Page images

ed to enslave all captives, men, women, and children; and so life, liberty, and property were swept away of old by the destroyer, war.

Since the most enlightened States of antiquity, at the birth of Christ acted upon such atrocious and rapacious doctrines, it must be obvious that antiquity had made little advancement in Ethics, Civil Polity and International Law. We find the facts recorded by history fully sustain this proposition. No writer pretends that International Law had any existence, until it arose in Europe since the dark ages. The respect before paid to heralds and ambassadors, though not always adhered to, and the custom of ransoming persons and cities, can not be said to have depended on the law of nations, as they are practised by the most uncivilized people. The Scythian Attila, and Alaric the Goth, and the western aborigines adhered in common to these customs. The same remark applies to agreements or treaties between tribes or nations. Though these acts existed among ancient States and Empires, they all agreed to consider foreigners as enemies, and their property and persons as legitimate objects of seizure and slavery

In short, the right of conquest by arms of foreign countries——the enslaving of their people, and the confiscation of their property, private and public,

were the universal and unquestioned doctrines of antiquity. Civil Polity, Ethics, and Morals were of course rude and barbarous in these


of force, injustice, and cruelty. Plato was treacherously seized by order of the tyrant of Syracuse, and sold as a slave. Such acts of atrocity were common in ancient times. In the Roman and Athenian States, the laws allowed creditors to sell debtors and their children as slaves, for satisfaction of debts; and it is said that the law of the Twelve Tables, allowed Roman creditors to divide the body of the debtor among them, if they chose, in default of other means of payment. The Persians, Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, and other nations of the old world, gave by their laws to parents almost unlimited dominion over their chil. dren, extending in many cases to the power of selling them into slavery, and even at will putting them to death. In the century preceding the Christian era, A. Fulvius, son of a Senator, was taken on his way to join Cataline's army, and brought to Rome, where he was put to death by his father's order. This Roman law is supposed to have continued until the second century of the Christian era.

Religion formed a part of the law of ancient States and Empires, and in many of them human victims were offered by public authority. Two

hundred children of wealthy and noble families were offered at Carthage at one sacrifice, to appease Saturn. Human passions were deified by law-temples were erected to their honor, and costly sacrifices, of gold and gems were offered on their debasing altars. Licentiousness was legally consecrated. The open and allowed depravity of the Pagan worship of antiquity gives a true idea of ancient law and morals. Slaves had no rights as against their masters, and masters had absolute power over the lives and limbs, as well as the pro. perty of slaves. When old, they were often barbarously exposed to death; and poor persons were allowed in the same way to dispose of children, if they thought themselves unable to support them.

In Rome, the murders of the Coliseum were, a daily and ordinary amusement of the people. The domestic relation of husband and wife, left woman without dignity, and marriage without sanctity. Force reigned among ancient nations, in all transactions and relations of life. We will give a few well attested historical facts relating to the most civilized countries of antiquity. According to Moses, and profane history, the Egyptians were for a long period the slaves of their kings and priests; and the pyramids, yet standing, are evidence of the same fact. The inhuman royal order


to destroy the Hebrew male children, to prevent the rapid multiplication of the Hebrew nation, and the enslavement of that people, (received originally in the days of Joseph to the enjoyment of Egypt's hospitality and protection,) enable us to see at a glance, the despotism, the ferocity, and the immorality of that country.

It was a principle of their government that all knowledge should be confined to the priests, and that the mass of the nation should be kept in igno

Such was Egyptian Polity and Morals, as revealed by history.

The Spartan State was the enemy of freedom and improvement. In Sparta, the only object aimed at was war. Woman, graceful and lovely woman, was merely a producer of children to fill the ranks of the army, and man was a fighting animal. And in order that all the freemen might be soldiers, the product of the labor of Helot slaves and of prisoners taken in war, and the plunder of other States, furnished the public treasury with its only revenue. Theft was applauded; and her cruel treatment of the Helots, which often drove them to dangerous insurrections, and the absence of the industrial arts among the freemen of Sparta, exhibit this government as the most abandoned, and Lycurgus as the most despicable lawgiver of any age within the range of history.

The Athenian democracy, by the wisdom of Solon and her commercial activity, was enabled to attain a superiority over all ancient nations in the useful and elegant arts, and in intellectual improvement. These sprung naturally from Athenian freedom, though stormy and unregulated, and from the acute mental character of that wonderful people. But the Athenians were so reckless of right, that they avowed that power by sea and land was their object; and in pursuit of it, they engaged in the Peleoponnesian and Syracusan wars, which brought their State to ruin. By enslaving captives taken in war, slaves became more numerous than freemen, and they destroyed the prosperity and industrial habits of the common people, while a rich aristocracy grew up from slavery and pillage in war. The savage spirit of this the most cultivated ancient community is apparent from its customs above stated_from the laws of Solon, which permitted associations for plunder of foreigners, and from their order to mutilate the men of Ægina, by cutting off their thumbs to disable them as mariners. Captives taken in war, were at times put to death without mercy. The moral depravity of Athens is evinced by the judicial murder of Socrates, the noblest son of antiquity, for teaching in his philosophy the immortality of the soul—the existence of God, the supreme

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »