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Should the people or a tyrant, the rich or upright men, the single best man or the law administer the republic?
Is it more expedient for the people to rule rather than a few earnest men?
Is the supreme rule to be conceded to the people?
ask pardon if I take Aristotle, who favored Greece, and convert him into a supporter of England, if I accommodate him, debating now on this side, now on that, concerning the manifold constitutions of the commonwealth, and adapt him to our republic. He said many excellent things about the aristocracy and democracy which at that time flourished in Greece, but, as some commentators think, he did not distinctly and clearly show that monarchy is superior. But since some of the interpreters move this question about monarchy to the present context, and since here the Philosopher makes a comparison of diverse administrations, albeit I rarely depart from their footsteps I have inserted this thesis among those, so that in a comparison of all degrees I may assign the superlative position to this one. For although in chapter x of this Book monarchy and its forms are treated, until which place many commentators delay this issue, nonetheless since here a comparison is made whether the commonwealth is better ruled by one or several, this question is more opportunely raised here than there. I shall perhaps be rather long-winded, but variety will do away with the tedium. With these things behind us, let us approach Aristotle, who undertakes the theme of this chapter with a syllogism drawn from an enumeration. The people or a tyrant, the wealthy or upright men, one excellent man or just law must rule the commonwealth, but neither the people, nor a tyrant, nor the wealthy, nor upright men, nor one excellent man should rule the commonwealth, therefore just law, which alone remains, should rule the commonwealth. For the sake of disputation the assumption of this piece of logic is proven in its details, and, first, he shows in the text by three arguments that the people or the multitude should not take hold of the republic. The first is from an inconvenience, the second from a danger, the third from a comparison. From an inconvenience, since the multitude, made fiercer and more hostile by the prosperity of the wealthy would sink its claws in their moneybags not otherwise than a vulture, and devour their riches and fields, and would think that just since they are dominant. For nothing troubles the multitude more than the Niles of gold belonging to the wealthy; it hopes for nothing more than that their towers and pyramids of glory be wasted by the lightning of their own rage. From a danger and (as the dialecticians say) from the destruction of a thing, since that government which destroys the commonwealth is not to be approved, popular government destroys the commonwealth, therefore popular government is not to be approved. The argument holds, since when the strength of the powerful has once been attacked, and their wealth confiscated by the violence of the people, immediately the flame of sedition is born in the commonwealth, which spreads abroad and turns everything to ashes. From a comparison, since government by the people and by a tyrant is alike, the one government is intolerable, therefore so is the other. The proposition holds, since the tyrant and the people are alike in this, that they avidly fly towards their own interest and personal advantage, and hold on to their acquisitions rapaciously.
2. In the second place, Aristotle argues against the second member of this question, and proves that the wealthy cannot rightfully claim the government of the commonwealth. There is one argument, namely that that government is not to be admitted from which flow injuries, losses, and oppressions of the people, such is the government of the rich, therefore the government of the rich is not to be admitted. The assumption is clear since, like so many lions, the wealthy make the people their prey. For nothing is crueler than a wolf when it is hungry, nothing more ravening than a wealthy man when he thirsts for something that belongs to somebody else: the wealthy easily find a stick to beat dogs to death, the rich easily devise ways to kill off paupers. Irus lives in a dale, since he has nothing. But Quintus Aurelius loses his soul, that is, his Alban farm. The reason is that the powerful have jealous eyes, and do not allow the beggar’s cow to grow fat. In the third place Aristotle disputes about the third part, and teaches that good and earnest men should not govern the commonwealth. The reason is that thus countless men would be debarred from a share of honor, and human nature is unaccustomed and impatient of this injury, and so impatient that it should break forth in sedition if it is once wounded by disgust over its affairs. So let it be virtue that rules amongst them, but if the people is excluded from dignity, envy will be virtue’s companion. In the fourth place the Philosopher discusses that which is handled in the fourth part, namely that neither a single man, albeit he be distinguished for virtue, should stake a claim on government. The reason is the same as the previous one, since the people, repelled from honors, would burn, as it were, with the torch of imperious bile. If the people could ill tolerate the power of a few men, how worse it would tolerate that of a single man. Finally, he debates, now on this side, now on that, the efficacy and mastery of the law: first that the law should rule the commonwealth, since under any constitution the laws do not speak otherwise than do the men who sit in the citadel of the commonwealth. For example, amongst the Persians they have the ring of tyranny, amongst Christians, the sound of mercy.
3. Now at length follows the second part of this treatise, in which the Philosopher sets forth something fixed and definite. For otherwise, like a cloud driven by contrary winds, the doubtful mind would become distracted by contrary arguments. In this part, the question is whether it is more expedient for the multitude to have mastery rather than a few earnest men. This controversy is a difficult one, having within it many thorns and knots. But however it may be, I will do my best to follow Aristotle’s sense and opinion. But that this can be done more carefully and accurately, at this point must first be distinguished two kinds of multitude, one that is polite, civil, and has a propensity towards prudence, and the other impolite, servile, and hell-bent for evil: the former is moved more by intellect than appetite, the latter by feeling more than mind. Here the Philosopher is dealing with the former, not the latter, and he says that it is more expedient for a multitude rather than a few good men to be placed over the commonwealth. He gives six reasons and arguments, which all offer a similitude and proportion of some things. The first is from the force of nature, which is made much stronger and more efficacious by being united: there is a great power and illumination within the multitude, therefore the multitude should rule the commonwealth rather than a few earnest men, though they are not better as single individuals but rather as a universal collective. This very thing is proven by a comparison with a banquet, from the proportion of parts in the body, and from the example of painters, poets and musicians. From a comparison with a banquet, for, just as that banquet is more copious and delicious which is supplied by the expense and contributions of many men that that provided at the expense of a single individual, thus the prudence arising from the consultation of many men is far more efficacious and subtle than that which is located in the industry and judgment of a few. From the proportion of the parts, inasmuch is the multitude is like a universal man, who has many eyes, Argus-like, many hands and numerous other parts, Briareus-like, which parts collectively make the people stronger in its powers, mightier in its wealth, and wiser in the virtues of its mind, whence it follows that the administration of the commonwealth is to be conceded to the polite multitude rather than to the senate and censure of a few good men. For, as the proverb says, eyes see more than an an eye. And again, a great weight is lifted by the hands of many men.
4. Why say more? The voice of the people is the voice of God, and the administration of a civil multitude is superior to the government of a few good men. Now an argument follows from the examples of painters, poets and musicians. For, just as many musicians judge better about harmony than a few, as everybody judges better about the art of poetry than individuals, thus the multitude rules the commonwealth more wisely than a few, albeit they are genuinely polite and upright men. Furthermore, just as parts which are delineated by individual painters are far more graceful end elegant, if they are painted by Apelles or Zeuxis and joined on a single canvas, thus the prudence which thrives in individuals is much more eminent and august if it is perceived in an entire multitude. The Philosopher did not makes these proposals to detract at all from good men and their administration, but that by making his comparison he might extol the popular constitution, which most flourished in his age. The sum of everything he taught comes down to this, that in a multitude reason is more perceptive, intention is better, action is more permanent than in a few earnest men. Reason is more perceptive, since many eyes see more than one eye, many hands do more than one hand, many intellects are wiser than one mind can comprehend. Intention is better, since, wherever it turns itself, the people consults for the common good, for the private good of the people is called common. Action is more permanent, since the multitude yields to affections more rarely than does one man, the people is corrupted more rarely than a senate comprised of a few. But where is that bundle of weapons and citizens which the sons of Scylurus could not break? This unanimity of the bees is most rare, the faithful consensus of citizens is most rare. Wherefore in the text a certain moderation follows the praises of popular government, and a restriction is imposed on popular government. Moderation, where Aristotle compares earnest men to truly beautiful ones, but the people to painted images: for the perfectly good man has within himself all beautiful things, but the people has its moles and blemishes. Nevertheless, although deformity may exist within certain parts of the multitude (as in limping Vulcan and Thersites), yet one is discovered within the many who has a fairer face, another with a keener eye, a third with a stronger foot. So within the whole people a more divine perfection shines forth than in a few men, even if there is a great splendor of wisdom in them. “What then? Is the supreme government to be conceded the people?” Not at all, in no way did Aristotle wish this. “So what did he want?” Pay attention and with a couple of syllogisms (which he uses in the text) I’ll show you. Either the government of no public matters is to be given the people or of some, it is a horrible and dreadful thing to entrust the government of none to the people, therefore the government of some things should be committed to the people. The assumption is proven, since, if the people were to lack every dignity and rank of honor, the government will be full, not of citizens, but of enemies. So come, let it possess the government of some things. Listen to a second syllogism. If the government of some things is to be attributed to the people, these should either have to be the supreme magistracies, or consultations, judgments and elections are owed to the people, the supreme magistracies should in no wise be conceded, therefore consultations, judgments and elections are owed to the people. Not supreme magistracies, since the multitude is often inexperienced about affairs, it is with very great difficulty compelled within the circle of reason, and it is impossible that a flock can live without a shepherd, and a people without a governor. But that elections, consultations and judgments should be committed to it the Philosopher proves by the authority of Solon and other legislators, who of old granted the people the responsibity of electing and evaluating magistrates, i. e., they appointed the people the elector and censor of magistrates, but did not allow individuals to govern on their own.
5. But in the text two objections are made against this position, in this manner. Only experienced men (as Phocylides thought) should judge, elect and consult, the people is not experienced in affairs, therefore the people should not judge, elect and consult. The major premise is proven by the example of physicians and geometricians, who alone are endowed with the arts of healing and measurement and alone can judge about medicines and figures. He replies to this objection by teaching that he does not mean men individually, but taken together, not scattered, but gathered in a multitude, and thus he says they have much sense and, mixed together with their superiors not otherwise than subtle food is mixed together with denser for the sake of health, usually benefit the commonwealth. For, just as subtle nourishment is not advantageous for health, as it is readily digestible and quickly nourishes the nearby parts but leaves the remote parts starving, but when mixed with thicker nourishment provides sounder nutrition, so neither men of subtle intellect, nor the multitude with its thick wit should rule the commonwealth separately or by themselves, but, joining together their intellects and counsels, they should, as it were, nourish and preserve the individual parts of the commonwealth. Furthermore, knowledge of things is not always requisite for judgment, for often a homeowner can judge better about his house than can an architect, often a banqueteer can judge better about a meal than the cook himself. But, you will say, what a perilous thing it is to entrust judgment, counsel and election (which are the keys to the republic) to the people, to bid adieu to the prudent and let fools be the judges, which once Anacharsis criticized among the Greeks! What you say is true, if equity were not to judge together with the people, if the whole senate were not to pronounce its opinion. “So what do you conclude?” Namely this, that it is better for the multitude to rule than a few earnest men, and that it can claim for itself, not supreme government, but election and counsel. “But so far you have said nothing about laws, nothing about royal government.” You do well to give me this advice, for Aristotle stresses both at the end of this chapter. “So say what you think of them both.” I’ll tell you. But since I’ve been a little prolix, after briefly discussing the distinctions and arguments I shall bring up these two things in lieu of a doubtful question.
THE DISTINCTION OF THE FIRST QUESTION
Should the people or a tyrant, the rich or upright men, the single best man or the law administer the republic?
Governing is twofold, either:
6. OBJECTION Tyranny, oligarchy, and popular madness are excluded above from correct government, therefore it is thoughtlessly asked here if a tyrant, the wealthy, or the multitude should rule the commonwealth.
RESPONSE The hunt for the truth demands the refutation of error, therefore Aristotle inquires about both the false and the true forms of republic, so that he may show that there is just administration of the republic in these, but an unjust one in those.
OBJECTION None of those should rule the commonwealth, therefore this thesis is incorrectly framed. The antecedent is proven, since prudence and justice should rule the commonwealth, but prudence and justice are none of those, therefore none of those should rule the commonwealth.
RESPONSE Prudence and justice are means and instruments, but magistracies are causes and first principles of correctly administering the commonwealth. Here we are concerned with primary causes, not with means and instruments.
OBJECTION A division is not absolute when one member is missing, in this division a member is lacking, therefore it is not absolute. The minor premise is proven, since no mention at all is made of the king (who among all the rulers of the commonwealth is the greatest).
RESPONSE Mention of the king is made when it is asked if one best man should govern, for without doubt the Philosopher means a king by “one best man,” since he demands virtue in every magistrate, but in the supreme magistrate (such as the king is) he demands outstanding virtue.
OBJECTION As the interpreters affirm, Aristotle defines nothing certain in this question, therefore he disputes inaccurately about this manifold government. The antecedent is proven, since in the text the argument is tossed to and fro, which leaves the question hanging in doubt.
