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Q: Unequal punishment for noble vs peasant or white man vs slave ( Answered 4 out of 5 stars,   7 Comments )
Subject: Unequal punishment for noble vs peasant or white man vs slave
Category: Relationships and Society > Law
Asked by: dazegonebye-ga
List Price: $20.00
Posted: 12 Jun 2006 07:14 PDT
Expires: 12 Jul 2006 07:14 PDT
Question ID: 737447
I am writing a a paper and I need examples of unequal treatment by the
law according to a persons standing in that society. For example if a
peasant hit another peasant in ancient England he would recieve a
punishment far less than if he had hit a noble. Also, if a black slave
hit another slave he would recieve a punishment far less severe than
if he had struck a white man. I just need a some links that expand on
these things. I can't find them. Thanks
Subject: Re: Unequal punishment for noble vs peasant or white man vs slave
Answered By: tutuzdad-ga on 12 Jun 2006 11:36 PDT
Rated:4 out of 5 stars
Dear dazegonebye-ga;

Thank you for allowing me to answer your interesting question.

I think you will find this particularly pertinent to your question.
Concerning slavery in America and the laws regulating punishment of
slaves, the Slave Codes of the State of Georgia, 1848 specifically
address this issue and provides an excellent example of the rampant
inequality in the law. There are many others but for emphasis sake I
will point out a few statutes wherein the intent of the law was to
address the infractions of a slave quite differently from that of a
free white man when perpetrated by each, and on one another:

4. Punishment of slaves for striking white persons.
?If any slave shall presume to strike any white person, such slave
upon trial and conviction before the justice or justices, according to
the direction of this act, shall for the first offence suffer such
punishment as the said justice or justices shall in his or their
discretion think fit, not extending to life or limb; and for the
second offence, suffer death: but in case any such slave shall
grievously wound, maim, or bruise any white person, though it shall be
only the first offence, such slave shall suffer death.?

You will note there that the second offense of the crime that is
typically called ?battery? today (a misdemeanor) resulted in a death
sentence for a slave. Conversely, a slave was not punished for
striking a white person in defense of a white person, if ordered to do

?5. When the striking a white person justifiable. -- Provided always,
that such striking, wounding, maiming, or bruising, be not done by the
command, and in defense of the person or property of the owner or
other person have the care and government of such slave, in which case
the slave shall be wholly excused, and the owner or other person
having the care and government of such slave, shall be answerable, as
if the act has been committed by himself.?

Further are these examples:

Slaves or persons of color were not allowed to ?preach? or ?exhort?
without a license. The penalty was a $500 fine, imprisonment not to
exceed six months, and a whipping not to exceed thirty-nine lashes.
This law did not apply to whites.

A slave who gave false information resulting in the wrongful
punishment of another slave was punished in the same manner as the
wrongfully punished slave. Obviously this same law did not apply to
white men.

And then of course there is the catch-all statute that provided that a
slave could be punished however the court determined in all matters
not specifically addressed in this code. Clearly such a broad and
ambiguous law was not applicable in the offense of free white men.

Under Article II SEC. III. EVIDENCE, a slave or free white person or
any witness ?who believes in God and a future state of rewards and
punishments? may testify against a slave, but only a jury of free
white men could determine the fate of the accused.

Other examples include the Laws of Virginia, from the First Session of
the Legislature in the Year 1619 (statutes here are written in the
common old English). For example, a free white man may punish a slave
for disobedience and if that slave died as a result, the murderer was
not held criminally liable:

?An act about the casuall killing of slaves. 

WHEREAS the only law in force for the punishment of refreactory
servants (a) resisting their master, mistris or overseer cannot be
inflicted upon negroes, nor the obstinacy of many of them by other
then violent meanes supprest, Be it enacted and declared by this grand
assembly, if any slave resist his master (or othe by his masters order
correcting him) and by the extremity of the correction should chance
to die, that his death shall not be accompted ffelony, but the master
(or that other person appointed by the master to punish him) be acquit
from molestation, since it cannot be presumed that prepensed malice
(which alone makes murther ffelony) should induce any man to destroy
his owne estate.?


There are many such examples but a few others include:
??if any negroe or other slave shall presume or lift up his hand in
opposition against any christian, shall for every such offence, upon
due proofe made thereof by the oath of the party before a magistrate,
have and receive thirty lashed on his bare back well laid on.?

