The Making of a Nation eBook

Charles Foster Kent
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 151 pages of information about The Making of a Nation.
from the sun god, Shamash.  Hammurabi looked upon himself as a shepherd chosen by the gods to care for his people.  It was his duty to see “that the great should not oppress the weak, to counsel the widow and orphan, to render judgment and decide the decisions of the land, and to succor the injured,” in order that “by the command of Shamash, the judge supreme of heaven and earth, justice might shine in the land.”  Many of the principles laid down by him are also found among the laws attributed to Moses which were afterward codified in the early decalogues.

At times, though rarely among the Hebrews, we may study custom in the making, as when in a new situation a ruler renders a decision which henceforth becomes a law.  Thus David, dividing the spoil after his victory over the Amalekites, established a precedent that henceforth had binding force upon his followers (I Sam. 30); but in the majority of such cases the ruler, even when be establishes new precedents, represents himself as simply interpreting ancient custom.

As society becomes more and more complex and the interests of individuals and classes in society clash, besides the judges we find legislatures making new rules in the form of law.  In the earlier communities practically all law relates to the preservation of life and of the tribe.  Later, as the tribe enters the pastoral state, private property is established and laws for its care are made.  Still later, with the development of a higher civilization and with the individual conscience stimulating men to care for the welfare not merely of their family, but of their nation, legislation considers primarily the welfare of society.  Yet, as one of our great judges has lately explained, in practically all stages of society, whenever the population becomes numerous and business is so developed that we may recognize different classes in a community, legislation has been primarily in the interests of a ruling class, often at the expense of the other classes.  This principle is illustrated by certain of the later Jewish ceremonial laws that brought to the priests a large income at the expense of the people.  Many laws in Europe and in the United States to-day have been made clearly in the interests of certain classes in society.  Can you think of some?



Back of all laws and rules, as the fundamental consideration, whether consciously expressed in laws or carried out instinctively, lies the welfare of society.  Among the wolves the pack that is best disciplined by the strongest and most successful leader is the one that survives.  In the earlier savage groups the rules which guided united action grew up as a result of successful experience in securing food and warding off enemies.  Among them the less disciplined, the less intelligently directed groups perish.

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The Making of a Nation from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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