Infomotions, Inc.Political Treatise / Spinoza, Benedict De

Author: Spinoza, Benedict De
Title: Political Treatise
Publisher: Unknown. (Ask Eric.)
Tag(s): dominion; patricians; sec; commonwealth; council; supreme council; senate; supreme; chap; multitude; citizens; chosen; western philosophy
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Edited with an Introduction
by R. H. M. Elwes
Translated by A. H. Gosset
Published by G. Bell & Son

Rendered into HTML and Text
by Jon Roland of the Constitution Society



OUR author composed the Political Treatise shortly before his death [in
1677]. Its reasonings are exact, its style clear. Abandoning the
opinions of many political writers, he most firmly propounds therein his
own judgment; and throughout draws his conclusions from his premisses.
In the first five chapters, he treats of political science in general --
in the sixth and seventh, of monarchy; in the eighth, ninth, and tenth,
of aristocracy; lastly, the eleventh begins the subject of democratic
government. But his untimely death was the reason that he did not finish
this treatise, and that he did not deal with the subject of laws, nor
with the various questions about politics, as may be seen from the
following "Letter of the Author to a Friend, which may properly be
prefixed to this Political Treatise, and serve it for a Preface:" --

"Dear Friend, -- Your welcome letter was delivered to me yesterday. I
heartily thank you for the kind interest you take in me. I would not
miss this opportunity, were I not engaged in something, which I think
more useful, and which, I believe, will please you more -- that is, in
preparing a Political Treatise, which I began some time since, upon your
advice. Of this treatise, six chapters are already finished. The first
contains a kind of introduction to the actual work; the second treats of
natural right; the third, of the right of supreme authorities. In the
fourth, I inquire, what political matters are subject to the direction
of supreme authorities; in the fifth, what is the ultimate and highest
end which a society can contemplate; and, in the sixth, how a monarchy
should be ordered, so as not to lapse into a tyranny. I am at present
writing the seventh chapter, wherein I make a regular demonstration of
all the heads of my preceding sixth chapter, concerning the ordering of
a well-regulated monarchy. I shall afterwards pass to the subjects of
aristocratic and popular dominion, and, lastly, to that of laws and
other particular questions about politics. And so, farewell."

The author's aim appears clearly from this letter; but being hindered by
illness, and snatched away by death, he was unable, as the reader will
find for himself, to continue this work further than to the end of the
subject of aristocracy.





PHILOSOPHERS conceive of the passions which harass us as vices into
which men fall by their own fault, and, therefore, generally deride,
bewail, or blame them, or execrate them, if they wish to seem unusually
pious. And so they think they are doing something wonderful, and
reaching the pinnacle of learning, when they are clever enough to bestow
manifold praise on such human nature, as is nowhere to be found, and to
make verbal attacks on that which, in fact, exists. For they conceive of
men, not as they are, but as they themselves would like them to be.
Whence it has come to pass that, instead of ethics, they have generally
written satire, and that they have never conceived a theory of politics,
which could be turned to use, but such as might be taken for a chimera,
or might have been formed in Utopia, or in that golden age of the poets
when, to be sure, there was least need of it. Accordingly, as in all
sciences, which have a useful application, so especially in that of
politics, theory is supposed to be at variance with practice; and no men
are esteemed less fit to direct public affairs than theorists or

2. But statesmen, on the other hand, are suspected of plotting against
mankind, rather than consulting their interests, and are esteemed more
crafty than learned. No doubt nature has taught them, that vices will
exist, while men do. And so, while they study to anticipate human
wickedness, and that by arts, which experience and long practice have
taught, and which men generally use under the guidance more of fear than
of reason, they are thought to be enemies of religion, especially by
divines, who believe that supreme authorities should handle public
affairs in accordance with the same rules of piety, as bind a private
individual. Yet there can be no doubt, that statesmen have written about
politics far more happily than philosophers. For, as they had experience
for their mistress, they taught nothing that was inconsistent with

3. And, certainly, I am fully persuaded that experience has revealed all
conceivable sorts of commonwealth, which are consistent with men's
living in unity, and likewise the means by which the multitude may be
guided or kept within fixed bounds. So that I do not believe that we can
by meditation discover in this matter anything not yet tried and
ascertained, which shall be consistent with experience or practice. For
men are so situated, that they cannot live without some general law. But
general laws and public affairs are ordained and managed by men of the
utmost acuteness, or, if you like, of great cunning or craft. And so it
is hardly credible, that we should be able to conceive of anything
serviceable to a general society, that occasion or chance has not
offered, or that men, intent upon their common affairs, and seeking
their own safety, have not seen for themselves.

4. Therefore, on applying my mind to politics, I have resolved to
demonstrate by a certain and undoubted course of argument, or to deduce
from the very condition of human nature, not what is new and unheard of,
but only such things as agree best with practice. And that I might
investigate the subject-matter of this science with the same freedom of
spirit as we generally use in mathematics, I have laboured carefully,
not to mock, lament, or execrate, but to understand human actions; and
to this end I have looked upon passions, such as love, hatred, anger,
envy, ambition, pity, and the other perturbations of the mind, not in
the light of vices of human nature, but as properties, just as pertinent
to it, as are heat, cold, storm, thunder, and the like to the nature of
the atmosphere, which phenomena, though inconvenient, are yet necessary,
and have fixed causes, by means of which we endeavour to understand
their nature, and the mind has just as much pleasure in viewing them
aright, as in knowing such things as flatter the senses.

5. For this is certain, and we have proved its truth in our Ethics, [1]
that men are of necessity liable to passions, and so constituted as to
pity those who are ill, and envy those who are well off; and to be prone
to vengeance more than to mercy: and moreover, that every individual
wishes the rest to live after his own mind, and to approve what he
approves, and reject what he rejects. And so it comes to pass, that, as
all are equally eager to be first, they fall to strife, and do their
utmost mutually to oppress one another; and he who comes out conqueror
is more proud of the harm he has done to the other, than of the good he
has done to himself. And although all are persuaded, that religion, on
the contrary, teaches every man to love his neighbour as himself, that
is to defend another's right just as much as his own, yet we showed that
this persuasion has too little power over the passions. It avails,
indeed, in the hour of death, when disease has subdued the very
passions, and man lies inert, or in temples, where men hold no traffic,
but least of all, where it is most needed, in the law-court or the
palace. We showed too, that reason can, indeed, do much to restrain and
moderate the passions, but we saw at the same time, that the road, which
reason herself points out, is very steep; [2] so that such as persuade
themselves, that the multitude or men distracted by politics can ever be
induced to live according to the bare dictate of reason, must be
dreaming of the poetic golden age, or of a stage-play.

6. A dominion then, whose well-being depends on any man's good faith,
and whose affairs cannot be properly administered, unless those who are
engaged in them will act honestly, will be very unstable. On the
contrary, to insure its permanence, its public affairs should be so
ordered, that those who administer them, whether guided by reason or
passion, cannot be led to act treacherously or basely. Nor does it
matter to the security of a dominion, in what spirit men are led to
rightly administer its affairs. For liberality of spirit, or courage, is
a private virtue; but the virtue of a state is its security.

7. Lastly, inasmuch as all men, whether barbarous or civilized,
everywhere frame customs, and form some kind of civil state, we must
not, therefore, look to proofs of reason for the causes and natural
bases of dominion, but derive them from the general nature or position
of mankind, as I mean to do in the next chapter.


1. Ethics, iv. 4, Coroll. iii. 31, note; 32, note.

2. Ibid., v. 42, note. 




IN our Theologico-Political Treatise we have treated of natural and
civil right, [1] and in our Ethics have explained the nature of
wrong-doing, merit, justice, injustice, [2] and lastly, of human
liberty. [3] Yet, lest the readers of the present treatise should have
to seek elsewhere those points, which especially concern it, I have
determined to explain them here again, and give a deductive proof of

2. Any natural thing whatever can be just as well conceived, whether it
exists or does not exist. As then the beginning of the existence of
natural things cannot be inferred from their definition, so neither can
their continuing to exist. For their ideal essence is the same, after
they have begun to exist, as it was before they existed. As then their
beginning to exist cannot be inferred from their essence, so neither can
their continuing to exist; but they need the same power to enable them
to go on existing, as to enable them to begin to exist. From which it
follows, that the power, by which natural things exist, and therefore
that by which they operate, can be no other than the eternal power of
God itself. For were it another and a created power, it could not
preserve itself, much less natural things, but it would itself, in order
to continue to exist, have need of the same power which it needed to be

3. From this fact therefore, that is, that the power whereby natural
things exist and operate is the very power of God itself, we easily
understand what natural right is. For as God has a right to everything,
and God's right is nothing else, but his very power, as far as the
latter is considered to be absolutely free; it follows from this, that
every natural thing has by nature as much right, as it has power to
exist and operate; since the natural power of every natural thing,
whereby it exists and operates, is nothing else but the power of God,
which is absolutely free.

4. And so by natural right I understand the very laws or rules of
nature, in accordance with which everything takes place, in other words,
the power of nature itself. And so the natural right of universal
nature, and consequently of every individual thing, extends as far as
its power: and accordingly, whatever any man does after the laws of his
nature, he does by the highest natural right, and he has as much right
over nature as he has power.

5. If then human nature had been so constituted, that men should live
according to the mere dictate of reason, and attempt nothing
inconsistent therewith, in that case natural right, considered as
special to mankind, would be determined by the power of reason only. But
men are more led by blind desire, than by reason: and therefore the
natural power or right of human beings should be limited, not by reason,
but by every appetite, whereby they are determined to action, or seek
their own preservation. I, for my part, admit, that those desires, which
arise not from reason, are not so much actions as passive affections of
man. But as we are treating here of the universal power or right of
nature, we cannot here recognize any distinction between desires, which
are engendered in us by reason, and those which are engendered by other
causes; since the latter, as much as the former, are effects of nature,
and display the natural impulse, by which man strives to continue in
existence. For man, be he learned or ignorant, is part of nature, and
everything, by which any man is determined to action, ought to be
referred to the power of nature, that is, to that power, as it is
limited by the nature of this or that man. For man, whether guided by
reason or mere desire, does nothing save in accordance with the laws and
rules of nature, that is, by natural right. (Section 4.)

6. But most people believe, that the ignorant rather disturb than follow
the course of nature, and conceive of mankind, in nature as of one
dominion within another. For they maintain, that the human mind is
produced by no natural causes, but created directly by God, and is so
independent of other things, that it has an absolute power to determine
itself, and make a right use of reason. Experience, however, teaches us
but too well, that it is no more in our power to have a sound mind, than
a sound body. Next, inasmuch as everything whatever, as far as in it
lies, strives to preserve its own existence, we cannot at all doubt,
that, were it as much in our power to live after the dictate of reason,
as to be led by blind desire, all would be led by reason, and order
their lives wisely; which is very far from being the case. For

     "Each is attracted by his own delight." [4]

Nor do divines remove this difficulty, at least not by deciding, that
the cause of this want of power is a vice or sin in human nature,
deriving its origin from our first parents' fall. For if it was even in
the first man's power as much to stand as to fall, and he was in
possession of his senses, and had his nature unimpaired, how could it
be, that he fell in spite of his knowledge and foresight? But they say,
that he was deceived by the devil. Who then was it, that deceived the
devil himself? Who, I say, so maddened the very being that excelled all
other created intelligences, that he wished to be greater than God? For
was not his effort too, supposing him of sound mind, to preserve himself
and his existence, as far as in him lay? Besides, how could it happen,
that the first man himself, being in his senses, and master of his own
will, should be led astray, and suffer himself to be taken mentally
captive? For if he had the power to make a right use of reason, it was
not possible for him to be deceived, for as far as in him lay, he of
necessity strove to preserve his existence and his soundness of mind.
But the hypothesis is, that he had this in his power; therefore he of
necessity maintained his soundness of mind, and could not be deceived.
But this from his history, is known to be false. And, accordingly, it
must be admitted, that it was not in the first man's power to make a
right use of reason, but that, like us, he was subject to passions.

7. But that man, like other beings, as far as in him lies, strives to
preserve his existence, no one can deny. For if any distinction could be
conceived on this point, it must arise from man's having a free will.
But the freer we conceived man to be, the more we should be forced to
maintain, that he must of necessity preserve his existence and be in
possession of his senses; as anyone will easily grant me, that does not
confound liberty with contingency. For liberty is a virtue, or
excellence. Whatever, therefore, convicts a man of weakness cannot be
ascribed to his liberty. And so man can by no means be called free,
because he is able not to exist or not to use his reason, but only in so
far as he preserves the power of existing and operating according to the
laws of human nature. The more, therefore, we consider man to be free,
the less we can say, that he can neglect to use reason, or choose evil
in preference to good; and, therefore, God, who exists in absolute
liberty, also understands and operates of necessity, that is, exists,
understands, and operates according to the necessity of his own nature.
For there is no doubt, that God operates by the same liberty whereby he
exists. As then he exists by the necessity of his own nature, by the
necessity of his own nature also he acts, that is, he acts with absolute

8. So we conclude, that it is not in the power of any man always to use
his reason, and be at the highest pitch of human liberty, and yet that
everyone always, as far as in him lies, strives to preserve his own
existence; and that (since each has as much right as he has power)
whatever anyone, be he learned or ignorant, attempts and does, he
attempts and does by supreme natural right. From which it follows that
the law and ordinance of nature, under which all men are born, and for
the most part live, forbids nothing but what no one wishes or is able to
do, and is not opposed to strifes, hatred, anger, treachery, or, in
general, anything that appetite suggests. For the bounds of nature are
not the laws of human reason, which do but pursue the true interest and
preservation of mankind, but other infinite laws, which regard the
eternal order of universal nature, whereof man is an atom; and according
to the necessity of this order only are all individual beings determined
in a fixed manner to exist and operate. Whenever, then, anything in
nature seems to us ridiculous, absurd, or evil, it is because we have
but a partial knowledge of things, and are in the main ignorant of the
order and coherence of nature as a whole, and because we want everything
to be arranged according to the dictate of our own reason; although, in
fact, what our reason pronounces bad, is not bad as regards the order
and laws of universal nature, but only as regards the laws of our own
nature taken separately.

9. Besides, it follows that everyone is so far rightfully dependent on
another, as he is under that other's authority, and so far independent,
as he is able to repel all violence, and avenge to his heart's content
all damage done to him, and in general to live after his own mind.

10. He has another under his authority, who holds him bound, or has
taken from him arms and means of defence or escape, or inspired him with
fear, or so attached him to himself by past favour, that the man obliged
would rather please his benefactor than himself, and live after his mind
than after his own. He that has another under authority in the first or
second of these ways, holds but his body, not his mind. But in the third
or fourth way he has made dependent on himself as well the mind as the
body of the other; yet only as long as the fear or hope lasts, for upon
the removal of the feeling the other is left independent.

11. The judgment can be dependent on another, only as far as that other
can deceive the mind; whence it follows that the mind is so far
independent, as it uses reason aright. Nay, inasmuch as human power is
to be reckoned less by physical vigour than by mental strength, it
follows that those men are most independent whose reason is strongest,
and who are most guided thereby. And so I am altogether for calling a
man so far free, as he is led by reason; because so far he is determined
to action by such causes, as can be adequately understood by his
unassisted nature, although by these causes he be necessarily determined
to action. For liberty, as we showed above (Sec. 7), does not take away
the necessity of acting, but supposes it.

12. The pledging of faith to any man, where one has but verbally
promised to do this or that, which one might rightfully leave undone, or
vice versâ, remains so long valid as the will of him that gave his word
remains unchanged. For he that has authority to break faith has, in
fact, bated nothing of his own right, but only made a present of words.
If, then, he, being by natural right judge in his own case, comes to the
conclusion, rightly or wrongly (for "to err is human"), that more harm
than profit will come of his promise, by the judgment of his own mind he
decides that the promise should be broken, and by natural right (Sec. 9)
he will break the same.

13. If two come together and unite their strength, they have jointly
more power, and consequently more right over nature than both of them
separately, and the more there are that have so joined in alliance, the
more right they all collectively will possess.

14. In so far as men are tormented by anger, envy, or any passion
implying hatred, they are drawn asunder and made contrary one to
another, and therefore are so much the more to be feared, as they are
more powerful, crafty, and cunning than the other animals. And because
men are in the highest degree liable to these passions (Chap. I, Sec.
5), therefore men are naturally enemies. For he is my greatest enemy,
whom I must most fear and be on my guard against.

15. But inasmuch as (Sec. 6) in the state of nature each is so long
independent, as he can guard against oppression by another, and it is in
vain for one man alone to try and guard against all, it follows hence
that so long as the natural right of man is determined by the power of
every individual, and belongs to everyone, so long it is a nonentity,
existing in opinion rather than fact, as there is no assurance of making
it good. And it is certain that the greater cause of fear every
individual has, the less power, and consequently the less right, he
possesses. To this must be added, that without mutual help men can
hardly support life and cultivate the mind. And so our conclusion is,
that that natural right, which is special to the human race, can hardly
be conceived, except where men have general rights, and combine to
defend the possession of the lands they inhabit and cultivate, to
protect themselves, to repel all violence, and to live according to the
general judgment of all. For (Sec. 18) the more there are that combine
together, the more right they collectively possess. And if this is why
the schoolmen want to call man a sociable animal -- I mean because men
in the state of nature can hardly be independent -- I have nothing to
say against them.

16. Where men have general rights, and are all guided, as it were, by
one mind, it is certain (Sec. 13), that every individual has the less
right the more the rest collectively exceed him in power; that is, he
has, in fact, no right over nature but that which the common law allows
him. But whatever he is ordered by the general consent, he is bound to
execute, or may rightfully be compelled thereto (Sec. 4).

17. This right, which is determined by the power of a multitude, is
generally called Dominion. And, speaking generally, he holds dominion,
to whom are entrusted by common consent affairs of state -- such as the
laying down, interpretation, and abrogation of laws, the fortification
of cities, deciding on war and peace, &c. But if this charge belong to a
council, composed of the general multitude, then the dominion is called
a democracy; if the council be composed of certain chosen persons, then
it is an aristocracy; and if, lastly, the care of affairs of state and,
consequently, the dominion rest with one man, then it has the name of

18. From what we have proved in this chapter, it becomes clear to us
that, in the state of nature, wrong-doing is impossible; or, if anyone
does wrong, it is to himself, not to another. For no one by the law of
nature is bound to please another, unless he chooses, nor to hold
anything to be good or evil, but what he himself, according to his own
temperament, pronounces to be so; and, to speak generally, nothing is
forbidden by the law of nature, except what is beyond everyone's power
(Secs. 5 and 8). But wrongdoing is action, which cannot lawfully be
committed. But if men by the ordinance of nature were bound to be led by
reason, then all of necessity would be so led. For the ordinances of
nature are the ordinances of God (Secs. 2, 3), which God has instituted
by the liberty, whereby he exists, and they follow, therefore, from the
necessity of the divine nature (Sec. 7), and, consequently, are eternal,
and cannot be broken. But men are chiefly guided by appetite, without
reason; yet for all this they do not disturb the course of nature, but
follow it of necessity. And, therefore, a man ignorant and weak of mind,
is no more bound by natural law to order his life wisely, than a sick
man is bound to be sound of body.

19. Therefore wrong-doing cannot be conceived of, but under dominion --
that is, where, by the general right of the whole dominion, it is
decided what is good and what evil, and where no one does anything
rightfully, save what he does in accordance with the general decree or
consent (Sec. 16). For that, as we said in the last section, is
wrong-doing, which cannot lawfully be committed, or is by law forbidden.
But obedience is the constant will to execute that, which by law is
good, and by the general decree ought to be done.

20. Yet we are accustomed to call that also wrong, which is done against
the sentence of sound reason, and to give the name of obedience to the
constant will to moderate the appetite according to the dictate of
reason: a manner of speech which I should quite approve, did human
liberty consist in the licence of appetite, and slavery in the dominion
of reason. But as human liberty is the greater, the more man can be
guided by reason, and moderate his appetite, we cannot without great
impropriety call a rational life obedience, and give the name of
wrong-doing to that which is, in fact, a weakness of the mind, not a
licence of the mind directed against itself, and for which a man may be
called a slave, rather than free (Secs. 7 and 11).

21. However, as reason teaches one to practise piety, and be of a calm
and gentle spirit, which cannot be done save under dominion; and,
further, as it is impossible for a multitude to be guided, as it were,
by one mind, as under dominion is required, unless it has laws ordained
according to the dictate of reason; men who are accustomed to live under
dominion are not, therefore, using words so improperly, when they call
that wrong-doing which is done against the sentence of reason, because
the laws of the best dominion ought to be framed according to that
dictate (Sec. 18). But, as for my saying (Sec. 18) that man in a state
of nature, if he does wrong at all, does it against himself, see, on
this point, Chap. IV., Secs. 4, 5, where is shown, in what sense we can
say, that he who holds dominion and possesses natural right, is bound by
laws and can do wrong.

