Front Page Titles (by Subject) The Conclusion: Shewing how the Model propos'd may be prov'd or examin'd; and giving a brief Answer to Mr. Wren's last Book, intitl'd, Monarchy asserted against Mr. Harrington's Oceana. - The Oceana and Other Works
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
The Conclusion: Shewing how the Model propos’d may be prov’d or examin’d; and giving a brief Answer to Mr. Wren’s last Book, intitl’d, Monarchy asserted against Mr. Harrington’s Oceana. - 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).
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
Sect. 1. That a commonwealth not rightly order’d, is less seditious than the best of monarchys.FOR a nation to be still upon the cast of a dy, to be ever in trepidation as to the main chance of government, is a dreadful state of things. Such indeed with us has bin the constitution of our late governments, of which therfore not any can be call’d a commonwealth. Yet has the like state of things (in favor of monarchs, and thro the industry of the clergy) bin for many ages, that wherof commonwealths unheard are still accus’d and condemn’d. For proof in this case, the tribunitian storms of the Roman people are thought abundantly sufficient. But these having bin without blood, if with our affairs they hold any parallel, are not to be compar’d with the barons wars, those of York and Lancaster, or the like; but with the contests or strivings of our parlaments with their kings, while such disputes came not to arms. Or if the Roman fields from the time of the Gracchi grew bloody, we have known a matter of a dozen years in which ours might have compar’d with them.See Book 2. chap. 4. The seditions under the commonwealth of Rome to those under the empire, hold such a proportion, as the seditions under the commonwealth of Israel to those under their kings. I am contented at this time, for discourse sake, that the seditions of Venice should pass as they are computed by Mr. Wren: let those also which have happen’d in the commonwealths of the Switzers, and of the united provinces, by the skill of som man who may be thought more impartial than my self, be rightly enumerated and added. This being don, let the seditions that have happen’d in the monarchys of England, France, and Spain, be as impartially sum’d up; and I may venture to promise you, that you shall not find the sum of the seditions which have happen’d in those three commonwealths, to balance the foot of the account with those seditions which have happen’d in any one of those monarchys: nor are we without sufficient inducement to believe, that the whole account in this particular of those commonwealths which have bin in the world, can com any whit nearer to that of the monarchys. But this being so, be it also suppos’d, tho not granted, that a commonwealth is a seditious government, yet must it be the least seditious government.[Editor: illegible character]λληνιϰῶν. Lib. 4. The republic of Corinth never suffer’d but that one sedition which is describ’d by Xenophon; and this too from an external cause.
Sect. 2. That Mr. Wren’s opposition of popular prudence amounts to a confirmation of it.But I am the more confirm’d by the assaults of Mr. Wren, to have no less than demonstrated in the propos’d model, that a commonwealth rightly order’d is altogether incapable of sedition, and so consequently of dissolution, that is, from any internal cause. To render his consutation intire, and the truth of this assertion the more conspicuous, I shall first insert those rules or maxims wherby a model of a commonwealth may be exactly prov’d or examin’d, and then shew how they totally enervat and overturn those arguments elaborated by Mr. Wren towards the examination and confutation of the model propos’d.
How a model of popular government may be try’d or examin’d.The maxims or rules wherby a well-order’d model of popular government may be most exactly prov’d or examin’d, are specially two:
It is not in the power of nature that there should be an effect, where there is not the cause of that effect; and in a frame of government that is exactly according to the foregoing maxims, there can be no cause of sedition or dissolution. A model of government therfore that will hold examination by these maxims, must (without ostentation, or with Mr. Wren’s patience) be perfect.
