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Frederick II ("the Great"), "Forms of Government and the Duties of Rulers" (1777)

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Good laws must be clearly expressed. Otherwise trickery can evade them, and cunning take advantage of them, and then the weak will become a prey to the powerful and the cunning. Legal procedure should be as short as possible. Otherwise the people will be ruined by protracted law suits. They should not have to spend vast sums in litigation, for they are entitled to justice. The Law Department of the Government cannot be too watchful in protecting the people against the grasping greed of the lawyers. The whole legal apparatus should be kept in order by periodical inspections, when those who believe that they have been wronged by the law can place their complaints before the visiting Commission. Punishments should never be excessive. Violence should never displace the laws. It is better that a sovereign should be too mild than too severe. [ . . . ]

Rulers should always remind themselves that they are men like the least of their subjects. The sovereign is the foremost judge, general, financier, and minister of his country, not merely for the sake of his prestige. Therefore, he should perform with care the duties connected with these offices. He is merely the principal servant of the State. Hence, he must act with honesty, wisdom, and complete disinterestedness in such a way that he can render an account of his stewardship to the citizens at any moment. Consequently, he is guilty if he wastes the money of the people, the taxes which they have paid, in luxury, pomp, and debauchery. He who should improve the morals of the people, be the guardian of the law, and improve their education should not pervert them by his bad example.

The promotion of morality in the widest sense is one of the most important duties of the sovereign. He can do much by distinguishing and rewarding the worthy and by showing his contempt for the worthless. A ruler should loudly disapprove of every dishonourable act and refuse distinction to those who will not mend their ways.

A sovereign may do irremediable injury to the State by distinguishing people of wealth but without merit, for honours bestowed on the worthless rich strengthen the widely held idea that wealth alone suffices to give distinction. If that belief should gain ground, greed and cupidity will break all bounds. A scramble for wealth will ensue, and the most reprehensible means for acquiring riches will be employed. Corruption will spread apace, become general, and take deep root. Men of talent and of character will be disregarded, and the people will honour only those who by ostentatious expenditure advertise their wealth.

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