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History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empir

The obscurity of his views with regard to the res mancipi

the richest citizen to the

measure of five hundred jugera, or three hundred and twelve acres of land. The original territory of Rome consisted only of some miles of wood and meadow along the banks of the Tyber; and domestic exchange could add nothing to the national stock. But the goods of an alien or enemy were lawfully exposed to the first hostile occupier; the city was enriched by the profitable trade of war; and the blood of her sons was the only price that was paid for the Volscian sheep, the slaves of Briton, or the gems and gold of Asiatic kingdoms. In the language of ancient jurisprudence, which was corrupted and forgotten before the age of Justinian, these spoils were distinguished by the name of manceps or manicipium, taken with the hand; and whenever they were sold or emancipated, the purchaser required some assurance that they had been the property of an enemy, and not of a fellow-citizen. [139] A citizen could only forfeit his rights by apparent dereliction, and such dereliction of a valuable interest could not easily be presumed. Yet, according to the Twelve Tables, a prescription of one year for movables, and of two years for immovables, abolished the claim of the ancient master, if the actual possessor had acquired them by a fair transaction from the person whom he believed to be the lawful proprietor. [140] Such conscientious injustice, without any mixture of fraud or force could seldom injure the members of a small republic; but the various periods of three, of ten, or of twenty years,
determined by Justinian, are more suitable to the latitude of a great empire. It is only in the term of prescription that the distinction of real and personal fortune has been remarked by the civilians; and their general idea of property is that of simple, uniform, and absolute dominion. The subordinate exceptions of use, of usufruct, [141] of servitude, [142] imposed for the benefit of a neighbor on lands and houses, are abundantly explained by the professors of jurisprudence. The claims of property, as far as they are altered by the mixture, the division, or the transformation of substances, are investigated with metaphysical subtilty by the same civilians.

[Footnote 137: Institut. l. ii. tit i. ii. Compare the pure and precise reasoning of Caius and Heineccius (l. ii. tit. i. p. 69-91) with the loose prolixity of Theophilus, (p. 207--265.) The opinions of Ulpian are preserved in the Pandects, (l. i. tit. viii. leg. 41, No. 1.)]

[Footnote 138: The heredium of the first Romans is defined by Varro, (de Re Rustica, l. i. c. ii. p. 141, c. x. p. 160, 161, edit. Gesner,) and clouded by Pliny's declamation, (Hist. Natur. xviii. 2.) A just and learned comment is given in the Administration des Terres chez les Romains, (p. 12--66.) Note: On the duo jugera, compare Niebuhr, vol. i. p. 337.--M.]

[Footnote 139: The res mancipi is explained from faint and remote lights by Ulpian (Fragment. tit. xviii. p. 618, 619) and Bynkershoek, (Opp tom. i. p. 306--315.) The definition is somewhat arbitrary; and as none except myself have assigned a reason, I am diffident of my own.]

[Footnote 140: From this short prescription, Hume (Essays, vol. i. p. 423) infers that there could not then be more order and settlement in Italy than now amongst the Tartars. By the civilian of his adversary Wallace, he is reproached, and not without reason, for overlooking the conditions, (Institut. l. ii. tit. vi.) * Note: Gibbon acknowledges, in the former note, the obscurity of his views with regard to the res mancipi. The interpreters, who preceded him, are not agreed on this point, one of the most difficult in the ancient Roman law. The conclusions of Hume, of which the author here speaks, are grounded on false assumptions. Gibbon had conceived very inaccurate notions of Property among the Romans, and

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