HC Deb 09 July 1849 vol 107 cc3-44

The LORD ADVOCATE moved the consideration of the Lords' Amendments to this Bill.


said he should object to the consideration of the Amendments.


informed the hon. Member that it was not competent for him to make such a Motion upon that stage of the Bill. It was competent for him to move the recommittal of the Bill; if a Motion of that kind were not made, the Amendments would be considered, and the next question would be upon the third reading of the Bill.


having declined to move the recommittal of the Bill, the Amendments were considered.

Amendments agreed to.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill he read a Third Time on Monday next."


then rose for the purpose of opposing the further progress of the measure. He thought that Scotch Members, and the people of Scotland generally, had great reason to complain of the conduct of Government with respect to the management of this Bill. It had been read a second time pro formâ, with the express understanding that it should be sent to a Select Committee to be further considered. In that Committee it was decided that evidence should be heard in support of the allegation in the Bill, that the law with respect to marriages in Scotland required alteration. One or two witnesses having accordingly been examined, the learned Lord Advocate, who had charge of the Bill, said that he did not think that he was called upon to prove the allegation of the Bill, and that the rest of the evidence should be confined to the state of the law upon the subject. It had been said, over and over again, that the feeling of opposition among the people of Scotland with respect to this Bill had been greatly exaggerated. It would have been much the wiser course, in his opinion, to have allowed witnesses to have been examined before the Committee, in order to show what the real feeling of the people was, than to have refused to hear evidence on the subject. After the Bill had left the Committee, it had been continued on the orders of the day night after night, and had never been attempted to be brought on until after twelve o'clock. It had been the fashion for several years to treat all Scotch business in this manner; but he hoped that, in future, Scotch Members would not have a similar grievance to complain of. With respect to the Bill itself, its merits were to be considered in a twofold view—first, with respect to its effects upon England; and, secondly, with respect to its effects upon Scotland. He thought he could show satisfactorily to English Members that the Bill would not remove any of the grievances of which they at present complained; but he would, at the same time, give them the assurance that if any Bill were to be brought in which would have the effect of curing those grievances, he would give it his most hearty support. The principal grievance complained of in England was, that persons who were desirous of making runaway matches might do so by passing the Scottish border, and be there married under the law of Scotland. But how was this proposed to be dealt' with by this Bill? The remedy proposed was, that a fine of 200l. should be imposed upon the registrar who should marry any person who had not been resident in his district for fourteen days at least. In the cases of persons so married, however, the marriage would be held valid, but the registrar would be fined. Could anything be a more inefficient remedy for the evil complained of? Any person running away with a wealthy heiress would be glad to give the registrar the amount of the fine at once in order to have the marriage completed; and there was no doubt but that the registrar himself would be perfectly willing to accept a fee which would be of far greater value than the eight or ten pounds per annum which he might receive from his office. The learned Lord opposite had spoken in a somewhat disparaging manner of the petitions which had been presented against the Bill. He (Mr. F. Mackenzie) solemnly believed that those petitions expressed the sentiments of the great bulk of the people of Scotland with respect to this measure. The Scotch people did not want this Bill; there was no mincing the matter, they did not want it. He was not prepared to state that the law of marriage in Scotland could be considered as perfect. There were, no doubt, a great many objections to the law as it now stood, but some of those objections would apply equally to the marriage law of every other country in the world. With respect to clandestine marriages, to which so much reference had been made, they were of very rare occurrence, for no persons in Scotland, of any credit or character, would conceive themselves properly married unless they were married by a clergyman. One of the great objections which he had to the Bill was, that it allowed persons to be married before a registrar or magistrate. He thought the proposed change would be attended with serious inconvenience, and for that reason he should feel it his duty to give the measure every possible opposition that the rules of that House allowed.

Amendment proposed, to leave out the words "Monday next," and insert the words "this day three months."


said, that as reference had been made to the refusal on the part of the Committee to hear other than legal evidence upon the state of the law of marriage in Scotland, he would state that the grounds upon which he considered such evidence ought to have been rejected were, that the Committee had been appointed expressly to consider the state of the law with respect to marriages in Scotland, and that being the case, he thought that a quantity of contradictory evidence with respect to the feelings and opinions of the people of Scotland, would not have served in the least the object of the Committee, and would, even if it had been received, have been of no sort of value to the House, when it came to consider the state of the law with respect to the subject with which it had to deal. It was under that conviction that he had moved in the Select Committee that the remaining evidence should be confined to persons of the legal profession. With respect to the law of marriage as it now existed in Scotland, he believed with Lord Brougham that it would be a disgrace to any semi-barbarous nation. In answer to a statement made by the hon. Member for Peebleshire, that irregular marriages were of very rare occurrence in Scotland, he would only state that not long since it was stated in the Scotsman newspaper that in the parish of Mornington alone there had been in one year upwards of 2,000 marriages of this description. The law as it at present stood was most objectionable, and he saw no reason why it should not be altered and placed upon the same footing as in this country, securing to the progeny of marriages the succession to the rights of property, and enabling people to know with certainty whether any persons were really married or not.


said, that although not a Scotch Member himself, still possessing as he did an intimate knowledge of the opinions of the people of Scotland on the subject, he felt desirous of stating his reasons why he objected to the further progress of this measure. He contended that in order to have arrived at an accurate conclusion with respect to the state of the law as regarded marriages in Scotland, it was necessary for the Committee not only to have considered the existing state of the law, but also to have ascertained, from the evidence of persons connected with the subject, the feelings and opinions of the people of Scotland with respect to the evils, if any, arising out of the present state of things, and the remedies which might be most effectual for their removal. He believed that by the exclusion of evidence as to the feelings and opinions of the people of Scotland, they had in reality shut out what would have been the most valuable part of their inquiry. It had been said with regard to the present defective state of the marriage law in Scotland, that the time of the House of Lords was almost exclusively occupied by hearing appeals arising out of questions connected with the law of marriage in that country. So far from that being the case, he found by a return lately presented to Parliament, that there had been only four cases before them for the last five years. The law of marriage in Scotland had been denounced as one fit only for a semi-barbarous country. In answer to that statement, he begged to state that the law now existing in Scotland was almost precisely the same as it existed in England previous to the passing of Lord Hardwicke's Act in the reign of George II., which was then considered as an unnecessary innovation of the law as it then existed. By the present law of Scotland, there was only one regular mode of contracting marriages, and any marriage contracted without the intervention of a clergyman, after the proclamation of banns as required by law, subjected the parties who entered into it to a fine, if the Lord Advocate in his discretion should sue for it; but certainly subjecting them to ecclesiastical censure. But although there was only one regular mode of solemnising marriage, still the law of Scotland, looking upon marriage as a civil contract, gave validity to contracts entered into between two persons, and considered their declarations, though not made in the presence of a clergyman, to be binding upon the parties, neither of them having the power of resiling from the contract. There was no doubt that a state of the law which might be highly objectionable to the public feeling of one country, might be perfectly well adapted to the public feeling of another country. He was quite aware that in Scotland rash marriages had been made; but the reason of that was, that young men could not obtain possession of females by any other means. He would appeal to any hon. Member to bear him out in the truth of his assertion, that in England cases of seduction and breaches of promise were far more numerous than they were in Scotland. On the passing of Lord Hardwicke's Act it was prophesied that such would be its effects, and that the weakness of love would give way to the efforts of a bold and heartless seducer, notwithstanding the circumstance of any promise of marriage made by him not being binding, unless the marriage was actually solemnised in the presence of a clergyman. Such cases do not, and cannot, however, exist in Scotland. What was the effect of the law as it at present stood, in preventing cases of seduction and breaches of promise of marriage? It was this: no person could make use of a promise of marriage as an instrument for the seduction of any female; because, if he did so, the law of Scotland said, by that promise he must be bound. If they could establish the existence of cases of young men being entrapped into marriage by persons below them in station, or rank, or any other abuse of the law, no doubt they would then have made out a case for the alteration of the law as it now existed. They could not, however, lay their hands upon a single case of that kind. With respect to the parish of Mornington, which had been referred to by the hon. Member for Roxburghshire, that was a parish close upon the border of the two countries, and the great majority of those who were married there were persons who, for some reason or other, wished to cross the border in order to take advantage of the benefit of the Scottish law. He was perfectly ready, and he believed Scotch Members also were equally prepared, to give his assent to any measure which should prevent the evasion of the English law, or which should prevent parties taking any advantage of the difference which existed between the laws of the two countries. In Scotland every minister was entitled to marry the members of his own congregation. There was no grievance or hardship upon the conscience of any man in Scotland. [Mr. Fox MAULE: The banns must be published in the parish church.] He had never heard that that was any cause of complaint to the people of Scotland that three weeks' notice must be given in the parish church of their intention to marry. All statutory notices were required by law to be given in parish churches. He was not aware that the people of Scotland had ever thought that that was a grievance. He supposed, however, that it was now considered as much by the members of the Free Church, if he might judge of their feelings by the interest which the right hon. Member opposite appeared to take in the question. [Mr. Fox MAULE: It is a grievance.] He was most happy to hear that that numerous and respectable body had no more serious grievance of which to complain. This Bill, however, went much further than the removal of that grievance, inasmuch as it proposed to legalise marriages not solemnised by clergymen, and to which the members of the Church entertained the most serious objections. At present, any persons who were married, by merely expressing themselves as being man and wife, would be subject to ecclesiastical censure. They now proposed to sweep away all irregular marriages in Scotland, and to have, as in England, regular marriages only. In that case no persons would be subject to ecclesiastical censure; and the clergy of Scotland generally felt that such a step would be highly injurious to the moral feelings of the people of the country; and that objection had been set forth in the strongest manner in the petitions which had been presented against the Bill. Looking at the very few instances of irregular marriages that occurred—looking also to the protection afforded by the existing law to females against seduction under fraudulent promises of marriage, made by persons who never meant to carry those promises into effect—he thought that the people of Scotland had a perfect right to ask the House to allow the law of marriage to re- main as it then stood. Any cases of grievance or abuse which had been brought forward were confined solely to the English border; and he believed there was no person in Scotland who would not most cordially give his assent to the abolition of Gretna-green, or "border" marriages, as they were called in Scotland. The settlement of the great question of legitimacy in accordance with the laws of both countries would be a worthy object for the attention of any statesman; but the present Bill, he thought, was both uncalled for and unnecessary. The learned Lord Advocate had also brought in a Bill for the registration of births, deaths, and marriages; and it was only with a view of making that measure work more effectually that he had proposed to introduce these vital and important changes in the law of Scotland, injurious to the morals of the people of Scotland, and in direct opposition to their wishes. No doubt, a perfect system of registration would be a very good thing, but it was just possible that they might pay too great a price for it. This Marriage Bill would be a perfect dead letter, a mere piece of waste paper, unless it formed part and parcel of the Registration Bill. Believing, as he did, that the general feeling of the people of Scotland was against the measure, he felt bound to give his support to the Amendment of his hon. Friend the Member for Peebleshire, and he should be greatly disappointed if upon the division he did not find a majority of the Scotch Members voting with him against the third reading of the Bill.


