James Harrington. The Commonwealth of Oceana (1656)
In the second part I shall endeavor to show the rise, progress, and declination of modern prudence.
The date of this kind of policy is to be computed, as was shown, from those inundations of Goths, Vandals, Huns, and Lombards that overwhelmed the Roman Empire. But as there is no appearance in the bulk or constitution of modern prudence, that it should ever have been able to come up and grapple with the ancient, so something of necessity must have interposed whereby this came to be enervated, and that to receive strength and encouragement. And this was the execrable reign of the Roman emperors taking rise from (that felix scelus) the arms of Caesar, in which storm the ship of the Roman Commonwealth was forced to disburden itself of that precious freight, which never since could emerge or raise its head but in the Gulf of Venice.
It is said in Scripture, “Thy evil is of thyself, O Israel!” to which answers that of the moralists, “None is hurt but by himself,” as also the whole matter of the politics; at present this example of the Romans, who, through a negligence committed in their agrarian laws, let in the sink of luxury, and forfeited the inestimable treasure of liberty for themselves and their posterity.
Their agrarian laws were such whereby their lands ought to have been divided among the people, either without mention of a colony, in which case they were not obliged to change their abode; or with mention and upon condition of a colony, in which case they were to change their abode, and leaving the city, to plant themselves upon the lands so assigned. The lands assigned, or that ought to have been assigned, in either of these ways, were of three kinds: such as were taken from the enemy and distributed to the people; or such as were taken from the enemy, and, under color of being reserved to the public use, were through stealth possessed by the nobility; or such as were bought with the public money to be distributed. Of the laws offered in these cases, those which divided the lands taken from the enemy, or purchased with the public money, never occasioned any dispute; but such as drove at dispossessing the nobility of their usurpations, and dividing the common purchase of the sword among the people, were never touched but they caused earthquakes, nor could they ever be obtained by the people; or being obtained, be observed by the nobility, who not only preserved their prey, but growing vastly rich upon it, bought the people by degrees quite out of those shares that had been conferred upon them. This the Gracchi coming too late to perceive found the balance of the commonwealth to be lost; but putting the people (when they had least force) by forcible means upon the recovery of it, did ill, seeing it neither could nor did tend to any more than to show them by worse effects that what the wisdom of their leaders had discovered was true. For quite contrary to what has happened in Oceana, where, the balance falling to the people, they have overthrown the nobility, that nobility of Rome, under the conduct of Sylla, overthrew the people and the commonwealth; seeing Sylla first introduced that new balance which was the foundation of the succeeding monarchy, in the plantation of military colonies, instituted by his distribution of the conquered lands, not now of enemies, but of citizens, to forty-seven legions of his soldiers; so that how he came to be perpetual dictator, or other magistrates to succeed him in like power, is no miracle.
These military colonies (in which manner succeeding emperors continued, as Augustus by the distribution of the veterans, whereby he had overcome Brutus and Cassius to plant their soldiery) consisted of such as I conceive were they that are called milites beneficiarii; in regard that the tenure of their lands was by way of benefices, that is, for life, and upon condition of duty or service in the war upon their own charge. These benefices Alexander Severus granted to the heirs of the incumbents, but upon the same conditions. And such was the dominion by which the Roman emperors gave their balance. But to the beneficiaries, as was no less than necessary for the safety of the prince, a matter of 8,000 by the example of Augustus were added, which departed not from his sides, but were his perpetual guard, called Pretorian bands; though these, according to the incurable flaw already observed in this kind of government, became the most frequent butchers of their lords that are to be found in story. Thus far the Roman monarchy is much the same with that at this day in Turkey, consisting of a camp and a horse-quarter; a camp in regard of the Spahis and Janizaries, the perpetual guard of the prince, except they also chance to be liquorish after his blood; and a horse-quarter in regard of the distribution of his whole land to tenants for life, upon condition of continual service, or as often as they shall be commanded at their own charge by timars, being a word which they say signifies benefices, that it shall save me a labor of opening the government.
But the fame of Mahomet and his prudence is especially founded in this, that whereas the Roman monarchy, except that of Israel, was the most imperfect, the Turkish is the most perfect that ever was. Which happened in that the Roman (as the Israelitish of the Sanhedrim and the congregation) had a mixture of the Senate and the people; and the Turkish is pure. And that this was pure, and the other mixed, happened not through the wisdom of the legislators, but the different genius of the nations; the people of the Eastern parts, except the Israelites, which is to be attributed to their agrarian, having been such as scarce ever knew any other condition than that of slavery; and these of the Wester having ever had such a relish of liberty, as through what despair soever could never be brought to stand still while the yoke was putting on their necks, but by being fed with some hopes of reserving to themselves some part of their freedom.
Wherefore Julius Caesar (saith Suetonius) contented himself in naming half the magistrates, to leave the rest to the suffrage of the people. And Maecenas, though he would not have Augustus to give the people their liberty, would not have him take it quite away. Whence this empire, being neither hawk nor buzzard, made a flight accordingly; and the prince being perpetually tossed (having the avarice of the soldiery on this hand to satisfy upon the people, and the Senate and the people on the other to be defended from the soldiery), seldom died any other death than by one horn of this dilemma, as is noted more at large by Machiavel.
