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PREFACE. - Marcus Tullius Cicero, Treatise on the Commonwealth [54 BC]
The Political Works of Marcus Tullius Cicero: Comprising his Treatise on the Commonwealth; and his Treatise on the Laws. Translated from the original, with Dissertations and Notes in Two Volumes. By Francis Barham, Esq. (London: Edmund Spettigue, 1841-42). Vol. 1.
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E. Spettigue, Printer, 67, Chancery Lane.
TO HIS GRACE THE DUKE OF WELLINGTON, defender of the british constitution, is this FIRST ENGLISH TRANSLATION of Cicero’s Political Works DEDICATED, with the highest respect for his character and conduct, by his honest admirer, and very obedient servant, THE TRANSLATOR.
The science of politics, on which the prosperity of nations has ever depended, has become intensely important to the welfare of the British Empire during the present crisis of public affairs.
This science is confessed by all to be an ennobling and enlarging study, singularly august in theory, and almost illimitable in application. But we need not here anticipate the panegyrics which our author has bestowed on it.
We wish to see the science of politics extensively studied in these eventful times, because the more profoundly and universally it is understood, the more likely are we to attain that spirit of Catholicity, Union, and Coalition, which is the best safeguard against the schisms, sects, parties, and factions, that so miserably lacerate our national constitution, and undermine its strength and beauty.
The more politics are studied as a science,—a science of the loftiest dialectics and purest logic,—a science which demands from the truth–searcher whole years of arduous ratiocination, as subtle and severe as that applied to mathematics, and equally remote from the bias of party prejudices and passions,—a science, which, being the last effort of human genius working on human experience, seeks its proofs and illustrations from the history of all times and states;—the more chance shall we have of rearing senators worthy of the name, and of elaborating a system of laws, entitled to the veneration of posterity.
The science of politics and laws divides itself into two principal branches. First, the divine or theologic, from whence spring the ecclesiastical economies. This branch is treated at large by the inspired writers, the Jewish and Christian fathers, as Philo and Origen, and a great number of ecclesiastical lawyers.
The second grand branch of politics and laws, is the natural and national, the law of Nature and Nations, from whence arise the civil and municipal laws of particular states and provinces. This likewise has been treated at large by the sacred writers, and the Jewish and Christian fathers, particularly Augustine. Much information on this branch may be found in Selden’s famous Treatise “on the Law of Nature and Nations, according to the discipline of the Hebrews,” and the works of Grotius, Puffendorf, Cumberland, Mackintosh, and others on the law of nations in general.
These two catholic branches of divine or theologic, and natural or national law, are reflected in the particular ecclesiastical and civil systems of the chief nations of antiquity; and if the student desires to follow them into their successive developements, he will find plenty of authors ready to assist him.
If he would inquire, for instance, into the ecclesiastical and civil polity, and laws of the Hebrews, he may consult Philo, Maimonides, Aben Ezra, Menochius, Spencer, Selden, Michaelis, Pastoret, Lewis, Lowman, and others.
For the ecclesiastical and civil jurisprudence of the Assyrian, Persian, and other oriental empires, let him read Psellus, Kircher, Hottinger, Pastoret, Confucius, Selden, Zoroaster, Sale, Hyde, Anquetil, D’Ohson, Sir W. Jones, and other investigators.
Respecting the ecclesiastical and civil constitutions of Grecian and Roman states, he must examine Keckerman, Plato, Aristotle, Plutarch, Potter, Taylor, Rollin, Gillies, Montesquieu, Montague, and their followers.
Of all these constitutional systems of the ancient world, by far the most important to the political student is that of Rome, which became the fruitful parent of all the constitutions of the middle ages in Europe, and those which subsist therein to the present day.
Concerning the history and character, the merits and defects of this Roman Constitution, Cicero has ever been considered the chief light and authority. Hence the fragments of Cicero’s Political Works were translated into most modern languages, and expounded by authors, no less illustrious than Mirandola, Vives, Scaliger, Campanella, Bodinus, Bellendenus, Bernardi, and Montesquieu. And when of late, by the ingenuity of Mai, the long–lost Treatise of Cicero on the Republic was recovered, it was instantly translated into German and French, and commented on by Savigny, Heeren, Sismondi, Guizot, Niebuhr, Pierre, Villemain, Constant, and Lerminier.
We know not why the British have been so much more negligent than their continental neighbours in translating the chief works of the fathers of the Church, and the classical writers of the schools. Our fellow–countrymen have indeed, in this respect, done better justice to the illustrious Cicero than to many of the Latin writers, as they have already translated his moral, philosophical, and oratorical treatises; but still, with regard to his political works, his Commonwealth and Laws, the most important and interesting of all, these have never yet been translated in this kingdom.
We, therefore, imagine it is doing justice to Cicero, and fair service to our fellow countrymen, to translate his Political Works for the benefit of the British public.
Certainly, no Roman writer on politics is entitled to deeper respect from the British than Cicero; and this not only on account of his sublime genius, his vast experience, and his patriotic magnanimity, which were before acknowledged; but more especially for this reason, that in his newly–recovered Commonwealth we find him extolling the very political constitution which he indeed ventured to hope, and which we have so fortunately realized. We find him praising a limited monarchy, comprising King, Lords, and Commons, as the only government which can permanently establish the glory and prosperity of a state.
