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infant colony, and would have established Oceana in America. In those circumstances his influence on the colonies of the seventeenth century would have been greater still. But even now though less direct it was not insignificant. As predecessor on the one hand of the Whigs, who administered the colonies from the Council of Trade, and on the other hand of the republicans, who made their constitutions, he was a vital force in America. And it is not without reason that his writings have been more admired and read on the other side of the Atlantic than in England.
THE second of the two periods at which the influence of Harrington was felt in America was the age of the revolution.
The American Revolution, like all revolutions, may be divided into two parts—the first the period of destruction, when the old was being broken, the second the period of construction, when the new was being built. All that was done away with was the authority of the English King and Parliament. The rest of the structure, which had been steadily built up for more than a century, was kept, elaborated, and completed. The two periods inevitably overlapped one another, as, even after the separation had been achieved, it was necessary to keep on repeating its justification. But the Declaration of Independence can be taken roughly as the dividing point.
During the period of destruction the writer to whom the Americans turned with the greatest faith and frequency was Locke. His writings were already classics. Many of his opinions were accepted in England. He was an eminently respectable authority, who could not be called “ seditious or “ levelling, for he was a Churchman, and his books had been written to justify the monarchy of William III. But still with admirable simplicity and emphasis
Cf. Otis, “A vindication of the conduct of the House of Representatives of the Province of Massachusetts Bay,” pp. 19 and 20, 1762.
he had given expression to the sanctity of liberty and property and the theory that government rests on consent. He was consequently quoted in pamphlets, newspapers, sermons, town meetings. His books were advertised for sale in the papers. Whereever politics were talked about or written about, the name of Locke was magic. It was found that he justified what America, largely for commercial and economic reasons, wanted. His influence was not merely an academic influence, and his works did not merely provide material for happy quotations. He actually helped to form the ideas of the people and make them conscious revolutionaries in possession of theories.
There were many other writers besides Locke who were studied and quoted; for the men who had most to do with the separation from England, were for the most part great readers. John Adams, who seems to have written almost consciously for a posterity that never reads him, gives two or three lists of the writers who were most read in his day and in his judgment influenced American opinion most. They
They belonged to three periods of English history, the Reformation, the Interregnum, the Revolution of 1688. In the first came translations and criticisms of Machiavelli ; in the second, Harrington, Milton, and the “ Vindiciæ contra Tyrannos”; in the third, Sidney, Locke, Hoadley, Trenchard, Gordon, “ .
Plato Redivivus." These are names that all occur with more or less frequency in the fugitive literature of the day.
Their influence was of three kinds. They were read to find theories and justifications of revolution. Their authority was quoted academically to give weight to an argument already found. Their
HARRINGTON'S THEORY OF COLONIES
examples were kept before the public eye to encourage an enthusiasm for liberty.
The theory of revolution which John Adams derived from Harrington was interesting and ingenious. It appeared in the articles which he wrote to the “Boston Gazette” in 1774, under the signature of Novanglus. In the first place he took the line which Turgot took, that colonies must sooner or later fall away from the mother country. In other words he justified colonial independence as a natural law, and quoted Harrington's account of Roman colonisation to bear this out. Then, citing Harrington's famous prophecy of American independence, he proceeded to particularise on British colonies. His argument here was that America must be independent and no part of the British Empire, for the simple reason that the British Empire does not exist. Great Britain is in reality one of Harrington's republics, ' a government of laws and not of men” -with the King its first magistrate.3
There is no such thing as a colony to English Common Law. The plantations were actually given legislative sovereignty in their charters. And the land does not even belong to the King or the Parliament to justify their dominion. And so from every point of view the attitude of George III. and his counsellors was indefensible. Much of Adams' contention
1 Adams, “ Works," iv. 103. “ The commonwealth of Rome, by planting colonies of its citizens, within the bounds of Italy, took the best way of propagating itself and naturalising the country; whereas if it had planted such colonies without the bounds of Italy, it would have alienated the citizens and given root to liberty abroad, that might have sprung up foreign or savage and hostile to her.”
Cf. above, p. 67. As early as 1711 Harrington's prophecy had been noticed as “ a Reflexion that deserves some consideration," by Robert Hunter, Governor of New York.
3 Cf. Mably's theory of monarchical republics.
was sound, and the idea of the natural independence of colonies was one that would have weight with the theorising type of mind.
An instance of the citation of Harrington's name to lend weight to an accepted theory may be taken from these same articles of Adams. The writer has been speaking of the equality of man, the sovereignty of the people, their delegation of power to the King, and their right to resume it. He suddenly breaks off. “ These are what are called revolution principles. They are the principles of Aristotle and Plato, of Livy and Cicero, and Sidney, Harrington, and Locke; the principles of nature and eternal reason; the principle on which the whole government over us
us now stands."i Appeals, like this, to the names of writers and statesmen of unchallenged repute were not uncommon.
The names of the great apostles and martyrs of liberty have always been used with good effect for the purpose of inspiring the people. The words Harmodius and Aristogeiton sent a thrill through the ordinary Greek mind. A reference to the Barons at Runnymede braced the quieter English imagination. The names Brutus and Cassius intoxicated the French people. In America, where the cult of Liberty flourished as it never flourished anywhere outside Paris, the same thing is true. Hampden was the great, wise, independent citizen, the Cato of the English-speaking race. Algernon Sidney was the high-souled martyr who gave his life for the cause of freedom; people called their children with his name. Harrington, who went mad in the same
1 Adams, “ Works,” iv. 15.
2 In France, too, he was quoted alongside of the heroes of the Roman Republic (Aulard, “French Revolution,” I. iii.).