Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAP. XI.: Whether there be not an Agrarian, or som Law of Laws of that Nature, to supply the Defect of it in every Commonwealth: And whether the Agrarian, as it is stated in Oceana, be not equal and satisfactory to all Interests. - The Oceana and Other Works
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CHAP. XI.: Whether there be not an Agrarian, or som Law of Laws of that Nature, to supply the Defect of it in every Commonwealth: And whether the Agrarian, as it is stated in Oceana, be not equal and satisfactory to all Interests. - 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 not an Agrarian, or som Law of Laws of that Nature, to supply the Defect of it in every Commonwealth: And whether the Agrarian, as it is stated in Oceana, be not equal and satisfactory to all Interests.
IN this chapter the prevaricator’s devices are the most welfavor’d: for wheras the agrarian of Oceana dos no more than pin the basket, which is already fill’d, he gets up into the tree where the birds have long since eaten all the cherrys, and with what clouts he can rake up, makes a most ridiculous scarcrow. This pains he needed not to have taken, if he had not slighted overmuch the Lexicon, of which he allows me to be the author; yet will have it, that he understood the words before, som of which nevertheless his ill understanding requires should be further interpreted in this place, as property, balance, agrarian, and levelling.
Property is that which is every man’s own by the law of the land; and of this there is nothing stirr’d, but all intirely left as it was found by the agrarian of Oceana.
Property in mony (except, as has bin shewn, in citys that have little or no territory) coms not to the present account. But property in land, according to the distribution that happens to be of the same, causes the political balance producing empire of the like nature: that is, if the property in lands be so diffus’d thro the whole people that neither one landlord, nor a few landlords overbalance them, the empire is popular. If the property in lands be so ingrost by the few, that they overbalance the whole people, the empire is aristocratical, or mix’d monarchy; but if property in lands be in one landlord, to such a proportion as overbalances the whole people, the empire is absolute monarchy. So the political balance is threefold, democratical, aristocratical, and monarchical.
Each of these balances may be introduc’d either by the legislator at the institution of the government, or by civil vicissitude, alienation, or alteration of property under government.
Examples of the balance introduc’d at the institution, and by the legislator, are first those in Israel, and Lacedemon, introduc’d by God or Moses, and Lycurgus, which were democratical or popular. Secondly, those in England, France, and Spain, introduc’d by the Goths, Vandals, Saxons, and Franks, which were aristocratical, or such as produc’d the government of king, lords, and commons. Thirdly, those in the East and Turky, introduc’d by Nimrod and Mahomet or Ottoman, which were purely monarchical.
Examples of the balance introduc’d by civil vicissitude, alienation, or alteration of property under government, are in Florence, where the Medici attaining to excessive wealth, the balance alter’d from popular to monarchical:Pausan.in Greece, where the Argives being lovers of equality and liberty,Corinth.reduc’d the power of their kings to so small a matter, that there remain’d to the children and successors ofCisuslittle more than the title, where the balance alter’d from monarchical to popular. In Rome, about the time of Crassus, the nobility having eaten the people out of their lands, the balance alter’d from popular, first to aristocratical, as in the triumvirs,Cæsar, Pompey and Crassus; and then to monarchical, as when Crassus being dead, and Pompey conquer’d, the whole came to Cæsar.Arist. Pol. l. 5. c. 3.In Tarentum, and not long after the war with the Medes, the nobility being wasted and overcom by Iapyges, the balance, and with that the commonwealth, chang’d from aristocratical to popular: the like of late has discover’d itself in Oceana. When a balance coms so thro civil vicissitude to be chang’d, that the change cannot be attributed to human providence, it is more peculiarly to be ascrib’d to the hand of God; and so when there happens to be an irresistible change of the balance, not the old government which God has repeal’d, but the new government which he dictats as present legislator, is of divine right.
This volubility of the balance being apparent, it belongs to legislators to have eys, and to occur with som prudential or legal remedy or prevention: and the laws that are made in this case are call’d agrarian. So an agrarian is a law fixing the balance of a government in such a manner that it cannot alter.
This may be don divers ways, as by intailing the lands upon certain familys, without power of alienation in any case, as in Israel and Lacedemon; or, except with leave of the magistrat, as in Spain but this, by making som familys too secure, as those in possession, and others too despairing, as those not in possession, may make the whole people less industrious.
Wherfore the other way, which by the regulation of purchases ordains only that a man’s land shall not excede som certain proportion; for example, two thousand pounds a year; or, exceding such a proportion, shall divide in descending to the children, so soon as being more than one they shall be capable of such a division, or subdivision, till the greater share excedes not two thousand pounds a year in land, lying and being within the native territory, is that which is receiv’d and establish’d by the commonwealth of Oceana.
