James Harrington, Pian Piano (1656)

James Harrington (1611–1677)  


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T.308 [1656??] James Harrington, PIAN PIANO: OR, INTERCOURSE BETWEEN H. Ferne, D. D. and J. Harrington, Esq; UPON OCCASION OF The Doctor’s Censure of the Commonwealth of OCEANA. (1656).


This HTML version comes from the 1771 edtiion edited by John Toland: The Oceana and Other Works of James Harrington, with an Account of His Life by John Toland (London: Becket and Cadell, 1771).

Estimated date of publication

c. 1656.

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Not listed in Thomason's Catalog.

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PIAN PIANO: OR, INTERCOURSE BETWEEN H. Ferne, D. D. and J. Harrington, Esq; UPON OCCASION OF The Doctor’s Censure of the Commonwealth of OCEANA.



PIAN PIANO: OR, INTERCOURSE BETWEEN H. Ferne, D. D. and J. Harrington, Esq; UPON OCCASION OF The Doctor’s Censure of the Commonwealth of OCEANA.

Sentit terra Deos, mutataq; sidera pondus

Quæsivêre suum.

Petron. Sal.



I Seldom talk with him that does not confute me, nor ever read that which did not confirm me: wherefore if I be glad to take a man in black and white, you will not blame me, or do not know that I have had an university about my ears, without any possibility left unto me whereby to defend my self, but this, in which you may imagine me speaking unto the chair.

Intercourse between H. Ferne, D. D. and James Harrington, Esq; upon Occasion of the Doctor’s Censure of the Commonwealth of Oceana.

WHEN I had published my Oceana, one of my sisters making good provision of copies, presented of them unto her friends, as well to shew her respect to them, as to know their judgments of it. Among the rest being acquainted with Doctor Ferne, she sent him one, and soon after receiv’d this answer:


I Received a book directed to me from your ladyship, with intimation I should express my sense of it. I acknowledge, Madam, the favour you have done me in sending it; but the return you expect hath its difficulties, the book being now past the press, and of such an argument, had I seen it before it was publick, I should have said it was not likely to please, &c. But that is nothing to me; your desire, I suppose, is to know how I like it. I conceive your ladyship is not so far a stranger either to the book which you sent, or to me, whom you are pleased thus to own, but that you take me to be of a different judgment from the author in this his form, whether concerning state or church. And it may be your ladyship did therefore call me to speak, as one that would be less partial. Give me leave then, Madam, in plain English to say, that albeit the author hath shewn good sufficiency of parts, and taken much pains in order to his design; yet I conceive, first, that he is not a little mistaken in thinking the Israel commonwealth or government under Moses so appliable unto his purpose, as he would make it. Next, that when the question ’twixt his form and the monarchical is disputed over and over again, reason and experience will still plead for the latter. Nor can the balance be pretends stand so steady in his form, as in a well tempered monarchy, by reason the temptation of advancing are more like to sway with many in a commonwealth, than with one, &c. in the height of dignity. Next, when I consider such a change by this model from what was ever in, &c. and that the agrarian, with some other levelling orders, are the laws of it, I should think the nature of men was first to be new model’d, before they would be capable of this. Lastly, what is said in relation to the church or religion in the point of government, ordination, excommunication, had better beseemed Leviathan, and is below the parts of this gentleman, to retain and sit down with those little things, and poor mistakes, which the ignorance or wilfulness of many in these days hath broached in way of quarrel against the church of England. And lamentable it is to see so many (especially gentlemen of good parts) so opinionate, so boldly meddling in matters of religion, as if they had forgot, or did not understand their article of the catholick church.

MADAM, You see I have been plain in speaking my sense, and hope you will think me therefore more fit to do you real service, when you shall have occasion to command,

MADAM, Your humble servant.

THE Doctor’s letter, though it be scandalous (for to charge a writer of little things, poor mistakes, sitting down by ignorance, or wilfulness, without proof, is no better) was yet but private; and therefore I may be asked why I would make it publick? Whereunto I answer, That what a divine will have to be true, is no less publick than if it were printed; but more, for he will preach it; and preaching communicates unto more than can read. Also his present doctrines are exceeding dangerous. For in government, that is cast upon parliaments or popular elections, as ours hath ever been and is, to take wise men, and understanding, and known among their tribes, to be rulers over them, hath ever (except where the people were not free in their elections) been, and must ever be, the certain and infallible consequence. Now wise men, and understanding, and known among their tribes, must needs be (at least for the greater part) of that rank, which we now call the aristocracy or gentlemen. Whence the senate in every well ordered commonwealth hath consisted of the aristocracy or gentry. And that the senate ever had the supreme authority, as well in matters of religion as state, is not only clear in all other popular governments, but in the Old Testament; which also is confirmed by our Saviour in the New, Matt. xxiii. 2, 3. The Scribes and Pharisees sit in Moses’s seat; and therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, (both he and his apostles observed the national religion) observe and do; for the liberty of conscience or prophetick right in the commonwealth of Israel, as in others, was such, as by which Christianity, notwithstanding the national religion, might grow. But do not (faith he) after their works, for they say and do not. In their enquiry after John, Joh. 1. they seem to imply or say, that if he were that prophet, there was nothing in the law why he might not introduce his baptism; and therefore why he might not gather churches, or instruct the people in his way. Nevertheless when they come to doing, they kill the prophets, and stone them. This indeed Christ blameth, being the abuse of their power. But whereas the supreme authority of the senate, whether in matters of religion or state, is confirmed by all divine and human prudence; and the senate is the more peculiar province of the gentry; the doctor faith, that lamentable it is to see so many, (not only men of such parts or quality as the people in their elections are not likely to look upon) but especially men of good parts (than which the people upon like occasions have no other refuge) so opinionate, so boldly meddling in matters of religion, as if they had forgot or did not understand their article of the catholick church. Now where-ever the clergy have gained this point, namely, that they are the catholick church, or that it is unlawful for gentlemen, either in their private capacity to discourse, or in their publick to propose, as well in the matter of church as state government, neither government nor religion have failed to degenerate into mere priest craft. This especially was the reason why I wrote unto the Doctor as followeth:


