In particular, they took a dramatically more liberal attitude toward a Roman practice called cessio bonorum:(110) the practice of ceding all one's goods, much as in a modem liquidation, in order to gain immunity from the normal sanction against insolvents, imprisonment.
Like other ancient legal institutions, cessio bonorum was revived in the later Middle Ages, as commercial life and knowledge of Roman law grew.
wishes to declare a cessio bonorum must go naked in a public and
After this frightening and humiliating ceremony, Paduan bankrupts, like bankrupts in some other parts of Italy, would be sent into banishment.(118) French cities, for their part, sometimes had other medieval shaming customs, including most famously the wearing of the bonnet vert, the green cap.(119) As for the English, they rejected cessio bonorum entirely; Blackstone still viewed cessio bonorum as a pernicious Roman institution, "fertile of perjury, injustice and absurdity."(120) Nevertheless, it is worth mentioning the parallel shame sanctions imposed there; English bankrupts faced not only imprisonment, but also in some cases the shame sanctions of pillory and the loss of an ear.(121)
First, jurists gave shame sanctions a basis in the logic of justice by granting, not only immunity from imprisonment, but also a full discharge to debtors who had undergone "shame."(122) Second, they fit bankruptcy thinking into the same tradition of Pauline moral philosophy that underlay just-price restrictions: To take advantage of cessio bonorum, they reasoned, was, once again, to;"overreach," to violate the demands of brotherly charity imposed by the Christian faith, and in particular by 1 Thessalonians 4, 6.(121) European bankruptcy law thus displayed precisely the same pattern as did the medieval law of overreaching.
compelled against their will to perform a cessio bonorum, that is: To
Cessio bonorum, he wished to inform his readers, was a glorious Roman institution, introduced by no less a figure than Augustus.(131) This champion of cessio bonorum presented Roman doctrine as favorably as he could, endorsing, among other rights, the right to declare bankruptcy by attorney.(132) But the reality was that even "honest" German debtors who sought to take advantage of this glorious Roman right faced unspeakably grim debtors' prisons.
Since ancient times, bankrupts and persons declaring cessio bonorum
In virtually every part of early-modern Europe, cessio bonorum was either unavailable, or available only to those willing to brave daunting public shame.