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.
to those adapted to their early settlements in Canaan and afterward to the settled conditions under the monarchy, they would still base their laws upon these earlier principles.  Hence it was not unnatural to ascribe the origin of these laws to Moses, nor is it to-day inaccurate to speak of them as the Mosaic code, even though they may have been put into their present form at different periods remote from one another, and by rulers, prophets and priests whose occupations and attitude toward life were widely different.  Back of practically all these laws are the fundamental beliefs that the Israelites are the people chosen of God, that to him they owe allegiance and that from him they derive, in principle at least, the laws under which they live.



Not merely the Hebrews, but practically all ancient nations ascribe the origin of their laws either to a deity or to some great ancestral hero.  As already noted, the code of Hammurabi is represented as having been given to him directly by the god Shamash.  In the early days of Greek history, the laws of Solon and Draco were formulated.  In India we find the laws of Manu, in China the teachings of Confucius, and so on throughout all of the great nations.  In some instances, doubtless, many of the laws were actually formulated under the direction of the person to whom they are ascribed; but in many others, as perhaps in the case of the Mosaic code, there was some great judge or king under whose direction certain principles were laid down and simple laws or precedents established, and as a result all later developments were ascribed to him.

In modern times, when legislative bodies are found in limited monarchies as well as in republics, the methods of legislation are necessarily different.  Although chosen bodies of men come together to legislate for the benefit of society, as represented by the state, there is still a normal tendency for the ruling class to feel that it is to a great extent the state, and it does not forget its own needs.  This class legislation was doubtless existent to a certain extent even when the laws, supposed to be of divine origin, were formulated by prophets and priests, for the real public character of the laws was dependent primarily upon the unselfish beliefs, social and religious, of the writers, whether kings or priests.  No one is able to free himself entirely from the influence of class prejudice.

Like the legislatures the courts even are also the product of their times, though naturally conservative.  No law can long exactly fit changing conditions.  The judge must adapt a law made by one generation to the needs of the next.  In so doing he bends it to suit his times, and to further the welfare of his state.

If aeroplanes carrying goods from Pennsylvania to New York over the State of New Jersey let them fall and damage the property of a resident of New Jersey, can our courts invoke the Interstate Commerce Law made before aeroplanes were invented?

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