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It does not seem to me possible to doubt that the account which Sir William Jones gave of the Book of Manu in his Preface to his translation was a rationalised version of the statements made to him by his native teachers, who seem all to have belonged to one particular school of Hindu learning, accustomed to hold Manu in especial honour.
In the later portions of the book he examines certain forms of property and tenure, and certain legal conceptions and legal classifications, which have survived to our day, but which appear to have had their origin in remote antiquity.
In a few words at the commencement of his Seventh Chapter, the writer has explained his reasons for prefixing to his later chapters a discussion of some ‘Theories of Primitive Society.’ The substance of Chapters V., VI., IX., and XI.
It was in fact from these native Hindu teachers that Sir William Jones learned, and the learned and curious all over the West were gradually informed, that in a part of the world just coming under the British sceptre there existed an ancient language, the elder sister of the classical languages so honoured in the West, a series of poems which might not unjustly be compared to the Homeric epics and the Attic drama, and laws twice as old as the legislation of Solon and the Twelve Tables of Rome.
It is impossible now—now that India has become more commonplace as she has got nearer; now that, here at all events, she is associated with frontier wars, budgets, opium, and grey shirtings—to reproduce the keen throb of intellectual interest which the literary portion of these discoveries sent through Europe.
There is no system of recorded law, literally from China to Peru, which, when it first emerges into notice, is not seen to be entangled with religious ritual and observance.
The law of the Romans has been thought to be that in which the civil and Pontifical jurisprudence were earliest and most completely disentangled.
Yet the meagre extant fragments of the Twelve Tables of Rome contain rules which are plainly religious or ritualistic:— We are told by Cicero (‘De Legibus,’ 2, 25, 64) that several of these rules contained in the Tenth of the Roman Tables were taken from Greek originals.
He attributes the Greek rules to Solon, and explains that they limited the costliness of the ancient ritual of funerals.
This volume is drawn from a number of his courses and deals with a range of topics as religion and the law, the Salic law, feudal property and the classification of property. This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. of lectures, delivered by the Author while he had the honour of holding the Corpus Professorship of Jurisprudence in the University of Oxford, have been already published with the titles ‘Village-Communities in the East and West,’ and ‘The Early History of Institutions.’ The substance of the present volume was originally contained in lectures which formed part of various other courses given by him at Oxford; but in some cases the form has been materially altered.