Aristotles politiques, or Discourses of gouernment. Translated out of Greeke into French, with expositions taken out of the best authours, specially out of Aristotle himselfe, and out of Plato, conferred together where occasion of matter treated of by them both doth offer it selfe: the obseruations and reasons whereof are illustrated and confirmed by innumerable examples, both old and new, gathered out of the most renowmed empires, kingdomes, seignories, and commonweals that euer haue bene, and wherof the knowledge could be had in writing, or by faythfull report, concerning the beginning, proceeding, and excellencie of ciuile gouernment. By Loys Le Roy, called Regius. Translated out of French into English
Aristotle., Dee, John, 1527-1608, attributed name., I. D.

CHAP. XI. Of the fift kind of gouernment, whether it be more expedient for a Cittie to be gouerned by a good man, or by good lawes.

[ L]

[ 1] THese are the kinds of gouernements, foure in number, the first which flou∣rished in the heroicke times, ouer such as voluntarily subiected themselues in certaine definite matters, for the king himselfe was both generall of the warre, iudge, and high Priest: the second, barbarous successiue by linage, wherein the subiects were gouerned according to the lawes of seruaunts: the third, which they call AEsymnetia, that is, tiranny by election of voi∣ces: the fourth Laconicall, that is to say in one word, a perpetuall milita∣ry intendencie by tribe: these kingdomes differ thus among themselues. The fift kind of admini∣stration, [ M] when one is sole lord of all: as euery Nation and euery Citie hath power ouer common things, and followeth the example of the Oeconomie, for as the Oeconomie is a kinde of houshold gouernment, so is the gouernement of a Citie, and the Oeconomie of one or more Nations. Nowe there are almost two kindes of gouernement, whereof wee are to speake, this, and the Laconicall. The others, or the greater part of them, are a mean betwixt these two. For either the Kings haue Page  173 [ A] lesse authoritie then in an absolute Commonweale, or more then in the Laconicall: wherefore the whole matter consisteth in two points: the one is, whether it bee profitable to the Citie to haue in it a continual Gouernour and Generall of the warres, and that hee bee created by succession in stocke and linage, or whether hee bee elected by suffrages according to the vertue and dignitie of the person, or whether this bee not so profitable: the other is, whether it bee profitable to haue the Kingdome gouerned by one solely, although the consideration of such a Captaine pertaineth rather to the Lawes, then to the Common-weale, as a thing that cannot hap∣pen in euery Commonweale. Leauing therefore the first manner of gouernement, let vs come to the other, which is the forme of a Commonweale, and let vs breefely resolue the doubts [ B] therein.

The beginning of this question is; Whether it bee more expedient for a Commonweale [ 2] to bee administred by a good man, or by a good Lawes? They which thinke it more expe∣dient for Cities to bee gouerned by a King; doe suppose, that the Lawes doe speake onely in generall tearmes, and not to prouide for particular cases, and therefore that it would be absurd and foolish to commaund in anie Art, according to the prescript rules and Lawes of the same. And in AEgypt the Phisitions are not permitted to meddle with any disease before the fourth day being past: and if they doe minister before that time, it is at their pe∣rill and hazard. Wherefore it is apparent, that that is not the best forme of regiment, [ C] which followeth the letters of the Lawe. And yet it is necessarie, that this vniuersall reason bee in all Gouernours: For that must needes bee better which is voide of passion and perturbation of the minde, then that which naturally is affected therewith. Nowe, the Lawe is without all passion, but the minde of man is necessarily subiect vnto pertur∣bations.