WHEREAS in a letter of yours to one of my sisters, I find your judgment given vehemently against me, but merely positive, I conceive that both in the matter and manner of delivery you have given me right to desire, and laid obligation upon your self to afford me your reasons, which may be done (if you please) either by confuting my book, or answering the queries hereunto annexed; in either of which ways, or any other, I am more than desirous to undertake you; and that for many considerations, as your abilities, the safety (at least on your part) in the performance, the importance of the argument, the seasonableness, and (however it came in your mind to distrust it) the welcomeness of such discourse unto all men of ingenuity, both in power and out of it, or whose interest is not the mere study of parties, from which the freest since the late troubles, that hath written in this nature, is,

SIR, Your humble servant.

The Queries I shall interweave with the Doctor’s Answer unto each of them, returned unto me with this Preamble.


I Received your paper wherein you are pleased to propound queries, and say an obligation now lies upon me to render my reasons of dissenting, or to answer the interrogatories. But you must give me leave to say, the obligation still ariseth from my respect to my lady and your self, not from the matter or manner (as you seem to imply) of the delivering my former judgment. For I could not conceive that by the favour and honour my lady did me in sending the book, I had lost my freedom, and stood bound either to comply, or be challenged as an adversary to try out the difference. Therefore upon the score of friendship and civility, I have forced my self, in the midst of many pressing occasions, to give you this account of my thoughts in order to your queries.

The Doctor hath written heretofore upon politicks. Than this among the occasions or subjects of writing, there is none of greater moment. I am a beginner in this art, and have no desire to impose upon any man; but if I cannot teach him, to learn of him. But my senior in it contradicts me, and gives me no reason. Now to contradict a man, and give him no reason, is to give him an affront; and to demand reason in such a case, that is, for such an affront to send such a challenge, as provoketh unto no other contention than that for truth, being according unto Scripture, and not against laws, concerns a man’s honour and right. Therefore it is in such a case not of courtesy, but the devoir of him that gave the affront to answer; which the Doctor having now done, I come into the lists or to the queries, with his answers and my replies.

The first Query.
How much, or in what the Author of Oceana is mistaken, to think the Commonwealth of the Hebrews appliable to his Purpose.

The Doctor’s Answer.

I Have reason still to think and say, The government or commonwealth (as you call it) of the Hebrews, was of all other less applicable to your form, which supposes a senate debating, proposing, and the people resolving, choosing, as page 15. to which there was nothing like in that government. You find indeed princes and heads of the tribes, and may call them a senate, and read of the assemblies of the people, but without any such power or authority; both of them receiving laws by the hand of Moses without any debate or contradiction. And ’tis in a manner confessed, page 18. where you say, the function of that senate was executive only, the laws being made by God. And if we look to the institution of the Seventy, we find it was upon the advice of Jethro, and that not to be as a council to Moses, but as under-judges for his ease in the administration of the laws; which rather suits with the condition of inferior ministers of justice under a monarch, God’s vicegerent on earth, as all kings are in a more large consideration, as Moses was more specially in that theocracy. Therefore I did not a little wonder at your assertions and inferences, pag. 16. and 17. where you speak of their making God their king, their power of rejecting and deposing him as their civil magistrate. The harshness of the phrase may be mollified, but the thing asserted I suppose cannot be defended, viz. any such power in the people to God-ward; your inference also seems strange and infirm, that they had power to have rejected any of those laws. What you assert in the 17. page of all the laws given by covenant, is true in a sober sense, but the inference strange, that only which was resolved (or chosen) by the people of Israel was their law. This is so far from good logick, that it falls short of good divinity; for it must suppose God and the people on equal terms at their entring that covenant; whereas God often (especially in Deut.) shews his right of commanding, and enforces their obedience to his commands upon the antecedent obligations; his being the Lord their God, his chusing them out of all nations to be a peculiar people, his bringing them out of the land of Egypt. Much more might be said to shew these instances of the people receiving laws from God (in which they were only passive) are far from proving any power in the people as to God-ward, or from concluding generally the power in the people of resolving and chusing laws; and therefore this commonwealth of Israel not applicable to your purpose.


