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ize most of the antient governments. We are further informed that when Joshua was made successor to Moses, and when Saul was appointed king at the request of the people, both the one and the other were presented to the whole congregation, and their election was ratified by their unanimous consent. It also appears that Solomon, though proclaimed king in the first instance by David's order, yet was afterwards proposed to and confirmed by the people. In short, the popular branch of the Hebrew government, though it could not enact new laws, was entrusted with many concerns of high national moment, such as settling internal disputes, making foreign war and peace, establishing the principal officers and magistrates, exercising jurisdiction in many civil and criminal causes, and in fine, using much the same powers, which other free constitutions have lodged in the same department. The weight of this department in the Jewish state, and the high spirit of liberty, which pervaded it, are remarkably exemplified on several occasions ; one of which I will briefly recite. Saul, the first king of Israel, who was an imprudent and arbitrary despot, in the ardor of battle with the Philistines, had adjured the people, or laid them under oath, not to eat any food till the evening, that is, not to suspend the victorious conflict for the purpose of taking the least refreshment. His own son Jonathan through ignorance and necessity transgressed this order. His father, as king and general, instantly and solemnly determines his death_“ God do so to me, and more also, for thou shalt surely die, Jonathan.”-that is, “ may God inflict the heaviest vengeance upon myself, if I do not put thee to death.” It might seem, at first view, that this royal sentence was final and irreversible. Yet even here the popular author
ity interposed ; the assembly of the people thus addressed their sovereign- Shall Jonathan die, who hath wrought this great salvation for Israel ? God forbid ! As Jehovah liveth, there shall not a hair of his head fall to the ground : so the people rescued Jonathan, that he died not.” It is generally agreed that this intervention of the people was not on act of military violence and sedition; it is equally evident that it has not the air of humble petition or supplication ; for it speaks the language of decisive authority and resolution. It is therefore probable that the assembly(or representatives )of the people retained, and in this instance exercised, even under a monarchical, yea oppressive administration, the right of condemning or absolving criminals; a power, which confessedly belonged to the popular branch in other celebrated communities. In a word, it was a chief excellence of the Hebrew constitution, that it was peculiarly fitted to guard that people forever against kingly despotism. Jehovah condescended to be their king, for the express purpose of excluding all other monarchs, and thus perpetuating among them republican liberty. Accordingly, when they desired a king, in conformity to their surrounding nations, it was considered by God as'a rejection of his mild and equal government, and a mad surrender of themselves and their children to the curse of tyranny. On this peculiar provision in favor of public liberty Dr. Priestley justly remarks" What could have led Moses to think of such a mode of government as this ? He could not have seen, nor heard, nor imagined any thing like it. For at that time no such thing existed either in fact or in idea.” It must therefore have been the offspring of divine wisdom.
Senatorial branch of the Hebrew government. The manner, in
which this body was instituted. The similarity between this government and that of some of the European and American states. Its executive branch. Patriotic administration of Moses and Joshua,
In our last lecture we noticed several excellent provisions in the Hebrew constitution for securing the freedom, property, and happiness of its subjects. Among these provisions we especially considered the following articles ;-the equal division by lot of the territory of Canaan to the several members of the community; the free, independent, and unalienable manner, in which each tribe and family held their possessions; the military service required of every freeholder; the encouragement, which these and similar arrangements gave to agricultural diligence, simplicity, and contentment, to patriotic zeal and courage, to the population, vigor, and prosperity of the country; and finally the happy distribution of the national sovereignty into three departments, viz. a popular assembly, an advising senate, and a presiding magistrate. In contemplating the first of these departments we have shown, that the assembly of the people, convened either in
person, or by their representatives, and styled in scripture the whole congregation, exercised much the same pow. ers, which other free constitutions have vested in the popular branch of government. We have shown that the Jewish polity in its original form was fitted above all others to guard public liberty, because it set up a perfect monarch, viz. Jehovah himself, as its Protector, to the exclusion of all earthly kings and despots.
Having viewed the share, which the people had in this government, we are now to consider, secondly, the senatorial branch of it.
The most free and equal governments both of antient and modern date have wisely introduced a senate in some form or other, to check popular rashness, precipitation, and intrigue, and by their temperate wisdom and influence to guide, mature, and control the public opinion and conduct. The inestimable value of this branch both in the individual and united States of America was early anticipated, and has been constantly felt by our enlightened citizens. It is pleasing to observe that the doctrine of checks and balances, maintained by our illustrious countryman in his defence of the American constitutions, was essentially understood and practised as early as the days of Moses. From the time of this great Lawgiver down to the extinction of the Hebrew commonwealth, we constantly meet with Princes, Elders, and Heads of the people, who formed a senate or national council. But the persons composing or the powers exercised by this body are not so forcibly marked either by sacred or Rabbinical writers, as to place the subject beyond the reach of dispute. The scripture history of this very antient government is as we might justly expect, very short and scanty, compared with that of later communities ; yet the materials, which that history affords, may, if accurately digested, give us a true, though general idea of this venerable system, particularly in the article before us.
If we look back to the state of the Hebrews, while in Egypt, we find that when Moses was first sent to them with a gracious message from God, he was directed to “ gather the Elders of Israel together," and deliver the message to them, which direction he exactly followed.
It appears then that the Israelites had a body of Elders or Rulers even in Egypt ; and that every application or divine command was delivered, not to the whole multitude, but to this select body. If you ask, when and how was this body instituted ? we reply, so long as Jacob lived, his twelve-sons and their posterity formed but one family or community under him. But when he diew near his end, he summoned all his family, in order to distribute it into twelve distinct tribes, and to appoint heads and rulers over them. Accordingly he addresses his sons, as the Representatives of so many distinct societies. He foretels such things concerning them, as are applicable, not to single persons, but to communities. Agreeably after this time, but not before, the Israelites are mentioned as distinct, but confederated tribes; the heads of which were their constituted rulers or princes, and formed what may be styled the aristocratical part of their government. It appears that the rulers of no one tribe had a superiority over those of another ; but each portion of the confederacy, like the several states of America, possessed a local and independent sovereignty. This remark is verified by many passages of their history. Thus upon the death of Joshua, the people inquire of God, who should go up for them, or at their head against the Canaanites. This question would have been impertinent, if any one tribe or ruler had the right of leading and govcerning the rest. In like manner when the Benjamites had committed an outrage in the affair of the Levite and his concubine, no one tribe or ruler pretends to call them to account ; but all the tribes, met in legal convention, demand justice on the offenders, and upon refusal have
It also appears that while the princes of the several tribės possessed an equal and independent
recourse to arms.