Vidi ego miserabile spectaculum, libros pro paterno debito in auctionem deduci, et teneri calamitatis haeredes, qui non essent participes successionis; et hoc tam immane flagitium non erubescere creditorem. instet, urget, addicit. mea, inquit, nutriti pecunia, pro alimonia servitium recognoscant, pro sumptu licitationem subeant. agitetur hasta de pretiis singulorum. non immerito hasta agitatur, ubi caput quaeritur: non immerito ad auctionem pervenitur, ubi sors poscitur. haec est feneratoris inhumanitas, haec debitoris stultitia, ut filiis quibus non relinquit pecuniam, libertatem auferat, pro testamento chirographum dimittat, pro emolumento haereditatis syngrapham obligationis.
(Ambrose, De Tobia 29)
I have seen a pitiful sight, children led forth to sale for their father’s debt and held as the heirs of his misfortune who would not be sharers in his possessions, and the creditor not blushing at so enormous an outrage. He insists, he urges, he puts them up for sale. “Since they were fed by money,” he says, “let them recognize their servitude as a return for their support, let them submit to sale in return for expense. Let the spear be fixed concerning the price of each; not unmeetly is the spear fixed when capital is sought, not unmeetly does one resort to auction when the principal is demanded. This is the inhumanity of the usurer, this is the folly of the debtor, that from the children to whom he does not leave money, he takes away liberty, that he leaves them a written obligation instead of a will, a bond of indebtedness instead of the advantage of an inheritance. (tr. Lois Miles Zucker)