|James Harrington (1611–1677)|
Note: This is part of the Leveller Collection of Tracts and Pamphlets.
T.309 [1659.11.07] James Harrington, Valerius and Publicola, or the true Form of a Popular Commonwealth extracted è puris Naturalibus (1659).
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).
7 Nov., 1659.
TT. E.1005 (7 Nov., 1659).
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Quos perdere vult Jupiter, hos dementat prius.
THE way of dialog being not faithfully manag’d, is of all other the most fraudulent; but being faithfully manag’d, is the clearest and most effectual for conveying a man’s sense into the understanding of his reader. There is nothing in this world, next the favor of God, I so much desire as to be familiarly understood; which because great men have thought below them, has prov’d hitherto but the ruin of themselves, and the detriment of the public: for which reason, having try’d all other means, I now add this. My work, if I be not given over to utter blindness, is the same with, or nearest, that of the nation; and the work of the nation being not understood, is in extreme danger of utter ruin.
DEAREST Publicola, how have I long’d to meet you, and in the favorable silence of this long walk!
What has my noble friend Valerius to command his faithful servant?
Why really, notwithstanding the tumult of these extravagant changes, your last discourse had so much of my attention then, and has had such a digestion with me since, that I feel it running in my veins.
Do you find in that any temtation to the buckling on of high-shoon?
My thoughts, Publicola, are quite of another strain; somtimes I fancy I see England grasping at empire, like Rome it self.
Why then Valerius, my discourses are not such as they say; there run nothing of them in your veins, that has imbas’d your noble blood.
The heraldry of them is of as high a pitch as the policy; but I would have them be a little lower in som things.
What are those?
The vulgar complain of you, that you are too learn’d.
I thought it was not you, Valerius.
For all that, I could be contented to see you raise your structure by your own strength, and without the help of other authors.
That I dare say you may, when you please.
I must see it then, before I lose the covert of these reverend elms.
You take care that the building should be well situated; and for the foundation, I may presume by what has already pass’d between you and me, that we are long since agreed.
That the threefold balance, or distribution of property is the cause of the triple way of government, I fully consent with you; as also, that the balance now in England is in the people plainly, and exclusively both of a king and lords.
You are not of them that grant this, and then ask which way a commonwealth should be introduc’d in England.
Why truly yes; seeing not only the people are so wholly unacquainted with the means, but their leaders so averse to it.
Think you that a plant grows the worse for not understanding the manner of its vegetation?
A plant is not a free agent; but among men who are free agents, the introduction of government seems to be arbitrary.
What, where there is no more than Hobson’s choice, this or none?
It is true, that if they can have nothing else, they must at length have a commonwealth; but tho they can have nothing else to be holding, yet they will be trying other things.
There is all the mischief.
And enough to ruin the nation.
To hurt it very sore, but not to ruin it; nor yet to evade a commonwealth, except they expose us to foren invasion.
I am glad of your confidence.
You may let it pass for confidence, if you please; but if there be no other way except that only of invasion, wherby the present balance can receive a change sudden enough to admit of any other form, the reason why we must have a commonwealth is coercive.
And putting the case it be the will of God to defend us from foren invasion, how long will it be ere they see at home the coerciveness of this reason, or, which is all one, that all power is in and from the people?
Good Valerius, how long is it since this was both seen and declar’d in parlament?
Perhaps as they meant, it might be admitted as a principle even in monarchy.
This with your pardon you will revoke, seeing you well remember that this their declaration of power in the people, has bin exclusive of king and lords, and that in express terms.
But in this they related not at all to the distribution of property.
Why then, there is not such a difference between the growing of a plant and of a commonwealth, as you thought; seeing a commonwealth knowing as little, dos no less.
This of all others is to me a consideration fullest of comfort.
It will in time procede accordingly, thro a mere necessity of nature, or by feeling; but your desire, I suppose, is to know how it should be rationally introduc’d, or by seeing, and that with more ease and greater speed.
If it might please God, I would live to have my share of it, tho I fear I never shall.
You carve for yourself ill: for by hope a man injoys even that which he never coms to attain; and by fear he is depriv’d even of that which he coms not to lose.
I must confess that our army has it now in their power to introduce a commonwealth.
And there is no other action in their power that can excuse them.
Putting the case they would hearken to you, what course would you advise?
The same I have advis’d over and over.
As how! is that yet a question? let them divide the territory into fifty equal parts.
They will never make a new division.
Why then they shall never have an equal commonwealth.
What ill luck is this, that the first step should be so difficult?
You speak as if never any territory had bin divided, wheras there is none that has not; and surveyors will tell you, it is a work to be perfectly perform’d in two months, and with ease.
Putting the case this were don, what is next?
The next is, that the commonwealth were complete.
Say you so? this indeed makes amends: but how?
With no more addition, than that the people in every distinct division elect annually two knights and seven deputys.
I dare say the people would never stick at this.
Not sticking at this, they of their own power have instituted the two great assemblys, of which every commonwealth consists.
But in advising these things, you must advise men so that they may understand them.
Valerius, could I as easily have advis’d men how to understand, as what to do, there had bin a commonwealth ere this.
