Open main menu
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

and two-thirds German-speaking. The parish church of St Benedict dates from 1451, but was restored in 1775—it has some fine 15th-century painted glass in the choir. In the town is the Schwab museum, which is chiefly notable for its fine collection of objects from the lake-dwellings. To the north-west of Bienne two funicular railways lead up to Évilard (or Leubringen) and Macolin (or Magglingen), both situated on the slope of the Jura.

First mentioned in the 12th century, Bienne continued for centuries to be under the jurisdiction of the prince-bishop of Basel. In 1279 (permanently in 1352) it made an alliance with Bern, in 1344 with Soleure, and in 1382 with Fribourg. But its attempts to be admitted into the Swiss Confederation were fruitless, though after it adopted the Reformation in 1525, it was closely associated with the Protestant cantons. In 1798 it was seized by the French, but in 1815, with the greater part of the bishopric of Basel, it became part of the canton of Bern.

See C. A. Bloesch, Geschichte der Stadt Biel (to 1854), (3 vols., Biel, 1855–1856).  (W. A. B. C.) 

BIENNE, LAKE OF, or Bielersee, a lake in Switzerland, S.W. of the town of Bienne, and extending along the southern foot of the Jura range. It is 71/2 m. in length, 21/2 m. broad and 249 ft. in depth, while its surface is 1424 ft. above the sea-level, and its area 16 sq. m. In it is the Île de St Pierre, where Rousseau resided for a short time in 1765. Many traces of lake-dwellings have been discovered on the shores of the lake. It receives the river Suze or Scheuss at its north-east end, while the Hagneck canal leads the waters of the Aar into the lake, as that of Nidau conducts them out again. At the southwestern end the river Thièle or Zihl flows into this lake from that of Neuchâtel.  (W. A. B. C.) 

BIERSTADT, ALBERT (1830–1902), American landscape painter, was born in Solingen, Westphalia, Germany, on the 7th of January 1830, and was taken to the United States when about a year old. In 1853–1856 he studied painting at Düsseldorf. His pictures of the western part of the United States, and particularly the Rocky Mountains, made him widely popular. His “Estes Park, Colorado,” is in the collection of the earl of Dunraven; his “Sierra Nevada” (1878) is in the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, and “The Valley of Yosemite” in the James Lenox collection in New York. He received many German and Austrian decorations, and was a chevalier of the French Legion of Honour. He rendered panoramic views with a certain ability, though his work was rather topographically correct and impressive than artistic in conception and execution. He was a member of the National Academy of Design of New York, and is represented by two historical paintings, “The Discovery of the Hudson River,” and “The Settlement of California,” in the Capitol in Washington, D.C. He died in New York City on the 18th of February 1902.

BIFROST, in Old Norse mythology, the rainbow, which was supposed to form the bridge by which the gods passed between heaven and earth. It was guarded by Heimdal, god of light.

BIGAMY (from Lat. bis, twice, and Gr. γάμος, marriage), in English law. according to the statute now in force (24 and 25 Vict. c. 100, § 57), the offence committed by a person who “being married shall marry any other person during the life of the former husband or wife.” In the canon law the word had a rather wider meaning, and the marriage of a clerk in minor orders with a widow came within its scope. At the council of Lyons (A.D. 1274) bigamists were stripped of their privilege of clergy. This canon was adopted and explained by an English statute of 1276; and bigamy, therefore, became a usual counterplea to the claim of benefit of clergy. However, by an act of 1547 every person entitled to the benefit of clergy is to be allowed the same, “although he hath been divers times married to any single woman or single women, or to any widow or widows, or to two wives or more.”

A bigamous marriage, by the ecclesiastical law of England, is simply void. By a statute of 1604 the offence was made a felony. This statute, after being repealed in 1828, was re-enacted and reproduced in the Offences against the Person Act 1861. It is immaterial whether the second marriage has taken place within England and Ireland or elsewhere, and the offence may be dealt with in any county or place where the defendant shall be apprehended or be in custody. The following clause embodies the necessary exceptions to the very general language used in the definition of the offence.—“Provided that nothing in this section contained shall extend to any second marriage contracted elsewhere than in England and Ireland by any other than a British subject, or to any person marrying a second time whose husband or wife shall have been continuously absent from such person for the space of seven years then last past, and shall not have been known by such person to be living within that time, or shall extend to any person who at the time of such second marriage shall have been divorced from the bond of the first marriage, or to any person whose former marriage shall have been declared void by any court of competent jurisdiction.” The punishment is penal servitude for not more than seven nor less than five years, or imprisonment with or without hard labour, not exceeding two years.

A valid marriage must be proved in the first instance in order to support a charge of bigamy. A voidable marriage, such as were marriages between persons within the prohibited degrees before the Marriage Act 1836, will be sufficient, but a marriage which is absolutely void as all such marriages now are, will not. For example, if a woman marry B during the lifetime of her husband A, and after A’s death marry C during the lifetime of B, her marriage with C is not bigamous, because her marriage with B was a nullity. In regard to the second marriage (which constitutes the offence) the English courts have held that it is immaterial whether, but for the bigamy, it would have been a valid marriage or not. An uncle, for example, cannot marry his niece; but if being already married he goes through the ceremony of marriage with her he is guilty of bigamy. In an Irish case, however, it has been held that to constitute the offence the second marriage must be one which, but for the existence of the former marriage, would have been valid. With reference to the case in which the parties to the first marriage have been divorced, it may be observed that no sentence or act of any foreign country dissolving a vinculo a marriage contracted in England by persons continuing to be domiciled in England, for grounds on which it is not liable to be dissolved a vinculo in England will be recognized as a divorce (R. v. Lolley 1812, R. & R. 237). Hence, a divorce a vinculo for adultery, in a Scottish court, of persons married in England, is not within the statute. But if a person charged with bigamy in England can prove that he has been legally divorced by the law of the country where the divorced parties were domiciled at the time (even though the ground on which the divorce was granted was not one that would justify a divorce in England) it will be good defence to the charge. Criminal jurisdiction is always regarded as purely territorial, but bigamy (together with homicide and treason) is an exception to this rule. A British subject committing bigamy in any country may be tried for the same in the United Kingdom (Earl Russell’s case, 1901).

In Scotland, at the date of the only statute respecting bigamy, that of 1551, cap. 19, the offence seems to have been chiefly considered in a religious point of view, as a sort of perjury, or violation of the solemn vow or oath which was then used in contracting marriage; and, accordingly, it was ordained to be punished with the proper pains of perjury.

Bigamy was punished in England until the reign of William III. by death, then the penalty changed to life imprisonment and branding of the right hand. An act of George I. still in force lessened the penalty to deportation for seven years or imprisonment for two years with or without hard labour. The Offences against the Person Act 1861 changed deportation to penal servitude.

In the United States the law in regard to bigamy is practically founded on the English statute of 1604, with the exception that imprisonment and a fine, varying in the different states, were substituted instead of making the offence a felony. Congress has passed a statute declaring bigamy within the territories and places within the exclusive jurisdiction of the United