begged to remind the House that the present measures were not new to the House. Measures substantially the same as these had been brought in by him in 1847. They were then read a second time, and a full statement of their nature was made by him in withdrawing them for that Session. In 1848 they were introduced into the House of Lords, where they underwent the fullest discussion, having been referred to the consideration of a Select Committee, consisting mainly of noble Lords connected with Scotland. Several amendments were made by the Committee on those Bills, and in that state they passed the House of Lords with scarcely a dissentient voice. They were then brought down to the House of Commons, and read a second time; but owing to the late period of the Session, and a desire upon the part of Her Majesty's Government that the people of Scotland should have an opportunity of considering them, the Bills were a second time withdrawn. In the present Session the Bills had been again introduced into the House of Lords; the Registration Bill had passed that House unanimously; the Marriage Bill with one dissentient only—the Earl of Aberdeen. In these circumstances they came down to the House of Commons. At the desire of many Scotch Members, the Bills were not pressed forward previous to the 30th of April; and since that time the pressure of public business had prevented their being taken into consideration until the present time. Under those circumstances, he thought it was not unreasonable in the Government to wish to have them proceeded with this Session. The first great object of the present Bill was to introduce a certainty, and to remove the great sources of uncertainty which at present existed with respect to the condition of marriage in Scotland, and to leave it no longer a matter of doubt or difficulty, to be ascertained only by the sifting and investigation of most unsatisfactory evidence, whether any parties had or had not contracted the status of marriage. The second object was one to which he attached at least as much importance, namely, to ensure, as far as possible, publicity to the contraction of marriage. It was in order to ensure this publicity, and to put an end to a state of the law which he could not help considering as disgraceful to any civilised community—a state of law which not only admitted, but encouraged, as much as law could encourage, the contraction of marriage, and the concealment of the fact. That was one of the great objects of this Bill. He knew of no greater evil in society than clandestine marriages; and he had never heard an opinion expressed by any lawyer, writer, judge, or person of authority, in any station whatever, which did not condemn most strongly the system of clandestine marriages, and which did not reprobate in the strongest manner a state of law which encouraged people to contract marriages, and hold themselves out to society as single or unmarried persons. The third object of the Bill was one which was, perhaps, less easy of attainment, but still, to a certain extent, attainable, namely, to provide for a reasonable intimation of the parties' intention to marry, and in order to prevent incautious, over-hasty, and fraudulent marriages, by giving the friends of the parties some intimation of their intention to contract mar- riage. Requiring this intimation of the parties' intention to marry, would, he was certain, more than anything else, prevent that which every one admitted to be a great grievance—he meant what were commonly called "Gretna-green" marriages. He was astonished to hear the right hon. Baronet opposite state that it was the first time he had heard it considered as a grievance that persons could not marry without the proclamation of banns in the parish church, by the payment of a large fee to the precentor, or other officer of the church. That had always been considered a very great grievance by the Dissenting body throughout Scotland, so far as he understood. The members of the Episcopal communion were, however, saved from that grievance, because they were provided with an Act of Parliament which provided that the proclamation of banns made in their own chapel was sufficient to authorise a clergyman to solemnise the marriage. The grievance in this case was felt to be still greater by the Dissenters, because the friends of the parties who did not attend the parish church, had no opportunity of deriving from the proclamation of the banns any of the benefits of publicity. The present law of marriage in Scotland was founded on the principle of requiring the consent of the parties, and did not even require intercourse between the parties to complete the union. But with respect to the evidence to be given of such consent, and consequent completion of the contract, the law was very loose and unsatisfactory. It might be by writing—it might be by wading through voluminous correspondence—that such evidence of consent was to be obtained. Parties might live together, and be supposed married by some, and not be supposed married by others, and yet what was called the reputation of being married was sometimes the only evidence to be procured or relied on. The declarations of persons in the presence of other parties were also sometimes held as evidence; but all these matters led to great uncertainty, and often to prolonged litigation, in the course of which many and various questions might arise which it was most difficult to solve. Was it expedient that such a state of things as that should be suffered to exist? Take another case: parties lived in an equivocal position; it was almost generally supposed that they lived as mistress and protector; they were not visited; it was supposed by some that they were married, and by others not; then a question arose—and this was a real case—whether there was such reputation joined with cohabitation as to make a valid marriage. The court held, by a decision of eight of the Judges against seven, that there was a marriage. The case affects a large estate, and the decision held the issue of the cohabitation to be entitled to the property. The case came by appeal to the House of Lords, and was argued before Lord Eldon. He had great difficulty about it, said he could not understand such evidence as had been given in the case, and reversed the decision of the court below. The use he (the Lord Advocate) made of this was, to show that so long as the law of Scotland was not reduced to evidence of a clear and definite nature, there must always be disputes and great difficulties. Then, with respect to the exact words to be used, who could say what those should be? A case arose some years ago of this description, and which involved property to the amount of many thousands a year: a gentleman lived for some years in cohabitation with a female, who bore several children to him. One day he called his servants into the room where he was with the female and with his children and said to them, "I acknowledge this woman to be my wife," and "I acknowledge these children to be my children." He then left the room, gave some orders to his servants, went out, and in half an hour shot himself. It was said he was mad. An inquiry took place, and he was found to have been sane. Another question, however, much more difficult, then arose, which was—Did he intend, by his statements, to make the woman his widow, and those children his heirs? Now. these were questions that would constantly arise where parties wished to commit frauds upon insurance offices, for instance, so long as the law remained in its present state; and parties would delay acknowledging their marriage till the last moment. Another way of making a marriage in Scotland was by a promise of marriage, and intercourse afterwards had upon the faith of that promise. It was not very clear by the law of Scotland how that promise was to be proved. Some cases went the length of bringing in the courtship; and if it were found there had been an honourable courtship, the court would hold that there had been a promise. But surely this could not be considered the best law for Scotland. It was also a state of law which was attended with the greatest difficulty and danger—that held that a promise of marriage made by one and accepted by the other might be proved, not only by direct writing, but by the spelling and inference to be drawn from a long course of correspondence. There was, however, another anomalous case: there had been cohabitation for a length of time; it ceased; then came a promise of marriage, or a letter, which would be interpreted to imply such a promise; the parties lived together again, and the law was, that during the latter period they were to be considered as having been married, although during the former period they had lived together illegally; and it was said that the object of this was to protect the female, and not to leave her to a dependence upon the honour of a man. But in how many eases, as it was well known to all lawyers, from the statement of the woman, bad this promise been made by the man where he had got hold of the paper afterwards, destroyed it, and left the woman a sacrifice to that state of law! In how many instances had not the confiding woman received the most direct and positive promise from the man before she had surrendered herself to him; and deserting her afterwards, what remedy had she but to appeal to the oath of her seducer?