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be second in importance on the republican side to Haselrigge's party.
This notoriety was voiced in the fugitive literature of the time; and Harrington's fame was enhanced by the names with which he was coupled.
“Scot, Nevil and Vane
With the rest of that train
wrote a song writer in March 1660.
And now John,” wrote a royalist pamphleteer addressing Milton, as he stands on the scaffold,“ you must stand close and draw in your elbows that Needham, the Commonwealth didapper, may have room to stand beside you.
He was one of the spokes of Harrington's Rota, till he was turned out for cracking. As for Harrington he's but a demy-semy in the Rump's musick and should be good at the cymbal, for he is all for wheeling instruments." 3 No other public character was more ridiculed. In the numerous lampoons of the time Harrington and his notorious coffee-club are alluded to with unfailing regularity. Sandwiched between indecent remarks or bits of satire, passages like the following occur—in “Bibliotheca Militum imaginary soldier's library, “ Heyte Tyte, or to-morrow morning I found an Horse-shoe; being an excellent discourse concerning Government, with some sober and practical expedients, modestly propos'd and
(as you all along most deservedly have regard unto) the Foundations of Government shall be laid so firm and deep as in the Word of God, bottomed upon that Corner-Stone the Lord Jesus, there is a Heavenly Ballance to be met with, which keeps all even." 1 Carte, “ Original Letters," ii. 225.
“ Political Ballads of the Commonwealth," iii. 215. 3“ Character of the Rump,” E 1017.
written by James Harrington,” also, A new gag for an old Goose or a reply to Mr James Harrington's Oceana by Mr Wrenn "1/-in Bibliotheca Fanatica” or the imaginary fanatic's library, “The Rump's Seminary, or the best way to find out the ablest Utopian Commonwealths men, by the Coffee Club at Westminster"2_in Alazonomastix Philalethes' Free Parliament Queries,” “Whether Hanging or Drowning be the best waies of Transportation of our late Republicans to the Commonwealths of Utopia or Oceana ”3_in “A new map of England or 46 queries," Whether Dr Owen's infant Commonwealth was not an Anabaptist, since he nor Mr Harrington could give it a name.' Whether Mr Harrington is studying Monarchy or an Aristocracy now, since his Democraticall Government took no effect." Whether he did not take great pains to no purpose" Lin the “ Decrees and Orders of the Committee of Safety of the Commonwealth of Oceana," I. “ That the Politick Casuists of the Coffee Club in Bow Street appoint some of their number to instruct the Committee of Safety at Whitehall how they shall finde an Invention to escape Tyburne, if ever the Law be restored”; II. “ That Harrington's Aphorisms and other Political slips be recommended to the English Plantation in Jamaica, to see how they will agree with that Apocryphal Purchase”; III. “That a Levite and an Elder be sent to Survey the Government of the Moon and that Warreston Johnston and Parson Peters be the Men, as a couple of Learned Rabbies in the Lunaticks." 5 The burlesque proposal to ship Harrington to Jamaica was a common one.6 Little did Samuel Butler, when he proposed
" That Mr
1 E 986.
: E 1956.
3 E 1001. 5 Cf. “ Democritus turned Statesman,” E 1985.
4 E IOIO.
38 Queries,” E 988. 1 " Acts and Monuments of our Late Parliament," Harl. Misc. v. 423. · Aubrey, “ Brief Lives," ii. 289-90.
THE ROTA CLUB
Harrington be forthwith despatched to Jamaica, that famous island, and form his commonwealth there,” i know that Harrington's ideas were destined to go a little further, find acceptation on the mainland of America, and be embodied in the constitution of the United States.