Com, I will have you try somthing of this kind, and begin upon som known principle, as this, All power is in the people.
Content. But the diffusive body of the people (at least in a territory of this extent) can never exercise any power at all.
That is certain.
Hence is the necessity of som form of government.
That is, the people of themselves being in a natural incapacity of exercising power, must be brought into som artificial or political capacity of exercising the same.
Right. Now this may be don three ways; as first, by a single person—
Nay, I am not likely to trouble you much upon this point: but as you were intimating just now, there are royalists who derive the original right of monarchy from the consent of the people.
There are so.
And these hold the king to be nothing else, but the representer of the people and their power.
As the Turc.
Yes, as the Turc.
The people’s power at that rate coms to the people’s slavery.
You say right; and so it may at other rates too.
Why, as I was about to say, the power of the people may be politically brought into exercise three ways: by a single person; by an assembly consisting of a few; or by an assembly consisting of many.
Or by a mixture.
Nay, I pray let that alone yet a while: for which way soever you go, it must com at length to som mixture, seeing the single person you nam’d but now, without his divan or council to debate and propose to him, would make but bad work even for himself. But as the government coms to be pitch’d fundamentally upon one of these three, so it differs not only in name, but in nature.
I apprehend you, as monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy.
Nay, you are out with your learning, when you have forbidden it me. But in countrys where there is not a nobility sufficiently balanc’d or inrich’d, there can be none of your aristocracy; and yet there may (as long as it will last) be a government in a few.
What call you that?
Nay, what say you?
Com, it is oligarchy: when all is don, som words of art we must use.
I thought you would com to it; and yet seeing I have promis’d, I will be sparing. But with your pardon, you have disorder’d my discourse, or by this time I had shew’d, that if the power of the people be committed to a single person, the common interest is submitted to that of a family; and if it be committed to a few, it is submitted to the interest of a few familys.
Which, so many times as they are more than one, is so many times worse than monarchy.
I am not sorry that you are of that mind. For there is no such thing as a commonwealth, or, as you say, democracy in nature, if it be not pitch’d upon a numerous assembly of the people.
What call you numerous?
Why an assembly such for number as can neither go upon the interest of one single person or family, nor the interest of a few persons or familys.
How will you constitute such an assembly?
Commonwealths, for the constitution of their popular assemblys, have had two ways. The first by inrolling all their citizens, and stating the quorum in such sort, that all to and above the stated number repairing at the time and place appointed, are impower’d to give the vote of the whole commonwealth.
The Athenian quorum was six thousand; which towards the latter end of that commonwealth came to five.
So, so, you may quote authors: but you may remember also, that Athens was a small commonwealth.
How many would you advise for England?
Put the case I should say, ten thousand?
They will laugh at you.
What can I help that? or how many would you advise?
I would not go above five thousand.
Mark you then: they only that are nearest would com; and so the city of London would give law to the whole nation.
Why really that same now is clear; but would there be less danger of it, in case you stated your quorum at ten, at twenty, or tho it were at a hundred or two hundred thousand?
No: for which cause, as to England, it is a plain case, that this is no way for the institution of a popular assembly.
Which way then?
For England there is no way but by representative, to be made to rise equally and methodically by stated elections of the people throout the whole nation.
Needs this to be so numerous as the other?
Because it is not obnoxious to a party, to any certain rank, or such as are soonest upon the spur, or that make least account of their pains or of their mony.
Will you be so curious?
Do you think this a curiosity? how else will you avoid improvement in the interest of the better sort, to the detriment of those of meaner rank; or in the interest of the few, to the detriment of that of the many?
But even this way there is danger of that foul beast the oligarchy.
Look about you. The parlament declares all power to be in the people; is that in the better sort only?
Stay; the king was to observe leges & constitutiones quas vulgus elegerit: that vulgus is to be understood of the parlament; and the parlament consisted wholly of the better sort.
It is true; but then that commonwealth acted in all things accordingly.
It was, you will say, no democracy.
And will you say it was?
No truly: yet this deriv’d in part from the free election of the people.
How free? seeing the people, then under lords, dar’d not to elect otherwise than as pleas’d those lords.
Somthing of that is true; but I am persuaded that the people, not under lords, will yet be most addicted to the better sort.
That is certain.
How then will you prevent the like in your institution?
You shall see presently. The diffusive body of the people, in which the power is, and is declar’d to be, consists in the far greater part of the lower sort: wherfore their representative, to rise naturally, and to be exactly comprehensive of the common interest, must consist also in the far greater part of the lower sort.
Of what number will you have this representative?
Suppose a thousand, or therabout.
What proportion will you have the meaner sort in it to hold to the better?
Suppose about six to four.
How will you order it, that it shall be so constituted?
Why thus: let the people in every precinct or shire at election chuse four under one hundred pounds a year in lands, goods, or mony, together with three at or above that proportion.
I see not but this representative must be exact.
It is yet none at all; that is, unless you presume changes; for one thousand, without change governing the whole people, amounts neither to a representative nor to a commonwealth, but coms still to your hard name.
How do you order your changes?
By annual election of one third part for three years.
