§ Order for Committee read.
§ House in Committee.
§ Clause 3.
§ MR. ROUNDELL PALMER
rose to move the Amendment of which he had given notice. He said the Bill had been introduced last year in a form which was perfectly consistent and intelligible, and which professed to make no difference in any way between Churchmen and Dissenters. It did not then profess in any sense to be a Bill for the especial relief of persons dissenting from the Established Church of Great Britain and Ireland. The Bill then provided that there should be full liberty to all persons throughout the united kingdom to contract this description of marriage, and that it should be at the option of any minister of religion, in the church or out of it, to celebrate such marriage or not. The principle of that Bill was affirmed by the House on the second reading, and he (Mr. R. Palmer) gave notice of amendments which would have had the effect of preserving the definitive doctrine of the Church on this subject, and of preserving its discipline to this limited extent, that no clergyman should be permitted to solemnise a marriage contrary 1180 to the law of the Church of which he was a minister. Those amendments were not accepted by his right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Bute; and he had therefore abundant ground for saying that down to the end of the last Session there was no pretence to legislate especially for Dissenters upon this matter. But soon after the House had risen for the recess, there were signs of a remarkable change of view on the part of his right hon. and learned Friend, and it became evident that the subject was about to be presented to the consideration of the House as in an especial manner a Dissenter's question. He held in his hand a printed copy of a letter which appeared to have been written by his right hon. and learned Friend to some gentleman belonging to the Dissenting body, and which had been published by that gentleman in a Dissenting newspaper called the Nonconformist. That letter showed the new points of view in which the question was then first presented. His right hon. and learned Friend said—It is my intention to reintroduce the Bill to which you refer at the very beginning of the Session, and to press it through the House of Commons, if possible, before Easter. In the House of Lords I regret to have to anticipate a very formidable opposition; and, therefore, it is very important that those who have an interest in the question should spare no exertion to influence public opinion, and, through the force of public opinion, to sway the decision of the Lords. Hitherto, I confess that I have been disappointed at the absence of anything like a systematic support from the Dissenters; for, though an important petition was presented by Mr. C. Lushington, signed by 108 of the principal ministers of Dissenting congregations, no general movement has been made; and yet, considering the high ground of Church authority and canonical decisions which was taken by the opponents of the Marriage Bill, the question really becomes one of religious liberty. If the organisation of the Dissenting bodies could be used for procuring petitions, it would, in my judgment, be of immense value, for though there will be a considerable majority in the House of Commons in favour of the Bill, there will, unless some new impulse be given, be little chance of success in the House of Lords, and it is not a subject on which it is easy to keep up any strong public feeling.It was evident from that letter that they were to have the measure presented to them in a new point of view, and since that time there had undoubtedly been a very great endeavour made, with a certain degree of success, to obtain a large amount of peculiarly Dissenting support—and he wished to speak with all due respect of the Dissenting communities—for this measure. Accordingly, 1181 when his right hon. and learned Friend applied for leave to introduce this Bill at the commencement of the Session, he took new ground, and instead of proposing it as a measure equally and indifferently applicable to all Her Majesty's subjects, he placed the Bill in a great measure upon the ground of the conscientious opinions entertained by the Dissenting bodies, and said he had come to the conclusion that it would be wise to omit those provisions to which objection had been made, and to leave the rules and discipline of the Established Church perfectly untouched by the measure. His right hon. and learned Friend had said, speaking of the Bill as it stood, that the doctrine and discipline of the Church of Scotland were left by it intact; but he (Mr. R. Palmer) thought he would be able to prove that that was an extremely erroneous proposition. He found his right hon. and learned Friend—adopting to that extent the Amendment which he had suggested last Session—proposed now to provide "that nothing contained in this Bill should be deemed or construed, in any civil or ecclesiastical court of this realm, to alter or affect any doctrine, canon, or law ecelesiastical of the United Church of England and Ireland, or of the Church of Scotland, whereby the degrees of consanguinity and affinity within which marriage is now held to be prohibited by the doctrine and discipline of those churches respectively were settled or defined." This did nothing beyond providing that the abstract doctrine of the Church on the question should not be taken to be altered. The clause then provided that no clergyman, minister, or officer of either of the Churches specified should be required or authorised knowingly to solemnise or grant any licence for solemnising any marriage contrary to the doctrine or discipline of the Church of which he was a minister. There was nothing more in the clause to save the doctrine or discipline, or laws of either of the Churches; but his right hon. and learned Friend had qualified the amendments which he had so far adopted, by a most important proviso, declaring that the parties to any such marriage should not, by reason only of such affinity, be subject to censure or punishment by suit in the ecclesiastical court. This was in effect providing that the whole of the administrative discipline of the Church should be destroyed, leaving untouched only the doctrinal definitions relating to the subject. The 1182 object of his (Mr. R. Palmer's) present Amendment was to do in reality