Commentaries on the Laws of England - Book the First
by William Blackstone
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UPON the Norman conquest the feodal law was introduced here in all it's rigor, the whole of which is built on a military plan. I shall not now enter into the particulars of that constitution, which belongs more properly to the next part of our commentaries: but shall only observe, that, in consequence thereof, all the lands in the kingdom were divided into what were called knight's fees, in number above sixty thousand; and for every knight's fee a knight or soldier, miles, was bound to attend the king in his wars, for forty days in a year; in which space of time, before war was reduced to a science, the campaign was generally finished, and a kingdom either conquered or victorious[e]. By this means the king had, without any expense, an army of sixty thousand men always ready at his command. And accordingly we find one, among the laws of William the conqueror[f], which in the king's name commands and firmly enjoins the personal attendance of all knights and others; "quod habeant et teneant se semper in armis et equis, ut decet et oportet; et quod semper sint prompti et parati ad servitium suum integrum nobis explendum et peragendum, cum opus adfuerit, secundum quod debent de feodis et tenementis suis de jure nobis facere." This personal service in process of time degenerated into pecuniary commutations or aids, and at last the military part of the feodal system was abolished at the restoration, by statute 12 Car. II. c. 24.

[Footnote e: The Poles are, even at this day, so tenacious of their antient constitution, that their pospolite, or militia, cannot be compelled to serve above six weeks, or forty days, in a year. Mod. Univ. Hist. xxxiv. 12.]

[Footnote f: c. 58. See Co. Litt. 75, 76.]

IN the mean time we are not to imagine that the kingdom was left wholly without defence, in case of domestic insurrections, or the prospect of foreign invasions. Besides those, who by their military tenures were bound to perform forty days service in the field, the statute of Winchester[g] obliged every man, according to his estate and degree, to provide a determinate quantity of such arms as were then in use, in order to keep the peace: and constables were appointed in all hundreds to see that such arms were provided. These weapons were changed, by the statute 4 & 5 Ph. & M. c. 2. into others of more modern service; but both this and the former provision were repealed in the reign of James I[h]. While these continued in force, it was usual from time to time for our princes to to [Transcriber's Note: duplicate word] issue commissions of array, and send into every county officers in whom they could confide, to muster and array (or set in military order) the inhabitants of every district: and the form of the commission of array was settled in parliament in the 5 Hen. IV[i]. But at the same time it was provided[k], that no man should be compelled to go out of the kingdom at any rate, nor out of his shire but in cases of urgent necessity; nor should provide soldiers unless by consent of parliament. About the reign of king Henry the eighth, and his children, lord lieutenants began to be introduced, as standing representatives of the crown, to keep the counties in military order; for we find them mentioned as known officers in the statute 4 & 5 Ph. & M. c. 3. though they had not been then long in use, for Camden speaks of them[l], in the time of queen Elizabeth, as extraordinary magistrates constituted only in times of difficulty and danger.

[Footnote g: 13 Edw. I. c. 6.]

[Footnote h: Stat. 1 Jac. I. c. 25. 21 Jac. I. c. 28.]

[Footnote i: Rushworth. part 3. pag. 667.]

[Footnote k: Stat. 1 Edw III. st. 2. c. 5 & 7. 25 Edw. III. st. 5. c. 8.]

[Footnote l: Brit. 103. Edit. 1594.]

IN this state things continued, till the repeal of the statutes of armour in the reign of king James the first: after which, when king Charles the first had, during his northern expeditions, issued commissions of lieutenancy and exerted some military powers which, having been long exercised, were thought to belong to the crown, it became a question in the long parliament, how far the power of the militia did inherently reside in the king; being now unsupported by any statute, and founded only upon immemorial usage. This question, long agitated with great heat and resentment on both sides, became at length the immediate cause of the fatal rupture between the king and his parliament: the two houses not only denying this prerogative of the crown, the legality of which right perhaps might be somewhat doubtful; but also seizing into their own hands the intire power of the militia, the illegality of which step could never be any doubt at all.

SOON after the restoration of king Charles the second, when the military tenures were abolished, it was thought proper to ascertain the power of the militia, to recognize the sole right of the crown to govern and command them, and to put the whole into a more regular method of military subordination[m]: and the order, in which the militia now stands by law, is principally built upon the statutes which were then enacted. It is true the two last of them are apparently repealed; but many of their provisions are re-enacted, with the addition of some new regulations, by the present militia laws: the general scheme of which is to discipline a certain number of the inhabitants of every county, chosen by lot for three years, and officered by the lord lieutenant, the deputy lieutenants, and other principal landholders, under a commission from the crown. They are not compellable to march out of their counties, unless in case of invasion or actual rebellion, nor in any case compellable to march out of the kingdom. They are to be exercised at stated times: and their discipline in general is liberal and [Transcriber's Note: 'and' missing here but is in printer's mark on previous page] easy; but, when drawn out into actual service, they are subject to the rigours of martial law, as necessary to keep them in order. This is the constitutional security, which our laws have provided for the public peace, and for protecting the realm against foreign or domestic violence; and which the statutes[n] declare is essentially necessary to the safety and prosperity of the kingdom.

[Footnote m: 13 Car. II. c. 6. 14 Car. II. c. 3. 15 Car. II. c. 4.]

[Footnote n: 30 Geo. II. c. 25, &c.]

WHEN the nation is engaged in a foreign war, more veteran troops and more regular discipline may perhaps be necessary, than can be expected from a mere militia. And therefore at such times particular provisions have been usually made for the raising of armies and the due regulation and discipline of the soldiery: which are to be looked upon only as temporary excrescences bred out of the distemper of the state, and not as any part of the permanent and perpetual laws of the kingdom. For martial law, which is built upon no settled principles, but is entirely arbitrary in it's decisions, is, as sir Matthew Hale observes[o], in truth and reality no law, but something indulged, rather than allowed as a law: the necessity of order and discipline in an army is the only thing which can give it countenance; and therefore it ought not to be permitted in time of peace, when the king's courts are open for all persons to receive justice according to the laws of the land. Wherefore Edmond earl of Kent being taken at Pontefract, 15 Edw. II. and condemned by martial law, his attainder was reversed 1 Edw. III. because it was done in time of peace. And it is laid down[p], that if a lieutenant, or other, that hath commission of martial authority, doth in time of peace hang or otherwise execute any man by colour of martial law, this is murder; for it is against magna carta[q]. And the petition of right[r] enacts, that no soldier shall be quartered on the subject without his own consent[s]; and that no commission shall issue to proceed within this land according to martial law. And whereas, after the restoration, king Charles the second kept up about five thousand regular troops, by his own authority, for guards and garrisons; which king James the second by degrees increased to no less than thirty thousand, all paid from his own civil list; it was made one of the articles of the bill of rights[t], that the raising or keeping a standing army within the kingdom in time of peace, unless it be with consent of parliament, is against law.

[Footnote o: Hist. C.L. c. 2.]

[Footnote p: 3 Inst. 52.]

[Footnote q: cap. 29.]

[Footnote r: 3 Car. I. See also stat. 31 Car. II. c. 1.]

[Footnote s: Thus, in Poland, no soldier can be quartered upon the gentry, the only freemen in that republic. Mod. Univ. Hist. xxxiv. 23.]

[Footnote t: Stat. 1 W. & M. st. 2. c. 2.]

BUT, as the fashion of keeping standing armies has universally prevailed over all Europe of late years (though some of it's potentates, being unable themselves to maintain them, are obliged to have recourse to richer powers, and receive subsidiary pensions for that purpose) it has also for many years past been annually judged necessary by our legislature, for the safety of the kingdom, the defence of the possessions of the crown of Great Britain, and the preservation of the balance of power in Europe, to maintain even in time of peace a standing body of troops, under the command of the crown; who are however ipso facto disbanded at the expiration of every year, unless continued by parliament.

TO prevent the executive power from being able to oppress, says baron Montesquieu[u], it is requisite that the armies with which it is entrusted should consist of the people, and have the same spirit with the people; as was the case at Rome, till Marius new-modelled the legions by enlisting the rabble of Italy, and laid the foundation of all the military tyranny that ensued. Nothing then, according to these principles, ought to be more guarded against in a free state, than making the military power, when such a one is necessary to be kept on foot, a body too distinct from the people. Like ours therefore, it should wholly be composed of natural subjects; it ought only to be enlisted for a short and limited time; the soldiers also should live intermixed with the people; no separate camp, no barracks, no inland fortresses should be allowed. And perhaps it might be still better, if, by dismissing a stated number and enlisting others at every renewal of their term, a circulation could be kept up between the army and the people, and the citizen and the soldier be more intimately connected together.

[Footnote u: Sp. L. 11. 6.]