So that every year one third part of your assembly falls out of it, and a new third part at the same time enters into the same.
This causes the representative to be perpetually extant.
It dos so: but to respit that a little, I should be glad, before I stir farther, to know which way the vote of a representative thus constituted, can go one hair’s breadth beside the common and public interest of the whole diffusive body of the people.
No way in the earth that I can imagin, except thro ignorance.
No human ordinance is inrallible; and what is don thro mere ignorance or mistake at one time, will be found and amended at another.
A thousand men, and six to four of the lower sort perpetually extant! this must be a grievous charge to the most of them; it will be hard to bring them, and impossible to hold them together.
Upon such as are elected and com not, considerable fines must be levy’d; and such as com and stay together must have good salarys.
Salarys to so many! what will that com to?
Not, with the rest of the commonwealth, to three hundred thousand pounds a year.
Why? the kings have rarely had above six.
And did England ever grudg them any part of that proportion?
I must confess the quarrel grew when they would not be contented with so little.
Now if England never did, nor needed grudg a king six hundred thousand pounds a year, to be spent among courtiers, why should we imagin she should grudg a commonwealth three hundred thousand pounds a year, to be spent among magistrats?
But parlamentmen have taken nothing.
Have the people given nothing?
That was for the maintenance of armys.
And whether had you rather maintain armys or magistrats?
But putting the case that this assembly needed not to be perpetually extant, this charge in the whole or in the far greater part might be abated.
I cannot tell: for how often think you fit that this assembly should convene?
Parlaments at most met not above once a year.
If they had bin perpetually extant, there would have bin no king.
No truly, except in name only.
Therfore the popular assembly in a commonwealth ought not to be perpetually extant.
To the end, you will say, that there may be som king.
Mock not: or what other guard of liberty is there in any commonwealth, but the popular assembly?
Com, let them assemble twice a year upon their ordinary guard.
And what if there be an extraordinary occasion?
Then, as often as there is any such occasion.
How much will this abate of their necessary charge, or of the salarys? and how much better were it for a representative to lead the life of statesmen than of carriers?
Commonwealth, whose assemblys have bin of the former kind, have call’d them no otherwise than at stated times, or upon extraordinary occasions.
But then their assemblys were not equal representatives, but consisted of such as being next at hand were still ready upon any occasion.
That makes indeed a considerable difference: but were this representative always extant, I cannot see but it would have nothing to do.
And in case it be not always extant, you imagin that it may have somthing to do.
Then whether gos it better with the commonwealth when the representative has somthing to do, or when it has nothing to do?
This is very quaint.
No truly Valerius, it is plain, that the guard of liberty perpetually extant, in doing nothing must do much; and not perpetually extant, in doing much may do nothing.
I am afraid that having nothing to do, they will make work.
Such I warrant you as the parlament and the army made the other day.
Nay, I am not so wide. A civil council and a standing army must needs have interests much more distinct than two civil assemblys; and where there is not a like cause, I know well enough there cannot be the like effect.
I shall desire no more, than that you will hold to this; and then tell me what disputes there us’d to be between the senat of Venice and the great council, which is perpetually extant, and consists of about two thousand.
Nay, certain it is, that between those two there never was any dispute at all.
Then tell me for what cause such a thing should any more happen between the assemblys propos’d; or, according to your own rule, from like causes expect like effects.
You put me to it.
Nay, it is you that put me to it; for you will be presuming that this assembly can have nothing to do, before we com to consider what are their proper businesses and functions.
I beg your pardon, and what are those?
Why surely no small matters; for in every commonwealth truly popular, it is inseparable from the assembly of the people that first they wholly and only have the right of result in all matters of lawgiving, of making peace and war, and in levying men and mony: secondly, That the ultimat result in judicature ly to them: and thirdly, That they have right to call to account, and to punish their magistrats for all matters of maladministration of government.
I assure you this must amount to a great deal of business.
Certain it is, that in som commonwealths the popular assembly by this means has bin perpetually imploy’d.
And so I think it might be in England.
It might; but I do not think it would. However, if it be in the undoubted right of the popular assembly to procede against their magistrats for maladministration, would you leave it upon the hand of those magistrats, whether this representative should assemble or no?
Com, you have said enough, it were not prudent: but as to the matter of appeals, it is certain that in Israel the ultimat resort was to the sanhedrim or 70 elders.
I know it very well: nevertheless you shall find that the congregation judg’d Benjamin; and if you mark the appeal to the 70 elders, you shall find that it was not an appeal of the party for relief, but of the judges in inferior courts for further light and direction in difficult cases of the law.
Let me but know in what manner this assembly is to perform these functions, and I have don.
Why as to matter of lawgiving, I told you that they wholly and only have the right and power of result.
But to result, there must necessarily go precedent debate; seeing a man, much less an assembly, resolves not upon any thing without som considerations, motives or reasons therto conducing, which ought to be first orderly and maturely debated: and how will you bring a thousand men, especially being six to four of the lower sort, to debate any thing with order and maturity?
You say that the popular assembly in Athens consisted at the least of five thousand.
And I said true.
Yet this assembly debated: why may not a thousand men debate as well as five thousand?
As well! Nay, Publicola, if they debate no better in your commonwealth than they did in that, you may know what will becom of it. And to tell you true, I do not think that a thousand men can debate any whit more orderly and maturely than five thousand.
And so think I too.
How then? Why this is the reason of the senat in every commonwealth.
So there must be a senat, which amounts to thus much; without a senat there can be no commonwealth, and with a senat there will always be practices upon the liberty of the people.
How prove you that?
Why by the senat of Lacedemon in the beginning, and by the senat of Rome throout.
But find you the like by the senat of Athens and Venice?
Consider then that these were by election of the people, and upon frequent removes, and that the former were defective in one or in both these circumstances.
You intend your senat upon removes then?
And elective by the people?
How? by the popular assembly, or by the body of the people in their precincts?
By the body of the people in their precincts, at the same time when they elect their other deputys, and with the same circumstances, except that these be all elected out of such as have a hundred pounds a year real or personal.
What hurt, if they were elected by the popular assembly?
They would not derive so immediatly, nor rise so equally from the people, as when chosen in the precincts; because this way every shire coms necessarily to have a share in the senat: besides, wise men and understanding are better known in their tribes than they can be in an assembly out of their tribes, especially while they are new comers; nor will the popular assembly afford so good a choice as the whole people. There are other reasons.
Enough, enough. Of what number do you constitut this senat?
Of three hundred.
Why should not one hundred be full enough for a debating council, especially seeing debate is the more orderly where the counsillors are fewer?
You are to bear it in mind, that this senat is upon annual change in one third part.
That is, every year one hundred having serv’d three years, go out, and a new hundred coms in.
Right: for which cause, to have one hundred well practis’d in debate, your senat must consist of three hundred.
May not those that go out com presently in again by a new election?
Not at all; for that were yet another way of continuing the government in a few.
Do you mean that no man shall serve in this capacity, or in that of the popular assembly, but once in his life?
I mean that a man, having serv’d his term in one of these, may after a like vacation or interval be elected again to serve in either of them, and not before.
At what age do you make a man capable of these elections?
Not till thirty.
He stays a great while ere he coms to preferment, and is soon out again: at which rate a man should have much ado to attain to sufficient knowledge for the leading of the commonwealth.
This was never objected against parlaments.
It is true: but then the election of parlamentmen was not oblig’d to any interval, and divers have bin of every parlament that was summon’d during their lives.
Parlaments, when they were the most frequent, assembl’d not above once a year, very rarely so often; and how long, pray, did they usually sit?
Som two or three months.
I allow you the most you ask: at which rate a man that had sat in twenty parlaments, could not have sat above four years complete.
And in your parlament, at one election he sits three.
Mark you that?
Yes, and more: wheras a parlamentman without interval could in twenty years have sat but four complete, in your assemblys a man observing his intervals, may in twenty years serve ten years complete.
You allow that, I hope, to be som advantage towards acquiring knowlege in conduct; and yet antiently your parlamentmen were in this point thought able enough.
Now would I desire no more than to be as fully satisfy’d, that these senators must be honest enough.
Which way can they be dishonest?
Indeed I am not yet acquainted with their ways: but if nothing can be propos’d to the popular assembly, except by these only, they should, I think, propose nothing but what is for their own advantage.
They are the senat: and in that they have all the advantages that a well-order’d commonwealth can give to a senat.
But they will be still hankering after more.
Why riches or power.
All magistrats are accountable to the popular assembly; and so, without acquisition of power, I cannot imagin which way they should turn themselves to the acquisition of riches.
They will drive then at power; they will be coordinat.
In the world there has never yet bin any senat that durst so much as pretend to power.
No? Had not the senat of Israel and that of Lacedemon power?
Executive power they had, in as much as they were judicatorys; but legislative or soverain power (which is that wherof we speak) they had none at all.
Other senats have had other power, as in the managing of foren affairs, and the like.
Which still coms not to the point in hand, because in these and the like matters, as the creation of divers magistrats, the senat uses to be made plenipotentiary by the popular assembly, that is, by law.
I hear them talk of making a coordinat senat first, and without the people, and then of assembling a parlament in the old way to govern with that senat.
Things, Valerius, are soon said; but if any parlament whatever, so it be elected by the people (and, perhaps, if otherwise) do not make it one of their first works to pull down a coordinat senat, I ask no credit to my politics.
This is to prophesy.
Then, to reason the case: I say, That the senat assuming power, the popular assembly falls immediatly to debate; and the popular assembly debating, the senat is ipso facto depos’d, there being no other necessary use or function of the senat but debate only.
You said but now, That the popular assembly could not debate.
Not orderly and maturely: but upon such an occasion as this, they will do as they can; nor is it avoidable.
Nay, if there be som occasion in which you allow that the popular assembly must and ought to debate, there will hardly be any in which they will be persuaded that they may not. So this will com to the pulling down of the senat as often as the people please.
Which is so much the rather to be fear’d, because you shall never find that popular assembly which did ever actually depose their senat.
Our army has pull’d down a good many parlaments.
What is that to the purpose? Is our army a popular assembly? Yet let them pull down a parlament as often as they please, they must set up another; and in this indeed there may be som resemblance: for let a popular assembly pull down the senat as often as they please, they must set up another.
Or a single person.
Right: for that holds both ways too, and (as to our case) will stand neither.
The people of Athens debated, yet for all that their senat was not depos’d.
Not formally; but it remain’d little better than a warren, wherin great men did, as it were, start hares, to be hunted in the tumult of the popular assembly.
Verily, Publicola, this model of yours is a most entire thing.
This with the necessary consequences, as the division of the senat into senatorian councils, the adorning and actuating of this and the other assembly with sit magistrats, wherof I have sufficiently discours’d in other places, amounts to an entire thing.
And you offer it freely.
Would it not grieve you to see them crop a little of it, and spoil it?
They had better take it to som purpose.
Nay, what they take will be to som purpose, I warrant you. Com, there is a party, a select, a refin’d party, a nation in a nation, that must and will govern.
That is it which I desire to see.
You are of a rare temper: happy in unhappiness.
O I love frequent changes.
Is that any of your virtues?
Yes, where we are certain never to go right, while there remains a way to go wrong.
They are confident men. They cannot be persuaded but they can govern the world.
Till they have try’d. Such as can govern the world, are such as can be govern’d by reason. Now there is no party refin’d, select, or what you will in England, amounting to one twentieth part of the people.
One twentieth part of the people, for aught I know, may amount to a hundred thousand; there is no party any thing near this account, I dare say.
A twentieth part of the people can never govern the other nineteen but by a perpetual army.
They do not like that the worse.
The people having been govern’d by a king without an army, and being govern’d by a commonwealth with an army, will detest the government of a commonwealth, and desire that of a king.
Yes, such is the spirit of the nation.
Such is the spirit in this case of any nation.
And yet they make it a particular quarrel.
They make every thing particular: if you speak of Israel, Athens, Rome, Venice, or the like, they hear you with volubility of countenance; and will not have it that God ever minded the matter of government, till he brought them in play. Nay, tho they have com heels over head for this very thing, I know not how often, yet they are resolv’d to take no warning.
Publicola, you will be shent.
I am to perform my duty. To flatter is not my duty.
But between you and me, Do you not think that the spirit of the nation, or the main body of the people of this land, desires the restitution of their antient government?
I make little doubt of it.
How then in case of a commonwealth are they to be trusted?
In case of a commonwealth, it is not the people that are trusted, but the orders of the commonwealth.
The commonwealth must consist of the people.
The people under the monarchy, when that invaded them, invaded it.
True, and in such a manner as has caus’d the ruin of it.
What was the spirit of the people then?
But it is now another thing.
Nay, the very same: for then it invaded a government that invaded their liberty, and now it would invade a government that invades their liberty.
But how should this be mended?
Do you not see that this should not be mended, but incourag’d?
How should it be incourag’d then?
By giving them a form that must preserve their liberty.
I little doubt but there is in your form a full security to the people of their liberty: but do you think that there is in it any full security that the people shall not cast off this form?
If it secures their liberty, why should they?
My question is not, why they should, but whether they can.
They cannot, without going against their own interest.
But they can go against their own interest.
Nay, remember your self, whether the form shewn be not such, as you have already granted can in no wise go beside the interest of the whole people.
They that are now in power, have no trust at all in forms.
Do they sail in ships, not upon planks? Do they ride horses, not hogs? Do they travel in coaches, not upon hurdles? Do they live in houses, not in ditches? Do they eat bread, not stones?
But in so doing, they acknowledge such a form to be security for such a use or action. And must the form of a commonwealth be the only form in which they can allow no security for the proper use and action?
They observe none of this.
Do they observe that there is any security in men?
That, especially in our times, were somwhat a hard matter.
And how many securitys are there?
I know no more, than one personal, or in men; another real, or in things.
Chuse you whether you would have.
Well, be the necessary action or use of your form what it will, I would see it more plainly and particularly demonstrated how the spirit of the nation, or the whole people, being freely eligible into your assemblys, must presently lose that inclination which now plainly they have to set up monarchy, or to persecute for conscience.
You will allow no weight in the argument, that a people in liberty, unless the orders of their commonwealth were first fundamentally ruin’d, that is, broken in the balance or foundation, did never do either of these.
What weight soever I allow to this argument, it is no ways to my present purpose.
You will put me then beside experience, and to shew by what reason it is that a peartree must bear pears, or why men gather not grapes on thorns, or figs on thistles.
Poor Publicola, be the task as hard as it will, I am for this time resolv’d to hold you to it.
What is it then that any government can be sufficiently founded or balanc’d upon, but such an interest as is sufficiently able to bear it?
Good Sir, a government ought to be founded upon justice, I take it.
Right: and is not that government which is founded upon an interest not sufficiently able to bear it, founded upon injustice?
I suspect whither this will go. A government founded upon the overbalance of property, is legitimatly founded, and so upon justice; but a government founded upon the underbalance of property, must of necessity be founded upon force, or a standing army. Is not this that which you mean by interest sufficient or not sufficient to sustain a government?