By levelling, they who use the word seem to understand, when a people rising invades the lands and estates of the richer sort, and divides them equally among themselves; as for example,—no where in the world; this being that, both in the way and in the end, which I have already demonstrated to be impossible. Now the words of this Lexicon being thus interpreted, let us hearken what the prevaricator will say, and out it coms in this manner:
Consid. p. 73.TO him that makes property, and that in lands, the foundation of empire, the establishing of an agrarian is of absolute necessity, that by it the power may be fix’d in those hands to whom it was at first committed.
What need we then procede any further, while he having no where disprov’d the balance in these words, gives up the whole cause? for as to that which he says of mony, seeing neither the vast treasure of Henry the 7th alter’d the balance of England, nor the revenue of the Indys alters that of Spain, this retrait (except in the cases excepted) is long since baricado’d. But he is on and off, and, any thing to the contrary notwithstanding, gives you this for certain.
THE examples of an agrarian are so infrequent, that Mr. Harrington is constrain’d to wave all but two commonwealths; and can find in the whole extent of history only Israel and Lacedemon to fasten upon.
A man that has read my writings, or is skill’d in history, cannot chuse but see how he slurs his dice; nevertheless to make this a little more apparent.Pol. l. 2. c. 5.It has seem’d to som (says Aristotle) the main point of institution in government, to order riches right; whence otherwise derives all civil discord. Upon this groundPhaleasthe Chalcedonian legislator made it his first work to introduce equality of goods; andPlatoin his laws allows not increase to a possession beyond certain bounds. The Argives and the Messenians had each their agrarian after the manner of Lacedemon.Plut. Lycurg. If a man shall translate the words (ἀρετή, δύναμις πολιτιϰὴ, virtus & facultas civilis) political virtue or faculty, where he finds them in Aristotle’s politics (as I make bold, and appeal to the reader whether too bold to do) by the words political balance, understood as I have stated the thing, it will give such a light to the author, as will go nearer than any thing alleg’d (as before by this prevaricator) to deprive me of the honor of that invention.Pol. l. 3. c. 9. For example, where Aristotle says, If one man, or such a number of men, as to the capacity of government com within the compass of the few, excel all the rest (ϰατ’ ἀρετὴν) in balance, or in such a manner, that the (δύναμις πολιτιϰὴ) political faculties or estates of all the rest be not able to hold weight with him or them, they will never condescend to share equally with the rest in power, whom they excel in balance; nor is it to any purpose to give them laws, who will be as the gods, their own laws, and will answer the people as the lions are said byAntisthenesto have answered the hares, when they had concluded, that every one ought to have an equal portion. For this cause (he adds) citys that live under popular power,have instituted the ostracism for the preservation of equality; by which, if a man increase in riches, retinue, or popularity, above what is safe, they can remove him (without loss of honor or estate) for a time.
If the Considerer thinks that I have strain’d courtesy with Aristotle (who indeed is not always of one mind) further than is warrantable, in relation to the balance, be it as he pleases; I who must either have the more of authority, or the less of competition in the point, shall lose neither way. However, it is in this place enough that the ostracism being of like nature, was that which supply’d the defect, in the Grecian citys, of an agrarian. To procede then to Rome, that the people there, by striving for an agrarian, strove to save their liberty, is apparent, in that thro the want of such a law, or the nonobservance of it, the commonwealth came plainly to ruin. If a Venetian should keep a table, or have his house furnish’d with retainers, he would be obnoxious to the council of ten; and if the best of them appear with other state or equipage than is allow’d to the meanest, he is obnoxious to the officers of the pomp: which two orders in a commonwealth, where the gentry have but small estates in land, are as much as needs be in lieu of an agrarian. But the German republics have no more to supply the place of this law, than that estates descending are divided among the children; which sure no man but will say must needs be both just and pious: and we ask you no more in Oceana, where grant this, and you grant the whole agrarian. Thus had I set him all the commonwealths in the world before; and so it is no fault of mine, that he will throw but at three of them: these are Israel, Lacedemon, and Oceana.
Consid. p. 77.First at Israel: Mr. Harrington (says he) thinks not upon the promise of God to Abraham (whence the Israelites derived their right to the land of Canaan) but considers the division of the lands as a politic constitution upon which the government was founded, tho in the whole history of the bible there be not the least footstep of such a design.
