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CHAPTER II. THE CHARACTER OF A GOOD PRINCE.
Another time he asked a general, whom the Athenians had lately chosen, why Homer calls Agamemnon the pastor of the people? "Is it not," said he, "because as a shepherd ought to take care of his flocks, that they be well and want for nothing; so a general ought to take care to keep his soldiers always in a good condition, to see they be supplied with provisions, and to bring to a happy issue the design that made them take arms, which is to overcome their enemies, and to live more happily afterwards? And why does the same poet praise Agamemnon likewise for being--
'At once a gracious prince and generous warrior'?
For is it not true, that to gain a prince the character of being generous and a warrior too, it is not sufficient to be brave in his own person, and to fight with intrepidity; but he must likewise animate the whole army, and be the cause that every soldier behave himself like him? and to gain the reputation of a good and gracious prince, it is not enough to have secured his private affairs, he must also take care that plenty and happiness be seen in all places of his dominions. For kings are not chosen to take care of themselves only, but to render happy the people who choose them. All people engage in war only to secure their own quiet, and choose commanders that they may have guides to conduct them to the end which they propose to themselves. A general, therefore, ought to prepare the way of good fortune to those who raise him to that dignity; this is the most glorious success he can desire, as nothing can be more ignominious to him than to do the contrary."
We see by this discourse that Socrates, designing to give the idea of a good prince, required scarce anything of him but to render his subjects happy.
CHAPTER III. ON THE BUSINESS OF A GENERAL OF HORSE.
Socrates at another time, as I well remember, had the following conference with a general of the cavalry:--
"What was your reason," said Socrates, "to desire this office? I cannot think it was that you might march first at the head of the troops, for the horse-archers are to march before you. Nor can I believe it was to make yourself be known, for no men are more generally known than madmen.
Perhaps it was because you thought you could mend what was amiss in the cavalry, and make the troops better than they are, to the end that if the Republic should have occasion to use them, you might be able to do your country some eminent service." "That is my design," answered the other.
"It were well you could do this," said Socrates, "but does not your office oblige you to have an eye on the horses and troopers?" "Most certainly." "What course will you then take," continued Socrates, "to get good horses?" "It is not my business to look to that," replied the general; "every trooper must take care for himself." "And what," said Socrates, "if they bring you horses whose feet and legs are good for nothing, or that are so weak and lean that they cannot keep up with the others, or so restive and vicious that it would be impossible to make them keep their ranks, what good could you expect from such cavalry? What service would you be able to do the State?" "You are much in the right, Socrates, and I promise you I will take care what horses are in my troops." "And will you not have an eye likewise on the troopers?" "Yes,"
answered he. "In my opinion then," answered Socrates, "the first thing you ought to do is to make them learn to get a horseback." "No doubt of it," replied the general, "for by that means they would the more easily escape, if they should happen to be thrown off their horses." Socrates went on: "You ought also to make them exercise, sometimes here, sometimes there, and particularly in places like those where the enemy generally is, that they may be good hors.e.m.e.n in all sorts of countries; for when you are to fight you will not send to bid the enemy come to you in the plain, where you used to exercise your horse. You must train them up, likewise, to lance the spear; and if you would make them very brave fellows, you must inspire them with a principle of honour, and inflame them with rage against the enemy." "Fear not," said he, "that I will spare my labour." "But have you," resumed Socrates, "thought on the means to make yourself obeyed? for without that all your brave troopers will avail you nothing." "It is true," said he, "but how shall I gain that point of them?" "Know you not," said Socrates, "that in all things men readily obey those whom they believe most capable? Thus in our sickness we most willingly submit to the prescriptions of the best physicians; at sea, to the most I skilful pilot; and in affairs of agriculture, to him who has most experience in it." "All this I grant you." "It is then to be presumed, that in the conduct of the cavalry he who makes it appear that he understands it best will be the person whom the others will be best pleased to obey." "But if I let them see that I am most worthy to command, will that be sufficient to make them obey me?"
