Volume 3: 1771 Edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica!


Slave, a person in the absolute power of a master, either by war or conquest. We find no mention of slaves before the deluge; but immediately after, viz. in the curse of Canaan: whence it is easily inferred, that servitude increased soon after that time; for in Abraham's time we find it generally established.

Among the Romans, when a slave was set at liberty, he changed his name into a surname, and took the nomen or prenomen of his master; to which he added the cognomen he had been called by when a slave. Great part of the Roman wealth consisted in slaves: they had the power of life and death over them, which no other nation had; but this severity was afterwards moderated by the laws of the emperors. The slaves were esteemed the proper goods of their masters, and all they got belonged to them; but if the master was too cruel in his correction, he was obliged to sell his slave at a moderate price.

Slavery is absolutely abolished in Britain and France, as to personal servitude. Slaves make a considerable article of the traffick in America. The British South-Sea company have, by treaty, the sole privilege of furnishing the Spanish West Indies with slaves.

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