tort, seduction, paternal property notions, property rights in women
The tort of seduction, one of the most popular civil actions in nineteenthcentury Canada, was rooted in feudal notions that suggested that certain individuals could hold property interests in others. In the traditional actio per quod serviium amisit, a master was entitled to sue a tort-feasor who injured his servant for the loss of his or her services. The servant was treated as a species of chattel belonging to the master. As medieval master-servant relations began to dissolve in a modernizing economy, the tort was narrowed until it related almost exclusively to fathers and daughters. Fathers continued to bring actions against the male seducers of their daughters, based upon the old per quod action for loss of services. This trend was reenforced and encouraged by nineteenth-century legislators who enacted statutes which extended paternal property notions past the earlier basis of loss of services. The new Seduction Acts provided fathers with direct property interests in their daughters' chastity, over and above their interest in the loss of services, which could be enforced against seducers who did not marry the young women they impregnated. The tort of seduction thus came to represent a legal extension of property rights in women.
Constance Backhouse, "The Tort of Seduction: Fathers and Daughters in Nineteenth Century Canada" (1956) 10:1 Dal LJ 45.