TO keep this body of troops in order, an annual act of parliament likewise passes, "to punish mutiny and desertion, and for the better payment of the army and their quarters." This regulates the manner in which they are to be dispersed among the several inn-keepers and victuallers throughout the kingdom; and establishes a law martial for their government. By this, among other things, it is enacted, that if any officer and soldier shall excite, or join any mutiny, or, knowing of it, shall not give notice to the commanding officer; or shall defect, or list in any other regiment, or sleep upon his post, or leave it before he is relieved, or hold correspondence with a rebel or enemy, or strike or use violence to his superior officer, or shall disobey his lawful commands; such offender shall suffer such punishment as a court martial shall inflict, though it extend to death itself.

HOWEVER expedient the most strict regulations may be in time of actual war, yet, in times of profound peace, a little relaxation of military rigour would not, one should hope, be productive of much inconvenience. And, upon this principle, though by our standing laws[w] (still remaining in force, though not attended to) desertion in time of war is made felony, without benefit of clergy, and the offence is triable by a jury and before the judges of the common law; yet, by our militia laws beforementioned, a much lighter punishment is inflicted for desertion in time of peace. So, by the Roman law also, desertion in time of war was punished with death, but more mildly in time of tranquillity[x]. But our mutiny act makes no such distinction: for any of the faults therein mentioned are, equally at all times, punishable with death itself, if a court martial shall think proper. This discretionary power of the court martial is indeed to be guided by the directions of the crown; which, with regard to military offences, has almost an absolute legislative power. "His majesty, says the act, may form articles of war, and constitute courts martial, with power to try any crime by such articles, and inflict such penalties as the articles direct." A vast and most important trust! an unlimited power to create crimes, and annex to them any punishments, not extending to life or limb! These are indeed forbidden to be inflicted, except for crimes declared to be so punishable by this act; which crimes we have just enumerated, and, among which, we may observe that any disobedience to lawful commands is one. Perhaps in some future revision of this act, which is in many respects hastily penned, it may be thought worthy the wisdom of parliament to ascertain the limits of military subjection, and to enact express articles of war for the government of the army, as is done for the government of the navy: especially as, by our present constitution, the nobility and gentry of the kingdom, who serve their country as militia officers, are annually subjected to the same arbitrary rule, during their time of exercise.

[Footnote w: Stat. 18 Hen. VI. c. 19. 2 & 3 Edw. VI. c. 2.]

[Footnote x: Ff. 49. 16. 5.]

ONE of the greatest advantages of our English law is, that not only the crimes themselves which it punishes, but also the penalties which it inflicts, are ascertained and notorious: nothing is left to arbitrary discretion: the king by his judges dispenses what the law has previously ordained; but is not himself the legislator. How much therefore is it to be regretted that a set of men, whose bravery has so often preserved the liberties of their country, should be reduced to a state of servitude in the midst of a nation of freemen! for sir Edward Coke will inform us[y], that it is one of the genuine marks of servitude, to have the law, which is our rule of action, either concealed or precarious: "misera est servitus, ubi jus est vagum aut incognitum." Nor is this state of servitude quite consistent with the maxims of sound policy observed by other free nations. For, the greater the general liberty is which any state enjoys, the more cautious has it usually been of introducing slavery in any particular order or profession. These men, as baron Montesquieu observes[z], seeing the liberty which others possess, and which they themselves are excluded from, are apt (like eunuchs in the eastern seraglios) to live in a state of perpetual envy and hatred towards the rest of the community; and indulge a malignant pleasure in contributing to destroy those privileges, to which they can never be admitted. Hence have many free states, by departing from this rule, been endangered by the revolt of their slaves: while, in absolute and despotic governments where there no real liberty exists, and consequently no invidious comparisons can be formed, such incidents are extremely rare. Two precautions are therefore advised to be observed in all prudent and free governments; 1. To prevent the introduction of slavery at all: or, 2. If it be already introduced, not to intrust those slaves with arms; who will then find themselves an overmatch for the freemen. Much less ought the soldiery to be an exception to the people in general, and the only state of servitude in the nation.

[Footnote y: 4 Inst. 332.]

[Footnote z: Sp. L. 15. 12.]

BUT as soldiers, by this annual act, are thus put in a worse condition than any other subjects, so, by the humanity of our standing laws, they are in some cases put in a much better. By statute 43 Eliz. c. 3. a weekly allowance is to be raised in every county for the relief of soldiers that are sick, hurt, and maimed: not forgetting the royal hospital at Chelsea for such as are worn out in their duty. Officers and soldiers, that have been in the king's service, are by several statutes, enacted at the close of several wars, at liberty to use any trade or occupation they are fit for, in any town in the kingdom (except the two universities) notwithstanding any statute, custom, or charter to the contrary. And soldiers in actual military service may make their wills, and dispose of their goods, wages, and other personal chattels, without those forms, solemnities, and expenses, which the law requires in other cases[a]. Our law does not indeed extend this privilege so far as the civil law; which carried it to an extreme that borders upon the ridiculous. For if a soldier, in the article of death, wrote any thing in bloody letters on his shield, or in the dust of the field with his sword, it was a very good military testament[b]. And thus much for the military state, as acknowleged by the laws of England.

[Footnote a: Stat. 29 Car. II. c. 3. 5 W. III. c. 21. Sec. 6.]

[Footnote b: Si milites quid in clypeo literis sanguine suo rutilantibus adnotaverint, aut in pulvere inscripserint gladio suo, ipso tempore quo, in praelio, vitae sortem derelinquunt, hujusmodi voluntatem stabilem esse oportet. Cod. 6. 21. 15.]

THE maritime state is nearly related to the former; though much more agreeable to the principles of our free constitution. The royal navy of England hath ever been it's greatest defence and ornament: it is it's antient and natural strength; the floating bulwark of the island; an army, from which, however strong and powerful, no danger can ever be apprehended to liberty: and accordingly it has been assiduously cultivated, even from the earliest ages. To so much perfection was our naval reputation arrived in the twelfth century, that the code of maritime laws, which are called the laws of Oleron, and are received by all nations in Europe as the ground and substruction of all their marine constitutions, was confessedly compiled by our king Richard the first, at the isle of Oleron on the coast of France, then part of the possessions of the crown of England[c]. And yet, so vastly inferior were our ancestors in this point to the present age, that even in the maritime reign of queen Elizabeth, sir Edward Coke[d] thinks it matter of boast, that the royal navy of England then consisted of three and thirty ships. The present condition of our marine is in great measure owing to the salutary provisions of the statutes, called the navigation-acts; whereby the constant increase of English shipping and seamen was not only encouraged, but rendered unavoidably necessary. By the statute 5 Ric. II. c. 3. in order to augment the navy of England, then greatly diminished, it was ordained, that none of the king's liege people should ship any merchandize out of or into the realm but only in ships of the king's ligeance, on pain of forfeiture. In the next year, by statute 6 Ric. II. c. 8. this wise provision was enervated, by only obliging the merchants to give English ships, (if able and sufficient) the preference. But the most beneficial statute for the trade and commerce of these kingdoms is that navigation-act, the rudiments of which were first framed in 1650[e], with a narrow partial view: being intended to mortify the sugar islands, which were disaffected to the parliament and still held out for Charles II, by stopping the gainful trade which they then carried on with the Dutch[f]; and at the same time to clip the wings of those our opulent and aspiring neighbours. This prohibited all ships of foreign nations from trading with any English plantations without licence from the council of state. In 1651[g] the prohibition was extended also to the mother country; and no goods were suffered to be imported into England, or any of it's dependencies, in any other than English bottoms; or in the ships of that European nation of which the merchandize imported was the genuine growth or manufacture. At the restoration, the former provisions were continued, by statute 12 Car. II. c. 18. with this very material improvement, that the master and three fourths of the mariners shall also be English subjects.

[Footnote c: 4 Inst. 144. Coutumes de la mer. 2.]

[Footnote d: 4 Inst. 50.]

[Footnote e: Scobell 132.]

[Footnote f: Mod. Un. Hist. xli. 289.]

[Footnote g: Scobell. 176.]

MANY laws have been made for the supply of the royal navy with seamen; for their regulation when on board; and to confer privileges and rewards on them during and after their service.

1. FIRST, for their supply. The power of impressing men for the sea service by the king's commission, has been a matter of some dispute, and submitted to with great reluctance; though it hath very clearly and learnedly been shewn, by sir Michael Foster[h], that the practise of impressing, and granting powers to the admiralty for that purpose, is of very antient date, and hath been uniformly continued by a regular series of precedents to the present time: whence he concludes it to be part of the common law[i]. The difficulty arises from hence, that no statute has expressly declared this power to be in the crown, though many of them very strongly imply it. The statute 2 Ric. II. c. 4. speaks of mariners being arrested and retained for the king's service, as of a thing well known, and practised without dispute; and provides a remedy against their running away. By a later statute[k], if any waterman, who uses the river Thames, shall hide himself during the execution of any commission of pressing for the king's service, he is liable to heavy penalties. By another[l], no fisherman shall be taken by the queen's commission to serve as a mariner; but the commission shall be first brought to two justices of the peace, inhabiting near the sea coast where the mariners are to be taken, to the intent that the justices may chuse out and return such a number of ablebodied men, as in the commission are contained, to serve her majesty. And, by others[m], especial protections are allowed to seamen in particular circumstances, to prevent them from being impressed. All which do most evidently imply a power of impressing to reside somewhere; and, if any where, it must from the spirit of our constitution, as well as from the frequent mention of the king's commission, reside in the crown alone.