IN my book I call the government, whereupon we are disputing, the commonwealth of Israel; but though I think I did not much amiss, I am the first that ever called it so, and make no difficulty in your first letter to speak after me. But when I come to call it, as all they do that have written upon it, then you begin to doubt, and it is the commonwealth (as I call it) of the Hebrews, whence you will be more than suspected, not to have read any of those authors. And yet how confidently it is laid to me in your first letter, that I am not a little mistaken in thinking the Israelitish commonwealth or government under Moses to be so applicable to my purpose, as I would make it? Nevertheless when you come in answer to this query to give your reasons, you bring this for one, that page 18, I say the function of the senate was only executive, the laws being made by God: where first, the word only is not mine, but of your imposing. Secondly, when you should shew that I am mistaken in thinking the commonwealth of Israel so applicable to my purpose as I would make it, you shew that I make it no more applicable to my purpose than it is: which is not fair, especially when I give you so clear a reason, that albeit the authority of proposing laws appertain unto every senate, as such, yet the laws of the commonwealth of the Hebrews having been all made by an infallible legislator, even God himself, the senate had no laws in the beginning to propose, but came afterwards to propose, when those laws given in the beginning came to need addition; for if you find the kings upon such occasions as David, 1 Sam. vii. 2. and Hezekiah, 2 Chron. xxx. proposing, and the people resolving, was this likely to have been introduced by them? or if the people had the result in the monarchy, must they not much more have had it in the commonwealth? Wherefore the authority of proposing unto the people, as will better appear hereafter, was derived by the king from the judge, by the judge from the sanhedrim, by the sanhedrim from Moses, and by Moses from God: as (Exod. xix. 5.) where God giveth him instructions for a proposition unto the people; Thus shalt thou say unto the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel, ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, &c. Now therefore if you will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then you shall be unto me a kingdom of priests: if you will (not whether you will or no) you shall be (which relates unto the future) unto me a kingdom; that is, I will be your king. God having given these instructions unto his sole legislator, Moses came (accordingly) and called for the elders of the people, and laid before their faces all these words that the Lord had commanded him. And all the people answered together (gave their suffrage, nemine contradicente) and said, All that the Lord hath spoken we will do: and Moses returned the words (that is, the suffrage, or result) of the people unto the Lord. Wherefore God was king in Israel by covenant, proposed by himself or his servant Moses, and resolved by the people. Now that he was afterwards rejected by the people, when they chose another king, that he should not reign over them, 1 Sam. viii. 7. are his own words. And if in these words he shew plainly, that the people had power to reject a law that was not only proposed unto them, but resolved by them, then must it needs be included even in God’s own words, that the people must have had power to have rejected any thing that was proposed, and not confirmed by them. And yet you tell me, that this is so far from good logick, that it falls short of good divinity. And why? because it must suppose God and the people on equal terms at their entring that covenant. Then that a king either cannot covenant, for example, with his chandler to serve him with wax, or that the chandler was upon equal terms, or hail-fellow well met with the king, at their entering that covenant, comes up to good divinity. Such is the logick which you chop with me, for you are beyond my understanding! but the honest part of logick I understand well enough, not to envy them that seem to have more.

For if by the word terms you understand the conditions of the covenant, it is fair: as to these indeed, the parties covenanting are so far equal, that they may equally will or choose; else it were a precept or command, not a covenant. But if by the word terms you understand the dignity or power of the parties, it is not fair, but an equivocation; for the equality of the parties in that sense is nothing at all unto the equality of the covenant: wherfore the impiety you would fix upon me, is your own, and ariseth from your want of distinguishing between the Almighty power of God, in which he is above all things, and his infinite love whereby he boweth the heavens, and descendeth unto his poor creatures. In the former regard to talk of electing or deposing God, who is king, he the Heathen never so unquiet, were, indeed, impious; but in the latter it is most certain, that he ruleth among no other than a consenting, a resolving, a willing people. Or tell me whether the rein of God on the neck of the Turks be the same with that in the hearts of his elect, or wherein consists the difference? moreover to what I have said, and more than what I have said for the debate that was in the senat, and the result that was in the people of Israel, Grotius hath summed up the Talmudists in this note upon the tenth verse of Deut xviii. Notandum præterea scita senatus nonnulla sive legi interpretandæ sive præmuniendæ facta evanuisse, non modo si senatus ante receptum ubique morem sententiam mutasset, verum etiam si vel ab initio populus ea non ferret, vel irent in dissuetudinem, where there is nothing plainlier to be perceived than that debate was in this senate, and result in this people: and you confess what I assert in the 17th page of all their laws given by covenant to be true in a sober sense; now the sense which I have shew’d you is that of all sober men. But can you shew me the judgment of any sober man, that because we find princes and heads of the tribes, we may call them a senate? pray, how do you cut twelve princes into seventy elders, or where do you find them in the senate? but this is nothing. If we look to the institution of the seventy, we find it, say you, to be upon the advice of Jethro. We: I pray you take it to yourself, or I appeal to him that shall compare Exod. xviii. with Numb. xi. whether this have been the opinion of any sober man. Moses in that of Exodus hearkens unto the voice of his father-in-law, Jethro the priest of Midian: making able men out of Israel, heads over the people, rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens. And they judged the people at all seasons: the hard causes they brought unto Moses, but every small matter they judged themselves. These were the Jethronian prefectures, or the courts afterwards consisting of twenty-three judges that sate in the gates of every city. Never were they mistaken before for the sanhedrim or seventy elders, which came not to be instituted till afterwards in the 11th of Numbers, where Moses while he stood alone, being as weary of the recourse had unto him from these judicatories, as he was of that, before their institution, cries unto God, I am not able to bear this people alone (his office of sole legislator) in which relation Lycurgus and Solon are as well and as properly called kings, as he, who was king indeed in Jesurum, Deut. xxxiii. 5. but no otherwise than they in their commonwealths, that is to propose the laws in his form, when the heads of the people, and the tribes of Israel were gathered together, which was now almost accomplished. Wherefore the Lord said unto Moses, Gather unto me seventy elders of the men of Israel, whom thou knowest to be elders of the people, and officers over them, and bring them unto the tabernacle of the congregation (in which or in the temple was ever after the session-house of the senate) that they may stand there with thee. If this be not enough, you may have a farther sight of your great mistake, 2 Chron. xix. where at the restitution of this government in some part by Jehoshaphat, the Jethronian counsels are set up city by city: but the senate, or seventy elders with a Moreover in Jerusalem; and that the Jethronian courts are intimated in the New Testament by the name of the Judgment, as the sanhedrim by that of the Council, Godwyn the schoolmaster could have told you. But whereas nothing is more constantly delivered by all authors, nor express in Scripture, than that Moses having instituted the sanhedrim, stood from that time forward no more alone, or was thenceforth but prince of the senate, which God appointed to stand with him; you say that he was a monarch or stood alone. And whereas the Jethronian prefectures henceforth brought all their difficult cases unto the sanhedrim, in the institution of which sanhedrim Jethro had no hand; you say, that the sanhedrim or seventy elders were instituted by Jethro. How plain would your English have been upon this occasion, if they had given it? whereas I shall say no more than that these are no little things nor poor mistakes.