RESPONSE Certainly some men affirm this, but do not prove it. Therefore I say that about this matter, as about the rest, he disputed very certainly. For in a comparison of things what is more certain than to demonstrate what thing is best? And Aristotle does this. For after showing (for the sake of disputation) that neither the people nor the tyrant nor the others he subsequently itemizes should or can claim the government, he at length comes to this, that he thinks the polite multitude can claim the administration better than a few earnest men, but claim it thus that the supreme government be the responsibility of one man or a few, but that counsels, judgments and elections be entrusted to the people.
THE DISTINCTION OF THE SECOND QUESTION
Is it more expedient for the people to administer the republic than a few earnest men?
The multitude is twofold:
Boorish, rude, with no experience of affairs, which
follows sense and appetite more than the will of reason, more like
beasts than men, and this is not born for government. Civil, and
with a propensity toward virtue, and in administration this is
preferable to a few earnest men, since: In this
the power of many men is united, hence the commonwealth is stronger.
Boorish, rude, with no experience of affairs, which follows sense and appetite more than the will of reason, more like beasts than men, and this is not born for government.
Civil, and with a propensity toward virtue, and in administration this is preferable to a few earnest men, since:
the power of many men is united, hence the commonwealth is stronger.
7. OBJECTION Whatever comes closest to that which is best is better than that which is more distant therefrom, the administration of a few earnest men comes closest to that which is best, therefore it is better than the dominion of the people, which is more distant therefrom. The assumption is proven, since the government of good men comes closest to monarchy, which constitution is praised as the best by Aristotle.
RESPONSE Administration is twofold, supreme and middling: the supreme, which bears the person of the entire commonwealth, the middling which handles a part of the republic. Monarchy is called the best constitution with respect to supreme authority, to which the government of a few earnest men comes closest. But with respect to middling administration (to which the people is admitted) it is more expedient for the multitude than for a few earnest men to rule.
OBJECTION In a correct republic the people sometimes holds the supreme authority, therefore in this context it is not well excluded from supreme administration. The antecedent is clear in democracy, in which the supreme government remains in the hands of the people.
RESPONSE Many respond that a simple democracy in which the people absolutely holds the government does not exist. But I think there is such a thing as popular government, yet it does not follow from this that, when a comparison has been made, the people should obtain the supreme government, any more than a single man or a few earnest ones, therefore in this context the people is excluded from participation in the supreme honor not absolutely, but comparatively.
OBJECTION If there is no such thing as simple democracy, the Philosopher pointlessly divided the correct republic into three species, therefore simple democracy exists. Which being conceded, it follows that the multitude is a participant in supreme government. For in a democracy the first magistrate is the people itself.
RESPONSE The consequence of your major premise is not sound. For often things which do not exist in actuality are defined by the philosophers, just as the first principles of natural things are said to be the most simple, although outside of mixtures they are not apparent. Thus these forms of republics are shown to be simple, although they do not exist simply and absolutely, as can be seen all over the world in every constitution. Yet they are called simply by that name, to the degree that they approach nearer to this simple form of administration or that one. For example, people speak of a simple monarchy in France. The reason is that the king has the greatest mastery over things and citizens. But within that monarchy consular authority has a certain force and appearance of aristocracy, and popular consent has a certain force and appearance of democracy mixed in.
OBJECTION Government is owed to those in whom there is a greater force of virtue and a lesser fear of dissension, in a few earnest men there is a greater force of virtue and less fear of dissension than in the whole multitude, therefore government is owned to a few earnest men more than to the whole multitude. The minor premise is obvious, for true friendship can be nourished amongst a few earnest men, but in the multitude hateful discord often blazes forth.
RESPONSEThe distinction of the multitude offered above unties this knot. For albeit their is a lesser force of virtue and a greater fear of dissension in a boorish multitude, nevertheless, quite to the contrary, in a polite and civil multitude (which is understood here) there thrives a greater force of virtue and a lesser fear of sedition. For although individual men are bested by the few, yet all men, when compelled within one sphere of reason, as it were, far surpass and excel the few.
THE DISTINCTION OF THE THIRD QUESTION
Is supreme government to be conceded to the people?
The people is considered either:
Per se and separately from the other
magistrates in the republic, and thus supreme government is not to be
8. OBJECTION In the text Aristotle forbids the people access to supreme government, therefore in this distinction it is ill-conceded.
RESPONSE He forbids the people access to supreme government, but not simply, but comparatively. Therefore what Aristotle means is this, that in every well-regulated commonwealth wise men propose great things, and that the prudent and expert multitude either approve these proposals with its ballots or refuse them with its vote. I say “the prudent and expert multitude,” because it is not worthwhile for the commonwealth to place any value on what the agitated people has said in its frenzy. Hence prudent and popular men are elected out of the throng of the people in every congress and grave consultation of the republic, without whose presence no councils are justly convened, no counsels are approved.
OBJECTION It is expedient for the commonwealth to be ruled by those men by whose help its end may more easily be gained, by the government of a few earnest men the end of the commonwealth is more easily gained, therefore it is expedient for commonwealth to be governed by earnest men rather than the multitude. The minor premise is obvious, since the end of the commonwealth is gained more easily by simply good men than by bad men.
RESPONSE I deny that the multitude is bad, indeed I affirm that it is honorable and conspicuously wise, not, however, regarded as separate individuals, but as a universal collective, as I have said above.
OBJECTION Nobody judges correctly and wisely about things of which he is ignorant, the people is ignorant about the consultation, election and judgment of the republic, therefore the people does not judge correctly and wisely about those things.
RESPONSE This argument is resolved in the text, where the Philosopher teaches that the people is not wholly ignorant of these things. Yet even if it is conceded that it is ignorant, yet because of the danger it will not be excluded. Furthermore, just as a homeowner judges better about his house than an architect, so the people often judges about these matters better than do optimates. Finally, it is not consistent with reason that the public affairs of the republic be handled without the consent of the people, in which the light of the commonwealth is discerned the most. But Aristotle has spoken carefully and subtly about this contention in the text, therefore I now come to the chapter’s doubtful question.
THE CHAPTER’S DOUBTFUL QUESTION
Is monarchy the best constitution of the republic?
9. Why do you hesitate, Aristotle? Why not speak openly? Pray tell me in a word, is monarchy the best constitution of the commonwealth? What? You keep your silence? Are you afraid of the people? You are a philosopher, and Socrates is your friend, Plato is your fiend, but the truth should be you friend the more. “I have painted a veil, but you are not seeing the work.” Come, since you are speaking under a veil and not openly, say in my ear what you think about this constitution. “I say it is best.” You say this indeed, but you will not say it. “In my first philosophy I affirm again that a crowd of many magistrates destroys the commonwealth.” You affirm it, surely, but you do not confirm it well. “Bees and cranes tend towards one king, the first principles of things to one cause, everything in the universe to one God, is this not a proof?” Indeed, there’s something in what you say, and so with you as my advisor I shall read the scattered things which you wrote about this thing written on a single page. “Do this and you will see that I have greatly preferred monarchy to all the forms of the republic.” So pay attention, earnest reader, while I rehearse briefly and succinctly the collected arguments in this business. There are many, which I shall deal with point by point. The more that civil sovereignty is assimilated to the government of the universe, the more excellent it is and is deemed to be, monarchy (i.e., the sovereignty of one man) is most similar to the government of the universe, therefore the sovereignty of one man is by far the best. Nobody, in my estimation, is so impious as to deny the major premise, since God rules the universe, nobody is so impudent as to deny the minor, when he hears God named as king of the commonwealth. What else, pray, is the world but a grand commonwealth which one God rules? Therefore, if it be permissible to compare great things with small, I thus conclude. One God rules the entire universe, therefore one king should govern the commonwealth, the former because He is wise and infinitely good, the latter since he is prudent an earnest for the good. For the substance of the good is within God, and the true image of God is within the king: we should worship the former for Himself, but honor the latter for God’s sake, Whose person he bears within the commonwealth. But I am exceeding my limit.
10. Another argument follows, based on antiquity, is that that constitution is best which is oldest, monarchy is such, therefore monarchy is the best constitution. To deny this assumption argues either great impiety or great folly: impiety, since at the first creation God made one father and king of all men; folly, since nobody fails to see that it is probable that when people grew numerous on this earth they elected a single Apollo or wise man, who would try cases and ward off injuries inflicted. Thus Saturn in Italy, thus Romulus at Rome, thus Theseus at Athens, thus Amphion and Cadmus at Thebes were said to have assumed the governments offered them. For men wandering about in the manner of beasts live without a king no better than sheep without a shepherd. In the third place, nature offers herself for the confirmation of this argument, who, as if pointing with her finger, has always shown that the government of one man is the most august. It would take an infinitude of time if I were to recount everything about the republic of the bees that has been written by the poet and proven by experience. I wholly admire nature’s work in them. They have a king, who denies it? The obey a single bee, who does not admit it? They have combs and homes, who argues the contrary? They carry honey and wax into the swarm like wealth and communal treasure into the commonwealth, who does not marvel at nature’s work? Then too, they have precepts of doctrine, namely that the king among the bees lacks a sting, does not toil for his sustenance, banishes lazy drones from the cells, and incites the bees to war with his trumpet-like buzz. Why say more? He flies out, they all follow. He fights, everybody joins in the fray. He dies, they all mourn with a lugubrious sound. After his burial (for the do not keep him within the swarm when he is dead) they all join in a new council, their citizenry is convened, they consult for a while, a new king is created, whom all obey and defer to. See, I pray you, what kind of kingdom, what kind of government nature has created. What I have just written about bees I can say about cranes, amongst whom a single one, who has, as it were, been elected sovereign by the consent of the rest thus rules and governs the flock that you may see that there is a greater prudence and providence present by instinct in little birds than is acquired by habit in men. Let kings learn this one thing from cranes, that they keep more vigilant watches while their subjects sleep sounder and enjoy their leisure. Thus once did Epaminondas, thus did all consecrated kings, who, sustaining the sphere of the commonwealth, strove, not for themselves, but for the republic.
11. But why am I seeking my arguments from the animal kingdom, when in each and every thing universal nature shows her approval of this government of a king? What made the diamond among stones, the olive among plants, the lion among beasts, the eagle among birds, fire among the elements, the sun among the plants, the supreme and glorious sky among the spheres to be like kings? Was it not nature herself? Thus, therefore, I argue: nature has placed monarchy in all things, therefore it is rightly concluded that monarchy is the best constitution of the republic. Furthermore, not only nature’s instinct but also the common usage of our ancestors confirms this same thing, for let us visit lands and nations, let us review places and times, let us consider the governments of the Chaldees, the Persians, the Assyrians, the Romans, let us place before our eyes the scepters of individual nations that have long reigned with prosperity, and surely in all of these noble monarchy is commended as the best constitution. Why am I delaying? Thus the Tartars, thus the Indians, thus the Muscovites, thus the Persians, thus the Goths, thus Africans, and thus (that I may conclude in a word) the French, the Spanish, the English rule and are ruled. Therefore common usage has taught that a kingdom is to be established instead of the other forms of constitution. Further, as it seems to me, nature’s proportion demands this one thing, that, just as a multitude flows from a single thing, thus at length it should be reduced to one, this cannot be done more conveniently than by having one man rule, therefore the government of one man is to be preferred. The parts of Man have a single heart, the lines of a sphere a single center, the parts of the universe one God, and, surely, the parts of the commonwealth one king. The parts of Man thrive in the heart, the lines of the sphere cling to the center, the parts of the universe depend on God, and the parts of the commonwealth live in the king. Also, the unity of peace is more visible in one than in many, the happiness of the commonwealth shines forth in the unity of peace, therefore the sovereignty of one man has a rightful claim on the throne of the commonwealth. You should have no doubt of this proposition, for one man is more rarely at odds with himself than many, since many men have many heads and varied characters. The members of the Areopagus, divided in their judgment, destroyed Athens, the divided consuls overturned Rome. If there be no supreme moderator, the multitude works harm. Therefore in one man there is a union of many, and in many dissent is often created.
12. Among these arguments I am offering, this one is not the least weighty, namely that in every household, in every family, in every city one man is required to preside over the others, therefore much more so in the republic. If you deny my reasoning, it is drawn from the lesser to the greater, from the less necessary to the more necessary. For it is less necessary that the household, in which there are few, be ruled by the government of one than the commonwealth, in which there are many, but it is necessary that one preside within the household, therefore it is more necessary in the commonwealth. This happens (in my opinion) because the multitude obeys the government of one more readily than that of many. For, just as slaves are readily induced to obey one master, but not several, thus subjects are readily moved to support the government of one, not of several. Then too, if you consider either the duration of a kingdom or the election of magistrates, you will readily give first prize to monarchy. For (to omit the kingdoms of antiquity which flourished the longest), have not the Spaniards observed the scepter of a single ruler for 860 full years, the French for 1200? What? Let me add the English and the Scots, who from the beginning have stoutly defended the government of one man. If you consider election (in which lurks the tinder of sedition), is not one admitted to the throne of the commonwealth much less frequently than many, and this mainly when the sovereign is designated by the succession of blood and the voice of nature? Therefore if the duration is longer, the election is easier. What stands in the way of designating monarchy as that which is more excellent than the others?
