraign Lord, there to buy and sell; and make their exchan­ges with the said goods, wares, and marchandizes, according to the law and custom used in every of the said regions and places, and there every person freely to use himself to his most advantage, without exaction, fine, imposition, or contribution to be had or taken of them, to, for, or by any English person or persons. &c. By which Statute, all marchants, aswell those inhabiting in divers parts of the Kingdoms, as of the city of London, as al­so every free born subject, is acknowledged as his right to have freedom to trade to the [Page]said parts mentioned, and to divers other regions and countries without subjection to any patent or paying any exaction, fine, &c. for in that the statute saith, every person is freely to use himself to his most advantage, without exaction, &c. to be had or taken of them, or any of them, to, for, or by any English person, or persons, it clearly holds forth, that the marchant, and consequently every man that useth comerce to these parts, ought not to come under the obedience of any opressing corporation whatsoever: now Danst and the East-land being expressed in the statute, which are the principall parts to which these Eastland marchants are priviledged by their monopoly, and indeed the crown and glory of the rest for venting our native commodities, as also the other included, when the stitute saith, and other divers and many places, regions, and countries, I hope every ho­nest man will be willing with heart and hand to endevour the recovery of our birthright which the law so evidently makes out owne from these unjust oppressors.

2. Contrary to the light of nature, which teacheth men to walk by congruity and e­quality, not to oppresse, because they would not be oppressed, not to take away any mans right, because they would not have another use the same measure to them. Which prin­ciples of nature are engraven upon the hearts of heathens, who certainly will rise up in judgement one day against these men that sell us for slaves in our own land.

3. It is irrationall, reason being the fountain of all honest laws, gives to every man pro­priety and liberty: propriety of interest, freedom of enjoyment and improovement to his own advantage, from that propriety take away freedom, & a considerable part is gone nay we see it by experience, that those who have bereft us of our liberty, have made bold with our propriety, and indeed if prerogative may take away the one, why not the other from the same principles? so that it appears to be rationall, that every native who hath propriety of goods, wares, and marchandize, hath freedom to transport them to any port beyond Seas, and there convert them, to his own profit, it being his true and proper in­heritance so to do, it is very strange to my understanding, that one man should do the work, and another man receive the wages, I mean, that the honest clothier who has toyl­ed much in the making of his cloth, shall not have the benefit to sell it here for his own gain, or to ship it for more profit, but being debared of freedom in both, must make sale to them, in whose power it is to give him what price they please, whereby he is cheated of the fruit of his labour.

4. That the monopoly is against the honour of the Nation, because by it the people are put in acondition of vassalage in their own country, it takes away industry the spring of wealth, the hearts of the people being brought to servility, and not able by reason of this, and other the like patents, to imploy themselves, cannot chuse but procure sad effects if not timely prevented, for

5. The pattent was illegally procured by the solicitation of evil Counsellors, under the broad seal of England, in the 25 year of the raigne of Queen Elizabeth, it being of no longer standing under specious pretences, as the profit of her then Majesty, the good of the Kingdom, &c. whereas by it the natives have bin weakned and spoiled, which will easily appear, if we consider these particulars.

1. By reason of this patent, thousands of poor people are in a condition of beggery, who otherwise might maintain themselves in honest callings, by the making of cloath, and other woolen manufactures, by carding, spinning, weaving, &c. and certainly this one thing throughly considered, should stir up the bowels of every truly noble spirited Englishman, to double his strength, if it were possible, an hundred fold, in all just waies, for the removall of so great an obstruction.

2. The poor Clothier suppressed, none being to trade to those parts but the company, the clothier makes not half the cloaths he might; and for those he doth make, they be­ing [Page]of a confederacy, and having all the priviledge of buying in their own hands, by rea­son whereof, many times he is forced to fell them at a far less. price then they cost him in making, or else to keep them till the next year, which discourages and slackens the clothier in the prosecution of his calling, and causeth some to fail, others to give over, and those which remain, many of them scarce can make a living.

