|James Harrington (1611–1677)|
Note: This is part of the Leveller Collection of Tracts and Pamphlets.
T.313 [1660.02.08] James Harrington, The Ways and Means whereby an equal and lasting Commonwealth may be suddenly introduced, and perfectly founded, with the free Consent and actual Confirmation of the whole People of England (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).
(8 Feb., 1660.
TT. E.1015 (8 Feb., 1660).
(Placeholder: Text will be added later.)
Scire tuum nihil est, nisi te scire hoc sciat alter.
A WORD fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.
The desire of the people of England now runs strongly to have a free parlament.
Let there be a free parlament.
To the end that the people may be most equally represented, or that the parlament may be freest.
Let there be a new division of England and Wales, with as much equality as may stand with convenience, into fifty shires.
Let every shire elect annually two knights to be of one house, and seven deputys to be of another house of parlament, for the term of three years. For the first year only, let the deputys in each division be elected triple, that is, seven for the term of one year, seven for the term of two years, and seven for the term of three years. The like for the knights, save only that the present parlament remain; that is, let two knights in each division be elected the first year only for the term of one year, two other knights at the same time for the term of two years; and let the present parlament be the triennial part of the knights house for the first election.
The house of knights and the house of deputys being assembl’d, let the house of knights debate and propose.
Let what is propos’d by the house of knights, be promulgated for the space of six weeks.
Promulgation being thus made, let the house of deputys meet, and give their result upon the proposition.
Let what was thus propos’d by the senat or house of knights, and resolv’d by the people or house of deputys, be the law.
In this constitution these councils must of necessity contain the wisdom, and the interest of the nation.
In this method, debate must of necessity be mature.
If it be according to the wisdom and the interest of the nation upon mature debate that there be a king, let there be a king.
If it be according to the wisdom and the interest of the nation upon mature debate, that there be a commonwealth; two assemblys in this order are actually a commonwealth, and so far a well order’d commonwealth, that they are capacitated and inclin’d to reach to themselves whatever furniture shall be further necessary in more particular orders, which also is at hand.
Till this or the like be don, the line of the late king and the people must be fellow sufferers; in which case the impatience of the people must be for the restitution of that line at all adventures.
But this or the like being once don, immediatly the line of the late king and the people becom rivals, in which case they will never restore monarchy.
Will never, may som say? but if the senat and the popular assembly be both royalists, they both will and can restore monarchy.
Tho both royalists, they neither will nor can: for let them, that look no further than home or self, say what they will, to affirm that a senat, and a popular assembly thus constituted can procreat monarchy, is to affirm that a horse and a mare can generat a cat: that wheat being rightly sown may com up pease; or that a river in its natural channel may run upwards.
In the present case of England, commonwealthsmen may fail thro want of art, but royalists must fail thro want of matter; the former may miss thro impotence, the latter must thro impossibility. Or where the state is purely popular, that is, not overbalanc’d by a lord or lords; let there be one example, or one reason given that there is, was, or ever can be monarchy. There will be this when all fails, for the aftergame, tho the work should fall, as is like enough, into the hands of royalists.
Certain it is, that where any privat citizen or freeman might not (som way or other) propose, there never was a well order’d commonwealth.
Upon this incouragement I offer’d this paper to good hands, but it was (according to custom) thrown after me.
So it went in the protector’s time, in every revolution since, La fortuna accieca gli animi de gli huomini; but that is Atheism, that’s Machiavel.
Well, but now says the protectorian family, O that we had set up the equal commonwealth! so say broken parlaments and statesmen; so say the sadly mistaken sectarys; so say the cashier’d officers; so says he that would have no nay, but oligarchy was a good word; and so will more say after these, except they learn to say after another, aut reges non exigendi fuerunt, aut plebi re, non verbo, danda libertas; either the kings ought not to have bin driven out, or the people to have their liberty not in word, but in deed: but that is Heathenism, that’s Cicero; well this is Christian, if there will be no such saying, I would there might be no swearing.
Feb. 6. 1659.