Sivut kuvina

lic meetings, and their military exercises. Unaccustomed to peaceful arts and industry, they were ambitious of no praise, but such as arms could acquire; and this circumstance gradually led to the neglect of their legislator's institutions, and the consequent destruction of their polity. In vain did Lycurgus, when he formed all the freemen into a national militia for the defence of the state, forbid all offensive wars and all distant conquests. A nation with whom war was the sole business, and the ruling passion of their lives, were too ambitious and too fierce to submit to any such restraints. They rushed into offensive wars, they extended their dominions; money was thence introduced, first for public, then for private use; luxury crept in, the Agrarian Law was violated, and the Spartan constitution overthrown.

I have thus particularly noticed the Spartan polity; because, in its great basis, the distribution of landed property, it approaches nearer than any other I know of, to the Hebrew government, which was founded on an equal Agrarian Law. For, when the Children

Children of Israel were numbered, immediately before their entrance into the promised land, and found (exclusive of the Levites) to exceed 600,000 men, the Lord said unto Moses, * "Unto these the land "shall be divided for an inheritance, ac

cording to the number of names: to many "thou shalt give the more inheritance, and "to the few thou shalt give the less inhe"ritance: to every one shall his inheritance "be given, according to those that were "numbered of him. Notwithstanding, the "land shall be divided by lot, according "to the names of the tribes of their fathers "shall they inherit.'

By this regulation, provision was made for the support of † 600,000 yeomanry, with from six to twenty-five acres of land each. This land they held independent of all temporal superiors, by direct tenure from the Lord Jehovah, their Sovereign, by whose power they were to acquire their territory,


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Numbers, xxvi, 53, &c.

+ Numbers, xxvi. 51, and xxxiii. 54.

Vide Lowman on the Hebrew Government, ch. iv. Vide also Cunæus de Republica Hebræorum, cap. ii. De Lege Agraria, et inestimabili ejus Utilitate, and Leydeker de Republica Hebræorum, Lib. V. cap. xi. xii. xiii. and the Universal History, Vol. I. p. 617.

and under whose protection only they could retain it. On this principle, the lands so distributed were unalienable: *"The land "shall not be sold for ever, says the Law, "for the land is mine, saith the Lord;


ye are strangers and sojourners with me." Thus the basis of the Hebrew constitution was an equal Agrarian Law, but this Law was guarded by other provisions most wise and salutary. The accumulation of debt was prevented, first by prohibiting † every Jew from accepting of interest from any of his fellow-citizens; next, by establishing a regular release of all debts every seventh year, and finally, by ordaining, that no lands could be alienated for ever, but must, on each year of jubilee, or seventh sabbatic year, revert to the families which originally possessed them. Thus, without absolutely depriving individuals of all temporary dominion over their landed property, it re-established, every fiftieth year, that original and equal distribution of it, which was the foundation of the national polity: and as the period of such reversion was fixed * Lev. xxv. 23. † Lev. xxv. 35, and see the entire chap, erami.12 oft no pu

2.4.1 *7 1992 3:


[ocr errors]

fixed and regular, all parties had due notice of the terms on which they negotiated; there was no ground for public commotion or private complaint.

One part of the regulation respecting the release, in the year of jubilee, deserves our notice it did not extend to houses in cities; these, if not redeemed within one year after they were sold, were alienated for ever. This circumstance must have given property in the country † a decided preference above property in cities; and induce every Jew to reside on and improve his land, and employ his time in the care of flocks, and agriculture; which, as they had been the occupation of those revered patriarchs from whom the Jews descended, were with them the most honourable of all employments. Further, the original division of land was to the several tribes according to their families, so that each tribe was settled in the same county, and each family in the same baroný or hundred. Nor was the estate of any family in one tribe permitted

* Levit. xxv. 28, compared with xxix. and iii. +Vide Jews Letters to Voltaire, Part III. Let, i, § 5, note. Vide Fleury on the Manners of the Israelites, ch. iii.

permitted to pass into another, even by the marriage * of an heiress. So that, not only was the original balance of property preserved, but the closest and dearest con-' nections of affinity attached to each other the inhabitants of every vicinage. Thus domestic virtue and affection had a more extensive sphere of action; the happiness of rural life was increased, a general attention to virtue and decorum was promoted, from that natural emulation which each family would feel, to preserve unsullied the reputation of their vicinage; and the poor might every where expect more ready assistance, since they implored it from men, whose sympathy in their sufferings would be quickened by hereditary friendship and hereditary connection.

[ocr errors]

But, while the Jewish Agrarian Law ser cured the perpetual maintenance of a numerous, virtuous and independant yeomanry, it did not prevent the existence of an higher rank of men, who should possess superior


* Vide Numbers, xxvii. which directs a due portion of the inheritance of their tribe to be given to the daughters of Zelophehad, he having no sons; and Numbers, xxxvi. which directs the marriages of heiresses within their own tribe,

[ocr errors]
« EdellinenJatka »