But the Pretorian bands, those bestial executioners of their captain’s tyranny upon others, and of their own upon him, having continued from the time of Augustus, were by Constantine the Great (incensed against them for taking part with his adversary Maxentius) removed from their strong garrison which they held in Rome, and distributed into divers provinces. The benefices of the soldiers that were hitherto held for life and upon duty, were by this prince made hereditary, so that the whole foundation whereupon this empire was first built being now removed, shows plainly that the emperors must long before this have found out some other way of support; and this was by stipendiating the Goths, a people that, deriving their roots from the northern parts of Germany, or out of Sweden, had, through their victories obtained against Domitian, long since spread their branches to so near a neighborhood with the Roman territories that they began to overshadow them. For the emperors making use of them in their armies, as the French do at this day of the Switz, gave them that under the notion of a stipend, which they received as tribute, coming, if there were any default in the payment, so often to distrain for it, that in the time of Honorius they sacked Rome, and possessed themselves of Italy. And such was the transition of ancient into modern prudence, or that breach, which being followed in every part of the Roman Empire with inundations of Vandals, Huns, Lombards, Franks, Saxons, overwhelmed ancient languages, learning, prudence, manners, cities, changing the names of rivers, countries, seas, mountains, and men; Camillus, Caesar, and Pompey, being come to Edmund, Richard, and Geoffrey.
To open the groundwork or balance of these new politicians: “Feudum,” says Calvin the lawyer, “is a Gothic word of divers significations; for it is taken either for war, or for a possession of conquered lands, distributed by the victor to such of his captains and soldiers as had merited in his wars, upon condition to acknowledge him to be their perpetual lord, and themselves to be his subjects.”
Of these there were three kinds or orders: the first of nobility distinguished by the titles of dukes, marquises, earls, and these being gratified with the cities, castles, and villages of the conquered Italians, their feuds participated of royal dignity, and were called regalia, by which they had right to coin money, create magistrates, take toll, customs, confiscations, and the like.
Feuds of the second order were such as, with the consent of the King, were bestowed by these feudatory princes upon men of inferior quality, called their barons, on condition that next to the King they should defend the dignities and fortunes of their lords in arms.
The lowest order of feuds were such, as being conferred by those of the second order upon private men, whether noble not noble, obliged them in the like duty to their superiors; the were called vavasors. And this is the Gothic balance, by which all the kingdoms this day in Christendom were at first erected; for which cause, if I had time, I should open in this place the Empire of Germany, and the Kingdoms of France, Spain, and Poland; but so much as has been said being sufficient for the discovery of the principles of modern prudence in general, I shall divide the remainder of my discourse, which is more particular, into three parts:
The first, showing the constitution of the late monarchy of Oceana;
The second, the dissolution of the same; and
The third, the generation of the present commonwealth.
The constitution of the late monarchy of Oceana is to be considered in relation to the different nations by whom it has been successively subdued and governed. The first of these were the Romans, the second the Teutons, the third the Scandians, and the fourth the Neustrians.
The government of the Romans, who held it as a province, I shall omit, because I am to speak of their provincial government in another place, only it is to be remembered here, that if we have given over running up and down naked, and with dappled hides, learned to write and read, and to be instructed with good arts, for all these we are beholden to the Romans, either immediately or mediately by the Teutons; for that the Teutons had the arts from no other hand is plain enough by their language, which has yet no word to signify either writing or reading, but what is derived from the Latin. Furthermore, by the help of these arts so learned, we have been capable of that religion which we have long since received; wherefore it seems to me that we ought not to detract from the memory of the Romans, by whose means we are, as it were, of beasts become men, and by whose means we might yet of obscure and ignorant men (if we thought not too well of ourselves) become a wise and a great people.
The Romans having governed Oceana provincially, the Teutons were the first that introduced the form of the late monarchy. To these succeeded the Scandians, of whom (because their reign was short, as also because they made little alteration in the government as to the form) I shall take no notice. But the Teutons going to work upon the Gothic balance, divided the whole nation into three sorts of feuds, that of ealdorman, that of king’s thane, and that of middle thane.
When the kingdom was first divided into precincts will be as hard to show as when it began first to be governed. It being impossible that there should be any government without some division. The division that was in use with the Teutons was by counties, and every county had either its ealdorman or high reeve. The title of ealdorman came in time to eorl, or erl, and that of high reeve to high sheriff.
Earl of the shire or county denoted the king’s thane, or tenant by grand sergeantry or knight’s service, in chief or in capite; his possessions were sometimes the whole territory from whence he had his denomination, that is, the whole county; sometimes more than one county, and sometimes less, the remaining part being in the crown. He had also sometimes a third, or some other customary part of the profits of certain cities, boroughs, or other places within his earldom. For an example of the possessions of earls in ancient times, Ethelred had to him and his heirs the whole Kingdom of Mercia, containing three or four counties; and there were others that had little less.
King’s thane was also an honorary title, to which he was qualified that had five hides of land held immediately of the King by service of personal attendance; insomuch that if a churl or countryman had thriven to this proportion, having a church, a kitchen, a bell-house (that is, a hall with a bell in it to call his family to dinner), a borough-gate with a seat (that is, a porch) of his own, and any distinct office in the King’s court, then was he the King’s thane. But the proportion of a hide-land, otherwise called caruca, or a plough-land, is difficult to be understood, because it was not certain; nevertheless it is generally conceived to be so much as may be managed with one plough, and would yield the maintenance of the same, with the appurtenances in all kinds.
The middle thane was feudal, but not honorary; he was also called a vavasor, and his lands a vavasory, which held of some mesne lord, and not immediately of the King.
Possessions and their tenures, being of this nature, show the balance of the Teuton monarchy, wherein the riches of earls were so vast that to arise from the balance of their dominion to their power, they were not only called reguli, or little kings, but were such indeed; their jurisdiction being of two sorts, either that which was exercised by them in the court of their countries, or in the high court of the kingdom.
