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. https://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/546,
The Treatise on the Commonwealth is Cicero’s imitation of Plato’s dialogue The Republic where he uses Stoic philosophy to explain Roman constitutional theory. He makes a connection between moral government and individual moral virtue.
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Without the virtue of Patriotism, neither Duelius, Regulus, nor Metellus, had delivered Rome by their courage, from the terror of Carthage—nor had the two Scipios, when the fire of the second Punic War was kindled, quenched it in their blood—nor when it revived in greater force, would Fabius have enervated it—nor would Marcellus have reduced it—nor when it was repulsed from the gates of our own city, would Scipio have confined it within the walls of our enemies. (Note I.)
Cato, at first a new and unknown man, whom all we who aspire to the same honours consider as our exemplar in the practice of virtue, was undoubtedly free to enjoy his repose at Tusculum, a most salubrious, and convenient retreat. But this great hero, (whom some, forsooth, suspect of madness) though no necessity compelled him, preferred casting himself into the tempestuous waves of politics, even in extreme old age, to living so luxuriously in that tranquillity and relaxation. Edition: current; Page: I omit innumerable men who have devoted themselves to the protection of our Commonwealth; and those whose lives are within the memory of the present generation, I will not mention them, lest any one should complain that I had invidiously forgotten himself or his family. This only I insist on—so great is the necessity of this patriotism which nature has implanted in man, so great is the ambition to defend the safety of our country, that its energy has continually overcome all the blandishments of pleasure and repose.
Nor is it sufficient to possess this virtue as an art, unless we reduce it to practice. An art, indeed, though not exercised, may still be retained in knowledge; but all virtue consists in its proper use and action. Now the noblest use of virtue is the government of the Commonwealth, and the realization of all those patriotic theories which are discussed in the schools. For nothing is spoken by philosophers, so far as they speak wisely, which has not been discovered and confirmed by those who established the laws of states. For whence comes piety, or whence religion, or whence the law of nations, and the civil law?—whence comes justice, faith, equity?—whence modesty, continence, the horror of baseness, the emulation of praise and renown?—whence fortitude in labours and perils? doubtless, from those, who instilled Edition: current; Page: some of these moral principles by education, and confirmed others by manners, and sanctioned others by laws.
It is reported of Xenocrates, one of the sublimest philosophers, when some one asked him what his disciples learned, that he replied, “they do that of their own accord, which they might be compelled to do by law.” That citizen, therefore, who obliges all to those virtuous actions, by the authority of laws and penalties, to which the philosophers can scarcely persuade a few by the force of their eloquence, is certainly to be preferred to the sagest of the doctors, who spend their lives in discussions. Which of their exquisite orations is so admirable, as a well constituted government, public justice, and popular good manners? Without question, so far as magnificent and imperious cities (to quote Ennius) excel castles and villages; so, I imagine, those who regulate their cities by their counsel and authority, those who are expert in all public business, surpass other men in useful knowledge. And since we are so strongly urged to augment the prosperity of the human race, let us endeavour by our counsels and exertions to render man’s life safer and wealthier. And since we are incited to this blessing, by the spur of nature herself, let us prosecute this glorious enterprize, always so dear to the best men, nor listen for a moment to the seductions of those who sound a Edition: current; Page: retreat so loudly, that they sometimes call back the aspirants who have made considerable advancement.
These reasons, so certain and so evident, are opposed by those, who, on the other side object,—the labours that must necessarily be sustained in maintaining the Commonwealth. These form but a slight impediment to the vigilant and industrious, and a contemptible obstacle not only in these grand affairs, but also in common studies, offices, and employments. They add, the peril of life, that base fear of death, which has ever been opposed by brave men, to whom it appears far more miserable to waste away in inglorious old age, than to embrace an occasion of gallantly sacrificing their lives to their country, which must otherwise be sacrificed to natural decay.
On this point, however, our antagonists esteem themselves copious and eloquent, when they collect all the calamities of heroic men, and the injuries inflicted on them by ungrateful states. Here they bring forward examples borrowed from the Greeks. They tell us that Miltiades, the vanquisher and exterminator of the Persians, with those unrecovered wounds which he had received in his renowned victory, only preserved his life from the weapons of his enemies to be cast into chains by the Athenian citizens. They cite Themistocles, expelled and proscribed by the country Edition: current; Page: he had rescued, who could not find shelter in the Grecian ports he had defended; and was obliged to fly to the bosom of the barbarous power he had defeated. There is, indeed, no deficiency of examples to illustrate the levity and cruelty of the Athenians to their noblest citizens, — examples which originating and multiplying among them, are said at different times to have abounded in our own august empire. Such were the exile of Camillus, the disgrace of Ahala, the unpopularity of Nasica, the expulsion of Lænas, the condemnation of Opimius, the flight of Metellus, the cruel destruction of Marius, the massacre of our chieftains, and the many atrocious crimes which followed. — My own history is by no means free from such calamities, and I imagine, that when they recollect, that by my counsel and perils they were preserved in life and liberty, they will more deeply and tenderly bewail my misfortunes. But I cannot tell why those who sail over the seas for the sake of knowledge and experience, should wonder at seeing still greater hazards braved in the service of the Commonwealth.
Since, on my quitting the consulship, I affirmed in the assembly of the Roman people, who reechoed my words, that I had saved the Commonwealth, I console myself with this remembrance, for all my cares, troubles, and injuries. Indeed, my dismission had more of honour than misfortune, Edition: current; Page: and more of glory than disaster; and I derive greater pleasure from the regrets of good men than sorrow from the exultation of the reprobate. But if it had happened otherwise, why should I complain? Nothing befel me unforseen, or more painful than I expected, as a return for my illustrious actions. I was one, who on occasion, could derive more profit from leisure than most men, on account of the diversified sweetness of my studies, in which I have lived from boyhood. And if any public calamity had happened, I might have borne no more than an equal share in the misfortune. Yet I hesitated not to oppose myself almost alone to the tempests and torrents of sedition, for the sake of preserving the state; and by my own danger, to secure the safety of my fellow–countrymen. For our country did not beget and educate us gratuitously, or without the expectation of receiving our support. She does not afford us so many blessings for nothing, and supply us with a secure refuge for useless idleness and self–indulgence; but rather that she may turn to her own advantage the nobler portion of our genius, heart, and counsel; and give us back for our private service, only what she can spare from her public interests.
Those apologies, therefore, which undertake to furnish us with an easy excuse for living in selfish inactivity, are certainly not worth hearing. They Edition: current; Page: tell us that to meddle with public affairs and popular demagogues, incapable of all goodness, with whom it is disgraceful to mix; and to struggle with the passions of the insensate multitude, is a most miserable and hazardous life. On which account, no wise man will take the reins, since he cannot restrain the insane and unregulated movements of the lower orders. Nor is it acting like a gentleman (say they) thus to contend with antagonists so unwashed and so unrefined (impuris atque immanibus adversariis) or subject yourself to the lashings of contumely, of which the wisest will always have most to bear. As if to virtuous, brave, and magnanimous men, there could be a juster reason for seeking the government than this, that we should not be subjected to scoundrels, nor suffer the commonwealth to be distracted by them, lest we should discover, too late, when we desire to save her, that we are without the power.
But this restriction who can approve, which would interdict the wise man from taking any share in the government, at least if the necessity of circumstances does not compel him to it? Surely no greater necessity can happen to any man than happened to me. In this, how could I have acted if I had not been a Consul? And how could I have been a Consul, unless I had maintained that course of life, even from childhood, which raised Edition: current; Page: me from the order of knights, in which I was born, to the very highest station. You cannot produce extempore, and just when you please, the power of corroborating a commonwealth, whatever be its dangers, unless you have attained the position which enables you to act effectively. And what most surprises me in the discourses of our philosophers, is to hear the same men who confess themselves incapable of steering the vessel of the state in smooth seas, (which indeed they never learnt, and never cared to know,) profess themselves ready to assume the helm amid the fiercest tempests. It is a subject on which they like to talk in an elevated style, and to indulge in a large share of boasting, but they never inquired, nor can they explain the means which conduce to the establishment and the stability of states; and they look on this practical science as foreign to the meditations of sages and philosophers, and leave it to those men, who have made it their especial study. Is it reasonable for men who are so totally devoid of experience, to promise their assistance to the state, when they shall be compelled to it by necessity, while unequal to a much easier task, they know not how to govern, when the state is free from all such perils. Indeed, admitting that the wise man loves not to thrust himself as a matter of choice into the administration of public affairs, but that, if circumstances oblige him to Edition: current; Page: it, he will not refuse the office; yet I think this science of civil legislation should in nowise be neglected by the philosopher, that all those resources may be ready to his hand, which he knows not how soon he may be called on to use.
I have spoken thus at large, for this reason, because this work is a discussion which I have prosecuted on the government of the state; and in order to render it useful, I had first of all to refute this pusillanimous hesitation to negociate public affairs. If there be any, therefore, who are too much influenced by the authority of the philosophers, let them principally attend to those whose glory and wisdom are greatest among learned men. These, I affirm, though they have not personally governed the state, are worthy of our consideration, because by their investigations and writings, they exercised a kind of political magistracy. As to those whom the Greeks entitle “the seven sages,” I find them almost all conversant with public business. Nor indeed is there anything in which human virtue can more closely resemble the divine powers, than by establishing new states, or in preserving those already established.
In these affairs, since it has been our good fortune to achieve something worthy of memorial in the government of our country, and to acquire some facility of explaining the powers and resources of politics, we can treat of this subject Edition: current; Page: with the weight of personal experience, and the habit of instruction and illustration. Whereas before us many skilful in the theory, have not been able to illustrate it by practice; and many practical statesmen have been unfamiliar with the arts of literary exposition. It is not at all our intention to establish a new and self–invented system of government. I wish only to revive the discussion of the most illustrious men of their age in our commonwealth, which you and I, in our youth, when at Smyrna, heard mentioned by Rutilius, who reported to us a conference of many days, in which in my opinion, there was nothing omitted that could throw light on political affairs.
In the year of the consulship of Tuditanus and Aquilius, Scipio Africanus, the son of Paulus Æmilius, formed the project of spending the Latin holidays in his gardens, where his most intimate friends had promised him frequent visits during this season of relaxation. In the morning of the first holiday, his nephew, Quintus Tubero, made his appearance. When Scipio had greeted him heartily, and embraced him,—“How is it my dear Tubero (said he) that I see you so early? These holidays must afford you a capital opportunity of pursuing your favourite studies.” “Ah! (replied Tubero) I can study my books at any time, for they are always disengaged; but it is a great privilege, my Scipio, to find you at leisure, especially Edition: current; Page: in this restless period of public affairs.” “To speak truth (replied Scipio) I am rather relaxing from business than from study.” “Nay, (said Tubero) you must try to relax from your studies too; here are several of us, as we have appointed, all ready, if it suits your convenience, to spend our vacation as sociably as possible.” I am very willing to consent (answered Scipio), and we may be able to compare notes respecting the several topics that interest us.”
“Be it so (said Tubero); and since you invite me to discussion, and present the opportunity, let us first examine, before our friends arrive, what can be the nature of the parhelion, or double sun, which was mentioned in the senate. Those that affirm they witnessed this prodigy, are neither few nor unrespectable, so that there is more reason for investigation than incredulity.” (Note II.)
“Ah! (said Scipio) I wish we had our friend Panœtius with us, who, in the researches of his speculative genius, is beyond measure delighted with these celestial miracles. As for my opinion, Tubero, for I always tell you just what I think, I hardly agree in these subjects with our friend aforesaid, since respecting things of which we can scarcely form a conjecture, he is as positive as if he had seen them with his own eyes, and felt them with his own hands. And I cannot but the more admire the wisdom of Socrates, who disposed Edition: current; Page: of all anxiety respecting things of this kind, and who affirmed that these inquiries concerning the secrets of nature, were either above the efforts of human reason, or of little consequence to human life.”
“But, my Africanus, (replied Tubero) of what credit is this tradition which states that Socrates rejected all these physical investigations, and confined his whole attention to men and manners? In this respect, what better authority can we cite than Plato’s? And in many passages of his works, Socrates speaks in a very different manner, and even in his discussions respecting morals, and virtues, and politics, he endeavours to interweave, after the fashion of Pythagoras, the doctrines of arithmetic, geometry, and harmonic proportions.”
“That is true, replied Scipio; but you are aware, I believe, that Plato, after the death of Socrates, was induced to visit Egypt, by his love of science, and next Italy and Sicily, by his desire of understanding the Pythagorean dogmas; that he conversed much with Archytas of Tarentum, and Timæus of Locris; that he collected the works of Philolaus; and that finding in these places the renown of Pythagoras flourishing, he addicted himself exceedingly to these Pythagoreans and their studies; yet as he loved Socrates with his whole heart, and wished to attribute all great discoveries to him, he interwove the Socratic Edition: current; Page: elegance and subtlety of eloquence, with somewhat of the obscurity of Pythagoras, and the gravity of his diversified arts.”
When Scipio had spoken thus, he saw Furius approaching, and saluting him, and embracing him most affectionately, he gave him a seat at his side. He then observed Rutilius, the worthy reporter of the conference to us, and when he had saluted him, he placed him by the side of Tubero. “Pray do not let us disturb you (said Furius), I am afraid our entrance has interrupted your conversation.” “By no means (said Scipio), for you are yourself a studious truth–searcher in the subjects on which Tubero was making some inquiries; and our friend Rutilius, at the siege of Numantia, used to converse with me on the same questions.” “What then was the subject of your discussion (said Philus).” “We were talking (said Scipio) of the double suns that recently appeared, and I wish, my Philus, to hear what you think of them.”
Just as he was speaking, a boy announced that Lælius was coming to call on him, and that he had already left his house. Scipio, putting on his sandals and robes, immediately quitted his seat, and had hardly passed the portico, when he met Lælius, and welcomed him and those that accompanied him. They were Spurius, Mummius, an intimate friend of Scipio; C. Fannius, and Quintus Edition: current; Page: Scavola, sons–in–law of Lælius, two very intelligent young men, twenty–five years of age.
When he had saluted them all, he returned through the portico, placing Lælius in the middle, for there was in their friendship a law of reciprocal courtesy. In the camp, Lælius paid Scipio almost divine honours, on account of his African conquests; and in private life, Scipio reverenced Lælius, even as a father, in regard of his advanced age.
After they had exchanged a few words, as they walked up and down, Scipio, to whom their visit was extremely agreeable, wished to assemble them in a sunny corner of the gardens, for the weather was still rather wintry. When they had agreed to this, there came in another friend, a learned and gentlemanly man, beloved by all of them, M. Manilius. After being most warmly welcomed by Scipio and the rest, he seated himself next to Lælius.
Then Philus commencing the conversation,—“It does not appear to me (said he) that the presence of our new guests, need alter the subject of our discussion, but should only induce us to treat it more philosophically, and in a manner more worthy of our increased audience.” “What do you allude to?” said Lælius. “What was the discussion we broke in upon?” “Scipio was asking me Edition: current; Page: (replied Philus), what I thought of the parhelion, or mock sun, whose recent apparition was so strongly attested.”
—An interesting question, no doubt, my Philus; but have we sufficiently examined the affairs of our own Commonwealth and our own families, that we begin to investigate these celestial mysteries?
—Do you think, then, that our friends are not concerned in the events that happen in that vast home, which is not included in walls of human fabrication, but which embraces the entire universe—a home which the gods share with us, as the common country of all intelligent beings? We cannot be ignorant of these things, without renouncing many great practical truths which result from them, and which bear directly on the welfare of our race. And here I can speak for myself, as well as for you, Lælius, and all men of intellect, ambitious of wisdom, that the knowledge and consideration of these grand mysteries of nature are unspeakably delightful.
—I have no objection to the discussion, especially as it is holiday time with us. Cannot we have the pleasure of hearing you resume it, or are we come too late?
—We have hardly yet commenced the discussion, and the question remains entire and unbroken; and I shall have the greatest pleasure, Edition: current; Page: my Lælius, in handing over the argument to you.
—No, I had much rather hear you, unless, indeed, Manilius thinks himself able to compromise the suit between the two suns, that they may possess heaven as joint sovereigns, without intruding on each others’ empire.
—Ah, Lælius, I am afraid you will never cease to ridicule a science in which I once thought myself skilful; and without which no one can distinguish his own from another’s. But to return to the point.—Let us now hear Philus, who seems to me to have started a greater question than any of those that have engaged either Mucius or myself.
—I can offer you, I fear, no new light, for I have made no fresh discoveries in the question at issue. But I will tell you what I have heard from Sulpicius Gallus, who was a man of profound learning, as you are aware. Listening one day to the recital of a similar prodigy, in the house of Marcellus, who had been his colleague in the consulship; he asked to see a celestial globe, which Marcellus’s grandfather had saved after the capture of Syracuse, from this magnificent and opulent city, without bringing home any other memorial of so great a victory. I had often heard this celestial globe or sphere mentioned on account of the great fame of Archimedes. Its Edition: current; Page: appearance, however, did not seem to me particularly striking. There is another, more elegant in form, and more generally known, moulded by the same Archimedes, and deposited by the same Marcellus, in the Temple of Virtue at Rome. But as soon as Gallus had began to explain, by his sublime science, the composition of this machine, I felt that the Sicilian geometrician must have possessed a genius superior to any thing we usually conceive to belong to our nature. Gallus assured us, that the solid and compact globe, was a very ancient invention, and that the first model of it had been presented by Thales of Miletus. That afterwards Eudoxus of Cnidus, a disciple of Plato, had traced on its surface the stars that appear in the sky, and that many years subsequent, borrowing from Eudoxus this beautiful design and representation, Aratus had illustrated them in his verses, not by any science of astronomy, but the ornament of poetic description. He added, that the figure of the sphere, which displayed the motions of the sun and moon, and the five planets, or wandering stars, could not be represented by the primitive solid globe. And that in this, the invention of Archimedes was admirable, because he had calculated how a single revolution should maintain unequal and diversified progressions in dissimilar motions (quod excogitasset quemadmodum in dissimillis motibus, inæquales et varios Edition: current; Page: cursus servaret una conversio.) In fact, when Gallus moved this sphere or planetarium, we observed the moon distanced the sun as many degrees by a turn of the wheel in the machine, as she does in so many days in the heavens. From whence it resulted, that the progress of the sun was marked as in the heavens, and that the moon touched the point where she is obscured by the earth’s shadow at the instant the sun appears above the horizon. (Note III.)
—I had myself a great affection for this Gallus, and I know he stood very high in the estimation of my father Paulus. I recollect in my early youth, when my father, as consul, commanded in Macedonia, and we were in the camp, our army was seized with a pious terror, because that suddenly, in a clear night, the bright and full moon became eclipsed. Gallus, who was then our lieutenant, the year before that in which he was declared consul, hesitated not, next morning, to state in the camp that it was no prodigy, and that the phenomenon which had then appeared would always appear at certain periods, when the sun was so placed that he could not affect the moon with his light.
—Did he succeed in conveying his philosophic doctrine to the rude soldiery? Did he venture to say as much to men so uninstructed, and so fierce?
—He did,—and with great credit too; for his opinion was no result of insolent ostentation, nor was his declaration unbecoming the dignity of so learned a man,—indeed, he achieved a very noble action in thus freeing his countrymen from the terrors of an idle superstition. They relate in a similar way, that in the great war, in which the Athenians and Lacedæmonians contended with such violent resentment, the famous Pericles, the first man of his country, in credit, eloquence, and political genius, observing the Athenians overwhelmed with an excessive alarm, during an eclipse of the sun, which cast a universal shadow, told them what he had learned in the school of Anaxagoras, that these phenomena necessarily happened at precise and regular periods when the body of the moon was interposed between the sun and the earth, and that if they happened not before every new moon, it was because they could only happen when the new moons fell at certain specific periods. Having evinced this truth by his reasonings, he freed the people from their alarms. At that period, indeed, the doctrine was new and unfamiliar, respecting the eclipse of the sun by the interposition of the moon. They say that Thales of Miletus, was the first to discover it. Afterwards our Ennius appears to have been acquainted with the same theory, for he wrote in the 350th year of Rome’s foundation, that in the nones of June, Edition: current; Page: Soli luna obstitit et nox—“the sun was covered by the moon and night.” The calculations of astronomic art have attained such perfection, indeed, in this respect, that from that day, thus described to us by Ennius, and the pontifical registers, the anterior eclipses of the sun have been computed as far back as the nones of July in the reign of Romulus, when that eclipse took place, in whose portentous obscurity, it was affirmed that Virtue bore Romulus to heaven, in spite of the perishable nature, which urged him to the common fate of humanity.
—Don’t you think then, Scipio, that this astronomic science, which every day proves so useful, is worthy of being taught in our schools?
—No doubt. This study may furnish philosophers with sublime ideas. So sublime indeed, that to him who penetrates this starry empire of the gods, the affairs of man may seem almost despicable. Can the things of time appear durable to him who estimates the nature of eternity? What earthly glory can interest him who is aware of the insignificance of the planet we call ours, even in its whole extent, and especially in the portion which men inhabit! and when we consider that almost imperceptible point which we ourselves occupy, unknown to the majority of nations, can we hope that our name and reputation can be widely circulated? And then our estates and edifices, our cattle, Edition: current; Page: and the enormous treasures of our gold and silver, can they be esteemed or denominated as desirable goods by him, who observes their perishable profit, and their contemptible use and their uncertain domination, often falling into the possession of the very worst men? We should then esteem none so happy as the man, who, not by the law of the Romans, but by the privilege of philosophers, could enjoy all things as his own; not by any civil bond, but by the common right of nature, which denies that property can really be possessed by any but him who understands its true nature and service—the man who reckons our dictatorships and consulships rather in the rank of necessary offices than desirable employments, and thinks they must be endured rather as acquittances of our debt to our country, than sought for the sake of glory and emolument—the man, in short, who can assume to himself the sentence which Cato tells us, my ancestor Africanus loved to repeat, “that he was never so busy as when he did nothing, and never less solitary than when alone.”
Who can believe that Dionysius, when after a thousand efforts he ravished from his fellow citizens their liberty, had performed a nobler work than Archimedes, when, without pretence or apparent exertion, he manufactured the planetarium we were just describing. Surely those are Edition: current; Page: more solitary, who, in the midst of a croud, find no one with whom they can converse congenially, than those, who, without witnesses, hold communion with themselves, and enter into the secret counsels of the sagest philosophers, while they delight themselves in their writings and discoveries. Who can be esteemed richer than the man who wants nothing which nature requires, or more powerful than he who attains all she desiderates; or happier than he who is free from all mental perturbation; or more secure in future than he who carries all his property in himself which is thus secured from shipwreck? And what power, what magistracy, what royalty can be preferred to a wisdom, which, looking down on all terrestrial objects as low and transitory things, incessantly directs its attention to eternal and immutable verities, and which is persuaded that though others are called men, none are really so but those who have cultivated the appropriate acts of humanity?
In this sense an expression of Plato, or some other philosopher, appears to me exceedingly elegant. A tempest having driven his ship on an unknown country and a desolate shore, during the alarms with which their ignorance of the region inspired his companions, he observed (they say) geometrical figures traced in the sand, on which he immediately told them to be of good Edition: current; Page: cheer, for he had observed the indications of Man. A conjecture he deduced, not from the cultivation of the soil, but from the symbols of science. For this reason, Tubero, learning and learned men, and these your favourite studies, have always particularly pleased me.
—I cannot venture, Scipio, to reply to your arguments, or to maintain the discussion either against you, Philus, or Manilius. We had a friend in Tubero’s family, who in these respects may serve him as a model.
“Sextus so wise, and ever on his guard.”
Wise and cautious indeed he was, as Ennius justly describes him—not that he searched for what he could never find, but because he knew how to answer those who prayed for deliverance from cares and difficulties. It is he who, reasoning against the astronomical studies of Gallus, frequently repeated these words of Achilles in the Iphigenia.
He used, however, to say (and I have often listened to him with pleasure) that we should Edition: current; Page: avoid extreme opinions on this as on every other subject; and that for his part he thought that Zethus, in the piece of Pacuvius, was too inimical to learning. He much preferred the Neoptolemus of Ennius, who professes himself desirous of philosophizing, provided it be in moderation, so as to leave us tolerably free for practical affairs. Though the studies of the Greeks have so many charms for you, there are others, perhaps, nobler and more extensive, which we may be better able to apply to the service of real life, and even to political affairs. As to these abstract sciences, their utility, if they possess any, lies principally in exciting and stimulating the abilities of youth, so that they more easily acquire more important accomplishments.
—I do not mean to question your principle, Lælius; but pray, what do you call more important studies?
—I will tell you, frankly, though perhaps you will think lightly of my opinion, since you appeared so eager in interrogating Scipio respecting the celestial phenomena; and I happen to think that those things which are every day before our eyes, are more particularly deserving of our attention. Why should the child of Paulus Æmilius, the nephew of Æmilius, the descendant of such a noble family, and so glorious a Republic, inquire how there could be two suns in heaven, Edition: current; Page: and not inquire how there can be two senates in one Commonwealth, and as it were, two distinct peoples? For you see the death of Tiberius Gracchus, and the whole system of his tribuneship divided one people into two parties. The slanderers and the enemies of Scipio, encouraged by P. Crassus and Appius Claudius, maintained, after the death of these two chiefs, a division of nearly half the senate, under the influence of Metellus and Mucius. Nor would they permit the man who alone could be of service to help us out of our difficulties during the movement of the Latins and their allies towards rebellion, violating all our treaties in the presence of factious triumvirs, and creating every day some fresh intrigue, to the disturbance of the worthier and wealthier citizens. This is the reason, young men, if you will listen to me, why you should regard this new sun with less alarm; for, whether it does exist, or whether it does not exist, it is as you see, quite harmless to us. As to the manner of its existence, we can know little or nothing; and even if we obtained the most perfect understanding of it, this knowledge would make us but little wiser or happier. But whether there should exist a united people and a united senate, this is a question within the compass of our powers. Now it is not an imaginary but a real trouble, if this political union exists not—and that it does not we are aware; and Edition: current; Page: we see that if it can be effected, our lives will be both better and happier. (Senatum vero, et populum ut unum habeamus, et fieri potest; et permolestum est nisi fit; et secus esse scimus, et videmus si id effectum sit, et melius nos esse victuros et beatius.)
—What, then, do you consider, my Lælius, should be our best arguments, in endeavouring to bring about the object of your wishes?
—Those sciences and arts which teach us how we may be most useful to the state; for it is, methinks, the most glorious benefit of wisdom, and the noblest testimony of virtue, to achieve the triumphs of patriotism. Let us, therefore, consecrate these holidays to conversations which may be profitable to the Commonwealth, and beg Scipio to explain to us what in his estimation appears to be the best form of government. (Optimum statum civitatis.) Then let us pass on to other points, the knowledge of which may lead us to sound political views, and unfold the causes of the dangers which now threaten us.
When Philus, Manilius, and Mummius had all expressed their approbation of this idea, Lælius added—“I have ventured to open our discussion in this way, because it is but just that on state politics the first governor of the state should speak before the rest; and besides, I recollect that you, Scipio, were formerly in the habit of conversing Edition: current; Page: with Panætius and Polybius, two Greeks, exceedingly learned in these political questions, and that you can collect and expound what the best condition of that government is which our ancestors have handed down to us. If you, therefore, familiar as you are with this subject, will explain to us your views respecting the policy of the state (I speak for my friends as well as myself), we shall feel exceedingly obliged to you.
—I must acknowledge that there is no subject of meditation to which my mind naturally turns with more ardour and intensity, than this which Lælius has proposed to us. And indeed since, in every profession, every artist who would distinguish himself, studies and toils to gain perfection in his art, I whose main business, according to the example of my father and my ancestors, is the advancement and right administration of government, would not be more indolent than common mechanics, and this must be the case, if I bestowed on this noblest of sciences less attention and labour than they devote to their vulgar craftships. In this science of politics, however, I am not quite satisfied with the decisions which the greatest and wisest men of Greece have left us; nor, on the other hand, do I venture to prefer my own opinions to theirs. Therefore, I must request you not to consider me either entirely ignorant of the Grecian literature, nor yet disposed, Edition: current; Page: especially in political questions, to yield it the pre–eminence over our own; rather regard me as a true–born Roman, not illiberally instructed by the diligence of my noble ancestry, kindled with the desire of knowledge, even from my boyhood, yet more familiar with domestic precepts and practices than the literature of books.
—I believe, my Scipio, that few excel you in natural genius, and that you are surpassed by none in the practical experience of national government. We are also acquainted with the extensive course of your studies; and if, as you say, you have given so much attention to this science and art of politics, we cannot be too much obliged to Lælius for introducing the subject; and I trust that your ideas on the management of public affairs will be far more useful and available than any thing the Greeks have written for us.
—You are drawing a most critical attention upon my discourse, and that expectation of something admirable, which is sometimes rather oppressive to a man who is required to discuss grave subjects so little capable of ornament.
—Whatever be the difficulty, my Scipio, you will be sure to conquer it, since you have formed such a habit of victory. You, of all men, need fear no deficiency of eloquence, when you speak on the affairs of our Commonwealth.
—I will do what you wish, as far as I can; and I shall enter into the discussion under favour of that rule, which should be used by all in disputations of this kind, if they wish to avoid being misunderstood. When men have agreed respecting the proper name of the matter under discussion, it should be stated what that name exactly means, and what it legitimately includes. Thus our minds become fixed on the precise point of definition, and embrace the whole subject of investigation. It is impossible, without understanding the nature of the question at issue, to comprehend its scope and its diversified bearings. Since then, our investigations relate to the Commonwealth, we must first examine what this name properly signifies.
Lælius made a sign of approbation, and Scipio continued. I shall not adopt (said he) in so clear and simple a matter that system of discussion which goes back to first origins. This, indeed, is the ordinary practice of our philosophers, who, after they have informed us of the primitive institution and relation of the two sexes, pass on to the first birth and formation of the first family, describing as they proceed the essences and the modes of every noun–substantive they employ. Speaking to cultivated men who have acted with the greatest glory in the Commonwealth, both in peace and war, I will not suppose that the subject Edition: current; Page: under discussion can be made clearer by my explanation. Nor have I entered on it with any design of examining its minuter points, like a pedagogue, nor will I promise you in the following discourse not to omit many insignificant particulars.
—For my part, I am impatient for the exact kind of disquisition you promise us.
—Well then,—A commonwealth is a constitution of the entire people.—The people, however, is not every association of men, however congregated, but the association of the entire number, bound together by the compact of justice, and the communication of utility. The first cause of this association is not so much the weakness of man, as the spirit of association which naturally belongs to him—For the human race, is not a race of isolated individuals, wandering and solitary; but it is so constituted for sociality, that even in the affluence of all things, and without any need of reciprocal assistance, it spontaneously seeks society.
It is necessary to pre–suppose these original germs of sociality, since we cannot discover any primal convention or compact, which gave rise to constitutional patriotism, any more than the other virtues. These unions, formed by the principle I have mentioned, established their head quarters in certain central positions, for the convenience of Edition: current; Page: the whole population, and having fortified them by natural and artificial means, they called this collection of houses, a city or town, distinguished by temples and public courts. Every people, therefore, which consists, as I have said, of the association of the entire multitude;—every city, which consists of an assemblage of the people,—and every Commonwealth, which embraces every member of these associations, must be regulated by a certain authority, in order to be permanent.
This intelligent authority should always refer itself to that grand first principle which constituted the Commonwealth. It must be deposited in the hands of one monarch; be entrusted to the administration of certain delegated rulers; or be undertaken by the whole multitude. When the direction of all depends on one monarch, we call this individual a king, and this form of political constitution, a kingdom. When it is in the power of privileged delegates, the state is said to be ruled by an aristocracy; and when the people are all in all, they call it a democracy, or popular constitution. If the tie of social affection, which originally united men in political associations for the sake of public interest, maintains its force, each of these forms of government is, I will not say perfect, nor, in my opinion, essentially good, but tolerable and susceptible of preference. For Edition: current; Page: whether it be a just and wise king, or a selection of the most eminent citizens, or even the mixed populace; (though this is the least commendable) either may, saving the interference of crime and cupidity, form a constitution sufficiently secure.
In a monarchy, the other members of the state are often too much deprived of public counsel and jurisdiction; and under the rule of an aristocracy, the multitude can hardly possess its due share of liberty, since it is allowed no public deliberation or influence. And when all things are carried by a democracy, although it be just and moderate, its very equality is a culpable levelling, since it allows no gradations of dignity. Therefore, if Cyrus, that most righteous and wise king of the Persians, was our own monarch, I should insist on the interest of the people (properly so called)—for this is the same as the public welfare, and this, methinks, cannot be very effectually promoted, when all things depend on the beck and nod of one individual. And though at present the people of Marseilles, our clients, are governed with the greatest justice by some of the principal aristocrats, there is always in this condition of the people a certain appearance of servitude; and when the Athenians, at a certain period, having demolished their Areopagus or senate, conducted all public affairs by the acts and decrees of the Edition: current; Page: democracy, their state no longer containing a distinguished gradation of dignities, lost its fairest ornament.
I have reasoned thus on the three forms of government, not looking on them in their disorganized and confused conditions, but in their proper and regular administration. These three particular forms, however, contained in themselves from the first, the faults and defects I have mentioned, but they have still more dangerous vices, for there is not one of these three forms of government, which has not a precipitous and slippery passage down to some proximate abuse. For after that king, whom I have called most admirable, or if you please most endurable—after the amiable Cyrus, we behold the barbarous Phalaris, that model of tyranny, to which the monarchical authority is easily abused by a facile and natural inclination. Alongside of the wise aristocracy of Marseilles, we might exhibit the oligarchical faction of the thirty despots, which once existed at Athens. And among the same Athenians, we can shew you, that when unlimited power was cast into the hands of the people, it inflamed the fury of the multitude, and aggravated that universal licence which ruined their state.
The worst condition of things sometimes results from a confusion of those factious tyrannies, into which kings, aristocrats, and democrats, are Edition: current; Page: apt to degenerate. For thus, from these diverse elements, there occasionally arises a new kind of government. And wonderful indeed are the concatenations and periodical returns in natural constitutions of such revolutions and vicissitudes. It is the part of the wise politican to investigate these with the closest attention. But to calculate their approach, and to join to this foresight the skill which moderates the course of events, and retains in a steady hand the reins of that authority which safely conducts the people through all the dangers to which they expose themselves, is the work of the most illustrious citizen, or a man of almost divine genius.
There is a fourth kind of government, therefore, which, in my opinion is preferable to all these; it is that mixed and moderated government, which is composed of the three particular forms I have before noticed. (Itaque quartum quoddam genus reipublicæ maxime probandum esse sentio, quod est ex his, quæ prima dixi, moderatum et permixtum tribus.)
—I am not ignorant, Scipio, that such is your preference, for I have often heard you say so. But I do not the less desire, since we may not be able to attain this mixed government, if it is not giving you too much trouble, to hear your opinion as to the comparative value of the three particular forms of political constitutions.
—Why, as to that, the value of each form of government must be measured, partly by its own nature, partly by the will of the power which sways it. The advocates of democracy tell us, that no other constitution than that in which the people exercise sovereign power, can be the abode of liberty, which is certainly a most desirable blessing. Now that cannot be liberty, which is not equally established for all. And how can there be this character of equality, say they, under that monarchy where slavery is open and undisguised, or even in those constitutions in which the people seem free, but actually are so in words only? They give their suffrages indeed, they delegate authorities, they dispose of magistracies; but yet they only grant those things which, nolens volens, they are obliged to grant; things that are not really in their free power, and which it is vain to expect from them. For they are not themselves admitted to the government, to the exercise of public authority, or to offices of magistrates, which are permitted to those only of ancient families and large fortunes. But in a democratical constitution, where all is free, as among the Rhodians and Athenians, every citizen may compass every thing.
According to these advocates of democracy, no sooner is one man, or several, elevated by Edition: current; Page: wealth and power, which produce pomp and pride, than the idle and the timid give way, and bow down to the arrogance of riches. They add, on the contrary, that if the people knew how to maintain its rights, nothing could be more glorious and prosperous than democracy. They themselves would be the sovereign dispensers of laws, judgments, war, peace, public treaties, and finally, the fortune and life of each individual citizen; and this condition of things is the only one which, in their opinion, can be called a Commonwealth, that is to say, a constitution of the people. It is by this principle that, according to them, a people sometimes vindicates its liberty from the domination of kings and nobles, for kings are not requisite to free peoples, nor the power and wealth of aristocracies. They deny, moreover, that it is fair to reject this general constitution of freemen, on account of the vices of the unbridled populace. They say that if this democracy be united, and directs all its efforts to the safety and freedom of the community, nothing can be stronger or more durable. They assert that this necessary union is easily obtained in a republic so constituted as to promote the same interest for all; while the conflicting interests that prevail in other constitutions, inevitably produce factions. Thus, say they, when the senate had the ascendency, the republic Edition: current; Page: had no stability; and when kings possess the power, this blessing is still more rare, as Ennius expresses it—
“In kingdoms there’s no faith, and little love.”
Now, since the law is the bond of civil society, and the justice of the law equal, by what rule can the association of citizens be held together, if it be not by the equal condition of the citizens? If the fortunes of men cannot be reduced to this equality — if genius cannot be equally the property of all — rights at least should be equal, among those who are citizens of the same republic. For what is a republic, but an association of rights?
As to the other political constitutions, these democratical advocates do not think they are worthy of being distinguished by the names they bear. For why, say they, should we apply the name of king, the title of Jupiter the Beneficent, to a man ambitious of sole authority and power, lording it over a degraded multitude. No, let us rather call him a tyrant, for a tyrant is sometimes as merciful as a king is sometimes oppressive. The whole question for the people to consider is, whether they shall serve an indulgent master, or a cruel one, if serve some one they must. How could Sparta, at the period of the boasted superiority of her political institution, Edition: current; Page: obtain just and virtuous kings, when they necessarily received an hereditary monarch, good, bad, or indifferent, because he happened to be of the blood royal. As to aristocrats, Who will endure, say they, that men should distinguish themselves by such a title, and that not by the voice of the people, but by their own votes? Who indeed shall judge, who is the aristocrat, or best authority either in learning, sciences, or arts?
These democratical pleaders do not understand the nature or importance of a well–constituted aristocracy. If the state chooses its ruler by haphazard, it will be as easily upset as a vessel, if you chose a pilot by lots from the passengers. If a people is free, it will choose those on whom it can rely, not by the accident of a die, but by the conviction of experience; and if it desires its own preservation, it will always choose the noblest. It is in the counsel of the aristocracy that the safety of the state consists, especially as nature has not only appointed that these superior men should excel the weaker sort in high virtue and courage, but has inspired the people also with the desire of obedience towards these, their natural lords. But they say this aristocratical state is destroyed by the depraved opinions of men, who through ignorance of virtue, (which, as it belongs to few, can be discerned and appreciated by few,) imagine that rich and powerful men, because they are nobly Edition: current; Page: born, are necessarily the best. When, through this popular error, the power, not the virtue of certain men, has taken possession of the state, these men obstinately retain the title of nobles though they want the essence of nobility. For riches, fame, and power, without wisdom, and a just method of regulating ourselves and commanding others, are full of discredit and insolent arrogance; nor is there any kind of government more deformed than that in which the wealthiest are regarded as the noblest.
But (say the advocates of kings and monarchies) when virtue governs the Commonwealth what can be more glorious? When he who commands the rest is himself enslaved by no lust or passion—when he himself exhibits all the merits to which he incites and educates the citizens—such a man imposes no law on the people which he does not himself observe, but he presents his life as a living law to his fellow–countrymen. If a single individual could thus suffice for all, there would be no need of more; and if the community could find a chief ruler thus worthy of all their suffrages, none would require delegated authorities.
The difficulty of conducting politics, transferred the government from a king into the hands of noblemen. The error and temerity of the people likewise transferred it from the hands of the many into those of the few. Thus, between the Edition: current; Page: weakness of the monarch, and the rashness of the multitude, the aristocrats have occupied the middle place, than which nothing can be better arranged; and while they superintend the public interest, the people necessarily enjoy the greatest possible prosperity, being free from all care and anxiety, having entrusted their security to others, who ought sedulously to defend it, and not allow the people to suspect that their advantages are neglected by their rulers.
As to that equality of rights which democracies so loudly boast of, it can never be maintained; for the people themselves, so dissolute and so unbridled, are always inclined to flatter a number of demagogues; and there is in them a very great partiality for certain men and dignities, so that their pretended equality becomes most unfair and iniquitous. For if the same honour is rendered to the most noble and the most infamous, the equity they eulogize becomes most inequitable,—an evil which can never happen in those states which are governed by aristocracies. These reasonings, my Lælius, and some others of the same kind, are usually brought forward by those that so highly extol this form of political constitution.
—But you have not told us, Scipio, which of these three forms of government you yourself most approve.
—It is vain to ask me which of the Edition: current; Page: three I most approve, for there is not one of them which I approve at all by itself, since, as I told you, I prefer that government which is mixed and composed of all these forms, to any one of them taken separately. But if I must confine myself to one of these particular forms simply and exclusively, I must confess I prefer the royal or monarchical, and extol it as the first and best. In this, which I here choose to call the primitive form of government, I find the title of father attached to that of king, to express that he watches over the citizens as over his children, and endeavours rather to preserve them in freedom than reduce them to slavery. Hence the little and the weak are in a manner sustained by this protecting superintendence of a monarch so great and so beneficent. But here we meet the noblemen who profess that they can do all this in much better style, for they say there is much more wisdom in many than in one, and at least as much faith and equity. And, last of all, come the people, who cry with a loud voice, that they will render obedience neither to the one nor the few; that even to brute beasts nothing is so dear as liberty; and that whether they serve kings or nobles, men are deprived of it. Thus, the kings attract us by affection, the nobles by talent, the people by liberty; and in the comparison it is hard to choose the best.
