Aristotle proves, that no man is to be entrusted with an absolute Power, by shewing that no one knows how to execute it, but such a man as is not to be found.

OUR author having falsely cited and perverted the sense of Aristotle, now brings him in saying, That a perfect kingdom is that wherein the king rules all according to his own will.[1] But tho I have read his books of government with some attention, I can find no such thing in them, unless the word which signifies mere or absolute may be justly translated into perfect; which is so far from Aristotle's meaning, that he distinguishes the absolute or despotical kingdoms from the legitimate; and commending the latter, gives no better name than that of barbarous to the first, which he says can agree only with the nature of such nations as are base and stupid, little differing from beasts; and having no skill to govern, or courage to defend themselves, must resign all to the will of one that will take care of them. Yet even this cannot be done, unless he that should take that care be wholly exempted from the vices which oblige the others to stand in need of it; for otherwise 'tis no better than if a sheep should undertake to govern sheep, or a hog to command swine; Aristotle plainly saying, That as men are by nature equal, if it were possible all should be magistrates. But that being repugnant to the nature of government, he finds no other way of solving the difficulty, than by obeying and commanding alternately; that they may do by turns that which they cannot do all together, and to which no one man has more right than another, because they are all by nature equal.[2] This might be composed by a more compendious way, if, according to our author's doctrine, possession could give a right. But Aristotle speaking like a philosopher, and not like a publick enemy of mankind, examines what is just, reasonable, and beneficial to men, that is, what ought to be done, and which being done, is to be accounted just, and therefore to be supported by good men. But as that which is unjust in the beginning, can never have the effect of justice;[3] and it being manifestly unjust for one or a few men to assume a power over those who by nature are equal to them, no such power can be just or beneficial to mankind; nor fit to be upheld by good men, if it be unjust and prejudicial. In the opinion of Aristotle, this natural equality continues till virtue makes the distinction, which must be either simply compleat and perfect in itself, so that he who is endued with it, is a god among men, or relatively, as far as concerns civil society, and the ends for which it is constituted, that is, defence, and the obtaining of justice. This requires a mind unbiased by passion, full of goodness and wisdom, firm against all the temptations to ill, that may arise from desire or fear; tending to all manner of good, through a perfect knowledge and affection to it; and this to such a degree, that he or they have more of these virtues and excellencies than all the rest of the society, tho computed together: Where such a man is found, he is by nature a king, and 'tis best for the nation where he is that he govern.[4] If a few men, tho equal and alike among themselves, have the same advantages above the rest of the people, nature for the same reason seems to establish an aristocracy in that place; and the power is more safely committed to them, than left in the hands of the multitude. But if this excellency of virtue do not appear in one, nor in a few men, the right and power is by nature equally lodged in all; and to assume or appropriate that power to one, or a few men, is unnatural and tyrannical, which in Aristotle's language comprehends all that is detestable and abominable.

If any man should think Aristotle a trifler, for speaking of such a man as can never be found, I answer, that he went as far as his way could be warranted by reason or nature, and was obliged to stop there by the defect of his subject. He could not say that the government of one was simply good, when he knew so many qualifications were required in the person to make it so; nor that it is good for a nation to be under the power of a fool, a coward, or a villain, because 'tis good to be under a man of admirable wisdom, valour, industry and goodness; or that the government of one should be continued in such as by chance succeed in a family, because it was given to the first who had all the virtues required, tho all the reasons for which the power was given fail in the successor; much less could he say that any government was good, which was not good for those whose good only it was constituted to promote.

Moreover, by shewing who only is fit to be a monarch, or may be made such, without violating the laws of nature and justice, he shews who cannot be one: and he who says that no such man is to be found, as according to the opinion of Aristotle can be a monarch, does most ridiculously allege his authority in favour of monarchs, or the power which some amongst us would attribute to them. If anything therefore may be concluded from his words, 'tis this, that since no power ought to be admitted which is not just; that none can be just which is not good, profitable to the people, and conducing to the ends for which it is constituted; that no man can know how to direct the power to those ends, can deserve, or administer it, unless he do so far excel all those that are under him in wisdom, justice, valour and goodness, as to possess more of those virtues than all of them: I say, if no such man or succession of men be found, no such power is to be granted to any man, or succession of men. But if such power be granted, the laws of nature and reason are overthrown, and the ends for which societies are constituted, utterly perverted, which necessarily implies an annihilation of the grant. And if a grant so made by those who have a right of setting up a government among themselves, do perish through its own natural iniquity and perversity, I leave it to any man, whose understanding and manners are not so entirely corrupted as those of our author, to determine what name ought to be given to that person, who not excelling all others in civil and moral virtues, in the proportion requir'd by Aristotle, does usurp a power over a nation, and what obedience the people owe to such a one. But if his opinion deserve our regard, the king by having those virtues is omnium optimus, and the best guide to the people, to lead them to happiness by the ways of virtue.[5] And he who assumes the same power, without the qualifications requir'd, is tyrannus omnium pessimus,[6] leading the people to all manner of ill, and in consequence to destruction.

[1] [Patriarcha, ch. 26, citing Politics, bk. 3.]

[2] Arist. Pol. 1. 2. c. 1. [Aristotle, Politics, bk. 2.]

[3] Quod ab initio injustum est, nullum potest habere juris effectum. Grot. de jur. bel & pac. 1. 3. [Grotius, De jure.]

[4] Arist. Pol. 1. 2. [Aristotle, Politics, bk. 3.]

[5] Ad summum bonum secundum virtutem. Arist. Pol. [Omnium optimus, "the best of all."]

[6] [A tyrant, the worst of all.]