Page images

On the whole, what was demanded on this subject was not

any clearer moral teaching, but rather a stronger enforcement of the condemnation long since passed upon infanticide, and an increased protection for exposed infants.

By the penitential sentences, by the dogmatic considerations I have enumerated, and by the earnest exhortations both of her preachers and writers, the Church laboured to deepen the sense of the enormity of the act, and especially to convince men that the guilt of abandoning their children to the precarious and doubtful mercy of the stranger was scarcely less than that of simple infanticide. In the civil law her influence was also displayed, though not, I think, very advantageously. By the counsel, it is said, of Lactantius, Constantine, in the very year of his conversion, in order to diminish infanticide by destitute parents, issued a decree, applicable in the first instance to Italy, but extended in A.D. 322 to Africa, in which he commanded that those children whom their parents were unable to support should be clothed. and fed at the expense of the State, 2 a policy which had already been pursued on a large scale under the Antonines. In A.D. 331, a law intended to multiply the chances of the exposed child being taken charge of by some charitable or interested person, provided that the foundling should remain the absolute property of its saviour, whether he adopted it as a son

fates of exposed infants is noticed extremely horrible declamation in. by several writers. Some, too, Seneca the Rhetorician (Controvers. both Pagan and Christian (Quin- lib. v. 33) about exposed children tilian, Decl. cccvi.; Lactantius, Div. who were said to have been maimed Inst. vi. 20, &c.), speak of the lia- and mutilated, either to prevent bility to incestuous marriages re- their recognition by their parents, sulting from frequent exposition. or that they might gain money as In the Greek poets there are beggars for their masters. several allusions to rich childless See passages on this point men adopting foundlings, and Ju- cited by Godefroy in his Commenvenal says it was common for tary to the Law De Expositis,' Codex Roman wives to palm off found. Theod. lib. v. tit. 7. lings on their husbands for their 2 Codex Theod. lib. xi. tit. sons. (Sat. vi. 603.) There is an 27.


or employed it as a slave, and that the parent should not have power at any future time to reclaim it.1 By another law, which had been issued in A.D. 329, it had been provided that children who had been, not exposed, but sold, might be reclaimed upon payment by the father.2

The last two laws cannot be regarded with unmingled satisfaction. The law regulating the condition of exposed children, though undoubtedly enacted with the most benevolent intentions, was in some degree a retrograde step, the Pagan laws having provided that the father might always withdraw the child he had exposed, from servitude, by payment of the expenses incurred in supporting it, while Trajan had even decided that the exposed child could not become under any circumstance a slave. The law of Constantine, on the other hand, doomed it to an irrevocable servitude; and this law continued in force till A.D. 529, when Justinian, reverting to the principle of Trajan, decreed that not only the father lost all legitimate authority over his child by exposing it, but also that the person who had saved it could not by that act deprive it of its natural liberty. But this law applied only to the Eastern Empire; and in part at least of the West 5 the servitude of exposed infants continued for centuries, and appears only to have terminated with the general extinction of slavery in Europe. The law of Constantine concerning the sale of children was also a step, though perhaps a necessary step, of retrogression.

A series of emperors, among whom Caracalla was conspicuous, had denounced and endeavoured to abolish, as ó shameful,' the traffic in free children, and Diocletian had expressly and absolutely condemned it.6


i Codex Theod. lib. v. tit. 7, (Ep. x. 72.) lex. 1.

5 See on this point Muratori, ? Ibid. lib. v. tit. 8, lex 1. Antich. Ital. Diss. xxxvii.

3 See Godefroy's Commentary 6 See on these laws, Wallon, to the Law.

Hist. de l’Esclavage, tome iii. pp. * In a letter to the younger Pliny. 52, 53.



The extreme misery, however, resulting from the civil wars under Constantine, had rendered it necessary to authorise the old practice of selling children in the case of absolute destitution, which, though it had been condemned, had probably never altogether ceased. Theodosius the Great attempted to take a step in advance, by decreeing that the children thus sold might regain their freedom without the repayment of the purchase-money, a temporary service being a sufficient compensation for the purchase;? but this measure was repealed by Valentinian III. The sale of children in case of great necessity, though denounced by the Fathers, continued long after the time of Theodosius, nor does any Christian emperor appear to have enforced the humane enactment of Diocletian.