—I think so too, but yet it is impossible to despatch the other branches of the question, if you leave this primary point undetermined.
—We must then, I suppose, imitate Aratus, who, when he prepared himself to treat of great things, thought himself in duty bound to begin with Jupiter.
—Wherefore Jupiter? and what has our discourse to do with the poem of Aratus?
—Why it serves to teach us that we cannot better commence our investigations than by invoking Him, whom, with one voice, both learned and unlearned extol as the king universal of gods and mortals.
—Why do you notice this so earnestly?
—Because it bears directly on our present political discussion. If the legislators of states have thus enforced, for the benefit of society, the belief that there exists a Universal Monarch in heaven, at whose nod, (as Homer expresses) all Olympus trembles—and who is both king and father of all creatures—you may observe how great is this authority, and how multitudinous the witnesses which attest that nations have unanimously recognized, by the decrees of their chiefs, that nothing is better than a king, since all the gods consent to be governed by a monarchical deity. And lest we should suspect that this opinion rests on the error of the ignorant, and should Edition: current; Page: be classed among the fables, let us hear those universal testimonies of erudite men, who have seen with their eyes those things which we can hardly attain by report.
—What men do you mean?
—Those who, by the investigation of nature, have arrived at the opinion that the whole universe is animated by a single Mind. But if you please, my Lælius, I will bring forward those evidences, which are neither too ancient, nor too far–fetched.
—These are the ones I want.
—You are aware, that scarcely four centuries have elapsed, since our own city Rome lost her kings.
—You are correct, it is scarcely four centuries.
—Well then, what are four centuries in the age of a state or city—is it a long duration?
—It hardly amounts to the age of maturity.
—You say truly, and yet not four centuries have elapsed since there was a king in Rome.
—Aye, but that was Tarquinius Superbus, the infamous.
—But who was his predecessor?
—He was Servius Tullius, who was admirably just, and, indeed, we must bestow the same praise on all his predecessors, even to our Edition: current; Page: founder Romulus, who reigned about six centuries ago.
—Even he is not very ancient.
—No, he reigned, when Greece was already ageing.
—Agreed. But was not Romulus, think you, a king of a barbarous people?
—Why, as to that, if we were to follow the example of the Greeks, who say that all peoples are either Grecianized or barbarous, we must confess that he was a king of barbarians; but if this name belongs rather to manners than to languages, I believe the Greeks were just as barbarous as the Romans.
—The testimony, however, we most require in the present argument, is rather that of enlightened minds than popular prejudices; and if intelligent men, at a period so little remote, desired the government of kings, you will confess I have found authorities that are neither antiquated, rude, nor insignificant.
—I see, Scipio, that you have no lack of authorities; but with me, as with every fair judge, authorities are worth less than arguments.
—Then, Lælius, I shall make use of an argument derived from yourself and your own experience.
—What experience do you allude to?
—The experience you prove when you happen to feel angry with any one.
—That happens rather oftener than I could wish.
—Well, then, when you are angry, do you permit your anger to triumph over your judgment?
—No, by Hercules! I imitate that Archytas of Tarentum, who, when he came to his villa, and found all its arrangements were contrary to his orders, he said to his steward—“Ah, you unlucky scoundrel, I would flog you to death, if it was not that I am in a rage with you.”
—Capital—thus Archytas regarded unreasonable anger as a kind of sedition and rebellion of nature, which he sought to appease by reflection. And so, if we examine avarice, the ambition of power and glory, or the lusts of concupiscence and licentiousness, we shall find a certain conscience in the mind of man, which, like a king sways by the force of counsel all the inferior faculties and propensities; and this, in truth, is the noblest portion of our nature, for when conscience reigns, it allows no resting place to lust, violence, or temerity.
—You have spoken the truth.
—Well then, does a mind thus governed and regulated, meet your approbation?
—More than any thing upon earth.
—Then you do not approve that the evil passions, which are innumerable, should expel Edition: current; Page: conscience, and that lusts and animal propensities should assume the ascendency over us?
—For my part, I can conceive nothing more wretched than a mind thus degraded, and the man animated by a soul so licentious.
—You desire, then, that all the faculties of the mind should submit to a ruling power, and that conscience should reign over them all?
—Certainly, that is my wish.
—How then can you doubt that the monarchical form of government is superior to the aristocratic and the democratic, since the immediate consequence of throwing the affairs of state into many hands, is the want of one presiding authority? for if power is not united, it soon comes to nothing—(intelligi jam licet, nullum fore quod præsit imperium, quod quidem nisi unum sit, esse nullum protest).
—But, which would you prefer, the one or the many, if justice were equally found in the plurality?
—Since I see, my Lælius, that the authorities I have adduced have no great influence on you, I must continue to employ you yourself as my witness in proof of what I say.
—In what way are you going to make me again support your argument?
—Why thus.—I recollect when we were lately at Fermiæ, that you told your servants repeatedly Edition: current; Page: not to obey the orders of more than one master.
—To be sure, my own steward.
—And at Rome, do you commit your affairs to the hands of many?
—No, I trust them to myself alone.
—What, in your whole establishment, is there no other master but yourself?
—Then I think you must grant me that as respects the state, the government of monarchs, provided they are just, is superior to any other.
—You have conducted me to this conclusion, and I entertain pretty nearly the same opinion.
—You would still further agree with me, my Lælius, if, omitting the common observation, that one pilot is better fitted to steer a ship, and one physician to treat an invalid, than many could be, I should come at once to more illustrious examples.
—What examples do you mean?
—Don’t you observe that it was the cruelty and pride of Tarquin, a single individual, only, that made the title of king unpopular among the Romans?
—Yes, I acknowledge that.
—You are also aware, as I shall demonstrate in the course of our discussion, that the Edition: current; Page: people, on expulsion of their King Tarquin, was transported by a wonderful excess of liberalism. Then, unjust banishments, the pillage of many estates, annual consulships, public authorities overawed by mobs, popular appeals in all cases imaginable; then the secession of the lower orders; and lastly, those proceedings which tended to place all powers in the hands of the populace.
—I must confess this is all too true.
—All these things happened during the periods of peace and tranquillity, for licence is wont to prevail when there is little to fear, as in a calm navigation, or a trifling disease. But as we observe, the voyager and the invalid implore the aid of some one competent director, as soon as the sea grows stormy, and the disease alarming, so our nation in peace and security, commanded, threatened, annulled, repealed, and insulted their magistrates, but in war obeyed them as strictly as they had done their kings, for public safety is after all rather more valuable than popular licence. In the most serious war, we should also notice, our Romans seemed to rally back to their monarchical notions, for they resolved that the entire command should be deposited in the hands of some single chief, without being divided and mutilated by the rival authority of a colleague. In fact, the very name of this chief indicates the absolute character of his power. For though the appellation Edition: current; Page: of Dictator is evidently derived from the ipse dixit, or decision of the consul, yet do we still observe him, my Lælius, in our sacred books entitled “Magister Populi,” the master of the people.
—This is certainly the case.
—Our ancestors, therefore, acted wisely in extolling the inestimable value of a just king to the Commonwealth. For when the people is deprived of a just king, as Ennius says, after the death of one of the best of monarchs,
Our Romans, indeed, conceived no title too magnificent for their patriotic monarchs. Not heroes, nor lords alone, did they call those whom they lawfully obeyed; nor merely as kings did they proclaim them; but they pronounced them their country’s guardians, their fathers, and their gods. Nor indeed without cause, for they added—
“Thou Prince, hast brought us to the gates of light.”
And truly they believed that life and honour had arisen to them from the justice of the king they loved. The same good–will would doubtless have remained in their descendants, if the same virtues had been preserved on the throne, but as you see, Edition: current; Page: by injustice, the monarchical government of our state fell into ruin.
—I see it indeed, and I long to know the history of these political revolutions in our own Commonwealth, and in many others.
—When I shall have explained my opinion respecting the form of government which I prefer, I shall be able to speak to you more accurately respecting the revolutions of states, though I think there is little danger of them in the mixed form of government which I recommend. With respect, however, to absolute monarchy, it presents an inherent and invincible tendency to revolution. No sooner does a king begin to be unjust, than this entire form of government is demolished, for the best absolute monarchy is close to tyranny, which is the worst of all governments. If this state falls into the hands of the nobles, it becomes an aristocracy, or the second of the three kinds of constitutions I have described. This consists of a council of the chief fathers consulting for the public benefit. Or if the people have expelled or demolished a tyrant, it may establish a democratic, or government of its wisest and ablest members, and sometimes flourish in its enterprizes, and endeavour to defend the policy it has constituted. But if ever the people should raise its forces against a just king, and rob him of his throne, or, as hath frequently happened, Edition: current; Page: should taste the blood of its legitimate nobles, and subject the whole commonwealth to its own licence, you can imagine no flood or conflagration so terrible, or any whose violence is harder to appease, than this unbridled insolence of the populace.
Then we see realized that which Plato so vividly describes, if I could but express it in our language. It is by no means easy to do it justice in translation: however I will try. (Note IV.)
“When (says Plato) the insatiate jaws of the populace are fired with the thirst of liberalism, and urged on by evil ministers, they drain the cup, not of tempered liberty, but unmitigated licence; then their magistrates and chiefs, if they are not quite subservient and remiss, and do not largely promote the popular licentiousness, are pursued, incriminated, accused, and cried down under the title of despots and tyrants.” I dare say you recollect the passage.
—Yes, it is very familiar to me.
—Plato thus proceeds: “Then those who feel in duty bound to obey the chiefs of the state, are persecuted by the insensate populace, who call them voluntary slaves. But those in the magistracies who flatter the popular equality, and the demagogues who plead the levelling system, and endeavour to abolish all distinctions between nobles and commoners, these they stun Edition: current; Page: with acclamations and overwhelm with honours. It inevitably happens in a commonwealth thus revolutionized, that liberalism superabounds in all directions, due authority is found wanting even in private families, and misrule seems to extend even to the animals that witness it. Then the father fears the son, and the son neglects the father. All modesty is banished; they become far too liberal for that. No difference is made between the citizen and the alien; the master dreads and cajoles his scholars, and they despise their masters. The conceited striplings assume the gravity of sages, and sages must stoop to the follies of children, lest they should be hated and oppressed. The very slaves hold themselves as high as their lords; wives boast the same rights as their husbands; dogs, horses, and asses, are emancipated in this outrageous excess of freedom, and run about so violently that they frighten the passengers from the road. At length this infinite licentiousness produces such a morbid self–sufficiency, such fastidious and effeminate sentiments get possession of the people, that when they observe even the slightest exertion of magisterial authority, they grow angry and seditious, and thus the laws are necessarily infringed, because there is no ruler that dares to execute them.”
—You have very accurately expressed the sentiments of Plato.
—Now to return to the argument of my discourse. It appears that this extreme license, which is the only liberty in the eyes of the vulgar, is according to Plato, the natural foster–mother of tyranny. For as the excessive power of an aristocracy occasions the destruction of the nobles, so this excessive liberalism of democracies induces the servility of the people, and betrays them into the hands of despots. Thus we find in the weather, the soil, and the animal constitution, the most favourable conditions are sometimes suddenly converted by their excess, into the most injurious. This fact is especially observable in political governments. This excessive liberty soon brings the people, collectively and individually, to an excessive servitude. For, as I said, this extreme liberty easily introduces the reign of tyranny, the severest of all unjust slaveries. In fact, from the midst of this indomitable and capricious populace, they elect some one as a leader in opposition to their afflicted and expelled nobles; some new chief, forsooth, audacious and impure, insolently prosecuting those of the best desert in the state, and ready to gratify the populace at his neighbour’s expence as well as his own. Then since the private condition is naturally exposed to fears and alarms, the people invest him with many powers, and these are continued in his hands. Such men, like Pisistratus of Athens, will soon find Edition: current; Page: an excuse for surrounding themselves with body guards, and they will conclude by becoming tyrants over the very fools that raised them to dignity. If such despots perish by the vengence of the better citizens, as is generally the case, the constitution is re–established. If they fall by the hands of demagogues, they are succeeded by a faction, which is another species of tyranny. We observe the same revolution arising from the fair system of aristocracy, when corruption has betrayed the nobles from the path of rectitude. Thus the power is like a ball, which is flung from hand to hand; it passes from kings to tyrants, from tyrants to aristocracies, from them to democracies, and from these back again to tyrants and to factions; and thus the same kind of government is seldom long maintained.
Since these are the facts of experience, royalty is, in my opinion, very far preferable to the three other kinds of political constitutions. But it is itself inferior to that which is composed of an equal mixture of the three best forms of government, united, and modified by one another. I wish to establish in a Commonwealth, a royal and pre–eminent chief. Another portion of power should be deposited in the hands of the aristocracy, and certain things should be reserved to the judgment and wish of the multitude. This constitution, in the first place, possesses that great Edition: current; Page: equality, without which men cannot long maintain their freedom,—then it offers a great stability, while the particular separate and isolated forms, easily fall into their contraries; so that a king is succeeded by a despot,—an aristocracy by a faction,—a democracy by a mob and a hubbub; and all these forms are frequently sacrificed to new revolutions. In this united and mixed constitution, however, which I take the liberty of recommending, similar disasters cannot happen without the greatest vices in public men. For there can be little to occasion revolution in a state, in which every person is firmly established in his appropriate rank, and there are but few modes of corruption into which he can fall.
But I fear, Lælius, and you, my amiable and learned friends, if I were to dwell any longer on this argument, that my words would seem rather like the lessons of a master, and not like the free conversation of a brother truth–searcher. I shall therefore pass on to those things which are familliar to all, and which I have long studied. And in these matters I believe, I feel, and I affirm, that of all governments, there is none which, either in its entire constitution, or the distribution of its parts, or in the discipline of its manners, is comparable to that which our fathers received from our earliest ancestors, and which they have handed down to us. And since you wish to hear Edition: current; Page: from me a developement of this constitution with which you are all acquainted, I shall endeavour to explain its true character and excellence. Thus keeping my eye fixed on the model of our Roman Commonwealth, I shall endeavour to accommodate to it, all that I have to say on the best form of government. By treating the subject in this way, I think I shall be able to accomplish with most satisfaction the task which Lælius has imposed on me.
—It is a task most properly and peculiarly you own, my Scipio; for who can speak so well as you on the institutions of our ancestors, from the noblest of whom you are yourself descended? Or who can so well discuss the best state of our Commonwealth, as you, to whom it ows its preservation? Or who so well provide for the emerging fortunes of our country, as you, who having dispelled two mighty perils from our city, can look forward with hope to the future destinies of Rome?
As our country is the source of the greatest benefits, and as she is the venerable parent that gave us life, we owe her still warmer gratitude than belongs to our human relations.
Carthage would not have continued to flourish during six centuries without admirable politics and institutions.
The reasonings of speculative philosophers may open abundant fountains of science and virtue; but if we compare them with the philanthropical achievements of great statesmen, they will seem to have conduced less to the utilities of industry than the pleasures of idleness.
In this second Book of his Commonwealth, Cicero gives us a spirited and eloquent review of the history and successive developments of the Roman constitution. He bestows the warmest praises on its early kings—points out the great advantages which had resulted from its primitive monarchical system, and explains how that system had been gradually broken up. In order to prove the importance of reviving it, he gives a glowing picture of the evils and disasters that had befallen the Roman State in consequence of that overcharge of democratic folly and violence, which had gradually gained an alarming preponderence, and describes, with a kind of prophetic sagacity, thefruit of his political experience, the subsequent revolutions of the Roman State, which such a state of things would necessarily bring about.
When he observed all his friends kindled with the desire of hearing him, Scipio thus opened the discussion. “I will commence (said Scipio) with a sentiment of old Cato, whom, as you know, I singularly loved and exceedingly admired, and to whom, both by the judgment of my parents and by my own desire, I was entirely devoted during my youth. Of his discourse, indeed, I could never have enough. He possessed so much experience as a statesman respecting the government which he had so long conducted, both in peace and war with so much success. There was also an admirable propriety in his style of conversation, in which wit was tempered with gravity; a wonderful aptitude for acquiring, and at the same time communicating information,—and all his words were illustrated by his life.
Such was Cato. And he used to say that the government of Rome was superior to that of other states; because in them the great men were mere isolated individuals, who regulated their constitutions Edition: current; Page: according to their own ipse dixits, their own laws, and their own ordinances. Such was Minos in Crete, Lycurgus in Sparta; and in Athens, which experienced so many revolutions, first Theseus, then Draco, then Solon, then Clisthenes, afterwards many others; and lastly, to support the Athenian state in its exhaustion and prostration, that great and wise man, Demetrius Phalereus.
Our Roman constitution, on the contrary, did not spring from the genius of an individual, but of many; and it was established, not in the lifetime of a man, but in the course of ages and centuries. For (added he) there never yet existed a genius so vast and comprehensive as to allow nothing to escape its attention, and all the geniuses in the world united in a single mind, could never, within the limits of a single life, exert a foresight sufficiently extensive to embrace and harmonize all, without the aid of experience and practice.
Thus, according to Cato’s usual habit, I now ascend in my discourse to the “Origin of the Roman Commonwealth,” for I like, when I can, to imitate the style of Cato. I shall also more easily execute my task, if I thus exhibit to you our political constitution in its infancy, progress, and maturity, now so firm and fully established, than if, after the example of Socrates in the books of Plato, I were to delineate a mere imaginary republic.Edition: current; Page: 
When all had signified their approbation, Scipio resumed:—What commencement of a political constitution can we conceive more brilliant, or more generally accredited than the foundation of Rome by the hand of Romulus the son of Mars? Let us, therefore, still venerate a tradition, at once so antique and so gravely maintained by our ancestors, that those who have done great service to communities, may enjoy the reputation of having received from the gods, not only their genius, but their very birth.
They relate that soon after the birth of Romulus and his brother Remus, Amulius, King of Alba, fearing that they might one day undermine his authority, ordered that they should be exposed on the banks of the Tiber. That in this situation, the infant Romulus was suckled by a wild beast; that he was afterwards educated by the shepherds, and inured to the hardy labours of the field; and that he acquired, when he grew up, such superiority over the rest by the vigour of his body, and the courage of his soul, that all the people who cultivated the plains in the midst of which Rome now stands, unanimously submitted to his rule and government. It is moreover reported, to come from fables to facts, that when he was placed at the head of these bands, he besieged Alba, then a potent and strong city, and slew its king, Amulius.Edition: current; Page: 
Having thus acquired glory, he conceived the design (as they tell us) of founding a new city and constituting a new state. As respected the site of his new constitution, a point which requires the greatest foresight in him who would lay the foundation of a durable Commonwealth, he chose the most convenient possible position for his chief city, Rome. For he did not advance too near the sea, which he might easily have done with the forces under his command, either by entering the territory of the Rutuli and Aborigenes; or by founding his citadel on the embouchure of the Tiber, where many years after, Ancus Martius built Ostia for his colony. But Romulus, with admirable genius and foresight, observed and calculated that sites very near the sea are not the most favourable positions for cities which would attain a durable prosperity. And this, first, because maritime cities are always exposed, not only to many attacks, but to many perils they cannot foresee or provide against. The solid land betrays, by many indications, the regular approaches, and the stolen marches of the enemy. It announces its natural foes by re–echoing the sound of their invasion. There is no adversary who, on an inland territory, can arrive so swiftly, but we may know his approach, and who he is, and where he comes from. But a marine and naval enemy can fall upon a sea coast town before Edition: current; Page: any one suspects his coming; and when he comes, nothing exterior indicates who he is, or whence he comes, or what he wishes; nor can it even be determined on all occasions whether he is a friend or a foe. (Note I.)
Maritime cities are likewise exposed to corrupt influences, and revolutions of manners. Their civilization is more or less adulterated by new languages and customs, and they import not only foreign merchandize, but foreign fashions, which allow no fixation or consolidation in the institution of such cities. Those who inhabit these maritime towns do not remain in their native place, but are urged afar from their homes by winged hope and speculation. And even when they do not desert their country in person, their minds are always expatiating and voyaging round the world.
There was no cause which more deeply undermined Corinth and Carthage, and at last overthrew them both, than this wandering and dispersion of their citizens, whom the passion of commerce and navigation had induced to abandon their agricultural and military interests.
The proximity of the sea likewise administers to maritime cities a multitude of pernicious incentives to luxury, which are acquired by victory or imported by commerce; and the very agreeableness of their position nourishes the expensive Edition: current; Page: and deceitful gratifications of the passions. And what I have spoken of Corinth may be applied, for aught I know, without incorrectness to the whole of Greece. For almost the entire Peloponesus is surrounded by the sea; nor, beside the Phliasians, are there any whose lands do not approach the sea—and beyond the Peloponesus, the Enianes, the Dorians, and the Dolopes, are the only inland peoples. Why should I speak of the Grecian islands, which, girded by the waves, seem as if they were all afloat, together with the institutions and manners of their cities. And these things I have before noticed do not respect ancient Greece only; for all its colonies likewise are washed by the sea, which have expatriated from Greece into Asia, Thracia, Italy, Sicily, and Africa, with the single exception of Magnesia. Thus it seems, as if fragments of the Grecian coasts had been appended to the shores of the barbarians. For among the barbarians themselves none were heretofore maritime, or inclined to navigation, if we except the Carthaginians and Etruscans; one for the sake of commerce, the other of pillage. Here then is one evident reason of the calamities and revolutions of Greece, because she became infected, as I before observed, with the vices which belong to maritime cities. But yet, notwithstanding these vices, they have one great advantage; it is, that all the commodities of foreign Edition: current; Page: nations are thus concentrated in the cities of the sea, and that the inhabitants are enabled in return to export and send abroad the produce of their native lands to any nation they please, which offers them a market for their goods.
Romulus was admirably successful in achieving all the benefits that could belong to maritime cities, without incurring the dangers to which they are exposed. He built Rome on the bank of an inexhaustible river, whose equal current discharges itself into the sea by a vast embouchure, so that our city can receive all it wants from the sea, and discharge its superabundant commodities by the same channel. It finds, in the same river, a communication by which it receives from the sea all the productions necessary to the conveniences and elegancies of life, and possesses an inland territory beside, which furnishes it with an exuberant supply of provisions. I, therefore, think that Romulus must have divined and anticipated that Rome would one day become the centre and focus of a potent and opulent empire. For, situated in any other part of Italy, no city could maintain so wide a dominion.
As to the natural fortifications of Rome, who is so negligent and unobservant as not to have them depicted and stampt on his memory? Such is the plan and direction of the walls, which, by the prudence of Romulus and his royal successors are Edition: current; Page: supported on all sides by steep and rugged hills. And the only aperture between the Esquiline and Quirinal mountains is enclosed by an immense rampart, and surrounded by a tremendous foss. And as for our fortified citadel, it is so secured by a precipitous barrier and inclosure of rocks, that in that horrible attack and invasion of the Gauls, it remained impregnable and inviolable. The site he selected had also an abundance of fountains, and was sufficiently salubrious, though it was in the midst of a pestilental region; for there are hills which at once create a current of fresh air, and fling an agreeable shade over the vallies. (Locum delegit et fontibus abundantem, et in regione pestilenti salubrem; colles enim sunt, qui cum perflantur ipsi, tum adferunt umbram vallibus.)
These things he effected with wonderful rapidity, and thus established the city, which, from his own name Romulus, he determined to call Rome. And in order to corroborate his new city, he conceived a design singular enough, and even a little barbarous, yet worthy of a great man, and a genius which discerned far away in futurity the means of strengthening his power and his people. The young Sabine females of the best birth, who came to Rome, attracted by the public games and spectacles which Romulus celebrated in the circus during the first anniversary, were suddenly Edition: current; Page: carried off by his orders, and were associated in marriages to the best families in Rome. This cause having brought on Rome the Sabine armies, and the issue of the battle being doubtful and undecided, Romulus made an alliance with Tatius, king of the Sabines, at the intercession of the matrons who had been so abducted. By this compact, he admitted the Sabines into the city, communicated with their religious ceremonies, and divided his power with their king.
After the death of Tatius, the entire government was again vested in the hands of Romulus. This monarch had, however, even during the lifetime of Tatius, formed a royal council or senate of the chief noblemen, who were entitled by the affection of the people Patres, or Patricians. He also formed Comitia, or a house of Commons, by dividing the people into three tribes, nominated after the name of Tatius, his own name, and that of Lucumon his friend, who had fallen in the Sabine war. He likewise made another division of the people into thirty Curiæ, designated by the names of those Sabine virgins, who after being carried off at the festivals, generously offered themselves as the mediators of peace and coalition.
But though these orders were established in the life of Tatius, yet after his death, Romulus reigned in double power by the council and authority of the senate. In this respect, he approved Edition: current; Page: and adopted the principle which Lycurgus, but little before, had applied to the government of Lacedæmon. The principle I allude to, is this, that the monarchical authority, and the royal power, operate best in the government of states, when to this supreme authority is joined the legislative influence of the aristocratic citizens. (Note II.)
Thus supported and corroborated by this council or senate, Romulus conducted many wars with the neighbouring peoples, in a most successful manner, and while he refused to take any portion of the booty to his own palace, he did not hesitate to enrich the citizens. Romulus also cherished the greatest respect for that institution of hierarchical and ecclesiastical ordinances, which we still retain to the great benefit of the Commonwealth; for in the very commencement of his government, he founded the city with religious rites, and in the institution of all public establishments, he was equally careful in attending to these sacred ceremonials, and associated with himself on these solemn occasions, priests that were selected from each of the tribes. He also enacted that the nobles should act as patrons and protectors to the inferior citizens, their natural clients and dependants, in their respective districts; a measure whose utility I shall afterwards notice. The judicial punishments, were mostly fines of sheep Edition: current; Page: and oxen, for the property of the people at that time consisted in their fields and cattle, and this circumstance has given rise to the expressions which still designate real and personal wealth. Thus the people were kept in order, rather by mulctations than by bodily inflictions.
After Romulus had thus reigned thirty–seven years, and established these two great supports of government, the hierarchy and the senate, having disappeared in a sudden eclipse of the sun, he was thought worthy of being added to the number of the gods,—an honour which no mortal man can deserve, but by the glorious pre–eminence of virtue. The Apotheosis of Romulus was the more illustrious, because most of the great men that have been deified, were so exalted to celestial dignities by the people, in periods very little enlightened, when fiction was easy, and ignorance went hand in hand with credulity. But with respect to Romulus, we know that he lived less than six centuries ago, at a time when science and literature were already advanced, and had got rid of many of the ancient errors that had prevailed among less civilized peoples. In fact, if, as we consider proved by the Grecian annals, Rome was founded in the seventh Olympiad, the life of Romulus was contemporary with that period in which Greece already abounded in poets and musicians,—an age Edition: current; Page: when fables, except those handed down from antiquity, received little credit.
This is the more evident, because it was one hundred and eight years after the promulgation of the laws of Lycurgus, that the first Olympiad was established, which indeed, through a mistake of names, some authors have supposed constituted by Lycurgus likewise. And Homer himself, according to the best computation, lived at least thirty years before the time of Lycurgus. We must conclude, therefore, that Homer flourished very many years before the date of Romulus. The information, therefore, of men, and the progress of arts and sciences in the days of our first monarch, could have left mere fictions little chance of success. Antiquity indeed has received fables that are sufficiently improbable; but this epoch, so considerably cultivated, would most likely have rejected every fiction that wanted the evidence of testimonies.
We may, therefore, perhaps attach some credit to this story of Romulus’s immortality, since human life was at that time experienced, cultivated, and instructed. And doubtless there was in him such energy of genius and virtue, that it is not altogether impossible to believe the report of Proculus Julius, the husbandman, of that glorification having befallen Romulus, which for many ages, Edition: current; Page: we have denied to less illustrious men. At all events, Proculus is reported to have stated in the council, at the instigation of the senators, who wished to free themselves from all suspicion of having been accessories to the death of Romulus, that he had seen him on that hill which is now called the Quirinal, and that he had commanded him to inform the people, that they should build him a temple on that same hill, and offer him sacrifices, under the name of Quirinus.
You see, therefore, that the genius of this great man did not merely establish the constitution of a new people, and then leave them crying in their cradle, but he still continued to superintend their education till they had arrived at an adult, and well nigh a mature age.
—We now see, my Scipio, what you meant when you said that you would adopt a new method of discussing the science of government, different from any found in the writings of the Greeks. For that prime master of philosophy, whom none ever surpassed in eloquence, I allude to Plato, chose an open plain to build an imaginary city after his own taste, a city admirably conceived, as none can deny, but remote enough from the real life and manners of men. Others, without proposing to themselves any model or type of government whatever, have argued on the constitutions and forms of states. You, on the Edition: current; Page: contrary, appear to unite these two methods, for as far as you have gone, you seem to prefer attributing to others your discoveries, rather than start new theories under your own name and authority, as Socrates has done in the writings of Plato. Thus, in speaking of the site of Rome, you refer to a systematical policy, the acts in the history of Romulus, which were many of them the result of necessity or chance, and you do not allow your discourse to run riot over many states, but you fix and concentrate it on our own commonwealth; proceed then in the course you have adopted, for I see that you intend to examine our other kings, and thus to delineate to us the perfection of our political constitution.
—The senate of Romulus which was composed of nobles, whom the king himself respected so highly that he designated them patres or fathers, and their children patricians, attempted after the death of Romulus, to conduct the government without a king. But this the people would not suffer, and in their regret for Romulus, desisted not from demanding a fresh monarch. The nobles then prudently resolved to establish an interregnum, a new political form, almost unknown to other nations. It was not without its use, however, since during the interval which elapsed before the definitive nomination of the new king, the state was not left without an interrex, Edition: current; Page: nor subjected too long to the same interrex, nor exposed to the fear lest some one by the prolonged exercise of power, should refuse to be deposed from his regency, or collect forces to secure it. Thus, our early Romans discovered a political provision which had escaped the Spartan Lycurgus, who conceived that the monarch ought not to be elective, so far as his opinion went, but that it was better for the Lacedæmonians to acknowledge as their sovereign, the next heir of the race of Hercules, whoever he might be. In fact, our Romans, rude as they were, saw the importance of appointing a king, not for his family, but for his virtue and experience.
Fame having recognized these eminent qualities in Numa Pompilius, the Roman people, without partiality for their own citizens, committed itself by the counsel of the senators, to a king of foreign origin, and summoned this Sabine from the city of Cures to Rome, that he might reign over them. Numa, although the people had proclaimed him king in their Comitia Curiata, or House of Commons, past a law through the Commons respecting his authority; and observing that the institutions of Romulus had too much excited the military propensities of the people, he judged it expedient to recall them from this habit of warfare by other employments.
And first, he divided severally among the citizens, Edition: current; Page: the lands which Romulus had conquered, and taught them that even without the aid of war and pillage, they could by the cultivation of their own territories, procure themselves all kinds of commodities. Thus he inspired them with the love of peace and tranquillity, in which faith and justice are likeliest to flourish, and extended the most powerful protection to the people in the cultivation of their fields, and the fruition of their produce. Pompilius likewise, having created hierarchial institutions of the highest class, added two hierarchs to the old number. He intrusted the superintendence of the sacred rites to five pontiffs, selected from the body of the nobles; and by those laws which we still preserve on our monuments, he mitigated by religious ceremonials the minds that had been too long enflamed by military enthusiasm and enterprize.
He also established the Flaminian and Salian orders of priests and the Vestal Virgins, and regulated all departments of our ecclesiastical policy with the most pious care. In the ordinance of sacrifices, he wished that the ceremonial should be very arduous, and the expenditure very light. He thus appointed many observances, whose knowledge is extremely important, and whose expense far from burdensome. Thus in religious worship he added devotion, and removed costliness. Numa was also the first to introduce Edition: current; Page: markets, games, and the other usual methods of assembling and socializing men. By these establishments, he inclined to benevolence and amiability, spirits whom the passion for war had rendered savage and ferocious. Having thus reigned in the greatest peace and concord thirty–nine years (for in dates we mainly follow our Polybius, who gave the greatest attention to chronological periods), he departed this life, having corroborated the two grand principles of political stability,—religion and clemency, (duabus præclarissimis ad diuturnitatem reipublicæ rebus confirmatis, religione atque clementiâ.)
When Scipio had concluded these remarks,—What think you (said Manilius) of the current tradition that our King Numa was a disciple of Pythagoras, or that at least he was a Pythagorean in his doctrines. This I have often heard from our old men, and we know that it is the popular opinion; but it does not seem to be clearly proved by the testimony of our public annals.
—The supposition is false, my Manilius; it is not merely a fiction, but a fiction of the grossest absurdity, and we should not tolerate those statements, even in fiction, relating to facts which not only did not happen, but which never could have happened. It was not till the fourth year of the reign of Tarquinius Superbus, that Pythagoras came to Sybaris, Crotona, and this part of Edition: current; Page: Italy. The 62d Olympiad is the common date of the elevation of Tarquin to the throne, and of the visit of Pythagoras. Whence it appears, when we calculate the duration of the reigns, that about 140 years must have elapsed after the death of Numa, before Pythagoras first arrived in Italy. And this fact in the minds of men who have carefully studied the annals of time, has never been at all doubted.
—Immortal gods! how deep and how inveterate is error in the minds of men! However, it costs me no effort to concede that our Roman sciences were not imported from beyond the seas, but that they sprung from our own indigenous and domestic virtues.
—You will become still more convinced of this fact, when tracing the progress of our Commonwealth, as it gradually developed to its best and maturest condition. And you will find yet further occasion to admire the wisdom of our ancestors, since you will perceive that even those things which they borrowed from foreigners received a much higher improvement among us than they possesed in their native source and original residence; and you will learn that the Roman people was aggrandized, not by chance or hazard, but rather by counsel and discipline, to which fortune indeed, was by no means unfavourable.
After the death of Numa, the people, on the Edition: current; Page: proposal of an interregnum, chose Tullus Hostilius for their king, in the Comitia Curiata, or House of Commons; and Tullus, after Numa’s example, consulted the deputies of the people respecting the measures of his government. His excellence chiefly appeared in his military glory and great achievements in war. He likewise constructed the House of Comitia, or Commons, and the Senate House, and decorated them with the triumphal spoils. He also settled the rights of war, and proclamations of hostilities, and he consecrated their equitable administration by the religious sanction of the Fecial priesthood, so that every war which was not duly announced and declared, might be adjudged illegitimate, unjust, and impious. And observe how wisely our kings at that time respected the rights of the people, of which we shall hereafter discourse. Tullus did not assume the ensigns of royalty without the approbation of the people, and when he appointed twelve lictors with their axes to go before him, it was not without the consent of the citizens.
—This Commonwealth of Rome you are so eloquently describing, did not creep toward perfection: it rather flew at once to the maturity of its grandeur.
—After Tullus, Ancus Martius, a descendant of Numa by his daughter, was appointed king by the people. He also passed a law through Edition: current; Page: the Commons respecting his government. This king having conquered the Latins, admitted them to the rights of citizens of Rome. He attached to the city, the Aventine and Cælian hills. He distributed the lands he had taken in war; he bestowed on the public all the maritime forests he had acquired, and he built the city Ostia, at the mouth of the Tiber, and colonized it. When he had thus reigned twenty–three years, he died.
— Doubtless this king deserves our praises, but the Roman history is obscure. We possess indeed the name of this monarch’s mother, but we know nothing of his father.
—It is so; but in those ages, little more than the names of the kings were recorded.
For the first time at this period, Rome appears to have become studious of foreign literature. It was no longer a little rivulet, flowing from Greece towards the walls of our city; but an overflowing river of Grecian sciences and arts. This is attributed by many to Demaratus, a Corinthian, the first man of his country in reputation, honour, and wealth, who not being able to bear the despotism of Cypselus, tyrant of Corinth, fled with his accumulated treasures, and arrived at Tarquinii, a flourishing city in Etruria. There, understanding that the domination of Cypselus was becoming more and more severe, like a free and bold–hearted man, he renounced his enslaved Edition: current; Page: country, and was admitted into the number of the citizens of Tarquinii, and fixed his residence at this town. Here, having married a woman of the city, he instructed his two sons, according to the method of Greek education, in all kinds of sciences and arts.
One of these sons was hospitably received at Rome, and by the politeness of his conversation and manners he became a favourite of our king Ancus, so that he was thought to be a participator in all his counsels, and well nigh his associate in the government. He besides possessed wonderful affability, and was profuse in his offers of assistance, protection, and pecuniary largesses.
When, therefore, Ancus died, the people by their suffrages, chose for their king, this Lucius Tarquinius Priscus, (for he had thus transformed the Greek name of his family, that he might seem in all respects to imitate the modes of his adopted citizens). Lucius, when he had passed a law respecting his authority, commenced his reign by doubling the original number of the senators. The ancient senators, he called Patricians of the major families (patres majorum gentium) who had the right to the first judgment. And those new senators whom he added, he entitled, Patricians of minor families. After having settled this scale of major and minor nobility, he established the order of knighthood, on the plan which we maintain Edition: current; Page: to this day. He would not, however, change the denomination of the Tatian, Rhamnensian, and Lucerian orders, though he wished to do so, because Attus Nævius, an augur of the highest reputation, would not sanction it. We cannot be surprized, at the care of Lucius for the order of knighthood, for the Corinthians were remarkably attentive to provide for the maintenance and promotion of their cavalry, by taxes levied on the inheritance of widows and orphans. To the first equestrian orders, Lucius also added new ones, composing a body of three hundred knights. And this number he doubled, after having conquered the Æquicoli, a large and ferocious people, and dangerous enemies of the Roman state. Having likewise repulsed from our walls an invasion of the Sabines, he routed them by the aid of his cavalry, and subdued them. Lucius also first instituted the grand games, which are now called the Roman games. He fulfilled his vow to build a temple to Jupiter, the best and greatest, in the capitol—a vow which he made during a battle in the Sabine war, and died after a reign of thirty–eight years.
—All that you have been relating corroborates the saying of Cato, that the constitution of the Roman Commonwealth is not the work of one man, or one age, for we can clearly see that the progress of excellent and useful discoveries, Edition: current; Page: was continued through a succession of many reigns. But we are now arrived at the reign of a monarch, who appears to me to have had grander views of political government than any of the rest.
—So it appears to me; for after Tarquinius Priscus, comes Servius Tullius Sulpicius, who reigned without an order from the people. He is supposed to have been the son of a female slave at Tarquinii, by one of the soldiers or clients of king Priscus. Educated among the servants of this prince, and waiting on him at table, the king soon observed the fire of his genius, which shone forth even from his childhood, so skilful was he in all his words and actions. Priscus, therefore, whose own children were then very young, so loved Servius, that he was generally esteemed as his son, and he instructed him with the greatest care in all the sciences with which he was acquainted, according to the most exact discipline of the Greeks.
When Tarquinius Priscus perished by the plots of the sons of Ancus, Servius (as I have said) began to reign, not by the order, but yet with the good–will and consent of the citizens. It being falsely reported that Priscus was recovering from his wounds, Servius in the royal robes, delivered judgment, freed the debtors at his own expense, and exhibiting the greatest affability, announced Edition: current; Page: that he delivered judgment at the command of Priscus, without committing himself to the senate. But when Priscus was buried, he consulted the people respecting his authority, and being thus authorized to assume the dominion, he passed a law through the Commons, confirming his government.
He then, in the first place, avenged the injuries of the Etruscans by arms. He appointed eighteen centuries of knights of the first order. Afterwards having created a great number of knights, separate from the common mass of the people, he divided the rest of the people into five classes, distinguishing between the seniors and the juniors. These he so constituted as to place the suffrages, not in the hands of the multitude, but in the power of the men of property. And he took care to make it a rule of our government, that the greatest number, should not have the greatest weight, (ne plurimum valeant plurimi). You are well acquainted with this institution, otherwise I would explain it to you; but you are familiar with the whole system. The former centuries of knights, with six suffrages, and the first class, comprizing eighty centuries, besides one century of artificers, on account of their utility, produce eighty–nine centuries. Add thereto eight superior centuries, taken from the one hundred and four centuries which remain, you have one hundred and ninety three centuries, the entire Edition: current; Page: force of the state. The far more numerous multitude, which is distributed through the ninety–six last centuries, is not deprived of a right of suffrage by a haughty exclusion, nor yet on the other hand, permitted to exert a dangerous preponderance in the government.
In this arrangement Servius was very cautious in his choice of terms and denominations. He called the rich, the assiduous classes, because they afforded pecuniary succour to the state. As to those whose fortune did not exceed 1500 pence, or those who had nothing but their labour, he called them the proletarious classes, as if the state should expect from them a hardy progeny and population.
Even a single one of the ninety–six last centuries contained numerically more citizens than the entire first class. Thus no one was excluded from his right of voting, yet the preponderance of votes was secured to them who had the deepest stake in the welfare of the state.
A similar institution prevailed at Carthage which was sixty–five years more ancient than Rome, since it was founded thirty–nine years before the first Olympiad. Lycurgus likewise established the same political constitution in Lacedæmon. Thus this system of regular subordination, and this mixture of the three principal forms of government, appear to me common alike to us and them. But Edition: current; Page: there is a peculiar advantage in our commonwealth, than which nothing can be more excellent, which I shall endeavour to describe as acurately as possible, because nothing analogous can be discovered in ancient states. The political elements I have noticed were at first united in the constitutions of Rome, of Sparta, and of Carthage, without being counterbalanced by any modifying power. For in a state in which one man is invested with a perpetual domination, especially of the monarchical character, although there be a senate in it, as in Rome under her kings; and in Sparta, by the laws of Lycurgus, or even where the people exercise a sort of jurisdiction, as they used in the days of our monarchy; the title of King must still be pre–eminent, nor can such a state avoid being, and being called a kingdom. And this kind of government is subject to frequent revolutions, because the fault of a single individual is sufficient to precipitate it into the most pernicious disasters.