what his right hon. Friend professed an intention to do; to leave the rules, and doctrine, and discipline of the Church, entirely intact; but this clause would prevent proceedings from being taken in the ecclesiastical courts for the purpose of enforcing the discipline of the Church. He would ask the Committee to consider what infractions of the rights and discipline of the two Churches might result if his Amendment was not adopted. Let them take the case of proceedings in the ecclesiastical courts for restitution of conjugal rights between persons who had contracted the description of marriages to which this Bill referred. The right hon. and learned Gentleman professed to leave untouched the doctrine of the Church on this subject; so that it was still to be the acknowledged and unaltered doc trine of the Churches of England and Soot-land that a marriage with the sister of a deceased wife was an incestuous marriage. Suppose such a marriage to be contracted, and that afterwards one of the parties felt a scruple of conscience, and was led to believe that the unaltered law of the Church of England, affirming such marriages to be incestuous, was in conformity with the law of God. The other party, taking a different view, might bring a suit in the ecclesiastical court for a restitution of conjugal rights. What was the ecclesiastical court to do? As the Bill stood, these marriages were declared to be lawful; no decree or sentence of any court whatever was to pronounce any such marriage null or void; and by this third clause it was proposed to take away the power of proceeding in the ecclesiastical court for any censure or punishment by reason only of the affinity of the parties contracting marriage. No words were introduced which could enable the ecclesiastical court to say, "We will draw a line between these and other marriages, and we must refuse to decree restitution of conjugal rights on the ground that the Church considers the marriage incestuous." A suit for the restitution of conjugal rights could at present only be defended on the ground either of the invalidity of the marriage, of adultery, or of cruelty—the court having the power, on the establishment of the first plea, to pronounce the marriage null, or on proof of the second or third to decree a separation à mensâ et thoro. It was clear, if the Committee did not adopt the proviso which he proposed, that they would compel the 1183 courts of the Church to pronounce decrees requiring parties to live together in a state which the law of the Church denounced as incestuous. He begged to call the attention of the Committee also to this important fact—that a clergyman of the Church might have contracted one of these marriages, and might be living in a state regarded by the doctrines of that Church as incestuous, and yet the Bill would preclude his being subjected to any ecclesiastical censure or punishment by reason of such marriage. He (Mr. R. Palmer) thought that, if this Bill passed in its present form, no clergyman could, without very serious risk of penal consequences in the ecclesiastical or temporal courts, refuse to administer all the rites and sacraments of the Church to those members of the Church, whether clergy or laity, who might contract marriages which, according to the doctrine of the Church, must be regarded as incestuous. It appeared to him that, so far as Scotland was concerned, the gravest constitutional principles were involved in this matter. What was the ecclesiastical law of Scotland on this subject? By the Act of Union it was declared that the maintenance of those Acts of the Scottish Parliament which were passed upon the accession of William III., for establishing and securing the Presbyterian religion, church government, and discipline, should for ever be confirmed, and that they should be perpetual and unalterable conditions of the union of the two kingdoms. By one of these Acts so made perpetual and unalterable, the Confession of Faith of the Church of Scotland was ratified and established as part of the law of the land, and in that Confession of Faith he found these two articles. The first was—Marriage ought not to be within the degrees of consanguinity or affinity forbidden in the word. Nor can such incestuous marriages ever be made lawful by any law of man, or consent of parties, so as these persons may live together as man and wife. The man may not marry any of his wife's kindred nearer in blood, than he may of his own; nor the woman of her husband's kindred, nearer in blood than of her own.The Confession of Faith also set forth the authority and duty of church officers, as distinct from the civil magistrates, to administer a spiritual and moral government in the Church by means of censure and absolutions. The article was—Church censures are necessary for the reclaiming and gain of offending brethren, for deterring others from the like offences, for purging out that leaven which might infect the whole 1184 lump, for vindicating the honour of Christ and the holy profession of the Gospel, and for preventing the wrath of God, which might justly fall upon the Church, if they should suffer His covenant and the seals thereof to be profaned by notorious and obstinate offenders. For the better attaining of these ends, the officers of the Church are to proceed by admonition, suspension from the sacrament of the Lord's supper for a season, and by excommunication from the Church, according to the nature of the crime, and demerit of the person.Now the last proviso in this clause would distinctly prohibit the church courts of Scotland from executing these powers, for it declared that parties to any such marriages should not, by reason only of their affinity, be subject to censure or punishment in the ecclesiastical courts. He had received many representations on this subject, and he had no doubt that hon. Members who represented Scotland would be able to confirm those representations. He had received a letter from an exemplary beneficed clergyman of the Church of Scotland, from which he would venture to read some extracts, to show the distress and confusion that would be occasioned if they passed this Bill without some such proviso as he proposed. His correspondent said—It ought to be remembered that the discipline of our Church (I speak of the Church of Scotland) extends, not merely to the clergy, but to the members of the