"Yes, certainly," said Socrates, "if you can persuade them besides that their honour and safety depend on that obedience." "And how shall I be able to make them sensible of this?" "With less trouble," answered Socrates, "than it would be to prove that it is better to be virtuous than vicious." "Then a general," added the other, "ought to study the art of speaking well?" "Do you imagine," said Socrates, "that he will be able to execute his office without speaking a word? It is by speech that we know what the laws command us to learn for the conduct of our lives.
No excellent knowledge can be attained without the use of speech; the best method to instruct is by discourse, and they who are thoroughly versed in the sciences speak with the applause of all the world. But have you observed," continued he, "that in all sorts of occasions the Athenians distinguish themselves above all the Greeks, and that no Republic can show such youths as that of Athens? For example: when we send from hence a choir of musicians to the Temple of Apollo in the Isle of Delos, it is certain that none comparable to them are sent from other cities; not that the Athenians have better voices than the others, nor that their bodies are more robust and better made, but the reason is because they are more fond of honour, and this desire of honour is what excites men to excellent actions. Do not you think, therefore, that if good care were taken of our cavalry, it would excel that of other nations, in the beauty of arms and horses, in order of good discipline, and in bravery in fight; provided the Athenians were persuaded that this would be a means to acquire them glory and renown?" "I am of your opinion." "Go, then, and take care of your troops," said Socrates, "make them serviceable to you, that you may be so to the Republic." "Your advice is good," said he, "and I will immediately follow it."
CHAPTER IV. A DISCOURSE OF SOCRATES WITH NICOMACHIDES, IN WHICH HE SHOWETH THAT A MAN SKILFUL IN HIS OWN PROPER BUSINESS, AND WHO MANAGES HIS AFFAIRS WITH PRUDENCE AND SAGACITY, MAY MAKE, WHEN OCCASION OFFERS, A GOOD GENERAL.
Another time, Socrates meeting Nicomachides, who was coining from the a.s.sembly where they had chosen the magistrates, asked him, "of whom they had made choice to command the army?" Nicomachides answered: "Alas! the Athenians would not chose me; me! who have spent all my life in arms, and have gone through all the degrees of a soldier; who have been first a private sentinel, then a captain, next a colonel of horse, and who am covered all over with wounds that I have received in battles" (at these words he bared his breast, and showed the large scars which were remaining in several places of his body); "but they have chosen Antisthenes, who has never served in the infantry, who even in the cavalry never did anything remarkable, and whose only talent consists in knowing how to get money." "So much the better," said Socrates, "for then the army will be well paid." "A merchant," replied Nicomachides, "knows how to get money as well as he; and does it follow from thence that he is fit to be a general?" "You take no notice," replied Socrates, "that Antisthenes is fond of honour, and desirous to excel all others in whatever he undertakes, which is a very necessary qualification in a general. Have you not observed, that whenever he gave a comedy to the people, he always gained the prize?" "There is a wide difference,"
answered Nicomachides, "between commanding an army and giving orders concerning a comedy." "But," said Socrates, "though Antisthenes understands not music, nor the laws of the stage, yet he found out those who were skilful in both, and by their means succeeded extremely well."
"And when he is at the head of the army," continued Nicomachides, "I suppose you will have him to find out too some to give orders, and some to fight for him?" "Why not?" replied Socrates, "for if in the affairs of war he take the same care to provide himself with persons skilful in that art, and fit to advise him, as he did in the affair of the plays, I see not what should hinder him from gaining the victory in the former as well as in the latter. And it is very likely that he will be better pleased to expend his treasure to obtain an entire victory over the enemy, which will redound to the honour and interest of the whole Republic, than to be at a great expense for shows, to overcome his citizens in magnificence, and to gain a victory, which can be honourable to none but himself and those of his tribe." "We must then infer," said Nicomachides, "that a man who knows well how to give a comedy knows well how to command an army?" "Let us rather conclude," answered Socrates, "that every man who has judgment enough to know the things that are necessary for his designs, and can procure them, can never fail of success, whether he concern himself with the stage, or govern a State, or command an army, or manage a family."
