Montesquieu
 

XXVIII.16 On proof by boiling water established by the Salic law

The Salic law1 allo­wed the prac­tice of proof by boi­ling water ; and as that ordeal was very cruel, the law inclu­ded a means of tem­pe­ring its seve­rity.2 It allo­wed the per­son who had been sum­mo­ned to come make the proof by boi­ling water to redeem his hand with the consent of his adver­sary. The accu­ser, for a cer­tain sum which the law spe­ci­fied, could content him­self with the oath of a few wit­nes­ses who would declare that the accu­sed had not com­mit­ted the crime : and this was a par­ti­cu­lar case of the Salic law in which it allo­wed for proof by nega­tion.

That proof was a mat­ter of agree­ment which the law per­mit­ted but did not require. The law gran­ted a cer­tain com­pen­sa­tion to the accu­ser who was willing to allow the accu­sed to defend him­self by way of nega­tion ; the accu­ser was free to be satis­fied with the oath of the accu­sed, as he was free to for­give the harm or injury.

The law offe­red a media­tion so that before the ver­dict, the par­ties, one in fear of a frigh­te­ning ordeal, the other at the sight of a small, pre­sent com­pen­sa­tion, would put an end to their dis­pu­tes and end their ani­mo­sity.3 It will be clear that this proof by nega­tion once consum­ma­ted, none other could be requi­red, and thus that the prac­tice of com­bat could result from this par­ti­cu­lar pro­vi­sion of the Salic law.

And some other barbarian laws as well.

Tit. 56.

Ibid., tit. 56.