Church. Suppose, then, that a church member contracts such a marriage as that which this Bill proposes to legalise, he is regarded by our ecclesiastical law as guilty of having contracted an incestuous marriage. Suppose, then, that this man applies for church privileges, baptism for children, or admission to the Lord's table for himself; these privileges, according to the laws of our Church, must be refused, and refused until the incestuous intercourse be discontinued. There is thus a wide difference between such a marriage and what is called an irregular marriage. An irregular marriage is recognised by the law of Scotland, and yet the parties are liable to church censure; but our ecclesiastical law does not in such a case require that the connexion be dissolved, which it does in the other, and, accordingly, parties who have contracted an irregular marriage may be restored to church privileges while living together, which cannot be the case with such as have contracted what the laws of our Church consider an incestuous marriage. The Church, as recognised by the State, has unquestionably been established for the purpose of supplying with divine ordinances those who are without reproach; but if this Bill be passed, the Church of Scotland must regard persons as having disqualified themselves for her communion by doing that which the laws of their country warrant them to do. Then, suppose, again, that a clergyman of our Church takes advantage of this law and enters into such a union as it legalises; the church courts must interfere and take such steps as will ultimately lead to his deposition. They can have no choice in this.1185The question will then arise, 'Can a man be lawfully deposed for doing that which the civil law entitles him to do?' The civil law cannot regard him as worthy of deposition. The fruits of the benefice will thus be severed from the cure of souls, which the civil courts a few years ago declared to be impossible, and thus the civil and the ecclesiastical courts are brought into collision; the civil courts refusing to give effect to the sentence of the ecclesiastical, the civil courts declaring the man still to be minister of the particular parish to which he may belong, and still a minister of the Church of Scotland, while the Church of Scotland herself declares him not even to be in communion with her. There will be this most important difference between such a case and those which led to the secession of 1843, that the collision will not be betwixt the civil power and a party in the Church, but betwixt the civil power and the Church itself.That was the case as regarded Scotland. But what did the English canons say? He would take the 109th canon, which declared that—If any offended the brethren, either by adultery, whoredom, incest, or any other uncleanness or wickedness of life, such notorious offenders shall not be admitted to the holy communion till they be reformed.Now the 99th canon declared that no persons should marry within the prohibited degrees, and that all marriages contracted against the terms of that canon were to be considered incestuous. The words were these:—No person shall marry within the degrees prohibited by the laws of God, and expressed in a table set forth by authority in the year of our Lord 1563; and all marriages so made and contracted shall be adjudged incestuous and unlawful.The Bill then before them—if it passed—and the canons taken together, would constitute a body of law which the clergy would be both morally and legally censurable for not obeying, but the parts of which were not consistent. Upon a moral and doctrinal question, such as that of the prohibited degrees of marriage, the clergy were bound to obey the law of the Church; and if Parliament wished to preserve that law and to protect the clergy in their obedience to it, he did not see how they could refuse the Amendment that he had proposed. He knew that one of the objections to the Amendment which he had placed upon the paper was this, that the effect of it would be to hold out inducements to some members of the Church of England to become Dissenters. If any desired on that ground to become Dissenters, he would say, let them go. Better that they openly became Dissenters than that persons holding such opinions as they 1186 did should be retained within the body of the Church. If they conscientiously differed from the Church, they might, as professed Dissenters, entitle themselves to all due respect; but if they differed from the Church upon important and fundamental principles, why should they join us? Such members gave no strength to the Church, and the union of them with the Church could be of no service to the country. If the House were induced to adopt the Amendments which he had proposed, they would find this to be the effect of introducing them—that they would, as far as possible, enable the members of those great religious communities which disapproved of the Bill, to relieve themselves from its operation. Was that a slight thing? If the Bill remained as it stood, every married man and woman throughout the country would find the domestic relations in which they stood to the sisters of the wife inevitably changed; and, after the wife's death, no widower, however decided against a marriage with his wife's sister, could continue to associate with her as a brother-in-law. If the laws and discipline of the two Churches were preserved inviolate, this might be some protection to all who, being within the pale of those Churches, would be subject to their laws, and amenable to their discipline. But if, while they pretended to leave untouched the law of those Churches, they took away all power of enforcing that law, they took away all protection from those who dissented from the principles upon which the measure was founded—they took away all protection from every one whose social relations and position might be interfered with by its provisions.
Amendment proposed, in page 3, line 17, after the word "passed," to insert the following words:—
Nor shall any member of either of the said Churches, who may hereafter contract any such marriage, be exempted, by virtue of this Act, from any such Spiritual or Ecclesiastical censure or punishment; nor shall any sentence for restitution of conjugal rights be pronounced by any Ecclesiastical Court in any suit or proceeding between the parties to any such marriage.
§ MR. J. S. WORTLEY
could not give his assent to the Amendment, because he believed it not only uncalled for, but contradictory in principle and highly mischievous in operation. It was wholly inconsistent with the general tone and tenor of the Bill; and, with all deference to his hon. and learned Friend, for whoso ability he had the highest respect, he must take 1187 leave to say that nothing could be more absurd or irrational. The Amendment had its origin in that which had dictated from first to last the opposition which had been offered to this Bill, namely, in a desire to stretch the ecclesiastical authority to the utmost possible point. There could be no question that the anxiety to effect this most undesirable object was the head and front of the opposition which had been offered to the Bill; and in no portion of that resistance was the spirit more clearly discernible than in the present Amendment. The effect of the Amendment would be to lead to this inconsistent and anomalous result, that a man marrying the sister of his deceased wife would contract an alliance, the validity of which would be recognised by the civil courts, but in such position would he stand with respect to the ecclesiastical courts that any person who was prompted by an impulse of malignity against him would have nothing to do but to institute a proceeding against him in the latter tribunals, and to cause a judgment to be passed upon him, the effect of which would be to expose him to the penalty of standing in a white sheet at the church door. Against such an anomalous state of the law as this, he, for one, would never cease to protest. There was not the least colour of truth in the Statement that the Bill was a coercive measure. It compelled no man to contract such a marriage, and no clergyman to solemnise it, against their own sense of right. Perfect freedom of conscience was guaranteed to all, both lay and clerical.
§ SIR R. H. INGLIS
observed that his right hon. and learned Friend had imputed to the hon. and learned Member for Plymouth a wish to extend the limits of Church authority. [Mr. J. S. WORTLEY: Ecclesiastical authority were the words he had used.] If there were any distinction between ecclesiastical authority and Church authority he would leave his right hon. and learned Friend to explain it to the Committee. His right hon. and learned Friend was understood to say, he wished to leave the law as regarded proceedings in ecclesiastical courts precisely where it stood at present. He would leave marriages within the prohibited degrees precisely where they were at present, so far as proceedings in the ecclesiastical courts were concerned. His right hon. and learned Friend, in the letter which the hon. and learned Member for Plymouth had read to the House, complained that the subject then before the 1188 House "was one upon which it was not easy to keep up any strong public feeling." He had himself that morning received a lithographed letter, and he presumed that he was not the only Member of that House who had received such a communication, stating that the matter now before them was a question of civil and religious liberty; a question of civil and religious liberty, that a man should be free to marry his deceased wife's sister. In his opinion the House of Commons had no discretionary power—they were bound to consider whether the Bill was, or was not, agreeable to the word of God. Opposition to the Bill did not come from those who sought to enlarge Church authority or ecclesiastical power, neither were the defenders of the Bill to be considered hostile to the Church of England.
§ SIR F. THESIGER
said, he wished for an explanation of his right hon. and learned Friend's opinion as to the Amendment of his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Plymouth; he seemed to have no objection to the latter part of the Amendment. If he understood rightly, his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Bute stated that no ecclesiastical court would possess authority to pronounce sentence in a suit between parties who stood towards each other within the prohibited degrees of affinity.
§ MR. COCKBURN
thought there could be nothing more mischievous than the legislation now proposed by the hon. and learned Member for Plymouth; for the Committee, if they agreed to the Amendment, were about to place the ecclesiastical tribunals in direct opposition to the civil tribunals of the country. For all civil purposes, the civil tribunals were, by this Act, to give effect and validity to these marriages; and yet at the same time, by this Amendment, the ecclesiastical tribunals were to be at liberty to pass ecclesiastical censures upon those who contracted the very marriages which the Legislature pronounced to be legal. Now, the ecclesiastical courts of this country did not stand so very high in public estimation at the present moment, that it was expedient to give them the coup de grace by putting them in direct opposition to the civil authority. What had the ecclesiastical courts to do with marriage? The reason was, that ecclesiastics formerly claimed a jurisdiction in regard to marriage because they had treated it as a sacrament; and the House 1189 was asked to allow these courts to deal with the subject as if the question were a purely ecclesiastical one. The ecclesiastical courts claimed to exercise jurisdiction in regard to the restitution of conjugal rights "for the safety of the soul;" but he believed that such suits were instituted for something else very different. If the Bill were bad, let the House throw it out; but if they determined to pass it, as he trusted they would, believing that it would work great good, let them not neutralise its effects, and involve their legislation in inconsistencies.
§ MR. OSWALD
wished to obtain some information as to the effect of this Amendment with regard to the Church of Scotland. There were no ecclesiastical courts in Scotland, but there were church courts belonging both to the Established Church and the Free Church. The first part of this Amendment would allow the church courts of Scotland to say that a person who had contracted these marriages had tendered himself subject to their censure; and he wished to know whether the Bill would give to the Scottish Churches the power of maintaining that discipline which was absolutely indispensable to every church, if it were to continue a living body with the power of putting its belief into action.
