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NATURE AND INSTITUTION,
G O V E R N M E N T:
ESENTMENT is, as I already
mentioned, the strongest passion in the human breaft. The person that feels an injury is strongly impelled by nature, to take the vengeance due upon that act ; but the permission of that would have de. stroyed society, and punishments would have known no bounds: for this reason; forms of trial were instituted, and the execution of the sentence was committed to the magistrate.
The fame methods of trial, established among the Germans and other northern nations, took place among the AngloVOL. II.
Saxons. Here we find the Ordeal or Trial by hot Iron or Water; the confecrated Cake called Corfred, &c.
The earliest and most simple punishment for crimes was retaliation: the offender forfeited limb for limb, life for life. The payment of a compensation to the person injured succeeded to the rigour of the former institution. Though it still continued an indispensable point of honour, for every person or clan to revenge the death of their fellow; yet the magistrate in time acquired a right of regulating in the quarrel, of accommodating the difference, and obliging the injured person to accept of a compensation for the injury received.
Edmund was the first king in England, who made this advance towards a more regular adminiftration of justice: he ordered a stop to be put to private feuds and single combat; established compositions, as St. Lewis attempted to do in France, and these compositions were fixed by law, according to the quality of the person injured. The price of a king's head was 30,000 thrilmas,
and fo of others in proportion; the price of a wound, an inch long under the hair, was paid with one shilling; thirty shillings for the loss of an ear, and so forth. A person, who committed adultery with his neighbour's wife, was obliged to pay and buy him another wife.
In both these institutions, the gratification of private revenge was the object of law, and he who suffered the wrong had an only right to pursue, to exact, and to remit the punishment. Afterwards, crimes were looked
in a two-fold light, not only as an injury to the party immediately concerned, but also to the state or community: then the civil magistrate had a right to pursue, and the only right to exact and remit the punishment.
Under this notion criminal justice improved and refined itself: the civil magistrate, whose office it was to guard the public peace, and to suppress private ani. mofities, conceived himself to be injured by every injury done to any of his people; во
and besides the compensation to the person who suffered, or to his clan, he thought himself entitled to exact a fine, called fridwit, or an attonement for the breach of the peace, as a reward for the pains, which he had taken in accommodating the quarrel. The numerous fines that were levied augmented the profits of the king, and made injuries less frequent.
The forms of trial were various, and seem to adapt themselves to the age and genius of the people.
When any trial was to be decided by combat, the magistrate ordered all the relations of the party to retire, the people were commanded silence, and no assistance to be given to either party under pain of death, if either of the combatants should happen to be vanquished. The officers guarded the list or inclosure where the battle was fought; but, as there were a great many incapable either of offering or accepting battle, liberty was given them to chuse a champion; and, that he might have the strongest interest in defending the