HC Deb 07 August 1834 vol 25 cc1025-8

Mr. Langdale moved the third reading of the Roman Catholic Marriages Bill.

Lord Althorp

said, that he had no objection to the principle of the Bill so far as it went; but he thought it inexpedient to introduce a Bill for the Relief of a certain portion of Dissenters from the Established Church to the exclusion of others. He could assure the House, that it was the intention of his Majesty's Government to introduce as early as possible in the next Session a measure of relief for Dissenters generally, with respect to marriages and other grievances under which they laboured.

Mr. Hume

said, that after what had fallen from the noble Lord opposite as to the determination of the Government to relieve the Dissenters generally, and to place all upon an equal footing, he hoped the hon. member for Beverley would consent to postpone his measure for the present Session. He was quite sure that the statements just made by the noble Lord would prove most satisfactory to the country in general.

Mr. Wilks

thought, that though time grievances under which the Dissenters laboured were severely felt, those of the Roman Catholics were of a pressing nature. As the law now stood, every Roman Catholic marriage contracted in England, unless legalized by a Protestant marriage also, was null; and the children, the fruit of that marriage, would be bastardized and unable to inherit property. Nay, more, under the new law the mother could be compelled to support the children. He hoped, therefore, that the hon. Gentleman would press the measure during the present Session.

Mr. O'Connell

thought it of the utmost importance that the feelings of the Roman Catholics should be set at rest on this question. As far as the measure regarded the Irish Roman Catholics, he thought it of importance. In their own country they could be married by the Catholic priest, and the marriage was legal. In England they wished to be married in the same way; but no persuasion could induce them to legalize the marriage by calling in the aid of a Protestant clergyman. Thus a married woman, however respectable, and who had never done anything to violate the laws of society, might, at the end of eight or ten years, if her husband thought proper to select a younger or more pleasing partner, be left upon the parish with eight or ten children, the whole of whom would be bastardized. As far as the measure might affect Ireland herself, he did not think it would be satisfactory; and it contained provisions which the Irish people would not submit to. He hoped, therefore, that his hon. friend would not press the measure further during the present Session.

Dr. Lushington

said, it was in the power of the Roman Catholics themselves, to prevent the evil arising from their marriages in this way—let the Roman Catholic clergyman, for the next six months, refuse to celebrate any marriage between Roman Catholics, unless they produced to him a certificate of the marriage having been legalized by the act of the Protestant clergyman.

Mr. O'Connell

. The Catholic clergyman could not do any such thing; he dared not do it; he dared not oppose any impediment.

Dr. Lushington

begged pardon; he was not aware of the clerical objection which existed. He therefore would join with the hon. and learned Gentleman in begging that the measure might be postponed for the present.

Mr. Langdale

said, that after the appeal which had been made to him by the noble Lord, whose opinions he felt always bound to respect, he trusted the House would pardon him, while he made a few observations as to the motives which had induced him to bring in this Bill. The fact was, that he had undertaken it with the greatest repugnance, feeling that an individual so humble as himself was unfit to take charge of a measure of such importance. But when the House considered the pressing nature of the case, when they reflected that a dozen cases likely to cause bastardy occurred in a single day, they would, he was sure, see, that he had a right to persevere in the measure. It had been made a charge against him, that he was pressing this measure through the House against the wishes of the Roman Catholic clergy; but those who knew anything of him would acquit him of such a charge. He had the highest respect and honour for that body, and would be sorry to do anything contrary to their wishes or feelings. On the contrary, the moment the Bill was introduced, he sent copies of it to the two Roman Catholic Bishops, to all the leading Roman Catholic clergy, and to other persons whom he conceived felt an interest in the question: and although it was true that some objections had been raised on certain points, yet upon the general principle, he had the concurrence of the whole body. If he were allowed to indulge in his own opinion, he would say, that the carrying of this Bill would facilitate the more general measure of relief for Dissenters, contemplated by the noble Lord in the next Session. Under all the circumstances of the case, he would leave it to the House to decide whether he ought to abandon the Bill, or to proceed with it.

Mr. Tennyson

said, that in acceding to the wishes of the House, no blame could attach to the hon. Member, who had, with great zeal and talent, urged it forward to its present stage.

Mr. Langdale

said, that under these circumstances, and after the promise of the noble Chancellor of the Exchequer, he would withdraw the Bill.

Mr. Philip Howard

, in consequence of what had fallen from the noble Lord, concurred in recommending the withdrawal of the Bill. It would be open to his hon. friend to introduce the measure next Session, should any Bill brought in by the noble Lord not come up to the wishes of his hon. friend.

Bill withdrawn.