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Full Online Book HomeNonfictionsA Treatise On Government - BOOK VII - Chapter IV
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A Treatise On Government - BOOK VII - Chapter IV Post by :Mike_Barcus Category :Nonfictions Author :Aristotle Date :January 2011 Read :2752

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A Treatise On Government - BOOK VII - Chapter IV

have now finished what was introductory to this subject, and
considered at large the nature of other states, it now remains that I
should first say what ought to be the establishment of a city which
one should form according to one's wish; for no good state can exist
without a moderate proportion of what is necessary. Many things
therefore ought to be forethought of as desirable, but none of them
such as are impossible: I mean relative to the number of citizens and
the extent of the territory: for as other artificers, such as the
weaver and the shipwright, ought to have such materials as are fit for
their work, since so much the better they are, by so much (1326a)
superior will the work itself necessarily be; so also ought the
legislator and politician endeavour to procure proper materials for
the business they have in hand. Now the first and principal instrument
of the politician is the number of the people; he should therefore
know how many, and what they naturally ought to be: in like manner the
country, how large, and what it is. Most persons think that it is
necessary for a city to be large to be happy: but, should this be
true, they cannot tell what is a large one and what a small one; for
according to the multitude of the inhabitants they estimate the
greatness of it; but they ought rather to consider its strength than
its numbers; for a state has a certain object in view, and from the
power which it has in itself of accomplishing it, its greatness ought
to be estimated; as a person might say, that Hippocrates was a greater
physician, though not a greater man, than one that exceeded him in the
size of his body: but if it was proper to determine the strength of
the city from the number of the inhabitants, it should never be
collected from the multitude in general who may happen to be in it;
for in a city there must necessarily be many slaves, sojourners, and
foreigners; but from those who are really part of the city and
properly constitute its members; a multitude of these is indeed a
proof of a large city, but in a state where a large number of
mechanics inhabit, and but few soldiers, such a state cannot be great;
for the greatness of the city, and the number of men in it, are not
the same thing. This too is evident from fact, that it is very
difficult, if not impossible, to govern properly a very numerous body
of men; for of all the states which appear well governed we find not
one where the rights of a citizen are open to an indiscriminate
multitude. And this is also evident from the nature of the thing; for
as law is a certain order, so good law is of course a certain good
order: but too large a multitude are incapable of this, unless under
the government of that DIVINE POWER which comprehends the universe.
Not but that, as quantity and variety are usually essential to beauty,
the perfection of a city consists in the largeness of it as far as
that largeness is consistent with that order already mentioned: but
still there is a determinate size to all cities, as well as everything
else, whether animals, plants, or machines, for each of these, if they
are neither too little nor too big, have their proper powers; but when
they have not their due growth, or are badly constructed, as a ship a
span long is not properly a ship, nor one of two furlongs length, but
when it is of a fit size; for either from its smallness or from its
largeness it may be quite useless: so is it with a city; one that is
too small has not (1326b) in itself the power of self-defence, but
this is essential to a city: one that is too large is capable of
self-defence in what is necessary; but then it is a nation and not a
city: for it will be very difficult to accommodate a form of
government to it: for who would choose to be the general of such an
unwieldy multitude, or who could be their herald but a stentor? The
first thing therefore necessary is, that a city should consist of such
numbers as will be sufficient to enable the inhabitants to live
happily in their political community: and it follows, that the more
the inhabitants exceed that necessary number the greater will the city
be: but this must not be, as we have already said, without bounds; but
what is its proper limit experience will easily show, and this
experience is to be collected from the actions both of the governors
and the governed. Now, as it belongs to the first to direct the
inferior magistrates and to act as judges, it follows that they can
neither determine causes with justice nor issue their orders with
propriety without they know the characters of their fellow-citizens:
so that whenever this happens not to be done in these two particulars,
the state must of necessity be badly managed; for in both of them it
is not right to determine too hastily and without proper knowledge,
which must evidently be the case where the number of the citizens is
too many: besides, it is more easy for strangers and sojourners to
assume the rights of citizens, as they will easily escape detection in
so great a multitude. It is evident, then, that the best boundary for
a city is that wherein the numbers are the greatest possible, that
they may be the better able to be sufficient in themselves, while at
the same time they are not too large to be under the eye and
government of the magistrates. And thus let us determine the extent of
a city.
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we have said concerning a city may nearly be applied to acountry; for as to what soil it should be, every one evidently willcommend it if it is such as is sufficient in itself to furnish whatwill make the inhabitants happy; for which purpose it must be able tosupply them with all the necessaries of life; for it is the havingthese in plenty, without any want, which makes them content. As to itsextent, it should be such as may enable the inhabitants to live attheir ease with freedom and temperance. Whether we have done right orwrong in fixing this limit to
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ill now speak to those who, while they agree that a life of virtueis most eligible, yet differ in the use of it addressing ourselves toboth these parties; for there are some who disapprove of all politicalgovernments, and think that the life of one who is really free isdifferent from the life of a citizen, and of all others most eligible:others again think that the citizen is the best; and that it isimpossible for him who does nothing to be well employed; but thatvirtuous activity and happiness are the same thing. Now both partiesin some particulars say what is right, in
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