But peraduenture some may obiect, that a good man will recompence the hauing of affections, by being able to iudge in particular cases, which the Lawe cannot doe, and therefore that it is necessarie that hee bee the Lawe-disposer: and also that there bee Lawes written, yet not fullie confirmed and vnuiolable, in regard that they maie [ D] differ and varie from the truth, namely in those thinges which are not within the com∣passe of the Lawes, (albeit in other thinges they must bee ratified) as in this question, Whether one good man solely, or manie togither ought to gouerne? For nowe adaies ma∣nie assembled togither, doe discusse, consult, and iudge of matters; and all these iudge∣ments are of particular cases: Therefore one, whatsoeuer hee bee, compared to manie, is farre inferiour (for a Cittie consisteth of manie) euen as a banquet prepared and furni∣shed by manie, is more exquisite then a simple Table: And therefore a multitude iud∣geth better then anie one is able to doe. Further, a multitude is lesse subiect to corrup∣tion then one, like as water, the more plentifull it is, the lesse it putrifieth. But when [ E] as one Iudge is ouercome with choller, or anie other passion, then must the iudgement needes bee depraued: Whereas in a multitude, all of them cannot bee chollericke or de∣ceaued. But let vs suppose a multitude, which doe nothing contrarie to the Lawe, but that which they needes must: or if that bee hard to bee found amongst manie, yet at least, if they were manie good men and good Cittizens, the question is, whether these manie good, bee more or lesse subiect to corruption then one? if it bee replied that they will bee seditios, which one cannot bee: I answere, that being good and vertuous in minde, they are indeede but as one, though manie. If therefore wee determine the gouerne∣ment of manie good men to bee an Aristocratie; and of one, a Regalitie or Monarchie [ F] sure an Aristocratie will bee more welcome to Citties; then a Monarchie, whether the estate bee ioyned with authoritie, or without: For as much as there are to bee found manie of like qualitie. And therefore in times past they suffered themselues to bee gouerned by Kinges, because manie excellent and worthie persons were not then ex∣tant, especiallie when as they inhabited small Citties. Furthermore, Kinges were cre∣ated onely for their bountifulnesse, which bountifulnesse is the proper office of good Page  174 men: but when as plentie of these vertuous and good men began to abound, then they [ G] could not anie longer endure the dominion of one, but sought for a crtaine communitie, and so ordained a Commonweale. Afterwards when these began againe to decline and wax worse, enriching themselues by the common good, it is likely, that from thence arose Oli∣garchies, where riches are helde in so high honour and account. Againe, from these they grewe first to Tyrannies, and then from tyrannies to Democratis: for when through a greedie desire of gaine, they contracted the gouernement to fewer and fewer, by this meanes they fortified the multitude, in such sort, that they inuading and spoiling the Ty∣rant of his power, set vp a Democraticall gouernement. And then Cities growing great, it was not easie to chaunge by bringing in anie other. Moreouer, if it were more ex∣pedient [ H] for Cities to bee gouerned by Kings, what should become of their children? must they also raigne in their fathers steades? But what if they degenerate from their fathers vertues, would not their regiment bee dangerous? But some will say, that the father hauing all in his owne power, will not bequeath the kingdome to his children? I but this is not credible, and besides it is a vertue that humane Nature is not capable of: Besides, there is a difficlt question concerning the power of the King, whether hee ought to bee guarded with anie power continually about him, whereby to constraine to subiection the disobedient: or by what other meanes hee should deale in keeping them in obedience. For albeit that hee bee a legitimate and absolute Lorde, not attempting anie [ I] thing contrarie to the lawe, yet it is necessarie for him to haue a power, whereby to pre∣serue and mainetaine the sacred Lawes. But it may bee it is no hard matter to decide this doubt in regard of such a King: for hee must needes haue a power alwayes in readi∣nesse, but such a power that may bee stronger then euery one in perticular, or many to∣gether, and yet weaker then the whole multitude. Such guards did the auncients giue to him whome they created their AEsymnete, as they tearmed him, that is to say, their Tyrant. And Dionysius demaunding of the Syracusians a guard for his defence, a certaine man counselled them to appoint him one of that quantity.

