W2851 TO JAMES WALKER from [S.B. Freeman]
Apr 24 1848
To: James Walker
From: Hamilton, [Ontario]
James Walker Esqr.
The following case being submitted for my opinion viz.--
1st At what age has a female whose father is living the right to choose her place of residence irrespective of her father's wish,she not being married, and under the age of twenty?
2nd Should the father suspect the intentions of a clandestine marriage before the age of twenty one years, may he subject his daughter to preventive restraint?
3rd Will the Courts of Law or Equity restore to the father the actual custody of his daughter, who leaves his house from choice and resides abroad?
I am of opinion that
The father by nature is the guardian of his children, but after they have arrived at the age of discretion, they may choose their place of residence, so far as, that the Court will not interfere in delivering the bodily possession of them to their father: the interference of the Courts only being in cases where it is supposed the children are kept from their father by restraint, and in such cases only to the extent of setting such children at liberty. The cases establishing this principle, are numerous and uniform.
I do not think a parent would be justified in confining his child, or restraining his natural liberty for such cause, the child being of the age you mention
The answer to the last question is contained in the answer to the first.1
Your obt. Servt. [sic]
1 James Walker had written to Freeman for information concerning the rights of a young woman to choose her place of residence or marriage partner, likely to determine whether or not to send Mary Anne Baker back to the home of her father, Rev. Thomas Baker. Mary Anne, who was approximately 19 or 20 at that time, had become involved with Frederick F. Wilkes, the widower of her late sister Harriett, against the wishes of her family and as a result her father refused to see her. See W2855 for more details and links.