22. As far as religion is concerned, it is further clear, that a man is
most free and most obedient to himself when he most loves God, and
worships him in sincerity. But so far as we regard, not the course of
nature, which we do not understand, but the dictates of reason only,
which respect religion, and likewise reflect that these dictates are
revealed to us by God, speaking, as it were, within ourselves, or else
were revealed to prophets as laws; so far, speaking in human fashion, we
say that man obeys God when he worships him in sincerity, and, on the
contrary, does wrong when he is led by blind desire. But, at the same
time, we should remember that we are subject to God's authority, as clay
to that of the potter, who of the same lump makes some vessels unto
honour, and others unto dishonour. [5] And thus man can, indeed, act
contrarily to the decrees of God, as far as they have been written like
laws in the minds of ourselves or the prophets, but against that eternal
decree of God, which is written in universal nature, and has regard to
the course of nature as a whole, he can do nothing.

23. As, then, wrong-doing and obedience, in their strict sense, so also
justice and injustice cannot be conceived of, except under dominion. For
nature offers nothing that can be called this man's rather than
another's; but under nature everything belongs to all -- that is, they
have authority to claim it for themselves. But under dominion, where it
is by common law determined what belongs to this man, and what to that,
he is called just who has a constant will to render to every man his
own, but he unjust who strives, on the contrary, to make his own that
which belongs to another.

24. But that praise and blame are emotions of joy and sadness,
accompanied by an idea of human excellence or weakness as their cause,
we have explained in our Ethics.


1. Theologico-Political Treatise, Chap. xvi.

2. Ethics, iv. 37, note 2. 

3. Ibid., ii. 48, 49, note. 

4. Virgil, Ecl. ii. 65. 

5. Romans ix. 21.




UNDER every dominion the state is said to be Civil; but the entire body
subject to a dominion is called a Commonwealth, and the general business
of the dominion, subject to the direction of him that holds it, has the
name of Affairs of State. Next we call men Citizens, as far as they
enjoy by the civil law all the advantages of the commonwealth, and
Subjects, as far as they are bound to obey its ordinances or laws.
Lastly, we have already said that, of the civil state, there are three
kinds -- democracy, aristocracy, and monarchy (Chap. II. Sec. 17). Now,
before I begin to treat of each kind separately, I will first deduce all
the properties of the civil state in general. And of these, first of all
comes to be considered the supreme right of the commonwealth, or the
right of the supreme authorities. 

2. From Chap. II. Sec. 15, it is clear that the right of the supreme
authorities is nothing else than simple natural right, limited, indeed,
by the power, not of every individual, but of the multitude, which is
guided, as it were, by one mind -- that is, as each individual in the
state of nature, so the body and mind of a dominion have as much right
as they have power. And thus each single citizen or subject has the less
right, the more the commonwealth exceeds him in power (Chap. II. Sec.
16), and each citizen consequently does and has nothing, but what he may
by the general decree of the commonwealth defend.

3. If the commonwealth grant to any man the right, and therewith the
authority (for else it is but a gift of words, Chap. II. Sec. 12), to
live after his own mind, by that very act it abandons its own right, and
transfers the same to him, to whom it has given such authority. But if
it has given this authority to two or more, I mean authority to live
each after his own mind, by that very act it has divided the dominion,
and if, lastly, it has given this same authority to every citizen, it
has thereby destroyed itself, and there remains no more a commonwealth,
but everything returns to the state of nature; all of which is very
manifest from what goes before. And thus it follows, that it can by no
means be conceived, that every citizen should by the ordinance of the
commonwealth live after his own mind, and accordingly this natural right
of being one's own judge ceases in the civil state. I say expressly "by
the ordinance of the commonwealth," for, if we weigh the matter aright,
the natural right of every man does not cease in the civil state. For
man, alike in the natural and in the civil state, acts according to the
laws of his own nature, and consults his own interest. Man, I say, in
each state is led by fear or hope to do or leave undone this or that;
but the main difference between the two states is this, that in the
civil state all fear the same things, and all have the same ground of
security, and manner of life; and this certainly does not do away with
the individual's faculty of judgment. For he that is minded to obey all
the commonwealth's orders, whether through fear of its power or through
love of quiet, certainly consults after his own heart his own safety and

4. Moreover, we cannot even conceive, that every citizen should be
allowed to interpret the commonwealth's decrees or laws. For were every
citizen allowed this, he would thereby be his own judge, because each
would easily be able to give a colour of right to his own deeds, which
by the last section is absurd. 

5. We see then, that every citizen depends not on himself, but on the
commonwealth, all whose commands he is bound to execute, and has no
right to decide, what is equitable or iniquitous, just or unjust. But,
on the contrary, as the body of the dominion should, so to speak, be
guided by one mind, and consequently the will of the commonwealth must
be taken to be the will of all; what the state decides to be just and
good must be held to be so decided by every individual. And so, however
iniquitous the subject may think the commonwealth's decisions, he is
none the less bound to execute them. 

6. But (it may be objected) is it not contrary to the dictate of reason
to subject one's self wholly to the judgment of another, and
consequently, is not the civil state repugnant to reason? Whence it
would follow, that the civil state is irrational, and could only be
created by men destitute of reason, not at all by such as are led by it.
But since reason teaches nothing contrary to nature, sound reason cannot
therefore dictate, that every one should remain independent, so long as
men are liable to passions (Chap. II. Sec. 15), that is, reason
pronounces against such independence (Chap. I. Sec. 5). Besides, reason
altogether teaches to seek peace, and peace cannot be maintained, unless
the commonwealth's general laws be kept unbroken. And so, the more a man
is guided by reason, that is (Chap. II. Sec. 11), the more he is free,
the more constantly he will keep the laws of the commonwealth, and
execute the commands of the supreme authority, whose subject he is.
Furthermore, the civil state is naturally ordained to remove general
fear, and prevent general sufferings, and therefore pursues above
everything the very end, after which everyone, who is led by reason,
strives, but in the natural state strives vainly (Chap. II. Sec. 15).
Wherefore, if a man, who is led by reason, has sometimes to do by the
commonwealth's order what he knows to be repugnant to reason, that harm
is far compensated by the good, which he derives from the existence of a
civil state. For it is reason's own law, to choose the less of two
evils; and accordingly we may conclude, that no one is acting against
the dictate of his own reason, so far as he does what by the law of the
commonwealth is to be done. And this anyone will more easily grant us,
after we have explained, how far the power and consequently the right of
the commonwealth extends.

7. For, first of all, it must be considered, that, as in the state of
nature the man who is led by reason is most powerful and most
independent, so too that commonwealth will be most powerful and most
independent, which is founded and guided by reason. For the right of the
commonwealth is determined by the power of the multitude, which is led,
as it were, by one mind. But this unity of mind can in no wise be
conceived, unless the commonwealth pursues chiefly the very end, which
sound reason teaches is to the interest of all men.

8. In the second place it comes to be considered, that subjects are so
far dependent not on themselves, but on the commonwealth, as they fear
its power or threats, or as they love the civil state (Chap. II. Sect.
10). Whence it follows, that such things, as no one can be induced to do
by rewards or threats, do not fall within the rights of the
commonwealth. For instance, by reason of his faculty of judgment, it is
in no man's power to believe. For by what rewards or threats can a man
be brought to believe, that the whole is not greater than its part, or
that God does not exist, or that that is an infinite being, which he
sees to be finite, or generally anything contrary to his sense or
thought? So, too, by what rewards or threats can a man be brought to
love one, whom he hates, or to hate one, whom he loves? And to this head
must likewise be referred such things as are so abhorrent to human
nature, that it regards them as actually worse than any evil, as that a
man should be witness against himself, or torture himself, or kill his
parents, or not strive to avoid death, and the like, to which no one can
be induced by rewards or threats. But if we still choose to say, that
the commonwealth has the right or authority to order such things, we can
conceive of it in no other sense, than that in which one might say, that
a man has the right to be mad or delirious. For what but a delirious
fancy would such a right be, as could bind no one? And here I am
speaking expressly of such things as cannot be subject to the right of a
commonwealth and are abhorrent to human nature in general. For the fact,
that a fool or madman can by no rewards or threats be induced to execute
orders, or that this or that person, because he is attached to this or
that religion, judges the laws of a dominion worse than any possible
evil, in no wise makes void the laws of the commonwealth, since by them
most of the citizens are restrained. And so, as those who are without
fear or hope are so far independent (Chap. II. Sec. 10), they are,
therefore, enemies of the dominion (Chap. II. Sec. 14), and may lawfully
be coerced by force.

9. Thirdly and lastly, it comes to be considered, that those things are
not so much within the commonwealth's right, which cause indignation in
the majority. For it is certain, that by the guidance of nature men
conspire together, either through common fear, or with the desire to
avenge some common hurt; and as the right of the commonwealth is
determined by the common power of the multitude, it is certain that the
power and right of the commonwealth are so far diminished, as it gives
occasion for many to conspire together. There are certainly some
subjects of fear for a commonwealth, and as every separate citizen or in
the state of nature every man, so a commonwealth is the less
independent, the greater reason it has to fear. So much for the right of
supreme authorities over subjects. Now before I treat of the right of
the said authorities as against others, we had better resolve a question
commonly mooted about religion.

10. For it may be objected to us, Do not the civil state, and the
obedience of subjects, such as we have shown is required in the civil
state, do away with religion, whereby we are bound to worship God? But
if we consider the matter, as it really is, we shall find nothing that
can suggest a scruple. For the mind, so far as it makes use of reason,
is dependent, not on the supreme authorities, but on itself (Chap. II.
Sec. 11). And so the true knowledge and the love of God cannot be
subject to the dominion of any, nor yet can charity towards one's
neighbour (Sec. 8). And if we further reflect, that the highest exercise
of charity is that which aims at keeping peace and joining in unity, we
shall not doubt that he does his duty, who helps everyone, so far as the
commonwealth's laws, that is so far as unity and quiet allow. As for
external rites, it is certain, that they can do no good or harm at all
in respect of the true knowledge of God, and the love which necessarily
results from it; and so they ought not to be held of such importance,
that it should be thought worth while on their account to disturb public
peace and quiet. Moreover it is certain, that I am not a champion of
religion by the law of nature, that is (Chap. II. Sec. 3), by the divine
decree. For I have no authority, as once the disciples of Christ had, to
cast out unclean spirits and work miracles; which authority is yet so
necessary to the propagating of religion in places where it is
forbidden, that without it one not only, as they say, wastes one's time
[1] and trouble, but causes besides very many inconveniences, whereof
all ages have seen most mournful examples. Everyone therefore, wherever
he may be, can worship God with true religion, and mind his own
business, which is the duty of a private man. But the care of
propagating religion should be left to God, or the supreme authorities,
upon whom alone falls the charge of affairs of state. But I return to my

11. After explaining the right of supreme authorities over citizens and
the duty of subjects, it remains to consider the right of such
authorities against the world at large, which is now easily intelligible
from what has been said. For since (Sec. 2) the right of the supreme
authorities is nothing else but simple natural right, it follows that
two dominions stand towards each other in the same relation as do two
men in the state of nature, with this exception, that a commonwealth can
provide against being oppressed by another; which a man in the state of
nature cannot do, seeing that he is overcome daily by sleep, often by
disease or mental infirmity, and in the end by old age, and is besides
liable to other inconveniences, from which a commonwealth can secure

12. A commonwealth then is so far independent, as it can plan and
provide against oppression by another (Chap. II. Secs. 9, 15), and so
far dependent on another commonwealth, as it fears that other's power,
or is hindered by it from executing its own wishes, or lastly, as it
needs its help for its own preservation or increase (Chap. II. Secs. 10,
15). For we cannot at all doubt, that if two commonwealths are willing
to offer each other mutual help, both together are more powerful, and
therefore have more right, than either alone (Chap. II. Sec. 13).

13. But this will be more clearly intelligible, if we reflect, that two
commonwealths are naturally enemies. For men in the state of nature are
enemies (Chap. II. Sec. 14). Those, then, who stand outside a
commonwealth, and retain their natural rights, continue enemies.
Accordingly, if one commonwealth wishes to make war on another and
employ extreme measures to make that other dependent on itself, it may
lawfully make the attempt, since it needs but the bare will of the
commonwealth for war to be waged. But concerning peace it can decide
nothing, save with the concurrence of another commonwealth's will.
Whence it follows, that laws of war regard every commonwealth by itself,
but laws of peace regard not one, but at the least two commonwealths,
which are therefore called "contracting powers."

14. This "contract" remains so long unmoved as the motive for entering
into it, that is, fear of hurt or hope of gain, subsists. But take away
from either commonwealth this hope or fear, and it is left independent
(Chap. II. Sec. 10), and the link, whereby the commonwealths were
mutually bound, breaks of itself. And therefore every commonwealth has
the right to break its contract, whenever it chooses, and cannot be said
to act treacherously or perfidiously in breaking its word, as soon as
the motive of hope or fear is removed. For every contracting party was
on equal terms in this respect, that whichever could first free itself
of fear should be independent, and make use of its independence after
its own mind; and, besides, no one makes a contract respecting the
future, but on the hypothesis of certain precedent circumstances. But
when these circumstances change, the reason of policy applicable to the
whole position changes with them; and therefore every one of the
contracting commonwealths retains the right of consulting its own
interest, and consequently endeavours, as far as possible, to be free
from fear and thereby independent, and to prevent another from coming
out of the contract with greater power. If then a commonwealth complains
that it has been deceived, it cannot properly blame the bad faith of
another contracting commonwealth, but only its own folly in having
entrusted its own welfare to another party, that was independent, and
had for its highest law the welfare of its own dominion.

15. To commonwealths, which have contracted a treaty of peace, it
belongs to decide the questions, which may be mooted about the terms or
rules of peace, whereby they have mutually bound themselves, inasmuch as
laws of peace regard not one commonwealth, but the commonwealths which
contract taken together (Sec. 18). But if they cannot agree together
about the conditions, they by that very fact return to a state of war.

16. The more commonwealths there are, that have contracted a joint
treaty of peace, the less each of them by itself is an object of fear to
the remainder, or the less it has the authority to make war. But it is
so much the more bound to observe the conditions of peace; that is (Sec.
13), the less independent, and the more bound to accommodate itself to
the general will of the contracting parties.

17. But the good faith, inculcated by sound reason and religion, is not
hereby made void; for neither reason nor Scripture teaches one to keep
one's word in every case. For if I have promised a man, for instance, to
keep safe a sum of money he has secretly deposited with me, I am not
bound to keep my word, from the time that I know or believe the deposit
to have been stolen, but I shall act more rightly in endeavouring to
restore it to its owners. So likewise, if the supreme authority has
promised another to do something, which subsequently occasion or reason
shows or seems to show is contrary to the welfare of its subjects, it is
surely bound to break its word. As then Scripture only teaches us to
keep our word in general, and leaves to every individual's judgment the
special cases of exception, it teaches nothing repugnant to what we have
just proved.

18. But that I may not have so often to break the thread of my
discourse, and to resolve hereafter similar objections, I would have it
known that all this demonstration of mine proceeds from the necessity of
human nature, considered in what light you will -- I mean, from the
universal effort of all men after self-preservation, an effort inherent
in all men, whether learned or unlearned. And therefore, however one
considers men are led, whether by passion or by reason, it will be the
same thing; for the demonstration, as we have said, is of universal


1. Literally, "oil and trouble " -- a common proverbial expression in




THAT the right of the supreme authorities is limited by their power, we
showed in the last chapter, and saw that the most important part of that
right is, that they are, as it were, the mind of the dominion, whereby
all ought to be guided; and accordingly, that such authorities alone
have the right of deciding what is good, evil, equitable, or iniquitous,
that is, what must be done or left undone by the subjects severally or
collectively. And, accordingly, we saw that they have the sole right of
laying down laws, and of interpreting the same, whenever their meaning
is disputed, and of deciding whether a given case is in conformity with
or violation of the law (Chap. III. Secs. 3-5); and, lastly, of waging
war, and of drawing up and offering propositions for peace, or of
accepting such when offered (Chap. III. Secs. 12, 13).

2. As all these functions, and also the means required to execute them,
are matters which regard the whole body of the dominion, that is, are
affairs of state, it follows, that affairs of state depend on the
direction of him only, who holds supreme dominion. And hence it follows,
that it is the right of the supreme authority alone to judge the deeds
of every individual, and demand of him an account of the same; to punish
criminals, and decide questions of law between citizens, or appoint
jurists acquainted with the existing laws, to administer these matters
on its behalf; and, further, to use and order all means to war and
peace, as to found and fortify cities, levy soldiers, assign military
posts, and order what it would have done, and, with a view to peace, to
send and give audience to ambassadors; and, finally, to levy the costs
of all this.

3. Since, then, it is the right of the supreme authority alone to handle
public matters, or choose officials to do so, it follows, that that
subject is a pretender to the dominion, who, without the supreme
council's knowledge, enters upon any public matter, although he believe
that his design will be to the best interest of the commonwealth.

4. But it is often asked, whether the supreme authority is bound by
laws, and, consequently, whether it can do wrong. Now as the words "law"
and "wrong-doing" often refer not merely to the laws of a commonwealth,
but also to the general rules which concern all natural things, and
especially to the general rules of reason, we cannot, without
qualification, say that the commonwealth is bound by no laws, or can do
no wrong. For were the commonwealth bound by no laws or rules, which
removed, the commonwealth were no commonwealth, we should have to regard
it not as a natural thing, but as a chimera. A commonwealth then does
wrong, when it does, or suffers to be done, things which may be the
cause of its own ruin; and we can say that it then does wrong, in the
sense in which philosophers or doctors say that nature does wrong; and
in this sense we can say, that a commonwealth does wrong, when it acts
against the dictate of reason. For a commonwealth is most independent
when it acts according to the dictate of reason (Chap. III. Sec. 7); so
far, then, as it acts against reason, it fails itself, or does wrong.
And we shall be able more easily to understand this if we reflect, that
when we say, that a man can do what he will with his own, this authority
must be limited not only by the power of the agent, but by the capacity
of the object. If, for instance, I say that I can rightfully do what I
will with this table, I do not certainly mean, that I have the right to
make it eat grass. So, too, though we say, that men depend not on
themselves, but on the commonwealth, we do not mean, that men lose their
human nature and put on another; nor yet that the commonwealth has the
right to make men wish for this or that, or (what is just as impossible)
regard with honour things which excite ridicule or disgust. But it is
implied, that there are certain intervening circumstances, which
supposed, one likewise supposes the reverence and fear of the subjects
towards the commonwealth, and which abstracted, one makes abstraction
likewise of that fear and reverence, and therewith of the commonwealth
itself. The commonwealth, then, to maintain its independence, is bound
to preserve the causes of fear and reverence, otherwise it ceases to be
a commonwealth. For the person or persons that hold dominion, can no
more combine with the keeping up of majesty the running with harlots
drunk or naked about the streets, or the performances of a stage-player,
or the open violation or contempt of laws passed by themselves, than
they can combine existence with non-existence. But to proceed to slay
and rob subjects, ravish maidens, and the like, turns fear into
indignation and the civil state into a state of enmity.

5. We see, then, in what sense we may say, that a commonwealth is bound
by laws and can do wrong. But if by "law" we understand civil law, and
by "wrong" that which, by civil law, is forbidden to be done, that is,
if these words be taken in their proper sense, we cannot at all say,
that a commonwealth is bound by laws, or can do wrong. For the maxims
and motives of fear and reverence, which a commonwealth is bound to
observe in its own interest, pertain not to civil jurisprudence, but to
the law of nature, since (Sec. 4) they cannot be vindicated by the civil
law, but by the law of war. And a commonwealth is bound by them in no
other sense than that in which in the state of nature a man is bound to
take heed, that he preserve his independence and be not his own enemy,
lest he should destroy himself; and in this taking heed lies not the
subjection, but the liberty of human nature. But civil jurisprudence
depends on the mere decree of the commonwealth, which is not bound to
please any but itself, nor to hold anything to be good or bad, but what
it judges to be such for itself. And, accordingly, it has not merely the
right to avenge itself, or to lay down and interpret laws, but also to
abolish the same, and to pardon any guilty person out of the fullness of
its power.

6. Contracts or laws, whereby the multitude transfers its right to one
council or man, should without doubt be broken, when it is expedient for
the general welfare to do so. But to decide this point, whether, that
is, it be expedient for the general welfare to break them or not, is
within the right of no private person, but of him only who holds
dominion (Sec. 3); therefore of these laws he who holds dominion remains
sole interpreter. Moreover, no private person can by right vindicate
these laws, and so they do not really bind him who holds dominion.
Notwithstanding, if they are of such a nature that they cannot be
broken, without at the same time weakening the commonwealth's strength,
that is, without at the same time changing to indignation the common
fear of most of the citizens, by this very fact the commonwealth is
dissolved, and the contract comes to an end; and therefore such contract
is vindicated not by the civil law, but by the law of war. And so he who
holds dominion is not bound to observe the terms of the contract by any
other cause than that, which bids a man in the state of nature to beware
of being his own enemy, lest he should destroy himself, as we said in
the last section.




