Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAP. V.: Whether there be any common Right or Interest of Mankind distinct from the parts taken severally; and how by the Orders of a Commonwealth it may be best distinguish'd from privat Interest. - The Oceana and Other Works
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CHAP. V.: Whether there be any common Right or Interest of Mankind distinct from the parts taken severally; and how by the Orders of a Commonwealth it may be best distinguish’d from privat Interest. - 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 there be any common Right or Interest of Mankind distinct from the parts taken severally; and how by the Orders of a Commonwealth it may be best distinguish’d from privat Interest.
IN the next place the prevaricator dos not go about to play the man, but the unlucky boy. Where I say that the soul of man is mistress of two potent rivals, reason and passion; he dos not stand to weigh the truth of the thing, or the fitness of the comparison, either of which had been fair; but tumbles Dick upon Sis, the logic upon the rhetoric, the sense upon the figure, and scuds away in this manner:Consid. p. 19. 20.If I could be persuaded Mr.Harringtonwas so far in earnest, as to expect any man shou’d be convinc’d by the metaphorical use of two or three words, som farther consideration might be propos’d. This is to use his readers as the fox dos the dogs, when having pist upon his tail, and flapt it in their eys, he gets away. Dos not his book deserve to be gilded and carry’d in statesmen’s pokes? alas! mine are nothing? Quis leget hæc? vel duo, vel nemo: they break the stationer. And yet let me comfort myself, whose are better? the prevaricator seems to set every whit as light by those of Hooker and Grotius, at least where they favor me. The opinions ofGrotius, says he, cannot oblige us beyond the reasons wheron they are founded; and what are those? he will dispute against that which he dares not repeat: that his comment may take you by the nose, he has left out the text. The words of Grotius are of this sense:In Proleg. de jure B. ac P.Tho it be truly said that the creatures are naturally carry’d to their proper utility, this ought not to be taken in too general a sense, seeing divers of them abstain from their own profit, either in regard of those of the same kind, or at least of their young. Which words, says the prevaricator, carry a great restriction in them, and the way of producing actions in beasts is so different from the emanation of human reason (mark the impostor! the author is speaking of natural affection, and he wipes out that, and puts in human reason) that the inferences from (the natural affection of) the one, to the (degree of reason which is in the) other, must needs be very weak. Excellent! dos it therfore follow that the eminent degree of reason, wherwithal God has indu’d man, must in him deface that natural affection, and desertion in some cases of privat for common good, which is apparent even in beasts? what do reverend divines mean to cry up this infidel? nay, is not be worse than an infidel that provides not for his own family? a commonwealth is but a great family; and a family is a little commonwealth. Even beasts, in sparing out of their own mouths, and exposing themselves to danger for their young, provide for their familys; and in providing for their familys, provide for their whole commonwealth; that is, forsake in som things their privat good and safety, for the good of the public, or of the kind.Book 1. In this case it is that even stones or heavy things, says Hooker,forsake their ordinary wont or centre, and fly upwards to relieve the distress of nature in common. Wretch that he is, shall a stone upon this occasion fly upwards, and will he have a man to go downwards! yes, Mr.Hooker’sexpression, says he, is altogether figurative; and it is easier to prove from thence that things wanting sense make discourses, and act by election, than that there is such a thing as a common interestof mankind.Chap. V. This is like the rest, Hooker speaks of the necessity that is in nature, and this gentleman translates that sense into the word election. So because a stone is necessitated to comply with the common interest of nature, without discourse or election; therfore it rather follows from hence, that things wanting sense make discourses, and act by election, than that there is such a thing as a common interest of mankind. His old trick. I do not say, that because it is so with the other creatures, therfore it must be so with man: but as we see it is with the creatures in this part, so we find it to be with man. And that so, and more than so, we find it to be with man (who tho he be evil, gives good things to his children, will work hard, lay up, deny himself, venture his life for his little commonwealth) is thus further demonstrated. All civil laws acknowledge that there is a common interest of mankind, and all civil laws procede from the nature of man; therfore it is in the nature of man to acknowledge that there is a common interest of mankind. Upon this acknowledgement of mankind, a man that steals is put to death, which certainly is none of his privat interest: nor is a man put to death for any other man’s privat interest: therfore there is a common interest of mankind distinct from the parts taken severally. But this, tho acknowleg’d in part by all governments, yet thro their natural frailty is nothing so well provided for in som as in others: for if the power be in one or a few men, one or a few men, we know, may be thieves, and the rather, because applying mony that is public, without a consideration that is public, to uses that are privat, is thieving. But such thieves will not be hang’d; in this case therfore the government gos not upon public but privat interest. In the frame of such a government as can go upon no other than the public interest, consists that whole philosophy of the soul which concerns policy: and this whole philosophy of the soul being throout the commonwealth of Oceana demonstrated; for the prevaricator to insinuat that I have omitted it, is to shew what it is that he loves more than truth. The main of this philosophy consists in deposing passion, and advancing reason to the throne of empire. I expected news in this place, that this were to promise more for the magistrat or the people than has bin perform’d by the stoics; but two girls, meaning no body any harm, have provok’d his