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Body politic

Posted by ESC on August 23, 2000

In Reply to: Origin of Phrase posted by Susie on August 23, 2000

: What is the origin of the phrase "the body politic"? I think it comes from Shakespeare. can you help me?

BODY POLITIC - "any group governed by any means; a government system with the word 'body' used in the same sense of 'body of laws' or 'body of facts.' An early use occurred in Thomas Hobbes's 'Leviathan,' published in 1651: 'Of systems subordinate, some are political and some private. Political (otherwise called bodies politic and persons in law) are those which are made by authority from the sovereign power of the Commonwealth.' The metaphor linking the human anatomy to the system of government can be found in Plato's 'Republic'. In Jean-Jacques Rousseau's 'Discourse on Political Economy,' the metaphoric use was extended: 'The body politic, taken individually may be considered as an organised, living body, resembling that of a man. The sovereign power represents the head; the laws and customs are the brain.commerce, industry and agriculture are the mouth and stomach.the public income is the blood.the citizens are the body and the members, which make the machine live, move and work.'" From "Safire's New Political Dictionary" by William Safire (Random House, New York, 1993).