IN Chap. II. Sec. 2, we showed, that man is then most independent, when
he is most led by reason, and, in consequence (Chap. III. Sec. 7), that
that commonwealth is most powerful and most independent, which is
founded and guided by reason. But, as the best plan of living, so as to
assure to the utmost self-preservation, is that which is framed
according to the dictate of reason, therefore it follows, that that in
every kind is best done, which a man or commonwealth does, so far as he
or it is in the highest degree independent. For it is one thing to till
a field by right, and another to till it in the best way. One thing, I
say, to defend or preserve one's self, and to pass judgment by right,
and another to defend or preserve one's self in the best way, and to
pass the best judgment; and, consequently, it is one thing to have
dominion and care of affairs of state by right, and another to exercise
dominion and direct affairs of state in the best way. And so, as we have
treated of the right of every commonwealth in general, it is time to
treat of the best state of every dominion.

2. Now the quality of the state of any dominion is easily perceived from
the end of the civil state, which end is nothing else but peace and
security of life. And therefore that dominion is the best, where men
pass their lives in unity, and the laws are kept unbroken. For it is
certain, that seditions, wars, and contempt or breach of the laws are
not so much to be imputed to the wickedness of the subjects, as to the
bad state of a dominion. For men are not born fit for citizenship, but
must be made so. Besides, men's natural passions are everywhere the
same; and if wickedness more prevails, and more offences are committed
in one commonwealth than in another, it is certain that the former has
not enough pursued the end of unity, nor framed its laws with sufficient
forethought; and that, therefore, it has failed in making quite good its
right as a commonwealth. For a civil state, which has not done away with
the causes of seditions, where war is a perpetual object of fear, and
where, lastly, the laws are often broken, differs but little from the
mere state of nature, in which everyone lives after his own mind at the
great risk of his life.

3. But as the vices and inordinate licence and contumacy of subjects
must be imputed to the commonwealth, so, on the other hand, their virtue
and constant obedience to the laws are to be ascribed in the main to the
virtue and perfect right of the commonwealth, as is clear from Chap. II.
Sec. 15. And so it is deservedly reckoned to Hannibal as an
extraordinary virtue, that in his army there never arose a sedition. [1]

4. Of a commonwealth, whose subjects are but hindered by terror from
taking arms, it should rather be said, that it is free from war, than
that it has peace. For peace is not mere absence of war, but is a virtue
that springs from force of character: for obedience (Chap. II. Sec. 19)
is the constant will to execute what, by the general decree of the
commonwealth, ought to be done. Besides that commonwealth, whose peace
depends on the sluggishness of its subjects, that are led about like
sheep, to learn but slavery, may more properly be called a desert than a

5. When, then, we call that dominion best, where men pass their lives in
unity, I understand a human life, defined not by mere circulation of the
blood, and other qualities common to all animals, but above all by
reason, the true excellence and life of the mind.

6. But be it remarked that, by the dominion which I have said is
established for this end, I intend that which has been established by a
free multitude, not that which is acquired over a multitude by right of
war. For a free multitude is guided more by hope than fear; a conquered
one, more by fear than hope: inasmuch as the former aims at making use
of life, the latter but at escaping death. The former, I say, aims at
living for its own ends, the latter is forced to belong to the
conqueror; and so we say that this is enslaved, but that free. And,
therefore, the end of a dominion, which one gets by right of war, is to
be master, and have rather slaves than subjects. And although between
the dominion created by a free multitude, and that gained by right of
war, if we regard generally the right of each, we can make no essential
distinction; yet their ends, as we have already shown, and further the
means to the preservation of each are very different.

7. But what means a prince, whose sole motive is lust of mastery, should
use to establish and maintain his dominion, the most ingenious
Machiavelli has set forth at large, [2] but with what design one can
hardly be sure. If, however, he had some good design, as one should
believe of a learned man, it seems to have been to show, with how little
foresight many attempt to remove a tyrant, though thereby the causes
which make the prince a tyrant can in no wise be removed, but, on the
contrary, are so much the more established, as the prince is given more
cause to fear, which happens when the multitude has made an example of
its prince, and glories in the parricide as in a thing well done.
Moreover, he perhaps wished to show how cautious a free multitude should
be of entrusting its welfare absolutely to one man, who, unless in his
vanity he thinks he can please everybody, must be in daily fear of
plots, and so is forced to look chiefly after his own interest, and, as
for the multitude, rather to plot against it than consult its good. And
I am the more led to this opinion concerning that most far-seeing man,
because it is known that he was favourable to liberty, for the
maintenance of which he has besides given the most wholesome advice.


1. Justin, Histories, xxxii. iv. 12.

2. In his book called "Il Principe," or "The Prince." 




INASMUCH as men are led, as we have said, more by passion than reason,
it follows, that a multitude comes together, and wishes to be guided, as
it were, by one mind, not at the suggestion of reason, but of some
common passion -- that is (Chap. III. Sec. 9), common hope, or fear, or
the desire of avenging some common hurt. But since fear of solitude
exists in all men, because no one in solitude is strong enough to defend
himself, and procure the necessaries of life, it follows that men
naturally aspire to the civil state; nor can it happen that men should
ever utterly dissolve it.

2. Accordingly, from the quarrels and seditions which are often stirred
up in a commonwealth, it never results that the citizens dissolve it, as
often happens in the case of other associations; but only that they
change its form into some other -- that is, of course, if the disputes
cannot be settled, and the features of the commonwealth at the same time
preserved. Wherefore, by means necessary to preserve a dominion, I
intend such things as are necessary to preserve the existing form of the
dominion, without any notable change.

3. But if human nature were so constituted, that men most desired what
is most useful, no art would be needed to produce unity and confidence.
But, as it is admittedly far otherwise with human nature, a dominion
must of necessity be so ordered, that all, governing and governed alike,
whether they will or no, shall do what makes for the general welfare;
that is, that all, whether of their own impulse, or by force or
necessity, shall be compelled to live according to the dictate of
reason. And this is the case, if the affairs of the dominion be so
managed, that nothing which affects the general welfare is entirely
entrusted to the good faith of any one. For no man is so watchful, that
he never falls asleep; and no man ever had a character so vigorous and
honest, but he sometimes, and that just when strength of character was
most wanted, was diverted from his purpose and let himself be overcome.
And it is surely folly to require of another what one can never obtain
from one's self; I mean, that he should be more watchful for another's
interest than his own, that he should be free from avarice, envy, and
ambition, and so on; especially when he is one, who is subject daily to
the strongest temptations of every passion. 

4. But, on the other hand, experience is thought to teach, that it makes
for peace and concord, to confer the whole authority upon one man. For
no dominion has stood so long without any notable change, as that of the
Turks, and on the other hand there were none so little lasting, as
those, which were popular or democratic, nor any in which so many
seditions arose. Yet if slavery, barbarism, and desolation are to be
called peace, men can have no worse misfortune. No doubt there are
usually more and sharper quarrels between parents and children, than
between masters and slaves; yet it advances not the art of housekeeping,
to change a father's right into a right of property, and count children
but as slaves. Slavery then, not peace, is furthered by handing over to
one man the whole authority. For peace, as we said before, consists not
in mere absence of war, but in a union or agreement of minds.

5. And in fact they are much mistaken, who suppose that one man can by
himself hold the supreme right of a commonwealth. For the only limit of
right, as we showed (Chap. II.), is power. But the power of one man is
very inadequate to support so great a load. And hence it arises, that
the man, whom the multitude has chosen king, looks out for himself
generals, or counsellors, or friends, to whom he entrusts his own and
the common welfare; so that the dominion, which is thought to be a
perfect monarchy, is in actual working an aristocracy, not, indeed, an
open but a hidden one, and therefore the worst of all. Besides which, a
king, who is a boy, or ill, or overcome by age, is but king on
sufferance; and those in this case have the supreme authority, who
administer the highest business of the dominion, or are near the king's
person; not to mention, that a lascivious king often manages everything
at the caprice of this or that mistress or minion. "I had heard," says
Orsines, "that women once reigned in Asia, but for a eunuch to reign is
something new." [1]

6. It is also certain, that a commonwealth is always in greater danger
from its citizens than from its enemies; for the good are few. Whence it
follows, that he, upon whom the whole right of the dominion has been
conferred, will always be more afraid of citizens than of enemies, and
therefore will look to his own safety, and not try to consult his
subjects' interests, but to plot against them, especially against those
who are renowned for learning, or have influence through wealth. 

7. It must besides be added, that kings fear their sons also more than
they love them, and so much the more as the latter are skilled in the
arts of war and peace, and endeared to the subjects by their virtues.
Whence it comes, that kings try so to educate their sons, that they may
have no reason to fear them. Wherein ministers very readily obey the
king, and will be at the utmost pains, that the successor may be an
inexperienced king, whom they can hold tightly in hand.

8. From all which it follows, that the more absolutely the
commonwealth's right is transferred to the king, the less independent he
is, and the more unhappy is the condition of his subjects. And so, that
a monarchical dominion may be duly established, it is necessary to lay
solid foundations, to build it on; from which may result to the monarch
safety, and to the multitude peace; and, therefore, to lay them in such
a way, that the monarch may then be most independent, when he most
consults the multitude's welfare. But I will first briefly state, what
these foundations of a monarchical dominion are, and afterwards prove
them in order.

9. One or more cities must be founded and fortified, whose citizens,
whether they live within the walls, or outside for purposes of
agriculture, are all to enjoy the same right in the commonwealth; yet on
this condition, that every city provide an ascertained number of
citizens for its own and the general defence. But a city, which cannot
supply this, must be held in subjection on other terms. 

10. The militia must be formed out of citizens alone, none being exempt,
and of no others. And, therefore, all are to be bound to have arms, and
no one to be admitted into the number of the citizens, till he has
learnt his drill, and promised to practise it at stated times in the
year. Next, the militia of each clan is to be divided into battalions
and regiments, and no captain of a battalion chosen, that is not
acquainted with military engineering. Moreover, though the commanders of
battalions and regiments are to be chosen for life, yet the commander of
the militia of a whole clan is to be chosen only in time of war, to hold
command for a year at most, without power of being continued or
afterwards re-appointed. And these last are to be selected out of the
king's counsellors, of whom we shall speak in the fifteenth and
following sections, or out of those who have filled the post of

11. The townsmen and countrymen of every city, that is, the whole of the
citizens, are to be divided into clans, distinguished by some name and
badge, and all persons born of any of these clans are to be received
into the number of citizens, and their names inscribed on the roll of
their clan, as soon as they have reached the age, when they can carry
arms and know their duty; with the exception of those, who are infamous
from some crime, or dumb, or mad, or menials supporting life by some
servile office.

12. The fields, and the whole soil, and, if it can be managed, the
houses should be public property, that is, the property of him, who
holds the right of the commonwealth: and let him let them at a yearly
rent to the citizens, whether townsmen or countrymen, and with this
exception let them all be free or exempt from every kind of taxation in
time of peace. And of this rent a part is to be applied to the defences
of the state, a part to the king's private use. For it is necessary in
time of peace to fortify cities against war, and also to have ready
ships and other munitions of war.

13. After the selection of the king from one of the clans, none are to
be held noble, but his descendants, who are therefore to be
distinguished by royal insignia from their own and the other clans.

14. Those male nobles, who are the reigning king's collaterals, and
stand to him in the third or fourth degree of consanguinity, must not
marry, and any children they may have had, are to be accounted bastards,
and unworthy of any dignity, nor may they be recognized as heirs to
their parents, whose goods must revert to the king.

15. Moreover the king's counsellors, who are next to him in dignity,
must be numerous, and chosen out of the citizens only; that is
(supposing there to be no more than six hundred clans) from every clan
three or four or five, who will form together one section of this
council; and not for life, but for three, four, or five years, so that
every year a third, fourth, or fifth part may be replaced by selection,
in which selection it must be observed as a first condition, that out of
every clan at least one counsellor chosen be a jurist.

16. The selection must be made by the king himself, who should fix a
time of year for the choice of fresh counsellors. Each clan must then
submit to the king the names of all its citizens, who have reached their
fiftieth year, and have been duly put forward as candidates for this
office, and out of these the king will choose whom he pleases. But in
that year, when the jurist of any clan is to be replaced, only the names
of jurists are to be submitted to the king. Those who have filled this
office of counsellor for the appointed time, are not to be continued
therein, nor to be replaced on the list of candidates for five years or
more. But the reason why one is to be chosen every year out of every
clan is, that the council may not be composed alternately of untried
novices, and of veterans versed in affairs, which must necessarily be
the case, were all to retire at once, and new men to succeed them. But
if every year one be chosen out of every family, then only a fifth,
fourth, or at most a third part of the council will consist of novices.
Further, if the king be prevented by other business, or for any other
reason, from being able to spare time for this choice, then let the
counsellors themselves choose others for a time, until the king either
chooses different ones, or confirms the choice of the council.

17. Let the primary function of this council be to defend the
fundamental laws of the dominion, and to give advice about
administration, that the king may know, what for the public good ought
to be decreed: and that on the understanding, that the king may not
decide in any matter, without first hearing the opinion of this council.
But if, as will generally happen, the council is not of one mind, but is
divided in opinion, even after discussing the same subject two or three
times, there must be no further delay, but the different opinions are to
be submitted to the king, as in the twenty-fifth section of this chapter
we shall show.

18. Let it be also the duty of this council to publish the king's orders
or decrees, and to see to the execution of any decree concerning affairs
of state, and to supervise the administration of the whole dominion, as
the king's deputies.

19. The citizens should have no access to the king, save through this
council, to which are to be handed all demands or petitions, that they
may be presented to the king. Nor should the envoys of other
commonwealths be allowed to obtain permission to address the king, but
through the council. Letters, too, sent from elsewhere to the king, must
be handed to him by the council. And in general the king is to be
accounted as the mind of the commonwealth, but the council as the senses
outside the mind, or the commonwealth's body, through whose intervention
the mind understands the state of the commonwealth, and acts as it
judges best for itself.

20. The care of the education of the king's sons should also fall on
this council, and the guardianship, where a king has died, leaving as
his successor an infant or boy. Yet lest meanwhile the council should be
left without a king, one of the elder nobles of the commonwealth should
be chosen to fill the king's place, till the legitimate heir has reached
the age at which he can support the weight of government.

21. Let the candidates for election to this council be such as know the
system of government, and the foundations, and state or condition of the
commonwealth, whose subjects they are. But he that would fill the place
of a jurist must, besides the government and condition of the
commonwealth, whose subject he is, be likewise acquainted with those of
the other commonwealths, with which it has any intercourse. But none are
to be placed upon the list of candidates, unless they have reached their
fiftieth year without being convicted of crime.

22. In this council no decision is to be taken about the affairs of the
dominion, but in the presence of all the members. But if anyone be
unable through illness or other cause to attend, he must send in his
stead one of the same clan, who has filled the office of counsellor or
been put on the list of candidates. Which if he neglect to do, and the
council through his absence be forced to adjourn any matter, let him be
fined a considerable sum. But this must be understood to mean, when the
question is of a matter affecting the whole dominion, as of peace or
war, of abrogating or establishing a law, of trade, &c. But if the
question be one that affects only a particular city or two, as about
petitions, &c., it will suffice that a majority of the council attend.

23. To maintain a perfect equality between the clans, and a regular
order in sitting, making proposals, and speaking, every clan is to take
in turn the presidency at the sittings, a different clan at every
sitting, and that which was first at one sitting is to be last at the
next. But among members of the same clan, let precedence go by priority
of election.

24. This council should be summoned at least four times a year, to
demand of the ministers account of their administration of the dominion,
to ascertain the state of affairs, and see if anything else needs
deciding. For it seems impossible for so large a number of citizens to
have constant leisure for public business. But as in the meantime public
business must none the less be carried on, therefore fifty or more are
to be chosen out of this council to supply its place after its
dismissal; and these should meet daily in a chamber next the king's, and
so have daily care of the treasury, the cities, the fortifications, the
education of the king's son, and in general of all those duties of the
great council, which we have just enumerated, except that they cannot
take counsel about new matters, concerning which no decision has been

25. On the meeting of the council, before anything is proposed in it,
let five, six, or more jurists of the clans, which stand first in order
of place at that session, attend on the king, to deliver to him
petitions or letters, if they have any, to declare to him the state of
affairs, and, lastly, to understand from him what he bids them propose
in his council; and when they have heard this, let them return to the
council, and let the first in precedence open the matter of debate. But,
in matters which seem to any of them to be of some moment, let not the
votes be taken at once, but let the voting be adjourned to such a date
as the urgency of the matter allows. When, then, the council stands
adjourned till the appointed time, the counsellors of every clan will
meanwhile be able to debate the matter separately, and, if they think it
of great moment, to consult others that have been counsellors, or are
candidates for the council. And if within the appointed time the
counsellors of any clan cannot agree among themselves, that clan shall
lose its vote, for every clan can give but one vote. But, otherwise, let
the jurist of the clan lay before the council the opinion they have
decided to be best; and so with the rest. And if the majority of the
council think fit, after hearing the grounds of every opinion, to
consider the matter again, let the council be again adjourned to a date,
at which every clan shall pronounce its final opinion; and then, at
last, before the entire council, let the votes be taken, and that
opinion be invalidated which has not at least a hundred votes. But let
the other opinions be submitted to the king by all the jurists present
at the council, that, after hearing every party's arguments, he may
select which opinion he pleases. And then let the jurists leave him, and
return to the council; and there let all await the king at the time
fixed by himself, that all may hear which opinion of those proposed he
thinks fit to adopt, and what he decides should be done.

26. For the administration of justice, another council is to be formed
of jurists, whose business should be to decide suits, and punish
criminals, but so that all the judgments they deliver be tested by those
who are for the time members of the great council -- that is, as to
their having been delivered according to the due process of justice, and
without partiality. But if the losing party can prove, that any judge
has been bribed by the adversary, or that there is some mutual cause of
friendship between the judge and the adversary, or of hatred between the
judge and himself, or, lastly, that the usual process of justice has not
been observed, let such party be restored to his original position. But
this would, perhaps, not be observed by such as love to convict the
accused in a criminal case, rather by torture than proofs. But, for all
that, I can conceive on this point of no other process of justice than
the above, that befits the best system of governing a commonwealth.

27. Of these judges, there should be a large and odd number -- for
instance, sixty-one, or at least forty-one, -- and not more than one is
to be chosen of one clan, and that not for life, but every year a
certain proportion are to retire, and be replaced by as many others out
of different clans, that have reached their fortieth year.

28. In this council, let no judgment be pronounced save in the presence
of all the judges. But if any judge, from disease or other cause, shall
for a long time be unable to attend the council, let another be chosen
for that time to fill his place. But in giving their votes, they are all
not to utter their opinions aloud, but to signify them by ballot.

29. Let those who supply others' places in this and the first-mentioned
council first be paid out of the goods of those whom they have condemned
to death, and also out of the fines of which any are mulcted. Next,
after every judgment they pronounce in a civil suit, let them receive a
certain proportion of the whole sum at stake for the benefit of both

30. Let there be in every city other subordinate councils, whose members
likewise must not be chosen for life, but must be partially renewed
every year, out of the clans who live there only. But there is no need
to pursue this further.

31. No military pay is to be granted in time of peace; but, in time of
war, military pay is to be allowed to those only, who support their
lives by daily labour. But the commanders and other officers of the
battalions are to expect no other advantage from war but the spoil of
the enemy. 

32. If a foreigner takes to wife the daughter of a citizen, his children
are to be counted citizens, and put on the roll of their mother's clan.
But those who are born and bred within the dominion of foreign parents
should be allowed to purchase at a fixed price the right of citizenship
from the captains of thousands of any clan, and to be enrolled in that
clan. For no harm can arise thence to the dominion, even though the
captains of thousands, for a bribe, admit a foreigner into the number of
their citizens for less than the fixed price; but, on the contrary,
means should be devised for more easily increasing the number of
citizens, and producing a large confluence of men. As for those who are
not enrolled as citizens, it is but fair that, at least in war-time,
they should pay for their exemption from service by some forced labour
or tax.

33. The envoys to be sent in time of peace to other commonwealths must
be chosen out of the nobles only, and their expenses met by the state
treasury, and not the king's privy purse.

34. Those that attend the court, and are the king's servants, and are
paid out of his privy purse, must be excluded from every appointment and
office in the commonwealth. I say expressly, "and are paid out of the
king's privy purse," to except the body-guard. For there should be no
other body-guard, but the citizens of the king's city, who should take
turns to keep guard at court before the king's door.

35. War is only to be made for the sake of peace, so that, at its end,
one may be rid of arms. And so, when cities have been taken by right of
war, and terms of peace are to be made after the enemies are subdued,
the captured cities must not be garrisoned and kept; but either the
enemy, on accepting the terms of peace, should be allowed to redeem them
at a price, or, if by following that policy, there would, by reason of
the danger of the position, remain a constant lurking anxiety, they must
be utterly destroyed, and the inhabitants removed elsewhere.

36. The king must not be allowed to contract a foreign marriage, but
only to take to wife one of his kindred, or of the citizens; yet, on
condition that, if he marries a citizen, her near relations become
incapable of holding office in the commonwealth.

37. The dominion must be indivisible. And so, if the king leaves more
than one child, let the eldest one succeed; but by no means be it
allowed to divide the dominion between them, or to give it undivided to
all or several of them, much less to give a part of it as a daughter's
dowry. For that daughters should be admitted to the inheritance of a
dominion is in no wise to be allowed.

38. If the king die leaving no male issue, let the next to him in blood
be held the heir to the dominion, unless he chance to have married a
foreign wife, whom he will not put away.

39. As for the citizens, it is manifest (Chap. III. Sec. 5) that every
one of them ought to obey all the commands of the king, and the decrees
published by the great council, although he believe them to be most
absurd, and otherwise he may rightfully be forced to obey. And these are
the foundations of a monarchical dominion, on which it must be built, if
it is to be stable, as we shall show in the next chapter.

40. As for religion, no temples whatever ought to be built at the public
expense; nor ought laws to be established about opinions, unless they be
seditious and overthrow the foundations of the commonwealth. And so let
such as are allowed the public exercise of their religion build a temple
at their own expense. But the king may have in his palace a chapel of
his own, that he may practise the religion to which he belongs.


1. Curtius, x. 1.




AFTER explaining the foundations of a monarchical dominion, I have taken
in hand to prove here in order the fitness of such foundations. And to
this end the first point to be noted is, that it is in no way repugnant
to experience, for laws to be so firmly fixed, that not the king himself
can abolish them. For though the Persians worshipped their kings as
gods, yet had not the kings themselves authority to revoke laws once
established, as appears from Daniel, [1] and nowhere, as far as I know,
is a monarch chosen absolutely without any conditions expressed. Nor yet
is it repugnant to reason or the absolute obedience due to a king. For
the foundations of the dominion are to be considered as eternal decrees
of the king, so that his ministers entirely obey him in refusing to
execute his orders, when he commands anything contrary to the same.
Which we can make plain by the example of Ulysses. [2] For his comrades
were executing his own order, when they would not untie him, when he was
bound to the mast and captivated by the Sirens' song, although he gave
them manifold orders to do so, and that with threats. And it is ascribed
to his forethought, that he afterwards thanked his comrades for obeying
him according to his first intention. And, after this example of
Ulysses, kings often instruct judges, to administer justice without
respect of persons, not even of the king himself, if by some singular
accident he order anything contrary to established law. For kings are
not gods, but men, who are often led captive by the Sirens' song. If
then everything depended on the inconstant will of one man, nothing
would be fixed. And so, that a monarchical dominion may be stable, it
must be ordered, so that everything be done by the king's decree only,
that is, so that every law be an explicit will of the king, but not
every will of the king a law; as to which see Chap. VI. Sects. 3, 5, 6.

2. It must next be observed, that in laying foundations it is very
necessary to study the human passions: and it is not enough to have
shown, what ought to be done, but it ought, above all, to be shown how
it can be effected, that men, whether led by passion or reason, should
yet keep the laws firm and unbroken. For if the constitution of the
dominion, or the public liberty depends only on the weak assistance of
the laws, not only will the citizens have no security for its
maintenance (as we showed in the third section of the last chapter), but
it will even turn to their ruin. For this is certain, that no condition
of a commonwealth is more wretched than that of the best, when it begins
to totter, unless at one blow it falls with a rush into slavery, which
seems to be quite impossible. And, therefore, it would be far better for
the subjects to transfer their rights absolutely to one man, than to
bargain for unascertained and empty, that is unmeaning, terms of
liberty, and so prepare for their posterity a way to the most cruel
servitude. But if I succeed in showing that the foundation of
monarchical dominion, which I stated in the last chapter, are firm and
cannot be plucked up, without the indignation of the larger part of an
armed multitude, and that from them follow peace and security for king
and multitude, and if I deduce this from general human nature, no one
will be able to doubt, that these foundations are the best and the true
ones (Chap. III. Sec. 9, and Chap. VI. Sects. 3, 8). But that such is
their nature, I will show as briefly as possible.

3. That the duty of him, who holds the dominion, is always to know its
state and condition, to watch over the common welfare of all, and to
execute whatever is to the interest of the majority of the subjects, is
admitted by all. But as one person alone is unable to examine into
everything, and cannot always have his mind ready and turn it to
meditation, and is often hindered by disease, or old age, or other
causes, from having leisure for public business; therefore it is
necessary that the monarch have counsellors to know the state of
affairs, and help the king with their advice, and frequently supply his
place; and that so it come to pass, that the dominion or commonwealth
may continue always in one and the same mind. 

4. But as human nature is so constituted, that everyone seeks with the
utmost passion his own advantage, and judges those laws to be most
equitable, which he thinks necessary to preserve and increase his
substance, and defends another's cause so far only as he thinks he is
thereby establishing his own; it follows hence, that the counsellors
chosen must be such, that their private affairs and their own interests
depend on the general welfare and peace of all. And so it is evident,
that if from every sort or class of citizens a certain number be chosen,
what has most votes in such a council will be to the interest of the
greater part of the subjects. And though this council, because it is
composed of so large a number of citizens, must of necessity be attended
by many of very simple intellect, yet this is certain, that everyone is
pretty clever and sagacious in business which he has long and eagerly
practised. And, therefore, if none be chosen but such as have till their
fiftieth year practised their own business without disgrace, they will
be fit enough to give their advice about their own affairs, especially
if, in matters of considerable importance, a time be allowed for
consideration. Besides, it is far from being the fact, that a council
composed of a few is not frequented by this kind of men. For, on the
contrary, its greatest part must consist of such, since everyone, in
that case, tries hard to have dullards for colleagues, that they may
hang on his words, for which there is no opportunity in large councils.

5. Furthermore, it is certain, that everyone would rather rule than be
ruled. "For no one of his own will yields up dominion to another," as
Sallust has it in his first speech to Caesar. [3] And, therefore, it is
clear, that a whole multitude will never transfer its right to a few or
to one, if it can come to an agreement with itself, without proceeding
from the controversies, which generally arise in large councils, to
seditions. And so the multitude does not, if it is free, transfer to the
king anything but that, which it cannot itself have absolutely within
its authority, namely, the ending of controversies and the using
despatch in decisions. For as to the case which often arises, where a
king is chosen on account of war, that is, because war is much more
happily conducted by kings, it is manifest folly, I say, that men should
choose slavery in time of peace for the sake of better fortune in war;
if, indeed, peace can be conceived of in a dominion, where merely for
the sake of war the highest authority is transferred to one man, who is,
therefore, best able to show his worth and the importance to everyone of
his single self in time of war; whereas, on the contrary, democracy has
this advantage, that its excellence is greater in peace than in war.
However, for whatever reason a king is chosen, he cannot by himself, as
we said just now, know what will be to the interest of the dominion: but
for this purpose, as we showed in the last section, will need many
citizens for his counsellors. And as we cannot at all suppose, that any
opinion can be conceived about a matter proposed for discussion, which
can have escaped the notice of so large a number of men, it follows,
that no opinion can be conceived tending to the people's welfare,
besides all the opinions of this council, which are submitted to the
king. And so, since the people's welfare is the highest law, or the
king's utmost right, it follows, that the king's utmost right is but to
choose one of the opinions offered by the council, not to decree
anything, or offer any opinion contrary to the mind of all the council
at once (Chap. VI. Sec. 25). But if all the opinions offered in the
council were to be submitted to the king, then it might happen that the
king would always favour the small cities, which have the fewest votes.
For though by the constitution of the council it be ordained, that the
opinions should be submitted to the king without mention of their
supporters, yet they will never be able to take such good care, but that
some opinion will get divulged. And, therefore, it must of necessity be
provided, that that opinion, which has not gained at least a hundred
votes, shall be held void; and this law the larger cities will be sure
to defend with all their might.

6. And here, did I not study brevity, I would show other advantages of
this council; yet one, which seems of the greatest importance, I will
allege. I mean, that there can be given no greater inducement to virtue,
than this general hope of the highest honour. For by ambition are we all
most led, as in our Ethics we showed to be the case. [4]

7. But it cannot be doubted that the majority of this council will never
be minded to wage war, but rather always pursue and love peace. For
besides that war will always cause them fear of losing their property
and liberty, it is to be added, that war requires fresh expenditure,
which they must meet, and also that their own children and relatives,
though intent on their domestic cares, will be forced to turn their
attention to war and go a-soldiering, whence they will never bring back
anything but unpaid-for scars. For, as we said (Chap. VI. Sec. 31), no
pay is to be given to the militia, and (Chap. VI. Sec. 10) it is to be
formed out of citizens only and no others.

8. There is another accession to the cause of peace and concord, which
is also of great weight: I mean, that no citizen can have immovable
property (Chap. VI. Sec. 12). Hence all will have nearly an equal risk
in war. For all will be obliged, for the sake of gain, to practise
trade, or lend money to one another, if, as formerly by the Athenians, a
law be passed, forbidding to lend money at interest to any but
inhabitants; and thus they will be engaged in business, which either is
mutually involved, one man's with another's, or needs the same means for
its furtherance. And thus the greatest part of this council will
generally have one and the same mind about their common affairs and the
arts of peace. For, as we said (Sec. 4), every man defends another's
cause, so far as he thinks thereby to establish his own.

9. It cannot be doubted, that it will never occur to anyone to corrupt
this council with bribes. For were any man to draw over to his side some
one or two out of so great a number of men, he would gain nothing. For,
as we said, the opinion, which does not gain at least a hundred votes,
is void.

10. We shall also easily see, that, once this council is established its
members cannot be reduced to a less number, if we consider the common
passions of mankind. For all are guided mostly by ambition, and there is
no man who lives in health but hopes to attain extreme old age. If then
we calculate the number of those who actually reach their fiftieth or
sixtieth year, and further take into account the number that are every
year chosen of this great council, we shall see, that there can hardly
be a man of those who bear arms, but is under the influence of a great
hope of attaining this dignity. And so they will all, to the best of
their power, defend this law of the council. For be it noted, that
corruption, unless it creep in gradually, is easily prevented. But as it
can be more easily supposed, and would be less invidious, that a less
number should be chosen out of every clan, than that a less number
should be chosen out of a few clans, or that one or two clans should be
altogether excluded; therefore (Chap. VI. Sec. 15) the number of
counsellors cannot be reduced, unless a third, fourth, or fifth part be
removed simultaneously, which change is a very great one, and therefore
quite repugnant to common practice. Nor need one be afraid of delay or
negligence in choosing, because this is remedied by the council itself.
See Chap. VI. Sec. 16.

11. The king, then, whether he is induced by fear of the multitude, or
aims at binding to himself the majority of an armed multitude, or is
guided by a generous spirit, a wish that is, to consult the public
interest, will always confirm that opinion, which has gained most votes,
that is (Sec. 5), [5] which is to the interest of the greater part of
the dominion; and will study to reconcile the divergent opinions
referred to him, if it can be done, that he may attach all to himself
(in which he will exert all his powers), and that alike in peace and war
they may find out, what an advantage his single self is to them. And
thus he will then be most independent, and most in possession of
dominion, when he most consults the general welfare of the multitude.

12. For the king by himself cannot restrain all by fear. But his power,
as we have said, rests upon the number of his soldiers, and especially
on their valour and faith, which will always remain so long enduring
between men, as with them is joined need, be that need honourable or
disgraceful. And this is why kings usually are fonder of exciting than
restraining their soldiery, and shut their eyes more to their vices than
to their virtues, and generally, to hold under the best of them, seek
out, distinguish, and assist with money or favour the idle, and those
who have ruined themselves by debauchery, and shake hands with them, and
throw them kisses, and for the sake of mastery stoop to every servile
action. In order therefore that the citizens may be distinguished by the
king before all others, and, as far as the civil state and equity
permit, may remain independent, it is necessary that the militia should
consist of citizens only, and that citizens should be his counsellors;
and on the contrary citizens are altogether subdued, and are laying the
foundations of eternal war, from the moment that they suffer mercenaries
to be levied, whose trade is war, and who have most power in strifes and

13. That the king's counsellors ought not to be elected for life, but
for three, four, or five years, is clear as well from the tenth, as from
what we said in the ninth section of this chapter. For if they were
chosen for life, not only could the greatest part of the citizens
conceive hardly any hope of obtaining this honour, and thus there would
arise a great inequality, and thence envy, and constant murmurs, and at
last seditions, which, no doubt, would be welcome to kings greedy of
mastery: but also the counsellors, being rid of the fear of their
successors, would assume a great licence in all respects, which the king
would be far from opposing. For the more the citizens hate them, the
more they will cling to the king, and be ready to flatter him. Nay, the
interval of five years seems even too much, for in such a space of time
it does not seem so impossible to corrupt by bribes or favour a very
large part of the council, however large it be. And therefore it will be
far safer, if every year two out of every clan retire, and be replaced
by as many more (supposing that there are to be five counsellors of each
clan), except in the year in which the jurist of any clan retires, and a
fresh one is chosen in his place.

14. Moreover, no king can promise himself more safety, than he who
reigns in a commonwealth of this sort. For besides that a king soon
perishes, when his soldiers cease to desire his safety, it is certain
that kings are always in the greatest danger from those who are nearest
their persons. The fewer counsellors, then, there are, and the more
powerful they consequently are, the more the king is in danger of their
transferring the dominion to another. Nothing in fact more alarmed
David, than that his own counsellor Ahitophel sided with Absalom. [6]
Still more is this the case, if the whole authority has been transferred
absolutely to one man, because it can then be more easily transferred
from one to another. For two private soldiers once took in hand to
transfer the Roman empire, and did transfer it. [7] I omit the arts and
cunning wiles, whereby counsellors have to assure themselves against
falling victims to their unpopularity; for they are but too well known,
and no one, who has read history, can be ignorant, that the good faith
of counsellors has generally turned to their ruin. And so, for their own
safety, it behoves them to be cunning, not faithful. But if the
counsellors are too numerous to unite in the same crime, and are all
equal, and do not hold their office beyond a period of four years, they
cannot be at all objects of fear to the king, except he attempt to take
away their liberty, wherein he will offend all the citizens equally.
For, as Antonio Perez [8] excellently observes, an absolute dominion is
to the prince very dangerous, to the subjects very hateful, and to the
institutes of God and man alike opposed, as innumerable instances show.

15. Besides these we have, in the last chapter, laid other foundations,
by which the king is greatly secured in his dominion, and the citizens
in their hold of peace and liberty, which foundations we will reason out
in their proper places. For I was anxious above everything to reason out
all those, which refer to the great council and are of the greatest
importance. Now I will continue with the others, in the same order in
which I stated them.

16. It is undoubted, that citizens are more powerful, and, therefore,
more independent, the larger and better fortified their towns are. For
the safer the place is, in which they are, the better they can defend
their liberty, and the less they need fear an enemy, whether without or
within; and it is certain that the more powerful men are by their
riches, the more they by nature study their own safety. But cities which
need the help of another for their preservation are not on terms of
equal right with that other, but are so far dependent on his right as
they need his help. For we showed in the second chapter, that right is
determined by power alone.

17. For the same reason, also, I mean that the citizens may continue
independent, and defend their liberty, the militia ought to be composed
of the citizens only, and none of them to be exempted. For an armed man
is more independent than an unarmed (Sec. 12); and those citizens
transfer absolutely their own right to another, and entrust it entirely
to his good faith, who have given him their arms and the defences of
their cities. Human avarice, by which most men are very much led, adds
its weight to this view. For it cannot be, that a mercenary force be
hired without great expense; and citizens can hardly endure the
exactions required to maintain an idle soldiery. But that no man, who
commands the whole or a large part of the militia, should, except under
pressure of necessity, be chosen for the extreme term of a year, all are
aware, who have read history, alike sacred and profane. For there is
nothing that reason more clearly teaches. For surely the might of
dominion is altogether entrusted to him, who is allowed enough time to
gain military glory, and raise his fame above the king's, or to make the
army faithful to himself by flattery, largesses, and the other arts,
whereby generals are accustomed to procure the enslavement of others,
and the mastery for themselves. Lastly, I have added this point for the
greater safety of the whole dominion, that these commanders of the
militia are to be selected from the king's counsellors or ex-counsellors
-- that is, from men who have reached the age at which mankind generally
prefer what is old and safe to what is new and dangerous. [9]

18. I said that the citizens were to be divided into clans, [10] and an
equal number of counsellors chosen from each, in order that the larger
towns might have, in proportion to the number of their citizens, a
greater number of counsellors, and be able, as is equitable, to
contribute more votes. For the power and, therefore, the right of a
dominion is to be estimated by the number of its citizens; and I do not
believe that any fitter means can be devised for maintaining this
equality between citizens, who are all by nature so constituted, that
everyone wishes to be attributed to his own stock, and be distinguished
by race from the rest.

19. Furthermore, in the state of nature, there is nothing which any man
can less claim for himself, and make his own, than the soil, and
whatever so adheres to the soil, that he cannot hide it anywhere, nor
carry it whither he pleases. The soil, therefore, and whatever adheres
to it in the way we have mentioned, must be quite common property of the
commonwealth -- that is, of all those who, by their united force, can
vindicate their claim to it, or of him to whom all have given authority
to vindicate his claim. And therefore the soil, and all that adheres to
it, ought to have a value with the citizens proportionate to the
necessity there is, that they may be able to set their feet thereon, and
defend their common right or liberty. But in the eighth section of this
chapter we have shown the advantages that the commonwealth must
necessarily derive hence.

20. In order that the citizens may be as far as possible equal, which is
of the first necessity in a commonwealth, none but the descendants of a
king are to be thought noble. But if all the descendants of kings were
allowed to marry wives, or beget children, they would grow, in process
of time, to a very large number, and would be, not only burdensome, but
also a cause of very great fear, to king and all. For men who nave too
much leisure generally meditate crime. And hence it is that kings are,
on account of their nobles, very much induced to make war, because kings
surrounded with nobles find more quiet and safety in war than in peace.
But I pass by this as notorious enough, and also the points which I have
mentioned in Secs. 15-27 of the last chapter. For the main points have
been proved in this chapter, and the rest are self-evident.

21. That the judges ought to be too numerous for a large proportion of
them to be accessible to the bribes of a private man, and that they
should not vote openly, but secretly, and that they deserve payment for
their time, is known to everyone [11] But they everywhere have by custom
a yearly salary; and so they make no great haste to determine suits, and
there is often no end to trials. Next, where confiscations accrue to the
king, there frequently in trials not truth nor right, but the greatness
of a man's riches is regarded. Informers are ever at work, and everyone
who has money is snatched as a prey, which evils, though grievous and
intolerable, are excused by the necessity of warfare, and continue even
in time of peace. But the avarice of judges that are appointed but for
two or three years at most is moderated by fear of their successors, not
to mention, again, that they can have no fixed property, but must lend
their money at interest to their fellow-citizens. And so they are forced
rather to consult their welfare than to plot against them, especially if
the judges themselves, as we have said, are numerous.

22. But we have said, that no military pay is to be voted [12] For the
chief reward of military service is liberty. For in the state of nature
everyone strives, for bare liberty's sake, to defend himself to the
utmost of his power, and expects no other reward of warlike virtue but
his own independence. But, in the civil state, all the citizens together
are to be considered as a man in the state of nature; and, therefore,
when all fight on behalf of that state, all are defending themselves,
and engaged on their own business. But counsellors, judges, magistrates,
and the like, are engaged more on others' business than on their own;
and so it is but fair to pay them for their time. Besides, in war, there
can be no greater or more honourable inducement to victory than the idea
of liberty. But if, on the contrary, a certain portion of the citizens
be designated as soldiers, on which account it will be necessary to
award them a fixed pay, the king will, of necessity, distinguish them
above the rest (as we showed. Sec. 12) -- that is, will distinguish men
who are acquainted only with the arts of war, and, in time of peace,
from excess of leisure, become debauched, and, finally, from poverty,
meditate nothing but rapine, civil discord, and wars. And so we can
affirm, that a monarchy of this sort is, in fact, a state of war, and in
it only the soldiery enjoy liberty, but the rest are slaves.

23. Our remarks about the admission of foreigners (Chap. VI. Sec. 32) I
believe to be obvious. Besides, no one can doubt that the king's
blood-relations should be at a distance from him, and occupied, not by
warlike, but by peaceful business, whence they may get credit and the
dominion quiet. Though even this has not seemed a sufficient precaution
to the Turkish despots, who, therefore, make a point of slaughtering all
their brothers. And no wonder: for the more absolutely the right of
dominion has been conferred on one man, the more easily, as we showed by
an instance (Sec. 14), it can be transferred from one to another. But
that in such a monarchy, as we here suppose, in which, I mean, there is
not one mercenary soldier, the plan we have mentioned provides
sufficiently for the king's safety, is not to be doubted.

24. Nor can anyone hesitate about what we have said in the thirty-fourth
and thirty-fifth sections of the last chapter. But that the king must
not marry a foreigner [13] is easily proved. For not to mention that two
commonwealths, although united by a treaty, are yet in a state of
hostility (Chap. III. Sec. 14), it is very much to be avoided that war
should be stirred up, on account of the king's domestic affairs, both
because disputes and dissensions arise peculiarly from an alliance
founded on marriage, and because questions between two commonwealths are
mostly settled by war. Of this we read a fatal instance in Scripture.
For after the death of Solomon, who had married the king of Egypt's
daughter, his son Rehoboam waged a most disastrous war with Shishak,
king of the Egyptians, who utterly subdued him. [14] Moreover, the
marriage of Lewis XIV., king of France with the daughter of Philip IV.
was the seed of a fresh war. [15] And, besides these, very many
instances may be read in history.

25. The form of the dominion ought to be kept one and the same, and,
consequently, there should be but one king, and that of the same sex,
and the dominion should be indivisible. [16] But as to my saying that
the king's eldest son should succeed his father by right, or (if there
be no issue) the nearest to him in blood, it is clear as well from Chap.
VI. Sec. 13, as because the election of the king made by the multitude
should, if possible, last for ever. Otherwise it will necessarily
happen, that the supreme authority of the dominion will frequently pass
to the multitude, which is an extreme and, therefore, exceedingly
dangerous change. But those who, from the fact that the king is master
of the dominion, and holds it by absolute right, infer that he can hand
it over to whom he pleases, and that, therefore, the king's son is by
right heir to the dominion, are greatly mistaken. For the king's will
has so long the force of law, as he holds the sword of the commonwealth;
for the right of dominion is limited by power only. Therefore, a king
may indeed abdicate, but cannot hand the dominion over to another,
unless with the concurrence of the multitude or its stronger part. And
that this may be more clearly understood, we must remark, that children
are heirs to their parents, not by natural, but by civil law. For by the
power of the commonwealth alone is anyone master of definite property.
And, therefore, by the same power or right, whereby the will of any man
concerning his property is held good, by the same also his will remains
good after his own death, as long as the commonwealth endures. And this
is the reason, why everyone in the civil state maintains after death the
same right as he had in his lifetime, because, as we said, it is not by
his own power, but by that of the commonwealth, which is everlasting,
that he can decide anything about his property. But the king's case is
quite different. For the king's will is the civil law itself, and the
king the commonwealth itself. Therefore, by the death of the king, the
commonwealth is in a manner dead, and the civil state naturally returns
to the state of nature, and consequently the supreme authority to the
multitude, which can, therefore, lawfully lay down new and abolish old
laws. And so it appears that no man succeeds the king by right, but him
whom the multitude wills to be successor, or in a theocracy, such as the
commonwealth of the Hebrews once was, him whom God has chosen by a
prophet. We might likewise infer this from the fact that the king's
sword, or right, is in reality the will of the multitude itself, or its
stronger part; or else from the fact, that men endowed with reason never
so utterly abdicate their right, that they cease to be men, and are
accounted as sheep. But to pursue this further is unnecessary.

26. But the right of religion, or of worshipping God, no man can
transfer to another. However, we have treated of this point at length in
the last chapters of our Theologico-Political Treatise, which it is
superfluous to repeat here. And herewith I claim to have reasoned out
the foundations of the best monarchy, though briefly, yet with
sufficient clearness. But their mutual interdependence, or, in other
words, the proportions of my dominion, anyone will easily remark, who
will be at the pains to observe them as a whole with some attention. It
remains only to warn the reader, that I am here conceiving of that
monarchy, which is instituted by a free multitude, for which alone these
foundations can serve. For a multitude that has grown used to another
form of dominion will not be able without great danger of overthrow to
pluck up the accepted foundations of the whole dominion, and change its
entire fabric.

27. And what we have written will, perhaps, be received with derision by
those who limit to the populace only the vices which are inherent in all
mortals; and use such phrases as, "the mob, if it is not frightened,
inspires no little fear," and "the populace is either a humble slave, or
a haughty master," and "it has no truth or judgment," etc. But all have
one common nature. Only we are deceived by power and refinement. Whence
it comes that when two do the same thing we say, "this man may do it
with impunity, that man may not;" not because the deed, but because the
doer is different. Haughtiness is a property of rulers. Men are haughty,
but by reason of an appointment for a year; how much more then nobles,
that have their honours eternal! But their arrogance is glossed over
with importance, luxury, profusion, and a kind of harmony of vices, and
a certain cultivated folly, and elegant villainy, so that vices, each of
which looked at separately is foul and vile, because it is then most
conspicuous, appear to the inexperienced and untaught honourable and
becoming. "The mob, too, if it is not frightened, inspires no little
fear;" yes, for liberty and slavery are not easily mingled. Lastly, as
for the populace being devoid of truth and judgment, that is nothing
wonderful, since the chief business of the dominion is transacted behind
its back, and it can but make conjectures from the little, which cannot
be hidden. For it is an uncommon virtue to suspend one's judgment. So it
is supreme folly to wish to transact everything behind the backs of the
citizens, and to expect that they will not judge ill of the same, and
will not give everything an unfavourable interpretation. For if the
populace could moderate itself, and suspend its judgment about things
with which it is imperfectly acquainted, or judge rightly of things by
the little it knows already, it would surely be more fit to govern, than
to be governed. But, as we said, all have the same nature. All grow
haughty with rule, and cause fear if they do not feel it, and everywhere
truth is generally transgressed by enemies or guilty people; especially
where one or a few have mastery, and have respect in trials not to
justice or truth, but to amount of wealth.

28. Besides, paid soldiers, that are accustomed to military discipline,
and can support cold and hunger, are likely to despise a crowd of
citizens as very inferior for storming towns or fighting pitched
battles. But that my dominion is, therefore, more unhappy or less
durable, no one of sound mind will affirm. But, on the contrary,
everyone that judges things fairly will admit, that that dominion is the
most durable of all, which can content itself with preserving what it
has got, without coveting what belongs to others, and strives,
therefore, most eagerly by every means to avoid war and preserve peace.

29. But I admit that the counsels of such a dominion can hardly be
concealed. But everyone will also admit with me that it is far better
for the right counsels of a dominion to be known to its enemies, than
for the evil secrets of tyrants to be concealed from the citizens. They
who can treat secretly of the affairs of a dominion have it absolutely
under their authority, and, as they plot against the enemy in time of
war, so do they against the citizens in time of peace. Now that this
secrecy is often serviceable to a dominion, no one can deny; but that
without it the said dominion cannot subsist, no one will ever prove.
But, on the contrary, to entrust affairs of state absolutely to any man
is quite incompatible with the maintenance of liberty; and so it is
folly to choose to avoid a small loss by means of the greatest of evils.
But the perpetual refrain of those who lust after absolute dominion is,
that it is to the essential interest of the commonwealth that its
business be secretly transacted, and other like pretences, which end in
the more hateful a slavery, the more they are clothed with a show of

30. Lastly, although no dominion, as far as I know, has ever been
founded on all the conditions we have mentioned, yet from experience
itself we shall be able to prove that this form of monarchy is the best,
if we consider the causes of the preservation and overthrow of any
dominion that is not barbarous. But this I could not do without greatly
wearying the reader. However, I cannot pass over in silence one
instance, that seems worth remembering: I mean the dominion of the
Arragonese, who showed a singular loyalty towards their kings, and with
equal constancy preserved unbroken the constitution of the kingdom. For
as soon as they had cast off the slavish yoke of the Moors, they
resolved to choose themselves a king, but on what conditions they could
not quite make up their minds, and they therefore determined to consult
the sovereign pontiff of Rome. He, who in this matter certainly bore
himself as Christ's vicar, blamed them for so obstinately wishing to
choose a king, unwarned by the example of the Hebrews. However, if they
would not change their minds, then he advised them not to choose a king,
without first instituting customs equitable and suitable to the national
genius, and above all he would have them create some supreme council, to
balance the king's power like the ephors of the Lacedaemonians, and to
have absolute right to determine the disputes, which might arise between
the king and the citizens. So then, following this advice, they
established the laws, which seemed to them most equitable, of which the
supreme interpreter, and therefore supreme judge, was to be, not the
king, but the council, which they call the Seventeen, and whose
president has the title of Justice [17] This Justice then, and the
Seventeen, who are chosen for life, not by vote but by lot, have the
absolute right of revising and annulling all sentences passed upon any
citizen by other courts, civil or ecclesiastical, or by the king
himself, so that every citizen had the right to summon the king himself
before this council. Moreover, they once had the right of electing and
deposing the king. But after the lapse of many years the king, Don
Pedro, who is called the Dagger, by canvassing, bribery, promises, and
every sort of practice, at length procured the revocation of this right.
And as soon as he gained his point, he cut off, or, as I would sooner
believe, wounded his hand before them all, saying, that not without the
loss of royal blood could subjects be allowed to choose their king [18]
Yet he effected this change, but upon this condition, "That the subjects
have had and shall have the right of taking arms against any violence
whatever, whereby any may wish to enter upon the dominion to their hurt,
nay, against the king himself, or the prince, his heir, if he thus
encroach." By which condition they certainly rather rectified than
abolished that right. For, as we have shown (Chap. IV. Secs. 5, 6), a
king can be deprived of the power of ruling, not by the civil law, but
by the law of war, in other words the subjects may resist his violence
with violence. Besides this condition they stipulated others, which do
not concern our present design. Having by these customs given themselves
a constitution to the mind of all, they continued for an incredible
length of time unharmed, the king's loyalty towards his subjects being
as great as theirs towards him. But after that the kingdom fell by
inheritance to Ferdinand of Castile, who first had the surname of
Catholic; this liberty of the Arragonese began to displease the
Castilians, who therefore ceased not to urge Ferdinand to abolish these
rights. But he, not yet being accustomed to absolute dominion, dared
make no such attempt, but replied thus to his counsellors: that (not to
mention that he had received the kingdom of Arragon on those terms,
which they knew, and had most solemnly sworn to observe the same, and
that it was inhuman to break his word) he was of opinion, that his
kingdom would be stable, as long as its safety was as much to the
subjects' as to the king's interest, so that neither the king should
outweigh the subjects, nor yet the subjects the king; for that if either
party were too powerful, the weaker would not only try to recover its
former equality, but in vexation at its injury to retaliate upon the
other, whence would follow the ruin of either or both. Which very wise
language I could not enough wonder at, had it proceeded from a king
accustomed to command not freemen but slaves. Accordingly the Arragonese
retained their liberties after the time of Ferdinand, though no longer
by right but by the favour of their too powerful kings, until the reign
of Philip II., who oppressed them with better luck, but no less cruelty,
than he did the United Provinces. And although Philip III. is supposed
to have restored everything to its former position, yet the Arragonese,
partly from eagerness to flatter the powerful (for it is folly to kick
against the pricks), partly from terror, have kept nothing but the
specious names and empty forms of liberty.

31. We conclude, therefore, that the multitude may preserve under a king
an ample enough liberty; if it contrive that the king's power be
determined by the sole power, and preserved by the defence of the
multitude itself. And this was the single rule which I followed in
laying the foundations of monarchy.


1. Daniel vi. 15.

2. Hom. "Odys.," xii. 156-200.

3. Chap. I. Sec. 4 of the speech, or rather letter, which is not now
admitted to be a genuine work of Sallust.

4. Ethics, iii. 29, &c.

5. This seems to be a mistake for Sec. 4, "Id majori subditorum parti
utile erit, quod in hoc concilio plurima habuerit suffragia." "What has
most votes in such a council, will be to the interest of the greater
part of the subjects."

6. 2 Sam. xv. 31.

7. Tacitus, Histories, i., 7.

8. Antonio Perez, a publicist, and professor of law in the University of
Louvain in the first part of the seventeenth century.

9. Chap. VI. Sec. 10.

10. Chap. VI. Secs. 11, 15, 16.

11. Chap. VI. Secs. 27, 28.

12. Chap. VI. Sec. 31.

13. Chap. VI. Sec. 36.

14. 1 Kings xiv. 25; 2 Chron. xii.

15. The war between France and Spain, terminated by the first peace of
Aix-la-Chapelle, 1665.

16. Chap. VI. Sec. 37.

17. See Hallam's "History of the Middle Ages," Chap. IV., for the
constitutional history of Arragon. Hallam calls the Justiza the
Justiciary, but the literal translation, Justice, seems warranted by our
own English use of the word to designate certain judges.

18. Hallam says, that the king merely cut the obnoxious Privilege of
Union, which he describes rather differently, through with his sword.
The Privilege of Union was so utterly "eradicated from the records of
the kingdom, that its precise words have never been recovered."




SO far of monarchy. But now we will say, on what plan an aristocracy is
to be framed, so that it may be lasting. We have defined an aristocratic
dominion as that, which is held not by one man, but by certain persons
chosen out of the multitude, whom we shall henceforth call patricians. I
say expressly, "that which is held by certain persons chosen." For the
chief difference between this and a democracy is, that the right of
governing depends in an aristocracy on election only, but in a democracy
for the most part on some right either congenital or acquired by fortune
(as we shall explain in its place); and therefore, although in any
dominion the entire multitude be received into the number of the
patricians, provided that right of theirs is not inherited, and does not
descend by some law to others, the dominion will for all that be quite
an aristocracy, because none are received into the number of the
patricians save by express election. But if these chosen persons were
but two, each of them will try to be more powerful than the other, and
from the too great power of each, the dominion will easily be split into
two factions; and in like manner into three, four, or five factions, if
three, four, or five persons were put into possession of it. But the
factions will be the weaker, the more there are to whom the dominion was
delegated. And hence it follows, that to secure the stability of an
aristocracy, it is necessary to consider the proportionate size of the
actual dominion, in order to determine the minimum number of patricians.

2. Let it be supposed, then, that for a dominion of moderate size it
suffices to be allowed a hundred of the best men, and that upon them has
been conferred the supreme authority of the dominion, and that they have
consequently the right to elect their patrician colleagues, when any of
the number die. These men will certainly endeavour to secure their
succession to their children or next in blood. And thus the supreme
authority of the dominion will always be with those, whom fortune has
made children or kinsmen to patricians. And, as out of a hundred men who
rise to office by fortune, hardly three are found that excel in
knowledge and counsel, it will thus come to pass, that the authority of
the dominion will rest, not with a hundred, but only with two or three
who excel by vigour of mind, and who will easily draw to themselves
everything, and each of them, as is the wont of human greed, will be
able to prepare the way to a monarchy. And so, if we make a right
calculation, it is necessary, that the supreme authority of a dominion,
whose size requires at least a hundred first-rate men, should be
conferred on not less than five thousand. For by this proportion it will
never fail, but a hundred shall be found excelling in mental vigour,
that is, on the hypothesis that, out of fifty that seek and obtain
office, one will always be found not less than first-rate, besides
others that imitate the virtues of the first-rate, and are therefore
worthy to rule.

3. The patricians are most commonly citizens of one city, which is the
head of the whole dominion, so that the commonwealth or republic has its
name from it, as once that of Rome, and now those of Venice, Genoa, etc.
But the republic of the Dutch has its name from an entire province,
whence it arises, that the subjects of this dominion enjoy a greater
liberty. Now, before we can determine the foundations on which this
aristocratic dominion ought to rest, we must observe a very great
difference, which exists between the dominion which is conferred on one
man and that which is conferred on a sufficiently large council. For, in
the first place, the power of one man is (as we said, Chap. VI. Sec. 5)
very inadequate to support the entire dominion; but this no one, without
manifest absurdity, can affirm of a sufficiently large council. For, in
declaring the council to be sufficiently large, one at the same time
denies, that it is inadequate to support the dominion. A king,
therefore, is altogether in need of counsellors, but a council like this
is not so in the least. In the second place, kings are mortal, but
councils are everlasting. And so the power of the dominion which has
once been transferred to a large enough council never reverts to the
multitude. But this is otherwise in a monarchy, as we showed (Chap. VII.
Sec. 25). Thirdly, a king's dominion is often on sufferance, whether
from his minority, sickness, or old age, or from other causes; but the
power of a council of this kind, on the contrary, remains always one and
the same. In the fourth place, one man's will is very fluctuating and
inconstant; and, therefore, in a monarchy, all law is, indeed, the
explicit will of the king (as we said. Chap. VII. Sec. 1), but not every
will of the king ought to be law; but this cannot be said of the will of
a sufficiently numerous council. For since the council itself, as we
have just shown, needs no counsellors, its every explicit will ought to
be law. And hence we conclude, that the dominion conferred upon a large
enough council is absolute, or approaches nearest to the absolute. For
if there be any absolute dominion, it is, in fact, that which is held by
an entire multitude.

4. Yet in so far as this aristocratic dominion never (as has just been
shown) reverts to the multitude, and there is under it no consultation
with the multitude, but, without qualification, every will of the
council is law, it must be considered as quite absolute, and therefore
its foundations ought to rest only on the will and judgment of the said
council, and not on the watchfulness of the multitude, since the latter
is excluded from giving its advice or its vote. The reason, then, why in
practice aristocracy is not absolute, is that the multitude is a cause
of fear to the rulers, and therefore succeeds in retaining for itself
some liberty, which it asserts and holds as its own, if not by an
express law, yet on a tacit understanding.

5. And thus it is manifest that this kind of dominion will be in the
best possible condition, if its institutions are such that it most
nearly approaches the absolute -- that is, that the multitude is as
little as possible a cause of fear, and retains no liberty, but such as
must necessarily be assigned it by the law of the dominion itself, and
is therefore not so much a right of the multitude as of the whole
dominion, asserted and maintained by the aristocrats only as their own.
For thus practice agrees best with theory, as appears from the last
section, and is also self-evident. For we cannot doubt that the dominion
rests the less with the patricians, the more rights the commons assert
for themselves, such as those which the corporations of artisans in
Lower Germany, commonly called Guilds, generally possess.

6. But the commons need not apprehend any danger of a hateful slavery
from this form of dominion, merely because it is conferred on the
council absolutely. For the will of so large a council cannot be so much
determined by lust as by reason; because men are drawn asunder by an
evil passion, and cannot be guided, as it were, by one mind, except so
far as they desire things honourable, or that have at least an
honourable appearance.

7. In determining, then, the foundations of an aristocracy, it is above
all to be observed, that they should rest on the sole will and power of
the supreme council, so that it may be as independent as possible, and
be in no danger from the multitude. In order to determine these
foundations, which are to rest, I say, upon the sole will and power of
the council, let us see what foundations of peace are peculiar to
monarchy, and unsuited to this form of dominion. For if we substitute
for these equivalent foundations fit for an aristocracy, and leave the
rest, as they are already laid, we shall have removed without doubt
every cause of seditions; or, at least, this kind of dominion will be no
less safe than the monarchical, but, on the contrary, so much the more
so, and of so much better a condition, as, without danger to peace and
liberty, it approaches nearer than monarchy to the absolute (Secs. 3,
6). For the greater the right of the supreme authority, the more the
form of dominion agrees with the dictate of reason (Chap. III. Sec. 5
[1]), and, therefore, the fitter it is to maintain peace and liberty.
Let us run through, therefore, the points we stated in our sixth
chapter, beginning with the ninth section, that we may reject what is
unfit for this kind of dominion, and see what agrees with it.

8. That it is necessary, in the first place, to found and fortify one or
more cities, no one can doubt. But that city is above all to be
fortified, which is the head of the whole dominion, and also those that
are on its frontiers. For that which is the head of the whole dominion,
and has the supreme right, ought to be more powerful than the rest. But
under this kind of dominion it is quite unnecessary to divide all the
inhabitants into clans.

9. As for the military, since under this dominion equality is not to be
looked for among all, but between the patricians only, and, in
particular, the power of the patricians is greater than that of the
commons, it is certain that it makes no difference to the laws or
fundamental principles of this dominion, that the military be formed of
others besides subjects. [2] But it is of the first importance that no
one be admitted into the number of the patricians, that has not a proper
knowledge of the art of war. But for the subjects to be excluded, as
some would have it, from military service, is surely folly. For besides
that the military pay given to subjects remains within the realm,
whereas, on the contrary, what is paid to a foreign soldiery is
altogether lost, the greatest strength of the dominion is also thereby
weakened. For it is certain that those fight with peculiar valour who
fight for altar and hearth. Whence, also, it is manifest that those are
no less wrong, who lay down that military commanders, tribunes,
centurions, etc., should be chosen from among the patricians only. For
with what courage will those soldiers fight who are deprived of all hope
of gaining glory and advancement? But, on the other hand, to establish a
law forbidding the patricians to hire foreign soldiers when
circumstances require it, whether to defend themselves, and suppress
seditions, or for any other reason, besides being inconsiderate, would
also be repugnant to the supreme right of the patricians, concerning
which see Secs. 3, 4, 5 of this chapter. But the general of a single
army, or of the entire military, is to be chosen but in time of war, and
among the patricians only, and is to hold the command for a year at
most, without power of being continued therein, or afterwards
reappointed. For this law, necessary as it is under a monarchy, is so
above all under this kind of dominion. For although it is much easier,
as we have said above, to transfer the dominion from one man to another
than from a free council to one man; yet it does often happen, that
patricians are subdued by their own generals, and that to the much
greater harm of the commonwealth. For when a monarch is removed, it is
but a change of tyrant, not of the form of dominion; but, under an
aristocracy, this cannot happen, without an upsetting of the form of
dominion, and a slaughter of the greatest men. Of which thing Rome has
offered the most mournful examples. But our reason for saying that,
under a monarchy, the militia should serve without pay, is here
inapplicable. For since the subjects are excluded from giving their
advice or votes, they are to be reckoned as foreigners, and are,
therefore, to be hired for service on no worse terms than foreigners.
And there is in this case no danger of their being distinguished above
the rest by the patricians: nay, further, to avoid the partial judgment
which everyone is apt to form of his own exploits, it is wiser for the
patricians to assign a fixed payment to the soldiers for their service.

10. Furthermore, for this same reason, that all but the patricians are
foreigners, it cannot be without danger to the whole dominion, that the
lands and houses and the whole soil should remain public property, and
be let to the inhabitants at a yearly rent. For the subjects having no
part in the dominion would easily, in bad times, all forsake their
cities, if they could carry where they pleased what goods they possess.
And, therefore, lands and farms are not to be let, but sold to the
subjects, yet on condition that they pay every year an aliquot part of
the year's produce, etc., as is done in Holland.

11. These points considered, I proceed to the foundations on which the
supreme council should rest and be established. We have shown (Sec. 2)
that, in a moderate-sized dominion, this council ought to have about
five thousand members. And so we must look for means of preventing the
dominion from gradually getting into fewer hands, and of insuring, on
the contrary, that the number of members be increased in proportion to
the growth of the dominion itself; and, next, that between the
patricians, equality be as far as possible maintained; and, further,
that there may be speed and expedition in their counsels, and that they
tend to the general good; and, lastly, that the power of the patricians
or council exceed the power of the multitude, yet so that the multitude
suffer no harm thereby.

12. But jealousy causes a great difficulty in maintaining our first
point. For men are, as we have said, by nature enemies, so that however
they be associated, and bound together by laws, they still retain their
nature. And hence I think it is, that democracies change into
aristocracies, and these at length into monarchies. For I am fully
persuaded that most aristocracies were formerly democracies. For when a
given multitude, in search of fresh territories, has found and
cultivated them, it retains, as a whole, its equal right of dominion,
because no man gives dominion to another spontaneously. But although
every one of them thinks it fair, that he should have the same right
against another that that other has against him, he yet thinks it
unfair, that the foreigners that join them should have equal right in
the dominion with themselves, who sought it by their own toil, and won
it at the price of their own blood. And this not even the foreigners
themselves deny, for, of course, they migrate thither, not to hold
dominion, but for the benefit of their own private business, and are
quite satisfied if they are but allowed the liberty of transacting that
business in safety. But meanwhile the multitude is augmented by the
influx of foreigners, who gradually acquire the national manners, until
at last they are distinguished by no other difference than that of
incapacity to get office; and while their number daily increases, that
of the citizens, on the contrary, is by many causes diminished. For
families often die out, and some persons are disqualified for their
crimes, and a great many are driven by domestic poverty to neglect
affairs of state, and meanwhile the more powerful aim at nothing else,
but to govern alone; and thus the dominion is gradually limited to a
few, and at length by faction to one. And here we might add other causes
that destroy dominions of this sort; but as they are well known, I pass
them by, and proceed now to state the laws by which this dominion, of
which we are treating, ought to be maintained.

13. The primary law of this dominion ought to be that which determines
the proportionate numbers of patricians and multitude. For a proportion
(Sec. 1) ought to be maintained between the multitude and the
patricians, so that with the increase of the former the number of the
latter should be raised. And this proportion (in accordance with our
remarks in the second section) ought to be about fifty to one, that is,
the inequality between the members of each should never be greater. For
(Sec. 1) without destroying the form of dominion, the number of
patricians may be greater than the number of the multitude. But there is
no danger except in the smallness of their number. But how it is to be
provided that this law be kept unbroken, I will presently show in its
own place.

14. Patricians, in some places, are chosen only out of particular
families. But it is ruinous to lay this down expressly by law. For not
to mention that families often die out, and that the other families can
never be excluded without disgrace, it is also repugnant to the form of
this dominion, that the dignity of patrician should be hereditary (Sec.
1). But on this system a dominion seems rather a democracy, such as we
have described in Sec. 12, that is in the hands of very few citizens.
But, on the other hand, to provide against the patricians choosing their
own sons and kinsmen, and thereby against the right of dominion
remaining in particular families, is impossible, and indeed absurd, as I
shall show (Sec. 39). But provided that they hold that right by no
express law, and that the rest (I mean, such as are born within the
dominion, and use the vulgar tongue, and have not a foreign wife, and
are not infamous, nor servants, nor earning their living by any servile
trade, among which are to be reckoned those of a wine-merchant, or
brewer) are not excluded, the form of the dominion will,
notwithstanding, be retained, and it will be possible to maintain the
proportion between the patricians and the multitude.

15. But if it be further by law appointed that no young men be chosen,
it will never happen that a few families hold the right of government in
their hands. And, therefore, be it by law appointed, that no man that
has not reached his thirtieth year be put on the list of candidates.

16. Thirdly, it is next to be ordained, that all the patricians must be
assembled at certain fixed times in a particular part of the city, and
that whoever does not attend the council, unless he be hindered by
illness or some public business, shall be fined some considerable
amount. For, were it otherwise, most of them would neglect the public,
for the sake of their own private affairs.

17. Let this council's functions be to pass and repeal laws, and to
choose their patrician colleagues, and all the ministers of the
dominion. For he, that has supreme right, as we have decided that this
council has, cannot give to anyone authority to pass and repeal laws,
without at the same time abdicating his own right, and transferring it
to him, to whom he gives that power. For he, that has but for one day
only authority to pass and repeal laws, is able to change the entire
form of the dominion. But one can, without forfeiting one's supreme
right, temporarily entrust to others the daily business of dominion to
be administered according to the established laws. Furthermore, if the
ministers of dominion were chosen by any other but this council, then
its members would be more properly called wards than patricians.

18. Hence some are accustomed to create for the council a ruler or
prince, either for life, as the Venetians, or for a time, as the
Genoese; but yet with such great precautions, as make it clear enough,
that it is not done without great risk. And assuredly we cannot doubt
but that the dominion thereby approaches the monarchical form, and as
far as we can conjecture from their histories, it was done for no other
reason, than that before the institution of these councils they had
lived under a ruler, or doge, as under a king. And so the creation of a
ruler is a necessary requisite indeed for the particular nation, but not
for the aristocratic dominion considered in itself.

19. But, inasmuch as the supreme authority of this dominion rests with
this council as a whole, not with every individual member of it (for
otherwise it would be but the gathering of an undisciplined mob), it is,
therefore, necessary that all the patricians be so bound by the laws as
to form, as it were, one body governed by one mind. But the laws by
themselves alone are weak and easily broken, when their vindicators are
the very persons who are able to transgress them, and the only ones who
are to take warning by the punishment, and must punish their colleagues
in order by fear of the same punishment to restrain their own desire:
for all this involves a great absurdity. And, therefore, means must be
sought to preserve order in this supreme council and keep unbroken the
constitution of the dominion, so that yet the greatest possible equality
may exist between patricians.

20. But since, from a single ruler or prince, able also to vote in the
debates, there must necessarily arise a great inequality, especially on
account of the power, which must of necessity be granted him, in order
to enable him to discharge his duty in safety; therefore, if we consider
the whole matter aright, nothing can be devised more useful to the
general welfare than the institution of another council of certain
patricians subordinate to the supreme council, whose only duty should be
to see that the constitution, as far as it concerns the councils and
ministers of the dominion, be kept unbroken, and who should, therefore,
have authority to summon to judgment and, in conformity with established
law, to condemn any delinquent who, as a minister of the dominion, has
transgressed the laws concerning his office. And these patricians we
shall hereafter call syndics.

21. And they are to be chosen for life. For, were they to be chosen for
a time, so that they should afterwards be eligible for other offices in
the dominion, we should fall into the very absurdity which we have just
pointed out in the nineteenth section. But lest they should become quite
haughty by very long rule, none are to be elected to this office, but
those who have reached their sixtieth year or more, and have discharged
the duties of senator, of which below.

22. Of these, too, we shall easily determine the number, if we consider
that these syndics stand to the patricians in the same relation as the
whole body of patricians together does to the multitude, which they
cannot govern, if they are fewer than a proper number. And, therefore,
the number of the syndics should be to that of patricians as their
number is to that of the multitude, that is (Sec. 13), as one to fifty.

23. Moreover, that this council may discharge its functions in security,
some portion of the soldiery must be assigned to it, and be subject to
its orders.

24. The syndics and other ministers of state are to have no salary, but
such emoluments, that they cannot maladminister affairs of state without
great loss to themselves. For we cannot doubt that it is fair, that the
ministers of this kind of dominion should be awarded a recompense for
their time, since the commons are the majority in this dominion, and the
patricians look after their safety, while they themselves have no
trouble with affairs of state, but only with their own private ones. But
since, on the other hand, no man (Chap. VII. Sec. 4) defends another's
cause, save in so far as he thereby hopes to establish his own interest,
things must, of necessity, be so ordered that the ministers, who have
charge of affairs of state, should most pursue their own interest, when
they are most watchful for the general good.

25. To the syndics then, whose duty, as we said, it is to see that the
constitution is kept unbroken, the following emoluments are to be
awarded: namely, that every householder that inhabits any place in the
dominion, be bound to pay every year a coin of small value, say a
quarter of an ounce of silver, to the syndics, that thus they may know
the number of inhabitants, and so observe what proportion of them the
patricians constitute; and next that every new patrician on his election
must pay the syndics some large sum, for instance, twenty or twenty-five
pounds of silver. Moreover, that money, in which the absent patricians
(I mean those who have failed to attend the meeting of the council) are
condemned, is also to be awarded to the syndics; and a part, too, of the
goods of defaulting ministers, who are bound to abide their judgment,
and who are fined a certain sum of money, or have their goods
confiscated, should be devoted to them, not to all indeed, but to those
only who sit daily, and whose duty it is to summon the council of
syndics, concerning whom see Sec. 28. But, in order that the council of
syndics may always be maintained at its full number, before all other
business in the supreme council, when it is assembled at the usual time,
inquiry is to be made about this. Which, if the syndics neglect, let it
then devolve upon the president of the senate (concerning which we shall
soon have occasion to speak), to admonish the supreme council on this
head, to demand of the president of the syndics the reason of his
silence, and to inquire what is the supreme council's opinion in the
matter. But if the president of the senate is likewise silent, let the
case be taken up by the president of the supreme court of justice, or if
he too is silent by some other patrician, and let him demand an
explanation of their silence from the presidents of the senate and the
court of justice, as well as from the president of the syndics. Lastly,
that that law, whereby young men are excluded, may likewise be strictly
observed, it is to be appointed that all who have reached the thirtieth
year of their age, and who are not by express law excluded, are to have
their names inscribed on a list, in presence of the syndics, and to
receive from them, at a fixed price, some sign of the honour conferred
on them, namely, that they may be allowed to wear a particular ornament
only permitted to them, to distinguish them and make them to be had in
honour by the rest; and, at the same time, be it ordained, that in
elections none may nominate as patrician anyone whose name is not
inscribed on the general list, and that under a heavy penalty. And,
further, let no one be allowed to refuse the burden of a duty or office,
which he is chosen to bear. Lastly, that all the absolutely fundamental
laws of the dominion may be everlasting, it must be ordained that if
anyone in the supreme council raise a question about any fundamental
law, as of prolonging the command of any general of an army, or of
diminishing the number of patricians, or the like, he is guilty of
treason, and not only is he to be condemned to death, and his goods
confiscated, but some sign of his punishment is to remain visible in
public for an eternal memorial of the event. But for the confirming of
the other general rights of the dominion, it is enough, if it be only
ordained, that no law can be repealed nor new law passed, unless first
the college of syndics, and then three-fourths or four-fifths of the
supreme council agree thereto.

26. Let the right also of summoning the supreme council and proposing
the matters to be decided in it, rest with the syndics, and let them
likewise be given the first place in the council, but without the right
to vote. But before they take their seats, they must swear by the safety
of that supreme council and by the public liberty, that they will strive
with the utmost zeal to preserve unbroken the ancient laws. and to
consult the general good. After which let them through their secretary
open in order the subjects of discussion.

27. But that all the patricians may have equal authority in making
decrees and electing the ministers of the dominion, and that speed and
expedition in all matters may be possible, the order observed by the
Venetians is altogether to be approved, for they appoint by lot a
certain number of the council to name the ministers, and when these have
named in order the candidates for office, every patrician signifies by
ballot his opinion, approving or rejecting the candidate in question, so
that it is not afterwards known, who voted in this or that sense.
Whereby it is contrived, not only that the authority of all the
patricians in the decision is equal, and that business is quickly
despatched, but also, that everyone has absolute liberty (which is of
the first necessity in councils) to give his opinion without danger of

28. But in the councils of syndics and the other councils, the same
order is to be observed, that voting is to be by ballot. But the right
of convoking the council of syndics and of proposing the matters to be
decided in the same ought to belong to their president, who is to sit
every day with ten or more other syndics, to hear the complaints and
secret accusations of the commons against the ministers, and to look
after the accusers, if circumstances require, and to summon the supreme
council even before the appointed time, if any of them judge that there
is danger in the delay. Now this president and those who meet with him
every day are to be appointed by the supreme council and out of the
number of syndics, not indeed for life, but for six months, and they
must not have their term renewed but after the lapse of three or four
years. And these, as we said above, are to be awarded the goods that are
confiscated and the pecuniary fines, or some part of them. The remaining
points which concern the syndics we will mention in their proper places.

29. The second council, which is subordinate to the supreme one, we will
call the senate, and let its duty be to transact public business, for
instance, to publish the laws of the dominion, to order the
fortifications of the cities according to law, to confer military
commissions, to impose taxes on the subjects and apply the same, to
answer foreign embassies, and decide where embassies are to be sent. But
let the actual appointment of ambassadors be the duty of the supreme
council. For it is of the greatest consequence to see that no patrician
be called to any office in the dominion but by the supreme council
itself, lest the patricians themselves should try to curry favour with
the senate. Secondly, all matters are to be referred to the supreme
council, which in any way alter the existing state of things, as the
deciding on peace and war. Wherefore, that the senate's decrees
concerning peace and war may be valid, they must be confirmed by the
supreme council. And therefore I should say, that it belonged to the
supreme council only, not to the senate, to impose new taxes.

30. In determining the number of senators these points are to be taken
into consideration: first, that all the patricians should have an equal
hope of gaining senatorial rank; secondly, that notwithstanding the same
senators, whose time (for which they were elected) is elapsed, may be
continued after a short interval, that so the dominion may always be
governed by skilled and experienced men; and lastly, that among the
senators many may be found illustrious for wisdom and virtue. But to
secure all these conditions, there can be no other means devised, than
that it should be by law appointed, that no one who has not reached his
fiftieth year, be received into the number of senators, and that four
hundred, that is about a twelfth part of the patricians, be appointed
for a year, and that two years after that year has elapsed, the same be
capable of re-appointment. For in this manner about a twelfth part of
the patricians will be constantly engaged in the duty of senator, with
only short intervening periods; and this number surely, together with
that made up by the syndics, will be little less than the number of
patricians that have attained their fiftieth year. And so all the
patricians will always have a great hope of gaining the rank of senator
or syndic, and yet notwithstanding, the same patricians, at only short
intervals, will always hold senatorial rank, and (according to what we
said, Sec. 2) there will never be wanting in the senate distinguished
men, excelling in counsel and skill. And because this law cannot be
broken without exciting great jealousy on the part of many patricians,
it needs no other safeguard for its constant validity, than that every
patrician who has reached the age we mentioned, should offer the proof
thereof to the syndics, who shall put his name on the list of candidates
for the senatorial duties, and read the name before the supreme council,
so that he may occupy, with the rest of the same rank, a place set apart
in this supreme council for his fellows, next to the place of the

31. The emoluments of the senators should be of such a kind, that their
profit is greater from peace than from war. And therefore let there be
awarded to them a hundredth or a fiftieth part of the merchandise
exported abroad from the dominion, or imported into it from abroad. For
we cannot doubt, that by this means they will, as far as they can,
preserve peace, and never desire to protract war. And from this duty not
even the senators themselves, if any of them are merchants, ought to be
exempt; for such an immunity cannot be granted without great risk to
trade, as I think no one is ignorant. Nay, on the contrary, it must be
by law ordained, that no senator or ex-senator may fill any military
post; and further, that no one may be declared general or praetor, which
officers we said (Sec. 9) were to be only appointed in time of war,
whose father or grandfather is a senator, or has held the dignity of
senator within two years. Which laws we cannot doubt, that the
patricians outside the senate will defend with all their might: and so
it will be the case, that the senators will always have more profit from
peace than from war, and will, therefore, never advise war, except the
utmost need of the dominion compels them. But it may be objected to us,
that on this system, if, that is, syndics and senators are to be allowed
so great profits, an aristocracy will be as burdensome to the subjects
as any monarchy. But not to mention that royal courts require larger
expenditure, and are yet not provided in order to secure peace, and that
peace can never be bought too dear; it is to be added, first, that all
that under a monarchy is conferred on one or a few, is here conferred
upon very many. Next kings and their ministers do not bear the burden of
the dominion with the subjects, but under this form of dominion it is
just the reverse; for the patricians, who are always chosen from the
rich, bear the largest share of the weight of the commonwealth. Lastly,
the burdens of a monarchy spring not so much from its king's
expenditure, as from its secret policy. For those burdens of a dominion,
that are imposed on the citizens in order to secure peace and liberty,
great though they be, are yet supported and lightened by the usefulness
of peace. What nation ever had to pay so many and so heavy taxes as the
Dutch? Yet it not only has not been exhausted, but, on the contrary, has
been so mighty by its wealth, that all envied its good fortune. If
therefore the burdens of a monarchy were imposed for the sake of peace,
they would not oppress the citizens; but, as I have said, it is from the
secret policy of that sort of dominion, that the subjects faint under
their lord; that is, because the virtue of kings counts for more in time
of war than in time of peace, and because they, who would reign by
themselves, ought above all to try and have their subjects poor; not to
mention other things, which that most prudent Dutchman V. H. [3]
formerly remarked, because they do not concern my design, which is only
to describe the best state of every kind of dominion.

32. Of the syndics chosen by the supreme council, some should sit in the
senate, but without the right of voting, so that they may see whether
the laws concerning that assembly be duly observed, and may have the
supreme council convoked, when anything is to be referred to it from the
senate. For the supreme right of convoking this council, and proposing
to it subjects of discussion, is, as we have already said, with the
syndics. But before the votes of the contemporaries of the senators be
taken, the president of the senate for the time being shall explain the
state of affairs, and what the senate's own opinion is on the matter in
question, and why; after which the votes shall be collected in the
accustomed order.

33. The entire senate ought not to meet every day, but, like all great
councils, at a certain fixed time. But as in the mean time the business
of the dominion must be executed, it is, therefore, necessary that some
part of the senators be chosen, who, on the dismissal of the senate,
shall supply its place, and whose duty it shall be to summon the senate
itself, when need is; to execute its orders about affairs of state; to
read letters written to the senate and supreme council; and, lastly, to
consult about the matters to be proposed in the senate. But that all
these points, and the order of this assembly, as a whole, may be more
easily conceived, I will describe the whole matter more precisely.

34. The senators who, as we have said already, are to be chosen for a
year, are to be divided into four or six series, of which let the first
have the first seat in the senate for the first three or two months in
the year; and at the expiration of this time, let the second series take
the place of the first, and so on, observing their turns, so that that
series which was first in the first months may be last in the second
period. Furthermore, there are to be appointed as many presidents as
there are series, and the same number of vice-presidents to fill their
places when required -- that is, two are to be chosen out of every
series, one to be its president, the other its vice-president. And let
the president of the first series preside in the senate also, for the
first months; or, in his absence, let his vice-president fill his place;
and so on with the rest, observing the same order as above. Next, out of
the first series, some are to be chosen by vote or lot to fill the place
of the senate, when it is dismissed, in conjunction with the president
and vice-president of the same series; and that, for the same space of
time, as the said series occupies the first place in the senate; and
thus, when that time is past, as many are again to be chosen out of the
second series, by vote or lot, to fill, in conjunction with their
president and vice-president, the place of the first series, and supply
the lack of a senate; and so on with the rest. And there is no need that
the election of these men -- I mean those that I have said are to be
chosen for periods of three or two months, by vote or lot -- should be
made by the supreme council. For the reason which we gave in the
twenty-ninth section is not here applicable, much less the reason stated
in the seventeenth. It suffices, then, that they be elected by the
senate and the syndics present at its meeting.

35. But of these persons we cannot so precisely ascertain the number.
However, this is certain, that they must be too numerous to be easily
susceptible of corruption. For though they can by themselves determine
nothing concerning affairs of state, yet they can delay the senate, or,
what would be worst of all, delude it by putting forward matters of no
importance, and keeping back those that are of greater -- not to mention
that, if they were too few, the absence of one or two might delay public
business. But as, on the contrary, these consuls are for that very
reason appointed, because great councils cannot devote themselves every
day to public business, a remedy must be looked for necessarily here,
and their inadequacy of number be made up for by the shortness of their
term of office. And thus, if only thirteen or so be chosen for two or
three months, they will be too many to be corrupted in this short
period. And for this cause, also, did I recommend that their successors
should by no means be appointed, except at the very time when they do
succeed, and the others go away.

36. We have said, that it is also their duty, when any, though few, of
them think it needful, to convoke the senate, to put before it the
matters to be decided, to dismiss it, and to execute its orders about
public business. But I will now briefly state the order in which this
ought to be done, so that business may not be long protracted by useless
questions. Let, then, the consuls consult about the matter to be
proposed in the senate, and what is required to be done; and, if they
are all of one mind about it, then let them convoke the senate, and,
having duly explained the question, let them set forth what their
opinion is, and, without waiting for another's opinion, collect the
votes in their order. But if the consuls support more than one opinion,
then, in the senate, that opinion is first to be stated on the question
proposed, which was supported by the larger number of consuls. And if
the same is not approved by the majority of senate and consuls, but the
waverers and opponents together are in a majority, which is to be
determined by ballot, as we have already mentioned, then let them set
forth the second opinion, which had fewer votes than the former among
the consuls, and so on with the rest. But if none be approved by a
majority of the whole senate, the senate is to be adjourned to the next
day, or for a short time, that the consuls meanwhile may see, if they
can find other means, that may give more satisfaction. But if they do
not succeed in finding other means, or if the majority of the senate
refuses to approve such as they have found, then the opinion of every
senator is to be heard; and if the majority of the senate also refuses
to support any of these, then the votes are to be taken again on every
opinion, and not only the affirmative votes, as hitherto, but the
doubtful and negative are to be counted. And if the affirmative prove
more numerous than the doubtful or negative, then that opinion is to
hold good; but, on the contrary, to be lost, if the negative prove more
numerous than the doubtful or affirmative. But if on every opinion there
is a greater number of doubters than of voters for and against, then let
the council of syndics join the senate, and vote with the senators, with
only affirmative and negative votes, omitting those that signify a
hesitating mind. And the same order is to be observed about matters
referred by the senate to the supreme council. So much for the senate.

37. As for the court of justice or bench, it cannot rest upon the same
foundations as that which exists under a monarch, as we described it in
Chap. VI. Secs. 26, and following. For (Sec. 14) it agrees not with the
foundations of our present dominion, that any account be made of
families or clans. And there must be a further difference, because
judges chosen from the patricians only might indeed be restrained by the
fear of their patrician successors, from pronouncing any unjust judgment
against any of the patricians, and, perhaps, would hardly have the
courage to punish them after their deserts; but they would, on the other
hand, dare everything against the commons, and daily carry off the rich
among them for a prey. I know that the plan of the Genoese is therefore
approved by many, for they choose their judges not among the patricians,
but among foreigners. But this seems to me, considering the matter in
the abstract, absurdly ordained, that foreigners and not patricians
should be called in to interpret the laws. For what are judges but
interpreters of the laws? And I am therefore persuaded that herein also
the Genoese have had regard rather to the genius of their own race, than
to the very nature of this kind of dominion. We must, therefore, by
considering the matter in the abstract, devise the means which best
agree with the form of this government.

38. But as far as regards the number of the judges, the theory of this
constitution requires no peculiar number; but as under monarchical
dominion, so under this, it suffices that they be too numerous to be
corrupted by a private man. For their duty is but to provide against one
private person doing wrong to another, and therefore to decide disputes
between private persons, as well patricians as commons, and to exact
penalties from delinquents, and even from patricians, syndics, and
senators, as far as they have offended against the laws, whereby all are
bound. But disputes that may arise between cities that are subject to
the dominion, are to be decided in the supreme council.

39. Furthermore the principle regulating the time, for which the judges
should be appointed, is the same in both dominions, and also the
principle of a certain part of them retiring every year; and, lastly,
although it is not necessary for every one of them to be of a different
family, yet it is necessary that two related by blood should not sit on
the same bench together. And this last point is to be observed also in
the other councils, except the supreme one, in which it is enough, if it
be only provided by law that in elections no man may nominate a
relation, nor vote upon his nomination by another, and also that two
relations may not draw lots from the urn for the nomination of any
minister of the dominion. This, I say, is sufficient in a council that
is composed of so large a number of men, and has no special profits
assigned to it. And so utterly unharmed will the dominion be in this
quarter, that it is absurd to pass a law excluding from the supreme
council the relations of all the patricians, as we said in the
fourteenth section. But that it is absurd is manifest. For that law
could not be instituted by the patricians themselves, without their
thereby all absolutely abdicating their own right, and therefore not the
patricians themselves but the commons would defend this law, which is
directly contrary to what we proved in Secs. 5 and 6. But that law of
the dominion, whereby it is ordained that the same uniform proportion be
maintained between the numbers of the patricians and the multitude,
chiefly contemplates this end of preserving the patricians' right and
power, that is, provides against their becoming too few to be able to
govern the multitude.

40. But the judges are to be chosen by the supreme council out of the
patricians only, that is (Sec. 17) out of the actual authors of the
laws, and the judgments they pass, as well in civil as criminal cases,
shall be valid, if they were pronounced in due course of justice and
without partiality; into which matter the syndics shall be by law
authorized to inquire, and to judge and determine thereof.

41. The judges' emoluments ought to be the same, as we mentioned in the
twenty-ninth section of the sixth chapter; namely, that they receive
from the losing party upon every judgment which they pass in civil
cases, an aliquot part of the whole sum at stake. But as to their
sentences in criminal cases, let there be here this difference only,
that the goods which they confiscate, and every fine whereby lesser
crimes are punished, be assigned to themselves only, yet on this
condition, that they may never compel anyone to confess by torture, and
thus, precaution enough will be taken against their being unfair to the
commons, and through fear too lenient to the patricians. For besides
that this fear is tempered by avarice itself, and that veiled under the
specious name of justice, they are also numerous, and vote, not openly,
but by ballot, so that a man may be indignant at losing his case, but
can have no reason to impute it to a particular person. Moreover the
fear of the syndics will restrain them from pronouncing an inequitable,
or at least absurd sentence, or from acting any of them treacherously,
besides that in so large a number of judges there will always be one or
two, that the unfair stand in awe of. Lastly, as far as the commons are
concerned, they also will be adequately secured if they are allowed to
appeal to the syndics, who, as I have said, are by law authorized to
inquire, judge, and determine about the conduct of the judges. For it is
certain that the syndics will not be able to escape the hatred of the
patricians, and on the other hand, will always be most popular with the
commons, whose applause they will try as far as they can to bid for. To
which end, opportunity being given them, they will not fail to reverse
sentences pronounced against the laws of the court, and to examine any
judge, and to punish those that are partial, for nothing moves the
hearts of a multitude more than this. Nor is it an objection, but, on
the contrary, an advantage, that such examples can but rarely occur. For
not to mention that that commonwealth is ill ordered where examples are
daily made of criminals (as we showed Chap. V. Sec. 2), those events
must surely be very rare that are most renowned by fame.

42. Those who are sent as governors to cities and provinces ought to be
chosen out of the rank of senators, because it is the duty of senators
to look after the fortifications of cities, the treasury, the military,
etc. But those, who were sent to somewhat distant regions, would be
unable to attend the senate, and, therefore, those only are to be
summoned from the senate itself, who are destined to cities founded on
their native soil; but those whom they wish to send to places more
remote are to be chosen out of those, whose age is consistent with
senatorial rank. But not even thus do I think that the peace of the
dominion will be sufficiently provided for, that is, if the neighbouring
cities are altogether denied the right of vote, unless they are so weak,
that they can be openly set at naught, which cannot surely be supposed.
And so it is necessary, that the neighbouring cities be granted the
right of citizenship, and that from every one of them twenty, or thirty,
or forty chosen citizens (for the number should vary with the size of
the city) be enrolled among the patricians, out of whom three, four, or
five ought to be yearly elected to be of the senate, and one for life to
be a syndic. And let those who are of the senate be sent with their
syndic, to govern the city out of which they were chosen.

43. Moreover, judges are to be established in every city, chosen out of
the patricians of that city. But of these I think it unnecessary to
treat at length, because they concern not the foundations of this sort
of dominion in particular.

44. In every council the secretaries and other officials of this kind,
as they have not the right of voting, should be chosen from the commons.
But as these, by their long practice of business, are the most
conversant with the affairs to be transacted, it often arises that more
deference than right is shown to their advice, and that the state of the
whole dominion depends chiefly on their guidance: which thing has been
fatal to the Dutch. For this cannot happen without exciting the jealousy
of many of the noblest. And surely we cannot doubt, that a senate, whose
wisdom is derived from the advice, not of senators, but of officials,
will be most frequented by the sluggish, and the condition of this sort
of dominion will be little better than that of a monarchy directed by a
few counsellors of the king. (See Chap. VI. Secs. 5-7). However, to this
evil the dominion will be more or less liable, according as it was well
or ill founded. For the liberty of a dominion is never defended without
risk, if it has not firm enough foundations; and, to avoid that risk,
patricians choose from the commons ambitious ministers, who are
slaughtered as victims to appease the wrath of those, who are plotting
against liberty. But where liberty has firm enough foundations, there
the patricians themselves vie for the honour of defending it, and are
anxious that prudence in the conduct of affairs should flow from their
own advice only; and in laying the foundations of this dominion we have
studied above all these two points, namely, to exclude the commons from
giving advice as much as from giving votes (Secs. 3, 4), and, therefore,
to place the whole authority of the dominion with the whole body of
patricians, but its exercise with the syndics and senate, and, lastly,
the right of convoking the senate, and treating of matters affecting the
common welfare with consuls chosen from the senate itself. But, if it is
further ordained that the secretary, whether in the senate or in other
councils, be appointed for four or five years at most, and have attached
to him an assistant-secretary appointed for the same period, to bear
part of the work during that time, or that the senate have not one, but
several secretaries, employed one in one department, and another in
another, the power of the officials will never become of any

45. Treasurers are likewise to be chosen from the commons, and are to be
bound to submit the treasury accounts to the syndics as well as to the

46. Matters concerning religion we have set forth at sufficient length
in our Theologico-Political Treatise. Yet certain points we then
omitted, of which it was not there the place to treat; for instance,
that all the patricians must be of the same religion, that is, of that
most simple and general religion, which in that treatise we described.
For it is above all to be avoided, that the patricians themselves should
be divided into sects, and show favour, some to this, and others to
that, and thence become mastered by superstition, and try to deprive the
subjects of the liberty of speaking out their opinions. In the second
place, though everyone is to be given liberty to speak out his opinion,
yet great conventicles are to be forbidden. And, therefore, those that
are attached to another religion are, indeed, to be allowed to build as
many temples as they please; yet these are to be small, and limited to a
certain standard of size, and on sites at some little distance one from
another. But it is very important, that the temples consecrated to the
national religion should be large and costly, and that only patricians
or senators should be allowed to administer its principal rites, and
thus that patricians only be suffered to baptize, celebrate marriages,
and lay on hands, and that in general they be recognized as the priests
of the temples and the champions and interpreters of the national
religion. But, for preaching, and to manage the church treasury and its
daily business, let some persons be chosen from the commons by the
senate itself, to be, as it were, the senate's deputies, and, therefore,
bound to render it account of everything.

47. And these are points that concern the foundations of this sort of
dominion; to which I will add some few others less essential indeed, but
yet of great importance. Namely, that the patricians, when they walk,
should be distinguished by some special garment, or dress, and be
saluted by some special title; and that every man of the commons should
give way to them; and that, if any patrician has lost his property by
some unavoidable misfortune, he should be restored to his old condition
at the public expense; but if, on the contrary, it be proved that he has
spent the same in presents, ostentation, gaming, debauchery, &c., or
that he is insolvent, he must lose his dignity, and be held unworthy of
every honour and office. For he, that cannot govern himself and his own
private affairs, will much less be able to advise on public affairs.

48. Those, whom the law compels to take an oath, will be much more
cautious of perjury, if they are bidden to swear by the country's safety
and liberty and by the supreme council, than if they are told to swear
by God. For he who swears by God, gives as surety some private advantage
to himself, whereof he is judge; but he, who by his oath gives as surety
his country's liberty and safety, swears by what is the common advantage
of all, whereof he is not judge, and if he perjures himself, thereby
declares that he is his country's enemy.

49. Academies, that are founded at the public expense, are instituted
not so much to cultivate men's natural abilities as to restrain them.
But in a free commonwealth arts and sciences will be best cultivated to
the full, if everyone that asks leave is allowed to teach publicly, and
that at his own cost and risk. But these and the like points I reserve
for another place. [4] For here I determined to treat only such matters
as concern an aristocratic dominion only.


1. Ought not this reference to be to Chap. III. Sec. 6?

2. Cf. Chap. VI. Sec. 10.

3. "This V. H. is Pieter de la Court (1618-85), an eminent publicist,
who wrote under the initials D. C. (De la Court), V. H. (Van den Hove,
the Dutch equivalent). He was a friend of John de Witt, and opposed to
the party of the Statholders." -- POLLOCK'S Life and Philosophy of
Spinoza, towards end of Chap. X.

4. This promise is not kept by the author, no doubt owing to his not
living to finish the work.




HITHERTO we have considered an aristocracy, so far as it takes its name
from one city, which is the head of the whole dominion. It is now time
to treat of that, which is in the hands of more than one city, and which
I think preferable to the former. But that we may notice its difference
and its superiority, we will pass in review the foundations of dominion,
one by one, rejecting those foundations, which are unsuited to the
present kind, and laying in their place others for it to rest upon.

2. The cities, then, which enjoy the right of citizenship, must be so
built and fortified, that, on the one hand, each city by itself may be
unable to subsist without the rest, and that yet, on the other hand, it
cannot desert the rest without great harm to the whole dominion. For
thus they will always remain united. But cities, which are so
constituted, that they can neither maintain themselves, nor be dangerous
to the rest, are clearly not independent, but absolutely subject to the

3. But the contents of the ninth and tenth sections of the last chapter
are deduced from the general nature of aristocracy, as are also the
proportion between the numbers of the patricians and the multitude, and
the proper age and condition of those that are to be made patricians; so
that on these points no difference can arise, whether the dominion be in
the hands of one or more cities. But the supreme council must here be on
a different footing. For if any city of the dominion were assigned for
the meeting of this supreme council, it would in reality be the head of
the dominion; and, therefore, either they would have to take turns, or a
place would have to be assigned for this council, that has not the right
of citizenship, and belongs equally to all. But either alternative is as
difficult to effect, as it is easy to state; I mean, either that so many
thousands of men should have to go often outside their cities, or that
they should have to assemble sometimes in one place, sometimes in

4. But that we may conclude aright what should be done in this matter,
and on what plan the councils of this dominion ought to be formed, from
its own very nature and condition, these points are to be considered;
namely, that every city has so much more right than a private man, as it
excels him in power (Chap. II. Sec. 4), and consequently that every city
of this dominion has as much right within its walls, or the limits of
its jurisdiction, as it has power; and, in the next place, that all the
cities are mutually associated and united, not as under a treaty, but as
forming one dominion, yet so that every city has so much more right as
against the dominion than the others, as it exceeds the others in power.
For he who seeks equality between unequals, seeks an absurdity.
Citizens, indeed, are rightly esteemed equal, because the power of each,
compared with that of the whole dominion, is of no account. But each
city's power constitutes a large part of the power of the dominion
itself, and so much the larger, as the city itself is greater. And,
therefore, the cities cannot all be held equal. But, as the power of
each, so also its right should be estimated by its greatness. The bonds,
however, by which they should be bound into one dominion, are above all
a senate and a court of justice (Chap. IV. Sec. 1). But how by these
bonds they are all to be so united, that each of them may yet remain, as
far as possible, independent, I will here briefly show. 

5. I suppose then, that the patricians of every city, who, according to
its size, should be more, or fewer (Sec. 3), have supreme right over
their own city, and that, in that city's supreme council, they have
supreme authority to fortify the city and enlarge its walls, to impose
taxes, to pass and repeal laws, and, in general, to do everything which
they judge necessary to their city's preservation and increase. But to
manage the common business of the dominion, a senate is to be created on
just the same footing as we described in the last chapter, so that there
be between this senate and the former no difference, except that this
has also authority to decide the disputes, which may arise between
cities. For in this dominion, of which no city is head, it cannot be
done by the supreme council. (See Chap. VI. Sec. 38.)

6. But, in this dominion, the supreme council is not to be called
together, unless there is need to alter the form of the dominion itself,
or on some difficult business, to which the senators shall think
themselves unequal; and so it will very rarely happen, that all the
patricians are summoned to council. For we have said (Chap. VIII. Sec.
17), that the supreme council's function is to pass and repeal laws, and
to choose the ministers of the dominion. But the laws, or general
constitution of the whole dominion, ought not to be changed as soon as
instituted. If, however, time and occasion suggest the institution of
some new law or the change of one already ordained, the question may
first be discussed in the senate, and after the agreement of the senate
in the matter, then let envoys next be sent to the cities by the senate
itself, to inform the patricians of every city of the opinion of the
senate, and lastly, if the majority of the cities follow that opinion,
it shall then remain good, but otherwise be of no effect. And this same
order may be observed in choosing the generals of the army and the
ambassadors to be sent to other realms, as also about decrees concerning
the making of war or accepting conditions of peace. But in choosing the
other public officials, since (as we showed in Sec. 4) every city, as
far as can be, ought to remain independent, and to have as much more
right than the others in the dominion, as it exceeds them in power, the
following order must necessarily be observed. The senators are to be
chosen by the patricians of each city; that is, the patricians of one
city are to elect in their own council a fixed number of senators from
their colleagues of their own city, which number is to be to that of the
patricians of that city as one to twelve (Chap. VIII. Sec. 30); and they
are to designate whom they will to be of the first, second, third, or
other series; and in like manner the patricians of the other cities, in
proportion to their number, are to choose more or fewer senators, and
distribute them among the series, into a certain number of which we have
said the senate is to be divided. (Chap. VIII. Sec. 34.) By which means
it will result, that in every series of senators there will be found
senators of every city, more or fewer, according to its size. But the
presidents and vice-presidents of the series, being fewer in number than
the cities, are to be chosen by lot by the senate out of the consuls,
who are to be appointed first. The same order is to be maintained in
appointing the supreme judges of the dominion, namely, that the
patricians of every city are to elect from their colleagues in
proportion to their number more or fewer judges. And so it will be the
case, that every city in choosing officials will be as independent as
possible, and that each, in proportion to its power, will have the more
right alike in the senate and the court of justice; supposing, that is,
that the order observed by senate and court in deciding public affairs,
and settling disputes is such in all respects, as we have described it
in the thirty-third and thirty-fourth sections of the last chapter. [1]

7. Next, the commanders of battalions and military tribunes are also to
be chosen from the patricians. For as it is fair, that every city in
proportion to its size should be bound to levy a certain number of
soldiers for the general safety of the whole dominion, it is also fair,
that from the patricians of every city in proportion to the number of
regiments, which they are bound to maintain, they may appoint so many
tribunes, captains, ensigns, etc., as are needed to discipline that part
of the military, which they supply to the dominion.

8. No taxes are to be imposed by the senate on the subjects; but to meet
the expenditure, which by decree of the senate is necessary to carry on
public business, not the subjects, but the cities themselves are to be
called to assessment by the senate, so that every city, in proportion to
its size, should pay a larger or smaller share of the expense. And this
share indeed is to be exacted by the patricians of every city from their
own citizens in what way they please, either by compelling them to an
assessment, or, as is much fairer, by imposing taxes on them.

9. Further, although all the cities of this dominion are not maritime,
nor the senators summoned from the maritime cities only, yet may the
same emoluments be awarded to the senators, as we mentioned in the
thirty-first section of the last chapter. To which end it will be
possible to devise means, varying with the composition of the dominion,
to link the cities to one another more closely. But the other points
concerning the senate and the court of justice and the whole dominion in
general, which I delivered in the last chapter, are to be applied to
this dominion also. And so we see, that in a dominion which is in the
hands of several cities, it will not be necessary to assign a fixed time
or place for assembling the supreme council. But for the senate and
court of justice a place is to be appointed in a village, or in a city,
that has not the right of voting. But I return to those points, which
concern the cities taken by themselves.

10. The order to be observed by the supreme council of a single city, in
choosing officials of the dominion and of the city, and in making
decrees, should be the same that I have delivered in the twenty-seventh
and thirty-sixth sections of the last chapter. For the policy is the
same here as it was there. Next a council of syndics is to be formed,
subordinate to the council of the city, and having the same relation to
it as the council of syndics of the last chapter had to the council of
the entire dominion, and let its functions within the limits of the city
be also the same, and let it enjoy the same emoluments. But if a city,
and consequently the number of its patricians be so small that it cannot
create more than one syndic or two, which two are not enough to make a
council, then the supreme council of the city is to appoint judges to
assist the syndics in trials according to the matter at issue, or else
the dispute must be referred to the supreme council of syndics. For from
every city some also out of the syndics are to be sent to the place
where the senate sits, to see that the constitution of the whole
dominion is preserved unbroken, and they are to sit in the senate
without the right of voting.

11. The consuls of the cities are likewise to be chosen by the
patricians of their city, and are to constitute a sort of senate for it.
But their number I cannot determine, nor yet do I think it necessary,
since the city's business of great importance is transacted by its
supreme council, and matters concerning the whole dominion by the great
senate. But if they be few, it will be necessary that they give their
votes in their council openly, and not by ballot, as in large councils.
For in small councils, when votes are given secretly, by a little extra
cunning one can easily detect the author of every vote, and in many ways
deceive the less attentive.

12. Besides, in every city judges are to be appointed by its supreme
council, from whose sentence, however, let everyone but an openly
convicted criminal or confessed debtor have a right of appeal to the
supreme court of justice of the dominion. But this need not be pursued

13. It remains, therefore, to speak of the cities which are not
independent. If these were founded in an actual province or district of
the dominion, and their inhabitants are of the same nation and language,
they ought of necessity, like villages, to be esteemed parts of the
neighbouring cities, so that each of them should be under the government
of this or that independent city. And the reason of this is, that the
patricians are chosen by the supreme council, not of the dominion, but
of every city, and in every city are more or fewer, according to the
number of inhabitants within the limits of its jurisdiction (Sec. 5).
And so it is necessary, that the multitude of the city, which is not
independent, be referred to the census of another which is independent,
and depend upon the latter's government. But cities captured by right of
war, and annexed to the dominion, are either to be esteemed associates
in the dominion, and though conquered put under an obligation by that
benefit, or else colonies to enjoy the right of citizenship are to be
sent thither, and the natives removed elsewhere or utterly destroyed.

14. And these are the things, which touch the foundations of the
dominion. But that its condition is better than that of the aristocracy,
which is called after one city only, I conclude from this, namely, that
the patricians of every city, after the manner of human desire, will be
eager to keep, and if possible increase their right, both in their city
and in the senate; and therefore will try, as far as possible, to
attract the multitude to themselves, and consequently to make a stir in
the dominion by good deeds rather than by fear, and to increase their
own number; because the more numerous they are, the more senators they
will choose out of their own council (Sec. 6), and hence the more right
(Sec. 6) they will possess in the dominion. Nor is it an objection, that
while every city is consulting its own interest and suspecting the rest,
they more often quarrel among themselves, and waste time in disputing.
For if, while the Romans are debating, Saguntum is lost: [2] on the
other hand, while a few are deciding everything in conformity with their
own passions only, liberty and the general good are lost. For men's
natural abilities are too dull to see through everything at once; but by
consulting, listening, and debating, they grow more acute, and while
they are trying all means, they at last discover those which they want,
which all approve, but no one would have thought of in the first
instance. But if anyone retorts, that the dominion of the Dutch has not
long endured without a count or one to fill his place, let him have this
reply, that the Dutch thought, that to maintain their liberty it was
enough to abandon their count, and to behead the body of their dominion,
but never thought of remoulding it, and left its limbs, just as they had
been first constituted, so that the county of Holland has remained
without a count, like a headless body, and the actual dominion has
lasted on without the name. And so it is no wonder that most of its
subjects have not known, with whom the authority of the dominion lay.
And even had this been otherwise, yet those who actually held dominion
were far too few to govern the multitude and suppress their powerful
adversaries. Whence it has come to pass, that the latter have often been
able to plot against them with impunity, and at last to overthrow them.
And so the sudden overthrow of the said republic [3] has not arisen from
a useless waste of time in debates, but from the misformed state of the
said dominion and the fewness of its rulers.

15. This aristocracy in the hands of several cities is also preferable
to the other, because it is not necessary, as in the first described, to
provide against its whole supreme council being overpowered by a sudden
attack, since (Sec. 9) no time or place is appointed for its meeting.
Moreover, powerful citizens in this dominion are less to be feared. For
where several cities enjoy liberty, it is not enough for him, who is
making ready his way to dominion, to seize one city, in order to hold
dominion over the rest. And, lastly, liberty under this dominion is
common to more. For where one city reigns alone, there the advantage of
the rest is only so far considered, as suits that reigning city.


1. So the text: but the court of justice is not described till the
thirty-seventh and following sections of Chap. VIII.

2. Livy, "Hist.," Bk. xxi. Chaps. VI. and following.

3. A.D. 1672. William Henry, Prince of Orange, afterwards William III.
of England, was made Statholder by a popular insurrection, consequent on
the invasion of the French.




HAVING explained and made proof of the foundations of both kinds of
aristocracy, it remains to inquire whether by reason of any fault they
are liable to be dissolved or changed into another form. The primary
cause, by which dominions of this kind are dissolved, is that, which
that most acute Florentine [1] observes in his "Discourses on Livy" (Bk.
iii. Chap. I.), namely, that like a human body, "a dominion has daily
added to it something that at some time or other needs to be remedied."
And so, he says, it is necessary for something occasionally to occur, to
bring back the dominion to that first principle, on which it was in the
beginning established. And if this does not take place within the
necessary time, its blemishes will go on increasing, till they cannot be
removed, but with the dominion itself. And this restoration, he says,
may either happen accidentally, or by the design and forethought of the
laws or of a man of extraordinary virtue. And we cannot doubt, that this
matter is of the greatest importance, and that, where provision has not
been made against this inconvenience, the dominion will not be able to
endure by its own excellence, but only by good fortune; and on the other
hand that, where a proper remedy has been applied to this evil, it will
not be possible for it to fall by its own fault, but only by some
inevitable fate, as we shall presently show more clearly. The first
remedy, that suggested itself for this evil, was to appoint every five
years a supreme dictator for one or two months, who should have the
right to inquire, decide, and make ordinances concerning the acts of the
senators and of every official, and thereby to bring back the dominion
to its first principle. But he who studies to avoid the inconveniences,
to which a dominion is liable, must apply remedies that suit its nature,
and can be derived from its own foundations; otherwise in his wish to
avoid Charybdis he falls upon Scylla. It is, indeed, true that all, as
well rulers as ruled, ought to be restrained by fear of punishment or
loss, so that they may not do wrong with impunity or even advantage;
but, on the other hand, it is certain, that if this fear becomes common
to good and bad men alike, the dominion must be in the utmost danger.
Now as the authority of a dictator is absolute, it cannot fail to be a
terror to all, especially if, as is here required, he were appointed at
a stated time, because in that case every ambitious man would pursue
this office with the utmost energy; and it is certain that in time of
peace virtue is thought less of than wealth, so that the more haughty a
man he is, the more easily he will get office. And this perhaps is why
the Romans used to make a dictator at no fixed time, but under pressure
of some accidental necessity. Though for all that, to quote Cicero's
words, "the tumour of a dictator was displeasing to the good." [2] And
to be sure, as this authority of a dictator is quite royal, it is
impossible for the dominion to change into a monarchy without great
peril to the republic, although it happen for ever so short a time.
Furthermore, if no fixed time were appointed for creating a dictator, no
notice would be paid to the interval between one dictator and another,
which is the very thing that we said was most to be observed; and the
whole thing would be exceedingly vague, and therefore easily neglected.
Unless, then, this authority of a dictator be eternal and fixed, and
therefore impossible to be conferred on one man without destroying the
form of dominion, the dictatorial authority itself, and consequently the
safety and preservation of the republic will be very uncertain.

2. But, on the other hand, we cannot doubt (Chap. VI. Sec. 3), that, if
without destroying the form of dominion, the sword of the dictator might
be permanent, and only terrible to the wicked, evils will never grow to
such a pitch, that they cannot be eradicated or amended. In order,
therefore, to secure all these conditions, we have said, that there is
to be a council of syndics subordinate to the supreme council, to the
end that the sword of the dictator should be permanent in the hands not
of any natural person, but of a civil person, whose members are too
numerous to divide the dominion amongst themselves (Chap. IX. Secs. 1,
2), or to combine in any wickedness. To which is to be added, that they
are forbidden to fill any other office in the dominion, that they are
not the paymasters of the soldiery, and, lastly, that they are of an age
to prefer actual security to things new and perilous. Wherefore the
dominion is in no danger from them, and consequently they cannot, and in
fact will not be a terror to the good, but only to the wicked. For as
they are less powerful to accomplish criminal designs, so are they more
so to restrain wickedness. For, not to mention that they can resist it
in its beginnings (since the council lasts for ever), they are also
sufficiently numerous to dare to accuse and condemn this or that
influential man without fear of his enmity; especially as they vote by
ballot, and the sentence is pronounced in the name of the entire

3. But the tribunes of the commons at Rome were likewise regularly
appointed; but they were too weak to restrain the power of a Scipio, and
had besides to submit to the senate their plans for the public welfare,
[3] which also frequently eluded them, by contriving that the one whom
the senators were least afraid of should be most popular with the
commons. Besides which, the tribunes' authority was supported against
the patricians by the favour of the commons. and whenever they convoked
the commons, it looked as if they were raising a sedition rather than
assembling a council. Which inconveniences have certainly no place in
the dominion which we have described in the last two chapters.

4. However, this authority of the syndics will only be able to secure
the preservation of the form of the dominion, and thus to prevent the
laws from being broken, or anyone from gaining by transgressing; but
will by no means suffice to prevent the growth of vices, which cannot be
forbidden by law, such as those into which men fall from excess of
leisure, and from which the ruin of a dominion not uncommonly follows.
For men in time of peace lay aside fear, and gradually from being fierce
savages become civilized or humane, and from being humane become soft
and sluggish, and seek to excel one another not in virtue, but in
ostentation and luxury. And hence they begin to put off their native
manners and to put on foreign ones, that is, to become slaves.

5. To avoid these evils many have tried to establish sumptuary laws; but
in vain. For all laws which can be broken without any injury to another,
are counted but a laughing-stock, and are so far from bridling the
desires and lusts of men, that on the contrary they stimulate them. For
"we are ever eager for forbidden fruit, and desire what is denied." [4]
Nor do idle men ever lack ability to elude the laws which are instituted
about things, which cannot absolutely be forbidden, as banquets, plays,
ornaments, and the like, of which only the excess is bad; and that is to
be judged according to the individual's fortune, so that it cannot be
determined by any general law.

6. I conclude, therefore, that the common vices of peace, of which we
are here speaking, are never to be directly, but indirectly forbidden;
that is, by laying such foundations of dominion, that the result may be,
that the majority, I do not say are anxious to live wisely (for that is
impossible), but are guided by those passions whence the republic has
most advantage. And therefore the chief point to be studied is, that the
rich may be, if not thrifty, yet avaricious. For there is no doubt,
that, if this passion of avarice, which is general and lasting, be
encouraged by the desire of glory, most people would set their chief
affection upon increasing their property without disgrace, in order to
acquire honours, while avoiding extreme infamy. If then we examine the
foundations of both kinds of aristocracy which I have explained in the
last two chapters, we shall see, that this very result follows from
them. For the number of rulers in both is so large, that most of the
rich have access to government and to the offices of the dominion open
to them.

7. But if it be further ordained (as we said, Chap. VIII. Sec. 47), that
patricians who are insolvent be deposed from patrician rank, and that
those who have lost their property by misfortune be restored to their
former position, there is no doubt that all will try their best to keep
their property. Moreover, they will never desire foreign costumes, nor
disdain their native ones, if it is by law appointed, that patricians
and candidates for office should be distinguished by a special robe,
concerning which see Chap. VIII. Secs. 25, 47. And besides these, other
means may be devised in every dominion agreeable to the nature of its
situation and the national genius, and herein it is above all to be
studied, that the subjects may do their duty rather spontaneously than
under pressure of the law.

8. For a dominion, that looks no farther than to lead men by fear, will
be rather free from vices, than possessed of virtue. But men are so to
be led, that they may think that they are not led, but living after
their own mind, and according to their free decision; and so that they
are restrained only by love of liberty, desire to increase their
property, and hope of gaining the honours of the dominion. But effigies,
triumphs, and other incitements to virtue, are signs rather of slavery
than liberty. For rewards of virtue are granted to slaves, not freemen.
I admit, indeed, that men are very much stimulated by these incitements;
but, as in the first instance, they are awarded to great men, so
afterwards, with the growth of envy, they are granted to cowards and men
swollen with the extent of their wealth, to the great indignation of all
good men. Secondly, those, who boast of their ancestors' effigies and
triumphs, think they are wronged, if they are not preferred to others.
Lastly, not to mention other objections, it is certain that equality,
which once cast off the general liberty is lost, can by no means be
maintained, from the time that peculiar honours are by public law
decreed to any man renowned for his virtue.

9. After which premisses, let us now see whether dominions of this kind
can be destroyed by any cause to which blame attaches. But if any
dominion can be everlasting, that will necessarily be so, whose
constitution being once rightly instituted remains unbroken. For the
constitution is the soul of a dominion. Therefore, if it is preserved,
so is the dominion. But a constitution cannot remain unconquered, unless
it is defended alike by reason and common human passion: otherwise, if
it relies only on the help of reason, it is certainly weak and easily
overcome. Now since the fundamental constitution of both kinds of
aristocracy has been shown to agree with reason and common human
passion, we can therefore assert that these, if any kinds of dominion,
will be eternal, in other words, that they cannot be destroyed by any
cause to which blame attaches, but only by some inevitable fate.

10. But it may still be objected to us, that, although the constitution
of dominion above set forth is defended by reason and common human
passion, yet for all that it may at some time be overpowered. For there
is no passion, that is not sometimes overpowered, by a stronger contrary
one; for we frequently see the fear of death overpowered by the greed
for another's property. Men, who are running away in panic fear from the
enemy, can be stopped by the fear of nothing else, but throw themselves
into rivers, or rush into fire, to escape the enemy's steel. In whatever
degree, therefore, a commonwealth is rightly ordered, and its laws well
made; yet in the extreme difficulties of a dominion, when all, as
sometimes happens, are seized by a sort of panic terror, all, without
regard to the future or the laws, approve only that which their actual
fear suggests, all turn towards the man who is renowned for his
victories, and set him free from the laws, and (establishing thereby the
worst of precedents), continue him in command, and entrust to his
fidelity all affairs of state: and this was, in fact, the cause of the
destruction of the Roman dominion. But to answer this objection, I say,
first, that in a rightly constituted republic such terror does not arise
but from a due cause. And so such terror and consequent confusion can be
attributed to no cause avoidable by human foresight. In the next place,
it is to be observed, that in a republic such as we have above
described, it is impossible (Chap. VIII. Secs. 9, 25) for this or that
man so to distinguish himself by the report of his virtue, as to turn
towards himself the attention of all, but he must have many rivals
favoured by others. And so, although from terror there arise some
confusion in the republic, yet no one will be able to elude the law and
declare the election of anyone to an illegal military command, without
its being immediately disputed by other candidates; and to settle the
dispute, it will, in the end, be necessary to have recourse to the
constitution ordained once for all, and approved by all, and to order
the affairs of the dominion according to the existing laws. I may
therefore absolutely assert, that as the aristocracy, which is in the
hands of one city only, so especially that which is in the hands of
several, is everlasting, or, in other words, can be dissolved or changed
into another form by no internal cause.


1. Machiavelli.

2. Cic. ad Quint. Grat. iii. 8, 4. The better reading is "rumour," not
"tumour." "The good" in such a passage means the aristocratic party.

3. Not by law, except before B.C. 287 and in the interval between the
dictatorship of Sulla and the consulship of Pompey and Crassus. But in
the golden age of the republic the senate in fact controlled the

4. Ovid, "Amores," III. iv. 17.




I PASS, at length, to the third and perfectly absolute dominion, which
we call democracy. The difference between this and aristocracy consists,
we have said, chiefly in this, that in an aristocracy it depends on the
supreme council's will and free choice only, that this or that man is
made a patrician, so that no one has the right to vote or fill public
offices by inheritance, and that no one can by right demand this right,
as is the case in the dominion, whereof we are now treating. For all,
who are born of citizen parents, or on the soil of the country, or who
have deserved well of the republic, or have accomplished any other
conditions upon which the law grants to a man right of citizenship; they
all, I say, have a right to demand for themselves the right to vote in
the supreme council and to fill public offices, nor can they be refused
it, but for crime or infamy.

2. If, then, it is by a law appointed, that the elder men only, who have
reached a certain year of their age, or the first-born only, as soon as
their age allows, or those who contribute to the republic a certain sum
of money, shall have the right of voting in the supreme council and
managing the business of the dominion; then, although on this system the
result might be, that the supreme council would be composed of fewer
citizens than that of the aristocracy of which we treated above, yet,
for all that, dominions of this kind should be called democracies,
because in them the citizens, who are destined to manage affairs of
state, are not chosen as the best by the supreme council, but are
destined to it by a law. And although for this reason dominions of this
kind, that is, where not the best, but those who happen by chance to be
rich, or who are born eldest, are destined to govern, are thought
inferior to an aristocracy; yet, if we reflect on the practice or
general condition of mankind, the result in both cases will come to the
same thing. For patricians will always think those the best, who are
rich, or related to themselves in blood, or allied by friendship. And,
indeed, if such were the nature of patricians, that they were free from
all passion, and guided by mere zeal for the public welfare in choosing
their patrician colleagues, no dominion could be compared with
aristocracy. But experience itself teaches us only too well, that things
pass in quite a contrary manner, above all, in oligarchies, where the
will of the patricians, from the absence of rivals, is most free from
the law. For there the patricians intentionally keep away the best men
from the council, and seek for themselves such colleagues in it, as hang
upon their words, so that in such a dominion things are in a much more
unhappy condition, because the choice of patricians depends entirely
upon the arbitrary will of a few, which is free or unrestrained by any
law. But I return to my subject.

3. From what has been said in the last section, it is manifest that we
can conceive of various kinds of democracy. But my intention is not to
treat of every kind, but of that only, "wherein all, without exception,
who owe allegiance to the laws of the country only, and are further
independent and of respectable life, have the right of voting in the
supreme council and of filling the offices of the dominion." I say
expressly. "who owe allegiance to the laws of the country only," to
exclude foreigners, who are treated as being under another's dominion. I
added, besides, "who are independent," except in so far as they are
under allegiance to the laws of the dominion, to exclude women and
slaves, who are under the authority of men and masters, and also
children and wards, as long as they are under the authority of parents
and guardians. I said, lastly, "and of respectable life," to exclude,
above all, those that are infamous from crime, or some disgraceful means
of livelihood.

4. But, perhaps, someone will ask, whether women are under men's
authority by nature or institution? For if it has been by mere
institution, then we had no reason compelling us to exclude women from
government. But if we consult experience itself, we shall find that the
origin of it is in their weakness. For there has never been a case of
men and women reigning together, but wherever on the earth men are
found, there we see that men rule, and women are ruled, and that on this
plan, both sexes live in harmony. But on the other hand, the Amazons,
who are reported to have held rule of old, did not suffer men to stop in
their country, but reared only their female children, killing the males
to whom they gave birth. [1] But if by nature women were equal to men,
and were equally distinguished by force of character and ability, in
which human power and therefore human right chiefly consist; surely
among nations so many and different some would be found, where both
sexes rule alike, and others, where men are ruled by women, and so
brought up, that they can make less use of their abilities. And since
this is nowhere the case, one may assert with perfect propriety, that
women have not by nature equal right with men: but that they necessarily
give way to men, and that thus it cannot happen, that both sexes should
rule alike, much less that men should be ruled by women. But if we
further reflect upon human passions, how men, in fact, generally love
women merely from the passion of lust, and esteem their cleverness and
wisdom in proportion to the excellence of their beauty, and also how
very ill-disposed men are to suffer the women they love to show any sort
of favour to others, and other facts of this kind, we shall easily see
that men and women cannot rule alike without great hurt to peace. But of
this enough.


1. Justin, Histories, ii. 4. 




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