Lincoln Blogs

Justice for All
May 4, 2008, 8:26 pm
Filed under: School Papers
Under the Athenian system of ostracism, every free man could specify who he wished to see ostracized by writing the name on a and dropping it into an urn. An illiterate Athenian, not recognizing Aristides, once asked him to write on his potsherd on his behalf. Asked what name the man wanted written, he replied, “Aristides.” Surprised, the statesman inquired whether Aristides had ever injured him that he should wish to see him banished. “No,” replied the man, “I don’t even know him, but I am sick of hearing him called, ‘The Just.’” Aristides, in silence, wrote his own name and handed it back to the man.

Aristides was an Athenian statesman, general, and founder of the Delian League, which developed into the Athenian Empire. Plato once called Aristides, who was nicknamed “the Just,” the only man in Athens worth admiring. He lived up to his nickname in this anecdote, and was just even though he knew it would hurt him.

Consider also Regulus, a Roman who was taken prisoner by the Carthaginians. The Carthaginians were trying to make peace with Rome, so they sent Regulus along with several ambassadors to try to make terms. Regulus made a promise to Carthage that, if the terms were not accepted, he would return. When he reached Rome and was asked for his opinion, he gave what he thought was a just answer, namely that the Romans should decline the terms because they were bad for Rome. He was taken back to Carthage and tortured for his answer. The reply of Regulus was the right and just one, even though it cost him his freedom and his life.

Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “Justice cannot be for one side alone, but must be for both.”

Whether serving as a statesman or a general, or founding the Delian League, Aristides was a just man. We should strive to follow his example, and obey Deuteronomy 16:20 by “follow[ing] justice and justice alone.”


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