[Footnote h: Rep. 154.]

[Footnote i: See also Comb. 245.]

[Footnote k: Stat. 2 & 3 Ph. & M. c. 16.]

[Footnote l: Stat. 5 Eliz. c. 5.]

[Footnote m: Stat. 7 & 8 W. III. c. 21. 2 Ann. c. 6. 4 & 5 Ann. c. 19. 13 Geo. II. c. 17. &c.]

BUT, besides this method of impressing, (which is only defensible from public necessity, to which all private considerations must give way) there are other ways that tend to the increase of seamen, and manning the royal navy. Parishes may bind out poor boys apprentices to masters of merchantmen, who shall be protected from impressing for the first three years; and if they are impressed afterwards, the masters shall be allowed their wages[n]: great advantages in point of wages are given to volunteer seamen in order to induce them to enter into his majesty's service[o]: and every foreign seaman, who during a war shall serve two years in any man of war, merchantman, or privateer, is naturalized ipso facto[p]. About the middle of king William's reign, a scheme was set on foot[q] for a register of seamen to the number of thirty thousand, for a constant and regular supply of the king's fleet; with great privileges to the registered men, and, on the other hand, heavy penalties in case of their non-appearance when called for: but this registry, being judged to be rather a badge of slavery, was abolished by statute 9 Ann. c. 21.

[Footnote n: Stat. 2 Ann. c. 6.]

[Footnote o: Stat. 1 Geo. II. st. 2. c. 14.]

[Footnote p: Stat. 13 Geo. II. c. 3.]

[Footnote q: Stat. 7 & 8 W. III. c. 21.]

2. THE method of ordering seamen in the royal fleet, and keeping up a regular discipline there, is directed by certain express rules, articles and orders, first enacted by the authority of parliament soon after the restoration[r]; but since new-modelled and altered, after the peace of Aix la Chapelle[s], to remedy some defects which were of fatal consequence in conducting the preceding war. In these articles of the navy almost every possible offence is set down, and the punishment thereof annexed: in which respect the seamen have much the advantage over their brethren in the land service; whose articles of war are not enacted by parliament, but framed from time to time at the pleasure of the crown. Yet from whence this distinction arose, and why the executive power, which is limited so properly with regard to the navy, should be so extensive with regard to the army, it is hard to assign a reason: unless it proceeded from the perpetual establishment of the navy, which rendered a permanent law for their regulation expedient; and the temporary duration of the army, which subsisted only from year to year; and might therefore with less danger be subjected to discretionary government. But, whatever was apprehended at the first formation of the mutiny act, the regular renewal of our standing force at the entrance of every year has made this distinction idle. For, if from experience past we may judge of future events, the army is now lastingly ingrafted into the British constitution; with this singularly fortunate circumstance, that any branch of the legislature may annually put an end to it's legal existence, by refusing to concur in it's continuance.

[Footnote r: Stat. 13 Car. II. st. 1. c. 9.]

[Footnote s: Stat. 22 Geo. II. c. 23.]

3. WITH regard to the privileges conferred on sailors, they are pretty much the same with those conferred on soldiers; with regard to relief, when maimed, or wounded, or superannuate, either by county rates, or the royal hospital at Greenwich; with regard also to the exercise of trades, and the power of making informal testaments: and, farther[t], no seaman aboard his majesty's ships can be arrested for any debt, unless the same be sworn to amount to at least twenty pounds; though, by the annual mutiny acts, a soldier may be arrested for a debt which extends to half that value, but not to a less amount.

[Footnote t: Stat. 1 Geo. II. st. 2. c. 14.]



HAVING thus commented on the rights and duties of persons, as standing in the public relations of magistrates and people; the method I have marked out now leads me to consider their rights and duties in private oeconomical relations.

THE three great relations in private life are, 1. That of master and servant; which is founded in convenience, whereby a man is directed to call in the assistance of others, where his own skill and labour will not be sufficient to answer the cares incumbent upon him. 2. That of husband and wife; which is founded in nature, but modified by civil society: the one directing man to continue and multiply his species, the other prescribing the manner in which that natural impulse must be confined and regulated. 3. That of parent and child, which is consequential to that of marriage, being it's principal end and design: and it is by virtue of this relation that infants are protected, maintained, and educated. But, since the parents, on whom this care is primarily incumbent, may be snatched away by death or otherwise, before they have completed their duty, the law has therefore provided a fourth relation; 4. That of guardian and ward, which is a kind of artificial parentage, in order to supply the deficiency, whenever it happens, of the natural. Of all these relations in their order.

IN discussing the relation of master and servant, I shall, first, consider the several sorts of servants, and how this relation is created and destroyed: secondly, the effects of this relation with regard to the parties themselves: and, lastly, it's effect with regard to other persons.

I. AS to the several sorts of servants: I have formerly observed[a] that pure and proper slavery does not, nay cannot, subsist in England; such I mean, whereby an absolute and unlimited power is given to the master over the life and fortune of the slave. And indeed it is repugnant to reason, and the principles of natural law, that such a state should subsist any where. The three origins of the right of slavery assigned by Justinian[b], are all of them built upon false foundations. As, first, slavery is held to arise "jure gentium," from a state of captivity in war; whence slaves are called mancipia, quasi manu capti. The conqueror, say the civilians, had a right to the life of his captive; and, having spared that, has a right to deal with him as he pleases. But it is an untrue position, when taken generally, that, by the law of nature or nations, a man may kill his enemy: he has only a right to kill him, in particular cases; in cases of absolute necessity, for self-defence; and it is plain this absolute necessity did not subsist, since the victor did not actually kill him, but made him prisoner. War is itself justifiable only on principles of self-preservation; and therefore it gives no other right over prisoners, but merely to disable them from doing harm to us, by confining their persons: much less can it give a right to kill, torture, abuse, plunder, or even to enslave, an enemy, when the war is over. Since therefore the right of making slaves by captivity, depends on a supposed right of slaughter, that foundation failing, the consequence drawn from it must fail likewise. But, secondly, it is said that slavery may begin "jure civili;" when one man sells himself to another. This, if only meant of contracts to serve or work for another, is very just: but when applied to strict slavery, in the sense of the laws of old Rome or modern Barbary, is also impossible. Every sale implies a price, a quid pro quo, an equivalent given to the seller in lieu of what he transfers to the buyer: but what equivalent can be given for life, and liberty, both of which (in absolute slavery) are held to be in the master's disposal? His property also, the very price he seems to receive, devolves ipso facto to his master, the instant he becomes his slave. In this case therefore the buyer gives nothing, and the seller receives nothing: of what validity then can a sale be, which destroys the very principles upon which all sales are founded? Lastly, we are told, that besides these two ways by which slaves "fiunt," or are acquired, they may also be hereditary: "servi nascuntur;" the children of acquired slaves are, jure naturae, by a negative kind of birthright, slaves also. But this being built on the two former rights must fall together with them. If neither captivity, nor the sale of oneself, can by the law of nature and reason, reduce the parent to slavery, much less can it reduce the offspring.

[Footnote a: pag. 123.]

[Footnote b: Servi aut fiunt, aut nascuntur: fiunt jure gentium, aut jure civili: nascuntur ex ancillis nostris. Inst. 1. 3. 4.]

UPON these principles the law of England abhors, and will not endure the existence of, slavery within this nation: so that when an attempt was made to introduce it, by statute 1 Edw. VI. c. 3. which ordained, that all idle vagabonds should be made slaves, and fed upon bread, water, or small drink, and refuse meat; should wear a ring of iron round their necks, arms, or legs; and should be compelled by beating, chaining, or otherwise, to perform the work assigned them, were it never so vile; the spirit of the nation could not brook this condition, even in the most abandoned rogues; and therefore this statute was repealed in two years afterwards[c]. And now it is laid down[d], that a slave or negro, the instant he lands in England, becomes a freeman; that is, the law will protect him in the enjoyment of his person, his liberty, and his property. Yet, with regard to any right which the master may have acquired, by contract or the like, to the perpetual service of John or Thomas, this will remain exactly in the same state as before: for this is no more than the same state of subjection for life, which every apprentice submits to for the space of seven years, or sometimes for a longer term. Hence too it follows, that the infamous and unchristian practice of withholding baptism from negro servants, lest they should thereby gain their liberty, is totally without foundation, as well as without excuse. The law of England acts upon general and extensive principles: it gives liberty, rightly understood, that is, protection, to a jew, a turk, or a heathen, as well as to those who profess the true religion of Christ; and it will not dissolve a civil contract, either express or implied, between master and servant, on account of the alteration of faith in either of the contracting parties: but the slave is entitled to the same liberty in England before, as after, baptism; and, whatever service the heathen negro owed to his English master, the same is he bound to render when a christian.

[Footnote c: Stat. 3 & 4 Edw. VI. c. 16.]

[Footnote d: Salk. 666.]

1. THE first sort of servants therefore, acknowleged by the laws of England, are menial servants; so called from being intra moenia, or domestics. The contract between them and their masters arises upon the hiring. If the hiring be general without any particular time limited, the law construes it to be a hiring for a year[e]; upon a principle of natural equity, that the servant shall serve, and the master maintain him, throughout all the revolutions of the respective seasons; as well when there is work to be done, as when there is not[f]: but the contract may be made for any larger or smaller term. All single men between twelve years old and sixty, and married ones under thirty years of age, and all single women between twelve and forty, not having any visible livelihood, are compellable by two justices to go out to service, for the promotion of honest industry: and no master can put away his servant, or servant leave his master, either before or at the end of his term, without a quarter's warning; unless upon reasonable cause to be allowed by a justice of the peace[g]: but they may part by consent, or make a special bargain.

[Footnote e: Co. Litt. 42.]

[Footnote f: F.N.B. 168.]

[Footnote g: Stat. 5 Eliz. c. 4.]

2. ANOTHER species of servants are called apprentices (from apprendre, to learn) and are usually bound for a term of years, by deed indented or indentures, to serve their masters, and be maintained and instructed by them: for which purpose our statute law[h] has made minors capable of binding themselves. This is usually done to persons of trade, in order to learn their art and mystery; and sometimes very large sums are given with them, as a premium for such their instruction: but it may be done to husbandmen, nay to gentlemen, and others. And[i] children of poor persons may be apprenticed out by the overseers, with consent of two justices, till twenty four years of age, to such persons as are thought fitting; who are also compellable to take them: and it is held, that gentlemen of fortune, and clergymen, are equally liable with others to such compulsion[k]. Apprentices to trades may be discharged on reasonable cause, either at request of themselves or masters, at the quarter sessions, or by one justice, with appeal to the sessions[l]: who may, by the equity of the statute, if they think it reasonable, direct restitution of a ratable share of the money given with the apprentice[m]. And parish apprentices may be discharged in the same manner, by two justices[n].

[Footnote h: Stat. 5 Eliz. c. 4.]

[Footnote i: Stat. 5 Eliz. c. 4. 43 Eliz. c. 2. 1 Jac. I. c. 25. 7 Jac. I. c. 3. 8 & 9 W. & M. c. 30. 2 & 3 Ann. c. 6. 4 Ann. c. 19. 17 Geo. II. c. 5.]

[Footnote k: Salk. 57. 491.]

[Footnote l: Stat. 5 Eliz. c. 4.]

[Footnote m: Salk. 67.]

[Footnote n: Stat. 20 Geo. II. c. 19.]

3. A THIRD species of servants are labourers, who are only hired by the day or the week, and do not live intra moenia, as part of the family; concerning whom the statute so often cited[o] has made many very good regulations; 1. Directing that all persons who have no visible effects may be compelled to work: 2. Defining how long they must continue at work in summer and winter: 3. Punishing such as leave or desert their work: 4. Empowering the justices at sessions, or the sheriff of the county, to settle their wages: and 5. Inflicting penalties on such as either give, or exact, more wages than are so settled.

[Footnote o: Stat. 5 Eliz. c. 4.]

4. THERE is yet a fourth species of servants, if they may be so called, being rather in a superior, a ministerial, capacity; such as stewards, factors, and bailiffs: whom however the law considers as servants pro tempore, with regard to such of their acts, as affect their master's or employer's property. Which leads me to consider,

II. THE manner in which this relation, of service, affects either the master or servant. And, first, by hiring and service for a year, or apprenticeship under indentures, a person gains a settlement in that parish wherein he last served forty days[p]. In the next place persons serving as apprentices to any trade have an exclusive right to exercise that trade in any part of England[q]. This law, with regard to the exclusive part of it, has by turns been looked upon as a hard law, or as a beneficial one, according to the prevailing humour of the times: which has occasioned a great variety of resolutions in the courts of law concerning it; and attempts have been frequently made for it's repeal, though hitherto without success. At common law every man might use what trade he pleased; but this statute restrains that liberty to such as have served as apprentices: the adversaries to which provision say, that all restrictions (which tend to introduce monopolies) are pernicious to trade; the advocates for it alledge, that unskilfulness in trades is equally detrimental to the public, as monopolies. This reason indeed only extends to such trades, in the exercise whereof skill is required: but another of their arguments goes much farther; viz. that apprenticeships are useful to the commonwealth, by employing of youth, and learning them to be early industrious; but that no one would be induced to undergo a seven years servitude, if others, though equally skilful, were allowed the same advantages without having undergone the same discipline: and in this there seems to be much reason. However, the resolutions of the courts have in general rather confined than extended the restriction. No trades are held to be within the statute, but such as were in being at the making of it[r]: for trading in a country village, apprenticeships are not requisite[s]: and following the trade seven years is sufficient without any binding; for the statute only says, the person must serve as an apprentice, and does not require an actual apprenticeship to have existed[t].

[Footnote p: See page 352.]

[Footnote q: Stat. 5 Eliz. c. 4.]

[Footnote r: Lord Raym. 514.]

[Footnote s: 1 Ventr. 51. 2 Keb. 583.]

[Footnote t: Lord Raym. 1179.]

A MASTER may by law correct his apprentice or servant for negligence or other misbehaviour, so it be done with moderation[u]: though, if the master's wife beats him, it is good cause of departure[w]. But if any servant, workman, or labourer assaults his master or dame, he shall suffer one year's imprisonment, and other open corporal punishment, not extending to life or limb[x].

[Footnote u: 1 Hawk. P.C. 130. Lamb. Eiren. 127.]

[Footnote w: F.N.B. 168.]

[Footnote x: Stat. 5 Eliz. c. 4.]

BY service all servants and labourers, except apprentices, become entitled to wages: according to their agreement, if menial servants; or according to the appointment of the sheriff or sessions, if labourers or servants in husbandry: for the statutes for regulation of wages extend to such servants only[y]; it being impossible for any magistrate to be a judge of the employment of menial servants, or of course to assess their wages.

[Footnote y: 2 Jones. 47.]

III. LET us, lastly, see how strangers may be affected by this relation of master and servant: or how a master may behave towards others on behalf of his servant; and what a servant may do on behalf of his master.

AND, first, the master may maintain, that is, abet and assist his servant in any action at law against a stranger: whereas, in general, it is an offence against public justice to encourage suits and animosities, by helping to bear the expense of them, and is called in law maintenance[z]. A master also may bring an action against any man for beating or maiming his servant; but in such case he must assign, as a special reason for so doing, his own damage by the loss of his service; and this loss must be proved upon the trial[a]. A master likewise may justify an assault in defence of his servant, and a servant in defence of his master[b]: the master, because he has an interest in his servant, not to be deprived of his service; the servant, because it is part of his duty, for which he receives his wages, to stand by and defend his master[c]. Also if any person do hire or retain my servant, being in my service, for which the servant departeth from me and goeth to serve the other, I may have an action for damages against both the new master and the servant, or either of them: but if the new master did not know that he is my servant, no action lies; unless he afterwards refuse to restore him upon information and demand[d]. The reason and foundation upon which all this doctrine is built, seem to be the property that every man has in the service of his domestics; acquired by the contract of hiring, and purchased by giving them wages.

[Footnote z: 2 Roll. Abr. 115.]

[Footnote a: 9 Rep. 113.]

[Footnote b: 2 Roll. Abr. 546.]

[Footnote c: In like manner, by the laws of king Alfred, c. 38. a servant was allowed to fight for his master, a parent for his child, and a husband or father for the chastity of his wife or daughter.]

[Footnote d: F.N.B. 167, 168.]

AS for those things which a servant may do on behalf of his master, they seem all to proceed upon this principle, that the master is answerable for the act of his servant, if done by his command, either expressly given, or implied: nam qui facit per alium, facit per se[e]. Therefore, if the servant commit a trespass by the command or encouragement of his master, the master shall be guilty of it: not that the servant is excused, for he is only to obey his master in matters that are honest and lawful. If an innkeeper's servants rob his guests, the master is bound to restitution[f]: for as there is a confidence reposed in him, that he will take care to provide honest servants, his negligence is a kind of implied consent to the robbery; nam, qui non prohibet, cum prohibere possit, jubet. So likewise if the drawer at a tavern sells a man bad wine, whereby his health is injured, he may bring an action against the master[g]: for, although the master did not expressly order the servant to sell it to that person in particular, yet his permitting him to draw and sell it at all is impliedly a general command.

