Socrates. That seems very strange to me, when I consider the principle which you say governs your politics. But there is another class, so very numerous and important, that I am sure your legislators must have found a means of counting their votes, although there may be some material difficulty in doing so : I mean the dead. For who can have a greater stake in a country than its founders, whose whole soul and single hope was devoted to establishing it, that it might last and be true to their thought for ever ; or than the soldiers who in many wars have successively given their lives to preserve it ? Surely at every meeting of your assembly their votes are counted first, which they once cast so solemnly and sincerely, and at so great a sacrifice to themselves for your sake ; and their veto is interposed beforehand against any rash measures that might undo their labours, stultify their hopes, and banish their spirit from the house which they built and loved.
The Stranger. No ; the dead have no vote among us. On the contrary, we think they have too much influence as it is without voting, because they have bequeathed institutions to us which encumber our playground and are not to our liking ; and the inertia which these institutions oppose to our fresh desires seems to us a hateful force, which we call the dead hand.
Socrates. Do you mean that every young rascal, who knows nothing of the origin and laws of his country, and has never done anything in it but be born, may cast a vote, or that foreigners fleeing from famine or seeking by trade to enrich themselves privately, although in their hearts they may be sworn enemies to the land that receives them, may cast a vote also, but that the founders and defenders of it are not suffered to make their voices heard, because they happen to be dead ? I, who am dead myself, see a great injustice in that...
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