In the territory denominating an earl, if it were all his own, the courts held, and the profits of that jurisdiction were to his own use and benefit. But if he had but some part of his county, then his jurisdiction and courts, saving perhaps in those possessions that were his own, were held by him to the King’s use and benefit; that is, he commonly supplied the office which the sheriffs regularly executed in counties that had no earls, and whence they came to be called viscounts. The court of the county that had an earl was held by the earl and the bishop of the diocese, after the manner of the sheriffs’ turns to this day; by which means both the ecclesiastical and temporal laws were given in charge together to the country. The causes of vavasors or vavasories appertained to the cognizance of this court, where wills were proved, judgment and execution given, cases criminal and civil determined.
The King’s thanes had the like jurisdiction in their thane lands as lords in their manors, where they also kept courts.
Besides these in particular, both the earls and King’s thanes, together with the bishops, abbots, and vavasors, or middle thanes, had in the high court or parliament in the kingdom a more public jurisdiction, consisting first of deliberative power for advising upon and assenting to new laws; secondly, giving counsel in matters of state and thirdly, of judicature upon suits and complaints. I shall not omit to enlighten the obscurity of these times, in which there is little to be found of a methodical constitution of this high court, by the addition of an argument, which I conceive to bear a strong testimony to itself, though taken out of a late writing that conceals the author. “It is well known,” says he, “that in every quarter of the realm a great many boroughs do yet send burgesses to the parliament which nevertheless be so anciently and so long since decayed and gone to naught, that they cannot be showed to have been of any reputation since the Conquest, much less to have obtained any such privilege by the grant of any succeeding king: wherefore these must have had this right by more ancient usage, and before the Conquest, they being unable now to show whence they derived it.”
This argument, though there be more, I shall pitch upon as sufficient to prove: First, that the lower sort of the people had right to session in Parliament during the time of the Teutons. Secondly, that they were qualified to the same by election in their boroughs, and if knights of the shire, as no doubt they are, be as ancient in the counties. Thirdly if it be a good argument to say that the commons during the reign of the Teutons were elected into Parliament because they are so now, and no man can show when this custom began, I see not which way it should be an ill one to say that the commons during the reign of the Teutons constituted also a distinct house because they do so now, unless any man can show that they did ever sit in the same house with the lords. Wherefore to conclude this part, I conceive for these, and other reasons to be mentioned hereafter, that the Parliament of the Teutons consisted of the King, the lords spiritual and temporal, and the commons of the nation, notwithstanding the style of divers acts of Parliament, which runs, as that of Magna Charta, in the King’s name only, seeing the same was nevertheless enacted by the King, peers, and commons of the land, as is testified in those words by a subsequent act.
The monarchy of the Teutons had stood in this posture about 220 years; when Turbo, Duke of Neustria, making his claim to the crown of one of their kings that died childless, followed it with successful arms, and, being possessed of the kingdom, used it as conquered, distributing the earldoms, thane-lands, bishoprics, and prelacies of the whole realm among his Neustrians. From this time the earl came to be called comes, consul, and dux, though consul and dux grew afterward out of use; the King’s thanes came to be called barons, and their lands baronies; the middle thane holding still of a mesne lord, retained the name of vavasor.
The earl or comes continued to have the third part of the pleas of the county paid to him by the sheriff or vice ” comes, now a distinct officer in every county depending upon the King; saving that such earls as had their counties to their own use were now counts-palatine, and had under the King regal jurisdiction; insomuch that they constituted their own sheriffs, granted pardons, and issued writs in their own names; nor did the King’s writ of ordinary justice run in their dominions till a late statute, whereby much of this privilege was taken away.
For barons they came from henceforth to be in different times of three kinds: barons by their estates and tenures, barons by writ, and barons created by letters-patent. From Turbo the first to Adoxus the seventh king from the Conquest, barons had their denomination from their possessions and tenures. And these were either spiritual or temporal; for not only the thanelands, but the possessions of bishops, as also of some twenty six abbots, and two priors, were now erected into baronies, whence the lords spiritual that had suffrage in the Teuton Parliament as spiritual lords came to have it in the Neustrian Parliament as barons, and were made subject, which they had not formerly been, to knights’ service in chief. Barony coming henceforth to signify all honorary possessions as well of earls as barons, and baronage to denote all kinds of lords as well spiritual as temporal having right to sit in Parliament, the baronies in this sense were sometimes more, and sometimes fewer, but commonly about 200 or 250, containing in them a matter of 60,000 feuda militum, or knights’ fees, whereof some 28,000 were in the clergy.
It is ill-luck that no man can tell what the land of a knight’s fee, reckoned in some writs at £40 a year, and in others at £10, was certainly worth, for by such a help we might have exactly demonstrated the balance of this government. But, says Coke, it contained twelve plough-lands, and that was thought to be the most certain account. But this again is extremely uncertain; for one plough out of some land that was fruitful might work more than ten out of some other that was barren. Nevertheless, seeing it appears by Bracton, that of earldoms and baronies it was wont to be said that the whole kingdom was composed, as also that these, consisting of 60,000 knights’ fees, furnished 60,000 men for the King’s service, being the whole militia of this monarchy, it cannot be imagined that the vavasories or freeholds in the people amounted to any considerable proportion. Wherefore the balance and foundation of this government were in the 60,000 knights’ fees, and these being possessed by the 250 lords, it was a government of the few, or of the nobility, wherein the people might also assemble, but could have no more than a mere name. And the clergy, holding a third of the whole nation, as is plain by the Parliament-roll, it is an absurdity (seeing the clergy of France came first through their riches to be a state of that kingdom) to acknowledge the people to have been a state of this realm, and not to allow it to the clergy, who were so much more weighty in the balance, which is that of all other whence a state or order in a government is denominated. Wherefore this monarchy consisted of the King, and of the three ordines regni, or estates, the lords spiritual and temporal, and the commons; it consisted of these, I say, as to the balance, though, during the reign of some of these kings, not as to the administration.
