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.

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

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