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Manumission - Official and Recognized Form of Emancipation

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What is Manumission?

Manumission is an official and recognized form of emancipation. This is not a regular form of freedom but it is kind of emancipation that one slave can earn from his regular life of slavery. This is a formal concept of earning freedom of a slave which is gained through an agreement in the form of a contract. The contract might be written or in verbal form. The notion that the name offers gives an impression is that it is a very modern practice but in reality it came into existence even before 3000 years ago. The fact that some contracts were discovered from ancient Greece and ancient Rome confirms the idea that the practice started several years ago.

Manumission is also known as affranchisement. This is a noble act of setting a slave free from his state of slavery by the particular master of the slave. The act is mended depending on specific time and era and what society they are belonging to. Every time a new society descended in the course of history new rule and new way of approaching the concept have come to exist. Hence it can be said though the practice was there in the custom of multiple societies yet it kept on transforming along with time and place.

One thing has to be taken into consideration that it is a legal process because the owner has to go through the contract and abide by the rules and regulations of the contract and agreeing to every detail he sets the slave free from his confinement.

When American slavery reaches the summit of its usual form during the period of 1600 to 1865 the slaves found it to be the best time and way to find an alternative to slip through the bar of confinement and get free. American judicial system certainly had the method of freeing the African Americans by applying the legal and formal concept of releasing them from bondage that to some extent was practised in order to secure the obedience and loyalty of the slave towards his master. The slave owners sometimes guaranteed to set the slaves free only expecting that the he would be rewarded with servitude in accordance with manumission. A society was about to be formed with the concept of owning slave which had to be demolished therefore this practice was initiated to be practiced.

The early picture of manumission occurred in the middle of seventeenth century when the African Americans and specially the Native Americans were released from the slavery in abundance. The lower class of the society was filled with slaves and they were planted in different sections where they had to go through a lot of suffering. However during the time the intensity of torture on the slaves was so high that a time came when the owners of the slaves felt miserable at heart and with the expectation of being rewarded with servitude from those slaves accepted the idea of manumission. At the threshold of seventeenth and eighteenth century in South America a new procedure was introduced where the role of the slaves in the society and the criterion of freeing the slaves were determined. In Virginia the concept was slightly different. They could obtain their freedom through contact but could not really acquire the same position and respect in the society as the white settlers would get.

In the case of Maryland the contract was not necessarily written. The owner could actually declare the freedom of his slave by passing a verbal order. This sort of emancipation was thought to be altered because the old people in large number were abandoned in the society without providing any purpose to them. This would require modification in the structure of verbal order therefore a legal intervention was important hence in 1752 the law was revised the concept of a simple promise was declined and the concept of liberation through written form was introduced.

The concept of manumission id often said to have been the litmus experiment of a specific society about its approach towards slavery. Manumission helps to find out how much a slave can regulate his freedom and act independently in a society as a liberated human being. According to Islamic view it is written that a slave has to be emancipated after a certain period of nearly some years. The time should be taken in order to transfer an outsider to an insider. Again in some societies the concept of freeing the slaves according to the wish of the master was prevalent but definitely with some exceptions. Apart from these systems, in some the concept of accepting the religion of the master by the slave marked the indication of the freedom of the slave. In different places like ancient Rome and Athens slaves were freed after the continuation of slavery of three generation while in the household slavery when the master and the slave became really close the ritual of freeing the slave was implied.

It can be observed that the laws of manumission came into existence with the purpose of helping the owners with some benefits. They were not only offered with the reward of servitude of the specific slave rather they were also presented with incentives on freeing the slaves. Freedom could be achieved on the basis of certain rules. For instance in some places if a slave has served the master for certain designed period then the slave is freed without any retention while in some places the slaves used to receive freedom with the amazing reputation of the slave owner.

As it is already mentioned that manumission sounds as if it came into practice from the time of civil war but it existed largely in the ancient societies throughout the course of history. Rome and Greece was quite popular for its slave culture and they were also known for practicing manumission rigorously. It was first discovered in the early 200 BCE that took place in the Greek Temple of Apollo located at Delphi. Strangely the freedom could have been bought by the slaves if they had the proper access to the required funds. Keeping the slave was almost equivalent to having a hold on a possession. Therefore the slaves had to find out an alternative means of fund to apply that for the sake of buying freedom.

Ancient Rome was equipped with many wealthy landowners who would actually permit the slaves to but their own independence because the determined term of serving period was already over. There was a major difference between the manumission of ancient Greece and ancient Rome that if a slave was freed in Greece he would have never gotten a chance of regaining the citizenship whereas in Rome a free slave can in fact get back his citizenship along with the scope of securing even a better position in the society.

When the American Revolution took place, some Africans exhibited a kind of uncanny attitude by voluntarily accepting slavery. Therefore they used to enlist their names in respective armies so that they can serve for the regime for a certain period that would lead them gaining their freedom when the contract of the service would be terminated. Another thing that has to be remembered is that both the British army and the army from the Continents were practicing the concept of manumission with the faith of gaining incentives to assist in raising the number of soldiers in the army so that it is helpful in winning the battle.

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