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The Innovative Use of Printed Massive Petitions' in the English Revolution
'For the first time in English history the combination of cheap printing and democratic ferment made the public ear both available and important.' (J. Frank, The Levellers, p.60) The purpose of this paper is to explore the important role of printed petitions. Petitions were printed for the use of petitioners, often with instructions about gathering signatures and about meeting to present the signed petitions in a procession to Parliament. The processions that took a petition to Parliament heightened popular interest in petitions and petitioners. All sides (Presbyterians, Independents, Levellers and Royalists) used printed petitions for propaganda or invoking public opinion. In the result many petitions came from associations of private persons. They met in private houses, taverns, and sectarian congregations to debate and sign petitions. Popular participation in petitions made a decisive break with traditional practice. Many citizen petitioners opposed or lobbied municipal corporations, such as London-only the mayor, aldermanic court, and Common Council had authority to issue petitions on behalf of the city corporation-over proposals to petition Parliament. The practical experience with novel use of printed petitions to appeal to public opinion led to novel ideas on the political order, for example 'consent' and 'reason'.
広島大学総合科学部紀要. I, 地域文化研究