The Anti-projector, or, The history of the Fen project
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THE ANTI-PROJECTOR OR The History of the Fen Project.

IT's ausual question, Whether drayning be good for the Common wealth.

Answ. 1. There are two kindes of legal drayning. The one is by the anci∣ent Commissions of Sewers, according to the 23 H. 8. where the Commis∣sioners of Sewers and Jurors are to be of the same County where the land ly∣th; who once or twice every year, if occasion required, ought to view the wants of scowring the old Drains, and to return the defaulters to the Commissio∣ners, who used to ascertain their Amerciaments.

The second is according to a Law made in the 43 Eliz. whereby the major part of the owner, and Commonners of any Township may agree with any per∣son or Corporation for a certain sum of money under their hands and seals inden∣ted, for the drayning of such lands, as they finde hurtfully surrounded. This is also Legal and good for the Common-wealth, because it is with their free consents.

It may be objected, Why hath not the Country Drayned themselves all this while?

The Countries have been alwaies able and willing; but for these fifty years or thereabouts their legal Commissioners, according to the 23 of H. 8. have been obstructed by powerful undertakers, Courtiers, Lord-keepers, Atturnies-Gene∣ral, and Projectors, and dissolutions, and intervals of Parliament: The which Law if it had been constantly put in execution, without these gross interrupti∣ons, would have done the work in most Towns where need required within the sup∣posed Level. For without doubt the stopping of the old Draynes is the cause of all their new mischiefs.

Illegal Drayning.

All the illegal undertakers have pretended they had the consents of the Countries to be drayned by them, which alwaies hath been the ground of their cheat from the beginning. (viZ.)

The first notorious undertaker was the Earl of Lincoln, in Queen Elizabeths dayes. His covetous Lordship by bribes to some Courtiers, and mis-information by pretending what a glorious work drayning would be to the Publick, and that he had the consent of the Country which indeed were but an inconsiderable party of Page  2his own faction) procured a Pattent or Commission for the drayning of the Fens But his private ends were to drain his own surrounded foul lands at the Public charges; and he so packed his Commissioners, by making them Judges and Par∣ties, that they made a Level and took away the poor Country-mens lands (which were never drowned, or bettered by overflowing) for melioration.

The Queen being informed how her good Subjects were abused, and that the said Commission was contrary to the Law of Sewers, (viz.) 23. H. 8. She there∣upon made that just and equitable Law, so consonant to nature and reason, for the most strict preservation of propriety, called, The Statute of Improvement in the forty third year of her raign. Which Law prescribes the Rule to undertaking, or contracting. viz. First there must be fairly and freely obtained the consents of the major part of the owners and Commoners under their hands and seals indented So that the Commissioners of Sewers have nothing to do with the matter and man∣ner of undertaking. Neither is a Commissioner of Sewers capable to be in un∣dertaker, for then he should be both Judge and Party, and so to contract with him∣self which were absurd.

Primo Jacobi, Sir Miles Sandys having purchased some hurtfully surrounded lands; to drain himself though to the drowning of his neighbours (by bribes to Courtiers procured a Commission to drain the Fens, and got himself and his par∣ticipants to be made Commissioners, and consequently judges and Parties. Then they made a Level, and brought in those Towns of Cambridge shire, on the South-side the River Graunt to be part of the Level, or hurtfully surrounded grounds, which words are convertible; and they contracted with themselves, and gave to themselves one third part of those lands for draining and melioration, most part of which lands being in truth dry grounds, or bettered by overflowing, or at least able to drain themselves, by clensing the old Sewers, had not the Legal Commis∣sions of Sewers been obstructed by these undertakers.