The Second Query.

In case the Author’s Form, and the Monarchical be or be not disputed over and over again, what the Reason or Experience may be that remaineth, or may be thought to remain, for the Advantage of the latter?

The Doctor’s Answer.

I HAVE not time to dispute the two forms, nor will to make it my study; but his reason is cogent for monarchical, that in it there is one chief; for order is the main concernment of government, and order is more perfected by reducing to unity, or having still one chief in the order. And this I mention the rather, because as anciently the Romans, so you in your model, are forced to betake you in necessity to a dictator, which undeniably evinces monarchical government the fittest for all exigencies. Also because God, to whom you seem to appeal (Pag. 15.) led his people (Psal. lxxvii. ult.) by the hand of Moses and Aaron; Moses chief in the whole government, and Aaron the chief in the priesthood, and after Moses Joshua; and still raised up single persons to judge his people. Lastly, because the dust of nature led your form of government, from paternal (so it was at the beginning or peopling of the world) unto monarchical, as families encreased into nations.


YOU in your letter are positive that be the two forms never so often disputed, the advantage in reason will remain to the monarchical; but when you come to give your reason, have not time to dispute the business, nor will to make it your study; you will give a man his sentence, without recourse to the law, and his objections. Again, without taking notice of his answers, as in the matter of dictatorian power, for which you say, first, that one person is fittest, and secondly, that one person being fittest for this one thing, it undeniably evinces monarchical government the fittest for all exigencies. Now granting the former were true, as I have shewed it to be false, and therefore chosen the Venetian dictator, which consisteth not of one man, rather than the Roman, which did; yet if one man be fittest to be a pilot, how doth it follow that that one man is fittest for all exigencies? or if Gideon were fittest to be judge or dictator of Israel, that it was fittest (as the people desired of him, Judges viii. 22.) he should rule over them, both he and his son, and his son’s son also? and whereas you say that God (unto whom I appeal) still raised up single persons to judge his people; doth it follow that these judges or dictators were monarchs, especially when Gideon answers the people, I will not rule over you, neither shall my son rule over you; the Lord shall rule over you? or rather that monarchical government even in the time of the judges was in this commonwealth, to the rejection of God? in which place (to allude unto that in your answer to the first query, to which I have not yet reply’d,) it is plain also, that antecedent obligations do not always imply command, or enforce obedience: for say the people unto Gideon, rule thou over us, &c. for thou hast delivered us from the hand of Midian; yet neither did this oblige the people to choose, or Gideon to be chosen king.

THAT God led his people, Psal. lxxvii. by the hand of Moses and Aaron, is right; but your flourish upon it, where you say Moses chief in the whole government, and Aaron chief in the priesthood, withers; for the place relateth unto the times, (Exod. vii.) in which saith the Lord unto Moses, See I have made thee a God to Pharaoh, and Aaron thy brother shall be thy prophet (that is, thy chaplain or orator, for otherwise there arose not a prophet like Moses in Israel) and this was before the time that Moses made Aaron high-priest. Nor after the institution of the sanhedrim, was the high-priest other than subordinate unto it, whether in matter of religion or state: nay, if he had given them just cause, he might be whipt by the law, as is affirmed by the Talmudists. This senate was to stand, as hath been shewed, with Moses; therefore Moses from the institution thereof, was no more than prince or archon of it, and general of the commonwealth; in each of which functions he was succeeded by Joshua. And the people served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that outlived Joshua, (Judges ii. 7.) But from this time forward you hear no more of the Jethronian prefectures, that sate in the gates of the cities, nor of the senate, as I take it, (being yet but studying this commonwealth, in which it were a better deed to aid, than mislead me) till the restitution of it by Jehoshaphat, 2 Chron. xix. For after the death of Joshua, and of the elders of these courts, the people of Israel mindless of the excellent orders of their commonwealth given by God, were so stupid, as to let both the senate and the inferior courts to fall. But a commonwealth without the senate must of natural necessity degenerate into anarchy. Wherefore the nature of this commonwealth throughout the book of Judges was downright anarchy. You have the tribes without any common council or deliberation leaguing one with another, and making war at their fancy, as Judges i. 3. Judah said unto Simeon his brother, Come up with me into my lot, that we may fight against the Canaanites, &c. Whence (especially when there was no judge neither) is that frequent complaint throughout this book, that in those days there was no king (as men of your rank have rendered the word, though in this place it rather signifies suffes consul, or dictator, as some of the laity, that is of the folks do affirm) in Israel, but every one did that which was right in his own eyes. In this case of a commonwealth there is no help but by dictatorian power, which God in the raising up of judges did therefore indulge, appointing them ordinarily but pro tempore, or upon some, not upon all exigencies. For Judges xx. the congregation sentenceth the tribe of Benjamin, decrees and manageth the war against them, without a judge or dictator. This anarchy with the confusion of it, by want of the senate, especially when the sons of Samuel grew corrupt and imperious through the long rule of their father, was the true cause why the people chose to have a king, and so fell into monarchy, under which they fared worse; for though there happened to come with a great deal of cost, as in the war with Saul, a David to be defended; yet by another war against his ambitious son, and after him a Solomon, in the next generation the tribes rent in sunder, and besides the execrable wickedness of the most of their kings (the like whereunto was never known,) gave not over hewing one another, till Israel first, and then Judah fell into miserable captivity. And yet this is that unity and order which you celebrate, and the argument for monarchy must be cogent; which happens, because you are resolved not to these that the unity of government consists in such a form, which no man can have the will, or having the will can have the power to disturb, but cast all upon the unity of a person, that may do what he list, running still upon your equivocations, as if brethren could not live together in unity, unless reduced to the will of one brother.