[Footnote e: 4 Inst. 109.]

[Footnote f: Noy's Max. c. 43.]

[Footnote g: 1 Roll. Abr. 95.]

IN the same manner, whatever a servant is permitted to do in the usual course of his business, is equivalent to a general command. If I pay money to a banker's servant, the banker is answerable for it: if I pay it to a clergyman's or a physician's servant, whose usual business it is not to receive money for his master, and he imbezzles it, I must pay it over again. If a steward lets a lease of a farm, without the owner's knowlege, the owner must stand to the bargain; for this is the steward's business. A wife, a friend, a relation, that use to transact business for a man, are quoad hoc his servants; and the principal must answer for their conduct: for the law implies, that they act under a general command; and, without such a doctrine as this, no mutual intercourse between man and man could subsist with any tolerable convenience. If I usually deal with a tradesman by myself, or constantly pay him ready money, I am not answerable for what my servant takes up upon trust; for here is no implied order to the tradesman to trust my servant: but if I usually send him upon trust, or sometimes on trust, and sometimes with ready money, I am answerable for all he takes up; for the tradesman cannot possibly distinguish when he comes by my order, and when upon his own authority[h].

[Footnote h: Dr & Stud. d. 2. c. 42. Noy's max. c. 44.]

IF a servant, lastly, by his negligence does any damage to a stranger, the master shall answer for his neglect: if a smith's servant lames a horse while he is shoing him, an action lies against the master, and not against the servant. But in these cases the damage must be done, while he is actually employed in the master's service; otherwise the servant shall answer for his own misbehaviour. Upon this principle, by the common law[i], if a servant kept his master's fire negligently, so that his neighbour's house was burned down thereby, an action lay against the master; because this negligence happened in his service: otherwise, if the servant, going along the street with a torch, by negligence sets fire to a house; for there he is not in his master's immediate service, and must himself answer the damage personally. But now the common law is, in the former case, altered by statute 6 Ann. c. 3. which ordains that no action shall be maintained against any, in whose house or chamber any fire shall accidentally begin; for their own loss is sufficient punishment for their own or their servants' carelessness. But if such fire happens through negligence of any servant (whose loss is commonly very little) such servant shall forfeit 100l, to be distributed among the sufferers; and, in default of payment, shall be committed to some workhouse and there kept to hard labour for eighteen months[k]. A master is, lastly, chargeable if any of his family layeth or casteth any thing out of his house into the street or common highway, to the damage of any individual, or the common nusance of his majesty's liege people[l]: for the master hath the superintendance and charge of all his houshold. And this also agrees with the civil law[m]; which holds, that the pater familias, in this and similar cases, "ob alterius culpam tenetur, sive servi, sive liberi."

[Footnote i: Noy's max. c. 44.]

[Footnote k: Upon a similar principle, by the law of the twelve tables at Rome, a person by whose negligence any fire began was bound to pay double to the sufferers; or if he was not able to pay, was to suffer a corporal punishment.]

[Footnote l: Noy's max. c. 44.]

[Footnote m: Ff. 9. 3. 1. Inst. 4. 5. 1.]

WE may observe, that in all the cases here put, the master may be frequently a loser by the trust reposed in his servant, but never can be a gainer: he may frequently be answerable for his servant's misbehaviour, but never can shelter himself from punishment by laying the blame on his agent. The reason of this is still uniform and the same; that the wrong done by the servant is looked upon in law as the wrong of the master himself; and it is a standing maxim, that no man shall be allowed to make any advantage of his own wrong.



THE second private relation of persons is that of marriage, which includes the reciprocal duties of husband and wife; or, as most of our elder law books call them, of baron and feme. In the consideration of which I shall in the first place enquire, how marriages may be contracted or made; shall next point out the manner in which they may be dissolved; and shall, lastly, take a view of the legal effects and consequence of marriage.

I. OUR law considers marriage in no other light than as a civil contract. The holiness of the matrimonial state is left entirely to the ecclesiastical law: the temporal courts not having jurisdiction to consider unlawful marriages as a sin, but merely as a civil inconvenience. The punishment therefore, or annulling, of incestuous or other unscriptural marriages, is the province of the spiritual courts; which act pro salute animae[a]. And, taking it in this civil light, the law treats it as it does all other contracts; allowing it to be good and valid in all cases, where the parties at the time of making it were, in the first place, willing to contract; secondly, able to contract; and, lastly, actually did contract, in the proper forms and solemnities required by law.

[Footnote a: Salk. 121.]

FIRST, they must be willing to contract. "Consensus, non concubitus, facit nuptias," is the maxim of the civil law in this case[b]: and it is adopted by the common lawyers[c], who indeed have borrowed (especially in antient times) almost all their notions of the legitimacy of marriage from the canon and civil laws.

[Footnote b: Ff. 50. 17. 30.]

[Footnote c: Co. Litt. 33.]

SECONDLY, they must be able to contract. In general, all persons are able to contract themselves in marriage, unless they labour under some particular disabilities, and incapacities. What those are, it will here be our business to enquire.

NOW these disabilities are of two sorts: first, such as are canonical, and therefore sufficient by the ecclesiastical laws to avoid the marriage in the spiritual court; but these in our law only make the marriage voidable, and not ipso facto void, until sentence of nullity be obtained. Of this nature are pre-contract; consanguinity, or relation by blood; and affinity, or relation by marriage; and some particular corporal infirmities. And these canonical disabilities are either grounded upon the express words of the divine law, or are consequences plainly deducible from thence: it therefore being sinful in the persons, who labour under them, to attempt to contract matrimony together, they are properly the object of the ecclesiastical magistrate's coercion; in order to separate the offenders, and inflict penance for the offence, pro salute animarum. But such marriages not being void ab initio, but voidable only by sentence of separation, they are esteemed valid to all civil purposes, unless such separation is actually made during the life of the parties. For, after the death of either of them, the courts of common law will not suffer the spiritual court to declare such marriages to have been void; because such declaration cannot now tend to the reformation of the parties[d]. And therefore when a man had married his first wife's sister, and after her death the bishop's court was proceeding to annul the marriage and bastardize the issue, the court of king's bench granted a prohibition quoad hoc; but permitted them to proceed to punish the husband for incest[e]. These canonical disabilities, being entirely the province of the ecclesiastical courts, our books are perfectly silent concerning them. But there are a few statutes, which serve as directories to those courts, of which it will be proper to take notice. By statute 32 Hen. VIII. c. 38. it is declared, that all persons may lawfully marry, but such as are prohibited by God's law; and that all marriages contracted by lawful persons in the face of the church, and consummate with bodily knowlege, and fruit of children, shall be indissoluble. And (because in the times of popery a great variety of degrees of kindred were made impediments to marriage, which impediments might however be bought off for money) it is declared by the same statute, that nothing (God's law except) shall impeach any marriage, but within the Levitical degrees; the farthest of which is that between uncle and niece[f]. By the same statute all impediments, arising from pre-contracts to other persons, were abolished and declared of none effect, unless they had been consummated with bodily knowlege: in which case the canon law holds such contract to be a marriage de facto. But this branch of the statute was repealed by statute 2 & 3 Edw. VI. c. 23. How far the act of 26 Geo. II. c. 33. (which prohibits all suits in ecclesiastical courts to compel a marriage, in consequence of any contract) may collaterally extend to revive this clause of Henry VIII's statute, and abolish the impediment of pre-contract, I leave to be considered by the canonists.

[Footnote d: Ibid.]

[Footnote e: Salk. 548.]

[Footnote f: Gilb. Rep. 158.]

THE other sort of disabilities are those which are created, or at least enforced, by the municipal laws. And, though some of them may be grounded on natural law, yet they are regarded by the laws of the land, not so much in the light of any moral offence, as on account of the civil inconveniences they draw after them. These civil disabilities make the contract void ab initio, and not merely voidable: not that they dissolve a contract already formed, but they render the parties incapable of forming any contract at all: they do not put asunder those who are joined together, but they previously hinder the junction. And, if any persons under these legal incapacities come together, it is a meretricious, and not a matrimonial, union.

1. THE first of these legal disabilities is a prior marriage, or having another husband or wife living; in which case, besides the penalties consequent upon it as a felony, the second marriage is to all intents and purposes void[g]: polygamy being condemned both by the law of the new testament, and the policy of all prudent states, especially in these northern climates. And Justinian, even in the climate of modern Turkey, is express[h], that "duas uxores eodem tempore habere non licet."

[Footnote g: Bro. Abr. tit. Bastardy. pl. 8.]

[Footnote h: Inst. 1. 10. 6.]