MR. P. WOOD
regarded the Amendment as calculated to prevent rather than to provoke a collision between the ecclesiastical and civil courts. He, for one, was anxious to see the ecclesiastical courts liberated from many subjects that now occupied their attention, and he thought he had reason to complain of Her Majesty's Government for not having introduced a Bill to reform those courts. It was stated that such a measure was about to be brought forward, but the Session had well nigh passed, and no step had yet been taken to redeem the promise made by the Government. In the mean time he thought the House ought to leave the ecclesiastical courts to deal with these marriages according to their own principles and doctrines, and the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member for Plymouth would have that effect. He was anxious to see an alteration in the mode of proceeding in ecclesiastical courts, which he admitted was not satisfactory, and he should be glad when the promised Bill was introduced to reform the state of the ecclesiastical law, both temporal and spiritual.
§ MR. J. S. WORTLEY
said, that his 1190 intention was to preserve in the fullest degree the discipline of the Church of Scotland.
§ MR. J. S. WORTLEY
explained that with the exception of suits in the ecclesiastical court, which were excepted by the Amendment before the House, the power of censure now held by the Church of England, as well as of Scotland, would not be interfered with.
§ MR. ROUNDELL PALMER
declared his entire dissent from the statement just made by the right hon. and learned Gentleman.
§ Question put, "That the proposed words be there inserted."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 103; Noes 145: Majority 42.
§ Clause agreed to; as were also Clauses 4 and 5.
§ Clause 6.
§ COLONEL CHATTERTON
said: Sir, having given notice of my intention to move the insertion of a clause in the Marriage Bill of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Buteshire, I must of necessity claim the indulgence of the House. Perhaps, Sir, it may not be expected that I should take any part in this debate; but as I know of no reason why a soldier should not be interested in a matter of a religious character, I venture, as such, to offer my decided objection to the concession now sought for. I am unwilling that this Bill should pass for one or two reasons, which I shall briefly state to the House. When I acknowledge I am predisposed to receive with favour and with confidence every sound argument against legalising those impure marriages which the Divine law has ever pronounced incestuous, I only acknowledge the force of that Christian education which has taught us all to view with repugnance even the idea of marriage within the prohibited degrees. Before the Catholic Church in England rescued herself from the usurpation, and reformed herself from the innovations of Romanism, the marriages between first and between second cousins was prohibited, and could not be entered into except by dispensation. But by the table of prohibited degrees, published in the year 1663, such marriages were not prohibited; 1191 and by this table of kindred which should govern us, the Church has only introduced her authority against those marriages which were contrary to Divine law; and amongst those divinely prohibited marriages is the supposed one of a man with his deceased wife's sister. It may not, Sir, be here either irrelevant or out of place to call to mind the 99th canon, as exhibiting the earnestness of the Church in this matter. By this canon it is ordained—That no person shall marry within the degrees prohibited by the law of God, and expressed in a table set forth by authority in the year of our Lord 1563; and all marriages so made shall be adjudged incestuous and unlawful, and consequently shall be dissolved from the beginning, and the parties so married shall by course of law be separated.Sir, upon this canon Burn remarks that—Before the statute the 32nd of Henry VIII., other prohibitions than God's law admitted were invented by the Court of Rome. The dispensation thereof they always reserved to themselves.But be it remembered that the marriage now contemplated, namely, that of a man with his wife's sister, has ever been held by the Catholic Church of all ages as prohibited by Divine law. Sir, I am well aware there unhappily exists, and has existed for a long series of years, much religious controversy upon this subject; for we find the question was agitated nearly 300 years ago, as will be seen by an extract of a letter I hold in my hand from that exemplary and erudite divine. Bishop Jewell (then Bishop of Salisbury), to Archbishop Parker, second Archbishop of Canterbury. This letter, which is dated "Sarum, Calends November, 1561," gives, in my humble judgment, the clearest and most satisfactory view and interpretation of this part of the 18th chapter of Leviticus, so much in disputation. The letter says—Whereas ye desire to understand ray poor advice touching certain words in the xviii. Leviticus, by which ye think it lawful for a man to marry successively his own wife's sister, I would rather ye had taken in hand some other matters to defend. I reckon the words of Leviticus whereupon ye ground are these—'Uxorem et sororem suam ad lacessendam earn, ne duces ut retegas turpitudinem ejus ilia adhuc vivente.' There are no express words in the Levitical law, whereby I am prohibited to marry my wife's sister: ergo, by the Levitical law such marriage is to be accounted lawiul; for, notwithstanding the statute in that case makes no relation unto the 18th chapter of Leviticus as unto a place wherein the degrees of consanguinity and affinity are touched more at large, yet you must remember that certain 1192 degrees are there left out, untouched, within which, nevertheless, it was never thought lawful for man to marry. For example, there is nothing provided there by express words that a man may marry his own grandmother, or his grandfather's second wife, or the wife of his uncle by his mother's side—no, nor is there any express prohibition in all this chapter but that any of these may join together in lawful marriage. Wherefore we must needs think that God hath in this chapter especially and namely forbidden certain degrees, not as leaving all marriages lawful which he has not expressly forbidden, but that thereby, as by infallible precedents, we might be able to rule the rest; as when God saith no man shall many his mother, we understand that