3. This Monopoly greatly impareth the trade of cloth, those who are judicious affirm that 5000 cloths more then are, would be made, shipped, and expended yearly in those parts to which they are authorised to trade to, which I verily beleeve & prove thus, all the cloth they ship, some extraordinary times excepted, is but to 1. or 2. Towns, and there re­siding their Factors, who making sale to the Binger, he sendeth the cloth up and down the Country, from whence ariseth many mischiefes, the Countries not being furnished as they should: as also the selling at such excessive rates, causeth the Datch to make cloth in an a­boundant manner, & to be satisfied with it, though it be exceeding course: and again, there being divers Kingdoms, Dominions, Dukedoms, Countries, Cities, and Towns, to which by their patent they are licensed, what advantage would the young marchant have, having so vast a compasse, how active would he be from Town to Town, from City to City, from one Country to another, and selling cheap, would invite forraign parties to set a true esti­mate upon our native commodities, and certainly were trade free, Sweedland, and Pomer­land, would vent much cloth, whereas the company is not able to satisfie the Eastland it self, by reason of the smalnesse of their stock, it may be easily conceived, that such a small Company of private men, are never able to suffice such famous Kingdoms and Dukedoms to which they onely are licenced to traffick.

6. It causeth a great decay of Navigation, which sustaineth the mariners, so that by this and other the like patents, the saylor is greatly supprest.

7. It obstructeth returns, divers of the most stable commodities which our Country stands in, need of, are imported by them, viz. flax, hemp, pot-ashes, pitch, tar, course linnen, packing, canvas, with divers other very considerable marchandize, now they bring over when they please, and what they please, and sell at what price they please, which cannos but have sundry evil concomitance. 1. Our Country is not satisfyed with that variety and conveniency it should: and 2. By reason the Citizen gives such an unreasonable rate to the marchant, the poor have all excessive dear, giving many times half as much more then the comodity is worth, or then it would be sold for were the trade but open, from which and such other dealings it is, that the people are unconscionably wasted, and weak­ned, and therefore what ere it cost us, lets have this ravenous patent down, whereby there would be all these gallant effects: multitudes of poor maintained, the clothier raised, the trade of cloth greatly augmented, by reason that thousands might be vented more, then are the number of marchants increased, the art of navigation furthered, and lastly, an universal benefit to the whole nation, from the plenty of marchandize imported, which we should have at far easier and more valuable considerations. Ob. But if trade be free, the Alien will expect freedom also. An I see no ground but aliens paying custom, provided alwaies that wee enjoy as full and large priviledges with them, they ought to have the like here with us. but 2. suppose the State should prohibit strangers, yet there is no shadow or colour of right reason, that we who have equall liberties in the lawes, have ventures our estates and lives so freely to preserve them, should be deprived of our true inheritance, and there­fore for further satisfaction, I shall here insert part of their charter, that every one may judg whether it be just or no: Forasmuch as we be credibly informed &c. that you our Subjects marchants, and others, exercising and using the trafficque and feat of marchandize, out and from any our Dominions through the Sound, into the Realmes, Kingdoms, Dominions, Dukedome, Countries, Cities and Towns, of Norway, Swethia, Poland, and the territories of the same Kingdoms, as also into Letto, and Liefland, under the dominion of the King of [Page] Poall, Prussia, and also Pomerland, from the river of Odera Eastward, and also Ry and Ke­vil in Liesland aforesaid Kingsbrough, Elbinge, Brownsbrough, and Dansick in Brusia, Co­penhiven, and Elsenore in Dansk, except the Nerve, and the territories thereof belongings as also into the Iland of Finland, Goteland, Eweland, and Berntholme, within the Sound aforesaid, by one consent are willing to gather, congregate, and assemble your selves into one followship, and to be one body incorporate and politique, in deed, and in name; we considering that your purposes in this behalf are very laudable, do therefore not onely ap­prove and fansie the same, but will you to persevere in your good minds and purposes, to the establishment and perfection thereof, and earnestly desiring that our marchants and their successors haunting the said Kingdoms, Dominions, Countries, Cities, and Townes, before mentioned, or any of them, for marchandize, in and through the Sound of the Kingdom of Denmark (except before excepted) may from hence forth profit and increase as prosperously a [...] any marchants of this Land have aforetime increased and prohibited, & do grant for us, our heirs, and successors that from hence forth there be and shall be, of the said Fellowship, one Governour, and one Deputy, or Deputies, and foure and twenty as­sistance of the said fellowship; and that they, or the major part of them, may make sta­tutes, Lawes, and ordinances: and that the aforesaid Governour, or Deputie, or Depu­ties, and their successors, or the major part of them, as is aforesaid then present, as often as need shall bee; the said Statutes, Laws, and ordinances, shall and may execute and put in execution aswell within our Realme of England, as within the said Realmes, Domi­nions, Cities, and Countries, and every of them: and for that divers persons, our sub­jects, being not brought up in marchandize through their ignorance and lack of know­ledge, commit many inconveniency, we willing to resist and prevent them, and inten­ding to further the expert merchant in their lawfull and honest trade: will, and by our Regall Authority we Command, and also prohibite and forbid by these presents, that no subject of us, our heirs, or successors, which is not, nor shall bee by force of these pre­sents made free of the said Felloship shall by any manner of meanes at any time hereafter inter meddle in the trade of Marchandize; or by any meanes buy and sell, or use any traffique into the said parts of Eastland, and Countries aforesaid, or any of them, (ex­cept before excepted,) upon pain to incur our indignation: as also to pay such fines, and emercements, and to suffer imprisonment, and such other paines due to the Transgressors of the said sttatutes, ordinances, and constitutions of the said Fellowship, or to the said Governour or his Deputy and assistants aforesaid, shall seeme meete and convenient, any Law, Statute, Custome, or Ordinance, to the contrary thereof, many other things not­withstanding &c.

