Edited by Mervyn Hagger on November 27, 2010

According to prevailing British historical texts, 'Freeborn John' Lilburne died in 1657, and he took his controversial ideas with him to the grave. Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, prevailing American historical texts claim that the U.S. Constitution owes its origins to Magna Carta and the so-called 'English Bill of Rights'.

When President Thomas Jefferson is cited by historians, it is usually claimed that Jefferson owed his inspiration to Thomas Paine and John Locke. John Lilburne is nowhere to be found. In his own autobiographical accounts of his family ties, Jefferson is dismissive of his maternal genealogy. But if we take a look into those family links, then suddenly, as if by magic, the Lilburne name suddenly appears.

Thomas Jefferson once took a tour of England with John Adams, and they stopped at many of the places associated with the English Civil Wars of the Seventeenth Century. Adams was so impressed that he made notes to this effect in his diary. When the pair got to Edgehill in Warwickshire, which is where the first battle had taken place, and where Lieutenant-Colonel John Lilburne had distinguished himself, Jefferson was silent. It was not as though Jefferson had never heard the name: he stayed at a house on a plantation named Edgehill in Virginia. His grandparents had married at Shadwell Parish in London, which coincidentally was the name of the very first home that Jefferson knew in Virginia. His sister Lucy married a man with the middle name of Lilburne and they used it as the first name of one of their sons, and Tom's brother Randolph gave him another nephew with the name of Lilburne Jefferson.

So what are we to make of British history books which are dismissive of Lilburne as a failed footnote to history; or American history books which skip over Lilburne as though he had no influence upon the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights? Americans focus upon the Kingdom of Great Britain (as it was then), and its Parliament that wanted to impose 'taxation without representation', before citing England's Magna Carta and British Post-Restoration (of its monarchy) ideology. The closest that some in England get to John Lilburne, is mistakenly tying him to the 'Levellers' who they attempt to imitate in period dress reenactments over a weekend.

Meanwhile, in the United Kingdom, successive national governments have, in recent times, been wrestling with the idea of how to turn a government based upon a Crown institution,[1] into the optical illusion of a government based upon the written will of 'The People'. It is now possible to witness the ongoing and farcical attempts by British politicians as they attempt to create a 'neo-American' style of government by merely adopting American institutional names.[2] These pathetic charades resemble some English actors who attempt to speak with an 'American accent', to the same lame extent that some American actors attempt to speak with a 'British accent', where one voice speaks for all, albeit very badly.

But to the core truth of the matter: Rebellion against 'Taxation without representation' was a reaction to a failed political system; it was not the cause for which the American rebels fought to achieve. Their cause became enshrined in the words of 'We The People' as authors of their own written constitution with ten amendments that became known as their Bill of Rights. In the United Kingdom any Parliament can overthrow the work of any other Parliament that has gone before it, providing they stay within the framework of that institution known as the Crown. In America, there is no way that a U.S. Government can legally overthrow the U.S. Constitution in one fell swoop, short of declaring physical war on its own People, and The People have the right to bear arms, and that right is enshrined within the Constitution.

In the United Kingdom, The People do not have a right to bear arms because they do not have any rights,[3] they only have privileges. In the British game of semantics, privileges have been rebranded as rights, and subjects of the Crown have been rebranded as citizens. But it is all game, a charade, a play upon words.

While the Queen may represent the institution of the Crown, she is not the Crown institution. That is the institution that has always been run by Establishment cliques with the powers to end the monarchy; end the Commonwealth; restore the monarchy, or merely overthrow any particular monarch and then replace him or her with another monarch, of their choosing. The Crown has the power to make war and law, in theory by an Act of Parliament, but in reality other avenues are available through the Privy Council when the Parliamentary process does not suit the Crown.

Although Lilburne died, and although the American colonists felt aggrieved over their lack of political representation by the Parliament in London that was taxing them, the core values which motivated them, and which now form the basis of the U.S. 'Bill of Rights', they originated with John Lilburne. Over the years this fact has been acknowledged within references to U.S. Supreme Court Opinions. While many in mainstream America have never heard of this man, this Institute[5] seeks to remedy that deficiency of knowledge in both America and the United Kingdom.

'Freeborn John' Lilburne did not just fight for 'human rights', he fought for 'freeborn rights' = organic rights that every human being is endowed with by 'Nature's God'. This concept is also stated within the U.S. Declaration of Independence which identifies 'Nature's God' as the ultimate author of those universal rights. The U.S. Constitution with its first ten amendments (the 'Bill of Rights'), has been identified with the proposed written constitution that 'Freeborn John' Lilburne is identified with. That prototype English Constitution went through at least three versions, with the final An Agreement of the Free People of England[6] being identified with the inspiration for the U.S. Constitution. But this was no mere act of penmanship by Lilburne and his friends. Lilburne put his entire life on the line fighting for these values, and he died as a result of the brutal and thuggish treatment which he experienced at the hands of both the English monarchy of Charles I, and the dictatorship of Oliver Cromwell.

It was during that brief moment in time, after the abolition of the monarchy, but before Cromwell gained the powers of dictatorship, in which John Lilburne sought to turn England into a republic with rights enshrined in a written constitution. What England lost, America gained. While 'Freeborn John' Lilburne continues to be relegated to historical footnotes, he remains the greatest unsung hero of liberty.

But his life's work did not die with him; it formed the bedrock of values that the world admires in the American system, even though some American politicians continue to turn their backs upon this legacy. In Britain, John Lilburne has become a footnote in weekend reenactment plays. In reality the inspirational works of John Lilburne should be heard in the court rooms of the world, and in many instances they are being heard, but many do not know their originating source.

The John Lilburne Research Institute is not a reenactment enterprise or a museum. It seeks to identify the life work of 'Freeborn John' Lilburne as a solution to providing the organic 'human rights' which many people seek today. Unfortunately John Lilburne has become branded as a 'leveler'; a socialist, and with all manner of identities which do not describe his views or his values. Above all, John Lilburne believed in freeborn rights, and it is to that same cause that the John Lilburne Research Institute was first established as a means of both examining and promoting his life work.


1.^See [Online] 'Unmasking the Crown corporation sole'

2.^By adopting the name 'Supreme Court', this relatively new institution of the United Kingdom implies that it has supremacy over the law, when in fact the institution of the Crown is the ultimate source of all law. In the United States, the Supreme Court is the co-equal branch of government with the Administration and the Congress which make the law. It is the duty of the U.S. Supreme Court to decide upon final interpretations of the written Constitution, which is the ultimate source of sovereignty. Since the UK does not have a written constitution, and because the Crown is the ultimate source of sovereignty, its 'Supreme Court' pretends to be something that it is not, and never can be under the present arrangement.

3.^There is a linkage between the right to bear arms and the right to freedom of speech, and the right to freedom of the press, etc., and the lack of the right to bear arms in the United Kingdom is evidenced by the fact that it was always a privilege, which has now been withdrawn by Parliamentary Acts. It is not possible to remove that right in the United States of America without amending the US Constitution, and to do that would require an agreement of The People, because they are the authors of the Constitution. For a lengthy discussion on this subject see: Gun Prohibition in England.

4.^A privilege is a special entitlement or immunity granted by a government on a conditional basis. A privilege can be revoked. A privilege is conditional and granted only after birth. By contrast, a right is an inherent, irrevocable entitlement from birth. A redacted explanation from: The Free Dictionary

5.^For the origins of the John Lilburne Research Institute, follow this link.

6.^There are only a few copies available of this document on line at the present time. The inline link is to a copy from the Bodleian Library, Oxford. It is not an endorsement of the site.

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