Free Negroes or non-Christians were not allowed to own Christian
slaves, and a master of color was not allowed to own any slave except
those of his own complexion.
In Alabama there were similar laws:

Blacks found guilty of writing passes for other slaves could receive a
whipping up to 100 lashes. -- 1852 Code

An enslaved black could be punished by whipping and branding for
manslaughter if the victim was another slave. -- 1827 Statute

A free person found guilty of assembling with enslaved blacks was to
be fined $20 and be punished with 10 stripes. -- 1852 Code

Enslaved blacks found guilty of murdering an enslaved or free black
were to be punished up to 100 stripes, or be branded in the hand, at
the discretion of the jury. -- 1852 Code

Enslaved blacks were sentenced to death for capital crimes. If the
judge found the slave?s owner to blame for the capital offense
committed by an enslaved black, the owner was simply made for forfeit
the executed slave as his punishment. -- 1852 Code


Here are some other miscellaneous examples:

"In Georgia, if a white teach a free negro or slave to read or write,
he is fined 500 dollars, and imprisoned at the discretion of the
court; if the offender be a colored man, bond or free, he is to be
fined or whipped at the discretion of the court.?

?In North Caroline, to teach a slave to read or write, or to sell or
give him any book (bible not excepted) or pamphlet, is punished with
thirty-nine lashes, or imprisonment if the offender be a free negro,
but if a white, then with a fine of 200 dollars.?


?In Georgia, any person may inflict twenty lashes on the bare back of
a slave found without license on the plantation, or without the limits
of the town to which he belongs. So also in Mississippi, Virginia, and
Kentucky, at the discretion of the justice.?
(Jay?s Inquiry, p. 134.)

?In South Carolina and Georgia, any person finding more than seven
slaves together in the highway without a white person, may give each
one twenty lashes.? Similar in Delaware: ?more than six slaves.?
(Delaware Laws, 104. Stroud, p. 102.)

?In Kentucky, Virginia, and Missouri, a slave, for keeping a gun,
powder, shot, a club, or other weapon whatever, offensive or
defensive, may be whipped thirty-nine lashes, by order of a justice.?

?In North Carolina and Tennessee, a slave travelling without a pass,
or being found in another person?s negro quarters or kitchen, may be
whipped forty lashes, and every slave in whose company the visitor is
found, twenty lashes!? (Ib.) The visits of parents and children,
husbands and wives, may be thus punished.

?In Louisiana, a slave, for being on horseback, without the written
permission of his master, incurs twenty-five lashes; for keeping a
dog, a like punishment.? (Ib.) Horses and dogs, as well as weapons,
might assist their escape.

?By the law of Maryland, for ?rambling, riding, or going abroad in the
night, or riding horses in the daytime without leave, a slave may be
whipt, cropped, or branded on the cheek with the letter R, or
otherwise punished, not extending to life, or so as to unfit him for

In Georgia and South Carolina, ?If any slave shall be out of the
house, or off the plantation, of his master, and shall refuse to
submit to an examination by any white person, such white person may
apprehend and moderately correct him; and if he shall assault or
strike such white person, he may be lawfully killed.?


I hope you find that my answer exceeds your expectations. If you have
any questions about my research please post a clarification request
prior to rating the answer. Otherwise I welcome your rating and your
final comments and I look forward to working with you again in the
near future. Thank you for bringing your question to us.

Best regards;
Tutuzdad-ga ? Google Answers Researcher






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dazegonebye-ga rated this answer:4 out of 5 stars
Well worth the money good documentation

Subject: Re: Unequal punishment for noble vs peasant or white man vs slave
From: markvmd-ga on 12 Jun 2006 08:13 PDT
Subject: Re: Unequal punishment for noble vs peasant or white man vs slave
From: myoarin-ga on 12 Jun 2006 09:34 PDT
IN the Mosaic laws in the Old Testament, for some offenses, the
punishment for priests was double that for laypersons.  This is
obviously a different situation from that described in the question. 
I assume the principle was that the priests should have been more
aware of the law and desrved a higher punishment for that reason or
because of their leadership responsibility.

A little more timely:  in football/soccer, an action against the
referee has greater weight than one against another player, just as
striking an officer in the military will be punished more severely
than an altercation between enlisted men.  Similarly, resisting arrest
and other actions against law enforcement officials reaps additional
punishment to that "earned" by the basic infraction.

