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Judge Li Li put himself under arrest

Duke Wên of Chin had appointed Li Li to be chief judge. For having wrongly permitted a man to be killed he put himself under arrest in the court and asked for death from the prince.

The prince said, "Just as there are high and low officials, so there are light and severe punishments. The inferior officer is guilty; it is not your guilt."

Li Li replied, "In occupying my office as chief, I did not make way for inferior officers; in receiving a greater salary I did not share the profit with the inferior officers. Now when I have wrongly permitted a man to be put to death, that an inferior officer should be responsible for his death is unheard of." He refused and did not accept the command.

The prince said, "If you insist on considering yourself guilty, then I likewise am guilty."

Li Li said, "When the laws are violated, punishment should follow: when punishments are misapplied, death should be the result. Your Highness thought me able to judge obscure cases and to decide doubtful ones, and so you made me a judge. Now I have wrongly permitted a man to be killed; my crime merits death."

The prince said, "That you should leave your position, abandon your rank, suffer the working of the law, and be lost to the state is not what I had wished for. Go quickly and do not bother me."

Li Li replied, "Your Highness' worries are disorder in government and danger to the state. When his army is defeated and his troops are in confusion, the general is worried. Now to serve one's prince when one lacks ability, or to hold an office through shady actions is to receive one's salary without deserving it. I am not one to deceive myself with my worthlessness." Whereupon he fell upon his sword and died.

When the superior man hears of this he says, "Indeed he was loyal."

The Ode says,
O that superior man!
He would not eat unearned food!

Master Li is an example of this.

晋文侯使李离为大理,过听杀人,自拘于廷,请死于君。君曰:“官有贵贱,罚有轻重,下吏有罪,非子之罪也。”李离对曰:“臣居官为长,不与下吏让位;受爵为多,不与下吏分利。今过听杀人,而下吏蒙其死,非所闻也。不受命。”君曰:“自以为罪,则寡人亦有罪矣。”李离曰:“法失则刑,刑失则死。君以臣为能听微决疑,故使臣为理。今过听杀人之罪,罪当死。”君曰:“弃位委官,伏法亡国,非所望也。趣去,无忧寡人之心。”李离对曰:“政乱国危,君之忧也;军败卒乱,将之忧也。夫无能以事君,暗行以临官,是无功不食禄也。臣不能以虚自诬。”遂伏剑而死。君子闻之曰:“忠矣乎!”《诗》曰:“彼君子兮,不素餐兮。”李先生之谓也。

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