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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

The following enactment in the Gentoo Code


[112] Vol. ii., page 17.

[113] Golbery's Travels, translated by Francis Blagden. Vol. i, page 158.

"Nothing tends more to call in question the mildness of the Hindoo disposition than the vast scale of the practice of decoity. This term, though essentially synonymous with robbery, suggests, however, very different ideas. With us, robbers are daring and desperate outlaws, who hide themselves in the obscure corners of great cities, shunned and detested by all society. In India, they are regular and reputable persons, who have not only houses and families, but often landed property, and have much influence in the villages where they reside. This profession, like all others, is hereditary; and a father has been heard, from the gallows, carefully admonishing his son not to be deterred, by his fate, from following the calling of his ancestors. They are very devout, and have placed themselves under the patronage of the goddess Kali, revered in Bengal above all other deities, and who is supposed to look with peculiar favour on achievements such as theirs. They are even recognized by the old Hindoo laws, which contain enactments for the protection of stolen goods, upon a due share being given to the magistrate. They seldom, however, commit depredations in their own village, or even in that immediately adjoining, but seek a distant one, where they have no tie to the inhabitants. They are formed into bands, with military

organization, so that when a chief dies, there is always another ready to succeed him. They calculate that they have ten chances to one of never being brought to justice."

The old Hindoo law alluded to in the above passage is, I presume, the following enactment in the Gentoo Code, translated by Nathaniel Brassey Halhed, page 146: "The mode of shares among robbers is this: If any thieves, by the command of the magistrate, and with his assistance, have committed depredations upon, and brought any booty from, another province, the magistrate shall receive a share of one-sixth of the whole; if they receive no command or assistance from the magistrate, they shall give the magistrate, in that case, one-tenth of his share; and of the remainder, their chief shall receive four shares: and whosoever among them is perfect master of his occupation, shall receive three shares; also whichever of them is remarkably strong and stout, shall receive two shares; and the rest shall receive each one share. If any one of the community of thieves happens to be taken, and should be released from the Cutchery, (court of justice), upon payment of a sum of money, all the thieves shall make good that sum by equal shares."--"In the Gentoo code containing this law, there are many severe enactments against theft and robbery of every description; but these laws refer to domestic disturbers of their own countrymen, or violators of the first principles of society. The law which regulates these shares of robbers, refers only to such bold and hardy adventurers as sally forth to levy contributions in a foreign province."

Now our Gipsies are, in one point, exactly on a level with the adventurers here mentioned. They look upon themselves as being in a foreign land, and consider it fair game to rob, plunder, and cheat all and every one of the "strangers" among whom they travel. I am disposed to believe that there were also rules among the Gipsy bands for dividing their booty, something like the old Hindoo law alluded to.[114]


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