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The state of a person who is subjected, voluntarily or involuntarily, to another person as a servant. A charge or burden resting upon one estate for the benefit or advantage of another.

Involuntary Servitude, which may be in the form of Slavery, peonage, or compulsory labor for debts, is prohibited by the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Article I, Section 9, of the original Constitution had given Congress the power to restrict the slave trade by the year 1808, which it did, but slavery itself was not prohibited until the Thirteenth Amendment was enacted in 1865. The slave trade had begun in the American colonies in the seventeenth century and involved the forcible taking and transport of Africans and others to sell as slaves. The Thirteenth Amendment's prohibition against slavery encompasses situations where an individual is compelled by force, coercion, or imprisonment, and against his will, to labor for another, whether he is paid or not.

The term servitude is also used in Property Law. In this context, servitude is used with the term easement, a right of some benefit or beneficial use out of, in, or over the land of another. Although the terms servitude and easement are sometimes used as synonyms, the two concepts differ. A servitude relates to the servient estate or the burdened land, whereas an Easement refers to the dominant estate, which is the land benefited by the right. Not all servitudes are easements because they are not all attached to other land as appurtenances (an appurtenance is an appendage or that which belongs to something else).

All servitudes affecting lands are classified as either personal or real. Personal servitudes are established for the benefit of a particular person and terminate upon the death of that individual. A common example of a personal servitude is the use of a house. Real servitudes, also called landed servitudes, benefit the owner of one estate through some use of a neighboring estate.

At Civil Law, real servitudes are divided into two types: rural and urban. Rural servitudes are established for the benefit of a landed estate; examples include a right of way over a servient tenement and a right of access to a spring, sandpit, or coal mine. Urban servitudes are established for the benefit of one building over another; some examples are a right of support, a right to a view, and a right to light. Despite the name urban servitude, the buildings do not have to be in a city.

Servitudes are also classified as positive and negative. A positive servitude requires the owner of the servient estate to permit something to be done on her property by another. A negative servitude does not bind the servient owner in this manner but merely restrains her from using the property in a manner that would impair the easement enjoyed by the owner of the dominant estate.

West's Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


Collins Dictionary of Law © W.J. Stewart, 2006

SERVITUDE, civil law. A term which indicates the subjection of one person to another person, or of a person to a thing, or of a thing to a person, or of a thing to a thing.
     2. Hence servitudes are divided into real, personal, and mixed. Lois des Bat. P. 1, c. 1.
     3. A real or predial servitude is a charge laid on an estate for the use and utility of another estate belonging to another proprietor. Louis. Code, art. 643. When used without any adjunct, the word servitude means a real or predial servitude. Lois des Bat. P. 1, c. 1.
     4. The subjection of one person to another is a purely personal servitude; if it exists in the right of property which a person exercises over another, it is slavery. When the subjection of one person to another is not slavery, it consists simply in the right of requiring of another what he is bound to do, or not to do; this right arises from all kinds of contracts or quasi con tracts. Lois des Bat. P. 1, c. 1, art. 1.
     5. The subjection of persons to things or of things to persons, are mixed servitudes. Lois des Bat. P. 1, c. 1, art. 2.
     6. Real servitudes are divided into rural and urban. Rural servitudes are those which are due by an estate to another estate, such as the right of passage over the serving estate, or that which owes the servitude, or to draw water from it, or to water cattle there, or to take coal, lime and wood from it, and the like. Urban servitudes are those which are established over a building fur the convenience of another, such as the right of resting the joists in the wall of the serving building, of opening windows which overlook the serving estate, and the like. Dict. de Jurisp. tit. Servitudes. See, generally, Lois des Bat. Part 1 Louis. Code, tit. 4; Code Civil, B. 2, tit. 4; This Dict. tit. Ancient Lights; Easements; Ways; Lalaure, Des Servitudes, passim.

A Law Dictionary, Adapted to the Constitution and Laws of the United States. By John Bouvier. Published 1856.
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