John Lilburne (1615-1657), also known as Freeborn John, was an English political agitator before, during and after the English Civil Wars (1642-1650). He was a leader in the Leveller movement of the 1640s in England. The Levellers campaigned for a radical shake-up of England’s political system, and Lilburne was one of the movement’s most famous members. To his supporters, John Lilburne was known as "Free-born John."
In addition, Lilburne was a prolific pamphleteer and was imprisoned several times for his religious views. He was sentenced in 1637 to be whipped through the streets of London, pilloried and imprisoned. He was later released and fought in the Civil War on the side of Parliament. However, Lilburne fell out with Sir Cromwell and was exiled, returning later to live out his last days as a Quaker.
Until the end of his life, Lilburne was a puritan who stood for freedom of the individual against the state and promoted the idea of people having freeborn rights. He was an ardent defender of religious liberty. A libertarian, he termed the phrase "freeborn rights," defining them as being rights that every human being is born with, as opposed to rights bestowed by government or by human law.
His most important works include England’s Birthright Justified (1645), England’s New Chains Discovered (1649) and The Hunting of the Foxes (1649).
- Gregg, Pauline (2000). Free-Born John: A Biography Of John Lilburne, London, England: Phoenix Press
- BCW Project, "John Lilburne"
- Spartacus Educational, "John Lilburne"