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C.D. Yonge translation

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Book II chapters 40-51

XL. The controversy turns upon the letter of the law when some doubt arises from the consideration of the exact terms in which it is drawn up. That arises from ambiguity, from the letter of the law, from its intention, from contrary laws, from ratiocination, and definition. But a controversy arises from ambiguity, when it is an obscure point what was the intention of the writer, because the written words mean two or even more different things. In this manner:--"The father of a family, when he was making his son his heir, left a hundredweight of silver plate to his wife, in these terms: 'Let my heir give my wife a hundredweight of silver plate, consisting of such vessels as may be chosen.' After he was dead, the mother demands of her son some very magnificent vessels of very valuable carving. He says that he is only bound to give her those vessels which he himself chooses." Here, in the first place, it is necessary to show if possible that the will has not been drawn up in ambiguous terms, because all men in ordinary conversation are accustomed to employ that expression, whether consisting of one word or more, in that meaning in which the speaker hopes to show that this is to be understood. Then it is desirable to prove that from both the preceding and subsequent language of the will, the real meaning which is being sought may be made evident. So that if all the words, or most of them, were considered separately by themselves, they would appear of doubtful meaning. But as for those which can be made intelligible by a consideration of the whole document, these have no business to be thought obscure.

In the next place, it will be proper to draw one's conclusion as to the intentions which were entertained by the writer from all his other writings, and actions, and sayings, and his general disposition, and from the usual tenor of his life; and to scrutinise that very document in which this ambiguous phrase is contained which is the subject of the present inquiry, all over, in all its parts, so as to see whether there is anything opposite to that interpretation which we contend for, or contrary to that which the adversary insists on adopting. For it will be easy to consider what it is probable that the man who drew up the document intended, from its whole tenor, and from the character of the writer, and from those other circumstances which are characteristic of the persons concerned. In the next place, it will be desirable to show, if the facts of the case itself afford any opportunity for doing so, that that meaning which the opposite party contends for, is a much more inconvenient one to adopt than that which we have assumed to be the proper one, because there is no possible means of carrying out or complying with that other meaning; but what we contend for can be accomplished with great ease and convenience.

As in this law (for there is no objection to citing an imaginary one for the sake of giving an instance, in order to the more easy comprehension of the matter):--"Let not a prostitute have a golden crown. If such a case exists, it must be confiscated." Now, in opposition to a man who contended that that was to become public property in accordance with this law, it might be argued, "that there could be no way of making a prostitute public property, and there is no intelligible meaning for the law if that is what is to be adopted as its proper construction; but as to the confiscation of anything made of gold, the management and the result is easy, and there is no difficulty in it."

XLI. And it will be desirable also to pay diligent attention to this point, whether if that sense is sanctioned which the opposite party contends for, any more advantageous, or honourable, or necessary object appears to have been omitted by the framer of the document in question. That will be done if we can prove that the object which we are attempting to prove is either honourable, or expedient, or necessary; and if we can also assert that the interpretation which our adversaries insist upon, is not at all entitled to such a character. In the next place, if there is in the law itself any controversy arising from any ambiguity, it will be requisite to take great care to show that the meaning which our adversaries adopt is provided for in some other law. But it will be very serviceable indeed to point out how the testator would have expressed himself, if he had wished the interpretation which the adversary puts upon his words to be carried into execution or understood. As for instance, in this cause, the one, I mean, in which the question is about the silver plate, the woman might argue, "That there was no use in adding the words 'as may be chosen,' if the matter was left to the selection of the heir; for if no such words had been inserted, there could have been no doubt at all that the heir might have given whatever he himself chose. So that it was downright madness, if he wished to take precautions in favour of his heir, to add words which might have been wholly left out without such omission prejudicing his heir's welfare."

Wherefore, it will be exceedingly advisable to employ this species of argument in such causes:--"If he had written with this intention he would not have employed that word; he would not have placed that word in that place," for it is from such particulars as these that it is easiest to collect the intention of the writer. In the next place, it is necessary to inquire when the document was drawn up, in order that it may be understood what it was likely that he should have wished at such a time. Afterwards it will be advisable to point out, by reference to the topics furnished by the deliberative argument, what is more useful and what more honourable to the testator to write, and to the adversary to prove; and it will be well for both parties to employ common topics, if there is any room for extending either argument.

