Ostracism should be exa­mi­ned by the rules of poli­ti­cal law, and not by the rules of civil law ; and far from this cus­tom being able to stig­ma­tize popu­lar govern­ment, it is on the contrary very apt to prove its mode­ra­tion ; and we would have sen­sed that if, exile always being a punish­ment among us, we had been able to sepa­rate the idea of ostra­cism from the idea of punish­ment.

Aristotle tells us eve­ryone agrees that there is some­thing humane and popu­lar about this prac­tice.1 If at the times and in the pla­ces where this judg­ment was exer­ci­sed, it was not found odious, is it for us, who see things from such a dis­tance, to think other­wise than the accu­sers, the jud­ges, and the accu­sed him­self ?

And if we note that this judg­ment of the peo­ple crow­ned with glory the man against whom it was issued ; that when it had been abu­sed in Athens against a man of no merit2 they cea­sed at that moment to prac­tice it,3 we shall see that we have acqui­red a false impres­sion of it, and that it was an admi­ra­ble law that pre­ven­ted the ill effects that could result from the glory of a citi­zen by hea­ping addi­tio­nal glory on him.

Républic, book III, ch. xiii.

Hyperbolus. See Plutarch, Life of Aristotle.

It was found opposed to the spirit of the legislator.