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behavior. When the celebrated Wilfred had received from Edelevaleh, king of Sussex, the donation of the isles of Selsey, with two hundred and fifty slaves, the bishop instructed them in the Christian faith, baptized them, and immediately made them free. In most of the wills which are still extant, we meet with directions for granting liberty to a certain number of slaves, especially such as had been reduced to slavery by the wite theow, a judicial sentence. Their manumission, to be legal, was to be performed in the market, in the court of the hundred, or in the church.
In the abstract of the population of England in the Doomsday Book, at the close of the reign of William the Conqueror, the whole population is stated at 283,242, of which the servi are 25,156; ancilla, 467; bordarii, 82,119; villani, 108,407; total, 216,149; leaving for the remaining classes, 67,093. The servi of the Norman period, says Bishop Kennett, might be the pure villani, and villani in gross, who without any determined tenure of land were, at the arbitrary pleasure of the lord, appointed to servile works, and received their wages and maintenance at the discretion of their lord. We have the authority of Bracton for asserting that, however unhappy the condition of the servi was in other respects, yet their lives and limbs were under the protection of the laws; so that if the master killed his bondman, he was subject to the same punishment as if he had killed any other person. The form of emancipation of the servi is minutely described in the laws of the Conqueror. The ancilla were female slaves under circumstances nearly similar to the servi. Their chastity was in some measure protected by law. The bordarii were distinct from the servi and villani, and seem to be those of a less servile condition, who had a bord or cottage with a small parcel of
land, on condition that they should supply the master with eggs, poultry, etc., as very necessary for his board and entertainment. Brady says, "they were drudges and performed vile services, which were reserved by the lord upon a poor little house, and a small parcel of land."* The villani have already been described.
There seems to have been no general law for the emancipation of slaves in the statute-book of England. Though the genius of the English constitution favored personal liberty, yet servitude continued long in England, in particular places. In the year 1514, we find a charter of Henry VIII., enfranchising two slaves belonging to one of his manors. As late as 1547, there is a commission from Elizabeth with respect to the manumission of certain slaves belonging to her.
In Italy, in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, the number of slaves began to decrease. Early in the fifteenth century, a writer quoted by Muratori speaks of them as no longer existing. The greater part of the peasants in some countries of Germany had acquired their liberty before the end of the thirteenth century. In other parts, as well as in the northern and eastern portions of Europe, they remain in a sort of villenage to this day. In France, after innumerable particular instances of manumission had taken place, Louis Hutin, by a general edict in 1315, asserting that his kingdom is denominated the kingdom of the Franks, that he would have the fact correspond to the name, emancipates all persons in the royal domains upon paying a just composition, as an example for other lords possessing villeins to follow. Philip
* See General Introduction to the Doomsday Book, by Sir Henry Ellis, principal Librarian of the British Museum, 2 vols., 1833.
the Long renewed the same edict three years afterwards, a proof that the edict of Louis had not been carried into execution. Prædial servitude was not abolished in all parts of France till the Revolution. In 1615, the Tiers Etat prayed the king to cause all serfs to be enfranchised, on paying a composition; but this was not complied with, and they continued to exist in many provinces. Throughout almost the whole jurisdiction of the parliament of Besançon, the peasants were attached to the soil, not being capable of leaving it without the lord's consent; in some places he even inherited their goods, in exclusion of their kindred. Voltaire mentions an instance of his interfering in behalf of a few wretched slaves of Franche Compté. About the middle of the fifteenth century, some Catalonian serfs, who had escaped into France, being claimed by their lords, the parliament of Toulouse declared that every man who entered the kingdom, encriant France, should be free.
On a review of the subject of slavery during the period in question, we find : —
1. That Christianity had done much to abolish slavery, as it existed in the Roman Empire in the time of Constantine and his more immediate successors. The spirit of the Christian religion effected a glorious triumph in almost every portion of the imperial dominions. There was no instantaneous abandonment of the system of servitude. There was no royal edict which crushed the thing at once. But its contrariety to the precepts of the New Testament was gradually seen. Clergymen vindicated the rights of the oppressed. The codes of slave law were ameliorated, till finally the rescripts of Justinian nearly completed the salutary reform.
2. During the last years of the Roman Empire an unfortunate change was going on, which was destined once more to revive the system. The middle class in society was dwindling away. A few distinguished families swallowed up the moderate landholders, or drove them out of the country. A large class of hungry and spiritless dependents, with nothing of Roman but the name, crowded the towns and country-seats. The vices of the upper class rapidly thinned their ranks, till most of the old noble families became extinct. The barbarous lords then rushed in, finding scarcely any thing to obstruct their progress. The abject Roman multitude became slaves in form, as they had been for some time in spirit. The Goth and Vandal threw their chains on the descendants of Cincinnatus and Brutus, and sent them to work in their kitchens and farm-yards. The children of the men from whom Scipio sprung became the scavengers and scullions of Visigoths and Huns. The way had been prepared by the destruction of the middle class, a class which contains the bone and muscle of any community in which it exists. A foundation was thus laid for the slavery of the Middle Ages.
3. In the darkness and confusion which reigned from the fourth to the twelfth century, we might expect that such an institution as slavery would flourish. It was in a sense suited to the times. Its undistinguished and forgotten lot was in some cases, no doubt, a real blessing to individuals, though on general principles, and as a system, it is worthy of nothing but execration. Partial benefits accompanied the feudal system, though in its essential features no wise man could commend it.
4. In the abolition of the servitude of the Middle Ages, Christianity again performed her work of mercy. When
ever her voice could be heard, the poor villein was not forgotten. All contemporary and subsequent history conspires to attribute the gradual abolition of the system to her beneficent but effectual aid.
5. The Northern nations of Europe seem always to have possessed a sense of individual freedom, of personal rights, which, when enlightened and directed by Christianity, became a powerful antagonist force to slavery. The spirit which broke out at Runnymede, at London in 1688, at Philadelphia in 1776, was nurtured in its infancy in the woods of Sweden, and in the marshes of Denmark.
6. The contemporaneous revival of learning must come in for its share in the abolition of slavery. Xenophon and Cicero and Lucan could not be perused without exerting a beneficial influence in ameliorating the asperity of manners, in inspiring a love for freedom, and a tender sympathy towards the oppressed.
7. The same effect must be attributed to the establishment of large towns and cities. This circumstance increased the demand for labor. Various classes of artisans sprung into existence. Wherever ingenuity and skill were required, free labor was in demand. Slavery vanished before the spirit of competition. Labor became honorable. The value of land was augmented. A free population followed in the train.
NOTE. The original authorities which we have consulted on this subject are the Glossarium of Ducange, on the words Servus, Villanus, Tributales, Originarii, Forismaritagium, Arimanni, Oblati, Manumissio, etc., in 6 vols. folio; Heineccius, in 8 vols. quarto; Muratori's Antiquities of Italy, in 6 vols. folio; works of De Malby, in French, 12 vols. octavo. These works are in the Boston Athenæum, and are an invaluable