Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

dent retained the right of ransom under conditions which will presently be indicated.” If the law adds, in regard to foreign servants, “You shall have them for a heritage and shall leave them to your children,” it is in order that at the death of the master the engagement, in case it had not expired, should remain in force for his natural heirs.t As to the manner of treating these servants taken from among the natives, it was in every respect the same as was required toward the home-born. Moses had already announced this principle: “You shall love the strangers who dwell with you as you love yourselves;” and in a given instance, in prescribing kindness toward the Hebrew servant, he gave this injunction to the master, “Thou shalt not oppress him, but he shall be to thee as the hired servant and the stranger.”f I will not affirm that the fundamental principle of the jubilee was extended to men sold by foreign nations, to captives, to real slaves, while reciprocity was not exercised by other nations. However, of right, the very wording of the law involved this application or was capable of receiving it. In fact, the general liberty of the year of jubilee was proclaimed neither for the benefit of the Hebrews alone nor for the benefit of affiliated foreigners; it embraced all the inhabitants of the country without distinction ; it was in a sense from the sacred soil itself, that this liberty was derived. The reader can judge of this; “In the fiftieth year, ye shall proclaim liberty in the land for all its inhabitants; each man shall return to his possession, every person to his family.” The lawgiver chooses the most general expressions that could be employed. This universal application of the law, beside being rightfully inferred upon such grounds, was altogether worthy of the lawgiver who had said, “When a slave shall take refuge with thee, thou shalt not return him to his master; thou shalt let him dwell in whichever of thy cities pleases him, and thou shalt not oppress

[ocr errors]

him.” It was worthy of the man who reminded the people without ceasing, “That the greatest blessing of Jehovah toward them consisted in having brought them out of the house of bondage.” Independently of the term fixed by the law, the engagement for domesticity was canceled in three ways. By the will of the master who said to the servant, “Be freed or disengaged, I give thee thy liberty,” and he gave him a deed of it. By ransom; then the servant repaid the money received in advance for his services, subtracting from the sum the price of the time that he had worked, and giving proof that this money had not been unjustly acquired at the expense of another.” Finally, when the master had maltreated his servants to the extent of wounding them, the magistrates suddenly broke the engagement and left to the servants the integral price without detriment from the censures or penalties to be pronounced against the guilty.t In truth, a concluding article of this law, too concise, and in which, perhaps, some words have been omitted, has given to the legislator intentions which contradict all the preceding statutes of the law. “If any one striking his man-servant or his maid-servant wounds his eye, or occasions him any other evil of this kind, he shall send him free immediately, to compensate him ; if he kills * Not only does the law relative to this defalcation combine all the other statutes, but it is well to reproduce it literally because of the new light which it sheds on the condition of a stranger among the ancient people. “If the stranger from abroad,” it says, “ or even a resident stranger is enriched by thee, and if thy brother having become poor by him engages himself to this resident stranger or to a branch of a foreign fitmily, there may be redemption in his favor. One of his brothers may redeem him, or his uncle, or the son of his uncle, or any other of his near relations, or himself if he finds the means. Then he shall reckon with his master from the year of his engagement to the year of jubilee. If the number of years is still great, he shall return in his ransom an equivalent part of the price of his engagement; if there remain a few years, he shall return according to the lesser number. He shall be regarded as a hired servant who hires himself from year to year. But if the opportunity for his redemption does not occur, he shall go out in the year of jubilee, he and his sons with him.”—LEv. xxv. 47–54. # Mischna. iii, de Sponsalib, chap. I. Selden, de Jur. nat. et gent. lib. iv. Ex. xxi. 26, 27.