You have it right.
O Atheist! this damns the government of the saints.
Look you now, how irreligious a thing it may be made, to speak but with common honesty. Do you think that such as are plainly oligarchists, or shall exercise by a force, and without election by the people, such a power as is both naturally and declaredly in the people, and in them only, can establish their throne upon justice?
Do you think that such as are truly saints can establish their throne upon injustice?
Why then you have granted, that such as are plainly oligarchists cannot be truly saints. Again, do you still think, as you once intimated, that a government now introduc’d in England, exactly according to the principles of prudence and justice, would rule the earth?
Do you think, that such is are truly saints, if they introduce a government, ought to introduce it exactly according to the principles of prudence and justice.
Why then, let such as are truly saints but see what it is to rule the earth, and take the rule of the earth.
They will not approve of this way.
How! not the saints approve of prudence and justice! who is the Atheist now, Valerius?
Good Publicola, let us keep to the point in hand. You say, that the security of liberty lys not in the people, but in the form of their government; so I am yet to expect when you will shew, what there is in your form, why it must be impossible for the people under it to restore monarchy, or to persecute for conscience.
See you not, that to do either of these under such a form, must be point-blank against their interest?
But so either of these is now, and yet in this posture you will confess that they would do both.
Mark how I am us’d. I speak of a form supported by an interest sufficiently able to bear it, and of an interest contain’d under a form sufficiently able to secure it, and you instance in a posture which is no form at all, but such a confusion among, and force upon the people, as creates an interest in them to rid themselves which way they can of such a misery.
I did acknowlege and must confess, that your popular assembly is such as cannot err, except thro ignorance; but thro this, you your self have acknowleg’d, and must confess, that it may err.
I retract nothing.
Now first, or never, they will restore monarchy thro ignorance.
But they cannot do this first, therfore they can never do it.
Why cannot the popular assembly do this first?
Because it must first be propos’d by a senat, that can neither do any such thing thro ignorance nor thro knowlege.
Nay, then have at you; I will set this same senat and representative of yours to work in such a manner, that you shall confess they may set up monarchy.
Do your worst.
Your senat being assembl’d (I will not have them make long speeches;
Rises me up one of the senators, and says, ‘Mr. Speaker, this nation has bin long in labor, but now thro the mercy of God, the child is not only com to the birth, but there is also strength to bring forth: in the number of counsillors there is strength; the number of this house is good (far better than has usually bin of late) and their election has bin very free and fair. Here is also, I know not how (but the inventions of men are overrul’d by the providence of God) an extraordinary and exceding great confluence of honest men, who are not so well here; and if you determin any thing that is good for your country, will go home and pray for you. Now, Sir, (to be brief) since our government consisted of king, lords, and commons, the antient, the only, the most happy government that this nation, nay, that the world ever knew, it is but too well known, that we have had no government at all: wherfore my opinion is, that we propose, as they call it, to these honest men (who you need not doubt will receive it with glad hearts) the restitution of right, and of the government in this nation by king, lords, and commons.’
As sure as you live, Publicola, thus much being said, your whole senat will immediately agree to propose it to the representative: and thus much being proposed to the representative, those people will throw up their caps for joy, and immediatly return to their houses.
But Valerius, thus much has bin said in parlament when the house was fuller; when they who were for this restitution were back’d by a single person in actual possession of the throne; when over and above the zeal of the Preshyterians, there were partys that knew no other means of self-preservation, as without, divines belaboring the oak of every pulpit; and within, lawyers, officers, and pensioners: yet was it so far from being carry’d, that the single person has bin forc’d to dissolve parlaments, and that thro apparent danger of being overrun by the principles of a commonwealth not in being. But if this were so when a commonwealth could scarce be hoped, what will it be when the commonwealth shall be in such a condition as cannot be withstood? for the senat can never com to propose any thing to the people without first agreing upon debating what it is they will propose; nor is it possible that such debate should be brought to any end, but by reasons therto conducing: now it must not only be impossible to find reasons for the restitution of monarchy, but the reasons why monarchy ought not to be restor’d must be obvious; not only in regard that it is quite contrary to the interest of the nation, and of these assemblys, but to the interest ten to one of every particular man in either of these assemblys: nor are or have the reasons bin less obvious, or less ventilated in parlament, why monarchy as to this nation is impossible in it self.
Will you say the like for liberty of conscience?
Yes; because without liberty of conscience, civil liberty cannot be perfect; and without civil liberty, liberty of conscience cannot be perfect.
These things are true, but they never will see them, never, Publicola: you your self say, that the people cannot see, but they can feel.
I meant that of the diffusive body of the people, not of the people under good orders; in which case they are the sharpest sighted of any kind of government whatsoever: and therfore it is not modest that you, or I, or any particular man or party, blinded with self-conceit, should pretend to see with such a constitution; or shew me that ey under the sun, that sees like that of Venice. But putting the case it were otherwise as to seeing, these things are plainly palpable or obvious to feeling.
I have indeed observ’d, that in commonwealths there are very few that see or understand them, and yet their affection to that way of government is exceeding vigorous.