—and it was more than he the Lord Advocate could believe that a man who had so conducted himself to a female, when put upon his oath afterwards, would confess his promise. He had no hesitation in stating, as the result of a long professional experience, which had brought many of these cases under his consideration, that this law, which the right hon. Baronet opposite appealed to as a proper law for Scotland, had led to more eases of seduction than any other law that had ever been enacted. Upon this state of the law he would ask the House to consider for a moment how it was that the Bill he had introduced was to operate? He held all marriages to be good which should be celebrated by a clergyman. Where a clergyman was resorted to in Scotland, he should hold that act to be good, with this exception, that to prevent imprudent or hasty marriages, if there should be no proclamation of banns, then a certificate of the intention to marry, which should be published, should be obtained; and the publicity of that registration would be greater than that of the proclamation of banns. With respect to irregular marriages—marriages which were to be considered to have been made by promise and subsequent intercourse, those to be made out by cohabitation and reputation, and those to be considered to have been made by private writings interchanged between the parties, and probably kept secret for a long series of years, he should admit no evidence of any marriage not celebrated by a clergyman, except those of the simple registration of the intention of the parties to marry made by the registrar, and signed by the parties themselves. This would not only prevent difficulty or dispute as to the marriage afterwards, but it would be certain to insure publicity. When parties went before a clergyman to get married, accompanied by their friends and witnesses, the presumption must be that there could be in such a case no intention to conceal the union, therefore there was not much necessity for guarding against evil in those instances; still they had been well provided for, because the clergyman was directed, under this Bill, to communicate the marriage to the registrar, and the registrar was authorised to proceed against the parties for penalties, if the registration was not effected by them within a certain time after the marriage, so that publicity as much as possible should be insured. Then the third point to be attained by the Bill, was to require that the parties proposing to marry, if they did not have banns proclaimed, should intimate their intention of marrying to the registrar, by which all the publicity possible should be given to that intention, and all friends of the parties in that way receive the speediest information of the event. No clergyman should be at liberty to celebrate a marriage except banns had been proclaimed; and no registrar should be at liberty to give a certificate of registration until after the names had been registered by him for such a length of time as would admit of publicity of the intention to marry. This would have the effect of, at all events, preventing fraudulent marriages. It bad been said by the hon. Member for Peebleshire that the penalty proposed was not sufficient to deter from violating the Act; but the House ought to recollect that it was dealing with public officers. There was a penalty of 200l., and also a penalty of imprisonment, for improperly celebrating a marriage; and no doubt loss of office would follow the infliction of those penalties. What more could be asked for? It would be quite impossible to provide against every imaginable case of either fraud or violation of duty. His hon. and learned Friend the Member for Argyllshire would remember a case that came before the court in Scotland, involving a promise of marriage. The woman had got hold of a piece of paper on which the man had written his name, and above that signature she had written in her handwriting his promise to marry her. In the first instance that was held to be a valid promise, but afterwards that decision was reversed. That, however, showed the difficulties that existed under such a state of law as that which existed in Scotland. With respect to consequences, he referred the House to the case of a gentleman in Scotland possessed of extensive landed property there, who had married a lady from England, connected with one of the most noble families in the country; and after the union had subsisted a year or two, a claim was brought against him by a woman in Scotland of a previous marriage, which claim depended upon writings, in which she affirmed a promise of marriage was given, and there had been subsequent cohabitation. These were held to be proved, and the English marriage was declared void. Fortunately there was no issue by the second marriage, for if there had been, that issue would have been deprived of the very large property which legitimate issue under that marriage would have been entitled to. The lady, who had once thought herself honourably married, found herself to be deceived, and she retired to live with her friends again, as a lady who had not been married. Was that a state of law to be approved of, or was it not sufficient of itself to induce the House to interfere to put an end to clandestine marriages? It was only three or four weeks since he had been retained as counsel in a case of this character. The libel stated that there was a marriage in 1818 upon a promise by writing between the parties, and which had been secret. The plaintiff was issue of that marriage, and born about 1827. His father afterwards married an English lady; his mother took no steps against that marriage, from a wish not to bring the man into troubles and difficulties. The plaintiff, however, now sought to have that subsequent marriage set aside, the setting aside of which will have the effect of taking away a very large estate from other persons as well as a baronetcy, which had been held for many years. And such were some of the disastrous consequences of these clandestine marriages. With regard to the nature of this measure itself, the objections to it were principally from the Church of Scotland; and more incongruous objections than they were could not well be thought of. The Church said you are making marriage too easy, because you are enabling persons to marry by registration. But surely marriage by registration was not so irregular as all the other modes of marriage that prevailed in Scotland. Well, but then in the next breath, the Church said, you are making marriage too difficult, because you are preventing people marrying by promise and subsequent intercourse. His answer to that was, that he was only making marriage reasonably proper. Then another objection was, that by this Bill the House would be countenancing the law of irregular marriages, because there was now no statute law by which marriages in Scotland were regulated; but he would ask, were they, because there was no statute law, to disregard the common law of the country; and when they found that the common law of Scotland recognised all irregular marriages, could it be said that the House was now making legal irregular marriages, when the object of the present Bill was only to put them down? At present, the only regular marriage in Scotland was after the publication of banns; the only case of penalty was for the celebration of it without such publication; the clergyman might be left out altogether, and then no penalty would be incurred. Upon the whole, there could not be a more absurd state of law. Looking at the objections put forward by the Church of Scotland against this Bill, there were no grounds for those objections at all. He admitted the clergymen of Scotland were generally against this measure; but surely the House would think that by this time, the third year of the discussion of this Bill, those rev. gentlemen ought to have come forward with some substantial grounds for their opposition. If they meant to say that they came here to assert that they had the power or right to supersede the interference of the Legislature, they would put forward a right in them much greater than the Church of Rome asserted; because they took their right to interfere in reference to the rules of marriage, on the ground that it was a sacrament, which carried with it a degree of plausibility, and they required no witness to their marriage, or proof of the marriage beyond that of the parish priest who performed the ceremony. With respect to the petitions that had been sent to the House on this subject, he found that altogether there were 377 against both Bills; and of those, 225 had been received from the Established Church. With regard to those 225, however, he must say that he did not think they had been obtained in the most regular manner. In the first place, they had a petition from the General Assembly of Scotland; but not content with that, there was a petition from the commissioners, who were precisely the same body as the General Assembly. Then, again, there was a petition from the synod of Aberdeen; then from all the presbyteries of Aberdeen; then from the individual session clerks and the particular clergy of Aberdeen. Such was the mode in which these petitions had been multiplied. With respect to a great body of the Dissenters in Scotland, there had not been one petition against the Marriage Bill. There were some forty-eight or forty-nine petitions from the Free Kirk; but they were not against the Marriage Bill. The principal of their petitions were against one of the clauses of the Registration Bill, asserting that the author of the Bill did wrong in saying that no one should ever be a registrar except the session clerk. If he were to give up that principle, which he could not do in justice to the session clerks, he believed there was not one of the dissenting body, whether of the clergy or the laity, but would support the measures under discussion. There were about 1,000 parishes in Scotland: only 130 of them had petitioned against the Bill. Of the Free Kirk congregations, 739 in number, only eleven had petitioned against the Bill. Of the United Presbyterian synod, 493 congregations in all, only twelve had petitioned against the Bill; and those were on the partial grounds to which he had referred. From the remaining dissenting congregations, 333 in number, and including 110 Episcopal churches, not one petition against the measure had been received. He could understand, indeed, the force of the petitions against Sunday travelling, 712 in number, signed by 138,567 persons; but the petitions against these Bills were not signed by 7,000 individuals, whilst those against the Marriage Bill had not much above 1,500 names appended to them. Now, was he, or was he not entitled to say, what he did say advisedly, that he could not consider those petitions as representing the opinions of the people of Scotland? He knew that there were not petitions in favour of this Bill from many quarters. There might have been more, had they been looked for; but he did not expect that measures of this nature, involving such reforms in the law as this was calculated to produce, would be the subjects of canvassed petitions. He asked the House, then, to pass this measure upon three grounds: first, to give certainty to the constitution of the marriage contract; secondly, to ensure publicity to that contract, thus preventing the monstrous evil of clandestine marriages; and, thirdly, he recommended this measure because of the provision it made for a public notice of the intention to marry, and of the impediment which it presented in the way of hasty and fraudulent marriages.


