Histories tell, and correctly so, of criminals being brought to the shores of Colonial America. Lack of space, however, prevents a full explanation her of what kinds of people these criminals were. One might, especially if not given to reading extensively in this field, get the impression that there was some kind of social uniformity among those thus labeled.Next Page
The story is related of a lawyer convicted of stealing books at Cambridge who was exiled to America. "Though it was customary for the commoner sort of prisoners to be conducted on foot . . . this barrister and four other prisoners, including an attorney, a butcher, and a member of a noble family, were allowed to ride in hackney coaches with their keepers . . . they were treated on board ship with the marks of respect and distinction." 70 It is generally agreed that an appreciable proportion of the so-called criminal laborers were political prisoners taken in the rebellious seventeenth century. These men frequently represented the best elements in England and were a source of strength rather than weakness to the colonies.
Social differences among slaves. There is abundant evidence that status groups in the true sense of the actual social position do not conform to legal categories. Lowie shows this is the case of slaves: 71
The slaves of course occupy the status of inferiors, but here some discrimination must be exercised. There were indeed captives enslaved in war who could be sold like cattle and executed at their master's will. But there was another class of native slaves pawned for debt and these enjoyed far milder treatment, suffering no particular loss of prestige since their servitude was often undergone to rescue and impoverished kinsman.
Wundt 72 saw many of the factors entering into the status of persons in bondage. Both to the free and the enslaved parts of the society it makes a difference, he says, whether the enslaved are related to the tribe or are strangers. There is also a difference according to the personal relationship between master and slave.
Wundt's first principle is illustrated in the case of the first blacks brought to Virginia. They are reputed to have been indented to white masters, but only a part of the first group and none of the later ones were released. They were black; they were held in perpetual slavery. Wundt's second qualification is illustrated especially in Roman slavery, where the high degree of culture on the part of many Greek slaves made it easy for them to make a favorable personal adjustment in their relations with their Roman masters.
The inability of law to regulate social intercourse, to set up barriers over which people cannot climb, becomes quite evident when analyzed. Where persons live in close and personal proximity, they will form their own social groups, in spite of legal regulations to the contrary. The lex Julia forbade the marriage of freedmen with daughters of senatorial houses. "Yet we know of several such marriages in the first century . . . Felix, the brother of Pallas, had married in succession three ladies of royal blood, one of them the granddaughter of Cleopatra." 73
The term "servile origin" means something definite in the legal sense, but it does not always have even similar significance socially. In Rome there were many kinds of slaves whose native languages prevented them from being of any importance in Roman society, but not so the Greeks. But even the Greek slaves were of many kinds. "Cicero . . . mentions that well-born children had been carried off from Misenum under the very eyes of a Roman praetor. 74
The term freedman falls into the same category. It is of more value in law than in sociology. "Freedmen also entered the professions -- teaching, medicine, painting . . . or, by iron of circumstances, slave-dealers." 75
70. Charles M. Andrews, Colonial Folkways, (New Haven, 1919) pp. 192-193.
71. Robert H. Lowie, Primitive Society (New York, 1925) p. 350.
72. Wilhelm Wundt, Die Gesellenschaft, vol. VIII of Volkerpsychologie, (Liepzig, 1917) pp. 231-232.
73. Samuel Dill, Roman Society from Nero to Marcus Aurelius (London 1925) p. 114.
74. W. Warde Fowler, Social Life at Rome (New York 1909) pp. 208-209.
75. S.A. Cook, et al., editors, The Imperial Peace, AD. 70-192, vol. XI of The Cambridge Ancient History (Cambridge, 1936) p. 758.