In itself, however, royalty is not only not a reprehensible form of government, but I should conceive far preferable to all other simple constitutions, if I approved of any simple constitution whatever. But this preference applies to royalty so long only as it maintains its appropriate character; and this character provides that a monarch’s perpetual power and justice, and universal experience, should regulate the safety, equality, Edition: current; Page: and tranquillity of the whole people. But many privileges must be wanting to communities that live under a king of a different character; and in the first place, liberty, which does not consist in slavery to a just master, but in slavery to no master at all
Let us now pass on to the reign of the seventh and last king of Rome, Tarquinius Superbus. This unjust and cruel master had good fortune for his companion for some time in all his enterprizes. He subdued all Latium; he captured Pometia, a powerful and wealthy city, and possest of an immense spoil of gold and silver, he accomplished his ancestor’s vow by the edification of the Capitol. He formed colonies, and, faithful to the institutions of those from whom he sprung, he sent magnificent presents as tokens of gratitude for his victories, to Apollo at Delphi.
Here begins the revolution of our political system of government, and I must beg your attention to its natural course and progression. For the grand point of political science, the object of our discourses, is to know the march and the deviations of governments, that when we are acquainted with the particular inclinations and proclivities of constitutions, we may be able to restrain them from their fatal tendencies, and oppose appropriate obstacles to their decline and fall.Edition: current; Page: 
This Tarquinius Superbus, of whom I am speaking, being, even before the commencement of his reign, stained with the blood of his admirable predecessor on the throne, could not be a man of sound conscience and mind; and fearing himself the severest punishment for his enormous crime, he sought his protection in making himself feared. Thus in the glory of his victories and his treasures, he exulted in insolent pride, and could neither regulate his own manners nor the passions of his courtiers.
When, therefore, his eldest son, having offered violence to Lucretia, daughter of Tricipitinus and wife of Collatinus; and this chaste and noble lady having stabbed herself to death on account of the injury she could not survive—a man eminent for his genius and virtue, Lucius Junius Brutus dashed from his fellow–citizens this unjust yoke of an odious servitude. Born of royal ancestry, though a private man, he sustained the government of the entire Commonwealth, and was the first that maintained in Rome that no one should be a private man when the preservation of our liberties was concerned. Beneath his authority and command our city rose against tyranny, and, stirred by the recent grief of the father and relatives of Lucretia, and with the recollections of Tarquin’s cruelty, and the numberless Edition: current; Page: crimes of himself and his sons, they pronounced sentence of banishment against him and his children, and the whole race of the Tarquins.
You may here remark how the king sometimes degenerates into the despot, and how, by the fault of a monarch, a form of government originally good, is abused to the worst of purposes. Here is a specimen of that despot over the people, whom the Greeks denominate a tyrant. For, according to them, a king is he who, like a father, consults the interests of his people, and who preserves those whom he is set over in the very best condition of life. (Regem illum volunt esse qui consulit ut parens populo, conservatque eos quibus est præpositus quam optimâ in conditione vivendi.) This indeed is, as I have said, an excellent form of government, yet still inclined, and as it were, biassed, to a pernicious abuse. For as soon as a king assumes an unjust and despotic power, he instantly becomes a tyrant, than which there can be nothing baser, fouler—no imaginable animal can be more detestable to gods or men—for though in form a man, he surpasses the most savage monsters in infernal cruelty. Who indeed can justly call him human, who admits not between himself and his fellow–countrymen, between himself and the whole human race, any communication of justice,—any association of kindness? But we shall find some fitter occasion of speaking Edition: current; Page: of the evils of tyranny, when the subject itself prompts us to declare against them, who, even in a state already liberated, have affected these despotic insolencies.
Such is the first origin and rise of tyranny. By this name, tyrant, the Greeks intended to designate a wicked king; and by the title king, our Romans understand every man who exercises over the people a perpetual and undivided domination. Thus Spurius, Cassius, Manlius, and Mælius are said to have sought the investiture of royalty, and Tiberius Gracchus incurred the same accusation.
Lycurgus in Sparta, formed under the name of Geronts, or Senators, a small council consisting of twenty eight members only; to these he allotted the highest legislative authority, while the king held the highest dominative authority. Our Romans, emulating his example, and translating his terms, entitled those whom he had called Geronts, senators, which, as we have said, was done by Romulus in reference to the elect patricians. In this constitution, however, the power, the influence, and name of the king, will still be pre–eminent. You may distribute indeed, some show of power to the people, but you inflame them with the thirst of liberty by allowing them even the slightest taste of its sweetness, and still their hearts will be overcast with alarm, lest their king, as often Edition: current; Page: happens, should become unjust. The prosperity of the people, therefore, can be little better than fragile, when placed at the disposal of any absolute monarch whatever, and subjected to his will and caprices.
Thus the first example, prototype, and original of tyranny may be clearly illustrated by the history of our own Roman state, so religiously founded by Romulus, without applying to the theoretical Commonwealth which, according to Plato’s recital, Socrates was accustomed to describe in his peripatetic dialogues. We have observed Tarquin, not by the usurpation of any new power, but by the unjust abuse of the power he already possessed, overturn the whole system of our monarchical constitution.
Let us oppose to this example of the tyrant that of the virtuous king—wise, experienced, and well informed respecting the true interest and dignity of the citizens—a tutor and superintendent of the Commonwealth, as every ruler and governor of a state ought to be. This man it behoves us to seek for and promote to dignity, for he is the man who, by counsel and exertion, can best protect the nation. As the name of this man has not yet been mentioned in our discourse, and as the character of such a man must be often alluded to in our future conversations, I shall take an early opportunity of describing it.Edition: current; Page: 
Plato has chosen to suppose a territory and establishments of citizens, whose fortunes were precisely equal. His city, rather to be desired than expected, he imagines built within narrow boundaries. He has described a political government, not such as could actually be carried into execution, but such as afforded a theoretical model of what he conceived to be the best civil constitution. But for me, if I can in any way accomplish it, while I adopt the same general principles as Plato, I seek to reduce them to experience and practice, not in the shadow and picture of a state, but in a real and actual Commonwealth, of unrivalled amplitude and power. It is here, I would seek to point out, with the most graphic precision, the causes of every political good and social evil.
After Rome had flourished more than 240 years under her kings and interreges, and Tarquin was sent into banishment, the Roman people conceived as much detestation of the name of king as they had once experienced regret at the death, or rather disappearance, of Romulus. As in the first instance, they could hardly bear the idea of losing a king; so in the latter, after the expulsion of Tarquin, they could not endure the notion of restoring a king, and thus the monarchical constitution of Rome was thrown into ruin.
In this humour, our ancestors banished Collatinus, Edition: current; Page: in spite of his innocence, because of the suspicion that attached to his family, and the hatred of the people for the rest of the Tarquins. In the same humour, Valerius Publicola was the first to lower the fasces before the people when he spoke in public. He also had the materials of his house conveyed to the foot of Mount Velia, having observed that the commencement of his edifice on the summit of this hill, where King Tullius had once dwelt, excited the suspicions of the people.
It was the same man who, in this respect preeminently deserved the name of Publicola, who carried in favour of the people, the first law received in the Comitia Centuriata, or Commons of Deputies, that no magistrate should sentence to death or stripes, a Roman citizen who appealed from his authority to the people. The pontifical books attest indeed that the right of appeal had existed, even against the decision of the kings. Our augural books affirm the same thing. And the Twelve Tables evince, by a multitude of laws, that there was a right of appeal from every judgment and penalty. Besides, the historical fact that the Decemviri who compiled the laws were created with the privilege of judging without appeal, sufficiently proves that the other magistrates had not the same power. Lucius Valerius and Marcus Horatius—men justly popular for promoting union and concord—sanctioned a law Edition: current; Page: under their consulship, that no magistrate should thenceforth be appointed with authority to judge without appeal; and the Portian laws, the work of three citizens of the name of Portius, as you are aware, added nothing new to this edict but a penal sanction.
Publicola having promulgated this law in favour of appeal to the people, immediately ordered the axes to be removed from the fasces, which the lictors carried before the consuls, and the next day appointed Spurius Lucretius for his colleague. The new consul being the oldest of the two, Publicola sent him his lictors, and he was the first to establish the rule that each of the consuls should be preceded by the lictors in alternate months, that there should be no greater appearance of imperial insignia among the free people than they had witnessed in the days of their kings. Thus, in my opinion, he proved himself no ordinary man, when, by so granting the people a moderate degree of liberty, he more easily maintained the authority of the nobles.
I would not, without cause, have related to you these antique and almost obsolete events. I hasten to treat of more illustrious persons and times, and those notices of men and measures to which the rest of my discourse directs me.
At that period, then, the senate preserved the Commonwealth in such a condition that though Edition: current; Page: the people were really free, yet few acts were passed by the people, but almost all, on the contrary, by the authority, customs, and traditions of the senate. And over all the consuls exercised a power, in time, indeed, only annual, but in nature and prerogative truly royal. (Genere ipso ac jure regiam.)
The consuls maintained, with the greatest energy, that rule which so much conduces to the power of our nobles and great men, that the acts of the Commons of the people shall not be binding, unless the authority of the patricians has approved them. (Populi Comitia ne essent rata, nisi ea patrum approbavisset auctoritas.) About the same period, and scarcely ten years after the first consuls, we find the appointment of the Dictator in the person of Titus Lartius, a. u. 253. And this new kind of power, namely, the dictatorship, appears exceedingly similar to a reproduction of the monarchical royalty. All his power, however, was vested in the supreme authority of the senate, to which the people deferred; and in these times the greatest exploits were performed in war by brave men invested with supreme domination, whether dictators or consuls.
But as the nature of things necessarily induced that the people, once freed from its kings, should arrogate to itself more and more authority, we observe in a short interval, only sixteen years Edition: current; Page: after, under the consulship of Cominius and Spurius Cassius, they attained their object. They could probably give no reason for this proceeding, but the nature of political agitations pretty often gives reason the lie. For you recollect what I said in commencing our discourse, if there exists not in the state a just distribution and subordination of rights, offices, and prerogatives, so as to give sufficient domination to the chiefs, sufficient authority to the counsel of the senators, and sufficient liberty to the people, the form of the government cannot be durable.
Thus among us Romans, the excessive debts of the citizens having thrown the state into disorder, the people first retired to Mount Sacer, and next occupied Mount Aventine. The rigid discipline of Lycurgus did not restrain the commotions of the Greeks. In Sparta itself, under the reign of Theopompus, the five magistrates whom they term Ephori; and in Crete, ten whom they entitle Cosmi, were established in opposition to the royal power, just as tribunes were added among us to counterbalance the consular authority.
There might have been a method indeed by which our ancestors could have relieved the pressure of the public debt, a method which Solon was acquainted with at no very remote period, and which our senate did not neglect when, in the indignation which the odious avarice of a Edition: current; Page: financier excited, all the bonds of the citizens were cancelled, and the right of arrest for a while suspended. In the same way, when the plebæans were oppressed by the weight of the expences occasioned by public misfortunes, a cure and remedy were sought for the sake of public security. The senate, however, having forgot their former decision, gave an advantage to the democracy; for, by the creation of two tribunes to appease the sedition of the people, the power of the senate was diminished. Still, however it remained dignified and august, it was still composed of the wisest and bravest men, who protected their country in peace and war. Still, their authority was strong and flourishing, because in honour they were as superior to their fellow–citizens, as they were inferior in luxuriousness and extravagant expenditure. Their public virtues were the more agreeable to the people, because even in private interests they were ready to serve every citizen by their exertions and counsels.
Such was the situation of the Commonwealth when Spurius Cassius, emboldened by the excessive favour of the people, endeavoured to restore the monarchy and occupy the royalty. The quæstor accused him, and as you are aware, his father himself, when he found his son proved guilty of this design, condemned him to death at the instance of the people. About 54 years after the Edition: current; Page: first consulate, Tarpeius and Aternius very much gratified the people by proposing in the Commons the substitution of fines, instead of corporal punishments. Twenty years afterwards, Papirius and Pinarius, the censors, having by a strict levy of the fines confiscated to the state the entire flocks and herds of many private individuals, a light tax on the cattle was substituted for the law of fines in the consulship of Julius and Papirius.
But, some years previous to this, at a period when the senate possessed great influence, and the people were submissive and obedient, a new system was adopted. At that time both the consuls and tribunes of the people abdicated their magistracies, and the decemviri were appointed, who were invested with great and unappealable authority, so as to exercise the chief domination, and to compile the laws. After having composed, with much wisdom and equity, the Ten Tables of laws, they nominated as their successors in the ensuing year other decemviri, whose integrity and justice do not deserve equal praise. One member of this college, however, merits our highest commendation. I allude to Julius, who declared respecting the nobleman Sestius, in whose chamber a dead body had been exhumed under his own eyes, that though as decemvir he held the highest power without appeal, he required further bail, because he was unwilling to neglect that Edition: current; Page: admirable law whieh permitted no court but the Comitia Centuriata, to pronounce final sentence on the life of a Roman citizen.
A third year followed under the authority of the same decemvirs, and still they were not disposed to appoint their successors. In a situation of the Commonwealth like this, which, as I have often repeated, could not be durable, because there was no regular subordination among the citizens, the whole public power was lodged in the hands of the chiefs and decemvirs of the highest nobility, without the counterbalancing authority of the tribunes of the people, without the sanction of any other magistracies, and without appeal to the people from the infliction of death and stripes.
Thus the injustice of these men suddenly produced a great revolution, and changed the entire condition of the government. They added two tables of very tyrannical laws, and though matrimonial alliances had always been permitted, even with foreigners, they forbad, by the most abominable and inhuman edict, that any marriages should take place between the nobles and the commons, an order which was afterwards abrogated by the decree of Canuleius. Besides, they introduced into all their political measures, corruption, cruelty, and avarice. And indeed the story is well known, and celebrated in many Edition: current; Page: literary compositions, that a certain Decimus Virginius was obliged, on account of the libidinous violence of one of these decemvirs, to stab his virgin daughter in the midst of the Forum. Then in his desperation, having fled to the Roman army which was encamped on Mount Algidum, the soldiers abandoned the war in which they were engaged, and took possession of Mount Sacer, as they had done before on a similar occasion, and next invested Mount Aventine with their arms. Thus, methinks our ancestors knew how to prove all political experiments, and wisely they retained what they found most excellent. (Majores nostros et probavisse maxime, et retinuisse sapientissime judico.)
Scipio having thus spoken, all his friends awaited in silence the rest of his discourse. Then said Tubero:—Since my seniors are so mute, my Scipio, and make no fresh demands on you, I shall take the liberty to tell you what I particularly wish you would explain in your subsequent remarks.
—With the greatest pleasure, I will try to obey you.
—You appear to me to have spoken a panegyric on our Commonwealth of Rome exclusively, though Lælius requested your views not only of the government of our own state, but of the policy of states in general. I have not, therefore, Edition: current; Page: yet sufficiently learned from your discourse, with respect to that mixed form of government you most approve, by what discipline, moral and legal, it may be best constituted and maintained.
—I think we shall soon find an occasion better adapted to the discussion you have proposed respecting the constitution and conservatism of states. As to the best form of government, I think on this point I have sufficiently answered the question of Lælius. For in answering him, I specifically noticed the three simple forms of government—monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy—and the three mal–constitutions into which they often degenerate. I said that none of these forms, taken separately, was absolutely good; and I described as preferable to either of them that mixed government which shall be composed of a proper amalgamation of these simple ingredients. If I have since depicted our own Roman constitution as an example, it was not in order to define the very best form of government, for that may be understood without an example. But I wished, in the exhibition of our mighty Commonwealth, to render distinct and visible, what reason and discourse would vainly attempt to display without the assistance of experimental illustration: yet, if you still require me to describe the best form of government, independent of all particular examples, we must consult that exactly proportioned Edition: current; Page: and graduated image of government which nature herself presents to her investigators. This is the true model of the commonwealth you are seeking, a model which I also am searching after, and earnestly desire to attain.
—You mean the model that would be approved by the truly accomplished politician?
—You have plenty of fair patterns even now before you, if you would but begin to pourtray them.
—I wish I could find even one such, even in the entire senate. For the politician should resemble the man, who, as we have often seen in Africa, seated on a huge and unsightly elephant, can guide and rule the monster, and turn him whichever way he likes by a mere sign, without any violence.
—I recollect, when I was your lieutenant, I often saw one of these drivers.
—Thus an Indian or Carthaginian regulates one of these huge animals, and renders him docile and familiar with human manners. But the genius which resides in the mind of man, by whatever name it may be called, is required to rein and tame a monster far more multiform and intractable, whenever it can accomplish it, which indeed is seldom. It is necessary to hold in with a strong hand that ferocious beast denominated the mob, which thirsts after blood, and exults in Edition: current; Page: all kinds of cruelty, and rages insatiably after the most hideous massacres of men.
—I now see the sort of politician you require, on whom you would impose the office and task of government.
—He must be a very choice and distinguished individual, for the task I set him comprises all others. He must never cease from cultivating and studying himself, that he may excite others to imitate him, and become, through the splendor of his talents and enterprizes, a living mirror to his countrymen. For even in flutes and harps, and in all vocal performances, a certain consent and harmony must be preserved amid the distinctive tones, which cannot be broken or violated without offending practical ears; and this concord and delicious harmony is produced by the exact gradation and modulation of dissimilar notes. Even so, from the just apportionment of the highest, middle, and lower classes, the state is maintained in concord and peace by the harmonic subordination of its discordant elements. And thus, that which is by musicians called harmony in song, answers and corresponds to what we call concord in the state:—Concord, the strongest and loveliest bond of security in every Commonwealth, being always accompanied by Justice and Equity. (Note III.)
—Is it necessary that absolute justice Edition: current; Page: and strict equity should be maintained in all political affairs?
—I certainly think so. And I declare to you, that I consider that all I have spoken respecting the government of the state is worth nothing, and that it will be useless to proceed further, unless I can prove that it is a false assertion that political business cannot be conducted without injustice and corruption; and, on the other hand, evince as a most indisputable fact, that honesty is the best policy, and that without the strictest justice, no government whatever can last long.
But with your permission, I would hint that we have had discussion enough for the day. The rest, and much remains for our consideration, we will defer till to–morrow. When they had all agreed to this, the debate of the day was closed.
The passions resemble so many rapid curricles. In order to direct them safely, the first duty of the driver is to become well acquainted with the right road. If he knows this thoroughly and keeps it, he may drive as fast as he pleases without hurting himself; but if he once misses his track, though he goes ever so slowly and carefully, he will be sure to get on rough ground, perhaps break his neck over a precipice, or at any rate, deviate into tracks which lead to mischief.
Cicero here enters on the grand question of Political Justice, and endeavours to evince throughout the absolute verity of that inestimable proverb—“Honesty is the best policy”—in all public, as well as in all private affairs. St. Augustin, in his City of God,” has given the following analysis of this magnificent disquisition:—
“In the Third Book of Cicero’s Commonwealth (says he) the question of Political Justice is most earnestly discussed. Philus is appointed to support, as well as he can, the sophistical arguments of those who think that political government cannot be carried on without the aid of injustice and chicanery. He denies holding any such opinion himself, yet in order to exhibit the truth more vividly through the force of contrast, he pleads with the utmost ingenuity the cause of Edition: current; Page: injustice against justice; and endeavours to show by plausible examples and specious dialectics that injustice is as useful to a statesman, as justice would be injurious. Then Lælius, at the general request, takes up the plea for justice, and maintains with all his eloquence that nothing could be so ruinous to states as injustice and dishonesty, and that without a supreme justice, no political government could expect a long duration. This point being sufficiently proved, Scipio returns to the principal discussion. He reproduces and enforces the short definition that he had given of a Commonwealth, that it consisted in the welfare of the entire people, by which word “people” he does not mean the mob, but the community—bound together by the sense of common rights and mutual benefits. He notices how important such just definitions are in all debates whatever, and draws this conclusion from the preceding arguments, that the Commonwealth is the common welfare, whenever it is swayed with justice and wisdom, whether it be subordinated to a king, an aristocracy, or a democracy. But if the king be unjust, and so becomes a tyrant, and the aristocracy unjust, which makes them a faction, or the democrats unjust, and so degenerate into Revolutionists and Destructives—then not only the Commonwealth is corrupted, but in fact annihilated. For it can be no longer the common Edition: current; Page: welfare, when a tyrant or a faction abuse it; and the people itself is no longer the people when it becomes unjust, since it is no longer a community associated by a sense of right and utility, according to the definition.”—(Augustin Civ. Dei. 3—21.)
This Book is of the utmost importance to statesmen, as it serves to neutralize the sophistries of Machiavel, which are still repeated in many cabinets.
