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were not branded like cattle, according to the usage of your sugar islands.
MONTESINOS. A planter,* who, notwithstanding this curious specimen of his taste and sensibility, was a man of humane studies and humane feelings, describes the refined and elegant manner in which the operation is performed, by way of mitigating the indignation which such an usage ought to excite. He assures us that the stamp is not a branding iron, but a silver instrument; and that it is heated not in the fire, but over the flame of spirits of wine.
SIR THOMAS MORE. Excellent planter! worthy to have been flogged at a gilt whipping-post with a scourge of gold thread! ..The practice of marking slaves had fallen into disuse: probably it was only used at first with captives, or with those who were newly-purchased from a distant country, never with those born upon the soil. And there was no means of raising a hue and cry after a runaway slave so effectually as is done by your colonial gazettes, ..the only productions of the British colonial press!
* Bryan Edwards.
your censure, the journals of the United States, ...the land of democracy and equal rights.
SIR THOMAS MORE. How much more honourable was the tendency of our laws, and of national feeling in those days, which you perhaps as well as your trans-Atlantic brethren have been accustomed to think barbarous, when compared with this your own age of reason and liberality! The master who killed his slave was as liable to punishment as if he had killed a freeman. Instead of impeding enfranchisement, the laws, as well as the public feeling, encouraged it. If a villein who had fled from his lord remained a year and a day unclaimed upon the King's demesne lands, or in any privileged town, he became free. All doubtful cases were decided in favorem libertatis. Even the established maxim in law, partus sequitur ventrem, was set aside in favour of liberty; the child of a neif was free if the father were a freeman, or if it were illegitimate, in which case it was settled that the free condition of the father should always be presumed.
MONTESINOS. Such a principle must surely have tended to increase the illegitimate population.
SIR THOMAS MORE.
your own age, and the pernicious effect of your poor laws as they are now thoroughly understood, and deliberately acted upon by a race who are thinking always of their imaginary rights, and never of their duties. You forget the efficacy of ecclesiastical discipline; and that the old Church was more vigilant and therefore more efficient than that which rose upon its ruins. And you suppose that personal liberty was more valued by persons in a state of servitude, than was actually the case. For if in earlier ages emancipation was an act of piety and benevolence, afterwards when the great crisis of society came on, it proceeded more frequently from avarice than from any worthier motive; and the slave who was set free, sometimes found himself much in the situation of a household dog that is turned into the streets.
MONTESINOS. · Are you alluding to the progress of inclosures, which from the accession of the Tudors to the age of the Stuarts* were complained of as the great and crying evil of the times?
* The evil is thus noticed by a writer of James the First's reign, who is less known than he deserves to be for his oddity and his merit: “ This island of ours, within these late days, bath bred a great number of these field-briars, which unna. ' turally turn their mother into barrenness. Oppressors, In
SIR THOMAS MORE. That process originated as soon as rents began to be of more importance than personal
closers, Depopulators, Deportators, Depravators, that turn the land to ruin for a private benefit; and work out a particular gain from a public and general loss.
“ Again, said I, where is it? I will speak boldly, I never knew great man grow greater by his depopulations, and I hope no man will say, he hath grown better by them. Corn-fields are turned to sheep-walks; once-inhabited towns feede oxen; and Churches are made shepherds cottages; and yet the doers of all this never the richer. They keep less hospitality, for a few rooms in London serve their turns; they extort sorer rents, and yet they have never the more money.
“ It cannot bee denyed but the main end of tbese courses was profit, and enhansing their estates, and lo! in this very end God crosseth them. Speak what you will of their pride, of turning the alms they should give to the poor into feasts for the rich, of their infrugal courses : I say confidently, hìc digitus Dei, here is the very hand of God striking them. Man, though he hath authority, will not look to these field-bryars, but let them waste and forage, and play the Abimelechs; but God will. But if wee doe not looke to it, let me say to you, as Jotham to the Shechemites of that aspiring bramble, Judg. 9. If fire come not out of Shechem to devour Abimelech; fire will come from Abimelech to devour Shechem. If you undoe not the oppressions of the field-bryars, their oppressions will undoe us all.” — Adamer's Divine Herball, p. 128. · 1635. The Lord Keeper Coventry says in his Charge to the Judges, “I do require you, that you make a strict inquiry after depopulations and inclosures ; a crime of a crying nature, that services, and money more convenient to the landlords than payments in kind.
MONTESINOS. And this I suppose began to be the case under Edward III. The splendour of his court, and the foreign wars in which he was engaged, must have made money more necessary to the knights and nobles than it had ever been before, except during the Crusades.
barreth God of his honour, and the King of, his subjects. Churches and Houses go down together. His Majesty knoweth and taketh notice, that according to former directions given to you in this place, you have given it in charge to the grand Inquests to inquire, but to little effect: and without doubt the Freeholders of England do hate and detest them. Depopulation is an oppression of a high nature, and commonly done by the greatest persons, that keep the juries under and in awe ; and this is the cause there are no more presented and brought in question. But howsoever your charge and inquiry touching this point hath not taken effect worthy his Majesty's care and your pains, yet his Majesty willeth that you do not cease, but inquire on still. For it is his resolution, against all opposition, to make all men see that he hath a care of this overspreading evil, and of the means of his people, to have Churches and Towns demolished, and his people eaten up like bread, to satisfy the greedy desires of a few, who do waste as profusely as they do gather together unconscionably, and bring unto their posterity that woe which is pronounced to those that lay house to house and field to field, to dwell alone in the midst of the earth.”-Rushworth, ii. 295.