XLII. A controversy arises with respect to the letter of the document and to its meaning, when one party employs the very words which are set down in the paper; and the other applies all his arguments to that which he affirms that the framer of the document intended. But the intention of the framer of the document must be proved by the man who defends himself, by reference to that intention, to have always the same object in view and the same meaning; and it must also, either by reference to the action or to some result, be adapted to the time which the inquiry concerns. It must be proved always to have the same object in view, in this way:--"The head of a house, at a time when he had no children, but had a wife, inserted this clause in his will: 'If I have a son or sons born to me, he or they is or are to be my heir or heirs.' Then follow the ordinary provisions. After that comes the following clause: 'If my son dies before he comes into the property, which is held in trust for him, then,' says the clause, 'you shall be my reversionary heir.' He never has a son. His next of kin raise a dispute with the man who is named as the heir, in the case of the testator's son dying before he comes into the property which his guardians are holding for him." In this case it cannot be said that the meaning of the testator ought to be made to suit the time or some particular result, because that intention alone is proved on which the man who is arguing against the language of the will relies, in order to defend his own right to the inheritance.

There is another class of topics which introduce the question as to the meaning of expressions, in which the mere simple intention of the framer is not endeavoured to be proved, for that has the same weight with reference to every period and every action; but it is argued that it ought to be interpreted with reference to some particular action, or to some event happening at that particular time. And that is especially supported by the divisions of the juridical assumptive mode of investigation. For then the comparison is instituted; as in the case of "a man who, though the law forbad the gates to be opened by night, did open them in a certain war, and admitted some reinforcements into the town, in order to prevent their being overwhelmed by the enemy if they remained outside the gates; because the enemy were encamped close to the walls." Then comes the retorting of the charge; as in the case of "that soldier who, when the common law of all men forbad any one to kill a man, slew his own military tribune who was attempting to offer violence to him." Then comes the exculpation; as in the case of "that man who, when the law had appointed some particular days within which he was to proceed on his embassy, did not set out because the quaestor did not furnish him with money for his expenses." Then comes the admission of the fact by way of purgation, and also by the excuse of ignorance; as "in the case of the sacrificing a calf ;" and with reference to compulsion, as "in the case of the beaked ship ;" and with reference to accident, as "in the case of the sudden rise of the river Eurotas." Wherefore, it is best that the meaning should be introduced in such a way, as that the framer of the law should be proved to have intended some one definite thing; else in such a way that he should be proved to have meant this particular thing, under these circumstances, and at this time.

XLIII. He, therefore, who is defending the exact language of the law, will generally be able to use all these topics; and will always be able to use the greater part of them. First of all, he will employ a panegyric of the framer of it, and the common topic that those who are the judges have no business to consider anything except what is expressly stated in the law; and so much the more if any legal document be brought forward, that is to say, either the law itself, or some portion of the law. Afterwards--and this is a point of the greatest importance--he will employ a comparison of the action or of the charge brought by the opposite party with the actual words of the law; he will show what is contained in the law, what has been done, what the judge has sworn. And it will be well to vary this topic in many ways, sometimes professing ';o wonder in his own mind what can be said against this argument; sometimes recurring to the duty of the judge, and asking of him what more he can think it requisite to hear, or what further he expects; sometimes by bringing forward the adversary himself, as if in the position of a person making an accusation; that is to say, by asking him whether he denies that the law is drawn up in that manner, or whether he denies that he himself has contravened it, or disputed it. If he denies either of these points, then one must avow that one will say no more; if he denies neither of them, and yet continues to urge his arguments in opposition to one, then one must say that it is impossible for any one ever to expect to see a more impudent man. And it will be well to dwell on this point as if nothing besides were to be said, as if nothing could be said in contradiction, by reciting several times over what is written; by often contrasting the conduct of the adversary with what is written; and sometimes by recurring vehemently to the topic of the judge himself; in which one will remind the judge of what oath he has taken, of what his conduct is bound to be; and urge that there are two causes on account of which a judge is bound to hesitate, one if the law be obscurely worded, the other if the adversary denies anything. But as in this instance the wording of the law is plain, aud the adversary admits every fact that is alleged, the judge has now nothing to do but to fulfil the law, and not to interpret it.

