Excerpt from The Nemesis of Nations: Studies in History
There are those who, when they have been admitted into a luxuriant garden, are content to admire the wealth of blossom and of fruit. But there are others who think of the roots toiling below, unseen, unpraised, in a great struggle to win the necessary nourishment for the whole organism. All roots are grotesque, and they dwell in darkness, but they are near the sources of life. And although the roots of the early States are grotesque indeed, we shall scarcely be able to understand ancient civilisation unless we know its dark basis. I That basis was slavery, and it affected fundamentally the fortunes of all the old nations. Its study, therefore, seemed to furnish some sense of the tragic unity of their destinies. Not in any abstract and preconceived principle, but in the concrete fact, expressed with Roman rigour in the Law of Rome, do we come face to face with the mechanism of their governments - "In potestate itaque dominorum sunt servi. Quæ quidem potestas juris gentium est; nam apud omnes peræque gentes animadvertere possumus, dominis in servos vitæ necisque potestatem esse, et quodcumque per servum adquiritur, id domino adquiritur" - "Slaves, therefore, are in the power of their masters, and that is in accordance with the Law of Nations. For in all nations we see that masters have the power of life and death over their slaves, and whatever the slave earns he earns for his master." It is with the internal effect of this Law of Slavery which was the first "Law of Nations" that the present work chiefly deals. In another volume the author hopes to trace that gradual transformation of the world's social basis by means of which, in the Middle Ages, slavery became serfdom, and, in modern times, serfdom become poverty.
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