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THE BALANCE OF PROPERTY
that they who own the land of a country make its laws.” 1 The political importance of the possession of the land had been recognised from the time when Joseph made his investments in property before the Egyptian famine. The institution of the Jubilee among the Jews, the reforms of Lycurgus and Solon, the work of the Gracchi, of Julius Cæsar, and the later Roman Emperors, as well as the whole feudal system depended on the practical recognition of this fact. But no political writer before Harrington had been conscious of a principle illustrated by so many isolated facts. No one had developed a theory.
In 1647, at the important debates which took place over the propositions of the Agreement of the People, the thesis that power ought to depend on property was urged by Ireton and the more conservative of the officers with the greatest persistence. The position maintained by the democrats and voiced by their spokesman, Colonel Rainsborough, was
" that the poorest He that is in England hath a life to live as well as the greatest He; and therefore .
every man that is to live under a government ought, first, by his own consent, to put himself under that government.” Ireton in reply used the argument that is always used on the other side in this eternal problem. Only those deserve a vote who “have a permanent fixed interest in the kingdom ... the persons in whom all land lies and those in corporations in whom all trading lies." For, if by the law of nature every man has a “right” to elect his governor, he has by the same dangerous law the “right of self-preservation,” which means the right to procure food
“The Economic Interpretation of History," p. 163. 2 Clarke Papers, i. 299-345.
HARRINGTON AND IRETON
and clothes and to have a piece of land, on which to live. If this is granted, what becomes of private property ? The preservation of property was the chief article of Ireton's political creed, and the obvious means of securing it was to confine the government of the country to owners of private property—those who have a fixed interest in the country.
While Ireton was trying to show why this class of people ought to govern, Harrington was beginning to discover that they do govern. It was a fact which he could not explain away, and a fact which was of some importance to the discussions which have been described. When he came to publish his discovery and illustrate it in concrete form in his ideal state, Harrington never explained the exact way in which the landed classes exercise their power. He did not, like Vane, propose to ensure the connection between property and government by confining the franchise to owners of property in land. He proposed, it is true, the abolition of the borough constituencies; but he permitted owners of property of all kinds to exercise their vote. His affirmation that force has not got the last word in politics, and his blunt picture of an army ("' that is a beast that has a big belly and must be fed ") depending ultimately for its support upon the land, seems to show that he was thinking of something
· The outcome of this particular argument was the fundamental against levelling in the final draft of the Agreement.
* In one passage Ireton almost expressed Harrington's principle that property does govern. “If this man will live in this Kingdom or trade amongst us, that man ought to subject himself to the law made by the people, who have the interest of this Kingdom in us; and yet I do acknowledge that which you take to be so general a maxim, that in every kingdom, the original of power, of making laws, of determining what shall be law in the land, does lie in the people that are possessed of the permanent interest of the land.” (Clarke Papers, i. 319.)
Commons Journals,” vii. 223.
THE SETTLEMENT OF IRELAND
more concrete than the franchise, an economic rather than a political force.
There can be little doubt that Harrington was first led in the direction of his famous principle by his study of the Roman historians, in whose pages agrarian laws play so large a part. But events had been happening nearer home, which might well have turned his mind in this direction.
The hostility of the Irish people had been a cause of constant alarm to English statesmen, and since the middle of the sixteenth century an attempt more or less continuous and systematic had been made to Anglicise Ireland by settling men of English birth upon the land. This policy was given a more definite form by the Confiscation Act of 1642, which foreshadowed the later Cromwellian settlement. By this settlement, the details of which were arranged in numerous Acts, about eleventwentieths of the total land of Ireland, which had previously been in the hands of the Crown, the Church, or rebels, was declared to be forfeited and divided among the adventurers, the army, and the creditors of the Commonwealth. All Irishmen who could not prove a “constant good affection ” to the Parliament were transplanted into Connaught. It was estimated that between 1656 and 1659, 32,000 Englishmen were placed on Irish soil, while in the longer period between 1641 and 1687, 2,400,000 acres of land were transferred from Roman Catholics to Protestants. The settlement was carried out under the direction of Sir William Petty, who was afterwards a friend of Harrington ; and Harrington himself
Oceana," p. 41. · Fitzmaurice, “Life of Sir William Petty," pp. 51 and 65; Hull, “ The Economic Writings of Sir William Petty," ii. 606.
was financially interested in it, having a considerable sum of money invested in Irish land. He would thus have further reasons for watching a scheme which was based so clearly on the principle which he himself was tabulating. In “Oceana” (after a flippant suggestion to plant Ireland with the Jews of Europe) he took the opportunity of expressing his approval of Cromwell's policy on the ground that it made for peace.
The other movement, which must have influenced Harrington in the formation of his principle, has already been alluded to. The sect of Diggers had created no small stir in the year 1649 by attempting to cultivate the commons in various parts of South England. A contemporary pamphlet gives the following description of them.3 “ As his Excellency the Lord General came from Gilford to London, he went to view the Diggers at St Geo. Hill in Surrey, with his officers and attendants, where they found about 12 of them hard at work and amongst them one Winstanley was the chief speaker to whom several questions were propounded by the officers, and the Lord General made a short speech by way of admonition to them and this Winstanley returned sober answers, though they gave little satisfaction (if any at all) in regard of the strangeness of the action. It was urged that the commons were as justly due to the Lords as any other lands. They answered that these were Crown Lands, where they digged, and that the king that possessed them by the Norman Conquest being dead, they were returned again to the common people of 1 Prendergast, “Cromwellian Settlement," 2nd ed., p. 431.
Oceana,” p. 111. I can find no evidence for the suggestion made in Lord Fitzmaurice's“ Life of Sir William Petty" (p. 23), that Cromwell's Irish policy was inspired by Harrington's theory.
The Speeches of the Lord General Fairfax . to the Diggers," 1649, E. 530.
England, who might improve them, if they would take the pains, that for those who would come dig with them, they should have the benefit equal with them and eat of their bread, but they would not force any, applying all to the golden rule, to do to others as we would be done unto; some officers wished they had no further plot in what they did, and that no more was intended than what they did pretend."
The movement, as indeed may be seen from this passage, was not purely political. Like the modern Socialism, it was also ethical. Rightly or wrongly, the Diggers were accused of free love ; and not only in common with all the popular party did they deliver bitter attacks on the clergy, but they were in favour of substituting a natural and secular religion for Christianity. But the political aspect of their communism is what affects the present argument. They defined liberty as the freedom of the earth. They believed that the Norman kings recognised this view when “they took possession of the earth for their freedom," and they went on to argue that the victory of the Commoners was useless, unless they asserted the liberty which they had won with their swords and in their turn “ took possession of the earth.” Acting upon these principles they attacked two institutions in particular—the rights of the lords of the manor and the laws of primogeniture, which excluded all
younger sons from any share in the family property,3 and in the case of the former their protest assumed the practical form of digging up the common lands. The movement was perhaps small and unimportant, but it
1 Cf. Winstanley, “ The Law of Freedom in a Platform," chap. iv. • Ibid. chap. i. • Ibid. pp. 60-62