laws (books 1 - 6)
has come from Gortys in the Peloponnesus.
Ath. Cities find colonization in some respects easier if the
colonists are one race, which like a swarm of bees is sent out from
a single country, either when friends leave friends, owing to some
pressure of population or other similar necessity, or when a portion
of a state is driven by factions to emigrate. And there have been
whole cities which have taken flight when utterly conquered by a
superior power in war. This, however, which is in one way an advantage
to the colonist or legislator, in another point of view creates a
difficulty. There is an element of friendship in the community of
race, and language, and language, and laws, and in common temples
and rites of worship; but colonies which are of this homogeneous
sort are apt to kick against any laws or any form of constitution
differing from that which they had at home; and although the badness
of their own laws may have been the cause of the factions which
prevailed among them, yet from the force of habit they would fain
preserve the very customs which were their ruin, and the leader of the
colony, who is their legislator, finds them troublesome and
rebellious. On the other hand, the conflux of several populations
might be more disposed to listen to new laws; but then, to make them
combine and pull together, as they say of horses, is a most
difficult task, and the work of years. And yet there is nothing
which tends more to the improvement of mankind than legislation and
Cle. No doubt; but I should like to know why you say so.
Ath. My good friend, I am afraid that the course of my
speculations is leading me to say something depreciatory of
legislators; but if the word be to the purpose, there can be no
harm. And yet, why am I disquieted, for I believe that the same
principle applies equally to all human things?
Cle. To what are you referring?
Ath. I was going to say that man never legislates, but accidents
of all sorts, which legislate for us in all sorts of ways. The
violence of war and the hard necessity of poverty are constantly
overturning governments and changing laws. And the power of discase
has often caused innovations in the state, when there have been
pestilences, or when there has been a succession of bad seasons
continuing during many years. Any one who sees all this, naturally
rushes to the conclusion of which I was speaking, that no mortal
legislates in anything, but that in human affairs chance is almost
everything. And this may be said of the arts of the sailor, and the
pilot, and the physician, and the general, and may seem to be well
said; and yet there is another thing which may be said with equal
truth of all of them.
Cle. What is it?
Ath. That God governs all things, and that chance and opportunity
co-operate with him in the government of human affairs. There is,
however, a third and less extreme view, that art should be there also;
for I should say that in a storm there must surely be a great
advantage in having the aid of the pilot's art. You would agree?
Ath. And does not a like principle apply to legislation as well as
to other things: even supposing all the conditions to be favourable
which are needed for the happiness of the state, yet the true
legislator must from time to time appear on the scene?
Cle. Most true.
Ath. In each case the artist would be able to pray rightly for
certain conditions, and if these were granted by fortune, he would
then only require to exercise his art?
Ath. And all the other artists just now mentioned, if they were
bidden to offer up each their special prayer, would do so?
Cle. Of course.
Ath. And the legislator would do likewise?