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Full Online Book HomeNonfictionsA Treatise On Government - BOOK III - Chapter XV
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A Treatise On Government - BOOK III - Chapter XV Post by :thquah Category :Nonfictions Author :Aristotle Date :January 2011 Read :1844

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A Treatise On Government - BOOK III - Chapter XV

But the different sorts of kingly governments may, if I may so say, be
reduced to two; which we will consider more particularly. The last
spoken of, and the Lacedaemonian, for the chief of the others are
placed between these, which are as it were at the extremities, they
having less power than an absolute government, and yet more than the
Lacedaemonians; so that the whole matter in question may be reduced to
these two points; the one is, whether it is advantageous to the
citizens to have the office of general continue in one person for
life, and whether it should be confined to any particular families or
whether every one should be eligible: the other, whether (1286a) it is
advantageous for one person to have the supreme power over everything
or not. But to enter into the particulars concerning the office of a
Lacedaemonian general would be rather to frame laws for a state than
to consider the nature and utility of its constitution, since we know
that the appointing of a general is what is done in every state.
Passing over this question then, we will proceed to consider the other
part of their government, which is the polity of the state; and this
it will be necessary to examine particularly into, and to go through
such questions as may arise.

Now the first thing which presents itself to our consideration is
this, whether it is best to be governed by a good man, or by good
laws? Those who prefer a kingly government think that laws can only
speak a general language, but cannot adapt themselves to particular
circumstances; for which reason it is absurd in any science to follow
written rule; and even in Egypt the physician was allowed to alter the
mode of cure which the law prescribed to him, after the fourth day;
but if he did it sooner it was at his own peril: from whence it is
evident, on the very same account, that a government of written laws
is not the best; and yet general reasoning is necessary to all those
who are to govern, and it will be much more perfect in those who are
entirely free from passions than in those to whom they are natural.
But now this is a quality which laws possess; while the other is
natural to the human soul. But some one will say in answer to this,
that man will be a better judge of particulars. It will be necessary,
then, for a king to be a lawgiver, and that his laws should be
published, but that those should have no authority which are absurd,
as those which are not, should. But whether is it better for the
community that those things which cannot possibly come under the
cognisance of the law either at all or properly should be under the
government of every worthy citizen, as the present method is, when the
public community, in their general assemblies, act as judges and
counsellors, where all their determinations are upon particular cases,
for one individual, be he who he will, will be found, upon comparison,
inferior to a whole people taken collectively: but this is what a city
is, as a public entertainment is better than one man's portion: for
this reason the multitude judge of many things better than any one
single person. They are also less liable to corruption from their
numbers, as water is from its quantity: besides, the judgment of an
individual must necessarily be perverted if he is overcome by anger or
any other passion; but it would be hard indeed if the whole community
should be misled by anger. Moreover, let the people be free, and they
will do nothing but in conformity to the law, except only in those
cases which the law cannot speak to. But though what I am going to
propose may not easily be met with, yet if the majority of the state
should happen to be good men, should they prefer one uncorrupt
governor or many equally good, is it not evident that they should
choose the many? But there may be divisions among (1286b) these which
cannot happen when there is but one. In answer to this it may be
replied that all their souls will be as much animated with virtue as
this one man's.

If then a government of many, and all of them good men, compose an
aristocracy, and the government of one a kingly power, it is evident
that the people should rather choose the first than the last; and this
whether the state is powerful or not, if many such persons so alike
can be met with: and for this reason probable it was, that the first
governments were generally monarchies; because it was difficult to
find a number of persons eminently virtuous, more particularly as the
world was then divided into small communities; besides, kings were
appointed in return for the benefits they had conferred on mankind;
but such actions are peculiar to good men: but when many persons equal
in virtue appeared at the time, they brooked not a superiority, but
sought after an equality and established a free state; but after this,
when they degenerated, they made a property of the public; which
probably gave rise to oligarchies; for they made wealth meritorious,
and the honours of government were reserved for the rich: and these
afterwards turned to tyrannies and these in their turn gave rise to
democracies; for the power of the tyrants continually decreasing, on
account of their rapacious avarice, the people grew powerful enough to
frame and establish democracies: and as cities after that happened to
increase, probably it was not easy for them to be under any other
government than a democracy. But if any person prefers a kingly
government in a state, what is to be done with the king's children? Is
the family also to reign? But should they have such children as some
persons usually have, it will be very detrimental. It may be said,
that then the king who has it in his power will never permit such
children to succeed to his kingdom. But it is not easy to trust to
that; for it is very hard and requires greater virtue than is to be
met with in human nature. There is also a doubt concerning the power
with which a king should be entrusted: whether he should be allowed
force sufficient to compel those who do not choose to be obedient to
the laws, and how he is to support his government? for if he is to
govern according to law and do nothing of his own will which is
contrary thereunto, at the same time it will be necessary to protect
that power with which he guards the law, This matter however may not
be very difficult to determine; for he ought to have a proper power,
and such a one is that which will be sufficient to make the king
superior to any one person or even a large part of the community, but
inferior to the whole, as the ancients always appointed guards for
that person whom they created aesumnetes or tyrant; and some one
advised the Syracusians, when Dionysius asked for guards, to allow him
such.

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A Treatise On Government - BOOK III - Chapter XVI
(1287a) We will next consider the absolute monarch that we have justmentioned, who does everything according to his own will: for a kinggoverning under the direction of laws which he is obliged to followdoes not of himself create any particular species of government, as wehave already said: for in every state whatsoever, either aristocracyor democracy, it is easy to appoint a general for life; and there aremany who entrust the administration of affairs to one person only;such is the government at Dyrrachium, and nearly the same at Opus. Asfor an absolute monarchy as it is called, that is to say, when
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What has been now said, it seems proper to change our subject and toinquire into the nature of monarchies; for we have already admittedthem to be one of those species of government which are properlyfounded. And here let us consider whether a kingly government isproper for a city or a country whose principal object is the happinessof the inhabitants, or rather some other. But let us first determinewhether this is of one kind only, or more; (1285a) and it is easy toknow that it consists of many different species, and that the forms ofgovernment are not the same in all: for
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