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slaves were distinguished by color, or any other physical peculiarity, which might serve as an ineffaceable mark of bondage or degradation. Hence, when manumitted, they at once took rank in society, and their children often rose to high honors in the state. As slaves, indeed, they were often put to servile and economical uses; but they were never treated as mere machines for the production of wealth. They did not perform all the labor, and therefore they did not discredit labor. They were a caste, and so did not accumulate property, either for themselves or others; but they were not a degraded caste; they were not considered vile, as were the Pariahs in India, or as African slaves are, in modern times.
"The unhealthy climate of many portions of Italy," says M. de la Malle, " made it necessary that the ground should be cultivated by freemen who were robust and acclimated, which the slaves seldom were; the latter, also, increased in number very slowly, as their ill health, caused by insufficient nourishment, long confinement, the want of air, and bad treatment, made them more susceptible to the impressions of climate."
The testimony of Varro, a contemporary of CaBsar and Cicero, is positive, and this fact ought to change the ordinary notions as to the kind of agriculture pursued in Italy at a time when Rome was the mistress of the world, and the number of slaves had considerably increased. "All the farms," says Varro, " are cultivated by freemen, or by slaves, or by a mixture of these two classes. Freemen till the ground either by themselves, with the aid of their children, as the small proprietors do, or by free laborers hired by the day, in the busy season, when they are making hay or collecting the grapes, or, finally, by those who are working out the payment of a debt. I speak of all farms in general, as it is more profitable to cultivate the unhealthy districts with hired laborers than with slaves, and even in the healthy localities, the great labors of the husbandmen, such as the collection of the fruits, the harvest, and the vintage, ought to be confided to free hired workmen, or mercenaries." Those who belonged to a caste, as the slaves did, and who, consequently, were not stimulated to labor by the hope of rising or the fear of falling in the world, could not be trusted with the most important work, even on a farm. Modern experience fully confirms this result, as no kind of cultivation is found to succeed, if conducted by slaves, except that of tropical products, where the laborers can be employed in gangs.
"Finally," continues M. de la Malle, "even in the time of Trajan, it appears that in the northern part of Italy, in the neighborhood of Lake Como at least, slaves were not employed in tilling the ground." Pliny the Younger says, "I never use slaves in the cultivation of my farms, nor does any one in the vicinity. This class of persons were mainly reserved for household labors in the city; and one can easily believe that the Gauls, the Germans, the Syrians, the inhabitants of Asia and Africa, when brought as slaves to Italy, would have fallen quickly under the influence of a climate so different from their own, of a pestilential air, and of the exhaustion caused by hard labor and insufficient nourishment."
"In fact, in a country and at a time when the legal rate of interest was fixed at one or one and a half per cent a year, and when the citizens were prohibited from engaging in trade, manufactures, or the mechanic arts, agriculture was the only means of keeping up or making a moderate addition to one's fortune. Landed property was much divided, and the smallness of the farms allowed them to be cultivated by the proprietor's own hands and those of his family." There were really but three classes in the community, separated by lines of division so permanent as almost to form them into castes; these were the slaves, the small agriculturists, and those who were either devoted to the service of the state, or who depended on it for subsistence. At least, this was the condition of Rome under the republic, when the severe virtues of simplicity, courage, and frugality were in request. Wealth then was not a passport to honor, and wealth accordingly was not accumulated. Cincinnatus was summoned from the plough to take the helm of state.
The empire wholly changed the face of affairs; but as this rapidly degenerated into an Oriental despotism, in which the insecurity of life and property was a sufficient bar to the accumulation of the latter, we need not dwell upon the causes of its decline.
