Gerrard Winstanley on Economics and Work
Gerrard Winstanley was the famous English Protestant and political activitist during the reign of Oliver Cromwell. He believed that Cromwell’s protectorate was being plagued by protests from the English commoners because of the promises and engagements they made to the people and in the end, they failed to keep. He also discussed in his letter address to Cromwell the other complaints of the commoners. Winstanley believed that buying and selling among people brought about discontent and caused thus it was not a righteous law.
“When mankind began to buy and sell, then did he fall from his innocence; for then they began to oppress and cozen one another of their creation birthright. ” He also mentioned that when people buy and sell things, one man becomes richer than the other and this made people vain and proud. Winstanley was also against the fact that the rich people during these times were making themselves rich from the toils of other people. The laws he mentioned on his works were of the peaceable commonwealth he was fighting for during the Protectorate of Oliver Cromwell.
Winstanley was hoping for a land with no beggars and where the people were united into one heart and mind. And it was this government which made Moses to call Abraham’s seed one house of Israel, though they were many tribes and many families. And it may be said, “Blessed is the people whose earthly government is the law of common righteousness”. Free enjoyment of the Earth was what Winstanley was advocating during his years as a political reformer. He defined enjoyment of the Earth also as the freedom that should be obtained by the people of England.
Man should receive the proper nourishment and preservation he needed from the land he lived on. For as man is compounded of the four materials of the creation, fire, water, earth and air; so is he preserved by the compounded bodies of these four, which are the fruits of the earth; and he cannot live without them. If the people were deprived of the nourishments that the earth provided, his spirit would be broken and after some time it would depart therefore the motional actions of the body would cease.
In this land, Winstanley said that the men should own his land that he will cultivate on his own. The fruits that he will harvest from his own land will be stocked by him and consumed by him and his own family. If people would commit mistakes or provoke his neighbors because of ignorance, sharp punishments would be delivered by the officers of the government according to the right order of the commonwealth’s government. This government would be the government of peace and righteousness and it would not respect any person no matter what position he held in the government.
In case there were people who would use his fellowmen to work on his land such as the oppressing landlords, he should pay his workers with just compensation or else he would be restrained too from enjoying the fruits of his land. He used examples from the Scripture to prove his point. One example he mentioned was the Israelis who conquered nations and took possession of the lands of their enemies. These lands were then divided among their tribes and they counted the enjoyment of the land.
This he said was their perfect freedom. The common or public store houses he said should be the place where workers will store the goods they harvested from their lands. Workers or shop owners would make the necessary things the people needed such as clothes, shoes and hats. The difference from the monarchial government was that the people can have these goods without purchasing them with money or other things. They can get these things for free because every person contributed a material in the manufacturing of the product.
England on Winstanley’s time was not enjoying that perfect freedom. The kings and conquerors took possession of the land that the people should be enjoying and planted fruits only for the king and his royal friends. The people working under the king for an instance the lawyers and the clergymen promised the people fruits of their labor if the obey the rules of the king. Because of the hypocrisy of the government then, Winstanley said that these promises were not given to the people and their freedoms were curtailed.
He called on the people to stop being passive or idle about what was happening in the government and how they were abused by the lawyers, ministers and clergies. He also called on to the government to free the earth from all kingly bondage of manor and landlords who he placed in the same category as thieves who robbed the people of their hard work. He advocated the establishment of a commonwealth which had the freedom in power and had provisions in every person’s peace rather than a monarchy which ran on the king’s laws.
“And if either one king rule, or many rule by king’s principles, much murmuring, grudges, troubles and quarrels may and will arise among the oppressed people upon every gained opportunity. ” There are so many things to learn in the articles written by Gerard Winstanley. Many aspects of the society can consider his insights and incorporate these insights for a better society. To prove this point, I will focus on one aspect of the society which is the church that should read the articles of Winstanley and learn something from it.
