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Full Online Book HomeNonfictionsA Treatise On Government - BOOK III - Chapter I
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A Treatise On Government - BOOK III - Chapter I Post by :doyle Category :Nonfictions Author :Aristotle Date :January 2011 Read :2368

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A Treatise On Government - BOOK III - Chapter I

Every one who inquires into the nature of government, and what are its
different forms, should make this almost his first question, What is a
city? For upon this there is a dispute: for some persons say the city
did this or that, while others say, not the city, but the oligarchy,
or the tyranny. We see that the city is the only object which both the
politician and legislator have in view in all they do: but government
is a certain ordering of those who inhabit a city. As a city is a
collective body, and, like other wholes, composed of many parts, it is
evident our first inquiry must be, what a citizen is: for a city is a
certain number of citizens. So that we must consider whom we ought to
call citizen, and who is one; for this is often doubtful: for every
one will not allow that this character is applicable to the same
person; for that man who would be a citizen in a republic would very
often not be one in an oligarchy. We do not include in this inquiry
many of those who acquire this appellation out of the ordinary way, as
honorary persons, for instance, but those only who have a natural
right to it.

Now it is not residence which constitutes a man a citizen; for in this
sojourners and slaves are upon an equality with him; nor will it be
sufficient for this purpose, that you have the privilege of the laws,
and may plead or be impleaded, for this all those of different
nations, between whom there is a mutual agreement for that purpose,
are allowed; although it very often happens, that sojourners have not
a perfect right therein without the protection of a patron, to whom
they are obliged to apply, which shows that their share in the
community is incomplete. In like manner, with respect to boys who are
not yet enrolled, or old men who are past war, we admit that they are
in some respects citizens, but not completely so, but with some
exceptions, for these are not yet arrived to years of maturity, and
those are past service; nor is there any difference between them. But
what we mean is sufficiently intelligible and clear, we want a
complete citizen, one in whom there is no deficiency to be corrected
to make him so. As to those who are banished, or infamous, there may
be the same objections made and the same answer given. There is
nothing that more characterises a complete citizen than having a share
in the judicial and executive part of the government.

With respect to offices, some are fixed to a particular time, so that
no person is, on any account, permitted to fill them twice; or else
not till some certain period has intervened; others are not fixed, as
a juryman's, and a member of the general assembly: but probably some
one may say these are not offices, nor have the citizens in these
capacities any share in the government; though surely it is ridiculous
to say that those who have the principal power in the state bear no
office in it. But this objection is of no weight, for it is only a
dispute about words; as there is no general term which can be applied
both to the office of a juryman and a member of the assembly. For the
sake of distinction, suppose we call it an indeterminate office: but I
lay it down as a maxim, that those are citizens who could exercise it.
Such then is the description of a citizen who comes nearest to what
all those who are called citizens are. Every one also should know,
that of the component parts of those things which differ from each
other in species, after the first or second remove, those which follow
have either nothing at all or very little common to each.

Now we see that governments differ from each other in their form, and
that some of them are defective, others (1275b) as excellent as
possible: for it is evident, that those which have many deficiencies
and degeneracies in them must be far inferior to those which are
without such faults. What I mean by degeneracies will be hereafter
explained. Hence it is clear that the office of a citizen must differ
as governments do from each other: for which reason he who is called a
citizen has, in a democracy, every privilege which that station
supposes. In other forms of government he may enjoy them; but not
necessarily: for in some states the people have no power; nor have
they any general assembly, but a few select men.

The trial also of different causes is allotted to different persons;
as at Lacedaemon all disputes concerning contracts are brought before
some of the ephori: the senate are the judges in cases of murder, and
so on; some being to be heard by one magistrate, others by another:
and thus at Carthage certain magistrates determine all causes. But our
former description of a citizen will admit of correction; for in some
governments the office of a juryman and a member of the general
assembly is not an indeterminate one; but there are particular persons
appointed for these purposes, some or all of the citizens being
appointed jurymen or members of the general assembly, and this either
for all causes and all public business whatsoever, or else for some
particular one: and this may be sufficient to show what a citizen is;
for he who has a right to a share in the judicial and executive part
of government in any city, him we call a citizen of that place; and a
city, in one word, is a collective body of such persons sufficient in
themselves to all the purposes of life.

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ommon use they define a citizen to be one who is sprung fromcitizens on both sides, not on the father's or the mother's only.Others carry the matter still further, and inquire how many of hisancestors have been citizens, as his grandfather, great-grandfather,etc., but some persons have questioned how the first of the familycould prove themselves citizens, according to this popular andcareless definition. Gorgias of Leontium, partly entertaining the samedoubt, and partly in jest, says, that as a mortar is made by amortar-maker, so a citizen is made by a citizen-maker, and aLarisssean by a Larisssean-maker. This is indeed a very simple
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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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