Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Sale of a Windsor wife: a disgraceful transaction - Trove Tuesday

This enlightening tale is well-known by many residents of the Hawkesbury but I thought it was an excellent story for Trove Tuesday. Remember if you were married, divorce and remarriage was almost never an option, and many couples went on and lived in de-facto relationships. Legislation was not introduced in Australia until the latter half of the nineteenth century. There was much debate surrounding this disgraceful transaction however it seemed a win-win situation for all involved, yet the authorities did not see it this way and all involved were punished.

In mid-1811 an "account of a most disgraceful transaction" which was published in the Sydney Gazette newspaper.  Ralph Malkins tried to sell his wife. He led her around the streets of Windsor, by a length rope tied around her neck, offering her for sale. Thomas Quire decided Mrs Malkins was worth purchasing, paying £16. The wife suggested Thomas would "make her a better husband." 

Sydney Gazette, supplement. 14 September 1811 p. 2

The article appeared in p. 2 of a supplement on 14 September 1811:

"A person (for a man I cannot call him) of the name of Ralph Malkins, led his lawful wife into our streets on the 28th ultimo, with a rope round her neck, and publicly exposed, her for sale; and, shameful to be told, another fellow, equally contemptible, called Thomas Quire, actually purchased and paid for her on the spot, sixteen pounds in money, and some yards of cloth. I am sorry to add, that the woman herself was so devoid of those feelings which are justly deemed the most valuable in her sex, agreed to the base traffic, and went off with the purchaser, significantly hinting, that she had no doubt her new possessor would make her a better husband than the wretch she then parted from. This business was conducted in so public a manner far outraged all laws human or divine, that a Bench of Magistrates, consisting of Mr. Cox, the Rev. Mr. Cartwright, and Mr. Mileham, had it publicly investigated on Saturday last, and all the odious circumstances having been clearly proved, and even admitted by the base wretches themselves, the Bench sentenced this man to receive 50 lashes, and put to hard labour in irons, in the gaol gang Sydney for the space of three calendar months; and the woman to be transported to the Coal River for an indefinite time.      
The public indignation at so gross a violation of decency was most unequivocally expressed by the acclamations with which the sentence was received by a numerous concourse of people who assembled to know the event of so extraordinary and unprecedented a business -- Their feelings were worthy of Men, and judging from them, I trust with confidence   that the recurrence of such a crime will not take place here at least for the present generation.- The laudable promptitude with which our Magistrates took up the business, and the quantum of punishment (still less than they deserve) which they pronounced, will, I have no doubt) produce the most salutary effect throughout the Colony, and check the progress of a crime, which if persevered in, would degrade the Inhabitants, and intail perpetual disgrace on their children and families."      

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