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Adams, Burke, and Hume many were doubtless unconscious of the first exponent of the idea. But the French translation of Moyle's essay (1801), which applied the doctrine in detailed fashion to Roman history, shows that there were some people in France who realised its origin. It is at any rate probable that through whatever channel it had come, this theory was partly responsible for the shifting of property produced by the Revolution. For this reason as well as for his influence on the elaborate schemes of Sieyès and the re-division of the country, which has survived all the changes of the nineteenth century, Harrington deserves a place, however small, in the history of the French Revolution.
Harrington was an interesting man rather than a great man. Living at an important period in the history of England, he produced a Utopia written in language which is generally interesting and sometimes picturesque, in which he embodied theories that were partly original and partly borrowed from Continental sources. He proceeded to repeat these on every possible occasion carrying on a campaign, which has its modern counterpart in the editor of the “Spectator's ” campaign on behalf of the Referendum. For a time he was a public figure of some notoriety and one of the originators of the political clubs and coffee-house politics, for which London became famous. At the Restoration he suffered imprisonment and lost his reason in consequence of the ill-treatment which he received. “ Oceana soon became a classic. Its theories gave support to the dominance of the landed classes in the
eighteenth century and also played a part in the introduction of the ballot in the nineteenth. In America they received extraordinary attention. The main provisions of “Oceana ” were put into practice in Carolina, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey, and in spite of their partial failure they were revived during the Revolution, which they had helped to produce. Through the medium of Sieyès they passed to France, where they met with a similarly modified success.
Harrington's history brings out the affinity between the three revolutions of England, America, and France in a striking manner.
It also serves as an illustration of the connection between political theory and practice. His work was of equal value for the way in which it explained the representative system and the way in which it emphasised the economic view of history. In many respects he was far ahead of his time. It took England over two hundred years to realise the value of the ballot, which is now regarded as one of the keystones of democracy. The referendum, which he foreshadowed in his parliamentary system, has never been canvassed seriously until the present day. It was only two years ago that his scheme of rotation was embodied in Lord Lansdowne's proposal for the reform of the House of Lords. Harrington was conscious of the value of his work and yearned for fame. He did not get what he wanted in his lifetime and his name is almost forgotten to-day. But it is now possible after the lapse of time to see him in the correct historical perspective and give him the portion that is his due.
MOYLE's ESSAY ON THE ROMAN COMMONWEALTH
(See pp. 139 and 143)
The first part of Moyle's essay on the
Roman Commonwealth " is to be found in manuscript at the Record Office in the Shaftesbury Papers, Bundle
4. Its publication in Moyle's collected works has apparently not been noticed, and it has hitherto been accepted as a juvenile work of Locke's. First published in 1726 and republished in 1796 it was a book that was read in America; and in 1801 it was translated into French. Moyle's acceptance of the theory of the balance of property was complete. “It appears,” he wrote, that land is the true center of power, and that the Balance of Dominion changes with the Ballance of Property, as the needle in the compass shifts its points, just as the great Magnet in the earth changes its place. This is an eternal truth, and confirmed by the experience of all ages and governments, and so fully demonstrated by the great Harrington in his Oceana' that 'tis as difficult to find out new arguments for it, as 'tis to resist the cogency of the old ones."
The most interesting feature of the essay is the way in which Roman parallels are employed. In arguing that the republican institutions of Rome were due to the agrarian, the written constitution, the prohibition of the payment of fees and pensions to advocates, the exclusion of the augurs from the
comitia tributa, the age qualification for magistracy, the short terms of office, the measures to prevent accumulation of offices, the ballot and other securities against bribery, and finally the provision by which the abolition of monarchy and the institution of the tribunate were
were made the fundamental branch of the Constitution," it is obvious that Moyle is thinking primarily of the actual suggestions of the English republicans and is arguing back to Roman parallels. It is possible that some of the ideas that inspired the English Rebellion were drawn by direct imitation from the classical writers. But more commonly the classics were searched to provide parallels for modern ideas. For example, no one would pretend that the proposal to exclude priests and divines from parliament was due to the Roman practice of excluding the augurs from the comitia tributa. The classics furnished ideas as well as parallels, but in estimating their influence it is well to remember the way in which they were used by men like Moyle.