XLIV. When this point has been sufficiently insisted on, then it will be advisable to do away with the effect of those things which the adversary has been able to urge by way of objection. But such objections will be made if the framer of the law can be absolutely proved to have meant one thing, and written another; as in that dispute concerning the will which we mentioned just now: or some adventitious cause may be alleged why it was not possible or not desirable to obey the written law minutely. If it is stated that the framer of the law meant one thing, and wrote another, then he who appeals to the letter of the law will say that it is our business not to discuss the intention of a man who has left us a plain proof of that intention, to prevent our having any doubt about it; and that many inconveniences must ensue if the principle is laid down that we may depart from the letter of the law. For that then those who frame laws will not think that the laws which they are making will remain firm; and those who are judges will have no certain principle to follow, if once they get into the habit of departing from the letter of the law. But if the intention of the framer of the law is what is to be looked at, then it is he, and not his adversaries, who relies on the meaning of the lawgiver. For that that person comes much nearer to the intention of the framer of a law who interprets it from his own writings, than he who does not look at the meaning of the framer of the law by that writing of his own which he has left to be as it were an image of his meaning, but who investigates it under the guidance of some private suspicions of his own.

If the party who stands on the meaning of the lawgiver brings forward any reasons, then, in the first place, it will be necessary to reply to those reasons; to urge how absurd it is for a man not to deny that he has acted contrary to the law, but at the same time to give some reason for having acted so. Then one will say too that all things are turned upside down; that formerly prosecutors were in the habit of trying to persuade the judges that the person who was being prosecuted before them was implicated in some fault, and of alleging some reasons which had instigated him to commit this fault; but that now the accused person himself is giving the reasons why he has offended against the laws. Then it will be proper to introduce this division, each portion of which will have many lines of argument suitable to it: in the first place, that there is no law with reference to which it is allowable to allege any reasons contrary to the law; in the next place, that if such a course is admissible in any law, this is such a law that it is not admissible with respect to it; and lastly, that, even if such reasons ever might be alleged, at all events this is not such a reason.

XLV. The first part of the argument is confirmed by pretty nearly the same topics as these: that the framer of the law was not deficient in either ability, or pains, or any faculty requisite to enable him to express plainly what his intention was; that it would not have been either displeasing or difficult to him to insert such an exception as that which the opposite party contends for in his law, if he thought any exception requisite; and in fact, that those people who frame laws often do insert clauses of exceptions. After that it is well to enumerate some of the laws which have exceptional clauses attached to them, and to take especial care to see whether in the law itself which is under discussion there is any exception made in any chapter, or whether the same man who framed this law has made exceptions in other laws, so that it may be more naturally inferred that he would have made exceptions in this one, if he had thought exceptions requisite; and it will be well also to show that to admit of a reason for violating the law is the same thing as abrogating the law, because when once such a reason is taken into consideration, it is no use to consider it with reference to the law, inasmuch as it is not stated in the law. And if such a principle is once laid down; then a reason for violating the law, and a licence to do so, is given to every one, as soon as they perceive that you as judges decide the matter in a way which depends on the ability of the man who has violated the law, and not with reference to the law which you have sworn to administer. Then, too, one must point out that all principles on which judges are to judge, and citizens are to live, will be thrown into confusion if the laws are once departed from; for the judges will not have any rules to follow, if they depart from what is set down in the law, and no principles on which they can reprove others for having acted in defiance of the law. And that all the rest of the citizens will be ignorant what they are to do, if each of them regulates all his actions according to his own ideas, and to whatever whim or fancy comes into his head, and not according to the common statute law of the state.

