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ComicMonster
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PostSubject: leet-men   leet-men EmptyTue 03 Dec 2019, 06:52

Hello !

I think I've found a difficult term. (It definitely is for me.)
I am referring to the word "leet-men". It's related with the Constitutions of Carolina, in the context of a book about the first British colonies of the New World.
Here's some context:


"Yet even the faux nobility was not as strange as another feature of the Locke-endorsed Constitutions. That dubious honor belongs to the nobility and manor lord’s unique servant class, ranked above slaves but below freemen. These were the “Leet-men,” who were encouraged to marry and have children but were tied to the land and to their lord. They could be leased and hired out to others, but they could not leave their lord’s service. Theirs, too, was a hereditary station: “All the children of Leet-men shall be Leet-men, so to all generations,” the Constitutions stated. The heirs of estates inherited not just land, buildings, and belongings, but the hapless Leet-men as well."



What I would need is a meaning of the word "leet", so that I may figure out what Spanish translation to find for that noun. The etimology I've found out there seems confuse. The single possible idea is that it may derive from a distortion of the french word "élite", so that "Leet-men" could be somethong like "select men". This is my best bet at the mioment, but I'll be glad to have more suggestions, and I am confident you can offer some.


Thanks a lot for your help. A pleasure, as always.


CM
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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: leet-men   leet-men EmptyTue 03 Dec 2019, 07:11

Wikipedia does a good summary of the courts leet (and suggest the word may derive from a Latin "leta" root, though this is uncertain, and that it is related to the legal term "let" as in "hire")

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Court_leet

In the colonies the term survived longer than in Britain, where it evolved from originally meaning a local court appointed with royal sanction which notated terms of servitude in local estates and tried some criminal cases into a similar court appointed through a state's constitution doing much the same thing. "Leet men" were therefore males whose terms of servitude were determined by this court and not unilaterally by their respective "masters". These courts were gradually replaced by county courts in most states, but where black slavery persisted so did they as they lent a legal veneer to enforced and hereditary servitude for white people, distinguishing them from their Afro-American counterparts and affording them some extra levels of legal protection that blacks did not enjoy.
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ComicMonster
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PostSubject: Re: leet-men   leet-men EmptyTue 03 Dec 2019, 07:50

Hi nordmann, how are you?
Yes, you are right. There is some info in Wikipedia, but I still found it too obscure for me. The possible "leta" root and its eventual connection with the English verb "to let" provides a clue for a feasable equivalence.
Your explanation also casts a good ray of light on the evolution of the condition of these servants.

I thanks you very much for this help. I reckon I am sometimes too hard pressed to properly dedicate a good half an hour to one term. Otherwise it would be a pleasure to dive deep in the cultural specificities of the English juridical and customary universe —I mean it; but I suppose I am just an "indentured translator"… Rolling Eyes
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LadyinRetirement
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PostSubject: Re: leet-men   leet-men EmptyTue 03 Dec 2019, 17:23

ComicMonster, I think nordmann has the right explanation as the paragraph you cite mentions inheriting a position in society.  I have also heard "leet" (sometimes spelled leat or lete) used for a drainage ditch as a dialect word but I don't think that meaning (where by extension a leet man would I suppose be someone who maintained the ditch) makes much sense in the context you have given.  [url=en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leat]en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leat[/url]  I'm pretty sure nordmann is correct.


Edited to correct spelling of 'leat or lete' which had both defaulted to 'late' without my noticing the fact.  I'm assuming it was due to the autocorrect function.
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Green George
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PostSubject: Re: leet-men   leet-men EmptyWed 04 Dec 2019, 00:12

A surviving "court leet", with its associated "view of Frank Pledge" occurs not far from you and I, LiR. https://www.lichfield.gov.uk/The_Sheriff_691.aspx
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PostSubject: Re: leet-men   leet-men EmptyWed 04 Dec 2019, 06:56

Yes, yes, LadyinRetirement, nordmann has it perfectly allright, no doubt; he's always great help.

Once I understand more or less what the idea is, I normally should be able to figure out an acceptable translation. And for sure nordmann's explanation did the job. Smile

I am really grateful to all of you. Your help is invaluable. My only regret is that I always have to press on, translating one more line, one more page, one more book…; so I really have little time to spare and sometimes I say to myself: "Ok, these guys are gonna think I am sort of a profiteer —grabbing the idea and then going on the run", but believe me if I say that in my mind I have a special place for this forum and the people in it. Even if my broken English makes it awkward for me to express my feelings.
And sometimes it gets so difficult to fill the gap of the cultural and conceptual differences between the Anglo-Saxon world and the Spanish one that I fall almost in desperation -even though, with time, it is certainly a very interesting challenge. I wouldn't want to give anyone the impression I am being rude; it's just that, being a bridge, means sometimes I have to pass too heavy a cargo to the other side of the river and tha the "engine" of my truck wants to stall and forces me to push it on the mushroom (I mean accelerator…). Smile

Sorry, I talk too much.

All the best.

CM
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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: leet-men   leet-men EmptyWed 04 Dec 2019, 09:25

Your questions always relate to both history and language - keep them coming! (my two remaining vices as I grow older)   Smile

I had a further look to see if there was a Spanish equivalent to "leet men", given that Spain was a colonist in the same area of the world and would have also met similar challenges when deciding "grades" of servitude. In fact not only had they a parallel legally defined status for certain individuals but they had actually got there first. When the Burgos Laws forbade Spanish colonials from enslaving indigenous people as early as 1512 it presented large plantation owners with something of a dilemma - namely how to continue to work local people to death without calling them "slaves". This became even more legally necessary when shrinking local indigenous populations meant that actual "slaves" had to be imported on an ever increasing scale, just as in the southern United States.

However besides this rather close parallel there was a fundamental difference between how "hands on" Spain remained as a colonial power and how Britain chose to be when it established territories in the region. By the time Britain arrived on the scene the Spanish areas had already diversified significantly in terms of local government, economic priorities and capabilities, and political affiliation with the "old world". The work done by the courts leet in North America largely fell to church-administered bodies in Central and South America, who acted as local arbiters in a lot of civic law issues and also as "watchdogs" ensuring that estate owners - the "encomenderos" - did not abuse the spirit of the Burgos Laws (the church was less interested in terms of servitude than in ensuring that all non-slaves could be converted to Catholic Christianity and kept within the faith). So, while the term "slave" was certainly used in that area just as in North America, and also became almost exclusively applied to black labourers, there were still several layers of servant class on which these economies depended which were required to be as servile as the unfortunate African imports but distinguished from them legally. However I cannot find that these were ever classified using one simple euphemism such as "leet men" - I assume because the legal systems within which each found themselves were as disparate and independent from each other as the Spanish held American territories also were.
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ComicMonster
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PostSubject: Re: leet-men   leet-men EmptyWed 04 Dec 2019, 14:16

Thank you nordmann, I was sure you'll understand. Smile
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