Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

The Commonwealth of Oceana by James Harrington

Part 1 out of 6

Adobe PDF icon
Download The Commonwealth of Oceana pdf
File size: 0.7 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.


by James Harrington


JAMES HARRINGTON, eldest son of Sir Sapcotes Harrington of
Exton, in Rutlandshire, was born in the reign of James I, in
January, 1661, five years before the death of Shakespeare. He was
two or three years younger than John Milton. His great-grandfather
was Sir James Harrington, who married Lucy, daughter of Sir
William Sidney, lived with her to their golden wedding-day, and
had eighteen children, through whom he counted himself, before
his death, patriarch in a family that in his own time produced eight
dukes, three marquises, seventy earls, twenty-seven viscounts, and
thirty-six barons, sixteen of them all being Knights of the Garter.
James Harrington's ideal of a commonwealth was the design,
therefore, of a man in many ways connected with the chief nobility
of England.

Sir Sapcotes Harrington married twice, and had by each of his
wives two sons and two daughters. James Harrington was eldest
son by the first marriage, which was to Jane, daughter of Sir
William Samuel of Upton, in Northamptonshire. James
Harrington's brother became a merchant; of his half-brothers, one
went to sea, the other became a captain in the army.

As a child, James Harrington was studious, and so sedate that it
was said playfully of him he rather kept his parents and teachers in
awe than needed correction; but in after-life his quick wit made
him full of playfulness in conversation. In 1629 he entered Trinity
College, Oxford, as a gentleman commoner. There he had for tutor
William Chillingworth, a Fellow of the college, who after
conversion to the Church of Rome had reasoned his way back into
Protestant opinions. Chillingworth became a famous champion of
Protestantism in the question between the Churches, although
many Protestants attacked him as unsound because he would not
accept the Athanasian Creed and had some other reservations.

Harrington prepared himself for foreign travel by study of modern
languages, but before he went abroad, and while he was still under
age, his father died and he succeeded to his patrimony. The
socage tenure of his estate gave him free choice of his own
guardian, and he chose his mother's mother, Lady Samuel.

He then began the season of travel which usually followed studies
at the university, a part of his training to which he had looked
forward with especial interest. He went first to Holland, which
had been in Queen Elizabeth's time the battle-ground of civil and
religious liberty. Before he left England he used to say he knew of
monarchy, anarchy, aristocracy, democracy, oligarchy, only as
hard words to be looked for in a dictionary. But his interest in
problems of government began to be awakened while he was
among the Dutch. He served in the regiment of Lord Craven, and
afterward in that of Sir Robert Stone; was much at The Hague;
became familiar with the Court of the Prince of Orange, and with
King James's daughter, the Queen of Bohemia, who, with her
husband the Prince Elector, was then a fugitive to Holland. Lord
Harrington, who had once acted as governor to the princess, and
won her affection, was James Harrington's uncle, and she now
cordially welcomed the young student of life for his uncle's sake,
and for his own pleasantness of outward wit and inward gravity of
thought. Harrington was taken with him by the exiled and
plundered Prince Elector, when he paid a visit to the Court of
Denmark, and he was intrusted afterward with the chief care of the
prince's affairs in England.

From Holland, James Harrington passed through Flanders into
France, and thence to Italy. When he came hack to England, some
courtiers who were with him in Rome told Charles I that
Harrington had been too squeamish at the Pope's consecration of
wax lights, in refusing to obtain a light, as others did, by kissing
his Holiness's toe. The King told Harrington that he might have
complied with a custom which only signified respect to a temporal
prince. But his Majesty was satisfied with the reply, that having
had the honor to kiss his Majesty's hand, he thought it beneath him
to kiss any other prince's foot.

Of all places in Italy, Venice pleased Harrington best. He was
deeply interested ill the Venetian form of government, and his
observations bore fruit in many suggestions for the administration
of the Commonwealth of Oceana.

After his return to England, being of age, James Harrington cared
actively for the interests of his younger brothers and sisters. It was
he who made his brother William a merchant. William Harrington
throve, and for his ingenuity in matters of construction he was
afterward made one of the Fellows of the newly formed Royal
Society. He took pains over the training of his sisters, making 110
difference between sisters and half-sisters, and treating his
step-mother as a mother. He filled his home with loving-kindness,
and was most liberal in giving help to friends. When he was told
that he often threw away his bounty on ungrateful persons, he
playfully told his advisers they were mercenary and that he saw
they sold their gifts, since they expected so great a return as

James Harrington's bent was for the study of life, and he made no
active suit for court employment. But he went to court, where
Charles I liked him, and admitted him as one of his privy chamber
extraordinary, in which character he went with the King in his first
expedition against the Scots.

Because Charles I knew him and liked him, and because he had
shown himself no partisan of either side in the civil war, though he
was known to be inclined, in the way of abstract opinion, toward a
form of government that was not monarchy, the commissioners
appointed in 1646 to bring Charles from Newcastle named
Harrington as one of the King's attendants. The King was pleased,
and Harrington was appointed a groom of the bedchamber at
Holmby. He followed faithfully the fortunes of the fallen King,
never saying even to the King himself a word in contradiction of
his own principles of liberty, and finding nothing in his principles
or in his temper that should prevent him from paying honor to his
sovereign, and seeking to secure for him a happy issue out of his
afflictions. Antony a Wood says that " His Majesty loved
Harrington's company, and, finding him to be an ingenious man,
chose rather to converse with him than with others of his chamber:
they had often discourses concerning government; but when they
happened to talk of a commonwealth the King seemed not to
endure it."

Harrington used all the influence he had with those in whose
power the King was, to prevent the urging of avoid-able questions
that would stand in the way of such a treaty as they professed to
seek during the King's imprisonment at Carisbrooke. Harrington's
friendly interventions on the King's behalf before the Parliament
commissioners at New-port caused him, indeed, to be suspected;
and when the King was removed from Carisbrooke to Hurst Castle,
Harrington was not allowed to remain in his service. But
afterward, when King Charles was being taken to Windsor,
Harrington got leave to bid him farewell at the door of his
carriage. As he was about to kneel, the King took him by the hand
and pulled him in. For a few days lie was left with the King, but an
oath was required of him that he would not assist in, or conceal
knowledge of any attempt to procure, the King's escape. He would
not take the oath; and was this time not only dismissed from the
King's service but himself imprisoned, until Ireton obtained his
release. Before the King's death, Harrington found his way to him
again, and he was among those who were with Charles I upon the

After the King's execution, Harrington was for some time secluded
in his study. Monarchy was gone; some form of commonwealth
was to be established; and he set to work upon the writing of
"Oceana," calmly to show what form of government, since men
were free to choose, to him seemed best.

He based his work on an opinion he had formed that the troubles
of the time were not due wholly to the intemperance of faction, the
misgovernment of a king, or the stubbornness of a people, but to
change in the balance of property; and he laid the foundations of
his commonwealth in the opinion that empire follows the balance
of property. Then he showed the commonwealth of Oceana in
action, with safeguards against future shiftings of that balance, and
with a popular government in which all offices were filled by men
chosen by ballot, who should hold office for a limited term. Thus
there was to be a constant flow of new blood through the political
system, and the representative was to be kept true as a reflection of
the public mind.

The Commonwealth of Oceana was England. Harrington called
Scotland Marpesia; and Ireland, Panopea. London he called
Emporium; the Thames, Halcionia; Westminster, Hiera;
Westminster Hall, Pantheon. The Palace of St. James was Alma;
Hampton Court, Convallium; Windsor, Mount Celia. By Hemisna,
Harrington meant the river Trent. Past sovereigns of England he
renamed for Oceana: William the Conqueror became Turbo; King
John, Adoxus; Richard II, Dicotome; Henry VII, Panurgus; Henry
VIII, Coraunus; Elizabeth, Parthenia; James I, Morpheus. He
referred to Hobbes as Leviathan; and to Francis Bacon, as
Verulamius. Oliver Cromwell he renamed Olphaus Megaletor.

Harrington's book was seized while printing, and carried to
Whitehall. Harrington went to Cromwell's daughter, Lady
Claypole, played with her three-year-old child while waiting for
her, and said to her, when she came and found him with her little
girl upon his lap, " Madam, you have come in the nick of time, for
I was just about to steal this pretty lady." "Why should you?"
"Why shouldn't I, unless you cause your father to restore a child of
mine that lie has stolen?" It was only, he said, a kind of political
romance; so far from any treason against her father that he hoped
she would let him know it was to be dedicated to him. So the
book was restored; and it was published in the time of Cromwell's
Commonwealth, in the year 1656.

This treatise, which had its origin in the most direct pressure of the
problem of government upon the minds of men continues the
course of thought on which Machiavelli's " Prince " had formed
one famous station, and Hobbes's Leviathan," another.

Oceana," when published, was widely read and actively attacked.
One opponent of its doctrines was Dr. Henry Ferne, afterward
Bishop of Chester. Another was Matthew Wren, eldest son to the
Bishop of Ely. He was one of those who met for scientific research
at the house of Dr. Wilkins, and had, said Harrington, " an
excellent faculty of magnifying a louse and diminishing a

In 1659, Harrington published an abridgment of his Oceana as
"The Art of Lawgiving," in three books. Other pieces followed, in
which he defended or developed his opinions. He again urged
them when Cromwell's Commonwealth was in its death-throes.
Then he fell back upon argument at nightly meetings of a Rota
Club which met in the New Palace Yard, Westminster. Milton's
old pupil, Cyriac Skinner, was one of its members; and its
elections were by ballot, with rotation in the tenure of all offices.
The club was put an end to at the Restoration, when Harrington
retired to his study and amused himself by putting his " System of
Politics" into the form of " Aphorisms."

