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Unformatted text preview: e compurgators were in some cases multiplied to the number of three hundred.l The practice also of single combat was employed by most nations on the continent as a remedy against false evidence;m and though it was frequently dropped, from the opposition of the clergy, it was continually revived, from experience of the falsehood attending the testimony of witnesses.n It became at last a species of jurisprudence: The cases were determined by law, in which the party might challenge his adversary, or the witnesses, or the judge himself:o And though these customs were absurd, they were rather an improvement on the methods of trial, which had formerly been practised among those barbarous nations, and which still prevailed among the AngloSaxons. When any controversy about a fact became too intricate for those ignorant judges to unravel, they had recourse to what they called the judgment of God, that is, to fortune: Their methods of consulting this oracle were various. One of them was the decision by the cross: It was practised in this manner. When a person was accused of any crime, he first cleared himself by oath, and he was attended by eleven compurgators. He next took two pieces of wood, one of which was marked with the sign of the cross; and wrapping both up in wool, he placed them on the altar, or on some celebrated relique. After solemn prayers for the success of the experiment, a priest, or in his stead some unexperienced youth, took up one of the pieces of wood, and if he happened upon that which was marked with the figure of the cross, the person was pronounced innocent; if otherwise, guilty.p This practice, as it arose from superstition, was abolished by it in France. The emperor, Lewis the Debonnaire, prohibited that method of trial, not because it was uncertain, but lest that sacred figure, says he, of the cross should be prostituted in common disputes and controversies q PLL v5 (generated January 22, 2010) 133 http://oll.libertyfund.org/title/695 Online Library of Liberty: The History of England, vol. 1 The ordeal was another established method of trial among the Anglo-Saxons. It was practised either by boiling water or red-hot iron. The former was appropriated to the common people; the latter to the nobility. The water or iron was consecrated by many prayers, masses, fastings, and exorcisms;r after which, the person accused either took up a stone sunk in the waters to a certain depth, or carried the iron to a certain distance; and his hand being wrapped up, and the covering sealed for three days, if there appeared, on examining it, no marks of burning, he was pronounced innocent; if otherwise, guilty.t The trial by cold water was different: The person was thrown into consecrated water; if he swam, he was guilty; if he sunk, innocent.u It is difficult for us to conceive, how any innocent person could ever escape by the one trial, or any criminal be convicted by the other. But there was another usage admirably calculated for allowing every criminal to escape, who had confidence enough to try it. A consecrated cake, called a corsned, was produced; which if t...
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This note was uploaded on 02/12/2011 for the course CHIN 101 taught by Professor Dr.yu during the Spring '08 term at University Of Southern Mississippi .
- Spring '08