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A History of American Law$
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Lawrence M. Friedman

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780190070885

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190070885.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 25 October 2021

The Law of Personal Status: Wives, Paupers, and Slaves

The Law of Personal Status: Wives, Paupers, and Slaves

(p.173) 4 The Law of Personal Status: Wives, Paupers, and Slaves
A History of American Law

Lawrence M. Friedman

Oxford University Press

This chapter discusses the law on marriage and divorce, family property, adoption, poor laws and social welfare, and slavery and African Americans in the United States. In the colonial period, the United States had no courts to handle matters of marriage and divorce. Marriage was a contract—an agreement between a man and a woman. Under the rules of the common law, the country belonged to the whites; and more specifically, it belonged to white men. Women had civil rights but no political rights. There were no formal provisions for adoption. A Massachusetts law, passed in 1851, was one of the earliest, and most significant, general adoption law. The so-called poor laws were the basic welfare laws.

Keywords:   marriage, divorce, family property, adoption, poor laws, social welfare, slavery, African Americans, common law

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