“The Saxon laws, imperfect and various as they were, served in some tolerable degree a people who had by their Constitution an eye on each other’s concerns, and decided almost all matters of any doubt amongst them by methods which, however inadequate, were extremely simple. They judged every controversy either by the conscience of the parties, or by the country ‘s opinion of it, or what they judged an appeal to Providence. They were unwilling to submit to the trouble of weighing contradictory testimonies; and they were destitute of those critical rules by which evidence is sifted, the true distinguished from the false, the certain from the uncertain. Originally, therefore, the defendant in the suit was put to his oath, and if on oath he denied the debt or the crime with which he was charged, he was of course acquitted. But when the first fervours of religion began to decay, and fraud and the temptations to fraud to increase, they trusted no longer to the conscience of the party. They cited him to an higher tribunal,-the immediate judgment of God. Then trials were so many conjurations, and the magical ceremonies of barbarity and heathenism entered into law and religion. This supernatural method of process they called God’s Dome; it is generally known by the name of Ordeal, which in the Saxon language signifies the Great Trial. This trial was made either by fire or water: that by fire was principally reserved for persons of rank; that by water decided the fate of the vulgar; sometimes it was at the choice of the party.”
Edmund Burke : Abridgment of English History.
Edmund Burke ‘s “Abridgment of English History” was never published before he died. In fact, BURKE never finished his Abridgment of English History and the 90000 word fragment that remains went unpublished until after his death.
An interested history of this can be read in T. O. McLoughlin, Eighteenth-Century Ireland / Iris an dÃ¡ chultÃºr
Vol. 5, (1990), pp. 45-59, Published by: Eighteenth-Century Ireland Society
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