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The political principles of the Jewish Law-Importance of the mode in which property is distributed in a state-Agrarian Law of Lycurgus, &c.—Defects of the Spartan constitution in this point-Agrarian Law among the Jews--How guarded— Promoted agriculture and attachment to rural life. Jewish nobility and gentrym-Jewish yeomanry sufficient for defensive war-Offensive wars effectually discouraged by the Jewish constitution—Constitution of the tribe of Levi peculiar to the Jewish scheme--Its great utility—Jewish Law guarded the rights and comforts of the very lowest classes Of the stranger. The poor--The aged and infirm-Recapitulation.
NUMBERS, xxxiii. 50 and 54.
* And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, ye shall divide
“ the land by lot, for an inheritance among your families ; .« to the more ye shall give the more inheritance, and to - the fewer ye shall give the less inheritance : according “ to the tribes of your fathers ye shall inherit.” .
As the Scriptures ascribe not only the religious and moral part of the Jewish Law to a divine original, but also the civil code and political constitution of the Jewish government; which, * it has been proved, was a direct theocracy: it becomes necessary to examine, how far this constitution was calculated, to guard the freedom and union of the Jewish state, to secure to its subjects of every rank their just and natural rights, and to diffuse a universal spiri: of industry, virtue and peace. This' there. B 2
fore * Vide supra, Vol. I. p. 33, and the last Lecture.
fore shall be the object of our enquiry in this Lecture; and if it leads me to reflections, which shall at first appear rather historical and political, than theological and religious, yet the close connection of the topic with the vindication of so important a part of Revelation, as that which describes the Jewish æconomy, will, I trust, plead my excuse.
The mode in which property is distributed, has, perhaps, the chief influence in every state, in determining the character and effects of its constitution. Property carries with it authority and power; where the lower classes are wholly destitute of it, they are generally dependant and servile; while those who monopolize it, are too often arrogant and corrupt. If there exists no rank of citizens possessing moderate shares of it with a secure tenure, there is little probability of finding any class of society, exhibiting the purest virtues, the most useful industry, and the most independent spirit. Nor does any circumstance tend to inflame domestic feuds, or expose to foreign violence, more than an extremely unequal distribution or uncertain tenure of property.
In confirmation of these observations, I need only hint at the discord and misery which the want or the violation of an Agrarian Law produced in Rome, and the praise which has been ever given to the Agrarian Law of Lycurgus. Yet, notwithstanding the comparative superiority of the Spartan institutions, in this particular, they were certainly attended with considerable defects. The division of lands was there guarded, by abolishing the use of money, * and discountenancing all commerce; regulations forced and unnatural, tending to retard all improvement, and fix the nation to that state of semi-barbarism, in which the legislator found it. Further, in order to remove the temptations to accumulate wealth, by banishing the enjoyments which usually attend it, as well as to promote the hardihood of his people, the Spartan legislator established public tables, where all the citizens fed in common, on homely food; and he wrested children from the mild superintendance of parental care, and placed them
under * Vide Plutarch in Lycurgus, and Polybius, Lib. VI. Vide also Montague on the Rise and Fall of the ancient Republics, ch. i.
under a system of public education and rigorous discipline. These regulations produced undoubtedly the effect he designed ; they formed a hardy multitude of citizens, who regarded the state as their common parent, and considered each other as equals. But they also tended to weaken all domestic attachments and domestic virtues ; parental fondness and authority, filial love and obedience, fraternal affection, and all the amiable charities of domestic life, could have little place in such a system. But this was not yet the worst; what might have been most reasonably expected as a necessary effect of an Agrarian Law, seems to be, 'a race of laborious peasantry, employed in agriculture, and possessing all that simplicity, industry and peaceable turn of mind, which such a class of men naturally acquire. But no such existed at Sparta : the citizens, who were the proprietors of the soil, disdaining agriculture, committed the care of their lands to their slaves; they were themselves excluded from commerce, they were ignorant of letters, they possessed no amusement or occupation but their pub