HC Deb 27 June 1856 vol 142 cc2159-60

Order for Second Reading read.


said, the Bill had come down from the House of Lords, having been introduced there by his noble Friend Lord Brougham, who, living on the Border where these marriages took place, was equally aware, with himself, of the evils which they produced. One thousand of these marriages took place last year on the Gretna side of the Border, and at least as many more took place on the Berwick and Coldstream side. He could depose as a witness to the evil effects produced on the morals of the community by these irregular marriages. They were productive of seduction, bigamy, and bastardy to a great extent amongst the humbler classes, and the evil consequences generally fell on the woman. If it turned out that the woman had money, the man said that the marriage was valid; if she had not, when his passion was satisfied, he treated it as invalid, and she was abandoned. The consequence was, that there were instances where the marriage ceremony had been repeated four times over, and the cases of prosecution for bigamy were comparatively rare. The Bill did not proceed by way of penalties, but it declared that these marriages should he invalid if both the parties were not domiciled in Scotland a fortnight before the celebration of the marriage. The hon. Member for Greenock (Mr. Dunlop) had given notice of a clause which confined the domiciling to one of the parties; but that was a question for the consideration of the Committee. He had communicated with his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department and with the right hon. and learned Lord Advocate before he undertook the charge of the Bill, and he understood that it would not be opposed by them. It might also be a question whether the provisions with regard to certificates were desirable, but that would also be a question for the Committee.


said, he would not oppose the second reading of the Bill, but there were portions of it with respect to which he entertained some misgiving.

Bill read 2!.

The House adjourned at a quarter before Two o'clock till Monday next.