You Hold That Cursed Thing in Your Hand

Submitted by Chris Webster on Sat, 2006/10/14 - 05:58

For the power of enclosing land and owning property was brought into the creation by your ancestors by the sword; which first did murder their fellow creatures, men, and after plunder or steal away their land, and left this land successively to you, their children. And therefore, though you did not kill or thieve, yet you hold that cursed thing in your hand by the power of the sword; and so you justify the wicked deeds of your fathers, and that sin of your fathers shall be visited upon the head of you and your children to the third and fourth generation, and longer too, till your bloody and thieving power be rooted out of the land.



marc roberts (not verified)

Wed, 2006/11/22 - 09:12

Happy to find this whilst searching for levellers references for climate change – in the belief that the contraction and convergence principle is essentially a leveller philosophy. Hopefully Kyoto/Nairobi etc will be no St George’s Hill. The battle for the commons goes on.


Thanks for your comment. You will be interested in this passage which I came across in Christopher Hill’s ‘The World Turned Upside Down’:

A generation ago even so sensitive a commentator as Sabine was a little embarrassed by Winstanley’s suggestion that nature itself had been corrupted by the Fall of Man. He dismissed as ‘naive’ and ‘simple-minded’ the idea that natural disasters like ‘the risings up of waters and the breakings forth of fire to waste and destroy are but that curse, or the works of man’s own hands that rise up and run together to destroy their maker, and torment him that brought the curse forth’. Winstanley, however, as so often, is putting startlingly new content into traditional forms of language. If we bear in mind that for him the Fall was caused by covetousness and set up kingly power, we may rather think today that this is one of the profoundest of Winstanley’s insights. As we contemplate our landscape made hideous by neon signs, advertisements, pylons, wreckage of automobiles; our seas poisoned by atomic waste, their shores littered with plastic and oil; our atmosphere polluted with carbon dioxide and nuclear fall-out, our peace shattered by supersonic planes; as we think of nuclear bombs which can ‘waste and destroy’ to an extent that Winstanley never dreamed of – we can recognize that man’s greed, competition between man and states, are really in danger of upsetting the balance of nature, of poisoning and destroying the fabric of the globe. We are better placed to appreciate Winstanley’s insight that in a competitive system society the state is just a part of the competitive system. Perhaps it was over-simplified to believe that harmony and beauty will be restored to nature, as well as society, as soon as community of property is established. But what are the chances of priority being given to ‘the beauty of the commonwealth’ before there has been a change in social relations? For Winstanley social revolution is the same thing as men learning to ‘live in community with the globe and … the spirit of the globe’, in accordance with the laws of nature: letting Reason rule in man as it does in the cosmos.

Not sure if much else has been written about the Levellers and eco-philosophies but it is an interesting area. I’d be interested to know of any other references you find.

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