The History Of Law

Cathy Ly, Mr Kostiuk, CLU3MO

The Code of Hammurabi

In the 18th Century B.C.E, the Babylonian King Hammurabi established a collection of laws that set the standard of conduct and justice for his entire empire in Mesopotamia. Etched in column stone, the laws stated everything from property rights to divorce and slavery. Religion played a major part in the creation of these laws. The citizens believed that the gods were ones controlling everything that occurred and Hammurabi used this fear to his advantage. He would say that he was the messenger of the gods and that the laws came from the gods themselves and therefore ordered the laws to be carved on steles and be placed in temples. By making the code placed in sites of worship, Hammurabi was able to spread the idea that the code was more of the gods commands rather than his view of law. Based on the famous legal principle of "An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth", Hammurabi established a form of harsh justice based on revenge for every single citizen. Under this law code, if a man were to break the bones of his equal, then his bones would be broken in return as well. Although these laws took an aggressive approach, the severity was usually based on both the identity of the law breaker and the victim. The code distinguishes punishments for wealthy or noble persons, lower-class persons or commoners and salves. The principles of The Code of Hammurabi provided strict but practical rules that established and maintain a prosperous and organized way of living.

Mosaic Law

Set in 1240 B.C.E, Mosaic Law comes from the Torah, a book consisting of the first five books found in the Bible's Old Testament. The Famous Ten Commandments are the primary principles of Mosaic Law and were claimed to be created by the Hebrew God to be given to the people of Israel through Moses while he was on Mt. Sinai. Similar to King Hammurabi's situation, the citizens of the time needed reassurance and proof to fuel their beliefs of god and worship their god properly and all in the same way. From this need of order, the Ten Commandments were created. Although the laws maybe created by God or Moses, they outlined specific rules that were to be followed in order to please God, live well, and be accepted into heaven. The Ten Commandments in were taken very seriously in most communities and were punishable under the law. If a person was to disobey one of these commandments, they may be sentenced to decapitation, strangulation or even death by stoning. It is believed that these laws were copied and elaborated on from the Code of Hammurabi as the punishments set were just as cruel and inhumane such as the death penalty in cases such as adultery and kidnapping. While the Code was said to be more punishing, Mosaic Law was based more off the principle of restitution and rebuilding the relationship between the lawbreaker and victim, where the thieves were required to repay the victim with what they have stolen from them.

British North American Act

The British North American Act, referred to today as the Constitution Act of 1867, was a statute enacted by the British parliament providing confederation of the Dominion of Canada. This created Canada as a self governing country which consisted the provinces of Ontario, Quebec, News Brunswick and Nova Scotia. The BNA Act established a brand new set of rules for the federal government of Canada and created a British styled parliament which consisted of the House of Commons and the Senate. It also layed out the division of powers and responsibilities between the provinces and federal government and stated the rights of the nations citizens. Although the BNA Act was one of Canada's greatest successes, it caused multiple altercations between the governments to change the amending formula and the distribution of the powers in order to satisfy the needs of its citizens. One attempt of this was when the federal government wanted to take part in health care services, but because there was no process of amendment in the BNA act, it failed. At the time, only amendments were made by the imperial British Parliament in London at the request of the parliament of Canada. The British North American Act brought all the provinces together and established the Dominion of Canada as new political entity.

The Statute of Westminster

The Statute of Westminster is a law that initialize Canada's full independence from mother country, Britain. Established in 1931, this statute was one of the most substantial enactments to Canada's maturation. It stated the powers of Canada's parliament granted the former colonies of Britain full legal freedom and foreign rights. Canada and the dominions of Britain finally obtained separation they have all eagerly desired. Due to the British North American Act, if Canada wanted to add any fundamentals laws into the constitution, Canada must ask the British parliament. The BNA act also caused lots confusion and disputes between the divisions of powers of the provinces and federal government. Canada was also not allowed to make any foreign laws such as declaration of war and peace treaties, but instead could only establish domestic laws. Unlike the BNA Act, the statute impacted Canada on its political views that helped shape the country into a more self-ruling nation by obtaining full authority of their own government. This law illustrated the finalization of Britain's legal power to be officially shifted to the Canadian Prime Minister, Britain's laws would no longer affected Canada and they could now develop important decisions on their own internally and externally.


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