It is not with forms of government, as with other artificial contrivances; where an old engine may be rejected, if we can discover another more accurate and commodious, or where trials may safely be made, even though the success be doubtful.
An established government has an infinite advantage, by that very circumstance of its being established; the bulk of mankind being governed by authority, not reason, and never attributing authority to any thing that has not the recommendation of antiquity. To tamper, therefore, in this affair, or try experiments merely upon the credit of supposed argument and philosophy, can never be the part of a wise magistrate, who will bear a reverence to what carries the marks of age; and though he may attempt some improvements for the public  good, yet will he adjust his innovations, as much as possible, to the ancient fabric, and preserve entire the chief pillars and supports of the constitution.
The mathematicians in Europe have been much divided concerning that figure of a ship, which is the most commodious for sailing; and Huygens,1 who at last determined the controversy, is justly thought to have obliged the learned, as well as commercial world; though Columbus had sailed to America, and Sir Francis Drake made the tour of the world,2 without any such discovery. As one form of government must be allowed more perfect than another, independent of the manners and humours of particular men; why may we not enquire what is the most perfect of all, though the common botched and inaccurate governments seem to serve the purposes of society, and though it be not so easy to establish a new system of government, as to build a vessel upon a new construction? The subject is surely the most worthy curiosity of any the wit of man can possibly devise. And who knows, if this controversy were fixed by the universal consent of the wise and learned, but, in some future age, an opportunity might be afforded of reducing the theory to practice, either by a dissolution of some old government, or by the combination of men to form a new one, in some distant part of the world? In all cases, it must be advantageous to know what is most perfect in the kind, that we may be able to bring any real constitution or form of government as near it as possible,  by such gentle alterations and innovations as may not give too great disturbance to society.
All I pretend to in the present essay is to revive this subject of speculation; and therefore I shall deliver my sentiments in as few words as possible. A long dissertation on that head would not, I apprehend, be very acceptable to the public, who will be apt to regard such disquisitions both as useless and chimerical.
All plans of government, which suppose great reformation in the manners of mankind, are plainly imaginary. Of this nature, are the Republic of Plato, and the Utopia of Sir Thomas More.3 The Oceana is the only valuable model of a commonwealth, that has yet been offered to the public.
The chief defects of the Oceana seem to be these.
First, Its rotation is inconvenient, by throwing men, of whatever abilities, by intervals, out of public employments.
Secondly, Its Agrarian is impracticable.
Men will soon learn the art, which was practised in ancient Rome, of concealing their possessions under other people’s name; till at last, the abuse will become so common, that they will throw off even the appearance of restraint.
Thirdly, The Oceana provides not a sufficient security for liberty, or the redress of grievances.
The senate must propose, and the people consent; by which means, the senate have not only a negative upon the people, but, what is of much greater consequence, their negative goes before the votes of the people. Were the King’s negative of the same nature in the English constitution, and could he prevent any bill from coming into parliament, he would be an absolute monarch. As his negative follows the votes of the houses, it is of little consequence:
Such a difference is there in the manner of placing the same thing. When a popular bill has been debated in parliament, is brought to maturity, all its conveniencies and inconveniencies, weighed and balanced; if afterwards it be presented for the royal assent, few princes will venture to reject the unanimous desire of the people.
But could the King crush a disagreeable bill in embryo (as was the case, for some time, in the Scottish parliament, by means of the lords of the articles5), the British government would have no balance, nor would grievances ever be redressed:
And it is certain, that exorbitant power proceeds not, in any government, from new laws, so much as from neglecting to remedy the abuses, which frequently rise from the old ones.
A government, says Machiavel, must often be brought back to its original principles.
It appears then, that, in the Oceana, the whole legislature may be said to rest in the senate; which Harrington would own to be an inconvenient form of government, especially after the Agrarian is abolished.
Here is the ideal form of government:
Let Great Britain and Ireland, or any territory of equal extent:
be divided into 100 counties,
each county has 100 parishes, making in all 10,000.
If the country is smaller, we can reduce the number of counties; but never below 30.
If it is bigger:
the parishes should be enlarged, or
throw more parishes into a county
This is better than increasing the number of counties.
Let all the freeholders of 20 pounds a-year in the county, and all the householders worth 500 pounds in the town parishes:
meet annually in the parish church, and
vote some freeholder of the county to be the county representative
Let the 100 county representatives, two days after their election:
meet in the county town, and
vote from their own body:
10 county magistrates
This will lead to:
All senators will have the authority of county magistrates
The senators will
meet in the capital,
have all executive powerof the commonwealth.
the power of:
peace and war, and
giving orders to generals, admirals, and ambassadors
in short, all the prerogatives of a British King, except his negative.
1,100 county magistrates, and
All county magistrates will have the authority of county representatives.
10,000 county representatives.
The county representatives will:
meet in their own counties,
have all the legislative power of the commonwealth;
the greater number of counties deciding the question
if these are equal, let the senate vote on it
Every new law must first be debated in the senate [by the executive, like a veto].
If rejected by it, if ten senators insist and protest, it must be sent down to the counties.
