X marrying Y <> Y marrying X?

Barbara Need nee1 at MIDWAY.UCHICAGO.EDU
Tue Sep 11 02:16:35 UTC 2007

At 18:21 -0400 10/9/07, Joel S. Berson wrote:
>At 9/10/2007 03:21 PM, John Baker wrote:
>>The point is, if it's mutual, you don't have to tell who is the
>>marrier and who is the marriee.  I suppose that the Commonwealth of
>>Virginia would have contrasted their statute to a hypothetical statute
>>that imposed penalties upon a black person who entered into marriage
>>with a white person, but not upon the white spouse.
>I suspect this is the point in Virginia, at least.  But there the
>penalties were on the white marrying the black.  (Penalties on the
>slave were probably pointless:  he or she had no property to pay a
>fine; the term of servitude could not be extended beyond life; and
>corporal punishment might adversely affect the property rights of the
>slave's owner.)  Happening to have in my hand at the moment A. Leon
>Higginbotham Jr.'s _In the Matter of Color: Race and the American
>Legal Process -- The Colonial Period_ (1978), I find him writing:
>"The 1705 prohibition against interracial marriage was reenacted in
>1792; both statutes imposed a penalty of six months' imprisonment on
>whites, but curiously at that time no imprisonment penalty was
>imposed on blacks in the statutes.  In 1848 the imprisonment for
>whites marrying blacks was increased to twelve months.  It was not
>until 1932, when the statute was amended, that imprisonment was
>imposed on _both_ [emphasis in original] blacks and whites for
>intermarrying, and in 1932 the penalty was increased to confinement
>in the "penitentiary for from one to five years."  [page 46]

I don't have the reference to hand, but in Mary Beth Norton's
Foremothers and Forefathers about roles of male and female in
colonial America, she specifically mentions that, when Maryland
decided that all blacks who were at that time indentured servants
were now slaves, the question came up about what the status of their
white spouses and children were. The result was that the white
spouses were in servitude until the black spouse died; the children
until their 30th birthday!


Barbara Need

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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