Whence can this otherwise be than from feeling? but one thing, Valerius, I take at your hands extreme heavily.
What is that, Publicola?
That you with one little speech of a single senator, should run so regardlesly over these two assemblys, without taking any notice at all of the necessary course of them.
What course, Publicola?
Why you might easily have thought that among three hundred senators there might have bin at least one hundred as good speakers as yours.
Have I said any thing to the contrary?
And do you or I what we can, ten to one of them will be longer winded than you have allow’d.
For that matter let them please themselves.
Ay, but then you should not have made an end of your debate in a minute.
What is all this?
Why I say, they would have bin debating on that point at least a fortnight.
Well, and when that had been don, would never have agreed.
Did not you say that before?
Well, but I am now upon that point; that was to the matter in debate, this is to the manner of proceding: imagin the matter had bin such upon which they could have agreed.
That such an agreement had bin a decree of the senat.
Is a decree of the senat binding?
If it be upon a law made, it is binding; if upon a law to be made, it is to be propos’d to the people. Now every proposition to the people is to be promulgated, that is, printed and publish’d to the whole nation six weeks before the time that the representative is to assemble and give the vote of the commonwealth, or that test without which no such proposition can be any law.
By this means it must follow, that the whole people both by discourse and letters, debate six weeks together upon the matter.
You are right.
How is it then that you say, the representative of the people must not debate? you allow to these less privilege than to the whole people.
No less, nor in this point any more.
Yet dos this amount to debate in those that are of the representative.
You say well, but not to any debate at all in the representative.
Why this representative is nothing else but an instrument or method, wherby to receive the result of the whole nation with order and expedition, and without any manner of tumult or confusion.
And is that any thing the worse?
No; but I am glad you have told it me: for that those of the representative would one way or other have debate, I knew certainly.
In sum, are you satisfy’d, that the spirit of the nation, or the people, however they may now under no form at all, and in detestation of such as having govern’d them by force, will let them see no way out of confusion, desire their old government, as having never yet known any other; yet under such a form as is propos’d, can never go about to introduce monarchy, without obvious discovery, that as to their interest it is quite contrary, and as to it self impossible?
The satisfaction is pretty good.
Pretty good! give me but half so good, that the spirit of the army, not formerly obedient to parlaments, and now dreading or despising them, must apprehend the restitution of monarchy to be quite contrary to their interest.
You surprize me: for if the army will have no parlament, and a king restor’d can now in England without an army have no government, they may imagin this their only way to greatness and continuance.
Had not the oligarchy then, if they meant well, better to have us’d sober expressions, and minded what those true and real interests are which in the foundation and preservation of every kind of government are paramount, than to have overcast them with the mist of new affected phrases, and fallen on conjuring up spirits?
You have conjur’d up a spirit that will keep me waking.
Set him on pulling down the law and the ministry; when that is don, let him blow up Windsor castle, Hampton court, and throw Whitehall into the Thames.
It is the only way, for then there can be no king.
You may be sure of that, seeing the count of Holland’s domain, and his houses are yet not only standing, but diligently preserved by the Hollanders.
Publicola, have you any more to tell me?
Valerius, have you any more to ask me?
Not, except why you have not given the parlament to understand thus much?
I have printed it over and over.
They take no great notice of books; you should have laid it, as they say, in their dish by som direct address, as a petition, or so.
I did petition the committee for government.
What answer did they make you?
None at all.
I would have gone further, and have presented it to the house.
Towards this also I went as far as I could.
How far was that?
Why, I think my petition may have bin worn out in the pockets of som two or three members.
Have you a copy of it about you?
Let me see—here are many papers; this same is it.
THAT what neither is, nor ever was in nature, can never be in nature.
THAT without a king and lords, no government either is, or ever was in nature (but in mere force) other than by a senat indu’d with authority to debate and propose; and by a numerous assembly of the people wholly and only invested with the right of result in all matters of lawgiving, of making peace and war, and of levying men and mony.
WHERFORE your petitioner (to disburden his conscience in a matter of such concern to his country) most humbly and earnestly prays and beseeches this parlament to take into speedy and serious consideration the irrefragable truth of the premises, and what therupon must assuredly follow, that is, either the institution of a commonwealth in the whole people of England (without exception, or with exception for a time, of so few as may be) by way of a senat, and a numerous assembly of the people, to the ends, and for the respective functions aforesaid; or the inevitable ruin of this nation, which God of his mercy avert.
And your petitioner shall pray, &e.
I would it had bin deliver’d.
Look you, if this had bin presented to the house, I intended to have added this other paper, and to have printed them together.
I SAY not that the form contain’d in the petition (if we had it, and no more) would be perfect; but that without thus much (which rightly introduc’d, introduces the rest) there neither is, was, nor can be any such thing as a commonwealth, or government without a king and lords, in nature.
WHERE there is a coordinat senat, there must be a king, or it falls instantly by the people; as the king failing, the house of peers fell by the commons.
WHERE there is a senat not elective by the people, there is a perpetual feud between the senat and the people, as in Rome.
TO introduce either of these causes, is certainly and inevitably to introduce one of these effects; and if so, then who are cavaliers, I leave you to judg hereafter.