And do further by these presents inhibit and forbid, all and every our subjects, and the subjects of us our heires and successors, not being licenced and authorized by vertue of those presents, to traffique in and to the said Countries, Kingdoms, Towns and places before recited, or use any manner of trade in and to them, contrary to the tenor of these presents, upon pain to incurre the displeasure of us, our heires and successors, and to be fined, payned, and imprisoned, according to the severall discretions and laws of the offi­cers of the said former severall Companies and their successors, witnesse our self at West­minster, the 17. of August, in the 21. year of our Raigne.

I no sooner made a surveyal of this cruel engine, what intollerable breaches & inrodes it hath continually made upon us, but was cast into a sudden admiration, that so free a people as England, should suffer themselves so violently to be grownd to powder, which I shall illustrate to be treasonable in the practisers of it by these positions: 1. If to surrender a Castle by the Captain of that Castle through fear and cowardize, and not from any compliance with the enemy be treason, as was adjudged in the Parliament 1. Rich. 2. then is this a treasonable patent, for besides the place, there is onely a losse of the adjacent [Page]parts, but by this patent our lawes, liberties, nay our very lives, in pursuance of both the former, are subjected to will and tyranny, he that walks in the exercise of freedom, accor­ding to law, is subject to their counter commands, and to be fined, payned, and imprisoned and to suffer such other punishments as to them shall seem meet and convenient.

If to kill a judg upon the bench be treason, because of malice, not to the person, but to the law, then is this a treasonable patent, here is not onely a malice to the law, but a most butcherly weapon killing and destroying of it, these 2. cannot dwell together, for the life of the patent, so far as it extends, is the death of the law, which stops its free course for the benefit of the people, and makes it meerly a dead letter, a carkas without a soul, a power being given to Mr. Governour and his companions, to make laws, statutes, and ordinances which power is more and far greater then belongs to the chief magistrate to give, or can legally or justly be exercised by any but the Parliament, and therefore not to be received by any person or persons whatsoever, and certainly those laws, and all that government derived from Queen Elizabeths broad seal commission are according to the lusts of these men, being extrajuditiall, in that they are above the sphaere of the law. 2. Contrary to the law, if the endeavouring the subversion of the ancient fundamentall lawes and govern­ment of this Kingdom, and to introduce an arbitrary and tyrannical government be trea­son: as was adjudged in the case of the Earle of Strafford, and in the case of Sir Robert Berkley, by the first article of impeachment by the House of Commons, Iuly 6. 1641. then is this a treasonable patent, for here is not onely an indevour, but an actuall surrender of both law and government, which have made England a free people, and what more anci­ent or fundamental, then those laws which gratify the Commons; and by which they injoy their very lives, here is an arbitrary government introduced, & put into the hands of those whom the subject doth not own to have any right of power and rule, and that in so high a nature as can be no lesse then monarchicall, for what can a monarchicall power be, but to make lawes, and to punish the transgressors according to those lawes, by confiscation of goods, imprisonment, or taking away the life of the vassals, all which they may doe by their patent, and certainly this company of Marchants of East-land, who have practized arbitrarily for so long a time as they have done, against the liberties of the natives deserve for all their cruelties to be proceeded against as publique delinquents to the State.