The Third Query.

Where there is or ever was a Monarchy upon a popular Balance, or that proposed by the Author, but those only of the Hebrews, and whether these were not the most infirm of all other?

The Doctor’s Answer.

I Perceive not how it concerns any thing I said, or the cause in hand, as to any material point. Only it seems to suppose the monarchy of the Hebrews to be in a popular balance, which I cannot apprehend, unless because they had a kind of agrarian, their land divided by lot, which notwithstanding left place for a sufficient difference, and excess in dignity of persons, bonds of estates, measure of wealth and riches.


IN your letter you say, that the balance I pretend cannot stand so steady in my form, as in a well temper’d monarchy; and yet to the query, where there is or ever was a monarchy upon such a balance? you answer, that you perceive not how it concerns any thing you said, or the cause in hand as to any material point, as if the balance were of slight concernment to a government. And for the monarchy of the Hebrews you say, that you cannot apprehend it to have been upon a popular balance. But the land of Canaan as it is computed by Hecatæus Abderites in Josephus against Appion, contained three millions of acres; and they among whom it was divided, as appears Numb. i. 46. at the cense of them taken by Moses in Mount Sinai, amount unto 603550. Now if you allow them but four acres a man, it comes unto two millions four hundred thousand acres, and upwards, by which means there could remain for Joshua’s lot, Caleb’s portion, with the princes of the tribes, and the patriarchs or princes of families, but a matter of five hundred thousand acres, which holdeth not above a sixth part in the balance with the people, and yet you will not apprehend, that this was a popular balance. Why then it will be in vain to shew you the certain consequence, namely that the monarchies of the Hebrews, being the only governments of this kind that ever were erected upon a popular balance, were the most infirm and troubled of all others; that the cause why the congregation that elected the former kings were able to reject Rehoboam, was from the power of the people, and the power of the people from their popular agrarian: and that the cause why the kings of Israel and Judah, while they had not foreign wars, never gave over knocking out the brains of the people, one against another, was, that having no monarchical balance, or not such a one as was sufficient, whereupon safely to rest themselves in peace, they were necessitated, as some kings at this day, the balance of whose empire is broken, to make themselves useful unto the people through their danger, that so through the want of order, they may subsist, according to the modern maxim, by confusion and war; an expedient sufficiently practised to be well known.

The Fourth Query.

Whether the Temptations of advancing did sway more with the Many in the Commonwealth, than with the Few under the Monarchies of the Hebrews, that is, under the Kings of Judah, Israel, or the High Priests, when they came to be Princes? And whether other Story be not, as to this Query, conformable unto that of Scripture.

The Doctor’s Answer.

WHETHER greater temptations in the Hebrew government before or after they had kings, seems little material by comparing them to learn, and as little to your purpose, till what you suppose be granted, viz. that the government before they had kings, was in your sense a commonwealth. But as for all forms that have been popular, or shall be, still the temptations are the more powerful or dangerous, as to the change of government. This puts them upon an inconvenience by often changing their generals of armies, and upon often banishing them, or any great citizens, when their just deserts had made them honoured and beloved; and this I suppose puts you upon a necessity in one place of defending the ostracism as no punishment, and the people of Rome as not ungrateful in banishing Camillus.


IF to doubt whether Israel were a commonwealth in my sense be excusable in one that will take no notice of the elders that stood with Moses, nor why Gideon being a judge refused nevertheless to be king; yet the league that was made between Judah and Benjamin in the first, and the sentence that was given by the whole congregation, with the war thereupon levied by the people only, without so much as a judge or dictator, in the last chapter of the book of Judges, evinces my sense, and that of all reasonable men. Wherfore the comparison desired by me is plainly material; and your evasion a poor shift, below a man of parts, or well-meaning.

