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Full Online Book HomeNonfictionsA Treatise On Government - BOOK II - Chapter VIII
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A Treatise On Government - BOOK II - Chapter VIII Post by :goldsto Category :Nonfictions Author :Aristotle Date :January 2011 Read :2997

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A Treatise On Government - BOOK II - Chapter VIII

Hippodamus, the son of Euruphon a Milesian, contrived the art of
laying out towns, and separated the Pireus. This man was in other
respects too eager after notice, and seemed to many to live in a very
affected manner, with his flowing locks and his expensive ornaments,
and a coarse warm vest which he wore, not only in the winter, but also
in the hot weather. As he was very desirous of the character of a
universal scholar, he was the first who, not being actually engaged in
the management of public affairs, sat himself to inquire what sort of
government was best; and he planned a state, consisting of ten
thousand persons, divided into three parts, one consisting of
artisans, another of husbandmen, and the third of soldiers; he also
divided the lands into three parts, and allotted one to sacred
purposes, another to the public, and the third to individuals. The
first of these was to supply what was necessary for the established
worship of the gods; the second was to be allotted to the support of
the soldiery; and the third was to be the property of the husbandman.
He thought also that there need only be three sorts of laws,
corresponding to the three sorts of actions which can be brought,
namely, for assault, trespasses, or death. He ordered also that there
should be a particular court of appeal, into which all causes might be
removed which were supposed to have been unjustly determined
elsewhere; which court should be composed of old men chosen for that
purpose. He thought also (1268a) that they should not pass sentence by
votes; but that every one should bring with him a tablet, on which he
should write, that he found the party guilty, if it was so, but if
not, he should bring a plain tablet; but if he acquitted him of one
part of the indictment but not of the other, he should express that
also on the tablet; for he disapproved of that general custom already
established, as it obliges the judges to be guilty of perjury if they
determined positively either on the one side or the other. He also
made a law, that those should be rewarded who found out anything for
the good of the city, and that the children of those who fell in
battle should be educated at the public expense; which law had never
been proposed by any other legislator, though it is at present in use
at Athens as well as in other cities, he would have the magistrates
chosen out of the people in general, by whom he meant the three parts
before spoken of; and that those who were so elected should be the
particular guardians of what belonged to the public, to strangers, and
to orphans.

These are the principal parts and most worthy of notice in
Hippodamus's plan. But some persons might doubt the propriety of his
division of the citizens into three parts; for the artisans, the
husbandmen, and the soldiers are to compose one community, where the
husbandmen are to have no arms, and the artisans neither arms nor
land, which would in a manner render them slaves to the soldiery. It
is also impossible that the whole community should partake of all the
honourable employments in it--for the generals and the guardians of
the state must necessarily be appointed out of the soldiery, and
indeed the most honourable magistrates; but as the two other parts
will not have their share in the government, how can they be expected
to have any affection for it? But it is necessary that the soldiery
should be superior to the other two parts, and this superiority will
not be easily gained without they are very numerous; and if they are
so, why should the community consist of any other members? why should
any others have a right to elect the magistrates? Besides, of what use
are the husbandmen to this community? Artisans, 'tis true, are
necessary, for these every city wants, and they can live upon their
business. If the husbandmen indeed furnished the soldiers with
provisions, they would be properly part of the community; but these
are supposed to have their private property, and to cultivate it for
their own use. Moreover, if the soldiers themselves are to cultivate
that common land which is appropriated for their support, there will
be no distinction between the soldier and the husbandman, which the
legislator intended there should be; and if there should be any others
who are to cultivate the private property of the husbandman and the
common lands of the military, there will be a fourth order in the
state which will have no share in it, and always entertain hostile
sentiments towards it. If any one should propose that the same persons
should cultivate their own lands and the public ones also, then there
would be a deficiency (1268b) of provisions to supply two families, as
the lands would not immediately yield enough for themselves and the
soldiers also; and all these things would occasion great confusion.

