Breach of Promise to Marry

Jackman v Hill 1819


Mr Serjeant Pell in stating the case to the Jury, said, that the plaintiff was a young woman, whose situation in life was  humble, but the daughter of honest parents, with a fair and upright character, living in the parish of Colebrooke. The defendant, Samuel Hill, was a farmer, living upon an estate in Zeal Monachorum, which he rents at about £200 a-year, and he has also, freehold Property at Bow -which he lets at about £30 a-year. Six or seven years since defendant hired the plaintiff to live with him as housekeeper; she was then about 20 years of age, and he about 24. After she had resided with him between two and three years, he, the defendant, sent for Robert Jackman, the father of the plaintiff, and informed him his daughter was with child by him, but that he meant to marry her, and desired the father to go to South Tawton and procure a note of his daughter’s age, and then get a clergyman to marry them. The application was is made to the clergyman of Dunchideock, who was absent, and afterwards to the clergyman of Tedburn as defendant requested, but he refused to perform the ceremony for want of residence of the parties.


The plaintiff was shortly afterwards removed to a respectable house at Bow, and brought to bed; in the course of a short time she returned to her father's house, and remained half a year, during which the defendant came several  times to see her, and proposed honourable terms both to her and her father, continually renewing his promise of marriage,  which, however, the entreaties of his friends and relations, he stated, would prevent his contracting immediately; but as an earnest of his intention, he proposed to secure plaintiff the sum of £500 if he died or failed to perform his engagement before  the 1st of November, 1816, which was accordingly entered  into, and a promissory note for that amount given. The defendant subsequently induced the plaintiff to sign an agreement, that if he paid the sum of £10 a year towards the maintenance of the child, the promissory note should be of no use. The defendant married another person in March last. The Learned Serjeant, after expatiating with great eloquence upon the conduct of the defendant, called the father to prove the facts. During the examination of the evidence, an offer of compromise was made, but the defendant's friends at that time refused the terms. A great deal of legal disputation also took place between the Counsel, as to the admission of the bonds or agreements.


Mr Gaselee addressed the Jury for the defendant, and endeavoured to enforce upon their minds, that the second agreement was a commutation for the promissory note, and which destroyed the right of action, it being a virtual renunciation of the contract; he then called a witness to prove that the plaintiff had demanded the payment of £5, it being a half year's enstalment of the second agreement.

Mr. Serjeant Pell was replying in most warm and emphatic language to the Jury, when the defendant's Counsel announced that the offer of the plaintiff had been acceded to, viz.-Damages. Fifty Pounds.

 

 

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