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Samuel de Upton in Com. Northamton. Militis) qui obiit septimo die Septembris, ætatis suæ sexagesimo sexto, anno Dom. 1677. Nec virtus, nec animi dotes (arrha licet æterni in animam amoris Dei) corruptione eximere queant corpus."
This was the tragic end to a career which for at least one year can only be described as brilliant. But the ideas which were originated or advocated by Harrington lived on to exert a potent influence alike in England, America, and France. Before attempting to trace this influence, a few words must be said about the difficulty of any such undertaking.
It is generally realised that influences are of two kinds. There is the direct influence of the writer who attracts conscious imitators. There is the indirect influence which his ideas exert on those who do not imitate him. The mark which Plato has left in the world is not due only to those who have from time to time called themselves Platonists; it must be ascribed also to the fact that his writings have been read by thousands of others in the impressionable years of life. The wider influence is often the more important, but it is of such a nature that it cannot possibly be gauged. Nothing can be done but to affirm its exist
The more direct influence on the other hand can be estimated with greater accuracy. But there are many obstacles in the path of one who attempts to perform the task. The writer, who is giving an account of a particular historical personality, is naturally apt to treat him in a sense as his hero, and to distort him in the process. Anxious to see his influence everywhere, he seizes hold of cases where a resemblance of idea
suggests some connection, and forgets that it is possible for two people to draw from a common source without knowing each other or to reach the same conclusion by independent reasoning. Bias is inevitable, and it is almost impossible for him to speak with certainty unless actual reference is made to his hero or his hero's writings.
To apply what has been said to the case of Harrington, we cannot tell what his indirect influence has been. We know that “ Oceana” soon became a classic and was one of the books on politics that people were supposed to have read. We may imagine that those who had attended the meetings of the Rota passed on something of what they had seen and heard, as they went out into the world. We can say no more. But in tracing his direct influence, in spite of the general tendency to overstate, we are in a peculiarly fortunate position.
His writings are not commonplace in idea or in diction : one of his theories is entirely original, and it is set forth in certain stereotyped phrases, which were coined by the author himself. And so, whenever we come across allusions to the balance of property or the connection of land and dominion, we are reasonably safe in attributing them without further question to the influence of “Oceana." With his other ideas which are rather less peculiar both in conception and presentation, more care must be taken. Bearing this in mind, we may proceed to trace Harrington's influence in the political literature of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
The first person who may be noticed is Sir William Petty. In his visits to the Rota he is said to have “ troubled Mr James Harrington with his arithemeticall proportion, reducing politie to numbers.” 1 Never
· Aubrey, “ Brief Lives," ii. 148.
SIR WILLIAM PETTY
theless, the political economist appears to have been very much influenced by the political scientist. The opening words of Petty's most famous book-" that a small territory and even a few people may, by situation, trade and policy, be made equivalent to a greater ; and that convenience for shipping and water carriage do most eminently and fundamentally conduce thereunto”1—-seem strongly to suggest that his study of economics was inspired by Harrington's "Oceana.' It will be remembered that Harrington, in submitting his theory that power rests on property in land, excepted from his generalisation places like Holland and Genoa, where nearly all the wealth of the state came from commerce. Petty seems to have taken Harrington's exceptional cases, developed his points, and shown that the exception is more important than the rule. The stress which he laid on the importance of commerce in his Political Arithmetic
can be more readily understood, if it is considered as a criticism of Harrington's economics. If this is so, “Oceana acquires a new importance as the inspiration of the first English book on political economy. In Petty's writings there are several curious resemblances to Harrington, which should be borne in mind in tracing this connection. Petty constantly referred to the problem of the growth of London and to the danger to monarchy of having
excessive and overgrown cities,” but like Harrington he opposed any artificial restriction.3 Like him he desired a redistribution of seats and equal shires, which would make the work of the statistician less troublesome. 4 Like him he clamoured for fewer priests and lawyers. Finally
Economic Writings of Sir William Petty,” C. H. Hull, i. 249. ;" Works," pp. 41, 245, 387. Economic Writings of Sir William Petty." C. H. Hull, i. 40.
5 Ibid. i. 24, 27, 79, etc.
4 Ibid. i. 301.
SIR WILLIAM TEMPLE
like him he wrote of the country's imperial aspirations in words which may now be read as prophetical. “The Government of New England (both civil and ecclesiastical) doth so differ from that of his Majesty's other Dominions, that 'tis hard to say what may be the consequences of it.'
Sir William Petty was the only member of the Rota Club (besides Nevile) to carry on Harrington's influence in the political literature of the Restoration period, but many other political writers of all shades of opinion bear traces of his influence. We may turn first to Sir William Temple. He was a political theorist of an extremely interesting type. He did not believe in doctrinaire politics, and for that reason condemned Harrington along with Plato and Hobbes.? Accepting the theory of paternalism as the origin of government, he ascribed its continuation to the consent of the people or the greatest or strongest part of them.“3 But instead of making him a democrat, this doctrine caused him rather to lay stress on the conservative tendencies in human nature and to formulate the theory that government really rests on custom.4 It seemed to him not to matter much whether a country has monarchical or republican institutions, as long as (i) people are acclimatised to them, (ii) the administration is good. So far not much resemblance to Harrington with his belief in exotic models and the importance of institutions is noticeable. Nevertheless certain of Temple's actual proposals bear traces of Harrington's influence. His scheme of 1678 for replacing the Privy Council by a body composed partly of royal officials and partly
“Economic Writings of Sir William Petty," C. H. Hull, i, 298.
In his essay, “Of Popular Discontents." : “ Miscellaneous Writings,” i. 83.
• Ibid. pp. 54 and 83.
HIS SCHEME OF 1678
of members of Parliament is based on the political experiments of the Commonwealth period, and it suggests the type of Council dear to political romance. That it was suggested in particular by “Oceana” may be inferred from Temple's insistence on the wealth of its members and his allusion to the theory of the balance of property. “One chief regard,” he wrote in his
Memoirs, necessary to this constitution was that of the personal riches of this new Council ; which in revenues of land or offices was found to amount to about three hundred thousand pounds a year ; whereas those of a House of Commons are seldom found to have exceeded four hundred thousand. And authority is observed much to follow land.” 1
The two proposals submitted in his essay, Of Popular Discontents,"
Discontents," were doubtless due in part to Harrington's influence. He here advised the compilation of a register of all the lands in England and Wales in order to give a greater security of tenure to property-holders and to encourage foreigners to come and settle in the country. And in order to check the decline in the numbers of the nobility and gentry, he suggested an act to limit dowries and make it illegal for heiresses to marry other than younger sons.
Proposals for registering the land and artificially propping up the upper classes were frequently put forward by the early Whigs. They were due partly to the conditions of the age that produced the Whig party, partly to Dutch influence, but partly also to the Harringtonian theories of the balance of property.
The influence of Harrington in Sidney's famous “Discourses”
on government cannot be definitely traced. He started like Harrington with a firm belief in Jewish, Greek, and Roman institutions, and he had
1 Part iii. p. 16.