French and Spanish Traditions

The other two countries primarily involved in European colonization of North America were France and Spain. Both took their code of law from Roman tradition, which recognized the husband and wife as separate persons who could continue to own property separately after marriage. Any property acquired during the marriage was owned jointly, and land was passed down to their heirs. Despite these legal protections, French and Spanish households functioned very much as English households did, with the husband or head of the household making the primary decisions. These laws were employed in the regions settled by the French and Spanish: Florida, Louisiana, California, Acadia, and Quebec. Following the acquisition of Louisiana in 1803, the United States allowed local property customs to continue.

Another difference between France, Spain, and England was the Catholic tradition of celibacy for monks, nuns, and priests. Several religious groups settled in the French and Spanish colonies, setting up communities similar to their European counterparts. Following their captivity by the French during the colonial wars of the early eighteenth century including Queen Anne’s War, King George’s War, and the French and Indian War some English women chose to live as Catholic nuns in New France rather than to marry.

French and Spanish Traditions Photo Gallery

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