1635: THE DREESON INCIDENT – Snippet 43
"As far as Grantville is concerned," Henry Dreeson said, "Jarvis Beasley's wife is not a bigamist. Judge Tito will explain."
Maurice Tito, not speaking from the bench but rather acting as a consultant, explained in painstaking detail that the law of West Virginia, as brought from up-time and still fully applicable within Grantville itself and West Virginia County as a whole, did not consider a betrothal to be a binding contract that prohibited the fiancé or fiancée from entering into marriage with a different person. He had a lot of citations to precedents.
The delegate who represented Saxony in the former House of Lords of the New United States and current Senate of the State of Thuringia-Franconia (in right of Saxony's status as co-administrator of the territories of the extinct county of Henneberg south of the Thüringerwald), pointed out in equal detail that under the law which prevailed there, a betrothal was indeed a binding contract. He seemed almost regretful. Nonetheless, in a case in which a young woman had entered into a betrothal, and her fiancé subsequently went to be a soldier and disappeared, she could not remarry until such time as the marriage court declared a presumption of death or dissolved the betrothal. He stated that it was rare for a presumption of death to be granted less than seven years after the person's disappearance, and then only if the surviving partner to the contract could document a good faith effort to locate the other. Occasionally, indeed, such decrees had been issued after as little as three years, if there appeared to be good reason to assume death. On the other hand, there was no requirement that it be issued at all. It could take ten years, a dozen, or never be issued, particularly if there was some evidence that the partner who left was living elsewhere.
In that event, of course, the abandoned partner could re-petition to have the betrothal dissolved upon the ground of desertion.
The fact remained, however, that Hedwig Altschulerin, the daughter of a man who prior to his death had been a subject of Duke John George of Saxony, had not even sought a dissolution of her prior betrothal. She merely, upon meeting this soldier named Jarvis Beasley while she was working in Meiningen, had left that city. She had accompanied him to Grantville, had married him there, and currently was residing with him there. Wherefore she was, in the eyes of the laws of Saxony, a bigamist.
Saxony, he pointed out, administered the Henneberg village of her birth under a valid inheritance agreement, which was why it had a seat in the House of Lords. Consequently she was properly subject to Saxon law. He respectfully requested her extradition to appear before the Saxon Ehegericht in the Henneberg territories to answer for her transgression.
Mayor Dreeson equally respectfully refused.
The session adjourned. The Saxon delegate left a lot of paperwork for someone to file.
Maurice Tito strongly, if privately and informally, advised Hedwig Altschulerin, aka Hedy, now wife of Jarvis Beasley, that if she knew what was good for her, she would stay inside West Virginia County for the foreseeable future. Which meant no shopping trips in Rudolstadt. No fairs in Badenburg, although, at least, Grantville had a wonderful fair of its own.
Hedy nodded. Jarvis had taken her to it last fall.
Tito kept going. And, unfortunately, no going to church at either St. Martin's in the Fields or St. Thomas the Apostle, since both, while in the State of Thuringia-Franconia, were part of the County of Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt. While he certainly didn't think that Count Ludwig Guenther and his consistory would be likely to approve her extradition to Saxony, neither could he guarantee that they would refuse.
Hedy nodded unhappily. She was causing Jarvis a lot of trouble. Maybe more than she was worth.
And she wanted to go to church. Hedy liked to go to church. Where she grew up, church was the most interesting thing that happened all week.
"I think," Maurice Tito said after she and Jarvis left, "that we really ought to do something. At a minimum, the law should be the same all the way across the State of Thuringia-Franconia. But congress hasn't gotten around to passing matrimonial legislation, so for the time being, we're stuck with what we have. Saxony will appeal to the Supreme Court, of course, so it'll land in Chuck Riddle's lap, eventually.
"There's no point in waiting for congress to get off its ass. It has too much else on its plate. Much less the USE Parliament, considering everything that's going on in Magdeburg. See if you can get the Bureau of Consular Affairs to look into this. Let's start some kind of an initiative. We can't have people stuck here in Grantville, after all, unable to put their noses across the border, because of things like this. There ought to be some kind of reciprocal agreement."
"Full faith and credit." Tito nodded. "But we'll have to be careful. "It might be a trap we could fall into, if we had to give full faith and credit to Saxony's laws about betrothals when our own citizens apply for marriage licenses. In any case, it's a statewide or nationwide problem, not just a Grantville problem."
Henry Dreeson nodded. "I'll ask Ed Piazza about it, anyway. I'll check with Chad Jenkins, too. Now that his brother Wes has come back and taken over consular affairs, it seems to me that he'd be the person to head up the project, but I don't want to do anything that might step on Chad's toes-not with the campaign coming up."
Mary Ellen Jones decided that she'd better go over and talk to Simon. She had her office in the rectory; he had his in the church.
Wes Jenkins, on the theory that his marriage to Clara had been, at best, a civil ceremony, had requested a church wedding. If he just wanted a church blessing, that would be one thing. But he wanted the whole thing. Having, perhaps, a few private doubts of his own about the do-it-yourself version.
Now that she had slept on it . . . Private. An utterly private ceremony to salve Wes' conscience would be best. Considering Clara's possible-probable-pregnancy, which Simon really didn't need to know about yet either, the Methodist church certainly shouldn't do anything that would throw any doubt on legal validity of what the two of them had done while they were in Freiherr von Schlitz's lockup.
She and Simon wouldn't have to involve anybody but the principals and the witnesses. Simon could perform the ceremony. She'd be the first witness, since she already knew about it. Jenny Maddox could issue the license, be the second witness, and file the certificate herself. Keep it out of the list published in the papers.
There would be no cause for gossip. None. As far as the rest of Grantville would ever know or need to know, Wes and Clara were properly married in Fulda last August.