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I do not know whether such a diversity of masters, who, without doubt, were of different tempers, and perhaps had different interests in view, was well calculated to answer the end proposed; or whether it was possible, that four men should agree together in the same principles, and harmoniously pursue the same end. Probably the reason of having so many was, that they apprehended it impossible to find any one person possessed of all the qualities they judged necessary for giving a right education to the presumptive heir of the crown; so great an idea had they, even in those corrupt times, of the importance of a prince's education.
Be this as it will, all this care, as Plato remarks in the same place, was frustrated by the luxury, pomp, and magnificence with which the young prince was surrounded; by the numerous train of officers that waited upon him with a servile submission; by all the appurtenances and equipage of a voluptuous and effeminate life, in which pleasure, and the inventing of new diversions, seemed to engross all attention; dangers which the most excellent disposition could never surmount. The corrupt manners of the nation therefore quickly debauched the prince, and drew him into the prevailing pleasures, against which no education is a sufficient defence.
The education here spoken of by Plato, can relate only to the children of Artaxerxes, surnamed Longimanus, the son and successor of Xerxes, in whose time lived Alcibiades, who is introduced in the dialogue from whence this observation is taken. For Plato, in another passage, which we shall cite hereafter, informs us, that neither Cyrus nor Darius ever thought of giving the princes, their sons, a good education; ard what we find in history concerning Artaxerxes Longimanus, gives us reason to believe, that he was more attentive than his predecessors to the education of his children; but was not much imitated in that respect by his successors.
The public council, wherein the affairs of state were considered Absolute as the regal authority was among the Persians, yet was it, in some measure, kept within bounds by the establishment of this council
, appointed by the state; a council, which consisted of sever of the princes or chief lords of the nation, no less distinguished by their wisdom and abilities than by their illustrious birth. We have already seen the origin of this establishment in the conspiracy of the seven Persian noblemen, who entered into an association againsi Smerdis, the Magian, and killed him.
The Scripture observes, that Ezra was sent into Judea, in the name, and by the authority, of king Artaxerxes and his seven coun. sellors: Forasmuch as thou art sent of the king and of his seven coun sellors.*
The same Scripture, a long time before this, in the reign of Darius, otherwise called Ahasuerus, who succeeded the Magian, informs us, what these counsellors were well versed in the laws, ancient customs, and maxims of the state; that they always attended the prince, who never transacted any thing, or determined any affair of importance, without their advice. Interrogavit (Assuerus) sapientes, qui ex more regio ei semper aderant, et illorum faciebat cuncta consilio, scientium leges ac jura majorum.*
This last passage gives room for some reflections, which may very much contribute to the knowledge of the genius and character of the Persian government.
In the first place, the king there spoken of, that is, Darius, was one of the most celebrated princes that ever reigned in Persia, and one of the most deserving of praise, on account of his wisdom and prudence: though he had his failings. It is to him, as well as to Cyrus, that the greatest part of those excellent laws are ascribed, which have ever since subsisted in that country, and have been the foundation and standard of their government. Now this prince, not withstanding his extraordinary penetration and ability, thought he stood in need of advice; nor did he apprehend, that the joining a number of assistants to himself, for the determination of affairs, would be any discredit to his own understanding; by which proceeding he really showed a superiority of genius which is very uncommon, and implies a great fund of merit. For a prince of slender talents and narrow capacity, is generally full of himself; and the less understanding he has, the more obstinate and untractable he generally is: he thinks it want of respect to offer to discover any thing to him which he does not perceive; and is affronted, if you seem to doubt that he, who is supreme in power, is not the same in penetration and understanding. But Darius had a different way o. thinking, and did nothing without counsel and advice: Illorum faciebat cuncta consilio.
Secondly, Darius, however absolute he was, and how jealous soever he might be of his prerogative, did not think he impaired or degraded it when he instituted that council; for the council did not at all interfere with the king's authority of ruling and commanding, which always resides in the person of the prince, but was confined entirely to that of reason, which consisted in communicating and imparting their knowledge and experience to the king. He was persuaded that the noblest character of sovereign power, when it is pure, and has neither degenerated from its origin, nor deviated from its end, is to govern by the laws;t to make them the rule of his will and desire; and to think nothing allowable for him which they prohibit.
In the third place, this council, which every where accompanied the king (ex more regio semper ei aderant,) was a perpetual standing council
* Esth. i. 13. according to the Vulgate translation. | Regiajur à te, et subjecui ubi, sed quemadmodum legibus, sumus.- Plin. Paneg. Traj.
, consisting of the greatest men and the best heads of the kingdom; who, under the direction of the sovereign, and always with a dependency upon him, were in a manner the source of public order, and the principle of all the wise regulations and transactions at home and abroad. To this council the king transferred from himself several weighty cares, with which he must otherwise have been overburdened; and by them likewise executed whatever had been resolved on. It was by means of this standing council, that the great maxims of the state were preserved; the knowledge of its true interests perpetuated; affairs carried on with harmony and order; and innovations, errors, and oversights prevented. For in a public and general council things are discussed by unsuspected persons; all the ministers are mutual inspectors of one another; all their knowledge and experience in public matters are united to. gether; and they all become equally capable of every part of the administration: because though, as to the executive part, they move only in one particular sphere of business, yet they are obliged to inform themselves in all affairs relating to the public, that they may be able to deliver their opinions in a judicious manner.
The fourth and last reflection I have to make on this head is, that we find it mentioned in Scripture, that, the persons of which this council consisted, were thoroughly acquainted with the customs, laws, maxims, and rights of the kingdom, scientium leges ac jura majorum.
