Richard Overton
Richard Overton was an English pamphleteer and Leveller during the Civil War
English Civil War
The English Civil War was a series of armed conflicts and political machinations between Parliamentarians and Royalists...

. Little is known of the early life of Overton, but he is believed to have matriculated at Queens' College
Queens' College, Cambridge
Queens' College is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge, England.The college was founded in 1448 by Margaret of Anjou , and refounded in 1465 by Elizabeth Woodville...

, Cambridge
The city of Cambridge is a university town and the administrative centre of the county of Cambridgeshire, England. It lies in East Anglia about north of London. Cambridge is at the heart of the high-technology centre known as Silicon Fen – a play on Silicon Valley and the fens surrounding the...

, before working as an actor and playwright in Southwark
Southwark is a district of south London, England, and the administrative headquarters of the London Borough of Southwark. Situated east of Charing Cross, it forms one of the oldest parts of London and fronts the River Thames to the north...

. Here he picked up Leveller sympathies, and started publishing pamphlets against the Church of England and her bishops. Overton was persecuted by the government for his opinions, and twice imprisoned. In 1655 he fled to Flanders
Flanders is the community of the Flemings but also one of the institutions in Belgium, and a geographical region located in parts of present-day Belgium, France and the Netherlands. "Flanders" can also refer to the northern part of Belgium that contains Brussels, Bruges, Ghent and Antwerp...


Overton's religious conviction was a purely materialistic
In philosophy, the theory of materialism holds that the only thing that exists is matter; that all things are composed of material and all phenomena are the result of material interactions. In other words, matter is the only substance...

one; he argued that the soul was perishable and died along with the body, being resurrected at the final judgement. Politically, he argued for the equality of all men. He was a fierce believer in popular sovereignty, and promoted the abolition of monarchy.

Selected works

Overton is believed to have published some 50 tracts, most anonymously. The following is a selection of his works:
  • Articles of High Treason Exhibited against Cheapside Cross (1642)
  • New Lambeth Fayre (1642)
  • Mans Mortalitie (1644)
  • An Arrow Against All Tyrants (1646)is best known for the line written by Overton which was paraphrased by others, including Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence: "by natural birth, all men are equally and alike born to like propriety, liberty and freedom"
  • A Remonstrance of Many Thousand Citizens (1646)
  • The Just Man in Bonds (1646)
  • An Appeale from the Degenerate Representative Body The Commons... (1647)
  • The Hunting of the Foxes (21 March 1649)
  • The Agreement of the People, written with others in 1647

External links

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