history of england_david hume

Q the price of the kings head or his weregild as it

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Unformatted text preview: use shall give no protection to murderers, till they have satisfied the church by their pennance, and the kindred of the deceased, by making compensation.o The method appointed for transacting this composition is found in the same law.p These attempts of Edmond, to contract and diminish the feuds, were contrary to the ancient spirit of the northern barbarians, and were a step towards a more regular administration of justice. By the Salic law, any man might, by a public declaration, exempt himself from his family quarrels: But then he was considered by the law as no longer belonging to the family; and he was deprived of all right of succession, as the punishment of his cowardice.q The price of the king’s head, or his weregild, as it was then called, was by law 30,000 thrimsas, near 1300 pounds of present money. The price of the prince’s head was 15,000 thrimsas; that of a bishop’s or alderman’s 8000; a sheriff’s 4000; a thane’s or clergyman’s 2000; a ceorle’s 266. These prices were fixed by the laws of the Angles. PLL v5 (generated January 22, 2010) 131 http://oll.libertyfund.org/title/695 Online Library of Liberty: The History of England, vol. 1 By the Mercian law, the price of a ceorle’s head was 200 shillings; that of a thane’s six times as much; that of a king’s six times more.r By the laws of Kent, the price of the archbishop’s head was higher than that of the king’s.s Such respect was then paid to the ecclesiastics! It must be understood, that, where a person was unable or unwilling to pay the fine, he was put out of the protection of law and the kindred of the deceased had liberty to punish him as they thought proper. Some antiquariest have thought, that these compensations were only given for manslaughter, not for wilful murder: But no such distinction appears in the laws; and it is contradicted by the practice of all the other barbarous nations,u by that of the ancient Germans,w and by that curious monument above mentioned of Saxon antiquity, preserved by Hickes. There is indeed a law of Alfred’s which makes wilful murder capital;x but this seems only to have been an attempt of that great legislator towards establishing a better police in the kingdom, and it probably remained without execution. By the laws of the same prince, a conspiracy against the life of the king might be redeemed by a fine.y The price of all kinds of wounds was likewise fixed by the Saxon laws: A wound of an inch long under the hair was paid with one shilling: One of a like size in the face, two shillings: Thirty shillings for the loss of an ear; and so forth.z There seems not to have been any difference made, according to the dignity of the person. By the laws of Ethelbert, any one who committed adultery with his neighbour’s wife was obliged to pay him a fine, and buy him another wife.a These institutions are not peculiar to the ancient Germans. They seem to be the necessary progress of criminal jurisprudence among every free people, where the will of the sovereign is not implicitl...
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