After that it will be suitable to ask the judges why they occupy themselves at all with the business of other people; --why they allow themselves to be harassed in discharging the offices of the republic, when they might often spend the time in promoting their own ends and private interests;-- why they take an oath in a certain form;--why they assemble at a regular time and go away at a regular time;--why no one of them ever alleges any reason for being less frequent in his discharge of his duty to the republic, except such as is set down in some formal law as an exception. And one may ask, whether they think it right that they should be bound down and exposed to so much inconvenience by the laws, and at the same time allow our adversaries to disregard the laws. After that it will be natural to put the question to the judges, whether, when the party accused himself endeavours to set down in the law, as an exception, that particular case in which he admits that he has violated the law, they will consent to it. And to ask also, whether what he has actually done is more scandalous and more shameless than the exception which he wishes to insert in the law;--what indeed can be more shameless? Even if the judges were inclined to make such an addition to the law, would the people permit it? One might also press upon them that this is even a more scandalous measure, when they are unable to make an alteration in the language and letter of the law, to alter it in the actual facts, and to give a decision contrary to it; and besides, that it is a scandalous thing that anything should be taken from the law, or that the law should be abrogated or changed in any part whatever, without the people having any opportunity of knowing, or approving, or disapproving of what is done; that such conduct is calculated to bring the judges themselves into great odium; that it is not the proper time nor opportunity for amending the laws; that this ought only to be brought forward in an assembly of the people, and only to be done by the people; that if they now do so, the speaker would like to know who is the maker of the new law, and who are to obey it; that he sees actions impending, and wishes to prevent them; that as all such proceedings as these are exceedingly useless and abundantly discreditable, the law, whatever it is like, ought, while it exists, to be maintained by the judges, and hereafter, if it is disapproved of, to be amended by the people. Besides this, if there were no written law, we should take great trouble to find one; and we should not place any confidence in that man, not even if he were in no personal danger himself; but now, when there is a written law, it is downright insanity to attend to what that man says who has violated the law, rather than to the language of the law itself. By these and similar arguments it is proved that it is not right to admit any excuse which is contrary to the letter of the law.

XLVI. The second part is that in which it is desirable to prove that if such a proceeding is right with respect to other laws, it is not advisable with respect to this one. This will be shown if the law appears to refer to matters of the greatest importance, and usefulness, and honourableness, and sanctity; so that it is disadvantageous, or discreditable, or impious not to obey the law as carefully as possible in such a matter. Or the law may be proved to have been drawn up so carefully, and such great diligence may be shown to have been exercised in framing each separate provision of it, and in making every exception that was allowable, that it is not at all probable that anything proper to be inserted has been omitted in so carefully considered a document.

The third topic is one exceedingly necessary for a man who is arguing in defence of the letter of the law; by which it may be urged, that even if it is decent for an excuse to be admitted contrary to the letter of the law, still that excuse which is alleged by his adversaries is of all others the least proper to be so alleged. And this topic is necessary for him on this account,--because the man who is arguing against the letter of the law ought always to have some point of equity to allege on his side. For it is the greatest possible impudence for a man who wishes to establish some point in opposition to the exact letter of the law, not to attempt to fortify himself in so doing, with the assistance of the law. If therefore the accuser in any respect weakens the defence by this topic, he will appear in every respect to have more justice and probability in favour of his accusation. For all the former part of his speech has had this object,--that the judges should feel it impossible, even if they wished it, to avoid condemning the accused person; but this part has for its object the making them wish to give such a decision, even if it were not inevitable.

And that result will be obtained, if we use those topics by which guilt may be proved not to be in the man who defends himself, by using the topic of comparison, or by getting rid of the accusation, or by recrimination, or by some species of confession, (concerning all which topics we have already written with all the precision of which we were capable,) and if we take those which the case will admit of for the purpose of throwing discredit on the argument of our adversary;--or if reasons and arguments are adduced to show why or with what design those expressions were inserted in the law or will in question, so that our side of the question may appear established by the meaning and intention of the writer, and not only by the language which he has employed. Or the fact may be proved by other statements and arguments.

