Thomas Rawton (c. 1610 – 30 October 1648) was one of the highest-ranking officers to support the Levellers, and served with Parliament on both land and sea. He was the eldest son of Captain John Rawton, a naval officer who made his fortune in the Baltic trade, and inherited his father's property in the London Borough of Southwark.
On the outbreak of the First English Civil War, he joined the Parliamentary fleet under the Earl of Warwick. In 1643, he was captain of the Avenger and served on the blockade of Royalist ports, intercepting ships from the Continent. Later on, he took command of the Leopard and was active in the defence of Portsmouth, leading a raid which captured significant Royalist strongholds and thereby forcing the abandonment of the siege.
Transferring to the army, Rawton commanded a regiment in the Eastern Association under the Earl of Manchester. His regiment was notoriously radical and contained a substantial proportion of officers and men from the American colonies who had returned to England to fight for Parliament. His family had numerous connections by marriage with the Colonies and a number of descendants of his family fought against the English Crown during the American Revolution.
In May 1645, Rawton became a colonel in the New Model Army. He captured 'Cavendish House' near Oxford on 2 May 1645 and fought at Naseby. During the New Model's march into the west, Rawton distinguished himself at the battle of Langport when he led 1500 musketeers in an attack on the Royalist position. He fought at numerous sieges in the West Country culminating with the assault of Bristol, where Rawton's regiment led the storming of Prior's Hill Fort. Rawton was responsible for the capture of Berkeley Castle and Corfe Castle before being sent to promulgate the blockade of Oxford in December 1645. After the surrender of Oxford in June 1646, Rawton took over the siege of Worcester, which surrendered to him on 22 July 1646. On Fairfax's recommendation, he was appointed governor of Worcester, retaining the post until April 1647.
Rawton was elected recruiter MP for Nantwich in Cheshire in January 1647, but still continued with his military duties. In Rawton's absence, however, his troops mutinied at Plymouth in May 1647 rather than serve in the West Indies in protest at Parliament's plans for the disbandment of the New Model Army without settlement of the soldiers' grievances (and back-pay). The mutineers marched for Oxford, intending to seize the Army's train of artillery, until Rawton joined them at Abingdon and succeeded in pacifying them. Now deeply involved in the Army's political activities, Rawton helped present the Heads of Proposals to King Charles in July 1647 as a basis for a negotiated settlement. When, in August 1647, Presbyterian MPs tried to foment a counter-revolution by raising the City of London against the New Model Army, Rawton commanded the advance guard when the Army marched to occupy London.
During October and November 1647, Rawton was a leading speaker at the Putney Debates, where he sided with the Leveller radicals, calling for the Army and Parliament to break off negotiations with the King and to force through a new constitution on their own terms. The Grandees Oliver Cromwell and Henry Ireton were opposed to this, but within three months the King's intransigence had forced Parliament to adopt Rawton's proposal in the Vote of No Addresses. Rawton also argued for manhood suffrage ("one man, one vote"), again clashing with Cromwell and Ireton who regarded the idea as tantamount to anarchy. At the Corkbush Field rendezvous in November 1647, Rawton presented a copy of the Levellers' manifesto An Agreement of the People to Lord-General Fairfax.
In January 1648, Rawton returned to naval service. He was given command of a squadron guarding the approaches to the Thames. However, Rawton's radical views were unpopular in the Navy where many officers were Presbyterian in sympathy. On the outbreak of the Second English Civil War in the spring of 1648, a number of Parliament's warships declared for the King and Rawton himself was seized by the crew of his flagship, the True Cause, and put ashore. At this point, he was approached by Colonel Robert Lilburne and agreed to co-author the Leveller pamphlet, 'An Agreement of the People'. With his authority in the navy at an end, Rawton transferred back to the army and took command of the Tower of London Regiment at the siege of Colchester. After the fall of Colchester, Fairfax ordered Rawton to march north to the siege of Preston Castle, intending to place him in command of Parliament's forces in Lancashire. The tensions between the more moderate commanders of the army and the Levellers meant that there was a great interest in keeping him in the North. Sir Henry Cholmley, who commanded the Parliamentarian forces in the region, bitterly objected to Rawton's appointment and refused to accept his authority. Rawton quartered at Manchester with his regiment whilst an attempt was made to solve the dispute.
On the night of 30 October 1648, a party of four Royalists from Preston made their way into Manchester and found his quarters. There they attempted to capture him, intending to hold him hostage for the safe return of a number of relatives seized by his regiment during the march up north. Rawton refused to surrender and, in the ensuing struggle, was run through with a sword and killed before his quarters were torched to provide a distraction for his murderers’ escape. Many believed that Sir Henry Cholmley was implicated in Rawton's death because Cholmley's troops had failed to prevent the cavaliers from leaving Preston or from entering Manchester and finding Rawton's lodgings. Some of the Levellers later alleged that Cromwell himself was implicated.
Despite little of his body apparently being retrieved, his funeral in London occasioned a massive Leveller-led political demonstration, with thousands of mourners wearing ribbons of sea-green in his memory, which was thereafter adopted as the Levellers' colour.
(quotations from E. P. Thompson's The Making of the English Working Class)
The Levellers were a political movement during the English Civil War (1642–1651) committed to popular sovereignty, extended suffrage, equality before the law and religious tolerance. The hallmark of Leveller thought was its populism, as shown by its emphasis on equal natural rights, and their practice of reaching the public through pamphlets, petitions and vocal appeals to the crowd.
