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CHAP. III.: Whether the balance of dominion in land be the natural cause of empire? - 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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Whether the balance of dominion in land be the natural cause of empire?
THE doctrin of the balance is that, tho he strains at it, which choaks the prevaricator; for this of all others is that principle which makes the politics, not so before the invention of the same, to be undeniable throout, and (not to meddle with the mathematics, an art I understand as little as mathematicians do this) the most demonstrable of any whatsoever.
For this cause I shall rather take pleasure than pains to look back, or tread the same path with other, and perhaps plainer steps: as thus; if a man having one hundred pounds a year may keep one servant, or have one man at his command, then having one hundred times so much, he may keep one hundred servants; and this multiply’d by a thousand, he may have one hundred thousand men at his command.Chap. III. Now that the single person, or nobility of any country in Europe, that had but half so many men at command, would be king or prince, is that which I think no man will doubt. But*no mony, no Switzers, as the French speak: if the mony be flown, so are the men also. Tho riches in general have wings, and be apt to bate; yet those in land are the most hooded, and ty’d to the perch, wheras those in mony have the least hold, and are the swiftest of flight. A bank where the mony takes not wing, but to come home seiz’d, or like a coyduck, may well be great; but the treasure of the Indys going out, and not upon returns, makes no bank. Whence a bank never paid an army; or paying an army, soon became no bank. But where a prince or a nobility has an estate in land, the revenue wherof will defray this charge, there their men are planted, have toes that are roots, and arms that bring forth what fruit you please.
Thus a single person is made, or a nobility makes a king, not with difficulty, or any greater prudence, but with ease, the rest coming home, as the ox that only knows his master’s crib, but must starve or repair to it. Nor for the same reason is government acquir’d with more ease than it is preserv’d; that is, if the foundation of property be in land: but if in mony, lightly com, lightly go. The reason why a single person, or the nobility that has one hundred thousand men, or half so many at command, will have the government, is that the estate in land, wherby they are able to maintain so many, in any European territory, must overbalance the rest that remains to the people, at least three parts in four, by which means they are no more able to dispute the government with him or them, than your servant is with you. Now for the same reason, if the people hold three parts in four of the territory, it is plain there can neither be any single person nor nobility able to dispute the government with them; in this case therfore, except force be interpos’d, they govern themselves. So by this computation of the balance of property or dominion in the land, you have according to the threefold foundation of property, the root or generation of the threefold kind of government or empire.
Oceana, p. 39.If one man be sole landlord of a territory, or overbalance the whole people, three parts in four, or thereabouts, he is Grand Signior; for so the Turc, not from his empire, but his property is call’d; and the empire in this case is absolute monarchy.
If the few, or a nobility, or a nobility with a clergy, be landlords to such a proportion as overbalances the people in the like manner, they may make whom they please king; or if they be not pleas’d with their king, down with him and set up whom they like better; a Henry the Fourth, or the Seventh, a Guise, a Montfort, a Nevil, or a Porter, should they find that best for their own ends and purposes: for as not the balance of the king, but that of the nobility in this case is the cause of the government, so not the estate or riches of the prince or captain, but his virtue or ability, or fitness for the ends of the nobility, acquires that command or office. This for aristocracy, or mix’d monarchy. But if the whole people be landlords, or hold the land so divided among them, that no one man or number of men within the compass of the few, or aristocracy overbalance them, it is a commonwealth. Such is the branch in the root, or the balance of property naturally producing empire; which not confuted, no man shall be able to batter my superstructures, and which confuted, I lay down my arms. Till then, if the cause necessarily precede the effect, property must have a being before empire, or beginning with it, must be still first in order.
