Page images
PDF
EPUB

extremely cautious how they made any state-laws which might affect it. When Romulus had framed the Roman constitution, hc did not attempt to limit the powers, which parents were thought to have over their children ; so that, as Dionysius of Halicarbassus observes, a father had full power, either to imprison, or enslave, or to sell, or to inflict the severest corporal punishments upon, or to kill his son ; even though the son at that very time was in the highest employments of the state, and bore his office with the greatest public applause. And when Numa attempted to limit this extravagant power, he carried his limitation no further, than to appoint, that a son, if married with his father's consent, should in some measure be freed from so unlimited a subjoction.

The first legislators cannot be supposed to have attempted any other improvements of their country, than what would naturally arise from agriculture, pasturage, and planting ; for traffic began in after-ages. Hence it soon appeared, that in fertile and open countries, they had abundance of people more than they could employ ; for few hands would quickly learn to produce 'a maintenunce for more than was necessary for the til. lage of the ground, or the care of the cattle. But in mountainous and woody countries, where fruitful and open plains were rarely met with, men multiplyed faster than they could be maintained. llence it came to pass, that these countries commonly sent forth frequent colonies and plantations'; when their inhabitants

d Dionys. Halicar. lib. 2. c. 26, 27.

were so numerous, that their land could not bear them, i. e. could not produce a sufficient maintenance for them. But in more fruitful nations, where greater multitudes could be supported ; the kings had at their command great bodies of men, and employed them either in raising prodigious buildings, or formed them into powerful armies. Thus in Egypt they built pyramids, at Babylon they encompassed the city with walls of an incredible height and thickness; and they con, quered and brought into subjection all the nations round about them.

The first kings laid no sort of tax upon their subjects, to maintain either soldiers or servants ; for all the tribute they took was from strangers, and their own people were free. But they had in every country larger portions of land than their subjects, and whenever they conquered foreign kingdoms, they encreased their revenue by laying an annual tribute or tax upon them. Ninus was the first king who took this course ; he over-ran all his neighbours with his armies, and obliged them to buy their peace by paying yearly such tribute as he thought fit to exact from them. The conquered nations, however free the subjects of them were at home, with regard to their own king, were yet justly said to be under the yoke of foreign servitude, and were looked upon by the king who had conquered them, as larger farms to yield him such an annual product, as he thought fit to set upom them ; and the king and all the people of them, though they

[ocr errors]

Justin. lib. 1. c. 1.

were commonly permitted to live according to their own laws, were yet reputed the conqueror's servants. Thus the kings of Canaan, when they became tributary, were said to serve Chedorlaomer ; ' and thus Xerxes, when Pythius the Lydian, presuming upon his being in great favour with the king, ventured to petition to have one of his sons excused from following the army, remonstrated to him, that he was his servant.& The Persians are frequently called by Cyrus in Xenophon Ανδρες Περσαι, or men of Persia, Φιλοι, the king's friends ; and Xerxes keeps up in his answer to Pythius the same distinction; when he mentions that his children, his relations, his domestics, and then his natural subjects, whom he calls his diaos, went with him to the war.

And dare you, says he, who are my servant, Ecos don@, talk of yonr son ? Lydia was a conquered kingdom ; and so Pythius and all the Lydians were the king's property,' to do with them as he thought fit. And they sometimes used those they had conquered, accordingly, removing them out of one pation into another as they pleased. But I think that the extravagances of ambitious conquerors is not so much to be wondered at, as the politics of Aristotle, who lias laid down such principles, as, if true, would justify all the wars and bloodshed that an ambitious prince can be guilty of. He mentions war as one of the natural ways of getting an estate ; for he says, is a sort of hunting, which is to be made use of against the wild beasts, and against those men, who, born by

[ocr errors]

Gen. xiv, 4.

• Herodot. lib. 7. c. 99.

nature for servitude, will not submit to it; so that a war upon these is naturally just." +

Diodorus Siculus remarks,' that it was not the ancient custom for sons to succeed their fathers, and inherit their crowns. This observation was fact in many kingdoms; but then it could be only where kingdoms were not raised upon paternal or despotic authority. Where paternal authority took place, the kingdom would of course descend as that did ; and the eldest son become at his father's death the ruler over his father's children. Where kingdoms arose from masters and their servants, the right heir of the substance would be the right heir to the crown ; which we find was the Persian constitution. The subjects, having originally been servants, did not apprehend that they had any right or pretence ever to become kings'; but that the crown was always to be given to one of royal blood.“ But in kingdoms, which were founded by a number of families, uniting together by agreement to form a civil society, the subjects upon every vacancy chose a king as they thought fit; and the personal qualifications of the person to be elected, and not his birth, procured his clection. Many instances of this might be produced from the ancient kingdoms of Greece ; and very convincing ones from the first Roman kings, of whom Plutarch observes that none of them was succeeded in his kingdom by his son ;' and Florus has remarked of

[ocr errors]

Aristot. Politic. lib, 1. c. 8.
Hist. lib. 1. p. 28,
Brissonius de Regno Persarum, lib. 1.
Plutarch. lib. de Aniini Tranquillitate, p. 467.

each of them severally, what the qualifications were which recommended them to the choice of the people,m That Egypt was anciently an elective kingdom is evident from Plutarch," who remarks, that their kings were taken either from amongst their soldiers or their priests, as they had occasion for a prince, of great wisdom or valour. But whatever were the original constitutions of kingdoms ; it is certain, that power has always in all nations been more or less fluctuating between the prince and the people; and many states have from arbitrary kingdoms become in time republics; and from republics become in length of time arbitrary kingdoms again, from various accidents and revolutions, as Polybius has observed at large.°

It has been an ancient opinion, that kings had the right to their crowns by a special appointment from heaven. Homer is every where full of this. The sceptres of his kings were commonly given either to them or some of their ancestors by Jupiter. Thus Agamemnon's sceptre was made by Vulcan, and by Vulcan given to Jupiter, by Jupiter to Mercury, by Mercury to Pelops, by Pelops to Atreus, by Atreus to Thyestes, and by Thyestes to Agamemnon. And this account came to be so firmly believed, that the men of Chæronea paid divine worship to a spear ;

m L. Flor. Hist. lib. 1. c. 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. See also Dionys. Halicarnass. lib. 1.

» Οι δε βασιλεις απεδείκνυνθο μεν εκ των ιερεων η των μαχιμων, το μεν δι ανδριαν, το δε δια σοφιαν γενες αξιωμα και τιμην εχον7%. o IIistoriar. lib. 6.

PII. 2. ver. 101.

« PreviousContinue »