wrath, forsooth, to such extravagancy by the way, that tho in all modesty it were forbid, as he confesses, by their cheeks, which discovering the green-sickness, shew’d that they were past the rod, he has taken them up! Tantæne animis cælestibus iræ! what he may have in school-divinity for so rude a charge, I do not know; but he shall never be able to shew any maxims for this kind of disciplin or philosophy of the soul, either in chevalry or the politics. The offence of the girls was no more, than that having a cake (by the gift of an uncle or aunt, or by purchase, or such a one perhaps as was of their own making) in common, or between them, the one had most accuratly divided, and the other was about to chuse; when in coms this rude fellow:Consid. p. 22, 23.how now, gentlemen, says he, what dividing and chusing! will no less serve your turn than the whole mystery of a well-order’d commonwealth? who has taught you to cast away passion, an’t please you, like the bran, and work up reason as pure as the flower of your cake? are you acquainted with the author of Oceana, that has seen foren countrys, convers’d with the speculativi, learn’d of the most serene ladyVenetiato work with bobbins, makes you a magistracy like a pippin py, and sells butterprints with S. P. Q. R? have don, as you dread ballads, fusty pamphlets, or the ostracism of Billingsgate. Have don, I say: will you vy that green in your cheeks with the purple of the state? must your mother, who was never there her self, seek you in the oven?com, when I live to seeMachiavelin pufpaste, a commonwealth com out of a bakehouse, where smocks were the boulters, let me be a mill-horse—But now you must know coms the best jest of all, and I need not say that it coms from Oxford; he tells them that their cake is do (let it not be lost I beseech you) and so snatching it away, eats it, for all the world as Jackpudding eats the custard. Did you ever see such a bestia?
But wheras either office, that of dividing or chusing, was communicable to either of the girls, it is not indifferent in the distribution of a commonwealth, because dividing is separating one thing, one reason, one interest, or consideration from another, which they that can so discern in privat affairs are call’d discrete, but they that can do it in public are prudent; and the way of this kind of dividing in the language of a commonwealth is debating. But they that are capable of this kind of dividing or debating are few among many, that when things are thus divided and debated, are able enough to chuse, which in the language of a commonwealth is to resolve. Hence it is that the debate of the few, because there be but few that can debate, is the wisest debate; and the result of the many (because every man has an interest what to chuse, and that choice which sutes with every man’s interest, excludes the distinct or privat interest or passion of any man, and so coms up to the common and public interest or reason) is the wisest result. To this end, God, who dos nothing in vain, has so divided mankind into the few or the natural aristocracy, and the many or the natural democracy, that there can hardly be upon any occasion a meeting of twenty men, wherin it will not be apparent, or in which you may not see all those lines which are requisite to the face of a beautiful commonwealth. For example, among any twenty men occasionally met, there will be some few, perhaps six, excelling the fourteen in greatness of parts. These six falling into discourse of business, or giving their judgment upon persons or things, tho but by way of mere conversation, will discover their abilitys; wherupon they shall be listen’d to and regarded by the fourteen; that is, the six will acquire an authority with, and imprint a reverence upon the fourteen: which action and passion in the Roman commonwealth were call’d authoritas patrum, & verecundia plebis. Nevertheless if the six indeavor to extend the authority which they find thus acquir’d, to power, that is, to bring the fourteen to terms or conditions of obedience, or such as would be advantageous to the few, but prejudicial to the many; the fourteen will soon find, that consenting, they hurt not only themselves by indamaging their own interests, but hurt the six also, who by this means com to lose their virtue, and so spoil their debate, which, while such advantages are procurable to themselves, will go no further upon the common good, but their privat benefit. Wherfore in this case they will not consent, and not consenting, they preserve not only their own liberty, but the integrity of the six also, who perceiving that they cannot impair the common interest, have no other interest left but to improve it. And neither any conversation, nor any people, how dull soever and subject by fits to be deluded, but will soon see thus much, which is enough, because what is thus propos’d by the authority of the six or of the senat, and resolv’d by the fourteen, or by the people, is enacted by the whole, and becoms that law, than which, tho mankind be not infallible, there can be nothing less fallible in mankind. Art is the imitation of nature; by observation of such lines as these in the face of nature, a politician limns his commonwealth.Consid. p. 26. But says the prevaricator, the paralogism lys in this, that the twenty men are first suppos’d to be a commonwealth, and then it is consider’dhow they would dispose of the government. What is this? art is the imitation of nature; therfore art presumes nature to be art. A picture is the representation of a face; therfore the picture-drawer presum’d the face to be a picture; and in this same, there is lying, being, or squatting, a thing call’d a paralogism. Did you ever hear such a paraketism? for to speak a word without understanding the sense of it, is like a parrat. And yet I wrong the parrat in this comparison; for she, tho she do not understand her self, is understood by others, wheras neither can this prevaricator tell what he means, nor any man else. Or riddle me, riddle me what is this?Consid. p. 27.the sense of want among men that are in equality of power may beget a desire of exchange; as let me have your horse, and you shall have my cow, which is the fountain of privat contracts: but it is not to be with reason imagin’d, that this should be enough to make a man part with a natural freedom, and put himself into the hands of a power from which he can afterwards have no shield, tho it should be us’d to his own destruction.
