Hammurabi Empire Code Research Proposal

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Hammurabi Code

In the United States, the Penal Code is driven by the U.S.Constitution. And the penal code keeps expanding to take into account modern times. The U.S. Constitution is not exhaustive; its tenet's however, are comprehensive. (Cornell, 2009) the penal code is based on the fact that one individual (and in general, government) cannot violate the right of another individual to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness -- pursuit being the operative word (man is not entitled to be happy, but should be unencumbered in its pursuit). When a violation occurs, the penal system kicks in. And it is an adversarial system of checks and balance that allows every arrested person due process under the law. In modern times, the laws have evolved to include the technological world; this includes computer fraud and cyber-terrorism. These are instances of the use of the penal law that are imaginable a few decades ago. But at its root a code of laws is about one individual infringing upon the rights of another.Buy full Download Microsoft Word File paper
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Research Proposal on Hammurabi Empire Code Assignment

The U.S. Constitution borrowed heavily from Great Britain's unwritten one. Both serve as the beacon for most democratic nations. These systems are however, not unprecedented. Indeed, it would seem that the need for a judicial system evolved with man and with the realization that man was a social animal. In today's autocracies, a cabal or a single individual with supremacy makes decisions that affect the lives of all individuals in that country. Kingdoms of the Middle East and some dictatorships in Africa come to mind. It is therefore surprising to realize that a code of laws that governed behavior existed almost 2000 years B.C.E, (Before Common Era, previously known as Before Christ). This codification of laws is known as the famous Hammurabi Code. (Hammurabi and Johns, 2000) the code was created c.a. 1760. Hammurabi was a ruler and priest who ruled the kingdom of Babylon and was the architect of the unification of all of Mesopotamia (Iraq today). Hammurabi came from the Amorite dynasty and was its sixth monarch. (Bartleby, 2009) This code was written in stone on a stone pillar called a stela. The writing was in cuneiform, which was only deciphered as a proper language after much effort. (LawBuzz, 2009) Just as the laws of God -- the Ten Commandments was sent down through God to Moses, this code was depicted as being handed down to Hammurabi by Shamash the God of Justice. (Cook, 1903)

This stela was discovered in Turkey and not Mesopotamia in 1901. There is speculation therefore, that this stela was the original or a copy and it was carried off as spoils of war in the intervening centuries. The Hammurabi code currently resides as a Louvre Museum in Paris, France and is a much visited exhibit. Interestingly, scholars aver that the Hammurabi code is not a depiction of the invention of these laws. These laws or variants of it existed for several generations and centuries before Hammurabi came along. Indeed, they governed people's behavior. But at least in recorded history, Hammurabi's code was the first formal codification of these sets of rules. Why Hammurabi felt the need to formalize these laws is still open to speculation. But since he was responsible for making Babylon the world's first ever metropolis, he felt it incumbent (perhaps) that a formal set of rules ought to govern a society-driven metropolitan community.

Hammurabi's code is comprehensive, while not being exhaustive. He does account for almost all possible human foibles and suggests appropriate penalties. Though the discovery of the code was not until modern times, it is possible that this code, partially or in total, were passed down through the ages in spoken or otherwise written form. Indeed, the concept of "an eye for an eye; a tooth for a tooth" which became the hallmark of early Judaic jurisprudence come across very strongly in Hamurrabi's code. One might recognize that such a precise system governing behavior would be preferred to today's age of obfuscation. These laws were not only punitive for the sake of punishment and they did not only deal with society at large. They dealt with family issues as well. One might this consider Hammurabi's code to combine the criminal, civil, as well as the family courts. The code combined matters that ranged from punishments for capital crimes, as well as justice that involved financial restitution.

The code of Hammurabi includes 282 laws. The translations indicate that the laws are comprehensive, and as mentioned above, but not exhaustive. Also, because they have been buried for more than two millennia, about 35 of these (from law 66 to 99) have been too damaged and defaced to be effectively translated.

Before one discusses the laws in Hammurabi code, there is an interesting twist to how the law deals with one who is accused. Indeed the first law cautions against bringing a false accusation against somebody else. The penalty for a false accusation was necessarily, death. This is in case of instances where the level of crime is not clear, or when the status of the accuser is in doubt. In that case, the river was cast as an oracle -- or a medium on which the decision of criminality rested. This appears in law three. If one party is accused by the other, then the accused party had to throw himself in the river. Apparently, the concept of swimming or survival in water had not yet arisen. If the accused drowned, then he was determined as guilty. If he did not drown and was carried safely to shore, the accuser was put to death. This is a very interesting scenario and puts the onus (much like in modern times) of proof of guilt on the part of the accuser. Some other indigenous tribes of South America have a similar practice. In this case, a chicken is used as an oracle. If the chicken eats a special feed and does not die, then one party is favored vs. The other. (Chagnon, 1989)

That the accuser be wary before bringing an accusation can be transliterated in modern times, with a notion that is being proposed by several parties: that the loser pays in case of a lawsuit. This is designed to ensure that the number of nonsense law suits where an ill-informed jury gives unnecessary but huge payouts to perceived injuries is reduced. The level of accusation is also crucial here. If the accuser demands the full penalty through a false accusation, then he merits the same harsh punishment. If the demands are however, tempered, the accuser has a greater chance of being compensated. These are intrinsic checks and balances that Hammurabi believed would be good for society.

Also, judges were not considered above the law. The penalty for making a false judgment meant that the judge would pay a fine that was many times more punitive than the one that the judge imposed. The penalty also involved removal from the bench. Hammurabi's laws did not leave any room for the miscarriage of justice. As mentioned above, a system of checks and balances formed the basis for this judgment.

The penalty for stealing was death, as was the penalty for receiving stolen goods. The law was very exacting here. This did not matter from whom the thief stole. A person who received stolen goods without knowledge that was stolen had to produce a witness or the person who sold the goods to him or her. The middle man, in this case, was deemed guilty and put to death. The item was returned to the original owner; the merchant's estate was used to pay off the person who purchased it. If a witness was not produced, the final recipient was put to death. If the owner of the lost article did not produce a witness who could identify the lost article, then that person was put to death. This allowed potential accusers of being wary of wasting the courts time. The laws of stealing also applied to people -- kidnap. The law was particularly harsh when minors were stolen. The penalty was the same for stealing slaves. Providing succor to escaped slaves without bringing it to the notice of the public was punishable by death. The person who captured a runaway slave was to be rewarded by the slave's owner.

Even taking from someone not properly authorized to give away the material resulted in a fine that was very strenuous. The law in general did recognize a class-based system. A higher level person received a higher privilege under the law. This class of people were bestowed property which could not be sold, and even if sold, had to be returned to the original owner. The fines or penalties were higher if the aggrieved happened to be a person of the upper class than if the person belonged to a lower class. A person who could not make restitution in currency or kind was likely to be put to death. This was another… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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