What means the man! the right of an Israelite to his land deriv’d from the promise ofGodtoAbraham, therfore the right of an Oceaner to his land must derive from the promise of God to Abraham? or, why else should I in speaking of Oceana (where property is taken as it was found, and not stirr’d a hair) think on the promise to Abraham? nor matters it for the manner of division, seeing that was made, and this was found made, each according to the law of the government. But in the whole bible (says he) there is not the least footstep that the end of the Israelitish agrarian was political, or that it was intended to be the foundation of the government.
THE footsteps of God, by the testimony of David, may be seen in the deep waters, much more, by the consent of the whole bible, in land, or in the foundation of empire; unless we make the footsteps of God to be one thing, and his ways another, which as to government are these.
[Editor: illegible character] ad 1. 26. 53.God by the ballot of Israel (more fully describ’d in the next book) divided the land (som respect had to the princes and patriarchs for the rest) to every one his inheritance, according to the number of names, which were drawn out of one urn first, and the lots of land (the measure with the goodness of the same consider’d) drawn afterwards out of the other urn to those names. Wherfore God ordaining the cause, and the cause of necessity producing the effect, God in ordaining thi balance intended popular government. But when the people admitting of no nay, would have a king, God therupon commanding Samuel to shew them the manner of theking,Samuel declar’d to the people concerning the manner or policy of the king, saying, He will take your fields and your vinyards, and your oliveyards, even the best of them, and give to his servants (which kind of proceding must needs create the balance of a nobility;) over and above this, he will take the tenth of your seed, and of your vinyards, and of your sheep (by way of tax, for the maintenance of his armys) and thus your daughters shall com to be his cooks and confectioners, and your sons to run before his chariot.1 Sam. 8. There is not from the balance to the superstructures a more perfect description of a monarchy by a nobility. For the third branch, the people of Egypt in time of the famin, which was very sore, com to Joseph, saying, buy us and our land for bread, and we and our land will be servants toPharaoh.Gen. 47. 19, 20.AndJosephbought all the land of Egypt (except those of the priests) forPharaoh.So the land becamePharaoh’s, who lest the remembrance of their former property by lively marks and continual remembrancers should stir them up (as the Vandals in Africa,Grot. ad stript in like manner of their property, and yet remaining in their antient dwellings,Gen. 47. were stirr’d up by their women) to sedition, remov’d the people thus sold, or drave them like cattel even from one end of the borders of Egypt to the other end therof. In which you have the balance of a sole landlord or absolute prince, with the miserable, and yet necessary consequence of an inslav’d people. Now the balance of governments throout the Scriptures being of these kinds, and no other, the balance of Oceana is exactly calculated to the most approv’d way, and the clearest footsteps of God in the whole history of the bible: and wheras the jubile was a law instituted for preservation of the popular balance from alteration, so is the agrarian in Oceana.
But says the prevaricator hocus pocus, or in the name of wonder, how can this agrarian be the foundation of that government which had subsisted more than forty five years without it? for they were so long after the giving of this law for the division of the land, before they had the land to divide.
Which is as if one should say upon that other law of the like date, judges and officers shalt thou make thee in all thy gates; hocus pocus, or in the name of wonder, how should the children of Israel make them judges and officers in their gates, before they had any gates to make them in? fine sport to be play’d by an attorny for the clergy with Scripture, where it is plain enough that the laws of a commonwealth were given by Moses to an army, to be put in execution when that army should becom a commonwealth, as happen’d under Joshua.
But no saying will serve his turn. If this agrarian were meant as fundamental to the government, the provision (he will have it) was weak, and not proper for attaining the end propos’d, there being nothing in the nature of the agrarian to hinder, but that the whole country might for the space of near fifty years, that is, the time between the two jubiles, have com into the hands of one man, and so have destroy’d balance, agrarian, government and all.
This they that boast of their mathematics might have taken the pains (before they had bin so confident) to have demonstrated possible; as how or by what means one lot could com in fifty years to be multiply’d six hundred thousand times, and that without usury, which bar (the Israelits being no merchants) was thought sufficient to be given: or thus to call the prudence of God by their impracticable phansys in question, is abominable.