Now let us observe how he bestirs himself to examin and confute this model. As to contradiction, he dos not so much as pretend that there is any guile in it; yet will not allow it to have any truth:W. p. 78.For, says he, as in a fiction the soveral members may be so contriv’d, as not to give one another the ly, but be all contain’d within the limits of verisimilitude, and yet the whole remain without the least syllable of truth; so in a model of government. To which I answer, that there being a truth of nature, and a truth of fact, this way of Mr. Wren’s disputing is mere equivocation. For the model is not propos’d to shew the truth of fact, or that there has bin any such exactly in practice; but to shew the truth of nature, or that such a model is practicable: wherfore he needed not to have alleg’d that it has not the truth of fact, which we all know; but was to shew where it fails of such a truth in nature as can any way render it impracticable.Ibid. But instead of this, he is gon to the moon; and will read us a lecture in politics by the planets, or the various hypotheses of celestial motions, which may be excogitated including no absurdity in themselves, and yet perhaps not any one of them prove to be the true method of nature. But may a man therfore argue in this manner? It is very hard to know certainly which are the highways of the planets, therfore there can be no certain knowledge which are the highways to London. Let us e’en say, Because the rotation of the world may as well go upon the heavens as upon the earth, therfore a man may as well go upon his head as upon his heels, and a commonwealth as well stand upon a milkwoman’s pattins, as upon the strongest interest, or the interest of the strongest.
W. p. 179.So much for contradiction. Now for inequality, says Mr. Wren,Tho it should be allow’d Mr.Harrington,that his commonwealth has none in it, yet would it fail of attaining the perfection of government, seeing there is an equality in the nature of man, which is not rectify’d by the model of his commonwealth. As if the equality of a government was pretended to be such, as should make a crooked man straight, a wicked man good, or a passionat man a philosopher; and it were not perfect, in being sufficient to prevent any influence that wickedness or passion in a man or men may have upon the government. But for farther discovery of these inequalitys in the nature of man, that are not rectify’d by the model, Mr. Wren sends us to his eighth and ninth chapters, where he produces them in such order, as I shall observe in repeating him.Pag. 84.Whensoever, says he, under popular government the number of those whose offences have render’d them liable to the severity of laws, is considerable enough to quality them for attemt, popular government has no more security than any other, of being free from sedition. It is very true: but Mr. Wren was oblig’d to shew how in an equal commonwealth, or under the model propos’d, it was possible that the number of such men should com to be considerable enough to qualify them for such an attemt. But in this kind he is no otherwise provided than to tell us, That of this original and extraction, as to the main, wasCatilin’s attemt upon the Roman commonwealth. So undertaking against Oceana, or the most equal commonwealth, he is com to arguing against Rome, or the most inequal commonwealth; and at such a time too, when being no longer capable of liberty, but ready for bonds, there were other partys besides Catilin’s, and others besides such as were obnoxious to the laws, that lay in wait for her: as Pompey and his party, or at least Cesar and his, who at length carry’d it; so that this feat was not so much perform’d by men otherwise liable to severity of laws, as by men puff’d up by ambition But let these have bin of which sort he will, it remains with him to shew, how there should be of either kind enough in Oceana for a like attemt. It is known, that long before this happen’d in Rome, the whole of that commonwealth was in the hands of three men, Cesar, Pompey, and Crassus: wherfore he should have first shewn, which way the whole of the commonwealth of Oceana might com into the hands of three, or of a few men. But leaving this untouch’d, he runs making a dust, and a doubt where the soverain power of Oceana can be; which even in Rome, as inequal as it was, is acknowleg’d to have bin in the assemblys of the people; and in Athens,Thucydides expresly says, That the soverainty was in the five thousand.Lib. 5. Who ever doubted but where the ultimat result is, there also must be the soverainty? and the ultimat result of Oceana is in the prerogative tribe, or representative of the people.Pag. 84. Then says he, This representative thinking it their interest, may dissolve the government, and perpetuat themselves, and may com to think it their interest. For the desire of power being natural to man, a far greater share of power remains with every particular man, when the soverain power is divided among so many, than when the same power is divided among two hundred thousand. But I shew’d that this representative has the whole soverain power in themselves, not divided with any other, or with the five hundred thousand; which I suppose he means by the two hundred thousand he mentions. Now this representative cannot be understood to have the soverain power by overbalance of strength, because they are but one