* said, that he intended to give his vote in favour of the Amendment of his hon. Friend the Member for Peebleshire, and he hoped the House would extend to him its indulgence, while he stated the reasons that led him to resist the farther progress of the present measure. The hon. Member for Roxburghshire, while bearing valuable testimony to the existence of a strong feeling in Scotland against this Bill, was pleased to ascribe that feeling to an extreme repugnance to all interference with their laws or usages, which, he says, is a characteristic of the Scottish nation. He (Mr. M'Neill) must, however, for himself, take the liberty of denying that he was under such influence. He was not one of those, if there were any such, who opposed an obstinate resistance to all interference with the laws and usages of Scotland. He believed that the laws of every country required occasional amendments. Society is progressive; and with the changes which take place in the state of society—arising from various causes, political and social—the laws of the country must, to a certain extent, keep pace and undergo occasional amendment. When he had the honour to occupy an official position, which made it more peculiarly his duty to attend to the wants and requirements of Scotland in this respect, he had not abstained from introducing such measures for the amendment of the law as he believed to be necessary for the removal or correction of ascertained or acknowledged evils or defects; and since that duty had devolved on his right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Advocate, he was sure he would do him the justice to admit that he (Mr. M'Neill) had, as a Member of this House, readily given his humble aid towards perfecting and carrying through measures proposed by his right * From a printed pamphlet. hon. Friend. But while such were the views he entertained, and upon which he had acted, and was still prepared to act, he must at the same time he permitted to say that great caution ought to he observed in interfering with a law which was satisfactory to the people, especially a law touching so nearly the feelings and the social interests and relations of all grades of society as the law relating to the constitution of marriage. He knew few qualities of a law more valuable—more highly to be prized—than that of giving satisfaction to an enlightened and intelligent people, for whose benefit it was intended, and among whom it had been long in operation. That was a quality too valuable to be bartered, or even put in hazard, for any mere theoretical improvement. The excitement of dissatisfaction—the doing of violence to the feelings of the people in regard to such a matter as the constitution of marriage—was too high a price to be paid for the removal of theoretical defects. Where there was an intelligent and contented people, with a well-known and long-established law which they did not desire to alter, he demanded to have some cogent reason assigned for altering or abrogating that law before he would agree to do so. Some strong ease must be made out of existing evil, or of great practical inconvenience. At the same time, it must not be supposed that he was altogether averse to legislation in regard to the law of marriage. On the contrary, he was of opinion that there were matters connected with the operation of the law of marriage to which legislation might be applied with advantage to the inhabitants of both ends of the island, and without doing violence to the feelings of either, or depriving either of the enjoyment of their own laws. Some of these had been alluded to by his right hon. Friend the Member for Dover; and he (Mr. M'Neill) would now merely mention without dwelling upon them. In the first place, he would mention the matter of border marriages. He believed that the extent to which the natives of England resorted to Scotland for the mere purpose of evading the marriage law of England, had been exaggerated; but he had no doubt that the practice prevailed to a very considerable extent among the natives of England living near the borders, and especially those in the humbler classes of life. On this point he was disposed to differ from a noble and learned Lord (Lord Brougham), who, in the course of his evidence before the Committee, had expressed an opinion that only the rich availed themselves, or could avail themselves, of that mode of evading the law of England. He (Mr. M'Neill) believed that there were comparatively few instances of these border marriages among parties in the higher ranks of life, and that such cases would be still more rare and more easily prevented, if it was really desirable and desired to prevent them, now that the transit of thought by the electric telegraph was fleeter even than the flight of love when the steam was up. But if it was true, as he believed it to be, that among the humbler classes living near the border, the practice of resorting to Scotland for a few hours for the mere purpose of evading the provisions of the marriage law of England prevailed to a great extent, and if that practice was productive of evil among those classes, by encouraging immorality or great improvidence, and by disturbing the peace of families living under the protection and security, as they supposed, of the law of England, he should not object to a legislative remedy being applied; and he thought it would not be difficult to apply such a remedy without exciting much dissatisfaction or opposition. Indeed, in many of the petitions which had been presented against this Bill, the petitioners expressed views similar to those which he had now indicated. Then, again, in regard to the dissolution of marriage, there were points which, though not giving rise to frequent questions, still were in an unsatisfactory state, and were fit matter for adjustment by legislation. By the law of Scotland, the courts of law had power to dissolve marriage for certain causes. The courts of England had no such power; and, consequently, parties had in each case to resort to the Legislature for that redress to which confessedly they were entitled on proof of the wrong. He would not now say which was the better system, although he had a very clear opinion on that point. Neither did he advocate any general alteration of the law as it existed in either end of the island; but the point he wished to direct attention to was this—that the courts of law in England, not having in themselves the power to dissolve marriages, did not recognise the validity or effect of a judgment of the Scotch court dissolving a marriage which had been contracted in England between English parties who had afterwards gone to Scotland; and the case had occurred of a person being convicted in England of bigamy, for having contracted a second marriage there after his first marriage had been dissolved by sentence of the Scotch court. He should like to see that matter adjusted by legislation. Again, it was well known that the law of Scotland recognised the rule of legitimation by subsequent marriage; and the noble and learned Lord who had introduced the present Bill, had stated in his evidence that he highly approved of not touching that part of the law of Scotland. But he (Mr. M'Neill) thought that some concession was due from the law of England to the rights of legitimacy; and that parties who were legitimate in one part of the kingdom should have in all parts of the kingdom the rights of succession to heritable estate, and all other rights that belong to legitimacy. On none of these points connected with the law of marriage was he averse to legislation. On the contrary, he thought that they afforded a field for useful legislation which might have been occupied by his learned Friend with advantage to the inhabitants of both ends of the island, without doing violence to the feelings of any one, and without imposing additional burdens of any kind. But the measure now before the House was of a very different character. It went to an entire alteration of the law as to the constitution of marriage, and as to the evidence by which that relation of parties could be proved. And why was this change proposed in the law affecting the most important relation of life—the most important interests, not only of the parties who had contracted that relation, but of the children who were the fruits of their union? It was introduced as part of a system of more perfect registration of births and marriages, more fully developed in another Bill introduced at the same time and still depending. The whole of this most important change in the law, affecting the constitution of marriage and the evidence of marriage, appeared to have had its origin—to hare been suggested and proposed as a mode of facilitating and rendering more perfect the operations of the statist. He requested hon. Gentlemen to observe particularly the connexion between these twin Bills. [The hon. and learned Member read the first clause of the Marriage Bill.] From that clause it would be seen that henceforward there were to be only two recognised modes of constituting marriage; one of which was to be by proceeding under the provisions of the Registration Bill of this Session. That Bill was thus as it were recognised and adopted into the Marriage Bill; consequently, no person who voted for the Marriage Bill could, with consistency, refuse to pass the Registration Bill. All those who were opposed to the Registration Bill of the present Session—who thought it too expensive, too complex, or too stringent—who thought that either it should not be passed at all in its present form, or that, at all events, it should not be passed during the present Session, must join with him in resisting the further progress of the Marriage Bill, because the first clause of the Marriage Bill was tantamount to a pledge to pass the Registration Bill in the present Session. He would now proceed to consider the reasons which had been assigned for pressing on this measure. He did not mean to impugn the general proposition laid down by his right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Advocate as to what constitutes marriage according to the law of Scotland. Consent of parties, deliberately interchanged by words of present acceptance of each other as husband and wife, intending so to live, does undoubtedly constitute marriage by the law of Scotland. That principle is not peculiar to Scotland: it has been recognised as the foundation of the law of marriage throughout the whole Christian world. They had been told to-day that the law of Scotland in regard to the constitution of marriage was a disgrace to any civilised country; and the hon Member for Roxburghshire had said that it was fit only for a semi-barbarous people, at the same time that he told us that the people of Scotland had a very strong feeling in its favour. Did the hon. Gentleman moan to stamp as semi-barbarous all those who adopted or retained the same state of law? The Chief Judge of the Consistorial Court of England (Dr. Lushington), justly lauded for his learning, and his acquaintance with the marriage law of England, had stated in evidence— I really hardly know any difference between the law of Scotland, as to the constitution of marriage, and the law of England, anterior to Lord Hardwicke's Marriage Act. I apprehend them to be as nearly as possible the same thing. Were the people of England a semi-barbarous people up to that time? Were the distinguished statesmen who so strenuously resisted that innovation on the law of England, only half civilised? Were their views and opinions disgraceful to a civilised country? When he called to recollection the opposition to Lord Hardwicke's Bill, and still more when he remembered who the constitutional statesmen were, who in the next generation described that Act of Lord Hardwicke's—that departure from the former law of England—as a "disgrace to the country and to the Statute-book,"—he did not attach much importance to the mere use, on the present occasion, of expressions so easily put in requisition by those who might be disposed to do so on either or both sides of such a question. It might, however, be worthy of notice, that the alteration made by Lord Hardwicke on the law of England, and which was intended to remove a certain amount of evil then acknowledged to exist in England, had given rise to other evils not less serious, and which had called for further legislation—which further legislation had produced a state of matters altogether unworkable, till again set agoing by a recent Act, which it was hoped would be more successful. No great encouragement to change, was therefore held out by the example and experience of England, since its departure, in the time of Lord Hardwicke, from what we are told was then as nearly as possible the law common to both countries in regard to the constitution of marriage. Nor does the evil exist to any considerable extent in Scotland which did exist in England, and was made the ground for altering the law there. The law of Scotland being now as heretofore, that consent given in the way he had described makes marriage—that it is, in the language of Archbishop Cranmer, "beyond all doubt ipsum matrimonium," the present Bill says, that henceforth it shall not make marriage, whatever may have followed upon it, unless the consent is given in presence of a clergyman, or by signing the register. It does not say, that all marriages must be celebrated in presence of a clergyman; but, professing to recognise the principle, that consent, though not given in presence of a clergyman, may constitute marriage, it says, that the consent shall be of none avail, whatever may have followed upon it, unless it was given in the particular form of signing the register, and can be there pointed out. No matter how deliberately the consent may have been interchanged, and how completely susceptible of proof. No matter although the parties may have lived all their lives as man and wife—may have so published themselves to the world every day, by acts a thousand times more public than any entry in a register can possibly be—by a course of life more clearly indicating deliberate and continued purpose than a single entry in a register can do. All that shall not avail them or their families; they are to be denied the rights and privileges of marriage and legitimacy, unless they can point to their names in the journal kept by the registrar. To borrow the language of a high authority relied upon in support of the Bill— It may be according to the law of Scotland that it is a complete marriage, and so it may be by the law of God; but if the woman is put to prove that marriage after the birth of children, of that she is or may be without any proof. That which, by the law of Scotland and by the law of God, is a marriage, the people of Scotland wish to be allowed to prove by all the evidence of which it is susceptible. They do not wish that parties should be allowed to escape from such solemn obligations, undertaken towards each other—to their offspring and to society. They are unwilling that any man should be enabled, with the confidence of perfect impunity, to impose on an unsuspecting community, by wearing a mask of pretended matrimony, behind which is