Together with these measures for the protection of exposed children, there were laws directly condemnatory of infanticide. This branch of the subject is obscured by much ambiguity and controversy; but it appears most probable that the Pagan legislation reckoned infanticide as a form of homicide, though, being deemed less atrocious than other forms of bomicide, it was punished, not by death, but by banishment.3 A law of Constantine, intended principally, and perhaps exclusively, for Africa, where the sacrifices of children to Saturn were very common, assimilated to parricide the murder of a child by its father;4 and finally, Valentinian, in A.D. 374, made all infanticide a capital offence, and



See Cod. Theod. lib. iii. tit. 3, crime, but a crime generically diflex 1, and the Commentary.

ferent from homicide. Godefroy ? On the very persistent denun- maintains that it was classified as ciation of this practice by the homicide, but that, being esteemed Fathers, see

many examples in less heinous than the other forms Terme et Monfalcon.

of homicide, it was only punished * This is a mere question of by exile. See the Commentary to definition, upon which lawyers have čod. Theod. lib. ix. tit. 14, 1. 1. expended much learning and dis- 4 Cod. Theod. lib. ix. tit. 15. cussion. Cujas thought the Ro- 5 Ibid. lib. ix, tit. 14, lex 1. mans considered infanticide


especially enjoined the punishment of exposition. A law of the Spanish Visigoths, in the seventh century, punished infanticide and abortion with death or blindness. 2 In the Capitularies of Charlemagne the former crime was punished as homicide.3

It is not possible to ascertain, with any degree of accuracy, what diminution of infanticide resulted from these measures. It may, however, be safely asserted that the publicity of the trade in exposed children became impossible under the influence of Christianity, and that the sense of the serious nature of the crime was very considerably increased. The extreme destitution, which was one of its most fertile causes, was met by Christian charity. Many exposed children appear to have been educated by individual Christians. Brephotrophia and Orphanotrophia are among the earliest recorded charitable institutions of the Church ; but it is not certain that exposed children were admitted into them, and we find no trace for several centuries of Christian foundling hospitals. This form of charity grew up gradually in the early part of the middle ages.

It is said that one existed at Trêves in the sixth, and at Angers in the seventh century, and it is certain that one existed at Milan in the eighth century.5 The Council of Rouen, in the ninth century, invited women who had secretly borne children to place them at the door of the church, and undertook to provide for them if they were not reclaimed. It is probable that they were brought up among



Corp. Juris, lib. viii. tit. 52, exposed children and to have them lex 2.

brought into the church. See 2

Leges Wisigothorum (lib. vi. Terme et Monfalcon, Hist, des tit. 3, lex 7) and other laws (lib. Enfans trouvés, p. 74. iv. tit. 4) condemned exposition. Compare Labourt, Rech, sur

8.Si quis infantem necaverit les Enfans trouvés, pp. 32, 33 ; ut homicida teneatur.'—Capit. vii. Muratori, Antichità Italiane, Dis168.

sert. xxxvii. Muratori has also * It appears, from a passage of briefly noticed the history of these St. Augustine, that Christian vir- charities in his Carità Christiana, gins were accustomed to collect cap. xxvii.

the numerous slaves or serfs attached to the ecclesiastical properties ; for a decree of the Council of Arles, in the fifth century, and afterwards a law of Charlemagne, had echoed the enactment of Constantine, declaring that exposed children should be the slaves of their protectors. As slavery declined, the memorials of many sins, like many other of the discordant elements of mediæval society, were doubtless absorbed and consecrated in the monastic societies. The strong sense always evinced in the Church of the enormity of unchastity probably rendered the ecclesiastics more cautious in this than in other forms of charity, for institutions especially intended for deserted children advanced but slowly. Even Rome, the mother of many charities, could boast of none till the beginning of the thirteenth century. About the middle of the twelfth century we find societies at Milan charged, among other functions, with seeking for exposed children. Towards the close of the same century, a monk of Montpellier, whose very name is doubtful, but who is commonly spoken of as Brother Guy, founded a confraternity called by the name of the Holy Ghost, and devoted to the protection and education of children ; and this society in the two following centuries ramified over a great part of Europe. Though principally and at first, perhaps, exclusively intended for the care of the orphans of legitimate marriages, though in the fifteenth


[ocr errors]


* The first seems to have been angel. Compare Remacle, Hospices the hospital of Sta. Maria in d’Enfans trouvés, pp. 36–37, and Sassia, which had existed with Amydemus, Pietas Romana (a book various changes from the eighth written A.D. 1624, and translated century, but was made a found in part into English in A.D. 1687), ling hospital and confided to the Eng. trans. pp. 2, 3. care of Guy of Montpellier in 2 For the little that is known A.D. 1204. According to one tra- about this missionary of charity, dition, Pope Innocent III. had compare Remacle, Hospices d'Enbeen shocked at hearing of infants fans trouvés, pp. 34–44; and Ladrawn in the nets of fishermen bourt, Recherches historiques sur les from the Tiber. According to Infans trouvés, pp. 38-41. another, he was inspired by an



« PreviousContinue »