thousand to five hundred thousand; so it is plain that they have it by consent, or by orders only: wherfore these orders they have not the power, or strength, nor the interest to break; because breaking their orders (by which only, and not by strength, the power is in themselves) they com to divide the power that was in themselves, with the five hundred thousand, as they, who, in defect of the orders, have the far greater strength, and no legal bar.W. p. 85. Yet says he, That a representative is not incapable of making such an attemt as this, will (it is not improbable) easily find belief with those who are acquainted with the actions of these last eighteen years. Which is as much as to say, That because a representative, by and with the people, may have both the interest, and the power or strength to free themselves of a broken monarchy; therfore a representative may, without and against the people, have both the interest, and the power or strength to break the orders of the most equal commonwealth. But if the representative of Oceana has not the power or strength to break their orders, and perpetuat themselves, much less the senat. True it is, if we look upon som other commonwealths, a senat might have the interest to do it; but not where the senat has bin upon rotation. To add then to Mr. Wren’s faculty of opposition greater strength than is in it; if the senat of Oceana would do any thing of this kind, their readiest way were by creating of the dictator. The dictator being created, has soverain power in carrying on the orders of the commonwealth: but those do not perpetuat their power; this therfore cannot be don but by force or arms. The arms of the commonwealth are both numerous, and in a posture or readiness; but they consist of its citizens: and for the dictator to bring the citizen to break the commonwealth, were for a general to command his army to cut their own throats. It is true, the Roman decemvirs put in for prolongation; but, tho in the most inequal commonwealth, they could not make it stand one year, because of the citizens in arms: and for mercenarys there are none in Oceana; is this news? there were none in Israel, there were none in Athens, there were none in Lacedemon, there were none in Rome, while those commonwealths flourish’d. But were there mercenarys, as he might perhaps reckon servants, they are unarm’d, undisciplin’d; they cannot rise thro the vast bodys of citizens in arms both elders and youth; or if they would rise, they could be nothing in their hands. The Roman slaves, and the Lacedemonian helots, being far of another and more dangerous nature, never rose against their lords but to their own destruction. All this while I say nothing of the security which is in the frame of this dictator, beyond any example or interest of prolongation to be found either in the Roman dictator or the Venetian council of ten, each wherof having had the like power, did never discover any such inclination. It is true, that in the time of Sylla, the Roman dictator began to be perpetual; but this is not to be attributed so much to the imperfection of the order, as to the change of the balance. But if the dictator of Oceana cannot have the interest, or, having the interest, cannot have the power or strength to perpetuat that magistracy, much less can the senat.
The sum of what has bin said may be thus cast up, as to the whole constitution. If things or persons that have neither the right nor the might, may prevail against things and persons who have both the right and the might; then may one order of this commonwealth break the whole system: but the might, thro the foundation or popular balance of property, being in the whole people, and the whole superstructures of this commonwealth being nothing else but an equal distribution of common right to the whole people, who are possest of the might; they who have the might, have not the interest to break, but to preserve the orders; which therfore no other can have the power or strength to break, or som other breaking, must but lose that which they pretend to gain, to wit, the right, which in this case must still fall to the might devolving upon the people.W. p. 87. That Mr. Wren will needs fancy the tribes or citys in Oceana, as those in the united provinces, or the cantons of Switzerland, to be distinct soveraintys, concerns not me, seeing the form of Oceana is far otherwise; nor indeed him, seeing neither do the citys in Holland, nor the cantons in Switzerland, go about to dissolve their commonwealths or leagues. The champion having thus fail’d at the head, is contented to play low.W. p. 181.Tho there be care taken, says he, that at the assembly of the hundred and the tribe, such and such magistrats should be elected out of the horse, there is no necessary provision there should be any horse there, out of which to elect. And where can they be then, if not in som parish? He might better have said, that at the parish there was no care taken, that the people should not elect too many of the horse, which being indeed the defect of the former, is in this edition rectify’d.See proposition 44. His last exception is against the place where I say, that They who take upon them the profession of theology, physic or law, are not at leisure for the essays,W. p. 183.wherby the youth commence for all magistracy andhonors, in the commonwealth. To which reason he offers not so much as