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covered by this means. Hence its great importance, the vast amount of space devoted to it in the laws, and the fact that the law of distress deals incidentally with every other branch of law and reveals best the customs, habits, and character of the people. A claimant in a civil case might either summon his debtor before a brehon, get a judgment, and seize the amount adjudged, or, by distraining first at his own risk, force the defendant either to pay or stop the seizure by submitting the matter in dispute to trial before a brehon, whom he then could choose. There was no officer corresponding to a sheriff to distrain and realize the amount adjudged; the person entitled had to do it himself, accompanied by a law-agent and witnesses, after, in "distress with time", elaborate notices at intervals of time sufficient to allow the defendant to consider his position and find means of satisfying the claim if he could. In a proper case his hands were strengthened by very explicit provisions of the law. "If a man who is sued evades justice, knowing the debt to be due of him, double the debt is payable by him.” In urgent cases "immediate distress" was allowed. In either case the property seized-usually cattle—was not taken to the plaintiff's home, but put into a pound, and by similar easy stages became his property to the amount of the debt. The costs were paid out of what remained, and any ultimate remainder was returned. On a fuidir (foodyir) =serf or other unfree person resident in the territory incurring liability to a clansman, the latter might proceed against the flaith on whose land the defendant lived, or might seize immediately any property the defendant owned, and if he owned none, might seize him and make him work off the debt in slavery.
Seizure of property of a person of higher rank than the plaintiff had to be preceded by troscead (truscah) = fasting upon him. This consisted in waiting at the door of the defendant's residence without food until the debt was paid or a pledge given. The laws contained no process more strongly enforced than this. A defendant who allowed a plaintiff properly fasting to die of hunger was held by law and by public opinion guilty of murder, and completely lost his eineachlann. Both text and commentary declare that whoever refuses to cede a just demand when fasted upon shall pay double that
amount. If the faster, having accepted a pledge, did not in due course receive satisfaction of his claim, he forthwith distrained, taking and keeping double the amount of the debt. The law did not allow those whom it at first respected to trifle with justice.
Troscead is believed to have been of druidical origin, and it retained throughout, even in Christian times, a sort of supernatural significance. Whoever disregarded it became an outcast and incurred risks and dangers too grave to be lightly faced. Besides being a legal process, it was resorted to as a species of elaborate prayer, or curse,-a kind of magic for achieving some difficult purpose. This mysterious character enhanced its value in a legal system deficient in executive power.
NON-CITIZENS. From what precedes it will be understood that there were in ancient Ireland from prehistoric times people not comprised in the clan organization, and therefcre not enjoying its rights and advantages or entitled to any of its land, some of whom were otherwise free within certain areas, while some were serfs and some slaves. Those outsiders are conjectured to have originated in the earlier colonists subdued by the Milesians and reduced to an inferior condition. But the distinction did not wholly follow racial lines. Persons of pre-Milesian race are known to have risen to eminence, while Milesians are known to have sunk, from crime or other causes, to the lowest rank of the unfree. Here and there a daer-tuath = "bond community”, of an earlier race held together down to the Middle Ages in districts in which conquest had left them and to which they were restricted. Beyond that restriction, exclusion from the clan and its power, some peculiarities of dialect, dress, and manners, and a tradition of inferiority such as still exists in certain parishes, they were not molested, provided they paid tribute, which may have been heavy.
There were also bothachs = cottiers, and sen-cleithes = old adherents of a flaith, accustomed to serve him and obtain benefits from him. If they had resided in the territory for three generations, and been industrious, thrifty, and orderly, on a few of them joining their property together to the num
the apprehension that any change of word or phrase might change the law itself, these archaic laws, when subsequently committed to writing, were largely preserved from the progressive changes to which all spoken languages are subject, with the result that we have today, embedded in the Gaelic text and commentaries of the Senchus Mór, the Book of Aicill, and other law works, available in English translations made under a Royal Commission appointed by Government in 1852, and published, at intervals extending over forty years, in six volumes of "Ancient Laws and Institutions of Ireland," a mass of archaic words, phrases, law, literature, and information on the habits and manners of the people, not equalled in antiquity, quantity, or authenticity in any other Celtic source. In English they are commonly called Brehon Laws, from the genitive case singular of Brethem =“judge”, genitive Brethemain (pronounced brehun), as Erin is an oblique case of Eire, and as Latin words are sometimes adopted in the genitive in modern languages which themselves have no case distinctions. It is not to be inferred from this name that the laws are judge made. They are rather case law, in parts possibly enacted by some of the various assemblies at which the laws were promulgated or rehearsed, but for the most part simple declarations of law originating in custom and moral justice, and records of judgments based upon “the precedents and commentaries”, in the sort of cases common to agricultural communities of the time, many of the provisions being as inapplicable to modern life as modern laws would be to ancient life. A reader is impressed by the extraordinary number and variety of cases with their still more numerous details and circumstances accumulated in the course of long ages, the manner in which the laws are inextricably interwoven with the interlocking clan system, and the absence of scientific arrangement or guiding principle except those of moral justice, clemency, and the good of the community. This defect in arrangement is natural in writings intended, as these were, for the use of judges and professors, experts in the subjects with which they deal, but makes the task of presenting a concise statement of them difficult and uncertain.
