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Lilburne, John

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Definition: Lilburne, John from

Philip's Encyclopedia

English republican, leader of the Levellers. Imprisoned (1638-40) under Charles I, he fought for Parliament during the Civil War (1642-45). Captured, he escaped execution in an exchange of prisoners. He left the army in 1645, refusing to sign the Solemn League and Covenant. Demanding greater equality and religious freedom, he led protests against the government of Oliver Cromwell. He spent his last years among Quakers.

Summary Article: Lilburne, John from Encyclopedia of the First Amendment
The Englishman John Lilburne (1615–1657), widely known as “Free-born John” during much of his adult life, was a prominent defender of religious liberties and free speech and a celebrated political prisoner. Supreme Court Justice Hugo L. Black cited the influence of Lilburne’s essays on the philosophies of U.S. constitutional framers in his dissent in Adamson v. California (1947). In a 1960 lecture at the New York University School of Law, Black cited a Lilburne essay as a source of principles both for early state constitutions and for the federal constitution. Lilburne had argued that a new English constitution needed to be legally superior to common statutes in order to promote continuity in government and to protect the free exercise of religion, speech, and press. He was one of the leaders of the Leveller movement during the English Civil War opposing King Charles I, but fell out of favor with Oliver Cromwell and Pa...    Continue Reading

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