Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAP. XLIV.: Of the Proof by Witnesses. - Complete Works, vol. 2 The Spirit of Laws
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CHAP. XLIV.: Of the Proof by Witnesses. - Charles Louis de Secondat, Baron de Montesquieu, Complete Works, vol. 2 The Spirit of Laws 
The Complete Works of M. de Montesquieu (London: T. Evans, 1777), 4 vols. Vol. 2.
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Of the Proof by Witnesses.
THE judges, who had no other rule to go by than the usages, inquired very often by witnesses into every cause that was brought before them.
The usage of judicial combats beginning to decline, they made their inquests in writing. But a verbal proof committed to writing, is never more than a verbal proof; so that this only increased the expences of law proceedings. Regulations were then made which rendered most of those inquests∥ useless; public registers were established, which ascertained most facts, as nobility, age, legitimacy and marriage. Writing is a witness very hard to corrupt; the customs were therefore reduced to writing. All this is very reasonable; it is much easier to go and see in the baptismal register, whether Peter is the son of Paul, than to prove this fact by a tedious inquest. When there are a great number of usages in a country, it is much easier to write them all down in a code, than to oblige individuals to prove every usage. At length the famous ordinance was made, which prohibited the admitting of the proof by witnesses, for a debt exceeding an hundred livres, except there was the beginning of a proof in writing.
[∥ ]See in what manner age and parentage were proved, Institutions, book 1. chap. 71. and 72.