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Else had they, long since, risen in the scale
Of social honour and domestic weal.
With urgent pleadings, couched in modest words,
Would wives besiege the conscience of their lords
Nor “bate one jot” till these revised the laws,
A sure success might follow for their cause.
And, once on fairer ground, be theirs to prove
How well a generous confidence can move
Their souls to virtue, and their hearts to love!

November, 1855.

SINCE the above lines were composed, the Legislature have instituted a Court of Divorce. A woman whose husband treats her with cruelty, or can be proved to have committed adultery, is permitted to sue for either a legal separation or a divorce. It is likewise competent to a woman to go before a magistrate and swear that her husband has dé. serted her for a given period, when the magistrate is empowered to grant the woman a warrant, to secure to her the undisturbed possession of her own earnings. These two changes in the state of the law are re. garded as valuable concessions to the interests of woman. But it requires no great discrimination to perceive that the amount of hardship inflicted by the law of marriage upon the weaker sex, is reduced but by a small amount under the change indicated. In the first place, a woman who sues for a divorce must do so at her own expense. Now a married woman is never permitted to touch her own money, even if she has any—the man takes it all. If her

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fortune is in trust, the trustees always pay the annual
interest to the husband. I would ask those best
acquainted with such matters, whether a trustee is
likely to supply monies to the wife for the purpose of
suing for a divorce from her husband?
I need not expatiate on the repugnance which a
well-conditioned woman entertains to going before a
tribunal at all—especially in the character of an
injured wife. We know that women put up with a
large measure of harsh usage before they can bring
themselves to appeal to the aid of law. Yet having,
for cogent reasons, decided on doing so, where is the
money to come from? and the least sum required is,
I have been informed, one hundred pounds.
Whilst I admit the institution of a Court of Divorce
to be a step towards a mitigation of the injustice
under which women labour in this country, I am
deeply persuaded of the necessity to superadd another
boon, in order to render the first at all effectual. I
mean that the woman should possess absolute control
over her own property, married or single. Years of
attentive observation and reflection have impressed
me with the belief that this would afford to women
the simplest as well as the most suitable resource
against the ill-treatment of a husband. In spite of
the extensively held dogma, that a woman ought not
to be entrusted with the control over her own pro-
perty, because she would of a surety allow her husband
to get it from her, I venture to affirm that, having
such control she would be better off than she now is,
whether under the trustee system, or under the condi-
tion of a wife without trustees.
All that the “Trust” does is to prevent the husband


from wasting away his wife's capital, after wasting away his own; at least the portion “under trust,"for any other portion he is free to waste away. But observe, he continues to receive the income of it, and to spend it as he thinks fit; the wife has no more control over her own than she had over his money whilst any remained. She has the satisfaction, if such it be, of maintaining him, but he has the arrangement of the expenditure, and we know what that comes to in such cases. The trustee system is, in fact, a contrivance for keeping a woman in a species of tutelage, under the pretext of protecting her interests. But against whom? Why, against the individual to whom you confide the woman's happiness, honour, and person for life. He is conceived to be fit for such a trust, or you would not place your daughter in his hands; nevertheless, you put her fortune out of his reach, lest he should strip her of it! You will reply that circumstances may hereafter arise in which, “being tempted of the devil,” the best of husbands will try to coax or coerce his wife into giving over to him her property, and she may be beggared thereby. To this I would rejoin that law takes no cognisance of folly and weakness. If it was not thought right to inter. dict Mr. Wyndham from exercising absolute control over his property, although for foolish, vicious, and discreditable purposes, neither ought the law to prevent a woman from committing the folly of bring. ing herself to want in order to please a spendthrift husband. But if women were brought up to deal with money matters, and to comprehend “business,” they would acquire more solid habits of mind and firmness

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of character, and their property would not lightly be
sacrificed to a misplaced sentiment. Furthermore, it
is manifestly unjust to the woman to compel her both
to maintain and to live with an unworthy husband,
whether she will or no. She ought to be free to
leave him, just as he is now free to leave her, when
and for as long a time as it pleases him. As the law
stands, the husband can compel her to return to him,
to cohabit with him, and probably to undergo the
bringing of more children into the world, to share
and diminish the pittance which remains to the
In discussing the subject of the rights of property
in the married state, people seem to me to contemplate
exclusively the condition of the wealthy class. But to
those who make it their study to observe the working
of the law in the middle ranks of society, it is a familiar
fact that, there, the trustee system is rarely resorted
to. There are great difficulties in finding trustees at
once willing and capable among the middle class.
Then a settlement involves expense; besides, the
wife's money commonly helps the pair to set up in
some sort of business, by which a higher return is ob-
tained; indeed the woman would hardly be upheld in
refusing to let her property be merged in the common
undertakings, and moreover, the husband is, in the
majority of cases, a safer manager of it than any
“trustee” of his own rank in life. Provincial trades-
men seldom have any dealings with funded property.
Taking the dividends, too, is inconvenient to rural
residents at a distance from London. The savings of
maid-servants, indeed, are sometimes invested in the
funds, but they usually find some one belonging to a


higher class in life to manage their investment, and receive their dividends for them, by virtue of a power of attorney. When such persons marry, they never dream of a “settlement;” they know no suitable person likely to fulfil the obligation. They place full reliance on their future partner, and dislike trusting their concerns to men who have no particular

relationship with them. I have known many ex.

amples of humble marriages, and in none was there ever a settlement or a trustee provided. I am bound to add that in more than one case the savings of the woman have melted away under the mismanagement of the husband; and, in some others, the husband has left the wife, to follow another woman, taking along with him all that the former had brought him, and over which he acquired, by his marriage, entire control. One case I have now in my mind, where the man, after his marriage with a maid-servant, went and sold out his wife's stock in the Three per Cents (the hard savings of twenty years) and decamped therewith, leaving her positively destitute. By the aid of a friend, who supplied the passage money, this poor woman, past sixty years of ago, was enabled to embark for California, where a Son by a former marriage, it was expected, would provide for her. But cases of married women being abandoned, after being robbed, are exceedingly com: mon; and the law only protects them in the enjoyment of their own subsequent earnings, when a woman can swear that she has not seen her hus: band within a certain time. If he comes back to her, say once a fortnight, he may still seize upon all she has. -

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