laws (books 7 - 12)
Cle. What do you mean, Stranger?
Ath. O Cleinias, a man when he is about to die is an intractable
creature, and is apt to use language which causes a great deal of
anxiety and trouble to the legislator.
Cle. In what way?
Ath. He wants to have the entire control of all his property, and
will use angry words.
Cle. Such as what?
Ath. O ye Gods, he will say, how monstrous that I am not allowed
to give, or not to give my own to whom I will-less to him who has been
bad to me, and more to him who has been good to me, and whose
badness and goodness have been tested by me in time of sickness or
in old age and in every other sort of fortune!
Cle. Well Stranger, and may he not very fairly say so?
Ath. In my opinion, Cleinias, the ancient legislators were too
good-natured, and made laws without sufficient observation or
consideration of human things.
Cle. What do you mean?
Ath. I mean, my friend that they were afraid of the testator's
reproaches, and so they passed a law to the effect that a man should
be allowed to dispose of his property in all respects as he liked; but
you and I, if I am not mistaken, will have something better to say
to our departing citizens.
Ath. O my friends, we will say to them, hard is it for you, who
are creatures of a day, to know what is yours-hard too, as the Delphic
oracle says, to know yourselves at this hour. Now I, as the
legislator, regard you and your possessions, not as belonging to
yourselves, but as belonging to your whole family, both past and
future, and yet more do regard both family and possessions as
belonging to the state; wherefore, if some one steals upon you with
flattery, when you are tossed on the sea of disease or old age, and
persuades you to dispose of your property in a way that is not for the
best, I will not, if I can help, allow this; but I will legislate with
a view to the whole, considering what is best both for the state and
for the family, esteeming as I ought the feelings of an individual
at a lower rate; and I hope that you will depart in peace and kindness
towards us, as you are going the way of all mankind; and we will
impartially take care of all your concerns, not neglecting any of
them, if we can possibly help. Let this be our prelude and consolation
to the living and dying, Cleinias, and let the law be as follows:
He who makes a disposition in a testament, if he be the father of
a family, shall first of all inscribe as his heir any one of his
sons whom he may think fit; and if he gives any of his children to
be adopted by another citizen, let the adoption be inscribed. And if
he has a son remaining over and above who has not been adopted upon
any lot, and who may be expected to be sent out to a colony
according to law, to him his father may give as much as he pleases
of the rest of his property, with the exception of the paternal lot
and the fixtures on the lot. And if there are other sons, let him
distribute among them what there is more than the lot in such portions
as he pleases. And if one of the sons has already a house of his
own, he shall not give him of the money, nor shall he give money to
a daughter who has been betrothed, but if she is not betrothed he
may give her money. And if any of the sons or daughters shall be found
to have another lot of land in the country, which has accrued after
the testament has been made, they shall leave the lot which they
have inherited to the heir of the man who has made the will. If the
testator has no sons, but only daughters, let him choose the husband
of any one of his daughters whom he pleases, and leave and inscribe
him as his son and heir. And if a man have lost his son, when he was a
child, and before he could be reckoned among grown-up men, whether his
own or an adopted son, let the testator make mention of the
circumstance and inscribe whom he will to be his second son in hope of