When Aristotle, who was minister as well as tutor to Alexander, was compelled by age and infirmity to retire from his service, what time Alexander was conquering the country of Ajam, and this was found to abound with persons of intellect and talent — with men of eminence and bravery — whom it seemed as prejudicial to the safety of his empire to spare, as it was repugnant to the principles of equity to exterminate, the prince became perplexed upon the subject, and wrote Aristotle a letter replete with warm and gracious expressions of his regard and favour, in the course of which he stated, that by reason of the distance that divided him from the advantage of his pre­ceptor’s society, he found his judgment exposed to much agitation upon public affairs in general; upon which account, as well as of the particular difficulty he just then found in seeing his way through the anxieties of his position, unassisted by the bright expedients of the sage’s luminous mind, he was to oblige him by endeavouring, by whatever means he might best accomplish it, to arrange the method of their meeting. Aristotle’s reply was in this sort:

“My glorious pupil and enterprising prince must be well aware that my retirement is occasioned by no want of eagerness to accompany him; but by old age, the debility of my constitution, and the exhaustion of my powers. Our meeting being thus impracticable, I have in this epistle explained to you a system to which you can conform upon all matters of detail, and which will indeed render you independent of my actual presence.* As to the question of Ajam and its men of eminence, be assured that were you to destroy these, you could never alter the climate that bred them, so that others of the same description will necessarily rise in their place. Endeavour therefore to enslave them by obligations, and you will render them sin­cere in their adherence, nay, the most submissive of all your vassals.”

He then goes on to say, “Kings are of four classes: the first, liberal to self and subjects both; the second, liberal to self and niggard to subjects; the third, niggard to self and liberal to subjects; the fourth, niggard both to self and subjects. The first by general consent is praiseworthy; the second and fourth by general consent culpable; as to the third, opinions differ, the Hindy school holding it praiseworthy, and the Persian school holding it culpable. Now to be liberal is to supply those entitled to it according to their need; and whoever exceeds this degree deviates pro tanto into pro­fusion. The king who indulges in generosity beyond his resources will infallibly find it produc­tive of ruin to his empire. Often I have told you, Alexander, that of munificence and liberality the main point is, not to covet other men’s possessions, and not to bear in remembrance the favours you have already bestowed. * * * * * * The king that holds religion at his disposal, and slights the law of God, him shall the law of God destroy. * * * * * * The merchants who resort from distant parts to his dominions let him make a point of protecting; and in so doing he will be diffusing his own good name, winning men’s affections, and promoting the resort of traders, and, with it, the prosperity of his dominions. Neither in return for a little indulgence extended to them should he seek to derive inordinate profit. * * *

“O Alexander, often have I enjoined thee, and again I repeat my injunctions, be not over bold to shed blood; for the destruction of things living is peculiarly the right of God. With the truth of cir­cumstances none is acquainted but he who is acquainted with all things. Perchance by reason of some accusation of which he is innocent, or at least excusable as to the committal, thou mayest see fit to put a person to death undeservedly; than which what crime can be more aggravated? It has been told me for a saying of Hermes Trismegistus (who is Esdras), that when one created thing deprives another of its life, the angels* of heaven bewail in the presence of the Creator, saying, ‘Thy servant such-an-one hath made himself like to thee in destroying another of thy servants.’ If the death be one of retribution, the Lord answers, — ‘By my command he hath killed him in right of retribution.’ But if it be without justice, he replies, — ‘By my splendour and my glory, the blood of the slayer I permit others to shed.’ Upon this the angels, in all their halleluiahs and intercessions, imprecate destruction upon him, till the time of retribution comes. And this is the best that can befall him. If he dies in the course of nature, it is a sign of the Almighty’s anger, which has summoned him to punishment more protracted and severe.

“Incite thy subjects to cultivate science; and him that is eminent in science be careful to dis­tinguish with unusual patronage and favour: by this practice thou wilt be promoting thine own popularity and the kingdom’s good together. * * * Take no food from hands on which thou hast not reason to rely. Be not inattentive to thy safety: and forget not the circumstance of the presents sent thee by the King of Hind; wherein, among other rarities, was a maiden who had been fed on poison from her infancy, till her constitution was become viperish:* and it was their design by her means to destroy thee, but that I foresaw and warned thee of the danger. * * * The men of Hind have a saying, ‘Better justice in the sovereign than plenty in the season;’ and on certain stones there is an inscription in Syriac —

“‘Might to right is friend and brother —
Neither thrives without the other.’”
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