him by the blow, he is punished by death; but if the servant dies after a day or two, the master shall not be punished with death, it is his money.* In this last case the law does not attribute the death of the servant to violence, since in the first it punished the guilty. These vague words, it is his money, express rather that the citizen is already punished by the loss sustained. If the legislator had wished to give him absolute power would he not have said; if he wounds his eye, breaks out his tooth or even kills him, it is nothing—it is his money? On the contrary, he requires immediately the liberty of the aggrieved party or the death of the homicide. Finally, the interest which servants inspired in Moses, shows itself in his desire to unite them directly to the family, and to have them participate in all the private and public rejoicings. At Rome masters took the place of slaves on the days of the Saturnalia; it was a vain demonstration. Among the Hebrews, Servants were seated as brothers by their sides. “Thou shalt make feasts of rejoicing, thou, thy son, thy daughter, thy man-servant, thy maid-servant, the stranger, the widow and the orphan.”t It is not necessary to go back to the servitude common among the shepherd patriarchs. Things could hardly be otherwise among little tribes that changed their residence each day, and whose chief resembled rather the absolute master of a great work-room than the governor of a plantation. The prophets often rose up energetically against the violation of the laws with regard to servants. Under the government of Nehemiah a general assembly was convoked to remedy the abuses which had occasioned the captivity and the foreign occupation.f But after having spoken of the terms of domesticity among the Hebrews, how can we fail to recall the laws of the body of ancient nations concerning slaves, in Crete, Sparta, Rome, Thessaly, Sicily? The history of Israel does not give a single instance of

[ocr errors]

the insurrections which were common among these nations. As to modern and Christian nations, I come back to the assertion made at the head of this chapter; it belongs not to them to censure either the Jews or the ancient republics. We know what servitudes their spiritual and temporal masters had imposed on these Jews vanquished by numbers, and deprived of their arms; America and India are full of the remembrance of their exactions; the affranchisement of the serfs dates only a few days back; the slave trade still continues; and even at this very hour in which I write (1827), in the face of a pretended Holy Alliance, extermination hovers over an entire population (Greece), which, reduced for ages to the state of slavery, only asks to awake under a new sun to break her chains.

The foregoing dissertation of Salvador sets at rest two points of the Mosaic law which the advocates of slavery have attempted to plead in their interest, viz., the tenure by which servants of a foreign race were held, and the extent of the Jubilee emancipation. In regard to the first, it is shown that the term “forever” is not absolute but relative; it denotes the longer and often indefinite period until the Jubilee, in distinction from the fixed service of six years. One who should enter upon this larger term of service directly after a jubilee would hardly live out his forty or fifty years, and hence would serve “forever.” It is admitted upon all sides, that every Hebrew servant went out free upon the day of Jubilee; not excepting the servant who had sold his time indefinitely for debt, nor the servant who after the expiration of six years, had volunteered to remain with his master for an indefinite term. But of this last, whose ear was bored with an awl, it is said expressly that “he shall serve forever.” This term “forever,” therefore, cannot be taken to mean absolute perpetuity. It covered the whole period, more or less, from the beginning of the

contract until the subsequent Jubilee—“three years or the war.” And Salvador's argument for the universality of the Jubilee, seems unanswerable. But whatever interpretation is put upon these points, no warrant can be drawn from Moses for a perpetual chattel slavery : since the regulated domesticity of the Hebrew code, whatever its duration, had no one element or feature in common with chattelism. The so-called “buying” of a servant was a contract for a certain control over a person and his services, not the acquisition of a right of property in him as a thing. According to Philippson, “the deliverance of Israel from bondage being the foundation of their own national existence, the exclusion of slavery from among them was the prime condition of that existence. They must be a free people, a Nation of the Free.” The opening and closing remarks of Salvador must be ascribed to his Jewish prejudices against Christianity.

APPENDIX B.

THE following is an epitome of
EwALD’s VIEws UPON HEBREW SERVITUDE.

As long as there are families more distinguished and wealthy than others, so long there will be persons of less note ready to attach themselves to the former; and in a patriarchal state of society, the more exclusive the position of a family, the closer will be the relation of these dependents, and the more likely are they to be regarded as property (eigenthum). Such appears to have been the most ancient form of slavery—in the patriarchal times.

We learn from the Old Testament some of the sources of slavery. The largest proportion of slaves were prisoners of war spared from the sword ; but since among the Jews, this sparing of human booty was restricted, the number of male slaves in Israel could not be

« AnteriorContinuar »