HC Deb 03 June 1835 vol 28 cc508-24
Mr. Lynch

moved the second reading of the Roman Catholic Marriages Bill; and began by stating, that the object of this Bill was, to repeal so much of an Act of the 19th year of King George 2nd "as makes void all marriages celebrated by any Popish priest between Protestant and Papist," and thereby to remove from the Statute-book a severe and penal Act, the remnant of that code which so long disgraced the laws of this country, an Act which pressed heavily upon the conscience of parties, inflicted great injury upon innocent individuals, and operated most mischievously upon the public interest. Upon a former occasion he stated, that the law of marriage in Ireland at this day is the same as in Scotland, the same as the law of marriage in England before the Marriage Act. Some hon. Members doubted the accuracy of this statement, it was however confirmed by the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Tamworth, upon the introduction of his Dissenters' Marriage Bill, and by every other hon. Member who took part in that debate. The words de prœsenti, followed by consummation, are sufficient for the validity of a marriage in Ireland; but strange to say, that if there be a religious ceremony, the marriage is void if that ceremony be performed by a Roman Catholic clergyman, one of the parties being a Protestant, or having been a Protestant within twelve months previously. This pressed heavily upon the conscience, and it pressed heavily upon the Catholic, because it was the Catholic who called for the ceremony, matrimony being a Sacrament of the Roman Catholic Church. He asked, what was this but persecution, and persecution towards the Catholic exclusively? as a marriage between a member of the Established Church and a Dissenter, was not invalid, although that religious ceremony was performed by a Dissenting minister. By several Statutes Catholics were prevented from marrying with Protestants. He could never understand the policy of those Statutes, as proselytism must be the policy of every new religion; and such policy could not be better advanced than by free intercourse and intermarriages. The Act of Henry 8th, prohibiting the English from intermarrying with the Irish, was not more absurd in reference to the policy of settlers in a country than those Statutes were in reference to the propagation of a new religion. If those Statutes had been repealed, Catholics and Protestants might intermarry by law. There had been other severe and penal Statutes inflicting the severest punishment, even the punishment of death upon Roman Catholic clergymen performing the ceremony between Roman Catholics and Protestants. Those Statutes had also been repealed. They had, he said, removed the penalties from the priest. He now called upon them to remove the penalties from the parties. Catholic and Protestant were by law allowed to marry. The Legislature could not, and ought not to prevent their so doing. In mercy to the individuals, he called upon the House to repeal this barbarous Act. It was frightful to think that all the children of those marriages were illegitimate, the marriage being ipso facto void. So that not only the parties themselves, perfectly innocent, but ignorant of the law, might suffer, but the innocent children of the marriage must necessarily suffer. He asked, was this just or humane? But this was not all. Under the protection of this Act, the grossest villany and depravity might be perpetrated. A man knowing the law, determined upon the ruin of an innocent female, and having failed to seduce her from the paths of virtue, might get the ceremony of marriage performed by a Roman Catholic clergyman, and might afterwards repudiate that woman as his wife. A man meaning' everything honourable, but ignorant of the law, might marry and have the religious ceremony performed by a Roman Catholic clergyman; he might get tired of his wife—he discovered the law, and he also might repudiate his wife. But whether the wife were repudiated or not, the children are illegitimate. He asked, whether this law ought to be allowed to remain? There had been similar penal laws in Scotland relating to marriages between Catholics, Presbyterians, and Protestants. These Acts have been repealed, and now Roman Catholics might marry with Presbyterians or Protestants in Scotland—and have the marriage performed by Roman Catholic clergymen, and the marriage was good. So that the persecution under this Act was not only exclusively Catholic, but exclusively Irish. In England there was a Marriage Act, but it pressed alike upon the Protestant, the Dissenter, and the Catholic. It might be said, why not have a ceremony also performed by a Protestant clergyman, in which case the marriage would be good under the 33rd George 3rd. But he asked, why should such a ceremony be compulsory. It was persecution again—it was another interference with conscience, as one of the parties might object to such a ceremony. All that he asked, all that would be effected by the repeal of this Act would be, that if a Protestant, yielding to the conscientious feelings of the person whom he was about to make his partner for life, allowed the ceremony to be performed by a Roman Catholic clergyman, his doing so would not vitiate the marriage, and render his children illegitimate; for let it be recollected, he said, the marriage would be good without any ceremony whatever. He might state to the House many cases to show how injuriously this act operated with regard to individuals, but he would be content with stating two:—The first was the case of a marriage between a Protestant and