The difference between the past and the present is that individual freedom and security no longer fall to be protected solely through the D vehicle of common-law maxims and presumptions which may be altered or repealed by statute, but are now protected by entrenched constitutional provisions which neither the Legislature nor the Executive may abridge. It would accordingly be improper for us to hold constitutional a system which, as Sachs J has noted, confers on creditors the power to consign the person of an impecunious debtor to prison at will and without the interposition at the crucial time of a judicial officer.
It was a fact generally acknowledged by all but the most contumacious spirits at the beginning of the seventeenth century that woman was the weaker vessel; weaker than man, that is... That was the way God had arranged Creation, sanctified in the words of the Apostle... Under the common law of England at the accession of King James I, no female had any rights at all (if some were allowed by custom). As an unmarried woman her rights were swallowed up in her father's, and she was his to dispose of in marriage at will. Once she was married her property became absolutely that of her husband. What of those who did not marry? Common law met that problem blandly by not recognizing it. In the words of [the leading 17th century compendium on women's legal status]: 'All of them are understood either married or to be married.' In 1603 England, in short, still lived in a world governed by feudal law, where a wife passed from the guardianship of her father to her husband; her husband also stood in relation to her as a feudal lord.