concealed the reality of vice. He did not wonder that the people of Scotland had no liking to this measure. There may occasionally be cases in which the proof of marriage is attended with difficulty; and so there may be in regard to any matter of fact whatever. So there may be in regard to the fact of marriage under the proposed Bill, even where the marriage has been celebrated in the most solemn manner in presence of a clergyman. Occasional difficulty of proof is not a satisfactory or adequate reason for so great a change in the law. Certainty is desirable in all transactions, and is especially desirable in regard to marriage; and the means of preserving evidence of such contracts is also desirable; but although these objects are desirable, they should not be prized so highly, or pursued so exclusively, as to endanger other advantages not less valuable. At present there was no uncertainty in this sense, that parties could not get effectually married if they chose, and he was not averse to affording additional and improved facilities for preserving evidence by registration. The extent of the evil said to arise from the present uncertainty and difficulty of proof, had been much exaggerated. It had been made the subject of evidence before the Committee by examining two noble and learned Lords, the one an ex-Chancellor of England, the other an ex-Chancellor of Ireland, both of whom have for several years had great judicial experience in the court of last resort. One of these noble and learned Lords, in particular, had given very important evidence on the subject. He was also the author of the present Bill, having introduced it in the other House of Parliament, and therefore it was of consequence that the House should see what had been said by him when examined as a witness in support of his own Bill. He (Mr. M'Neill) entertained towards that noble and learned Lord no feeling but that of respect for his high position, and, if possible, still greater respect for the talents and industry by which that position had been attained; but he could not agree to adopt the conclusions of that noble Lord in regard to the Bill, without examining the grounds upon which those conclusions rested. From the speech of his right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Advocate, it might be supposed that the amount of litigation arising out of the state of the marriage law of Scotland was enormous; that the House of Lords itself was groaning under the load of difficult and doubtful cases that were brought before it by appeal, and which would all be prevented by the present Bill. The evidence of the noble Lord who had introduced the Bill, was certainly calculated to convey the impression, that during his judicial experience in the House of Lords, he had been exposed to great difficulty and embarrassment in wading through cases of that description, constantly brought before the House by appeal from the Scotch court; and that, as might have been expected, where the cases were so numerous, and so difficult and doubtful in evidence, the disagreeable duty of differing from the court below, and reversing its judgments, had been very frequently imposed upon the House of Lords. But from a return of all the cases of declarator of marriage or legitimacy that had occurred during the last seventeen or eighteen years, which had been moved for by the Earl of Aberdeen, and was alluded to by the noble and learned Lord in his evidence, and since then communicated to this House, it appeared, that during the whole period embraced in that return, there had been in the House of Lords only six cases and only one reversal. And of these six cases, three, including the reversal, had nothing to do with the subjectmatter of the present Bill. They were not cases in which there was any doubt or question as to the validity of any marriages. They were cases as to whether the marriage in the circumstances had the effect of legitimating the children previously born, which was a subject not touched by the present Bill; and the noble and learned Lord himself had said, that he most highly approved of the Bill expressly leaving the law of legitimation by subsequent marriage untouched. It farther appeared, that of the remaining three cases, two had been decided before the noble and learned Lord had sat in the Upper House, and only one since that time. But the noble and learned Lord explained very satisfactorily that he referred also to cases which did not appear in that return; and he explained why it was that they did not so appear. He explained that it is not merely in matrimonial suits that the question of marriage or legitimacy arises—that it arises also in suits as to property—the right to the property depending on the legitimacy of one of the parties—so that the question of marriage came to be tried and decided incidentally in the question of property. And the noble Lord gave an instance of a case of that description from Glasgow which had occurred last Session, and in which the judgment of the court below, on the point of legitimacy, had been reversed in the House of Lords. That explanation was quite intelligible, and so far might be considered satisfactory. But as the noble Lord's recollection did not enable him to give a reference to the other cases of that class which had occurred, and as he (Mr. M'Neill) thought it better not to rely on generalities when precise information was within reach, he had moved for a list of all cases that had been decided in the House of Lords on appeal from Scotland in reference to rights of property, in which the legitimacy of any party had been raised as a point for decision since the 1st January, 1839, embracing more than the period during which the House of Lords has had the benefit of the noble and learned Lord's judicial assistance in deciding such cases. He now held in his hands a copy of that return. The first two cases embraced in it were questions as to legitimation by subsequent marriage, and therefore not within the scope of this Bill, or of the evidence of the noble and learned Lord. The third case in the return was a proper case of marriage and legitimacy. It was one of the three cases of that description which had appeared in Lord Aberdeen's return, and it was the only one of them which had been decided during the time of the noble and learned Lord. In that case the judgment of the court below was affirmed. This exhausted the proper cases of marriage and legitimacy. One case in ten years. But then we come to that other class of cases to which the noble and learned Lord referred—not proper cases of marriage, but cases of property, in which the legitimacy of one of the parties was incidentally raised as a point for decision; and to that class of cases we must look for the labours and difficulties which had so oppressed and perplexed the noble Lord, and for the numerous judgments of reversal which it had been his duty to pronounce; for of course they were not to be found in the one case of marriage which had been affirmed. Now, as to that other class of cases—namely, questions of property—there was of course the case from Glasgow, to which the noble Lord had particularly referred as an instance of reversal; and there were how many more—not of reversals, but of cases altogether? Absolutely none—not one. The case from Glasgow was actually the only case of the class that had occurred during the whole period of the judicial experience of the noble and learned Lord; and as the reversals could scarcely be more numerous than the cases, it was not wonderful that the noble Lord was unable to refer specifically to any other instance of reversal. But what must be the astonishment of the House when he informed them that this Glasgow case was not reversed. It was affirmed. It was affirmed with costs; and it was affirmed with costs after a speech from the noble and learned Lord himself urging its affirmance. He hoped he might now take leave of that part of the case in support of the Bill, which depended upon the judicial experience of its noble and learned author. Objects that loomed large in the deceptive mist of generality having now been examined in the clear atmosphere of ascertained fact, their utter insignificance was put beyond question. If by any chance what he had now said should ever reach the noble and learned Lord, he hoped it might have the effect of relieving him from a load of painful anxiety under which he seemed to be labouring, from an erroneous impression, that for eight or ten years he had been wading through cases which were not before him, and reversing judgments which he was actually affirming. But there was another affliction under which that noble and learned Lord was labouring, and from which he (Mr. M'Neill) was desirous also to relieve him. In the course of his evidence, the noble Lord had told the Committee that it was with much sorrow that he, being the son of a clergyman of the Established Church of Scotland, found that this Bill was opposed by the clergy of that Church; and that although he was not disposed to say anything at all disrespectful of a body towards whom he felt nothing but respect and affection, he feared that on this occasion they were influenced by an unwillingness that a marriage by a clergyman not of the Established Church should hereafter be put upon the same footing with a marriage by a clergyman of the Established Church. In short, that they were actuated by a jealousy which was unworthy of them, and which the noble Lord could not observe without deep regret. If he (Mr. M'Neill) could have believed that the respected clergy of the Church of Scotland had been actuated by such unworthy motives, he would have participated in the sorrow of the noble Lord; but if, on the other hand, it should appear that there was no ground whatever for the imputation of the noble Lord, he might then appeal to the opposition of the Church as no unimportant fact in the consideration of this Bill. Now, what ground was there for the imputation which the noble Lord had cast upon the respectable clergy of the Church of Scotland, of being actuated by an unworthy jealousy of their Dissenting brethren acquiring, through this Bill, the power of celebrating marriage? The noble Lord was asked to explain in what respect this Bill alters the relative position of the Established clergymen and of Dissenting clergymen with regard to marriages. His answer was—"At present a marriage by a Dissenting clergyman, I rather think, is not strictly regular." The learned Lord Advocate, who could not fail to see the difficulty into which his witness was likely to get, interposed interrogatively with the remark—"He cannot marry without banns—he is subject to punishment if he marries without banns." But the noble Lord, not availing himself of the hint, and having no want of confidence in his own opinion on the point, answered without hesitation—"There are statutes forbidding marriages unless by clergymen of the Established Church." This is altogether a mistake. There were such statutes—some of them in the reign of Charles IL, but those statutes have been repealed—and Dissenting clergymen are as competent to celebrate marriages validly and regularly as clergymen of the Establishment. It is true, as noticed by the learned Lord Advocate, that they are liable to punishment if they do so without proclamation of banns; but so are the clergymen of the Establishment. Neither is permitted to celebrate marriage without proclamation of banns—either may celebrate marriage if the banns have been proclaimed. There is no difference in that respect, in so far as regards the functions of the clergymen, and accordingly marriages are every day validly and regularly celebrated by Dissenting clergymen. He was sure it would be a great relief and satisfaction to the noble Lord to find, that there was no ground for his suspicion of unworthy jealousy. It was impossible that any such jealousy should exist; for the cause out of which it was supposed to have sprung existed only in the mind of the noble Lord, whose suspicious conception had obviously enough been generated in his imperfect acquaintance with the subject. The House had been reminded by the supporters of this Bill, that both it and the Registration Bill had twice passed the other House of Parliament—once in 1848, after having been subjected to the consideration of a Select Committee; and again in 1849; and this appeared to be pressed upon the House as a sufficient reason why it should now approve of the Bill. In regard to the manner in which the Bill had been introduced into and carried through the other House of Parliament in the present Session, he had lately observed very strong complaints and accusations publicly made by at least one noble Lord; but whether these complaints be well or ill-founded, undoubtedly the fact was, that the Bill had passed the House of Lords. It had been introduced there by a noble and learned Lord, holding a high position in the Government—accustomed to advise the House of Lords in matters of law, and well entitled to do so. The House of Lords had been in use to rely, and might be justified in relying, much on the advice of that noble and learned Lord in such matters. It had even been known following his advice to reject the almost unanimous opinion of the Twelve Judges of England, whom it had consulted. He was doing no injustice to that noble Lord, when he assumed that the views which he urged in his place in Parliament, in support of the Bill he had there introduced, were not materially different from those which he had given to the Committee, when examined as a witness in support of the same Bill. He would be doing injustice to the noble Lord if he made any other assumption. He could not possibly suppose anything else. Then if that was so, if the noble and learned Lord gave the House of Lords to understand that its judicial sittings were consumed in hearing, deciding, and reversing Scotch cases of marriage—if he gave the House of Lords to understand that no Dissenting clergyman could validly or regularly celebrate marriage, even between members of his own congregation—that all these evils and restrictions would be cured by the measure which he recommended, and that the opposition of the Church of Scotland was traceable to an unworthy jealousy—is it wonderful that the House of Lords should have passed these Bills? Farther, he contended that the circumstance of these Bills having passed the House of Lords could not fairly he pressed on this House now as a reason for adopting them. The Bills as they emanated from the House of Lords had not been pressed upon this House as measures which it would be asked to pass. On the contrary, the course taken was to refer these Bills to a Select Committee. In that Committee, the Registration Bill had undergone alteration; and in regard to the Marriage Bill the Committee were of opinion that it should not be passed without inquiry into the subject. Inquiry had been granted, with the usual powers, and witnesses had been examined in support of the Bill. When the examination of these witnesses was concluded, some members of the Committee, with whom he concurred, proposed to examine witnesses as to the operation of the existing law in Scotland—its