2. THE next legal disability is want of age. This is sufficient to avoid all other contracts, on account of the imbecillity of judgment in the parties contracting; a fortiori therefore it ought to avoid this, the most important contract of any. Therefore if a boy under fourteen, or a girl under twelve years of age, marries, this marriage is only inchoate and imperfect; and, when either of them comes to the age of consent aforesaid, they may disagree and declare the marriage void, without any divorce or sentence in the spiritual court. This is founded on the civil law[i]. But the canon law pays a greater regard to the constitution, than the age, of the parties[k]: for if they are habiles ad matrimonium, it is a good marriage, whatever their age may be. And in our law it is so far a marriage, that, if at the age of consent they agree to continue together, they need not be married again[l]. If the husband be of years of discretion, and the wife under twelve, when she comes to years of discretion he may disagree as well as she may: for in contracts the obligation must be mutual; both must be bound, or neither: and so it is, vice versa, when the wife is of years of discretion, and the husband under[m].

[Footnote i: Leon. Constit. 109.]

[Footnote k: Decretal. l. 4. tit. 2. qu. 3.]

[Footnote l: Co. Litt. 79.]

[Footnote m: Ibid.]

3. ANOTHER incapacity arises from want of consent of parents or guardians. By the common law, if the parties themselves were of the age of consent, there wanted no other concurrence to make the marriage valid: and this was agreeable to the canon law. But, by several statutes[n], penalties of 100l. are laid on every clergyman who marries a couple either without publication of banns (which may give notice to parents or guardians) or without a licence, to obtain which the consent of parents or guardians must be sworn to. And by the statute 4 & 5 Ph. & M. c. 8. whosoever marries any woman child under the age of sixteen years, without consent of parents or guardians, shall be subject to fine, or five years imprisonment: and her estate during the husband's life shall go to and be enjoyed by the next heir. The civil law indeed required the consent of the parent or tutor at all ages; unless the children were emancipated, or out of the parents power[o]: and, if such consent from the father was wanting, the marriage was null, and the children illegitimate[p]; but the consent of the mother or guardians, if unreasonably withheld, might be redressed and supplied by the judge, or the president of the province[q]: and if the father was non compos, a similar remedy was given[r]. These provisions are adopted and imitated by the French and Hollanders, with this difference: that in France the sons cannot marry without consent of parents till thirty years of age, nor the daughters till twenty five[s]; and in Holland, the sons are at their own disposal at twenty five, and the daughters at twenty[t]. Thus hath stood, and thus at present stands, the law in other neighbouring countries. And it has been lately thought proper to introduce somewhat of the same policy into our laws, by statute 26 Geo. II. c. 33. whereby it is enacted, that all marriages celebrated by licence (for banns suppose notice) where either of the parties is under twenty one, (not being a widow or widower, who are supposed emancipated) without the consent of the father, or, if he be not living, of the mother or guardians, shall be absolutely void. A like provision is made as in the civil law, where the mother or guardian is non compos, beyond sea, or unreasonably froward, to dispense with such consent at the discretion of the lord chancellor: but no provision is made, in case the father should labour under any mental or other incapacity. Much may be, and much has been, said both for and against this innovation upon our antient laws and constitution. On the one hand, it prevents the clandestine marriages of minors, which are often a terrible inconvenience to those private families wherein they happen. On the other hand, restraints upon marriage, especially among the lower class, are evidently detrimental to the public, by hindering the encrease of people; and to religion and morality, by encouraging licentiousness and debauchery among the single of both sexes; and thereby destroying one end of society and government, which is, concubitu prohibere vago. And of this last inconvenience the Roman laws were so sensible, that at the same time that they forbad marriage without the consent of parents or guardians, they were less rigorous upon that very account with regard to other restraints: for, if a parent did not provide a husband for his daughter, by the time she arrived at the age of twenty five, and she afterwards made a slip in her conduct, he was not allowed to disinherit her upon that account; "quia non sua culpa, sed parentum, id commisisse cognoscitur[u]."

[Footnote n: 6 & 7 W. III. c. 6. 7 & 8 W. III. c. 35. 10 Ann. c. 19.]

[Footnote o: Ff. 23. 2. 2, & 18.]

[Footnote p: Ff. 1. 5. 11.]

[Footnote q: Cod. 5. 4. 1, & 20.]

[Footnote r: Inst. 1. 10. 1.]

[Footnote s: Domat, of dowries Sec. 2. Montesq. Sp. L. 23. 7.]

[Footnote t: Vinnius in Inst. l. 1. t. 10.]

[Footnote u: Nov. 115. Sec. 11.]

4. A FOURTH incapacity is want of reason; without a competent share of which, as no other, so neither can the matrimonial contract, be valid. Idiots and lunatics, by the old common law, might have married[w]; wherein it was manifestly defective. The civil law judged much more sensibly, when it made such deprivations of reason a previous impediment; though not a cause of divorce, if they happened after marriage[x]. This defect in our laws is however remedied with regard to lunatics, and persons under frenzies, by the express words of the statute 15 Geo. II. c. 30. and idiots, if not within the letter of the statute, are at least within the reason of it.

[Footnote w: 1 Roll. Abr. 357.]

[Footnote x: Ff. 23. tit. 1. l. 8. & tit. 2. l. 16.]

LASTLY, the parties must not only be willing, and able, to contract, but actually must contract themselves in due form of law, to make it a good civil marriage. Any contract made, per verba de praesenti, or in words of the present tense, and in case of cohabitation per verba de futuro also, between persons able to contract, was before the late act deemed a valid marriage to many purposes; and the parties might be compelled in the spiritual courts to celebrate it in facie ecclesiae. But these verbal contracts are now of no force, to compel a future marriage[y]. Neither is any marriage at present valid, that is not celebrated in some parish church or public chapel, unless by dispensation from the arch-bishop of Canterbury. It must also be preceded by publication of banns, or by licence from the spiritual judge. Many other formalities are likewise prescribed by the act; the neglect of which, though penal, does not invalidate the marriage. It is held to be also essential to a marriage, that it be performed by a person in orders[z]; though the intervention of a priest to solemnize this contract is merely juris positivi, and not juris naturalis aut divini: it being said that pope Innocent the third was the first who ordained the celebration of marriage in the church[a]; before which it was totally a civil contract. And, in the times of the grand rebellion, all marriages were performed by the justices of the peace; and these marriages were declared valid, without any fresh solemnization, by statute 12 Car. II. c. 33. But, as the law now stands, we may upon the whole collect, that no marriage by the temporal law is ipso facto void, that is celebrated by a person in orders,—in a parish church or public chapel (or elsewhere, by special dispensation)—in pursuance of banns or a licence,—between single persons,—consenting,—of sound mind,—and of the age of twenty one years;—or of the age of fourteen in males and twelve in females, with consent of parents or guardians, or without it, in case of widowhood. And no marriage is voidable by the ecclesiastical law, after the death of either of the parties; nor during their lives, unless for the canonical impediments of pre-contract, if that indeed still exists; of consanguinity; and of affinity, or corporal imbecillity, subsisting previous to the marriage.

[Footnote y: Stat. 26 Geo. II. c. 33.]

[Footnote z: Salk. 119.]

[Footnote a: Moor 170.]

II. I AM next to consider the manner in which marriages may be dissolved; and this is either by death, or divorce. There are two kinds of divorce, the one total, the other partial; the one a vinculo matrimonii, the other merely a mensa et thoro. The total divorce, a vinculo matrimonii, must be for some of the canonical causes of impediment before-mentioned; and those, existing before the marriage, as is always the case in consanguinity; not supervenient, or arising afterwards, as may be the case in affinity or corporal imbecillity. For in cases of total divorce, the marriage is declared null, as having been absolutely unlawful ab initio; and the parties are therefore separated pro salute animarum: for which reason, as was before observed, no divorce can be obtained, but during the life of the parties. The issue of such marriage, as is thus entirely dissolved, are bastards[b].

[Footnote b: Co. Litt. 235.]

DIVORCE a mensa et thoro is when the marriage is just and lawful ab initio, and therefore the law is tender of dissolving it; but, for some supervenient cause, it becomes improper or impossible for the parties to live together: as in the case of intolerable ill temper, or adultery, in either of the parties. For the canon law, which the common law follows in this case, deems so highly and with such mysterious reverence of the nuptial tie, that it will not allow it to be unloosed for any cause whatsoever, that arises after the union is made. And this is said to be built on the divine revealed law; though that expressly assigns incontinence as a cause, and indeed the only cause, why a man may put away his wife and marry another[c]. The civil law, which is partly of pagan original, allows many causes of absolute divorce; and some of them pretty severe ones, (as if a wife goes to the theatre or the public games, without the knowlege and consent of the husband[d]) but among them adultery is the principal, and with reason named the first[e]. But with us in England adultery is only a cause of separation from bed and board[f]: for which the best reason that can be given, is, that if divorces were allowed to depend upon a matter within the power of either the parties, they would probably be extremely frequent; as was the case when divorces were allowed for canonical disabilities, on the mere confession of the parties[g], which is now prohibited by the canons[h]. However, divorces a vinculo matrimonii, for adultery, have of late years been frequently granted by act of parliament.

