Several authors note that Radama Ier did not take any important legal action. But Jean Valette, archivist-paleographer, finds in the Journal de Coppalle some points which reveal an evolution of the laws and manners of tananarivian during the reign of this king. For the diffusion of writing made possible an important innovation: the promulgation of the laws which, from 1826, were placed at the door of the royal palace. Coppalle reports a fact on March 28 of the same year: “It is only recently that the laws are promulgated by poster. They were previously notified orally to the people on the market place. And Jean Valette said: “There is the birth of a legal idea that should be retained, that of the publicity of laws. “
From a penal point of view, Coppalle notes some information on denunciation, theft, and the tanguin. According to him, “a father in a country delivers himself the head of his guilty son”. He attributes this to the character of Radama “at once sovereign and pontiff.” It is no doubt also an application of a principle of Andrianampoinimerina: “I do not want to prevent a torch from enlightening nor virtue from emerging; I mean, on the contrary, and orders that the repentant criminal should have his life saved. Coppalle points out that “flights here are much less frequent than one would expect from a poor and greedy people. Is it the terrible punishment reserved for thieves who would terrify them Slavery, sometimes death? ” The law of Andrianampoinimerina in this respect is still observed: “Theft,” I say to you, “entails the death penalty, because I want children and adults to enjoy their property peacefully … Death to thieves, so if you want to have Free enjoyment of your possessions … »
On the other hand, the position taken by Radama Ier on the ordeal by the tanguin is very different from that of his father. Some authors claim that before Andrianampoinimerina, the tanguin is not given to the accused themselves, but to control animals. According to Jean Valette, this allegation seems contrary to all that one knows so much of Merina and coastal customs. For him, by prescribing the test of the tanguin, Andrianampoinimerina only continues a tradition firmly established before him. “Whenever your consciousness remains hesitant or your decisions are obstinately rejected by either party, use the test poison. Grant it also to those who solicit it, whether the request is made to you by one of the parties or by both, whether their dispute arises from property, money, family land, They are accusations brought from individual to individual. It is by this means that you will be able to discern the impostor and to put it out of harm’s way. “
According to Coppalle, on the advice of Hastie in particular, in 1826 Radama would have long wanted or dared to attack prejudices deeply rooted in his people. “The prince had confined himself for the moment to enacting that from now on two dogs, chosen by the parties, would be subjected to trials in place of their masters. A wise measure, but it does not seem to be included in the Code of Ranavalona I, since its secret will of 1835 expressly foresees it only for “the descendants of Rasoherina and Ralesoka, that is, the heirs of the throne “.
From the point of view of private law (marriage, divorce, adultery), the prescriptions of Andrianampoinimerina continue to be applied under his son. Nevertheless, for Jean Valette, during the reign of the latter, an evolution is observed in the repression of the adultery that began under his father. More specifically, adultery committed by a woman whose husband is in war. In the beginning, if one of the warriors returning from an expedition caught his wife in the act of adultery, he had the right to kill his rival. But if public malignity informs him, he is only entitled to financial compensation. This will be extended to all cases. “I decide that in the future you will no longer be able to assume the right to kill the accomplice of your adulterous wife without incurring yourself a severe punishment. “This would suggest a complete change under Radama I regarding the notion of the responsibility that would have passed from the adulterous man to the woman.
Another order reported by Coppalle concerns the sale of spirits. “I tell you all that if someone buys strong liquors with strangers, he will be made a slave with all his family. As for the stranger who has sold, he will be put in irons and sent back to his own country. “
Two points are to be noted on these codes: before Radama, the foreigners did not penetrate in Imerina; Then, Andrianampoinimerina has already limited the trade and circulation of alcohol by prohibiting them in Vakinankaratra, Ambohimanga and Antananarivo. Radama did not respect the legislation of his father or his own, since Coppalle notes that the king prefers wine and gin to wine, but in a moderate way. Other witnesses say, however, that he is misusing it.