Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/314

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
294
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

the current reason then alleged for enfranchisements was one's soul's health in the realization of a high Christian ideal. About 825 Bishop Jonas, of Orleans, asks: "Why are not master and slave, rich and poor, equal by nature, since they have one Lord in heaven, who is not a respecter of persons?. . . The powerful and rich, taught by these [church fathers], recognize their slaves and the poor as equal to themselves by nature."[1] In the twelfth century Bishop Ivo writes: "If we consult the institutes of God, and the law of nature, in which there is neither bond nor free," etc.[2] In the thirteenth century the doctrine appears in Bracton.[3] When describing the classes of men as free, villains, serfs, etc., he says: "Before God, there is no acceptance of men as free, or of men as slaves." Here we see the doctrine, such as the churchmen had been elaborating it, with its scriptural warrant, pass into the English common law.

In the fourteenth century the kings of France, in enfranchising the communes on the domains, repeatedly allege this doctrine as one of their motives.[4] Undoubtedly, the real motive was that more revenue could be got from them by taxing them as communes than by exacting feudal dues from the members as serfs, but it all helped to spread the doctrine as an idea of what would be "right."

This review now shows that the doctrine of liberty and equality by "nature," by birth, and by natural right was not by any means an eighteenth-century dogma. It had been growing and spreading for eighteen hundred years. It had begun in skepticism about the fairness of slavery. It could not begin with anything else. It went on until it became a philosophical notion of liberty, meaning the natural right of every one to pursue happiness in his own way, and according to his own ideal of it. It could not stop short of that.

This dogma did not emancipate slaves or serfs. During a thousand years, from the sixth to the sixteenth century, the peasants of France and England passed through the stages of slavery, serfdom, villainage, and compulsory settlement,[5] by persistent struggles of their own, aided by economic improvements and po-

  1. "De Instit. Laic," ii, 22; 106 Migne, 213. He quotes Coloss. iv, 1.
  2. Epist. 221; 162 Migne, 226.
  3. Book i, ch. 8, ed. Twiss, 1878.
  4. The originals of these documents are not accessible to me. One of Philippe le Bel is quoted: "Seeing that every creature who is formed in the image of our Lord ought, in general, to be free by natural right," etc.; and one by Louis le Hutin: "Seeing that, by the right of nature, each one ought to be born free," etc.
  5. In September, 1860, the correspondent of the "Augsbürger allgemeine Zeitung" wrote from New York that the correct solution of the American slavery question would be to determine upon five steps: 1, forbid separation of negro families; 2, bind the slaves to the soil; 3, change them into serfs; 4, change serfdom to villainage; 5, abolish the last. (Quoted by Rodbertus, with approval, 2 Hildebrand's "Jahrbücher," 266.) This is as