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Mencius. Book I: King HÛi of Liang. Part II. Chapter VII

Legge's summary: The care to be employed by a prince in the employment of ministers; and their relation to himself and the stability of the kingdom.

1. Mencius, having an interview with the king Hsüan of Ch'î, said to him, 'When men speak of "an ancient kingdom," it is not meant thereby that it has lofty trees in it, but that it has ministers sprung from families which have been noted in it for generations. Your Majesty has no intimate ministers even. Those whom you advanced yesterday are gone to-day, and you do not know it.'

2. The king said, 'How shall I know that they have not ability, and so avoid employing them at all?'

3. The reply was, 'The ruler of a State advances to office men of talents and virtue only as a matter of necessity. Since he will thereby cause the low to overstep the honourable, and distant to overstep his near relatives, ought he to do so but with caution?

4. 'When all those about you say,-- "This is a man of talents and worth," you may not therefore believe it. When your great officers all say,-- "This is a man of talents and virtue," neither may you for that believe it. When all the people say,-- "This is a man of talents and virtue," then examine into the case, and when you find that the man is such, employ him. When all those about you say,-- "This man won't do," don't listen to them. When all your great officers say,-- "This man won't do," don't listen to them. When the people all sav,-- "This man won't do," then examine into the case, and when you find that the man won't do, send him away.

5. 'When all those about you say,-- "This man deserves death," don't listen to them. When all your great officers say,-- "This man deserves death," don't listen to them. When the people all say,"This man deserves death," then inquire into the case, and when you see that the man deserves death, put him to death. In accordance with this we have the saying, "The people killed him."

6. 'You must act in this way in order to be the parent of the people.'


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Translated by James Legge, published in 1861 and revised for publication in 1895. Prepared as etext by Stephen R. McIntyre. Noded by schist. Please msg schist if you have suggestions for useful hard-links.

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