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Wawrzyniec Goślicki (ca. 1530–1607)
Wawrzyniec Goślicki - The Accomplished Senator
THE ACCOMPLISHED SENATOR
Three things are particularly necessary in each happy and ideal state – the magistrate, laws, and citizens' obedience towards them. For without them no state or human community can function properly.
The function of a magistrate is to lead citizens and to recommend to them everything which is just and beneficial, in conformity with laws and reason. Cicero expressed himself beautifully and learnedly on this subject: "For as the laws govern the magistrate, so the magistrate governs the people, and it can truly be said that the magistrate is a speaking law, and the law a silent magistrate."
One can judge the political system and condition of the state by evaluating its magistrates. Just as a ship tossed by the waves in a storm at sea usually sinks, unless the sailors save it by their effort and skill, similarly the ship of state sailing across the stormy sea of troubles, rebellions, disturbances, and discords would crash – like a wave against a cliff – if it were not supported by the magistrates' foresight and prudence. Also, just as our body is ruled by the soul, which in turn is ruled by thought and reason, so each state organism and human community must possess a soul, that is law showing the way to a good and decent life, this law originating from thought and reason, that is from the counsel of a prudent and wise man. For where there are no laws and offices, there can be no God and people, and no state can exist.
For man, law is true reason, which the sage finds within himself, while the common people receive it from magistrates and legal decrees, keeping in mind that one should avoid no less that which is forbidden by written laws than that which is forbidden by reason. Therefore those who surpass others in wisdom and prudence (...), should take their place at the head of the state, because they can render better service to the human community than others. For the state strengthened by their counsels, as if by fortified walls, will repulse attacks of the enemies, resist dangers, enjoy a peaceful and happy life. It is therefore necessary that those people are endowed above all with the virtues capable of securing happiness for the state, that they respect the political system in which they live, and being satisfied with it, they do not introduce any new elements that seem to be contrary to it, and finally that they obtain from the citizens the power of doing what in their opinion brings benefit to the state. For as a result they will govern with greater usefulness and dignity, while the citizens will better obey their commands. The one who wishes to take office and a leading role in the state truly needs immense competence and wisdom. For he has to govern not only his house, family, wife, and children, but also bring the state, which is divided on account of a variety of aims, thoughts, and intentions, to such a unanimity and accord that it becomes a harmonious unity.
Because in the state people who are in authority are divided into three ranks: the king occupying the highest, the senate in the middle, and the citizens the lowest, it is necessary to consider which of them brings the greatest benefit to this state. Great virtue, supreme wisdom, and nearly divine prudence of the monarch usually shines in the state. Just as God is the master and ruler of the world, so the king is the ruler and master of the state. He should rule the state justly and divinely, because he is considered God's representative in the state. For the same reason the monarch's prudence and wisdom come not so much from him as much as from God, who instilled them in the king's mind and heart. In addition, since one man cannot administer all matters of the state with equal prudence and care, for it is rather in the power of God than of man to know thoroughly all these matters which pertain to the faculty of ruling, therefore it is usual for the state to assign wise men to the king so that he could rule better with their assistance. And because they occupy a rank between the king and the citizens, it is not difficult for them to perceive what bears upon the protection of the king's office and dignity and what on the preservation of the benefits won by the citizens and state. I believe therefore that this intermediary rank of people who are in authority, called optimates and senators, brings more advantage than the other ones to the state. For the king, being alone, cannot see everything and it often happens that either he yields to desires or his emotions disturb his ability of discretion. Also an ignorant crowd without a thought and head (as a proverb says) cannot by any means possess such prudence, while the senate, composed of men distinguished by virtue, prudence, and glory of accomplished deeds is capable from its middle position, as if from an observation point, of caring for the common weal of the state, perceiving those matters which are beneficial, and freeing it from disturbances, rebellions, and dangers.
Translated by Michael J. Mikoś
, 3,2,5. Translated by Clinton W. Keyes. London, William Heinemann, 1928, The Loeb Classical Library.
Born into a nobleman's family near Płock, Goślicki studied at the Cracow Academy from 1556 to 1562 and then in Padua, Bologna, and Rome. His most important work,
De optimo senatore libri duo
, was published in Venice in 1568. After his return to Poland, Goślicki became a secretary of King Zygmunt August and took part in numerous diplomatic missions. In 1568 he was appointed the Bishop of Kamieniec, in 1590 of Chełm, in 1591 of Przemyśl, and finally in 1601 of Poznań.
De optimo senatore
, dedicated to King Zygmunt August, shows the ideal statesman who is well versed in the humanities as well as in economy, politics, and law. This theoretical treatise on the art of ruling postulated the importance of the senate as a body mediating between the monarch's absolute tendencies and noblemen's attempts to acquire more power.
Text: Szczucki, Lech (ed.).
Filozofia i myśl społeczna XVI wieku
. Warszawa: PWN, 1978, 314–315.