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Domestic CP - 1795

Corpun file 6633 at


The Times, London, 19 October 1795

[no headline]

In the course of the late Stafford Assizes, a cause was tried, in which the general right of a master to give corporal punishment to his servant, was fully explained by the Lord Chief Justice.

The plaintiff was father of an infant about thirteen years old, whom he had engaged in the service of the defendant, on condition that the defendant should find him in clothes and victuals, but not as an apprentice. The boy was proved to be obstinate, and in the habit of running away from his master's service whenever he was rebuked or punished for his misbehaviour.

It was also proved that on the occasion in consequence of which the action was brought, the master sent other of his servants to bring the boy home by force; and the defendant admitted that he then punished him with a stick somewhat severely. On the degree of severity, the evidence on one side (as is often the case in this sort of action) was in direct contradiction with that on the other.

The Learned Judge, in summing up, said, that the degree of severity was the point at issue, for, concerning the general right of correction, there was not a doubt. Then, addressing himself to the Jury, he desired them to bear in mind that, in determining on this matter, they would decide, not merely between the plaintiff and defendant, but between every master and servant in the land. That it was clearly the right of a parent to punish his child. That, on this point, they had higher information than his -- "he that spareth his rod (says Solomon), hateth his child." That every master of a family is, in some sort, the father of it; and, therefore, how much soever he is bound to be compassionate and humane to those who serve him, yet (said his Lordship) I must add, and require your attention to it, that if ye have a servant who is habitually obstinate, and will not be persuaded (as appears to have been the case of this boy), ye not only have a right to correct him, but it is your bounden duty to do so, and severely too.

The verdict was for the defendant.

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