I would have divines (as this prevaricator persuades, and it should seem has persuaded som of them) to overthrow the commonwealth of Israel; for otherwise I will give them my word they shall never be able to touch that of Oceana, which, except in the hereditary succession and dignity of the princes of the tribes, and the patriarchs, and that the senat was for life, differs not from the former: for as to the divers working up of the superstructures in divers commonwealths, according to the diversity of occasions, it coms to no accountable difference; and much, I conceive, of this carving or finishing in Israel; (which had it bin extant, would perhaps have shewn a greater resemblance) is lost. For the senats, as to their numbers, that of the 300 in Oceana, considering the bulk of the people, excedes not that of the seventy in Israel; the succession and dignity of the princes of the tribes and of the patriarchs was ordain’d for the preservation of the pedigrees, which (Christ being born) are not any more to be of like consequence; and that the senators were for life, deriv’d from a former custom of such a number of elders exercising som authority in Egypt (tho not that of the senat till it was instituted by God) from the descent of the patriarchs into that land, who being at thei descent seventy persons, and governing their familys by the right of paternity, as the people increas’d, and they came to dy, had their successors appointed in such a manner, that the number of seventy, in remembrance of those patriarchs, was diligently preserv’d. And for as much as the patriarchs governing their own familys (which at first were all) in their own right, were consequently for life, this also pleas’d in the substitution of others. These things rightly consider’d, I have not vary’d from the authority of Israel in a tittle, there being neither any such necessary use of pedigrees, nor uninterrupted succession of elders for life in Oceana; and unless a man will say, that we ought to have the like effect where there is not the like cause (which were absurd) the authority of a commonwealth holds no otherwise than from the cause to the effect.
OCEANA, I say, cannot be wounded but by piercing the authority of Israel, with which she is arm’d cap a pe.Consid. p. 36. It is true, as the prevaricator says in another place, that law can oblige only those to whom it was given; and that the laws of Israel were given, as to the power or obligation of them, only to the children of Israel. But the power, as has bin shewn, of a commonwealth, and her authority, are different things; her power extends no further than her own people, but her authority may govern others, as that of Athens did Rome, when the latter wrote her twelve tables by the copy of the former. In this manner, tho a man, or a commonwealth, writing out of antient governments, have liberty to chuse that which sutes best with the occasion, out of any; yet (whether we consider the wisdom and justice of the legislator supremely good, or the excellency of the laws) the prerogative of authority, where the nature of the thing admits it, must needs belong to Israel. That this opinion should go sore with divines, is strange; and yet if there be any feeling of their pulse by this their advocate or attorny, it is as true.
In his epist.For while he finds me writing out of Venice, he tells me, I have wisely put myself under protection or authority, against whom he dares not make war, lest he should take part with the Turk.
Consid. p. 39.But when he finds me writing out of Israel, he tells me, that he is not aware of any prerogative of authority belonging to the Israelitish more than any other republic: which is to take part with the devil.
So much for Israel. Now for Lacedemon; but you will permit me to shake a friend or two by the hand, as I go.
The first is Aristotle, in these words:
Pol. L. 5. c. 3.INEQUALITY is the source of all sedition, as when the riches of one or the few com to cause such an overbalance as draws the commonwealth into monarchy or oligarchy; for prevention wherof the ostracism has bin of use in divers places, as at Argos and Athens. But it were better to provide in the beginning, that there be no such disease in the commonwealth, than to com afterwards to her cure.
The second is Plutarch, in these words:
Plut. Lycur.Lycurgus judging that there ought to be no other inequality among citizens of the same commonwealth than what derives from their virtues, divided the land so equally among the Lacedemonians, that on a day beholding the harvest of their lots lying by cocks or ricks in the field, he laughing said, that it seem’d to him they were all brothers.
The third should have bin the considerer, but he is at feud with us all.
Consid. p. 78.THE design of Lycurgus, he professes, was not so much to attain an equality in the frame of his government, as to drive into exile riches, and the effects of them, luxury and debauchery.
Gentlemen, What do you say? you have the judgment of three great philosophers, and may make your own choice; only except he that has but one hundred pounds a year, can have wine and women at as full command, and retainers in as great plenty, as he that has ten thousand, I should think these advantages accru’d from inequality, and that Lycurgus had skill enough in a commonwealth to see as much. No, says the prevaricator, it appears far otherwise, in that he admitted of no mony but old iron, a cartload of which was worth little. Well, but in Israel, where silver and gold was worth enough, my gentleman would have it, that one man in the compass of fifty years might purchase the whole land, tho that country was much larger than this: and yet where, if the people had us’d mony, they would have us’d trade, and using both, such a thing, thro the straitness of the territory, might have happen’d, he will not conceive the like to have bin possible. No, tho he has an example of it in Lysander, who by the spoil of Athens ruin’d the agrarian, first by the overbalance that a man’s mony came to hold to his lot; then by eating out the lots themselves, and in those the equality of the commonwealth. But these things he interprets pleasantly, as if the vow of voluntary poverty (so he calls it) being broken, the commonwealth, like a forsworn wretch, had gon and hang’d her self: a phansy too rank, I doubt, of the cloyster, to be good at this work.
