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Well then, after all that has now been said, you will next come, I suppose, to the task of appointing magistrates for your State.

That is so.

In this there are two branches of civic organization involved,— first, the appointment of magistracies and magistrates, with the fixing of the right number required and the proper method of appointment; and next the assignment to each magistracy of [751b] such and so many laws as are in each case appropriate.1 But before we make our selection, let us pause for a moment, and make a statement concerning it of a pertinent kind.

What statement is that?

It is this:— It is a fact clear to everyone that, the work of legislation being a great one, the placing of unfit officers in charge of well-framed laws in a well-equipped State not only robs those laws of all their value and gives rise to widespread ridicule, [751c] but is likely also to prove the most fertile source of damage and danger in such States.


Let us then, my friend, mark this result in dealing now with your polity and State. You see that it is necessary, in the first place, that those who rightly undertake official functions should in every case have been fully tested— both themselves and their families— from their earliest years up to the time of their selection; and, secondly, that those who are to be the selectors should have been reared in law-abiding habits, [751d] and be well trained for the task of rightly rejecting or accepting those candidates who deserve their approval or disapproval. Yet as regards this point, can we suppose that men who have but recently come together, with no knowledge of one another and with no training, could ever possibly select their officials in a faultless manner?

It is practically impossible.

Yet, “with the hand on the plough,” as they say, “there is no looking back.”2 And so it must be now with you and me; for you, as you tell me,3 have given your pledge [751e] to the Cretan nation that you, with your nine colleagues, will devote yourself to the founding of that State; and I, for my part, have promised

1 Cp. Plat. Laws 735a.

2 Literally, “a contest does not at all admit excuses”; i.e. once engaged in it, you cannot draw back.

3 Plat. Laws 702b, Plat. Laws 702c.

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