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Full Online Book HomeNonfictionsA Treatise On Government - BOOK II - Chapter XI
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A Treatise On Government - BOOK II - Chapter XI Post by :yetticyy Category :Nonfictions Author :Aristotle Date :January 2011 Read :2935

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A Treatise On Government - BOOK II - Chapter XI

The government of Carthage seems well established, and in many
respects superior to others; in some particulars it bears a near
resemblance to the Lacedaemonians; and indeed these three states, the
Cretans, the Lacedaemonians and the Carthaginians are in some things
very like each other, in others they differ greatly. Amongst many
excellent constitutions this may show how well their government is
framed, that although the people are admitted to a share in the
administration, the form of it remains unaltered, without any popular
insurrections, worth notice, on the one hand, or degenerating into a
tyranny on the other. Now the Carthaginians have these things in
common with the Lacedaemonians: public tables for those who are
connected together by the tie of mutual friendship, after the manner
of their Phiditia; they have also a magistracy, consisting of an
hundred and four persons, similar to the ephori, or rather selected
with more judgment; for amongst the Lacedaemonians, all the citizens
are eligible, but amongst the Carthaginians, they are chosen out of
those of the better sort: there is also some analogy between the king
and the senate in both these governments, though the Carthaginian
method of appointing their kings is best, for they do not confine
themselves to one family; nor do they permit the election to be at
large, nor have they any regard to seniority; for if amongst the
candidates there are any of greater merit than the rest, these they
prefer to those who may be older; for as their power is very
extensive, if they are (1273a) persons of no account, they may be very
hurtful to the state, as they have always been to the Lacedaemonians;
also the greater part of those things which become reprehensible by
their excess are common to all those governments which we have
described.

Now of those principles on which the Carthaginians have established
their mixed form of government, composed of an aristocracy and
democracy, some incline to produce a democracy, others an oligarchy:
for instance, if the kings and the senate are unanimous upon any point
in debate, they can choose whether they will bring it before the
people or no; but if they disagree, it is to these they must appeal,
who are not only to hear what has been approved of by the senate, but
are finally to determine upon it; and whosoever chooses it, has a
right to speak against any matter whatsoever that may be proposed,
which is not permitted in other cases. The five, who elect each other,
have very great and extensive powers; and these choose the hundred,
who are magistrates of the highest rank: their power also continues
longer than any other magistrates, for it commences before they come
into office, and is prolonged after they are out of it; and in this
particular the state inclines to an oligarchy: but as they are not
elected by lot, but by suffrage, and are not permitted to take money,
they are the greatest supporters imaginable of an aristocracy.

The determining all causes by the same magistrates, and not orae in
one court and another in another, as at Lacedaemon, has the same
influence. The constitution of Carthage is now shifting from an
aristocracy to an oligarchy, in consequence of an opinion which is
favourably entertained by many, who think that the magistrates in the
community ought not to be persons of family only, but of fortune also;
as it is impossible for those who are in bad circumstances to support
the dignity of their office, or to be at leisure to apply to public
business. As choosing men of fortune to be magistrates make a state
incline to an oligarchy, and men of abilities to an aristocracy, so is
there a third method of proceeding which took place in the polity of
Carthage; for they have an eye to these two particulars when they
elect their officers, particularly those of the highest rank, their
kings and their generals. It must be admitted, that it was a great
fault in their legislator not to guard against the constitution's
degenerating from an aristocracy; for this is a most necessary thing
to provide for at first, that those citizens who have the best
abilities should never be obliged to do anything unworthy their
character, but be always at leisure to serve the public, not only when
in office, but also when private persons; for if once you are obliged
to look among the wealthy, that you may have men at leisure to serve
you, your greatest offices, of king and general, will soon become
venal; in consequence of which, riches will be more honourable than
virtue and a love of money be the ruling principle in the city-for
what those who have the chief power regard as honourable will
necessarily be the object which the (1273b) citizens in general will
aim at; and where the first honours are not paid to virtue, there the
aristocratic form of government cannot flourish: for it is reasonable
to conclude, that those who bought their places should generally make
an advantage of what they laid out their money for; as it is absurd to
suppose, that if a man of probity who is poor should be desirous of
gaining something, a bad man should not endeavour to do the same,
especially to reimburse himself; for which reason the magistracy
should be formed of those who are most able to support an aristocracy.
It would have been better for the legislature to have passed over the
poverty of men of merit, and only to have taken care to have ensured
them sufficient leisure, when in office, to attend to public affairs.

It seems also improper, that one person should execute several
offices, which was approved of at Carthage; for one business is best
done by one person; and it is the duty of the legislator to look to
this, and not make the same person a musician and a shoemaker: so that
where the state is not small it is more politic and more popular to
admit many persons to have a share in the government; for, as I just
now said, it is not only more usual, but everything is better and
sooner done, when one thing only is allotted to one person: and this
is evident both in the army and navy, where almost every one, in his
turn, both commands and is under command. But as their government
inclines to an oligarchy, they avoid the ill effects of it by always
appointing some of the popular party to the government of cities to
make their fortunes. Thus they consult this fault in their
constitution and render it stable; but this is depending on chance;
whereas the legislator ought to frame his government, that there the
no room for insurrections. But now, if there should be any general
calamity, and the people should revolt from their rulers, there is no
remedy for reducing them to obedience by the laws. And these are the
particulars of the Lacedaemonian, the Cretan, and the Carthaginian
governments which seem worthy of commendation.

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Some of those persons who have written upon government had never anyshare in public affairs, but always led a private life. Everythingworthy of notice in their works we have already spoke to. Others werelegislators, some in their own cities, others were employed inregulating the governments of foreign states. Some of them onlycomposed a body of laws; others formed the constitution also, asLycurgus; and Solon, who did both. The Lacedaemonians have beenalready mentioned. Some persons think that Solon was an excellentlegislator, who could dissolve a pure oligarchy, and save the peoplefrom that slavery which hung over them, and establish the ancientdemocratic form
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A Treatise On Government - BOOK II - Chapter X A Treatise On Government - BOOK II - Chapter X

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The government of Crete bears a near resemblance to this, in some fewparticulars it is not worse, but in general it is far inferior in itscontrivance. For it appears and is allowed in many particulars theconstitution of Lacedaemon was formed in imitation of that of Crete;and in general most new things are an improvement upon the old. Forthey say, that when Lycurgus ceased to be guardian to King Charilleshe went abroad and spent a long time with his relations in Crete, forthe Lycians are a colony of the Lacedaemonians; and those who firstsettled there adopted that body of laws which they
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