any answer: nor pretends any other argument against it, than that this excludes divines, lawyers, and physicians, from those honors to which their parish clerks, their scriveners, and their apothecarys, nay farriers and coblers may attain. And what can I help that, if it ought nevertheless so to be, for a reason which he cannot answer? Nay, if so it be in common practice where the reason is nothing near so strong, seeing a parish clerk, a scrivener, an apothecary, nay a cobler or a farrier, is not uncapable of being of the common council, nor yet of being an alderman or lord mayor of London; which nevertheless that a divine, a lawyer, or a physician should be, were absurd to think. Divines have a plow from which they ought not to look back: they have above a tenth of the territory, with which they ought to be contented; and more than all, civil interest contracted by a clergy, corrupts religion. For lawyers, their practice and magistracys are not only the most gainful, but for life; and in a commonwealth, neither is accumulation of magistracy just or equal, nor the confounding of executive and legislative magistracy safe. Will Mr. Wren believe one of our own lawyers, and one of the learnedst of them upon this point?Verulam de Aug. Scien. lib. 8. cap. 3. It is the lord Verulam:They, says he, who have written (de legibus) of lawmaking, have handl’d this argument as philosophers, or as lawyers. Philosophers speak higher than will fall into the capacity of practice (to which may be refer’d Plato’s commonwealth, Sir Thomas More’sUtopia, with his own Atlantis) and lawyers being obnoxious, and addicted each to the laws of their particular country, have no freedom nor sincerity of judgment, but plead as it were in bonds. Certainly the cognizance of these things is most properly pertaining to political persons, who best know what stands with human society, what with the safety of the people, what with natural equity, with antient prudence, and with the different constitution of commonwealths. These therfore, by the principles and precepts of natural equity and good policy, may and ought to determin of laws. For physicians, who (as such) have in the management of state-affairs no prejudice, if you open them the door, they will not at all, or very rarely, com in: wherby it appears, first, that such a bar may in som cases be no violation of liberty; and, secondly, that the divines, who for better causes might be as well satisfy’d, and for more unanswerable reasons ought to forbear, yet are impatient, and give a full testimony that their meaning is not good.
Thus is the commonwealth by Mr. Wren oppos’d, by him asserted. There remains no more to the full confutation of his book, than to shew how the monarchy by him asserted is by him destroy’d. This is to be don by the examination of his ninth chapter, which is the next of those to which he refer’d us.
Sect. 3. That Mr. Wren’s assertion of monarchy amounts to the subversion of it.The opposition made by Mr. Wren to a commonwealth, and his pretended asserting of monarchy, run altogether upon Mr. Hobbs’s principles, and in his very words; but for want of understanding, much enervated: so that Mr. Wren’s whole feat of arms coms but to have given me a weaker adversary for a stronger. In soverainty, says he, the diffus’d strength of the multitude is united in one person; which in a monarchy is a natural person; in a state, an artificial one procreated by the majority of votes.W. p. 97.This then is the grand security of all soverains, whether single persons or assemblys,W. p. 99.that the united forces of their subjects, with which they are invested, is sufficient to suppress the beginnings of seditions. Who reads Mr. Hobbs, if this be news? But what provision is made by either of these authors, that the forces of these subjects must needs be united? Is union in forces, or in government, an effect wherof there is no cause? Or to what cause are we to attribute this certain union and grand security?W. p. 103. Why let there be such a nobility as may be a monarch’s guard against the people. And lest a monarch stand in need of another guard against this nobility, let none of these excel the rest of his order in power or dignity. Which effects or ends, thus commanded, vouchsafe not to acquaint us with their ways:Ibid. Yes, let the nobility have no right to assemble themselves for electing a successor to the monarchy, or for making a war or peace, or for nominating the great ministers of state, or for performing any other act which by the nature of it is inseparable from the soverain power. But why then must such a nobility be a guard against the people, and not rather a guard for the people, seeing both their interests and sufferings at this rate are the same, and include those very causes for which, in the barons war, the nobility became incendiarys and leaders of the people of England against their kings, and so those wherby their captain came to excel the rest of his order in power or dignity?W. p. 105. But for this the prince is to be provided, by having always in pay a sufficient militia; and som places of strength where a few may be secure against a number. For places of strength, citadels, or castles, there were in the time of the barons wars more than som; yet were they, as to this purpose, none. But a militia is one thing, and a sufficient militia is another; where the government consists of