On December 28, 1661, James Harrington, then fifty years old,
was arrested and carried to the Tower as a traitor. His Aphorisms
were on his desk, and as they also were to be carried off, he asked
only that they might first be stitched together in their proper order.
Why he was arrested, he was not told. One of his sisters pleaded in
vain to the King. He was falsely accused of complicity in an
imaginary plot, of which nothing could be made by its
investigators. No heed was paid to the frank denials of a man of
the sincerest nature, who never had concealed his thoughts or
actions. "Why," he was asked, at his first examination by Lord
Lauderdale, who was one of his kinsmen, "why did he, as a private
man, meddle with politics? What had a private man to do with
government?" His answer was: "My lord, there is not any public
person, nor any magistrate, that has written on politics, worth a
button. All they that have been excellent in this way have been
private men, as private men, my lord, as myself. There is Plato,
there is Aristotle, there is Livy, there is Machiavel. My lord, I can
sum up Aristotle's ' Politics in a very few words: he says, there is
the Barbarous Monarchy-such a one where the people have 110
votes in making the laws; he says, there is the Heroic
Monarchy-such a one where the people have their votes in making
the laws; and then, he says, there is Democracy, and affirms that a
man cannot be said to have liberty but in a democracy only." Lord
Lauderdale here showing impatience, Harrington added: "I say
Aristotle says so. I have not said so much. And under what prince
was it? Was it not under Alexander, the greatest prince then in the
world? I beseech you, my lord, did Alexander hang up Aristotle?
did he molest him? Livy, for a commonwealth, is one of the
fullest authors; did not he write under Augustus Caesar? Did
Caesar hang up Livy? did he molest him? Machiavel, what a
commonwealthsman was he! but he wrote under the Medici when
they were princes in Florence: did they hang up Machiavel, or did
they molest him? I have done no otherwise than as the greatest
politicians: the King will do no otherwise than as the greatest

That was too much to hope, even in a dream, of the low-minded
Charles II. Harrington could not obtain even the show of justice in
a public trial. He was kept five months an untried prisoner in the
Tower, only sheltered from daily brutalities by bribe to the
lieutenant. When his habeas corpus had been moved for, it was at
first flatly refused;. and when it had been granted, Harrington was
smuggled away from the Tower between one and two o'clock in
the morning, and carried on board a ship that took him to closer
imprisonment on St. Nicholas Island, opposite Plymouth. There
his health suffered seriously, and his family obtained his removal
to imprisonment in Plymouth by giving a bond of 5,000 as
sureties against his escape. In Plymouth, Harrington suffered from
scurvy, and at last he became insane.

When he had been made a complete wreck in body and in -mind,
his gracious Majesty restored Harrington to his family. He never
recovered health, but still occupied himself much with his pen,
writing, among other things, a serious argument to prove that they
were themselves mad who thought him so.

In those last days of his shattered life James Harrington married an
old friend of the family, a witty lady, daughter of Sir Marmaduke
Dorrell, of Buckinghamshire. Gout was added to his troubles ;
then lie was palsied ; and he died at Westminster, at the age of
sixty-six, on September 11, 1677. He was buried in St. Margaret's
Church, by the grave of Sir Walter Raleigh, on the south side of
the altar.

H. M.


Part I


Showing the Principles of Government

JANOTTI, the most excellent describer of the Commonwealth of
Venice, divides the whole series of government into two times or
periods: the one ending with the liberty of Rome, which was the
course or empire, as I may call it, of ancient prudence, first
discovered to mankind by God himself in the fabric of the
commonwealth of Israel, and afterward picked out of his footsteps
in nature, and unanimously followed by the Greeks and Romans; the
other beginning with the arms of Caesar, which, extinguishing
liberty, were the transition of ancient into modern prudence,
introduced by those inundations of Huns, Goths, Vandals,
Lombards, Saxons, which, breaking the Roman Empire, deformed the
whole face of the world with those ill-features of government,
which at this time are become far worse in these western parts,
except Venice, which, escaping the hands of the barbarians by
virtue of its impregnable situation, has had its eye fixed upon
ancient prudence, and is attained to a perfection even beyond the

Relation being had to these two times, government (to define
it de jure, or according to ancient prudence) is an art whereby a
civil society of men is instituted and preserved upon the
foundation of common right or interest; or, to follow Aristotle
and Livy, it is the empire of laws, and not of men.

And government (to define it de facto, or according to modern
prudence) is an art whereby some man, or some few men, subject a
city or a nation, and rule it according to his or their private
interest; which, because the laws in such cases are made
according to the interest of a man, or of some few families, may
be said to be the empire of men, and not of laws.

The former kind is that which Machiavel (whose books are
neglected) is the only politician that has gone about to
retrieve; and that Leviathan (who would have his book imposed
upon the universities) goes about to destroy. For "it is," says
he, "another error of Aristotle's politics that in a well-ordered
commonwealth, not men should govern, but the laws. What man that
has his natural senses, though he can neither write nor read,
does not find himself governed by them he fears, and believes can
kill or hurt him when he obeys not? or, who believes that the law
can hurt him, which is but words and paper, without the hands and
swords of men?" I confess that the magistrate upon his bench is
that to the law which a gunner upon his platform is to his
cannon. Nevertheless, I should not dare to argue with a man of
any ingenuity after this manner. A whole army, though they can
neither write nor read, are not afraid of a platform, which they
know is but earth or stone; nor of a cannon, which, without a
hand to give fire to it, is but cold iron; therefore a whole army
is afraid of one man. But of this kind is the ratiocination of
Leviathan, as I shall show in divers places that come in my way,
throughout his whole politics, or worse; as where he says, "of
Aristotle and of Cicero, of the Greeks, and of the Romans, who
lived under popular States, that they derived those rights, not
from the principles of nature, but transcribed them into their
books out of the practice of their own commonwealths, as
grammarians describe the rules of language out of poets." Which
is as if a man should tell famous Harvey that he transcribed his
circulation of the blood, not out of the principles of nature,
but out of the anatomy of this or that body.

To go on therefore with his preliminary discourse, I shall
divide it, according to the two definitions of government
relating to Janotti's two times, in two parts: the first,
treating of the principles of government in general, and
according to the ancients; the second, treating of the late
governments of Oceana in particular, and in that of modern

Government, according to the ancients, and their learned
disciple Machiavel, the only politician of later ages, is of
three kinds: the government of one man, or of the better sort, or
of the whole people; which, by their more learned names, are
called monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy. These they hold,
through their proneness to degenerate, to be all evil. For
whereas they that govern should govern according to reason, if
they govern according to passion they do that which they should
not do. Wherefore, as reason and passion are two things, so
government by reason is one thing, and the corruption of
government by passion is another thing, but not always another
government: as a body that is alive is one thing, and a body that
is dead is another thing, but not always another creature, though
the corruption of one comes at length to be the generation of
another. The corruption then of monarchy is called tyranny; that
of aristocracy, oligarchy and that of democracy, anarchy. But
legislators, having found these three governments at the best to
be naught, have invented another, consisting of a mixture of them
all, which only is good. This is the doctrine of the ancients.

But Leviathan is positive that they are all deceived, and
that there is no other government in nature than one of the
three; as also that the flesh of them cannot stink, the names of
their corruptions being but the names of men's fancies, which
will be understood when we are shown which of them was Senatus
Populusque Romanus.

To go my own way, and yet to follow the ancients, the
principles of government are twofold: internal, or the goods of
the mind; and external, or the goods of fortune. The goods of the
mind are natural or acquired virtues, as wisdom, prudence, and
courage, etc. The goods of fortune are riches. There be goods
also of the body, as health, beauty, strength; but these are not
to be brought into account upon this score, because if a man or
an army acquires victory or empire, it is more from their
discipline, arms, and courage than from their natural health,
beauty, or strength, in regard that a people conquered may have
more of natural strength, beauty, and health, and yet find little
remedy. The principles of government then are in the goods of the
mind, or in the goods of fortune. To the goods of the mind
answers authority; to the goods of fortune, power or empire.
Wherefore Leviathan, though he be right where he says that
"riches are power," is mistaken where he says that "prudence, or
the reputation of prudence, is power;" for the learning or
prudence of a man is no more power than the learning or prudence
of a book or author, which is properly authority. A learned
writer may have authority though he has no power; and a foolish
magistrate may have power, though he has otherwise no esteem or
authority. The difference of these two is observed by Livy in
Evander, of whom he says that he governed rather by the authority
of others than by his own power.

To begin with riches, in regard that men are hung upon these,
not of choice as upon the other, but of necessity and by the
teeth; forasmuch as he who wants bread is his servant that will
feed him, if a man thus feeds a whole people, they are under his

Empire is of two kinds, domestic and national, or foreign and

Domestic empire is founded upon dominion. Dominion is
property, real or personal; that is to say, in lands, or in money
and goods.

Lands, or the parts and parcels of a territory, are held by
the proprietor or proprietors, lord or lords of it, in some
proportion; and such (except it be in a city that has little or
no land, and whose revenue is in trade) as is the proportion or
balance of dominion or property in land, such is the nature of
the empire.

If one man be sole landlord of a territory, or overbalance
the people, for example, three parts in four, he is grand
seignior; for so the Turk is called from his property, and his
empire is absolute monarchy.

If the few or a nobility, or a nobility with the clergy, be
landlords, or overbalance the people to the like proportion, it
makes the Gothic balance (to be shown at large in the second part
of this discourse), and the empire is mixed monarchy, as that of
Spain, Poland, and late of Oceana.

And if the whole people be landlords, or hold the lands so
divided among them that no one man, or number of men, within the
compass of the few or aristocracy, overbalance them, the empire
(without the interposition of force) is a commonwealth.

If force be interposed in any of these three cases, it must
either frame the government to the foundation, or the foundation
to the government; or holding the government not according to the
balance, it is not natural, but violent; and therefore if it be
at the devotion of a prince, it is tyranny; if at the devotion of
the few, oligarchy; or if in the power of the people, anarchy:
Each of which confusions, the balance standing otherwise, is but
of short continuance, because against the nature of the balance,
which, not destroyed, destroys that which opposes it.

But there be certain other confusions, which, being rooted in
the balance, are of longer continuance, and of worse consequence;
as, first, where a nobility holds half the property, or about
that proportion, and the people the other half; in which case,
without altering the balance there is no remedy but the one must
eat out the other, as the people did the nobility in Athens, and
the nobility the people in Rome. Secondly, when a prince holds
about half the dominion, and the people the other half (which was
the case of the Roman emperors, planted partly upon their
military colonies and partly upon the Senate and the people), the
government becomes a very shambles, both of the princes and the
people. Somewhat of this nature are certain governments at this
day, which are said to subsist by confusion. In this case, to fix
the balance is to entail misery; but in the three former, not to
fix it is to lose the government. Wherefore it being unlawful in
Turkey that any should possess land but the Grand Seignior, the
balance is fixed by the law, and that empire firm. Nor, though
the kings often sell was the throne of Oceana known to shake,
until the statute of alienations broke the pillars, by giving way
to the nobility to sell their estates. While Lacedaemon held to
the division of land made by Lycurgus, it was immovable; but,
breaking that, could stand no longer. This kind of law fixing the
balance in lands is called agrarian, and was first introduced by
God himself, who divided the land of Canaan to his people by
lots, and is of such virtue that wherever it has held, that
government has not altered, except by consent; as in that
unparalleled example of the people of Israel, when being in
liberty they would needs choose a king. But without an agrarian
law, government, whether monarchical, aristocratical, or popular,
has no long lease.

As for dominion, personal or in money, it may now and then
stir up a Melius or a Manlius, which, if the Commonwealth be not
provided with some kind of dictatorian power, may be dangerous,
though it has been seldom or never successful; because to
property producing empire, it is required that it should have
some certain root or foothold, which, except in land, it cannot
have, being otherwise as it were upon the wing.

Nevertheless, in such cities as subsist mostly by trade, and
have little or no land, as Holland and Genoa, the balance of
treasure may be equal to that of land in the cases mentioned.