Property coms to have a being before empire or government two ways, either by a natural or violent revolution. Natural revolution happens from within, or by commerce, as when a government erected upon one balance, that for example of a nobility or a clergy, thro the decay of their estates coms to alter to another balance; which alteration in the root of property, leaves all to confusion, or produces a new branch or government, according to the kind or nature of the root. Violent revolution happens from without, or by arms, as when upon conquest there follows confiscation. Confiscation again is of three kinds, when the captain taking all to himself, plants his army by way of military colonys, benefices, or timars, which was the policy of Mahomet; or when the captain has som shares, or a nobility that divides with him, which was the policy introduc’d by the Goths and Vandals; or when the captain divides the inheritance by lots, or otherwise, to the whole people; which policy was instituted by God or Moses in the commonwealth of Israel. This triple distribution, whether from natural or violent revolution, returns as to the generation of empire to the same thing, that is, to the nature of the balance already stated and demonstrated. Now let us see what the prevaricator will say, which first is this:
Consid. p. 14.THE assertion, that property producing empire consists only in land, appears too positive. A pig of my own sow; this is no more than I told him, only there is more imply’d in what I told him, than he will see; which therfore I shall now further explain. The balance in mony may be as good or better than that of land in three cases. First, where there is no property of land yet introduc’d, as in Greece during the time of her antient imbecillity; whence, as is noted by Thucydides,the meaner sort thro a desire of gain underwent the servitude of the mighty. Secondly, in citys of small territory and great trade, as Holland and Genoa, the land not being able to feed the people, who must live upon traffic, is overbalanc’d by the means of that traffic, which is mony. Thirdly, in a narrow country, where the lots are at a low scantling, as among the Israelits, if care be not had of mony in the regulation of the same, it will eat out the balance of land.Deut. 15. 6. & 23. 19. For which cause, tho an Israelit might both have mony, and put it to usury (thou shalt lend [upon usury] to many nations) yet might he not lend it upon usury to a citizen or brother: whence two things are manifest: first, that usury in itself is not unlawful: and next, that usury in Israel was no otherwise forbidden, than as it might com to overthrow the balance or foundation of the government; for where a lot as to the general amounted not perhaps to four acres, a man that should have had a thousand pounds in his purse, would not have regarded such a lot in comparison of his mony; and he that should have bin half so much in debt, would have bin quite eaten out. Usury is of such a nature, as, not forbidden in the like cases, must devour the government. The Roman people, while their territory was no bigger, and their lots, which exceeded not two acres a man, were yet scantier, were flead alive with it; and if they had not help’d themselves by their tumults, and the institution of their tribuns, it had totally ruin’d both them and their government. In a commonwealth, whose territory is very small, the balance of the government being laid upon the land, as in Lacedemon, it will not be sufficient to forbid usury, but mony itself must be forbidden. Whence Lycurgus allow’d of none, or of such only as being of old, or otherwise useless iron, was little better, or if you will, little worse than none. The prudence of which law appear’d in the neglect of it, as when Lysander, general for the Lacedemonians in the Peloponnesian war, having taken Athens, and brought home the spoil of it, occasion’d the ruin of that commonwealth in her victory. The land of Canaan compar’d with Spain or England, was at the most but a Yorkshire, and Laconia was less than Canaan. Now if we imagin Yorkshire divided, as was Canaan into six hundred thousand lots, or as was Laconia, into thirty thousand; a Yorkshire man having one thousand pounds in his purse, would, I believe, have a better estate in mony than in land; wherfore in this case, to make the land hold the balance, there is no way but either that of Israel by forbidding usury, or that of Lacedemon by forbidding mony. Where a small sum may com to overbalance a man’s estate in land, there I say usury or mony for the preservation of the balance in land, must of necessity be forbidden, or the government will rather rest upon the balance of mony, than upon that of land, as in Holland and Genoa. But in a territory of such extent as Spain, or England, the land being not to be overbalanc’d by mony, there needs no forbidding of mony or usury. In Lacedemon merchandize was forbidden, in Israel and Rome it was not exercis’d; wherfore to these usury must have bin the more destructive: but in a country where merchandize is exercis’d, it is so far from being destructive, that it is necessary; else that which might be of profit to the commonwealth would rust unprofitably in private purses, there being no man that will venture his mony but thro hope of som gain; which if it be so regulated that the borrower may gain more by it than the lender, as at four in the hundred, or therabouts, usury becoms a mighty profit to the public, and a charity to privat men; in which sense we may not be persuaded by them that do not observe these different causes, that it is against Scripture. Had usury to a brother bin permitted in Israel, that government had bin overthrown: but that such a territory as England or Spain cannot be overbalanc’d by mony, whether it be a scarce or plentiful commodity, whether it be accumulated by parsimony as in the purse of Henry the 7th, or presented by fortune, as in the revenue of the Indys, is sufficiently demonstrated, or shall be.
Consid. p. 12.First, by an argument ad hominem, one good enough for the prevaricator, who argues thus: The wisdom or the riches of another man can never give him a title to my obedience, nor oblige Mr. Harrington to give his clothes or mony to the next man he meets, wiser or richer than himself.
