§ Mr. Plumptre moved an Amendment to the effect that an exception should be made in favour of the sisters of a former wife, when there were children by that wife under twelve years of age.
§ Mr. Twiss
could not agree to this suggestion of the hon. Gentleman, and trusted that he would not press his Amendment, because if he did, he would endanger the Bill in another place. He did 662 not mean to use this as an argument against the Amendment, but simply threw it out as a suggestion to the hon. Gentleman.
said, that the law was at present in a most objectionable state. If a man had married, for example, any of his wife's relatives, up to her sister, it was at the option of any party, either because it was to his interest or at the suggestion of a hostile feeling, to proceed against the individual so marrying, and annul the marriage. The proceedings, however must be taken and concluded during the life-time of the individuals, otherwise the marriage was held to be legal, and the children became legitimate. One great objection to the existing law was, that it encouraged people to its violation by affording them the prospect of an escape from any of its penalties; another was, that parties who had contracted such marriages frequently, where property was concerned, passed their whole lives in great anxiety; and instances had come to his knowledge in which, to avoid a threatened prosecution, they had submitted to repeated extortion. The Amendment proposed by the hon. Gentleman involved an important question, and one upon which he had not yet made up his mind. He admitted the advantage to be gained in those cases in which a man married the sister of his wife when there was a young offspring; but on the other hand it was a subject for grave consideration, whether it might not be exceedingly dangerous with reference to the peculiar situation in which such connexions were naturally placed, and the great temptations to which they were subject, to encourage the feelings that might spring up between them. The consequences would, perhaps, be, that the wife during her life-time would have her jealousy excited, and suffer considerable anxiety and pain. Under these circumstances he hoped that the hon. Gentleman would not press his Amendment; for it was impossible at this period of the Session it could have the consideration due to its importance. He believed he had said enough to satisfy the House that so much of the Bill as went to legalize all such marriages as had taken place, or that might take place of the nature he had described, ought to be passed into a law without delay. He trusted that the hon. Gentleman would withdraw his Amendment.