After the fall of the Roman empire in the West, and the establishment of various tribes of barbarian conquerors upon its ruins, a great step was taken in social economy by the virtual emancipation of one large class in the community from the fetters of caste. I refer to the inhabitants of the free cities or towns, the foundation of which, in Germany, France, and Italy, was the first step towards the creation of the social polity of modern times. Their population, indeed, says Adam Smith, "consisted of a very different order of people from the first inhabitants of the ancient republics of Greece and Italy. They were chiefly tradesmen and mechanics, who seem in those days to have been of servile, or very nearly of servile, condition. They seem, indeed, to have been a very poor, mean set of people, who used to travel about with their goods from place to place, and from fair to fair, like the hawkers and peddlers of modern times." They were liable, while thus travelling about, to great exactions; they were either plundered without mercy by the arrogant and rapacious, or they paid heavy taxes and tolls as a price of protection. "Sometimes the king, sometimes a great lord, would grant to particular traders, especially to such as lived on their own lands, a general exemption from such taxes; and then, though in other respects nearly servile in their condition, they were called free traders." They were allowed to give away their own daughters in marriage, their children were permitted to inherit their property, they were allowed to dispose of their effects by will; in short, they were released from the most oppressive of the feudal burdens, to which, as of the lower class in society, they had hitherto been subject. "They were generally at the same time erected into a commonalty, or corporation, with the privilege of having magistrates and a town-council of their own, of making by-laws for their own government, of building walls for their defence, and of reducing all their inhabitants to military discipline by obliging them to watch and ward." The nobles despised the burghers or citizens, whom they regarded as a parcel of emancipated slaves, devoted to base mechanic arts, and whose wealth excited their envy and indignation. The king, on the other hand, favored them, as a counterbalance to the power of the nobility, whom they hated and feared; and the weakest monarchs, consequently, were most liberal in their grants of privileges to the cities and towns. Thus the prosperous cities of France and the Low Countries, the famous Hanse towns of Germany, and the flourishing commercial republics of Italy and Switzerland, came into being.
In the country, the distinctions of caste and the consequent limitations of employment still existed. The great barons lived remotely from each other, each on his own estate, surrounded by his retainers and serfs, whose only occupations were war and agriculture, and who had no hope of improving their condition. Exposed to every sort of violence, they naturally contented themselves with a bare subsistence; for to accumulate more would only excite the rapacity of their oppressors. If one of them did make some small savings, he hoarded them with care and secrecy, till he could find some opportunity of running away to a town, where, if he could conceal himself for a year, he was free for ever. Thus a city often grew up to great wealth and splendor, while the country in its neighborhood was in poverty and wretchedness. The great lords themselves could obtain the articles of luxury which they desired only by bartering raw agricultural produce for them, at a great disadvantage, with the inhabitants of the towns. As the wealth and military strength of these municipal corporations increased, they could no longer be taxed but by their own consent; hence they were empowered to send delegates to parliament or the general assembly of the states of the kingdom, where, in connection with the clergy and the nobles, they granted extraordinary aids to the king, and had a potential voice in managing the affairs of the nation.
These cities were not merely republican; they were essentially democratic, in their origin, then* institutions, their social relations, and their tendencies; and my point is to show, that this democratic character was the first cause of their rapid growth in opulence. Being originally servile, or nearly servile, in condition, the inhabitants had no distinctions of rank to begin with; their natural enemies were the nobles, from whose oppressive sway they were but recently emancipated. Trade and manufactures, being their only occupations, were necessarily held in high esteem among them; and he enjoyed their highest confidence and respect who had been most successful in these pursuits. A common interest and common perils bound them very firmly to each other; and the direction of affairs in their little state was naturally intrusted to those whose skill, prudence, industry, and economy had been already rewarded with the largest accumulations of wealth. No one was ashamed of his craft; no one had anything to be proud of but his riches. A brewer and a tanner, a weaver and a goldsmith, sat side by side in the town councils, or led the citizens to the defence of the walls, and even conducted them in armies to the field, where they often defeated the chivalry of France and Germany, and sometimes triumphed over their own monarchs. Van Artevelde of Ghent was a brewer; the Medici of Florence, though popes and kings were reckoned among their posterity, were at first only successful merchants. Wealth being thus the only passport to distinction, and all the avenues to it being in high repute, its possession was eagerly coveted, and the virtues of industry and frugality were practised to the farthest extent With the growth and spread of opulence, and the calling forth of talent from the whole community through the absence of artificial distinctions, the rise and progress of literature and the fine arts were necessarily associated. Poetry, painting, sculpture, and architecture had their origin, in modern times, in the commercial republics of Pisa and Florence, and the free cities of Flanders.
Wealth passed freely from hand to hand. Feudalism was barred out by the city walls; and the father's property, instead of being kept together for the aggrandizement of the family in the person of the oldest son, was distributed equally among the children. If one or more of these were prodigal, careless, or indolent, they sank to that level whence the thrift of the father had raised them, and their places were filled by the more capable and industrious. These alternations of fortune, rapid and frequent, kept up in the community a thirst for gain, and kept down discontent and civil commotions. An aristocracy of wealth has this at least to recommend it, if wholly disconnected with an aristocracy of birth, — that by its fluctuations it rather encourages effort than represses it. While society stagnated among the feudal nobility and at the courts of feudal monarchs, it was galvanized into an almost unnatural activity within the precincts of the little civic republics of Italy, Germany, and the Low Countries. The proud nobles were reduced to seek aid of the fat and wealthy burghers, the painstaking artisans, whom they affected to despise. They obtained