But Leviathan, though he seems to skew at antiquity,
following his furious master Carneades, has caught hold of the
public sword, to which he reduces all manner and matter of
government; as, where he affirms this opinion (that any monarch
receives his power by covenant; that is to say, upon conditions)"
to proceed from the not understanding this easy truth, that
covenants being but words and breath, have no power to oblige,
contain, constrain, or protect any man, but what they have from
the public sword." But as he said of the law, that without this
sword it is but paper, so he might have thought of this sword,
that without a hand it is but cold iron. The hand which holds
this sword is the militia of a nation; and the militia of a
nation is either an army in the field, or ready for the field
upon occasion. But an army is a beast that has a great belly, and
must be fed: wherefore this will come to what pastures you have,
and what pastures you have will come to the balance of property,
without which the public sword is but a name or mere spitfrog.
Wherefore, to set that which Leviathan says of arms and of
contracts a little straighter, he that can graze this beast with
the great belly, as the Turk does his Timariots, may well deride
him that imagines he received his power by covenant, or is
obliged to any such toy. It being in this case only that
covenants are but words and breath. But if the property of the
nobility, stocked with their tenants and retainers, be the
pasture of that beast, the ox knows his master's crib; and it is
impossible for a king in such a constitution to reign otherwise
than by covenant; or if he break it, it is words that come to

"But," says he, "when an assembly of men is made sovereign,
then no man imagines any such covenant to have part in the
institution." But what was that by Publicola of appeal to the
people, or that whereby the people had their tribunes? "Fie,"
says he, "nobody is so dull as to say that the people of Rome
made a covenant with the Romans, to hold the sovereignty on such
or such conditions, which, not performed, the Romans might depose
the Roman people." In which there be several remarkable things;
for he holds the Commonwealth of Rome to have consisted of one
assembly, whereas it consisted of the Senate and the people; that
they were not upon covenant, whereas every law enacted by them
was a covenant between them; that the one assembly was made
sovereign, whereas the people, who only were sovereign, were such
from the beginning, as appears by the ancient style of their
covenants or laws -- "The Senate has resolved, the people have
decreed," that a council being made sovereign, cannot be made
such upon conditions, whereas the Decemvirs being a council that
was made sovereign, was made such upon conditions; that all
conditions or covenants making a sovereign being made, are void;
whence it must follow that, the Decemviri being made, were ever
after the lawful government of Rome, and that it was unlawful for
the Commonwealth of Rome to depose the Decemvirs; as also that
Cicero, if he wrote otherwise out of his commonwealth, did not
write out of nature. But to come to others that see more of this

You have Aristotle full of it in divers places, especially
where he says, that "immoderate wealth, as where one man or the
few have greater possessions than the equality or the frame of
the commonwealth will bear, is an occasion of sedition, which
ends for the greater part in monarchy and that for this cause the
ostracism has been received in divers places, as in Argos and
Athens. But that it were better to prevent the growth in the
beginning, than, when it has got head, to seek the remedy of such
an evil."

Machiavel has missed it very narrowly and more dangerously
for not fully perceiving that if a commonwealth be galled by the
gentry it is by their overbalance, he speaks of the gentry as
hostile to popular governments, and of popular governments as
hostile to the gentry; and makes us believe that the people in
such are so enraged against them, that where they meet a
gentleman they kill him: which can never be proved by any one
example, unless in civil war, seeing that even in Switzerland the
gentry are not only safe, but in honor. But the balance, as I
have laid it down, though unseen by Machiavel, is that which
interprets him, and that which he confirms by his judgment in
many others as well as in this place, where he concludes, "That
he who will go about to make a commonwealth where there be many
gentlemen, unless he first destroys them, undertakes an
impossibility. And that he who goes about to introduce monarchy
where the condition of the people is equal, shall never bring it
to pass, unless he cull out such of them as are the most
turbulent and ambitious, and make them gentlemen or noblemen, not
in name but in effect; that is, by enriching them with lands,
castles, and treasures, that may gain them power among the rest,
and bring in the rest to dependence upon themselves, to the end
that, they maintaining their ambition by the prince, the prince
may maintain his power by them."

Wherefore, as in this place I agree with Machiavel, that a
nobility or gentry, overbalancing a popular government, is the
utter bane and destruction of it; so I shall show in another,
that a nobility or gentry, in a popular government, not
overbalancing it, is the very life and soul of it.

By what has been said, it should seem that we may lay aside
further disputes of the public sword, or of the right of the
militia; which, be the government what it will, or let it change
how it can, is inseparable from the overbalance in dominion: nor,
if otherwise stated by the law or custom (as in the Commonwealth
of Rome, where the people having the sword, the nobility came to
have the overbalance), avails it to any other end than
destruction. For as a building swaying from the foundation must
fall, so it fares with the law swaying from reason, and the
militia from the balance of dominion. And thus much for the
balance of national or domestic empire, which is in dominion.

The balance of foreign or provincial empire is of a contrary
nature. A man may as well say that it is unlawful for him who has
made a fair and honest purchase to have tenants, as for a
government that has made a just progress and enlargement of
itself to have provinces. But how a province may be justly
acquired appertains to another place. In this I am to show no
more than how or upon what kind of balance it is to be held; in
order whereto I shall first show upon what kind of balance it is
not to be held. It has been said, that national or independent
empire, of what kind soever, is to be exercised by them that have
the proper balance of dominion in the nation; wherefore
provincial or dependent empire is not to be exercised by them
that have the balance of dominion in the province, because that
would bring the government from provincial and dependent, to
national and independent. Absolute monarchy, as that of the
Turks, neither plants its people at home nor abroad, otherwise
than as tenants for life or at will; wherefore its national and
provincial government is all one. But in governments that admit
the citizen or subject to dominion in lands, the richest are they
that share most of the power at home; whereas the richest among
the provincials, though native subjects, or citizens that have
been transplanted, are least admitted to the government abroad;
for men, like flowers or roots being transplanted, take after the
soil wherein they grow. Wherefore the Commonwealth of Rome, by
planting colonies of its citizens within the bounds of Italy,
took the best way of propagating itself, and naturalizing the
country; whereas if it had planted such colonies without the
bounds of Italy it would have alienated the citizens, and given a
root to liberty abroad, that might have sprung up foreign or
savage, and hostile to her: wherefore it never made any such
dispersion of itself and its strength, till it was under the yoke
of the Emperors, who, disburdening themselves of the people, as
having less apprehension of what they could do abroad than at
home, took a contrary course.

The Mamelukes (which, till any man show me the contrary, I
shall presume to have been a commonwealth consisting of an army,
whereof the common soldier was the people, the commissioned
officer the Senate, and the general the prince) were foreigners,
and by nation Circassians, that governed Egypt; wherefore these
never durst plant themselves upon dominion, which growing
naturally up into the national interest, must have dissolved the
foreign yoke in that province.

The like in some sort may be said of Venice, the government
whereof is usually mistaken; for Venice, though it does not take
in the people, never excluded them. This commonwealth, the orders
whereof are the most democratical or popular of all others, in
regard of the exquisite rotation of the Senate, at the first
institution took in the whole people; they that now live under
the government without participation of it, are such as have
since either voluntarily chosen so to do, or were subdued by
arms. Wherefore the subject of Venice is governed by provinces,
and the balance of dominion not standing, as has been said, with
provincial government; as the Mamelukes durst not cast their
government upon this balance in their provinces, lest the
national interest should have rooted out the foreign, so neither
dare the Venetians take in their subjects upon this balance, lest
the foreign interest should root out the national (which is that
of the 3,000 now governing), and by diffusing the commonwealth
throughout her territories, lose the advantage of her situation,
by which in great part it subsists. And such also is the
government of the Spaniard in the Indies, to which he deputes
natives of his own country, not admitting the creoles to the
government of those provinces, though descended from Spaniards.

But if a prince or a commonwealth may hold a territory that
is foreign in this, it may be asked why he may not hold one that
is native in the like manner? To which I answer, because he can
hold a foreign by a native territory, but not a native by a
foreign; and as hitherto I have shown what is not the provincial
balance, so by this answer it may appear what it is, namely, the
overbalance of a native territory to a foreign; for as one
country balances itself by the distribution of property according
to the proportion of the same, so one country overbalances
another by advantage of divers kinds. For example, the
Commonwealth of Rome overbalanced her provinces by the vigor of a
more excellent government opposed to a crazier. Or by a more
exquisite militia opposed to one inferior in courage or
discipline. The like was that of the Mamelukes, being a hardy
people, to the Egyptians, that were a soft one. And the balance
of situation is in this kind of wonderful effect; seeing the King
of Denmark, being none of the most potent princes, is able at the
Sound to take toll of the greatest; and as this King, by the
advantage of the land, can make the sea tributary, so Venice, by
the advantage of the sea, in whose arms she is impregnable, can
make the land to feed her gulf. For the colonies in the Indies,
they are yet babes that cannot live without sucking the breasts
of their mother cities, but such as I mistake if when they come
of age they do not wean themselves; which causes me to wonder at
princes that delight to be exhausted in that way. And so much for
the principles of power, whether national or provincial, domestic
or foreign; being such as are external, and founded in the goods
of fortune.

I come to the principles of authority, which are internal,
and founded upon the goods of the mind. These the legislator that
can unite in his government with those of fortune, comes nearest
to the work of God, whose government consists of heaven and
earth; which was said by Plato, though in different words, as,
when princes should be philosophers, or philosophers princes, the
world would be happy. And says Solomon: "There is an evil which I
have seen under the sun, which proceeds from the ruler (enimvero
neque nobilem, neque ingenuum, nec libertinum quidem armis
praeponere, regia utilitas est). Folly is set in great dignity,
and the rich (either in virtue and wisdom, in the goods of the
mind, or those of fortune upon that balance which gives them a
sense of the national interest) sit in low places. I have seen
servants upon horses, and princes walking as servants upon the
earth." Sad complaints, that the principles of power and of
authority, the goods of the mind and of fortune, do not meet and
twine in the wreath or crown of empire! Wherefore, if we have
anything of piety or of prudence, let us raise ourselves out of
the mire of private interest to the contemplation of virtue, and
put a hand to the removal of "this evil from under the sun;" this
evil against which no government that is not secured can be good;
this evil from which the government that is secure must be
perfect. Solomon tells us that the cause of it is from the ruler,
from those principles of power, which, balanced upon earthly
trash, exclude the heavenly treasures of virtue, and that
influence of it upon government which is authority. We have
wandered the earth to find out the balance of power; but to find
out that of authority we must ascend, as I said, nearer heaven,
or to the image of God, which is the soul of man.

The soul of man (whose life or motion is perpetual
contemplation or thought) is the mistress of two potent rivals,
the one reason, the other passion, that are in continual suit;
and, according as she gives up her will to these or either of
them, is the felicity or misery which man partakes in this mortal

For, as whatever was passion in the contemplation of a man,
being brought forth by his will into action, is vice and the
bondage of sin; so whatever was reason in the contemplation of a
man, being brought forth by his will into action, is virtue and
the freedom of soul.

Again, as those actions of a man that were sin acquire to
himself repentance or shame, and affect others with scorn or
pity, so those actions of a man that are virtue acquire to
himself honor, and upon others authority.

Now government is no other than the soul of a nation or city:
wherefore that which was reason in the debate of a commonwealth
being brought forth by the result, must be virtue; and forasmuch
as the soul of a city or nation is the sovereign power, her
virtue must be law. But the government whose law is virtue, and
whose virtue is law, is the same whose empire is authority, and
whose authority is empire.

Again, if the liberty of a man consists in the empire of his
reason, the absence whereof would betray him to the bondage of
his passions, then the liberty of a commonwealth consists in the
empire of her laws, the absence whereof would betray her to the
lust of tyrants. And these I conceive to be the principles upon
which Aristotle and Livy (injuriously accused by Leviathan for
not writing out of nature) have grounded their assertion, "that a
commonwealth is an empire of laws and not of men." But they must
not carry it so. "For," says he, "the liberty whereof there is so
frequent and honorable mention in the histories and philosophy of
the ancient Greeks and Romans, and the writings and discourses of
those that from them have received all their learning in the
politics, is not the liberty of particular men, but the liberty
of the commonwealth." He might as well have said that the estates
of particular men in a commonwealth are not the riches of
particular men, but the riches of the commonwealth; for equality
of estates causes equality of power, and equality of power is the
liberty, not only of the commonwealth, but of every man.

But sure a man would never be thus irreverent with the
greatest authors, and positive against all antiquity without some
certain demonstration of truth -- and what is it? Why, "there is
written on the turrets of the city of Lucca in great characters
at this day the word LIBERTAS; yet no man can thence infer that a
particular man has more liberty or immunity from the service of
the commonwealth there than in Constantinople. Whether a
commonwealth be monarchical or popular the freedom is the same."
The mountain has brought forth, and we have a little
equivocation! For to say that a Lucchese has no more liberty or
immunIty from the laws of Lucca than a Turk has from those of
Constantinople; and to say that a Lucchese has no more liberty or
immunity by the laws of Lucca, than a Turk has by those of
Constantinople, are pretty different speeches. The first may be
said of all governments alike; the second scarce of any two; much
less of these, seeing it is known that, whereas the greatest
Bashaw is a tenant, as well of his head as of his estate, at the
will of his lord, the meanest Lucchese that has land is a
freeholder of both, and not to be controlled but by the law, and
that framed by every private man to no other end (or they may
thank themselves) than to protect the liberty of every private
man, which by that means comes to be the liberty of the

But seeing they that make the laws in commonwealths are but
men, the main question seems to be, how a commonwealth comes to
be an empire of laws, and not of men? or how the debate or result
of a commonwealth is so sure to be according to reason; seeing
they who debate, and they who resolve, be but men? "And as often
as reason is against a man, so often will a man be against

This is thought to be a shrewd saying, but will do no harm;
for be it so that reason is nothing but interest, there be divers
interests, and so divers reasons.

As first, there is private reason, which is the interest of a
private man.

Secondly, there is reason of state, which is the interest (or
error, as was said by Solomon) of the ruler or rulers, that is to
say, of the prince, of the nobility, or of the people.

Thirdly there is that reason, which is the interest of
mankind, or of the whole. "Now if we see even in those natural
agents that want sense, that as in themselves they have a law
which directs them in the means whereby they tend to their own
perfection, so likewise that another law there is, which touches
them as they are sociable parts united into one body, a law which
binds them each to serve to others' good, and all to prefer the
good of the whole, before whatsoever their own particular; as
when stones, or heavy things, forsake their ordinary wont or
centre, and fly upward, as if they heard themselves commanded to
let go the good they privately wish, and to relieve the present
distress of nature in common." There is a common right, law of
nature, or interest of the whole, which is more excellent, and so
acknowledged to be by the agents themselves, than the right or
interest of the parts only. "Wherefore, though it may be truly
said that the creatures are naturally carried forth to their
proper utility or profit, that ought not to be taken in too
general a sense; seeing divers of them abstain from their own
profit, either in regard of those of the same kind, or at least
of their young."

Mankind then must either be less just than the creature, or
acknowledge also his common interest to be common right. And if
reason be nothing else but interest, and the interest of mankind
be the right interest, then the reason of mankind must be right
reason. Now compute well; for if the interest of popular
government come the nearest to the interest of mankind, then the
reason of popular government must come the nearest to right

But it may be said that the difficulty remains yet; for be
the interest of popular government right reason, a man does not
look upon reason as it is right or wrong in itself, but as it
makes for him or against him. Wherefore, unless you can show such
orders of a government as, like those of God in nature, shall be
able to constrain this or that creature to shake off that
inclination which is more peculiar to it, and take up that which
regards the common good or interest, all this is to no more end
than to persuade every man in a popular government not to carve
himself of that which he desires most, but to be mannerly at the
public table, and give the best from himself to decency and the
common interest. But that such orders may be established as may,
nay must, give the upper hand in all cases to common right or
interest, notwithstanding the nearness of that which sticks to
every man in private, and this in a way of equal certainty and
facility, is known even to girls, being no other than those that
are of common practice with them in divers cases. For example,
two of them have a cake yet undivided, which was given between
them: that each of them therefore might have that which is due,
"Divide," says one to the other, "and I will choose; or let me
divide, and you shall choose." If this be but once agreed upon,
it is enough; for the divident, dividing unequally, loses, in
regard that the other takes the better half. Wherefore she
divides equally, and so both have right. "Oh, the depth of the
wisdom of God." And yet "by the mouths of babes and sucklings has
He set forth His strength;" that which great philosophers are
disputing upon in vain is brought to light by two harmless girls,
even the whole mystery of a commonwealth, which lies only in
dividing and choosing. Nor has God (if his works in nature be
understood) left so much to mankind to dispute upon as who shall
divide and who choose, but distributed them forever into two
orders, whereof the one has the natural right of dividing, and
the other of choosing.

For example: A commonwealth is but a civil society of men:
let us take any number of men (as twenty) and immediately make a
commonwealth. Twenty men (if they be not all idiots, perhaps if
they be) can never come so together but there will be such a
difference in them that about a third will be wiser, or at least
less foolish than all the rest; these upon acquaintance, though
it be but small, will be discovered, and, as stags that have the
largest heads, lead the herd; for while the six, discoursing and
arguing one with another, show the eminence of their parts, the
fourteen discover things that they never thought on; or are
cleared in divers truths which had formerly perplexed them.
Wherefore, in matter of common concernment, difficulty, or
danger, they hang upon their lips, as children upon their
fathers; and the influence thus acquired by the six, the eminence
of whose parts are found to be a stay and comfort to the
fourteen, is the authority of the fathers. Wherefore this can be
no other than a natural aristocracy diffused by God throughout
the whole body of mankind to this end and purpose; and therefore
such as the people have not only a natural but a positive
obligation to make use of as their guides; as where the people of
Israel are commanded to "take wise men, and understanding, and
known among their tribes, to be made rulers over them." The six
then approved of, as in the present case, are the senate, not by
hereditary right, or in regard of the greatness of their estates
only, which would tend to such power as might force or draw the
people, but by election for their excellent parts, which tends to
the advancement of the influence of their virtue or authority
that leads the people. Wherefore the office of the senate is not
to be commanders, but counsellors, of the people; and that which
is proper to counsellors is first to debate, and afterward to
give advice in the business whereupon they have debated, whence
the decrees of the senate are never laws, nor so called; and
these being maturely framed, it is their duty to propose in the
case to the people. Wherefore the senate is no more than the
debate of the commonwealth. But to debate is to discern or put a
difference between things that, being alike, are not the same; or
it is separating and weighing this reason against that, and that
reason against this, which is dividing.

The senate then having divided, who shall choose? Ask the
girls: for if she that divided must have chosen also, it had been
little worse for the other in case she had not divided at all,
but kept the whole cake to herself, in regard that being to
choose, too, she divided accordingly. Wherefore if the senate
have any further power than to divide, the commonwealth can never
be equal. But in a commonwealth consisting of a single council,
there is no other to choose than that which divided; whence it
is, that such a council fails not to scramble -- that is, to be
factious, there being no other dividing of the cake in that case
but among themselves.

Nor is there any remedy but to have another council to
choose. The wisdom of the few may be the light of mankind; but
the interest of the few is not the profit of mankind nor of a
commonwealth. Wherefore, seeing we have granted interest to be
reason, they must not choose lest it put out their light. But as
the council dividing consists of the wisdom of the commonwealth,
so the assembly or council choosing should consist of the
interest of the commonwealth: as the wisdom of the commonwealth
is in the aristocracy, so the interest of the commonwealth is in
the whole body of the people. And whereas this, in case the
commonwealth consist of a whole nation, is too unwieldy a body to
be assembled, this council is to consist of such a representative
as may be equal, and so constituted, as can never contract any
other interest than that of the whole people; the manner whereof,
being such as is best shown by exemplification, I remit to the
model. But in the present case, the six dividing, and the
fourteen choosing, must of necessity take in the whole interest
of the twenty.

Dividing and choosing, in the language of a commonwealth, is
debating and resolving; and whatsoever, upon debate of the
senate, is proposed to the people, and resolved by them, is
enacted by the authority of the fathers, and by the power of the
people, which concurring, make a law.

But the law being made, says Leviathan, "is but words and
paper without the hands and swords of men;" wherefore as these
two orders of a commonwealth, namely, the senate and the people,
are legislative, so of necessity there must be a third to be
executive of the laws made, and this is the magistracy. In which
order, with the rest being wrought up by art, the commonwealth
consists of "the senate proposing, the people resolving, and the
magistracy executing," whereby partaking of the aristocracy as in
the senate, of the democracy as in the people, and of monarchy as
in the magistracy, it is complete. Now there being no other
commonwealth but this in art or nature, it is no wonder if
Machiavel has shown us that the ancients held this only to be
good; but it seems strange to me that they should hold that there
could be any other, for if there be such a thing as pure
monarchy, yet that there should be such a one as pure aristocracy
or pure democracy is not in my understanding. But the magistracy,
both in number and function, is different in different
commonwealths. Nevertheless there is one condition of it that
must be the same in every one, or it dissolves the commonwealth
where it is wanting. And this is no less than that, as the hand
of the magistrate is the executive power of the law, so the head
of the magistrate is answerable to the people, that his execution
be according to the law; by which Leviathan may see that the hand
or sword that executes the law is in it and not above it.

Now whether I have rightly transcribed these principles of a
commonwealth out of nature, I shall appeal to God and to the
world -- to God in the fabric of the Commonwealth of Israel, and
to the world in the universal series of ancient prudence. But in
regard the same commonwealths will be opened at large in the
Council of legislators, I shall touch them for the present but
slightly, beginning with that of Israel.

The Commonwealth of Israel consisted of the Senate, the
people, and the magistracy.

