Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

ADMIRATION OF MACHIAVELLI

19

“ the

“ the

travel he did not omit to study his predecessors in the line of research, to which he devoted his life's work. He had an extraordinary instinct for selecting for imitation the particular political writers, whom posterity has accepted as genuine contributors to political science. The three names which occur most frequently in his writings are the three which are generally regarded as the greatest lights of the century and a half preceding him—those of Bacon, Grotius, and Machiavelli. Machiavelli is to Harrington greatest artist in the modern world,” “the Prince of Politicians,

,” “the only Politician of later ages, sole retriever of this ancient prudence.” “He that will erect a Commonwealth against the Judgment of Machiavel is obliged to give such reasons for his enterprise as must not go a-begging."? This worship of Machiavelli is in itself no extraordinary thing. Sir Walter Raleigh had a somewhat similar admiration for him. But if it is remembered that Machiavelli was hardly ever alluded to in the seventeenth century except as a synonym for all that is vicious and immoral in public life, and, when he was defended, it was as an unfortunate Italian who lived in bad times, the fact carries a new significance. Harrington, although the writer of an ideal Commonwealth, saw that doctrinaire or no doctrinaire, a politician must stand upon the ground of fact. Before him Machiavelli had been almost alone in recognising this. Scholars had so far departed from this method that, until the awakening

1 “Oceana," pp. 38, 52, 147, 149, etc.

· According to Edward Meyer (" Machiavelli and the Elizabethan Drama ") the popular view of Machiavelli is to be explained by the fact that his principles were known to English readers mainly through a misrepresentation of him written by a Frenchman, Gentillet, in 1576, and translated into English in the following year. None of his own works except “ The Art of War” and “ The History of Florence were translated till 1636.

: Cf. Francis Osborn, " Works,” ii. 77.

20

TREATMENT OF JEWISH HISTORY

which both produced and was produced by Machiavelli, they based their theories not on facts, but on the thinker who above all others exemplified their importance-Aristotle. Harrington, like Machiavelli, revived the true Aristotle and assisted in crushing Aristotelianism.

Not the least important service rendered by Harrington was the application of this historical method to Scripture. The illogical use of biblical parallels, which was made by monarchists and Puritans alike, was of a striking nature. Arguing that practices which were valuable in scriptural times must be valuable for their own day, they were unwilling to accept anything which had not the sacred commendation of chapter and verse. Bishops are now unfit to govern because of their learning,” said Selden in words which barely caricature the facts; "they are bred up in another law, they run to the text for something done amongst the Jews that nothing concerns England, 'tis just as if a man would have a kettle and he would not go to our brazier to have it made as they make kettles, but he would have it made, as Hiram made his brass work, who wrought in Solomon's temple.” 1 Harrington quietly neglected this method and, as Grotius and Machiavelli had done before him, attempted to treat the political system of the Jews on the same lines as the constitutions of Athens, Sparta, or Rome. As a politician the Bible was to him nothing more than the history of the Jewish Commonwealth. He was undoubtedly interested in his researches in biblical politics, seeing in the tribal organisation of the Israelites a very striking example of a far-reaching and successful agrarian law. But he also wished to turn the weapons of the monarchist divines against

1 Selden, " Table Talk," English Reprints, 1868, p. 26.

TREATMENT OF MODERN HISTORY

21

themselves. The Divine Right of Kings, the monarchy of Saul and Melchisedec, Christ's command to "render unto Cæsar the things which be Cæsar's, and to God the things that are God's,” were exploited by all the supporters of absolute monarchy. Harrington replied with a historical account of the republican institutions of the Jews, which, though dull and sometimes pedantic, served as an answer to the monarchists and an argument for republicanism to their Puritan opponents.