For the ambition of Turbo, and some of those that more immediately succeeded him, to be absolute princes, strove against the nature of their foundation, and, inasmuch as he had divided almost the whole realm among his Neustrians, with some encouragement for a while. But the Neustrians, while they were but foreign plants, having no security against the natives, but in growing up by their princes’ sides, were no sooner well rooted in their vast dominions than they came up according to the infallible consequence of the balance domestic, and, contracting the national interest of the baronage, grew as fierce in the vindication of the ancient rights and liberties of the same, as if they had been always natives: whence, the kings being as obstinate on the one side for their absolute power, as these on the other for their immunities, grew certain wars, which took their denomination from the barons.
This fire about the middle of the reign of Adoxus began to break out. And whereas the predecessors of this King had divers times been forced to summon councils resembling those of the Teutons, to which the lords only that were barons by dominion and tenure had hitherto repaired, Adoxus, seeing the effects of such dominion, began first not to call such as were barons by writ (for that was according to the practice of ancient times), but to call such by writs as were otherwise no barons; by which means, striving to avoid the consequence of the balance, in coming unwillingly to set the government straight, he was the first that set it awry. For the barons in his reign, and his successors, having vindicated their ancient authority, restored the Parliament with all the rights and privileges of the same, saving that from thenceforth the kings had found out a way whereby to help themselves against the mighty by creatures of their own, and such as had no other support but by their favor.. By which means this government, being indeed the masterpiece of modern prudence, has been cried up to the skies, as the only invention whereby at once to maintain the sovereignty of a prince and the liberty of the people. Whereas, indeed, it has been no other than a wrestling-match, wherein the nobility, as they have been stronger, have thrown the King, or the King, if he has been stronger, has thrown the nobility; or the King, where he has had a nobility, and could bring them to his party has thrown the people, as in France and Spain; or the people, where they have had no nobility, or could get them to be of their party, have thrown the King, as in Holland, and of later times in Oceana.
But they came not to this strength, but by such approaches and degrees as remain to be further opened. For whereas the barons by writ, as the sixty-four abbots and thirty-six priors that were so called, were but pro temp ore, Dicotome, being the twelfth king from the Conquest, began to make barons by letters-patent, with the addition of honorary pensions for the maintenance of their dignities to them and their heirs; so that they were hands in the King’s purse and had no shoulders for his throne. Of these, when the house of peers came once to be full, as will be seen hereafter, there was nothing more empty. But for the present, the throne having other supports, they did not hurt that so much as they did the King; for the old barons, taking Dicotome’s prodigality to such creatures so ill that they deposed him, got the trick of it, and never gave over setting up and pulling down their kings according to their various interests, and that faction of the White and Red, into which they have been thenceforth divided, till Panurgus, the eighteenth king from the Conquest, was more by their favor than his right advanced to the crown. This King, through his natural subtlety, reflecting at once upon the greatness of their power, and the inconstancy of their favor, began to find another flaw in this kind of government, which is also noted by Machiavel namely, that a throne supported by a nobility is not so hard to be ascended as kept warm. Wherefore his secret jealousy, lest the dissension of the nobility, as it brought him in might throw him out, made him travel in ways undiscovered by them, to ends as little foreseen by himself, while to establish his own safety, he, by mixing water with their wine, first began to open those sluices that have since overwhelmed not the King only, but the throne. For whereas a nobility strikes not at the throne, without which they cannot subsist, but at some king that they do not like, popular power strikes through the King at the throne, as that which is incompatible with it. Now that Panurgus, in abating the power of the nobility, was the cause whence it came to fall into the hands of the people, appears by those several statutes that were made in his reign, as that for population, those against retainers, and that for alienations.
By the statute of population, all houses of husbandry that were used with twenty acres of ground and upward, were to be maintained and kept up forever with a competent proportion of land laid to them, and in no wise, as appears by a subsequent statute, to be severed. By which means the houses being kept up, did of necessity enforce dwellers; and the proportion of land to be tilled being kept up, did of necessity enforce the dweller not to be a beggar or cottager, but a man of some substance, that might keep hinds and servants and set the plough a-going. This did mightily concern, says the historian of that prince, the might and manhood of the kingdom, and in effect amortize a great part of the lands to the hold and possession of the yeomanry or middle people, who living not in a servile or indigent fashion, were much unlinked from dependence upon their lords, and living in a free and plentiful manner, became a more excellent infantry, but such a one upon which the lords had so little power, that from henceforth they may be computed to have been disarmed.
And as they had lost their infantry after this manner, so their cavalry and commanders were cut off by the statute of retainers; for whereas it was the custom of the nobility to have younger brothers of good houses, mettled fellows, and such as were knowing in the feats of arms about them, they who were longer followed with so dangerous a train, escaped not such punishments as made them take up.
Henceforth the country lives and great tables of the nobility, which no longer nourished veins that would bleed for them, were fruitless and loathsome till they changed the air, and of princes became courtiers; where their revenues, never to have been exhausted by beef and mutton, were found narrow, whence followed racking of rents, and at length sale of lands, the riddance through the statute of alienations being rendered far more quick and facile than formerly it had been through the new invention of entails.