This Project was wittily discovered to King James in the beginning of his raign; for one told the King he should hear a Cow speak, which the King wondered at, and was perswaded to go to his Stables at Theobalds, where the Cow was covered all over. The King commanded the Company to withdraw; and uncovered the Cow, and upon the horns, there was a large Parchment rolled up, and all the un∣dertakers fallacies discovered therein. The King enjoyned secrecy, and in full Par∣liament spake against it in these words; It is just the same Case, my Lords, as though a pack of Theeves should give me 20000. l. to give them a Patent under my broad seal to rob my loyal Subjects of 200000 l. by the which I should perjure my self, and become a Thief and Tyrant. And thereupon it was thrown out for a Project. Some of the undertakers friends pressed earnestly that the Countries might bear their charges, Sir Edward Cook replyed, Let those pay them that set them on work.

19. Jacobi. The King himself turned undertaker, contrary to his speech in Par∣liament, and contrary to the Acts made 43 Eliz. and the fourth and seventh of his Raign. The occasion the King brake that Parliament, was for his Page  3favourites sake, whose brother (Sir Edward Villiers) was questioned for a Mo∣nopolist.

Observe this undertaking of 19 Jacobi was the foundation of Francis E. of Bed∣fords undertaking, as it appears in their Lyn Law, where the Bribe given to the King is nearly couched, which was 12000 acres of our lands.

After King Charles had condemned Loan money by the Petition of Right, and had often broke his own Law, then the Projectors swarmed again, for they knew the King was irreconcilable to Parliaments, and all things were carried with a high hand, and those most renowned udges chief justice Crew, and chief Baron Walter, were disgraced, and the Judges Patents were altered, and those words, Quam diu se bene gesserit expunged, and those Prerogative words inserted, Ad bene placitum Domini Regis.

This was a fit season to Monopolize, and in this interval of Parliaments, Fran∣ci Earl of Bedford, the Lord Treasurer Weston, the Earl of Dorset, the Earl of in∣sey and his son, the Lord Mowbray, Lord Gorge, Sir Edward Heron, Sir John Brook, Sir David Coningham, Mr. Latch, Sir John Munson, Sir Philbert Vernatt, with many more of the Kings Party turned undertakers, and gave bribes to the King, Queen, and Lords of the Councel, Secretaries, Attournyes General, and Courtiers, and procured illegal Commissions, and made themselves Judges and Parties, and gave the peoples lands to themselves, as Commissioners and undertakers, which are inconsistent for the reasons premised.

At Kings-Lyn, 6 Caroli. They pretended they had the Major part of the Ow∣ners and Commoners consents, which if they can shew under our hands and seals according to the 43 Eliz. we are content they shall enjoy our lands: we are ready to joyn Issue with them upon that point, and so are those of the Isle of Axom a∣gainst Mr. Gibbons.

Likewise those which oppose the Earl of Linsey, Sir Anthony Thomas, Sir John Murson, Sir Cornelius Vermooden, and others, are ready to prove all their underta∣kings have been against the Countries Consents, and that they have been both Commissioners, and undertakers, Judges and Parties, which is against the Law of God, Nature, and common Reason.

By the same reason these packed Commissioners being Judges and Parties, made 300000 acres the Level, (very much of which land is dry, or bettered by over∣flowing) they may make England the Level, England to be surrounded, and take one third this year for drayning, and another third the next for melioration, and the third take all by their Prerogative.

The six Counties Petitioned King Charles at Newmarket against Lyn Law, which was condemned at a Session of Sewers held at Huntington, 14 Car. Before this the people were Pursuvanted, imprisoned by Councel Table warrants, and their Hay taken off their Cres, and the six Counties were most grievously op∣pressed.

Afterwards the King turned undertaker himself, and so our oppression continued, Page  4for the Comissioners were still Judges and Parties, and took away our lands a∣gainst our consents.

In the beginning of the last Parliament when Francis Earl of Bedford was mad Lord Treasurer, then by his power and faction in the Lords House, a Bill was ex∣hibited to the Parliament by some of the undertakers for drayning, against the peoples consents, but that bill dyed with him.

Afterwards when William Earl of Bedford was made General of the Parlia∣ments Horse, there was a bill for drayning committed; there was a Committee of 30 or 40. and they sate in the Court of Exchequer, and Mr. Pelham had the Chair. The Earl was there present himself, and some Parliament men which were the said Earls participants were very active, and sate at the Committee as Judges, and Parties. Upon a long debate that bill was overthrown.