effect on the moral and social condition of the people—their feeling in regard to it, and the probable consequences of the proposed change. With that view they intended to examine persons who, by residence and position, were well qualified to give the information desired. Clergymen in populous towns, who were in constant and confidential communication with all classes—who had the best opportunities of observing their virtues and their vices, and of knowing their habits and the state of their feelings—magistrates of cities, whose attention had been specially called to the condition and habits of the population under their magistracy—persons of various religious denominations; and, in short, to draw information from the best and most authentic sources. They gave in the list, which had been already read to the House, of the names of some of the persons whom they had in view to examine. But they were met by a Motion, in the form of a resolution of the Committee, to confine the evidence to legal authorities on the present law of marriage—in short, to examine none but lawyers. That resolution was carried by a small majority; and those who desired a full and fair inquiry, declined to go into a partial and limited inquiry, which would have excluded from consideration the most important part of the case. Why, he would ask, should the inquiry be limited to the opinions of lawyers? There was no doubt as to what the law of Scotland was. No question had been raised upon that subject. The important matter for inquiry was the working and effect of the law. Surely lawyers were not the only persons qualified to give information as to that matter. The learned persons who had been examined in support of the Bill, had not limited their evidence to a statement or explanation of the law. They had favoured the Committee with very interesting and important speculations as to what, in their opinion, must be the effect of the law of Scotland on the morals and social condition of a people, as compared with the law proposed to be introduced by the present Bill. The speculative opinions of these learned persons on such a subject were no doubt entitled to great respect; but why should persons holding a different opinion, founded not on speculative views only, but on actual observation, be precluded from stating that opinion, and the facts on which it was rested? Noble and learned Lords were no doubt very confident that all those who differed from them were in error, or under delusion; but why should not some of those persons be permitted to vindicate their own opinions, even although by doing so they should refute those of noble and learned Lords? Why should the inquiry be limited to speculative opinions? Why exclude evidence as to the actual condition of things under the existing law? Why set up speculation on the one side, and refuse to hear on the other side direct evidence as to the actual state of the facts? Scotland is not an extensive country; the population is not great; and if the law which has so long prevailed there, to which the people are said to be so much wedded, under which their habits and dispositions have been formed in a matter so materially affecting their moral and social condition as that of marriage, be really a disgrace to any civilised country, and fit only for a semi-barbarous people; if its operation be really as baneful and as general as is alleged, one would suppose that Scotland must, by this time, be, throughout its whole length and breadth, more corrupt, more immoral and vicious, than any other country in the civilised world. But while this seems to be the necessary deduction from what we have urged in support of the Bill, no one has hazarded the assertion in direct terms. A state of moral disorganisation is vaguely assumed, not only without proof, but in face of a demand for inquiry, which has been refused. In the name of Scotland and of justice, he protested against the assumption while the inquiry was withheld. He denied that the existing law had promoted, or that it had a tendency to promote, immorality. He maintained that its tendency was to check immorality. What had Lord Campbell said in his evidence? He had said, "The people of Scotland, I am proud to say, are a very virtuous people." If that is a correct description of the character of the people, then it follows that the existing law is at all events compatible with a high state of virtue. Whether it has contributed to produce that high state of virtue may be matter of opinion and speculation; but the fact that virtue is the concomitant of the existing law in Scotland, is anything but a reason for altering that law. Who shall answer for the consequences of the alteration? What is the state of matters in England in one important particular connected with this subject, as spoken to by Lord Brougham? His Lordship was asked, with reference to England, whether cases of breach of promise of marriage, accompanied with seduction, were of frequent occurrence, and he answered, "Very often; indeed, it is a very common case to have actions for seduction, where the man has seduced the woman by promising marriage;" and Dr. Lushington gave evidence to the same effect. Cases of that description are rare in Scotland. Thus, then, it appears from the evidence of the witnesses in support of the Bill, that a high state of virtue is the concomitant of the existing law in the one country—that frequent seduction, under promise of marriage, is the concomitant of the existing law in the other country. Why should you endeavour to assimilate the former to the latter? To remedy or prevent an evil which you gratuitously assume, but have not proved to exist in connexion with the present law of Scotland, you strangely enough propose to substitute a state of law under which, in England, experience has proved that the evil does exist in an aggravated degree. His right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Advocate had alluded to cases of seduction that had come to his own knowledge in consultation, and had at the same time apologised for so far making himself a witness in this discussion. Any information communicated by his right hon. and learned Friend was at all times worthy of attention; but he (Mr. M'Neill) must take the liberty of asking, why the true extent of the evil should not be ascertained, if it were really worth knowing? Why was the inquiry not gone into fully before the Committee? Why was it stifled by the supporters of the Bill? His light hon. and learned Friend had with considerable dramatic effect given a narrative of two cases, on the impression from which he appeared to place much reliance as recommending the present measure. No one could dress up incidents, however unimportant, with more powerful effect than his right hon. and learned Friend; but what did these two cases amount to? One of them had occurred upwards of thirty years ago. A gentleman, who had lived in a way not to be commended, having formed a resolution which could not be too strongly deprecated, to put a period to his existence, had also resolved not to quit this world without doing towards his family what he felt to be an act of justice already too long delayed. Was that a ground of objection to the law of Scotland? Was it any reason for the proposed interference with that law? Would the law of England have prevented such an occurrence? Could the law of England prevent a man from marrying a woman with whom he had so lived; or could it prevent him from shooting himself next hour? [An Hon. MEMBER: The law of England would not allow him so to legitimate his children.] True, the law of England would not have held out that inducement to marry. Is it then any part of the objection now made to the law of Scotland, that it holds out that inducement to marry? The objection hitherto has been not in regard to inducement to marry, but as to the mode of constituting and proving the marriage. This Bill deals only with that matter. If any hon. Member objects to the law of legitimation by subsequent marriage, let him not be deceived by the notion that this Bill will alter that law. It will not do so. It is not intended to do so. It does not deal with the matter of legitimation by subsequent marriage. It leaves that part of the law of Scotland untouched; and the noble and learned Lord who introduced the Bill, has said that he highly approves of not touching that part of the law. Thus, neither the law of England, nor the proposed alteration of the law of Scotland, could prevent a man from contracting a marriage, or from putting an end to his existence, if so disposed. The tragic occurrence of upwards of thirty years ago, which had been pressed into the argument, had therefore truly no bearing on the merits or demerits of the present measure. The other case was of a date equally re-mote. About forty years ago, a gentleman of high position in society, so far forgot for the time what was worthy of and due to that position, in point of honour and truth, and observance of the law, as to marry a lady in England, while he had a wife living in Scotland; and so he might have done, if he had a wife living in France or in Holland. In short, he committed bigamy. And this one case of bigamy, forty years ago, without even an allegation of any similar case since that time, is brought forward at the present day as a reason for now altering the law of Scotland in regard to the constitution of marriage. Is bigamy unknown in England? Is it more rare in England than in Scotland? Do the restrictions and regulations of the law of England, and its costly establishment of registers, prevent bigamy? Let those who have examined the returns of crime for some years past, answer in the affirmative if they can. He did not contend that if we Were now framing a code for a newly-established nation or colony, the law in regard to marriage, as it exists in Scotland, was exactly and in ail respects that which he would propose. Neither was he prepared to say, that he would in such a case give an unqualified approval of the plan proposed by the present Bill. He might perhaps not be much dissatisfied with either, though in all probability he would prefer something a little different from both. But such were not the circumstances under which the House was now asked to legislate. It was asked to interfere with the long-established law of a nation—a law with which the people were familiar and contented; which was in accordance with their feelings and habits; and from which it has not been shown that any great practical evil had resulted. If this had been a case in which the prevalence of immorality and vice, or any other crying evil, had been proved or admitted; and if, after due inquiry, properly conducted, the evil had been traced to an ascertained cause, then it might have been right to endeavour to eradicate the evil by removing the ascertained cause. But there was no such case before the House. On the contrary, the inquiry had been resisted and shrunk from when proposed. Why is this course of interference pressed and persisted in? You are not here dealing with a nation of barbarians whom you have lately subjugated—whom, in the exuberance of philanthropy, you are desirous to release from the baneful influence of a barbarous code, or a heathenish superstition, which threatens to retard the progress of civilisation, and resist the influence of religion and morality—though even in such cases you have shown perhaps more respect for the feelings and habits of the people. You are not here called upon by a regard for public safety to put under restraint the dangerous dispositions of the inhabitants of one portion of the empire—you are not here endeavouring, in opposition to the interested prejudices or bigotry of a few, to extend to the many the benefits of sound instruction. Cases such as these might justify your perseverance in unsolicited interference; but you are here dealing with a case in every respect a contrast to these. You are dealing with and going to interfere with the laws and habits of a civilised people, distinguished for their enterprise and industry—who, under these laws have within the last century made more rapid progress and improvement in agriculture—in commerce and manufactures—in moral and intellectual culture, and in their whole social condition, than perhaps any other people in Europe, and are now in some departments the rivals, if not even the superiors, of their more wealthy southern neighbours. A people, too, whose orderly conduct—whose respect for constituted authority, and obedience to established law, might be cited as an example among modern nations—a people whose avidity and thirst for knowledge, and laudable appreciation of the advantages of education, have long been acknowledged—whose general character for virtue has been extolled by the author of this Bill. Why should you rudely interfere with the laws and customs of such a people—laws which, if they have not caused, have at least not prevented them from attaining their present condition. The people of Scotland, while possessing the character and qualities he had described, were not wanting in sagacity, or in a shrewd perception of their own interests—nor would they hesitate to make known their desires when it was for their advantage to do so. Had they desired this change? If so, when, where, how, and by whom, had they expressed the desire? Had it been by their petitions to Parliament, or by their representatives in Parliament? He had heard of no petitions in favour of the Bill, except one, or perhaps two, and these had not been referred to as important. Then, as to the expression of the opinion of the people through their representatives in this House, no Scotch Member had as yet risen in his place, and stated that he was going to vote for this Bill, and that his vote would be in accordance with the declared wishes of his constituents. One hon. Member, with a manliness which he (Mr. O'Neill) admired, and acting on a principle which, in the general case, he must admit to be sound, had lately announced his intention to vote in favour of the measure; because, in his own judgment, he thought it right, while, at the same time, he candidly stated that his constituents had by petitions declared against it. All that he would say on that point was, that the opinions of the people of that part of Scotland could not, on this question, be held to be represented by the vote of the hon. Gentleman. He might say the same thing of the votes of most of the hon. Gentlemen opposite, who were now going to divide with the Government in favour of this Bill. The Government would be deceiving itself if it supposed that it could rely on these votes as any indication of the opinions or feelings on this question entertained by the people of those parts of Scotland of which these hon. Gentlemen were the representatives in Parliament. But while there was no expression of opinion from Scotland in favour of this Bill, there was a strong expression of opinion against it. He was more than surprised to hear his right hon. and learned Friend speak of the petitions against the Bill in the disparaging terms in which he had spoken of them. He had described them as utterly worthless and insignificant.