The people by their first division, which was genealogical,
were contained under their thirteen tribes, houses, or families;
whereof the first-born in each was prince of his tribe, and had
the leading of it: the tribe of Levi only, being set apart to
serve at the altar, had no other prince but the high-priest. In
their second division they were divided locally by their
agrarian, or the distribution of the land of Canaan to them by
lot, the tithe of all remaining to Levi; whence, according to
their local division, the tribes are reckoned but twelve.

The assemblies of the people thus divided were methodically
gathered by trumpets to the congregation: which was, it should
seem, of two sorts. For if it were called with one trumpet only,
the princes of the tribes and the elders only assembled; but if
it were called with two, the whole people gathered themselves to
the congregation, for so it is rendered by the English; but in
the Greek it is called Ecclesia, or the Church of God, and by the
Talmudist the great "Synagogue." The word Ecclesia was also
anciently and properly used for the civil congregations, or
assemblies of the people in Athens, Lacedaemon, and Ephesus,
where it is so called in Scripture, though it be otherwise
rendered by the translators, not much as I conceive to their
commendation, seeing by that means they have lost us a good
lesson, the apostles borrowing that name for their spiritual
congregations, to the end that we might see they intended the
government of the church to be democratical or popular, as is
also plain in the rest of their constitutions.

The church or congregation of the people of Israel assembled
in a military manner, and had the result of the commonwealth, or
the power of confirming all their laws, though proposed even by
God himself; as where they make him king, and where they reject
or depose him as civil magistrate, and elect Saul. It is manifest
that he gives no such example to a legislator in a popular
government as to deny or evade the power of the people, which
were a contradiction; but though he deservedly blames the
ingratitude of the people in that action, he commands Samuel,
being next under himself supreme magistrate, "to hearken to their
voice" (for where the suffrage of the people goes for nothing, it
is no commonwealth), and comforts him, saying, "They have not
rejected thee, but they have rejected me that I should not reign
over them." But to reject him that he should not reign over them,
was as civil magistrate to depose him. The power therefore which
the people had to depose even God himself as he was civil
magistrate, leaves little doubt but that they had power to have
rejected any of those laws confirmed by them throughout the
Scripture, which, to omit the several parcels, are generally
contained under two heads: those that were made by covenant with
the people in the land of Moab, and those which were made by
covenant with the people in Horeb; which two, I think, amount to
the whole body of the Israelitish laws.

But if all and every one of the laws of Israel being proposed
by God, were no otherwise enacted than by covenant with the
people, then that only which was resolved by the people of Israel
was their law; and so the result of that commonwealth was in the
people. Nor had the people the result only in matter of law, but
the power in some cases of judicature; as also the right of
levying war, cognizance in matter of religion, and the election
of their magistrates, as the judge or dictator, the king, the
prince: which functions were exercised by the Synagoga magna, or
Congregation of Israel, not always in one manner, for sometimes
they were performed by the suffrage of the people, viva voce,
sometimes by the lot only, and at others by the ballot, or by a
mixture of the lot with the suffrage, as in the case of Eldad and
Medad, which I shall open with the Senate.

The Senate of Israel, called in the old Testament the Seventy
Elders, and in the New the Sanhedrim (which word is usually
translated "the Council"), was appointed by God, and consisted of
seventy elders besides Moses, which were at first elected by the
people, but in what manner is rather intimated than shown.
Nevertheless, because I cannot otherwise understand the passage
concerning Eldad and Medad, of whom it is said "that they were of
them that were written, but went not up to the tabernacle," then
with the Talmudists I conceive that Eldad and Medad had the
suffrage of the tribes, and so were written as competitors for
magistracy; but coming afterward to the lot, failed of it, and
therefore went not up to the tabernacle, or place of confirmation
by God, or to the session-house of the Senate, with the Seventy
upon whom the lot fell to be senators; for the session-house of
the Sanhedrim was first in the court of the tabernacle, and
afterward in that of the Temple, where it came to be called the
stone chamber or pavement. If this were the ballot of Israel,
that of Venice is the same transposed; for in Venice the
competitor is chosen as it were by the lot, in regard that the
electors are so made, and the magistrate is chosen by the
"suffrage of the great Council or assembly of the people." But
the Sanhedrim of Israel being thus constituted, Moses, for his
time, and after him his successor sat in the midst of it as
prince or archon, and at his left hand the orator or father of
the Senate; the rest, or the bench, coming round with either horn
like a crescent, had a scribe attending upon the tip of it.

This Senate, in regard the legislator of Israel was
infallible, and the laws given by God such as were not fit to be
altered by men, is much different in the exercise of their power
from all other senates, except that of the Areopagus in Athens,
which also was little more than a supreme judicatory, for it will
hardly, as I conceive, be found that the Sanhedrim proposed to
the people till the return of the children of Israel out of
captivity under Esdras, at which time there was a new law made --
namely, for a kind of excommunication, or rather banishment,
which had never been before in Israel. Nevertheless it is not to
be thought that the Sanhedrim had not always that right, which
from the time of Esdras is more frequently exercised, of
proposing to the people, but that they forebore it in regard of
the fulness and infallibility of the law already made, whereby it
was needless. Wherefore the function of this Council, which is
very rare in a senate, was executive, and consisted in the
administration of the law made; and whereas the Council itself is
often understood in Scripture by the priest and the Levite, there
is no more in that save only that the priests and the Levites,
who otherwise had no power at all, being in the younger years of
this commonwealth, those that were best studied in the laws were
the most frequently elected into the Sanhedrim. For the courts,
consisting of three-and-twenty elders sitting in the gates of
every city, and the triumvirates of judges constituted almost in
every village, which were parts of the executive magistracy
subordinate to the Sanhedrim, I shall take them at better
leisure, and in the larger discourse; but these being that part
of this commonwealth which was instituted by Moses upon the
advice of Jethro the priest of Midian (as I conceive a heathen),
are to me a sufficient warrant even from God himself, who
confirmed them, to make further use of human prudence, wherever I
find it bearing a testimony to itself, whether in heathen
commonwealths or others; and the rather, because so it is, that
we who have the holy Scriptures, and in them the original of a
commonwealth, made by the same hand that made the world, are
either altogether blind or negligent of it; while the heathens
have all written theirs, as if they had had no other copy; as, to
be more brief in the present account of that which you shall have
more at large hereafter:

Athens consisted of the Senate of the Bean proposing, of the
Church or Assembly of the people resolving, and too often
debating, which was the ruin of it; as also of the Senate of the
Areopagus, the nine archons, with divers other magistrates,

Lacedaemon consisted of the Senate proposing, of the Church
or congregation of the people resolving only, and never debating,
which was the long life of it; and of the two kings, the court of
the ephors, with divers other magistrates, executing.

Carthage consisted of the Senate proposing and sometimes
resolving too, of the people resolving and sometimes debating
too, for which fault she was reprehended by Aristotle; and she
had her suffetes, and her hundred men, with other magistrates,

Rome consisted of the Senate proposing, the concio or people
resolving, and too often debating, which caused her storms; as
also of the consuls, censors, aediles, tribunes, praetors,
quaestors, and other magistrates, executing.

Venice consists of the Senate, or pregati, proposing, and
sometimes resolving too, of the great Council or Assembly of the
people, in whom the result is constitutively; as also of the
doge, the signory, the censors, the dieci, the quazancies, and
other magistrates, executing.

The proceeding of the Commonwealths of Switzerland and
Holland is of a like nature, though after a more obscure manner;
for the sovereignties, whether cantons, provinces, or cities,
which are the people, send their deputies, commissioned and
instructed by themselves (wherein they reserve the result in
their own power), to the provincial or general convention, or
Senate, where the deputies debate, but have no other power of
result than what was conferred upon them by the people, or is
further conferred by the same upon further occasion. And for the
executive part they have magistrates or judges in every canton,
province, or city, besides those which are more public, and
relate to the league, as for adjusting controversies between one
canton, province, or city and another, or the like between such
persons as are not of the same canton, province, or city.

But that we may observe a little further how the heathen
politicians have written, not only out of nature, but as it were
out of Scripture: as in the Commonwealth of Israel, God is said
to have been king, so the commonwealth where the law is king, is
said by Aristotle to be "the kingdom of God." And where by the
lusts or passions of men a power is set above that of the law
deriving from reason, which is the dictate of God, God in that
sense is rejected or deposed that he should not reign over them,
as he was in Israel. And yet Leviathan will have it that "by
reading of these Greek and Latin [he might as well in this sense
have said Hebrew] authors, young men, and all others that are
unprovided of the antidote of solid reason, receiving a strong
and delightful impression of the great exploits of war achieved
by the conductors of their armies, receive withal a pleasing idea
of all they have done besides, and imagine their great prosperity
not to have proceeded from the emulation of particular men, but
from the virtue of their popular form of government, not
considering the frequent seditions and civil wars produced by the
imperfection of their polity." Where, first, the blame he lays to
the heathen authors, is in his sense laid to the Scripture; and
whereas he holds them to be young men, or men of no antidote that
are of like opinions, it should seem that Machiavel, the sole
retriever of this ancient prudence, is to his solid reason a
beardless boy that has newly read Livy. And how solid his reason
is, may appear where he grants the great prosperity of ancient
commonwealths, which is to give up the controversy. For such an
effect must have some adequate cause, which to evade he
insinuates that it was nothing else but the emulation of
particular men, as if so great an emulation could have been
generated without as great virtue, so great virtue without the
best education, and best education without the best law, or the
best laws any otherwise than by the excellency of their polity.

But if some of these commonwealths, as being less perfect in
their polity than others, have been more seditious, it is not
more an argument of the infirmity of this or that commonwealth in
particular, than of the excellency of that kind of polity in
general, which if they, that have not altogether reached, have
nevertheless had greater prosperity, what would befall them that
should reach?

In answer to which question let me invite Leviathan, who of
all other governments gives the advantage to monarchy for
perfection, to a better disquisition of it by these three

The first, that the perfection of government lies upon such a
libration in the frame of it, that no man or men in or under it
can have the interest, or, having the interest, can have the
power to disturb it with sedition.

The second, that monarchy, reaching the perfection of the
kind, reaches not to the perfection of government, but must have
some dangerous flaw in it.

The third, that popular government, reaching the perfection
of the kind, reaches the perfection of government, and has no
flaw in it.

The first assertion requires no proof.

For the proof of the second, monarchy, as has been shown, is
of two kinds: the one by arms, the other by a nobility and there
is no other kind in art or nature; for if there have 'been
anciently some governments called kingdoms, as one of the Goths
in Spain, and another of the Vandals in Africa, where the King
ruled without a nobility and by a council of the people only it
is expressly said by the authors that mention them that the,
kings were but the captains, and that the people not only gave
them laws, but deposed them as often as they pleased. Nor is it
possible in reason that it should be otherwise in like cases;
wherefore these were either no monarchies, or had greater flaws
in them than any other.