About two years after (when William Earl of Bedford, and Mr. Henly returned from Oxford) there was a short Ordinance for drayning committed. The Commit∣tee sate in the Star-chamber and the six Counties were summoned, and there was an extraordinary appearance against the undertakers; Mr. Scowen had the Chair, and the people cryed out, no Mr. Scowen, for he was Francis Earl of Bedford's Sollicitor. This Committee was furnish'd with too many undertakers of Parliment men. There were at least twelve several Chairmen of that Committee, and most of them byas∣sed for the undertakers, for no witnesses were fairly examined for the six Counties, but leading Interrogatories obtruded upon them: not one Town of ten were ex∣amined at all, when the six Counties attended there were commonly two or three undertakers who adjourned the Committee in Westminster-hall on purpose to vex and tire the people; when the people had spent their money and were gone out or town, then the Committee sate in one corner or another, so that their sollicitors were fain to watch them. The Committee-men were often feasted by the undertakers, and our lands were offered to be sold at two years value to Parliament men, which was often complained of to the Parliament by some worthy Patriots. This great (not good bargain) increased very much their faction: yet providence (which hath done wonders) blafted this Ordinance that it withered away to nothing.

About four years since there was a new Act set on foot, and the six Counties were surprised, for they were not, as formerly, so much as summoned. This Act was a child of darkness, for it could not endure the light. We are informed the Chairman ushered in this Act, with a Petition like unto that at Kings-Lyn, as though it proceeded from the Major part of the owners, and Commoners, but it was a meer imposture of the undertakers faction, and not one of a hundred.

The House was very thin when this Act was passed, about 43. and some of them were parties interressed, and the undertakers of all the Levels, like birds of a feather flocked together and watched their oppertunity when many of the uninteressed Parliament-men were absent: If the truth were known there was no House, be∣cause there was an Order, That no Parliament man being a participant, should be Judge and Party in his own Cause.

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For the Act it self, it is a formidable monster. The Title and Preamble is like a Sarazens head and neck, the Body is proportionable, and worse then that, and the conclusion worst of all. We shall make it appear to be against the Law of God, nature, reason and common sense: For first, They have enacted parties interessed to be Judges. Secondly, they have enacted impossibilities, as wet to be dry, and dry wet (viz.) that to be the Level which is not the Level: they may as well enact white to be black, and black white. Thirdly, This Act destroys Propriety. Fourthly, the Earl of Bedfords Pan Thorney Abby is exempted from draining; when dry land, and such as is bettered by overflowing, must contribute. Fifthly, they have destroyed a chief branch of the Common Law, in depriving the people of their Juries of the neighbourhood. Sixthly, they have enacted a most intolle∣rable grievance in impowring the Commissioners to make the people dance atten∣dance a hundred miles from their homes every seaventh day after the Term, to at∣tend them for four or five hours, to spend their monies, and have no agrievance re∣dressed, sometimes no Committee appearing, whereas anciently according to Law and equity; for the ease of the six Counties, This Level was seaven Levels, and each Level had their several Commissioners and Iurors, and acted only in their proper Countries. We shall discover many more insufferable grievances, if the Supreme Authority please to hear us by witnesses upon Oath. And we hope their Honours in their wisdoms will take care we shall not be obstructed by Judges and Parties, and biassed Chairmen, as formerly we have been.

The Undertakers have had two Adjudications which they much boast of. The first was when many thousand acres were actually drowned, occasioned by land-flouds, incident to River-Medows; yet contrary to occular demonstration, they were adjudged drained.

The other was in the extremity of the drought, when it was impossible to judge what land was drained, and what not. And they have adjudged thousands of acres drained, which were never drowned, and thousands drowned which are bettered by overflowing in the nature of River-Meadows.

The people are put out of possession of their lands without hearing one witness upon oath on their parts, which is against the fundamental Law of the Land, and the great Charter of Liberty and property.

