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In Mexico, (which may here be just alluded to,) the adulterer was stoned to death. This severity may, perhaps, be accounted for, by reference to the extreme indulgence granted by their laws of Divorce. Nothing more was required by them, than the consent of the parties, so that they had no occasion of going before the judges, they themselves decided the matter. The partition of children was made according to their sexes; the woman had the girls, the husband the boys; but the moment a marriage was thus dissolved, the parties was forbidden, under pain of death, to cohabit again; and this was the only safeguard which the laws had placed around the liberty.
Before adverting to our own country, it may be well to notice the customs of the East. There, indeed, the crime under consideration was lamentably familiar, and has ever been so. Much may be referred to the influence of climate, and mode of life, in observations on the loose habits of the Orientals; but, from the frequency of this crime among them, they might well be termed,
In Ceylon, Adultery is so common, that there
is scarcely a native woman but practises it. So, at least, the writers on that island describe a fact, of which, in spite of observation, charity to the human species desires to be incredulous. The crime is punishable by death, but the execution is, perhaps, less rigorous than the threat.
The Arabians, according to Strabo, though they used incestuous copulation with sister and mother, yet punished Adultery with death; but then, Adultery was limited by them to the act of another, beyond the lineage of the family. The Koran enjoined, that if a wife were convicted of this crime, by the testimony of four women, she should be confined to perpetual imprisonment in her house, till she died.* The process of examination was somewhat curious, in the case of the husband being the accuser. The man swears five times, that his allegation is true; and to the last oath, adds an imprecation, wishing he may be cursed by God if he lies. On the other side, if the woman swears as often, and adds to the last oath a prayer, desiring God to destroy her if her asseverations are not true, she is usually believed. If the fact is proved against
* Geog. Tom. ii. p. 1130.
her, the husband has her life in his power, and, if revengeful, may put her into a sack full of stones, and drown her.* The adulterer is condemned to ride on an ass, with his face towards the tail, which he holds as a bridle, his head crowned with the entrails of a beast, and his feet afterwards bastinadoed.
Among the Tartars, Adultery is but seldom heard of, but when it happens, it is punished by death. It is so, likewise, by the laws of Jenghis Khan, the founder of the Mogul Empire.
In Japan, the jealous husband may take away his wife's life, if she proves unfaithful to his bed, and violates her honour. If she is detected in familiar conversation with another man, it is looked upon as so criminal, as to be worthy of death; not banishment, not confinement, is deemed sufficient penalty, nothing less than the loss of life, and this is so strictly enforced, that instances have been known of suicide, committed by the females of Japan after acts of this kind, to prevent the
*This is the same as the "insuère culleo vivos," of Constans, noticed in p. 141.
possibility of discovery; but both sexes are not placed on the same footing.
In some part of Continental India, the unlawful indulgence, of which we speak, is permitted to any woman for the price of an elephant; while in the dominions of the Emperor Akber, it was punishable in a Brahmin by banishment, but in any other person by death, though no penalty was inflicted on the woman. Indeed, strange contrarieties prevail in respect of the penal inflictions which follow Adultery in the East. In some parts a fine is levied on the adulterer, varying from two hundred to five hundred dams, with the excision of the woman's ears and nose. In Ethiopia, also, it occasions the loss of the adulterer's nose.
In the Marian Islands the woman is not punished for the crime. Among the Japanese and others, it is only punishable in her. In Abyssinia, the crime of the husband is said to be visited on the innocent wife, while in the islands just mentioned, she is exempt when guilty, and he is severely punished. His wife and relations eject him from his home, and waste his lands.
These are anomalies in legislation that it is quite impossible to comprehend.
Punishments, nearly of the same nature with those before alluded to in Egypt, and perhaps nearly about the same time, were instituted in the East Indies against adulterers; originating with the Hindoos, perhaps less, as in the case of the Egyptians, in a regard for the women, than in a spirit of jealousy and revenge. The Shaster is every where replete with nice discriminations of comparative guilt, and has been so, likewise, in reference to the matrimonial crime; and the penalties have of course varied in consequence of these discriminations. a woman of superior caste, the adulterer is put to death; if of inferior caste, and by force, his possessions are confiscated, the mutilation before noticed is inflicted, and he is carried round the city on an ass. But if of inferior, or equal caste, by fraud, he is to forfeit his estates, be branded on the forehead, and banished the kingdom.
If committed with
These laws of the Shaster except the Brahmins, and apply to the upper castes; but if any one of the lowest caste commit Adultery with a woman of a far superior order, he suffers not only dismembration, but is tied on a hot iron plate, and burnt to death, while the inequality of crime is regarded as so great that the highest caste may commit Adultery with