The Ancient Library

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the historical development of constitutions.

§ 21. The origin of Constitutions.

I proceed to consider the process of constitutional de­velopment, tracing in a brief outline the general course of political change and dwelling only on such matters as illustrate the genesis or character of oligarchies.

The Greek writers gave different accounts of the cycle of governments. With Plato1 and Polybius* the order is drawn up more in accordance with the relative merit of the different forms than in agreement with their succession in point of time. Aristotle's account is nearer to facts but it is too absolute3; as all states did not go through the same cycle in the same order: but there is still enough truth in it to make it applicable to the majority of those constitutions which did pass through the ordinary stages of development.

1 Plato Rep. viii 544 c (criticised by Ar. Pol. viii 12 1316 b).

2 Polyb. vi 4 7; vi 9 10; aih-tj TroXtrciwc dpafftfurXuxrt?, o.ottj ^ni<rews olKomfda. Machiavelli, First Decade of T. Livtus ch. 2, also describes ' the sphear and circle in which all Bepublica have, and do move' and his order of succession is also a priori.

3 Ar. Pol. iii 15 1286 b.

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