Author Topic: Was it an offence for a man to live with another man's wife in Australia 1839?  (Read 370 times)

Offline Charlie Bucket

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Hello

In 1839 in Victoria, Australia my great great grandmother (Harriet) left her husband to live with my great great grandfather (Chris). Her young children went with her.
The abandoned husband put notices in the local paper stating " ... any person harbouring my lawful wife after this notice will be prosecuted" and "...he [Chris] being guilty of an offence against the laws with which he now stands charged at my insistence."
He offered 20 pounds for information leading to him being able to apprehend Chris.
Did Chris break any laws and was he in danger of prosecution if apprehended?



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Offline judb

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Re: Was it an offence for a man to live with another man's wife in Australia 1839?
« Reply #1 on: Monday 01 March 21 06:33 GMT (UK) »
A general article re marriage in the 1830s which does not really answer your question, but, as married women were considered to be under the protection of their husbands, there possibly was some kind of law. 

https://boundforsouthaustralia.history.sa.gov.au/journey-content/marriage-in-1830s-britain.html

Judith


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"Time present and time past are both perhaps present in time future..." T S Eliot

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Online Ruskie

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Re: Was it an offence for a man to live with another man's wife in Australia 1839?
« Reply #2 on: Monday 01 March 21 06:45 GMT (UK) »
Husband obviously wants his property back.   >:(

If she left voluntarily I’m not sure that legally she could have been forced to return. It did happen a lot.

I think it sounds like husband is angry and trying to scare them by citing the law and offering a reward. The words printed in the newspaper are his words after all.

I hope your gggrandmother stayed with Chris and had a happy life.


Offline wivenhoe

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Re: Was it an offence for a man to live with another man's wife in Australia 1839?
« Reply #3 on: Monday 01 March 21 06:58 GMT (UK) »

Spouses leaving would not be uncommon. 

If there was a serious legal consequence, you might think that there would be an understood term that had acquired social currency, just as use of words like bigamy, adultery....whatever words any legislation might use.

 

 

Online Ruskie

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Re: Was it an offence for a man to live with another man's wife in Australia 1839?
« Reply #4 on: Monday 01 March 21 07:01 GMT (UK) »
Did Harriet and a Chris ever marry?

Re reading the newspaper article ... do you think the husband is threatening Chris with harbouring Harriet rather than saying Harriet has done something unlawful by leaving? He might be accusing Chris of taking Harriet and the children from him, rather than admitting that Harriet left voluntarily.

Offline Sabs

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Re: Was it an offence for a man to live with another man's wife in Australia 1839?
« Reply #5 on: Monday 01 March 21 07:27 GMT (UK) »
There may have been a tort you could sue for, maybe alienation of affection or breach of contractual relations.

Offline Charlie Bucket

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Re: Was it an offence for a man to live with another man's wife in Australia 1839?
« Reply #6 on: Monday 01 March 21 08:00 GMT (UK) »
Here are the full notices.

“Caution. I hereby caution the Public against giving credit to my lawful wife Harriet Ferguson, as I will not be answerable for any debts contracted by her after the date hereof, and any person harbouring her after this notice will be prosecuted." 
Wm. Ferguson. Melbourne. Port Phillip GazetteJuly 17 1839.”

"Twenty Pounds Reward
. The Subscriber hereby offers a reward of  Twenty Pounds Sterling to any person who will furnish him with information that will enable him to apprehend Christopher Berry, sometime ship-master in Melbourne, and late of Western Port, he having being guilty of an offence against the laws with which he now stands charged at the instance of the subscriber. 
William Ferguson." Port Phillip Gazette 12 August 1840
BURGESS (West Somerset)
TAKLE (West Somerset and Bristol)
QUICK (West Somerset)
STEAR/STEER (West Somerset)
KEEFE (Tipperary; Victoria, Australia; New Zealand)

Offline Charlie Bucket

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Re: Was it an offence for a man to live with another man's wife in Australia 1839?
« Reply #7 on: Monday 01 March 21 08:12 GMT (UK) »
They never married as far as I know, Ruskie. They lived together for 10 years and died within 20 days of each other.
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Offline wivenhoe

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Re: Was it an offence for a man to live with another man's wife in Australia 1839?
« Reply #8 on: Monday 01 March 21 08:20 GMT (UK) »


Assuming that he is using legal terms........"harbour" means to offer shelter.  I do not think it carries a suggestion of trickery / inducement / detention etc.

But, an angry man might not worry about the specifics.