During the last session of Parliament Government gave the colony to understand that in tlxe recess they would direct their attention to tlxe subject of deserted wives and families, with a view to improving the facilities of tlxe police for appx*ehending and punishing absconding husbands and fathers. Groat difficulty attends this question, inasmuch as any fine inflicted, if paid, is only so nxxiclx money taken out of the pockets of the families already poor enough, and imprisonment of tlxe unnatural husband and father docs not supply the deserted ones with a breadwinner, while it prevexxta them profitixxg by any possible repentance on the part of the culprit, ox* willingness to resume his proper positioxx, until a sentence, more or less sevex*e, accoxaling to the magnitude of his offence, has been served out. In what direction Government means lo work with a view to helping the police thex*e is no ixxdication given, but we hope they will be able to devise such measures for dealing with wife desertion as will have a deterrexxt effect upoix the many cowardly men in this colony who arc guilty of it. The queatioxx is a larger one than it seems on the surface, for the number of cases that come xmdex* the notice of the Magistrate’s Courts, and the various charitable institutions throughout the colony, do not by any means show' tlxe limit of tlxe number of desertions. Hundreds, if not thousands, of cases occur of which the public bear nothing as a public, and ilxo poor deserved wives and children show' more courtage andface the world more manfully than the cowardly poltroons who felt the trouble of working for their families’ bread too irksome fox* their precious muscle, and fled to escape a duty they voluntarily assumed, axxd which the law punishes them fox* xxot fulfilling, but seenxs powerless to compel them to discharge. Hundreds of cases occur in which the husband and father leaves his wife and family to the texxder mercy of the world, and in his gross selfishness takes it fox* granted that some means will be found by a charitable public to supply them withbread. Not all these come before the Magistrates or the charities, the brave women choosing rather to make a strong effort to earn their own and their childrens’ daily bread, than to depeixd on the charity of the public ; and the observant nxaxx may easily discover instances in which the deserted family have had reason to rejoice over tlxe absconsioxx of the chicken heax’ted xxiixxxy or the lazy loafer whose positioxx of father was a curse to the children to whom he gave paternity. What Government will mostly have to consider will be some means of providing for the wives and families left destitute by the desertion of the fathei*. At present when the deserter is caught there are, we should say, ample means for putting him in prison, but ixoixe beyoxxd that for making him contribute to his children’s support. It is easy to put a defaulter in prison, it xxxiglxt be easy also to make it lawfxxl fox* the magistrate to order* the defaultex*’s punishment with the lash, and the cat-o’-nine tails perhaps might be as effectual a prevexxtative of wife desertion as it is of garotte robbery, for the brutal axxd cowax*dly can always be made amenable to reason through their hide. But while the man is in prison his children have to fixxd their living somehow, and if they fail, and they not infrequently do, then they become a burden on public charity. We cannot think of any means of making the man’s labor in prison px*ofitable to the children, but when he is able to pay a fine, that might fairly be handed over to them. We fancy it is ixo use inflicting a fiixe upon men of this description, but perhaps were a plan adopted of giving these character's a chance of going back honestly to their families oix finding security that they would pay a stated suixx weekly towards their children’s support, and failing to find these securities, be liable to a year or two years in gaol, perhaps wife desertion would be found to decrease to a great extent. It has to be borne in mind' that only men commit this crime who are base cowards at heart, and fear of severe punishment always weighs with such worthless people. It is with this in view that we would re-
commend the cat-o’-nine tails in extx*eme cases, fully assured that, as soon as probable wife deserters knew that they x-isk the skin of their backs by their cowardly 1; nlting, so soon would they think twice before they set out on a new single-blessed-ness of their own.
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Ashburton Guardian, Ashburton Guardian, Volume 1, Issue 49, 17 January 1880
WIFE DESERTERS. Ashburton Guardian, Volume 1, Issue 49, 17 January 1880
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