a nobility and of a people, what sufficient part of the property or revenue of the territory can there remain to the prince, wherby to have always in pay such a militia, as may be sufficient to keep the nobility and the people from joining, or to suppress them being join’d? If these be small armys, the like may befal them which befel those of the kings in the wars of the barons.W. p. 106. And if they be great armys, the prince has not wherwithal to support or content them; nay if he had, Mr. Wren tells us plainly, That princes who keep great armys, as guards to their persons or empires, teach us that this is to walk upon precipices; there being no possibility of preventing such an army (specially if they ly still without imployment) from acquiring an interest distinct from that of the prince. Wherfore (to follow Mr. Wren, and no other leader, in his own words against himself) this militia being great, cannot be so instituted, as to have no interest besides the pay it receives from the monarch; nor so as to have no hopes of being safe in their own strength, if they should withdraw themselves from the service and obedience due to him: and being not great, against the whole order or orders of the nobility and the people they cannot be sufficient.W. p. 107. What then remains but to say, that Mr. Wren having declar’d the perfection of monarchical government to consist in a mixture of monarchy by a nobility, and a monarchy by arms, has as to his model intirely subverted monarchy? In this way of disputing, I have rather follow’d my leader than reason; the true answer being that which was given in the preface, namely, that an army to be effectual in England, must be such where the officers have popular estates, or where they have such estates as had the antient nobility: in the latter case, they make a king; in the former, a commonwealth. But Mr. Wren will have his own way; and therfore, to conclude, let me but desire him to lay his hand upon his heart, and then tell me, whether the condition of the nobility (to whose favor in my exclusion he pretends a meritorious title) sharing eminently and according to their rank with the people in the commonwealth by me propos’d; or the condition of the nobility under the insolence and burden of a mercenary army, sharing equally with the people in oppression and slavery, or reviving the old barons wars for new liberty, in the monarchy by him propos’d, be the more desirable. And to speak a word for my adversary, we will submit it wholly to the present nobility, whether Mr. Wren or I be so extravagant in these things, that they have or can have any other than the like choice.W. p. 107. Yet enters not Mr.Wreninto despair of living to injoy his share (which ought to be a good one) of the felicitys which will belong to the subjects of such a government. He looks upon persons, but things are invincible.
The rest of his book (to which The Prerogative of Popular Government is still a complete answer) consists altogether of gross evasion or invective, or of drawing out of story against popular prudence such imaginary swords as do but stand bent. To rectify or streighten these, I may hereafter present him (if any man shall think it worth the while) with a fuller answer.
A WORD CONCERNING A HOUSE of PEERS.
NO man knowing what is necessary to the foundation or being of a popular government, can hope or expect the introduction of any such form, where monarchy is not impracticable. They (where monarchy is impracticable) who com first to discover it, and be convinc’d of it, if reason be not altogether depos’d, are inevitable leaders. hence it is that our commonwealthsmen are already renown’d throout this nation for their invincible reasons, even by the confession of their opponents, or such as procede nevertheless in other ways. But where seed is so well sown and rooted, intervening possession and interests are like such weather as holding back the spring, yet improves the harvest: commonwealthsmen indeed may have a cold time on’t, but upon the commonwealth it must bestow fermentation. Had our incomparable assertors of public liberty appear’d before a universal eviction of the necessity which inforces their cause, it must have bin thro such a reluctancy, as would have made them glad to do things by halves, which is the only rock to a rising commonwealth of scandal, or of danger; the whole being such against which there is nothing to be alleg’d, and the half what may be easily confuted. These things consider’d, what appearance is there but that it must redound to the greater advantage of our commonwealthsmen, that we are under the force of a present humour which abhors the very name of a commonwealth? seeing by this means one of two things must of necessity happen, and com shortly to public view or discovery: either that monarchy is practicable, or that it is not practicable; I mean, in our state of affairs, or in this present distribution of the balance. If monarchy be found practicable, commonwealthsmen are satisfy’d in their consciences, and so ready in fair ways to return, and submit not only for wrath, but for conscience sake. But (let divines cry Atheism, and lawyers Treason) if it be once discover’d to common understanding that monarchy is impracticable, then in coms the commonwealth, not by halves, but with all its tackling, full sail, displaying its streamers, and flourishing with top and topgallant.