As touching their oath, it is one of the worst (I am confident) that ever was made, which I shall here insert for every mans knowledge. You shall swear to be good and true to out Soveraign Lord the Kings Majesty, and to his Heir as and Successors, you shall bee obedient and assistant to Mr. Governour, his Deputy, and Deputies, and assistants of mar­chants of Eastland, all statutes and ordinances which bee, or shall be made by the said Governour, or by his deputies, and assistants standing in force, you shall truly hold and keep, having no singular regard to your self, in hurt or prejudice of the common-weal of the said fellowship, you shall heal, and not bewray, and if you shall know any manner of person or persons which intend any hurt, harm, or prejudice to our said Soveraign Lord the Kings Majesty, or unto his land, or to the foresaid fellowship or priviledges of the same you shall give knowledge thereof, and do it to be known to the said Governour or his de­puty, and you shall not colour or free any Forraigners goods not free of the said fellow­ship, all which you shall hold and keep to the uttermost of your power, or else being justly condemned for making default in any of the premises, you shall truly from time to time, being orderly demanded, content and pay to the treasurer of this Company for the time being, all and every such mulcts and penalties which have beene or shall be limitted and set for the transgressors of the same. So God you help.

Lieutenant Col. Lilburn in his late book called Innocency and Truth justified, being an [Page]answer to Mr. Prius look, called the lyar confounded, hath these passages, pag. 53. And i [...] the second place, seeing they know, viz. the marchant adventurers, that the Petition o [...] Right doth condemn the King and his Privie Counsell for making and administring o [...] oaths, not made by common consent in Parliament, and seeing the Parliament us they ve­ry well know, was lately so angry at the Bishops, and their convocation, for assuming to themselves the boldnes to make an oath, although they were invested with a more colou­rable authority to justify them therein, then these can pretend, how exemplary ought the punishment of these men to be for their impudence and boldnes, after the knowledge of all this, to force and presse upon the freemen of England, an oath of their own framing and making, and to keep their freedoms from them, because out of Conscience they dar [...] not take them, which at this present day is the condition of one Mr. Iohnson, late servant to Mr Whitlock, one of the East Country Monopolizing Marchants, which is all one in nature with the Monopoly of Marchant Adventurers: And not onely do they most un­iustly keep my freedom from me, for which I have so often ventured my life in the Nor­thern service according to the Custome of the City of London, but most inhumanely have taken from me my place of Factorship in the Eastland, and all because I have reiected thei [...] monopoly and diabolicall oath, and this was the gallam service of Mr. Burnell Gover­nour and his associates, the 3. Octob. 1645. but I expect to see Justice (that banished exile return in all her glory, and these oppressing task masters called to a iust account: for cer­tain I am, that the law never gave them authority to make an oath, or to force it upon [...] conscience; besides the oath containeth many perjuries, in the second branch it ties the swearer to be assistant to Mr. Governour and his confederates in all their dishonest procee­dings. In the third branch, to keep all their pernitious laws and ordinances, which [...] and ordinances are to deprive the Subiect of his right, and this will not satisfie, but to all that are to be made, O intollerable burthen! whither will this bottomlesse pit [...] is &c. &c. &c. and innumerable company of &c. In the fourth branch, to keep all the [...] cozening secrets and underhand dealings in the pursuance of their patent. And in the [...] branch, for making default in any of the premises, that is, for forswearing himself, wh [...] he doth that keeps it, aswell as he that keeps it not, because he swears not in truth, in [...] and in righteousnes, to pay such mulcts and penalties which have been or shall be limitted and set for the transgressors of the same, as if such great crimes could be wash [...] away with a pennance: for my part I am clear in this point, that whosoever he be th [...] bends & yeelds obedience to this or the like oath, deserve not the name of an Englishman surely their designes are to use the expression of Lieu. Col. Lilburn, in p. the 54 of his [...] speaking against the marchant adventurers, to make England a land of slavery, ignoran [...] and beggery, or else a land of perjury: I have now learned the meaning of that Scripture Rev. 13.16.17 And he causeth all both small and great, rich and poor, free and boun [...] to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads that none might buy or sell, save be that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name: which re­lates as I conceive to all monopolies whatsoever, sublat a causa tollitur effectus take [...] a­way these marchants patents, and all other of the like nature, and there will a sudden [...] appear to the relief of the honest, comfort and tranquility to the whole Nation for the effecting whereof, if I shall but erritate the curteous Reader, it is price sufficient for him whose desire it is not to live, but in the truth.

FINIS.

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