Nature has treated man less like a mother than a step–dame. She has cast him into mortal life with a body naked, fragile, and infirm; and with a mind agitated by troubles, depressed by fears, broken by labours, and exposed to passions. In this mind, however, there lies hid, and as it were buried, a certain divine spark of genius and intellect; and the soul should impute much of its present infirmity to the dulness contracted from its earthly vehicle.
This intelligence, when it had taught men to utter the elementary and confused sounds of unpolished expression, articulated and distinguished them into their proper classes, and, as their appropriate signs, attached certain words to certain things, and thus associated by the beautiful bond of speech, the once divided races of men.
Thanks to this same intelligence, the inflections of the voice, which appeared infinite, by the discovery of a few alphabetic characters, are all designated and expressed. By these we maintain Edition: current; Page: converse with our absent friends, and, using them as symbols of our ideas and monuments of past events. Then came the use of numbers—a thing so necessary to human life, and singularly immutable and eternal. This science first urged us to penetrate into heaven, and not in vain to investigate the motions of the stars, and the distribution of days and nights.
Then appeared the sages of philosophy, whose minds took a higher flight, and conceived and executed designs worthy of the gifts of the gods. Thus those who have left us sublime counsels on the conduct of human life, must be regarded as great men — for indeed they are so. Such were these sages, these masters of verity and virtue.
Among these we should especially honour the chief fathers of political wisdom, and the government of the people, as discovered by men familiar with all the acts of legislation, and as developed by philosophic truth–searchers in literary leisure. This political science often attains a wonderful perfection in first–rate minds, as we have not unfrequently seen, and elicits an incredible and almost divine virtue. And when to these high faculties of soul, received from nature, and expanded by social institutions, a politician adds learning and extensive information concerning things in general, like those illustrious personages Edition: current; Page: who conduct the dialogue in the present treatise, none will refuse to confess the superiority of political sages over all others.
In fact, what can be more admirable than the study and practice of the grand affairs of state, united to a literary taste and a familiarity with the liberal arts! What can we imagine more perfect than a Scipio, a Lælius, or a Philus, who, combining all the glorious qualities of the greatest men, joined to the examples of our ancestors and the traditions of our countrymen, the foreign philosophy of Socrates!
Thus to study and attain these two grand desiderata, learning and experience, so as to build securely on the univeral consent of the philosophers of all nations, and the tried institutions of our native land, appears to me the very highest glory and honour. But if we cannot combine both, and are compelled to select one of these two paths of wisdom, though we may suppose the tranquil life spent in the research of literature and arts the most happy and delectable; yet, doubtless, the science of politics is more laudible and illustrious, for in this political field of exertion our greatest men have reaped their honours, like the invincible Curius—
“Whom neither gold nor iron could subdue.”
There exists this general difference between these two classes of great men, namely philosophers Edition: current; Page: and politicians, that among the former, the development of the principles of nature is the subject of their study and eloquence; and among the latter, national laws and institutions form the principal topics of investigation.
In honour of our country we may assert that she has produced within herself a great number, I will not say, of sages, (since philosophy is so jealous of this name) but of men worthy of the highest celebrity, because by them the precepts and discoveries of the sages have been carried out into actual practice.
If you consider that there have existed and still exist, many great and glorious empires, and if you acknowledge that the noblest master–piece of genius in the world is the establishment of a durable state and commonwealth, reckoning but a single legislator for each empire, the number of these political legislators will appear very numerous. To be convinced of this, we have only to turn our eyes on Italy, Latium, the Sabines, the Volscians, the Samnites, the Etrurians, and then direct our attention to the Greeks, Assyrians, Persians, and Carthaginians.
Scipio and his friends having again assembled, Scipio spoke as follows: — In our last conversation I promised to prove that honesty is the best policy in all states and commonwealths whatsoever. But if I am to plead in favour of strict Edition: current; Page: honesty and justice in all public affairs, no less than in private, I must request Philus, or some one else, to take up the advocacy of the other side; the truth will then become more manifest, from the collision of opposite arguments, as we see every day exemplified at the Bar.
—In good truth you have allotted me a marvellous creditable cause. So you wish me to plead for vice, do you?
—Perhaps you are afraid, lest in reproducing the ordinary objections made to justice in politics, you should seem to express your own sentiments. But this caution is ridiculous in you, my Philus; you, who are so universally respected as an almost unique example of the ancient probity and good faith; you, who are so familiar with the legal habit of disputing on both sides of a question, because you think this is the best way of getting at the truth. (Note I.)
—Very well; I obey you, and wilfully with my eyes open, I will undertake this dirty business. Since those who seek for gold do not flinch at the sight of the mud, we, who search for justice, which is far more precious than gold, must overcome all dainty scruples. I will therefore, make use of the antagonist arguments of a foreigner, and assume his character in using them. The pleas, therefore, now to be delivered by Philus are those once employed by the Greek Edition: current; Page: Carneades, accustomed to express whatever served his turn. Let it be understood, therefore, that I by no means express my own sentiments, but those of Carneades, in order that you may refute this philosopher, who was wont to turn the best causes into joke, through the mere wantonness of wit.
When Philus had thus spoken, he took a general review of the leading arguments that Carneades had brought forward to prove that justice was neither eternal, immutable, nor universal. Having put these sophistical arguments into their most specious and plausible form, he thus continued his ingenious pleadings. (Note II.)
Aristotle has treated this question concerning justice, and filled four large volumes with it. As to Chrysippus, I expected nothing grand or magnificent in him, for, after his usual fashion, he examines everything rather by the signification of words, than the reality of things. But it was surely worthy of those heroes of philosophy to ennoble by their genius a virtue so eminently beneficent and liberal, which every where exalts the social interests above the selfish, and teaches to love others rather than ourselves. It was worthy of their genius, we say, to elevate this virtue to a divine throne, close to that of Wisdom. Certainly they wanted not the intention to accomplish this. What else could be the cause of their Edition: current; Page: writing on the subject, or what could have been their design? Nor could they have wanted genius, in which they excelled all men. But the weakness of their cause was too great for their intention and their eloquence to make it popular. In fact, this justice on which we reason may be a civil right, but no natural one; for if it were natural and universal, then justice and injustice would be recognized similarly by all men, just as the elements of heat and cold, sweet and bitter.
Now if any one, carried in the chariot of winged serpents, of which the poet Pacuvius makes mention, could take his flight over all nations and cities, and accurately observe their proceedings, he would see that the sense of justice and right varies in different regions. In the first place he would behold among the unchangeable people of Egypt, which preserves in its archives the memory of so many ages and events, a bull adored as a deity, under the name of Apis, and a multitude of other monsters, and all kinds of animals admitted by the natives into the number of the gods.
The Persians, on the other hand, regard all these forms of idolatry as impious, and it is affirmed that the sole motive of Xerxes for commanding the conflagration of the Athenian temples, was the belief that it was a superstitious sacrilege to keep confined within narrow walls Edition: current; Page: the gods, whose proper home was the entire universe. Afterwards Philip, in his hostile projects against the Persians, and Alexander, in his expedition, alleged this plea for war, that it was necessary to avenge the temples of Greece. And the Greeks thought proper never to rebuild these fanes, that this monument of the impiety of the Persians might always remain before the eyes of their posterity.
How many, such as the inhabitants of Taurica along the Euxine Sea—as the King of Egypt Busiris—as the Gauls and the Carthaginians—have thought it exceedingly pious and agreeable to the gods to sacrifice men. Besides these religious discrepancies, the rules of life are so contradictory that the Cretans and Ætolians regard robbery as honourable. And the Lacedæmonians say that their territory extends to all places which they can touch with a lance. The Athenians had a custom of swearing by a public proclamation, that all the lands which produced olives and corn were their own. The Gauls consider it a base employment to raise corn by agricultural labour, and go with arms in their hands, and mow down the harvests of neighbouring peoples. And our Romans, the most equitable of all nations, in order to raise the value of our vines and olives, do not permit the races beyond the Alps to cultivate either vineyards or oliveyards. In this respect, Edition: current; Page: it is said, we act with prudence, but not with justice. You see then that wisdom and policy are not always the same as equity. Lycurgus, the inventor of a most admirable jurisprudence, and most wholesome laws, gave the lands of the rich to be cultivated by the common people, who were reduced to slavery.
If I were to describe the diverse kinds of laws, institutions, manners, and customs, not only as they vary in the numerous nations, but as they vary likewise in single cities, as Rome for example, I should prove that they have had a thousand revolutions. For instance, that eminent expositor of our laws who sits in the present company, I mean Malilius, if you were to consult him relative to the legacies and inheritances of women, he would tell you that the present law is quite different from that he was accustomed to plead in his youth, before the Voconian enactment came into force—an edict which was passed in favour of the interests of the men, but which is evidently full of injustice with regard to women. For why should a woman be disabled from inheriting property? Why can a vestal virgin become an heir, while her mother cannot? And why, admitting that it is necessary to set some limit to the wealth of women, should Crassus’ daughter, if she be his only child, inherit thousands without offending the law, while my daughter can only receive a small share in a bequest?Edition: current; Page: 
If this justice were natural, innate, and universal, all men would admit the same law and right, and the same men would not enact different laws at different times. If a just man and a virtuous man is bound to obey the laws, I ask what laws do you mean? Do you intend all the laws indifferently? Virtue does not permit this inconstancy in moral obligation—such a variation is not compatible with natural conscience. The laws are, therefore, based not on our sense of justice, but on our fear of punishment. There is, therefore, no natural justice, and hence it follows that men cannot be just by nature. (Note III.)
If you were to grant me, that variation indeed exists among the laws, but that men who are virtuous through natural conscience follow that which is really justice, and not a mere semblance and disguise, and that it is the distinguishing characteristic of the truly just and virtuous man to render every one his due rights; I should ask you this question, what then should we render to animals, and what are the rights of animals? For not only men of more moderate abilities, but even first–rate sages and philosophers, as Pythagoras and Empedocles, declare that all kinds of living creatures have a right to the same justice. They declare that inexpiable penalties impend over those who have done violence to any animal whatsoever. It is, therefore, a crime to injure an animal, and the perpetrator of such crime must Edition: current; Page: bear his punishment. (Non enim mediocres viri, sed maximi et docti, Pythagoras et Empedocles, unam omnium animantium conditionem juris esse denuntiant. Clamantque inexpiabiles pœnas impendere iis, a quibus violatum sit animal. Scelus est igiter nocere bestiæ quod scelus qui velit, &c.)
When Alexander inquired of a pirate by what right he dared to infest the sea with his little brigantine: “By the same right (he replied) which is your warrant for conquering the world.” This pirate was, forsooth, something of a philosopher in his way, for worldly wisdom and prudence instructs by all means to increase our power, riches, and estates. This same Alexander, this mighty general, who extended his empire over all Asia, how could he, without violating the property of other men, acquire such universal dominion, enjoy so many pleasures, and reign without bound or limit.
Now if Justice, as you assert, commands us to have mercy upon all; to exercise universal philanthropy; to consult the interests of the whole human race; to give every one his due, and to injure no sacred, public, or foreign rights—how shall we reconcile this vast and all–embracing justice with worldly wisdom and policy, which teach us how to gain wealth, power, riches, honours provinces, and kingdoms from all classes, peoples, and nations?Edition: current; Page: 
However, as we are discussing the interests of the state, let us notice a few illustrious examples of justice and policy, presented by the history of our own Commonwealth. And since the question between justice and policy applies equally to private and public affairs, I will speak of the policy of the more public kind. I will not, however, mention other nations, but come at once to our own Roman people, whom Scipio in his discourse yesterday traced from the cradle, and whose empire now embraces the whole world. And concerning these Romans, I frankly enquire whether it was most by justice or policy that they have attained such unbounded domination?
Now we think that policy will be found to have been our leading principle, though our political characters have always endeavoured to dignify it by the name of justice. Thus all those who have usurped the right of life and death over the people are in fact tyrants; but they prefer being called by the title of king, which best belongs to Jupiter the Beneficent. When certain men, by favour of wealth, birth, or any other means, get possession of the entire government, it is a faction; but they choose to denominate themselves an aristocracy. If the people get the upper–hand, and rule every thing after its capricious will, they call it liberty, but it is in fact licence. And when every man is a guard upon his neighbour, and every class is a Edition: current; Page: guard upon every other class, then because each demands the aid of the rest, a kind of compact is formed between the great folk and the little folk, from whence arises that mixed kind of government which Scipio has been commending. Thus Justice, according to these facts, is not the daughter of Nature or Conscience, but of Human Imbecility. When it becomes necessary to choose between these three predicaments, either to do wrong without retribution, or to do wrong with retribution, or to do no wrong at all, it is best to do wrong with impunity; next, neither to do wrong, nor to suffer for it; but nothing is more wretched than to struggle incessantly between the wrong we inflict and that we receive.
If we were to examine the conduct of states by the test of justice, as you propose, we should probably make this astounding discovery, that very few nations, if they restored what they have usurped, would possess any country at all,—with the exception, perhaps, of the Arcadians and Athenians, who, I presume, dreading that this great act of retribution might one day arrive, pretend that they were sprung from the earth like so many of our field mice.
—These arguments we may refute by the experience of those who are least sophistical in their discourse, and in this question have, therefore, the greater weight of authority. For when Edition: current; Page: we enquire who is best entitled to the character of a good, simple, and open–hearted man, we have little need of captious casuists, quibblers, and slanderers. Your philosophers, then, assert that the wise man does not seek virtue because of the personal gratification which the practice of justice and beneficence procures him, but rather because the life of the good man is free from fear, care, solicitude, and peril; while on the other hand, the wicked always feel in their souls a certain suspicion, and always behold before their eyes images of judgment and punishment. They suppose, therefore, that no benefit can be gained by injustice, precious enough to counterbalance the constant pressure of remorse, and the haunting consciousness that retribution awaits the sinner and hangs over his devoted head.
Our philosophers, therefore, put a case which is worth reporting. Suppose, say they, two men,—the first is an excellent and admirable person, of high honour and remarkable integrity; the latter is distinguished by nothing but his vice and audacity. Suppose that their city has so mistaken their characters, as to imagine the good man a scandalous and impious imposter, and to esteem the wicked man, on the contrary, as a pattern of probity and fidelity. On account of this error of their fellow–citizens, the good man is arrested and tormented,—his hands are cut off, his eyes are Edition: current; Page: plucked out,—he is condemned, bound, burnt, and exterminated, and to the last appears, in the best judgment of the people, the most miserable of men. On the other hand, the flagitious wretch is exalted, worshipped, loved by all, and honours, offices, riches, and emoluments, are all conferred on him, and he shall be reckoned by his fellow–citizens the best and worthiest of mortals, and in the highest degree worthy of all manner of prosperity. Yet for all this, who is so mad, as to doubt which of these two men he would rather be?
— I allow that you have quoted a strong case in your own favour, but still I assert that policy receives greater confirmation by the actual conduct and practice of men than your justice can boast of. It is so, both among individuals and among nations. What state is so absurd and ridiculous, as not to prefer unjust dominion to just subordination? I need not go far for examples. During my own consulship, when you were my fellow–counsellers, we consulted respecting the treaty of Numantia. No one was ignorant that Pompey had signed this treaty, and that Mancinus had done the same. Mancinus, a virtuous man, supported the proposition which I laid before the people, after the decree of the senate. Pompey, on the other side, opposed it vehemently. If modesty, probity, or faith had been Edition: current; Page: regarded, Mancinus would have carried his point; but in reason, counsel and prudence, Pompey surpast him.
If a gentleman should have a faithless slave, or an unwholesome house, with whose defect he alone was acquainted, and he advertised them for sale, would he state the fact that his servant was infected with knavery, and his house with malaria, or would he conceal these objections from the buyer? If he stated those facts, he would be honest, no doubt, because he would deceive nobody; but still he would be thought a fool, because he would get either little or nothing for his property. By concealing these defects, on the other hand, he will be called a shrewd and discreet man; but he will be a rogue notwithstanding, because he deceives his neighbours. Again, let us suppose that a man meets another, who sells gold and silver, conceiving them to be copper or lead: shall he hold his peace, that he may make a capital bargain or correct the mistake, and purchase at a fair rate. He would evidently be a fool in the world’s opinion if he preferred the latter.
It is justice, beyond all question, neither to commit murder nor robbery. What then would your just man do, if in a case of shipwreck he saw a weaker man than himself get possession of a plank? Would he thrust him off, get hold of the Edition: current; Page: timber himself, and escape by his exertions, especially as no human witness could be present in the mid–sea. If he acted like a wise man of the world, he would certainly do so; for to act in any other way would cost him his life. If on the other hand he prefers death to inflicting unjustifiable injury on his neighbour, he will be an eminently honourable and just man, but not the less a fool, because he saved another’s life at the expense of his own. Again, if in case of a defeat and rout, when the enemy were pressing in the rear, this just man should find a wounded comrade mounted on a horse, shall he respect his right, at the chance of being killed himself, or shall be fling him from the horse in order to preserve his own life from the pursuers? If he does so, he is a worldly wiseman, but not the less a scoundrel; if he does not, he is admirably just, but a great blockhead.
—I might reply at great length to these sophistical objections of Philus, if it were not, my Lælius, that all our friends are no less anxious than myself to hear you take a leading part in the present debate. You promised yesterday that you would plead at large on my side of the argument. If you cannot spare time for this, at any rate do not desert us,—we all ask it of you.
—This Carneades ought not to be even listened to by our young men. I think all the while I hear him, that he must be a very impure Edition: current; Page: person; if he be not, as I would fain believe, his discourse is not less pernicious.
There is a true law, a right reason, conformable to nature, universal, unchangeable, eternal, whose commands urge us to duty, and whose prohibitions restrain us from evil. Whether it enjoins or forbids, the good respect its injunctions, and the wicked treat them with indifference. This law cannot be contradicted by any other law, and is not liable either to derogation or abrogation. Neither the senate nor the people can give us any dispensation for not obeying this universal law of justice. It needs no other expositor and interpreter than our own conscience. It is not one thing at Rome and another at Athens; one thing to–day and another to–morrow; but in all times and nations this universal law must for ever reign, eternal and imperishable. It is the sovereign master and emperor of all beings. God himself is its author,—its promulgator,—its enforcer. He who obeys it not, flies from himself, and does violence to the very nature of man. For his crime he must endure the severest penalties hereafter, even if he avoid the usual misfortunes of the present life.
The virtue which obeys this law, nobly aspires to glory, which is virtue’s sure and appropriate reward,—a prize she can accept without insolence, or forego without repining. When a man is inspired Edition: current; Page: by virtue such as this, what bribes can you offer him, — what treasures, — what thrones, — what empires? He considers these but mortal goods, and esteems his own, divine. And if the ingratitude of the people, and the envy of his competitors, or the violence of powerful enemies, despoil his virtue of its earthly recompense, he still enjoys a thousand consolations in the approbation of conscience, and sustains himself by contemplating the beauty of moral rectitude.
This virtue, in order to be true, must be universal. Tiberius Gracchus continued faithful to his fellow–citizens, but he violated the rights and treaties guaranteed to our allies and the Latin peoples. If this habit of arbitrary violence extends and associates our authority, not with equity, but force, so that those who had voluntarily obeyed us, are only restrained by fear; then, although we, during our days, may escape the peril, yet am I solicitous respecting the safety of our posterity, and the immortality of the Commonwealth itself, which, doubtless, might become perpetual and invincible, if our people would maintain their ancient institutions and manners.—(Quæ si consuetudo ac licentia manare cæperit latius, imperiumque nostrum ad vim a jure traduxerit, ut qui adhuc voluntate nobis obediunt, terrore teneantur. Etsi nobis qui id ætatis sumus, evilgilatum fere est, tamen de posteris nostris, et de illa immortalitate Edition: current; Page: Republicæ sollicitor, quæ poterat esse perpetua si patriis viveretur institutis et moribus).
When Lælius had ceased to speak, all those that were present expressed the extreme pleasure they found in his discourse. But Scipio, more affected than the rest, and ravished with the delight of sympathy, exclaimed:—You have pleaded, my Lælius, many causes with an eloquence superior to that of Servius Galba, our colleague, whom you used, during his life, to prefer to all others, even the Attic orators; and never did I hear you speak with more energy than to–day, while pleading the cause of justice.
This justice (continued Scipio) is the very foundation of lawful government in political constitutions. Can we call the state of Agrigentum a Commonwealth, where all men are oppressed by the cruelty of a single tyrant?—where there is no universal bond of right, nor social consent and fellowship, which should belong to every people, properly so named. It is the same in Syracuse,—that illustrious city which Timæus calls the greatest of the Grecian towns. It was indeed a most beautiful city; and its admirable citadel, its canals distributed through all its districts, its broad streets, its porticoes, its temples, and its walls, gave Syracuse the appearance of a most flourishing state. But while Dionysus its tyrant reigned there, nothing of all its wealth belonged to the people, and the Edition: current; Page: people were nothing better than the slaves of an impious despot. Thus wherever I behold a tyrant, I know that the social constitution must be, not merely vicious and corrupt, as I stated yesterday, but in strict truth, no social constitution at all.
—You have spoken admirably, my Scipio, and I see the point of your observations.
—You grant, then, that a state which is entirely in the power of a faction, cannot justly be entitled a political community.
—That is evident to us all.
—You judge most correctly. For what was the state of Athens, when during the great Peloponessian war, she fell under the unjust domination of the thirty tyrants? The antique glory of that city, the imposing aspect of its edifices, its theatre, its gymnasium, its porticos, its temples, its citadel, the admirable sculptures of Phidias, and the magnificent harbour of Piræus, did they constitute it a commonwealth?
—Certainly not; because these did not constitute the real welfare of the community.
—And at Rome, when the decemviri ruled without appeal from their decisions in the third year of their power, had not liberty lost all its securities and all its blessings?
—Yes, the welfare of the community was no longer consulted, and the people soon Edition: current; Page: roused themselves, and recovered their appropriate rights.
—I now come to the democratical form of government, in which a considerable difficulty presents itself, because all things are there said to lie at the disposition of the people, and are carried into execution just as they please. Here the populace inflict punishments at their pleasure, and act, and seize, and keep possession, and distribute property, without let or hindrance, Can you deny, my Lælius, that this is a fair definition of a democracy, where the people are all in all, and where the people constitute the state?
—There is no political constitution to which I more absolutely deny the name of a Commonwealth, than that in which all things lie in the power of the multitude (nullam quidem citius negaverim esse Rempublicam, quam quæ tota sit in multitudinis protestate). If a Commonwealth, which implies the welfare of the entire community, could not exist in Agrigentum, Syracuse, or Athens, when tyrants reigned over them,—if it could not exist in Rome, when under the oligarchy of the decemvirs,—neither do I see how this sacred name of Commonwealth can be applied to a democracy, and the sway of the mob.
In this statement, my Scipio, I build on your own admirable definition, that there can be no Edition: current; Page: community, properly so called, unless it be regulated by a combination of rights. And by this definition it appears that a multitude of men may be just as tyrannical as a single despot; and indeed this is the most odious of all tyrannies, since no monster can be more barbarous than the mob, which assumes the name and mask of the people. Nor is it at all reasonable, since the laws place the property of madmen in the hands of their sane relations, that we should do the very reverse in politics, and throw the property of the sane into the hands of the mad multitude.
It is far more rational to assert that a wise and virtuous aristocratical government deserves the title of a Commonwealth, as it approaches to the nature of a kingdom.
—In my opinion, an aristocratical government, properly so called, is entitled to our just esteem. The unity of power often exposes a king to become a despot; but when an aristocracy, consisting of many virtuous men, exercise power, it is a most fortunate circumstance for any state. However this be, I much prefer royalty to democracy; and I think, my Scipio, you have something more to add with respect to this most vicious of all political governments.
—I am well acquainted, my Mummius, with your decided antipathy to the democratical system. And, although we may speak of it with Edition: current; Page: rather more indulgence than you are accustomed to accord it, I must certainly agree with you, that of all the three particular forms of government, none is less commendable than democracy.
I do not agree with you, however, when you would imply that aristocracy is preferable to royalty. If you suppose that wisdom governs the state, is it not as well that this wisdom should reside in one monarch, as in many nobles?
But a sophistication of words and terms is apt to abuse our understanding in a discussion like the present. When we pronounce the word “aristocracy,” which, in Greek, signifies the government of the best men, imagination, leaning rather to philology than fact, can hardly conceive any thing more excellent—for what can be thought better than the best? When, on the other hand, the title, king, is mentioned, owing to the hallucination of our fancies, we Romans begin to imagine a tyrant, as if a king must be necessarily unjust. For my part, I always think of a just king, and not a shameless despot, when I examine the true nature of royal authority. To this name of king, do but attach the idea of a Romulus, a Numa, a Tullus, and perhaps you will be less severe to the monarchical form of constitution.
—Have you then no commendation at all for any kind of democratical government?
—Why, I think some democratical forms Edition: current; Page: less objectionable than others; and by way of illustration, I will ask you what you thought of the government in the Isle of Rhodes, where we were lately together; did it appear to you a legitimate and rational constitution?
—It did, and not much liable to abuse.
—You say truly. But if you recollect, it was a very extraordinary experiment. All the inhabitants were alternately senators and citizens. Some months they spent in their senatorial functions, and some months they spent in their civil employments. In both they exercised judicial powers; and in the theatre and the court, the same men judged all causes, capital and not capital. So much for democracies.
There is in every man a certain passion (turbulentum), which exults in gratification, and is broken by care.—Nonius.
The Phœnicians were the first who, with their commerce and merchandize, imported into Greece avarice, luxury, and an inexhaustible passion for all kinds of pleasures.—Nonius.
No war can be undertaken by a just and wise state, unless for faith or self–defence. This self–defence of the state is enough to ensure its perpetuity, and this perpetuity is what all patriots desire. Those afflictions which even the hardiest spirits smart under—poverty, exile, prison, and torment—private individuals seek to escape from by an instantaneous death. But for states, the greatest calamity of all is that death, which to individuals appears a refuge. A state should be so constituted as to live for ever. For a commonwealth, there is no natural dissolution, as there is for a man, to whom death not only becomes necessary, but often desirable. And when a state once decays and falls, it is so utterly revolutionized, Edition: current; Page: that if we may compare great things with small, it resembles the final wreck of the universe.
All wars, undertaken without a proper motive, are unjust. And no war can be reputed just, unless it be duly announced and proclaimed, and if it be not preceded by a rational demand for restitution.
Our Roman Commonwealth, by defending its allies, has got possession of the world.
In this Fourth Book, Cicero treats of morals and education, and the use and abuse of stage entertainments. We retain nothing of this important book, save a few scattered fragments, the beauty of which fills us with the greater regret for the passages we have lost.
The great law of just and regular subordination is the basis of political prosperity. There is much advantage in the harmonious succession of ranks, and orders, and classes, in which the suffrages of the knights and the senators have their due weight. Too many have foolishly desired to destroy this institution in the vain hope of receiving some new largess by a public decree, out of a distribution of the property of the nobility.
You cannot too deeply consider the political precautions so wisely adopted, in order to secure to the citizens the benefits of an honest and happy life, which is, indeed, the grand object of all political association, and which every government should endeavour to procure for the people by its laws and institutions. (Note I.)
I think that we have, perhaps, been hitherto too inattentive to the national education of the people. As respects the custom of liberal education, Edition: current; Page: to promote which the Greeks have often laboured in vain, it is the only point on which Polybius accuses the negligence of our institutions. For the Romans have thought that education ought not to be fixed, nor regulated by laws, nor be given publicly and uniformly to all classes of society.
In our ancient laws, young men were prohibited from appearing naked in the public baths—so highly were the principles of modesty esteemed by our ancestors. Among the Greeks, on the contrary, what an absurd system of training youth is exhibited in their gymnasia! What a frivolous preparation for the labours and hazards of war! what indecent spectacles, what impure and licentious amours are permitted! I do not speak only of the Elei and Thebans, among whom in all love affairs, passion is allowed to run into shameless excesses. But the Spartans, while they permit every kind of licence to their young men, save that of violation, come exceedingly close on the very exception they insist on, besides other crimes which I will not mention.
—I see, my Scipio, that on the subject of the Greek institutions, which you censure, you prefer attacking the customs of the most renowned peoples, to playing the critic on your favourite Plato, whose name you have avoided citing.Edition: current; Page: 
The drama is an excellent institution, when it is maintained in its original purity, as the teacher of morals by examples. I should love the stage, if the custom of our public manners had not authorized, or at least tolerated, the most scandalous exhibitions in the theatres. Here the more ancient Greeks provided a certain correction for the vicious taste of the people, by making a law that it should be expressly defined by a censorship what subjects comedy should treat, and how she should treat them.
For all this, the Greek stage was continually abused and corrupted, to gratify and flatter the hallucinations of the mob. Whom has it not attacked? or rather, whom has it not wounded, and whom has it spared? In this, no doubt, it sometimes took the right side, and lashed the popular demagogues and seditious agitators, such as Cleon, Cleophon, and Hyperbolus. So far, so good; though indeed the censure of the magistrate would, in these cases, have been more efficacious than the satire of the poet. But when Pericles, who governed the Athenian Commonwealth for so many years with the highest authority, both in peace and war, was outraged by verses, and these were acted on the stage, it was hardly more decent than if among us Plautus and Nevius had attempted to malign Scipio or Cato.Edition: current; Page: 
Our laws of the Twelve Tables, on the contrary—so careful to attach capital punishment to a very few crimes only—have included in this class of capital offences, the offence of composing or publicly reciting verses of libel, slander, and defamation, in order to cast dishonour and infamy on a fellow–citizen. And they have decided wisely; for our life and character should, if suspected, be submitted to the sentence of judicial tribunals, and the legal investigations of our magistrates, and not to the whims and fancies of poets. Nor should we be exposed to any charge of disgrace which we cannot meet by legal process, and openly refute at the bar. (Note II.)
In our laws, I admire the justice of their expressions, as well as their decisions. Thus the word pleading, signifies rather an amicable suit between friends, than a quarrel between enemies.
It is not easy to resist a powerful people, if you allow them no rights, or next to none. (Non enim facile valenti populo resistitur, si aut nihil impertias juris, aut parum.)
In this Fifth Book Cicero explains and enforces the duties of magistrates, and the importance of practical experience to all who undertake their important functions. Only a few fragments have survived the wreck of ages, and descended to us.
Ennius has told us
This verse, both for its precision and its verity, appears to me as if it had issued from an oracle. He justly couples men and manners together, for neither the men, unless the state had adopted certain manners, nor the manners, unless illustrated by the men, could ever have established or maintained, for so many ages, so vast a dominion.
Thus, long before our own times, the force of hereditary manners moulded our greatest men, and the most eminent citizens, in return, gave new weight to the venerable customs of our ancestry.
Our age, on the contrary, receiving the Commonwealth as a finished picture of another century, already evanescent through the lapse of years—not only has neglected to renew the colours of the original painting, but has not even cared to Edition: current; Page: preserve its general form and prominent lineaments. (Note I.)
Alas! what now remains of those antique manners, on which the poet based our Commonwealth? They are now so superannuated, so obsolete, that they are not only not cultivated, but not even mentioned. As to the men, what shall I say? The manners would never have thus perished, but through a scarcity of patriotic worthies, who should support them. Of which great defect, we are not only called to give an account, but even, as in capital offences, to implore absolution. Thanks to our vices, rather than our misfortunes, we retain our glorious commonwealth in name only, when we have long since lost the reality.
There is no employment so essentially royal as the exposition of equity, which comprises the true meaning of all laws. This justice, subjects generally expect from their kings. For this reason, lands, fields, woods, and pastures were reserved as the property of kings, and cultivated for them, without any labour on their part; that no anxiety on account of their personal interests might distract their attention from the welfare of the state. No private man was allowed to be the judge or arbitrator in any suit: all disputes terminated in the royal sentence.
Of all our Roman monarchs, Numa appears to me to have best preserved this ancient Edition: current; Page: custom of the kings of Greece. The others, though theyalso discharged this duty, were, for the main part, employed in examining the rights of war, and in conducting military enterprises. But the long peace of Numa’s reign was the mother of religion and justice in Rome. He was himself the author of those admirable laws respecting our political economy, which, as you are aware, are still extant. This legislative genius is precisely the characteristic of the great man we require as our governor.
—Ought not a farmer to be acquainted with the nature of plants and seeds?
—Certainly, provided he attends to his practical business also.
—Do you think he should give his whole time to the study of agriculture?
—No, for then his fields would be unfruitful, for want of agricultural labour.
—Therefore, as the farmer knows agriculture, and the scribe knows penmanship, and both seek in their respective sciences, not mere amusement only, but practical utility; so our statesmen should be familiar with the science of jurisprudence and legislation, even in their profoundest principles. But he should not embarrass himself in debating, arguing, and lecturing and scribbling. He should rather employ himself in the actual administration of government, as a skilful superintendent, Edition: current; Page: and become a farmer of the revenue, so as to make the state as flourishing as posible by a wholesome political economy. He will, indeed, be perfectly conversant with the principles of universal law and equity,—without which no man can be just,—nor will he be unfamiliar with the civil law of states; but he will use them for practical purposes, even as a pilot uses astronomy, and a physician natural philosophy. Both of these bring their theoretical science to bear on the practice of their arts: a statesman should do the same with the science of politics, and make it subservient to the actual interests of philanthropy and patriotism. (Note II.)
In all states, good men desire glory and approbation, and shun disgrace and ignominy. Such men are less alarmed by the threats and penalties of the law, than by that sentiment of honour with which nature has endowed man, which is nothing else than an antipathy to all deserved censure. The wise director of a government strengthens this natural instinct by the force of public opinion, and perfects it by education and manners. And thus the citizens are preserved from vice and corruption, rather by honour and modesty than by fear of punishment. But this argument will be better illustrated when we treat of the love of glory and praise, which we shall discuss on another occasion.Edition: current; Page: 
As respects the private life and the manners of the citizens, they are intimately connected with the laws that constitute just marriages and legitimate progenies, under the protection of the guardian deities, around the domestic hearths. By these laws, all men should be maintained in their rights of public and private property. It is only under a good government like this, that men can live happily—for nothing can be more delightful than a well–constituted state.
Fortitude is that virtue which comprizes magnanimity, and the contempt of pain and death.
In this last book of his Commonwealth, Cicero labours to shew that truly pious philantrophical and patriotic statesmen will not only be rewarded on earth by the approval of conscience, and the applause of all good citizens, but that they may expect hereafter immortal glory in new forms of being. To illustrate this, he introduces the “Dream of Scipio,” in which he explains the resplendent doctrines of Plato respecting the immortality of the soul with inimitable dignity and elegance. This Somnium Scipionis, for which we are indebted to the citation of Macrobius, is the most beautiful thing of the kind ever written. It has been intensely admired by all European scholars, and will be still more so. There are two translations of it in our language. One attached to Olivet’s edition of Cicero’s Thoughts, the other by Mr. Danby, published in 1829. Of these we have freely availed ourselves, and as freely we express our acknowledgments.
—To the wise, the consciousness of good deeds is the noblest reward of virtue. This divine virtue desires not statues with leaden supporters, (statuas plumbo inhærentes), nor triumphs, with their fading laurels; but a far more enduring recompence of ever verdant glories.
—What glories do you mean?
—Allow me, since it is the third day of our vacation, to relate to you a remarkable dream, which is connected with the history of our family. (Note I.)
When I arrived in Africa, where I was, as you are aware, tribune in the fourth legion under the Consul Manilius, my most earnest desire was to see King Masinissa, who, for very just reasons, had been always the especial friend of the Scipios. When I was introduced to him, the old man embraced me, shed tears, and then looking up to heaven, exclaimed—“I thank thee, O supreme Edition: current; Page: Sun, and ye other celestials, that before I depart from this life I behold in my kingdom and my palace, Publius Cornelius Scipio. His very name seems to re–animate me; for, from my soul, never escapes the memorial of that best and bravest of men, Africanus, your ancestor.
After this, I inquired of him concerning the affairs of his kingdom. He, on the other hand, questioned me about the condition of our Commonwealth, and in this kind of conversation we past the whole day. Towards evening, being entertained in a manner worthy the magnificence of a king, we carried on our discourse for a considerable part of the night. All this time, the good old monarch spoke of nothing but Scipio Africanus, whose actions, and even remarkable sayings, he remembered distinctly. At last, when we retired to bed, I fell into a more profound sleep than usual, both on account of my journey and because I had sat up the greatest part of the night.
Here I had the following dream, occasioned, as I verily believe, by our preceding conversation—for it commonly happens that the meditation and discourse which employ us in the day time, produce in our sleep an effect somewhat similar to that which Ennius writes happened to him about Homer, of whom in his waking hours he used frequently to think and speak.
My ancestor Africanus, I thought, appeared to Edition: current; Page: me in a shape, with which I was better acquainted from his picture, than from any personal knowledge of him. When I perceived it was he, I confess I trembled with consternation—but he addressed me, saying, take courage, my Scipio, be not afraid, and carefully remember what I shall say to you.
Do you see that city Carthage, which though brought under the Roman yoke by me, is now renewing former wars, and cannot live in peace? He pointed to Carthage, from a lofty region of the firmament, where I conceived myself transported with him into a sphere, all glittering with refulgent constellations.
It is to attack that city (continued he,) that you are this day arrived in a station not much superior to that of a private soldier. Before two years however are elapsed, you shall be consul, and complete its overthrow; whence you shall obtain by your own merit the surname of Africanus, which, as yet, belongs to you no otherwise than as derived from me.
After the destruction of Carthage, you shall receive the honour of a triumph; be advanced to the censorship, and in quality of ambassador, visit Egypt, Syria, Asia, and Greece. You shall be elected second time consul in your absence, and by utterly destroying Numantia, put an end to a most dangerous war.Edition: current; Page: 
But in entering the Capitol in your triumphal car, you shall find the Roman Commonwealth all in a ferment, through the intrigues of my grandson Tiberius Gracchus. ’Tis on this occasion, my dear Africanus, that you must show your country the greatness of your understanding, capacity, and prudence.
The destiny however, of that time appears uncertain, which way it shall turn. For when your age shall have accomplished seven times eight revolutions of the sun, and your fatal hours shall be marked out by the natural product of these two numbers, each of which is esteemed a perfect one, but for different reasons,—then shall the whole city have recourse to you alone, and place its hopes in your auspicious name. On you the senate, all good citizens, the allies, the people of Latium, shall cast their eyes; on you the preservation of the state shall entirely depend. In a word, if you escape the impious machinations of your relatives, you will, in quality of dictator, establish order and tranquillity in the Commonwealth. (Note II.)
Here Lælius wept bitterly, and the rest of the company gave vent to their sorrow by deep groans. On which Scipio, with a gentle smile, said, “Pray, gentleman, don’t wake me out of my dream, have patience, and hear the rest.”
Now in order to encourage you, my dear Africanus Edition: current; Page: (continued the shade of my ancestor), to defend the state with the greater cheerfulness,—be assured that for all those who have any way conduced to the preservation, defence, and enlargement of their native country, there is a certain place in heaven, where they shall enjoy an eternity of happiness. For nothing on earth is more agreeable to God, the Supreme Governor of the Universe, than the assemblies and societies of men united together by laws, which are called States. It is from heaven their rulers and preservers came, and thither they return.
Though at these words I was extremely troubled, not so much at the fear of death, as at the perfidy of my own relations,—yet I recollected myself enough to enquire, whether he himself, my father Paulus, and others whom are looked upon as dead, really enjoyed life.
Yes, truly, (replied he), they all enjoy life, who have escaped from the body as from a prison. But as to what you call life on earth, ’tis no more than one form of death. But see, here comes your father Paulus toward you!
As soon as I observed him, my eyes burst out into a flood of tears, but he took me in his arms, embraced me, and bade me not weep. When my first transports subsided, and I regained the liberty of speech, I addressed my father thus:—“Thou best and most venerable of parents, since this, as Edition: current; Page: I am informed by Africanus, is the only substantial life, why do I linger on earth, and not rather haste to come hither where you are?
That (replied he) is impossible: for unless the God whose Temple is all that vast expanse you behold, shall free you from the fetters of the body, you can have no admission into this place. Mankind have received their being on this very condition, that they should labour for the preservation of that globe, which is situated as you see, in the midst of this temple, and is called earth.
Men are likewise endowed with a soul, which is a portion of the eternal fires, which you call stars and constellations; and which being round spherical bodies, animated by divine intelligences, perform their revolutions with amazing rapidity. ’Tis therefore your duty, my Publius, and that of all who have any veneration for the gods, to preserve this wonderful union of soul and body; nor without the express command of him who gave you a soul, should the least thought be entertained of quitting human life, lest you seem to desert the post assigned you by God himself. (Note III.)
Follow the examples of your grandfather here, and of me, your father, in paying a strict regard to justice and piety; the influence of which, towards parents and relations is great indeed, but that to our country greatest of all. Such a life as this is the true way to heaven, and to the Edition: current; Page: company of those, who, after having lived on earth and escaped from the body, inhabit the place you now behold.
This was the shining circle or zone whose remarkable brightness distinguishes it among the constellations, and which after the Greeks you call the Milky Way.
From thence, as I took a view of the universe, every thing appeared beautiful and admirable,—For there, not only those stars are to be seen that are never visible from our globe; but all of them appear of such magnitude as we could not have imagined. The least of all the stars was that removed farthest from heaven, and situate next to the earth; I mean our moon, which shines with a borrowed light. Now the globes of the stars far surpass the magnitude of our earth, which at that distance, appeared so exceedingly small, that I could not but be sensibly affected on seeing our whole empire no larger than if we touched the earth as it were at a single point.
As I continued to observe the earth with still greater attention, how long, I pray you, (said Africanus) will your mind be fixed on that object—why don’t you rather take a view of the magnificent temples whither you have arrived? The universe is composed of nine circles or rather spheres, one of which is the most elevated, and is exterior to all the rest which it embraces; and Edition: current; Page: where the Supreme God resides, who bounds and contains the whole. In it are fixed those stars which revolve with never–varying courses. Below this are seven other spheres, which revolve in a contrary direction to that in the heavens. One of these is occupied by the globe, which on earth they call Saturn. Next to that, is the star of Jupiter, so benign and salutary to mankind. The third in order, is that fiery and terrible planet called Mars. Below this again, almost in the middle region, is the Sun,—the leader, governor, and prince of the other luminaries; the soul of the world, which it regulates and illumines, filling all things with its rays. Then follow Venus and Mercury, which attend as it were on the Sun. Lastly, the Moon, which shines only in the reflected beams of the Sun, moves in the lowest sphere of all. Below this, if we except that gift of the gods, human souls, every thing is mortal, and tends to dissolution, but above it all is eternal. For the Earth, which is the ninth globe, and occupies the centre, is immoveable, and being the lowest, all others gravitate towards it. (Note IV.)
When I had recovered myself from the astonishment occasioned by such a wonderful prospect, I thus bespoke Africanus:—Pray what is this sound that strikes my ears in so loud and agreeable a manner? To which he replied—It is that which is called the music of the spheres, being produced Edition: current; Page: by their motion and impulse; and being formed by unequal intervals, but such as are divided according to the justest proportion, it produces, by duly tempering acute with grave sounds, various concerts of harmony. For it is impossible that motions so great should be performed without any noise; and it is agreeable to nature that the extremes on one side should produce sharp, and on the other, flat sounds. For which reason the sphere of the fixed stars, being the highest, and carried with a more rapid velocity, moves with a shrill and acute sound; whereas that of the moon, being the lowest, moves with a very flat one. As to the Earth, which makes the ninth sphere, it remains immoveably fixed in the middle or lowest part of the universe. But those eight revolutionary circles, in which both Mercury and Venus are moved with the same celerity, give out sounds that are divided by seven distinct intervals, which is generally the regulating number of all things.
“This celestial harmony has been imitated by learned musicians, both on stringed instruments and with the voice, whereby they have opened to themselves a way to return to the celestial regions, as have likewise many others who have employed their sublime genius while on earth in cultivating the divine sciences. (Note V.)
“By the amazing noise of this sound, the ears of mankind have been in some degree deafened, and Edition: current; Page: indeed hearing is the dullest of all the human senses. Thus the people who dwell near the Cataracts of the Nile, are by the excessive roar which that river makes in precipitating itself from those lofty mountains, entirely deprived of the sense of hearing. Now, so inconceivably great is the sound produced by the rapid motion of the whole universe that the human ear is no more capable of receiving it, than the eye is able to look stedfastly and directly on the sun, whose beams easily dazzle the strongest sight.
“While I was busied in admiring this scene of wonders, I could not help casting my eyes every now and then on the earth. On which, says Africanus, I perceive you are still employed in contemplating the seat and residence of mankind. Now if it appears to you so small, as in fact it really is, despise its vanities, and fix your attention for ever on these heavenly objects. Is it possible that you should attain any human applause or glory that are worth the contending for? The earth, you see, is peopled but in a very few places, and those too of small extent; and they appear like so many little spots of green, scattered through vast uncultivated deserts. Its inhabitants are not only so remote from each other as to cut off all mutual correspondence; but their situation being in oblique or contrary parts of the globe, or perhaps in those diametrically opposite to yours, all expectations Edition: current; Page: of universal fame must fall to the ground. You may likewise observe that the same globe of the earth is girt and surrounded with certain zones, whereof those two that are most remote from each other, and lie under the opposite poles of heaven, are congealed with frost; but that one in the middle, which is far the largest, is scorched with the intense heat of the sun. The other two are habitable, one towards the south,—the inhabitants of which are your Antipodes, with whom you have no connection;—the other, towards the north, is that you inhabit, whereof a very small part, as you may see, falls to your share. For the whole extent of what you see, is as it were but a little island, narrow at both ends and wide towards the middle, which is surrounded by the sea, which on earth you call the great Atlantic Ocean, and which, notwithstanding this magnificent name, you see is very insignificant. And even in these cultivated and well–known countries, has yours, or any of our names, ever past the heights of the Caucasus, or the currents of the Ganges? In what other parts to the north or the south, or where the sun rises and sets, will your names ever be heard? And excluding these, how small a space is there left for your glory to spread itself abroad? and how long will it remain in the memory of those whose minds are now full of it?
“Besides all this, if the progeny of any future Edition: current; Page: generation should wish to transmit to their posterity the praises of any one of us which they have heard from their forefathers; yet the deluges and combustions of the earth which must necessarily happenat their destined periods, will prevent our obtaining not only an eternal, but even a durable glory. And after all, what does it signify whether those who shall hereafter be born talk of you, when many of your cotemporaries whose number was not perhaps less, and whose merit certainly greater, were not so much as acquainted with your name?
“And the more, since not one of those who shall hear of us, is able to retain in his memory the transactions of a single year. The bulk of mankind indeed measure their year by the return of the sun, which is only one star. But the Annus Magnus, the true and complete year, is when all the stars shall have returned to the place whence they set out; and after long periods shall again exhibit the same aspect of the whole heavens. Indeed, I scarcely dare attempt to enumerate the vast multitude of ages contained in it. For as the sun was eclipsed and seemed to be extinguished at the time when the soul of Romulus penetrated into these eternal mansions—so when all the constellations and stars shall revert to their primary position, and the sun shall at the same point and time be again eclipsed—the grand year shall be Edition: current; Page: completed. Be assured, however, that the twentieth part of it is not yet elapsed.
“Now, had you no hopes of returning to this place, where great and good men enjoy all that their souls can wish for, of what, pray, would be the signification of all human glory, which can hardly endure for a small portion of one year?
“If, then, you wish to elevate your views to the contemplation of this eternal seat of splendour, you will not be satisfied with the praises of your fellow–mortals, nor with any human rewards that your exploits can obtain; but Virtue herself will point out to you the true and only object worthy of your pursuit. Leave to others to speak of you as they may, for speak they will. Their discourses will be confined to the narrow limits of the countries you see, nor will their duration be very extensive, for they will perish like those who utter them, and will be no more remembered by their posterity.
“When he ceased to speak, I said, “Oh, Africanus, if indeed the door of heaven is open to those who have deserved well of their country, whatever progress I may have made since my childhood in following your’s and my father’s steps, I will from henceforth strive to follow them more closely.”
“Follow them, then (said he), and consider your body only, not yourself, as mortal. For it Edition: current; Page: is not your outward form which constitutes your being, but your mind; not that substance which is palpable to the senses, but your spiritual nature. Know, then, that you are a god—for a god it must be that vivifies, and gives sensation, memory, and foresight to the body to which it is attached, and which it governs and regulates, as the Supreme Ruler does the world which is subject to him. As that Eternal Being moves whatever is mortal in this world, so the immortal mind of man moves the frail body with which it is connected; for what always moves must be eternal, but what derives its motion from a power which is foreign to itself, when that motion ceases, must itself lose its animation.
“That alone, then, which moves itself, can never cease to be moved, because it can never desert itself. It must be the source and origin of motion in all the rest. There can be nothing prior to this origin, for all things must originate from it—itself cannot derive its existence from any other source; for if it did, it would no longer be primary. And if it had no beginning, it can have no end; for a beginning that is put an end to, will neither be renewed by any other cause, nor will it produce any thing else of itself. All things, therefore, must originate from one source. Thus it follows, that motion must have its source in what is moved by itself, and which can neither Edition: current; Page: have a beginning nor an end. Otherwise all the heavens and all nature must perish; for it is impossible that they can of themselves acquire any power of producing motion in themselves.
“As, therefore, it is plain that what is moved by itself must be eternal, who will deny that this is the general condition of minds? For, as every thing is inanimate which is moved by an impulse exterior to itself, so what is animated is moved by an interior impulse of its own; for this is the peculiar nature and power of mind. And if that alone has the power of self–motion, it can neither have had a beginning, nor can it have an end.
“Do you, therefore, exercise this mind of yours in the best pursuits, which consist in promoting the good of your country. Such employments will speed the flight of your mind to this its proper abode; and its flight will be still more rapid, if it will look abroad and disengage itself from its bodily dwelling, in the contemplation of things which are external to itself.
“This it should do to the utmost of its power. For the minds of those who have given themselves up to the pleasures of the body, paying as it were a servile obedience to their lustful impulses, have violated the laws of God and man; and therefore when they are separated from their bodies, flutter continually round the earth on which they lived, and are not allowed to return to this celestial Edition: current; Page: region, till they have been purified by the revolution of many ages.” (Corporibus elapsi circum terram ipsam volutantur, nec hunc in locum nisi multis exagitati sœculis revertuntur.) (Note VI.)
Thus saying he vanished, and I awoke from my dream.
It is more desirable that fortune should be constant than brilliant; but the equability of life excites less interest than those changeable conditions, wherein prosperity suddenly revives out of the most desperate and ruinous circumstances.
Cicero opens his Treatise on the Commonwealth with a splendid panegyric on patriotism. The biblical and clasical writers concur in extolling patriotism as a virtue. They alike state that, next to the devotion we direct to the Deity, and the philanthropy which attaches itself to the whole human race, comes that glorious and enobling patriotism, which urges us to the service of our country. The elevation which this virtue assumes in the scale of ethics, is proved by its immense inclusiveness: for this virtue of patriotism which impels us to encourage and promote the interests of our nation, necessarily comprises all those minuter offices of civic fellowship, and social obligingness, and family affection, which constitute so much of the charm and beauty of life. All the most venerable fathers and divines of the Christian Church have, therefore, wisely insisted on the cultivation of patriotism, as one of the most resplendent and important developements of Christian morals. Nor have they hesitated to recommend that syncretic and coalitionary scheme of politics, which, as it is the only means of establishing peace and charity among contending parties, is pre–eminently qualified to forward patriotic measures So far, therefore, as syncretic and coalitionary policy goes, all pious senators are bound in conscience to advance it. They are bound to promote the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. The unionistic policy, which Cicero so earnestly recommends, is also the policy of the Scriptures; we are therefore bound to assume the position of syncretic politicians, and encourage concilation Edition: current; Page: and concession between hostile parties. By professing themselves syncretic politicians, the senators perform the greatest offices of patriotism, rescue our country from her worst peril, and win the applause of all good men. It is only when senators degenerate into party politicians, that they incur censure; for Christianity and political philosophy never mention party, unless to censure it. The views here mentioned respecting Christian policy and patriotism, have been supported by a host of distinguished scholars, at home and abroad. But notwithstanding all that has been said or written on the subject of patriotism among Christians, we cannot help thinking, that in this glorious and expansive virtue, the sons of classic antiquity generally excelled us. In their code of morals, patriotism assumed an intense and destinctive potency, which we seek in vain among those who extenuate the grander virtues of our religion, in order to magnify its minuter obligations.
This phenomenon of the parhelium parhelion, or mock sun, which so puzzled Cicero’s interlocutors, has been very satisfactorily explained by modern science. The parhelia are formed by the reflection of the sun–beams on a cloud properly situated. They usually accompany the coronæ or luminous circles, and are placed in the same circumference, and at the same height. Their colours resemble that of the rainbow; the red and yellow are towards the side of the sun, and the blue and violet on the other. There are, however, coronæ sometimes seen without parhelia, and vice versâ Parhelia are double, triple, &c., and in 1629, a parhelion of five suns was seen at Rome, and another of six suns at Arles, 1666.
Cicero here gives a very exact and correct account of the ancient planetarium of Archimedes, which is so often noticed by the ancient astronomers. It no doubt corresponded in a great measure Edition: current; Page: to our modern Planetarium or Orrery, invented by the earl of that name. This elaborate machine, whose manufacture requires the most exact and critical science, is of the greatest service to those who study the revolutions of the stars, for astronomic, astrologic, or meteorologic purposes.
The French Translator, M. Villemain, bursts out into a Gallic rhapsody in this point of the argument. “Cicero, translating Plato,” says he, “what an object of study!” We may remark the literal exactness of the father of Roman eloquence, and his care to emulate the Platonic style of expression. Though Cicero incessantly imitates Plato, we find in no other part of his works the translation of a passage so extended and so celebrated. This vivid and energetic translation appears to us to equal the beauty of the original. As to us,” continues Villemain, “translators at second hand, we must apply to our versions what Plato said of the dramatic compositions, which being mere representations of human actions, which are themselves but representations of eternal ideas, appear to him no better than copies of copies.”
This digression on the advantages that result from situating the chief cities of states a considerable way up their chief rivers, is very ingenious, and, we presume very correct. The method proposed, has been carefully adopted in most of the chief cities in Edition: current; Page: the world. Paris and London are excellent examples in proof of Cicero’s argument.
It is very difficult to translate some of the terms which designate the political institutions of the Romans, by any analogous terms which shall convey a graphic conception of them to the English reader. On the whole, it may be stated, that the senate of the Romans answered pretty nearly to our House of Lords. This senate of the patricians, was bound to correspond in its legislative enactments with the Comitium, which we have ventured to translate House of Commons, as the nearest analogous term in our language. There, were the Comitia, or assembled delegates of the people, convened. These Comitia, or “assemblies of the people,” which figure so much in the history of Greek and Roman politics, were threefofd; they were either made up by wards or Curiæ, and then they were called Comitia Curiata, or by tribes, Comitia Tributa, or by hundreds, Comitia Centuriata, according to the divisions of the Roman people. In the first assembly, they were to choose the inferior magistrates, and no man was allowed to vote but the citizens of Rome. In the two other assemblies, not only the citizens of Rome had a right to vote, but also the inhabitants of the colonies and the municipal towns. In these great assemblies, they chose the great magistrates, and took into consideration the most important affairs of the Commonwealth.
This beautiful passage, in which Cicero unfolds his syncretic and unionistic policy, and recommends coalition and harmony to statesmen, as the grandest object of national jurisprudence, has been beautifully illustrated by Montesquieu. “True political union (says he) is the harmony or coalition of all parties, which, however opposite they may appear to us, concur to the general welfare, as dissonances in music, which blend into an entire concord.”
This speech of Lælius does equal credit to his probity and his sagacity. He shews that the very love of justice and truth will often induce the barrister to take up the pleadings for the false and unjust side. He proves that truth never glitters so brilliantly as when her secret fires are struck out from the collision of conflicting arguments, and that her light becomes most refulgent by the force of contrast, when it is reflected back from the dark foil of error. Our best and ablest lawyers still adopt precisely the same plea. It is exactly their desire to illustrate the truth, which induces them to plead for error; it is exactly their desire to protect the innocent, that induces them to defend the guilty.
We have been obliged so insert two or three of these sentences in italics, which are not found in the original, for the sake of shewing the drift of the arguments of Philus. He himself was fully convinced, that justice and morality were of eternal and immutable obligation, and that the best interests of all beings lie in their perpetual development and application. This eternity of Justice is beautifully illustrated by Montesquieu. “Long,” says he, “before positive laws were instituted, the moral relations of justice were absolute and universal. To say that there were no justice or injustice, but that which depends on the injunctions or prohibitions of positive laws, is to say that the radii which spring from a centre, are not equal, till we have formed a circle to illustrate the proposition. We must, therefore, Edition: current; Page: acknowledge that the relations of equity were antecedent to the positive laws which corroborated them.” But though Philus was fully convinced of this, in order to give his friends Scipio and Lælius an opportunity of proving it, he frankly brings forward every argument for injustice, that sophistry had ever cast in the teeth of reason.
“Such” says Villemain, “is the sad series of sophisms, which the English Mandeville and other writers have revived with less force and less subtilty. These sophistries consisted of a confusion of certain truths with a multitude of erroneous deductions. No doubt, philozoia, zoophilism, or kindness to animals, is a duty of nature. No doubt, the reply of the pirate to Alexander, was well merited. But what for that? Is it less true, that God hath put into man’s heart the instinct of justice? This principle is a demonstration of his understanding, which nothing can shake. As to the singularities of local manners, those deviations from the general conscience of mankind, exhibited by some peoples, we are aware with what deplorable sedulity Montaigne collected such paradoxical anecdotes, and with what force of eloquence Rousseau refuted them. ‘O Montaigne,’ says the enthusiastic Genevan, ‘you, who prided yourself on truth and freedom, let me suppose you sincere and ingenuous, if a philosopher can be so, and tell me, is there any country on earth where to keep faith is criminal, and where clemency, beneficence, and generosity are detested, and perfidy and ingratitude are honoured?’ Rousseau has here put the question in a right point of view. He takes a distinction between the essence of justice and the form of justice. Its essential principles will be found identical, or at least, homogeneous in every country on earth; but the peculiar forms of their exhibition may be considerably inflected by the circumstances of the time, the place, and the fashion of society. For want of taking this important distinction between the essence Edition: current; Page: and the form of justice, writers, no less grave than Augustine and Pascal, have fallen into a curious hallucination. The latter, in one of his moments of sceptical misanthropy, from which he was hardly rescued by religion, has denied this universal sense of justice, and reasoned like Carneades. “Three degrees of elevation of the pole” says he, “overturn the whole system of jurisprudence; a line of meridian decides between truth and falsehood; and a brief possession, between rights and no rights. The fundamental laws are changed; equity has its revolutions. A comical justice enough, which a river or a mountain can determine, so that a decision is correct on this side of the Pyrannees, which, on the other would be scouted as infamous.” Pascal, however, adds, “we cannot, indeed deny the existence of natural laws: but artifice and chicanery have corrupted all things.”
The fragments of this important book are unhappily very few. Those that remain, treat of the proper subordination of ranks, the benefits of national education, and the use and abuse of dramatic entertainments.
Cicero appears to view the question of the drama and the stage in its right light. He takes the proper distinction between its use and abuse. He acknowledges, that in its original and proper institution, the drama is the handmaid of religion, and the public teacher of morals, by exhibiting the benefits of virtue and the evils of vice, in the vivid representations of the stage. He shews, that so far as dramatic censorship keeps the stage up to this Edition: current; Page: high and enobling task, so far is it useful and honourable. At the same time, he does not spare his keenest satire against those abominable abuses and corruptions that sometimes infect dramatic entertainments. Thus, we learn from his experience, that the true policy of the pious and prudent statesman is to seek to reform the stage, rather than abolish it, and to promote its good influences by removing the evils that have gradually impaired them.
Of this book nothing remains but a few fragments. But these are not without their importance, as they are employed in recommending conservative policy and practical experience to statesmen. Syncretist, as Cicero was, and standing as he did, a mighty unionist and coalitionist above all sects whatever (for he was too great a man for party) he did not the less recommend the conservative policy in general, and boldly proclaimed its superiority over the empirical liberalism that introduces changes in haste, and repents at leisure.
It is no wonder that Cicero insists so powerfully on political experience, as well as political science. Science is only useful so far as it is associated with skill, and skill can be only acquired in the actual practice of public business. Cicero’s remarks are the more important, as they serve to refute a grand mistake on this subject, too prevalent among contemporary politicians.
Of this book we retain a larger portion than of the two preceding. Macrobius has preserved us the magnificent Dream of Scipio, which has no rival in all the compositions of antiquity, unless it be Plato’s Phædon, in which he expresses the views of Socrateos on the immortality of the soul.
The veil which the ghost of the elder Africanus throws over the future destinies of Scipio is very delicate. Scipio actually died at the age of fifty–six, for he did not escape the impious machinations of his relatives, and many supposed that he was poisoned by his wife, who was the sister of Tiberius Gracchus, who raised such disturbances at Rome.
This is perhaps the finest plea against suicide that has yet been written. In the course of it, Cicero assumes the fact, which all the ancients took for granted, that the stars were animated with divine intelligences. Philo, Origen, Erigena, Bodinus, Riccius, and Fludd, have all largely defended this ancient theory, on which the main part of astrology is directly founded. If we were to reason from the analogy of nature, we might probably arrive at the same conclusion. But as Bayle wittily, though rather dirtily observes, “we have no better means of determining whether the earth on which we crawl is animated by a spirit, than a louse on a man’s head can determine whether he possesses a distinct intelligence.”
This is a clear exposition of the Ptolemaic theory, which is now fortunately exploded from philosophy. It is probable that Cicero himself preferred the Pythagorean or Platonic system of the universe, now called the Copernican. The dream, however, gave him an opportunity of shewing his acquaintance with these erroneous dogmas.
On this passage, Mr. Danby has the following note. “Cicero here speaks of the harmony or music of the spheres, which most men now explode as a fable. But how are we to limit preceptions, or the possibility of what may relate to them? &c.”
This idea of Cicero, respecting many ages of purgatory or purgation, reserved for all guilty souls, was common to all the ancients. They took a very brilliant view respecting the final recovery, restoration, and restitution of all lapsed intelligences, and did what they could to refute the arguments of those who adopted a gloomier doctrine with respect to the future destinies of fallen beings.