Date of Award
Bachelor of Arts
Dr. John R. Rilling
Dissatisfaction with English monarchy resulted in civil war and victory for the forces opposed to the royalists. Rather than forming a decisive conclusion, the triumph of the New Model Army was a prelude to a period of conflict and confusion. Those who acted against the King wanted a new system of government, but there was little agreement as to the form it should take. Between 1646 and 1649, individuals advocating democratic changes in the political system, referred to as Levellers by their enemies, organized, and influenced political events. In order to understand the Levellers' rise to prominence and later failure to lead events, one must analyze their political theories in relation to the harsh realities of politics. Their politics were radical for the time, but they failed to achieve power because, as a faction, their success depended upon other groups.
Unfortunately, for the fledgling democratic organization, power remained the dominant factor needed for political success. Parliament and the Army maneuvered for control of the government; in order for the Levellers' program to be accepted, an alliance with the victor was necessary. Though influential and invaluable to the Army at critical moments, Cromwell and Ireton viewed the Levellers as a tool to intimidate the Parliament and control the radical army ranks. Because their success depended on the policies of the Army and the Parliament, the Levellers must be evaluated in that context.
Smith, Hilary B., "Leveller democracy : political theory and political reality" (1990). Honors Theses. 784.