To this it happened that Coraunus, the successor of that King, dissolving the abbeys, brought, with the declining state of the nobility, so vast a prey to the industry of the people, that the balance of the commonwealth was too apparently in the popular party to be unseen by the wise Council of Queen Parthenia, who, converting her reign through the perpetual love tricks that passed between her and her people into a kind of romance, wholly neglected the nobility. And by these degrees came the House of Commons to raise that head, which since has been so high and formidable to their princes that they have looked pale upon those assemblies. Nor was there anything now wanting to the destruction of the throne, but that the people, not apt to see their own strength, should be put to feel it; when a prince, as stiff in disputes as the nerve of monarchy was grown slack, received that unhappy encouragement from his clergy which became his utter ruin, while trusting more to their logic than the rough philosophy of his Parliament, it came to an irreparable breach; for the house of peers, which alone had stood in this gap, now sinking down between the King and the commons, showed that Crassus was dead and the isthmus broken. But a monarchy, divested of its nobility, has no refuge under heaven but an army. Wherefore the dissolution of this government caused the war, not the war the dissolution of this government.
Of the King’s success with his arms it is not necessary to give any further account than that they proved as ineffectual as his nobility; but without a nobility or an army (as has been shown) there can be no monarchy. Wherefore what is there in nature that can arise out of these ashes but a popular government, or a new monarchy to be erected by the victorious army?
To erect a monarchy, be it never so new, unless like Leviathan you can hang it, as the country-fellow speaks, by geometry (for what else is it to say, that every other man must give up his will to the will of this one man without any other foundation?), it must stand upon old principles ” that is, upon a nobility or an army planted on a due balance of dominion. Aut viam inveniam aut faciam, was an adage of Caesar, and there is no standing for a monarchy unless it finds this balance, or makes it. If it finds it, the work is done to its hand; for, where there is inequality of estates, there must be inequality of power; and where there is inequality of power, there can be no commonwealth. To make it, the sword must extirpate out of dominion all other roots of power, and plant an army upon that ground. An army may be planted nationally or provincially. To plant it nationally, it must be in one of the four ways mentioned, that is, either monarchically in part, as the Roman beneficiarii; or monarchically, in the whole, as the Turkish Timariots; aristocratically that is, by earls and barons, as the Neustrians were planted by Turbo; or democratically, that is, by equal lots, as the Israelitish army in the land of Canaan by Joshua. In every one of these ways there must not only be confiscations, but confiscations to such a proportion as may answer to the work intended.
Confiscation of a people that never fought against you, but whose arms you have borne, and in which you have been victorious, and this upon premeditation and in cold blood, I should have thought to be against any example in human nature, but for those alleged by Machiavel of Agathocles, and Oliveretto di Fermo, the former whereof being captain-general of the Syracusans, upon a day assembled the Senate and the people, as if he had something to communicate with them, when at a sign given he cut the senators in pieces to a man, and all the richest of the people, by which means he came to be king. The proceedings of Oliveretto, in making himself Prince of Fermo, were somewhat different in circumstances, but of the same nature. Nevertheless Catiline, who had a spirit equal to any of these in his intended mischief, could never bring the like to pass in Rome. The head of a small commonwealth, such a one as was that of Syracuse or Fermo, is easily brought to the block; but that a populous nation, such as Rome, had not such a one, was the grief of Nero. If Sylvia or Caesar attained to be princes, it was by civil war, and such civil war as yielded rich spoils, there being a vast nobility to be confiscated; which also was the case in Oceana, when it yielded earth by earldoms, and baronies to the Neustrian for the plantation of his new potentates. Where a conqueror finds the riches of a land in the hands of the few, the forfeitures are easy, and amount to vast advantage; but where the people have equal shares, the confiscation of many comes to little, and is not only dangerous but fruitless.
The Romans, in one of their defeats of the Volsci, found among the captives certain Tusculans, who, upon examination, confessed that the arms they bore were by command of their State; whereupon information being given to the Senate by the general Camillus, he was forthwith commanded to march against Tusculum which doing accordingly, he found the Tusculan fields full of husbandmen, that stirred not otherwise from the plough than to furnish his army with all kinds of accommodations and victuals. Drawing near to the city, he saw the gates wide open, the magistrates coming out in their gowns to salute and bid him welcome; entering, the shops were all at work, and open, the streets sounded with the noise of schoolboys at their books; there was no face of war. Whereupon Camillus, causing the Senate to assemble, told them, that though the art was understood, yet had they at length found out the true arms whereby the Romans were most undoubtedly to be conquered, for which cause he would not anticipate the Senate, to which he desired them forthwith to send, which they did accordingly; and their dictator with the rest of their ambassadors being found by the Roman senators as they went into the house standing sadly at the door were sent for in as friends, and not as enemies; where the dictator having said, "If we have offended, the fault was not so great as is our penitence and your virtue,” the Senate gave them peace forthwith, and soon after made the Tusculans citizens of Rome.
But putting the case, of which the world is not able to show an example, that the forfeiture of a populous nation, not conquered, but friends, and in cool blood, might be taken, your army must be planted in one of the ways mentioned. To plant it in the way of absolute monarchy, that is, upon feuds for life, such as the Timars, a country as large and fruitful as that of Greece, would afford you but 16,000 Timariots, for that is the most the Turk (being the best husband that ever was of this kind) makes of it at this day: and if Oceana, which is less in fruitfulness by one-half, and in extent by three parts, should have no greater a force, whoever breaks her in one battle, may be sure she shall never rise; for such (as was noted by Machiavel) is the nature of the Turkish monarchy, if you break it in two battles, you have destroyed its whole militia, and the rest being all slaves, you hold it without any further resistance. Wherefore the erection of an absolute monarchy in Oceana, or in any other country that is no larger, without making it a certain prey to the first invader is altogether impossible.