"Indeed," resumed Nicomachides, "I could never have thought you would have told me, too, that a good economist would make a good general."
"Come, then," said Socrates, "let us examine wherein consists the duty of the one and of the other, and see what relation there is between those two conditions. Must not both of them keep those that are under them in submission and obedience?" "I grant it." "Must not both of them take care to employ every one in the business he is fit for? Must he not punish those who do amiss and reward those that do well? Must they not make themselves be esteemed by those they command? Ought they not alike to strengthen themselves with friends to a.s.sist them upon occasion? Ought they not to know how to preserve what belongs to them, and to be diligent and indefatigable in the performance of their duty?" "I own," answered Nicomachides, "that all you have said concerns them equally; but if they were to fight it would not be the same as to both of them." "Why?" said Socrates. "Have not both of them enemies?" "They have." "And would it not be the advantage of both to get the better of them?" "I allow it,"
said Nicomachides; "but what will economy be good for when they are to come to blows?" "It is then it will be most necessary," replied Socrates. "For when the good economist sees that the greatest profit he can get is to overcome, and that the greatest loss he can suffer is to be beaten, he will prepare himself with all the advantages that can procure him the victory, and will carefully avoid whatever might be the cause of his defeat. Thus, when he sees his army well provided with all things, and in a condition that seems to promise a good success, he will give his enemies battle; but when he wants anything he will avoid coming to an engagement with them. Thus you see how economy may be of use to him; and therefore, Nicomachides, despise not those who apply themselves to it; for between the conduct of a family and that of a State the sole difference is that of a greater or lesser number; for as to all besides there is much conformity between them. The sum of what I have advanced is this, that without men there could not be any policy or any economy, that they are often executed by the same persons, and that they who are called to the government of the Republic are the very same whom great men employ for their private affairs. Lastly, that they who make use of proper persons for their several businesses are successful in their economy and in politics; and that, on the contrary, they who fail in this point commit great faults both in one and the other."
CHAPTER V. A CONVERSATION BETWEEN SOCRATES AND PERICLES CONCERNING THE THEN PRESENT STATE OF THE REPUBLIC OF ATHENS, IN WHICH SOCRATES LAYS DOWN A METHOD BY WHICH THE ATHENIANS MAY RECOVER THEIR ANCIENT l.u.s.tRE AND REPUTATION.
Socrates one day being in company with Pericles, the son of the great Pericles, introduced the following discourse:--
"I hope that when you command the army the Republic will be more successful and gain more glory in their wars than formerly." "I should be glad of it," answered Pericles, "but I see little likelihood of it."
"We may bring this matter to the test," said Socrates. "Is it not true that the Boeotians are not more numerous than the Athenians?" "I know it." "Nor are they either braver or stronger?" "True, they are not."
"Do you believe that they agree better among themselves?" "Quite the contrary," said Pericles; "for there is a great misunderstanding between most of the Boeotians and the Thebans, because of the great hardships the latter put upon the former, and we have nothing of this among us." "But the Boeotians," replied Socrates, "are wonderfully ambitions and obliging; and these are the qualities that naturally push men on to expose themselves for the sake of glory and of their country." "The Athenians," answered Pericles, "come not short of them in either of those qualities." "It is true," replied Socrates, "that there is no nation whose ancestors have done braver actions, and in greater number, than those of the Athenians. And these domestic examples excite us to courage, and create in us a true love of virtue and bravery."
"Notwithstanding all this," continued Pericles, "you see that after the defeat of Tolmides at Lebadia, where we lost a thousand men, and after another misfortune that happened to Hippocrates before Delium, the greatness of the Athenians is sunk so low, and the courage of the Boeotians so increased, that they, who even in their own country durst not look the Athenians in the face without the a.s.sistance of the Lacedemonians and of the other States of the Peloponnesus, now threaten Attica with their single forces. And that the Athenians, who before ravaged Boeotia when it was not defended by foreign troops, begin to fear, in their turn, that the Boeotians will put Attica to fire and sword." "In my opinion," answered Socrates, "a governor ought to be well pleased to find a republic in such a condition, for fear makes a people more careful, more obedient, and more submissive. Whereas a too great security is attended with carelessness, luxury, and disobedience. This is plainly seen in men who are at sea. When they fear not anything, there is nothing in the ship but confusion and disorder; but when they apprehend that they shall be attacked by pirates, or that a tempest is hanging over their head, they not only do whatever they are commanded, but even observe a profound silence, waiting the order of their captain, and are as decent and orderly in their behaviour and motions as those who dance at a public entertainment."