The senate may join to the copy of the law their reasons for receiving or rejecting it.
It would be troublesome to assemble all the county representatives for every trivial law
The senate has their choice of sending down the law either to the county magistrates or county representatives.
The magistrates, though the law be referred to them, may:
call the representatives, and
submit the affair to their determination.
Whether the law be referred by the senate to the county magistrates or representatives, must be sent to
Eight days before the day appointed for the meeting, every representative will receive:
a copy of the law
the senate’s reasons for the law
They will deliberate on it.
And though the determination be, by the senate, referred to the magistrates, if five representatives of the county order the magistrates to assemble the whole court of representatives, and submit the affair to their determination, they must obey.
Either the county magistrates or representatives may give, to the senator of the county, the copy of a law to be proposed to the senate
If five counties concur in the same order, the law, though refused by the senate, must come either to the county magistrates or representatives, as is contained in the order of the five counties.
Any 20 counties, by a vote either of their magistrates or representatives, may throw any man out of all public offices for a year. 30 counties for 3 years.
can throw out any members of its own body, not to be re-elected for that year.
cannot throw out twice in a year the senator of the same county.
The Magistrates and Council
The power of the old senate continues for three weeks after the annual election of the county representatives.
Then all the new senators are shut up in a conclave, like the cardinals;
By an intricate ballot, such as that of Venice or Malta, they choose the following magistrates;
a protector, who represents the dignity of the commonwealth, and presides in the senate;
two secretaries of state;
these six councils,
a council of state,
a council of religion and learning,
a council of trade,
a council of laws,
a council of war,
a council of the admiralty
Each council has:
six commissioners of the treasury
a first commissioner.
All these must be senators.
The senate also names all the ambassadors to foreign courts, who may either be senators or not.
The senate may continue any or all of these, but must re-elect them every year.
The protector and two secretaries have session and suffrage in the council of state.
The business of that council is all foreign politics.
The council of state has session and suffrage in all the other councils.
The council of religion and learning inspects the universities and clergy.
The council of trade inspects every thing that may affect commerce.
The council of laws
inspects all the abuses of law by the inferior magistrates
examines what improvements may be made of the municipal law
The council of war
inspects the militia and its discipline, magazines, stores, etc
when the republic is in war, it examines the proper orders for generals
The council of admiralty has the same power with regard to the navy, together with the nomination of the captains and all inferior officers.
None of these councils can give orders themselves, except where they receive such powers from the senate.
In other cases, they must communicate everything to the senate.
When the senate is under adjournment, any of the councils may assemble it before the day appointed for its meeting.
The Court of Competitors
Besides these councils or courts, there is another called the court of competitors
If any candidates for the office of senator have more votes than 1/3 of the representatives, that candidate, who has most votes, next to the senator elected, becomes incapable for one year of all public offices, even of being a magistrate or representative:
But he takes his seat in the court of competitors.
It is a court of 100 members, and sometimes have no members at all.
It can be abolished for a year.
The court of competitors has no power in the commonwealth except:
The inspection of public accounts and
The accusing of any man before the senate.
If the senate acquit him, the court of competitors may appeal to  the people's magistrates or representatives.
Upon that appeal, the magistrates or representatives:
meet on the day appointed by the court of competitors
choose in each county three persons; from which number every senator is excluded.
These, up to 300 people, meet in the capital, and bring the person accused to a new trial.
The court of competitors may propose any law to the senate.
If refused, may appeal to the magistrates or representatives, who examine it in their counties.
Every senator thrown out of the senate by a vote of the court, takes his seat in the court of competitors.
The senate possesses all the judicative authority of the house of Lords -- all the appeals from the inferior courts.
It appoints the Lord Chancellor, and all the officers of the law.
Every county is a kind of republic within itself.
The representatives may make by-laws which have no authority until 3 months after they are voted.
A copy of the law is sent to
the senate and
every other county
At any time, the senate, or any single county, may annul any by-law of another county.
The representatives have all the authority of the British justices of peace in trials, commitments, etc.
The magistrates have the appointment of all the officers of the revenue in each county.
All causes with regard to the revenue are carried ultimately by appeal before the magistrates.
They pass the accompts of all the officers
But they must have their own accompts examined and passed at the end of the year by the representatives.
The magistrates name rectors or ministers to all the parishes.
The Presbyterian government is established
The highest ecclesiastical court is an assembly or synod of all the presbyters of the county.
The magistrates may take any cause from this court, and determine it themselves.
The magistrates may try, and depose or suspend any presbyter.
The militia is established in imitation of that of Switzerland.
An army of 20,000 be annually drawn out by rotation, paid and encamped during six weeks in summer; that the duty of a camp may known.
The magistrates appoint all the colonels and downwards.
The senate all upwards.
During war, the general appoints the colonel and downwards
his commission is good for a twelvemonth.
But after that, it must be confirmed by the magistrates of the county, to which the regiment belongs.
The magistrates may break any officer in the county regiment.
The senate may do the same to any officer in the service.
If the magistrates do not think proper to confirm the general’s choice, they may appoint another officer in the place of him they reject.
All crimes are tried within the county by the magistrates and a jury.
But the senate can:
stop any trial, and
bring it before themselves.
Any county may indict any man before the senate for any crime.
The following have 6 months dictatorial powers on extraordinary emergencies:
The protector may pardon any person condemned by the inferior courts.
the council of state, with any five or more that the senate appoints
In wartime, no army officer in the field can have any civil office in the commonwealth.
The capital may be allowed  4 members in the senate.
It may therefore be divided into 4 counties.
The representatives of each of these chuse one senator, and ten magistrates.
There are therefore in the city 4 senators, 44 magistrates, and 400 representatives.
The magistrates have the same authority as in the counties.
The representatives also have the same authority;
but they never meet in one general court:
They give their votes in their particular county, or division of hundreds.
When they enact any by-law, the greater number of counties or divisions determines the matter.
And where these are equal, the magistrates have the casting vote
The magistrates choose the mayor, sheriff, recorder, and other officers of the city
In the commonwealth, no representative, magistrate, or senator, as such, has any salary.
The protector, secretaries, councils, and ambassadors, have salaries.
The first year in every century is set apart for correcting all inequalities, which time may have produced in the representative.
This must be done by the legislature
The following political aphorisms may explain the reason of these orders.
The lower sort of people and small proprietors are good judges enough of one not very distant from them in rank or habitation
Therefore, in their parochial meetings, will probably choose the best representative:
But they are wholly unfit for county-meetings, and for electing into the higher offices of the republic.
Their ignorance gives the grandees an opportunity of deceiving them
10,000 people is large enough for any free government even though they were not annually elected.
The nobles in Poland are more than 10,000.
But they oppress the people.
But as power always continues there in the same persons and families, this makes them a different nation from the people.
Besides the nobles are there united under a few heads of families.
All free governments must consist of 2 councils, a lesser senate and greater people
Harrington observes that:
Without the senate, the  people would want wisdom,
Without the people, the senate would want honesty.
A large assembly of 1000 representatives would would fall into disorder if allowed to debate.
If not allowed to debate, the senate has a negative upon them.
It would be the worst kind of negative, that before resolution.
Here is an inconvenience, which no government has yet fully remedied, but which is the easiest to be remedied in the world.
If the people debate, all is confusion.
If they do not debate, they can only resolve; and then the senate carves for them.
Divide the people into many separate bodies; and then they may debate with safety, and every inconvenience seems to be prevented.
Cardinal de Retz says, that all numerous assemblies are:
When an absurdity strikes a member, he conveys it to his neighbour, and so on, till the whole be infected.
Separate this great body.
Even though every member is only of middling sense, it is improbable, that any thing but reason can prevail over the whole.
Influence and example being removed, good sense will always get the better of bad among a number of people.
There are two things to be guarded against in every senate:
This is most dangerous.
We solve this by:
The great dependence of the senators on the people by annual elections
This is not dependence on an undistinguishing  rabble by the English electors, but by men of fortune and education.
Allowing them only a small power
They have few offices
Almost all are given by the magistrates in the counties.
The court of competitors composed of their rivals
They are next to the senators in interest
They are uneasy in their present situation
They will certainly take all advantages against the senators
This division is prevented by:
the smallness of their number
Factions are prevented by their dependence on the people
Faction supposes a combination in a separate interest
They have a power of expelling any factious member.
When another member of the same spirit comes from the county, they have no power of expelling him:
They should not expel him as it would show the humour to be in the people, and may possibly arise from some ill conduct in public affairs.
In a senate regularly chosen by the people, almost any man may be fit for any civil office.
The senate should form some general resolutions regarding the disposing of offices among the members
: Which resolutions would not confine them in critical times, when extraordinary parts on the one hand, or extraordinary stupidity on the other, appears in any senator; but they would be sufficient to preventd intrigue and faction, by making the disposal of the offices a thing of course.
For example, there is a resolution that:
No one shall enjoy any office until he has sat four years in the senate.
Except ambassadors, no man shall be in office two years following
No one shall attain the higher offices but through the lower
No man shall be protector twice, &c.
The senate of Venice govern themselves by such resolutions.
In foreign politics the interest of the senate cannot be separated from that of the people
Therefore the senate can have absolute powers with regard to foreign politics
otherwise there could be no secrecy or refined policy
Besides, without money no alliance can be executed
The senate is still sufficiently dependent
The legislative power is always superior to the executive
The magistrates or representatives may interpose whenever they think proper
The chief support of the British government is the opposition of interests;
But it breeds endless factions even if it is mainly serviceable
In this plan, it does all the good without any of the harm
The competitors have no power of controlling the senate
They have only the power of accusing, and appealing to the people
It is necessary, likewise, to prevent both combination and division in the thousand magistrates.
This is done sufficiently by the separation of places and interests.
But if that is not enough, their dependence on the 10,000 for their elections, serves the same purpose.
The 10,000 may resume the power whenever they please, whenever any 5% of them please.
This will happen on the very first suspicion of a separate interest.
The 10,000 are too large a body either to unite or divide, except when they: