Harrington, James

Harrington, James,

1611–77, English political writer. His Commonwealth of Oceana (1656) pictured a utopian society in which political authority rested entirely with the landed gentry. Harrington advocated definite agrarian reforms, however, in order to achieve a greater equality of power. He sought to abolish primogeniture and to limit the amount of land an individual could hold. He also advocated division of the powers of government, a written constitution, and the principle of rotation in office. Penn's government in Pennsylvania is said to owe much to the Oceana. Harrington's ideas can be seen in the doctrines of the American Revolution and the French Revolution.

Bibliography

See studies by C. Blitzer (1960, repr. 1970) and H. F. Russell-Smith (1971).

Harrington, James

 

Born Jan. 7, 1611, in Upton; died Sept. 11, 1677, in London. English publicist and ideologist of the new nobility and the bourgeoisie.

In his works (for example, The Republic of Oceana, 1656, Advantages of Popular Government, 1657, and The Art of Legislation, 1659), Harrington spoke out against the threat of restoration of the feudal monarchy in England. He devised a constitution for a republic of the bourgeoisie and nobility, which he considered the best form of state for protecting the achievements of the mid-17th century English Bourgeois Revolution from encoachments of the feudal aristocracy, the Stuarts, and the broad popular masses. During 1658-60, Harrington headed a republican group that tried to implement his constitution. Applying Bacon’s inductive method, he proved that the forms of the state and its institutions were dependent on the distribution of property in society.

WORKS

The Oceana and Other Works …. London, 1737.

REFERENCES

Saprykin, Iu. M. O klassovoi sushchnosti politicheskikh vzgliadov Garringtona. In the collection Srednie veka, fascs. 4-5. Moscow, 1953-54.
Saprykin, Iu. M. Bor’ba Garringtona i ego gruppy za respubliku. Ibid., fasc. 9. Moscow, 1957.

IU. M. SAPRYKIN

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