Most victorious nonsense! for he that says nothing, cannot be answer’d. It should seem, if the twenty men were indeed a commonwealth, or in equality of power, for so he puts the case, they might truck horses and cows, but not by any means consider, or once let it enter into their heads, how by art to make good their natural freedom: that (unless they set up a prince, as you shall see anon) were to part with their natural freedom, and put themselves into the hands of a power from which (there being no other power but themselves) they can afterwards have no shield. To read it throughly for the understanding, as is intimated in his epistle, will be more; I doubt, than his book will obtain of any reader. Yet is he, in his own conceit, as surefooted as any mule, and knows the road. But Mr. Harringtonhas not lost his way without company; his brother Grotiuscomplains, that they who treat of jus gentium, do commonly mistake som part of the Roman jus civile for it: and even so he laments (an’t please you) that while men profess to consider the principles of government, they fall upon notions which are the mere effects of government. But as an ape is the more ugly for being like a man, so this prevaricator, for making faces like Grotius. I, who am complain’d of, deriving government from the true principle of the same, in the balance or foundation, set the superstructures accordingly; and he who complains forsooth, never so much as proposes any thing like a principle or superstructure, but runs altogether upon mere notions:Consid p. 23. as where he asks me, what security will you give, that the six in their consultations shall not rather aim at their own advantage, than that of the fourteen, and so make use of the eminence of their parts to circumvent the rest? in another place he can answer himself and say, that the fourteen, or the people in this constitution, have the vote and the sword too. How then should the six circumvent them? what security has a prince, that his people will not pull him out of his throne? why, a nobility or an army: and are not the people in a commonwealth their own army? is this to mind principles? on the other side, how, says he, shall we be satisfied that the fourteen will not soon begin to think themselves wife enough to consult too, and making use of their excess in power, pull the six off their cushions? as if there were any experience public or privat, any sense or reason, that men having the whole power in their own hands, would deprive themselves of counsillors; or that ever a commonwealth depos’d the senat, or can depose the senat, and remain a commonwealth. The people of Capua being inrag’d to the full height, resolv’d and assembl’d together (the senat, if the people will, being always in their power) on purpose to cut the throats of the senators, when Pacuvius Calavius exhorted them that e’er they went upon the design, they would first make election among themselves of a new senat, which, the throats of the old being cut, might for the safety of the commonwealth immediately take their places; for, said he,*you must either have a king, which is to be abhor’d; or whatever becoms of this, you must have som other senat: for the senat is a council of such a nature as without it no free city can subsist. By which speech of Pacuvius, the people, who thought themselves, as the considerer has it, wise enough to consult, being convinc’d, fell to work for the election of a succeding senat out of themselves (the prevaricator should not tell me of notions, but learn that in a commonwealth there must be a senat, is a principle) while the people of Capua were intent upon chusing this new senat, the partys propos’d seem’d to them to be so ridiculously unfit for such an office, that by this means coming to a nearer sight of themselves, they were secretly so fill’d with the shame of their enterprize, that slinking away, they would never after be known so much as to have thought upon such a thing. Nor ever went any other people so far, not the Florentins themselves, tho addicted to innovation or changing of the senat beyond all other examples. Sons of the university, brothers of the college, heads and points; you love fine words. Whether tends to bring all things into servitude, my hypothesis, or his† hypothytes? for, says he, I am willing to gratify Mr.Harringtonwith his partition of the twenty men into six and fourteen; but if I had been in a humor of contradiction, it had been as free for me to have said that som one of the twenty would have excel’d all the rest in judgment, experience, courage and height of genius, and then told him, that this had bin a natural monarchy, established by God himself over mankind: as if the twenty would give their clothes or money to the next man they met wiser or richer than themselves, which before he deny’d; Oportet mendacem esse memorem. God establish’d kings no otherwise than by election of the people; and the twenty will neither give their clothes nor money: how then? why in coms a gallant with a file of musketeers; what, says he, are you dividing and chusing here? go to, I will have no dividing, give me all. Down go the pots, and up go their heels: what is this? why a king! what more? by divine right! as he took the cake from the girls?
[* ]Senatum omninò non habere non vultis: Quippe aut rex quod abominandum; aut, quod unum liberæ civitatis concilium est, senatus habendus est. Liv.