To plant by halves, as the Roman emperors did their beneficiaries, or military colonies, it must be either for life; and this an army of Oceaners in their own country, especially having estates of inheritance, will never bear because such an army so planted is as well confiscated as the people; nor had the Mamelukes been contented with such usage in Egypt, but that they were foreigners, and daring not to mix with the natives, it was of absolute necessity to their being.
Or planting them upon inheritance, whether aristocratically as the Neustrians, or democratically as the Israelites, they grow up by certain consequences into the national interest, and this, if they be planted popularly, comes to a commonwealth; if by way of nobility, to a mixed monarchy, which of all other will be found to be the only kind of monarchy whereof this nation, or any other that is of no greater extent, has been or can be capable; for if the Israelites, though their democratical balance, being fixed by their agrarian, stood firm, be yet found to have elected kings, it was because, their territory lying open, they were perpetually invaded, and being perpetually invaded, turned themselves to anything which, through the want of experience, they thought might be a remedy; whence their mistake in election of their kings, under whom they gained nothing, but, on the contrary, lost all they had acquired by their commonwealth, both estates and liberties, is not only apparent, but without parallel. And if there have been, as was shown, a kingdom of the Goths in Spain, and of the Vandals in Asia, consisting of a single person and a Parliament (taking a parliament to be a council of the people only, without a nobility), it is expressly said of those councils that they deposed their kings as often as they pleased; nor can there be any other consequence of such a government, seeing where there is a council of the people they do never receive laws, but give them; and a council giving laws to a single person, he has no means in the world whereby to be any more than a subordinate magistrate but force: in which case he is not a single person and a parliament, but a single person and an army, which army again must be planted as has been shown, or can be of no long continuance.
It is true, that the provincial balance bring in nature quite contrary to the national, you are no way to plant a provincial army upon dominion. But then you must have a native territory in strength, situation, or government, able to overbalance the foreign, or you can never hold it. That an army should in any other case be long supported by a mere tax, is a mere fancy as void of all reason and experience as if a man should think to maintain such a one by robbing of orchards; for a mere tax is but pulling of plum-trees, the roots whereof are in other men’s grounds, who, suffering perpetual violence, come to hate the author of it; and it is a maxim, that no prince that is hated by his people can be safe. Arms planted upon dominion extirpate enemies and make friends; but maintained by a mere tax, have enemies that have roots, and friends that have none.
To conclude, Oceana, or any other nation of no greater extent, must have a competent nobility, or is altogether incapable of monarchy; for where there is equality of estates, there must be equality of power, and where there is equality of power, there can be no monarchy.
To come then to the generation of the commonwealth. It has been shown how, through the ways and means used by Panurgus to abase the nobility, and so to mend that flaw which we have asserted to be incurable in this kind of constitution, he suffered the balance to fall into the power of the people, and so broke the government; but the balance being in the people, the commonwealth (though they do not see it) is already in the nature of them. There wants nothing else but time, which is slow and dangerous, or art, which would be more quick and secure, for the bringing those native arms, wherewithal they are found already, to resist, they know not how, everything that opposes them, to such maturity as may fix them upon their own strength and bottom.
But whereas this art is prudence, and that part of prudence which regards the present work is nothing else but the skill of raising such superstructures of government as are natural to the known foundations, they never mind the foundation, but through certain animosities, wherewith by striving one against another they are infected, or through freaks, by which, not regarding the course of things, nor how they conduce to their purpose, they are given to building in the air, come to be divided and subdivided into endless parties and factions, both civil and ecclesiastical, which, briefly to open, I shall first speak of the people in general, and then of their divisions.
A people, says Machiavel, that is corrupt, is not capable of a commonwealth. But in showing what a corrupt people is, he has either involved himself, or me; nor can I otherwise come out of the labyrinth, than by saying, the balance altering a people, as to the foregoing government, must of necessity be corrupt; but corruption in this sense signifies no more than that the corruption of one government, as in natural bodies, is the generation of another. Wherefore if the balance alters from monarchy, the corruption of the people in this case is that which makes them capable of a commonwealth. But whereas I am not ignorant that the corruption which he means is in manners, this also is from the balance. For the balance leading from monarchical into popular abates the luxury of the nobility, and, enriching the people, brings the government from a more private to a more public interest which coming nearer, as has been shown, to justice and right reason, the people upon a like alteration is so far from such a corruption of manners as should render them incapable of a commonwealth, that of necessity they must thereby contract such a reformation of manners as will bear no other kind of government. On the other side, where the balance changes from popular to oligarchical or monarchical, the public interest, with the reason and justice included in the sane, becomes more private; luxury is introduced in the room of temperance, and servitude in that of freedom, which causes such a corruption of manners both in the nobility and people, as, by the example of Rome in the time of the Triumvirs, is more at large discovered by the author to have been altogether incapable of a commonwealth.
But the balance of Oceana changing quite contrary to that of Rome, the manners of the people were not thereby corrupted, but, on the contrary, adapted to a commonwealth. For differences of opinion in a people not rightly informed of their balance, or a division into parties (while there is not any common ligament of power sufficient to reconcile or hold them) is no sufficient proof of corruption. Nevertheless, seeing this must needs be matter of scandal and danger, it will not be amiss, in showing what were the parties, to show what were their errors.
