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stitution was originally founded. Though the violent remedies made use of by Cleomenes never ought to be applied, unless the disease is grown too desperate to admit of a cure by milder methods.
I shall endeavour to show in its proper place, that the constitution established by Lycurgus, which seemed to Polybius to be rather of divine than of human institution, and was so much celebrated by the most eminent philosophers of antiquity, is much inferior to the British constitution as settled at the revolution. * But I cannot quit this subject without recommending that excellent institution of Lycurgus which provided for the education of the children of the whole community without distinction. An example which under proper regulations would be highly worthy of our imitation, since nothing could give a more effectual check to the reigning vices and follies of the present age, or contribute so much to a reformation of manners, as to form the minds of the rising generation by the principles of religion and virtue. Where the manners of a people are good, very few laws will be wanting ; but when their manners are depraved, all the laws in the world will be insufficient to restrain the excesses of the human passions. For as Horace justly observes....
Quid legis sine moribus
Vana proficiunt. Ode 24. lib. 3.
"Ωςε θειοτέραν την επινοίαν ή κατ’ άνθρωπον αυτον νομίζειν. Polyb. Lib. 6. p. 683.
The republick of Athens, once the seat of learning and eloquence, the school of arts and sciences, and the centre of wit, gaiety, and politeness, exhibits a strong contrast to that of Sparta, as well in her form of government, as in the genius and manners of her inhabitants.
The government of Athens, after the abolition of monarchy, was truly democratick, and so much co vulsed by those civil dissensions, which are the ineve itable consequences of that kind of government, that of all the Grecian states, the Athenian may be the most strictly termed the seat of faction. I observe that the history of this celebrated republick is neither very clear nor interesting until the time of Solon. The laws of Draco (the first legislator of the Athenians who gave his laws in writing) affixed death as the common punishment of the most capital crimes, or the most trivial offences; a circumstance which implies either the most cruel austerity in the temper of the lawgiver, or such an abandoned profligacy in the manners of the people, as laid him under a necessity of applying such violent remedies. As the historians have not clearly decided which of these was the case, I shall only remark, that the humanity of the people, so natural to the human species, was interested upon the occasion, and the excessive rigour of the laws obstructed the very means of their being carried into execution. A plain proof that a multiplicity of rigorous penal laws are not only incompatible with the liberty of a free state, but even repugnant to human nature. For the natural equity of mankind can easily distinguish between the nature and degree of crimes; and the sentiments of humanity will naturally be excited when the punishment seems to be too rigorous in proportion to the de. merits of the offender. The chief reason, in my opinion, why so many offenders in our nation escape with impunity for want of prosecution, is because our laws make no distinction, as to the punishment, between the most trifling robbery on the highway, and the most atrocious of all crimes, premeditated murder.
The remedy which Draco proposed by his laws, proving worse than the disease, the whole body of the people applied to Solon, as the only person equal to the difficult task of regulating their government. The supreme power of the state was at that time vested in nine magistrates, termed archons or governors, elected annually by the people out of the body of the nobility. But the community in general was split into three factions, each contending for such a form of government as was most agreeable to their different interests. The most sensible amongst the Athenians, dreading the consequence of these divisions, were willing, as Plutarch informs us, to invest Solon with absolute power; but our disinterested philosopher was a stranger to that kind of ambition, and preferred the freedom and happiness of his countrymen to the splendour of a crown.* He continued the archons in their office as usual, but limited their authority by instituting a senate of four hundred persons elected by the people, by way of ballot, out of the four tribes into which the community was at that time divided. He revived and improved the senate and court of Areopagus, the most sacred and most respectable tribunal, not only of Greece, but of all which we ever read of in history.t The integrity and equity of this celebrated
court was so remarkable, that not only the Greeks, 1 but the Romans, sometimes, submitted such causes
to their determination which they found too intricate and difficult for their own decision. To prevent all saspicion of partiality either to plaintiff or defendant,
* Vita Solon, p. 85. lit. D. † The time of the first institution of this court (so denominated from "AgarGo ráyos, i. e. Hill of Mars, an eminence where they always assembled) is quite uncertain; nor are the historians at all agreed about the number of the members of which it was composed. However this was the supreme court, which had cognizance of wilful murders, and all matters which were of the greatest consequence to the republick. Suidas. They had also cognizance of all matters of religion, as we find by the instance of St. Paul.
this venerable court heard all causes and passed their definitive sentence in the dark, and the pleaders on either side were strictly confined to a bare repre. sentation of the plain truth of the fact, without either aggravation or embellishment. For all the ornament of fine language, and those powers of rhetorick which tended to bias the judgment by interesting the passions of the judges, were absolutely prohibited. Happy if the pleaders were restricted to this righteous method in our own courts of judicature, where great eloquence and great abilities are too often employed to confound truth and support injustice !
It is evident from history that Solon at first proposed the institutions of Lycurgus as the model for his new establishment. But the difficulty which he met with in the abolition of all debts, the first part of his scheme, convinced him of the utter impracticability of introducing the laconick equality, and deterred him from all farther attempts of that nature, The laws of Athens gave the creditor so absolute a power over his insolvent debtor, that he could not only oblige the unhappy wretch to do all his servile drudgery, but could sell him and his children for slaves in default of payment. The creditors had made so oppressive an use of their power, that many of the citizens were actually obliged to sell their children to make good their payments; and such numbers had fled their country to avoid the