Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 22.djvu/825

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THE LEGAL STATUS OF SERVANT-GIRLS.

captivity in time of war, or by the voluntary submission of the indigent, the prosperous and opulent became possessed of numerous servants, whom they chastised, sold, killed, and subjected to unlimited jurisdiction generally. In time the master possessed so many of these abject creatures that their numbers surpassed the accommodations of the household, and it became necessary to quarter them out upon the fields they cultivated. Here they lived in hamlets, and were called villagers, or villeins. Living apart from the master, it became less easy for him to keep a strict watch over their behavior, or to compel them to labor by chastisement. To incite them to work, gifts of money were made, and better results were obtained by making the pay proportionate to the results accomplished. Thus the master, using bribery instead of compulsion, and being removed from constant personal contact with his servants, had less occasion to become enraged at their short-comings, or to visit them with severe punishment. The exercise of dominion over life became less frequent, then ceased, and with a growing sense of justice the arbitrary power was forever lost, though it took centuries of the slow-working processes of evolution to accomplish this result. Potgresserus says that not till the twelfth century was the power lost.

But if progress has brought amelioration to the servile class and promises still more, it has brought also its disadvantages, some of which are the results of changed and improved relations. In the early ages masters and servants were more nearly alike in employments and manners of living than they are now. The acquirement of wealth and the luxurious habits which wealth introduced destroyed this degree of equality; the additional advantages inured to the benefit of the master alone; the servant remained indigent. The effect of social progress was thus to separate their lives as well as their interests. Servants constitute an isolated class. By an unwritten social law they are cut off from intimacy with their superiors, and consequently fail to reap the advantages which follow a community of interests with those above them. They fail to be leavened by the influences which act for the elevation of the community at large. This has operated to retard their progress and elevation, and produces aggravating effects which are more marked in our own republican country than in those countries where social gradations are more definitely established. Even in slavery there was a certain community of interest and responsibility on the part of the master, of which we see but little in the surviving forms of domestic servitude. This isolation drives servants to self-defense against the iron hand of control on the part of masters and mistresses, and results in a spirit of antagonism, leading to tacit conspiracy against those whom they regard as their enemies. Obligations sit lightly upon servants, and they habitually study to promote their own interests by unscrupulous arts and all kinds of dishonest practices. This may be deplored, but we may well ask, What are the