SOCIETY LAW. The law and the social system were inseparable parts of a complicated whole, mutually cause and consequence of each other. Tuath, clann, cinel, cine, and fine (pronounced thooah, clong, kinnel, kineh, and fin-yeh) were terms used to denote a tribe or set of relatives, in reality or by adoption, claiming descent from a common ancestor, forming a community occupying and owning a given territory. Tuath in course of time came to be applied indifferently to the people and to their territory. Fine, sometimes designating a whole tribe, more frequently meant a part of it, occupying a distinct portion of the territory, a potential microcosm or nucleus of a clan, having limited autonomy in the conduct of its own immediate affairs. The constitution of this organism, whether as contemplated by the law or in the less perfect actual practice, is alike elusive, and underwent changes. For the purpose of illustration, the fine may be said to consist, theoretically, of the "seventeen men” frequently mentioned throughout the laws, namely, the flaithfine -- chief of the fine; the geil fine his four fullgrown sons or other nearest male relatives; the deirbhfine, tarfine, and innfine, each consisting of four heads of families in wider concentric circles of kinship, say first, second, and third cousins of the flaithfine. The fine was liable, in measure determined by those circles, for contracts, fines, and damages incurred by any of its members so far as his own property was insufficient, and was in the same degree entitled to share advantages of a like kind accruing. Intermarriage within this fine was prohibited. The modern term "sept" is applied sometimes to this group and sometimes to a wider group united under a flaith (flah) = "chief”, elected by the flaithfines and provided, for his public services, with free land proportionate to the area of the district and the number of clansmen in it. Clann might mean the whole Irish nation, or an intermediate homogeneous group of fines having for wider purposes a flaith or ri-tuatha=king of one tuath, elected by the flaiths and flaith fines, subject to elaborate qualifications as to person, character, and training, which limited their choice, and provided with a larger portion of free land. This was the lowest chief to whom the title ri, righ (both pr, ree) = rex, or "king", was applied. A
group of these kinglets connected by blood or territory or policy, and their flaiths, elected, from a still narrower circle of specially trained men within their own rank, the ri-mortuatha = king of the territory so composed, to whose office a still larger area of free land was attached. In turn, kings of this class, with their respective sub-kings and flaiths, elected from among the riogh-dhamhna (ree-uch-dhowna) = materia principum or "king-timber", a royal fine specially educated and trained, a ri-cuighidh (ree coo-ee-hee) supreme over five rimor-tuathas - roughly, a fourth of Ireland. These, with their respective principal supporters, elected the ard-ri="supreme king", of Ireland, who for ages held his court and national assemblies at Tara and enjoyed the kingdom of Meath for his mensal land. Usually the election was not direct to the kingship, but to the position of tanaiste "second" (in authority), heir-apparent to the kingship. This was also the rule in the learned professions and "noble” arts, which were similarly endowed wth free land. The most competent among those specially trained, whether son or outsider, should succeed to the position and land. All such land was legally indivisible and inalienable and descended in its entirety to the successor, who might, or might not, be a relative of the occupant. The beneficiaries were, however, free to retain any land that belonged to them as private individuals.
Membership of the clan was an essential qualification for every position; but occasionally two clans amalgamated, or a small fine, or desirable individual, was co-opted into the clanin other words, naturalized. The rules of kinship determined eineachlann (ain-yach-long) “honor value”, the assessed value of status, with its correlative rights, obligations, and liabilities in connection with all matters civil and criminal; largely supplied the place of contract; endowed members of the clan with birthrights; and bound them into a compact social, political, and mutual insurance copartnership, self-controlled and self-reliant. Eineachlann rested on the two-fold basis of kinship and property, expanding as a clansman by acquisition of property and effluxion of time progressed upward from one grade to another; diminishing if he sank; vanishing if for crime he was expelled from the clan.