[ K]

To the foure former kindes of Kingdomes is adioyned a fift, which is proper∣lie called a Kingdome, where the weale publicke is administred at the Princes will, with regard had to the generall profite and commoditie of the subiects. Which kinde of Kingdome is like vnto an Oeconomie: for albeit that a gouer∣nour of a familie ordereth his house at his owne will and pleasure, yet neuerthe∣lesse hee hath respect to the commoditie of the whole familie. Nowe, all these sortes of kingdomes are reduced to two extreames, to wit, the Lacedemonian, and the absolute. After, vpon the occasion of the Lacedemonian royaltie, which was nothing els but a commission, or militarie superintendance ouer the armies, [ L] hee taketh occasion to dispute whether it bee behoofefull or no for Cities to haue a perpetuall Captaine. Also whether it bee better to chuse him for his vertues, or to take him alwayes out of the same stocke and linage by the right of succes∣sion. But relinquishing such a forme of kingdome which may bee in euery state, the Philosopher resteth himselfe principallie vpon the perfect and absolute royal∣tie, disputing whether it is better to bee gouerned by good Lawes, or by a good man. They which preferre a good man before good lawes, doe lay the cause vpon this, because it is impossible to ordaine by lawes that which is principally iust, but onely that which is vsually so, the affaires and common dealing of men being so incon∣stant [ M] and so changeable, that it cannot bee otherwise: albeit that the vniuersall reason of the law ought to be well vnderstood of the gouernours of a Commonweale. They againe which preferre good Lawes before a good man, say that the Lawe is with∣out affections, wherewith the minde of man is sore disturbed; as anger, feare, ambition, auarice, hatred, and such like, which peruerte men placed in seate Page  175 [ A] of iustice and authority, yea euen the best of them. Therefore hee that would haue the law to commnd, would haue God to command, and an intelligence without affection: but he that would haue a man, admitteth therewithal a beast, for so is mans nature ouer∣swaied with affections: for this cause it seemeth more expedient to bee gouerned by lawes. But because both of these parts bee true, hee proceedeth to dispute, whether it be better to be gouerned by one good man, or by a multitude? Which question is interde∣bated, pro & contra, affirmatiuely and negatiuely, as well in this Chapter, as in the next, where it is resolued and discussed. Herodotus in his third booke, called Tha∣lia, handeleth the same controuersie: and so also dooth Dionysius Halicarnasseus in [ B] the twelfth booke of the Roman antiquities. And Socrates in his Oration to Sy∣machus.

THE first which flourished in the Heroicke times ouer such as voluntarily subiected them∣selues [ 1] in certaine definite matters.] Such were the kings of AEgypt at the beginning, who liued not disordinately, as others that exercised Lordship and dominion, whose onely will serued them instead of a lawe, but followed the constitutions of the lawes, both in collecting their duties and tributes, and also in the manner and frame of their li∣uing. And they which serued and ministred vnto them, were not slaues, or of a ser∣uile [ C] condition, whether they were borne and brought vp in the house, or brought from elsewhere: but onely the sonnes of Nobles and Princes, of the age of twentie yeares, instructed in all Sciences of learning, were deputed for the seruice of the kings, to the end that the king being stirred 〈◊〉 by the view of those that were about him, might keepe himselfe from committing any thing worthie of reproch: And surely it happe∣neth not sildome, that great Lords become wicked and corrupt, especially when they haue seruants and ministers to flatter and applaud, and set forward their sensuall desires and affections. There were certaine appointed and set houres both by night and day, wherein the king was bound to doe that which the lawe permitted. The king ri∣sing [ D] in the morning, the first thing that hee was to doe, was to receiue all the let∣ters and petitions which were presented vnto him, to the end, that by giuing an∣swere to necessarie matters, all his affaires might bee marshalled in good order, and by discretion. This done, after that hee had washed his bodie before the Princes of his kingdome, attiring himselfe with rich and costly robes, hee went to the Temple, to offer sacrifice to the gods. And there this was the custome of the Arch-prelate or cheefe Priest, that after the oblations and sacrifices offered vpon the Altar, the king being present, to pray with a lowd voice in the hea∣ring of the people, for the health, prosperitie, and good fortune of the said king, [ E] who obserued and executed iustice amongst his subiects. And then the Arch-priest recounted seuerally the vertues of their king, both howe hee vsed obseruaunce, and religion in the seruice of the gods, and gentlenesse and courtesie towards men: and further that hee was a continent, iust, magnanimious, true, and liberall Prince, refraining his lustes, punishing malefactors with a more easie and remisse punishment then the greatnesse of their offence and misdeeds required, and recom∣pencing his subiects with greater rewards and fauours, then their vertues meri∣ted. And then after all this thus spoken, he pronounced a bitter curse and male∣diction against all wicked ones, excusing and purging the king from all blame, [ F] and laying the fault if there were anie, vpon his seruaunts, that