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MANUS INJE´CTIO is a kind of legalised self-help, which consists in a claimant laying hands on and arresting the person subject to his claim, according to the forms of early procedure. Manus injectio is used to signify either (1) an arrest of this kind made out of court, and (2) an arrest carried out in court before the magistratus, which is the strict sense of the term.

1. The seizure of a slave by his master is called manus injectio; e.g. the act of Claudius in seizing Virginia is so described (Liv. 3.44). A plaintiff might bring a defendant into court by manus injectio, if the latter refused to obey his in jus vocatio or summons; and in the case of a judgment debtor or person in the position of a judgment debtor, he could do this without any in jus vocatio.

2. Manus injectio, carried out in court before the magistratus, is the process of execution for debt according to the law of the Twelve Tables; it is one of the five forms of legis actio, and as [p. 2.125]such is described by Gaius (4.12). The law of the Twelve Tables relating to it is cited and explained in a well-known passage of Gellius (20.1). It appears from these sources that a debtor who had formally acknowledged his debt and a judgment debtor had thirty days allowed them to make payment, and after that time were liable to arrest at the hands of their creditor and to be brought into court ( “aeris confessi rebusque jure judicatis triginta dies justi sunto. Post deinde manus injectio esto. In jus ducito,” Gell. l.c.). Both parties being before the magistratus, the creditor addressed the debtor as follows: “Quod tu mihi judicatus (sive damnatus) es sestertium decem milia, quandoque non solvisti, ob eam rem ego tibi sestertium decem milium judicati manum injicio” (Gaius, l.c.); and he at the same time laid hold of some part of the debtor's body, which was the act of manus injectio. The debtor was not allowed to resist the arrest and maintain an action (manum sibi depellere et pro se lege agere): all he could do was to provide a responsible substitute called vindex (qui vim dicit), who could resist (manum depellere or vindicare) and carry on an action as defendant. The debtor was released, it seems, by such intervention on his behalf, and the vindex liable if his defence was unsuccessful (cf. Liv. 6.14). In default of a vindex, the creditor might carry the debtor to his house (domum ducere), and keep him in confinement for sixty days, during which time the debtor's name and the amount of his debt were proclaimed at three successive markets (nundinae). This domum ductio probably required an order of the magistratus, which would be given as a matter of course, supposing the judgment or acknowledgment to have been proved (Lex Rubr. cc. 21, 22). During this period of sixty days, the debtor was not a slave, but he was kept in chains, which could not be above a certain weight ( “quindecim pondo, ne majore, aut si volet, minore, vincito” ); the creditor being bound to supply him with a bare maintenance, if he did not keep himself. ( “Si volet, suo vivito. Ni suo vivit, qui eom vinctum habebit, libras farris endo dies dato. Si volet. plus dato.” ) If there was no arrangement between the parties, and the debtor did not pay his debt or anyone on his behalf, he suffered a maxima capitis deminutio, and might be put to death or sold as a slave beyond the Tiber, all his property passing to his creditor, and when there were several joint creditors being divided amongst them (as to the different interpretations of the words partis secanto, see NEXUM). According to some writers, there was an addictio or magisterial assignment of the debtor to the creditor at the end of the sixty days; but there is no mention in our authorities of any reappearance of the parties in court, and it is perhaps better to suppose that a conditional assignment was contained in the original order of tie magistratus. Persons who contracted a money debt by nexum, which was a formal proceeding per aes et libram in the presence of witnesses, were probably considered to have made a sufficiently public acknowledgment of their debt, and so may have been liable at once to manus injectio on default; but the opinion of some writers that no execution or proceedings in court were necessary in this case cannot be supported, nor can it be shown that any part of the ordinary process was omitted.

Manus injectio was not applicable for the enforcement of any but a liquidated money claim; and was confined under the Twelve Tables to judicati, damnati, and confessi. In course of time, however, some other debtors were put either wholly or partly on the same footing as judicati (Gaius, 4.22-25). The Lex Publilia, evidently following the analogy of the Twelve Tables, allowed the manus injectio in the case of money paid by a sponsor, if the sponsor was not repaid in six months. The Lex Furia. de sponsu allowed it against him who had exacted from a sponsor more than his just proportion (virilis pars). These and other leges allowed the manus injectio pro judicato; that is, treated the debt as if it were a res judicata. Other leges granted the manus injectio pura; that is, non pro judicato, as the Lex Furia testamentaria and the Lex Marcia adversus feneratores. But in these cases the defendant might resist the manus injectio (manum sibi depellere), and defend his cause; but it would appear that he could only relieve himself from the manus injectio, by actually undertaking to defend himself by legal means. Accordingly it was in these cases an execution, if the defendant chose to let it be so; if he did not, it was the same as serving him with process to appear before the praetor. In course of time a law was passed called the Lex Vallia, by which every manus injectio was made pura, except in the cases of judicatus and of a person whose debt had been paid by his sponsor (is pro quo depensum est); and consequently in the two latter cases, even after the passing of this lex, an insolvent person could only escape arrest by finding a vindex. The Lex Poetelia had previously put an end to manus injectio on account of nexum. This form of execution for debt was however put an end to by the Lex Aebutia, which partly abolished the legis actio procedure. A dramatic scene of manus injectio is portrayed on a sarcophagus at Rome (Voigt, 1.63, n. 3; Helbig, Bullet. dell' Inst. 1866, 90, &c.). (Keller, Der röm. Civilprocess, § § 19, 83; Bethmann-Hollweg, Der römische Civilprocess, vol. 1.45; Bekker, Die Aktionen d. röm. Privatrechts, vol. i.; Karlowa, Der röm. Civilprocess z. Zeit. d. legis actionis; Huschke, Nexum, p. 79, &c.; Savigny, Das Alt.-Röm. Schuldrecht, Verm. Schr. vol. ii. p. 369; Voigt, XII. Tafeln, 1, § § 63-65; Muirhead, Roman Law, § 36.)


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