explained. What he had said was, that as a proof to be relied on of a general feeling throughout Scotland, they were worthless and insignificant.


would presently show the extent to which the petitions might be regarded as indicative of the opinions and feelings of the public in Scotland; but he might now assume that to the extent to which they did go—as exponents of the opinions of at least certain classes and districts—they were admitted to be neither worthless nor insignificant. His right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Advocate had treated those petitions as if they had proceeded altogether from clergymen of the established and other ecclesiastical bodies. But how did the fact stand? An opportunity bad been afforded to the counties of Scotland to take the measure into consideration at their annual meetings on the 30th April. They had done so, and all the counties in Scotland, with a very few exceptions, had sent up petitions against the measure.


These petitions were also against the Registration Bill—against the two Bills conjointly.


But against this Bill—and if they were directed against this Bill in connexion with the Registration Bill, they were necessarily, and most pointedly, against it in its present form; for he had already shown, and he repeated, that this Bill in effect adopted and embodied into it the Registration Bill. It could not stand by itself. It depended on the Registration Bill being passed, and all who were opposed to the Registration Bill must resist the present Bill. The counties of Scotland, then, with very few exceptions, had petitioned against this measure, and of those that had not actually petitioned this year, some had petitioned last year, and some had contented themselves this year with reiterating, in resolutions passed at public meetings, their continued dissatisfaction with the measure. The county which he had the honour to represent had not sent up a petition; but they had at a public meeting passed resolutions, temperately yet firmly expressed, in reference both to the Marriage Bill and the Registration Bill. They were not opposed to an improved system of registration, though they deprecated a complex and expensive system. They were opposed to interfering with the law of marriage needlessly, incautiously, or without duo inquiry, though they were not opposed to putting a check on border marriages; and they had requested him to support these views, which he had now great pleasure in doing, being happily in perfect accordance with his own. No county, he believed, had passed resolutions in favour of this Bill. So much for the counties. Next as to the burghs. The burghs comprehended about one-third of the population of Scotland. There was an institution recognised by law called the Convention of Royal Burghs, and which consisted of delegates from all the burghs in Scotland, who assembled once a year, or oftener, in Edinburgh, and deliberated on matters affecting their interests. At the Convention of 1849, the matter of these Bills was taken into consideration. They were disapproved of, and a petition against them was voted unanimously. Thug you had all, or nearly all, the counties petitioning, and you bad the assembled delegates from all the burghs petitioning, Then there were separate petitions from the popularly elected town-councils of most of the largo towns in Scotland. The town-councils of Edinburgh, of Dundee, of Perth, of Greenock, of Leith, of Inverness, of Stirling, of Kilmarnock, of St. Andrews, of Haddington, and many others, had petitioned against the Bill. There was also another body of persons, popularly elected to a great extent, and who bad a very material interest in the probable effects of this measure, especially with a knowledge of the fearful extent of bastardy in some parts of England—he meant the parochial hoards of populous parishes. Petitions against this measure had been presented from the parochial boards of many of the most populous parishes in Scotland—the parochial board of the city parishes of Edinburgh of the great suburban parish of St. Cuthbert's—of the city parishes of Glasgow—of the great suburban parish of the Barony—of the parishes of Dundee, of Paisley, of Greenock, of Leith, of Port-Glasgow, of Campbelltown, and several others. Then turn to another class of petitions—he meant those from the clergy, who may be said to be the guardians of the morals as well as of the religious character of the people. These petitions were admitted to be numerous; but it had been said that they all emanated from the same body of persons subdividing themselves into sections so as to multiply the petitions—that there was first the General Assembly of the Church—then the same body as the Commission of the General Assembly, and so forth. But the fact was, that the Commission of Assembly which had petitioned against the Bill in March or April last, was the Commission of the Assembly of, 1848, and that afterwards, in the month; of May, the newly-elected Assembly of, 1849 had also petitioned against the Bill. I There were likewise many petitions from: Presbyteries; and it had been said that; the Presbyteries were composed of the same individuals as the General Assembly. That also was incorrect. The General Assembly was a representative body elected by the presbyteries, universities, and burghs. And was it of no importance that when the representatives who had voted the petition in Assembly went back to their respective presbyteries, not only was their conduct approved of by their constituents, but additional petitions were sent up by these constituents themselves to the same effect? There were also petitions from the inhabitants of some parishes. It had been said that the signatures to the petitions were not numerous; but it must be remembered that most of the petitions had emanated from public bodies and public meetings, and were signed only by the official heads of these bodies, or the chairmen of the meetings. In these circumstances, he did not think that the observation as to the number of signatures was entitled to much consideration. How, then, did the case stand on the petitions? There were against the Bill petitions from almost every county in Scotland. Prom the assembled delegates of all the burghs in Scotland—from the popularly elected town-councils of almost all the great towns in Scotland—from the parochial boards of many of the most populous parishes in Scotland—from the representatives of the Church convened in General Assembly—and from many of the presbyteries and several parishes. In so far as appeared, the counties were against the Bill—the towns were against the Bill—the parochial boards were against the Bill—the Church was against the Bill—while, on the other side, not a voice had been raised in its favour. The only conclusion he could draw from these facts was, that the public voice had declared against the Bill. If the public feeling was, as it appeared at present to be, against the measure, he had heard no adequate reason assigned for taking a step which would do violence to public feeling in such a matter; and he could not understand why, in these circumstances, the Bill should be pressed on. His right hon. and learned Friend had complained, that although this was the third year in which the Bill had been brought before the House, there was still a reluctance to pass it; and he seemed to think that it was very unreasonable on the part of Scotland not to be now ready to take this measure. Thrice had it been tendered, and thrice had they declined it. His right hon. and learned Friend seemed almost to insinuate, that the oftener they looked at it, the less were they disposed to take it—so provokingly unreasonable were they. Is it not possible that some part of the unreasonableness may be on the other side? You take a fancy to prescribe for a man who, to all appearance, is in good health; and be, being unconscious of any ailment, and having no fancy to become your patient, declines to take the prescription. For three years you continue to press your specific upon him, and he as steadily rejects it, feeling perfectly well, and exhibiting no symptoms of illness. At last you become impatient at his unreasonableness and obstinacy in refusing to swallow your medicine, and yon insist on thrusting the dose down his throat, in defiance of his most strenuous remonstrances, and notwithstanding a distinct offer to prove, by witnesses of the greatest experience and skill, that he is in as good health as you or any other man living. He really hoped that the bystanders would not allow such treatment to be practised. He had received from various parts of Scotland communications expressing much apprehension of evil from this measure, and he had considered it his duty not to give a silent vote on the occasion. Having now stated the grounds on which mainly he resisted the further progress of the Bill—and, he hoped, without having pressed these views at greater length or more strongly than the circumstances justified—he would conclude by again reminding the House that it was not called upon to contrive a now law for a new state of matters, or for a new country, but it was asked to alter the long-established law of an en-lightened, orderly, and virtuous people, who had not invited such interference, but, on the contrary, had with remarkable unanimity raised their voices against it. The House was asked so to interfere, not only without inquiry, but while inquiry was refused. He trusted that it would not sanction such a course of proceeding, but would adopt the Amendment of his hon. Friend the Member for Peebles-shire.