13. But my oration hastens towards its ending, and yet I shall add two arguments. The first is that aristocracy and the polity cannot stand if they are not fortified by the helps of kings. And if this is approved, it is certain that monarchy is to preferred by many degrees. That this is the case is manifestly declared by the most ancient republics, for the Spartans had their prefect in addition to their Ephors, the Athenians had one wise man in addition to their censors, the Carthaginians one judge in addition to their magistrates, the Romans one dictator in addition to their consuls. But in these commonwealths there once flourished the governments of magnates and commoners, that is, aristocracy and democracy, which nevertheless (as you perceive) were recalled to the rule of one by the impulse of reason. Today the constitution of the Venetians is called an aristocracy, but I wonder whether it could flourish without its Doge. Therefore, if other constitutions are compelled to direct themselves to monarchy’s asylum as to a sacred anchor, is this constitution not deservedly to be placed before the others? Finally, if either divine or human testimonies have force in this matter, the colleges of the philosophers, the councils of the Fathers of all ages and times join our forefathers in stipulating this. The monuments of Plato and other wise men are full of sentiments concluding that monarchy is far better than other constitutions. Here I do not speak of divine testimony, yet I cannot help speaking about this one, that God, the king of kings and lord of lords, made one king head of the commonwealth, just as He made one man head of the household. He granted Saul to the people, He approved David, He commanded that both be obeyed, not just because of fear, as many men do today, but out of conscience, as few today are willing to do.
A DISTINCTION CONCERNING THIS QUESTION IS NOT ADDED, BECAUSE THE ARGUMENTS ARE ADVANCED IN THE EXPOSITION WITH SUFFICIENT DISTINCTNESS
14. OBJECTION In the preceding question it has been proven that government is to be entrusted to the multitude rather than to a few or to one, therefore in the present context the contrary is ill defended.
RESPONSE Middling magistracy and government is treated there, here the supreme one. The multitude is indeed to be preferred to the few and to the one in the middling offices of the commonwealth. The reason is that, having so many eyes, it better perceives the individual parts of the republic. Yet, just as there is a single heart in the human body by whose influence all the parts and members live, so in the commonwealth there is a single king, upon whose prudence depend not just the citizens, but all the rest of the magistrates. For the middling magistrates are nothing else but the eyes and hands of the king.
OBJECTION Greater prudence is discerned in aristocracy than in monarchy, therefore in the administration of the commonwealth aristocracy is to be placed before kingship. The antecedent is clear in the text, since eyes see more than an eye, since the power of virtue is more united in optimates.
RESPONSE Here the king is not to be understood as one man but as the supreme magistrate, that is, the king does not only possess two eyes and two hands, but is all-seeing like Argus and all-comprehending like Briareus. For the king has wise men as his counselors, the king has countless inferior magistrates, and finally, the king has the people’s hands and feet. Thus, although Caesar sits in a corner of the palace, yet he sees the individual parts of the commonwealth. For, just as the light of the other stars is united in the sun, from which it flows, thus the prudence of all magistrates is united in the king, from which it has its rising and splendor.
OBJECTION A single king is quicker corrupted and depraved in his morals than good and earnest men, therefore aristocracy, which is the government of good men, ought to be preferred to monarchy. The antecedent is proven, since (as it says in the text) one man is quicker corrupted than a multitude.
RESPONSE This reasoning is dealt with in the same way s the previous one, namely that he is quicker depraved as a man, but not as a magistrate in whom are united the parts and virtues of all the commonwealth, which support the king when he is in distress, and raise him up when he falls by their counsel and prudence.
OBJECTION The Roman government was never happier than when its kings were expelled, never more miserable than when Julius Caesar commenced his perpetual dictatorship. Therefore it seems probable that aristocracy is preferable. Furthermore, it is absurd to establish the same administration of the republic in peace and in war. Therefore it does not follow that, if a dictatorship is requisite in war, that also in peace monarchy (which is nothing else than a dictatorship for life) should endure. I could add many things to this if I were not striving for brevity, namely that it is perilous to exclude those who deserve well of the republic from the throne of majesty, that it is unfair to entrust the pivotal points of the commonwealth to the power of a single man, that it is absurd to make all the courts depend on the will of a single man. These are proven by the antiquity of time and the authority of our ancestors. For the name of king was hateful to the Romans, and after their kings had been deposed Athens, Carthage, Sparta, and many another commonwealth introduced a senate. Finally the succession of a king has its element of chance, but the election of grandees has its law. For it is uncertain whether a better man in the bloodline will come to the throne, but in an election deliberation approves the better man.
15. RESPONSE Here many arguments are rolled together which I think have been satisfied previously. For I regard the king not as one small man but as the person of the entire commonwealth. In a single sun is greater light than in six hundred stars, greater power is in a single king than in six hundred good men. The reason is that, just as the powers of the stars are united in the sun, thus the virtues of good men are placed in the king. If he does not heed this, he is called a tyrant rather than a king. But, you will say, what else is this than to prefer a popular constitution or one of optimates? It is not, for although the prince should heed and follow the counsels of good men, yet in him a greater majesty of order shines than in other men. For, with one head established, all occasion of strife is removed. Therefore I respond to all these things that here monarchy is not understood as a perpetual dictatorship, it is not perilous to entrust everything to the power of a single man; Rome, Carthage, Athens and Sparta expelled their Tarquins and Peisistratids, that is, they expelled tyrants rather than kings; in the royal bloodline is not the dice of fortune, but rather the commonwealth’s anchor and protection.
OBJECTION At the end of this chapter the administration of the commonwealth by law is preferred to the government of one man, therefore monarchy is not the best constitution of the republic. The reason is, since law rules without emotion.
RESPONSE Now opportune mention of the law is made, for I have promised to speak of it. Therefore I affirm that the rule of law per se is not preferred to the dominion of one man, even though the Philosopher says nothing should be so settled and firm as correct and salubrious laws, yet his words which follow are these: personal rule, whether it be exercised by a single person or a body of persons, should be sovereign only in those matters on which the laws cannot speak comprehensively and accurately, as if he were to say that in many things the law fails us, therefore the king should govern, so that those things not decided by law may be left to the judgment of the king.
Is the excellence of any good man at all to be rewarded with civil honor?
HE Philosopher has told us who and what sort of man the magistrate should be in the republic. Now it follows that he dispute next about the distribution of the commonwealth’s rewards, for office is described by him in vain if the benefit of office is not added. For in office there is the burden and labor of the man, but in reward the honor and splendor of the magistrate. Therefore he inquires whether any good man’s excellence is to be rewarded with some civil dignity. But before I treat of this thesis definitely, there are some things dealt with confusedly by Aristotle which I shall briefly touch upon. First, having made his beginning, he shows that the end of any art is to be considered, and especially that of the civil art. I suppose he does this since the rewards of the commonwealth contain its end as their measure. This end (he says) is the common good, which distributive justice employs as a norm in the granting of the honors of the commonwealth: for this is equal if you consider the law of justice, that every man should have a recompense proportionate to the merit of his virtue. But it is asked whether this distribution of honor should occur because of the excellence of each good man. For disputation’s sake Aristotle first denies this and says it should not occur. His arguments are three. First, if the distribution of honor should occur because of the excellence of each good man, it will follow that color or size of body (which are goods of nature) are sometimes to be recompensed, but it is absurd that anybody should be honored since he is more handsome or is endowed with a larger body. Therefore the excellence if every man is not to be decorated with some civil honor. Furthermore, it is the same in civil science as in the other arts, in the other arts only activity and usefulness is rewarded, therefore so too in civil science. The minor premise is proven by the example of a piper, in which not his contemplation of the art, but rather his flute-playing, which is the work of the art, takes the prize. When he was made a judge between Menalces and Dametus, Palaemon rightly said It it is not my task to resolve your quarrel. You are worthy of a calf, and so is he, and anybody who will either reap sweet loves, or experience bitter ones.
2. The third argument is sought from an absurdity, in this way. If the distribution of honor is made according to the excellence of any good at all, then any good can be compared with any good. But how silly it is for Milo, excellent for his hugeness of body, to compete with Socrates, excellent for his mind? These things being posited, Aristotle enumerates four goods which are both necessary within the commonwealth and worthy of the commonwealth’s honors. In the text he lists wealth, nobility, liberty and virtue: wealth, since the commonwealth should not consist only of paupers; nobility, since within this shines a certain light of the commonwealth; liberty, since citizens should be sons, not slaves; virtue, inasmuch as citizens should be good men, not bad. By these four, men are wont to benefit the republic, and it is especially for them that citizens are rewarded. But with respect to that good which citizens can claim in their own right, as the Philosopher shows, he introduces each kind here, ambitiously striving for honor. Thus the wealthy speak: “we possess earth and heaven, therefore supreme honors are owed to us.” The nobles say: “we have Caesars for our grandfathers and great-grandfathers, therefore we rightly claim the greatest dignities.” Jealous of these, the freemen act out their role: “we are the greatest part of the commonwealth, therefore we should have the greatest rewards.” Finally the good men more rightly come to a conclusion on their own behalf, for honor belongs to virtue. “Therefore,” they say, “we demand honor as our right,” and indeed (as Aristotle says) they come to this conclusion justly, since good just men are the lights and pillars of the commonwealth. For within them justice is a virtue that leads to another, that is, it strives for the commonwealth rather than for itself. But you will say that the multitude has these four virtues within itself in abundance, therefore it is to be cherished with the greatest honor. I reply that under any constitution of the republic you care to name it is enough to define who should reign, one, a few, or the multitude. But if all of these forms concur within one commonwealth (to whom the government should then be given), is this not a difficult question? No, it assuredly is not, for it has just been demonstrated that this very thing is due to virtue.
3. But the Philosopher proceeds by way of disputing against all of these, and he teaches that wealth, family and liberty are not honorable goods per se, unless they be referred to the end of the commonwealth, which is to its highest good. To this therefore return all things discussed and disputed by the Philosopher, namely that any man’s excellence of goodness is to be decorated by civil honor to the extent that it contributes anything of value and importance to the common good of the commonwealth. But if they depart from this good, if they lock and bar the avenue to virtue, then indeed they are no longer called goods, nor deserve the rewards of the commonwealth (that is, honors). Aristotle says thus much in the text, but now I shall say a little about this matter according to my own opinion. “What are you seeking? Is the excellence of any good to be decorated with some civil honor?” Tell me, have you any doubt about this matter? “I beg your pardon, but why shouldn’t I doubt? Show me your reason.” I’ll tell you, since I see the bell is being tolled for nearly all the good things in the world, but the bad things are being extolled. “But look here, in this context we are inquiring not about the de facto but about the de jure. So explain your case with arguments.” Listen to a few words, and I’ll teach you. It is well known that every good is comprehended under a threefold classification of goods, those which pertain either to fortune, or to nature herself, or to the mind’s virtue: an example of fortune’s good is abundance of money; one of nature is handsomeness or beauty; one of the mind is justice or fortitude. In this context I mean every kind of good, so long as it tends to the common good of the commonwealth. And thus, to a greater or lesser degree (as they say), dignity is owed to every good. For the wealthy have their praise, nobles their pedigree, and both their reward of honor. Indeed, I add this, that the good of any art, even though it be a trifling one, has its glory. Hence Apelles has deserved his statue for being a famous painter, and Polyclitus a painting for being a famous sculptor. Within the commonwealth this indeed is politic, that not even an excellent cobbler should go without his reward. For honor nourishes the arts, and we are incited to the pursuit of virtue by rewards, as if by goads.
4. This very thing is proven by five arguments. The first is drawn from the definition of justice, the second from the exposition of a contrary, the third from the induction of an example, the fourth from the end and good of the commonwealth, the fifth from a comparison with nature. From the definition of justice, since justice is a disposition of giving each man his due; but the force and splendor of this virtue is destroyed if the rewards of the commonwealth should be denied to an excellent man in any pursuit at all. From the exposition of a contrary, for what kind of reason is, it punishment is visited upon the conspicuously wicked, but no palm is awarded the outstandingly good? From the induction of an example, since Homer has had his laurel, the Scipios their crown, the Caesars their triumph, nearly each and every excellent man in old times has had his due honor. From the end and good of the commonwealth, since in this way the commonwealth is rendered happy and prosperous. For, good God, what contention will there be among the citizens? What rivalry? How great and how ardent a pursuit of virtue, if every good and excellent work should be honored by the voice of the magistrate and the hand of the commonwealth? And, conversely, how lazy will the Muses become, how chill the pursuit of virtue, how rare the specimens of human excellence, when the honor whose shadow we so eagerly pursue because of our nature is absent? From a comparison with nature, which has granted better places to divine things, such as heaven to the angels, human heads for minds: if these things should happen because of nature, why should not the commonwealth do the same, in imitation of nature? But these two cautions should be introduced, one with respect to the magistrate who gives the honor, another with respect to the man who seeks it. The former is that he should only support with honor that excellent good which tends to the common good, the latter is that nobody should serve as a judge of himself and rashly foist himself into the citadel of honor. For, just as the higher a monkey climbs, the more the shamefulness of his parts becomes apparent, thus the higher fools ascend, the more the corruption of morals is perceived. For the dignity reveals the man, and fear and disgrace attend upon the honor acquired by fraud.
