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THE PREFACE. - James Harrington, The Oceana and Other Works 
The Oceana and Other Works of James Harrington, with an Account of His Life by John Toland (London: Becket and Cadell, 1771).
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HOW allowable it is for any man to write the history of another, without intitling himself to his opinions, or becoming answerable for his actions, I have expresly treated in the Life of John Milton, and in the just defence of the same under the title of AMYNTOR. The reasons there alleg’d are excuse and authority enough for the task I have since impos’d on my self, which is, to transmit to posterity the worthy memory of James Harrington, a bright ornament to useful learning, a hearty lover of his native country, and a generous benefactor to the whole world; a person who obscur’d the false lustre of our modern politicians, and that equal’d (if not exceded) all the antient legislators.
BUT there are some people more formidable for their noise than number, and for their number more considerable than their power, who will not fail with open mouths to proclaim, that this is a seditious attemt against the very being of monarchy, and that there’s a pernicious design on foot of speedily introducing a republican form of government into the Britannic islands; in order to which the person (continue they) whom we have for som time distinguisht as a zealous promoter of this cause, has now publisht the Life and Works of Harrington, who was the greatest commonwealthsman in the world. This is the substance of what these roaring and hoarse trumpeters of detraction will sound; for what’s likely to be said by men, who talk all by rote, is as easy to guess as to answer, tho ’tis commonly so silly as to deserve no animadversion. Those who in the late reigns were invidiously nicknam’d Commonwealthsmen, are by this time sufficiently clear’d of that imputation by their actions, a much better apology than any words: for they valiantly rescu’d our antient government from the devouring jaws of arbitrary power, and did not only unanimously concur to fix the imperial crown of England on the most deserving head in the universe, but also settl’d the monarchy for the future, not as if they intended to bring it soon to a period, but under such wife regulations as are most likely to continue it for ever, consisting of such excellent laws as indeed set bounds to the will of the king, but that render him thereby the more safe, equally binding up his and the subjects hands from unjustly seizing one another’s prescrib’d rights or privileges.
’T IS confest, that in every society there will be always found som persons prepar’d to enterprize any thing (tho never so flagitious) grown desperat by their villanies, their profuseness, their ambition, or the more raging madness of superstition; and this evil is not within the compass of art or nature to remedy. But that a whole people, or any considerable number of them, shou’d rebel against a king that well and wisely administers his government, as it cannot be instanc’d out of any history, so it is a thing in it self impossible. An infallible expedient therfore to exclude a commonwealth, is for the king to be the man of his people, and, according to his present Majesty’s glorious example, to find out the secret of so happily uniting two seemingly incompatible things, principality and liberty.
’TIS strange that men shou’d be cheated by mere names! yet how frequently are they seen to admire one denomination, what going under another they wou d undoubtedly detest; which observation made Tacitus lay down for a maxim, That the secret of setting up a new state consists in retaining the image of the old. Now if a commonwealth be a government of laws enacted for the common good of all the people, not without their own consent or approbation; and that they are not wholly excluded, as in absolute monarchy, which is a government of men who forcibly rule over others for their own private interest: then it is undeniably manifest that the English government is already a commonwealth, the most free and best constituted in all the world. This was frankly acknowleg’d by King James the First, who stiled himself the great servant of the commonwealth. It is the language of our best lawyers, and allow’d by our author, who only makes it a less perfect and more inequal form than that of his Oceana, wherin, he thinks, better provision is made against external violence or internal diseases. Nor dos it at all import by what names either persons, or places, or things, are call’d, since the commonwealthsman finds he injoys liberty under the security of equal laws, and that the rest of the subjects are fully satisfy’d they live under a government which is a monarchy in effect as well as in name. There’s not a man alive that excedes my affection to a mixt form of government, by the antients counted the most perfect; yet I am not so blinded with admiring the good constitution of our own, but that every day I can discern in it many things deficient, som things redundant, and others that require emendation or change. And of this the supreme legislative powers are so sensible, that we see nothing more frequent with them than the enacting, abrogating, explaining, and altering of laws, with regard to the very form of the administration. Nevertheless I hope the king and both houses of parlament will not be counted republicans; or, if they be, I am the readiest in the world to run the same good or bad fortune with them in this as well as in all other respects.
BUT, what Harrington was oblig’d to say on the like occasion I must now produce for my self. It was in the time of Alexander, the greatest prince and commander of his age, that Aristotle (with scarce inferior applause, and equal fame) wrote that excellent piece of prudence in his closet which is call’d his Politics, going upon far other principles than Alexander’s government, which it has long outliv’d. The like did Livy without disturbance in the time of Augustus, Sir Thomas More in that of Henry the Eighth, and Machiavel when Italy was under princes that afforded him not the ear. If these and many other celebrated men wrote not only with honor and safety, but even of commonwealths under despotic or tyrannical princes, who can be so notoriously stupid as to wonder that in a free government, and under a king that is both the restorer and supporter of the liberty of Europe, I shou’d do justice to an author who far outdos all that went before him, in his exquisit knowlege of the politics?
THIS liberty of writing freely, fully, and impartially, is a part of those rights which in the last reigns were so barbarously invaded by such as had no inclination to hear of their own enormous violations of the laws of God and man; nor is it undeserving observation, that such as raise the loudest clamors against it now, are the known enemys of King William’s title and person, being sure that the abdicated King James can never be reinthron’d so long as the press is open for brave and free spirits to display the mischiefs of tyranny in their true colors, and to shew the infinit advantages of liberty. But not to dismiss even such unreasonable people without perfect satisfaction, let ’em know that I don’t recommend a commonwealth, but write the history of a commonwealthsman, fairly divulging the principles and pretences of that party, and leaving every body to approve or dislike what he pleases, without imposing on his judgment by the deluding arts of sophistry, eloquence, or any other specious but unfair methods of persuasion. Men, to the best of their ability, ought to be ignorant of nothing; and while they talk so much for and against a commonwealth, ’tis fit they shou’d at least understand the subject of their discourse, which is not every body’s case. Now as Harrington’s Oceana is, in my opinion, the most perfect form of popular government that ever was; so this, with his other writings, contain the history, reasons, nature and effects of all sorts of government, with so much learning and perspicuity, that nothing can be more preferably read on such occasions.
LET not those therfore, who make no opposition to the reprinting or reading of Plato’s Heathen commonwealth, ridiculously declaim against the better and Christian model of Harrington; but peruse both of ’em with as little prejudice, passion, or concern, as they would a book of travels into the Indys for their improvement and diversion. Yet so contrary are the tempers of many to this equitable disposition, that Dionysius the Sicilian tyrant, and such beasts of prey, are the worthy examples they wou’d recommend to the imitation of our governors, tho, if they cou’d be able to persuade ’em, they wou’d still miss of their foolish aim: for it is ever with all books, as formerly with those of Cremutius Cordus, who was condemn’d by that monster Tiberius for speaking honorably of the immortal tyrannicides Brutus and Cassius. Tacitus records the last words of this historian, and subjoins this judicious remark: The senat, says he, order’d his books to be burnt by the ediles; but som copys were conceal’d, and afterwards publish’d; whence we may take occasion to laugh at the sottishness of those who imagin that their present power can also abolish the memory of succeding time: for, on the contrary, authors acquire additional reputation by their punishment; nor have foren kings, and such others as have us’d the like severity, got any thing by it, except to themselves disgrace, and glory to the writers. But the works of Harrington were neither supprest at their first publication under the usurper, nor ever since call’d in by lawful authority, but as inestimable treasures preserv’d by all that had the happiness to possess ’em intire; so that what was a precious rarity before, is now becom a public good, with extraordinary advantages of correctness, paper, and print. What I have perform’d in the history of his life, I leave the readers to judg for themselves; but in that and all my other studys, I constantly aim’d as much at least at the benefit of mankind, and especially of my fellow citizens, as at my own particular entertainment or reputation.
THE politics, no less than arms, are the proper study of a gentleman, tho he shou’d confine himself to nothing, but carefully adorn his mind and body with all useful and becoming accomplishments; and not imitat the servile drudgery of those mean spirits, who, for the sake of som one science, neglect the knowlege of all other matters, and in the end are many times neither masters of what they profess, nor vers’d enough in any thing else to speak of it agreably or pertinently: which renders ’em untractable in conversation, as in dispute they are opinionative and passionate, envious of their fame who eclipse their littleness, and the sworn enemys of what they do not understand.
BUT Heaven be duly prais’d, learning begins to flourish again in its proper soil among our gentlemen, in imitation of the Roman patricians, who did not love to walk in leading-strings, and to be guided blindfold, nor lazily to abandon the care of their proper business to the management of men having a distinct profession and interest: for the greatest part of their best authors were persons of consular dignity, the ablest statesmen, and the most gallant commanders. Wherfore the amplest satisfaction I can injoy of this sort will be, to find those delighted with reading this work, for whose service it was intended by the author; and which, with the study of other good books, but especially a careful perusal of the Greec and Roman historians, will make ’em in reality deserve the title and respect of gentlemen, help ’em to make an advantageous figure in their own time, and perpetuat their illustrious fame and solid worth to be admir’d by future generations.
AS for my self, tho no imployment or condition of life shall make me disrelish the lasting entertainment which books afford; yet I have resolv’d not to write the life of any modern person again, except that only of one man still alive, and whom in the ordinary course of nature I am like to survive a long while, he being already far advanc’d in his declining time, and I but this present day beginning the thirtieth year of my age.