For albeit Israel for the far greater time of the commonwealth before the kings was anarchy, the most subject state of such a government unto confusion; yet abating the conspiracy of Abimelech, made king of the men of Sichem, there was, as I remember, no disturbance from ambition, nor striving to be uppermost, of which, after the kings, there was no end. For to omit David’s destroying of the house of Saul, and reigning in his stead, as done with good warrant; you have Absalom levying war against his father; Jeroboam an arrant knave, breaking the empire of Rehoboam, a hair-brain’d fool in two pieces, whence the children of Judah turning Sodomites, (1 Kings xiv. 20.) and they of Israel idolaters; you have Baasha conspiring against Nadab king of Israel, murdering him, destroying all the posterity of Jeroboam, and reigning in his stead: Zimri, captain of the chariots, serving Asa the son with the same sauce, when he was drunk, killing all his kindred, that pissed against the wall, as Baasha the father had done Nadab, when, may chance, he was sober; Omri hereupon made captain by the people, and Zimri after he had reigned seven days, burning himself; the people of Israel when Zimri was burnt, dividing into two parts, one for Omri, and the other for Tibni, who is slain in the dispute; whereupon Omri outdoes all the tyrants that went before him, and when he has done, leaves Ahab his son, the heir of his throne and virtue. You have Jehu destroying the family of Ahab, giving the flesh of Jezebel unto the dogs, and receiving a pretty present from those of Samaria, seventy heads of his master’s sons in baskets. To Asa and Jehoshaphat of the kings of Judah belongeth much reverence; but the wickedness of Athalia, who upon the death of her son Ahaziah, that she might reign, murdered all her grandchildren, but one stolen away, which was Joash, was repaid by that one in the like coin, who also was slain by his servants. So was his son Amasiah that reigned after him; and about the same time Zachariah king of Israel, by Shallum, who reigned in his stead, and Shallum was smitten by Manaim, who reigned in his stead, (battle royal in Shoe-Lane) Pekahah the son of Manahim was smitten by Pekah one of his captains, who reigned in his room; Pekah by Hoshea, who having reigned nine years in his stead, was carried by Salmanezer king of Assyria with the ten tribes into captivity. Will Judah take a warning? Yes, Hezekiah, the next, is a very good king, but Manasseh his son, like the rest, a shedder of innocent blood; to him succeedeth Ammon, father’s own child, who is slain by his own servants. Josiah once again is a very good king; but Jehoahaz, that died by the heels in Egypt deserv’d his end, nor was Jehoiakim the brother of the former, who became tributary unto Pharaoh, any better; in whose reign and his successor Zedechias was Judah led into captivity by Nebuchadnezzar, (the common end of battle royal) where I leave any man to judge how far the unity of a person tends to the unity of government, and whether the temptations of advancing (to use your phrase) were greater in the commonwealth than in the monarchies of the Hebrews, It were easy to shew, if you had not enough already, that the highpriests when they came to be princes, were never a barrel better herring; whereas that there is no such work in Venice, Switz, or Holland, you both know, and might, if you did not wink, as easily see. All is one, it is, for it is as you have said, nay, and more, in all forms that have been popular or shall be, still the temptations are more powerful and dangerous as to the change of government; this put them upon great inconveniences by often changing their generals of armies.M. Disc. b. iii. ch. 24. A pound of clergy, for which take an ounce of wisdom, in this maxim evinced by Machiavel: prolongation of magistracy is the ruin of popular government: the not often changing their generals or dictators was the bane of the commonwealths both of Rome and of Israel, as by the corruption of Samuel’s sons (moss that groweth not upon a rolling stone) is apparent. And for the banishment of great men, name me one that since those governments were settled, had been banish’d from Venice, Switz, or Holland. The examples in Rome are but two that can be objected by a rational man in seven hundred years, and I have answered those in my book; for the ostracism, though I hold it a foolish law, yet where the people have not prudence to found their government upon an agrarian, I shew’d you out of reason, Aristotle, and experience, that it is a shift they will be put to, whether a punishment, or not; though no man, that is versed in the Greek story, can hold it to have been so esteem’d.

The Fifth Query.

Whether Men, as they become richer or poorer, free or servile, be not of a different Genius, or become new model’d; and whether these Things happen not as the Balance changes?

The Doctor’s Answer.

SUCH sudden changes of the genius and nature of men, I leave to the pipe of Orpheus, or Ovid’s Metamorphosis.


A Pretty jeer; but there is one in that book metamorphosed into the bird that cannot see by day. Now, a change that happens in the revolution of one hundred and forty years, is not sudden; but so long hath the government in question been changing from aristocratical to popular. And if the acts of popular councils from that time, have still been and be to this hour more and more popular, the genius of the people is as clear as the day with the alteration of it, in those opinions you in your first letter are pleased to call the ignorance or wilfulness of these days, that since the aristocratical balance of the clergy is gone, shake the yoke of the priest. The butcher sought his knife, and had it in his mouth.

The Sixth Query.

Whether Gentlemen have been more beholden unto Divines, or Men in Orders, or Divines more beholden unto Gentlemen, or such as have not been in Orders, for the Knowlege which we have of the Commonwealth of the Hebrews? Or who of each Sort have written best upon that Subject?

The Doctor’s Answer.

COmparisons being odious, I only say, divines have cause to give learned gentlemen their due, and thank for their labours, but also cause to complain, when they are too bold with boly things, not only with the commonwealth of the Hebrews, the form that God then appointed, but also with the government of the Christian church, the form and functions left by Christ and his apostles, according to which the church acted three hundred years before the civil power became Christian.


