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Book IV: Chapter VI 


It is evident from what has been said, that there are as many different sorts of democracies and oligarchies as I have reckoned up: for, of necessity, either all ranks of the people which I have enumerated must have a share in the government, or some only, and others not; for when the husbandmen, and those only who possess moderate fortunes, have the supreme power, they will govern according to law; for as they must get their livings by their employs, they have but little leisure for public business: they will therefore establish proper laws, and never call public assemblies but when there is a necessity for them; and they will readily let every one partake with them in the administration of public affairs as soon as they possess that fortune which the law requires for their qualification: every one, therefore, who is qualified will have his share in the government: for to exclude any would be to make the government an oligarchy, and for all to have leisure to attend without they had a subsistence would be impossible: for these reasons, therefore, this government is a species of democracy. Another species is distinguished by the mode of electing their magistrates, in which every one is eligible, to whose birth there are no objections, provided he is supposed to have leisure to attend: for which reason in such a democracy the supreme power will be vested in the laws, as there will be nothing paid to those who go to the public assemblies. A third species is where every freeman has a right to a share in the government, which he will not accept for the cause already assigned; for which reason here also the supreme power will be in the law. The fourth species [1293a] of democracy, the last which was established in order of time, arose when cities were greatly enlarged to what they were at first, and when the public revenue became something considerable; for then the populace, on account of their numbers, were admitted to share in the management of public affairs, for then even the poorest people were at leisure to attend to them, as they received wages for so doing; nay, they were more so than others, as they were not hindered by having anything of their own to mind, as the rich had; for which reason these last very often did not frequent the public assemblies and the courts of justice: thus the supreme power was lodged in the poor, and not in the laws. These are the different sorts of democracies, and such are the causes which necessarily gave birth to them.

The first species of oligarchy is, when the generality of the state are men of moderate and not too large property; for this gives them leisure for the management of public affairs: and, as they are a numerous body, it necessarily follows that the supreme power must be in the laws, and not in men; for as they are far removed from a monarchical government, and have not sufficient fortune to neglect their private affairs, while they are too many to be supported by the public, they will of course determine to be governed by the laws, and not by each other. But if the men of property in the state are but few, and their property is large, then an oligarchy of the second sort will take place; for those who have most power will think that they have a right to lord it over the others; and, to accomplish this, they will associate to themselves some who have an inclination for public affairs, and as they are not powerful enough to govern without law, they will make a law for that purpose. And if those few who have large fortunes should acquire still greater power, the oligarchy will then alter into one of the third sort; for they will get all the offices of the state into their own hands by a law which directs the son to succeed upon the death of his father; and, after that, when, by means of their increasing wealth and powerful connections, they extend still further their oppression, a monarchical dynasty will directly succeed wherein men will be supreme, and not the law; and this is the fourth species of an oligarchy correspondent to the last-mentioned class of democracies.

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