HC Deb 02 June 1820 vol 1 cc800-2

This Bill was committed, and considerable discussion arose respecting the ex post facto operation of a clause, legalizing marriages minors where no suits had been commenced for avoiding them within six months after the attainment of twenty-one.

Dr. Phillimore

cited several cases of infinite hardship occasioned by nullity of marriage in consequence of minority.

Mr. Wrottesley

moved an amendment to the effect, that parties so circumstanced should have six months after the passing of the bill within which suits might be commenced though both parties had attained majority.

After several observations from Mr. Wynn, sir J. Nicholl, and Dr. Lushington, a division took place, when there appeared, For Mr. Wrottesley's Amendment, 50; Against it, 43: Majority, 7.

Mr. Bennet

proposed a clause which had been suggested last year, but not adopted, to deprive persons of full age I who should marry minors, of the power of annulling such marriages by suits instituted by themselves, at any time or under any circumstances On the ground of minority. The licences were in most cases' obtained by the wilful perjury of the adults, and it was therefore highly improper that they should be at liberty to | derive a double advantage from such perjury, first, that of accomplishing the marriage, and next, that of avoiding it.

Sir John Nicholl

opposed the clause as contrary to the principle of the Marriage act, which rendered inoperative marriages so contracted, with respect to all the parties. This proposal had, it seemed, been rejected last year, and he thought correctly.

Mr. Tennyson

said, that although it was not without becoming hesitation that he differed from the right hon. and learned judge upon such a subject yet as he thought that the purport of the clause had been misunderstood, he did not despair of satisfying him of its propriety. In the first place, it had not been before rejected, as the right hon. gentleman supposed, for he (Mr. T.) was the individual who bad then brought it forward, and had merely withdrawn it at the instance of the hon. and learned member who introduced the bill, lest, though he knew not why, it should not be acceptable in another place. Next, he thought, that so far from being at variance with the principle of the Marriage act, it was precisely correspondent to that principle, which was a principle of protection to minors against indiscreet connexions. It was amply sufficient for this object to enable the minor to avoid the marriage, without leaving the adult at liberty to do so, and thus to expose such minor, who was most commonly the female, to more than the mischief of contracting an improper marriage, namely, to the risk of being afterwards abandoned with a family of children to shame and disgrace. It had occurred too frequently that a designing miscreant had thus sacrificed an innocent victim to his lust; and he trusted the legislature would no longer tolerate practices, which, independently of what had been justly observed respecting the perjury attendant upon them, were not only repugnant to morality and decency, but, as he conceived, to the principles of the Marriage act itself. He should therefore cordially support the clause, and entreated the concurrence of the learned judge.

Sir John Nicholl

said, that he certainly had misunderstood the purport of the clause, but now comprehending its object distinctly, he entirely acquiesced in its propriety.

Dr. Lushington

observed, that the clause required some alteration, and it was in consequence ultimately postponed, in order to be introduced in a subsequent stage of the bill.—The House then resumed, and the report was ordered to be received on Thursday.