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John Lilburne

John Lilburne (~1614-1657) was an English Puritan leader, active before, during and after the English Civil War.

He was born in Greenwich and was persecuted for his activities as early as 1638 for importing subversive literature. At the age of 22, he was convicted by the Court of Star Chamber[?] of distributing unlicensed books critical of the church authorities. He was sentenced to be flogged behind a cart from the Fleet Prison[?] to Westminster, where he was pilloried[?] and afterwards imprisoned. This harsh punishment won him much public sympathy.

Subsequently Lilburne became one of the leaders of the Leveller movement. His chances of political success were improved by the war, and he joined the Parliamentary army, rising to lieutenant-colonel before parting company with Parliament's leaders over a matter of principle.In prison again in 1645, this time for offences against the Parliamentary authorities, he wrote his best-known tract[?], England's Birthright Justified. As a result of his pamphleteering and propagandist activities on behalf of the Levellers, he came to see Oliver Cromwell as an enemy.

After his acquittal on the charge of treason in 1649, Lilburne became a Quaker. Despite his suffering and hard work, Cromwell, once in power, repeatedly rejected the Levellers' demands for political reform, and Lilburne spent most of the post-war years in prison, where he eventually died.



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