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tracts for slaves may be illustrated out of Doomsday-book. In the burgh of Lewis it says, that at every purchase and sale, money was paid to the gerefa : for an ox, a farthing was collected; for a man, four pennies.
That the Anglo-Saxons were sold at Rome we learn from the well-known anecdote mentioned by Bede, of Pope Gregory seeing them in the markets there. We also read of one being sold in London to a Frisian 50; and of a person in France relieving many from slavery, especially Saxons, probably continental Saxons, who then abounded in that country. It was expressly enjoined in one of the later laws, that no Christians, or innocent man, should be sold from the land.52 They appear to have been very numerous. It is mentioned that there were
some pence ; Sæthrytha for three mancusæ ; Alfgytha and Gunnilda,
50 Bede, 166.
52 Wilk. Leg. Sax. p. 107. “Some young men were exported from Northumberland to be sold, according to a custom which seems to be natural to the people of that country, of selling their nearest relations for their own advantage.” — Malmsb. lib. i. c. 3. “There is a seaport town, called Bristol, opposite to Ireland, into which its inhabitants make frequent voyages on account of trade. Wulfstan cured the people of this town of a most odious and inveterate custom, which they derived from their ancestors, of buying men and women in all parts of England, and exporting them to Ireland for the sake of gain. The young women they commonly got with child, and carried them to market in their pregnancy, that they might bring a better price. You might have seen, with sorrow, long ranks of young persons of both sexes, and of the greatest beauty, tied together with ropes, and daily exposed to sale: nor were these men ashamed, 0 horrid wickedness! to give up their nearest relations, nay, their own children, to slavery. Wulfstan, knowing the obstinacy of these people, sometimes stayed two months among them, preaching every Lord's day; by which, in process of time, he had made so great an impression upon their minds, that they abandoned that wicked trade, and set an example to all the rest of England to do the same.” Henry's Hist. vol. iv. p. 238.
two hundred and fifty slaves, men and women, in the lands given by the king to Wilfrid. 53
But to have a just idea of their number, we must inspect their enumeration in Doomsday-book. No portion of land scarcely is there mentioned without
When we consider the condition of the servile, as it appears in the Saxon laws, we shall find it to have been very degraded indeed. They were allowed to be put into bonds, and to be whipped. 54 They might be branded 65 ; and on one occasion they are spoken of as if actually yoked: “Let every man know his teams of men, of horses, and oxen.'
They were allowed to accumulate some property of their own. We infer this from the laws having subjected them to pecuniary punishments, and from their frequently purchasing their own freedom. If an esne did theow-work against his lord's command, on Sunday evening after sun-set and before the moon set, he was to pay eighty shillings to his lord. If a theow gave offerings to idols, or ate flesh willingly on a fast-day, he was mulcted six shillings, or had to suffer in his hide. 58
If an esne killed another esne, who was in no act of offence, he forfeited all he was worth ; but if he killed a freeman, his geld was to be one hundred shillings : he was to be given up by his owner, who was to add the price of another man.” 59
A Father, if very poor, was allowed to give his
son up to slavery for seven years, if the child consented to it. 60
If the mass of the Anglo-Saxon population had continued in this servile state, the progress of the nation in the improvements of society would have been very small. But a better destiny awaited them; the custom of manumission began; and the diffusion of Christianity, by mildly attempering the feelings of the individual, and by compelling him to cultivate acts of benevolence as a religious duty, increased the prevalence of the practice.
We have many instances of the emancipation of slaves. A landholder, in Edgar's time, who had thirty men on his grounds, directed that out of these thirteen should be liberated as lot should decide; so that, placed in the highway, they might go wherever they pleased.“ It seems to have been an exercise of philanthropy, not uncommon in wills, to give freedom to some of this pitiable class of human kind. Wynfleda displays the compassionate feelings of her sex very strikingly, by directing the emancipation of several of her slaves:
“ Let Wulfware be freed, and follow whomsoever he likes best; and let Wulfæde be freed, on the condition that she follow Æthelfleda and Eadgifa (her daughters); and let Gerburg be freed, and Miscin, and the daughter of Burhulf at Cinnuc; and Ælfsige, and his wife, and his eldest daughter, and Ceolstane's wife; and at Ceorlatune let Pifus be freed, and Edwin, and 's wife ; and at Saccuncumbe let Ædelm be freed, and man, and Johannan, and Spror and his wife, and Enefette, and Gersand, and Snel; and at Colleshylle let Æthelgythe be freed, and Bicca's wife, and Æffa, and Beda, and Gurhan's wife, and let Bryhsig's wife, the sister of Wulfar, be freed;
6 1 Wilk. Conc. 130.
61 3 Gale, Script. 407.
the workman, and Wulfgythe the daughter of Ælfswythe. "62
We have many instruments of manumission extant, from which we learn some of the causes which produced it.
SOMETIMES individuals, from their benevolence, gave them their freedom. Thus Halwun Noce, of Exeter, freed Hagel, his family woman 63; and so Lifgith and his two children were declared free.64 Sometimes the charitable kindness of others redeemed them :
“ Here appeareth in this Christ's book, that Siwine the son of Leofwie, at Lincumb, hath bought Sydelfæda out with five shillings and * * * * pennies, to perpetual freedom, of John the bishop and all the family at Bath ; and hereto witness is Aodric Ladda, and Sæwold, and his two sons, Scirewold and Brithwold."65
So Æilgyfu the Good redeemed Hig and Dunna, and their offspring, for thirteen mancson.66 We will give another specimen of these benevolent actions :
“ Here it is stated in this writing, that Aluric, the canon of Exeter, redeemed Reinold and his children, and all their offspring, of Herberdi for two shillings ; and Aluric called them free and sac-less, in town and from town, for God's love; and the witness to this is,” &c.67
SOMETIMES piety procured a manumission. Thus two Irishmen were freed for the sake of an abbot's soul. But the most interesting kind of emanci
63 Hickes, Diss. Ep. 12.
62 Hickes, Præf. xxii.
67 Wanley, Catal. 152.
BOOK pation appears in those writings which announce to
us that the slaves had purchased their own liberty, or that of their family. Thus Edric bought the perpetual freedom of Sægyfa, his daughter, and all her offspring. So, for one pound, Elfwig the Red purchased his own liberty; and Sæwi Hagg bought out his two sons. 69 Godwin the Pale is also noti. fied to have liberated himself, his wife, and chil. dren, for fifteen shillings. Brightnær bought the perpetual freedom of himself, his wife Ælgyfu, their children and grandchildren, for two pounds. Leofenoth redeemed himself and his offspring for five oran and twelve sheep; and Ægilsig bought his son's liberty for sixty pennies.o
The Anglo-Saxon laws recognised the liberation of slaves, and placed them under legal protection. In one of them it is declared, that if any of them freed his slave at the altar, the theow should become folk-free, or free among the people; but his former owner was to possess his property, his weregeld, and his mund. It was enjoined by the synod, held in 816, that at the death of a bishop, his English slaves, who had been reduced to slavery in his lifetime, should be freed.72
The liberal feelings of our ancestors towards their enslaved domestics appear in the generous gifts which they made to them. The grants of land from masters to their servants are very common.
Our wise and benevolent Alfred directed one of his laws to lessen the number of the enslaved. He
69 See all these emancipations in the Appendix to the Saxon Dictionary.
70 Hickes, Diss. Ep. 13. 9, 10.