We lived in a society where religion plays a big role in shaping the attitudes of the people who follow their teachings. Since childhood, we were trained to attend the church regularly and listen to what the priests and preachers teach about the Holy Scripture. We would often hear parents or our elder reprimand us when we miss church and tell us that our souls will not be saved if we commit the same mistake again. Growing up to this environment, we were conditioned to be followers of our individual religions. We cannot do things and say things which are not allowed by the church.
Our inherent freedoms are somehow curtailed because of the restrictions imposed by the church. What is moral or immoral is also more often than not based upon the teachings of the church and we therefore lose our own judgment about the circumstances happening around us. Though the meddling of the church on many political decisions is not advised by many political analysts, the church still somehow has a hand in many political moves. Take for example the laws about health care which in some point is opposed by the church.
Laws such as the health care act which will make people live a healthier life cannot be fully imposed by the government because of the church’s hand. Winstanley said: Secondly, in many parishes there are old formal ignorant episcopal priests established; and some ministers who are bitter enemies to commonwealth’s freedom and friends to monarchy are established preachers, and are continually buzzing their subtle principles into the minds of the people, to undermine the peace of our declared commonwealth, causing a disaffection of spirit among neighbours, who otherwise would live in peace (Winstanley, 2010).
The government is somehow afraid to contradict the ruling of the churches around the world because a single word from the highest position in the church can move a thousand people against the government. The church should learn that they only serve as guidance to the people and not direct influences to the lives of these people. Their teachings serve as a measuring stick to what is right or wrong but it should not be imposed as the absolute truth. The people have the choice to either follow what they teach or not.
The church should also acknowledge the fact that what is true is based on the Scripture itself and not the bishop or the pope who is leading the religion. The popes and bishops no matter how much training they received or no matter how they are knowledgeable about what are written in the Scripture are still human beings and should not impose laws. “If any man declare his judgment in the things of God contrary to the clergy’s report or the mind of some high officers, they are cashiered, imprisoned, crushed and undone, and made sinners for a word, as they were in the pope’s and bishops’ days”.
The truth lies on the Bible and not on the people leading the church. The church should also learn that those in power should not be supported by the church especially if they are not making decisions for the betterment of the people. Many politicians who strive to gain power use religion as a stepping stone. They use the word of God or the influence of the dominant religion to gain supporter. Gerard Winstanley said, “Therefore all you who profess religion and spiritual things, now look to it, and see what spirit you do profess, for your profession is brought to trial.
” The church should review the people they support or whose principles they advocate for many people might take advantage of their support. Indeed Gerard Winstanley made great insights on how his country, England should be reformed during his years. He was aware of how the government was taking advantage of the people and their land by not giving the freedom the people should be having. His insights were very ideal or very perfect and if the people and the government before reformed based on his insights, their society would be a very ideal place to live in.
The church on the other hand should read what Gerard Winstanley has to say on his articles and learn many things from it on how they should use their influence on people. Religion is undoubtedly one aspect of the society that has a wide scope of influence on the minds of the people and misuse of this power can lead to a society where freedom is not available to the people. Bibliography Winstanley, Gerard. “The Law of Freedom in a Platform. ” (2010). Database on-line. Available from http://www. bilderberg. org/land/lawofree. htm#To.
Accessed May 22, 2010. Winstanley, Gerard. “To His Excellency Oliver Cromwell. ” (2010). Database on-line. Available from http://www. bilderberg. org/land/lawofree. htm#To. accessed May 22, 2010. Winstanley, Gerard. “To The Friendly and Unbiased Reader. ” (2010). Database on-line. Available from http://www. bilderberg. org/land/lawofree. htm#To. Accessed May 22, 2010. Winstanley, Gerard. “What is government in general. ” (2010). Database on-line. Available from http://www. bilderberg. org/land/lawofree. htm#To. Accessed May 22, 2010.Sample Essay of EduBirdie.com