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Dr. Vladimir Jovicevic

The Code of Danilo - Power of State

In early 1852, Montenegro changed its type of government and after two and a half centuries existence of the theocratic state separated civil authority from the church. Montenegro became a civil princedom - a monarchy, representing an important event in the history of Montenegro.

In the beginning, the society's energy is exhausted by the conflict between civil authority and unbridled clans, particularly during the pre-state period. Later, the princedom was to direct this force towards the conflict with Turkey and consolidating interior rule and law in the country.

The foundations of Montenegrin legislation were defined in 1796 with the passing of the Standards with Legal Power, which sanctions treason of the country. In the Stanjevici Monastery, the Montenegrin and Highlands General Law was passed in 1798 containing 17 articles, and broadened in 1803 with an additional 16 articles. The majority of the regulations of this legal monument are criminal law norms, which regulate the halting of blood feuds, theft, preventing the forcible kidnapping of women and girls, as well as preventing disturbances at markets, etc. This legislation protects tribunals, the church and trade and firmly threatens Montenegrins who engage in warfare in foreign countries. In the age of Njegos we find the Paternity Law of 1833, which remained in the phase of a legal project. This Law contains 20 articles of which the majority fall in the branch of criminal law.

With the uprooting of blood feuds and theft, the state consolidated itself and assured its citizens security of person and property. The State won over the clan. The rule of law in Montenegro is no longer a fiction, it is a reality. The consistent application of laws, which sanction blood feuds and theft, enabled the direction of society's energy in the tight against Turkey and the further consolidation of the state.

The General Law binds to the rule: a healthy family - a healthy state. The family is the basic social core, which physically and morally continues the Montenegrin warrior society. Tribunals, as a body of government, regularly intervene when the relations in a family, which is uplifted to a high degree of protection by the Legislation, are disturbed.

The General Law prevented the easy dissolving of marriages, severally punishes the kidnapping of girls and married women. Punitive measures are incomparably more sever towards women for adultery than towards men. The interest of the male is always above that of the woman.

Source material depicts the attempt of the state to consolidate the individual family and relations within it, In disrupted marriages, the spouses are placed under the supervision of the Senate, while in cases of lesser disturbed relations they are supervised by the Clan Captains Tribunal. The tribunal practice assumes an elastic position and, as of the mid eighteen sixties, moves more towards the equality of the spouses in rights and obligations.

Montenegro could not enter into reforms without assuring regular sources of financing the needs of the government. In respect to payments, the clan either expresses political obedience to the central authorities. In 1839, Njegos sent armed forces against the Piperi clan to collect taxes, while Prince Danilo in 1852 and 1854 mercilessly calmed a mutiny Piperi and Kuci, who created serious political problems for the consolidation of the central authorities by refusing to pay taxes.

Taxes were collected by clan Captains with the assistance of centurions and corporals. In the second half of the 19th century there is no abuse of tax collection because the chiefs control one another and the taxed peasants receive receipts as official documentary evidence. Out of the collected taxes and fines the Princes Court is supported, travel expenses of the Prince and the Senators in the country and abroad are settled, the salaries of judges are paid, roads are built, aid is given for culture, etc. Public authorities assure a political, legal and territorial unity through the consistent collection of taxes, which all contributes to a great degree to the stabilization of the state. The taxes which were introduced by Prince Danilo remains unchanged till the end of the statehood of Montenegro, only the rate varied.

A particular source of Montenegrin income for financing the Princedom are the funds sized in the fight against usury. The General Law regulates the amount of interest to 20 dinars per talier, however as creditors do not respect this amount of legal profit, but often take interest over interest, the state takes energetic measures to put an end to usury. Small peasants property and the underdeveloped economy enable the formation of usury capital. If a peasant does not pay the principal and interest on time, the usurer confiscates and usurps the debtors property at low prices. Some documents indicate that certain chiefs had lists of debtors to whom they had given money at rates above that proscribed by the General Law. Peasants were obliged to conclude fictive contracts for lager debts than the actual one, so that the creditors could avoid the proscribed interest, which was bearable, and thus collect large sums. The Senate would punish the creditors in disputed cases of taking excess profits.

The Senate, which represents Montenegro in international relations, regulates relations with the courts of neighbouring countries on the basis of mutual respect and reciprocity, offering security to its citizens. Here the official acts are founded upon and revert to General Law, which stimulated the increased international contracting capacities of Montenegro an bestowed it with legitimacy in international relations. The increase in financial transactions and trade of goods with forcing countries influences the development of foreign relations, while peace at the borders allows for a greater respect of Montenegro. Each greater or lesser offence is judged by the laws of the territory where the disputed event occurred.

On the basis of the General Law, Montenegro overcame the religious and heal isolation and exclusiveness and confirmed itself as an independent and sovereign state, an equal subject in international relations.

The Legislation of Danilo I of 1855 assured, through profound and widespread practice, important goals and unavoidable values. The importance and the values of the General Law are multiple. The essence of its values which are implemented in society's practice is in the change in social relations and the consciousness and comportment of the Montenegrins.

Each document represents a from of legal occurrence as a part of society's reality. The very enacting of the General Law is dependent of social forces, represented by the Prince and the clan Chieftains class, prepared to consolidate the state.

Individual norms of the General Law represent moral rules uplifted to the level of legal norms in undisputed cases (treason, adultery, infanticide, etc.) Such norms are in unity and accordance with the governing moral in the Montenegrin society.

(Text above is Jovicevic's summary of his book published on 1994, Oktoih, Podgorica)