Brehon laws

Brehon laws

▪ ancient Irish laws
Gaelic  Feinechus 

      ancient laws of Ireland. The text of these laws, written in the most archaic form of the Gaelic language, dates back to the 7th and 8th centuries and is so difficult to translate that the official renderings are to some extent conjectural. The ancient Irish judge, or Brehon, was an arbitrator, umpire, and expounder of the law, rather than a judge in the modern sense.

      Analysis of the extant remains of the Brehon law manuscripts has revealed the character of ancient Irish life, society, and social institutions. The basis of that society was the clan. kinship with the clan was an essential qualification for holding any office or property. The rules of kinship largely determined status with its correlative rights and obligations. The solidarity of the clan was its most important characteristic. The entire territory occupied by a clan was the common and absolute property of that clan, although in the course of time a large and increasing proportion of the good land became limited private property. Thus, the area of arable land available for the common use of the clansmen gradually diminished.

      Land was seldom sold and not often rented in ancient Ireland. Nobles and other persons holding large areas would rent to clansmen not the land itself but the right to graze cattle, and they sometimes even rented out the cattle themselves. There were two distinct methods of letting and hiring: saer (“free”) and daer (“unfree”). The conditions of saer tenure were largely settled by the law; the clansman was left free within the limits of justice to end the relationship, and no liability was imposed on the clansman's joint family. On the other hand, daer tenure, whether of cattle or of the right to graze cattle, was subject to a security. The members of the tenant's joint family were liable to make good out of their own property any default in payments.

      No contract affecting land was valid unless made with the consent of the joint family. Other contracts had to be made in the presence of the noble or magistrate. The parties to a contract had to be free citizens, of full age, free to contract, and under no legal disability. A witness was in all cases important—and, in some, essential—to the validity of a contract.

      The criminal laws uniformly discountenanced revenge, retaliation, the punishment of one crime by another, and capital punishment. Reparations were paid to the family of the victim.

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Universalium. 2010.

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  • Brehon Laws — Brehon Law or Brehon Laws noun The system of jurisprudence in use among the Irish until near the middle of the 17c • • • Main Entry: ↑brehon …   Useful english dictionary

  • brehon laws — early Irish laws under the control of brehons, an hereditary caste of lawyers. They survived the Danish and Anglo Norman invasions, but in the Case of Tanistry in 1607 were declared to be incompatible with English common law, which henceforth… …   Law dictionary

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  • Brehon Laws, The — • Term for Irish native law, as administered in Ireland down to almost the middle of the seventeenth century Catholic Encyclopedia. Kevin Knight. 2006 …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • BREHON LAWS —    a body of judge created laws that for long formed the common law of Ireland, existed from prehistoric times till Cromwell s conquest. The origin of the code is unknown, and whether it was at first traditional; many manuscript redactions of… …   The Nuttall Encyclopaedia

  • Brehon Laws — An ancient Gaelic (Irish) legal system …   Medieval glossary

  • The Brehon Laws —     The Brehon Laws     † Catholic Encyclopedia ► The Brehon Laws     Brehon law is the usual term for Irish native law, as administered in Ireland down to almost the middle of the seventeenth century, and in fact amongst the native Irish until… …   Catholic encyclopedia

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