a Catholic, the religious ceremony having been performed by a Roman Catholic Clergyman only. A large personal estate descended upon the wife, which the husband possessed, and laid it out entirely in the purchase of land. He died intestate, and the wife claimed her dower; but the heir at law resisted such claim, and successfully, by proving that one of the parties was a Protestant, and that the religious ceremony had been performed by a Roman Catholic clergyman. The next case was one he stated last year, but it could not be too often stated. An officer in the army in a town in Ireland, married a lady about twenty-four years since, and the religious ceremony was performed by a Roman Catholic clergyman. There was issue of that marriage one child, a son. A large estate descended upon the father, which he enjoyed during his life; he died leaving his son very young, who was made a ward in court, in a suit in which many members of the family were parties, including his uncle the remainder man. This son was considered and treated as the legitimate son of his father, and was allowed the sum of seven hundred pounds a-year for his maintenance. Upon his coming of age, and upon his requiring that he should be let into the possession of the estate, his uncle the remainder man, turns round upon him and says "I have discovered that your mother professed herself to be a Protestant within twelve months before her marriage, and as the religious ceremony was performed by a Roman Catholic clergyman, the marriage is void, and you are illegitimate"—so that this man has now to prove, at the distance of twenty-four years that his mother was not a Protestant at that period, or did not profess herself to be one. If he should fail he will be left without a shilling. This was the operation of the Act, and he (Mr. Lynch) put it to the House whether such a law should be allowed to remain. This act operated most mischievously upon the public interest. It endangered all titles and rendered the enjoyment of all property insecure. Marriage was a necessary link in all titles. Every purchaser was obliged to require evidence of the marriage of the party under whom the title was derived. But while this Act remained on the statute book, it would also be necessary for him to inquire into the religion of both parties and to inquire by whom the religious ceremony was performed. Evidence might be procured upon all these facts, and the purchaser might be satisfied, but how could he be secure that all the circumstances of the case had been disclosed to him, and if they had not, he might, at the distance of twenty years, be deprived of the estate which he had purchased with the fruits of his hard labour and earning. He again asked the House was this a state in which the law should be left? This act which he sought to repeal had the effect of bringing the administration of the laws into disrepute, for both judges and juries would exert themselves in every way to evade such a law. They would as in the case of capital punishment, and as alluded to by Blackstone, be guilty of what was called pious frauds and perjuries. The consequence was the lessening of respect for the administration of law in general. A remarkable instance of this sort occurred in France. After the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, an act very similar to this was passed, enabling a Huguenot becoming a Catholic to repudiate his wife. Some cases of glaring villany and hard ship having come before the courts, the judges absolutely refused to execute the law, and finally it was repealed; but in the meantime the administration of justice suffered. It would, no doubt, be urged on the other side, that a general measure should be brought in regarding the law of marriage in Ireland. He thought so too, but he was of opinion that nothing effectual could be done without a good system of registration, and this must be a measure brought forward by government; but whatever might be applied to Ireland respecting the law of marriage in that country, this act, he said, must be repealed. This anomaly must be got rid of, Why not do it now? It would also be urged that the repeal of this act would tend to clandestine marriages. He was at a loss to know how it could have that effect. All marriages might now be performed in Ireland at any hour of the day. The repeal of this act would not, therefore, alter the law in this respect. There was no publication of bauns, or obtaining a license required in Ireland. There were laws against clandestine marriages in Ireland, and against the marriage of minors. He did not propose to alter any of these laws. If further laws were necessary he would not refuse his consent; but then they must be equally applicable to all. Besides, they had to rely upon the respectability and character of the Roman Catholic clergymen in Ireland, and the law of the Roman Catholic Church was, that no religious ceremony is valid in that church that is not performed by the parish priest or some one deputed by him, and in I the presence of two witnesses and the priest is enjoined to inquire into the prohibited degrees, which are more severe in the Catholic than in the Protestant Church; and those Gentlemen who oppose the repeal of this act on this ground, and who would not allow the validity of a marriage between Protestant and Catholic, celebrated by a Catholic priest, are not shocked at, and take no steps to prevent, the marriage of the celebrated Joseph Wood, at the Haymarket, in Dublin, or his successor. Upon these grounds he besought the House to repeal this act, and for this purpose to read the Bill a second time.