DIVINES have cause to complain, when gentlemen are too bold with holy things, as with the commonwealth of the Hebrews; but if you ask, who of each sort have written best upon this subject, comparisons are odious. Here you can be modest; for no body hath written in this kind, but Carolus Sigonius, Buxtorfius, Cornelius Bertramus, Hugo Grotius, Selden, and Cunæus, all which were gentlemen, or such as were not in orders. Nor can it be gathered from any thing now extant, that any divine understood this government. But if divines cannot deal with this government, and gentlemen may not, how should it be known? or if divines understand not this, why do they meddle with others?

The Seventh Query.

What and how many be those little Things, and poor Mistakes, which the Author below a Gentleman of his Parts hath entertain’d?

The Doctor’s Answer.

THOSE little things and poor mistakes I confined to the matters of the church; for innovating wherin these latter times make exceptions against our translation, delight in some notions of words in Scripture, vent new interpretations, make strange inferences, in which to rest satisfy’d is below, &c. Such Page 16. from notion or origination of Ecclesia to infer democratical government of the church; and that inference for the right of gathering churches now, Page 28. So after in the model, what is said for the notion of χειρο[Editor: illegible character]ονεipergrν to the prejudice of due ordination, and the like.


IN Judges xx. 2. the civil congregation of the chief of all the tribes of Israel, is called ecclesia dei: and not only Greek writers, as particularly Æschines, use that word for the assemblies of the people in the Grecian commonwealths, but Luke also speaking of the people of Ephesus, he saith, Erat autem ecclesia confusa: wherfore this word having been of this use before the Apostles, and being applied by them unto their convocations or assemblies, there must needs have been some reason, why they made choice of this, rather than of any other. Now if the reason had not been that they intended the church to be democratical, why would they borrow a word that is of that sense? or why should you think that they would give names unto things not according unto their nature; seeing if they had intended it should have been aristocratical, they might as well have taken the word γερoulaσία or senate? wherefore, says Calvin the lawyer, Sumpserint apostoli illud melius nomen ad significandum ecclesiam, ut ostenderent politiam populi dei esse quidem democraticam, &c. I have shewed you my reasons, and given you my testimony, and yet you that have neither, call this a notion. Then for the chirotonia, or holding up of hands, it was the way of giving suffrage in some of those popular assemblies, more particularly, that of Athens, and this word the Apostles also came to borrow for the suffrage of their congregations, as in the Greek, Acts xiv. 23. where they use the word χειρο[Editor: illegible character]ονήσαν[Editor: illegible character]ες, the same that was used by the Athenians, signifying holding up of hands, or their manner of suffrage: but this the English translators have left out, and where they should have render’d the place, and when they had ordained elders, by the holding up of hands in every congregation, they render it, when they had ordain’d them elders in every church. Now you, though you know this well enough, never lay any blame upon the translators, but with them that find fault with the translation, as if it were less impiety in divines to corrupt the Scriptures, than in others to vindicate them from corruption. And this is another of those things which you have the considence to call notions, albeit in so doing you must needs sin against your own conscience: but what is that to interest? if this place be restored, ordination is restored unto the people; and so divines losing it, there is an end of priest-crast, as by telling the story of this invention, though in brief, will better appear; ordination in the commonwealth of Israel being primarily nothing else but election of magistrates, was performed by the suffrage of the people or (as is shewn by the Talmudists upon Numb. xi. in Eldad and Medad) by the ballot. Nor was it otherwise till the sanhedrim got a whim of their own, without any precept of God, to ordain their successors by the chirothesia or imposition of hands, and the parties being so ordained called Preshyters, became capable of being elected into the judicatories, whereby cheating the people of the right of electing their magistrates, the sanhedrim instituted the first Presbyterian government; nevertheless this form as to the imposition of hands, was not always held so necessary among the Jews but if the party were absent it might be done by letter, and somtimes, though he were present, it was done by verse or charm only. But whereas the senate, if not every senator, by this innovation had right to ordain; by Hilel high priest and prince of the sanhedrim, who liv’d some three hundred years before Christ, means was found to get the whole power into his hand, which being of such consequence, that no magistrate could thenceforth be made but by the high priest, it changed this same first presbytery, the high priests becoming afterwards monarchs, as I may say, into the first Papacy; for this track was exactly trodden over again by the Christians: first, to the presbytery, from thence to the bishop, and that by means of the same chirothesia or imposition of hands taken up from the Jews, and out of this bishop stept up the Pope, and his seventy cardinals, anciently the presbytery, or seventy elders of Rome, in imitation of those of Israel. Moreover it is the judgment of good divines, as Bullinger, Musculus, P. Martyr, Luther and Melancthon, that this chirothesia or imposition of hands is not necessary, for that the Apostles took up som things from the Jews, as community of goods, which are not necessary, you will not deny: and if this were not of that kind, then wherfore in the place alledged, where the chirotonia, prayer and fasting, as all things necessary unto ordination, are mention’d, is the chirothesia omitted even by the Apostles themselves? Nor can you find that it was otherwise than sparingly used by them in comparison of the chirotonia or suffrage of the people; and perhaps there only, where the people had not the civil right of any such suffrage, by which where it was, they ordained elders in every church. And in this place comes that of your answer unto the 7th query, namely, that the church acted three hundred years before the civil power became Christian, to be very questionable. For that Tarsus a city of Cilicia was so free, that Paul, being a native thereof, claimeth the right of a Roman, is clear in Scripture; nor is it more obscure in story, that the people in the cities of Lycia, Pamphylia, Lycaonia, or Cappadocia, in which the Apostle ordain’d ecclesiastical elders by the chirotonia of the church or congregation, had not only the ancient right but custom of electing their civil elders in the same manner. And where was the necessity or sense, that the Apostles to convert them unto the Christian religion, should go about to depose them, than which nothing could have caused a greater jealousy, obstruction or scandal upon their doctrine? but if the Apostles used the words ecclesia and chirotonia in these places, according unto the right of the people, and the known sense, in which they had bin always taken, then acted not the church three hundred years nor half a hundred years before the civil power became Christian. And if the bishops, when the emperors became Christian, made no bones of receiving their mitres from the civil magistrate, they must have don ill, had they known or conceived that the church in the purest times had waved the civil magistracy. Paul arriving at Athens converts Dionysius one of the senators, and som others unto the Christian faith. Suppose he had converted the whole senate and the people, what sober man can imagine, that he would have disputed with the congregation the sense of their former name ecclesia, or the right of electing their new elders by their old chirotonia or suffrage by holding up of hands? but he converted but a few; wherfore as he had no aid, so he had no hindrance from the magistrate. This, then, was a gather’d church, I think, or what was it? if the Prophets in Israel went up and down preaching unto the people, by whom they were followed; and if som of these that were thus followed were true, and more of them false, the people that followed them could not be all of the same persuasion, though it is like that no man would follow such an one as he was not persuaded was true. But the people choosing at their own discretion whom they would follow, how could these congregations be less gather’d than those, when the people were divided into three fects, Pharisees, Sadduces, and Esseans, which could be no other? nor doth the sanhedrim, though they had the government of the national religion, sending unto John the Baptist (John xi 25.) to know who he was, and why he baptized, refuse him the like prophetic right, used by him first, and afterwards by our Saviour and the Apostles, without the authority of the sanhedrim: nor doth Paul blame the congregations of Apollos and Cephas (1 Cor. i.) in that they were gather’d, but in that they put too much upon them that gathered them. How then doth it appear that my inference for gathered congregations now, is a little thing or poor mistake, below a gentleman of parts; when I say no more, than that gather’d congregations were in use both before and after Christ, notwithstanding the national religion that was then settled? and therfore gathered congregations for any thing in the Old or New Testament that I can find to the contrary, might be now, though a national religion were settled. And if this be not true, the testimony, which you bear in your present practice, is against your self; for what else are your congregations now, that will use none other than the common-prayer, but gathered?

