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redaction, or new edition, of the subsisting statutes, which takes the name of the reigning family, and forms the Leu, or fundamental code, during the subsistence" of that race; all the additional statutes being subjoined in a subordinate form, as supplementary clauses of explanation or commentary, called Lee, to this immutable text. Upon the accession of a new dynasty, such parts, both of text and supplement, as are approved of, are incorporated into a new text, which takes the name of that family, and receives successive increments in the form of Lee, during all the period that it possesses the sovereignty. The present dynasty is that of Tsing, which ascended the throne only in the year 1644; and the date of the present fundamental code cannot, therefore, be quite so ancient. This, however, it is obvious, is only true of its present form and arrangement, or rather of its authoritative publication under that form; for, in a nation where the veneration for antiquity and established usage is so strong as to form the chief security of the government, and the chief obstacle to improvement among the people, it is impossible not to conclude, that by far the greater part of the code thus promulgated, would consist of the identical precepts and regulations which had been enforced, from time in memorial, among this unchanging people. The earliest compilation of which sir George Staunton has procured any authentick intelligence, is ascribed to a worthy of the name of Lee-Quee, who is supposed to have lived about 250 years hefore Christ, and who does not appear to have been the author of any of the laws which he collected. The greater part of the present code, sir George supposes to be at least as old as the time now mentioned; and much of it, he thinks, may be reasonably | resumed to be far more ancient. It is peculiarly uncomfortable, however, to be left to conjecture upon
a point of this nature; as, even though we were assured that ninetenths of the whole work was of very great antiquity, it is impossible to be quite certain that this is the case as to any particular regulation or prescription, the antiquity of which might lead to the most interesting conclusions. There are some laws, in particular, that bear so remarkable an affinity to modern European institutions, that it would be very desirable to know with certainty that they had been very anciently enacted among the antipodes. To have translated the whole Leu Lee, that is, the fundamental text, and all the supplementary clauses, would, it seems, have rendered the work far too voluminous. Sir George Staunton has, therefore, given only the former in the body of the work, marking, at the end of every section, how many Lee, or additional clauses, are subjoined to it in the original, and engrossing such of them as appear curious or important, in an appendix, which contains a great number of other valuable elucidations. Our readers, we suppose, would not thank us for an exact account of the divisions, books, and sections of this Chinese code, with a mere list of their titles, and of the subjects of which they treat. It will probably suit their purpose better, if we endeavour, in the first place, to point out what struck us as most remarkable in the general character of the work, and then specify such of its enactments as appear to us to throw any valuable light on the genius and condition of the people, or on the nature of their peculiar institutions. And here we will confess, that by far the most remarkable thing in this code, appeared to us to be its great reasonableness, clearness, and consistency; the business-like brevity and directness of the various provisions, and the plainness and moderation of the language in which they are expressed. There is nothing, here, of the monstrous verbiage of most other Asiatick productions; none of the superstitious deliration, the miserable incoherence, the tremendous non sequiturs and eter. nal repetitions of those oracular performances; nothing even of the turgid adulation, the accumulated epithets, and fatiguing self praise of other eastern despotisms; but a calm, Concise, and distinct series of enactments, savouring, throughout, of practical judgment and European
ood sense, and, if not always con
rmable to our improved notions of expediency in this country, in general approaching to them more nearly than the codes of most other nations. When we pass, indeed, from the ravings of the Zendavesta, or the Puranas, to the tone of sense and of business of this Chinese collection, we seem to be passing from darkness to light; from the drivelings of
dotage to the exercises of an im
proved understanding. And, redundant and absurdly minute as these laws are, in many particulars, we scarcely know any European code that is at once so copious and so consistent, or that is nearly so free from intricacy, bigotry, and fiction. In everything relating to political freedom or individual independence, it is, indeed, wofully defective; but, for the repression of disorder, and the gentle coercion of a vast population, it appears to us to be, in general, equally mild and efficacious. The state of society for which it was formed appears, incidentally, to be a low and a wretched state of society; but we do not know that wiser means could have been devised for maintaining it in peace and tranquillity. To justify what we have said of the European reasonableness of the Chinese official style, we shall here lay before tour readers a few sentences from a singular state paper, or edict, of the late emperour KienLung, which is translated by sir George Staunton, in his appendix. This is a sort of valedictory address
to his people, published by that celebrated monarch a year or two after he had resigned the sceptre to his son, and when the increasing infirmities of extreme old age began to give intimation of his approaching end. The reasonableness, mildness, and simplicity of this extraordinary paper, is rather greater than we should expect from any of our European secretaries of state; and has in it more of a gentle and paternal tone than we should have looked for from a veteran despot.
