Page:The early history of the property of married women.djvu/14

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into her husband's family, and to become in law his daughter, her property would no longer be transferred to him. In the earlier period of Roman law, this property, present and prospective, would have remained with her own family, and, if she was no longer under direct parental authority, would have been administered by her guardians for the behoof of her male relatives. As we know, however, and as I before stated, the power of guardians was gradually reduced to a shadow. The legal result would seem to have been that the woman would be placed in the same position as a French wife at this day under what the French Code calls the régime of biens separés, or an English wife whose property has been secured to her separate use by an appropriate marriage settlement, or by the operation of the new Married Women's Property Act. But, though this was the legal consequence, it would be a social anachronism to assume that in practice it followed rapidly or generally. The original object of the marriage "without coming under the hand" was doubtless to prevent the acquisition of excessive proprietary power by the husband, not to deprive him of all such power, and indeed the legal result of this marriage, unless practically qualified in some way, would unquestionably have been far in advance of social feeling. Here, then, we come upon an institution which, of all purely artificial institutions, has had perhaps the longest and the most important history. This is the dos, or dotal estate, something very different from our "dower." It has become the dot of French law, and is the favourite form of settling the property of married women all over the Continent of Europe. It is a contribution by the wife's family, or by the wife herself, intended to assist the husband in bearing the expenses of the conjugal household. Only the revenue belonged to the husband, and many minute rules, which need not be specified here, prevented him from spending it on objects foreign to the purpose of the settlement. The corpus or capital of the settled property was, among the Romans (as now in France), incapable of alienation, unless with the permission of a court of justice. If any part of the wife's property was not settled on her as dos, it became her parapherna. Parapherna means something very different from our "paraphernalia," and is the biens separés of French law. It was that portion of a wife's property which was held by her under the strict law applicable to a woman marrying without "coming under the hand." The authority of her guardians having died out, and this part of her