But for a monarchy by arms, as that of the Turk (which, of
all models that ever were, comes up to the perfection of the
kind), it is not in the wit or power of man to cure it of this
dangerous flaw, that the Janizaries have frequent interest and
perpetual power to raise sedition, and to tear the magistrate,
even the prince himself, in pieces. Therefore the monarchy of
Turkey is no perfect government.

And for a monarchy by nobility, as of late in Oceana (which
of all other models, before the declination of it, came up to the
perfection in that kind), it was not in the power or wit of man
to cure it of that dangerous flaw; that the nobility had frequent
interest and perpetual power by their retainers and tenants to
raise sedition; and (whereas the Janizaries occasion this kind of
calamity no sooner than they make an end of it) to levy a lasting
war, to the vast effusion of blood, and that even upon occasions
wherein the people, but for their dependence upon their lords,
had no concernment, as in the feud of the Red and White. The like
has been frequent in Spain, France, Germany, and other monarchies
of this kind; wherefore monarchy by a nobility is no perfect

For the proof of the third assertion: Leviathan yields it to
me, that there is no other commonwealth but monarchical or
popular; wherefore if no monarchy be a perfect government, then
either there is no perfect government, or it must be popular, for
which kind of constitution I have something more to say than
Leviathan has said or ever will be able to say for monarchy. As,

First, that it is the government that was never conquered by
any monarch, from the beginning of the world to this day, for if
the commonwealths of Greece came under the yoke of the Kings of
Macedon, they were first broken by themselves.

Secondly, that it is the government that has frequently led
mighty monarchs in triumph.

Thirdly, that it is the government, which, if it has been
seditious, it has not been so from any imperfection in the kind,
but in the particular constitution; which, wherever the like has
happened, must have been unequal.

Fourthly, that it is the government, which, if it has been
anything near equal, was never seditious; or let him show me what
sedition has happened in Lacedaemon or Venice.

Fifthly, that it is the government, which, attaining to
perfect equality, has such a libration in the frame of it, that
no man living can show which way any man or men, in or under it,
can contract any such interest or power as should be able to
disturb the commonwealth with sedition, wherefore an equal
commonwealth is that only which is without flaw and contains in
it the full perfection of government. But to return.

By what has been shown in reason and experience, it may
appear, that though commonwealths in general be governments of
the senate proposing, the people resolving, and the magistracy
executing, yet some are not so good at these orders as others,
through some impediment or defect in the frame, balance, or
capacity of them, according to which they are of divers kinds.

The first division of them is into such as are single, as
Israel, Athens, Lacedaemon, etc.; and such as are by leagues, as
those of the Achaeans, AEtolians, Lycians, Switz, and Hollanders.

The second (being Machiavel's) is into such as are for
preservation, as Lacedaemon and Venice, and such as are for
increase, as Athens and Rome; in which I can see no more than
that the former takes in no more citizens than are necessary for
defence, and the latter so many as are capable of increase.

The third division (unseen hitherto) is into equal and
Unequal, and this is the main point, especially as to domestic
peace and tranquillity; for to make a commonwealth unequal, is to
divide it into parties, which sets them at perpetual variance,
the one party endeavoring to preserve their eminence and
inequality and the other to attain to equality; whence the people
of Rome derived their perpetual strife with the nobility and
Senate. But in an equal commonwealth there can be no more strife
than there can be overbalance in equal weights; wherefore the
Commonwealth of Venice, being that which of all others is the
most equal in the constitution, is that wherein there never
happened any strife between the Senate and the people.

An equal commonwealth is such a one as is equal both in the
balance or foundation, and in the superstructure; that is to say,
in her agrarian law and in her rotation.

An equal agrarian is a perpetual law, establishing and
preserving the balance of dominion by such a distribution, that
no one man or number of men, within the compass of the few or
aristocracy, can come to overpower the whole people by their
possessions in lands.

As the agrarian answers to the foundation, so does rotation
to the superstructures.

Equal rotation is equal vicissitude in government, or
succession to magistracy conferred for such convenient terms,
enjoying equal vacations, as take in the whole body by parts,
succeeding others, through the free election or suffrage of the

The contrary, whereunto is prolongation of magistracy, which,
trashing the wheel of rotation, destroys the life or natural
motion of a commonwealth.

The election or suffrage of the people is most free, where it
is made or given in such a manner that it can neither oblige nor
disoblige another, nor through fear of an enemy, or bashfulness
toward a friend, impair a man's liberty.

Wherefore, says Cicero, the tablet or ballot of the people of
Rome (who gave their votes by throwing tablets or little pieces
of wood secretly into urns marked for the negative or
affirmative) was a welcome constitution to the people, as that
which, not impairing the assurance of their brows, increased the
freedom of their judgment. I have not stood upon a more
particular description of this ballot, because that of Venice
exemplified in the model is of all others the most perfect.

An equal commonwealth (by that which has been said) is a
government established upon an equal agrarian, arising into the
superstructures or three orders, the Senate debating and
proposing, the people resolving, and the magistracy executing, by
an equal rotation through the suffrage of the people given by the
ballot. For though rotation may be without the ballot, and the
ballot without rotation, yet the ballot not only as to the
ensuing model includes both, but is by far the most equal way;
for which cause under the name of the ballot I shall hereafter
understand both that and rotation too.

Now having reasoned the principles of an equal commonwealth,
I should come to give an instance of such a one in experience, if
I could find it; but if this work be of any value, it lies in
that it is the first example of a commonwealth that is perfectly
equal. For Venice, though it comes the nearest, yet is a
commonwealth for preservation; and such a one, considering the
paucity of citizens taken in, and the number not taken in, is
externally unequal; and though every commonwealth that holds
provinces must in that regard be such, yet not to that degree.
Nevertheless, Venice internally, and for her capacity, is by far
the most equal, though it has not, in my judgment, arrived at the
full perfection of equality; both because her laws supplying the
defect of an agrarian are not so clear nor effectual at the
foundation, nor her superstructures, by the virtue of her ballot
or rotation, exactly librated; in regard that through the paucity
of her citizens her greater magistracies are continually wheeled
through a few hands, as is confessed by Janotti, where he says,
that if a gentleman comes once to be Savio di terra ferma, it
seldom happens that he fails from thenceforward to be adorned
with some one of the greater magistracies, as Savi di mare, Savi
di terra ferma, Savi Grandi, counsellors, those of the
decemvirate or dictatorian council, the aurogatori, or censors,
which require no vacation or interval. Wherefore if this in
Venice, or that in Lacedaemon, where the kings were hereditary,
and the Senators (though elected by the people) for life, cause
no inequality (which is hard to be conceived) in a commonwealth
for preservation, or such a one as consists of a few citizens;
yet is it manifest that it would cause a very great one in a
commonwealth for increase, or consisting of the many, which, by
engrossing the magistracies in a few hands, would be obstructed
in their rotation.

But there be who say (and think it a strong objection) that,
let a commonwealth be as equal as you can imagine, two or three
men when all is done will govern it; and there is that in it
which, notwithstanding the pretended sufficiency of a popular
State, amounts to a plain confession of the imbecility of that
policy, and of the prerogative of monarchy; forasmuch as popular
governments in difficult cases have had recourse to dictatorian
power, as in Rome.

To which I answer, that as truth is a spark to which
objections are like bellows, so in this respect our commonwealth
shines; for the eminence acquired by suffrage of the people in a
commonwealth, especially if it be popular and equal, can be
ascended by no other steps than the universal acknowledgment of
virtue: and where men excel in virtue, the commonwealth is stupid
and unjust, if accordingly they do not excel in authority.
Wherefore this is both the advantage of virtue, which has her due
encouragement, and of the commonwealth, which has her due
services. These are the philosophers which Plato would have to be
princes, the princes which Solomon would have to be mounted, and
their steeds are those of authority, not empire; or, if they be
buckled to the chariot of empire, as that of the dictatorian
power, like the chariot of the sun, it is glorious for terms and
vacations or intervals. And as a commonwealth is a government of
laws and not of men, so is this the principality of virtue, and
not of man; if that fail or set in one, it rises in another who
is created his immediate successor. And this takes away that
vanity from under the sun, which is an error proceeding more or
less from all other rulers under heaven but an equal

These things considered, it will be convenient in this place
to speak a word to such as go about to insinuate to the nobility
or gentry a fear of the people, or to the people a fear of the
nobility or gentry; as if their interests were destructive to
each other. When indeed an army may as well consist of soldiers
without officers, or of officers without soldiers, as a
commonwealth, especially such a one as is capable of greatness,
of a people without a gentry, or of a gentry without a people.
Wherefore this, though not always so intended, as may appear by
Machiavel, who else would be guilty, is a pernicious error. There
is something first in the making of a commonwealth, then in the
governing of it, and last of all in the leading of its armies,
which, though there be great divines, great lawyers, great men in
all professions, seems to be peculiar only to the genius of a

For so it is in the universal series of story, that if any
man has founded a commonwealth, he was first a gentleman. Moses
had his education by the daughter of Pharaoh; Theseus and Solon,
of noble birth, were held by the Athenians worthy to be kings;
Lycurgus was of the royal blood; Romulus and Numa princes; Brutus
and Publicola patricians; the Gracchi, that lost their lives for
the people of Rome and the restitution of that commonwealth, were
the sons of a father adored with two triumphs, and of Cornelia
the daughter of Scipio, who being demanded in marriage by King
Ptolemy, disdained to become the Queen of Egypt. And the most
renowned Olphaus Megaletor, sole legislator, as you will see
anon, of the Commonwealth of Oceana, was derived from a noble
family; nor will it be any occasion of scruple in this case, that
Leviathan affirms the politics to be no ancienter than his book
"De Cive." Such also as have got any fame in the civil government
of a commonwealth, or by the leading of its armies, have been
gentlemen; for so in all other respects were those plebeian
magistrates elected by the people of Rome, being of known
descents and of equal virtues, except only that they were
excluded from the name by the usurpation of the patricians.
Holland, through this defect at home, has borrowed princes for
generals, and gentlemen of divers nations for commanders: and the
Switzers, if they have any defect in this kind, rather lend their
people to the colors of other princes, than make that noble use
of them at home which should assert the liberty of mankind. For
where there is not a nobility to hearten the people, they are
slothful, regardless of the world, and of the public interest of
liberty, as even those of Rome had been without their gentry:
wherefore let the people embrace the gentry in peace, as the
light of their eyes; and in war, as the trophy of their arms; and
if Cornelia disdained to be Queen of Egypt, if a Roman consul
looked down from his tribunal upon the greatest king, let the
nobility love and cherish the people that afford them a throne so
much higher in a commonwealth, in the acknowledgment of their
virtue, than the crowns of monarchs.

But if the equality of a commonwealth consist in the equality
first of the agrarian, and next of the rotation, then the
inequality of a commonwealth must consist in the absence or
inequality of the agrarian, or of the rotation, or of both.

Israel and Lacedaemon, which commonwealths (as the people of
this, in Josephus, claims kindred of that) have great
resemblance, were each of them equal in their agrarian, and
unequal in their rotation, especially Israel, where the
Sanhedrim, or Senate, first elected by the people, as appears by
the words of Moses, took upon them ever after, without any
precept of God, to substitute their successors by ordination;
which having been there of civil use, as excommunication,
community of goods, and other customs of the Essenes, who were
many of them converted, came afterward to be introduced into the
Christian Church. And the election of the judge, suffes, or
dictator, was irregular, both for the occasion, the term, and the
vacation of that magistracy. As you find in the book of Judges,
where it is often repeated, that in those days there was no king
in Israel -- that is, no judge; and in the first of Samuel, where
Eli judged Israel forty years, and Samuel, all his life. In
Lacedaemon the election of the Senate being by suffrage of the
people, though for life, was not altogether so unequal, yet the
hereditary right of kings, were it not for the agrarian, had
ruined her.

Athens and Rome were unequal as to their agrarian, that of
Athens being infirm, and this of Rome none at all; for if it were
more anciently carried it was never observed. Whence, by the time
of Tiberius Gracchus, the nobility had almost eaten the people
quite out of their lands, which they held in the occupation of
tenants and servants, whereupon the remedy being too late, and
too vehemently applied, that commonwealth was ruined.

These also were unequal in their rotation, but in a contrary
manner. Athens, in regard that the Senate (chosen at once by lot,
not by suffrage, and changed every year, not in part, but in the
whole) consisted not of the natural aristocracy, nor sitting long
enough to understand or to be perfect in their office, had no
sufficient authority to restrain the people from that perpetual
turbulence in the end, which was their ruin, notwithstanding the
efforts of Nicias, who did all a man could do to help it. But as
Athens, by the headiness of the people, so Rome fell by the
ambition of the nobility, through the want of an equal rotation;
which, if the people had got into the Senate, and timely into the
magistracies (whereof the former was always usurped by the
patricians, and the latter for the most part) they had both
carried and held their agrarian, and that had rendered that
commonwealth immovable.

But let a commonwealth be equal or unequal, it must consist,
as has been shown by reason and all experience, of the three
general orders; that is to say, of the Senate debating and
proposing, of the people resolving, and of the magistracy
executing. Wherefore I can never wonder enough at Leviathan, who,
without any reason or example, will have it that a commonwealth
consists of a single person, or of a single assembly; nor can I
sufficiently pity those "thousand gentlemen, whose minds, which
otherwise would have wavered, he has framed (as is affirmed by
himself) in to a conscientious obedience (for so he is pleased to
call it) of such a government."

But to finish this part of the discourse, which I intend for
as complete an epitome of ancient prudence, and in that of the
whole art of politics, as I am able to frame in so short a time:

The two first orders, that is to say, the Senate and the
people, are legislative, whereunto answers that part of this
science which by politicians is entitled "of laws;" and the third
order is executive, to which answers that part of the same
science which is styled "of the frame and course of courts or
judicatories." A word to each of these will be necessary.

And first for laws: they are either ecclesiastical or civil,
such as concern religion or government.

Laws, ecclesiastical, or such as concern religion, according
to the universal course of ancient prudence, are in the power of
the magistrate; but, according to the common practice of modern
prudence, since the papacy, torn out of his hands.

But, as a government pretending to liberty, and yet
suppressing liberty of conscience (which, because religion not
according to a man's conscience can to him be none at all, is the
main) must be a contradiction, so a man that, pleading for the
liberty of private conscience, refuses liberty to the national
conscience, must be absurd.

A commonwealth is nothing else but the national conscience.
And if the conviction of a man's private conscience produces his
private religion, the conviction of the national conscience must
produce a national religion. Whether this be well reasoned, as
also whether these two may stand together, will best be shown by
the examples of the ancient commonwealths taken in their order.

In that of Israel the government of the national religion
appertained not to the priests and Levites, otherwise than as
they happened to be of the Sanhedrim, or Senate, to which they
had no right at all but by election. It is in this capacity
therefore that the people are commanded, under pain of death, "to
hearken to them, and to do according to the sentence of the law
which they should teach;" but in Israel the law ecclesiastical
and civil was the same, therefore the Sanhedrim, having the power
of one, had the power of both. But as the national religion
appertained to the jurisdiction of the Sanhedrim, so the liberty
of conscience appertained, from the same date, and by the same
right, to the prophets and their disciples; as where it is said,
"I will raise up a prophet; and whoever will not hearken to my
words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him."
The words relate to prophetic right, which was above all the
orders of this commonwealth; whence Elijah not only refused to
obey the King, but destroyed his messengers with fire. And
whereas it was not lawful by the national religion to sacrifice
in any other place than the Temple, a prophet was his own temple,
and might sacrifice where he would, as Elijah did in Mount
Carmel. By this right John the Baptist and our Saviour, to whom
it more particularly related, had their disciples, and taught the
people, whence is derived our present right of gathered
congregations; wherefore the Christian religion grew up according
to the orders of the Commonwealth of Israel, and not against
them. Nor was liberty of conscience infringed by this government,
till the civil liberty of the same was lost, as under Herod,
Pilate, and Tiberius, a three-piled tyranny.

To proceed, Athens preserved her religion, by the testimony
of Paul, with great superstition: if Alcibiades, that atheistical
fellow had not showed them a pair of heels, they had shaven off
his head for shaving their Mercuries, and making their gods look
ridiculously upon them without beards. Nevertheless, if Paul
reasoned with them, they loved news, for which he was the more
welcome; and if he converted Dionysius the Areopagite, that is,
one of the senators, there followed neither any hurt to him, nor
loss of honor to Dionysius. And for Rome, if Cicero, in his most
excellent book "De Natura Deorum," overthrew the national
religion of that commonwealth, he was never the further from
being consul. But there is a meanness and poorness in modern
prudence, not only to the damage of civil government, but of
religion itself; for to make a man in matter of religion, which
admits not of sensible demonstration (jurare in verba magistri),
engage to believe no otherwise than is believed by my lord
bishop, or Goodman Presbyter is a pedantism that has made the
sword to be a rod in the hands of schoolmasters; by which means,
whereas the Christian religion is the furthest of any from
countenancing war, there never was a war of religion but since
Christianity, for which we are beholden to the Pope; for the Pope
not giving liberty of conscience to princes and commonwealths,
they cannot give that to their subjects which they have not
themselves, whence both princes and subjects, either through his
instigation or their own disputes, have introduced that execrable
custom, never known in the world before, of fighting for
religion, and denying the magistrate to have any jurisdiction
concerning it, whereas the magistrate's losing the power of
religion loses the liberty of conscience, which in that case has
nothing to protect it. But if the people be otherwise taught, it
concerns them to look about them, and to distinguish between the
shrieking of the lapwing and the voice of the turtle.

To come to civil laws. If they stand one way and the balance
another, it is the case of a government which of necessity must
be new modelled; wherefore your lawyers, advising you upon the
like occasions to fit your government to their laws, are no more
to be regarded than your tailor if he should desire you to fit
your body to his doublet. There is also danger in the plausible
pretence of reforming the law, except the government be first
good, in which case it is a good tree, and (trouble not
yourselves overmuch) brings not forth evil fruit; otherwise, if
the tree be evil, you can never reform the fruit, or if a root
that is naught bring forth fruit of this kind that seems to be
good, take the more heed, for it is the ranker poison. It was
nowise probable, if Augustus had not made excellent laws, that
the bowels of Rome could have come to be so miserably eaten out
by the tyranny of Tiberius and his successors. The best rule as
to your laws in general is that they be few. Rome, by the
testimony of Cicero, Was best governed under those of the twelve
tables; and by that of Tacitus, Plurimoe leges, corruptissima
respublica. You will be told that where the laws be few they
leave much to arbitrary power.; but where they be many, they
leave more, the laws in this case, according to Justinian and the
best lawyers, being as litigious as the suitors. Solon made few,
Lycurgus fewer, laws; and commonwealths have the fewest at this
day of all other governments.

Now to conclude this part with a word de judiciis, or of the
constitution or course of courts; it is a discourse not otherwise
capable of being well managed but by particular examples, both
the constitution and course of courts being divers in different
governments, but best beyond compare in Venice, where they regard
not so much the arbitrary power of their courts as the
constitution of them, whereby that arbitrary power being
altogether unable to retard or do hurt to business, produces and
must produce the quickest despatch, and the most righteous
dictates of justice that are perhaps in human nature. The manner
I shall not stand in this place to describe, because it is
exemplified at large in the judicature of the people of Oceana.
And thus much of ancient prudence, and the first branch of this
preliminary discourse.


In the second part I shall endeavor to show the rise, progress,
and declination of modern prudence.

The date of this kind of policy is to be computed, as was
shown, from those inundations of Goths, Vandals, Huns, and
Lombards that overwhelmed the Roman Empire. But as there is no
appearance in the bulk or constitution of modern prudence, that
it should ever have been able to come up and grapple with the
ancient, so something of necessity must have interposed whereby
this came to be enervated, and that to receive strength and
encouragement. And this was the execrable reign of the Roman
emperors taking rise from (that felix scelus) the arms of Caesar,
in which storm the ship of the Roman Commonwealth was forced to
disburden itself of that precious freight, which never since
could emerge or raise its head but in the Gulf of Venice.

It is said in Scripture, "Thy evil is of thyself, O Israel!"
to which answers that of the moralists, "None is hurt but by
himself," as also the whole matter of the politics; at present
this example of the Romans, who, through a negligence committed
in their agrarian laws, let in the sink of luxury, and forfeited
the inestimable treasure of liberty for themselves and their

Their agrarian laws were such whereby their lands ought to
have been divided among the people, either without mention of a
colony, in which case they were not obliged to change their
abode; or with mention and upon condition of a colony, in which
case they were to change their abode, and leaving the city, to
plant themselves upon the lands so assigned. The lands assigned,
or that ought to have been assigned, in either of these ways,
were of three kinds: such as were taken from the enemy and
distributed to the people; or such as were taken from the enemy,
and, under color of being reserved to the public use, were
through stealth possessed by the nobility; or such as were bought
with the public money to be distributed. Of the laws offered in
these cases, those which divided the lands taken from the enemy,
or purchased with the public money, never occasioned any dispute;
but such as drove at dispossessing the nobility of their
usurpations, and dividing the common purchase of the sword among
the people, were never touched but they caused earthquakes, nor
could they ever be obtained by the people; or being obtained, be
observed by the nobility, who not only preserved their prey, but
growing vastly rich upon it, bought the people by degrees quite
out of those shares that had been conferred upon them. This the
Gracchi coming too late to perceive found the balance of the
commonwealth to be lost; but putting the people (when they had
least force) by forcible means upon the recovery of it, did ill,
seeing it neither could nor did tend to any more than to show
them by worse effects that what the wisdom of their leaders had
discovered was true. For quite contrary to what has happened in
Oceana, where, the balance falling to the people, they have
overthrown the nobility, that nobility of Rome, under the conduct
of Sylla, overthrew the people and the commonwealth; seeing Sylla
first introduced that new balance which was the foundation of the
succeeding monarchy, in the plantation of military colonies,
instituted by his distribution of the conquered lands, not now of
enemies, but of citizens, to forty-seven legions of his soldiers;
so that how he came to be perpetual dictator, or other
magistrates to succeed him in like power, is no miracle.