[Footnote c: Matt. xix. 9.]

[Footnote d: Nov. 117.]

[Footnote e: Cod. 5. 17. 8.]

[Footnote f: Moor 683.]

[Footnote g: 2 Mod. 314.]

[Footnote h: Can. 1603 c. 105.]

IN case of divorce a mensa et thoro, the law allows alimony to the wife; which is that allowance, which is made to a woman for her support out of the husband's estate; being settled at the discretion of the ecclesiastical judge, on consideration of all the circumstances of the case. This is sometimes called her estovers; for which, if he refuses payment, there is (besides the ordinary process of excommunication) a writ at common law de estoveriis habendis, in order to recover it[i]. It is generally proportioned to the rank and quality of the parties. But in case of elopement, and living with an adulterer, the law allows her no alimony[k].

[Footnote i: 1 Lev. 6.]

[Footnote k: Cowel. tit. Alimony.]

III. HAVING thus shewn how marriages may be made, or dissolved, I come now, lastly, to speak of the legal consequences of such making, or dissolution.

BY marriage, the husband and wife are one person in law[l]: that is, the very being or legal existence of the woman is suspended during the marriage, or at least is incorporated and consolidated into that of the husband: under whose wing, protection, and cover, she performs every thing; and is therefore called in our law-french a feme-covert; is said to be covert-baron, or under the protection and influence of her husband, her baron, or lord; and her condition during her marriage is called her coverture. Upon this principle, of an union of person in husband and wife, depend almost all the legal rights, duties, and disabilities, that either of them acquire by the marriage. I speak not at present of the rights of property, but of such as are merely personal. For this reason, a man cannot grant any thing to his wife, or enter into covenant with her[m]: for the grant would be to suppose her separate existence; and to covenant with her, would be only to covenant with himself: and therefore it is also generally true, that all compacts made between husband and wife, when single, are voided by the intermarriage[n]. A woman indeed may be attorney for her husband[o]; for that implies no separation from, but is rather a representation of, her lord. And a husband may also bequeath any thing to his wife by will; for that cannot take effect till the coverture is determined by his death[p]. The husband is bound to provide his wife with necessaries by law, as much as himself; and if she contracts debts for them, he is obliged to pay them[q]: but for any thing besides necessaries, he is not chargeable[r]. Also if a wife elopes, and lives with another man, the husband is not chargeable even for necessaries[s]; at least if the person, who furnishes them, is sufficiently apprized of her elopement[t]. If the wife be indebted before marriage, the husband is bound afterwards to pay the debt; for he has adopted her and her circumstances together[u]. If the wife be injured in her person or her property, she can bring no action for redress without her husband's concurrence, and in his name, as well as her own[w]: neither can she be sued, without making the husband a defendant[x]. There is indeed one case where the wife shall sue and be sued as a feme sole, viz. where the husband has abjured the realm, or is banished[y]: for then he is dead in law; and, the husband being thus disabled to sue for or defend the wife, it would be most unreasonable if she had no remedy, or could make no defence at all. In criminal prosecutions, it is true, the wife may be indicted and punished separately[z]; for the union is only a civil union. But, in trials of any sort, they are not allowed to be evidence for, or against, each other[a]: partly because it is impossible their testimony should be indifferent; but principally because of the union of person: and therefore, if they were admitted to be witnesses for each other, they would contradict one maxim of law, "nemo in propria causa testis esse debet;" and if against each other, they would contradict another maxim, "nemo tenetur seipsum accusare." But where the offence is directly against the person of the wife, this rule has been usually dispensed with[b]: and therefore, by statute 3 Hen. VII. c. 2. in case a woman be forcibly taken away, and married, she may be a witness against such her husband, in order to convict him of felony. For in this case she can with no propriety be reckoned his wife; because a main ingredient, her consent, was wanting to the contract: and also there is another maxim of law, that no man shall take advantage of his own wrong; which the ravisher here would do, if by forcibly marrying a woman, he could prevent her from being a witness, who is perhaps the only witness, to that very fact.

[Footnote l: Co. Litt. 112.]

[Footnote m: Ibid.]

[Footnote n: Cro. Car. 551.]

[Footnote o: F.N.B. 27.]

[Footnote p: Co. Litt. 112.]

[Footnote q: Salk. 118.]

[Footnote r: 1 Sid. 120.]

[Footnote s: Stra. 647.]

[Footnote t: 1 Lev. 5.]

[Footnote u: 3 Mod. 186.]

[Footnote w: Salk. 119. 1 Roll. Abr. 347.]

[Footnote x: 1 Leon. 312. This was also the practice in the courts of Athens. (Pott. Antiqu. b. 1. c. 21.)]

[Footnote y: Co. Litt. 133.]

[Footnote z: 1 Hawk. P.C. 3.]

[Footnote a: 2 Haw. P.C. 431.]

[Footnote b: State trials, vol. 1. Lord Audley's case. Stra. 633.]

IN the civil law the husband and wife are considered as two distinct persons; and may have separate estates, contracts, debts, and injuries[c]: and therefore, in our ecclesiastical courts, a woman may sue and be sued without her husband[d].

[Footnote c: Cod. 4. 12. 1.]

[Footnote d: 2 Roll. Abr. 298.]

BUT, though our law in general considers man and wife as one person, yet there are some instances in which she is separately considered; as inferior to him, and acting by his compulsion. And therefore all deeds executed, and acts done, by her, during her coverture, are void, or at least voidable; except it be a fine, or the like matter of record, in which case she must be solely and secretly examined, to learn if her act be voluntary[e]. She cannot by will devise lands to her husband, unless under special circumstances; for at the time of making it she is supposed to be under his coercion[f]. And in some felonies, and other inferior crimes, committed by her, through constraint of her husband, the law excuses her[g]: but this extends not to treason or murder.

[Footnote e: Litt. Sec. 669, 670.]

[Footnote f: Co. Litt. 112.]

[Footnote g: 1 Hawk. P.C. 2.]

THE husband also (by the old law) might give his wife moderate correction[h]. For, as he is to answer for her misbehaviour, the law thought it reasonable to intrust him with this power of restraining her, by domestic chastisement, in the same moderation that a man is allowed to correct his servants or children; for whom the master or parent is also liable in some cases to answer. But this power of correction was confined within reasonable bounds[i]; and the husband was prohibited to use any violence to his wife, aliter quam ad virum, ex causa regiminis et castigationis uxoris suae, licite et rationabiliter pertinet[k]. The civil law gave the husband the same, or a larger, authority over his wife; allowing him, for some misdemesnors, flagellis et fustibus acriter verberare uxorem; for others, only modicam castigationem adhibere[l]. But, with us, in the politer reign of Charles the second, this power of correction began to be doubted[m]: and a wife may now have security of the peace against her husband[n]; or, in return, a husband against his wife[o]. Yet the lower rank of people, who were always fond of the old common law, still claim and exert their antient privilege: and the courts of law will still permit a husband to restrain a wife of her liberty, in case of any gross misbehaviour[p].

[Footnote h: Ibid. 130.]

[Footnote i: Moor. 874.]

[Footnote k: F.N.B. 80.]

[Footnote l: Nov. 117. c. 14. & Van Leeuwen in loc.]

[Footnote m: 1 Sid. 113. 3 Keb. 433.]

[Footnote n: 2 Lev. 128.]

[Footnote o: Stra. 1207.]

[Footnote p: Stra. 478. 875.]

THESE are the chief legal effects of marriage during the coverture; upon which we may observe, that even the disabilities, which the wife lies under, are for the most part intended for her protection and benefit. So great a favourite is the female sex of the laws of England.



THE next, and the most universal relation in nature, is immediately derived from the preceding, being that between parent and child.

CHILDREN are of two sorts; legitimate, and spurious, or bastards: each of which we shall consider in their order; and first of legitimate children.

I. A LEGITIMATE child is he that is born in lawful wedlock, or within a competent time afterwards. "Pater est quem nuptiae demonstrant," is the rule of the civil law[a]; and this holds with the civilians, whether the nuptials happen before, or after, the birth of the child. With us in England the rule is narrowed, for the nuptials must be precedent to the birth; of which more will be said when we come to consider the case of bastardy. At present let us enquire into, 1. The legal duties of parents to their legitimate children. 2. Their power over them. 3. The duties of such children to their parents.

[Footnote a: Ff. 2. 4. 5.]

1. AND, first, the duties of parents to legitimate children: which principally consist in three particulars; their maintenance, their protection, and their education.

