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this complaint of the satirical poet, Why sleeps the Julian law?' for ignorant minds were possessed with an opinion, that Adultery could not be punished in France, which opened a door for all sorts of debauchery and wickedness; and an universal corruption of manners being thereby introduced, this vice began to be highly esteemed and praised. But you, Sir, have put an end to this opinion, by making an example of some adulterers, and convinced us that it was not a will to punish, but accusers that were wanting to our forefathers. This public example has been greatly extolled by all good men."*
It is very probable, however, that, notwithstanding all the applauses of good men, Christopher de Thou relaxed; and, perceiving he could not singly put a stop to this corruption, was obliged to let things take their course. It may be from this cause, that his son takes no notice of this short interruption to impunity. The temporary severity soon vanished. It lasted longer at Geneva than elsewhere. Maimbourg remarks, that there is hardly any vice which oftener escapes with impunity than that; and it may be said in general, to the shame of Christians, that
*Preface to Brissonius.
they have suffered the penal laws, which many Pagan nations have made against Adultery, to be abolished time out of mind.* Not that every thing in those laws could be approved. What could be more horrid than the custom which Theodosius suppressed at Rome? But certainly greater rigour might have been admitted. Brissonius indeed says, that if accusers had been found, the Judges of France would not have been unwilling to punish. It is confessed, that accusers have been few, but the difficulty of proving such an accusation, and the odium attaching to the character of an accuser, are more than sufficient to account for this paucity, and to prevent suits of that kind.
A professor of philosophy at Groningen, published, in 1663, a collection of disputations, wherein he says, that the divines of Strasbourg prevailed, about thirty years before, with the magistrates, to inflict a capital punishment on adulterers; and he wishes the reformed divines of the Low Countries would attempt something similar. Had they (he says) thundered more against this vice, they might have procured some more heavy punishment than a
Critique de l'Histoire de Calvinisme. Lettre ix.
fine. "Oh si fervide detonuissent in Adulterium, quod proh dolor! per totum Belgium pecuniaria duntaxat mulctá expiatur !"
From France and the Low Countries, we pass to Spain and the other countries of Europe. In the former of these, a similar mode of punishment was adopted towards the adulterer, with that which was noticed in the statements of the Roman poets. A sort of compulsory self-castration, or, sometimes, a mutilation, nearly approaching to it; though this penalty varied greatly in parts of that kingdom. The accounts of Du Cange and Spelman somewhat vary. In some places, it is stated to be merely a fine, in others, whipping.*
In Poland, the guilty person was confined in a situation which exposed him to the suffering of intense pain, and a razor was placed within his reach, giving him an opportunity of rescuing himself, by inflicting the operation of self-castration. Humanity cannot but
* 66 'Apud Hispanos. Castrabantur adulteri. Cum Arragonensis solvebant LX Sol de Calumma." If both offenders were married, “duplicatur.” And if not able to pay, “ flagellabantur." Du Cange and Spelman, Gloss.
coincide with the observation, that this was a" hard choice."*
Among the ancient Swedes and Danes, a similar privilege to that before noticed, in the Laws of Solon, and the Novels of Justinian, was granted to the injured husband, who witnessed the infidelity of his wife. He might kill her, and castrate her gallant.
So among the ancient Germans, the husband had a power of instantly inflicting punishment on his adulterous wife. He cut off her hair in the presence of her relations, drove her out of his house, and whipped her through the city. Tacitus, however, remarks, that to the credit of this people, who held the laws of matrimony in strict regard, their chaste women required no spiritual court to restrain sobriety of manners, and that Adultery was a rare crime among them.†
"Apud Polonos in pontem Murcati is ductus per follem testiculi clavo affigitur, et novaculâ propè positâ, hic moriendi, sive de his absolvendi dura electio sibi datur."
+ " Quanquam severa illic matrimonia, nec ullam morum partem magis laudaveris. Paucissima in tam numerosâ gente adulteria, quorum pœna presens et maritis per
In Bohemia, Adultery was a capital offence.*
The laws of Lucca, in Tuscany, made it punishable by fine, and banishment for a
A law of Sicily, again, condemned the of fender to the flames, even where it was proved that the crime, on his part, did not include seduction.†
Joseph Scaliger says, he was at Geneva, when a very handsome young woman was drowned for this offence; so that it exposed those who committed it to a watery, as well as a fiery death. In the last mentioned case, Scaliger says, the execution drew tears from the eyes even of the Calvinist minsters; he did not think they could be among the first to weep over the sinner or the sin.
missa. Accisis crinibus nudatam coram propinquis expellit domo maritus, ac per omnem vicum verbere agit."
Tacit de Mor. Germ. xviii. xix. xx.
Apud Bohemos pœnam decapitationem."
"Si vir cum volente et acquiescente crimen commiserit, flammis ultricibus exureretur."