“When the administration of this empire was committed to our charge, we, indeed, beheld before us a task of serious difficulty; but we were rendered thereby, only more earnest and solicitous in avoiding all deviation from the strict line of conduct we had prescribed to ourselves. All parts of our various and widely extended domains, shared equally our attention; and frequently, during the darkness of the night, as well as at the middle hour of the day, we have attended, unconscious of fatigue, in the councils of our ministers, for the purpose of communicating our decisions on their reports, and of issuing new ordinances for the publick weai, that thus no day might be permitted to pass away, without having been duly filled and employed.” “Thus, during the long and eventful period of our reign, the weighty affairs of government have been the objects of our constant regard; and, deeply impressed with the critical importance of the charge, we never ventured to pronounce the objects of government to have been so completely attained, or the peace of the em. pire so immutably established, as to admit of our relaxing our efforts, or indulging in repose. “Ultimately, however, we recalled to our recollection the mental prayer which we had addressed to the Supreme Being on our accession to the imperial dignity, and in which we had made a solemn inti. mation of our intention to resign, to our son and successour, the sovereignty of the realm, if the Divine Will should grant to our reign a sixty years continuance; forasmuch as we were unwilling to exceed, in any case, the duration of our imperial grandfather's government.” “Accordingly, on the first day of the year Ping-shin, we transferred to our son, the present emperour, the seals of the sirereign authority, reserving to ourself
the title of Most H1 GH EMPERour, as a distinctive appellation; thus accomplishing, in the end, what, in our solemn invocation to Heaven, we had originally proposed.” , “We have already attained the eighty ninth year of our age. Therefore but a few short years are wanting to complete the utmost period of longevity. It then only further behoves us reverently to employ the remaining days of our life, and pa. tiently to await the hour which is to conclude it.” “ shortly after we had received the congratulations of our ministers, in the hall of audience in the palace of Kan-tsingkung, on the first day of the new year, our appetite wholly failed us; we are now also sensible that our faculties of sight and hearing are declining apace. “The emperour, our son, has, indeed, been piously o in procuring medical assistance, and assiduously attentive in seeking the means most likely to conduce to our recovery; but we feel that at our advanced period of life, medicine can prove of very little avail, and, therefore, make this preparation previous to the last mortal paroxysm of disease. After a long succession of years, we are about to close a reign sustained with caution and assiduity, and invariably favoured by the distinguished protection of Heaven, and of our ancestors. We are now about to resign for ever the administration of this empire; but shall leave it in the hands of the em
perour, our son, whose eminent abilities
and pious dispositions are in every respect, conformable to our wishes, and will, doubtless, ensure to him a felicity like ours in his future undertakings; an idea which furnishes us with the most grateful consolation.” p. 482.
The next thing that strikes us as remarkable in this collection, is the excessive and unprofitable accuracy and minuteness of its regulations; the constant desire to regulate every thing whatever; to interfere in every action; and to fix immutably, beforehand, the effect of every shade of distinction which a case may receive from its circumstances. Thus, the foundation of the whole code is laid in fixing a scale of punishments, rising through twenty degrees, from ten blows with the bamboo to 100 blows; to sixty blows, with banishFuent for one year to the distance of
150 miles; to 100 blows, and perpetual banishment to the distance of 1500 miles; to death, by strangling, by decollation, or by torture; and in case of any offence, the legal punishment is directed to be increased or diminished by a certain number of those degrees, according to the circumstances of aggravation or palliation by which it may be attended. In like manner, the punishment of theft is made to vary, according to the value of the thing stolen, from ten blows with the bamboo, to death by strangling; and all the considerations of stealing under trust, or from the publick, or from relations, are made to aggravate or diminish the punishment by a certain number of those degrees. Besides all this, almost all the actions of a man’s life are subjected to the control of the government; and its penal sanctions are incurred for improprieties of the most domestick nature, and even for the most innocent transactions, if entered into without its special license. Thus, a man is severely punished for marrying while his parents are in prison, or within three years after their death, or for neglecting to pay. honour to their sepulchres; and also for acting as a commercial agent, or, even for killing his own oxen, without a written permission from the magistrate; for dressing himself in an unsuitable manner; for allowing: his lands to lie waste, or neglecting: to pay interest for borrowed money.
