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James Harrington

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.

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

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

More on James Harrington from Infoplease:

  • Utopia: The Utopian Ideal over Time - The Utopian Ideal over Time The name utopia is applied retroactively to various ideal states ...
  • Oceana - Oceana An ideal republic by James Harrington, on the plan of Plato's Atlantis. Also the title ...

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