On Sunday 12th May at St John’s Churchyard, Wapping a commemorative plaque was unveiled to Thomas Rainsborough (1610 – 1648) a prominent figure in the English Civil War, a colonel in the New Model Army and the leading spokesman for the Levellers in the Putney Debates in which he spoke up for universal male suffrage.
Over a hundred people saw the plaque unveiled by Tony Benn who spoke of the inspiration he had gained from the work of the Levellers, he movingly spoke of the need for every generation to stand up for our rights lest we lose them.
Cllr Rania Khan, Cabinet Member for Culture was there for the occasion and also spoke along with Jeremy Corbyn MP (Islington North), John Rees and Brian Nicholson of the Stepney Historical Society.
The event was also attended by a small Leveller contingent of the Sealed Knot who paraded the churchyard and fired a musket volley in Rainsborough’s honour. The Sealed Knot is a British historical association and charity, dedicated to costumed re-enactment of battles and events surrounding the English Civil War.
I think that the poorest he that is in England hath a life to live as the greatest he; and therefore truly. Sir, I think it’s clear that every man that is to live under a Government ought first by his own consent to put himself under that Government; and I do think that the poorest man in England is not at all bound in a strict sense to that Government that he hath not had a voice to put himself under.” Thomas Rainsborough at the Putney Debates, 1647.