The ways wherby it is at hand to be discover’d whether monarchy be practicable or impracticable, are particularly two; the one quicker, the other slower: the quicker way will be by the workmen, the slower by the work.
If the workmen, being willing, be yet overcom by the mere obstinacy of their matter, it amounts to a plain confession, that monarchy is impracticable. And if they give away the libertys of the people, they are overcom by the obstinacy of the matter; for that is not their work: nor any other work than such as must be useless, not so much in regard of it self (tho that may be true enough) as by the want of any other security than what the prince had before, that is, an army. And such an army, which for security is as good as none at all, nay the very contrary, as has bin shewn already:Art of lawgiving, p. 406. nor to be alter’d with better success than theirs, who became princes in Grecian and Sicilian states.
But if the workmen give not away the libertys of the people, then must they so limit their prince, that he can in no manner invade those libertys; and this by any other means than the full and perfect introduction of a well-order’d commonwealth, they will find to be utterly impossible: so either way they are overcom by the mere obstinacy of their matter.
If thro som secret dictat (as when the senat of Rome was conviva cæsaris) or a hast to make riddance, this be not perceiv’d by the workmen, it will be but the more perceivable by the work when it coms to wearing or in practice; and the flaws or grievances being found insupportable, the next parlament, thro the mere want of any other remedy, must introduce a commonwealth.
GOOD, and egregiously prophetical! But what say you for all this, if we have a house of peers, and that even for the Lord’s sake, there being no other way to secure liberty of conscience? Why I say, if we have a house of peers, it must be a house of old peers, or a house of new peers, or a house of the one and the other. Moreover I say, let it be which way you will, such a house may at som time, or for som reason, be personally affected to liberty of conscience; but is a constitution in it self naturally averse, and contrary to liberty of conscience, and therfore can be no security to the same, whether the lords be spiritual, or temporal, or partiperpale.
Lords spiritual are inspir’d with a third estate, or share of a realm, which gives no toleration to any religion, but that only asserting this point, which is monarchy. Setting this oracle, and som like reasons of state aside, we may think that every soverainty (as such) has liberty of conscience: this a king having, cannot give; and a people having, will not lose. For liberty of conscience is in truth a kind of state, wherin a man is his own prince: but a house of peers sets up another prince; it cannot stand without a king. If the balance be in the lords, as before Henry the Seventh, yet must they have a king to unite them, and by whom to administer their government; and if the balance be not in the lords, they stand or fall with the king, as the house of peers in the long parlament, and the king falling, their government devolves to the people. Again, a house of peers having the overbalance, signifys somthing; in which case it has not bin known to be for liberty of conscience: and not having the overbalance, signifys nothing; in which case it cannot secure the liberty of conscience. Thus a house of peers, whether somthing or nothing, is no way for the liberty of conscience; but every way for a king: and a king is a defender of the faith. The faith wherof a king is defender, must be that which is, or he shall call his own faith; and this faith it concerns his crown and dignity, that he defend against all other faiths. True it is, that a king for a step to a throne, may use what is readiest at hand: otherwise where there is liberty of conscience, to assert civil liberty by Scripture can be no atheism; which lames a prince of one arm. But where liberty of conscience is not at all, or not perfect, divines, who (for the greater part) are no fair huntsmen, but love dearly to be poaching or clubbing with the secular arm (tho if we, who desire no such advantages, might prosecute them for abusing Scripture, as they have don this thousand years, to all the ends, intents, and purposes of monarchy, they would think it a hard case) divines, I say, not only brand the assertors of civil liberty with Atheism, but are som of them studious in contrivances, and quaint in plots to give a check or remove to this or that eminent patriot, by the like pretences or charges; which succeding accordingly by the power of a parlament, they may at length com to have a parlament in their power. Where there is no liberty of conscience, there can be no civil liberty; and where there is no civil liberty, there can be no security to liberty of conscience: but a house of peers is not only a necessary, but a declar’d check upon civil liberty: therfore it can be no security to liberty of conscience. And so much for this particular.
Now to make upon the other parts propos’d, and in a mere civil sense, som farther conjecture.
When a house of peers sets up a house of commons, as in the barons wars, they will govern the commons well enough for their own purpose, and not seldom the king too.
But we are to speak of a thing without any example, a house of peers set up by a house of commons; nor, in the want of example, are we thought worthy by our adversarys to be furnish’d with reason: so the guidance of our discourse upon this point is committed to mother wit, a notable gossip, but not so good a politician.
Nevertheless, if this house consists of old peerage only, we have direction enough to know how that will be; for either the single person, or the commons will be predominant in the government: if the commons be so, then it will be with the peers, as it was before their last seclusion; that is, while they do as the commons would have them, they may sit; otherwise they are sent home. And if the single person be predominant, it can be no otherwise than by an army; in which case the old peers being not in arms, nor having any help that way, are as much under the yoke as the commons. By which it may be apparent, that it is the great interest of the present peerage, that there be a well-order’d commonwealth: otherwise the commons being in bondage, the lords, whom that least becoms, are but equal with them: and being free, the lords are not the head, but at the foot of them; wheras in an equal commonwealth, that the nobility be not at the head, or have not the leading, is quite contrary to all reason and experience.
If the house consists of new peers only, it must consist of the chief officers in the army; which immediatly divides the government into two distinct governments: the one in the house of commons, whose foundation is the body of the people; the other in the house of peers, whose foundation is the army. This army if it remains firm to the peers, they not only command the commons, but make and unmake kings as they please; or as ambitious partys and persons among themselves are diligent or fortunat: but if the army (as is most and more than most likely) coms off to the commons, the peers are nothing, and the commons introduce a commonwealth.
If the house consists of new peers and old, the old peers while they like it, are cyphers to new figures; and when they like it not, may go home again: nor whether they stay or go, is this case so different from the former, as to be any greater obstruction to a commonwealth.
To hate the very name of a commonwealth, or not to see that England can be no other, is as if men were not in earnest. It is ask’d of the commons what the protector shall be, and he can be nothing but what they will. It is ask’d of the commons what the other house shall be, and it can be nothing but what the commons will. The commons are ask’d whose the army, whose the militia, whose the negative vote is; nor can these be otherwise determin’d than as they please. The commons are ask’d whether they will make such a war, whether they will pay such a debt, whether they will advance such a sum; all which are intirely at their discretion: therfore actually and positively England is a commonwealth. Nay, and that there remain not the least doubt, whether it be safe for any man to say thus much, the present government has either no legal denomination at all, or is legally denominated the commonwealth: the question of the future state of it coms not one whit upon the matter, which is already granted, but upon the form only. A commonwealth for the matter makes it self; and where they will not bestow upon it the form necessary, fails not of coming to ruin, or, at least, to disgrace the workmen: or, to speak more properly and piously, a commonwealth is not made by men, but by God; and they who resist his holy will, are weapons that cannot prosper.
Feb. 20. 1659.
SIX POLITICAL TRACTS WRITTEN ON SEVERAL OCCASIONS.
I. Valerius and Publicola. A Dialog.
II. A System of Politics, delineated in short and easy Aphorisms, now first publish’d from the Author’s own Manuscript.
III. Political Aphorisms.
IV. Seven Models of a Commonwealth, ancient and modern, &c.
V. The Ways and Means of introducing a Commonwealth by the Consent of the People.
VI. The humble Petition of divers well affected Persons: With the Parlament’s Answer therto.
VALERIUS and PUBLICOLA: OR, THE TRUE FORM OF A POPULAR COMMONWEALTH EXTRACTED EX PURIS NATURALIBUS.
Quos perdere vult Jupiter, hos dementat prius.