Aristotle was not simply for Monarchy or against Popular Government; but approved or disapproved of either according to circumstances.

OUR author well observes that Aristotle is hardly brought to give a general opinion in favour of Monarchy, as if it were the best form of government, or to say true, never does it. He uses much caution, proposes conditions, and limitations, and makes no decision but according to circumstances. Men of wisdom and learning are subject to such doubts; but none ought to wonder if stupidity and ignorance defend Filmer and his followers from them; or that their hatred to the ancient virtue should give them an aversion to the learning that was the nurse of it. Those who neither understand the several species of government, nor the various tempers of nations, may without fear or shame give their opinions in favour of that which best pleaseth them; but wise men will always proportion their praises to the merit of the subject, and never commend that simply which is good only according to circumstances. Aristotle highly applauds monarchy, when the monarch has more of those virtues that tend to the good of a commonwealth than all they who compose it. This is the king mentioned in his Ethicks, and extolled in his Politicks:[1] He is above all by nature, and ought not by a municipal law to be made equal to others in power: He ought to govern, because 'tis better for a people to be governed by him, than to enjoy their liberty; or rather they do enjoy their liberty, which is never more safe, than when it is defended by one who is a living law to himself and others. Wheresoever such a man appears, he ought to reign: He bears in his person the divine character of a sovereign: God has raised him above all; and such as will not submit to him, ought to be accounted sons of Belial, brought forth and slain. But he does withal confess, that if no such man be found, there is no natural king: All the prerogatives belonging to him vanish, for want of one who is capable of enjoying them. He lays severe censures upon those who not being thus qualified take upon them to govern men, equal to or better than themselves; and judges the assumption of such powers by persons who are not naturally adapted to the administration of them, as barbarous usurpations, which no law or reason can justify; and is not so much transported with the excellency of this true king, as not to confess he ought to be limited by law: Qui legem praeesse jubet, videtur jubere praeesse Deum & leges: qui autem hominem praeesse jubet, adjungit & bestiam; libido quippe talis est, atque obliquos agit, etiam viros optimos qui sunt in potestate, ex quo mens atque appetitus lex est.[2] This agrees with the words of the best king that is known to have been in the world, proceeding, as is most probable, from a sense of the passions that reigned in his own breast; Man being in honour, hath no understanding, but is like to the beast that perisheth.[3] This shews that such as deny that kings do reign by law, or that laws may be put upon kings, do equally set themselves against the opinions of wise men, and the word of God: and our author having found that learning made the Grecians seditious, may reasonably doubt that religion may make others worse; so as none will be fit subjects of his applauded government, but those who have neither religion nor learning; and that it cannot be introduced till both be extinguished.

Aristotle having declared his mind concerning government, in the books expressly written on that subject, whatsoever is said by the by in his moral discourses, must be referred to and interpreted by the other: And if he said (which I do not find) that monarchy is the best form of government, and a popular state the worst, he cannot be thought to have meant otherwise, than that those nations were the most happy, who had such a man as he thinks fit to be made a monarch; and those the most unhappy, who neither had such a one, nor a few, that any way excelled the rest; but all being equally brutish, must take upon them the government they were unable to manage: for he does nowhere admit any other end of just and civil government, than the good of the governed; nor any advantage due to one or a few persons, unless for such virtues as conduce to the common good of the society. And as our author thinks learning makes men seditious, Aristotle also acknowledges, that those who have understanding and courage, which may be taken for learning, or the effect of it, will never endure the government of one or a few that do not excel them in virtue: but nowhere dispraises a popular government, unless the multitude be composed of such as are barbarous, stupid, lewd, vicious, and incapable of the happiness for which governments are instituted; who cannot live to themselves, but like a herd of beasts must be brought under the dominion of another; or who, having amongst themselves such an excellent person as is above described, will not submit to him, but either kill, banish, or bring him to be equal with others, whom God had made to excel all. I do not trouble myself, or the reader, with citing here or there a line out of his books, but refer myself to those who have perused his moral and political writings, submitting to the severest censures, if this be not the true sense of them; and that virtue alone, in his opinion, ought to give the preeminence. And as Aristotle following the wise men of those times, shews us how far reason, improved by meditation, can advance in the knowledge and love of that which is truly good; so we may in Filmer, guided by Heylyn, see an example of corrupted Christians, extinguishing the light of religion by their vices, and degenerating into beasts, whilst they endeavour to support the personal interest of some men, who being raised to dignities by the consent of nations, or by unwarrantable ways and means, would cast all the power into the hands of such as happen to be born in their families; as if governments had not been instituted for the common good of nations, but only to increase their pride, and foment their vices; or that the care and direction of a great people were so easy a work, that every man, woman, or child, how young, weak, foolish or wicked soever, may be worthy of it, and able to manage it.

[1] [Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, bk. 8; Politics, bk. 3.]

[2] Arist. Polit. 1. 3. c. 12. [Aristotle, Politics, bk. 3. Last words should be "mind without appetite."]

[3] [Psalms 49:12.]