Wednesday, May 18, 2011

1824 On Doweries in America

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James Fenimore Cooper, Notions of the Americans

1824 America's Lack of Doweries

...an American lady would be very apt to distrust the affection that saw her charms through the medium of an estate. Indeed he mentioned one or two instances in which the gentleman had endeavoured to stipulate in advance for the dowries of their brides, and which had not only created a great deal of scandal in the coteries, but which had invariably been the means of defeating the matches, the father, or the daughter, finding, in each case, something particularly offensive in the proposition.

A lady of reputed fortune is a little more certain of matrimony than her less lucky rival, though popular opinion must be the gage of her possessions until the lover can claim a husband's rights; unless indeed the amorous swain should possess, as sometimes happens, secret and more authentic sources of information.

From all that I can learn, nothing is more common, however, than for young men of great expectations to connect themselves with females, commonly of their own condition in life, who are pennyless; or, on the other hand, for ladies to give their persons with one or two hundred thousand dollars, to men, who have nothing better to recommend them than education and morals.
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