Colonel Perceval

said, he had listened with attention on a former occasion to the speech in which the hon. and learned Gentleman had introduced this Measure, and from full consideration of the topics urged in that speech, as well as of the provisions of the act, itself, he felt it his duty decidedly to oppose the Measure proposed by the hon. and learned Member. In offering himself to the House, he wished to be distinctly understood, that he should be very far from opposing a Measure which had for its object to effect a total improvement in the law relating to marriages in Ireland; but, on the other hand, he felt himself bound to oppose the hon. and learned Gentleman, when he heard from him, that his object in bringing forward this Bill was to repeal the enactment of the 19th Geo. 2nd, which made null and void all marriages celebrated by a Roman Catholic Priest between parties who are Protestants, or where one of them is a Protestant and the other a Roman Catholic: for he must be allowed to remind the hon. and learned Gentleman that the Act in question was the only check now left against the performance of clandestine marriages in Ireland. He (Colonel Perceval) opposed this Bill, therefore, not because he was averse to a change in the Marriage-law, but because he thought that it would introduce a greater evil by removing the check which the law had provided against clandestine marriages. And why had the law interposed the provision making marriages celebrated by a Roman Catholic Clergyman, where Protestants were parties concerned, null and void? It was because the Roman Catholic Clergyman would not allow of the interference of the religious regulations which were absolutely necessary in a Protestant state! The Roman Catholics considered it a degradation to them that the law of the land required that such marriages should be first solemnized by Protestant Clergymen; but why had the legislature imposed this necessary preliminary? It was not that the law gave, or aimed at giving, any exclusive rights to the Clergyman of the Established Church, or allowed him to celebrate the marriage, but that he is by the law of the land the Clergyman of the parish where the marriage is to be solemnized, and the person appointed by law to make the necessary inquiries as to the parties between whom it is to take place. The hon. and learned Gentleman had said that Protestant Clergymen and Roman Catholic Priests can, and do, celebrate marriages at any hour of the day or night, without the publication of banns or the obtaining a license; but he (Colonel Perceval) differed toto cœlo from the hon. and learned Gentleman in this respect. He (Colonel Perceval) had not the great advantage of being a legal man, but he would, nevertheless, say that, as the law stood, no Clergyman of the Established Church could legally celebrate marriage unless the banns had been three times published, or a license obtained—and a license could not be obtained until the proper officer appointed for granting it was satisfied of the propriety of granting it, or if either of the parties was under age, until the consent of the parents or guardians of that person were obtained. This he believed to be the law, and although he was aware of the disadvantage under which he (Colonel Perceval,) who was not a legal man, laboured when opposed to the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite, yet he would endeavour, as far as he could, to make out his case by reference to the law as it stands. By the 62nd canon of the Ecclesiastical Law, it is provided that no Clergyman of the Established Church shall, on pain of suspension during three years, celebrate marriages between any persons without banns or license, nor at unseasonable hours, nor in any private place—nor, if the parties, or one of them, be under age, without the consent of the parents or guardians of such persons. Here was a distinct provision against the evils which he feared. One great objection he had to giving this unlimited power to the Roman Catholic Clergyman was the impropriety of celebrating marriages at unseasonable hours. With respect to the places at which the ceremony might be performed, the hon. Gentleman had certainly brought forward some insulated cases; but he (Colonel Perceval) was satisfied that the marriages between Protestants, and Protestants and Roman Catholics, were generally performed in the open Church. He could not tell whether this law which he had cited was, properly speaking, the act of the Legislature or not, because he was