If he had said stronger, he had spoil’d all; for the parting with a man’s clothes or mony in that case, cannot be help’d: now the richer, as to the case in debate, is the stronger, that is, the advantage of strength remains to the balance. But well; he presumes me to have clothes and mony of my own, let him put the same case in the people, or the similitude does not hold. But if the people have clothes and mony of their own, these must either rise (for the bulk) out of property in land, or at least out of the cultivation of the land, or the revenue of industry; which if it be dependent, they must give such a part of their clothes and mony to preserve that dependence out of which the rest arises to him or them on whom they depend, as he or they shall think fit, or parting with nothing to this end, must lose all; that is, if they be tenants, they must pay their rent, or turn out. So if they have clothes or mony dependently, the balance of land is in the landlord or landlords of the people: but if they have clothes and mony independently, then the balance of land must of necessity be in the people themselves, in which case they neither would, if there were any such, nor can, because there be no such, give their mony or clothes to such as are wiser, or richer, or stronger than themselves. So it is not a man’s clothes and mony or riches, that oblige him to acknowledge the title of his obedience to him that is wiser or richer, but a man’s no clothes or mony, or his poverty, with which, if the prevaricator should come to want, he could not so finely prevaricat but he must serve som body, so he were rich, no matter if less wise than himself. Wherfore seeing the people cannot be said to have clothes and mony of their own without the balance in land, and having the balance in land, will never give their clothes, or mony, or obedience to a single person, or a nobility, tho these should be the richer in mony; the prevaricator by his own argument has evinc’d that in such a territory as England or Spain, mony can never com to overbalance land.
For a second demonstration of this truth, Henry the Seventh, tho he miss’d of the Indys, in which for my part I think him happy, was the richest in mony of English princes. Nevertheless this accession of revenue did not at all preponderat on the king’s part, nor change the balance. But while making farms of a standard he increas’d the yeomanry, and cutting off retainers he abas’d the nobility, began that breach in the balance of land, which proceding has ruin’d the nobility, and in them that government.
For a third, the monarchy of Spain since the silver of Potosi sail’d up the Guadalquivir, which in English is, since that king had the Indys, stands upon the same balance in the lands of the nobility on which it always stood.
Consid. p. 16.And so the learned conclusion of the prevaricator (That it is not to be doubted but a revenue sufficient to maintain a force able [to cry ware horns] or beat down all opposition, dos equally conduce to empire, whether it arises from rents, lands, profits of ready mony, dutys, customs, &c.) asks you no more than where you saw her premises. For unless they ascended his monti, and his banks, it is not to be imagin’d which way they went; and with these, because he is a profest zealot for monarchy, I would wish him by no means to be montebanking or meddling: for the purse of a prince never yet made a bank, nor, till spending and trading mony be all one, ever shall. The Genoese, which the king of Spain could never do with the Indys, can make you a bank out of letters of exchange, and the Hollander with herrings. Let him com no more here: where there is a bank, ten to one there is a commonwealth. A king is a soldier, or a lover, neither of which makes a good merchant, and without merchandize you will have a lean bank. It is true, the family of the Medici were both merchants and made a bank into a throne: but it was in commonwealth of merchants, in a small territory, by great purchases in land, and rather in a mere confusion than under any settl’d government; which causes, if he can give them all such another meeting, may do as much for another man. Otherwise let it be agreed and resolv’d, that in a territory of any extent, the balance of empire consists in land and not in mony; always provided that in case a prince has occasion to run away, as Henry the Third of France did out of Poland, his balance in ready mony is absolutely the most proper for the carrying on of so great and sudden an enterprize.
It is an excellent way of disputing, when a man has alleg’d no experience, no example, no reason, to conclude with no doubt. Certainly upon such occasions it is not unlawful nor unreasonable to be merry. Reasons, says one comedian, are not so common as blackberrys. For all that, says another comedian, no doubt but arevenue in taxes is as good as a revenue in feesimple; for this, in brief, is the sense of his former particular, or that part of it, which, the monti and the banks being already discharg’d, remains to be answer’d. Yet that the rents and profits of a man’s land in feesimple or property, com in naturally and easily, by common consent or concernment, that is, by virtue of the law founded upon the public interest, and therfore voluntarily establish’d by the whole people, is an apparent thing. So a man that will receive the rents and profits of other mens land, must either take them by mere force, or bring the people to make a law divesting themselves of so much of their property; which upon the matter is all one, because a people possest of the balance, cannot be brought to make such a law, further than they see necessary for their common defence, but by force, nor to keep it any longer than that force continues. It is true, there is not only such a thing in nature as health, but sickness too: nor do I deny that there is such a thing as a government against the balance. But look about, seek, find where it stood, how it was nam’d, how lik’d, or how long it lasted. Otherwise the comical proposition coms to this, it is not to be doubted but that violence may be permanent or durable, and the blackberry, for it is because nature is permanent or durable! what other construction can be made of these words? it is not to be doubted but a revenue sufficient to maintain a force able to beat down all opposition (that is, a force able to raise such a revenue) dos equally (on which word grows the blackberry) conduce to empire; that is, as much as could any natural balance of the same! he may stain mouths, as he has don som, but he shall never make a politician. The earth yields her natural increase without losing her heart; but if you com once to force her, look your force continue, or she yields you nothing: and the balance of empire consisting of earth, is of the nature of her element.