counselled and persuaded him to such vnreasonable thinges. This done, the saied Arch-prelate exhorted the king to a happie life, conformable to the gods, and likewise to ver∣tue and good conditions, and to practise not that which wicked men counselled him, but that which appertained to honour and vertue. And finally, the king hauing sacrificed a Bull to the gods, the Priest did reade out of a certaine holie booke, certaine noble exploits and enterprises of great and excellent personages, Page  176 to the end, that after their example, the king by imitation might learne to vse his [ G] authoritie and domination iustly and vertuously. Neither was the time onely pre∣scribed by the auncient Lawes, wherein the King should exercise himselfe about the matters of his owne treasures and reuenue, and the controuersies of his sub∣iects, but also the time to walke and to bath, to lye with his wife, and of all other exercises. These kings liued vpon a verie simple diet, as of Veale, and Geese, for all their messes. As touching Wine, there was a certaine measure expressely appoin∣ted them, which they might not passe, to glut and make themselues drunke withall: yea and the whole order and course of their diet was so limitted and moderated, that it seemed rather to haue beene ordained by some expert Phisitian, then by any wise [ H] Law-giuer. And sure this is a thing deseruing admiration, that the kinges of AEgypt liued not at their pleasures like other Kings, but onely according to the ordinance of the lawe: but this is more straunge and admirable, that they had no power nor authoritie to iudge, to collect subsidies, or to punish any man through anger or anie other vniust occasion, but were altogither like priuate persons, sub∣iect to the Lawes: and yet they endured it patientlie, esteeming it the cheefest happinesse that could betide, to bee obedient to such ordinances and constitutions: for those that did otherwise, and liued at their owne pleasure, they thought them miserable, by being subiect to so much daunger and hurt, as vsually accompanieth [ I] such actions. And in truth, they which often offend willingly, are ouercome ei∣ther with friendship, or euill will, or some other passion of the mind, or doe stray of set purpose out of the right path: but othe•• that order and guide their liues by counsell and good aduise, doe offend in fewe thinges. Therefore the kings of AEgypt exercising such bountie and lenitie towards their subiects, gained so much their loue and obedience, that not onely the AEgyptian Priests, but also the whole multitude of common people, had more care and regard of the safetie and per∣son of the king, then of their owne wiues and children, yea then of all the rest of the Princes of the land. And certainely the most part of their kings, hauing fol∣lowed [ K] the common ordinances and customes of their Countrey died after they had raigned a happie raigne, whilest this obseruance of the Lawes continued a∣mongst them: and besides, haue brought vnder their subiection many strange na∣tions, and thereby heaped vp great treasures, by the meanes whereof, the Coun∣trey hath beene enriched with manie excellent buildings, and sumptuous workes, and the Citties beautified and endued with manie gifts and largesses. Also those costlie buildings which the AEgyptian people erected to their Kinges after their deaths, are ample witnesses of the good will and loue which they bore vnto them; insomuch, that they honoured them not onely whilest they liued, but also when [ L] they were dead: for whensoeuer anie of their kinges came to the point of death, all the people with one eye and voice wayled and lamented exceedinglie, they tore their garments, and the Temples being shut, they neither frequented the mar∣kets, nor anie publicke places, nor celebrated anie feastes or solemnities, but be∣smearing their heads with durt for the space of threescore and twelue dayes, be∣ing girded about, both men and women with sheetes, of whome, to the num∣ber of two or three hundred, enuironned the kinges corpes twise a day, reitera∣ting their greefe, and recounting his vertues in Epitaphes and songes. They ab∣stained also all that while from eating anie liuing thing, from whote meates, from [ M] Wine, from all costly apparrell, from seruice at the Table, from washings, oyn∣tings, and gorgeous beds, and all other matters of pleasure and delight, and only gaue themselues to weeping and lamenting, as if their owne children had beene dead. And after that in this time of mourning, all thinges requisite for the obse∣quies and funerals were prepared: the last day they put the dead bodie into a Page  177 [ A] cofer close shut, at the entrie of the sepulchre, and there recited summarily after their accustomed manner, all the worthie deedes which the king acheeued whilest hee liued: Also hee that would, was allowed to accuse death. The Priests being present, com∣mended with a lowd voice the kings good deeds, and the people which stood about the obsequies, reioiced at the true commendations, & contradicted the false, with a tumul∣tuous noise. Whereupon it hath come to passe, that many kings of AEgypt (by reason of the resistance of the multitude) haue beene depriued of the honor and magnificence due vnto their funerals, the feare whereof hath compelled these kings to liue iustly, least after their death they should incurre the euerlasting indignation & hatred of their [ B] subiects. This was the auncient manner of liuing of the kings of AEgypt, Diod Sicilian Biblioth, lib. 1. cap. 8.