not sufficiently learned in the law to be aware of the fact; but he could say that it was the Ecclesiastical Law which the Clergy of the Church of Ireland were bound to respect, under which they were liable to suspension and under which they could not with propriety encourage clandestine marriages, or celebrate them, without having first given every opportunity of ascertaining whether there was any lawful impediment to their solemnization, or if the parties were under age, without obtaining the consent of the parents or guardians. The hon. and learned Gentleman stated that was a persecuting act under which the Roman Catholics suffered. He (Colonel Perceval) denied that it was a persecuting act, or that they suffered, or had any reason to complain of the law requiring that all marriages between Protestants and Roman Catholics shall first be solemnized by a Protestant Clergyman. Why was this regulation imposed? It was, as he before said, because the Roman Catholic Clergyman did not conceive himself to be under the influence of the law in this respect; because he disavowed the right of interference in any Ecclesiastical concerns; because he did not submit to the necessity for the publication of banns, to the legality of licenses, or to the examination which ought always to be entered into before persons are allowed to marry; because the Roman Catholic Clergyman wished to have an uncontrolled power of solemnizing marriages, when, where, and under what circumstances he pleased, and without ascertaining those facts, the knowledge of which was absolutely necessary for the welfare of the parties concerned. The hon. and learned Gentleman referred to what he supposed to be a security—the presence of two witnesses; but he (Colonel Perceval) must be allowed to say, that any idea of security to arise from such a source was absurd, because there was good reason why proof should be given before witnesses as before the Ecclesiastical authority, of the non-existence of any moral objection. The hon. and learned Gentleman also said, that Roman Catholics were prohibited from celebrating marriages, where Protestants of the Established Church were parties; but he said, that the Dissenters also were under the same disability, and he referred the hon. and learned Member to the 21st and 22nd Geo. 3rd, c. 25, declaring the marriages of Dissenters by Dissenting clergymen valid, but making an express exception of cases where either party was of the Established Church. [Mr. Lynch: No!] The hon. Gentleman might say "no" but the statute-book says "yes;" and he (Colonel Perceval) would refer the hon. and learned Gentleman to the act itself. The Act now proposed to be passed by the hon. and learned Gentleman would put the Roman Catholic Clergy in a bet- ter position than the Dissenting Clergy; but the legitimate object of all enactments on the subject should be to discountenance the predominance of any one sect in Ireland, and to give to clergymen of every persuasion the power to solemnize marriage, if those precautions are taken beforehand which are rendered absolutely necessary by the solemn nature of the contract, and which were sanctioned by universal practice. The Act it proposed to repeal was the only one now in existence which prevented the Roman Catholic Priest solemnizing marriages when and how he pleased. He put it to the hon. and learned Member whether it was dealing fairly with the Protestant Established Church to give permission to the Clergyman of another persuasion to come in and celebrate marriage, where Protestants were parties concerned, just as they pleased, without instituting those inquiries, and taking those precautions, which were absolutely necessary for the welfare of the individuals. He put it to the hon. and learned Gentleman whether it was fair to sweep away the only check that was now left on the performance of clandestine marriages. He did not wish, God forbid that he should! to interfere between them and persons of their own religion; but he did wish to prevent them from coming into families professing another faith—rendering themselves accessory to abductions—and being ready at any time to celebrate marriages if they were duly paid: all which this Bill would allow them to do, without any check whatever. An Act passed in the 12th of George 1st, which made it a capital felony for a Clergyman of either religion to contract marriages of this description, the severity of that penalty caused the Act to be imperative, because parties would not prosecute when prosecution would