John Lilburne

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John Lilburne (1614 – 29 August 1657), also known as Freeborn John, was an English political agitator before, during and after English Civil Wars 1642-1650. He coined the term "freeborn rights", defining them as rights with which every human being is born, as opposed to rights bestowed by government or human law.[1] In his early life he was a Puritan, though towards the end of his life he became a Quaker. His works have been cited in opinions by the United States Supreme Court.[2]


Early life

John Lilburne was the son of Richard Lilburne a landowner of estates at Thickney Puncharden and elsewhere in County Durham.[3] He was probably born in Sunderland[4] but the exact date of his birth is unknown; there is some dispute as to whether he was born in 1613, 1614, or 1615. His father Richard Lilburne was the last man in England to insist that he should be allowed to settle a legal dispute with a trial by battle[5] John's elder brother Robert Lilburne also later became active in the Parliamentary cause, but seems not to have shared John's Leveller beliefs. By his own account Lilburne received the first ten years' of his education in Newcastle, almost certainly at the Royal Free Grammar School.[6]

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