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Pages of laws (books 1 - 6)

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laws (books 1 - 6)   

you, Cleinias, must do, and to matters of this kind you must turn your
mind since you are going to colonize a new country.
Cleinias. Your words, Athenian Stranger, are excellent, and I will
do as you say.


Athenian Stranger. And now having made an end of the preliminaries
we will proceed to the appointment of magistracies.
Cleinias. Very good.
Ath. In the ordering of a state there are two parts: first, the
number of the magistracies, and the mode of establishing them; and,
secondly, when they have been established, laws again will have to
be provided for each of them, suitable in nature and number. But
before electing the magistrates let us stop a little and say a word in
season about the election of them.
Cle. What have you got to say?
Ath. This is what I have to say; every one can see, that although
the work of legislation is a most important matter, yet if a
well-ordered city superadd to good laws unsuitable offices, not only
will there be no use in having the good laws-not only will they be
ridiculous and useless, but the greatest political injury and evil
will accrue from them.
Cle. Of course.
Ath. Then now, my friend, let us observe what will happen in the
constitution of out intended state. In the first place, you will
acknowledge that those who are duly appointed to magisterial power,
and their families, should severally have given satisfactory proof
of what they are, from youth upward until the time of election; in the
next place, those who are to elect should have been trained in
habits of law, and be well educated, that they may have a right
judgment, and may be able to select or reject men whom they approve or
disapprove, as they are worthy of either. But how can we imagine
that those who are brought together for the first time, and are
strangers to one another, and also uneducated, will avoid making
mistakes in the choice of magistrates?
Cle. Impossible.
Ath. The matter is serious, and excuses will not serve the turn. I
will tell you, then, what you and I will have to do, since you, as you
tell me, with nine others, have offered to settle the new state on
behalf of the people of Crete, and I am to help you by the invention
of the present romance. I certainly should not like to leave the
tale wandering all over the world without a head;-a headless monster
is such a hideous thing.
Cle. Excellent, Stranger.
Ath. Yes; and I will be as good as my word.
Cle. Let us by all means do as you propose.
Ath. That we will, by the grace of God, if old age will only
permit us.
Cle. But God will be gracious.
Ath. Yes; and under his guidance let us consider further point.
Cle. What is it?
Ath. Let us remember what a courageously mad and daring creation
this our city is.
Cle. What had you in your mind when you said that?
Ath. I had in my mind the free and easy manner in which we are
ordaining that the inexperienced colonists shall receive our laws. Now
a man need not be very wise, Cleinias, in order to see that no one can
easily receive laws at their first imposition. But if we could
anyhow wait until those who have been imbued with them from childhood,
and have been nurtured in them, and become habituated to them, take
their part in the public elections of the state; I say, if this
could be accomplished, and rightly accomplished by any way or
contrivance-then, I think that there would be very little danger, at

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