To conclude, it should seem by you, that if the national religion were so settled, that the meddling with holy things by any other than a divine, might be resolv’d as boldly, and, to use a fine word, opinionately done, as if it were against an article of our creed; you would be pleas’d. But the national religion and the liberty of conscience so ordain’d in Oceana, that neither the interest of the learned, nor the ignorance of the unlearned can corrupt religion in which case though there might, yet there is no probability, that there would be any gathered congregations, this being the peculiar remedy for that which you hold a disease) you are displeas’d: for thus you conclude.


YOU see I have used freedom again, it is like you will think too much; but I desire you would allow me the privilege of the old saying, suo quisque sensu abundet, and not trouble yourself with interrogating me, from whom you can draw so little satisfaction. I never made it my study to model or shape out forms of government, but to yield obedience to every lawful command proceding from authority, how perfect, or otherwise the form was. In a word, Sir, I honour your parts, wish them imployed as may be most for the service of God and his church, and do promise myself in all friendly and Christian offices,

SIR, Your humble Servant,


To which I say that

I HAVE not heard a divine quote Scripture (Quisque suo sensu abundet) as an old saying; but you are not contented to do so only, but to use it accordingly; for wheras (Rom. xiv. 15.) it is indulged by the Apostles as to indifferent things, this was never intended to be an argument, that the seventy elders were erected upon the advice of Jethro, that Moses instituted a monarchy, that Gideon was king of Israel, or indeed for any thing that you have said. And therefore however you call it interrogatory, it is civil enough in such a case to desire better reason; but do not fear that I should give you any more in this kind, nor had I at all, if wheras you confess in the close that you have not studied these things, you had but said so much in the beginning, for there had been an end.

This study indeed, as I have shewed elsewhere, is peculiar unto gentlemen; but if it be of your goodness that you study not to shape such work, must it ever be the study of your tribe to mis-shape it? is it in such less impiety to have ruin’d a kingdom, than in any other to shew the true principles of a commonwealth? or wheras the nature of the politics, or such civil power (witness the sanhedrim of Israel) as cometh nearest unto God’s own pattern, regards as well religion as government, and is receptible of gentlemen; doth it follow that I have not laid out the best of my parts in my vocation, to the service of God and his church, because you, in your pretended zeal, have chosen to insinuate the contrary by a prayer? but he, unto whom you have addressed yourself, knoweth the secrets of all hearts. To him therefore I appeal, whether I have not sought him in a work of universal charity; and whether one end of this present writing be not, lest you making use of your great authority thus to prejudice such a work, should hurt them most, whom you love best; it being apparent unto any man, that can see and understand the balance of government with the irresistible consequence of the same, that by such time as the vanity of men’s ways shall have tried them a little more, it will be found that God in his infinite goodness and mercy, hath made that only possible for us, which is best for us all, most for the good of mankind, and his own glory. And so notwithstanding the heat of our dispute, which so far as it hath not resisted nor exceeded truth, cannot have been very sinful or uncharitable, I do oblige myself in all the devoirs of

SIR, Your affectionate Friend, and humble Servant,

James Harrington.