On The Duty of Man and Citizen
According to the Natural Law (1673)
Samuel von Pufendorf
On the Duties of Masters and Servants
1. After the human race had begun to multiply, and it had been discovered how conveniently the affairs of the household can be cared for by the service of others, it soon came to be the practice to admit slaves into the household, to perform the domestic tasks. And it is probable that in the beginning these offered themselves voluntarily, being compelled by want or a sense of their own incapacity; and that they bargained for a perpetual supply of food and other necessaries, and so assigned their services to the master permanently. Then, as wars became widespread, it came to be the custom of many peoples, that those whose lives they had spared after capture in war should be consigned to slavery, together with the offspring which should thereafter be born to them. And yet among many peoples no such slavery is in vogue, but all the domestic tasks are performed by hired servants engaged for a time.
2. Moreover, as there are different degrees of slavery, so also the power of the masters and the lot of the slaves vary. To a servant hired for a time the master owes the wage agreed upon; and the former in turn owes the latter the service agreed upon. And since in this contract the social lot of the master is the better, therefore the servant of this kind also is bound to show his master respect in proportion to his rank; and if he has done his work with ill-will or neglect, he is liable to the master’s correction. This cannot go so far, however, as to inflict by his own authority serious bodily harm, much less death.
3. But in case of the slave who has voluntarily assigned himself to a man in perpetual slavery, the master owes him a constant supply of food and the other things necessary to life; and the slave in turn is bound to perform continual service, whatever the master has prescribed, and to make over faithfully to the master whatever is yielded by his services. In these, however, the master will humanely take account of the slave’s strength and skill, not to exact harshly a labor which exceeds his strength. The slave is also subject to the chastisement of the master, not only to banish carelessness in the performance of his task, but also that his habits may be in harmony with the repute and the peace of the household. However such a slave cannot be sold to another against his will; for he has of his own motion chosen this master, and not another, and it makes a difference to him which he serves. If he has committed a serious crime against one outside the household, he is subject to the punishment of the civil authority, if in a state; if in an isolated household, he can be driven out of it. But where the crime has been committed against the isolated household itself, he can be punished by his master even with extreme measures.
4. But the slaves who had been captured in war have been harshly treated in the beginning by most masters, because something of the anger of an enemy remained in their case, and also they had themselves threatened the worst to us and our property. As soon, however, as mutual confidence has been reached between the victor and the vanquished in such a case, with regard to the slave’s admission to the household, all previous hostility is understood to have been forgiven. And then a master undoubtedly wrongs a slave, acquired even in this way, either if he does not supply the necessaries of life, or if he is unreasonably harsh towards him, and much more so, if he kills him when not guilty of a crime that deserves it.
5. With regard to slaves who were carried off into that condition by force in war, and those also who are purchased, it is the accepted practice that they can be transferred, like our other possessions, to anyone we please, and sold like chattels. Hence even the body of the slave is understood to belong to the master. Here, however, humanity bids us never forget that a slave is a man for all that; and so to treat him by no means as we do our other possessions, which we can use, abuse, and destroy at our discretion. And when one decides to dispose of such a slave, he should not be deliberately or undeservedly assigned to those under whom an inhuman treatment will await him.
6. Finally it is also the generally accepted custom, that offspring born of slave parents should share their servile estate, and belong as a slave to the mother’s owner. It is defended by this argument: that it is right for the fruit of the body to belong to him who owns the body. Also because such offspring would clearly not have been born, if the owner had exercised the right of war upon the parent. And also, since the parent has nothing of her own, she has no way left her to support such offspring except out of the master’s property. Therefore, since the master provides nourishment for a child of this kind long before its service can be useful, and the subsequent services do not generally much exceed the cost of nourishment at the time, it will not be permissible to escape from slavery against the master’s will. But it is manifest that, as such slaves born in the home come into slavery through no fault of their own, there is no pretext for treating them more harshly than the lot of perpetual hirelings admits.