THE beginning of the question is, Whether it bee more expedient for a Commonweale to [ 2] bee administred by a good man, or by good lawes.] Many are of this mind, that the go∣uernement of men ought not to bee committed to one alone, but that it is necessa∣rie to search out a more diuine thing, to take charge of men, as is easie to coniecture by the example of many sorts of brute beastes. For amongst sheepe, one sheepe dooth not gouerne the whole flocke; and amongst Horses and Oxen, one Horse or Oxe doe not gouerne the whole Heard: but man is hee, that excelling and being more Noble [ C] then all other creatures, hath the conduct and guidance of brute beastes: whose worth, how much it surpasseth all other vnreasonable creatures, is notoriously knowne. By the like reason (if wee desire to haue matters succeede according to our wils) it is meete that some thing more excellent then man doe gouerne the societies of men. But because in all the world there is not a gouernour to bee found, more noble or better then man, and that also man is a creature of great variety, composed of diuerse parts, forasmuch as by the inferiour faculties of the mind, hee hath a certaine commu∣nion with brute beastes, and by the superiour powers approcheth in some sort vnto the immortall gods: That part therfore of man which is diuine and immortall, ought [ D] to hold the raynes of gouernement amongst men, which according to the iudgement and opinion of all, is the vnderstanding, which is nothing els but a certaine beame of the heauenly light infused into the natures of mens mindes. Therefore it can∣not bee that a Commonweale should bee well prouided for, if the gouernement thereof bee committed to a man, who by the brutall faculties of his minde, is of∣ten disturbed and diuerted out of the right way of reason: but it must bee commit∣ted to this pure vnderstanding, which is free from all disquietnesse and perturbati∣ons of the minde. The which (when as by other meanes it could not bee done) seemeth to bee attained vnto through the prouidence of God, by the inuention of [ E] good Lawes: which is nothing else but to haue the charge of gouernment layed vpon the vnderstanding and reason, which are not subiect to the tempests of pertur∣bations. To the which benefite and gift of the gods, I knowe not whither (if wee weigh the commodities and profite of them) any other bee equal, or any waies compa∣rable: for first many wise men hauing conferred togither the examples of auncient times, concluded and determined after long consideration, that which seemed best in their iudgement for the enacting of lawes, without all feare of being diuerted from the truth, either by euill will, by friendship, or anie other perturbation of minde: seeing that in the constitution and making of Lawes, they doe not [ F] handle the particular cause of anie one, as it often happeneth in the deciding of controuersies, but of all in generall. Then the Lawes being thus enacted if any man bee found to offend, and constrained to indure the punishment or penaltie of his offence, hee cannot beare any grudge against the Lawgiuer, because hee knoweth he aimed not at him, but at all: and thus consequently, there is no cause to feare any sedition or rancour, which is the most perrillous staine and blot of a Commonweale that can be. As also on the contrarie side, it commeth to passe, Page  178 when any is punished without the disposition of the law, many greeuous iarres and dis∣sentions [ G] doe arise: for it is almost impossible but that wee should beare euill will vnto those, by whom we haue receiued hurt and dammage. Wherefore I knowe not whether Nature, the mother of all, hath bestowed a greater benefite vpon mankind, then the in∣uention of the lawes, which from all antiquity hath alwaies ben ascribed and consecra∣ted to the immortall gods. To this purpose Aristotle before alledged, sayth in his booke of the World, dedicated to Alexander, That hee could find nothing in the world to the which hee might