subject the offender to such severe consequences. To do away with the penalty it was, that the Act which the hon. and learned Member now proposed to repeal, the 19th Geo. 2, was passed, making the marriage contracted under such circumstances void, but repealing the penal enactment of the former. A Bill was introduced two sessions ago by the Attorney-General for Ireland, repealing that part of an Act passed in the 32nd, Geo. 2nd, which imposed a penalty of 500l. in lieu of the former severe penalty, without substituting any other in its place, the consequence of all which was, that while the Protestant Clergyman was still subject to severe penalties for non-performance of his duty in the due celebration of marriages, the Roman Catholic Priest was subject to no punishment whatever. No man in the House was more anxious than he was to see a general Marriage-law brought in; but until some such measure as that was passed, he felt it his duty to oppose to the utmost extent any legislative enactment which would take away the preventive to Roman Catholic Clergymen from entering as they pleased into families of persons of another persuasion, and marrying individuals without the consent of their parents or guardians. He would read a passage from a letter which he had received on the 14th May, the day on which the second reading of this Bill was to have come on, from an Archdeacon of the Church of Ireland, and in which he stated two occurrences of themselves sufficient to prevent the Legislature from granting this power to the Roman Catholic Clergy.—The writer says, "I will state a circumstance which occurred in this place on Thursday last. A young man, aged nineteen years, applied to me for a licence to marry a woman of forty. I asked him if they were Roman Catholics; but he said they were Protestants, and, looking at the disparity of ages, I refused to grant the licence. He then immediately went to a Roman Catholic, priest, who, for the sum of 1l. 5s., married them directly. If such things as these are allowed to go on, there will soon be an end to that authority which parents ought to possess during the minority of their children. A worse case than the above occurred in another place: a priest married a young gentleman, eighteen years of age, to his mother's maidservant, which had such an effect on the mother that she died in consequence of it." The Protestants, he repeated, did not wish to interfere with the power enjoyed by the Roman Catholics when exercised among themselves; but they did object to its operation in the families of Protestants, unless under proper restrictions. As the law stood, the parties are obliged to go before a Protestant clergyman, who could not, except under severe penalties, celebrate marriage without first making inquiries necessary for the satisfaction of the families of the parties. The Protestants did not object to extend the same power to the Roman Catholic clergy, without the necessary consequence of nullity in the marriage, if they would submit to go through the same precautionary system as was gone through by the Protestant clergy, and give every publicity to the intentions of the contracting parties as would make the necessary inquiries previously. He would be the first to support a general Marriage Bill which should contain such a condition as that. The hon. and learned Gentleman in one of his arguments seemed to infer that while the Roman Catholic priest was, comparatively speaking, prevented from celebrating such marriages, persons of the Protestant faith, even Laymen, could do so with impunity. Any general Marriage Act must remedy such an evil as that, or it would be utterly inefficacious. The moral feeling of the people of Ireland led them at present to wish that marriages should be so celebrated as to render them valid, morally speaking, as well as in point of faith; and he certainly thought that the hon. and learned Gentleman would allow that moral feeling full play, and should not introduce any measure which would tend to the increase of clandestine marriages, by giving to the Roman Catholic clergy a power to celebrate marriages without their being under necessary precautionary restrictions. Under all these circumstances, hoping that the hon. and learned Gentleman might be induced not to press forward his Bill now, and feeling as he did his inability to compete with the hon. Gentleman in argument, he should still attempt to discharge what he felt to be his duty, by moving that this Bill be read a second time this day six months.

Mr. O'Connell

said, it was no disparagement to the hon. and gallant Member to be ignorant of law, but lest his statements might have made an impression on the House, he begged to put the matter right. He admitted that if the gallant Member was right in point of law, the Act then under discussion ought not to pass. As the law at present stood, however, nobody suffered but the innocent children, and them alone; and he would ask, was that a state of things to continue? The guilty clergyman, the guilty father, escaped; but the law at present inflicted its direst penalties on the innocent children. The hon. and gallant Officer was totally ignorant of the law of marriage in Ireland; he had said; that a marriage between two Protestants was not valid, except celebrated according to the canons of the Church of England, or by licence; that, in short, it was attended by some precautions.. Now, he would not dispute with the gallant Officer as to extent; but, in fact, there were none.

Colonel Perceval

I stated, that if the clergyman celebrated the marriage improperly, he was liable to be deprived, ipso facto, for three years, of his benefice.

Mr. O'Connell

admitted, of course, that the marriage-maker, the clergyman, was liable to punishment, except he had no benefice; but then the marriage itself was perfectly valid, and that was a resource to the very worst class of clergymen in Ireland. As soon as they were deprived for misconduct, they set up as marriage-makers. They might marry whom they pleased, and where they pleased; and the Bishop had the power certainly to degrade him, but the marriage notwithstanding was a legal marriage. A man of the name of Wood, a couple-beggar, had resided for nearly thirty years in the Haymarket, and was in the constant habit of marrying persons for half-a-crown. Those marriages in all cases in Ireland were decided to be legal; and in one instance, in the case of a prosecution for bigamy, in a family with which his (Mr. O'Connell's son) was connected, Wood's book, after his death, was admitted by the Court as evidence. But when Wood died, did his trade die with him? No such thing. Another degraded Protestant clergyman took it up, and at the present moment was following his vocation. There was one man who had been actually married by him four times, at 1s. 6d. each time. That was the state of the law at present; and the practice was even now going on. There was in fact no Marriage-law in Ireland. There were sectarian Marriage-laws indeed; every Protestant clergyman could marry, when he pleased, the Presbyterian, the Catholic, the Episcopalian. By leaving the statute in existence, they would not punish either of those two clergymen, however improperly they might have married parties; but upon whom did the penalty fall? Upon the issue of the marriage? Now, ought that anomaly to remain. He wished to have the Bill go into Committee. It was a curious fact, that in England the Marriage-law was the strictest, and in Scotland the loosest, of all the nations of Europe, In the latter, it was only required that the parties should sign a written contract; and yet there was no people in the world more distinguished for prudence in marriages than the Scotch. In Ireland, the law was a kind of medium between the two; but there was one great anomaly, and that ought to be taken away, and the law made equal to all. Sectarian prejudices being then at an end, nobody, whatever his prejudices, could come forward with such cases as those which they had heard. On what ground was the hon. Member's Bill opposed? Because there were "sectarian prejudices." Why the Catholic told them that the law was of a sectarian character, and till it was repealed it would continue so. When the present measure had passed, the law would be equal to all, and then the general Marriage-law ought to be discussed with the calmest temper, and settled, after a careful examination, with the most rigid impartiality.

Mr. Shaw

objected to the Bill, while he was free to admit the anomalous and imperfect state of the whole Marriage-law in Ireland, and as ready as any hon. Member to support an enlarged and general measure for its revision and improvement. The only effect, however, of the Bill then proposed would be, to remove the single obstacle to the celebration of clandestine marriages by Roman Catholic priests—and although as was agreed on the other side, such marriages might be performed without the clergy, yet the disinclination of the people to be married by any other than a regular clergyman operated as a moral check in that respect. It was very remarkable that though within the last two years the subject had been legislated upon by the present Attorney and the late Solicitor General of Ireland, they both had purposely and advisedly omitted the enactment which it was by that Bill sought to introduce, rendering such marriages valid, and by that means repealing the 19th George 2nd, which was passed expressly to annul marriages, celebrated by Roman Catholic priests, between Protestants and Roman Catholics, notwithstanding the severe penalties which at that time were in force against Roman Catholic priests for celebrating them. He had not objected to the Bill of the present Attorney General (Mr. Perrin), abolishing those penalties, because he considered them extreme, and out of proportion to the offence; but he deprecated the present Bill, which, without improving the Marriage-law in Ireland generally, would do away the only practical impediment to clandestine marriages being performed between Members of different religious persuasions by the Roman Catholic priesthood.