THE DISTINCTION OF THE QUESTION
The excellence of any good at all tending to the common good is to be remunerated, because of:
The decree of justice, by which this is mandated.
5. OBJECTION Praise and honor are due only to virtue, as is said in Book I of the Ethics, therefore those who excel in other kinds of good cannot justly claim these.
RESPONSE Praise and honor are due only to virtue per se, and to other goods for the sake of virtue: hence it is that the Philosopher taught that wealth, liberty, cleverness of mind, and nobility do not deserve honor for their own sake, yet they merit it since they tend to the common good of the commonwealth.
OBJECTION It is silly that Pan the piper, Gordius the cowherd, and lowly men of other most sordid arts should aspire to honor, therefore it is an unworthy thing that the excellence of any old art and good should be remunerated.
RESPONSE Pan the piper was numbered among the gods, Gordius the cowherd among kings, and certainly it is not silly that Fabius should come from the beanfield to the Senate. No art is sordid which tends towards the good, and indeed good should be remunerated in every art. Yet there are many degrees of honor, and the cowherd has his lot in his kind.
OBJECTION Liberal beauty was an excellent good in Helen, yet nobody except Paris would dignify Helen with honor.
RESPONSE In Helen, beauty was an excellent good, but, not tending towards the common good, did not deserve honor.
OBJECTION Only the wealthy, the noble, the free and the earnest are considered worthy of honor by Aristotle in the text, and clowns, innkeepers, cobblers and cowherds are not to be counted among these, therefore they are not deemed worthy of honor. Furthermore, because of the abject things and humble arts they ply, Aristotle has previously denied them to be citizens. Therefore it follows that they should not have a share in honor, which ought to be conceded only to citizens.
RESPONSE First I reply that these men are comprehended under those, as less worthy men under the more worthy. Then I say that not the man but the man’s action, not the material of the art but artisan’s excellent work is to be considered by the commonwealth, and also to be remunerated in its own kind and degree. Finally I affirm that, though they might not be citizens in fact, yet it is possible they can have a share in dignity, if a prudent and just magistrate should so decide: for if they excel in their art, if they tend to the good, utility, or honor of the commonwealth, it is within the magistrate’s power to make them citizens, and be decorated with just honors.
THE CHAPTER’S DOUBTFUL QUESTION
In the passing of laws should the utility of good men be considered rather than that of the whole multitude?
6. Did you burn with such great love of your laws, Lycurgus, that you would live in perpetual exile rather than see them violated in your homeland? I greatly praise this deed of yours, for the corruption of the laws is the confusion of the commonwealth. For the law is the norm and soul of the republic, by which it rules well and lives happily. Therefore in the passing of laws who can say how careful, how just, how wise we should be? But what am I doing? In this place it is only being asked whether in the passing of laws the utility of good men ought to be considered rather than that of the whole multitude. Let us hear Aristotle on this subject. He says that in the writing of laws that is right which pertains to the utility of the entire commonwealth and the advantage of all its citizens. This indeed is right, for legislators should consult and provide, not for one man, not for a few, but for the entire commonwealth. I prove this from the nature of law, from the utility of the commonwealth. From the nature of law, since what is else is the law but the tongue of all the commonwealth speaking on behalf of all men, not a few? From the utility of the commonwealth, which calls tyrants those who consult for themselves or for a few. What else is this than to invade other men’s property, and most basely convert public goods to the use of private men? But you will say that legislators most greatly contend to make their citizens good and honest men, therefore it appears to follow that in passing the law the utility of good men should be considered rather than that of the multitude. I indeed acknowledge this attempt, this enterprise to be requisite in legislators, so they will strive to make each and every man good. But in creating laws, since they see that good men are laws unto themselves, it is the better part of prudence for them to have foresight for the multitude rather than a few earnest men. For good men are a small part of the commonwealth, but the multitude has the image and form of the whole.
In passing laws one should consider the utility of the people rather than the advantage of a few good men, since:
Law is a regulator of the universal, not the
7. OBJECTION In the text the Philosopher teaches those laws are best which are adapted to the constitution of the commonwealth, there is a constitution of the commonwealth which aims neither at the utility of good men nor that of the multitude, therefore he introduced this controversy in vain. The minor premise is proven, for tyranny is a constitution of the commonwealth which consults neither consults for good men nor for the multitude.
RESPONSE I reply that here the dispute is about correct, not wrong forms of the republic. Furthermore, not a few men doubt whether in tyranny itself the utility of of the multitude is wholly neglected. This is not politic, as some say, for under the pretext of fairest laws for the use of the people the tyrant steals the goods of the commonwealth.
OBJECTION In aristocracy, which is the government of good men, laws should be established for the use of good men rather than the people, therefore in some constitution there will be consultation about the utility of good men rather than of the multitude.
RESPONSE In a democracy, optimates would be tyrants, should they consult for themselves more than for the people. Yet I admit that under that constitution laws are sometimes made for the use of good men, but they are so made that they are referred to public more than private utility.
OBJECTION The good of the commonwealth is genuinely an honest good, therefore in passing laws one should consult for good men rather than the multitude. The reasoning holds, since the goods of fortune are most owed to earnest men, as the Philosopher taught in the Ethics, for the goods or fortune are good with respect to virtue.
RESPONSEIn consulting for the multitude more than for good men, I do not scorn the honest good, rather I value and esteem it most highly. For, just as medicines are prepared for the ailing rather than the healthy, so the tablets of established laws should be prepared for the infirm multitude, not for good men, since (as I have said above) good men are laws unto themselves, but the people has more need for the voice of law, so that, ignorant, it may be better instructed or, erring, be more safely be recalled to the right road.
Is ostracism to be approved in the well-regulated commonwealth. That is, is it permissible to send and relegate conspicuously excellent men into temporary exile?
OW absurdly, how inconsiderately are you are acting, Aristotle! Just now you thought that any man’s excellence is worthy of being given government, how you think it worthy of exile? Was Hannibal, who surpassed all the Carthaginians in the fortitude of his mind, justly banished? Was Aristeides, who bested all the Athenians in the equity of his mind, justly driven from his nation? What? For this reason should heroic and excellent men lack a nation, since they surpass others in excellence? This is absurd, I won’t hear of it. It is impious, I won’t tolerate it. For my part, Aristotle, I believe you aren’t saying this; rather, I imagine certain interpreters are disgracefully wrong in expounding your view. For if you were to say this, certainly you would never to have adjudged a blessed man worthy of government, as you have above, you would never have adjudged him a king among his fellow-citizens and a god among men, as here you plainly say. Wherefore, lest the Machiavellians may seem to have sucked a contagious virus from this passage for the infection and destruction of republics, let us hear the first syllogism which you yourself have constructed at the beginning of this chapter. He who lives either like a king among his fellow citizens, or godlike among men, is not to be sent packing into exile, the man who heroically excels the others lives either like a king among his fellow citizens, or godlike among men, therefore the man who heroically excels others is not to be sent packing into exile. The major premise is obvious, for to be in exile and to live among men are inconsistent. The minor is agreed in the text, since (as the Philosopher says) the man who is excellently good is not a part of the commonwealth, nor is he subject to the laws like a citizen. He is not part, since he surpasses all the parts in goodness. He is not subject to the laws, since (as Plato says) the law is not applied to conspicuously good men, since they are laws unto themselves. Thus if he is not a part but greater than a part, like a king among his fellow citizens, if he is not subject to law but is himself a light of the law, he should be regarded like a god among men, and I conclude he is not to be driven from the commonwealth which he should rule, he is not to be sent packing from the nation in which he should shine. Hence Aristotle thought it would consistent that legislators exempt outstandingly excellent men from all slavery to the law, for otherwise they could reply to legislators as did once the lion to the other beasts. For (as Antisthenes allegorically relates) when the rabbits were demanding equality in the assembly, the lion said I shall obey you, if my claws are drawn. The best men are like lions, that is, they are kings among citizens, and their virtues are like claws, whose excellence demands that they be freed from servitude to the laws.
2. But in another part of this chapter Aristotle’s mind is wholly bent in approving ostracism and the exile of good men. Listen to one distinction, and you will understand precisely what he means. As I have said above, the administration of the republic is twofold, correct and incorrect. In the correct, ostracism is not permitted; in the incorrect, it is approved. That it is not permitted in the correct I prove thus by syllogisms. Whatever tends to the preservation of the good and the end of the commonwealth is not to be banished from the commonwealth, the heroically and conspicuously good man tends to the preservation of the good and the end of the commonwealth, therefore the heroically and conspicuously good man is not to be banished. Likewise, whoever is the light, law and norm of virtue is not to be debarred from the commonwealth, the outstandingly good man is the light, law and norm of virtue, therefore the outstandingly good man is not to be debarred from the commonwealth. He is the light, since he shines with the example of his life; he is the law, since he directs others; he is the norm, since he controls the actions of others. Furthermore, whoever is worthy of government should not be harmed by exile, the man who excels in virtue is worthy of government, therefore the man who excels in virtue should not be punished with exile. Finally, whoever comes closest to God is not to be abolished from the city, the excellently good man comes closest to God, therefore the excellently good man is not to be abolished from the city. Here it can be added that that whoever is greatly evil is worthy of death, therefore whoever is conspicuously good is to be illuminated by the light of the commonwealth.
3. Now I shall play the opposite role and in a few words set out the things said by the philosopher in favor of ostracism. There are four arguments, and the first goes like this. Whoever are inimical to the end and good of the commonwealth justly suffer ostracism, those who most surpass the rest in wealth, popular favor, and power, are inimical to the good and the end of the commonwealth, therefore those who most surpass the rest in wealth, popular favor, and power, justly suffer ostracism. The assumption is proven, since men who abound in these goods violate and corrupt the equality and proportion which is to be cultivated among citizens, and from this arises the greatest contention and envy of the people. Here you may thus understand tyranny, oligarchy, or popular madness, and think it politic and in a way just among them, if for this reason men who shine in virtue are ejected. For in these things what impedes tyranny more than the force and splendor of heroic virtue? But good Christ, how wide does this evil creep abroad? Depart Athens, just Aristeides, if cruel Timon rules in the city. This argument follows in the text, namely that the Argonauts once marooned their captain Hercules because they thought he was more excellent than themselves. Therefore excellence is to be restrained by severe laws, as most inimical to the equality of citizens and to the good of the commonwealth. In the third place, the Philosopher argued from the example of Periander, Thrasybulus, and other tyrants. The story is this. They tyrant Thrasybulus sent an ambassador to Periander to ask his advice about administering the republic. Periander made no answer to the ambassador, but as he walked about he lopped off the higher ears of corn with his staff, making them level with the rest of the crop. When the ambassador had related this to Thrasybulus, immediately the tyrant understood by this that Periander’s advice signified that he should dispose of his more excellent citizens. This, the Philosopher says, is expedient not only for tyrants, but has its place in oligarchies and democracies. Thus the Athenians frequently weakened the Samians, the Chians, the Lesbians, thus the kings of Persia did to the Medes, the Babylonians, and others, whom they envied for, as it were, their wings of virtue and honor. What? Have only the Persians and the Turks laid these eggs? Assuredly not. For nowadays this fraud is creeping into Christian republics, namely that those who have greater sprits of virtue, marked by the potsherd of ostracism, are continually being consigned either to exile or to the gallows. For the Caesars dream they will not be safe if they allow the followers of Pompey to coexist with themselves at Rome. But, confronted with virtue’s exile, what hope of salvation is within the commonwealth; amidst an effusion of blood, what salvation?
4. The final reasoning is drawn from a similarity. For, just as a painter will not allow a foot on his canvas which exceeds legitimate measure and proportion, and as a shipwright will not suffer a part which is larger than the just size of the others, and finally, and finally as the choirmaster will not allow him to sing who surpasses the others in the loudness of his voice, thus in the republic that man is intolerable who surpasses and exceeds the rest in the excellence of his goodnesses. Therefore ostracism is to be approved in the commonwealth, not only that evil may be uprooted, but lest the excellent man incite and incur the wrath and envy of the people. With these things having been demonstrated, three things to be considered offer themselves at the end of this chapter. The first is that Aristotle says it is better advised to establish the republic thus from its beginning that in no way shall it require this remedy. The second, that in the best forms of the republic this will not be absolutely just. Finally, that the outstandingly good man should live perpetually as king in the commonwealth. With the first it is argued that Aristotle did not approve this form of exile, with the second that he did not assign this thing to the correct forms of republic, with the third that he insinuated that monarchy (of which he next disputes) is superior to the other constitutions. For if, according to Aristotle, the one best man should live perpetually as king in the commonwealth, then doubtless, according to Aristotle, monarchy (in which the simply best man is requisite as magistrate) is to be preferred to all forms of the commonwealth.
