Pledging, Lending, Borrowing, in Ancient Ireland

From A Smaller Social History of Ancient Ireland 1906

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CHAPTER XXVI....continued

2. Pledging, Lending, and Borrowing.

Although there were no such institutions in ancient Ireland as pawn-offices, pledging articles for a temporary loan was common enough. The practice was such a general feature of society that the Brehon Law took cognisance of it—as our law now takes cognisance of pawn-offices—and stepped in to prevent abuses. Portable articles of any kind—including animals—might be pledged for a loan, or as security for the repayment of a debt; and the law furnishes a long list of pledgable articles. The person holding the pledge might put it to its proper use while in his possession, unless there was express contract against it; but he was not to injure it by rough usage. He was obliged to return it on receiving a day's notice, provided the borrower tendered the sum borrowed, or the debt, with its interest: and if he failed to do so, he was liable to fine. Borrowing or lending, on pledge, was a very common transaction among neighbours; and it was not looked upon as in any sense a thing to be ashamed of, as pawning articles is at the present day.

It may be observed that the existence in ancient Ireland of the practice of pledging and lending for interest, the designation of the several functions by different terms, and the recognition of all by the Brehon Law, may be classed, among numerous other customs and institutions noticed throughout this book, as indicating a very advanced stage of civilisation. At what an early period this stage—of lending for interest—was reached may be seen from the fact that it is mentioned in an Irish gloss of the eighth century.

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