The Constitutional Principle: Separation of Church and State
Welcome Contents What's New Search this site
View Our Stats  
Visitors since 7/15/1998
Links   Guest Book Contact Us
This site is eye friendly: Use your browser's view options to increase or decrease font size


Research and edited, Jim Allison.

Enter main body of text here

More mariage info

Among the aristocracy of the Southern colonies, marriages were still largely arranged. Restrictions on the inheritance of couples who married without parental approval, and laws requiring the approval of parents in marriages involving minors, acted as a strong brake on the heart. Courtship could be a protracted business negotiation. A young man, interested in a young woman, would first interest his father in the union. His father would then write a letter of introduction to her father, including financial settlements the young man would have upon marriage. The recipient, if interested, would reply with a letter setting forth his approval and his own financial gifts. The young couple were then free to see if they had anything in common. Falling in love before this point was considered a brash breach of etiquette.

The corporate interactions of New England society created more apparent spontaneity, but in fact the process of evaluation had been going on all the young people's lives. SOURCE: The Writer's Guide, Everyday Life in Colonial America From 1607 - 1783. Dale Taylor. Weiter's Digest Books (1997) p 122



Some information on age

Many traditions describe marriage at a young age. For certain low classes established here, it was possible; however, early marriage was impractical for most. Immigrants could not enter into indentures until age twenty-one, and then were further bound to celibacy for five to seven years. This drove the marriage age up to between twenty-five and thirty and had the effect of removing many people from the reproductive pool until they became infertile or died, limiting the ability of the population to grow dynamically.

Through the period aristocratic marriages were conducted with twelve-year-old brides, but it is questionable whether they were consummated until later. Statistics for the South commonly show ages between fourteen and sixteen for women, but men generally were in their majority before marriage. SOURCE: The Writer's Guide, Everyday Life in Colonial America From 1607 - 1783. Dale Taylor. Weiter's Digest Books (1997) p 121



In nineteenth-century America, the "age of consent" for girls in many states was as low as nine or ten, which rather makes a mockery of the term. What one author calls "the myth of an abstinent past" stems in part from lower fecundity and higher fetal mortality in previous times, making early sexual activity less likely to end up in pregnancy or birth. The proportion of fecund fifteen-year-old girls in America increased by 31 percent between 1940 and 1968 alone. In 1870, only 13 percent of European girls were fully fecund at age 17.5, compared to 94 percent of American girls the same age today 11 11. Phillips Cutwright, "The Teenage Sexual Revolution and the Myth of an Abstinent Past," Family Planning Perspectives 4 (1972): 24, 26; Jane Lancaster and Beatrix Hamburg, eds., Schoolage Pregnancy and Parenthood: Biosocial Dimensions (New York: Aldine, 1986). SOURCE: The Way We Never Were American Families and the Nostalgia Trap Stephanie Coontz Basic Books, A Division of HarperCollins Publishers (1992) p 184




There are a number of oral traditions that can be referred to in the Hemings-Jefferson saga. Oral Tradition were a standard way of passing information from one generation to another.

One example, (1). The Thomas Woodson family oral tradition The Thomas Woodson family oral tradition is basically that Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings (1) became lovers in France (she was approx 14-16, he was approx 44-46--the Common Law age of consent during Jefferson's day was 10-12) or (2) he had his way with her sexually. The result was that in 1789 she became pregnant, and a male child was born to her after she returned to Monticello in 1790 [ Just to set the record straight on this matter, DNA proved that no male member of the Jefferson family tree fathered Thomas Woodson ] This demonstrates that not all Oral Tradition were accurate.




In any case, single women in New England during the colonial period were more likely to be sexually active than to belong to a church----in 1776 only about one out of five New Englanders had a religious affiliation. The Churching of America, 1776-1990, Winners and Losers in Our Religious Economy, ROGER FINKE and RODNEY STARK,RUTGERS UNIVERSITY PRESS New Brunswick, New Jersey (1994) p. 22



In the USA last century, the age of consent was 10 years old. California was the first state to change the age of consent to 14, which it did in 1889. After California, other US states joined in and raised the age of consent too. (Source:



Campaign to Raise the Age of Consent, 1885-1914 [excerpt]




In the late nineteenth century,"Age of consent" referred to the legal age at which a girl could consent to sexual relations. Men who engaged in sexual relations with girls who had not reached the age of consent could be criminally prosecuted. American reformers were shocked to discover that the laws of most states set the age of consent at the age of ten or twelve, and in one state, Delaware, the age of consent was only seven. Women reformers and advocates of social purity initiated a campaign in 1885 to petition legislators to raise the legal age of consent to at least sixteen, although their ultimate goal was to raise the age to eighteen. The campaign was eventually quite successful; by 1920, almost all states had raised the age of consent to sixteen or eighteen.


To understand the class, gender, and racial tensions within the age-of-consent campaign of the late nineteenth century; to investigate the differences in the views of diverse supporters of the campaign; to understand the broad appeal of the campaign to many groups of women; to see how reformers' solutions to the problem of the sexual exploitation of wage-earning women changed over time. [end excerpt


Nedstat Counter