Superstition and Force / Essays on The Wager of Law—The Wager of Battle—The Ordeal—Torture
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The history of jurisprudence is the history of civilization. The labors of the lawgiver embody not only the manners and customs of his time, but also its innermost thoughts and beliefs, laid bare for our examination with a frankness that admits of no concealment. These afford the surest outlines for a trustworthy picture of the past, of which the details are supplied by the records of the chronicler.
It is from these sources that I have attempted, in the present work, a brief investigation into the group of laws and customs through which our forefathers sought to discover hidden truth when disputed between man and man. Not only do these throw light upon the progress of human development from primitive savagism to civilized enlightenment, but they bring into view some of the strangest mysteries of the human mind.
In this edition I have endeavored to indicate, more clearly than before, the source, in prehistoric antiquity, of some of the superstitions which are only even now slowly dying out among us, and which ever and anon reassert themselves under the thin varnish of our modern rationalism.