Plut. Lycur.But wheras Plutarch, upon the narrowness of these lots (which had they bin larger, must have made the citizens fewer than thirty thousand, and so unable to defend the commonwealth) and use of this same old and rusty iron instead of mony, observes it came by this means to pass that there was neither a fine orator, fortune-teller, baud, nor goldsmith, to be found in Lacedemon; our considerer professes,
THAT it is to him as strange as any thing in history, that Lycurgus should find credit enough to settle a government, which carry’d along with it so much want and hardship to particular men, that the total absence of government could scarce have put them into a worse condition; the laws that he made prohibiting the use of those things, which to injoy with security, is that only to other men that makes the yoke of laws supportable.
Here he is no monk again; I would ask him no more, than that he would hold to somthing, be it to any thing. It is true, we, who have bin us’d to our plumpottage, are like enough to make faces (as did the king of Pontus) at the Lacedemonian black broth: but who has open’d his mouth against plumpottage, gilded coaches, pages, lacquys, fair mannorhouses, good tables, rich furniture, full purses, universities, good benefices, scarlet robes, square caps, rich jewels, or said any thing that would not multiply all this? Why, says he, you are so far right, that the voice ofLycurgus’s agrarian was, Every man shall be thus poor; and that of yours is, that no man shall be more than thus rich. This is an argument (an’t please you) by which he thinks he has prov’d, that there is no difference between the agrarian that was in Lacedemon, and that which is in Oceana: for, Sir, whatsoever is thus and thus, is like: but the agrarian of Lacedemon was thus, A man could have no mony, or none that deserv’d that name; and the agrarian of Oceana is thus, A man’s mony is not confin’d: therfore the agrarian of the one, and of the other, are like. Was it not a great grievance in Lacedemon, think you, that they had no such logic or logician? Be this as it will, It had bin impossible, says he, forLycurgusto have settl’d his government, had he not wisely obtain’d a response from the oracle at Delphos, magnifying and recommending it: after which all resistance would have bin downright impiety and disobedience, which concerns Mr.Harringtonvery little. The Bible then is not so good an oracle as was that at Delphos. But this reflection has a tang with it, that makes me think it relates to that where he says, I know not how, but Mr.Harringtonhas taken up a very great unkindness for the clergy.Consid. p. 18. He will know nothing; neither that the oracle of the Scripture is of all other the clearest for a commonwealth, nor that the clergy being generally against a commonwealth, are in this below the priests of Delphos, who were more for Lycurgus than these are for Moses. But hav’at the agrarian of Oceana with the whole bail of dice, and at five throws.
The first throw is, That it is unjust: for,
Consid. p. 81.IF it be truly asserted (in Oceana, page the 37th) that government is founded on property, then property consists in nature before government, and government is to be fitted to property, not property to government. How great a sin then would it be against the first and purest notion of justice, to bring in a government not only different from but directly destructive to the settl’d property of Oceana, where (in the 99th page) there are confest to be three hundred persons, whose estates in land excede the standard of two thousand pounds a year. Let me not be chok’d with the example of Lacedemon, till Mr. Harrington has shewn us the power of his persuasion with the nobility of Oceana, as Lycurgus with them of Lacedemon, to throw up their lands to be parcel’d by his agrarian (as page 103.) and when that is don, I shall cease to complain of the injustice of it. Nor need any one of these three hundred be put to own a shame, for preferring his own interest before that of a whole nation; for tho when government is once fix’d, it may be fit to submit privat to public utility, yet when the question is of chusing a government, every particular man is left to his own native right, which cannot be prescrib’d against by the interest of all the rest of mankind.
How many false dice there are in this throw (because you see I have little to do) will be worth counting.
Wheras I no where deny property to derive her being from law; he insinuats that I presume property to be in nature. There’s One.
Wheras in natural and domestic vicissitude, I assert, That empire is to follow the legal state of property; he imposes, as if I had asserted, that empire must follow the natural state of property. Two.
Wheras in violent or foren vicissitude (as when the Israelits possest themselves of the land of Canaan, the Goths and Vandals of Italy, the Franks of France, the Saxons of England) property, in order to the government to be introduc’d, is alterable; he insinuats as if I had said, that empire must always follow the state of property, not as it may be alter’d in that relation, but as it is found. Three.
Wheras the government of Oceana is exactly fitted to property, as it was settl’d before; he insinuats it to be destructive to the settl’d property. Four.
Wheras I say, that to put it with the most, they that are proprietors of land in Oceana, exceding two thousand pounds a year, do not excede three hundred persons; he says, that I have confest they be three hundred. Five.
Wheras I shew that the nobility of Lacedemon, upon the persuasion of Lycurgus, threw up their estates to be parcel’d by his agrarian; but that in Oceana, it is not needful or requir’d that any man should part with a farthing, or throw up one shovelful of his earth; he imposes, as if I went about to persuade the nobility to throw up their lands. Six.
Wheras I have shewn that no one of those within the three hundred can have any interest against the agrarian; he, without shewing what such an interest can be, insinuats that they have an interest against it. Seven.
Wheras the government of Oceana gos altogether upon consent, and happens not only to fit privat to public, but even public to privat utility, by which means it is void of all objection; he insinuats, that it is against privat utility. Eight.
Where he says, that in chusing a government every man is left to his own native right; he insinuats that the agrarian (which dos no more than fix property, as she found it) is against native right. Nine.
Wheras God has given the earth to the sons of men, which native right (as in case a man for hunger takes so much as will feed him, and no more, of any other man’s meat or herd) prescribes against legal property, and is the cause why the law esteems not such an action to be theft; he insinuats that there is a native right in legal property, which cannot be prescrib’d against by the interest of all the rest of mankind. Ten.
While he pleaded the case of monarchy, levelling was concluded lawful; in the case of a commonwealth, which asks no such favour, levelling is concluded unlawful. Eleven.
In the reformation or level as to monarchy, tho property subsisted before that level, yet property was to be fitted to the government, and not the government to property; but in the case of a commonwealth the government is to be fitted to property, and not property to the government. Twelve.
In that, any man was bound to relinquish his native right, else how could a prince level his nobility? In this, no man is bound to relinquish his native right. Thirteen.
In that, the same native right might be prescrib’d against by the prince; in this, it cannot be prescrib’d against by the interest of mankind. Fourteen.
In that, no nobleman but ought to own a shame if he preferr’d his interest before that of the prince; in this, no nobleman ought to own a shame for preferring his own interest before that of a whole nation. Fifteen.
Would you have any more? these fifteen majors and minors, or false dice, are soop’d up again, and put all into this conclusion or box, like themselves.
THUS the interest of the three hundred is not balanc’d with that of a whole nation, but that of som few extravagant spirits; who, by making dams in the current of other mens estates, hope to derive som water to their own parch’d fortunes.
CALUMNIARE fortiter, nihil adhærebit. If a river has but one natural bed or channel, what dam is made in it by this agrarian? but if a river has had many natural beds or channels, to which she has forgot to reach her breast, and whose mouths are dry’d up or obstructed; these are dams which the agrarian dos not make, but remove; and what parch’d fortunes can hereby hope to be water’d, but theirs only, whose veins having drunk of the same blood, have a right in nature to drink of the same milk? The law of Moses allow’d the firstborn but a double portion: was his an extravagant spirit?
His second throw is, That the nature of the agrarian is such as cannot be fix’d, in regard that the people being intrusted with a vote and a sword, may alter it for the less, or com to downright levelling. But as to this, in the 8th chapter I have bar’d his dice, that being the place in which I thought most proper to give a full answer to this objection.
At the third throw, he is extreme aukward. For wheras the Israelites (notwithstanding the voyages ofSolomon, and what is said of the ships of Tharsis) during their agrarian, or while they had land, were a commonwealth of husbandmen, and not of merchants, nor came to the exercise of this trade, till they had no land, or after their dispersion by the emperor Adrian; he scrues it in, after this manner—Consid. p. 85.As the Jews who have no lands, are every where great traders; so the possession of lands being limited by this agrarian, men who are either covetous or ambitious (as if estates were not got by industry, but by covetousness and ambition) will employ themselves and their estates in foren traffic, which being in a manner wholly ingrost by the capital city of Oceana, that city, already too great, will immediately grow into an excess of power and riches, very dangerous to the commonwealth; Amsterdam being com by such means to exercise of late a tyranny in the disposal of som public affairs, much to the prejudice both of the liberty and interest of the rest of the union. An equal, if not greater incommodity to Oceana, would be created by the agrarian, which making Emporium a city of princes, would render the country a commonwealth of cottagers, able to dispute precedence with the beggers bush.
News, not from Tripoli, nor any other corner of the whole world but one. Bate me this, and shew me in what other city increase of houses or new foundations was ever held a nusance. This sure is a phansy that regards not the old folks, or antient-prudence.