In this respect, Cicero, like several of the ancient politicians, was a catholic, unionist, or syncretist in policy, as openly as he was an eclectic in philosophy. If any doubt remained on this subject, it is for ever removed by the new–found Commonwealth, in which he evidently declares himself too great a man for party. He here assumes a station above all sects and schisms, which enables him to embrace whatever is good in all parties and factions, and at the same time to lash their errors and corruptions with unsparing satire.
It is neccessary to state that Cicero used the word Republic or Commonwealth in a general sense, just as we use the word constitution or state. In his idea, a true republic, or commonwealth properly so called, should include the specific forms of royalty, aristocracy, and democracy; but it is not to be confounded with either of these specific forms in particular. Unhappily, the scientific precision with which Cicero employs these political terms has been neglected by many modern authors; and thus the most important and essential distinctions of government have been perplexed by a careless and conflicting nomenclature.
In order to make this English translation of Cicero’s Political Works as complete as possible, we shall endeavour to accomplish the following design.
With the Political Works of Cicero every man who pretends to the character of a senator or a lawyer, in the higher sense of the word, ought to be familiar. And yet how few of our statesmen or jurisconsults now–a–days, are acquainted with the great current of classical authorities and decisions, in the very science they profess to teach. They have renounced the viginti annorum lucubrationes which Lord Coke recommends, for the præpropera lectio et præpostera praxis, which he so sternly censures. Of old time, there was no royal road to the science of Politics, any more than to that of Mathematics; but now every man is born a politician, “and fools rush in where angels fear to tread.”
We shall think ourselves happy, if this Translation of Cicero’s Political Works shall revive a higher and more philosophic study of the science of politics, properly so called—a study which has taxed the intelligence and elicited the eloquence of the noblest sages, philanthropists, and patriots that have ever “lived upon the tide of time.”
Such being the translator’s design, he has a right to expect benignant and liberal treatment from that higher order of critics who can appreciate the national importance of such undertakings, and who will rather praise an author for his general merits, than satyrize him for occasional lapses and mistakes. And if in the present work either “the unsteadiness of attention, or the uncertainty of conjecture,” has betrayed him into those defects from which no translation can be entirely free, he will solicit his reader’s pardon as frankly as he would accord it under similar circumstances.
It fortunately happens that those portions of Cicero’s Republic which have been recovered, contain the three first and most important books, in which he unfolds his grand political principles; and that the three latter books, which related to the offices of sacred and civil magistrates, are admirably supplied by those three books of his Treatise on Laws in which magisterial duties are expounded. And thus, by a most propitious coincidence of discoveries, we are enabled to present the public with all the more valuable and interesting portions of Cicero’s Politics and Laws, of which the lost fragments were probably little more than developements or illustrations.
Of this noble text book of Political and Civil Laws, the Cyclopædia Britannica says, “this is the most valuable contribution to national literature which has appeared in modern times.”
In translating this work, we occasionally availed ourselves of the critical German version of Pierre, published in 1824. In his spirited Preface a remark occurs, so true and graphic that we venture to paraphrase it. It is not (says he) from the perusal of Cyclopedias and Compendiums that we can gain a masterly knowledge of the science of politics, nor indeed any other science. In acquiring the sciences, we must ascend to the deep original fountains of them. We must make ourselves familiarly conversant with the master minds of the ancients, who have elaborated the relations of truth, from the depths of their own souls,—we must apply to spirits who have thought out philosophies for themselves; for that which rises from spirit excites spirit.—Genius is the power of eliciting power in other minds, just as the magnetic pole of the earth imparts its electric property to the magnetic needles that guide the mariner.—(Gründliche Gelehrsamkeit und Thätigkeit des Geistes wird nur durch das Studium der Werke selbst, worin die Wissenschaften ausführlich behandelt werden, erlangt, und vorzüglich geschieht dieses durch die Werke der Alten; denn in ihnen ist Alles selbst gedacht, und was vom Geiste ausgehet, das regt auch den Geist wieder an, wie der Magnet an den Polen der Erde alle Magnetnadeln der Seefahrer an sich zieht und ihnen ihre Richtung giebt.)
We cannot conclude without expressing our obligations, likewise, to M. Villemain, the French editor and translator of the newly–recovered Commonwealth, and to M. Morabin, the French editor and translator of the Treatise on Laws. In endeavouring to convey the true sense and force of the Latin originals, we have not hesitated frequently to adopt the happy turns of phraseology which these elegant French scholars have employed. Nor do we feel any compunction in having thus freely availed ourselves of foreign versions which have been so universally applauded by competent judges. Not to have used these versions, would have been literary prudery; and not to confess that we had used them, inexcusable plagiarism.
It is, perhaps, necessary to add, that many passages of the original are so obscure, owing either to an error of the text, or a remote allusion to certain customs of antiquity, that the critics have been extremely puzzled at them, and have often explained them in very different ways. This difficulty has hitherto deterred English scholars from translating these works, and should in the present case mitigate the severity of the censorious, who find it easier to carp than to excel. Wherever these intricate sentences occur, we have endeavoured to give the sense that appeared most sensible, and most congenial to the context. In such ambiguous phrases, to which, perhaps, no translator can do full justice, our interpretation has been confirmed by the opinion of the learned friends we have consulted; but they still admit of being rendered, by other turns of expression, more or less plausible.