Dr. Lushington

did not see why because the Attorney-General was not in his place, they should not go on then without him. He had a great respect for that hon. and learned Gentleman and believed that if he were in his place he would be among the best supporters of the Bill, Let them not wait then, however, for that learned Gentleman to remove a great practical grievance from the Marriage-law of Ireland. With respect to the measure, it proposed to repeal a statute, the effect of which was to render null and void all marriages celebrated by Popish priests between Protestants and Catholics. Now let the House look at the inconveniences arising from the present state of the law, and compare them with the expected consequences pointed at by the gallant Colonel, and the right hon. Gentleman. Was there one thing in the whole world more difficult to be ascertained before death, much more, subsequently, than the religious belief and profession of any particular party? Who was to make the inquiry? Who was to pay the penalty? Put a case: an unfortunate woman, ignorant of the state of the law, relying upon the assertions and the promises of him who led her to the celebration of the marriage, who told her that she had but to answer "Yes," to the questions proposed to her, and that her marriage would be good. Relying upon the faith and assertions of him in whom she would of all others naturally place the most unlimited confidence, the marriage took place: what happened? First he would suppose an investigation took place; and her religion was discovered to have been Protestant. Upon whom fell the penalty? not upon the priest; not upon the seducer;—no, but upon the unfortunate woman, and her children! Was that justice? Was that equality? Was that the law of Ireland? Or again: the marriage existed for years: a question arose as to the title of an estate: an inquiry took place as to whether the parties were both Roman Catholics at the time of the marriage: the witnesses were dead: the fact could not be proved; the children were declared illegitimate; and the estate fell to the next heir. Now, such a law was a disgrace to civilized life. It was rendering uncertain that contract, which of all others ought to be the most certain: it was putting into the hands of a party, those rights and privileges, which ought to be most sacredly preserved by every nation which looked to the happiness of its subjects. Clandestine marriages were great evils, against which he (Dr. Lushington) had raised his voice for many years; but prior to the year 1754, marriages were single contracts "per verba de prœsenti!" they ought to prevent improper marriages, but when once the marriage was performed, the contract should be valid. It was no remedy, but in ninety-nine cases out of 100, instead of a remedy, it was a penalty, to render the marriage null and void. It blasted the prospects of the parties for ever, and then talked to them of a "remedy." Let the Legislature prevent the marriage if it could; but let the knot, once tied, be tied for ever. Upon those grounds, he (Dr. Lushington) hoped the Bill would ultimately go farther in its provisions. He hoped it would be rendered retrospective, and that the Legislature would seriously direct its attention to the whole Marriage-law of England and Ireland, so as to afford reasonable security against clandestine marriages; but to make them when once contracted endure for the lives of the parties.

Mr. Sergeant Jackson

concurred in much that had fallen from the learned civilian, and considered that it was most preposterous after the law had inflicted capital punishment to superadd a penalty of 500l. He concurred likewise in the view taken by the learned doctor of the evils resulting from clandestine marriages, and it was that consideration which induced him to urge the advocates of the Bill rather to bring in one general Marriage-law, and not by the present measure to remove the only bar which then existed in Ireland to clandestine marriages. He was not one of those who desired to see the law remain in its present state; on the contrary, he should cheerfully support an extended measure of improvement, but it was because he felt anxious for that larger measure that he did not think it wise to proceed with the second reading then moved, the more especially as the Law Officers of the Crown for Ireland were not then in their places.

Lord Morpeth

said, that although he had not the advantage of hearing the sound and skilful opinions of the Attorney and Solicitor-General for Ireland, he could not but feel that there was quite enough of law in the House to justify him in consenting to the second reading of the Bill. He hoped that before it went into Committee the Law Officers of the Crown would be in the House.

Mr. Sheil

was in favour of the measure. He was at a loss to ascertain how the gallant Member (Colonel Perceval) had obtained such a knowledge of canon law, but on consideration he supposed it was acquired during his recent connexion with the Ordnance Department.

The Bill was read a second time.