The writ of debt implied a wager of law
, involving oath-taking, but at a time of commercial expansion that witnessed the depersonalization of markets, personal honor and religious fear became less reliable than the commitment by the political authorities to legally enforce contracts to guarantee well-functioning markets.
The carter's repeated but fractured pledges echo the late medieval practice of "wager of law" or "compurgation," which provided one avenue for resolving promissory, contractual, or other conflicts in both civil and ecclesiastical court.(24) When a plaintiff brought a grievance against a defendant, the defendant controverted the plaintiff's charge by swearing an oath denying the allegation.
If the promiser never intended to perform, failure to perform tells the truth about his intention."(31) Civil law solved the dilemma of evaluating intent by judging actions rather than intention, and oath making, whether in wager of law or another form, established a criterion for judging intent.