founder from time to time, and perish, and have perished and
after perish, through the badness of their pilots and crews, who
have the worst sort of ignorance of the highest truths-I mean to
say, that they are wholly unaquainted with politics, of which, above
all other sciences, they believe themselves to have acquired the
most perfect knowledge.
Y. Soc. Very true.
Str. Then the question arises:-which of these untrue forms of
government is the least oppressive to their subjects, though they
are all oppressive; and which is the worst of them? Here is a
consideration which is beside our present purpose, and yet having
regard to the whole it seems to influence all our actions: we must
Y. Soc. Yes, we must.
Str. You may say that of the three forms, the same is at once the
hardest and the easiest.
Y. Soc. What do you mean?
Str. I am speaking of the three forms of government, which I
mentioned at the beginning of this discussion-monarchy, the rule of
the few, and the rule of the many.
Y. Soc. True.
Str. If we divide each of these we shall have six, from which the
true one may be distinguished as a seventh.
Y. Soc. How would you make the division?
Str. Monarchy divides into royalty and tyranny; the rule of the
few into aristocracy, which has an auspicious name, and
democracy or the rule of the many, which before was one, must now be
Y. Soc. On what principle of division?
Str. On the same principle as before, although the name is now
discovered to have a twofold meaning;-For the distinction of ruling
with law or without applies to this as well as to the rest.
Y. Soc. Yes.
Str. The division made no difference when we were looking for the
perfect State, as we showed before. But now that this has been
separated off, and, as we said, the others alone are left for us,
the principle of law and the absence of law will bisect them all.
Y. Soc. That would seem follow, from what has been said.
Str. Then monarchy, when bound by good prescriptions or
laws, is the
best of all the six, and when lawless is the most bitter and
oppressive to the subject.
Y. Soc. True.
Str. The government of the few which is intermediate
between that of
the one and many; is also intermediate in good and evil; but the
government of the many is in every respect weak and unable to do
either any great good or any great evil, when compared with the
others, because the offices are too minutely subdivided and too many
hold them. And this therefore is the worst of all lawful
governments, and the best of all lawless ones. If they are
the restraints of law, democracy is the form in which to
live is best;
if they are well ordered then this is the last which you should
choose, as royalty, the first form, is the best, with the
the seventh for that excels them all, and is among States what God
is among men.
Y. Soc. You are quite right, and we should choose that above all.
Str. The members of all these States, with the exception of the
one which has knowledge may be set aside as being not Statesmen but