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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.


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

References in periodicals archive ?
Another proposal is that shipowners should contract to split payments between the intermediary and PS and only to pay the mark-up and principal sum to the parties respectively.
Some insurers offer coma benefits that typically provide 1% of the principal sum for each month a person remains in a coma due to a covered accident.
Since the grantor trust was paying interest-only on the loan during the Diedrichs' lives, the principal sum of $1 million is now due and is paid from the death benefit, with the balance of $300,000 retained in trust for the benefit of heirs pursuant to the terms of the trust.
The Trust's solicitor even signed off the offer with the callous comment: "I trust this will ensure some realism is injected into any expectation your client may have in respect of the principal sum.
But instead of dragging the court proceedings on any further, Mystery Properties agreed to pay the principal sum of $177,625 plus the interest of $21,021, court costs of $185, and attorney's fees of $17,625, to bring the total judgment to $216,456.
After a jury trial the Supreme Court of New York, Kings County, entered judgement in favor of Pamela Harris against NYCHHC for $875,000, and calculated preverdict interest on the award for past economic loss from the date of the infant's death in the principal sum of $775,000.
You have provided a guarantee and unless your liability is limited in the contract, you will be responsible for interest in addition to the principal sum.
It was a properly-drafted agreement, co-signed by Mason's wife, under which he paid me monthly interest without touching the principal sum.
Section 6 stipulates that the rate of interest on a mortgage will be zero unless the agreement specifically stipulates the principal sum borrowed and the annual rate of interest charged, whether it is calculated annually or semi-annually.
In turn, Somerset came to an agreement with the cooperative which recast the mortgage at a principal sum substantially less than the original amount as well as a reduction in the annual interest rate.
One-half the principal sum will be paid for loss of one hand, one foot, or the sight of one eye, and in some instances, for loss of speech or hearing.
Like all endowments, the principal sum of $5 million will not be spent, but the interest that accrues from it will be used to fund new research.

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