. Now, this extraordinary minuteness
and oppressive interference with the freedom of private conduct, is not to be considered merely as arising from that passion for governing too much, which is apt to infest all persons in possession of absolute power; but appears to us to indicate a certain stage in the progress of society, and to belong to a period of civilisation, beyond which the Chinese have not yet been permitted to advance. The first efforts of legislation, in all countries, are very short and ge
neral; and consist, for the most part, in littie else than the brief and authoritative enunciation of some of the great and obvious maxims of morality, or some of the established usages to which the society had previously conformed. Such are the decalogue ef Moses; the laws of the twelve tables; and the primitive laws of the Persians and other rude nations. When society has advanced a little, however, and governments have become strong, the legislator takes a much more ambitious aim. Delighted with the effect of his own regulations of police, and the convenience of his own fixed and arbitrary rules of proceeding, he endeavours to extend the same rigid order through all the departments of life; he represses irregularities amerely in order to realize an ideal motion of perfection, and labours to subject the whole frame of human society to a law of uniformity and subordination, under which it is not caiculated to flourish. ... In the exultation of their first triumph over the lawless disorders of savage life, the first reformers of the world seem to have thought that it was impossible to have too much law or too much order; and, having fixed, in their own minds, how it could be best and most convenient that men should live together, to have aimed at enforcing the essential and the insignificant parts of their system with the same indiscriminating earnestness. Having uppermost in their thoughts the dangers of a tumultuary and uncontrolled state of
society, they set a most exaggerated
value on coercive regulations; and, forgetting altogether both the suffering and the debasement that was to result from the destruction of individual freedom, thought of nothing
but of enforcing and reducing to
practice their own schemes of permanent control and complete superintendance. w It is upon this principle, as it appears to us, that society has, in all quarters of the world, been so fre
quently moulded by the violence of its early rulers into a form altogether forced and unnatural, and been crushed into artificial regularity, to the obstruction of all its happy and healthy movements. To this source, we conceive, are to be referred the institution of castes in India and in ancient Egypt; the inflexible and intolerable discipline of Sparta; a great part of the military array of the feudal-system; the distinctions and ceremonies of the tribes of the South Sea and North America; the burdensome police and subdivisions imputed to Alfred in Old England; and, perhaps, the impassable boundaries which existed, till lately, between the noblesse and the commonalty in continental Europe. In all these institutions we see a love of regularity, and of complete and thoroughgoing control, interfering, at a very early period, with the natural freedom and equality of men; and endeavouring, with a forcible and jealous hand, to repress all those movements of individual indulgence or ambition, from the greater excesses of which, society had at that time, perhaps, more need of protection. . .
As real civilisation advanced, however, this control was felt to be both grievous and unnecessary; a more liberal system was gradually introduced; and, wherever human intellect expanded, and national prosperity rose high, the bands of this barbarick regularity were burst asunder. Members of a truly well regulated state were left to a freedom which appeared frightful and pernicious to the keepers of a half tamed generation; and men were restored to every degree of independence that did not manifestly endanger the safety of their neighbours. Then, at last, it was discovered, that the irksome discipline of a school could not be advantageously continued towards men of mature growth and understanding; that individual happiness and comfort (which were the ends of all government) were of
more value than the preservation of a vain and fantastick uniformity; and that the hazard of occasional disorder was but a cheap price to be paid for the spirit of enterprise and exertion. Stocks and stones, it was perceived, might be wrought, with advantage, into forms of perfect and immutable symmetry; but men, like plants, could only flourish when they were free; and if the gardening was bad which planted trees in triangles and clipped them into cones, the policy was worse which subjected men, in their private functions, to the control of government, and drilled them into spiritless subjection, by the perpetual visitation of the law. In the spirit of this policy, however, and in the stage of society by which it is engendered, does the Chinese code appear to have been framed; and to this general and widely operating cause, are we inclined to refer its jealous and vexatious interference with the ordinary duties of individuals. Its minute and anxious attempts at accuracy in distinguishing cases and proportioning punishments, originate in the same blind love of regularity, and will be found to correspond exactly with the institutions of other countries, while under the influence of the same principle. In Hindoostan where this systematick spirit has perhaps been carried the most unrelenting length, and been longest maintained, the distinctions are still more ludicrously minute, and the scale of punishment graduated with more elaborate ingenuity. In China, the legislator thought he went far enough, when he specified the precise penalty for tearing off two tse of hair, or for throwing filth and erdure on another. The Hindoo, however, has had the precaution to provide an appropriate rate of punishment for the offence of throwing the war of the ears, or the flarings of the nails at one's neighbour; and even to vary the pain according as those
substances are thrown on the upper or the under part of the body, or on the back part or the fore. In ancient Europe, there was the same fantastick and preposterous minuteness; the table of pains, indeed, was different; and as our ancestors were of too high a spirit to submit to being flogged, consisted, for the most part, in pecuniary fines. In Wales, where specie was less abundant, the law laid on the mulct in grain; and the operation of the same spirit is visible in the anxiety with which the Chinese code directs certain offences to be expiated by 50 blows inflicted on the posteriors with a piece of bamboo, five tsun in length, one and a half tsun in thickness, and two kin in weight, held by the smaller end; and in the no less ingenious and anxious enactment of the Welch legislator, who provides, that for certain delinquencies, the culprit shall pay as much grain as, being poured out on the floor, shall stand in a heap sufficiently high in the centre to cover the body of a full grown cat, held by the tip of the tail; with her nose just touching the ground ! - * Upon the folly of these regulations it is unnecessary to enlarge. They have their origin in that unenlightened presumption, which supposes that it is possible for human ingenuity to anticipate all the shades and variations of which human delinquency is susceptible, and to accommodate punishment in so wise a proportion to offence, in a general and permanent code, as that justice. shall always be exactly done by its literal enforcement. This, too, is an errour of early legislation; and an errour that, in the happier regions of the world, is speedily detected by the light of experience and philosophy; proving both that the object is unattainable, and that it is not worth attaining. In almost all cases of variable delinquency, the law need fix only the maximum
of punishment, leaving. it to the