under the name of mother is contained both the grandmother and the grandfather's wife, and that such marriages are forbidden; and when God commands that no man shall marry the wife of his uncle by his father's side, we doubt not but in the same is in-eluded the wife of the uncle by the mother's side. Thus you see God himself would leave us to expound one degree by another; so likewise in this case, albeit I be not forbidden by plain words to marry my wife's sister, yet I am forbidden by other words which, by exposition, are plain enough; for when God commands me I shall not marry my brother's wife, it follows directly by the same that he forbids to marry my wife's sister, for between one man and two sisters, and one woman and two brothers, is like analogy or proportion, which in my judgment in this case, and other such like, ought to be taken for a rule.In this religious view of the case, Sir, I offer my opposition, not from my own weak and erring judgment, nor from my private judgment of Holy Writ, but as instructed by that teacher of righteousness, the witness and interpreter of Holy Scripture, the Church of Christ. These sentiments of a religious character, brief, cursory, and feeble, as may have been their expression, are, however, sufficiently cogent with me, as a Churchman, to give my emphatic denial to the Bill now before the House. I must leave the theological and controversial defence of the teaching of the Church to those whom the Church has ordained, as for other more sacred and mysterious duties, so likewise for this important work, a work in the present day requiring much learning and great self-denial, I mean the duty which ordination imposes upon every priest of the Established Church, "to be ever ready to banish and drive away all erroneous and strange doctrines, contrary to God's word." I must also beg, Sir, to oppose this measure upon social grounds. It is really painful to contemplate the effect even the agitation of the question has upon social life. The manifest tendency of the concession sought for must be to introduce jealousy, estrangement, and suspicion into 1193 married life; for can any one suppose that under this Bill the same pure brotherly intercourse which has hitherto prevailed, and I trust ever will prevail, between a man and his sister-in-law could possibly exist? The very possibility of their future marriage would totally prevent any more confidential or affectionate intimacy between a man and his wife's sister, than might exist between him and any other woman not at all related to him. I confess, Sir, I cannot see the necessity of this Bill. I can answer for my own countrymen, my Protestant and Roman Catholic brethren, that the principles of both the measures you propose will never be acted upon by thorn; nor can I see how any faithful son of the English Church can set at nought her plain and unqualified condemnation of these marriages; and upon this point it greatly gratifies me to quote the excellent authority of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Dungarvon, whose brilliant and persuasive eloquence on this subject so charmed the House, and to which I also beg to pay my humble tribute of admiration. Being anxious to strengthen my case as regards Ireland, the House will, I trust, permit me to read an extract from a letter I have lately received from a most worthy and learned divine, a dignitary of the Established Church in the south of Ireland. He says—I am obliged by your sending me Mr. Wortley's Bill, a measure which, I trust, for the welfare and happiness of the women of these kingdoms, will never pass into a law; such connexions in this country are held in universal and just abhorrence. The feelings of the Roman Catholic laity and clergy are even more strong against it than those of our own people; the Presbyterians of course share in the dislike of the Scotch Church to such marriages. Some time since I made inquiry throughout this country, and ascertained beyond a doubt, that such marriages are scarcely ever heard of, and the conviction that legalising such connexions would be destructive to morality and the best interests of society.Sir, it would gratify me much by the permission of the House to read an extract from a most respectable Dublin paper, the Mail, on the wretched consequences of this proposed Bill:—Some of the London morning journals have inserted, and continue to publish, a disgusting advertisement, purporting to be the substance of an unanimous resolution passed at a congregational meeting of Dissenting ministers, who pronounce in favour of the marriage of a widower with his deceased wife's sister or niece. What sort of ministers they pretend to be who thus declare 1194 themselves opposed to the salutary restraints by which religion and long-hallowed custom have fenced about the character of the domestic hearth, we cannot tell. Perchance, they may 'dissent' from the moral law of the Gospel, and incline towards the Turkish system, which goes even farther than they at present see any necessity for going, and sanctions the intermarriage of brothers and sisters. In some Roman Catholic countries, it is not an uncommon thing for a man to marry his own niece, his brother's or sister's child; and we recollect what a sentiment of abhorrence was raised against Dom Miguel for proposing such a connexion with the present Queen of Portugal. But without going at largo into the question, we may refer to one or two incidents, showing the disastrous tendency of the bare agitation of such a subject. A man was lately committed to prison in Lancaster on the charge of murdering his wife, his accomplice being her sister, with whom he had been living in a state of criminal intimacy, and their object was to remove the only obstacle to their being legally united in matrimony according to the measure introduced into Parliament by the hon. Mr. Stuart Wortley. Still more lately, in the county of Norfolk, a similar incident occurred. Elias Lucas, charged with the murder of his wife, was brought to trial on the 25th of March last at Cambridge; there stood beside him in the same dock Maria Reeder, his wife's sister, charged with aiding and abetting the murder. It appeared that the sister Maria had come to reside with the unfortunate couple some weeks before the fatal event. It was at or about this time that the illicit passion which engendered the murder arose, or at least manifested itself clearly. They were both found guilty of administering arsenic, and now lie under sentence of death.The unfortunate guilty pair have since been executed.A recent trial in Tipperary illustrates the practical tendency of such a change as Mr. Wortley's Bill would introduce. A Dr. Langley was tried for the murder of his wife and acquitted. The verdict was a just one we admit; but it was fully proved that the prisoner, after living for many years in terms of unbroken affection with his wife, had latterly adopted a course of brutal unmanly treatment towards her, which embittered at least, if it did not shorten her days; and what was the origin of such a sudden change of conduct? It is fully detailed in a letter written by himself, and read at the trial. He conceived an unhappy passion for his wife's niece, to whom no doubt he expected to be joined in matrimony, as soon as the complaisance of the Legislature would sanction such a marriage; and from the moment that thought found harbour in his breast he began to hate his wife. His words are very remarkable, and worthy of consideration—'My aversion to my poor and unfortunate Ellen has now become unconquerable.' How many uncles and brothers-in-law would transfer their affections in a similar manner if the law should open the way towards the gratification of their illicit fancies? This case of Dr. Langley's should not be lost sight of by the defenders of Christian morality in Parliament when Mr. Wortley's Bill comes again to be considered.But I greatly fear I have quite exhausted 1195 the patience of the House; and, thanking them very sincerely for the hearing they have honoured me with, I would, in conclusion, give my opinion that the only persons of Her Majesty's subjects who appear anxious for this miserable privilege are those of the manufacturing class who are Dissenters. If it be deemed right, if it be deemed politic or advisable, grant the concession to such persons, and when they accept it, we shall learn how much a tender conscience can bear. But let us, as Churchmen, remember that these marriages of a man with his deceased wife's sister or niece are forbidden by divine command as incestuous and unlawful, as the Church testifies and teaches; and let it ever he borne in mind that what God has forbidden, no human enactment, no human authority, can ever render either safe or lawful. Anxious, Sir, to rescue my country from that discredit which in my mind will encircle England should this Bill pass into a law, and following the example of my right hon. Friend the Member for Perth, who wishes to throw the same halo round his country, I beg to move that the provisions of this Act do not pass into a law in Ireland.
§ Clause (Provided always, and be it Enacted, That nothing in this Act contained shall extend, or be construed to extend, to Ireland) brought up, and read 1°.
§ MR. FARRER moved that the Chairman report progress, and ask leave to sit again. Having been listening attentively for some time, he must declare he could not hear one syllable that had fallen from the hon. and gallant Officer. To-morrow morning, perhaps, when the newspapers were published, he would have it in his power to form an idea of what the hon. and gallant Officer had said; but now he was utterly ignorant of what it was all about. It was now just twelve o'clock of the first night of their sitting in the New House of Commons. They were without any ventilation, and with works going on outside, he was sorry to say, with a very pestiferous smell. Hon. Members would have to pass by these works to get to their homes, and the best thing the House could do was to support his Motion, and all go home to bed.
§ COLONEL SIBTHORP
supported the Option for adjournment. In the progress of the Museum and Libraries Bill he could not tell what hon. Members were saying, and it was almost impossible to find out 1196 what they were dividing about. The sooner they got out of that unwholesome place the better, and in the morning they could form an opinion of what had been said in argument.
§ MR. J. S. WORTLEY
appealed to the House not to yield to any Motion for adjourning so important a question. As to the arguments of the hon. and gallant Officer the Member for the city of Cork, they might apply to the principle of the Bill, which had been confirmed by the House, but did not make out any peculiar case for the exemption of Ireland. Don't let the House be guilty of the absurdity of enacting one law for Ireland, and another for England. The principle of the Bill had received the support of the present Archbishop of Dublin and of the late Dr. Dickenson, the excellent Bishop of Meath. The opponents of the Bill said it was a woman's question; but one of the most distinguished Irishwomen, Miss Edge-worth, stated that her father had married two sisters, and that the marriages had been productive of the greatest domestic happiness.
§ MR. F. MAULE
observed, that all the persons quoted by the right hon. and learned Member were Protestants, but he had not referred to the fact that the Bill was repugnant to the Roman Catholics, almost universally. Although he differed from them vitally in many opinions, he thought they were entitled to the same justice that he wished to see meted to himself. He would vote for the Amendment of the hon. and gallant Member for the city of Cork.
§ MR. NAPIER
could affirm of the Protestants of Ireland, that their feeling against the Bill was just as unanimous as among the Roman Catholics. He was confident no question could be selected on which the opinions of all religious persuasions in Ireland were more determined and unanimous. It was said the Archbishop of Dublin was in favour of this Bill, but he was not an Irishman; and, even if he were, the opinion of one archbishop was not to decide the opinion of the whole population. He considered the Bill as destructive to the happiness of families, and as, therefore, he would vote against it on every opportunity, he should support the Motion.
had always understood, not that the manufacturing population were the prompters of this demand, 1197 but that the middle classes were charged with getting up a stormy agitation for it. He therefore protested against the terms that had been used in the debate as to the former. He felt strong doubts as to Scotch and Irish unanimity. On a previous occasion it had been urged on the House that the feeling of Scotland was unanimous, but the newspapers showed that at that very time Scotchmen were breaking one another's heads in Edinburgh in public meetings on the subject. Scotch unanimity would become a proverb.
