Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

were so entirely the property of their master, that he could sell them at pleasure. While domestic slavery continued, property in a slave was sold in the same manner precisely in which property in any other movable was sold. Afterwards, slaves became adscripti glebæ, and were conveyed by sale, together with the farm or estate to which they belonged. Slaves had a title to nothing but subsistence and clothes from their master. If they had any peculium, or fixed allowance for their subsistence, they had no right of property in what they saved out of that. All which they accumulated belonged to their master. Slaves were distinguished from freemen by a peculiar dress. Among all the barbarous nations long hair was a mark of dignity and freedom. Slaves were for that reason obliged to shave their heads, and thus they were constantly reminded of their own inferiority. For the same reason, it was enacted in the laws of almost all the nations of Europe, that no slave should be admitted to give evidence against a freeman in a court of justice.*

When charters of liberty or manumission were granted to persons in servitude, they contained four concessions corresponding with the four capital grievances to which men in

* Ducange, under the word Servus, mentions, among others, the following classes of slaves: Of the field; beneficiarii; attached to the soil, adscripti glebæ; censuales servi civitatis, public slaves; servi comitum ; consuetudinarii, a species of serfs; ecclesiastici, belonging to the Church; fiscales, connected with the royal treasury; fugitivi; servi fundorum ; gregarii; massari, a species of serfs; ministeriales, domestics employed in and about the house, of whom twenty classes are enumerated; palatii; servi pœnæ ; stipendiarii; testamentales; tributarii; triduani, who served three days for themselves, and three for their masters; vicarii, who performed in the country-seats duties for their masters, etc.

[ocr errors]

bondage are subject: 1. The right of disposing of their persons by sale or grant was relinquished. 2. Power was given to them of conveying their property and effects by will or any other legal deed. Or if they happened to die intestate, it was provided that their property should go to their lawful heirs, in the same manner as the property of other persons. 3. The services and taxes which they owed to their superior, which had been previously arbitrary and imposed at pleasure, were precisely ascertained. 4. They were allowed the privilege of marrying according to their own inclination. Many circumstances combined to effect this deliverance for the slaves. The spirit and precepts of the Christian religion were of great efficacy. Christians became so sensible of the inconsistency of their conduct with their professions, that to set a slave free was deemed an act of highly meritorious piety. "The humane spirit of the Christian religion," says Dr. Robertson, " struggled long with the maxims and customs of the world, and contributed more than any other circumstance to introduce the practice of manumission." * A great part of the charters of manumission previously to the reign of Louis X. were granted "pro amore Dei, pro remedio animæ, et pro mercede animæ." The formality of manumission was executed in church, as a religious solemnity. The person to be set free was led

[ocr errors]

* When Pope Gregory, towards the end of the sixth century, granted liberty to some of his slaves, he introduces this reason for it: "Cum Redemptor noster, totius conditor naturæ, ad hoc propitiatus humanam carnem voluerit assumere, ut divinitatis suæ gratia, dirempto (quo tenebatur captivus) vinculo, pristinæ nos restitueret libertati ; salubriter agitur, si homines, quos ab initio liberos natura protulit, et jus gentium jugo substituit servitutis, in ea, qua nati fuerant, manumittentis beneficio, libertate reddantur."

VOL. II.

11

[ocr errors]

round the great altar with a torch in his hand; he took hold of the horns of the altar, and there the solemn words of conferring liberty were pronounced. Another method of obtaining liberty was by entering into holy orders, or taking the vow in a monastery. This was permitted for some time, but so many slaves escaped, by this means, out of the hands of their masters, that the practice was afterwards restrained, and at last prohibited by the laws of most of the nations of Europe. Princes, on the birth of a son, or other joyous event, enfranchised a certain number of slaves as a testimony of gratitude to God. There are several kinds of manumission published by Marculfus, and all of them are founded on religious considerations, in order to procure the favor of God, or to obtain the forgiveness of sins. Mistaken ideas concerning religion induced some persons to relinquish their liberty. The oblati, or voluntary slaves of churches or monasteries, were very numerous. Great, however, as the power of religion was, it does not appear that the enfranchisement of slaves was a very frequent practice while the feudal system maintained its ascendency. The inferior order of men owed the recovery of their liberty in part to the decline of that aristocratical policy, which lodged the most extensive power in the hands of a few members of the society, and depressed all the rest. When Louis X. issued his ordinance, some slaves had been so long accustomed to servitude, that they refused to accept of the freedom which was offered them. Long after the reign of Louis X., several of the ancient nobility continued to exercise dominion over their slaves. In some instances when the prædial slaves were declared to be freemen, they were still bound to perform certain services to their ancient masters, and were kept in a state different from other subjects,

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

being restricted either from purchasing land, or becoming members of a community within the precincts of the manor to which they formerly belonged.

Slavery seems to have existed among our English ancestors from the earliest times. The anecdote respecting the Angli found in Rome by Pope Gregory, is well known. The Anglo-Saxons, in their conquests, probably found, and certainly made, a great number of slaves. The posterity of these men inherited the lot of their fathers. Many freeborn Saxons, on account of debt, want, or crime, lost their liberty. The enslavement of a freeman was performed before a competent number of witnesses. The unhappy man laid on the ground his sword and lance, the symbols of the free; took up the bill and the goad, the implements of slavery; and, falling on his knees, placed his head, in token of submission, under the hands of his master. In the more ancient laws, we find various classes of slaves. The most numerous class were the villani. All were, however, forbidden to carry arms, were subjected to ignominious punishments, and might be branded and whipped according to law.* In the charter, by which one Harold of Buckenhale gives his manor of Spalding to the Abbey of Croyland, he enumerates among its appendages, Colgrin his bailiff, Harding his smith, Lefstan his carpenter, Elstan his fisherman, Osmund his miller, and nine others, who were probably husbandmen; and these, with their wives and children, their

*In the reign of Athelstan, a man-thief was ordered to be stoned to death by twenty of his fellows, each of whom was punished with three whippings, if he failed thrice to hit the culprit. A woman-thief was burned by eighty women-slaves, each of whom brought three billets of wood to the execution. If either failed, she was likewise whipped.

goods and chattels, and the cottages in which they lived, he transfers in perpetual possession to the Abbey. The sale and purchase of slaves prevailed during the whole of the Anglo-Saxon period. The toll in the market of Lewes was one penny for the sale of an ox, four pennies for that of a slave. On the importation of foreign slaves no impediment had ever been imposed. The export of native slaves was forbidden under severe penalties. But habit and avarice had taught the Northumbrians to bid defiance to all the efforts of the legislature. They even carried off their relations, and sold them as slaves in the ports of the Continent. The men of Bristol were the last to abandon this traffic. Their agents travelled into every part of the country; they were instructed to give the highest price for females in a state of pregnancy; and the slave-ships regularly sailed from that port to Ireland, where they were secure of a ready and profitable market. At last, Wulstan, Bishop of Worcester, visited Bristol several years successively, resided for months in the neighborhood, and preached every Sunday against the barbarity and irreligion of the slave-dealers. The merchants were convinced by his reasons, and in their guild solemnly bound themselves to renounce the trade. The perfidy of one of the members was punished with the loss. of his eyes. The influence of religion considerably mitigated the hardships of the slaves. The bishop was the appointed protector of the slaves in his diocese. The masters were frequently admonished, that slaves and freemen were of equal value in the eyes of the Almighty; that all had been redeemed at the same price; and that the master would be judged with the same rigor which he had exercised towards his dependents. The prospect of obtaining their freedom was a powerful stimulus to their industry and good

[ocr errors]
« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »