The Chancellor's Decree and Order
The court’s decision in this case can be traced through the records in the Entry Books of Decrees and Orders, held at the Public Record Office,
Tuesday, 16th May 1682:
Without delay, just four days after Mary and Anne had made their answer to the complaint, Mr Penton, counsel representing Abraham Marin, made a petition on behalf of his client. He referred to the proceedings in the Court of Common Law and inferred they had been brought only to "vex and weary out" his client. He alleged that the defendants were "considerably indebted to ye plaintiff". Penton requested, "a stay of all further proceedings at ye Common Law against ye plaintiff".
However, Mr Collins, representing Mary Woolstonecraft and her sister, requested that, if such an order were made, the money "sworn due upon ye Bonds" might be brought into court. Otherwise, he did not want his client’s action in court hindered.
An order was made to halt the proceedings in the Court of Common Law on the condition that, in a week’s time, Marin provided the necessary security for the sum in question. If he failed to do so, this order would be revoked and the common law proceedings could go ahead. 2
Tuesday, 23rd May 1682:
Both Mr Collins and Mr Penton requested that their clients might produce witnesses to corroborate their claims and be granted a hearing. Penton appeared to have had enough time to examine the defendants’ answer, which he dismissed as inadequate, "insisted ye said defendants have not put in a full answer to the plaintiff’s bill".
The plaintiff was ordered to put his response in writing and submit a replication to the answer by the following Saturday. Similarly, the defendants might make a "rejoyner" to substantiate their answer. The court also gave permission for witnesses’ depositions and a hearing next term. 3
Thursday, 29th June 1682:
From this entry we can see that Marin did provide the security required in the order of 16th May for stay of proceedings in the Court of Common Law. A penalty of £200 would have been imposed if he had not paid the amount owing on the bonds.
His counsel alleged:
"Ye plaintiff was unfurnished with money when the said Recognisance was given or else would willing have paid ye money sworn due upon ye Bonds in question into Court but was being desirous to discharge his surety from ye said Recognisance and do offer to pay into Court ye several sums of £20 and £11 6s 6d being the principall money Sworn by ye Defendant Mary Woolstonecraft to be due upon ye two Bonds".
Marin was ordered to pay the sum of £31 17s 6d into court and, until such time as it was received, the case in Chancery would continue in respect of the defendant Mary Woolstonecraft’s claim but the case against Anne and Richard Webster was discharged.4
Monday, 30th October 1682
The final entry regarding this case is in the next Entry Book of Decrees and Orders and appears to read as follows:
"Monday 30 October
Whereby an order of ye 29th June last It was ordered that upon ye plaintiff
Six weeks after the defendants made their answer, an order was made on 29th June 1682 for payment of the money owed to Mary Woolstonecraft. The amount in question appears to be a near total of the sums mentioned in her answer, £11 18s 6d plus £20.
Mary had to wait a further four months before receiving her money. On 30th October, Marin paid the sum of £31 17s 6d into court and Mary requested the money might be passed over to her.
The Chancellor considered her request reasonable and Mary was finally reimbursed.
From this we can conclude that the Chancellor believed Mary’s account of the situation and made the order in her favour. However, there is no mention of the other items owed to her, neither is there mention of the amounts outstanding to her sister. The action in the Court of Common Law had been halted but only on the receipt of satisfactory security for payment of the debt. As Marin was "unfurnished with money" at that time and Mary had to wait some time before receiving payment of the arrears, it does seem rather doubtful whether any further sums would have been forthcoming without further court action.
Marin did not prove his accusations of confederacy nor that he was being falsely accused of owing money, but he did manage to achieve a stay of the proceedings brought against him.
The court action brought a measure of success for Mary. She managed to recover some of her dues but, perhaps more importantly, she came away without a stain on her character.
1 Chancery: Entry Books of Decrees and Orders (C33)
2 TNA: C 33/258, p 385
3 TNA: C 33/258, p 421
4 TNA: C 33/258, p 258
5 Court case
6 TNA: C 33/258, p 16
Copyright ©Daphne Johnson, 2003
All rights reserved