Two things, which, as the Scripture informs us, were practised by the Persians, might very much contribute to instruct the king and his council in the methods of governing with wisdom and pru. dence. The first was, their having public registers,* wherein all the prince's edicts and ordinances, all the privileges granted to the people, and all the favours conferred upon particular persons, were entered and recorded. The second was,f the annals of the kingdom, in which all the events of former reigns, all resolutions taken, regulations established, and services done by any particular persons, were exactly and circumstantially entered. These annals were carefully preserved, and frequently perused both by the kings and the ministers, that they might acquaint themselves with times past; might have a clear idea of the state of the kingdom; avoid an arbitrary, unequal, uncertain conduct; maintain a uniformity in the conduct of affairs; and, in short, acquire such light from the perusal of these books, as should qualify them to govern the state with wisdom.
The administration of justice. To be king, and to be judge, is but one and the same thung. The throne is a tribunal, and the sovereign power is the highest au.
* Ezra, v. 17. and vi. 2.
* Ibid. iv. 15. and Esth. vi. 1.
thority for administering justice. God hath made you king over his people (said the queen of Sheba to Solomon,) to the end that you should judge them, and render justice and judgment unto them. God hath made every thing subject to princes, to put them into a condition of fearing none but him. His designs in making them independent, was to give them the more inviolable attachment to justice. That they might not excuse themselves on pretence of ability or want of power, he has delegated his whole power unto them; he has made thern masters of all the means requisite for the restraining injustice and oppression, that iniquity should tremble in their presence, and be incapable of hurting any persons whatsoever.
But what is that justice which God hath intrusted to the hands of kings, and whereof he hath made them depositaries? Why, it is nothing else but order; and order consists in observing a universal equity, and taking care that force do not usurp the place of law; that one man's property be not exposed to the violence of another; that the common ties of society be not broken; that artifice and fraud do not prevail over innocence and simplicity; that all things rest in peace under the protection of the laws; and the weakest among the people find sanctuary in the public authority.
We learn from Josephus,* that the kings of Persia used to ad. minister justice in their own persons. And it was to qualify them for the due discharge of this duty, that care was taken to have them instructed, from their tenderest youth, in the knowledge of the laws of their country; and that in their public schools, as we have already mentioned in the history of Cyrus, they were taught equity and justice, in the same manner as rhetoric and philosophy are taught in other places.
These are the great and essential duties of the regal dignity. Indeed it is reasonable, and absolutely necessary, that the prince be assisted in the execution of that august function, as he is in others; but to be assisted, is not to be deprived, or dispossessed. He continues judge, as long as he continues king. Though he communicates his authority, yet does he not resign or divide it. It is therefore absolutely necessary for him to bestow some time upon the study of equity and justice; not that he need enter into the whole detail of particular laws, but only acquaint himself with the principal rules and maxims of the law of his country, that he may be capable of doing justice, and of passing sentence with precision, upon important points. For this reason, the kings of Persia never ascended the throne till they had been for some time under the care and instruction of the Magi, who were to teach them that science, whereof they were the only masters and professors, as well as of the religion of the country.
Now since to the sovereign alone is committed the right of administering justice, and that within his dominions there is no
• Antio. Judais I. ti. : 3.
other power of administering it than what is delegated by hun; how greatly does it behove him to take care into what hands he commits a part of so valuable a trust; to know whether those he places so near the throne, are worthy to partake of his prerogative; and industriously to keep all such at a distance from it, as he judges unworthy of that privilege! We find that in Persia their kings were extremely careful to have justice rendered with integrity and impartiality. One of their royal judges,* (for so they called them) having suffered himself to be corrupted by a bribe, was condemned by Cambyses to be put to death without mercy, and to have his skin put upon the seat where he used to sit and give judgment, and where his son, who succeeded him in his office, was to sit, that the very place whence he gave judgment, should remind him continually of his duty
Their ordinary judges were taken out of the class of old men,t into which none were admitted till the age of fifty years : so that a man could not exercise the office of a judge before that age, the Persians being of opinion, that too much maturity could not be required in an employment which decided upon the fortunes, reputations, and lives of their fellow-citizens.
Amongst them, it was not lawful either for a privnte person to put any of his slaves to death, nor for the prince to iuflict capital punishment upon any of his subjects for the first offence; because it might rather be considered as an effect of human weakness and frailty, than of a confirmed malignity of mind.
The Persians thought it reasonable to put the good as well as the evil, the merits of the offender, as well as his demerits, into the scales of justice: nor was it just, in their opinion, that one single crime should obliterate all the good actions a man had done during his life. Upon this principle it was that Darius had condemned a judge to death for some prevarication in his office, and afterwards calling to mind the important service he had rendered both to the state and the royal family, revoked the sentence at the very moment of its going to be executed, and acknowledged, that he had pronounced it with more precipitatio'. than wisdom.||
But one important and essential rule which they observed in their judgments, was, in the first place, never to condemn any person without confronting him with his accuser to his face, and without giving him time, and all other means, necessary for defending himself against the articles laid to his charge: and, in the second place, if the person accused was found innocent, to inflict the very same punishment upon the accuser, as the other was to have suffered, had he been found guilty. Artaxerxes gave a fine example of the just rigour which ought to be exercised on such occasions. T One of the * Herod. 1. v. c. 25. + Xenoph. Cyrop. 1. i. p. 7. | Herod. l. I. c. 137,
Ibid. 1. vii. c. 194
Diod. I. xv. p. 3:33–3:36.