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History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empir

De Rebus Mancipi et nec Mancipi Conjecturae


mode of acquisition completed

the system of civil acquisitions. by legalizing. as it were, every other kind of acquisition which was not conferred, from the commencement, by the Jus Quiritium. V. Ulpian. Fragm. i. 16. Gaius, ii. 14. We believe, according to Gaius, 43, that this usucaption was extended to the case where a thing had been acquired from a person not the real proprietor; and that according to the time prescribed, it gave to the possessor the Roman proprietorship. But this does not appear to have been the original design of this Institution. Caeterum etiam earum rerum usucapio nobis competit, quae non a domino nobis tradita fuerint, si modo eas bona fide acceperimus Gaius, l ii. 43. As to things of smaller value, or those which it was difficult to distinguish from each other, the solemnities of which we speak were not requisite to obtain legal proprietorship. In this case simple delivery was sufficient. In proportion to the aggrandizement of the Republic, this latter principle became more important from the increase of the commerce and wealth of the state. It was necessary to know what were those things of which absolute property might be acquired by simple delivery, and what, on the contrary, those, the acquisition of which must be sanctioned by these solemnities. This question was necessarily to be decided by a general rule; and it is this rule which establishes the distinction between res mancipi and nec mancipi, a distinction about which the opinions of modern civilians differ so much that there
are above ten conflicting systems on the subject. The system which accords best with a sound interpretation of the Roman laws, is that proposed by M. Trekel of Hamburg, and still further developed by M. Hugo, who has extracted it in the Magazine of Civil Law, vol. ii. p. 7. This is the system now almost universally adopted. Res mancipi (by contraction for mancipii) were things of which the absolute property (Jus Quiritium) might be acquired only by the solemnities mentioned above, at least by that of mancipation, which was, without doubt, the most easy and the most usual. Gaius, ii. 25. As for other things, the acquisition of which was not subject to these forms, in order to confer absolute right, they were called res nec mancipi. See Ulpian, Fragm. xix. 1. 3, 7. Ulpian and Varro enumerate the different kinds of res mancipi. Their enumerations do not quite agree; and various methods of reconciling them have been attempted. The authority of Ulpian, however, who wrote as a civilian, ought to have the greater weight on this subject. But why are these things alone res mancipi? This is one of the questions which have been most frequently agitated, and on which the opinions of civilians are most divided. M. Hugo has resolved it in the most natural and satisfactory manner. "All things which were easily known individually, which were of great value, with which the Romans were acquainted, and which they highly appreciated, were res mancipi. Of old mancipation or some other solemn form was required for the acquisition of these things, an account of their importance. Mancipation served to prove their acquisition, because they were easily distinguished one from the other." On this great historical discussion consult the Magazine of Civil Law by M. Hugo, vol. ii. p. 37, 38; the dissertation of M. J. M. Zachariae, de Rebus Mancipi et nec Mancipi Conjecturae, p. 11. Lipsiae, 1807; the History of Civil Law by M. Hugo; and my Institutiones Juris Romani Privati p. 108, 110. As a general rule, it may be said that all things are res nec mancipi; the res mancipi are the exception to this principle. The praetors changed the system of property by allowing a person, who had a thing in bonis, the right to recover before the prescribed term of usucaption had conferred absolute proprietorship. (Pauliana in rem actio.) Justinian went still further, in times when there was no longer any distinction between a Roman citizen and a stranger. He granted the right of recovering all things which had been acquired, whether by what were called civil or natural modes of acquisition, Cod. l. vii. t. 25, 31. And he so altered the theory of Gaius in his Institutes, ii. 1, that no trace remains of the doctrine taught by that civilian.--W.]

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