THE duty of parents to provide for the maintenance of their children is a principle of natural law; an obligation, says Puffendorf[b], laid on them not only by nature herself, but by their own proper act, in bringing them into the world: for they would be in the highest manner injurious to their issue, if they only gave the children life, that they might afterwards see them perish. By begetting them therefore they have entered into a voluntary obligation, to endeavour, as far as in them lies, that the life which they have bestowed shall be supported and preserved. And thus the children will have a perfect right of receiving maintenance from their parents. And the president Montesquieu[c] has a very just observation upon this head: that the establishment of marriage in all civilized states is built on this natural obligation of the father to provide for his children; for that ascertains and makes known the person who is bound to fulfil this obligation: whereas, in promiscuous and illicit conjunctions, the father is unknown; and the mother finds a thousand obstacles in her way;—shame, remorse, the constraint of her sex, and the rigor of laws;—that stifle her inclinations to perform this duty: and besides, she generally wants ability.

[Footnote b: L. of N. l. 4. c. 11.]

[Footnote c: Sp. L. l. 23. c. 2.]

THE municipal laws of all well-regulated states have taken care to enforce this duty: though providence has done it more effectually than any laws, by implanting in the breast of every parent that natural [Greek: storge], or insuperable degree of affection, which not even the deformity of person or mind, not even the wickedness, ingratitude, and rebellion of children, can totally suppress or extinguish.

THE civil law[d] obliges the parent to provide maintenance for his child; and, if he refuses, "judex de ea re cognoscet." Nay, it carries this matter so far, that it will not suffer a parent at his death totally to disinherit his child, without expressly giving his reason for so doing; and there are fourteen such reasons reckoned up[e], which may justify such disinherison. If the parent alleged no reason, or a bad, or false one, the child might set the will aside, tanquam testamentum inofficiosum, a testament contrary to the natural duty of the parent. And it is remarkable under what colour the children were to move for relief in such a case: by suggesting that the parent had lost the use of his reason, when he made the inofficious testament. And this, as Puffendorf observes[f], was not to bring into dispute the testator's power of disinheriting his own offspring; but to examine the motives upon which he did it: and, if they were found defective in reason, then to set them aside. But perhaps this is going rather too far: every man has, or ought to have, by the laws of society, a power over his own property: and, as Grotius very well distinguishes[g], natural right obliges to give a necessary maintenance to children; but what is more than that, they have no other right to, than as it is given them by the favour of their parents, or the positive constitutions of the municipal law.

[Footnote d: Ff. 25. 3. 5.]

[Footnote e: Nov. 115.]

[Footnote f: l. 4. c. 11. Sec. 7.]

[Footnote g: De j.b. & p. l. 2. c. 7. n. 3.]

LET us next see what provision our own laws have made for this natural duty. It is a principle of law[h], that there is an obligation on every man to provide for those descended from his loins: and the manner, in which this obligation shall be performed, is thus pointed out[i]. The father, and mother, grandfather, and grandmother of poor impotent persons shall maintain them at their own charges, if of sufficient ability, according as the quarter sessions shall direct: and[k] if a parent runs away, and leaves his children, the churchwardens and overseers of the parish shall seise his rents, goods, and chattels, and dispose of them towards their relief. By the interpretations which the courts of law have made upon these statutes, if a mother or grandmother marries again, and was before such second marriage of sufficient ability to keep the child, the husband shall be charged to maintain it[l]: for this being a debt of hers, when single, shall like others extend to charge the husband. But at her death, the relation being dissolved, the husband is under no farther obligation.

[Footnote h: Raym. 500.]

[Footnote i: Stat. 43 Eliz. c. 2.]

[Footnote k: Stat. 5 Geo. I. c. 8.]

[Footnote l: Styles. 283. 2 Bulstr. 346.]

NO person is bound to provide a maintenance for his issue, unless where the children are impotent and unable to work, either through infancy, disease, or accident; and then is only obliged to find them with necessaries, the penalty on refusal being no more than 20s. a month. For the policy of our laws, which are ever watchful to promote industry, did not mean to compel a father to maintain his idle and lazy children in ease and indolence: but thought it unjust to oblige the parent, against his will, to provide them with superfluities, and other indulgences of fortune; imagining they might trust to the impulse of nature, if the children were deserving of such favours. Yet, as nothing is so apt to stifle the calls of nature as religious bigotry, it is enacted[m], that if any popish parent shall refuse to allow his protestant child a fitting maintenance, with a view to compel him to change his religion, the lord chancellor shall by order of court constrain him to do what is just and reasonable. But this did not extend to persons of another religion, of no less bitterness and bigotry than the popish: and therefore in the very next year we find an instance of a Jew of immense riches, whose only daughter having embraced christianity, he turned her out of doors; and on her application for relief, it was held she was intitled to none[n]. But this gave occasion[o] to another statute[p], which ordains, that if jewish parents refuse to allow their protestant children a fitting maintenance, suitable to the fortune of the parent, the lord chancellor on complaint may make such order therein as he shall see proper.

[Footnote m: Stat. 11 & 12 W. III. c. 4.]

[Footnote n: Lord Raym. 699.]

[Footnote o: Com. Journ. 18 Feb. 12 Mar. 1701.]

[Footnote p: 1 Ann. st. 1. c. 30.]

OUR law has made no provision to prevent the disinheriting of children by will; leaving every man's property in his own disposal, upon a principle of liberty in this, as well as every other, action: though perhaps it had not been amiss, if the parent had been bound to leave them at the least a necessary subsistence. By the custom of London indeed, (which was formerly universal throughout the kingdom) the children of freemen are entitled to one third of their father's effects, to be equally divided among them; of which he cannot deprive them. And, among persons of any rank or fortune, a competence is generally provided for younger children, and the bulk of the estate settled upon the eldest, by the marriage-articles. Heirs also, and children, are favourites of our courts of justice, and cannot be disinherited by any dubious or ambiguous words; there being required the utmost certainty of the testator's intentions to take away the right of an heir[q].

[Footnote q: 1 Lev. 130.]

FROM the duty of maintenance we may easily pass to that of protection; which is also a natural duty, but rather permitted than enjoined by any municipal laws: nature, in this respect, working so strongly as to need rather a check than a spur. A parent may, by our laws, maintain and uphold his children in their lawsuits, without being guilty of the legal crime of maintaining quarrels[r]. A parent may also justify an assault and battery in defence of the persons of his children[s]: nay, where a man's son was beaten by another boy, and the father went near a mile to find him, and there revenged his son's quarrel by beating the other boy, of which beating he afterwards died; it was not held to be murder, but manslaughter merely[t]. Such indulgence does the law shew to the frailty of human nature, and the workings of parental affection.

[Footnote r: 2 Inst. 564.]

[Footnote s: 1 Hawk. P.C. 131.]

[Footnote t: Cro. Jac. 296. 1 Hawk. P.C. 83.]

THE last duty of parents to their children is that of giving them an education suitable to their station in life: a duty pointed out by reason, and of far the greatest importance of any. For, as Puffendorf very well observes[u], it is not easy to imagine or allow, that a parent has conferred any considerable benefit upon his child, by bringing him into the world; if he afterwards entirely neglects his culture and education, and suffers him to grow up like a mere beast, to lead a life useless to others, and shameful to himself. Yet the municipal laws of most countries seem to be defective in this point, by not constraining the parent to bestow a proper education upon his children. Perhaps they thought it punishment enough to leave the parent, who neglects the instruction of his family, to labour under those griefs and inconveniences, which his family, so uninstructed, will be sure to bring upon him. Our laws, though their defects in this particular cannot be denied, have in one instance made a wise provision for breeding up the rising generation; since the poor and laborious part of the community, when past the age of nurture, are taken out of the hands of their parents, by the statutes for apprenticing poor children[w]; and are placed out by the public in such a manner, as may render their abilities, in their several stations, of the greatest advantage to the commonwealth. The rich indeed are left at their own option, whether they will breed up their children to be ornaments or disgraces to their family. Yet in one case, that of religion, they are under peculiar restrictions: for[x] it is provided, that if any person sends any child under his government beyond the seas, either to prevent it's good education in England, or in order to enter into or reside in any popish college, or to be instructed, persuaded, or strengthened in the popish religion; in such case, besides the disabilities incurred by the child so sent, the parent or person sending shall forfeit 100l. which[y] shall go to the sole use and benefit of him that shall discover the offence. And[z] if any parent, or other, shall send or convey any person beyond sea, to enter into, or be resident in, or trained up in, any priory, abbey, nunnery, popish university, college, or school, or house of jesuits, or priests, or in any private popish family, in order to be instructed, persuaded, or confirmed in the popish religion; or shall contribute any thing towards their maintenance when abroad by any pretext whatever, the person both sending and sent shall be disabled to sue in law or equity, or to be executor or administrator to any person, or to enjoy any legacy or deed of gift, or to bear any office in the realm, and shall forfeit all his goods and chattels, and likewise all his real estate for life.

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