Levellers or RADICALS, a political and religious sect of fanatics, which arose in the army of Cromwell at the time of the difficulty between the Independents and the Long Parliament (1647), advocating entire civil and religious liberty. They were not only treated as traitors by the king, but persecuted also by Cromwell as dangerous to the state. From one of their own works, The Leveller, or the Principles and maxims concerning Government and Religion of those commonly called Levellers (Lond. 1658), we see that their fundamental principles included, in politics,
1, the impartial, sovereign authority of the law; 2, the legislative power of Parliament; 3, absolute equality before the law; and, 4, the arming of the people in order to enable all to secure the enforcement of the laws, and also to protect their liberties.
In religion they claimed,
1, absolute liberty of conscience, as true religion, with them, consisted in inward concurrence with revealed religion;
2, freedom for every one to act according to the best of his knowledge, even if this knowledge should be false — the government acting on the knowledge and conscience of the people through the ministers it appoints;
3, religion to be considered under two aspects: one as the correct understanding of revelation, and this is quite a private affair, in regard to which every one must stand or fall by himself; the other is its effects as manifested in actions, and these are subject to the judgment of others, and especially of the authorities;
4, they condemned all strife on matters of faith and forms of worship, considering these as only outward signs of different degrees of spiritual enlightening. This sect, like many others, disappeared at the time of the Restoration. See Weingarten, Revolutions Kirchen Englands (Lpz. 1868); Neale, Hist. of the Puritans (see Index, vol. 2, Harper's edition).