§ MR. F. MAULE
said, the feeling in Scotland was unanimous until it was stirred up by a paid agitator. That person had been amongst his (Mr. F. Maule's) constituents, and endeavoured to get up a petition; but when he attempted to hold a public meeting in the large and populous city of Perth, he could not find one respectable man to take the chair.
§ MR. SADLEIR
said, the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Buteshire had adverted to the fact of an English Archbishop of Dublin being in favour of this Bill; but he kept out of view the circumstance that Ireland was in a great measure a Catholic country, regarding matrimony as a sacrament, and believing that marriages such as this Bill proposed to legalise were contrary to law, so long as they were solemnised without that dispensation which the Catholic Church had power to grant. Let the House remember, that upon no one subject had the legislation of the Imperial Parliament been more unfortunate in Ireland than on that of marriage. A large and influential portion of the people were Presbyterians, and they viewed with abhorrence the object and policy of this Bill. A case of such a marriage as this Bill would legalise, was upon one occasion brought before the Synod of Ulster, and they determined that the parties should not communicate until a separation had taken place. The evidence in the report as to the Presbyterians being favourable to these marriages, consisted of the statements of an individual who in Scotland was known as Duncan Chisholm, of Inverness, but who in Ireland stated himself to be an Irishman of the name of George Matthews. He also represented himself as a member of the Presbyterian Church, but those statements were untrue. He had received numberless communications from members of the Presbyterian Church, expressing 1198 their disgust and indignation at the evidence of that man, and expressing also their astonishment at the Commissioners, if they were anxious for truth and information, not taking some steps to know the real opinion of the Presbyterian body upon the subject. They had not either examined any dignitary of the Catholic Church in Ireland upon it; and he could not make up his mind whether even the people in England were anxious for this Bill to pass or not. Parliament ought not to seek to force upon a people a law abhorrent to their social feelings and their religious convictions.
The O'GORMAN MAHON
protested against the accuracy of the statements made by the hon. Members for Dublin University and Carlow. The former Gentleman had made an allusion to the Archbishop of Dublin; surely, it was proper enough that the English Church in Ireland should be presided over by an Englishman, As for the Catholics, their Church recognised the principle of these marriages, retaining to this hour the right of dispensation. Parliament should not place itself in antagonism with 7,000,000 of people in Ireland.
§ MR. MONSELL
maintained that all classes in Ireland, the Roman Catholics, the Presbyterians, and the Established Church, were almost unanimously opposed to the Bill. The promoters of the measure, with burning zeal and ample pecuniary means, had not been able to get signatures to petitions in favour of it in Ireland. The people of Scotland were also opposed to it, and a very large proportion of the people of England. Why not respect the moral and religious feeling of the people of Ireland upon this subject?
felt constrained to ask whether it was possible to suppose that the 7,000,000 of Irish Catholics believed their Church to be in the habit of granting dispensations for incest, or for anything abhorrent to general morals and the good of society? What the Roman Catholic Church avowedly admitted under conditions, Irish Catholics must of necessity view as, at all events, one upon which human wisdom and legislative decision had a right to be heard.
§ MR. C. ANSTEY
protested against the hon. and learned Member for the University of Dublin speaking in the name of the Roman Catholics of Ireland—a superstitious and idolatrous body, with 1199 which he could have no connexion whatever.
§ MR. NAPIER
said, he had many Roman Catholics amongst his conscientious supporters, and by these he had been requested to oppose the Bill.
insisted that the religious sentiment, as well as the domestic sentiment of the people of Scotland, was opposed to the measure.
§ MR. SADLEIR
said, that the Roman Catholics held these marriages unlawful unless sanctioned by dispensation, which, in Ireland was never granted, except under very peculiar and pressing circumstances.
§ COLONEL RAWDON
thought it would be improper to except Ireland from the operation of a law which was to be applied to England and Scotland.
declared that the strongest feeling prevailed against the Bill amongst all classes in the part of Ireland with which he was connected, whether Presbyterians, Roman Catholics, or members of the Established Church.
§ MR. FARRER
said, his reason for proposing the adjournment of the debate was, that, under existing circumstances, members had not been able to hear accurately what had been said in the course of the discussion; but as the feeling of the House seemed to be opposed to his proposition, he would withdraw it.
§ Motion made, and Question put, "That the Clause be read a second time."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 114; Noes 132: Majority 18.
§ House resumed.
§ Bill reported; as amended, to be considered To-morrow.
§ The House adjourned, at a quarter before Two o'clock.