« AnteriorContinuar »
INFLUENCE OF HOWELL
not too serious, of the home and foreign politics of the day. "Dodona's Grove " met with extraordinary success and encouraged Howell to undertake a further attempt at this form of composition, "The Parley of Beasts," in which England appeared no longer as Druina, the land of the oak, but as Gheriona, the country of wool. Harrington must have been acquainted with Howell, the enthusiastic admirer of his cherished Venice, the first Englishman to write a work of any magnitude on its history and institutions, and it is probable that he had him in mind when he presented the island state, the imperial ruler of the sea, the greater Venice, under the name of "Oceana." But it is clear that the concrete method of presenting political theory, which had already been employed in England by More and Bacon, was primarily due to the influence of the classics; and it will be shown later that Oceana" was probably inspired in particular by Plato's second best republic, "The Laws," which bears a similar resemblance to an elaborated written constitution.
The best of the so-called "Utopias" which were produced by the political ferment in England are undoubtedly those of Samuel Hartlib and Gerard Winstanley. Macaria," written in 1641, is too short a work to be compared with "Oceana." It bears the mark of its author with his enthusiasm for agriculture and education on every page. Its main proposal
consists of the formation of councils, five in number, to look after the material wants of the people, leaving all the other functions of government to education, for "the art of printing will so spread knowledge, that the common people, knowing their own rights and
1 "A Survey of the Seignorie of Venice," 1651. Cf. "Dodona's Grove," pp. 59-63, where Venice comes in for further praise under the name Adriana.
liberties, will not be governed by way of oppression; and so, by little and little, all kingdoms will be like Macaria." 1 The production of Winstanley, the leader of the Diggers, entitled "The Law of Freedom in a Platform," is a work on a larger scale, one of the most interesting and modern of the writings of the period. Many of its minor suggestions are very similar to those of Harrington, but Winstanley is an idealist without Harrington's restraining conservatism and grip of facts. His suggestions to abolish the Christian Church, and to do away with private property, place it far away from a work like "Oceana " among the ideal states to which the label Utopia has been less unreasonably attached.
The continuation of Bacon's "New Atlantis," and Sadler's "Olbia," both published after "Oceana," " bear little comparison with it. The one is an arrant plagiarism of More, the other the happy abode of dogmatic theology. "Oceana stands alone as the only example of the type of literature that it represents, which has come down to us from the period of the Commonwealth outside the shelves of libraries; and "Oceana" is almost miscalled a Utopia.
The author of this peculiar work, who has been aptly called the Sieyès of the English Rebellion, was, like the famous French abbé, a conscious political theorist. The one thing which he postulated as the basis for the science of politics was the supremacy of laws and not of men. Men with their uncertainty and individuality upset the most careful of calculations : laws written in black and white and not subject to accident are the only things on which it is possible to
A Description of the Famous Kingdom of Macaria," 1641, Harl. Misc.
Both in 1660.
• Burke, Works," v. 242.
• Written in 1651.
INFLUENCE OF THE CLASSICS
build. Cromwell himself, though he resorted to a very stringent form of personal rule in his system of majorgenerals, was in agreement with Harrington up to a certain point. He was one of the staunchest supporters of the idea of a fundamental law, which cannot be "unlawed." 1 He accepted the Instrument of Government, and was the inspiration, if not the author, of the Humble Petition and Advice. And all the opponents of the Stuart régime agreed that it had become essential to have some definite basis of government to prevent future disputes and uncertainties-some Greater Charter, which should be unalterable. The realisation of this encouraged those who were interested in politics to enter the field in the hopes of winning a peculiar fame as framers of the constitution of England.
Those who opposed the idea of a written constitution took up a somewhat peculiar standpoint. They rightly saw that, although Magna Carta gave it historical sanction, it was more directly due to the revived study of the classics. In his " Behemoth" Hobbes laid much stress on the unhappy consequences of the Renaissance. He attributed half the trouble, through which England had passed, to the "gentlemen," who had brought their politics from the universities into the arena of public life," having read the glorious histories and sententious politics of the ancient popular governments of the Greeks and Romans, amongst whom Kings were branded with the names of tyrants and popular governments passed by the name of liberty." 3
The core of rebellion," he added later, with almost prophetic insight into subsequent European history,
1 Cf. Speech III. in Carlyle, "Cromwell's Letters and Speeches."
• Ibid. p. 478.
(as you have seen by this and read of other rebellions), is in the universities." The democratising influence of the classics was in the seventeenth century a commonplace argument; nearly all the democratic ideas of the time may be, in fact, paralleled from Greek and Roman writers; but the most striking of all of them was this idea of the fundamental law or written constitution, which was so inseparably connected with the republican movement.
But objection was not confined to the actual teachings of Greece and Rome: the method used by the classical historians and political writers was also criticised. Harrington was ridiculed by Hobbes for following them, because living under popular states they derived those rights not from the Principles of Nature, but transcribed them into their books out of the practice of their own Commonwealths, as Grammarians describe the Rules of Language out of Poets." 2
Strong arguments, as will be shown later, were brought forward against Harrington's doctrines, but his method was the wrong thing to find fault with. Here he stood on firm ground. He knew that his strength lay in his grip of fact and his knowledge of the "practice of Commonwealths"-his use of the inductive method. His opponents could urge that "it is the Foundation of Government upon undeniable Principles and the Deductions from them, which render Politiques a complete Science, without which the greatest Conversation with particular Commonwealths can but at most make men Empiricals at policy." 3 But he was ready with his answer, a comparison between himself and "famous Hervy." The circulation
2.46 Behemoth," p. 511.
8 "1 Oceana," p. 38.
* Wren, "Monarchy asserted," etc., 1660, E. 1853.
HARRINGTON'S HISTORICAL METHOD
of the blood was a medical fact before it was discovered by Harvey; but an experimental study of anatomy and a departure from the deductive methods of medical science were necessary in order that this generalisation could be reached. The inductive method necessitates the formation of some principle, to guide the seeker in his choice of facts, no less than the deductive method. Harrington had his principles no less than Hobbes or Filmer, but he arrived at them by a historical method. By reading English history with intelligence and comparing it with ancient and modern European history he came to the conclusion that there were two main things wrong with England, the balance of property and the working of the parliamentary system. By arranging his facts he was then able to formulate his two great political principles, that the preservation of states has in the past depended, and probably still depends, on the preservation of the Balance of Property and on Rotation in Government. Harrington did not claim to have introduced a new factor into politics any more than Harvey did into medicine. He claimed to be a political scientist and not a political poet. It was entirely in consonance with his historical method that he omitted to allude to the doctrine of the social contract, which monarchists as well as republicans brought forward with much confidence and regularity.
The historical method was comparatively new to English political thought. Harrington carried it to its extreme, considering it imperfect, unless supplemented by a practical knowledge of contemporary foreign politics. "No man," he wrote in "Oceana,' can be a Politician, except he be first a Historian or a Traveller." 1 But in his enthusiasm for history and
1 "Oceana," p. 183.