According to the Roman law there were prescribed ceremonies for the purchase and liberation of slaves. When they were bought, the new master laid his hand upon them in token of possession. This act was called mancipium, or ‘possession by the hand.’ The word emancipate has the opposite meaning, and comes from the Latin word emancipatus; e-, “away”, manus, “hand”, and capio, “take”. So when our slaves were emancipated, the owners “took away their hands.”

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