Page images
PDF
EPUB

those ornamental vases of agate and chryftal, inlaid with the richeft gems, that constitute fo large a portion of the splendid merchandize of India with the neighbouring empires of Afia; in short, in whatever requires an ingenicus head or a doctile hand, what people on earth, in those remote or in these modern times, has ever vied with the Indians ?

“ The selection of a very few pallages from those celebrated lofti. tutes, since the Vedas are not yet accessible, will be sufficient to prove the truth of the preceding ftatement. With respect to their skill in exploring mines and fabricating metals, in enchusing in gold, in working in ivory, in piercing gems, and in dying, we read; • ". Day by day mult the king, though engaged in forensic business, consider the great object of public measures, and inquire into the state of his carriages, elephants, horses, and cars, his constant revenues and necessary expenses, his mines of precious metals, or gems, and his treafury." Institutes, p. 243.

• Of brilliant metals, of gems, and of every thing made with stone, (as pots or vales,) the purification ordained by the wife is with alhes, water, and earth,” P. 137.

“ A golden vessel, not smeared, is cleansed with water only; and every thing produced in water, as coral-shells or pearls, and every ftony subflance, and a filver vessel, not enchafed.Ibid.

« Vessels of copper, iron, brass, pewter, iin, and lead, may be fitly cleansed with alhes, with acids, or with water.” Ibid.

“ Uiensils made of foells, or of horn, of bones, or of ivory, muft be cleansed by him who knows the law, as mantles of chuma are purified.” Ibid.

« In page 261, we find punishments ordained “ for mixing impure with pure commodities, for piercing fine gems, as diamonds or rubies, and for boring pearls or inferior gems improperly."

“ All woven cloth, dyed red, cloth made of Sana, of clhuma bark, and of wool, even though not dyed red, are prohibited the mercantile Brahmin.” Ibid.

" That the ancient Indians also knew how, by fermentation, to obtain ardent fpirits is evident from the frequent prohibition of intoxi. caring liquors enjoined on the Brahmin tribe.

Inebriating liquor may be considered as of three principal forts; that extracted from dregs of sugar, that extracted from bruised rice, and that extracted from the flowers of the Madhuca : as one, so are all; they thall not be tasted by the chief of the iwice-born." P. 320.

«. There are scarcely any of the mechanical branches of trade, elpecially those of a more costly kind, in which a knowledge of che. miltry is not more or less necessary; and these have ever flourished throughout India in earlier times and in a higher degree of perfection than in any other country of Asia. In short, ihe philosopher wanted chemistry for experiment; the artist for praciice, in a thousand differ. ont ways. It opened the path of the former into the inmost recesses of nature, and laught him to imitate her various and wonderful power of resolving, separating, combining, and transmuting, the elementary particles of marter that compose the valt globe which we inhabit. It enabled him to account for phænomena otherwise utterly inexplicable; he no longer beheld with superftititious horror the bursting volcano,

be

the carora borealis, and other terrific meteors ; he foon learned himself to roll the thunder and launch the lightning of Jove ; he stole fire from heaven, and lighied up, in the laboratory, a creation of his own. The latter matured the projects and realized the hopes of the philosopher. By practical chemiftry he extended the bounds of mechanic science, he widened the field of commerce, and Itrengthened the bands of social intercourse." P. 687.

The Dissertation on the JURISPRUDENCE OF INDIA, being the final division of this volume and of the work, unfolds in the legal enquirer a syrtem of government, and of laws, widely different from those prevalent in Europe at his period of refined sentiment and polished manners. If, in some'ins stances, his astonishment will be excised by their fublimity and wisdom, in others his indignation will be roused by their apparent absurdıry and barbarily; he must, however, divest himself of prejudice, and calmly reflect on, the remote dite (9 which the Institutes lay claim ; the rude and almost savage state of mankind, when mar y of them were promuiged, requiring a proportionate degree of severity ; the unlimited derpotism of ealtern monarchs, and the crafty policy of a tribe of designing priests, placed, by the laws of Menu, in a station even superior to fovereignty itself. Though therefore, here and there, throughout the code, 'appear manifest vestiges of patriarchal wifilom in legislation, and of equity in decision, it cannot be denied that far more numerous traces may be found in it of capricious and languinary iyranny, as the Nimrods of Asia successively arose to detace the tables of those equitable Jaws which regulated the conduct of the virtuous Shem, and his pures progeny. The subsequent extract from this Differtation displays the writer's fentiments on the very opposite fea.' tures which, in this respect, Menu's Institutes exhibit; and their original title of MENUMSRITI, or Laws remembered from Menu, mhould, during the perusal of them, be still retained in memory, since that very title evinces wiih what ease, and freedom from detection, the groíTest interpolations may have taken place in the body of the code itself.

[ocr errors]

« In every retrospect on the ancient Hindoo government it will be observed, that, while its politic legislator held out to persevering virtue and patient obedience the most alluring rewards, it affumed the most inflexible aspect cowards criminals of every description. To temporal punishments the most dreadful, and to corporeal mutilations the most languinary, in order to impress his mind with deeper reverential awe, were added all the rerrors of the spiricual anathema, tormenting

- U it

dæmons BRIT. CRIT. VOL. XVII, MARCH, 1801.

dæmons and the gehenna of gnawing ferpents; for that is the true Hindoo hell, and demonstrates the intimale connection of its theological system with that sublimer one, of which, in its leading features, it is an evident perversion. What is not a little fingular in this code, these present punishments and future terrors are often denounced against crimes comparatively trivial, with as much violence as against offences of the deepest enormity ; in short, the stern dogmas incuicated by ii, fanctioned by the combined authorities of heaven and earth, allowed of no relaxation in the levere discipline which it enjoined whe. ther in moral of ciril concerns. It was the awful manifesto of the deiry; and, both in its sublimest and least important injuncions, the stricteit obedience was alike indispensable. PUNISHMENT,” say's the Hindoo code, “ is the magiftrate; punishment is the inspirer of terror; punishment is the nourisher of the futjects; punishment is the delender from calamity; punishment is the guardian of those that sleep; junilhment, with a black aspect and a red eye, terrifies the guilty*.Confonant to this maxiır., ihe laws of Draco himself were not more deeply engraved in blood than many of the precepis in this tremendous coce. These fanguinary maxims it is impossible to ascribe to Menu : what was remembered from that legislator was, we may conclude, only feverely juft, but not cruel ; we may reasonably refer to him all that is mild and humane in these Inftirutes, and some necessary precepts of a more rigorous nature; but, as his progeny degenerated, as the people gradually became more corrupt, the princes more despotic, and the Brahmins more powerful, it was thought necessary to add new and more terrible laws to those which, in the primitive ages, were deemed sufficient to control the difturbers of the public tranquillity. The hypothesis on which ibis work and that of Mr. Bryant have constantly proceeded, and both of which record the invasion of India in early periods, and the conquest of the virtuous Shemites by the daring and nefarious Curhite race, will sufficiently point out to the attentive reader the period of this great national change, and the fatal cause of this general depravily.

vs It should still be remembered, however, that many of the laws inculcated in the Brahmin code are in a high degree liberal and humane, founded on the practice and decisions of the earliest ages, when, as yet, no system of jurisprudence was committed to wricing. Many also of the civil institutions, enumerated in it, go back to the days of Noah, though most have been dreadfully perverted; for, I mult repeat in this place what has been frequently asserted in this work, and, indeed, forms in some degree the basis of it, that in the ancient world there were certain grand and primitive customs diffused universally over all nations; cuftoms founded on the general consent and original creed of mankind, confirmed by immemorial laws and fancti. fied by pious traditions ; customs which probably flourished in their full vigour and purity, under the domestic patriarchal roof of Noah,

* Halhes's Code of Gentoo Laws, cap. 21. feet, 8.

before

before the dispersion, which passed into all nations with the first colonists, and were observed in their vigour and purity, or debased and degraded in every country, according to their rectitude in adhering to, or depravation in receding from, the institutions of their primæval ancestors. For the aspect of unrelenting severity assumed in general by legislative codes of very high antiquity, it may be urged as some degree of palliation, that the crimes, against the commission of which they were principally meant to guard, are not such as generally spring up among mankind in an associated and civilized itate ; but such dreadful offences as men scarcely emerged from barbarism, and under the influence of all the unbridled passions which agitate to tempeft the human bosom, may be supposed capable of perpetrating : inceft of the deepest dye, plunder and robbery, midnight murder, and the violation of virgin beauty. Against these crimes, fo fatal to infant states, it was necessary to raise the sirongest rampart which the terror of legal authority could erect against them, and the extreme necessity of the occafion but too often justified their being written in blood." P. 823.

. With respect to those most ancient precepts in the volume · of lostitutes, that bear so striking a similitude to some in the Hebrew code, and have consequently afforded occasion of imaginary triumph to the enemies of Christianity, as if the latter were borrowed by Moses, through an Egyptian medium, from the Indian legislator, Mr. M. contends that nothing less than such similitude could be expected, since the Mosaic and Indian codes originally flowed from the same source, holy and inspired men. The religious dogmas inculcated in them, therefore, could not fail to be equally pure and sublime; while the mere civil precepts, which they contained, were those established by the united influence of tradition and custom over all the countries of the east ; and in all the colonies that successively migrated from the parent region of Chaldæa towards more diftant climes ; even from that remote period when the great Menu, or Noah, flourished, and the greatest part of Afia re, mained under patriarchal jurisdiction. With an extract or two, exhibiting a few of those parallel precepts, and the general fanguinary feature of the Hindoo punishments, we shall conclude these extended ftrictures. In respect to the similitude of some of the injunctions, the reader will judge how nearly they approach, from the following quotation.

“ One of the moft remarkable precepts in this code is that so con. genial with the Levitical law, that a brother shall marry the widow of the deceased brother, and raise up seed to him; this law, however, is declared to be obsolete in this miserable Cali age. Institutes, p. 363. Another of its ordinances, which also affords a striking resemblance to the code of Moses, doubtless founded on the practice of the primitive ages, and ordained as a memorial of the great atonement, is the cereU 2

MAONY

·mony of the scape-horse, which is ordained to be celebrated in a

public assembly of the Hindoo tribes; and the horse, after many myf tic rites, like the scape-goat of the Hebrews, and we may add the red beifer of the Egypțians*, is driven with execration into the deferis, and supposed to be loaded with the fins of the exonerated nationt.

" An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, appears to have been the rigid maxim of the ancient Hebrews; and it is here affirmed, that, with whatever limb an offence is committed, that limb Mall the king amputatc, for the prevention of similar crimes. Institutes, p. 232.

on The trial by various kinds of water ordeal, which fo repeatedly occurs throughout this code, as the criterion of guilt and innocence, forcibly reminds us of the similar trial ordained, by the Deity himself, for the detection or acquittal of adultery by the bitter waters of jealoufy. Numb. v. 30. T'he prescribed diet and strict attention enjoined in regard to animals clean and unclean, as well as the purifications of women and of men, after contact with a deceased person or any object that imparts defilement, have also a very striking resemblance with those enjoined in the Levitical code. Those in particular that have relation to bodily impurity, from touching a dead body, are enumerated, in almost similar words, in the nineteenth of Numbers ; a cir. cumftance for which I have already endeavoured to account. Though Navery be allowed, the crime of men-stealing is equally interdicted in the Hindoo and Levitical code. See Deut. chap. xxiv.

" In short, the whole office," says Mr. Halhed, “ as well as the facred pre-eminence of the Brahminical tribe, is almost an exact counterpart of that of the Levitical. The Levites were particularly forbidden wine; so are the Brahmins. The Levites were more than others enjoined to avoid the contact of all uncleanness; fo are the Brahmins. The Levites were to assist the magistrate's judgment in difficult cafes ; fo are the Brahmins. And, in every other respect, the resemblance might well authorize a suspicion, that they had originally some remote afinity to each other, though conjecture cannot poffibly trace the source of the connection." In answer to this remark, I beg . leave to express a hope that I have effectually traced that source, by a traditional channel to a primæval patriarchal code." P. 837.

The last paffage we shall cite relates to the unrelenting seveas. rily of the Indian code in criminal cases, though it must be owned that severity is sometimes exerted in cases where no deep stain of guilt seems to be attached to the delinquent ;however, while we peruse their writings, the different educarion, habits, and manners of this fingular nation, should ever be borne in mind, which will prove the means of reconciling äpparent contradictions, and mitigating what might otherwise Le accounted vindi&tive and cruel.

* Herodotus, lib.ii, cap. 39.
- + See Halhed's Gentoo Code, Pref. p. 20.

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »