debt


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debt,

obligation in services, money, or goods owed by one party, the debtor, to another, the creditor. When contested, debts are collected by a civil suit upon which the judge renders a judgment, and an execution is levied on the debtor's property. In ancient nations debt was associated with slavery because the insolvent debtor and his household were in many cases turned over to the creditor to perform compulsory services. In early Rome the insolvent was given into custody of the creditor for 60 days prior to his sale as a slave, subject to such treatment as pleased the creditor. That arrangement was mitigated in 494 B.C. by the first of the uprisings of the Roman people; turbulence in Rome afterward was to a large extent occasioned by the desire to restrain creditors. In Greece the reforms of SolonSolon
, c.639–c.559 B.C., Athenian statesman, lawgiver, and reformer. He was also a poet, and some of his patriotic verse in the Ionic dialect is extant. At some time (perhaps c.600 B.C.) he led the Athenians in the recapture of Salamis from the Megarians.
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 had a similar origin. In ancient Israel, every 50th year—the year of jubilee—Jewish debtors were freed and their obligations were canceled. Sumerian and Babylonian kings also periodically proclaimed jubilee periods when debts over seven years old were forgiven. Imprisonment for debt, which once crowded prisons, was ended in theory in England and the United States by laws enacted in the 19th cent. The laws of bankruptcybankruptcy,
in law, settlement of the liabilities of a person or organization wholly or partially unable to meet financial obligations. The purposes are to distribute, through a court-appointed receiver, the bankrupt's assets equitably among creditors and, in most instances, to
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 are designed to apply the resources of debtors to their debts and thereafter to remove such legal obligations.

Bibliography

See D. Graeber, Debt: The First 5,000 Years (2011).

References in classic literature ?
For, we always ran into new debt immediately, to the full extent of the margin, and sometimes, in the sense of freedom and solvency it imparted, got pretty far on into another margin.
Herbert would also take a sheet of paper, and write across it with similar formalities, "Memorandum of Herbert's debts.
Either pay thy debt as I have said, or release thy land and get thee gone from out my hall.
But now the Prior's hands dropped at his sides and the Prior's head hung upon his shoulder, for not only had he lost all hopes of the land, but he had forgiven the Knight one hundred pounds of his debt and had needlessly paid the man of law fourscore angels.
For that little episode of the alleged borrowing, in which he had made his father the agent in getting the Bulstrode certificate, was a new reason against going to his father for money towards meeting his actual debt.
And Fred winced under the idea of being looked down upon as wanting funds for small debts.
But why did the clerks at the bank let him have them--they ought to have known that you had all this money to pay, and people cannot well pay debts without money.
Determined to help in the struggle to clear the homestead from debt, they had no alternative but to go into service.
After the fathers were out of debt, the daughters married the sons of neighbours--usually of like nationality-- and the girls who once worked in Black Hawk kitchens are to-day managing big farms and fine families of their own; their children are better off than the children of the town women they used to serve.
But then, I said, speaking the truth and paying your debts is not a correct definition of justice.
No," said Godfrey, with a keen decisiveness of tone, in contrast with his usually careless and unemphatic speech--"there's debts we can't pay like money debts, by paying extra for the years that have slipped by.
Anatole Kuragin was staying in Moscow because his father had sent him away from Petersburg, where he had been spending twenty thousand rubles a year in cash, besides running up debts for as much more, which his creditors demanded from his father.