These military colonies (in which manner succeeding emperors
continued, as Augustus by the distribution of the veterans,
whereby he had overcome Brutus and Cassius to plant their
soldiery) consisted of such as I conceive were they that are
called milites beneficiarii; in regard that the tenure of their
lands was by way of benefices, that is, for life, and upon
condition of duty or service in the war upon their own charge.
These benefices Alexander Severus granted to the heirs of the
incumbents, but upon the same conditions. And such was the
dominion by which the Roman emperors gave their balance. But to
the beneficiaries, as was no less than necessary for the safety
of the prince, a matter of 8,000 by the example of Augustus were
added, which departed not from his sides, but were his perpetual
guard, called Pretorian bands; though these, according to the
incurable flaw already observed in this kind of government,
became the most frequent butchers of their lords that are to be
found in story. Thus far the Roman monarchy is much the same with
that at this day in Turkey, consisting of a camp and a
horse-quarter; a camp in regard of the Spahis and Janizaries, the
perpetual guard of the prince, except they also chance to be
liquorish after his blood; and a horse-quarter in regard of the
distribution of his whole land to tenants for life, upon
condition of continual service, or as often as they shall be
commanded at their own charge by timars, being a word which they
say signifies benefices, that it shall save me a labor of opening
the government.

But the fame of Mahomet and his prudence is especially
founded in this, that whereas the Roman monarchy, except that of
Israel, was the most imperfect, the Turkish is the most perfect
that ever was. Which happened in that the Roman (as the
Israelitish of the Sanhedrim and the congregation) had a mixture
of the Senate and the people; and the Turkish is pure. And that
this was pure, and the other mixed, happened not through the
wisdom of the legislators, but the different genius of the
nations; the people of the Eastern parts, except the Israelites,
which is to be attributed to their agrarian, having been such as
scarce ever knew any other condition than that of slavery; and
these of the Wester having ever had such a relish of liberty, as
through what despair soever could never be brought to stand still
while the yoke was putting on their necks, but by being fed with
some hopes of reserving to themselves some part of their freedom.

Wherefore Julius Caesar (saith Suetonius) contented himself
in naming half the magistrates, to leave the rest to the suffrage
of the people. And Maecenas, though he would not have Augustus to
give the people their liberty, would not have him take it quite
away. Whence this empire, being neither hawk nor buzzard, made a
flight accordingly; and the prince being perpetually tossed
(having the avarice of the soldiery on this hand to satisfy upon
the people, and the Senate and the people on the other to be
defended from the soldiery), seldom died any other death than by
one horn of this dilemma, as is noted more at large by Machiavel.

But the Pretorian bands, those bestial executioners of their
captain's tyranny upon others, and of their own upon him, having
continued from the time of Augustus, were by Constantine the
Great (incensed against them for taking part with his adversary
Maxentius) removed from their strong garrison which they held in
Rome, and distributed into divers provinces. The benefices of the
soldiers that were hitherto held for life and upon duty, were by
this prince made hereditary, so that the whole foundation
whereupon this empire was first built being now removed, shows
plainly that the emperors must long before this have found out
some other way of support; and this was by stipendiating the
Goths, a people that, deriving their roots from the northern
parts of Germany, or out of Sweden, had, through their victories
obtained against Domitian, long since spread their branches to so
near a neighborhood with the Roman territories that they began to
overshadow them. For the emperors making use of them in their
armies, as the French do at this day of the Switz, gave them that
under the notion of a stipend, which they received as tribute,
coming, if there were any default in the payment, so often to
distrain for it, that in the time of Honorius they sacked Rome,
and possessed themselves of Italy. And such was the transition of
ancient into modern prudence, or that breach, which being
followed in every part of the Roman Empire with inundations of
Vandals, Huns, Lombards, Franks, Saxons, overwhelmed ancient
languages, learning, prudence, manners, cities, changing the
names of rivers, countries, seas, mountains, and men; Camillus,
Caesar, and Pompey, being come to Edmund, Richard, and Geoffrey.

To open the groundwork or balance of these new politicians:
"Feudum," says Calvin the lawyer, "is a Gothic word of divers
significations; for it is taken either for war, or for a
possession of conquered lands, distributed by the victor to such
of his captains and soldiers as had merited in his wars, upon
condition to acknowledge him to be their perpetual lord, and
themselves to be his subjects."

Of these there were three kinds or orders: the first of
nobility distinguished by the titles of dukes, marquises, earls,
and these being gratified with the cities, castles, and villages
of the conquered Italians, their feuds participated of royal
dignity, and were called regalia, by which they had right to coin
money, create magistrates, take toll, customs, confiscations, and
the like.

Feuds of the second order were such as, with the consent of
the King, were bestowed by these feudatory princes upon men of
inferior quality, called their barons, on condition that next to
the King they should defend the dignities and fortunes of their
lords in arms.

The lowest order of feuds were such, as being conferred by
those of the second order upon private men, whether noble not
noble, obliged them in the like duty to their superiors; the were
called vavasors. And this is the Gothic balance, by which all the
kingdoms this day in Christendom were at first erected; for which
cause, if I had time, I should open in this place the Empire of
Germany, and the Kingdoms of France, Spain, and Poland; but so
much as has been said being sufficient for the discovery of the
principles of modern prudence in general, I shall divide the
remainder of my discourse, which is more particular, into three

The first, showing the constitution of the late monarchy of

The second, the dissolution of the same; and

The third, the generation of the present commonwealth.

The constitution of the late monarchy of Oceana is to be
considered in relation to the different nations by whom it has
been successively subdued and governed. The first of these were
the Romans, the second the Teutons, the third the Scandians, and
the fourth the Neustrians.

The government of the Romans, who held it as a province, I
shall omit, because I am to speak of their provincial government
in another place, only it is to be remembered here, that if we
have given over running up and down naked, and with dappled
hides, learned to write and read, and to be instructed with good
arts, for all these we are beholden to the Romans, either
immediately or mediately by the Teutons; for that the Teutons had
the arts from no other hand is plain enough by their language,
which has yet no word to signify either writing or reading, but
what is derived from the Latin. Furthermore, by the help of these
arts so learned, we have been capable of that religion which we
have long since received; wherefore it seems to me that we ought
not to detract from the memory of the Romans, by whose means we
are, as it were, of beasts become men, and by whose means we
might yet of obscure and ignorant men (if we thought not too well
of ourselves) become a wise and a great people.

The Romans having governed Oceana provincially, the Teutons
were the first that introduced the form of the late monarchy. To
these succeeded the Scandians, of whom (because their reign was
short, as also because they made little alteration in the
government as to the form) I shall take no notice. But the
Teutons going to work upon the Gothic balance, divided the whole
nation into three sorts of feuds, that of ealdorman, that of
king's thane, and that of middle thane.

When the kingdom was first divided into precincts will be as
hard to show as when it began first to be governed. It being
impossible that there should be any government without some
division. The division that was in use with the Teutons was by
counties, and every county had either its ealdorman or high
reeve. The title of ealdorman came in time to eorl, or erl, and
that of high reeve to high sheriff.

Earl of the shire or county denoted the king's thane, or
tenant by grand sergeantry or knight's service, in chief or in
capite; his possessions were sometimes the whole territory from
whence he had his denomination, that is, the whole county;
sometimes more than one county, and sometimes less, the remaining
part being in the crown. He had also sometimes a third, or some
other customary part of the profits of certain cities, boroughs,
or other places within his earldom. For an example of the
possessions of earls in ancient times, Ethelred had to him and
his heirs the whole Kingdom of Mercia, containing three or four
counties; and there were others that had little less.

King's thane was also an honorary title, to which he was
qualified that had five hides of land held immediately of the
King by service of personal attendance; insomuch that if a churl
or countryman had thriven to this proportion, having a church, a
kitchen, a bell-house (that is, a hall with a bell in it to call
his family to dinner), a borough-gate with a seat (that is, a
porch) of his own, and any distinct office in the King's court,
then was he the King's thane. But the proportion of a hide-land,
otherwise called caruca, or a plough-land, is difficult to be
understood, because it was not certain; nevertheless it is
generally conceived to be so much as may be managed with one
plough, and would yield the maintenance of the same, with the
appurtenances in all kinds.

The middle thane was feudal, but not honorary; he was also
called a vavasor, and his lands a vavasory, which held of some
mesne lord, and not immediately of the King.

Possessions and their tenures, being of this nature, show the
balance of the Teuton monarchy, wherein the riches of earls were
so vast that to arise from the balance of their dominion to their
power, they were not only called reguli, or little kings, but
were such indeed; their jurisdiction being of two sorts, either
that which was exercised by them in the court of their countries,
or in the high court of the kingdom.

In the territory denominating an earl, if it were all his
own, the courts held, and the profits of that jurisdiction were
to his own use and benefit. But if he had but some part of his
county, then his jurisdiction and courts, saving perhaps in those
possessions that were his own, were held by him to the King's use
and benefit; that is, he commonly supplied the office which the
sheriffs regularly executed in counties that had no earls, and
whence they came to be called viscounts. The court of the county
that had an earl was held by the earl and the bishop of the
diocese, after the manner of the sheriffs' turns to this day; by
which means both the ecclesiastical and temporal laws were given
in charge together to the country. The causes of vavasors or
vavasories appertained to the cognizance of this court, where
wills were proved, judgment and execution given, cases criminal
and civil determined.

The King's thanes had the like jurisdiction in their thane
lands as lords in their manors, where they also kept courts.

Besides these in particular, both the earls and King's
thanes, together with the bishops, abbots, and vavasors, or
middle thanes, had in the high court or parliament in the kingdom
a more public jurisdiction, consisting first of deliberative
power for advising upon and assenting to new laws; secondly,
giving counsel in matters of state and thirdly, of judicature
upon suits and complaints. I shall not omit to enlighten the
obscurity of these times, in which there is little to be found of
a methodical constitution of this high court, by the addition of
an argument, which I conceive to bear a strong testimony to
itself, though taken out of a late writing that conceals the
author. "It is well known," says he, "that in every quarter of
the realm a great many boroughs do yet send burgesses to the
parliament which nevertheless be so anciently and so long since
decayed and gone to naught, that they cannot be showed to have
been of any reputation since the Conquest, much less to have
obtained any such privilege by the grant of any succeeding king:
wherefore these must have had this right by more ancient usage,
and before the Conquest, they being unable now to show whence
they derived it."

This argument, though there be more, I shall pitch upon as
sufficient to prove: First, that the lower sort of the people had
right to session in Parliament during the time of the Teutons.

Facebook Google Reddit Twitter Pinterest