Generally, I would say, unequal treatment for actions against persons
in a position of authority are quite common, also in civilian life. 
This may seem at odds with human rights (in capital letters), but it
is part of the way the legal system and society outside the legal
system maintain the authority structure.

In a highly stratified society with nobles and slaves, of course, the
existing laws may define different punishment in the terms of this
stratification, but basically  - I feel -  this is little different
from what exists today.

I hope this is of some help.
Subject: Re: Unequal punishment for noble vs peasant or white man vs slave
From: dazegonebye-ga on 12 Jun 2006 14:07 PDT
tutuzdad-ga, you really exceeded my expectations on the slave vs white
man part of the question however, you did not mention the noble vs
peasant. Is this because (contrary to what I thought) the laws in
Europe treated all men equal or because there is no info on the
subject? Thanks

My paper is concerning hate-crimes and I am taking the slant that hate
crimes actually make two classes of citizens. One class protected more
by the law than the other. For instance when a nut goes into a
Synagogue and shoots people it is a hate crime but when a nut goes
into a Christian Church and shoots people it is just a 'regular crime'
....etc That is why I wanted the examples of different applications of
the law for different people. Thanks
Subject: Re: Unequal punishment for noble vs peasant or white man vs slave
From: myoarin-ga on 12 Jun 2006 16:26 PDT
Hate crimes certainly introduces a new subject to the question, and
one which I have difficulty in seeing the connection.  There may be a
consensus about what a hate crime is, but I don't believe that it is a
legal expression.
The nut in the synagogue may be a radical neo-nazi or Islamist, but
unless the country has a codified law that specifically deals with an
attack on a synagogue or on Jews, legally the case would be the same
as that of the other nut.

The following site is down at the moment, but it seems to provide just
the sort of information sought, although limited to Scandinavia.

Scandinavian nobility (scnordic FAQ-related texts)
But still nobility according to the law was to be milder treated by
the police and the courts, had wider right to beat their servants than
commoners had, ... - 34k - Cached - Similar pages

Maybe this is useful, although it seems a "soft" source:

Perhaps this article provides something:

and this one on the development of British common law:

This could also be of interest, pointing the arbitrariness of noble
rule prior to the Magna Carta

I hope that someone will be able to provide more specific information.
Subject: Re: Unequal punishment for noble vs peasant or white man vs slave
From: markvmd-ga on 12 Jun 2006 16:29 PDT
Dazegonebye, you are not alone in your thinking for your paper. There
are arguments against establishing so-called hate crime penalties for
similar reasons as you suspect. As nearly interpersonal crime is a
hate crime, making a special class for prosecution seems pretty
improper. A reason for such laws is the inability of a governing body
to anticipate what assault may be used in the performance of a hate
crime, making the governing body unable to write laws to address it.

You would think existing law would be able to handle dragging a person
behind a moving vehicle or tying someone to a fencepost and beating
them to death. Savvy defense lawyers argue as to lack of premeditation
and thus limit the punishment that can be handed down.

A more sensible way to handle such circumstances would be to write
laws punishing torture or the infliction of torturous pain or mental
anguish. As our current neo-fascist leadership has proven, though,
such definitions can be made as slippery as that of pornography.

I am hopeful that hate crime prosecution will be declared
unconstitutional in my lifetime.

Incidentally, you show some bias in your statement "When a nut goes into a
Synagogue and shoots people it is a hate crime but when a nut goes
into a Christian Church and shoots people it is just a 'regular
crime.' " If the shooter is Jewish, how does that change the each part
of your statement? Does a Muslim shooter deserve more punishment for
killing in a synagogue? And what if a Muslim shooter is the one doing
the killing in the church?
Subject: Re: Unequal punishment for noble vs peasant or white man vs slave
From: dazegonebye-ga on 14 Jun 2006 17:27 PDT
myoarin , thanks for the info and the links!! You really know your subjects.

markvmd , I see your point. Gave me something to think about. Had not
occurred to me. thanks
Subject: Re: Unequal punishment for noble vs peasant or white man vs slave
From: tutuzdad-ga on 14 Jun 2006 18:08 PDT

I believe these links will address some of your inquires about the
disparity in the law as it pertain to "peasants" vs. "noblemen":

"Crime and Punishment in Elizabethan England," EyeWitness to History

'Misdemeanors and Capital Crimes'


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