"We shall yield, then," replied Pericles, "that the Athenians are obedient. But how shall we do to create in them an emulation to imitate the virtue of their ancestors to equal their reputation and to restore the happiness of their age in this present one?" "If we would have them," answered Socrates, "make themselves masters of an estate, which is in the possession of others, we need only tell them that it is descended to them from their forefathers, and they will immediately be for having it again. If we would encourage them to take the first rank among the virtuous, we must persuade them that it is their due from all antiquity, and that if they will take care to preserve to themselves this advantage they will infallibly likewise surpa.s.s others in power. We must frequently represent to them that the most ancient of their predecessors were highly esteemed on account of their great virtue." "You would be understood," said Pericles, "to speak of the contention of two of the divinities concerning the patronage of the city of Athens, of which the citizens, in the days of Cecrops, were chosen arbitrators on account of their virtue." "You are in the right," said Socrates; "but I would have them be put in mind likewise of the birth and nourishment of Erictheus, and of the war that was in his time against the neighbouring nations; as also of that which was made in favour of the descendants of Hercules against the people of Peloponnesus, and, in short, of all the other wars that were in the days of Theseus, in which our ancestors were always reputed the most valiant men of their age. If you think fit, they may likewise be told what the descendants of these ancients and our predecessors of the last age have done. They may be represented to them as resisting sometimes with their own forces only the nations whom all Asia obeyed, whose dominions extended into Europe as far as Macedonia, and who had inherited a potent empire from their fathers, together with formidable forces, and who were already renowned for many great exploits.
Sometimes you must relate to them the victories they gained by sea and land in conjunction with the Lacedemonians, who are likewise reputed a very brave people. They should be told also that great commotions being arisen among the Greeks, and the most part of them having changed their places of abode, the Athenians always continued in their country, that they have been chosen by several people to arbitrate their differences, and that the oppressed have always fled to them for protection." "When I reflect on all this," said Pericles, "I am surprised to see the Republic so much fallen off from what it was." "In my opinion," replied Socrates, "she has behaved herself like those persons who, for having too great advantage over their rivals, begin to neglect themselves, and grow in the end pusillanimous, for after the Athenians saw themselves raised above the other Greeks they indulged themselves in indolence, and became at length degenerate."
"What course must they take now," said Pericles, "to regain the l.u.s.tre of their ancient virtue?" "They need only call to mind," replied Socrates, "what were the exercises and the discipline of their ancestors, and if, like them, they apply themselves to those practices, they will no doubt arrive at their perfection; or if they will not govern themselves by that example, let them imitate the nations that are now uppermost; let them observe the same conduct, follow the same customs, and be a.s.sured they will equal, if not surpa.s.s them, if they labour to do so." "You seem to be of opinion, my dear Socrates, that virtue is much estranged from our Republic? And, indeed, when will the Athenians respect old age as they of Sparta do, since they begin, even by their own fathers, to deride men advanced in years? When, too, will they use themselves to the manly exercises of that Republic, since they not only neglect the good disposition and activity of body, but laugh at those who endeavour to acquire them? When will they be obedient to the magistrates, they who make it a glory to despise them? When will they be in perfect unity, they who, instead of a.s.sisting, daily prejudice one another, and who envy one another more than they do all the rest of mankind? They are every day quarrelling in the public and private a.s.semblies; they are every day suing one another, and had rather find their own advantage in the ruin of their neighbours than get an honest gain by reciprocally a.s.sisting one another. The magistrates mind not the Government of the Republic any farther than their own interests are concerned, and, therefore, they use their utmost endeavours to be in office and authority; and for this reason in the administration of the State there is so much ignorance and malice, and such animosities, and so many different parties among private persons. And I much fear that this mischief will get such a head that at length there will be no remedy against it, and that the Republic will sink under the weight of its misfortunes."
