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husbandman, who succeeded to the business of his station, was mainly this, that the former had neither the feeling nor the insecurity of independence. He served one master as long as he lived ; and being at all times sure of the same sufficient subsistence, if he belonged to the estate like the cattle, and was accounted with them as part of the live stock, he resembled them also in the exemption which he enjoyed from all cares concerning his own maintenance and that of his family. The feudal slaves, indeed, were subject to none of those vicissitudes which brought so many of the proudest and most powerful barons to a disastrous end. They had nothing to lose, and they had liberty to hope for; frequently as the reward of their own faithful services, and not seldom from the piety or kindness of their lords. This was a steady hope depending so little upon contingency, that it excited no disquietude or restlessness. They were therefore in general satisfied with the lot to which they were born, as the Greenlander is with his climate, the Bedouin with his deserts, and the Hottentot and the Calmuck with their
the slaves (servi) are nearly as numerous. There was an intermediate grade called Cottarii. Adam Smith describes Cottars as existing in Scotland in his time.
filthy and odious customs; and going on in their regular and unvaried course of duty, generation after generation, they were content.
“ Fish, Fish, are you in your duty ?” said the young lady in the Arabian Tales, who came out of the kitchen wall, clad in flowered satin and with a rod in her hand. The Fish lifted
up their heads and replied, Yes, yes; if you reckon, we reckon; if you pay your debts, we pay ours; if you fly, we overcome, and are content.” The Fish who were thus content and in their duty, had been gutted, and were in the frying-pan. .. I do not seek, however, to escape from the force of your argument, by catching at the words, On the other hand, I am sure it is not your intention to represent slavery otherwise than as an evil, under
modification. SIR THOMAS MORE. That which is a great evil in itself, becomes relatively a good, when it prevents or removes a greater evil; for instance, loss of a limb when life is preserved by the sacrifice; or the acute pain of a remedy by which a chronic disease is cured. Such was slavery in its origin; a commutation for death, gladly accepted as mercy under the arm of a conqueror in battle, or as the mitigation of a judicial sentence. But it led immediately to nefarious abuses ; and the earliest records which tell us of its existence, show us also that men were kidnapped for sale. With the principles of Christianity,.. the principles of religious philosophy,.. the only true policy,.. to which mankind must come at last, by which alone all the remediable ills of humanity are to be remedied, and for which you are taught to pray when you entreat that your Father's kingdom may come,.. with those principles slavery is inconsistent, and therefore not to be tolerated, even in speculation.
MONTESINOS. Yet its fitness, as a commutation for other punishments, is admitted by Michaelis, (though he decides against it) to be one of the most difficult questions connected with the existing state of society. And in the age of the Revolution, one of the sturdiest Scotch republicans proposed the re-establishment of slavery, as the best or only means for correcting the vices and removing the miseries of the poor.
SIR THOMAS MORE.
The proposal of such a remedy must be admitted as full proof of the malignity of the disease. And in further excuse of Andrew Fletcher, it should be remembered, that he belonged to a country where many of the feudal virtues (as well as most of the feudal vices) were at that time in full vigour. But let us return to our historical view of the subject. In feudal servitude there was no motive for cruelty, scarcely any for oppression. There were no needy slave-owners, as there are in commercial colonies; and though slaves might sometimes suffer from a wicked, or even a passionate master, there is no reason to believe that they were habitually overtasked, or subjected to systematic ill treatment; for that indeed can only arise from avarice, and avarice is not the vice of feudal times. Still, however, slavery is intolerable upon Christian principles; and to the influence of those principles it yielded here in England. It had ceased, so as even to be forgotten in my youth; and villenage was advancing fast towards its natural extinction. The courts decided that a tenant having a lease, could not be a villein during its term, for if his labour were at the command of another, how could he undertake to pay rent? Landholders had thus to chuse between rent and villenage, and scarcely wanted the field of the Cloth of Gold at Ardres to show them which they stood most in need of. And as villenage disappeared, free labourers of various descriptions multiplied; of whom the more industrious and fortunate
rose in society, and became tradesmen and merchants; the unlucky and the reprobate became vagabonds.
The latter class appears to have been far more numerous in your age than in mine.
SIR THOMAS MORE.
Waiving for the present the question whether they really were so, they appear to have been so partly in consequence of the desperate wars between the houses of York and Lancaster, partly because of the great change in society which succeeded to that contest. During those wars, both parties exerted themselves to bring into the field all the force they could muster. Villeins in great numbers were then emancipated, when théy were embodied in arms; and great numbers emancipated themselves, flying to London and other cities for protection from the immediate evils of war, or taking advantage of the frequent changes of property, and the precarious tenure by which it was held, to exchange their own servile condition for a station of freedom with all its hopes and chances. This took place to a great extent, and the probabilities of success were greatly in their favour; for whatever may have been practised in earlier and ruder times, in that age they certainly