resemble God more fitly then to an ancient law in a well ordered Cit∣tie. By the which sentence it appeareth, that in this vniuersality of causes, God is no∣thing els, but that which is an auncient law in a ciuill society. Hee sayeth further in the [ H] same booke and next Chapter, that Law is a shining and bright intelligence, not infec∣ted with any spots of affection: whereby we may easily perceiue that to be true & com∣modious which wee said before, that is, that some thing more diuine then man, sitteth at the sterne of humane societies to guide & direct thē in the right course. But if we prefer man before the lawes, to this charge of gouernement, then the case standes in far grea∣ter danger, because it is hard to find many adorned and enabled with wisedome, boun∣tie, and honestie, fit for so great a place, but for the most part they all erre in iudgement, and goe astray from the truth, through the violent outrage of affections. And if it were possible to find out a man so wise, good, and constant, that hee would by no blast of per∣turbation [ I] bee turned aside from his dutie, yet notwithstanding (for this excellencie) it would not bee conuenient to preferre the rule of a man before the principality of the lawes, considering that in regard of his fraile and mortal nature, he could not long per∣seuere in his duty without offence: whereas on the other side, the only lawes are able to ioine him to eternity. By this which hath beene spoken, it seemeth that the souerainty of gouernement ought to be recommended rather to the determination of the lawes, then to the discretion of man. But forasmuch as euery thing cannot be comprehen∣ded within the lawes, it is necessary to commit some cases to the arbitrement of man, and to establish some one as a guardant, vicar and executioner of the lawes, who by the [ K] disposition and direction of them, may take vpon him the gouernement of the Com∣monweale. But seeing that all cannot bee comprised by the lawes, and that it is needfull to haue a supreame Iudge for such causes as come in question: the same doubt ariseth againe, which seemed to haue beene resolued by the establishment of the lawes, to wit, Whether it be better to haue one alone, or a few, or rather the Communaltie to be pre∣ferred to the tuition of the lawes, and to giue iudgement in cases which are without the compasse of the lawes. Albeit that by many mens iudgements, the royall and regall go∣uernement is esteemed the most excellent of all others, and the cheefedome of one a∣lone, of greatest account for worth: Notwithstanding, because of the vnconstant mind [ L] of man, & pronenesse to encline to that side which is either not good, or the worse, and because of the breuity of his life, some suppose that the good estate of all ought not to bee reposed vpon such a gouernement, but rather that the cheefe rule should apper∣taine to the Communaltie, because there hath beene scarce any regall gouernement, which hath not beene soone transformed into a tyrannie. On the contrary, wee reade that many Commonweales or popular gouernements, haue continued a long time in a flourishing and triumphing estate both in peace and warre. But yet sure the multitude of it owne nature is very vnfit for gouernement, wherefore ciuill society maintained by concord and vnitie, will be quite defaced and broken, except it bee by some deuise redu∣ced [ M] into an vniforme estate: wherupon it commeth to passe, that the wisest which haue learnedly written of ciuill institutions, determine that a Commonweale ought to bee tempered and mixed as it were of a Monarchie, an Aristocratie, and a Democratie, to the end, that by this mixture the discommodities of simple gouernements may bee a∣uoided, as it hath beene manifested by reasons and examples in the Annotations vpon the second booke of this worke, and fourth Chapter. Also that question is touched in Page  179 [ A] the eight Chapter of the same booke, Whether the Law, or the will of man, be the best rule for policies.