Unmasking the Bourgeoise

Original Contract of 1799

A Love Story




Real Life

This actual document from 1799, is another kind of agreement between two families. This contract between a son-in-law and wife on the one hand, and the mother of the wife on the other, made to recognize the terms of inheritance of the wife's father who has died. What this document shows is that the wife's mother receives the use but not the ownership of her late husband's property. She in turn, permits the son-in-law maintain control over a substantial sum of money that he was given control over when he married the daughter, part of it being her dowry. This show that the wife's dowry is controlled by her husband: it was not his to keep or own outright, for it could revert to the wife or her family in the case of her death. In fact, though, husbands were able to be in firm control over movable goods and cash; when it came to land, they needed the wife's consent to sell it, though this was readily got via strong will, and intimidation over his wife.

Legal Document, 1799: Mount Holyoke College Archives

 Document Reads:

Today, the 21 day of Ventose, Year 7 of the French Republic (1799), Citizen Jean Baptiste Francois Pierre Pesquet of the Commune of St. Loup de Fribois, having married Citizeness Marie Jeanne Victoire Prepetit, the party of the first part, and Citizeness Leveyne widow of Citizen Prepetit and mother of the said Marie Jean Victoire, have presented themselves in a meeting relative to their rights with regard to the estate of the father of this latter party.

It has been recognized:

  1. That after the death of Citizen Prepetit inventories and memoranda were made of the movable goods of the estate remaining in the hands of the said widow.
  2. That in addition to the objects mentioned in the said inventories that the said estate stipulated the recovery from Citizen Pesquet 1) a sum of eight thousand livres (pounds) that had been conveyed to him by the said deceased Citizen Prepetit; 2)the sum of eight thousand six hundred livres (pounds) in assignants (paper bills issued by the Revolutionary Government) which, according to a table of depreciation from the Department of Calvados, are worth in hard currency (ecus) the sum of three thousand seven hundred forty-nine livres, the sum of which being added to that of eight thousand livres mentioned above forms a capital of eleven thousand seven hundred forty-nine livres.

With regard to the items in this document, it has been agreed:

  1. To fulfill the request of the widow Citizeness Prepetit with regard to the inheritance, the said Presquet relinquished to her the use of all the real estate as well as the movable goods of the estate of her husband such as has been stipulated in the inventories and memoranda mentioned above.
  2. For her part of Citizeness widow Prepetit has consented that the said Citizen Pesquet will keep in his hands and without payment of interest the said sum of eleven thousand seven hundred forty-nine livres, the said sum considered as forming part of the dowry of his wife.
  3. It is agreed nonetheless that this contract, which is based on the desire of the Citizeness widow Prepetit and her son-in-law that the harmonious relations that exist between them be maintained, will cease to be in force in case of the premature deaths of Citizeness Presquet and his wife before the Citizeness widow Prepetit, who by this latter reservation in case mentioned can reclaim all her rights of inheritance from her husband by the terms of the law and her marriage contract.

Executed and signed in duplicate after reading, at Caen (capital city of the Department of Calvados), 26 Ventos Year Seven.

-Signatures of widow Prepetit, Prequet, and Victoire Prepetit.-