BUT to add farther reason to experience. All civil power among us (not only by declaration of parlament, but by the nature of property) is in and from the people.
WHERE the power is in the people, there the senat can legitimatly be no more to the popular assembly, than my counsil at law is to me, that is (auxilium, non imperium) a necessary aid, not a competitor or rival in power.
WHERE the aids of the people becom their rivals or competitors in power, there their shepherds becom wolves, their peace discord, and their government ruin. But to impose a select or coordinat senat upon the people, is to give them rivals and competitors in power.
SOM perhaps (such is the temper of the times) will say, That so much human confidence as is express’d, especially in the petition, is atheistical. But how were it atheistical, if I should as confidently foretel, that a boy must expire in nonage, or becom a man? I prophesy no otherwise; and this kind of prophesy is also of God, by those rules of his providence, which in the known government of the world are infallible.Ecclef. 9. 14. In the right observation and application of these consists all human wisdom; and we read that a poor man deliver’d a city by his wisdom, yet was this poor man forgotten. But if the premises of this petition fail, or one part of the conclusion coms not to pass accordingly, let me hit the other mark of this ambitious address, and remain a fool upon record in parlament to all posterity.
Thou boy! and yet I hope well of thy reputation.
Would it were but as good now, as it will be when I can make no use of it.
The major of the petition is in som other of your writings; and I remember som objections which have been made against it: as, that à non esse nec fuisse, non datur argumentum ad non posse.
Say that in English.
What if I cannot? are not you bound to answer a thing, tho it cannot be said in English?
Well, I will say it in English then. Tho there neither be any house of gold, nor ever were any house of gold, yet there may be a house of gold.
Right: but then, à non esse nec fuisse in natura, datur argumentum ad non posse in natura
I hope you can say this in English too.
That I can, now you have taught me. If there were no such thing as gold in nature, there never could be any house of gold.
Softly. The frame of a government is as much in art, and as little in nature, as the frame of a house.
Both softly and surely. The materials of a government are as much in nature, and as little in art, as the materials of a house. Now as far as art is necessarily dispos’d by the nature of its foundation or materials, so far it is in art as in nature.
What call you the foundation, or the materials of government?
That which I have long since prov’d, and you granted, the balance, the distribution of property, and the power thence naturally deriving; which as it is in one, in a few, or in all, dos necessarily dispose of the form or frame of the government accordingly.
Be the foundation or materials of a house what they will, the frame or superstructures may be diversly wrought up or shapen; and so may those of a commonwealth.
True: but let a house be never so diversly wrought up or shapen. it must consist of a roof and walls.
And so must a commonwealth of a senat and of a popular assembly, which is the sum of the minor in the petition.
The mathematicians say, they will not be quarrelsom; but in their sphere there are things altogether new in the world, as the present posture of the heavens is, and as was the star in Cassiopœia
Valerius, if the major of the petition extends as far as is warranted by Solomon, I mean, that there is nothing new under the sun, what new things there may be, or have bin above the sun will make little to the present purpose.
It is true; but if you have no more to say, they will take this but for shifting.
Where there is sea, as between Sicily and Naples, there was antiently land; and where there is land, as in Holland, there was antiently sea.
Why then the present posture of the earth is other than it has bin, yet is the earth no new thing, but consists of land and sea as it did always; so whatever the present posture of the heavens be, they consist of star and firmament, as they did always.
What will you say then to the star in Cassiopœia?
Why I say, if it consisted of the same matter with other stars, it was no new thing in nature, but a new thing in Cassiopœia; as were there a commonwealth in England, it would be no new thing in nature, but a new thing in England.
The star you will say in Cassiopœia, to have bin a new thing in nature, must have bin no star, because a star is not a new thing in nature.
You run upon the matter, but the newness in the star was in the manner of the generation.
At Putzuoli near Naples, I have seen a mountain that rose up from under water in one night, and pour’d a good part of the lake antiently call’d Lucrin into the sea.
What will you infer from hence?
Why that the new and extraordinary generation of a star, or of a mountain, no more causes a star, or a mountain to be a new thing in nature, than the new and extraordinary generation of a commonwealth causes a commonwealth to be a new thing in nature. Aristotle reports, that the nobilit of Tarantum being cut off in a battle, that commonwealth became popular. And if the pouder plot in England had destroy’d the king and the nobility, it is possible that popular government might have risen up in England, as the mountain did at Putzuoli. Yet for all these, would there not have bin any new thing in nature.
Som new thing (thro the blending of unseen causes) there may seem to be in shuffling; but nature will have her course, there is no other than the old game.
Valerius, let it rain or be fair weather, the sun to the dissolution of nature shall ever rise; but it is now set, and I apprehend the mist
Dear Publicola, your health is my own; I bid you good-night.
Good-night to you, Valerius.
One word more, Publicola: pray make me a present of those same papers, and with your leave and licence, I will make use of my memory to commit the rest of this discourse to writing, and print it.
They are at your disposing.
I will do it as has bin don, but with your name to it.
Whether way you like best, most noble Valerius.
Octob. 22. 1659.