HOW JUSTICES NEED NOT USE THE WORST LAWS. TO THE
EDITOR OF THE SPECTATOR.
StoCkbridge, 5th December 1842.
Sin,—I deny the position which you appear to imply, (in page 1163,) that the Magistrate who committed MARY MORGAN to Northleacla Gaol for fourteen days was compelled to pass the sentence which be pronounced through neces- sity—" obeying the letter of a law relative to servants in husbandry.' If the Magistrate thought that commitment to the House of Correction was a fit punishment for the offence, his power is to commit for a reasonable time, not exceeding a month; and many Magistrates, even if they thought she bad of- fended, might have thought that a term of commitment much short of fourteen days was sufficient for the offence, under the circumstances. But the Magis- trate was under no necessity to punish her by commitment at all, if be had happened to think that an abatement of her two days wages was a punishment commensurate to the misdemeanour ; and some Magistrates might entertain, and not unreasonably, that opinion. And if the young woman bad preferred, or were now to prefer her complaint reciprocally against her employer, either on the statute of 5th Elie. c. 4, or on that of 20th George II., c. 19, (the act on which the master seems to have complained,) many Magistrates might think it but reasonable to dissolve the contract, by reason that the requirement of the master, in the matter to which the servant objected,was contra bonos mores : and although I allow that both the statute of Elizabeth and that of George II. expressly give the power of dissolution—the first only to the Magistrate "to whom the party grieved shall complain," and the last only "upon any complaint or application upon oath by any such servant"—yet it is to be remembered, that there are cases wherein, without any interference of a Magistrate, the re- lation of master and servant may be lawfully determined at common law ; as, if there be moral misconduct, Cello v. Brounker, 4 C. and P. 519; Rex v. Inha- bitants of Brompton, Cald. 11; Rex v. Welford, Cald. 57; Atkin v. Acton, 4 C. and P. 208 ; Turner v. Robinson, 5; Barnard and Adolph. 789; and by the master it may be so dissolved, even for disobedience to orders, refusing to work, or staying out all night. And if there be that implied agreement be- tween master and servant, which Mr. Justice JAMES PARKE affirms, in Collo e. Brounker, that if there is any moral misconduct " the master shall be at liberty to part with the servant before the end of the year," it is necessarily an implied reciprocal condition that the servant shall be at liberty to depart from the service for the like cause. Can there be any doubt, that if a master makes a criminal assault on a female servant, the servant is at liberty instantly to quit the house ? And if at liberty so to do, her departure would be no offence cog- mixable by a Magistrate. The case of MARY MORGAN is not so strong a case as that, 1 allow; but it is a very grave question, whether the indecorum of the practice required, were not sufficient to justify her departure, and to entitle her to a judgment of not guilty ? Would the Magistrate have allowed his own daughter to pass habitually to her bedroom through the room where his own male-servant, or any guest, was in bed ? To speculate what the young woman would have done if the man rue wished to recommend had been hired, is, as the Templar ought to know, a departure from the question ; which was, not whether the young woman would have acted improperly under other circum- stances, but whether she had incurred punishment by what she now did. It must be owned, that a very effective measure has been taken to obliterate her repugnance to go into any man's bedroom in future.
I am, Sir, your obedient servant, A GLOUCESTERSHIRE MAGISTRATE.
[We certainly did not mean to imply that the committing Magistrate was " compelled " to resort to the particular law. The very existence of the law on the statute-book implied the instruction to the Magistrates that such a punish- ment might be a proper one in the case of broken contract; which is the ab- surdity. Sending an unpolluted woman to gaol, is consigning her to be pol- luted—tantamount to sentence of prostitution for the remainder of her life : and in no case can prostitution be a proper punishment for breach of contract. If it is to be granted that Magistrates are above the law, and that law is the very rude material out of which they are to contrive the best judgments they may at discretion, the question would be settled by condemning the Magistrate who committed MARY MORGAN : but the law ought not to suggest to Magis- trates the expediency of making hardened criminals of giddy girls or prudes.— En.]