The parties into which this nation was divided, were temporal or spiritual; and the temporal parties were especially two, the one royalists, the other republicans, each of which asserted their different causes, either out of prudence or ignorance, out of interest or conscience.
For prudence, either that of the ancients is inferior to the modern, which we have hitherto been setting face to face, that anyone may judge, or that of the royalist must be inferior to that of the commonwealths man. And for interest, taking the commonwealths man to have really intended the public, for otherwise he is a hypocrite and the worst of men, that of the royalist must of necessity have been more private. Wherefore, the whole dispute will come upon matter of conscience, and this, whether it be urged by the right of kings, the obligation of former laws, or of the oath of allegiance, is absolved by the balance.
For if the right of kings were as immediately derived from the breath of God as the life of man, yet this excludes not death and dissolution. But, that the dissolution of the late monarchy was as natural as the death of man, has been already shown. Wherefore it remains with the royalists to discover by what reason or experience it is possible for a monarchy to stand upon a popular balance; or, the balance being popular, as well the oath of allegiance, as all other monarchical laws, imply an impossibility, and are therefore void.
To the commonwealths man I have no more to say, but that if he excludes any party, he is not truly such, nor shall ever found a commonwealth upon the natural principle of the same, which is justice. And the royalist for having not opposed a commonwealth in Oceana, where the laws were so ambiguous that they might be eternally disputed and never reconciled, can neither be justly for that cause excluded from his full and equal share in the government; nor prudently for this reason, that a commonwealth consisting of a party will be in perpetual labor for her own destruction: whence it was that the Romans, having conquered the Albans, incorporated them with equal right into the commonwealth. And if the royalists be “flesh of your flesh,” and nearer of blood than were the Albans to the Romans, you being also both Christians, the argument is the stronger. Nevertheless there is no reason that a commonwealth should any more favor a party remaining in fixed opposition against it, than Brutus did his own sons. But if it fixes them upon that opposition, it is its own fault, not theirs; and this is done by excluding them. Men that have equal possessions and the same security for their estates and their liberties that you have, have the same cause with you to defend both; but if you will liberty, though for monarchy; and be trampling, they fight for you for tyranny, though under the name of a commonwealth: the nature of orders in a government rightly instituted being void of all jealousy, because, let the parties which it embraces be what they will, its orders are such as they neither would resist if they could, nor could if they would, as has been partly already shown, and will appear more at large by the following model.
The parties that are spiritual are of more kinds than I need mention; some for a national religion, and others for liberty of conscience, with such animosity on both sides, as if these two could not consist together, and of which I have already sufficiently spoken, to show that indeed the one cannot well subsist without the other But they of all the rest are the most dangerous, who, holding that the saints must govern, go about to reduce the commonwealth to a party, as well for the reasons already shown, as that their pretences are against Scripture, where the saints are commanded to submit to the higher powers, and to be subject to the ordinance of man. And that men, pretending under the notion of saints or religion to civil power, have hitherto never failed to dishonor that profession, the world is full of examples, whereof I shall confine myself at present only to a couple, the one of old, the other of new Rome.
In old Rome, the patricians or nobility pretending to be the godly party, were questioned by the people for engrossing all the magistracies of that commonwealth, and had nothing to say why they did so, but that magistracy required a kind of holiness which was not in the people; at which the people were filled with such indignation as had come to cutting of throats, if the nobility had not immediately laid by the insolency of that plea; which nevertheless when they had done, the people for a long time after continued to elect no other but patrician magistrates.
The example of new Rome in the rise and practice of the hierarchy (too well known to require any further illustration) is far more immodest.
This has been the course of nature; and when it has pleased or shall please God to introduce anything that is above the course of nature, he will, as he has always done, confirm it by miracle; for so in his prophecy of the reign of Christ upon earth he expressly promises, seeing that “the souls of them that were beheaded for Jesus, shall be seen to live and reign with him;” which will be an object of sense, the rather, because the rest of the dead are not to live again till the thousand years be finished. And it is not lawful for men to persuade us that a thing already is, though there be no such object of our sense, which God has told us shall not be till it be an object of our sense.
The saintship of a people as to government, consists in the election of magistrates fearing God, and hating covetousness, and not in their confining themselves, or being confined, to men of this or that party or profession. It consists in making the most prudent and religious choice they can; yet not in trusting to men, but, next God, to their own orders. “Give us good men, and they will make us good laws,” is the maxim of a demagogue, and is (through the alteration which is commonly perceivable in men, when they have power to work their own wills) exceeding fallible. But “give us good orders, and they will make us good men,” is the maxim of a legislator, and the most infallible in the politics.
But these divisions (however there be some good men that look sadly on them) are trivial things; first as to the civil concern, because the government, whereof this nation is capable, being once seen, takes in all interests. And, secondly, as to the spiritual; because as the pretence of religion has always been turbulent in broken governments, so where the government has been sound and steady, religion has never shown itself with any other face than that of its natural sweetness and tranquillity, nor is there any reason why it should, wherefore the errors of the people are occasioned by their governors. If they be doubtful of the way, or wander from it, it is because their guides misled them; and the guides of the people are never so well qualified for leading by any virtue of their own, as by that of the government.