The Lincolneshier men in the Isle of Axom, had the benefit of the Law against Mr. Gibbons, and they have a verdict against him, Sr. Edward Barkham, Captain Hall and Mr. Waldren were left to the Law by the Parliament, and recovered against the Undertakers. But we of the six Counties have been so obstructed in the E. of Bed∣fords Level by the Undertakers faction, that we are barred the Law by this Act of Parliament. But we hope the Supreme Authority will remove this block out of the way, and leave us to the Law, as other free-born people of this Nation are.

In the Parliaments first grand Remonstrance 1641. this levelling and destroying of propriety was voted, An injustice, oppression, violence, project and grievance. And in more express words, thus, Large quantities of Commons and Severals have Page  6been taken from the Subject by the colour of the Statute of Improvement, and by abuse of the Commission of Sewers, without their consents and against it. So the Undertakers were the true Levellers, for they created the equivocal word Level.

Compare these Votes with the late Act for Draining, and you may observe most gross contradictions, for iniquity viz) injustice, oppression violence, project and grievance are established by a Law, which is not to be wondred at, because it proceeded from the barren womb of self-interest; but the fertile womb of the pub∣lique (which is self-denyal) will help it in good time.

We believe the Undertakers will be endeavouring to sell our Lands again (as formerly they were) at two years value to gain a new faction; but we are confident of better things, and that at last their bribing dishonest proceedings, and their pro∣ject will be destroyed together.

The E. of Bedford and his participants Case is the same with those fore-recited Cases of the E. of Lincoln, and Sir Mies Sandys, both pretending the publick, but intending only their private ends, and gross partialitie (if it be dived into) will be found in the bottom of it. For the E. of Bedfords large Mannor of Thorney Abby, consisting of 20000 acres of hurtfully surrounded Lands must be partly drained, and partly meliorated at the Countries charge; and 20 Towns must be pejorated by the draining the Earls foul Town. And dry lands, and such lands as are bettered by overflowing, must contribute to drain the E. of Bedfords lands, and the Earls really hurtfully surrounded lands are not to be contributory (by the said Act) to draining.

In all the undertakings (which are the same Cases Mutatis Mutandis) there are 300000 people concerned in it, which have furnished the Parliament with many thousand men, horses, and vast sums of money, besides the praiers of a numerous godly precious people. And those few undertakers, upon this account only, have most of them been most malicious enemies against the Parliament; for some of them had like to have slain the Lord Fairfax in the Isle of Axom who was rescued by the anti undertakers. He that will forsake old friends, and trust to reconciled enemies, rans a great hazard, or rather will be certainly ruined. Can a Blackmore change his skin?

We hope that the four Undertakers nominated in the Act, shall he examined upon Oath, who are their participants; for we have just cause of jealousie, many of the Commissioners are judges and parties.

If any of the Commissioner in this Act are participants in another Level, the grie∣vance is the same; for our fellow sufferers in the Earl of Linseyls Level, were much obstructed by a participant in the Earl of Bedfords Level, who was sometime Chairman for S. William Killegrew in the Earl of Linseys Level, and all the partici∣pants of all the Levels, and their allies and friends joyn and combine together a∣gainst the poor Country.

The Undertaker talk of great matters that will 〈◊〉 to the Commonwealth 〈◊〉 Rape; I am sure they have committed a Rape upon the Republique, in ravish∣ing Page  7the good People of this Nation (by their Tyranny and Oppression) out of their Properties and Liberties. I hope we shall be left at liberty to make choice of our own undertakers, if need require, according to the 43 Elizab. And that the Parliaments faithful Friends, shall not be the Earl of Bedford's and Master Henley's Wardes any longer. Is it probable strangers will do us more good, and study our profit more then we will do our own? Certainly we know how to drain our selves better then they, (might we have the benefit of the good Laws of the Land) and are better able.

