October 2, 2012
Caroline Norton continued. Logical Fallacies of the Law
- “legal fiction of man and wife” and “legal fiction”
o Page 8: women have no legal position - legal fiction holds her to this
o Page 28: the legislatures with never go through with the legal fiction
Calls attention to:
The farce of the marriage, the deeply logically inconsistent fact of the
legal systems treatment of married couples as a single unit, even
though they are not.
Complete enmity when a couple have separated
Hooks into the prey-predator metaphor found overall in her letter to
be applied directly to the law.
Law is not evidentiary; should be based on witness, testimonies etc.
She points out that the laws concerning the married couple actually
refuses epistolary and physical evidence.
o Caroline’s evidentiary letters from Norton’s lawyer and
Melbourne, evidencing Norton’s avarice in convicting
Melbourne. The law had no interest in this, then was based
on whim and caprice.
o Chiasmic meaning: allusion to the fictional nature of the law
- Reference to Scottish law, page 16:
o Various forms of cleavage between facets of the law; inconsistent between Scotland
Repeated implication that the country is logical incoherent, falling into an
Exemplifies various points at which the country cannot represent itself for
its lack of coherency.
o The Civil VS. The Sacred: women are bound by ecclesiastic law, men bound by state
law. The marriage is a civil bond for him, and a sacrament for her.
Moral responsibility implied through religious ties for women;
otherworldly consequences. Men’s only responsibility is to the state.
o Both in the standard of virtue and the state of marriage:
needs to be applied to either both or neither.
o Morality is used as a weapon against women; not only are
men exonerated by the law, but also are they exonerated
through social convention.
Norton’s defence of the civil:
Tends to adapt a conservative point of view, arguing from the point
of virtue – does end up upholding the ideology of separate spheres.
Looking to talk about a position in which both the wife and mother
have been demeaned to the point where there is no redress, no way
back to a point of trust. o Many times she gave in to Mr. Norton’s performance of
If a woman has contracted necessities and cannot pay the
tradesperson, the tradesperson is unable to pursue her or her
husband because she does not exist.
One form of adultery (on behalf of the woman) is considered beyond pardon,
which does not hold up for the man.
Women had to get the sanctioned by the Lord Chancellor: who phrased an
adulterous man as “a little profligate”.
The effect of the phrase’s repetition: the more context it is applied to,
the more it is repeated, the more the absurdity is highlighted.
A deep satirisation of what is considered to be a small crime makes
its inequality more present.
Continues, giving ludicrous examples of men who were socially and legally
shamed for cheating at cards; applies the quality of sacredness to the cards.
The fallen man in early 19 century society is anyone who appropriates the
property of another or makes illegal gains for himself; the social and legal
upheaval has no comparison to adultery.
The trivialization of the familial, the dismissal of women in charge of
children and deep attention to card games.
The perversity of the law is exposed, perhaps even its inability to
comment on the moral based upon this perversity.
The law speaks as a voluptuary, diabolical, allowing freedom from restraint
for a part of the population; Norton paints the law as an inciter towards self
indulgence. Condoning fickleness, passions that Wollstonecraft claimed to be
that of the Easter tyrant.
o Develops notion of tyranny as a debaser of the nation itself:
Bad laws foster corruptness.
Makes man and the law out as tyrants, using the language of revolution.
The law as a tyrant erases selectively the wife and the tradesman,