laws (books 1 - 6)
intentionally decided wrong, let him go to the guardians of the law
and lay his accusation before them, and he who is found guilty in such
a case shall pay damages to the injured party equal to half the
injury; but if he shall appear to deserve a greater penalty, the
judges shall determine what additional punishment he shall suffer, and
how much more he ought to pay to the public treasury, and to the party
who brought the suit.
In the judgment of offences against the state, the people ought to
participate, for when any one wrongs the state all are wronged, and
may reasonably complain if they are not allowed to share in the
decision. Such causes ought to originate with the people, and the
ought also to have the final decision of them, but the trial of them
shall take place before three of the highest magistrates, upon whom
the plaintiff and the defendant shall agree; and if they are not
able to come to an agreement themselves, the council shall choose
one of the two proposed. And in private suits, too, as far as is
possible, all should have a share; for he who has no share in the
administration of justice, is apt to imagine that he has no share in
the state at all. And for this reason there shall be a court of law in
every tribe, and the judges shall be chosen by lot;-they shall give
their decisions at once, and shall be inaccessible to entreaties.
The final judgment shall rest with that court which, as we maintain,
has been established in the most incorruptible form of which human
things admit: this shall be the court established for those who are
unable to get rid of their suits either in the courts of neighbours or
of the tribes.
Thus much of the courts of law, which, as I was saying, cannot be
precisely defined either as being or not being offices; a
superficial sketch has been given of them, in which some things have
been told and others omitted. For the right place of an exact
statement of the laws respecting suits, under their several heads,
will be at the end of the body of legislation;-let us then expect them
at the end. Hitherto our legislation has been chiefly occupied with
the appointment of offices. Perfect unity and exactness, extending
to the whole and every particular of political administration,
cannot be attained to the full, until the discussion shall have a
beginning, middle, and end, and is complete in every part. At
present we have reached the election of magistrates, and this may be
regarded as a sufficient termination of what preceded. And now there
need no longer be any delay or hesitation in beginning the work of
Cle. I like what you have said, Stranger-and I particularly like
your manner of tacking on the beginning of your new discourse to the
end of the former one.
Ath. Thus far, then, the old men's rational pastime has gone off
Cle. You mean, I suppose, their serious and noble pursuit?
Ath. Perhaps; but I should like to know whether you and I are agreed
about a certain thing.
Cle. About what thing?
Ath. You know. the endless labour which painters expend upon their
pictures-they are always putting in or taking out colours, or whatever
be the term which artists employ; they seem as if they would never
cease touching up their works, which are always being made brighter
and more beautiful.
Cle. I know something of these matters from report, although I
have never had any great acquaintance with the art.
Ath. No matter; we may make use of the illustration
notwithstanding:-Suppose that some one had a mind to paint a figure in
the most beautiful manner, in the hope that his work instead of losing
would always improve as time went on-do you not see that being a
mortal, unless he leaves some one to succeed him who will correct
the flaws which time may introduce, and be able to add what is left
imperfect through the defect of the artist, and who will further