Archiver > QUEBEC-RESEARCH > 2007-10 > 1193412240

Subject: Re: [Q-R] Marriageable Age in New France: was] Martin Cote andSuzannePaget
Date: Fri, 26 Oct 2007 11:24:00 -0400
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In-Reply-To: <>

I wish to add my thanks and plaudits to Mona for her summary of the
Depasquier and PRDH-INED studies, and to Bertrand for the reference to
the English translation of The First French Canadians.

Since, during the French regime, the civil norms for the validity of
marriage were, by law, identical to the canonical norms of the Catholic
Church, and since, during the British regime, the civil norms were
based on those of Common Law of England, it might be interesting to
examine these norms,

According to natural law, there is no direct requirement as to age in
order to enter marriage. What is required is the mental capacity for
matrimonial consent. Before the promulgation of the 1917 Code, the
normative age of consent was fourteen for a boy, twelve for a girl.
Howver, this was not a fixed norm, for marriage under these ages was
considered valid if a boy or a girl was physically developed to such an
extent that the procreation of offspring was possible.

In the Common Law of England, a boy of fourteen and a girl of twelve
could contract marriage validly. That norm was adopted in Civil Code
of Lower Canada. In the United States, English Common Law was general
adopted, but many of the norms of that law have been changed by statute
in the various states. Woywod & Smiith, A Practical Commentary on the
Code of Canon Law [c. 1925, reprint 1952] cites Hall & Brooks,
American Marriage Laws : "In seventeen states no marriageable ages have
been fixed by statute. In nine of these, common law [14 & 12] has been
formally recognized. In states where marriageable ages have been
established by statute, the most usual ages are 18 for males and 16 for

Francoise's comments on the earlier age of marriage, the apparently
greater maturity, both physical and psychological, of young women in
colonial times, and the greater frequency of death from disease as well
as in childbirth are well taken, and supported by the Dupasquier and
Charbonneau-Desjardins sources.

Conclusion: The determination of an age of capacity and consent for
marriage is a matter of human law, and it is by its very nature subject
to dispensation if circumstances reflect that a person at an earlier
age is fit to enter marriage. It is logical that the normative age
might vary in consideration of the specific socio-economic
circumstances of the country, or of the times, and must take into
account not merely physical capacity, but psychological maturity:
sufficient use of reason; sufficient discretion of judgement concerning
the rights and obligations to be granted and accepted in marriage;
sufficient psychological capacity to assume and fulfill the essential
obligations of the married state.

-----Original Message-----
From: Desjardins Bertrand <>
To: Mona Rainville <>;
Sent: Fri, 26 Oct 2007 9:06 am
Subject: Re: [Q-R] Marriageable Age in New France: was] Martin Cote and

Bravo Mona for this scholarly message...For anyone interested, may I
add that
our book published in French in 1987 was also published in English:

The First French Canadians: Pioneers in the St. Lawrence Valley
Authors: Hubert Charbonneau, Bertrand Desjardins, André Guillemette,
Landry, Jacques Légaré, and François Nault, with the Collaboration of
Réal Bates
and Mario Boleda Newark, University of Delaware Press, and London and
Associated University Presses, 1993
ISBN: 0-87413-454-4

Bertrand Desjardins Ph.D.
Chercheur agrégé
Département de démographie
Université de Montréal
C.P. 6128, succ. centre-ville
Montréal (Qc)
Canada H3C 3J7
Tél.: 514-343-7613 Téléc.: 514-343-2309
Email and AIM finally together. You've gotta check out free AOL Mail! -

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