What’s Wrong With The Code of Hammurabi?

There is a new twist to Rep. Sorg’s proposal that prior to the state accepting any federal grant, there should be a finding of a reference to the Federalist Papers giving constitutional authority for that grant.

Reps. Kingsbury, Twombly and L. Vita have sponsored a bill that would require a direct quote from the Magna Carta in any bill or resolution addressing individual rights or liverites which sets forth the article from which the individual right or liberty is derived.  Here is a link to the bill:

The Magna Carta?  
Have these representatives read the Magna Carta? Yes, in 1215, it was a landmark document establishing rights and liberties – the rights and liberties of a 13th centruy feudal society, which are a far cry from the rights and freedoms of our democracy.

No widow shall be compelled to marry, so long as she prefers to live without a husband; provided always that she gives security not to marry without our consent, if she holds of us, or without the consent of the lord of whom she holds, if she holds of another.

No village or individual shall be compelled to make bridges at river banks, except those who from of old were legally bound to do so.

Excellent, I won’t be forced to volunteer for the public works department.

No one shall be arrested or imprisoned upon the appeal of a woman, for the death of any other than her husband.

Between 1215 and the time of our American Revolution and the subsequent adoption of our Constitution, the concept of individual rights and liberties had expanded to free speech, assembly, religion. There are hints of some rights, such as due process:

If any one shall have been disseized by us, or removed, without a legal sentence of his peers, from his lands, castles, liberties or lawful right, we shall straightway restore them to him.


However, it does not contain the full roster of rights and liberties in our Constitution. So, why the Magna Carta? Why not the Code of Hammurabi? I mean, the Magna Carta is great, but the Code is much older, and you can’t beat the Code for a real turn of a phrase:

When Anu the Sublime, King of the Anunaki, and Bel, the lord of Heaven and earth, who decreed the fate of the land, assigned to Marduk, the over-ruling son of Ea, God of righteousness, dominion over earthly man, and made him great among the Igigi, they called Babylon by his illustrious name, made it great on earth, and founded an everlasting kingdom in it, whose foundations are laid so solidly as those of heaven and earth; then Anu and Bel called by name me, Hammurabi, the exalted prince, who feared God, to bring about the rule of righteousness in the land, to destroy the wicked and the evil-doers; so that the strong should not harm the weak; so that I should rule over the black-headed people like Shamash, and enlighten the land, to further the well-being of mankind.

That opening pretty much covers it all: bring about the rule of righteousness, destroy the wicked and evil doers, the strong should not harm the weak.  There you go.

Bill O’Brien would like this one:  

If a judge try a case, reach a decision, and present his judgment in writing; if later error shall appear in his decision, and it be through his own fault, then he shall pay twelve times the fine set by him in the case, and he shall be publicly removed from the judge’s bench, and never again shall he sit there to render judgement.

Some of it is a little harsh:

If a tavern-keeper (feminine) does not accept corn according to gross weight in payment of drink, but takes money, and the price of the drink is less than that of the corn, she shall be convicted and thrown into the water.

But it does go along with the desire of some in the majority to expand the death penalty.

[In all seriousness, I will now go weep for my beloved state of New Hampshire.]

Magna Carta:

Code of Hammurabi:

28 Responses to What’s Wrong With The Code of Hammurabi?

  1. Dean Barker December 22, 2011 at 5:17 am #

    weren’t available?

    They don’t read Latin, I guess. Or cuneiform, for that matter.

    • GreyMike December 24, 2011 at 8:47 am #

      See redistricting plan. Just try your Rosetta stone on that one.

      • Granite Gnome December 24, 2011 at 10:12 pm #

        to be armed and extremely dangerous.

  2. Lucy Weber December 22, 2011 at 5:19 am #

    …to have a part in ruling over black-headed people.  ( Or at least one person who would have been black-headed before he started going grey.) Darn.

    On the other hand, being widowed, I am a little concerned about the Magna Carta quote about having to get consent from my overlord to marry.  Do you suppose anyone has considered the effect of this proposed legislation on the Married Women’s Property Act?    

    • mevansnh December 22, 2011 at 5:32 am #

      want a widow’s property returned to the overlord.  Is that Boss O’Brien?

  3. JonnyBBad December 22, 2011 at 5:56 am #

    Don’t forget Moses our lawgiver and prophet…

    The Mosaic Law consists of the rules of conduct given to Moses by God, as described in the Old Testament.
    The Mosaic Law primarily consists of the Ten Commandments, but also includes the rules set forth in the Torah, which is the first five books of the Old Testament.
    The Mosaic Law should not be confused with the Noahide laws, which God gave to Noah after the Great Flood and which are thus independent of the covenant received by Moses.

    • Kathy Sullivan 2 December 22, 2011 at 6:17 am #

      Maybe we need an omnibus Ancient Law bill, which would require reference to at least one of the old codes. In case reps find conflict between the old laws, the reps will decide by swords at dawn by the Merrimack.

      • Lucy Weber December 22, 2011 at 6:32 am #

        of reducing the surplus population.  (cf. references to Dickens in other diaries.)  