As the Courtiers thought (after the Parliament was dissolved in 3 Car. and the Pe∣tition of Right was broken as soon as it was made they were cock-sure to perpetuate their Tyranny, and that they should never have been questioned; so the undertakers and their faction in Parliament had the same thoughts (which is demonstrable by their actions) and are come by Divine Providence to the same end.

As the over flowing corruptions of the undertakers faction (being Judges and Parties) did hurtfully surround the Parliament: So certainly it was good for the Commonwealth they should be drayned and meliorated, and it is according to the Statute of Improvement or Undertaking viz. the 43 Elizab. For I am sure the major part of the Owners and Commoners of the Earl of Bedford's Level, will consent unto it under their Hands and Seals In∣dented.

Objection, It may by objected, The Earl of Bedford's Draynes are the best Draynes, and have done the work, as some of the Commissioners have ad∣judged.

Answer, We answer, That by the new Draynes, there is very little good done, but by drayning the barren North, and drowning the rich South for private ends; as will experimentally appear at the first Floods which shall break out, which (probably) was the cause of the precipitation of the ad∣judication.

But the old and Legal way of drayning and undertaking (viz.) by the 23 Henr. 8, and 43 Elizab. are the best for the Common-wealth, because the old Draynes have the greatest descents, and are the natural sinks and vent of the Fens.

If a Mans fundament were stopped, though a hundred issues were made in the same body, the mass of blood would be corrupted, and the bodie would break out in Botches and Boyles. So stop up the old Sewers the Quagmires will generally increase on the South-side though much good may bee done on the North-side to some particular Towns, as Thorncy, and Wittlesey, which drowns the Soake of Peterborow consisting of twenty Towns.

Objection, The Earl say they hath made a rich Improvement out of the great Level which was before of little or no value. Now it bears Rape, and Cole-seed &c.

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Answ The undertakers have alwaies vilified the Fens, and have mis-informed ma∣ny Parliament men, that all the Fens is a meer quagmire, and that it is a level hurt∣fully surrounded, and of little or no value: but those which live in the Fens, and are neighbours to it, know the contrary.

For first the Fens breed infinite number of serviceable horses, mares, and colts, which till our land, and furnish our neighbours.

Secondly we breed and feed great store of young cattle, and we keep great day∣eries, which afford great store of butter and cheese to victual the Navy, and mul∣titude, of heyfers, and Scots and Irish cattle have been fatted on the Fens, which afford hides, and tallow.

Thirdly, we mow off our Fens fodder, which feeds our cowes in winter, which being housed, we gather such quantities of compost and dung, that it enriches our pastures and corn ground, half in half, whereby we have the richest and cer∣tainest corn land in England, especially for wheat and barley, wherewith by Sea) we do, and can if our navigable rivers be not made unserviceable by the undertakers pernitious new ditches) abundantly furnish London and the Northern parts in their necessities. All which fore-recited commodities make our Fens far more profitable to the owners, lying as they are for grass, then if they were sown with corn, rape, or cole-seed.

Fourthly, we keep great flocks of sheep upon the Fens.

Fiftly, our Fens are a great relief, not onely to our neighbors the uplanders, but to remote Countries, which otherwise, som years thousands of catle would want food.

Sixtly, we have great store of Osier, Reed, and Sedge, which are such necessaries as the Countries cannot want them for many uses, and sets many poor on work.

Lastly, we have many thousand Cottagers, which live on our Fens, which other∣wise must go a begging. So that if the undertakers take from us a third part of our Fens, they destroy not onely our pastures and corn ground, but also our poor, and utterly disable us to relieve them.

What is Cole-seed and Rape, they are but Dutch commodities, and but trash and trumpery, and pills land, in respect of the fore-recited commodities, which are the rich Oare of the Common-wealth.

This Project hath proved the Philosophers stone, or that accursed thing to the undertakers, for it hath undone most of them that ever medled with it. The cause is plain, because it hath proved a Grinstone to the faces of thousands of poor people.

He that oppresseth the Poor, reproacheth his Maker.

Prov. 14.31.
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