"Fear it not," said Socrates, "and do not believe that the Athenians labour under an incurable disease. Do you not observe how skilful and obedient they are at sea, that in the combats for prizes they exactly obey the orders of those that preside there, and in the comedies how readily they comply with what they are bid to do?" "I see it well,"
answered Pericles, "and cannot but wonder that they are so ready to obey in these and the like occasions, and that the military men, who ought to be the chosen part of the citizens, are so mutinous and refractory." "And what say you," pursued Socrates, "to the Senate of the Areopagus; are they not all of them persons of great worth? Do you know any judges who discharge their office with more integrity, and who more exactly observe the laws, who more faithfully render justice to private men, and who more worthily acquit themselves of all manner of affairs?" "I blame them not," said Pericles. "Despair not, then, of the Athenians," added Socrates, "as of an untractable people." "But it is in war," replied Pericles, "that much discipline is required, and much modesty and obedience, and these things the Athenians wholly want in that occasion."
"Perhaps, too," continued Socrates, "they who command them know little of their own duty. Do you not take notice that no man undertakes to govern a company of musicians, or of comedians, or of dancers, or of wrestlers, unless he be capable of it; and that all who take such employments upon them can give an account where they have learnt the exercises of which they are become masters? Our misfortunes in war, then, I very much apprehend, must be owing in a great measure to the bad education of our generals.
"I know very well that you are not of this number, and that you have improved to your advantage the time you have spent in learning the art of war and other laudable exercises. I imagine, likewise, that in the memoirs of your father, the great Pericles, you have found many rare stratagems, and that by your diligence you have also collected up and down a great number of others. Nor do I doubt but that you frequently meditate on these matters, that nothing may be wanting in you that may be of use to a general. Insomuch, that if you find yourself in doubt of anything, you immediately have recourse to those that know it, and spare neither presents nor civilities to incline them to a.s.sist you and to teach you the things of which you are ignorant." "Alas! Socrates," said Pericles, "you flatter me, and flatter me for many things that, I am afraid, I am deficient in; but by that you instruct me in my duty."
Upon this Socrates, interrupting him--"I will," said he, "give you an advice. Have you not observed that in the high mountains, which are the frontiers of Attica, and divide it from Boeotia, the roads through which you must of necessity pa.s.s to go from one country to the other are very rough and narrow?" "Yes, I have." "Tell me, besides, have you never heard say that the Mysians and the Pisidians, who are in possession of advantageous places where they dwell in the dominions of the King of Persia, arm themselves lightly, and make continual inroads upon the neighbouring provinces, and by that means are very troublesome to that king's subjects, and preserve their own liberty?" "I have heard so." "It is probable, too," continued Socrates, "that if the Athenians would possess themselves of the mountains that are between Boeotia and Attica, and if they took care to send thither some young men with arms proper for inroaders, our enemies would be much prejudiced by them, and all those mountains would be as a great rampart to cover our country from their insults." "I believe what you say," answered Pericles, "and take all the advices you have given me to be very good." "If you think them so,"
replied Socrates, "endeavour, my friend, to put them in practice; for if any of them succeed you will receive the honour, and the Republic the profit; and even though they should not meet with success the Republic would have no inconvenience to apprehend, nor you the least dishonour."
CHAPTER VI. SOCRATES DISSUADES GLAUCON, A VERY FORWARD YOUTH, FROM TAKING UPON HIM THE GOVERNMENT OF THE REPUBLIC, FOR WHICH HE WAS UNFIT.
A young man whose name was Glaucon, the son of Ariston, had so fixed it in his head to govern the Republic, that before he was twenty years of age he frequently presented himself before the people to discourse of affairs of state; nor was it in the power of his relations or friends to dissuade him from that design, though all the world laughed at him for it, and though sometimes he was dragged from the tribunal by force.
