James Harrington, A Parallel of the Spirit of the People with the Spirit of Mr. Rogers ... whether the Spirit of the People, or the Spirit of Men like Mr. Rogers, be the fitter to be trusted with the Government (1659)

James Harrington (1611–1677)  


Note: This is part of the Leveller Collection of Tracts and Pamphlets.



Bibliographical Information

ID Number

T.321 [1659.10.18] James Harrington, A Parallel of the Spirit of the People with the Spirit of Mr. Rogers; And An Appeal thereupon unto the Reader,. whether the Spirit of the People, or the Spirit of Men like Mr. Rogers, be the fitter to be trusted with the Government (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).

Estimated date of publication

18 Oct., 1659.

Thomason Tracts Catalog information

TT. E.770 (18 Oct., 1659)

Editor’s Introduction

(Placeholder: Text will be added later.)

Text of Pamphlet

An Appeal thereupon unto the Reader, whether the Spirit of the People, or the Spirit of Men like Mr. Rogers, be the fitter to be trusted with the Government.

MR. ROGERS’s first character of himself is, that he is one through grace kept under many sufferings a faithful servant to Jesus Christ, his cause, and the commonwealth.

The character that by men of his judgment is but too often given of the people, is, that they are profane wretches, haters of the godly, or of a persecuting spirit. Whereas if the jayls be looked into under any commonwealth that is popular, the most of the prisoners will be found to be in for matter of crime, few for debt, and none at all for conscience; the contrary whereof is known in other governments. And this is matter of fact, whereof every man, that doth not like Mr. Rogers give his spirit wholly unto passion, and never think himself bound either to give or take any one reason or example, is a competent judge.

But men skill’d in common conversation know, that if the people be offended by a man upon whom they live, they are very patient; but if they be offended by a man upon whom they do not live, they are very apt to fly out; and their common expression upon this occasion is, What care I for him? I can live without him. From the common and vulgar expression of this reason or truth, the whole spirit of the people, even as to matter of government, may be defined; which in the definition (because there are but too many who in like comparisons boast their spirit for righteousness, godliness and justice above that of the people) I shall make bold to parallel with that of Mr. Rogers.

The spirit of the people, where they live by a king, will obey a king very faithfully. Mr. Rogers is not for a king upon any terms whatsoever.

The people, where they subsist by lords, are always faithful unto their lords; and where they are under the power of a few by whom they subsist not, never desist from shaking that yoke.

The spirit of Mr. Rogers is not for the government of lords, or such as might pretend any such reason of their government; but for the government of a few, that cannot pretend any such reason of their government; which therefore can have no justice nor bottom.

A people that can live of themselves, neither care for king nor lords, except through the mere want of inventing a more proper way of government; which till they have found, they can never be quiet; wherefore to help a people at this streight, is both the greatest charity to our neighbour, and the greatest service that a man can do unto his country.

The spirit of Mr. Rogers is not only to have a people that can live of themselves, to be governed by none other but such as himself; but throwing away all modesty, is a professed enemy to any man that at such a streight shall fairly offer a charity to the people, or a service unto his country.

Whether he be wronged thus far, I leave unto the reader in what follows; where what the sense is, we must guess; but the words are certainly Mr. Rogers’s. He takes me up, after having handled Mr. Baxter like himself in this manner:

BUT in the winding up our discourse, I am surprised or way-laid with Mr. Harrington’s correspondence with Mr. Baxter against an oligarchy, (I wish he had been as much against anarchy or Atheism) if he means by it the parliament, or such a parliament, or the body of adherents to the cause, as one of them I believe he must, and some say all; (wherein Mr. Baxter and he agree.)Mark his art in slanderiag: he dareth not to call me Atheist, because by my writings all men may know that I am none. But when he tells us his meaning without mumping and scoffing, (which we must understand before we reply) he may hear further.

I ever understood and explained oligarchy, without mumping or scoffing, to be the reign of the few, or of a party, excluding the main body of the people; yet faith he, From their old mumpsibus, and his new sumpsibus, good Lord deliver me. He should be fined 5 l. By the new sumpsibus, he intimates that he means the government by a senate and by the people: and the reason why he deprecates this by his litany is, that most undoubtedly it must bring in a single person. This consequence he pursueth with much Greek, in which you shall see how well he understandeth that language, or indeed any ancient commonwealth or author. His first Greek quotation, as you may find at length in his 72 page, importeth that in Lacedemon no man stood up by the way of honour, but to a king, or to an ephore. This, without mumping or scoffing, he englisheth thus, None stood or were raised up (meaning in the commonwealth of Lacedemon) but a king and the ephore; whence he infers, That a single person had an executive power there. Then out of Heraclides he sets down a text which shews, that the thesmothetæ in Athens were sworn not to take bribes; or if they did, were to pay a statue of gold to Apollo; and this he englisheth thus: The thesmothets were not to take bribes, nor to set up the golden image, which he understands of a king: and finding a king priest in that commonwealth, (as in ours there is a king-herald) he concludes that they did set up a king; and so, that the senate and the people is a government inclining to set up a single person. Nor is there much of his quotations out of ancient authors, that is less mistaken, and it may be out of Scripture. You shall have but one piece more of him, which is concerning rotation: of this saith he,

