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priate existing authority. Moses, who had his commission direct from Heaven, "made them rulers," as it is here termed ; in other words, invested them with the authority to which the people had previously chosen them, and gave them a charge which might well be adopted as a manual by every one who is called to the exercise of civil magistracy.*
Such it seems was the mode in which, by Divine direction, office was conferred in the Hebrew Commonwealth. The government was in every just sense a government of the people. The magistrate was chosen by the suffrages of those among whom he was to act; and at the same time well known integrity and competency were the only qualifications
* In a state of society so simple as that of the Hebrews, when an organized magistracy was first given them, no disadvantage could well arise from 'having different offices filled by the same man, to an extent that would not be wise or safe for a community in which interests have become more complicated and various. In the passages quoted above we find men described as “ Chiefs of the tribes," as “ Heads over the people," as “ Rulers," as “ Captains," as “ Officers," and then addressed as “ Judges.” This latter term, indeed, seems to have been of very extensive application in the Hebrew Commonwealth. It is sometimes applied to those who were employed in the ordinary administration of justice; and again to such as Jepthah, Gideon and others, to whom, as chief magistrates of the nation, were committed the supreme command of the armies and other important trusts. A union of different offices in the same man, or the same body of men, is a thing not unknown in modern governments, our own among the number.
required for any station, from the highest to the
lowest. For the same rule indeed seems to have
been applied not only to officers chosen for the regular discharge of duties in the Commonwealth, but also to others selected for special occasions. When twelve men were to be selected to
6 search out the land,” and to point out the way in which the tribes should go up to possess it, the voice of all Israel” was first heard.* When, seven tribes remaining without their inheritance, three men from each tribe were to be deputed to "go through the land and describe it, and divide it into seven parts;" they were not sent on their mission till first chosen by the people. When Jepthah was called to take command in the war against the children of Ammon and to be judge over Israel, he assumed no authority till " the people made him head and captain over them.”! And even when the nation, in their folly and disobedience to God, insisted on having a king over them; the crown, during the first and better ages of the monarchy, seems not to have been worn till the man was made king by the voice of the people, or of their representatives acting in their names. From these and other examples which might be given, it would seem as if every proper occasion had been embraced to give a full and repeated sanction to the great principle, that authority, whether ordinary or extraordinary, should emanate from those on whose behalf it was to be employed. After what forms elections may have been conducted; how nearly or remotely resembling those adopted in modern elective governments are inquiries of small moment. They do not affect the position, that the officer held his office from an acknowledged constituency, and that his constituents were those over whom and among whom his authority was exercised. *
* Deut. 1:1, 22. † Josh. 18:3, 4. I Jud. 11:11.
* In this connection we may properly advert to the legitimate meaning of the term or phrase, “Congregation of Israel,” so frequently mentioned in the history of the Hebrews. No doubt it some. times means all the people numerically considered; but in many cases it evidently. means an assembly acting as representatives of the people. Acts and proceedings are often attributed to “ the Congregation,” when from the nature of the occasion the whole population could neither have acted nor have been present to act. While on the way to Canaan, and at the time of their entrance into the promised land, the whole population must have amounted to about 2,500,000. Can we suppose this vast multitude to have been meant when it was commanded respecting an offender, “ Let all the congregation stone him?” Few questions could arise requiring more nice and careful discrimination than the right of the man-slayer to protection, when he fled to the city of refuge. Can we then suppose the whole people, old and young, to be meant, when it is said, “ Then the congregation shall judge between the slayer and the revenger of blood, according to these judgments; and the congregation shall deliver the slayer out of the hand of the revenger of blood, and the congregation shall restore him to the city of his refuge, whither he was fled ?" It was Another great element of civil freedom is a Judiciary which provides for the prompt and equal administration of justice between man and man. It has been wisely observed, that “the best laws are those which are best administered;" and if you turn to the ordinances given by God to the Hebrews for carrying the laws of the land into effect, you will find them admirably adapted to their end, giving equal security to the poor and to the rich against violence and wrong.
Their courts of justice were of various grades; some known as High Courts of Appeal; and others so simple and multiplied as to carry the administration of justice to every man's door, and effectually to secure the parties against that ruinous evil, “the law's delay.” “ Judges and officers shalt thou make thee in all thy gates," was the command; and to what a minute subdivision this creation of tribunals was carried out, you see in another ordinance already quoted, directing that there should be “rulers over thousands, rulers over hundreds, rulers over fifties, and rulers over tens, who should judge the people at all seasons." With a judiciary constructed and ramified after this manner, justice could be administered promptly and freely; and on the other hand, a remedy was provided against the evils of hasty decisions, which could not fail in the end to discover and maintain the right of the case. The different courts to which lay the power of appeal, were so formed as to preclude undue bias, arising from pre-judgment; and as a last or ultimate resort, was the venerable Council of Seventy, who held their sittings in the sanctuary, and combined the choice wisdom of the nation, selected with special reference to their high trust.*
the “ wise men," who alone were competent to act in cases of such judicial delicacy and importance. 66 The Tabernacle of the Congregation” was probably so called because it was the place where the high authorities of the nation held their sittings and deliberations. Such a conventional or technical use of the term corresponds with the meaning which we attribute to words of similar import, as Assembly, Congress, Convention, &c. When we speak of the Assembly of the State of New-York, or of the Congress of the United States, we do not mean the whole numerical population of the State, or of the Nation; but their representatives, chosen to act on their behalf and in their name. The remarks of Michaelis on this subject are so just that I have made an extract from them in Note D.
Had I time, I would dwell on those great and essential principles of law and equity, according to
which suits were conducted and decisions rendered
in all these courts, whether higher or lower. Let me simply add, that according to such profound jurists and scholars as Sir Matthew Hale, Hooker, Blackstone, Sir William Jones, Goguet, Grotius, Michaelis,
* Note E.