Socrates had a kindness for him, upon account of Plato and Charmidas, and he only it was who made him change his resolution. He met him, and accosted him in so winning a manner, that he first obliged him to hearken to his discourse. He began with him thus:--
"You have a mind, then, to govern the Republic, my friend?" "I have so,"
answered Glaucon. "You cannot," replied Socrates, "have a more n.o.ble design; for if you can accomplish it you will be absolute. You will be able to serve your friends, you will raise your family, you will extend the bounds of your country, you will be known not only in Athens but through all Greece, and perhaps your renown will fly even to the barbarous nations, as did that of Themistocles. In short, wherever you come you will be respected and admired."
These words soothed up Glaucon, and won him to give ear to Socrates, who went on in this manner:--"But it is certain, my dear friend, that if you desire to be honoured, you must be useful to the State." "Certainly,"
said Glaucon. "I conjure you, then, to tell me," replied Socrates, "what is the first service that you desire to render the State?" Glaucon was considering what to answer, when Socrates continued:--"If you intended to make the fortune of one of your friends, you would endeavour to make him rich, and thus perhaps you will make it your business to enrich the Republic." "I would," answered Glaucon. "Would not the way to enrich the Republic," replied Socrates, "be to increase its revenue?" "It is very likely it would," said Glaucon. "Tell me, then, in what consists the revenue of the State, and to how much it may amount? I presume you have particularly studied this matter, to the end that if anything should be lost on one hand, you might know where to make it good on another, and that if a fund should fail on a sudden, you might immediately be able to settle another in its place." "I protest," answered Glaucon, "I have never thought of this." "Tell me at least the expenses of the Republic, for no doubt you intend to retrench the superfluous." "I never thought of this neither," said Glaucon. "You had best, then, put off to another time your design of enriching the Republic, which you can never be able to do while you are ignorant both of its expense and revenue."
"There is another way to enrich a State," said Glaucon, "of which you take no notice, and that is by the ruin of its enemies." "You are in the right," answered Socrates; "but to this end it is necessary to be stronger than they, otherwise we should run the hazard of losing what we have. He, therefore, who talks of undertaking a war, ought to know the strength on both sides, to the end that if his party be the stronger, he may boldly advise for war, and that if it be the weaker, he may dissuade the people from engaging themselves in so dangerous an enterprise." "All this is true." "Tell me, then," continued Socrates, "how strong our forces are by sea and land, and how strong are our enemies?" "Indeed,"
said Glaucon, "I cannot tell you that on a sudden." "If you have a list of them in writing, pray show it me, I should be glad to hear it read."
"I never took a list of them." "I see, then," said Socrates, "that we shall not engage in war so soon; for it is like that the greatness of the undertaking will hinder you from maturely weighing all the consequences of it in the beginning of your government. But," continued he, "you have thought of the defence of the country, you know what garrisons are necessary, and what are not; you know what number of troops is sufficient in one garrison, and not sufficient in another; you will cause the necessary garrisons to be reinforced, and will disband those that are useless?" "I should be of opinion," said Glaucon, "to leave none of them on foot, because they ruin a country, on pretence of defending it."
"But," Socrates objected, "if all the garrisons were taken away, there would be nothing to hinder the first comer from carrying off what he pleased. But how come you to know that the garrisons behave themselves so ill? Have you been upon the place, have you seen them?" "Not at all; but I suspect it to be so." "When, therefore, we are certain of it,"
said Socrates, "and can speak upon better grounds than simple conjectures, we will propose this advice to the Senate." "It will be very proper to do so," said Glaucon.