One of the blessings that God promis’d to Abraham, was, that his seed should be multiply’d as the stars of heaven: and the commonwealth of Rome, by multiplying her seed, came to bound her territory with the ocean, and her fame with the stars of heaven. That such a populousness is that without which there can be no great commonwealth, both reason and good authors are clear; but whether it ought to begin in the country, or in the city, is a scruple I have not known them make. That of Israel began in the country, that of Rome in the city. Except there be obstruction or impediment by the law, as in Turky where the country, and in England where the city is forbid to increase; wherever there is a populous country, for example France, it makes a populous city, as Paris; and wherever there is a populous city, as Rome after the ruin of Alba, and Amsterdam after the ruin (as to trade) of Antwerp, it makes a populous territory, as was that of the rustic tribes, and is that of Holland.
But the ways how a populous city coms to make a populous country, and how a populous country coms to make a populous city, are contrary; the one happening thro sucking, as that of the city, and the other thro weaning, as that of the country.
For proof of the former: the more mouths there be in a city, the more meat of necessity must be vented by the country, and so there will be more corn, more cattel, and better markets; which breeding more laborers, more husbandmen, and richer farmers, bring the country so far from a commonwealth of cottagers, that where the blessings of God, thro the fruitfulness of late years with us, render’d the husbandman unable to dispute precedence with the beggers bush, his trade thus uninterrupted, in that his markets are certain, gos on with increase of children, of servants, of corn, and of cattel: for there is no reason why the fields adjoining to Emporium, being but of a hard soil, should annually produce two crops, but the populousness of the city.
The country then growing more populous, and better stock’d with cattel, which also increases manure for the land, must proportionably increase in fruitfulness. Hence it is that (as the Romans also were good at such work) in Holland there is scarce a puddle undrain’d, nor a bank of sand cast up by the sea, that is not cover’d with earth, and made fruitful by the people; these being so strangely, with the growth of Amsterdam, increas’d, as coms perhaps to two parts in three: nor, the agrarian taking place in Oceana, would it be longer disputed, whether she might not destroy fishes to plant men. Thus a populous city makes a country milch, or populous by sucking; and wheras som may say, that such a city may suck from foren parts, it is true enough, and no where more apparent than in Amsterdam. But a city that has recourse to a foren dug, e’er she had first suck’d that of her proper nurse or territory dry, you shall hardly find; or finding (as in som plantation not yet wean’d) will hardly be able to make that objection hold, seeing it will not ly so much against the populousness of the place, as the contrary.
But a populous country makes a populous city by weaning; for when the people increase so much, that the dug of earth can do no more, the overplus must seek som other way of livelihood: which is either arms, such were those of the Goths and Vandals; or merchandize and manufacture, for which ends it being necessary that they lay their heads and their stock together, this makes populous citys. Thus Holland being a small territory, and suck’d dry, has upon the matter wean’d the whole people, and is therby become as it were one city that sucks all the world.
But by this means, says the considerer, Emporium being already too great (while indeed Amsterdam, considering the narrowness of the territory, or the smallness of Holland, is much more populous) would immediately grow into an excess of power and riches, very dangerous to liberty, an example wherof was seen in the late tyranny of that city: as if it were not sufficiently known that Amsterdam contributes and has contributed more to the defence of the commonwealth, or united provinces, than all the rest of the league, and had in those late actions which have bin scandaliz’d, resisted not the interest of liberty, but of a lord. That the increase of Rome, which was always study’d by her best citizens, should make her head too great for her body, or her power dangerous to the tribes, was never so much as imagin’d; and tho she were a city of princes, her rustic tribes were ever had in greatest esteem and honor; insomuch, that a patrician would be of no other.
But the authority of antient commonwealths is needless; the prevaricator by his own argumentation or might, lays himself neck and heels.
Consid. p 93.For, says he, Were this agrarian once settl’d, Emporium would be a city of princes, and the nobility so throly plum’d, that they would be just as strong of wing, as wild fowl in moulting time. There would be a city of princes, and yet no nobility. He is so fast that I have pity on him, if I knew but which way to let him loose. He means perhaps, that the merchants growing rich, would be the nobility; and the nobility growing poor, would be grasiers.