Nor do I approve of his method of determining causes, when he would
have the judge split the case which comes simply before him; and thus,
instead of being a judge, become an arbitrator. Now when any matter is
brought to arbitration, it is customary for many persons to confer
together upon the business that is before them; but when a cause is
brought before judges it is not so; and many legislators take care
that the judges shall not have it in their power to communicate their
sentiments to each other. Besides, what can prevent confusion on the
bench when one judge thinks a fine should be different from what
another has set it at; one proposing twenty minae, another ten, or be
it more or less, another four, and another five; and it is evident,
that in this manner they will differ from each other, while some will
give the whole damages sued for, and others nothing; in this
situation, how shall their determinations be settled? Besides, a judge
cannot be obliged to perjure himself who simply acquits or condemns,
if the action is fairly and justly brought; for he who acquits the
party does not say that he ought not to pay any fine at all, but that
he ought not to pay a fine of twenty minae. But he that condemns him
is guilty of perjury if he sentences him to pay twenty minae while he
believes the damages ought not to be so much.

Now with respect to these honours which he proposes to bestow on those
who can give any information useful to the community, this, though
very pleasing in speculation, is what the legislator should not
settle, for it would encourage informers, and probably occasion
commotions in the state. And this proposal of his gives rise also to
further conjectures and inquiries; for some persons have doubted
whether it is useful or hurtful to alter the established law of any
country, if even for the better; for which reason one cannot
immediately determine upon what he here says, whether it is
advantageous to alter the law or not. We know, indeed, that it is
possible to propose to new model both the laws and government as a
common good; and since we have mentioned this subject, it may be very
proper to enter into a few particulars concerning it, for it contains
some difficulties, as I have already said, and it may appear better to
alter them, since it has been found useful in other sciences.

Thus the science of physic is extended beyond its ancient bounds; so
is the gymnastic, and indeed all other arts and powers; so that one
may lay it down for certain that the same thing will necessarily hold
good in the art of government. And it may also be affirmed, that
experience itself gives a proof of this; for the ancient laws are too
simple and barbarous; which allowed the Greeks to wear swords in the
city, and to buy their wives of each (1269a). other. And indeed all
the remains of old laws which we have are very simple; for instance, a
law in Cuma relative to murder. If any person who prosecutes another
for murder can produce a certain number of witnesses to it of his own
relations, the accused person shall be held guilty. Upon the whole,
all persons ought to endeavour to follow what is right, and not what
is established; and it is probable that the first men, whether they
sprung out of the earth, or were saved from some general calamity, had
very little understanding or knowledge, as is affirmed of these
aborigines; so that it would be absurd to continue in the practice of
their rules. Nor is it, moreover, right to permit written laws always
to remain without alteration; for as in all other sciences, so in
politics, it is impossible to express everything in writing with
perfect exactness; for when we commit anything to writing we must use
general terms, but in every action there is something particular to
itself, which these may not comprehend; from whence it is evident,
that certain laws will at certain times admit of alterations. But if
we consider this matter in another point of view, it will appear to
require great caution; for when the advantage proposed is trifling, as
the accustoming the people easily to abolish their laws is of bad
consequence, it is evidently better to pass over some faults which
either the legislator or the magistrates may have committed; for the
alterations will not be of so much service as a habit of disobeying
the magistrates will be of disservice. Besides, the instance brought
from the arts is fallacious; for it is not the same thing to alter the
one as the other. For a law derives all its strength from custom, and
this requires long time to establish; so that, to make it an easy
matter to pass from the established laws to other new ones, is to
weaken the power of laws. Besides, here is another question; if the
laws are to be altered, are they all to be altered, and in every
goverment or not, and whether at the pleasure of one person or many?
all which particulars will make a great difference; for
which reason we will at present drop the inquiry, to pursue it at some
other time.

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There are two considerations which offer themselves with respect tothe government established at Lacedsemon and Crete, and indeed inalmost all other states whatsoever; one is whether their laws do or donot promote the best establishment possible? the other is whetherthere is anything, if we consider either the principles upon which itis founded or the executive part of it, which prevents the form ofgovernment that they had proposed to follow from being observed; nowit is allowed that in every well-regulated state the members of itshould be free from servile labour; but in what manner this shall beeffected is not so easy to
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There are also some other forms of government, which have beenproposed either by private persons, or philosophers, or politicians,all of which come much nearer to those which have been reallyestablished, or now exist, than these two of Plato's; for neither havethey introduced the innovation of a community of wives and children,and public tables for the women, but have been contented to set outwith establishing such rules as are absolutely necessary.There are some persons who think, that the first object of governmentshould be to regulate well everything relating to private property;for they say, that a neglect herein is the source of all
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