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FOR JANUARY 1799.
FOR THE EDINBURGH MAGAZINE.
The GLEANER, No. III. (To be continued. Monthly.)
« When great addition swells, and virtue none,
we view, with an atten. eyes of the public, dangerous and in, tive eye and a forrowing heart, jurious affumptions, and to declare the miseries that are every day accu. the opinion he may have formed of mulating around us, we will be indu- their nature, and consequences From ced to attempt to trace their origin. the perufal of the annals of History al causes ; and for that purpose we and Biography, I am fully convinced must fix upon some prominent evil, that the privileges attached to the the source of which has been of suf ill-founded right of primogeniture, ficient magnitude, and the conse- are the great causes of all the distress quences flowing from it, ot so dan- that is now darkening the horizon of gerous a tendency, as to support the Great Britain ; a right in itself in. arguments which may occur tous, consistent with sound reason; which and authorise the inferences which derives no other origin but that drawn may thence be deduced. Conscious from old feudal customs; and which of the disadvantages which a writer ought to have been long since exmust labour under, who Ateps forward ploded along with chem, when their to combat prejudices which have been neceflity no longer exifted; and I of a long itandingi which are fup: shall endeavour to convert this asserported by all the power and interet tion into matter of fact, by offering of the wealthy and the noble ; ryet proofs in support of it, the Atrength consider it as a duty incumbent upon of which it will be in the power of every member of society, to endeav every reader to judge of our to draw aside the flimsy veil which I have arranged my thoughts upon kas carefully concealed from the this subject under four titles :
Firstly, I shall endeavour, as con- qurred his enemies, he bestowed up
cisely as possible, to thew the on his principal foldiers or captain, origin of the privileges of primo according to their merit, the poffefgeniture.
fions of the vanquished ; and in order Secondly, I shall consider these privi- that he might the better preserve his leges as a moral wrong.
conqueft, and at the same time fupThirdly, I shall consider them as a port his own power and that of his dangerous political evil.
tribe, he made it a condtion, that And, Lastly, I shall conclude, by pro. each, according to the extent and the
posing a remedy a sainit the nume. value of his property, Should either rouls abuses of which these privi. attend personall, or furnih a certain leges are the primeval source. quota of foldiers, in case of war or of First Title.
any, emergency that right render
their assistance and support requisite, The privileges of primogeniture, “ These captains (allo,) after retainwhich are now converted into rights "sing what was proper for them. originated with the feudal system, in “ felves, proportioned the residue a. the early ages of military barbarism. mong
a lower rank of officers, unIn the first dawning of society, before “ der the conditions of fidelity and the population was equal to the exs "military service;" (Erskine, B. II. tent of country, each man seized up. Tit. iii. §. 3.) and these again dis. on the spot of ground which he contributed part of their possessions a. ceived to be most fit for his purposes; mong the peaceable and unwarlike when it became inadequate to them, part of the tribe “under the condi. ! he removed from it; and at his re- cstion that the Grantee should, in moval any other person could occupy 6 place of serving the Granter in war, it, without a violation of the com. « cultivate and fow the grounds mon rights and laws of nature. Af. “ which the Granter kept in his naterwards, as the population increased, “tural poffeffion.” (Erskine, B. II. it was found to be productive of ef. Tit. iv. . 5.)-Hence arose the sential and general utility, for a num
Feudal System. ber of families to associate together These chiefs, who were at first
apand to form themselves into tribes : pointed by the general voice of their and in that event it was necessary for tribe to command only for a certain cach family to occupy and cultivate time, in cases of necessity, found suthe fame spot for a succession of preme power so intoxicating, that years ; the circumstance of doing so, they made attempts, and frequently conftituting a sufficient right of vro. with success, to continue it during perty. When the interest of differ. their lifetime; and their foldiers who ent tribes were contrary to each other, were in usual ardently attached to each party naturally had recourse to them, from admiration of their fuforce, to support that which was most perior bravery, bodily strength, good dear to it; and ainongít a number of conduct, and other personal motives, men, there always was, and ever will soon had an additional tye to induce be, some person particularly diftin. them to continue their support, in guished from the generality, for his the hopes of plunder and of reward. fuperior powers ; and such a person, ---Hence originated Nobility. in cases of difficulty, as a recessary To continue the prerogative of .confequence, took the chief command, government to his pofterity, was the and conducted and directed the oper. diext dofire that arose in the mind of ations of his countrymer.
When a the chief; for this purpose, and to chief was successful in battle, and con- prevept any diffenfions in his family,
it was necessary to fix upon some par. Ancients, whose opinion had great ticular distinction to ascertain the weight, and was of cisential use, ia fucceffor to his dignity and power; urging forward war, or pielerviag and his eldest son naturally occurred, peace. to him as being, on many accounts,
When it was afterwards perceiv d, the person moit fit to fulfil his inten that the iatereft of leveral tribes liad tions.
a near connection, and chat it was In the event of bis vassal having a necessary to combine their mu'ual numerous progeny, the chief retain. forces agaiult a common enemy; the ed the power of nominating any one different chiefs met together and of the sons of the deceased to fill his chose, from amongst themielves, some father's ftation; and although the one as a supreme commander, who chosen person was obliged by the law' was peculiarly distinguished hy his of nature and by general practice to superior talents, and who was investprovide for the remainder of the ed with power, not only to controul family, as he received the whole pro- the inclinations of the others, but perty belonging to it, he also had it also to procure by the means of coerin his power to send fome of his cion, an implicit obedience to his orbrothers to fulfil the duties of his ders. These commanders in chief, vassalage; while he himself, if his during the course of the war, had disposition inclined not to warfare, many opportunities of gaining the enjoyed the “otium cum dignitat-,'' affections of the foldiery and of the at home. These soldiers, if their party inferior officers, in an eminent dewas successful, received the rewards gree: urged by a wish to aggrandise of their valour; but if on the con- their family they often endeavoured trary they were defeated and escap- to retain the supreme command when ed the perils of the battle, they re. it was no longer necessary to do so, turned to the land, or their ancestors, and when the purposes to effectuate and aflisted in domeftic employments which they had been invefted with until they were again called upon to it, were completed ; and although take a fare in more active scenes.
opposition to so infamous an ufurpa. Although it would be foreign to tion and fo flagrant a breach of faith my subject, ani inapplicable to the was often successful, yet it sometimes purposes I have in view, to trace the had only tlie effect of confirming that origin of Parliaments, it inay be nei. power which it was intended to dether improper norunnecessary to men- ftroy. tion here, that when the chief and Actuated alia by an anxious den his followers went to fight the battles fire to perpetuate to their descend. of their country, the people appoint. ents the authority which they had ed those men who were rendered ve- usurped, they continued, by the ut-' nerable on account of their age, and most attention to the public intereft, whofe wisdom was presumed to be and by carefully avoiding every species matured by experience, to attend to of tyranny, to ingraziate themelves the affairs of the community ; that with their subjects, and to render they had a military body under their their anthority folid and lasting. command sufficient to enforce their They also had the policy to attach resolutions; and that the public, the military part of their vassals to finding them to be a very proper, and the interest of their intended succesoften an effectual check upon the en- fors, by causing them to take an accroachments of the chief and his tive part in the exercises and fatigue principal vaffals, asserted and support of the foldiers, and by rendering thein ed their right to have a Council of if pollible, complete masters of the
practical practical part of war.-And to these injurious and destructive consequences circumstances does Monarcby owe its of entails, in the o preflion of youngorigin.
er brothers for the aggrandisement of As the possessions of the king in the elder, we may discern that system creased, it was no longer in his power of aristocracy which must eventually to discriminate the various qualities deftroy the liberty of every nation in of the children of his numerons vassals, which it is exercised. or to discern the one most fit for his After having detailed the origin iervice ; he therefore gave up the of the privileges of birthright, I have privilege of naming a particular suc- now to consider them as a moral ceffor, and in place thereof, he es wiong to iociety, and as all'injury of tablished the rights of primogeniture. the greatest magnitude to all young, By this act, he was assured of some er children, particularly to those of person being always prepared to ful- landed proprietors. In order to ilfil the obligations of the feudal te luttrate this affertion, I shali trace the nure; and he had reason to believe, fate of ihe family of a man possessed that by connecting the interests of of an estate, the anoual income of his eldest son with that of his vassals, which may be L.5000 ; supposing his tirone would be more powerfully him to have five fons, besides daugh supported.
ters. l'o begio with the eldest son.
As he is to be the future representa-
tive of an antient family, derived