|The priest John Ball ("Jehã Balle") on a horse encouraging Wat Tyler's rebels ("Waultre le tieulier") of 1381|
From a ca. 1470 manuscript of Jean Froissart's Chronicles in the British Library
At the time that the uprising began, Ball was imprisoned at the Archbishop's Palace in Maidstone, Kent. He was released by the Kentish rebels. He preached to them at Blackheath (the insurgents' gathering place near Greenwich) in an open-air sermon that included the following:
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.