By Thomas E. Buckley
From the tip of the Revolution until eventually 1851, the Virginia legislature granted such a lot divorces within the country. It granted divorces hardly ever, although, turning down two-thirds of these who petitioned for them. women and men who sought unencumber from unsatisfied marriages confronted a harsh criminal procedure buttressed via the political, spiritual, and communal cultures of southern lifestyles. in the course of the lens of this opposed surroundings, Thomas Buckley explores with sympathy the lives and felony struggles of these who challenged it.
Based on examine in nearly 500 divorce documents, The nice disaster of My Life includes a large cross-section of Virginians. Their tales disclose southern attitudes and practices related to a spectrum of concerns from marriage and family members existence to gender family members, interracial intercourse, adultery, desertion, and household violence. even supposing the oppressive criminal regime those husbands and better halves battled has gave up the ghost, the feelings in the back of their efforts to dissolve the bonds of marriage nonetheless resonate strongly.
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From the top of the Revolution till 1851, the Virginia legislature granted so much divorces within the country. It granted divorces not often, notwithstanding, turning down two-thirds of these who petitioned for them. women and men who sought unlock from unsatisfied marriages confronted a harsh criminal procedure buttressed by means of the political, spiritual, and communal cultures of southern lifestyles.
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Additional info for The Great Catastrophe of My Life: Divorce in the Old Dominion
The saga of his multiple eﬀorts to free himself legally from his spouse clariﬁes the reasons why many legislators were reluctant to give the courts jurisdiction over divorce and the skepticism with which they read individual petitions. After serving as a surgeon with Lafayette’s army in the American Revolution, Mettauer, a native of France, settled in Virginia. During the 1780s he established a thriving medical practice in Prince Edward County. His younger brother, John Peter Mettauer, emigrated to join him there in 1790, shortly before their father’s death.
28 Because divorces were so diﬃcult to obtain, spouses sometimes arranged separation agreements before county courts. The local government in mostly rural Virginia, these courts were self-perpetuating bodies of gentry who exercised a variety of executive, legislative, and judicial functions. On one or more court days each month the justices of the peace heard presentments from the grand jury, tried criminal and civil cases with petit juries, and sat as a chancery court to determine equity (fairness) cases.
36 After considering Mettauer’s petition for more than a month, a legislative committee reported a resolution that summarized his argument, noted his good reputation in his community, and recommended a divorce bill. The House, however, ﬁrst tabled the issue and then a week later rejected the committee’s resolution. 37 Aﬃdavits from neighbors aﬃrmed his recital of events. ’’ They asked Randolph, who had recently returned to his law practice after resigning as secretary of state, to use his good oﬃces to help Mettauer gain a divorce or annulment, because otherwise he would probably return to France.