Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

was earnest in securing the liberty of the Hebrews. Not only did it divide the Promised Land equally amongst them all; but it provided for the recovery of every estate that might be lost by the indigence or the wilfulness of its possessor. Were he indifferent about regaining it, his children had the opportunity of reinstating themselves at each returning celebration of the national jubilee. The more frequent recurrence of the Lord's Release witnessed the liberation of every debtor from the confinement in which the law had been watching over him. Guarded against private, the Hebrews were also protected against public oppression. The first to be called by Moses to authority were “able men out of all Israel.” Distinctions of families and tribe were lost in the common Congregation. To this body, the chiefs, whose titles are variously recorded as Heads of Families, Elders, and Princes, appear to have been accountable. The only immediate exception to this general equality was the elevation of a single tribe to the functions of the priesthood. But the privileges of this order were not so numerous as its obligations. A king was anointed prospectively; but he was to be one “ whom the Lord shall choose.

Above all other authority was recognized that of the Deity ; He ruled on earth as in heaven ; obedience to Him was the safeguard of liberty. It was likewise the security of dominion. “Take heed to thyself,” forewarned the Hebrew law, “lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land whither thou goest, lest it be for a snare in the midst of thee. But ye shall destroy their images, and cut down their groves : for thou shalt worship no other god.” Again it was declared : “Of the cities which the Lord thy God doth give thee for an inheritance, thou shalt save alive nothing that breatheth, but thou shalt utterly destroy them." Yet the conquest was not to be so destructive as to leave none of whom subjects could not be made by the conquerors : “ Both thy bondmen and thy bondmaids which thou shalt have," continued the law," shall be of the heathens that are round you ... and ye shall take them as an inheritance for your children after you

they shall be your bondmen forever." VOL. IX.-10

Dominion over the Promised Land and its inhabitants proved insufficient for the Hebrews. Through the jong conflicts in which they were involved under their Judges and their Kings, they strove to increase more frequently than to preserve their realms. The expectation, dimly embraced by Abraham, but clearly enunciated by Moses, concerning the appearance of a future Prophet, swelled into the anticipation of universal empire. “And he shall smite the earth,” exclaimed Isaiah, “ with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his life shall he slay the wicked. . Fear not, thou worm Jacob, and ye men of Israel ! I will help thee, saith the Lord and thy Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel. And I will make thee a new sharp instrument, having teeth. Thou shalt thresh the mountains and beat them small, and shalt make the hills as chaff.”

Of all nations in ancient times, the Hebrews approached the nearest to the possession of the eternal principle upon which liberty rests. They were made acquainted with the existence and the omnipotence of their Creator. From Him they received the law to be holy and perfect. They rose with David to the heights of penitence and prayer. They lifted their voices with Isaiah in preparing the glory of the Lord ; with Daniel in foretelling the endless majesty of His kingdom. Yet theirs was the shade, rather than the light, of the Divine law. Laws of their own, supporting the lowest forms of liberty, stood side by side with laws supporting its highest forms. Instead of resisting the centralization that prevailed of old, the Hebrews were amongst its most unsparing champions.--History of Liberty, Vol. I., Book 1, Chap. 10.

THE LIBERTY OF THE ROMANS.

The moment Curius Dentatus disappears (290 B.C.), the questions of relief to the lower classes, and of union between them and the higher, sink into the background. Four years afterward there occurred a general outburst of the difficulties which all the wiser men of the popular party had successively striven to repress. Debt was the mainspring of the insurrection in which

the lower classes, disappointed in their hopes of relief from their superiors, seem to have seceded to the Ja. niculan Hill. There, perhaps, they would have remained unheeded, but for the approach of a hostile army, whose ravages may have made it necessary for the upper classes to conciliate them. It looks as though the popular party made the first advances. Indeed, it is not certain but that a portion of the party had gone out with the seceders to the Janiculan. At all events, popular leaders stand out in the final movements of the insurrection. One of their chiefs, Quintius Hortensius, is raised to the dictatorship. At his call the people come together to pass a law investing the decrees of the Tribes with plenary independence. This goes, of course, against the Senate, hitherto accepting or rejecting the legislative proceedings of the Tribes. Then Hortensius dies. It may have been his successor, it may have been a Tribune of the Plebeians, Mænius by name, who procured the passage of a bill directed against the Curias. To that ancient assembly little of a political character remained besides the right to sanction or annul the elections made in the Centurias to the higher magistracies. This right appears to have been abrogated by the Mænian law. A change in the organization of the Centurias, apparently rendering that body more popular, may have taken place at the same time.