XLVII. But any one who speaks against the letter of the law will first of all introduce that topic by which the equity of the excuse is proved; or he will point out with what feelings, with what design, and on what account he did the action in question. And whatever excuse he alleges he will defend according to some of the rules which I have already given with respect to assumptions. And when he has dwelt on this topic for some time, and set forth the principles of his conduct and the equity of his cause in the most specious manner he can, he will also add, in opposition to the arguments of his adversaries, that it is from these topics for the most part that excuses which are admissible ought to be drawn. He will urge that there is no law which sanctions the doing of any disadvantageous or unjust action; that all punishments which are enacted by the laws have been enacted for the sake of chastising guilt and wickedness; that the very framer of the laws, if he were alive, would approve of this conduct, and would have done the very same thing himself if he had been in similar circumstances. And that it is on this account that the framer of the law appointed judges of a certain rank and age, in order that there might be men, not capable merely of reading out what he had written, which any boy might do, but able also to understand his thoughts and to interpret his intentions. He will add, that that framer of the law, if he had been intrusting the laws which he was drawing up to foolish men and illiterate judges, would have set down everything with the most scrupulous diligence; but, as it is, because he was aware what sort of men were to be the judges, he did not put down many things which appeared to him to be evident; and he expected that you would be not mere readers of his writings, but interpreters of his intentions. Afterwards he will proceed to ask his adversaries--"What would you say if I had done so and so?" "What would you think if so and so had happened?" "Suppose any one of those things had happened which would have had a most unfailing excuse, or a most undeniable necessity, would you then have prosecuted me?" But the law has nowhere made any such exception. It follows, therefore, that it is not every possible circumstance which is mentioned in the written law but that some things which are self-evident are guarded against by unexpressed exceptions.

Then he will urge, that nothing could be carried on properly either by the laws or by any written document whatever, or even in daily conversation, or in the commands given in a private household, if every one chose to keep his eyes on the exact language of the order, and not to take into consideration the intentions of him who uttered the order.

XLVIII. After that he will be able, by reference to the divisions of usefulness and honour, to point out how inexpedient or how dishonourable that would have been which the opposite party say ought to have been done, or to be done now. And on the other hand, how expedient and how honourable that is which we have done, or demand should be done. In the next place, he will urge that we set a value on our laws not on account of their wording, which is a slight and often obscure indication of their intention, but on account of the usefulness of those things concerning which they are written, and the wisdom and diligence of those men who wrote them. Afterwards he will proceed to describe what the law is, so that it shall appear to consist of meanings, not of words; and that the judge may appear to be obedient to the law, who follows its meaning and not its strict words. After that he will urge how scandalous it is that he should have the same punishment inflicted on him who has violated the law out of some mere wickedness and audacity, as on the man who, on account of some honourable or unavoidable reason, has departed not from the spirit of the law, but from its letter. And by these and similar arguments he will endeavour to prove that the excuse is admissible, and is admissible in this law, and that the excuse which he himself is alleging ought to be admitted.

And, as we said that this would be exceedingly useful to the man who was relying on the letter of the law, to detract in some degree from that equity which appeared to be on the side of the adversary; so also it will be of the greatest advantage to the man who is speaking in opposition to the letter of the law, to convert something of the exact letter of the law to his own side of the argument, or else to show that something has been expressed ambiguously. And afterwards, to take that portion of the doubtful expression which may serve his own purpose, and defend it; or else to introduce some definition of a word, and to bring over the meaning of that word which seems unfavourable to him to the advantage of his own cause; or else, from what is set down in the law to introduce something which is not set down by means of ratiocination, which we will speak of presently. But in whatever matter, however little probable it may be, he defends himself by an appeal to the exact letter of the law, even when his case is full of equity, he will unavoidably gain a great advantage, because if he can withdraw from the cause of the opposite party that point on which it principally relies, he will mitigate and take off the effect of all its violence and energy. But all the rest of the common topics taken from the divisions of assumptive argument will suit each side of the question. It will also be suitable for him whose argument takes its stand on the letter of the law, to urge that laws ought to be looked at, not with reference to the advantage of that man who has violated them, but according to their own intrinsic value; and that nothing ought to be considered more precious than the laws. On the other side, the speaker will urge, that laws depend upon the intention of the framer of them, and upon the general advantage, not upon words; and also, how scandalous it is for equity to be overwhelmed by a heap of letters, and defended in vain by the intention of the man who drew up the law.

