The debates of the sixteen-forties and fifties gave wide circulation to ideas which had originated with critics of the old regime before 1640. The priesthood of all believers led some to advocate varying degrees of democracy based on respect for the individual conscience. The abolition of feudal tenures led to agitation for granting absolute property rights to copyholders, comparable with those which the gentry had voted to themselves. Voluntary service for Parliament against the King led to resentment at conscription for wars in whose righteousness not all conscripts believed. The reconquest of Ireland led William Walwyn and other Levellers to ask what right Englishmen had to be in Ireland at all. Ideas originally advanced with one object in view frequently backfired and were used against the original libertarians. This is what makes the discussions of the forties and fifties so fascinating and so revealing of pre-existing rifts in English society.
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