§ Colonel Perceval
was resolved to offer to the proposed measure his decided opposition, and he felt bound at the outset to express his strong dissent. On more occasions than one, he had intimated his objection to any such measure as the hon. and learned Member for Galway contemplated. To such a change in the Marriage law of Ireland, he felt persuaded he never could become a party. He never could vote for giving to the priest of the Roman Catholic persuasion a power not enjoyed by the clergyman of the Established Church, and he hoped that Parliament could not be induced to sanction a Bill, the immediate operation of which would be to entitle a Roman Catholic priest to celebrate a marriage without the knowledge of the family of either party, and without being under obligation to obtain a previous knowledge of whether there was, or whether there was not, any legal or moral impediment to such marriage being contracted. It was most important that the Marriage-law of Ireland should speedily be placed upon a proper footing, one that would give to no sect any advantage over another. With that brief remark, he should for the present content himself, reserving his opposition for the second reading.
§ Sir John Campbell
said, he should be delighted to see one general and uniform 1232 Marriage-law for England, for Ireland, and for Scotland—one uniform and general law for the members of the Established Church, and for those who dissented from that Church, of whatever denomination, and in whatever part of the United kingdom they might reside. Until some such law were adopted, great benefit would, in his opinion, result to the community at large from the contemplated measure of his hon. and learned Friend. At one time, the same Marriage-law, the Canon-law prevailed all over Europe, and he earnestly wished that a similar uniformity at least might be established in Ireland; for amongst the many improvements which its institutions demanded, it was very evident that a change in the Marriage-law could not but be fairly reckoned in the number. It surely could not be considered evenhanded justice, that in Ireland a marriage between a Protestant and a Catholic, was considered, however celebrated, a mere nullity. Ought such a condition of things to be for a single day allowed to prevail? It was not so in Scotland; and nothing could be more desirable—nothing more important—than to produce uniformity, and, without loss of time, to get rid of one of the remaining relics of a bad and barbarous code, which treated the Catholic Irish as a servile race. ["No! no!"] The laws as they stood not many years ago, did treat the Catholics of Ireland as a servile race. He thanked God, that almost the whole of those laws had been some years ago repealed, but as long as a single exception remained, he should be the earnest advocate of its immediate removal. The more speedily all such laws were got rid of the better.
Mr. Secretary Goulburn
said, that he had not the remotest idea of what might be the provisions of the Bill. The hon. and learned Gentleman by whom the Motion was made, had forborne to open the details, it could not therefore be in their power to enter into any discussion of its merits. Nothing was more evident, than that they were incompetent to enter into the discussion, for want of sufficient information.
§ Mr. Lynch
felt assured, that under the circumstances, there would not have been a word said, but for the remarks of the hon. and gallant Member for Sligo. He hoped that permission would be given to introduce the Bill, and that hon. Members would reserve themselves for the second 1233 reading. He fully admitted, that the right hon. Gentleman opposite was not pledged one way or the other.
§ Leave was given.