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Pages of laws (books 7 - 12)



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laws (books 7 - 12)   


and seeing that they are so many and so ancient, we must believe them,
and we must also believe the lawgivers, who tell us that these
things are true, if they are not to be regarded as utter fools. But if
these things are really so, in the first place men should have a
fear of the Gods above, who regard the loneliness of the orphans;
and in the second place of the souls of the departed, who by nature
incline to take an especial care of their own children, and are
friendly to those who honour, and unfriendly to those who dishonour
them. Men should also fear the souls of the living who are aged and
high in honour; wherever a city is well ordered and prosperous,
their descendants cherish them, and so live happily; old persons are
quick to see and hear all that relates to them, and are propitious
to those who are just in the fulfilment of such duties, and they
punish those who wrong the orphan and the desolate, considering that
they are the greatest and most sacred of trusts. To all which
matters the guardian and magistrate ought to apply his mind, if he has
any, and take heed of the nurture and education of the orphans,
seeking in every possible way to do them good, for he is making a
contribution to his own good and that of his children. He who obeys
the tale which precedes the law, and does no wrong to an orphan,
will never experience the wrath of the legislator. But he who is
disobedient, and wrongs any one who is bereft of father or mother,
shall pay twice the penalty which he would have paid if he had wronged
one whose parents had been alive. As touching other legislation
concerning guardians in their relation to orphans, or concerning
magistrates and their superintendence of the guardians, if they did
not possess examples of the manner in which children of freemen should
be brought up in the bringing up of their own children, and of the
care of their property in the care of their own, or if they had not
just laws fairly stated about these very things-there would have
been reason in making laws for them, under the idea that they were a
peculiar-class, and we might distinguish and make separate rules for
the life of those who are orphans and of those who are not orphans.
But as the case stands, the condition of orphans with us not different
from the case of those who have father, though in regard to honour and
dishonour, and the attention given to them, the two are not usually
placed upon a level. Wherefore, touching the legislation about
orphans, the law speaks in serious accents, both of persuasion and
threatening, and such a threat as the following will be by no means
out of place:-He who is the guardian of an orphan of either sex, and
he among the guardians of the law to whom the superintendence of
this guardian has been assigned, shall love the unfortunate orphan
as though he were his own child, and he shall be as careful and
diligent in the management of his possessions as he would be if they
were his own, or even more careful and dilligent. Let every one who
has the care of an orphan observe this law. But any one who acts
contrary to the law on these matters, if he be a guardian of the
child, may be fined by a magistrate, or, if he be himself a
magistrate, the guardian may bring him before the court of select
judges, and punish him, if convicted, by exacting a fine of double the
amount of that inflicted by the court. And if a guardian appears to
the relations of the orphan, or to any other citizen, to act
negligently or dishonestly, let them bring him before the same
court, and whatever damages are given against him, let him pay
fourfold, and let half belong to the orphan and half to him who
procured the conviction. If any orphan arrives at years of discretion,
and thinks that he has been ill-used by his guardians, let him
within five years of the expiration of the guardianship be allowed
to bring them to trial; and if any of them be convicted, the court
shall determine what he shall pay or suffer. And if magistrate shall
appear to have wronged the orphan by neglect, and he be convicted, let
the court determine what he shall suffer or pay to the orphan, and
if there be dishonesty in addition to neglect, besides paying the
fine, let him be deposed from his office of guardian of the law, and

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