XLIX. But from contrary laws a controversy arises, when two or more laws appear to be at variance with one another. In this manner:--There is a law, "That he who has slain a tyrant shall receive the reward of men who conquer at Olympia; and shall also ask whatever he pleases of the magistrate, and the magistrate shall grant it to him." There is also another law--"When a tyrant is slain, the magistrate shall also put to death his five nearest relations." Alexander, who was the tyrant of Pherae, a city in Thessaly, was slain by his own wife, whose name was Thebe, at night, when he was in bed with her; she, as a reward, demands the liberty of her son whom she had by the tyrant. Some say that according to this law that son ought to be put to death. The matter is referred to a court of justice. Now in a case of this kind the same topics and the same rules will suit each side of the question; because each party is bound to establish his own law, and to invalidate the one contrary to it. First of all, therefore, it is requisite to show the nature of the laws, by considering which law has reference to more important, that is to say, to more honourable and more necessary matters. From which it results, that if two or more, or ever so many laws cannot all be maintained, because they are at variance with one another, that one ought to be considered the most desirable to be maintained, which appears to have reference to the most important matters. Then comes the question also, which law was passed last; for the newest law is the most important. And also, which law enjoins anything, and which merely allows it; for that which is enjoined is necessary, that which is allowed is optional. Also one must consider by which law a penalty is appointed for the violation of it; or which has the heaviest penalty attached to it; for that law must be the most carefully maintained which is sanctioned by the most severe penalties. Again, one must inquire which law enjoins, and which forbids anything; for it often happens that the law which forbids something appears by some exception as it were to amend the law which commands something. Then, too, it is right to consider which law comprehends the entire class of subjects to which it refers, and which embraces only a part of the question; which may be applied generally to many classes of questions, and which appears to have been framed to apply to some special subject. For that which has been drawn up with reference to some particular division of a subject, or for some special purpose, appears to come nearer to the subject under discussion, and to have more immediate connexion with the present action. Then arises the question, which is the thing which according to the law must be done immediately; which will admit of some delay or slackness in the execution. For it is right that that should be done first which must be done immediately. In the next place, it is well to take pains that the law one is advocating shall appear to depend on its own precise language; and that the law with a contrary sense should appear to be introduced with a doubtful interpretation, or by some ratiocination or definition, in order that that law which is expressed in plain language may appear to be the more solemn and efficient After that it will be well to add the meaning of the law which is on one's own side according to the strict letter of it; and also to explain the opposite law so as to make it appear to have another meaning, in order that, if possible, they may not seem to be inconsistent with one another. And, last of all, it will be a good thing, if the cause shall afford any opportunity for so doing, to take care that on our principles both the laws may seem to be upheld, but that on the principle contended for by our adversaries one of them must be put aside. It will be well also to consider all the common topics and those which the cause itself furnishes, and to take them from the most highly esteemed divisions of the subjects of expediency and honour, showing by means of amplification which law it is most desirable to adhere to.

L. From ratiocination there arises a controversy when, from what is written somewhere or other, one arrives at what is not written anywhere; in this way:--"If a man is mad, let those of his family and his next of kin have the regulation of himself and of his property." And there is another law--"In whatever manner a head of a family has made his will respecting his family and his property, so let it be." And another law--"If a head of a family dies intestate, his family and property shall belong to his relations and to his next of kin." A certain man was convicted of having murdered his father. Immediately, because he was not able to escape, wooden shoes were put upon his feet, and his mouth was covered with a leathern bag, and bound fast, then he was led away to prison, that he might remain there while a bag was got ready for him to be put into and thrown into a river. In the meantime some of his friends bring tablets to the prison, and introduce witnesses also; they put down those men as his heirs whom he himself desires; the will is sealed; the man is afterwards executed. There is a dispute between those who are set down as his heirs in the will, and his next of kin about his inheritance. In this instance there is no positive law alleged which takes away the power of making a will from people who are in such a situation. But from other laws, both those which inflict a punishment of this character on a man guilty of such a crime, and those, too, which relate to a man's power of making a will, it is possible to come by means of ratiocination to a conclusion of this sort, that it is proper to inquire whether he had the power of making a will.

