BONO´--RUM. As will be seen by
reference to the article BONAM COPIAM JURARE
the principle of relieving insolvent debtors,
who fulfilled certain conditions, from liability to imprisonment, was
recognised to some extent under the republic. Julius Caesar, when consul,
B.C. 48, as a temporary measure of relief in time of distress, owing to the
Civil war, discharged debtors who made over their property to their
creditors from their debts. (Caes. de Bell. Civ.
Poste's Gaius, p. 347, 2nd ed.)
was introduced by a Lex Julia,
probably one of the leges Juliae of Augustus. This law allowed an insolvent
debtor to make a voluntary assignment of his property to his creditors. By
making such assignment, the debtor obtained three advantages.--1. He escaped
imprisonment. 2. He did not become infamis.
In respect to property acquired [p. 1.306]
the assignment, he had the beneficium
when sued by his old creditors: i. e. he could retain
sufficient for his bare maintenance. He had not this right against creditors
who had become so subsequent to the act of assignment. The property assigned
by the debtor was sold by the process of bonorum
[BONORUM EMPTIO], the proceeds
being distributed among the creditors. It is to be noticed that the
assignment did not operate as a discharge, after acquired property being
liable, subject to the limitation explained above. The benefit of the Lex
Julia was extended by imperial constitutions to the provinces. There is no
evidence to show that the benefit of the lex was limited to poor debtors, as
has sometimes been supposed. (Bethmann-Hollweg,
2.114; Gaius, 3.78; Rubr. Cod.
4.20; Cod. Just.