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Pliny the Younger (A.D. 62?–c.A.D. 113). Letters.
The Harvard Classics. 1909–14.

XLII. To Statius Sabinus

YOUR letter informs me that Sabina, who appointed you and me her heirs, though she has nowhere expressly directed that Modestus shall have his freedom, yet has left him a legacy in the following words: “I give, &c.—To Modestus, whom I have ordered to have his freedom”: upon which you desire my opinion. I have consulted skilful lawyers upon the point, and they all agree Modestus is not entitled to his liberty, since it is not expressly given, and consequently that the legacy is void, as being bequeathed to a slave. But it evidently appears to be a mistake in the testatrix; and therefore I think we ought to act in this case as though Sabina had directed, in so many words, what, it is clear, she had ordered. I am persuaded you will go with me in this opinion, who so religiously regard the will of the deceased, which indeed where it can be discovered will always be law to honest heirs. Honour is to you and me as strong an obligation as the compulsion of law is to others. Let Modestus then enjoy his freedom and his legacy as fully as if Sabina had observed all the requisite forms, as indeed they effectually do who make a judicious choice of their heirs. Farewell.