But so for ought I know it was always, or worse, that is, men attain’d to riches and honors by such or worse arts, and in poverty made not always so honest retreats. To all which infirmitys of the state, I am deceiv’d if this agrarian dos not apply the proper remedys. For such an agrarian makes a commonwealth for increase: the trade of a commonwealth for increase, is arms; arms are not born by merchants, but by noblemen and gentlemen. The nobility therfore having these arms in their hands, by which provinces are to be acquir’d, new provinces yield new estates; so wheras the merchant has his returns in silk or canvas, the soldier will have his return in land. He that represents me as an enemy to the nobility, is the man he speaks of; for if ever the commonwealth attains to five new provinces (and such a commonwealth will have provinces enow) it is certain, that (besides honors, magistracys, and the revenues annex’d) there will be more estates in the nobility of Oceana, of fourteen thousand pounds land a year, than ever were, or can otherwise be of four; and that without any the least danger to the commonwealth: for if Rome had but look’d so far to it, as to have made good her agrarian in Italy, tho she had neglected the rest, the wealth of her nobility might have suck’d her provinces, but must have inrich’d the people; and so rather have water’d her roots, than starv’d and destroy’d them, as it did. In this case therfore the nobility of Oceana would not moulter like wild fowl, but be strong of wing as the eagle.
One argument more I have heard urg’d against the populousness of the capital city, which is, that the rich in time of sickness forsaking the place, by which means the markets com to fail, the poor, lest they should starve, will run abroad, and infect the whole country. But should a man tell them at Paris, or Grand Cairo (in the latter wherof the plague is more frequent and furious than happens with us) that they are not to build houses, nor increase so much, lest they should have the plague; or that children are not to be born so fast, lest they dy, they would think it strange news. A commonwealth is furnish’d with laws, and power to add such as she shall find needful. In case a city be in that manner visited, it is the duty of the country, and of the government, to provide for them by contribution.
Consid. p. 87.THE difficulty in making the agrarian equal and steddy thro the rise or fall that may happen in mony, which is the fourth throw of the prevaricator, is that which might have bin for his ease to have taken notice was long since sufficiently bar’d, where it is said, that if a new survey at the present rent was taken, an agrarian ordaining that no man should thenceforth hold above so much land as is there valu’d at the rate, however mony might alter, would be equal and steddy enough.
Consid. p. 80.His last cast is, that the agrarian would make war against universal and immemorial custom; which being without doubt more prevalent than that of reason, there is nothing of such difficulty as to persuade men at once, and crudely, that they and their forefathers have bin in an error.
Essay 24.Wise men, I see, may differ in judgment or counsil; for, says Sir Francis Bacon, Surely every medicin is an innovation, and he that will not apply new remedys must expect new evils; for time is the greatest innovator; and if time of course alters things to the worse, and wisdom and counsil may not alter them to the better, what must be the end?
But the case of the agrarian receives equal strength from each of these counsillors or opinions: from the latter, in that it gos upon grounds which time has not innovated for the worse, but for the better; and so according to the former coms not to have bin at once, and crudely persuaded, but introduc’d by custom, now grown universal and immemorial. For who remembers the gentry of this nation to have worn the blue coats of the nobility, or the lower sort of people to have liv’d upon the smoak of their kitchins? on the contrary, is it not now an universal custom for men to rely upon their own fortunes or industry, and not to put their trust in princes, seeking in their liberality or dependence the means of living? the prevaricator might as well jump into his great grandfather’s old breeches, and persuade us that he is a la mode, or in the new cut, as that the ways of our forefathers would agree with our customs. Dos not every man now see, that if the kings in those days had settl’d the estates of the nobility by a law, restraining them from selling their land, such a law had bin an agrarian, and yet not warring against their antient customs, but preserving them? wherfore neither dos the agrarian propos’d, taking the balance of estates as she now finds them, make war against, but confirm the present customs. The only objection that can seem in this place to ly, is, that wheras it has bin the custom of Oceana that the bulk of the estate should descend to the eldest son, by the agrarian he cannot, in case he has more brothers, inherit above two thousand pounds a year in land, or an equal share. But neither dos this, whether you regard the parents or the children, make war with custom. For putting the case the father has twenty thousand pounds a year in land, he gos not the less in his custom or way of life for the agrarian, because for this he has no less: and if he has more or fewer sons to whom his estate descends by equal or inequal portions, neither do they go less in their ways or customs of life for the agrarian, because they never had more.Pol. l. 3. c. 9.But, says Aristotle (speaking of the ostracism as it supplys the defect of an agrarian) this course is as necessary to kings as to commonwealths. By this means the monarchys of Turky and of Spain preserve their balance; thro the neglect of this has that of the nobility of Oceana bin broken: and this is it which the prevaricator, in advising that the nobility be no further level’d than will serve to keep the people under, requires of his prince. So, that an agrarian is necessary to government, be it what it will, is on all hands concluded.