said, that considering the importance of this question, he could not allow it to go to a vote without expressing shortly his inducement for voting for the measure before the House. If the best thing that could happen to Scotland was to be to encourage clandestine marriages, then the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite was right; but if the House saw the evil of those marriages, and determined to put an end to concealed marriages, then it would accept of the measure proposed by his right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Advocate to put an end to the evil that must inevitably arise from clandestine marriages. The hon. and learned Gentleman seemed not to attempt to convince the House, but to win the votes of hon. Members first by stating that the Committee of the House had shrunk from a full inquiry into this subject, and next by saying that any person who voted for the Marriage Bill must pledge himself to vote for the Registration Bill. The House must recollect that the Committee referred to by the hon. and learned Gentleman was not a Committee appointed to inquire into the general state of the law in Scotland, but only a Committee which was to inquire into the details of this Bill; and as the hon. and learned Gentleman had expressed such strong feelings on the present occasion, he (Mr. F. Maule) should have liked to have seen his opinions recorded upon the report of that Committee. But, let him ask, who was it who had introduced a law to put an end to clandestine marriages in England. It was no less an individual than Lord Hardwicke; and surely his authority ought to be of some weight in attempting to carry that same law a step further—namely, into Scotland. To his mind there could be no doubt that the moral condition of any people must be advanced by a law requiring that marriages should be made public, and clandestine marriages put an end to. The hon. and learned Gentleman had complained that his right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Advocate had treated slightingly the petitions which had been sent up against this Bill. He had, on the contrary, expressed his highest respect for the petitioners themselves, but he had protested against those petitions being taken as a test of the feeling of the entire people of Scotland. It had been said that the voice of the people of Scotland, throughout its length and breadth, was against this Bill; as to that, however it might be, he agreed with the right hon. and learned Lord Advocate that the petitions before the. House were not to be taken as evidence of any such thing. The hon. and learned Gentleman had said that there were petitions against the Bill from almost every comity in Scotland; but the hon. and learned Gentleman forgot to state that those petitions were from the Commissioners of Supply, persons appointed to take into consideration all matters relative to local taxation, and who never lost an opportunity of petitioning against any measure involving in any respect the principle of taxation. He did not believe that there had been half-a-dozen public meetings held in any part of the country with respect to this Bill. Whatever expression of opinion had been made against the Bill, had proceeded from town-councils of boroughs, and from those alone, and could only be considered as expressing their individual opinions. The city of Glasgow had, however, approved of the Bill; and he thought he might fairly place that expression of opinion against that expressed by less important towns in the country. He had no wish whatever to cram down the throats of the people of Scotland a measure which he believed to be antagonistic to their best feelings. He believed, however, that if the feelings of the people of Scotland could be ascertained with respect to this Bill, they would state at once that they preferred the security afforded by it to the present state of the law in that country. Believing, as he did, that this measure was calculated to promote the morality and security of society, he should give his most cordial support to the Motion for the third reading of the Bill.


explained: When it was suggested in the Committee that his right hon. and learned Friend and himself might be examined as to the law, he had stated, that although it was no doubt competent for Members of the Committee to give evidence, he thought such a course—where there was no necessity for it—had better be avoided; and that as plenty of other witnesses to the law were accessible, he thought it would, on the whole, be better that those Gentlemen who were afterwards to deliberate and decide on the evidence, should not themselves be wit- nesses. He was not examined, neither was his right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Advocate.


said, that he believed they had shrunk from the proof of their case, when they refused to receive the evidence of those respectable persons whom it had been proposed to call as witnesses against the Bill. With respect to the conduct of the Government as regarded this Bill, he thought they had learned this important lesson, that Scotch business ought to be better treated than it was. This was the first four hours during the whole Session that had been devoted to a consideration of the affairs of Scotland. With regard to the Bill itself, he believed that the opinion of the people of Scotland was most decidedly opposed to it. He had himself presented petitions from Leith, Perth, and numerous other places against the Bill. He was perfectly prepared to vote with the Government in favour of a measure for the abolition of Gretna-green marriages, and he believed the people of Scotland would generally be favourable to such a measure. He regretted to find the noble Lord at the head of the Government so determined to proceed with this Bill, against the unanimous feeling of the people. It had been said that the law of marriage in Scotland was worthy only of a semi-barbarous country. He denied that such was the case. As countries became civilised, institutions changed and accommodated themselves to the improvements which were constantly being made. There was nothing in the morality of Scotland to show that there was anything barbarous in its institutions. On the contrary, a comparison between the two countries would show a decided advantage in favour of Scotland. It had been said, as one reason for passing this Bill, that it had been sent down by the House of Lords three times. He hoped it would be sent down thirty times. The very fact of its having been sent down so often proved that it was utterly worthless, for there never was a Bill that was worth anything treated in such a manner. He trusted either that the House would reject the Bill, or that the Government would withdraw it, in order to prevent its rejection by the House.

Question put, "That the words 'Monday next' stand part of the Question."

The House divided:—Ayes 73; Noes 68: Majority 5.

List of the AYES.
Alcock, T. Hodgson, W. N.
Armstrong, R. B. Howard, Lord E.
Baines, M. T. Howard, hon. C. W. G.
Baring, rt. hon. Sir. F. T. Labouchere, rt. hon. H.
Bellew, R. M. Lascelles, hon. W. S.
Berkeley, hon. Capt. Lewis, G. C.
Berkeley, C. L. G. Lushington, C.
Boyle, hon. Col. Mahon, The O'Gorman
Bright, J. Melgund, Visct.
Campbell, hon. W. F. Milner, W. M. E.
Carter, J. B. Morris, D.
Chaplin, W. J. Mostyn, hon. E. M. L.
Cholmeley, Sir M. O'Brien, J.
Clay, Sir W. O'Connell, M. J.
Colebrooke, Sir T. E. Ogle, S. C. H.
Coles, H. B. Parker, J.
Cowan, C. Perfect, R.
Cowper, hon. W. F. Power, Dr.
Craig, W. G. Price, Sir R.
Duff, G. S. Pusey, P.
Dundas, rt. hon. Sir D. Rich, H.
Ellice, rt. hon. E. Robinson, G. R.
Ellice, E. Russell, Lord J.
Elliot, hon. J. E. Rutherfurd, A.
Ferguson, Col. Sheil, rt. hon. R. L.
Ferguson, Sir R. A. Somerville, rt. hn. Sir W.
FitzPatrick, rt. hn. J. W. Stuart, Lord J.
Freestun, Col. Towneley, J.
Greene, J. Traill, G.
Grenfell, C. W. Tufnell, H.
Grey, rt. hon. Sir G. Williams, J.
Grey, R. W. Wilson, J.
Hawes, B. Wilson, M.
Hay, Lord J. Wood, rt. hon. Sir C.
Hayter, rt. hon. W. G. Wood, W. P.
Heywood, J. TELLERS.
Heyworth, L. Hill, Lord M.
Hodges, T. L. Maule, rt. hon. F.
List of the NOES.
Anderson, A. Forester, hon. G. C. W.
Arbuthnott, hon. H. Fuller, A. E.
Arkwright, G. Gladstone, rt. hn. W. E.
Bagot, hon. W. Gooch, E. S.
Baillie, H. J. Gordon, Adm.
Bankes, G. Hallyburton, Lord J. F.
Beresford, W. Hamilton, Lord C.
Bouverie, hon. E. P. Hastie, A.
Bremridge, R. Herbert, H. A.
Brooke, Sir A. Hood, Sir A.
Charteris, hon. F. Hornby, J.
Chichester, Lord J. L. Hughes, W. B.
Clerk, rt. hon. Sir G. Hume, J.
Conolly, T. Jones, Capt.
Cubitt, W. Lennox, Lord H. G.
Dalrymple, Capt. Lincoln, Earl of
Disraeli, B. Lockhart, A. E.
Dodd, G. Lockhart, W.
Drumlanrig, Visct. M'Neill, D.
Duff, J. M'Taggart, Sir J.
Duncan, Visct. March, Earl of
Duncan, G. Maxwell, hon. J. P.
Egerton, Sir P. Meux, Sir H.
Egerton, W. T. Morrison, Sir W.
Ewart, W. Mullings, J. R.
Farnham, E. B. Naas, Lord
Fergus, J. Oswald, A.
Floyer, J. Pilkington, J.
Forbes, W. Powlett, Lord W.
Fordyce, A. D. Scott, hon. F.
Sotheron, T. H. S. Thompson, Col.
Spooner, R. Vivian, J. E.
Stafford, A. Vyse, R. H. R. H.
Stuart, H. Wortley, rt. hon. J. S.
Mackenzie, W. F. Dundas, G.

Question again proposed, "That the Bill be read the Third Time upon Monday next."


expressed his hope that, after the division which had just taken place, the right hon. and learned Lord would not press the Bill further this Session. Though not a Scotch Member himself, yet, from his connexion with Scotland, he knew well the state of feeling in that country with regard to this Bill; and he wished to point out to the right hon. and learned Lord that his case, viewed as a Parliamentary one, had virtually been abandoned by him. He put it to the right hon. and learned Lord whether, when he or the Committee went so far as to admit the necessity of taking evidence on this Bill, and then refused to take evidence beyond a certain point, they were justified in 80 doing, if they intended to press the Bill this Session? On that ground the case for the Bill was not a good one. Every one who had heard the speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Argyllshire, must have felt that he had urged with resistless force the claims of the people of Scotland, and the necessity for fuller inquiry into a matter so closely connected with their feelings, before they proceeded to legislate upon it. He hoped, therefore, that after what they had seen of the sense of the House in connexion with the sense of the people of Scotland, no further attempt would be made to proceed with the measure, and that the time of the House would not be further wasted with discussions regarding it.


could not admit that the time of the House had been wasted by a Motion which had afforded an opportunity for the important speech of the hon. and learned Member for Argyllshire, in which he had stated his reasons against the Bill. After hearing the debate they had just had, all he would now do was to ask the House to allow him a certain time to decide on the course the Government should adopt. He did not wish for any long time, and would fix the Bill for Thursday, when the Government would be prepared to announce whether they would proceed with it or not.

Debate adjourned till Thursday.

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