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Pages of laws (books 7 - 12)

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laws (books 7 - 12)   

heiress in the first degree be a sister, and in a second degree a
daughter of a brother, and in the third, a daughter of a sister, in
the fourth degree the sister of a father, and in the fifth degree
the daughter of a father's brother, and in a sixth degree of a
father's sister; and these shall dwell with their male kinsmen,
according to the degree of relationship and right, as we enacted
before. Now we must not conceal from ourselves that such laws are
apt to be oppressive and that there may sometimes be a hardship in the
lawgiver commanding the kinsman of the dead man to marry his relation;
be may be thought not to have considered the innumerable hindrances
which may arise among men in the execution of such ordinances; for
there may be cases in which the parties refuse to obey, and are
ready to do anything rather than marry, when there is some bodily or
mental malady or defect among those who are bidden to marry or be
married. Persons may fancy that the legislator never thought of
this, but they are mistaken; wherefore let us make a common prelude on
behalf of the lawgiver and of his subjects, the law begging the latter
to forgive the legislator, in that he, having to take care of the
common weal, cannot order at the same time the various circumstances
of individuals, and begging him to pardon them if naturally they are
sometimes unable to fulfil the act which he in his ignorance imposes
upon them.
Cle. And how, Stranger, can we act most fairly under the
Ath. There must be arbiters chosen to deal with such laws and the
subjects of them.
Cle. What do you mean?
Ath. I mean to say, that a case may occur in which the nephew,
having a rich father, will be unwilling to marry the daughter of his
uncle; he will have a feeling of pride, and he will wish to look
higher. And there are cases in which the legislator will be imposing
upon him the greatest calamity, and he will be compelled to disobey
the law, if he is required, for example, to take a wife who is mad, or
has some other terrible malady of soul or body, such as makes life
intolerable to the sufferer. Then let what we are saying concerning
these cases be embodied in a law:-If any one finds fault with the
established laws respecting testaments, both as to other matters and
especially in what relates to marriage, and asserts that the
legislator, if he were alive and present, would not compel him to
obey-that is to say, would not compel those who are by our law
required to marry or be given in marriage, to do either-and some
kinsman or guardian dispute this, the reply is that the legislator
left fifteen of the guardians of the law to be arbiters and fathers of
orphans, male or female, and to them let the disputants have recourse,
and by their aid determine any matters of the kind, admitting their
decision to be final. But if any one thinks that too great power is
thus given to the guardians of the law, let him bring his
adversaries into the court of the select judges, and there have the
points in dispute determined. And he who loses the cause shall have
censure and blame from the legislator, which, by a man of sense, is
felt to be a penalty far heavier than a great loss of money.
Thus will orphan children have a second birth. After their first
birth we spoke of their nurture and education, and after their
second birth, when they have lost their parents, we ought to take
measures that the misfortune of orphanhood may be as little sad to
them as possible. In the first place, we say that the guardians of the
law are lawgivers and fathers to them, not inferior to their natural
fathers. Moreover, they shall take charge of them year by year as of
their own kindred; and we have given both to them and to the
children's own guardians a suitable admonition concerning the
nurture of orphans. And we seem to have spoken opportunely in our
former discourse, when we said that the souls of the dead have the
power after death of taking an interest in human affairs, about
which there are many tales and traditions, long indeed, but true;

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