But we think that these and such as these are the common topics suitable to an argument of this description. In the first place, a panegyric upon, and a confirmation of that writing which you are producing. Then a comparison of the matter which is the subject of discussion, with that which is a settled case, in such a manner that the case which is under investigation may appear to resemble that about which there are settled and notorious rules. After that, one will express admiration, (by way of comparison), how it can happen that a man who admits that this is fair, can deny that other thing, which is either more equitable still, or which rests on exactly similar principles; then, too, one will contend that the reason why there is no precise law drawn up for such a case, is because, as there was one in existence applicable to the other case, the framer of that law thought that no one could possibly entertain a doubt in this case; and afterwards it will be well to urge that there are many cases not provided for in many laws, which beyond all question were passed over merely because the rule as to them could be so easily collected out of the other cases which were provided for; and last of all, it is necessary to point out what the equity of the case requires, as is done in a plain judicial case.

But the speaker who is arguing on the other side is bound to try and invalidate the comparison instituted, which he will do if he can show that that which is compared is different from that with which it is compared in kind, in nature, in effect, in importance, in time, in situation, in character, in the opinion entertained of it; if it is shown also in what class that which is adduced by way of comparison ought to stand, and in what rank that also ought to be considered, for the sake of which the other thing is mentioned. After that, it will be well to point out how one case differs from the other, so that it does not seem that any one ought to have the same opinion of both of them. And if he himself also is able to have recourse to ratiocination, he must use the same ratiocination which has been already spoken of. If he cannot, then he will declare that it is not proper to consider anything except what is written; that all laws are put in danger if comparisons are once allowed to be instituted; that there is hardly anything which does not seem somewhat like something else; that when there are many circumstances wholly dissimilar, still there are separate laws for each individual case; and that all things can be proved to be like or unlike to each other. The common topics derived from ratiocination ought to arrive by conjecture from that which is written to that which is not written; and one may urge that no one can embrace every imaginable case in a written law, but that he frames a law best who takes care to make one thing understood from another. One may urge, too, that in opposition to a ratiocination of this sort, conjecture is no better than a divination, and that it would be a sign of a very stupid framer of laws not to be able to provide for everything which he wished to.

LI. Definition is when a word is set down in a written document, whose exact meaning is inquired into, in this manner:--There is a law, "Whoever in a severe tempest desert their ship shall be deprived of all their property; the ship and the cargo shall belong to those men who remain by the ship." Two men, when they were sailing on the open sea, and when the ship belonged to one of them and the cargo to another, noticed a shipwrecked man swimming and holding out his hands to them. Being moved with pity they directed the ship towards him, and took the man into their vessel. A little afterwards the storm began to toss them also about very violently, to such a degree that the owner of the ship, who was also the pilot, got into a little boat, and from that he guided the ship as well as he could by the rope by which the boat was fastened to the ship, and so towed along; but the man to whom the cargo belonged threw himself on his sword in despair. On this the shipwrecked man took the helm and assisted the ship as far as he could. But after the waves went down and the tempest abated, the ship arrived in harbour. But the man who had fallen on his sword turned out to be but slightly wounded, and easily recovered of his wound. And then every one of these three men claimed the ship and cargo for his own. Every one of them relies on the letter of the law to support their claim, and a dispute arises as to the meaning of the words. For they seek to ascertain by definitions what is the meaning of the expressions "to abandon the ship," "to stand by the ship," and even what "the ship" itself is. And the question must be dealt with with reference to all the same topics as are employed in a statement of the case which turns upon a definition.

Now, having explained all those argumentations which are adapted to the judicial class of causes, we will proceed in regular order to give topics and rules for the deliberative and demonstrative class of arguments; not that there is any cause which is not at all times conversant with some statement of the case or other; but because there are nevertheless some topics peculiar to these causes, not separated from the statement of the case, but adapted to the objects which are more especially kept in view by these kinds of argumentation.

For it seems desirable that in the judicial kind the proper end is equity; that is to say, some division of honesty. But in the deliberative kind Aristotle thinks that the proper object is expediency; we ourselves, that it is expediency and honesty combined. In the demonstrative kind it is honesty only. Wherefore, in this kind of cause also, some kinds of argumentation will be handled in a common manner, and in similar ways to one another. Some will be discussed more separately with reference to their object, which is what we must always keep in view in every kind of speech. And we should have no objection to give an example of each kind of statement of the case, if we did not see that, as obscure things are made more plain by speaking of them, so also things which are plain are sometimes made more obscure by a speech. At present let us go on to precepts of deliberation.


Cicero, tr. C.D. Yonge

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