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of a tyrant; and the Latin expression of " released from the laws,” was supposed to exalt the emperor above all human restraints, and to leave his conscience and reason as the sacred measure of his conduct. A similar dependence was implied in the decrees of the senate, which, in every reign, defined the titles and powers of an elective magistrate. But it was not before the ideas, and even the language, of the Romans had become corrupted, that a royal law, and an irrevocable gift of the people were created by the fancy of Ulpian, or more probably Tribonian himself; and the origin of imperial power, though false in fact, and slavish in its consequences, was supported on a principle of freedom and justice. “The pleasure of the emperor had the vigor and effect of law, since the Roman people, by the royal law, had transferred to their prince the full extent of their own power and sovereignty. The will of a single man, of a child perhaps, was allowed to prevail over the wisdom of ages, and the inclinations of millions; and the degenerate Greeks were proud to declare, that in his hands alone the arbitrary exercise of legislation could be safely deposited. The rescripts of the emperor, his grants and decrees, his edicts and pragmatic sanctions, were subscribed in purple ink, and transmitted to the provinces as general or special laws, which the magistrates were bound to execute, and the people to obey. But as their number continually multiplied, the rule of obedience became each day more doubtful and obscure till the will of the sovereign was fixed and ascertained in the Gregorian, the Hermogenian, and the Theodosian codes.
§ 4. In eastern countries, the ancient and established seat of despotism, the laws, properly so called, seem for the most part to have been immutable, by whatever authority they were originally framed, and the decrees of the monarch were chiefly perhaps of a temporary and occasional kind, and limited like modern royal proclama. tions on some prior foundation, which gave them their validity. It was to the fact of the immutability of the decrees of Persian kings that the wicked enemies of the pious Daniel appealed, when the impious Nebuchadnezzar would have eluded the force of that nefarious decree against which Daniel so nobly dared to rebel.
$ 5. The history of the ancients affords many models of varied forms of government, as well as many sound and enlightened views as to the nature and true design of all human government. The government of Crete was at first monarchical, of which Minos has left us a perfect model. This enlightened statesman held, that the king had a supreme power over the people, but the laws supreme power over him. He had an absolute power to do good, but his hands were tied up from doing evil. That the laws entrust the people in his hand as the most sacred of deposits, upon the condition that he shall be a father to his subjects. That the same laws require that a single man by his wisdom, and moderation shall constitute the felicity of an infinite number of subjects; not that the subjects by their misery and abject slavery shall be subservient to the gratification of the pride and low passions of a single man. That it is not for himself that God had made him king; he is only so for the service of the people. He owes to them his whole time, care and affection, and is worthy of the throne only so far as he forgets himself, and devotes himself to the good of the public. In Crete, however, the authority of the king was of a very limited duration, and in accordance with Minos's intentions it gave place to a republican form of government. The senate, composed of thirty senators, formed the public council. In that assembly the public affairs were examined, and resolutions taken, but they were of no force till the people had given them their approbation and confirmed them by their suffrages. The magistrates, to the number of ten,
established for the maintaining good order, and therefore called “ Cosmi," held the two other bodies of state in check and preserved the balance between them. In time of war the same persons commanded the army. They were chosen by lot, but only out of certain families. Their offices were for life, and they were not accountable to any one for their administration. Out of this company the senators were elected.
§ 6. In most of the states of Greece, the primordial ground of the government was that of a monarchy, that being the most ancient, and the most generally received plan, sanctioned and commended as it was by Plato, as the most proper to maintain peace and concord, and the most in accordance with the model of paternal authority. The severity of the monarch, or those who usurped the throne, the severity of masters, and the insurrections of the people, produced revolutions in those states, and enkindled a violent desire of liberty, and brought about a general change of government; and the ancient monarchical power yielded to a more republican form of government, as diversified in its features as there were different cities; each moulding and adapting to the spirit and genius of its own population. However there still remained some remnant of a monarchal government; enough to excite the ambition of those who loved seats of honor and power, and to excite in them a desire to become the masters of the people. In almost all the states of Greece individuals without any pretence of right to the throne, or fitness for the place, strove to advance themselves to it through intrigue, treachery, and violence, without regard to their own merits, or the supremacy or respect due to the law, and irrespective of the public good, seized upon and exercised the sovereign authority with a despotic empire and arbitrary sway. In order to keep up and sustain authority thus usurped in the outset, in the midst of distrust and fear on their
part of the populace, and on the other hand, on the part of the people of the usurper, they were induced to sacrifice to their own security those whom merit, rank, wealth, zeal for liberty, or love of their country rendered obnoxious to a suspicion of a tottering government, hated by all and respected by none. These usurpations and acts of cruelty gave to them, and justly too, the appellation of tyrants, and furnished ample ground, and opened a wide field for declamation by the orators of that age, and originated much of the tragical representations of the stage.
§ 7. Among the cities of Greece, Lacedemon and Athens were the most conspicuous; these peculiarly distinguished themselves, and acquired and maintained authority and superiority over other cities; and their genius, character, and government has excited the wonder and admiration of patriots and statesmen, in all ages since the record of their history has been the subject of contemplation and the theme for philosophical speculation.
$ 8. The monarchical government of Sparta, anterior to the age of Lycurgus, and at the time his sagacity, genius, and philosophical mind remodeled it, had fallen into a most distracted state. The authority both of the king and laws were absolutely despised, contemned, and disregarded, insomuch that it has been justly said, “No curb was strong enough to restrain the audaciousness of the people, which every day increased more and more.” At this juncture of its affairs Lycurgus devised a plan for a reformation of their government. To qualify himself for the task, he acquainted himself with the different manners of other nations, and consulted the most able and experienced persons in the art of government. He visited the island of Crete, whose laws were famous for their harshness and severity, and studied the laws and customs of Asia, and from thence visited Egypt, the cradle of science, wisdom, and good counsels.
The new form of government which Lycurgus introduced into Sparta may be reduced to three principal institutions. The first, greatest, and most considerable was that of the senate, which is the only one I shall mention, except as subsequently modified. This was intended to temper and balance the too absolute power of the king, by an authority of equal weight and influence with theirs, and this became the principal support and preserving power of the state. This was deemed necessary, on the ground that the former system was ever unsteady and tended sometimes toward tyranny, by the violent and oppressive proceedings of the kings, and at other times towards democracy by the excessive and undue power and influence of popular will. It was thought that the senate would serve as a sort of counterpoise to both, and would keep the state in a due equilibrium, and preserve it in a firm and steady situation. The twenty-eight senators in the accomplishment of this end to secure such a result must have sided with the king when the people were grasping at too much power, and must have espoused the interest of the people whenever the kings attempted to carry their authority too far. The council consisted of thirty persons including the two kings. Lycurgus having thus tempered the government, those that came after him thought the power of the senate too strong and absolute, and as a check upon it they devised the authority of the Ephori, which was done in the reign of Theopompus, about 130 years after Lycurgus. This was composed of five in number, chosen annually out of the people, and in that respect resembled the tribunes of the people among the Romans. The authority of the Ephori extended to arresting and imprisoning of their kings; thus it will be perceived that the Spartan government was not purely a monarchal, nor was it a democracy. The nobility had a great share in it, yet the people were not entirely excluded. It has