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Servitude And Freedom __HOT__

Spring 2013 is my first time offering this course, but the idea for it has been in the making for about a decade. I decided to develop this class because I realized that slavery is an incredibly important topics for Americans and students of American history, but that most discussion of slavery concerns only American slavery (often only as practiced in the United States in the decades immediately preceding the Civil War). Slaves are first mentioned, however, in some of the earliest human writing to have survived (when it appears to be already a well-established institution) and occurs in different forms throughout the world. Furthermore, slavery and other institutions of servitude or unfreedom (indentured service, serfdom, etc.) appear in a very large proportion of societies worldwide.

Servitude and Freedom

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It seemed to me that this would be a useful course for students wanting to expand their consideration of freedom, servitude, and the "half free" status of serfs and others who have lost some but not all of their freedoms.

Between 1756 and 1778 three cases reached the Court of Session in Edinburgh whereby fugitives from slavery attempted to obtain their freedom. The three cases were Montgomery v Sheddan (1756), Dalrymple v Spens (1769) and Knight v Wedderburn (1778).

Knight's legal challenge began in 1774 in the Justices of the Peace court in Perth, where he sought the freedom to leave the employment of John Wedderburn of Bandean (or Ballendean) in Perthshire. Knight claimed that, although many years earlier he had been purchased by Wedderburn in Jamaica, the act of landing in Scotland freed him from perpetual servitude, as slavery was not recognised in the country. The Justices of the Peace found in favour of Wedderburn. However, Knight appealed to the Sheriff Substitute of Perth, William Mercer; both he, and the Sheriff Depute for Perth, John Swinton found that 'the state of slavery is not recognised by the laws of this kingdom, and is inconsistent with the principles thereof: That the regulations in Jamaica, concerning slaves, do not extend to this kingdom; and repelled the defender's claim to a perpetual service'.

Wedderburn appealed to the Court of Session, Scotland's supreme civil court. He argued that slavery and perpetual servitude were different states, and that in Scots law, Knight, even though he was not recognised as a enslaved person, was still bound to provide perpetual service in the same manner as an indentured servant or an apprenticed artisan.

The FBI, the lead agency for enforcing civil rights law, aggressively investigates hate crime, color of law abuses by public officials, human trafficking and involuntary servitude, and freedom of access to clinic entrances violations.

In my view, the growth in debt has ushered in a system of bondage similar in practical terms, as well as in principle, to indentured servitude. The analogy to indenture might seem exaggerated but actually has a great deal of resonance. Student debt binds individuals for a significant part of their future work lives. It encumbers job and life choices, and it permeates everyday experience with concern over the monthly chit. It also takes a page from indenture in the extensive brokerage system it has bred, from which more than four thousand banks take profit (even when the loans originate with the federal government, they are still serviced by banks, and banks service an escalating number of private loans). At its core, student debt is a labor issue, just as colonial indenture was, subsisting off the desire of those less privileged to gain better opportunities in exchange for their future labor. One of the goals of the planners of the US university system after World War II was to displace what they saw as an aristocracy; instead, they promoted equal opportunity in order to build America through its best talent. The new tide of student debt reinforces rather than dissolves the discriminations of class. Finally, it violates the spirit of American freedom in leading those less wealthy to bind their futures.

Prevalence. Contrary to the usual image of freedom-seeking Puritans in New England, between one-half and two-thirds of all white immigrants to the British colonies arrived under indenture, according to the economic historian David W. Galenson, totaling 300,000 to 400,000 people. Similarly, college student loan debt is now a prevalent mode of financing higher education, resorted to by two-thirds of students who attend. If upwards of 70 percent of Americans attend college at some point, it thus shackles not an unfortunate few but half the rising population.

College student loan debt perverts the aims of higher education, whether those aims are to grant freedom of intellectual exploration, to cultivate merit and thereby mitigate the inequitable effects of class, or, in the most utilitarian scheme, to provide students with a head start into the adult work world. In practice, debt shackles students with long-term loan payments, constraining their freedom of choice of jobs and career. It also constrains their everyday lives after graduating, as they bear the weight of the monthly tab that stays with them long after their college days. The AAUP should consider student debt a major threat to academic freedom and make the abolition of student debt one of its major policy platforms.

Servitude is slavery or anything resembling it. The entire black population of colonial America lived in permanent servitude. And millions of the whites who populated this country arrived in "indentured servitude", obliged to pay off the cost of their journey with several years of labor. Servitude comes in many forms, of course: in the bad old days of the British navy, it was said that the difference between going to sea and going to jail was that you were less likely to drown in jail.

Heidegger lists Luther among important historical sources for understanding freedom; Martin Heidegger, Vom Wesen der menschlichen Freiheit: Einleitung in die Philosophie, vol. 31, Gesamtausgabe (Frankfurt am Main: Vittorio Klostermann, 1982), 21; Martin Heidegger, Zu Ernst Jünger, ed. Peter Trawny, Gesamtausgabe 90 (Frankfurt am Main: Vittorio Klostermann, 2004), 307.

"I prefer dangerous freedom over peaceful slavery" is a translation of a Latin phrase that Thomas Jefferson used: "Malo periculosam, libertatem quam quietam servitutem." It has also been translated as, "I prefer the tumult of liberty to the quiet of servitude."

What do we want from a restatement of servitude law? Doctrinal simplification presents one obvious objective. Property teachers and their students commonly observe that the law of servitudes is a mess. However, doctrinal simplification surely does not present the only objective of the restatement. Developing a unified body of servitude doctrine, by itself, merely creates a sense of aesthetic coherence. Presumably the project aims at achieving more than just that. Law reformers generally seek to enhance the legal system's substantive coherence. At this level--developing a set of substantively coherent doctrinal practices--I am skeptical about the servitude restatement project.

A restatement requires a background theory that structures the discourse by which the specific issues of policy are debated. Recent scholarship on servitude law clearly indicates that such a background theory already exists for this restatement. That background theory rests on the familiar, liberal distinction between individual freedom of choice and coercion. Recent normative debates over servitude law structured by that distinction have a familiar ring: should servitude law be oriented by a strict contractarian ethic, as Professor Richard Epstein urges, or should it include concessions to a regulatory or interventionist ideology? An essentialist quality permeates the way participants in these debates have argued. They have implicitly assumed both the possibility and the desirability of classifying every aspect of the legal apparatus for adjusting conflicting land-use preferences as either choice-maximizing or choice-inhibiting.

Strong reasons support skepticism about this discursive structure. Its beguiling simplicity seriously distorts social reality. Choice and coercion are not alternative objective social states that either exist or do not exist. Rather they are rhetorics that, though contradictory, are both always available as interpretations of any given social experience. Pretending that they are more than just opposing rhetorics creates a form of nominalism that privileges one understanding, one interpretation. Choice and choicelessness do not occupy isolated realms of human activity. Rather they continuously intrude upon each other. In this Article, I will discuss how the rhetoric of freedom of choice and coercion obscures the choicelessness problem as experienced by actors in nominally consensual land transactions.

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