John Ball (priest)
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John Ball (c. 1338 – 15 July 1381) was an English priest whose egalitarian speeches rallied the Peasants' Revolt of 1381.
Fellowship is life, lack of fellowship is death. In hell there is no answer to mans cry for help because there is no brotherhood but every man for himself. John Ball preaching on Blackheath Corpus Christi, 1381. Citation from a plaque on the Church of Ascension, Dartmouth Row, Blackheath, SE10
- Now reigneth pride in prize
and covetousness is held wise,
and lechery without shame
and gluttony without blame.
Envy reigneth with treason
and sloth is taken in great season.
God do boot, for now is time. Amen.
- Letter to the people, quoted in Annals, or a General Chronicle of England by John Stow. "Boot" here means "amends," as in the ancient Anglo-Saxon laws
- My good friends, things cannot go on well in England, nor ever will until everything shall be in common, when there shall be neither vassal nor lord, and all distinctions levelled; when the lords shall be no more masters than ourselves. How ill they have used us!… They have wines, spices and fine bread, when we have only rye and the refuse of fine straw; and if we drink, it must be water. They have handsome seats and manors, when we must brave the wind and rain in our labours in the field; but it is from our labour they have the wherewith to support their pomp.… Let us go to the king, who is young, and remonstrate with him on our servitude, telling him we must have it otherwise, or that we shall find a remedy for it ourselves.
- Typical sermon, described in the Chronicles of England, France, Spain, and other places adjoining by Jean Froissart
- When Adam delved, and Eve span, who was then the gentleman? From the beginning all men by nature were created alike, and our bondage or servitude came in by the unjust oppression of naughty men. For if God would have had any bondmen from the beginning, he would have appointed who should be bond, and who free. And therefore I exhort you to consider that now the time is come, appointed to us by God, in which ye may (if ye will) cast off the yoke of bondage, and recover liberty.
- Sermon at Blackheath (12 June 1381), quoted in Annals, or a General Chronicle of England
Quotes about Ball
- At this time, the commons had as their counselor a chaplain of evil disposition named Sir John Ball, which Sir John advised them to get rid of all the lords, and of all the archbishops and bishops, and abbots, and priors, and most of the monks and canons … and that their possessions should be distributed among the laity. For which sayings he was esteemed among the commons as a prophet — and a fit reward he later got, when he was hung, drawn, and quartered, and beheaded as a traitor.
- Anonimalle Chronicle