THE DISTINCTION OF THE QUESTION
Ostracism is considered with respect either to:
Correct administration, and thus it should not be
approved, as is clearly proven by five syllogisms in the text.
5. Ostracism is a certain kind of exile once invented and instituted by the Athenians, by which for ten whole years those men powerful beyond the means were expelled from their paternal home. This punishment was public, by means of potsherds upon which the names of certain men were written. The reasons for this punishment were the outstanding eminence of a given man, and fear of future sedition if so great a splendor of his name and dignity should dazzle the eyes of the citizenry.
OBJECTION Ostracism is to be admitted in the just administration of the republic, therefore the contrary is ill-defended. The antecedent is proven, since in the just administration of the commonwealth it often happens that some men are so outstanding in wealth, popular favor, or power, that if they are not speedily repressed a fear of sedition might ensue, but a gentler remedy of this evil cannot be invented than ostracism, therefore ostracism is to be admitted in the well-regulated commonwealth.
RESPONSE If in an abundance of wealth, if in popularity, if in power or in any other way some men swell up so much in the commonwealth that fear of sedition should ensue, they should experience a loss of money rather than soul, dignity rather than citizenship, and indeed fear or suspicion are insufficient reasons why citizens should be punished. But if their wealth, popularity, power tend should tend towards the destruction of the commonwealth, then they should be humbled or coerced in any just way. To this argument some respond that this should only be understood with respect to the goods of the mind, and that these should in no wise be exiled by the well-regulated commonwealth.
OBJECTION In the text Aristotle openly defends the proposition that this question applies not only to depraved republics but also to correct ones. Therefore in correct forms of the commonwealth it is permissible to employ ostracism. The antecedent is proven by the words of the Philosopher, which are these: the question (he is speaking of this cause) is posited by me universally and with respect to all forms of administering the republic, including the correct ones.
RESPONSE In that context Aristotle does not intend that men are who are heroically and outstandingly good should be debarred from commonwealths, since by their efforts the common and honorable good is preserved, but he means this, that is useful even for rightly administered forms that the wealthy and the popular, if they stoke the flames of sedition should be eliminated by the brand of ostracism.
OBJECTION The outstandingly good mean should be exiled from the well-regulated constitution, therefore ostracism should be admitted in correct administrations. The antecedent is proven, since in aristocracy, if a single man surpasses the rest in virtue, he is to be expelled, but aristocracy is a correct form of administrating the commonwealth, therefore in a correct form of administration ostracism is to be included. The major premise is obvious, since of one man should far surpass the others, then the commonwealth tends towards monarchy. For if he should be as Aristotle requires, then he should live among other men as a king. But to tend to monarchy is to corrupt aristocracy, which under that constitution is a crime worthy of death, let alone ostracism. These things can also be said about democracy, which form is also reckoned among the correct republics.
RESPONSE The outstandingly good man does not corrupt the good and end of aristocracy, but rather preserves it. For even if he outshines the rest with his virtue’s rays, yet he always voluntarily conducts himself justly and decorously, since a good man submits to the laws not out of fear of punishment, but rather out of live of virtue. Furthermore, splendor and eminence of virtue is no reason for good men to puff themselves up, but to strive by imitation to be similar and alike to him. Where Aristotle said that he should live like a king among others, as some explain), he meant this with respect to counsel rather than command, with respect to candor of life rather than royal honor.
ARGUMENTS CONCERNING THE SECOND PART OF THE QUESTION, WHICH PROVE THAT OSTRACISM CAN JUSTLY BE PRACTICED IN INCORRECT FORMS OF THE REPUBLIC
6. OBJECTION To suffer ostracism and exile for the sake of the excellence of one’s virtue is to sustain an evil for the sake of a good, to sustain an evil for the sake of a good is unjust, therefore to suffer ostracism and exile for the sake of the excellence of one’s virtue is unjust.
RESPONSE Just as to defend clemency in Nero’s presence is deemed a shameful action, therefore to practice virtue in a depraved commonwealth is deemed worthy of punishment. But, just as to defend clemency is shameful not with respect to the material but to the person, thus to practice virtue is worthy of punishment not with respect to the good which occurs, but to the place in which the bad rather than the good is cultivated. Since, therefore, the salvation of an administration of this kind consists most greatly in this, that virtue be abolished, in a certain sense it appears just if in such a form of constitution ostracism is tolerated.
OBJECTION It is monstrous that the pursuit of virtue begets destruction, therefore not even in bad forms of the republic should the magistrate permit the exile of good men.
RESPONSE It is glory, not ignominy, it is life for good men, not their destruction, for them to be separated from a rabble of bad men. For even if they suffer a small loss of their fortune, posterity will not see the sunset of their virtue.
OBJECTION The defect of the greatest good does not deserve the name of citizen, therefore the excellence of the same does not merit the punishment of exile. The argument follows from a rhetorical topic, for this is a contrary argument from contraries.
RESPONSE The defect of the great good deserves the name and place of citizen in depraved administrations of the republic, and excellence is banished from them as if it were a plague. For what is more inimical to evil than the pursuit of virtue? Seneca urged clemency on Nero, but he perished. Indeed (what’s worse) his mother urged it on him in more dulcet tones, but she was murdered and mutilated by the tyrant.
THE CHAPTER’S DOUBTFUL QUESTION
Is the monarchy of the man excellent for his virtue natural?
7. Your words at the end of this chapter greatly move me, Aristotle, for thus you make your conclusion: therefore it remains (and this would appear to be acquired from nature) is that all men obey him (i. e., the excellent man) and do so freely, and indeed to that such men (i. e., men who excel in virtue) be perpetual kings within commonwealths. As I have said, these words move me, since a little previously you preferred the government of the multitude to that of a few earnest men and the power of one. But I shall no longer tease you about this matter. For I know that there you were speaking of middling offices, here of supreme ones. Yet I should like you to explain this one thing to me, why you say that it is acquired from nature that citizens cheerfully and freely obey the single excellent man. Surely this fails to cohere, since nature has necessity, and will freedom. Do you mean this to be natural, and yet conclude it is voluntary? What contradiction is this? “None, for I think that nature is the effective cause of command, and will that of obedience. For in command there is a certain necessity, as thus nature is preserved; in obedience is human freedom, for thus the concord of citizens is retained. The reasons and arguments which I previously produced concerning monarchy prove lucidly enough that this is so.” Wherefore, so that I may not grow tedious with my words, I refer the earnest reader to that part of the exposition, and here shall add only one small argument which I omitted there, namely that, just as the inferior powers and abilities of the mind are naturally subjected to the intellect because of its excellence, thus it is acquired from nature that all citizens should be subject and obedient to one man, if he excels in virtues. From these considerations the diligent and studious reader can see how Aristotle was minded towards monarchy, and how he has now widened the avenue for disputing about it.
THE DISTINCTION HAS ALREADY BEEN GIVEN
78. OBJECTION No virtue is derived from nature, therefore the monarchy of one man because of his virtue is not to be called natural. The antecedent is the Philosopher’s in Book II of the Ethics. The argument follows, since in this context it is not identified as natural by another reasoning .
RESPONSE In this context the monarchy of one man is not said to be derived from nature because of virtue, which is a habit, but because of self-preservation, which is a natural act. Wherefore, even if virtue itself is not natural, yet the preservation of the commonwealth by means of virtue is natural. This comes about since virtue preserves the nature of things, vice corrupts it.
OBJECTION This question has been discussed already, therefore it is needlessly demonstrated again here.
RESPONSE There the treatment is of all monarchy considered generically, under discussion here is the government of the excellent man considered specifically. There it is inquired whether monarchy is the best constitution of the commonwealth, but here whether the government of the single best man is natural.
OBJECTION The command of such a man is, as you say, natural, therefore obedience will also be natural. The reasoning follows, since command and obedience are related things which are affected in the same way.
RESPONSE I do not deny they both are if you have respect to the commonwealth, but I vigorously deny it if you have respect to the man alone. Command is natural with respect to the commonwealth, since it contains its preservation and safety, but in the obedience of the citizen is discerned as freedom, not otherwise than in the obedience of powers of the mind to the intellect.
Are the species of monarchy rightly assigned?
AKING his occasion from these things which he has just said about the excellent virtue of this man, the Philosopher now deals in more ways with monarchy or the government of one man, and spends the rest of this chapter in a broader explication of this constitution. First he treats of monarchy in accordance with Aquinas, since that constitution of the commonwealth is the best of them all and, as it were, the most perfect measure of the rest. In this context, this form of administration is divided into five species, namely into the Spartan, the barbaric, the elective, the heroic, and the plenary, each and every one of which so distinctly and perspicaciously handled in the text that to draw out the thread or filament of its words and exposition would be to wear out the readers’ minds with excessive tedium. If you wish to learn the genus of this division, I believe it belong to an analogy in its significations, for, according to the prior and the posterior (as they say), the word “monarchy” conforms to these types. This is crystal-clear at the beginning of the second chapter, where the Philosopher strives to reduce all of these to two categories. But, that I may treat the individual things in their due order, the Spartan monarchy can be defined in a word as dictatorial or imperial power that is just and necessary in wartime. It is called Spartan because the Spartans employed it when the enemy was raging. In this kind of kingdom kings should have an authority that is not absolute over all things, but circumscribed and defined. The Philosopher proves this from the example of Agamemnon, who, when Achilles railed at him, bore the insult patiently in the public assembly, but after he went out to war laid down the law: He whom I may see departing to the ships, far from the battle, he will not escape the bite of the birds and their voracious maws. The choice of dealing death and the supreme power is mine. Why say more? Spartan monarchy is military command with supreme power of life and death. This command is so useful, so necessary in every republic that without it they cannot ward off the enemies’ thunderbolts nor wholly eradicate the seeds of internal sedition. Here it is to be observed that in the text Aristotle teaches that in this form of rule kings have not only the power of death, but also a kind of religious care for divine matters entrusted to them, as if he were say that these military commanders should not do everything according to their whim, they should not allow rage and fury (the spirits of war itself) always to blaze, they should not always be captivated by the shout of the enemy and the effusion of blood, but should rather think upon this: that they are all subjects to God the Avenger; that, stricken by fear of Him, they should justly and religiously employ their weapons for preservation, not destruction. “You say that religion is required in a soldier? That there should be a concern for divine things in battle? You are indeed insane and quite delirious. Confusion lives in war, religion in peace. You’re out of date.” But hear me out, war ought to be just, therefore it should not lack religion. For who tends to the genuine good of the commonwealth, if he turns away from the perennial source of all good things? Once upon a time there were sacred laws of war among the pagans, their pacts of peace were firm and inviolate. But good God, where is the religion of Regulus, who returned himself to the enemy’s dire torments rather than break faith with the enemy?
2. The second species of monarchy is called the barbaric, quite similar and akin to the government of the slave-owner. It chiefly differs from tyranny in three respects: first, it is not imposed on unwilling men; second, life under it is lived according to laws; third, the king is defended by his subjects, unlike a tyrant. The Philosopher proves the first point by the example of the Asians, who, being born with servile natures, tolerate the government of a slave-owner more readily than Europeans, and certainly many are thus constituted for harsh slavery by nature that, although they are sometimes handled rather severely, they nevertheless humor their masters without any groans or muttering. Thus once the Persians, thus today the Muscovites live under their king, obey him not unwillingly, not unwillingly observe their national customs and laws, not unwillingly defend the person of their king with a bodyguard. But all these things work the opposite way in a tyranny. Therefore this species of kingship differs from tyranny. The third species of monarchy, the elective, is defined as the government of a single man granted and confirmed by a vote. It is distinguished from the barbaric species because the latter is conveyed by right of inheritance, whereas this one is conferred by a vote. Thus the citizens of the island of Mytilene once elected Pittacus, one of the Seven Wise Men, as their king against their exiles, he at whom (as Aristotle writes here) the poet Alcaeus and Antimedes jeered in their raging verses.
3. The fourth species of royal government is the heroic, which administration flourished by succession, as by hereditary right, in the heroic age. The Philosopher recounts what were in his opinion the first causes of this government, namely, generosity in the distribution of many benefits, wisdom in inventing new sciences, friendship in repelling enemies, prudence in collecting men who had been dispersed. For since at the beginning of things excellent and outstanding men deserved most well of the people either for inventing arts, or defending men from injuries, or gathering men into walls and cities who had been barbarians or roamed in the manner of beasts, it happened that kingdoms were granted them and their offspring in perpetuity. Hence of old Saturn, Jupiter, Hercules, Apollo, Bacchus, Minerva and Ceres were accounted among the gods and goddesses, for no other reason (as I believe) than that by their inventions they bequeathed traces of their perpetual memory to posterity. But why am I scouring profane histories? In Scripture we read that Nimrod got himself the government by another means. For he was a doughty hunter, and by might and arms subjected peoples. In the text there follows a description of those things which pertained to this condition of heroic rule: the first thing required was that they gained supreme command in war, second that they would undertake the responsibility for some sacrifices, third that they would leave some rites to priests, and finally that, having sworn an oath, they would piously and religiously attend to their duty.
