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BONO´RUM CES´SIO, CES´SIO 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. 3.1; cf. Poste's Gaius, p. 347, 2nd ed.)

Cessio bonorum 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. 3. In respect to property acquired [p. 1.306]subsequently to the assignment, he had the beneficium competentiae 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 emptio [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, Civil-Prozess, 2.114; Gaius, 3.78; Rubr. Cod. Th. 4.20; Cod. Just. 7.71; Dig. 42, 3.)


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