Two wrongs don’t make a right

子曰:「臧武仲以防,求為後於魯,雖曰不要君,吾不信也。」
Confucius said: “Zang Wuzhong demanded that Fang be acknowledged by the state of Lu as his hereditary fief. Although it’s said he didn’t coerce his prince, I don’t believe it.”

Although Confucius described Zang Wuzhong as “wise” in a previous chapter of Book 14, he clearly wasn’t quite so impressed with his behavior in this incident.

As a result of some underhand political maneuvering from the Meng Family, Zang was exiled from the state of Lu in 550 BC and fled to the neighboring state of Zhu. Concerned that he would lose the walled city of Fang, which had long belonged to his family, Zang returned to Lu and took control of it while at the same time asking his siblings to petition the Duke of Lu to appoint one of them as his successor.

Although Zang made no overt threats that he would continue to occupy Fang until he got his way, the Duke agreed to his demand and appointed one of his siblings as his successor, thereby keeping ownership of the city in his family.

Confucius, of course, was appalled by this attempt to hold the Duke of Lu to ransom. In his eyes, even if Zang had been unjustly sent into exile, this didn’t justify his flagrant disobedience towards his ruler. Two wrongs don’t make a right; they just make a bad situation even worse and eliminate any possibility of it being redressed by more judicious means in the future.

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