The government of Oceana (as it stood at the time whereof we discourse, consisting of one single Council of the people, exclusively of the King and the Lords) was called a Parliament: nevertheless the parliaments of the Teutons and of the Neustrians consisted, as has been shown, of the King, lords, and commons; wherefore this, under an old name, was a new thing a parliament consisting of a single assembly elected by the people, and invested with the whole power of the government, without any covenants, conditions, or orders whatsoever. So new a thing, that neither ancient nor modern prudence can show any avowed example of the like. And there is scarce anything that seems to me so strange as that (whereas there was nothing more familiar with these councillors than to bring the Scripture to the house) there should not be a man of them that so much as offered to bring the house to the Scripture, wherein, as has been shown, is contained that original, whereof all the rest of the commonwealths seem to be copies. Certainly if Leviathan (who is surer of nothing than that a popular commonwealth consists but of one council) transcribed his doctrine out of this assembly, for him to except against Aristotle and Cicero for writing out of their own commonwealths was not so fair play; or if the Parliament transcribed out of him, it had been an honor better due to Moses. But where one of them should have an example but from the other, I cannot imagine, there being nothing of this kind that I can find in story, but the oligarchy of Athens, the Thirty Tyrants of the same, and the Roman Decemvirs.
For the oligarchy, Thucydides tells us, that it was a Senate or council of 400, pretending to a balancing council of the people consisting of 5,000, but not producing them; wherein you have the definition of an oligarchy, which is a single council both debating and resolving, dividing and choosing, and what that must come to was shown by the example of the girls, and is apparent by the experience of all times; wherefore the thirty set up by the Lacedaemonians (when they had conquered Athens) are called tyrants by all authors, Leviathan only excepted, who will have them against all the world to have been an aristocracy, but for what reason I cannot imagine; these also, as void of any balance, having been void of that which is essential to every commonwealth, whether aristocratical or popular, except he be pleased with them, because that, according to the testimony of Xenophon, they killed more men in eight months than the Lacedaemonians had done in ten years; “oppressing the people (to use Sir Walter Raleigh’s words) with all base and intolerable slavery.”
The usurped government of the Decemvirs in Rome was of the same kind. Wherefore in the fear of God let Christian legislators (setting the pattern given in the Mount on the one side, and these execrable examples on the other) know the right hand from the left; and so much the rather, because those things which do not conduce to the good of the governed are fallacious, if they appear to be good for the governors. God, in chastising a people, is accustomed to burn his rod. The empire of these oligarchies was not so violent as short, nor did they fall upon the people, but in their own immediate ruin. A council without a balance is not a commonwealth, but an oligarchy; and every oligarchy, except it be put to the defence of its wickedness or power against some outward danger, is factious. Wherefore the errors of the people being from their governors (which maxim in the politics bearing a sufficient testimony to itself, is also proved by Machiavel), if the people of Oceana have been factious, the cause is apparent, but what remedy?
In answer to this question, I come now to the army, of which the most victorious captain and incomparable patriot, Olphaus Megaletor, was now general, who being a much greater master of that art whereof I have made a rough draught in these preliminaries, had such sad reflections upon the ways and proceedings of the Parliament as cast him upon books and all other means of diversion, among which he happened on this place of Machiavel: “Thrice happy is that people which chances to have a man able to give them such a government at once, as without alteration may secure them of their liberties; seeing it was certain that Lacedaemon, in observing the laws of Lycurgus, continued about 800 years without any dangerous tumult or corruption.” My lord general (as it is said of Themistocles, that he could not sleep for the glory obtained by Miltiades at the battle of Marathon) took so new and deep an impression at these words of the much greater glory of Lycurgus, that, being on this side assaulted with the emulation of his illustrious object, and on the other with the misery of the nation, which seemed (as it were ruined by his victory) to cast itself at his feet, he was almost wholly deprived of his natural rest, till the debate he had within himself came to a firm resolution, that the greatest advantages of a commonwealth are, first, that the legislator should be one man; and, secondly, that the government should be made all together, or at once. For the first, it is certain, says Machiavel, that a commonwealth is seldom or never well turned or constituted, except it has been the work of one man; for which cause a wise legislator, and one whose mind is firmly set, not upon private but the public interest, not upon his posterity but upon his country, may justly endeavor to get the sovereign power into his own hands, nor shall any man that is master of reason blame such extraordinary means as in that case will be necessary, the end proving no other than the constitution of a well-ordered commonwealth.
The reason of this is demonstrable; for the ordinary means not failing, the commonwealth has no need of a legislator, but the ordinary means failing, there is no recourse to be had but to such as are extraordinary. And, whereas a book or a building has not been known to attain to its perfection if it has not had a sole author or architect, a commonwealth, as to the fabric of it, is of the like nature. And thus it may be made at once; in which there be great advantages; for a commonwealth made at once, takes security at the same time it lends money; and trusts not itself to the faith of men, but launches immediately forth into the empire of laws, and, being set straight, brings the manners of its citizens to its rule, whence followed that uprightness which was in Lacedaemon. But manners that are rooted in men, bow the tenderness of a commonwealth coming up by twigs to their, bent, whence followed the obliquity that was in Rome, and those perpetual repairs by the consuls’ axes, and tribunes’ hammers, which could never finish that commonwealth but in destruction.
My lord general being clear in these points, and of the necessity of some other course than would be thought upon by the Parliament, appointed a meeting of the army, where he spoke his sense agreeable to these preliminaries with such success to the soldiery, that the Parliament was soon after deposed; had he himself, in the great hall of the Pantheon or palace of justice, situated in Emporium, the capital city, was created by the universal suffrage of the army, Lord Archon, or sole legislator of Oceana, upon which theatre you have, to conclude this piece, a person introduced, whose fame shall never draw its curtain.
The Lord Archon being created, fifty select persons to assist him, by laboring in the mines of ancient prudence, and bringing its hidden treasures to new light, were added, with the style also of legislators, and sat as a council, whereof he was the sole director and president.