《尚书》立政 – Establishment of Government

The duke of Zhou spoke to the following effect:’With our hands to our heads and our heads to the ground, we make our declarations to the Son of Heaven, the king who has inherited the throne.’ In such manner accordingly all (the other ministers) cautioned the king, saying, ‘In close attendance on your majesty there are the regular presidents, the regular ministers, and the officers of justice; the keepers of the robes (also), and the guards.’

The duke of Zhou spoke to the following effect:’With our hands to our heads and our heads to the ground, we make our declarations to the Son of Heaven, the king who has inherited the throne.’ In such manner accordingly all (the other ministers) cautioned the king, saying, ‘In close attendance on your majesty there are the regular presidents, the regular ministers, and the officers of justice; the keepers of the robes (also), and the guards.’ The duke of Zhou said, ‘Oh! admirable are these (officers). Few, however, know to be sufficiently anxious about them.’

The duke of Zhou said, ‘Oh! admirable are these (officers). Few, however, know to be sufficiently anxious about them. Among the ancients who exemplified (this anxiety) there was the founder of the Xia dynasty. When his House was in its greatest strength, he sought for able men who should honour God (in the discharge of their duties). (His advisers), when they knew of men thoroughly proved. and trustworthy in the practice of the nine virtues, would then presume to inform and instruct their sovereign, saying, “With our hands to our heads and our heads to the ground, O sovereign, we would say, Let (such an one) occupy one of your high offices: Let (such an one) be one of your pastors: Let (such an one) be one of your officers. of justice. By such appointments you will fulfil your duty as sovereign. If you judge by the face only, and therefrom deem men well schooled in virtue, and appoint them, then those three positions will all be occupied by unrighteous individuals.”

The way of Jie, however, was act to observe this precedent. Those whom he employed were cruel men; and he left no successor. After this there was Tang the Successful, who, rising to the throne, grandly administered the bright ordinances of God. He employed, to fill the three (high) positions, those who were equal to them; and those who w ere called possessors of the three kinds of ability would display that ability. He then studied them severely, and greatly imitated them, making the utmost of them in their three positions and with their three kinds of ability. The people in the cities of Shang were thereby all brought to harmony, and those in the four quarters of the kingdom were brought greatly under the influence of the virtue thus displayed. Oh! when the throne came to Shou, his character was all violence. He preferred men of severity, and who deemed cruelty a virtue, to share with him in the government of his states; and at the same time, the host of his associates, men who counted idleness a virtue, shared the offices of his court. God then sovereignly punished him, and caused us to possess the great land, enjoy the favouring decree which Shou had (afore) received, and govern all the people in their myriad realms.”

‘Then subsequently there were king Wen and king Wu, who knew well the minds of those whom they put in the three positions, and saw clearly the minds of those who had the three grades of ability. Thus they could employ them to serve God with reverence, and appointed them as presidents and chiefs of the people. In establishing their government, the three things which principally concerned them were to find the men for (high) offices, the officers of justice, and the pastors. (They had also) the guards; the keepers of the robes; their equerries; their heads of small departments; their personal attendants; their various overseers; and their treasurers. They had their governors of the larger and smaller cities assigned in the royal domain to the nobles; their men of arts; their overseers whose offices were beyond the court; their grand historiographers; and their heads of departments – all good men of constant virtue. (In the external states) there were the Minister of Instruction, the Minister of War, and the Minister of Works, with the many officers subordinate to them. Among the wild tribes, such as the Wei, the Lu, and the Zheng, in the three Bo, and at the dangerous passes, they had wardens.

‘King Wen was able to make the minds of those in the (three high) positions his own, and so it was that he established those regular officers and superintending pastors, so that they were men of ability and virtue. He would not appear himself in the various notifications, in litigations, and in precautionary measures. There, were the officers and pastors (to attend to them), whom he (simply) taught to be obedient (to his wishes), and not to be disobedient. (Yea), as to litigations and precautionary measures, he (would seem as if he) did not presume to know about them. He was followed by king Wu, who carried out his work of settlement, and did not presume to supersede his righteous and virtuous men, but entered into his plans, and employed, as before, those men. Thus it was that they unitedly received this vast inheritance.’

‘Oh! young son, the king, from this time forth be it ours to establish the government, appointing the (high) officers, the officers of the laws, and the pastors; be it ours clearly to know what courses are natural to these men, and then fully to employ them in the government, that they may aid us in the management of the people whom we have received, and harmoniously conduct all litigations and precautionary measures. And let us river allow others to come between us and them. (Yea), in our every word and speech, let us be thinking of (these) officers of complete virtue, to regulate the people that we have received.

‘Oh! I, Dan, have received these excellent words of others, and tell them all to you, young son, the king. From this time forth, O accomplished son (of Wu), accomplished grandson (of Wen), do not err in regard to the litigations and precautionary measures – let the proper officers manage them.

‘From of old to the founder of Shang, and downwards to king Wen of our Zhou, in establishing government, when they appointed (high) officers, pastors, and officers. of the laws, they settled them in their positions, And allowed them to unfold their talents; thus giving the regulation of affairs into their hands. In the kingdom, never has there been the establishment of government by the employment of artful-tongued men; (with such men), unlessoned in virtue, never can a government be distinguished in the, world. From this time forth, in establishing government, make no use of artful-tongued men, but (seek for) good officers, and get them to use all their powers in aiding the government of our country.

‘Now, O accomplished son (of Wu), accomplished grandson (of Wen), young son, the king, do not err in the matter of litigations; there are the officers and pastors (to attend to them). Have well arranged (also) your military accoutrements and weapons, so that you may go forth beyond the steps of Yu, and traverse all under the sky, even to beyond the seas, everywhere meeting with submission: so shall you display the bright glory of king Wen, and render more illustrious the great achievements of king Wu. Oh! from this time forth, may (our) future kings, in establishing the government, be able to employ men of constant virtue!’

The duke of Zhou spoke to the following effect: ‘O grand historiographer, the duke of Su, the Minister of Crime, dealt reverently with all the criminal matters that came before him, and thereby perpetuated the fortunes of our kingdom. Here was an example of anxious solicitude (for future ministers), whereby they may rank with him in the ordering of the appropriate punishments.’

English translation: James Legge
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