With all its laws, Mänian and Hortensian, the popular party could not have been completely satisfied. Disguise it as they would, many must have felt a sensitiveness to the personal superiority still asserted by their antagonists. But a few years before the secession to the Janiculan, a time had been set apart by the Senate for solemn devotions in consequence of many strange presages that had been observed and feared. In the season of supplication, the wife of Lucius Volumnius, by name Virginia, a woman of Patrician birth, came to the temple of Patrician Chastity to offer up her vows. The Patrician ladies gathered at the shrine denied her the right to worship there, because, said they, she was married to a Plebeian. “I thought, she exclaimed, “ I had as good a right here as any. But if it be on my husband's

account that I am thus affronted, I say I am neither ashamed of him, nor of his exploits nor of his honors." She then withdrew, and, for her sole revenge set up an altar in her house to Plebeian Chastity, to whose worship she invited her Plebeian countrywomen. If a Patrician wife of a Plebeian could be so excluded from a temple, the Plebeians must have found it still difficult to reach the privileges to which they aspired.

Where, meanwhile, were the lower classes who had seceded to the Janiculan? How were the debtors saved from bondage, the starving from death? There is no answer to be found in the ancient historians. Yet it was the popular party of Curius Dentatus and of Valerius Corvus that had so far triumphed. Did they do nothing for the inferior Plebeians-nothing for the still inferior aliens and slaves ? Again there is no answer in the ancient histories. The popular party spent its liberality in contests with its superiors. It had little besides illiberality to show toward its inferiors. Instead of encouraging continual growth in freedom amongst the lower orders, it seems as if the popular party had stood like full-grown trees that divert the sunshine from the lowlier plants, incapable, indeed, of pushing up their branches all at once, but designed to lift their breathing leaves nearer and nearer to the height of the older foliage.

This settled the question as to the extent of Roman liberty. It was to remain in a few hands. Its freemen were they who had risen : they who had yet to rise were bondmen. The mind reverts to the city as it stood upon its seven hills. The temple with its company of columns holds the foremost place. Beneath, the square, decked with monuments and trophies, lies open for the assem. blies of the nation. On the right and on the left, scaling every hill, and covering nearly every level space, are the dwellings, the gardens, the fields, and the woods of the richer citizens. To find the poorer classes we must thread the crooked streets where the dampness of day and the darkness of night maintain continual gloom.History of Liberty, Vol. 1., Book 3, Chap. 15.

ELLET, ELIZABETH FRIES (LUMMIS), an Ameri. can historical writer, born at Sodus Point, N. Y., in 1818; died June 3, 1877. She was an industrious and careful writer, and her works have considerable value. She published a volume of Poems, Original and Selected, in 1835, wrote several books, mostly of a historical or biographical character, and was a frequent contributor to periodicals. Her principal works are Characters of Schiller (1841); Women of the American Revolution (1848); Domestic History of the American Revolution (1850); Watching Spirits (1851); Pioneer women of the West (1852); Summer Rambles in the West (1853); Women Artists in all Ages and Countries (1861); Queens of American Society (1867); Court Circles of the Republic (1869); Cyclopædia of Domestic Economy (1872).

The following words of praise were penned by Mrs. Sarah Hale as early as 1850, and were inserted in the first edition of her Woman's Record: “Mrs. Ellet has tried nearly all varieties of literature, original and translation-poetry, essay,

icism, tragedy, biography, fiction, history, and stories for children; to say, as we truly can, that she has not failed in any, is sufficient praise. Still,

, she has not probably done her best in any one de. partment; the concentration of genius is one of the conditions of its perfect development. She is yet young, hopeful, and studious. Nor are her

« AnteriorContinuar »