      • susaninrindge December 22, 2011 at 9:17 pm #
    • GreyMike December 24, 2011 at 9:05 am #

      Memories of my junior year logic course in college:

      If Moses supposes his toeses are roses,
      Then Moses supposes erroneously;
      For nobody’s toeses are posies or roses,
      As Moses supposes his toeses to be.

      Just wish I could remember which fallacy it was supposed to represent…or was it a lemma? I think I got it right on the exam (I think).

    • TimothyHorrigan December 24, 2011 at 10:37 am #

      We have at least two bills dealing with “commercial affidavits” or “affidavits of truth”.  The idea is that you take all your allegations, package them up, and prefix them with a gassy prolog about “The Eternal And Unchanging Principles Of The Laws Of Commerce.”  The standard prolog reads in part:

      The foundation of Commercial Law is based upon certain eternally just, valid, and moral Precepts and Truths, which have remained unchanged for at least six thousand years, having its roots in Mosaic Law. Said Commercial Law forms the underpinnings of Western Civilization, if not all Nations, Law, and Commerce in the world. Commercial Law is non-judicial, and is prior to and superior to, the basis of, and cannot be set aside Or overruled by the statutes of any Governments, Legislatures, Governmental, or Quasi- Governmental agencies, Courts, Judges, and law enforcement agencies, which are under an inherent obligation to uphold said Commercial Law.

      The basic idea is that you send one of these longwinded affidavits to your least favorite public official, he or she ignores it, and then you can claim that their failure to rebut the affidavit “point for point” is a tacit acknowledgement that your allegations are true.

  4. elwood December 22, 2011 at 6:58 am #
    • susanthe December 22, 2011 at 7:33 am #

      Gene Chandler as his Secretary of the Treasury.  

    • JonnyBBad December 22, 2011 at 8:56 pm #
    • JonnyBBad December 22, 2011 at 8:56 pm #
    • GreyMike December 24, 2011 at 9:07 am #
  5. Douglas E. Lindner December 22, 2011 at 7:40 am #
    • Kathy Sullivan 2 December 22, 2011 at 7:49 am #

      The Magna Carta doesn’t have Anu the Sublime.or destroyers of evil doers.  

  6. cyndychase December 22, 2011 at 8:30 am #

    Hummm, might this not be an economic issue??  After all, it might effect the sale of “Just For Men”…

    • elwood December 22, 2011 at 4:28 pm #
  7. elwood December 22, 2011 at 4:33 pm #

    No new legislation may be introduced without citing its basis in the canon of Robert Zimmerman:

    “Mr. Speaker, this bill provides for greater transparency in conjunction with deregulation. As we know from Absolutely Sweet Marie, “To live outside the law you must be honest…”

    “Limiting light pollution from malls will enable us to see the night sky again, as our grandparents once did. ‘Ain’t it just like the night to play tricks, when you’re trying to be so quiet?’

    • TimothyHorrigan December 23, 2011 at 2:44 am #

      One honorable member from Carroll County would be able to cite this song for all his bills:

      • Legal Beagle December 25, 2011 at 3:31 am #

        I nearly forgot about Tregenza the Bircher!

    • cmnh December 23, 2011 at 4:40 am #

      Every devastating piece of proposed legislation would include the phrase, “Don’t think twice, it’s alright.”  

      • TimothyHorrigan December 25, 2011 at 8:33 pm #

    • Lucy Weber December 24, 2011 at 6:10 pm #

      …still in spin
      and there’s no telling who that it’s namin’.
      For the loser now will be later to win,
      For the times
      They are a-changin.

  8. JonnyBBad December 22, 2011 at 9:04 pm #

    The Code of Hammurabi is a well-preserved Babylonian law code, dating back to about 1772 BC. It is one of the oldest deciphered writings of significant length in the world. The sixth Babylonian king, Hammurabi, enacted the code, and partial copies exist on a human-sized stone stele and various clay tablets. The Code consists of 282 laws, with scaled punishments, adjusting “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” (lex talionis)[1] as graded depending on social status, of slave versus free man.[2]
    Nearly one-half of the Code deals with matters of contract, establishing for example the wages to be paid to an ox driver or a surgeon. Other provisions set the terms of a transaction, establishing the liability of a builder for a house that collapses, for example, or property that is damaged while left in the care of another. A third of the code addresses issues concerning household and family relationships such as inheritance, divorce, paternity and sexual behavior. Only one provision appears to impose obligations on an official; this provision establishes that a judge who reaches an incorrect decision is to be fined and removed from the bench permanently.[3] A handful of provisions address issues related to military service.
    One nearly complete example of the Code survives today, on a diorite stele in the shape of a huge index finger,[4] 2.25 m or 7.4 ft tall (see images at right). The Code is inscribed in the Akkadian language, using cuneiform script carved into the stele. It is currently on display in The Louvre, with exact replicas in the Oriental Institute in the University of Chicago and the Pergamon Museum of Berlin.

    Like Hammurabi, O’Brien has given us the finger.
    italics and bolding mine.

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