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Thursday, May 26, 2016

Coverture

 After writing yesterdays blog I received some feedback. That is always welcome and I learned a new term from it. That term is " coverture. " I am always excited to learn about something new, especially when that something new is very old. I hadn't heard about this idea of coverture before and so went to Wikipedia to learn about it. Here is what it says," Coverture was a legal doctrine whereby, upon marriage, a woman's legal rights and obligations were subsumed by those of her husband, in accordance with the wife's legal status of feme covert. An unmarried woman, a feme sole, had the right to own property and make contracts in her own name. Coverture was enshrined in the common law of England …" Well who knew ? Having never read Blackstones' Commentaries on the laws of England or attending law school I was woefully uninformed. This law was obviously written and ratified by men. Well, you do have to have a boss in any relationship don't you ? I mean when it comes to financial decisions and such, someone does have to have the final authority. This concept of coverture does seem extreme to us in 21st century though. The woman could never be the CEO she surrendered that position to her husband.
 It is no secret that our laws mostly derive from the common law of England. William Blackstone was widely read and studied in America. Many of those concepts that he wrote about are still in force to this day. Proof would seem to be the necessity for a pre-nuptial agreement. I'm guessing that paper would negate the principle of coverture. The woman gets to retain her independence all the while being married. An equal partner ? What a modern concept that is. The idea of asking for a pre-nuptial agreement sometimes appears to show a lack of trust in the wife, doesn't it ? The same is true if the lady asks her potential husband for one. Protecting their interests it is called. Of course the primary interest should be in each other but practicality dictates otherwise. Ah, the troubles of the wealthy. They are the only ones that worry about that stuff.
 This idea of coverture could be viewed negatively by the ladies. They needed to subsume their legal rights and obligations. Of course you must remember it was voluntary. The lady could always say no and retain those rights and obligations. So why would she get married ? Must be for love. And a loving wife is a submissive wife, isn't that the thinking. A man must conquer the woman. Do we not say, she " surrendered " while the man conquered. To subsume, that is allow her rights and obligations to be absorbed by her husband, was the gesture of submission expected by common law in England. Male dominance is a common theme throughout history. Brute strength before everything else. That is the premise of war. If I can't get you to agree, I just attack you physically until you submit.
 The idea of a wife being submissive to the husband is even in the Bible.
Ephesians 5: Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.  23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.  24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her  26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word,  27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.  28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.  29 After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church—  30 for we are members of his body.  31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”  32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.  33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. [Eph 5.22ff]

Notice though the obligations of the husband in this contract. In order to fulfill that contract the husband must have the authority to act. So, it stands to reason that " coverture " existed and indeed exists in some fashion to this day. Yes ladies it is for your own good ! Coverture is not really a submission after all but a sign of respect. Respect and trust, just as one should respect and trust in the Lord ! Now it is generally accepted that God is a man. It logically follows that man is the closest thing to God on earth. That is why the woman has to respect and submit to their husbands in everything. Sounds right to me. I realize others may not agree. Interesting the things we learn from one another.