But Jewish history, although for these peculiar reasons important, was with Harrington subordinate to both classical and modern history. Both these branches of study were under the influence of men like himself being applied to politics. Works like the Oration of Agrippa to Octavius Cæsar Augustus against Monarchy," were translated. Writings on Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, French, Ottoman, German, and Italian history poured forth from the press in the form of pamphlets. The list of places to which reference was made ranged from Pegu to Ragusa.? Special attention was paid to Venice. Howell's book was followed in 1658 by the Earl of Monmouth's translation of Paruta's “ History.” Nothing was neglected by Harrington ; but it was above all to the cities of the ancient world that he looked. Oceana discovered not in “phansy” but in “ the archives of antient prudence." 3

A writer who relies on the comparative and historical method, even if he is framing a Utopia, will in all probability not produce a work of art. Harrington was no stylist. Hume classed him with Bacon and Milton as altogether stiff and pedantic.” 4

1 E. 779 in the British Museum Catalogue.
· Cf. the pamphlet on the government of Ragusa in E. 985.
Oceana,” p. 79.

• Hume, Essay XII.

was 22

HARRINGTON'S STYLE

Although it is not necessary to accept either this classification or this verdict, yet it must be acknowledged that Harrington can bear no comparison with many writers of his age for splendour and ease of diction. For epigrams and flashes of picturesque expression he was unrivalled ; and his use of biblical language could be very effective, but the purple patches are separated by passages of a very wearisome nature. It is by his political thought and not by his art that he must be judged. We may not endorse Toland's opinion that he is "an Author who far outdoes all that went before him, in his exquisit knowledge of the Politics.2 We may reject Hume's further judgment accepted with reservation by Maitland, that “the Oceana is the only valuable model of a commonwealth that has yet been offered to the public.” 4 We may refuse to follow Coleridge in classing him along with Thucydides, Tacitus, Machiavelli, and Bacon, as one of the “red letter names even in the almanacs of worldly wisdom.” 5 But the least enthusiastic cannot help paying some tribute to his clear thought and undoubted political instinct.

1 “Oceana is as the Rose of Sharon, and the Lilly of the Vally. As the Lilly among Thorns, such is my Love among the Daughters. She is comly as the Tents of Kedar, and terrible as an Army with Banners. Her neck is as the tower of David, builded for an Armory, whereon there hang a thousand Bucklers and Shields of mighty Men. Let me hear thy Voice in the morning whom my soul loves." ("Oceana,” p. 203.)

· Preface to Harrington's “Works,” xxvii. 3 Maitland, “ Collected Papers," i. 22.

• Hume, Essay XVI. Coleridge. “Statesman's Manual,” p. 20. Wordsworth's lines may be compared :

Great men have been among us; hands that penned
And tongues that uttered wisdom-better none !
The later Sidney, Marvell, Harrington,
Young Vane, and others who called Milton friend."

6

CHAPTER III

THE POLITICAL IDEAS OF OCEANA

§ 1 HARRINGTON's political theory is comprised in two fundamental propositions, on which all the other suggestions which are embodied in his writings are built. (i) The preservation of a state depends on the possession of an adequate proportion of the land by the ruling class. (ii) Government cannot remain pure and healthy without the assistance of four mechanical contrivances—the ballot, indirect election, rotation, and a system of two chambers in which the functions of debating and voting are kept separate. For the first of these proposals Harrington claimed originality ; he did not conceal the fact that the second was borrowed from various sources.

The theory of the “ balance of property” explained in the dictum, “ As is the proportion or balance of Dominion or Property in Land, such is the nature of the Empire,”1 and claimed by Harrington as his own peculiar discovery, has met with general acceptation. Bonar ascribes the importance of “ Oceana to its new principle that the economical element in a state will determine its government." 2 Cornewall Lewis includes among the general true propositions of politics “ that the seat of power in any state is dependent on the preponderance of property.”: Thorold Rogers counts it "a common-place in practical politics

Oceana," p. 39.

Philosophy of Political Economy," p. 90. A Treatise on Politics," ii. 46.

« AnteriorContinuar »