4. But that we may gain some profit from this, I shall say a little about these four. First, it is indeed to be hoped that a king will defend his nation with a heroic spirit of fortitude, that he invade the enemy with indomitable spirit, that with a fearless hand he strike down the wicked and the seditious within the commonwealth. If Hannibal should knock at the gates, there is need that he be a Scipio with his might; if Catiline should remain within the city, let him be a Cicero and fight with eloquent words. Then the citizens will fly fiercely against the enemy, when they see their king fighting stoutly. Prudence is perceived in peace, royal fortitude in war. So, just as kings possess the reward of repose in peace, so in war they should shoulder responsibility for the most important affairs. I shall say nothing about Aristotle’s requirement here concerning sacrifices, for I know them to have been impious and superstitious. And yet I say this one thing: if pagan kings immolated sacrifice to their demons, how much more solemnly, how much more piously should Christian kings worship the divine godhead in peace and war? In very battle the Emperor Constantine, his mind fixed upon Christ, saw a sign of salvation, but Julian the Apostate felt a thunderbolt sent from the hand of Jove. “What does Aristotle mean about rites, since these pertain to priests rather than kings?” I do not know at all, but I know this, that on Uzziah ’s forehead leprosy broke out, since, though he was king, he offered up the incense as if he were a priest. Nadab and Abihu offered new censers, but (horrible to relate) the earth yawned open and they tumbled down to Hell. Let kings bear in mind, I say let Caesars bear in mind that they are not only charged with the care of the political commonwealth, but also if the heavenly kingdom, which is the Church, and just as they are called fathers of the one by Aristotle, so they are also called nourishers and nurses of the other by the Lord. If they preserve it, if they nourish it, they do their duty; but if they pill it and poll it, let them set before their eyes the hand which Balthasar saw on the wall, the horse which Heliodorus perceived in the air, and let them wholly remove their hands and eyes from the things consecrated to God. For it is an old saying, the things once consecrated to God should not be turned to human uses. The last thing to be marked in this context is that kings were once sworn in to kingship. The royal scepter is a rod of justice, not a token of vainglory. He who seizes the scepter holds the realm, he who possesses the realm holds a great sphere in his hand. But that he might justly hold it, the commonwealth requires from the king a holy oath, which he takes that he may rule in the commonwealth not just by power, but also by conscience. So let Caesars pay heed this: if in a private citizen the consciousness of evil is a thousand witnesses, how many Furies will a magistrate feel in his mind if he should altogether scorn and neglect the oath by which he is bound to the commonwealth, if he should do violence to the goods of the commonwealth, its rights, its laws? The felonies of private men deserve the gallows, therefore the wrongdoings of Caesars deserve Gehenna. In the next chapter the Philosopher treats of the fifth species of monarchy, called the plenary. But he treats it in its own right, both since it is self-evident, and since other questions pertain to it, which cannot readily be comprehended within the scope of this chapter.
THE DISTINCTION OF THE QUESTION
Are the species of monarchy rightly assigned?
The power of kings is either:
Absolute and free, by which the king rules within
the commonwealth like a father within the household, and this is either
just and called plenary, or comes close to tyranny and is called
which is either: Military,
Absolute and free, by which the king rules within the commonwealth like a father within the household, and this is either just and called plenary, or comes close to tyranny and is called barbaric.
Circumscribed, which is either:
5. OBJECTION The Spartan and absolute forms of administration are genuine monarchies, as the Philosopher subsequently teaches, therefore this division is untrue.
RESPONSE I am not defending the position that this is a division of a genus into its true species, but rather (as I said before) to belong to an analogy in its significations, which have the means and rationale of species.
OBJECTION The barbaric administration is tyranny, therefore should not be called a species of monarchy. The antecedent is proven, since barbaric kings handle there subjects as slaves. The argument holds, since monarchy and tyranny differ in nature.
RESPONSE In this context, by “barbaric administration” is not understood the cruelty and madness of a tyrant, but the authority of a severe king. Today many kings deal rather severely with their subjects, and do so politically and wisely. For if the races they rule have a propensity towards barbarity and license of morals (as among the Indians and Persians), the people will become quite unruly and rebellious if he should possess no yoke and law of severity.
OBJECTION The barbaric administration and the elective one are in no respect distinguished, therefore they are wrongly classified as species of monarchy. The antecedent is proven, since in both kinds kings have care for the same things, namely those pertaining to war and the divine, as is clear in the text.
RESPONSE These two kinds differ in more respects than this argument shows. For the barbaric administration is hereditary, but the elective is called voluntary; also, the former is perpetual, the latter only lasts for a while; the former handles all things in the commonwealth, the latter (as once the dictatorship among the Romans) only limited things.
OBJECTION The causes of heroic monarchy are not rightly enumerated, therefore the Philosopher wrongly disputed about that species. The antecedent is proven, since, as Justin writes, it was not wisdom, popularity and friendship, but rather ambition, force and the rage of great men that created these governments.
RESPONSE Aristotle enumerates the just causes of government, not the unjust. It must indeed be admitted that once those first kings (as Justin says) did not rest content with their own possessions. Hence the ambitious Ninus, king of the Assyrians, waged the first war and minted the first coin, by which he harmed Zoroaster and the Indians, by which he shamefully corrupted all the world. It is indeed to be feared lest more governments be attempted by violence and money than are acquired by juster means.
THE CHAPTER’S DOUBTFUL QUESTION
Should the king have the power of life and death over his subjects?
6. “The king has a drawn sword in his hand. But why, I ask, if he is to have no power of death over his citizens?” What? Does a king live among his subjects like a log amidst frogs? Does he have lictors, axes, swords, gallows, instruments of torture so that many seditious men may live within the commonwealth? Surely it is not so, for the king does not wear his sword without point, but he thus wears it so that bad men, but not good, and yet not all bad men, but those who are seditious and inimical to the common good, should feel its edge. For there are some bad citizens who harm others, such as seditious men, who are to be destroyed by this sword of the king. You wish me to prove this? Thus hear it in a few words. Rotten parts of the body should be cut off, therefore so should felonious citizens. I prove my argument, since what the parts are with respect to the body, such are citizens with respect to the commonwealth. Therefore, if it be permitted a physician to amputate parts of the body, it is much more permissible for the prince to kill pernicious citizens. Furthermore, what right reason and justice enjoin is permissible, right reason and justice enjoin that bad men be eliminated, therefore it is permissible to eliminate bad men. The assumption is proven, since reason and justice enjoin above all that the common good be consulted, which cannot occur if conspicuously bad men live in the commonwealth. Finally, it is permissible to kill beasts, therefore it is also permissible to kill seditious citizens. The argument follows, since the ferocity of sin destroys all use of reason and makes men worse than beasts. Therefore if it be permissible to kill beasts for Man’s advantage, it will be permissible to condemn felons for the safety of the commonwealth. To this can be added that sacred philosophy commands the same thing, for why else would it be said in Scripture You will not permit malefactors to live, and again, obey the king, for he does not wear his sword in vain? In this matter examples are not wanting, for this sword lives drawn all over the world, under every government. But what does this have to do with Aristotle, you will ask? Indeed much. For he says in the text, a king has power of life and death. Therefore I have written these things so that by arguments I may prove not only that he has this power, but that he can rightly claim it. “What? Do only kings have this power?” I reply they have it in their own right and per se. “So why do judges and other magistrates do this selfsame thing?” I reply that they have this authority delegated by kings. “Pray tell me, is it not sometimes permissible for private men to kill their own enemies?” Assuredly it is not permissible. “What if you should see a traitor preparing to assassinate a prince, is it not permissible to kill him?” It is permissible. “How do these things cohere?” They cohere correctly: for then I am inflicting punishment, not as a private man upon my own enemy, but as a magistrate upon an enemy of the commonwealth. “Explain this one thing.” What’s that? “If somebody kills himself, is this unjust?” It certainly is. “Give me the reason.” The reason is ready at hand, since he destroys a member and part of the commonwealth without the order of justice. “This conclusion of yours greatly pleases me, namely that princes have the power of death over bad men, and that you think it is in no wise permissible for private men to kill their enemies, or desperate men to kill themselves.”
That kings possess the power of death is proven:
By the comparison of parts that must be amputated
from the body.
7. OBJECTION Whatever is a cause of evil is itself an evil too, to give kings the power of death is a cause of evil, therefore to give kings the power of death is itself also an evil. The major premise holds from a rhetorical topos: as is the cause in good and bad things, such is the effect. The minor is proven, since it makes the king cruel and tyrannous, so that he will grow hostile and strike down his subjects for the lightest of causes.
The power of death is considered in two ways, either:
Simply, and thus is not conceded to kings. For it is
not permitted a king to kill whom he wants, when he wants. Conditionally,
and for this power are required: A just
Simply, and thus is not conceded to kings. For it is not permitted a king to kill whom he wants, when he wants.
Conditionally, and for this power are required:
8. OBJECTION Whatever is repugnant to divine justice should not be approved as a good, such a power of life and death is repugnant to divine justice, therefore such a power should not be approved as a good. The major premise is obvious, since genuine human goods flow from the first truth and immutable good, and tend and return there. The minor is proven, since the first good has granted all things to exist and to exist well, and (as the philosophers teach) it preserves and does not destroy them.
RESPONSE All perfection of human truth and goodness flows from the first truth and supreme good, and (as you say) there it returns. I likewise acknowledge this, that the prime cause has granted all things their essence and conservation. Yet it does not follow but that a man departing from this truth and goodness may be justly punished as hateful to God and the commonwealth. Therefore the cause of this evil is not in God, Who grants us to exist and to exist well, but it lies in Man, who has transformed his being into non-being, his good into evil. It is therefore not contrary, but rather consonant with divine justice to eliminate evil men.
OBJECTION An evil per se is not permitted, to kill a man is an evil per se, therefore it is not permitted. The minor premise is proven, since to kill a man is to corrupt nature’s most excellent work and effect, which appears to be an evil per se.
RESPONSE To kill a man is an evil per se, but to remove a pernicious man is indeed a good of the commonwealth. The judge strives to eradicate the vice, not the man, but since in many circumstances this cannot occur without the death of his body, it has wisely been written that it is better a single part should perish than that the whole fall headlong to destruction.
OBJECTION This power is contrary to charity, therefore it is not permissible. The antecedent is proven, since the affection of charity is ardent and loves all men, and its slogan is I do not wish the death of the sinner, but rather that he be converted and live. If Christ did not want sinners to die, why should the prince, the image of Christ, destroy so many citizens?
RESPONSE You are teasing, for even if charity’s affection spreads itself to all men, and (not otherwise than a fire) by its own force strives to convert each man to itself, nevertheless the severity of justice is is rightly consistent and conjoined with this emotion. For that charity which permits the tares to grow as tall as the wheat bids the reapers at length consume them with fire. Wherefore albeit Christ delays their death while awaiting repentance, if it does not ensue He shall prepare a punishment worse than death.
Is the commonweealth better administrated by the best of kings or the best of laws?
Should the king be created by succession rather than election?
N this chapter five things are set forth: an enumeration of those things previously said about the forms of republic, the best administration of the commonwealth, the deficiency of law, the succession of the prince, and his faithful preservation. The enumeration at the front of this chapter is obvious, namely that it should be agreed there are five species of monarchy, of which the first is heroic, the second barbaric, the third a kind of tyranny constituted in the election of the multitude, the fourth the Spartan, which was a kind of perpetual dictatorship, and the final one genuinely royal, which in a certain fashion can be called paternal and domestic. He reduces all these kinds to two, namely to this ultimate one in which the ruler’s plenary power is discernable, and to the Spartan, in which it is asked whether a perpetual commander is useful for the commonwealth. A discussion of the best administration follows this enumeration, about which the question is raised whether it is better for the republic to be governed by the best of kings than by the best of laws. First he argues against an administration of law, which speaks of things only in universals. In the second place he argues against the administration of the king, who is often overcome and overwhelmed by emotions. Wherefore, just as the law should not govern because it is deficient in dealing with individual cases, thus the king should not govern, since he is set afire by the torches of perturbations. The third thing that is set forth is the deficiency of law, in which it is asked whether the deficiencies of laws are better repaired by the authority of one man or of several. He proves this is better done by several than by one, both since the people sees more than does one man, and since the multitude remains uncorrupted more than does one man. The fourth thing handled in this chapter is the succession of the king, where this doubtful issue is raised, whether the prince is better created by election than succession. First he argues against succession, and shows that it is quite dangerous for the commonwealth to depend on the succession of kings. The words of the Philosopher are these: if sons should be born dissimilar to their father and degenerate, it is pernicious for them to reign. The final thing dealt with here is the useful protection of the king by his bodyguard, which was established so that those who contumaciously resist his just government might be coerced, and so that the lordly persons of kings might be kept in safety.