"It comes into my mind too," continued Socrates, "that you have never been at the mines of silver, to examine why they bring not in so much now as they did formerly." "You say true, I have never been there." "Indeed, they say the place is very unhealthy, and that may excuse you." "You rally me now," said Glaucon. Socrates added, "But I believe you have at least observed how much corn our lands produce, how long it will serve to supply our city, and how much more we shall want for the whole year, to the end you may not be surprised with a scarcity of bread, but may give timely orders for the necessary provisions." "There is a deal to do,"
said Glaucon, "if we must take care of all these things." "There is so,"
replied Socrates; "and it is even impossible to manage our own families well unless we know all that is wanting, and take care to provide it. As you see, therefore, that our city is composed of above ten thousand families, and it being a difficult task to watch over them all at once, why did you not first try to retrieve your uncle's affairs, which are running to decay, that after having given a proof of your care, faithfulness, and capacity in that smaller trust, you might have taken upon you a greater? But now, when you find yourself incapable of aiding a private man, how can you think of behaving yourself so as to be useful to a whole people? Ought a man who has not strength enough to carry a hundred pound weight undertake to carry a burden that is much heavier?"
"I would have done good service to my uncle," said Glaucon, "if he would have taken my advice." "How!" replied Socrates; "have you hitherto been unable to govern your uncle, who is but one person, and do you imagine, when you have failed in that, to govern the whole Athenians, whose minds are so fickle and inconstant? Take heed, my dear Glaucon, take heed, lest a too great desire of glory should render you despised. Consider how dangerous it is to speak and employ ourselves about things we do not understand. What a figure do those forward and rash people make in the world who do so: and you yourself may judge whether they acquire more esteem than blame, whether they are more admired than contemned. Think, on the contrary, with how much honour a man is regarded who understands perfectly what he says and what he does, and then you will confess that renown and applause have always been the recompense of true merit, and shame the reward of ignorance and temerity. If, therefore, you would be honoured, endeavour to be a man of true merit, for if you enter upon the government of the Republic with a mind more sagacious than usual, I shall not wonder if you succeed in all your designs."
CHAPTER VII. SOCRATES PERSUADETH CHARMIDAS, A PERSON OF MERIT AND GREAT CAPACITY, BUT VERY MODEST AND DIFFIDENT OF HIMSELF, TO UNDERTAKE THE GOVERNMENT OF THE REPUBLIC.
As Socrates, who was ever watchful for the interests of his country, and consulted the good of every one with whom he conversed, took care, on the one hand, to dissuade persons who had no capacity for it, however bent they were upon the thing, from entering upon any offices of trust, so he was ever mindful, on the other, to persuade those that were bashful and diffident to take upon themselves the government of the Republic, provided he knew they had proper talents and abilities for it. In confirmation whereof we shall here relate a conversation of his with Charmidas, the son of Glaucon. Socrates, who knew him to be a man of sense and merit, and more capable to govern the Republic than any that were then in that post, but withal a person very diffident of himself--one that dreaded the people, and was mightily averse from engaging himself in public business--addressed himself to him in this manner:--
"Tell me, Charmidas, if you knew any man who could gain the prizes in the public games, and by that means render himself ill.u.s.trious, and acquire glory to his country, what would you say of him if he refused to offer himself to the combat?" "I would say," answered Charmidas, "that he was a mean-spirited, effeminate fellow." "And if a man were capable of governing a Republic, of increasing its power by his advices, and of raising himself by this means to a high degree of honour, would you not brand him likewise with meanness of soul if he would not present himself to be employed?" "Perhaps I might," said Charmidas; "but why do you ask me this question?" "Because you are capable," replied Socrates, "of managing the affairs of the Republic, and yet you avoid doing so, though in the quality of a citizen you are obliged to take care of the commonwealth." "And wherein have you observed this capacity in me?"
"When I have seen you in conversation with the Ministers of State,"
answered Socrates; "for if they impart any affairs to you, I see you give them good advice, and when they commit any errors you make them judicious remonstrances." "But there is a very great difference, my dear Socrates," replied Charmidas, "between discoursing in private and contending in a public manner before the people." "And yet," replied Socrates, "a skilful arithmetician can calculate as well in presence of several persons as when alone; and they who can play well upon the lute in their closets play likewise well in company." "But you know," said Charmidas, "that fear and shame, which are so natural to man, affect us more in public a.s.semblies than in private companies." "Is it possible,"