John Wildman (c1621-1693) – Remarkable and original

John Wildman was one of most active members of the group of radical Levellers who argued for democratic, republican government in the Putney Debates of 1647.  He was one of the most enigmatic and fasinating figure whose life spanned two revolutions and a bewildering range of political alliances.

At Putney much of the debate centred on The Agreement of the People, a proposed constitution drafted by Wildman, which called for universal male suffrage, equality before the law, biennial Parliaments and parliamentary sovereignty over the King. This draft was endorsed by the ‘Agitators’. These were representatives of each regiment elected to confer with senior officers and Parliament over the Army’s grievances. This brought them and Wildman and the other Levellers, into direct conflict with the Army Grandees including Oliver Cromwell and Henry Ireton.

So the scene was set for the airing of the deep divisions that would irrevocably fragment the New Model Army and would lead to the ultimate failure of the Debates to satisfy either side.

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The World Turned Upside Down - The British Civil Wars 1638-1651
John Wildman (c1621-1693) - Remarkable and original
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Contributor

Ted Vallance

Director of the Graduate School, University of Roehampton

Ted Vallance is Professor of History at the University of Roehampton. He is the author of four books, most recently Loyalty, Memory and Public Opinion in England,…

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Sources

Excerpts from the Putney Debates and An Agreement of the People (1647) in Andrew Sharp ed., The English Levellers (Cambridge University Press, 1998)
Phil Baker, ‘Putney Debaters’ in The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004)