2. So much for an exposition of the text, now I come to a more detailed treatment of the questions. The first is whether the city is better governed by the best of kings or the best of laws. Here I see certain interpreters heatedly dueling about this matter, of whom some think that the republic is more safely administered by a good prince, and others that it is better governed by good laws. But I omit these fantasies as I am seeking arguments, and indeed as if with a single shot I hit my mark, for I see no comparison between a mute and a speaking magistrate, that is, between the king and the law. For what else is the law but a mute magistrate, and what else is the king but a speaking law and, as it were, the soul of the commonwealth? And just as a yardstick can accomplish nothing without a carpenter, so a law can accomplish nothing without the king, since the king’s prudence guides the law. But I prove this by arguments, of which the first is drawn from the deficiency of the law in this manner. The law speaks only in universals, and often fails us in individual, contingent and future matters, therefore the law is not the best governor of the commonwealth. Which being granted, it follows that it is far better for the republic to be administrated by the best of kings than by the best of laws. My second argument is from a similarity, for, just as a physician is not so sworn to the individual precepts of his art that he sometimes does not act according to his own prudence, so the governor of the commonwealth is not so bound by the laws that he does not often rule the commonwealth according to his own choice, since, just like the art of medicine, so political law only gives us universal precepts. Wherefore, just as physicians would kill many patients if they only followed their art, so kings would damage the republic if they were only to follow the law. Therefore I conclude that, just as it is better to consult a prudent physician than the art if you are considering health, so it is better to consult a wise prince than the law if you are considering the commonwealth. The third piece of reasoning teaches the nature and office of them both. For law is only the mute rule of reason, and the prince is the light and life of the commonwealth, therefore the republic is much more rightly governed by a good prince than by the best of law. The fourth argument runs as follows. The commonwealth can rightly be administered without law, but it cannot be without a magistrate, therefore it is better governed by a king. The fifth argument is framed with respect to the citizen, who serves the king more than law. For who fears a piece of writing? Who does not dread the king’s scepter? The law has no sword with which to strike, but the king has one with which to lop off the rotten members and parts of the commonwealth. The guidance of the commonwealth in which there is a single king is better than that of the commonwealth in which there are many laws. Finally, law derives its power and authority from the king, not the king from law, and therefore the prince governs the commonwealth better than does law. You will say that in the text Aristotle argues against all these things. But I shall advance the things that have been disputed as arguments against the question.
3. Now, however, I come to the explication of the second question, which is whether a king is better chosen by succession than election. And assuredly, to touch upon the question briefly, the fact itself clearly pronounces that the prince is to be established by succession. This is proven in three ways, from the standpoint of the king, from that of his successor, and from that of the commonwealth, which three things will be in far better condition if son follows father in the kingship than if another prince is created by election. From the standpoint of the king I prove it thus, since, if the king knows that his son is his destined heir, by a natural impulse he will attend to all things all the more carefully, and, if he is to leave his son on the throne of royal majesty, he will think this pertains to himself and his name. Stimulated by these goads (namely, those of nature, glory and virtue), he will wield his scepter with great care, adorn his kingdom with wealth and honors, ordain most sacred and juster laws, mould the people’s habits to obedience and piece, and, in a word, will leave no stone unturned to hand all things in the commonwealth to his son, as if they were his personal property. But if it were otherwise and hope of succession were to be destroyed, he would handle everything more negligently and slothfully. For what mortal would have such amiable foresight for strangers as for his own kinsmen regarding the possession of the realm? From the standpoint of his successor, since reason thus urges that it is better for the republic thus to be administered. For if the son is destined for kingship from the very cradle, if he is reared with all care and diligence, he is instructed with his parent’s ardent zeal for chastity of life, genuine glory, and prudence in affairs. Educated in these ways, upon his father’s death he wields the scepter piously, he does not grow over-proud for having been offered such a great honor, with the help of the laws he defends the realm as his right. Oh how much it might be hoped that nowadays kings would inculcate their princelings thus! Nature inspires, providence ordains, the republic demands that they inculcate thus. The indulgence of our times is excessive, our license is excessive. Good God, how great is the softness in the education of princes? How great the license of morals? Hence it comes about that sons of kings, having received the kingdom, wax over-proud with this new and unhoped-for honor, hence it comes about that these men violate the laws no less than those who are unexpectedly borne to such a lofty height, that they pillage the commonwealth’s treasuries, wound their subjects by oppression, and often make a perilous shipwreck out of all affairs. But here I am disputing de jure, not de facto, for if that happened which should happen, then surely these things would in no wise come to pass.
4. The last reason is from the standpoint of the commonwealth, in which there is no greater plague than sedition, which arises among nobles because of magistracies. But in a just succession there is none of this, since nature, pointing as it were with her finger at the successor, removes all controversy, extinguishes the sparks of ambition, and wholly banishes tragic actors from the theater of the commonwealth. But in an election greed and desire for power predominate, fan the perpetual fires of sedition, nourish factions, rend the commonwealth apart, scorch the consciences of citizens, pervert laws, corrupt morals, give themselves over to their enemies, betray the commonwealth, and devastate all things with force, arms, and conspiracies. From every standpoint it is now clearly better that the son succeed the father in the kingship than that another prince be elected. To this can be added the examples of nations, the series and annals of the ages in which the constant custom of our ancestors gives its approval to succession more than to election. Here I shall say nothing about Scripture, in which succession is approved, for from David to Christ the succession endured. To this, some commentators demand four caveats be applied to succession in kingship, namely that a woman, an alien, a man deformed in body, and a bastard should not succeed: in two of these caveats they act rightly and wisely, the others foolishly and ignorantly. For who has doubts concerning the succession of a woman, when so many examples of our ancestors, so many sacred laws, so many histories both human and divine have approved for us the succession of women as just and legitimate? The Romans enacted a law that women should not succeed their parents in hereditary right, but in Book III of The City of God St. Augustine rejected this law as unjust and contrary to nature, and offered up the example of the daughters of Zelophehad, who succeeded their parents as legitimate heirs according to the commandment of the Lord. But I have spoken enough about this issue in commenting on Book I of the Politics. Who is so imprudent as to accept a second caveat, in which they require that a man imperfect in body should not succeed? For, even if it is to be hoped that kings surpass other men in the constitution of their body (as Saul did his brothers), if they do not surpass them, this is no cause that they be debarred from possession of the scepter. For, just as great wisdom sometimes shines under a filthy garment, so great force of mind and virtue sometimes shine under a grotesque bodily appearance. The Spartans once decided that a lame man should not be accepted as king, but in the end discovered this to be true, that it is better for the king than the kingdom to be lame. Absolom bested all men in beauty, but Absolom had a vicious mind. Comely virtues, therefore, do not reside in the face but in the mind. I cheerfully accept the two other caveats, namely that neither an alien nor a bastard should succeed kings, for in the one there is great danger, in the other great indecorum. What pray engenders a greater plague in the commonwealth than the succession of an alien? What greater blemish than the administration of bastards? For the alien has his mind set on his native soil, the bastard consults his own interest more often than that of his kingdom.
THE DISTINCTION OF THE FIRST QUESTION
Is the republic better administered by the best of kings than by the best of laws?
The commonwealth is better administered by the king, because of:
The deficiency of law, which does not discern all
contingencies and future events.
5. OBJECTION Whatever lacks emotons rules the commonwealth than that which is agitated by emotions, law lacks emotions, therefore law better rules the commonwealth. The major premise is agreed, since, as emotions, which are movements of the soul according to an appearance of the good, usually blunt the keenness of reason and impede right judgment.
RESPONSE The king’s providence makes up for the absence of emotion in law. Furthermore, even if a light emotion befall the magistrate, a more efficacious virtue of office yet endures. Therefore, just as a sword does not strike without a man’s hand, thus the law does not speak without a magistrate’s voice. Wherefore, albeit law is more more incorruptible than the king if you consider emotion, yet if you consider sovereignty it is more incapable in administration.
OBJECTION The rule of justice should rule the commonwealth, as is said in Book V of the Ethics, law is the rule of justice, therefore law should rule the commonwealth.
RESPONSE The commonwealth is ruled in two ways, either primarily, and thus it is ruled by the king, or less primarily and (as they say) instrumentally, and thus it is ruled by law. For the king is the chief of the commonwealth, and law its instrument.
OBJECTION Law is more just than the king, therefore law should govern. The antecedent is proven, since law is nothing else but the norm or voice of justice.
RESPONSE The law is called just in the same way that urine is called healthy. It is indeed the voice of justice, but not otherwise than an echo issuing from the voice of the magistrate. There is also, as you say, a norm of justice, but it is just in no other way than a yardstick is called just.
OBJECTION Princes are only called servants and guardians of the law by Aristotle, therefore he appears to have assigned first place to the laws in the administration of the commonwealth.
RESPONSE Your reasoning does not follow, since kings are called servants and guardians of the law, not because they are subordinate to it, but because they accommodate and adapt the force of the laws to the honor of the commonwealth and to the use of its citizens: they are ministers, since they expound the words of the laws, they are guardians, since with the sword they defend the laws, which are dumb and helpless.
THE DISTINCTION OF THE SECOND QUESTION
Is the king to be inaugurated by succession rather than election?
That succession is nobler is urged by:
Nature, which, pointing as it were at the assured
heir of the kingship, removes all occasions for sedition. The
experience of our ancestors, which through many ages and nations has
accepted succession as superior. The
utility of: The
king, who exercises a greater care for the commonwealth when he knows
his heir. Divine
law, which has approved succession more than election in the case of
Levites and kings.
Nature, which, pointing as it were at the assured heir of the kingship, removes all occasions for sedition.
The experience of our ancestors, which through many ages and nations has accepted succession as superior.
The utility of:
king, who exercises a greater care for the commonwealth when he knows
Divine law, which has approved succession more than election in the case of Levites and kings.
6. OBJECTION As the Philosopher has taught above, kings should be absolutely good, this perfection of virtue is more assuredly acquired by election than by succession, therefore election seems more deserving of our approval than succession. The minor premise is proven, since (as Aristotle has it in Book II of the Rhetoric ) many noblemen degenerate from their parents and fall into worse ways. But it would be monstrous if you cannot discover a single earnest and prudent men within the entire multitude.
Simple, which exists without any popular suffrage
or consent of the commonwealth, and this is exercised in a tyranny.
7. OBJECTION Whatever occurs according to virtue is better than that which occurs according to nature, election occurs according to virtue but succession according to nature, therefore election is better than succession. The major premise is proven, since virtue is more perfect than nature, as is said in the Ethics. The minor is agreed, since election occurs according to prudence, the nobles of the all the virtues. But succession occurs according to nature, which is frail and uncertain.
RESPONSE Although nature is sometimes less perfect than virtue, it is not more uncertain. Furthermore, I reply that in composite succession virtue as well as nature, prudence as well as chance are considered, since for this popular consent and a senate of the best men are required.
OPPOSITION Whatever excludes the multitude from aspiration and access to kingship is unjust and dangerous, succession excludes the multitude from aspiration and access to kingship, therefore succession is unjust and dangerous. The major premise is agreed, since (as the Philosopher teaches) the multitude is deemed to be better and more prudent than any one man.
RESPONSE We are disputing here about possibilities, not impossibilities. I agree that the entire multitude, taken as a whole, is better and prudent than any one man, but it is impossible that the entire multitude can reign together collectively. It is has therefore been necessary to adopt that plan whereby one man may reign. And yet this one king is one whose succession does not preclude the people access to government, since he carefully and industriously shares the fruit of his government. Thus the labor belongs to the king, but the honor to the commonwealth.
OBJECTION The Athenians, the Spartans, the Carthaginians, those great lights of the world long flourished, but all of these employed the election of their consuls and kings, therefore election seems to be nobler.
RESPONSE Your induction is unsound since it does not conclude in a generality. Also, historians think that the election of princes engendered ruin in these very governments of theirs.
OBJECTION At the end of this chapter succession appears to be rejected by Aristotle, therefore it is ill-defended out of Aristotle. The antecedent is clear in the text, where he says it is pernicious for sons unlike their fathers to gain the kingdom. He adds this too, that parents’ love towards their sons is so blind that sometimes they leave incompetent successors behind them.
RESPONSE This objection is raised by the Philosopher for the sake of argumentation, and its resolution is easy if you consider the distinction about succession previously introduced, in which the consent of the commonwealth and the advice of wise men is requisite for the king’s administration. Thus the king, if he sometimes departs from the good or the true, is more prudently recalled by his councilors.
THE CHAPTER’S DOUBTFUL QUESTION
Is a bodyguard necessary for kings?