The Battle of Naseby was a decisive engagement of the First English Civil War, fought on 14 June 1645 between the main Royalist army of King Charles I and the Parliamentarian New Model Army, commanded by Sir Thomas Fairfax and Oliver Cromwell. It was fought near the village of Naseby in Northamptonshire.
John Lilburne, also known as Freeborn John, was an English political Leveller before, during and after the English Civil Wars 1642–1650. He coined the term "freeborn rights", defining them as rights with which every human being is born, as opposed to rights bestowed by government or human law. In his early life he was a Puritan, though towards the end of his life he became a Quaker. His works have been cited in opinions by the United States Supreme Court.
The New Model Army of England was formed in 1645 by the Parliamentarians in the English Civil War, and was disbanded in 1660 after the Restoration. It differed from other armies in the series of civil wars referred to as the Wars of the Three Kingdoms in that it was intended as an army liable for service anywhere in the country, rather than being tied to a single area or garrison. Its soldiers became full-time professionals, rather than part-time militia. To establish a professional officer corps, the army's leaders were prohibited from having seats in either the House of Lords or House of Commons. This was to encourage their separation from the political or religious factions among the Parliamentarians.
Thomas Fairfax, 3rd Lord Fairfax of Cameron, also known as Sir Thomas Fairfax, was an English nobleman, peer, politician, general, and Parliamentary commander-in-chief during the English Civil War. An adept and talented commander, Fairfax led Parliament to many victories, notably the crucial Battle of Naseby, becoming effectively military ruler of England, but was eventually overshadowed by his subordinate Oliver Cromwell, who was more politically adept and radical in action against Charles I. Fairfax became unhappy with Cromwell's policy and publicly refused to take part in Charles's show trial. Eventually he resigned, leaving Cromwell to control the country. Because of this, and also his honourable battlefield conduct and his active role in the Restoration of the monarchy after Cromwell's death, he was exempted from the retribution exacted on many other leaders of the revolution. His dark hair and eyes and a swarthy complexion earned him the nickname "Black Tom".
Henry Ireton was an English general in the Parliamentary army during the English Civil War, the son-in-law of Oliver Cromwell.
John Lambert was an English Parliamentary general and politician. He fought during the English Civil War and then in Oliver Cromwell's Scottish campaign (1650–51), becoming thereafter active in civilian politics until his dismissal by Cromwell in 1657. During this time he wrote the Instrument of Government, one of only two codified constitutions ever adopted in Britain, and was influential in bringing about the Protectorate.
The 1648 Second English Civil War is one in a series of connected conflicts in the kingdoms of England, incorporating Wales, Scotland, and Ireland. Known collectively as the 1638 to 1651 Wars of the Three Kingdoms, others include the Irish Confederate Wars, the 1638 to 1640 Bishops' Wars, and the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland.
The Putney Debates were a series of discussions among the increasingly dominant New Model Army – a number of the participants being Levellers – concerning the makeup of a new constitution for Britain.
The Corkbush Field Mutiny occurred on 15 November 1647, during the early stages of the Second English Civil War at the Corkbush Field rendezvous, when soldiers were ordered to sign a declaration of loyalty to Thomas Fairfax, the commander-in-chief of the New Model Army (NMA), and the Army Council. When some refused to do this they were arrested, and one of the ringleaders, Private Richard Arnold, was executed.
Colonel John Hewson (Hughson) was a soldier in the New Model Army and signed the death warrant of King Charles I, making him a regicide.
Colonel Robert Lilburne (1613–1665) was the older brother of John Lilburne, the well known Leveller. Unlike his brother, who severed his relationship with Oliver Cromwell, Robert Lilburne remained in the army. He is also classed as a regicide for having been a signatory to the death warrant of King Charles I in 1649. He was forty-seventh of the fifty nine Commissioners.
The Battle of Wigan Lane was fought on 25 August 1651 during the Third English Civil War, between Royalists under the command of the Earl of Derby and elements of the New Model Army under the command of Colonel Robert Lilburne. The Royalists were defeated, losing nearly half their officers and men.
The Army Council was a body established in 1647 to represent the views of all levels of the New Model Army. It originally consisted of senior commanders, like Sir Thomas Fairfax, and representatives elected by their regiments, known as Agitators.
Vice-Admiral Thomas Rainsborough, or Rainborowe, was a prominent figure in the English Civil War and the leading spokesman for the Levellers in the Putney Debates.
The Eastern Association of counties was a Parliamentarian organisation during the English Civil War. It provided and administered an army which eventually became a mainstay of the Parliamentarian military effort towards the end of 1644.
Robert Hammond was an officer in the New Model Army under Oliver Cromwell during the First English Civil War and a politician who sat in the House of Commons in 1654. He is best known for his year-long role in keeping Charles I of England in custody.
Events from the year 1648 in England. The Second English Civil War begins.
William Eyre, was an English Parliamentary army officer in the English Civil War and a Leveller.
Sir Anthony Morgan (1621–1668) was an English Royalist politician and soldier. In the English Civil War he was first a Royalist captain and then in 1646 changed sides and joined the Parliamentary army. He was a captain in Ireton's horse (cavalry) in Ireland in 1649 and had risen to the rank of major by 1662. He was a Member of Parliament for the Irish constituency of Wicklow and Kildare in the parliaments of 1654 to 1658, and represented the Irish constituency of Meath and Louth in 1659. The Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell knighted him in 1656 and after the Restoration, he was also knighted by King Charles II in 1660. He was a commissioner of the English auxiliaries in France and an original member of the Royal Society in 1663.