Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

request, it being most becoming to your state, useful to all the people, and necessary at present for my office.

Having, through the will of God, during many years, preached in this city of yours, and earnestly pursued four objects, namely, having endeavoured with all my ability to prove the faith to be true; to shew simplicity of Christian life to be the highest wisdom; to declare future events, of which some have happened, and the others must certainly come; and lastly, to look to the spiritual interests of this new government of your city; and having already written on the three first, of which, however, we have not published as yet the third book, entitled “On Prophetic Truth ;" it remains now for us to write on the fourth matter, in order that all the world may see that we preach sound science, and agreeable to nature and reason, and the teaching of Christ.

And although my intention was and is to write on this matter in Latin, as my first three books were composed in it, and to declare how far, and when it belongs to a religious, to treat of and meddle in the secular state; yet your Lordships, asking me to write in Italian, and briefly for greater common advantage, there being few who understand Latin in comparison with those who read the former, I will not regret to issue this first little treatise; afterwards, when I shall be able to be more free from present occupations, I will put my hand to the Latin, with that grace which the Almighty God shall grant me.

We shall then first treat on the best government of the city of Florence; secondly, on the worst. Because, although we must first exclude evil, and afterwards build up the good, nevertheless, because evil is the privation of good, we could not understand evil, if we first did not understand the good; and therefore it is necessary, according to the order of the doctrine, to treat of the best government before treating of the worst; thirdly, we shall declare what is the basis for taking away the worst government, and for establishing, and making perfect, and preserving the present good government, in order that it may become the best in this city of Florence.

Chap. I.-That Government is necessary in human affuirsand

what sort of Government is good, and what sort bad.

The Almighty God, who rules all the universe in his ways, infuses the virtue of governing into his creatures.

Into the creatures who have not intellect and free will, he infuses certain instincts and perfections, by which they are naturally inclined to go by the due means to the proper end, without any defect, if they are not prevented by something contrary, which rarely happens. Wherefore, such creatures do not govern themselves, but are governed, and led to the proper ends by God, and by the nature given by Him. But the creatures who have the gift of understanding, like man, are governed in such a manner by Him, that He also wishes that they govern themselves; because He gives them intellect, through which they may be able to know that which is useful to them, and that which is useless; and the faculty of free-will, to be able to choose freely what pleases them. But because the light of the understanding is very weak, particularly in childhood, a man cannot perfectly govern himself without the help of another man ; almost every particular man being insufficient of himself, not being alone able to provide for all his wants, both spiritual and temporal. Wherefore we see, that nature has provided all animals with what they have need of, for life, namely-food, covering, arms to defend themselves, and also, when they are sick, by natural instinct they are guided, and run to the medicinal herbs; which things have not been provided for man ; but God, the Ruler of all things, has given him reason and the instrument of hands, by means of which he can prepare for himself the above-mentioned things. And because, considering the weakness of the human body, an almost infinite number of things are necessary to nourish it, to increase and preserve it, in the preparation of which many arts are required, which it is impossible or very difficult that one man alone could possess them together, it is necessary that men should live together, in order that one may

help the other; some applying themselves to one art, and some to another, and forming, together, a perfect body of all the sciences and arts.

For which reason, it is well said, that he who lives alone, is either a God or a beast; that is, either he is so perfect a man, that he is, as it were, a God on earth; because, like a God, he has no need of any thing, so he has no need of the help of any man, as was Saint John the Baptist, and Saint Paul, the first hermit, and many others; or, that he is like a beast, that is, that he is totally deprived of reason, and therefore cares not for clothes, nor for houses, nor for cooked and prepared foods, nor for the conversation of men, but goes on following the instinct of the sensitive part, having removed from himself all reason. Because, there being few men found of such perfection except such as those I have referred to, all the others are obliged to live in company, either in cities, or towns, or country houses, or in other places.

Now, the human race being much inclined to evil, and particularly when it is without law, and without fear, it has been necessary to find out law, to restrain the audacity of wicked men, in order that those who do live well

may

be

secure; particularly, because there is no animal wickeder than the man who is without law. Wherefore we see the gluttonous man to be more greedy, and incomparably more insatiable than all the other animals—all foods, and all the known modes of preparing them, not sufficing; he sceking not to satisfy nature, but his unbridled desire. In cruelty, also, he exceeds them, because the beasts do not make such cruel wars amongst each other, particularly those which are of the same species, as men do, who even find out different arms to attack each other, and different modes of torturing and killing each other. In addition to these things, in men there is pride, ambition, and envy; from which follow amongst them dissensions and unendurable wars. Men being, therefore, necessitated to live in the society of others, and wishing to live in peace, it has been necdful to find out

laws, by which the wicked may be punished and the good rewarded.

But, because the making of laws appertain only to him who is superior, and their observance cannot be enforced except by him who has power over others, it has been necessary to constitute one, who has care of the commonwealth, and has power over others. Because, each particular man seeking his own welfare, if some one had not care of the common weal, human society could not stand, and all the world would fall into confusion. Some men, then, agree together to constitute one person, who shall take care of the common weal, and whom every one shall obey; and such a mode of governing was called a kingdom, and a king the person who governed it. Some others, either from not being able to agree on one person, or, from it appearing to them better, agreed on the principal, and best, and most prudent of the community, wishing that such should govern by distributing amongst themselves the magistracies at different times; and this government was called that of chiefs, or an aristocracy. Others would have the governing power to remain in the hands of the entire people, who should have to distribute the magistracies as they pleased at different times; and this was called the citizen or civil government, because it belongs to the citizens.

The government, then, of the community being formed, in order to take care of the common weal, that men may live

peacefully together, and devote themselves to the virtues, and pursue more easily eternal felicity, that government is good which, with all diligence, seeks to maintain and increase the common weal, and lead men to virtue and living well, and particularly to the Divine worship; and that government is bad, which, neglecting the common good, attends to its own particular welfare; and such a government is called tyrannical. We have thus seen the necessity of government amongst men, and what sort is good, and what sort is bad in general.

CHAP. II.-Although the government of a single person, when it is

good, is of its nature the best, it is not, therefore, good for every Community.

That government, then, being good, which takes care of the common welfare, both spiritual and temporal, whether it be administered by a single person, or the chief persons of the people, or by the entire people; it is to be known that, speaking absolutely, the citizen government is good, and that of the chief persons (an aristocracy) is better, and that of a king is best. Because, the union and peace of the people being the end of government, this union and peace is much better effected and preserved by one than by many, and better by few than by the multitude; because, when all the men of a community have to look to one only, and obey him, they are not distracted in parties, but all are compelled to love and fear him. But when there are several, one person looks to one, another to another; and one pleases one, another pleases or displeascs another, and the people do not remain so well united as when a single person reigns; and so much the less do they remain united as there are many who govern. Thus virtue united is stronger than scattered ; because fire has greater strength when its parts are united and drawn together, than when they are scattered and spread about.

Since, then, the virtue of government is more united and brought together in one person than in several, it follows, naturally, that the government of one person, when it is good, is better and more efficacious than the others. Also, the government of the world and of nature, being the best government, and, following the art of nature, the more the government of human things resembles the government of the world and of nature, the more perfect it is. Since, then, the world is governed by one, who is God; and all natural things in which we see any government are governed by one, (as the bees by a king, and the powers of the soul by reason, and the members of the body

« VorigeDoorgaan »