8. The person of the king is sacred, and of necessary demands his protection. Many men are armed for the invasion of the enemy, but kings are surrounded and fenced in by bodyguards to ward off injury. Assuredly the kingdom is like a lofty tower in which lie boundless riches. Ambitious and seditious men come to this tower, striving to besiege it, and make an attempt on its guardian by every artifice, by fraud and by malice. If therefore protection should be absent, a great downfall of the tower ensues, the greatest loss of kings. Kings should be the best of men, whom nobody harms, but a kingdom is, as it were, a golden bait which the ambitious man would snatch for himself. “The citizenry suffices for defending the king.” This is true, if they are always present to fend off the enemy. “Armed men should live in war, not peace.” Armed men live in peace lest war boil forth. “Bodyguards strike fear in citizens.” Truly, lest evil citizens strike down kings. “It is abhorrent to nature that a kingship should be held by force and arms.” No, it is abhorrent to nature that an attempt should be made on government by force and arms. “Protection makes kings hot for tyranny.” No, it protects kings so injury does not occur. “Virtue protects kings, not a shield.” You urge this rightly — if envy were not an attendant upon virtue and kingship. “Come, I think a bodyguard necessary for kings, but I still fail to see how large it should be, and in what order it should be put.” The resolution of this doubt is easy, for it should be as large as the king’s majesty and the necessity of the commonwealth demand. For today is not becoming for our princes to assemble such protectors and bodyguards as the citizens of Mytilene once granted their asymnetoi (their dictators, that is) and such as the Syracusans granted Dionysius and their tyrants, namely that they might keep as many as they pleased and oppress kings when they wanted. But requisite for our bodyguard are loyalty, lest they become traitors; fortitude, lest they become cowardly; vigilance, lest they become indolent; physical strength, lest they become runaways and turncoats.
In a bodyguard are considered:
Necessity, which is that: The person of kings be defended. Order,
for which are required: Loyalty: Vigor: Of mind. Of body.
Necessity, which is that:
The person of kings be defended.
Order, for which are required:
9. OBJECTION The occasion of evil in the commonwealth is to be removed, in a bodyguard there is an occasion of evil, therefore it is to be removed in the commonwealth. The major premise is Aristotle’s in Book V of the Politics, since if the king should be a-boil with emotions there is a danger lest, thus armed, he turn himself to tyranny.
RESPONSE The occasion of evil is not his bodyguard his depravity of mind. Therefore, just as the sword is not to be removed from the kingdom just because in a rage Alexander ran Clitus through, so the bodyguard is not to be removed even if a bad prince should sometimes give in to a furious emotion.
OBJECTION That thing is necessary without which something cannot exist, but king and kingdom can exist without a bodyguard, therefore a bodyguard is unnecessary. The minor premise is agreed in the text, where the Philosopher teaches that Dionysius requested protection from the Syracusans.
RESPONSE Something is either absolutely necessary, as a cause without which a thing cannot exist, or in a certain respect, such as some affection without which something cannot live will, and thus a bodyguard is said to be necessary for kings, since they do not live in safety without help.
Are things undecided by law left to the magistrate’s decision?
ERE is the final line our Aristotle draws in the text. If you look at the turnings of monarchy as a sphere and circumference, in this sphere is a single center, many lines, and even motion. In this context by a single center I mean one king, by many lines right ways, by even motion a just form of administration, and by the sphere itself the whole commonwealth. Thus the single center should be the king, the right lines the laws, the even motion the administration, and the round sphere the perfected commonwealth. But let us see what the Philosopher says of this center, I shall run through the text in order. First he reveals the principle of what manner of king he is speaking of, wherefore at this point a certain distinction must be introduced, that the word “king” is understood in two ways, either absolutely or in part. A king is called so absolutely who holds authority both over the citizens and over the laws. He who possesses a restricted authority is called so comparatively, such as the leaders of Dyrrachium and Opus, which two commonwealths (as Aristotle teaches here) did not concede full authority to their kings. Having made this distinction, the Philosopher states that we are to understand he is speaking of the king in absolute rather than comparative terms, and about such a king he first asks whether in a commonwealth in which there are many equals it should be thought fair and just that one man possess the government simply in preference to the rest. He disputes the matter now on this side, now on that, first arguing that this is unjust. For, just as is done about food and clothing, so it should be done concerning the honors of the commonwealth, equal shares of food and clothing are given to citizens of equal station, therefore in the same way equal honors ought to be conceded to citizens of equal station. Hence arises another doubtful point, which is whether the deficiencies of law are to be left to the magistrate’s judgment. The Philosopher requires both law and the magistrate in the commonwealth, but, should the law prove deficient, he commends the judgment and wit of the magistrate. I say of the magistrate, not the man, for he says that Man without law is a monstrous and truculent beast. Hence is refuted that comparison with art adduced in the preceding chapter in support of the predominance of the man. For, just as the physician’s science is more certain than his opinion, and if we have doubt about trusting the physician we demand that he treat us according to his science rather than his whim, so the governors of the commonwealth should follow the law no differently than physicians should follow their art. He says governors, since he demands several men rather than one for curing defects and errors. For the confirmation of this thing he introduces Homer, who speaking through the mouth of Agamemnon gave his approval to the counsel of many men. I say the counsel of many men, for otherwise the deficiencies of the laws cannot appropriately and wisely be repaired in individual cases. Now, these things having been disputed, he finally comes to his final point, and concludes that which was in his hopes, namely that one man endowed with outstanding virtue can rightfully claim the government of the commonwealth, saying that when he had previously denied this very thing he had done so respectively, not absolutely.
2. So much for the text. I now come to further discussion of the question proposed, which is whether those things which are not decided by the law are to be left to the judgment of the magistrate. The power of law is great, but that of the magistrate is greater. There is light in the law, but life in the magistrate. Without law the commonwealth languishes, but without the magistrate it dies. For law is the rule by which it is directed, the magistrate is the soul by which it is preserved. If therefore the law should occasionally err, it is left to the magistrate to correct the mistake. But what is the law’s deficiency? What is the magistrate’s care? What is the reason why the magistrate should claim such great authority? The deficiency of the law is a lapse in human foresight, which in individual, contingent and future matters has an a certain sense been blind. There’s an old saying, sometimes good Homer nods. No mortal can foresee all times, customs, events and results. Man is not God, Who at once sees all present moments. And this being the case, we must be tolerant if Argus himself should nod, if the wisest among mortals should err. So let this error of foresight be the law’s deficiency, and if it should occur, it cannot be corrected and improved in any other manner but by the judgment of the good magistrate. Therefore the magistrate’s concern in this is that, when the law proves defective, taking equity for his companion he must justly and wisely consider difficult cases undecided by the law, hand down a sentence in this doubtful issue that is neither hesitant nor wavering, and bequeath this sentence to posterity to serve in lieu of law in similar contingencies.
3. The reason why the magistrate should demand such great authority be conceded himself contains within itself the solution of the proposed question, which consists of four arguments, of which the first is drawn from a description, the second from a similarity, the third from a greater thing, and the final one from a division. From the description of the magistrate, who is an interpreter and controller of the law, which certainly would be impossible if he should not explain and control the law when it errs or is defective. For the task of an interpreter is to explain the meaning of a thing adroitly, and that of a controller to correct and improve errors and defects. If therefore difficult issues and uncertain and ambiguous cases arise in the commonwealth, which are not defined by laws, we must take refuge, not with the law (since it does not exist) but with the magistrate, who always sits at the commonwealth’s helm, from whom we may expect a sentence of equity, as from Apollo’s tripod. This selfsame thing is proven from a similarity. For just as when reason (which is the law of nature) fails us, we take refuge with God, thus when the norm of reason (which is the law of the commonwealth) fails us, we take refuge with the magistrate himself, since, just as physicians repair and heal defects of the body, so magistrates repair and heal defects of the law. The argument from a greater thing works in this way. If it is in the power of the magistrate to establish law, it will be much more in his power to correct and moderate the law’s deficiency, it is in the power of the magistrate to establish law, therefore it is much more so for him to correct and moderate the law’s deficiency. The proposition consists of an argument from the greater to the lesser. The assumption is proven, since the laws are nothing other than decrees of the magistrates approved by the ballots of the commonwealth. The final argument, taken from a division, runs thus, that deficiencies of law are to be left either to the people or to the magistrate, they should not be left to the people, therefore they are to be left to the magistrate. The major premise is obvious, since there is no mean between the people and the magistrate. The minor is proven, since to gather the people or convene a senate for the repair of every defect in the law appears to be a thing both absurd and difficult. Absurd, since what is more foolish, what more ill-considered than to consult the multitude about the six hundred eventualities undefined by laws? Difficult, for what would be more toilsome than to convene the people to a new council over individual errors of law, which come to light every day and everywhere? Therefore in this context Aristotle wisely concludes that each and every thing undecided by law should be referred to the magistrate’s judgment. For, just as when illness of body wounds us we should take refuge with the physician alone, so when a deficiency of law moves us we should only take refuge with the magistrate. For, just as in the physician is science and hope of salvation, so in the magistrate is experience and the salvation of the commonwealth. From this let princes learn how great is the burden of kingship, let them learn they hold the laws in their hands like keys: if they unlock the gates of the commonwealth aright, peace and justice reign; if they do so amiss, controversy and discord rule. The keys are given into their hands in token of power, let them take care lest fear should reign, the laws are given them in token of justice, let them take care lest fury should rule. If the keys be wanting, the gates are to be unlocked by art, not force; if the laws be wanting, controversies are to be resolved by art, not force. Force befits dire tyrants, art true magistrates. Oh you great Caesars, huge is the burden of government you bear upon your shoulders, this little glory of yours brief but full of peril, so be advised and learn prudence, learn justice: prudence so that, endowed it with it, you may establish laws, justice so that, adorned with it, you may remove the defects of the laws. Let your life be the light of the commonwealth, the the splendor of virtue be honor of your reign. It is no glory that Caesar should live, but it is great glory that Caesar should live justly. In a word, I conclude: Caesar was everything, but glory ceased to be Caesar’s, and he scarce had an eight-foot tomb.
THE DISTINCTION OF THE QUESTION
Since the magistrate’s office is to control the
laws and make good all its deficiencies.
4. OBJECTION It has previously been posited by Aristotle that judgment pertains to the people, therefore the contrary is ill defended in this context.
RESPONSE Here the contrary is not being defended, for judgment thus pertains to the people that citizens may become judges and magistrates, but not that they pass public sentences on private cases. If therefore it befalls some men out of the multitude to be promoted to the dignities of the commonwealth, these men can by their act hear cases and correct the deficiencies and errors of the laws.
OBJECTION In the preceding chapter Aristotle says that nothing is to be done by the king according to his own will, and this chapter has these words, who bids Man govern, adding the word beast, as if he were saying that law rules as an upright norm, but Man is a truculent and cruel beast. From these things I conclude that defects of the law are not to be left to Man.
RESPONSE In the previous chapter the Philosopher says not only that nothing is to be done by the king according to his own will, but adds this too, according to his desire, as if he were to say that reason rather than emotion should rule in the magistrate. I respond the selfsame thing to the other passage, that by “beast” Aristotle understands the emotion, not the magistrate.
OBJECTION The deficiency of law is not corrected by the magistrate without reason, therefore not without law. The argument is proven, since reason is the law of nature, as is said in Book V of the Ethics, and law is the reason of nature, as is said in Book I of The Laws.
RESPONSE Your argument is fallacious, for the meaning is changed, since the Philosopher has in mind civil law, not natural.
OBJECTION It is dangerous to establish new laws, but to define by decision of the magistrate things undecided by the laws is to establish new laws, therefore it is dangerous to define by the magistrate’s judgment things undecided by the laws. The major premise is Aristotle’s in Book IV of the Politics. The minor is proven, since the decree of the magistrate has the force of law.
RESPONSE First I respond that it is not not dangerous to establish new law if new ones are desired because of a deficiency of the laws. I affirm this also, that to remedy the deficiencies of the law is not to establish new ones. For, just as the physician who removes a disease of the body does not introduce a new health, so the magistrate who removes a defect of the law does not establish new laws. As to what you say about the magistrate’s decree having the force of law, I reply that this true — if it is approved by popular consent.
OBJECTION It sometimes happens that a deficiency of laws occurs in a matter which touches upon the state of the entire commonwealth, in the case of such a deficiency it is most perilous to leave everything to the judgment of the magistrate, therefore all things which are undecided by law are not to be left to the magistrate’s judgment.
RESPONSE This is an argument from a secondary consideration (as they say) to a simple one, as it does not follow that the magistrate’s judgment is to be done away with altogether, since it is dangerous in the case of such a deficiency. Furthermore I reply that in such a deficiency, too, the magistrate’s authority has the greatest power, for even if the people must grant its consent, still the magistrate defines the entire thing and completes the consultation with his sentence.
PRAISE BE TO GOD
Go to Book IV