Well bowl’d Mr. Rogers.Whether this way be not, of any, the most liable to an ostracism, let any judge, by discouraging, laying aside, or driving out of the land, the most publickly spirited worthies that are in it; men of the greatest ability, gallantry, and sidelity, by which means a many brave governments have been utterly destroyed: as the Athenians, Argives, Thebans, Rhodians, and others. It is said in Athens, ipsgrUCππίας epsgr[Editor: illegible character]υράννει, kappavαigrgr τogrgrν περigrgr ohpsgrUCstigmaπαkappavισμ[Editor: illegible character] νόμον εipsgrσηγήσα[Editor: illegible character]ο, δὲ apsoxgrUCλλοι τε ohpsgrstigmarhosymbolαkappavίσthetavησαν kappavαigrgr Ξάνθιππ[Editor: illegible character] kappavαigrgr apsgrUCριstigmaείδηstigma· That Hippias plaid the tyrant, and he brought forth the law of ostracism; but others were cast into exile by it, such as Xantippus, Aristides, &c. Nor can we but foresee, how fast the wheel of their rotation would boult or fling out the best and ablest in the commonwealth, for bran, leaving the worst behind in, of all others.Steal a little more, and say his cake is dough. And yet of this must his cake be made, which, after it is baked, he would have divided by silly girls! a pretty sport for the mummers indeed, or those nimblewitted house-wives (that with vice can outvie the virtues of the best) to learn so lightly the whole mystery of a commonwealth, and most abstruse intrigues or cabals of state (page 13. Oceana) that when these Joans are weary with their bobbins, they may bob our ears bravely, with a garrulous rule; and when they lag in their bonelace, they may lace our bones, (for loggerheads,) to let them lay down the distaff, and take up the scepter; leave the spindle, and divide the spoil; yea, then sit like magpies at their doors, dumb saints in their idol’s churches! goats in their gardens! devils in their houses! angels in the streets! and syrens at their windows! as they say of the Italians; for when they can live no longer by their work, they shall live by their wits, in Mr. Har.’s commonwealth, that sifts out the best, and keeps in the worst to make his cake with. But in Lacedemon, Λυkappav[Editor: illegible character]ργος odagr Σupsgrνόμoula pisymbolαipergrς διkappavαίoulaς βoulaλη[Editor: illegible character]εigrgrς apsgrποφeepergrναι Δαkappavεδαιμονίoulaς, udagrπὲρ τ[Editor: illegible character]τoula γὲ [Editor: illegible character] kappavαλoulaς τoulaς μισthetavoulaς eepsgrrhosymbolύσα[Editor: illegible character]ο. Lycurgus the son of Eunomus, willing to endow the Laceaemonians with their dues in righteousness and justice, took not away any worthy or good reward from any one. And the Thebans, to encourage dignity, and keep up the honour of magistracy from contempt, made a law, Ut nemo habilis esset, ad honores reipublicæ, suscipiendos, nisi decem annis à Mercaturâ destitisset, &c. That no man should be accounted qualified for the honours of the commonwealth, i. e. in magistracy, unless he had first left his merchandizing ten years: such a care had they to keep out the Joans and Toms, which Mr. H. admits, by turns and times, as the rotation boults them into the government, and their betters out. And what was said of Clisthenes an Athenian, Κλεισthetavένης δὲ τogrgr δεipergrν epsgrξοstigmarhosymbolαkappavίζεthetavαι εipsgrσηγησάμεν[Editor: illegible character], apsgrυτος epsacgrτοχε τeepergrς kappavαταδίkappavης πρωτ[Editor: illegible character], might possibly be applied to Mr. H. were their rogation effected; that he was one of the first that introduced this government by ostracism, and one of the first that felt it, and would have retroduced it; the first that brought it in, and the first that wrought it out.Mark the ingenuity of these men: that I have written the commonwealth of Israel, they will take no notice: nor that from thence especially rotation is derived. Therefore let him secure his own bull, before he baits another’s, and take his play! [Editor: illegible character]kappavapsacgrν β[Editor: illegible character]ς apsgrπολοιτο, εipsgr μeegrgr γείτων kappavαkappavogrgrς εipsacgrη.

Lastly, I would willingly be informed how his new platforms or principles Paganish or Popish, fetch’d from Athens, or from Venice, can, without cruciating extremities and applications, be adequated to our commonwealth under Christian profession? so that Quæ semel possidebant Papistæ, semper possideant Rapistæ; what the Papists once had, Rapists and ravenous ones would ever have, viz. our rights and liberties from us; nor could it be acquired, I think, without greater advantages to Papists and Atheists than to us, seeing the very interest of the son of God, and saints in the nation, the best and noblest cause on earth, in all the integrating parts thereto, is not taken notice of in his platform; neither in the balance nor the wheel; in the ballot nor rotation (or rogation) of it; so that Differs curandi tempus in annum? Quicquid delirant reges, plectuntur achivi.No! find them another way for liberty of conscience. I may conclude with Mr. B. p. 240. That God having already given us the best fundamental laws; let us have but good magistrates, and we shall have good derivative laws, or human. It was a law among the Cretians, that τ[Editor: illegible character]ς pisymbolαipspergrδας μανθάνειν τoulaς Νόμoulaς epsgrkappavέλευον μετagrgr τίν[Editor: illegible character] μελωδίας ipsacgrνα epsgrkappav της μoulaσιkappavης ψυχαγωγohpegrν ται kappavαigrgr epsgrυkappavολώτερον οupsgrτ[Editor: illegible character]ς τeepergr μνήμ[Editor: illegible character] παραλαμβάνωσι, &c. That their children should learn their laws with melody; that from the MUSICK they might take great pleasure in them, and more easily commit them to memory. We need no such law, to endear or dulcify our cause or the laws of it in the commonwealth. If the foundation of it be that, which the hand of the Almighty hath laid amongst us both for church and state, from Christian principles, rather than from Paganish or meer morals, it will make most excellent harmony in the ears and hearts of all men and Christians; And the governours of Judah shall say in their hearts, the inhabitants of Jerusalem shall be my strength, in the Lord of hosts their God, Zach. xii. 5. Thus our governors thought of them in the days of straits, and will again see it, one of their best interests, to have their prayers and their God, as well as their purses and blood, engaged for them; and not disoblige them upon jealousies suggested by the enemy, who for their virgin fidelity, and untainted adherence to the cause, may be called πα[Editor: illegible character]θενίoulaς, as the Lacedemonians did their wives after their innocency did break out, and get above the clouds of suspicion and reproach. But if, after all, they will be planting and founding us again in the spirit of the nation, as if God had owned no cause, or made no signal discrimination; or shaken no such foundations of the earth, &c. which their lord general pretended as one ground of their interruption, which Mr. H. and others would hurry them into, to the endangering of the cause, and the disobliging the adherents; then will the Jehovah, that keepeth covenant with his people, and not alter the thing that is gone out of his lips, Psal. lxxxix. 34. Acts ii. 30. and iii. 20, 21. raise up others in their stead, to carry on this his cause, both in the civils and the spirituals; and to form another people for himself to shew forth his praise, Isa xliii. 21. Then they that rule over men, shall be just, ruling in the fear of God; and they shall be as the light of the morning when the sun ariseth; a morning without clouds, and as the tender grass that springeth out of the earth, by a clear shining after rain, 2 Sam. xxiii. 3, 4. which that these may be, agrees better with my prayer, than with his proposals I am sure. But thus I leave him whom Mr. B. has quoted as a stumbling-block before me; whom I am not only gotten over, but I presume have given a good lift to the removing of him out of others way, as to the right foundation of the commonwealth, and stating the cause.

You might have more; but because it is no better, here is enough. I could never yet find among men like Mr. Rogers, that my spirit is likely to pass with them for any more than a moral spirit; and there is nothing more usual among divines that make mention of me, than to call me mad-man or Atheist. On the other side, Mr. Rogers, and most of them that thus use me, hold themselves to be men of sanctified spirits. Yet without boasting, and upon provocation, I submit it unto the reader, whether Mr. Rogers or my self be of the better spirit: nor do I blame him so much for emptying himself lustily of that which burthened him; passion in a man is far more pardonable than malice. He accuseth me in his title page, of venom and vilification towards the honourable members now in parliament; which, for any thing he hath said, or can say to prove it, is not only to bear false witness against his neighbour, but in seeking the destruction of his neighbour by false witness, to blast a cause which he is no otherways able to invade. Let this be considered; for if it prove to be the truth of his meaning, it must be from an evil spirit. However, the reader may now easily judge, whether the spirit of the people, excluding no man, or the spirit of Mr. Rogers, and such like, which is that which he would have, excluding the people, be the fitter to be trusted with the government.

Reader, I intreat your pardon; I know well enough that this is below me; but something is to be yielded to the times: and it hath been the employment of two or three hours in a rainy day.