As early as 1656 Harrington had conducted with more or less regularity a campaign in support of his propaganda among the London coffee-houses. In November 1659, he formed his famous Rota Club of which Aubrey, himself a member, has left a short description. “He had every night a meeting at the (then) Turke's head, in the New Pallace-yard, where they take water, the next house to the staires, at one Miles's, where was made purposely a large ovall-table
with a passage in the middle for Miles to deliver his coffee. About it sate his disciples and the virtuosi. The discourses in this kind were the most ingenoise, and smart that ever I heard, or expect to heare, and bandied with great eagernesse; the arguments in the Parliament-house were but flatt to it. Here we had (very formally) a balloting-box, and balloted how things should be carried by way of tentamens. The room was every evening full as it could be cramm’d.”2. The idea of forming the club was perhaps suggested by the academies, which Harrington had seen in various towns in Italy. In London there had been nothing of the sort before. The Royal Society, whose meetings had now begun, was purely scientific. The republican meetings in Vane's house in Charing Cross had been of a private but practical nature. The Calves Head Club, which was said to have
THE ROTA CLUB
been formed " by Milton and some other creatures of the Commonwealth in opposition to Bishop Juxon, Dr Sanderson, Dr Hammond and other divines of the Church of England, who met privately every 30th of January,” the anniversary of Charles I.'s martyrdom, was either a fiction or a republican club of later date. The Rota Club was a novelty, and for that reason popular. It was open to all. One night Bohemians like Pepys or Aubrey would drop in; another night aristocrats like Sir John Penruddock or the Earl of Tyrconnel. Every meeting was packed with officers and soldiers. Some nights debates would be held smoothly enough ; other nights a gang of drunk men would burst into the house and create a scuffle, for the tactful Harrington to quell. In the coffeedrinking atmosphere of the modern debating society people would see Venice in the bright balloting urns and balls, Rome in the shape of the table. They would indulge in politics without the dust of the political arena. Practical politics were barred. Harrington posed as a private gentleman interested in statecraft and particularly ready to point to the lessons of Roman history. He had no desire to plot or form conspiracies. All he wanted was to get his theories of government known and understood. If this was done, he felt confident that out of the turmoil and the anarchy some English Napoleon would arise and establish Oceana in England.
The name of the club was taken from the revolving contrivance used for receiving votes at papal elections ; so that there was a suggestion of the ballot as well as rotation in its very title. The club had its minutes, its membership and its chairman. The minutes were kept by Harrington. The chair was taken by Milton's friend, Cyriac Skinner, or by Sir William Poulteney.
Members were a varied lot, some having interests primarily academic, some interests primarily political. Comparatively well known people like Nevile, Wildman, Venner, Aubrey, Robert Wood, Sir Edward Coke's grandson, Maximilian Petty, and Petty the economist must be put besides unknown names like those of Malett, Ford, Gold, Morley, Collins, and Morgan.
Francis Cradoc was a merchant, who afterwards became provost-marshal of Barbados, where he instituted banks founded on security of land for the encouragement of trade ? ; Bagshaw was a member of Christchurch, Oxford ; Marriet was a Warwickshire squire. Philip Carteret was a gentleman from the Channel Isles belonging to a family that was to be prominent in the colonial enterprise of the Restoration period and provide the name for the plantation of New Jersey. Croon or Croom was a physician, Sir John Hoskyns a future President of the Royal Society, and Arderne a gentleman who either was at the time or soon became a divine, and was therefore somewhat ashamed of his connection with the club. It is not without interest tɔ know the names of the principal Rota-men, but it is far more important to remember the number of casual spectators, who dropped in nightly to hear the speeches and watch the procedure.
The procedure may be inferred from two or three accounts of the club, which have come down to us. The rules are preserved in Harrington's pamphlet, the “ Rota."
“At the Rota. Decem. 20. 1659.
· Cal. State Papers, Col. Series, 1661-8, nos. 194 and 266.
· Aubrey, “ Brief Lives," i. 288-93 and ii. 148 ; Wood, “ Athena Oxonienses,” iii. 115 ff. ; The Rota," Collection of Loyal Songs, ii. 214.