Divines are given to speak much of things which the considerer balks in this place that wou’d check them, to the end he may fly out with them in others, wherto they do not belong, as where he says, that government is founded either upon paternity, and the natural advantage the first father had over all the rest of mankind, who were his sons;Consid. p. 23.or else from the increase of strength or power in som man or men, to whose will the rest submit, that by their submission they may avoid such mischief as otherwise would be brought upon them. Which two vagarys are to be fetch’d home to this place.
For the former; if Adam had liv’d till now, he could have seen no other than his own children; and so that he must have bin king by the right of nature, was his peculiar prerogative. But whether the eldest son of his house, if the prevaricator can find him at this time of day, has the same right, is somwhat disputable; because it was early when Abraham and Lot divided territorys, became several kings: and not long after when the sons of Jacob being all patriarchs, by the appointment of God, whose right sure was not inferior to that of Adam, tho he had liv’d, came under popular government. Wherfore the advantage of a first father is for grave men a pleasant fancy; nevertheless if he had liv’d till now, I hope they understand that the whole earth would have bin his demeans, and so the balance of his property must have answer’d to his empire, as did that also of Abraham and Lot to theirs. Wherfore this way of deduction coms directly home again to the balance.De jure belli, l. 1. c. 3.Paterfamilias Latifundia possidens, & neminem alia lege in suas terras recipiens quam ut ditioni suæ, qui recipiuntur, se subjiciant, est Rex, says Grotius. Fathers of familys are of three sorts, either a sole landlord, as Adam, and then he is an absolute monarch; or a few landlords, as Lot and Abraham, with the patriarchs of those days; who if they join’d not together, were so many princes; or if they join’d made a mix’d monarchy; or, as Grotius believes, a kind of commonwealth administer’d in the land of Canaan by Melchisedec, to whom as king and priest Abraham paid tithes of all that he had. Such a magistracy was also that of Jethro, king and priest in the commonwealth of Midian. Father of familys for the third sort, as when the multitude are landlords (which happen’d in the division of the land of Canaan) make a commonwealth. And thus much, however it was out of the prevaricator’s head in the place now deduc’d, he, excepting no further against the balance than that it might consist as well in mony as in land, had confest before.
His second vagary is in his deduction of empire from increase of strength, for which we must once more round about our coalfire. The strength wherby this effect can be expected, consists not in a pair of fists, but in an army; and an army is a beast with a great belly, which subsists not without very large pastures: so if one man has sufficient pasture, he may feed such a beast; if a few have the pasture, they must feed the beast, and the beast is theirs that feed it. But if the people be the sheep of their own pastures, they are not only a flock of sheep, but an army of lions, tho by som accidents, as I confest before, they be for a season confinable to their dens. So the advantage or increase of strength depends also upon the balance. There is nothing in the world to swear this principle out of countenance, but the fame of Phalaris, Gelon, Dionysius, Agathocles, Nabis,&c. with which much good do them that like it. It is proper to a government upon the balance to take root at home, and spread outwards; and to a government against the balance to seek a root abroad, and to spread inwards. The former is sure, but the latter never successful. Agathocles for having conquer’d Africa, took not the better root in Syracusa. Parvi sunt arma foras, nisi sit consilium domi.
To conclude this chapter; the prevaricator gives me this thanks for finding out the balance of dominion (being as antient in nature as her self, and yet as new in art as my writing) that I have given the world cause to complain of a great disappointment, who, while at my hand that satisfaction in the principles of government was expected, which several great wits had in vain study’d, have in diversifying riches in words only, as property, dominion, agrarian, balance, made up no more than a new lexicon, expressing the same thing that was known before; seeing the opinion that riches are power is (as antient as the first book of Thucydides, or the politics of Aristotle, and) not omitted by Mr.Hobbs, or any other politician. Which is as if he had told Dr. Harvey, that wheras the blood is the life was an opinion as antient as Moses, and no girl ever prick’d her finger, but knew it must have a course; he had given the world cause to complain of great disappointment in not shewing a man to be made of gingerbread, and his veins to run malmsy.
[* ]Point de Argent, point de Suisse.