HC Deb 30 July 1857 vol 147 cc718-75

Order for Second Reading read.


who was imperfectly heard at the commencement of his speech, rose to move the second reading of this Bill. He said that he was anxious to give a full explanation of the measure now before the House, and he could assure them he had devoted to it all the consideration and attention which the incessant and laborious duties of his professional avocation admitted. The Bill had excited great anxiety and even alarm in the country at large. It had been said by some, and believed by others, that the Bill was an attempt to introduce new laws and new principles, affecting society in its most intimate relations—relations which lay at the very foundation of civil society. He was happy to say that that alarm was entirely groundless. The Bill involved only long-existing rules and long-established principles, and it was intended to give only a local judicial habitation to doctrines that had been long recognized as part of the law of the land, and for a century and a half administered in a judicial manner, although through the medium of a legislative assembly. Its object was to remove the inconveniences of that practice, but in all other respects the law of England upon the subject of divorce would remain what it was now. Whatever alarm, therefore, had been excited must be the result either of misapprehension or of misrepresentation. It was so desirable, however, to make that plain—so important that the House should understand that the Bill made no material alteration in the existing law of divorce—that he hoped they would give him their attention for a few minutes while he attempted to sketch the progress of the law, and to point out in what manner the principles embodied in the Bill, and had been for nearly two centuries judicially administered. Anterior to the Reformation the doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church of the indissolubility of marriage was generally recognized and accepted as the law of the land. The whole subject of marriage and divorce was delegated to spiritual tribunals. Those tribunals proceeded upon their own principles; they were not subject to the law of the State, and undoubtedly the doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church prevailed in them. When the Reformation came, a new view was taken of the question. The notion of marriage being a sacrament was no longer regarded as part of the doctrine of the Church of England. The necessity for the introduction of new principles was universally recognized, and all were aware that statutes were passed both in the reign of Henry VIII. and in that of Edward VI., delegating to well-chosen and extensively constituted commissions the duty of reforming all the laws of England relating to ecclesiastical matters. The result was, that inquiries were set on foot by those learned men and their labours are on record. The Commissioners were unanimous in altering the received doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church, and in accepting the principle that marriage should be dissoluble by the ordinary tribunals for two or three causes, of which adultery, of course, was the most common. But if there was anything in which the Reformation was more than usually incomplete it was the mode of dealing with the ecclesiastical tribunals. Those tribunals, instead of being subjected to the ordinary rules of law, and regarded as Royal Courts, receiving their authority from the Crown, and administering the common law of the land, were permitted to retain their ecclesiastical character, to exercise their own peculiar functions, and to administer their own peculiar principles. The result was that, although for a considerable period, probably for nearly a century after the Reformation, marriage was regarded as a bond of union dissoluble for adultery, yet about the commencement of the seventeenth century the old doctrine was restored by a decision of the Star Chamber, and the Ecclesiastical Courts were found not to have the power of giving a divorce a vinculo matrimonii. The consequence was that the imperfect jurisdiction of the ecclesiastical tribunals was again established, and no other Court was armed with authority to sever the tie of marriage on the ground of adultery. The matter remained in that state, interrupted, of course, during the time of the Commonwealth, until Parliament, coming to the relief of the law, and of what might be called the necessities of the country, established that system of granting divorces which had since been administered through the medium of a legislative assembly, but upon principles purely judicial. It was an undoubted fact, therefore, that from the time of the Reformation until now the necessity of having a change in the purely ecclesiastical law, and the necessity of introducing the principle that marriage should be dissoluble for adultery, had been recognized by the Legislature, and, for a considerable period, by the ecclesiastical tribunals. Anterior to the Reformation the unreasonable law of the indissolubility of marriage was, to a certain extent, atoned for in the way in which unreasonable laws were always met—namely, by the introduction of a vast number of fictions, evasions, and grounds for escaping the operation of the law, and the practical result, as testified by all the historians and jurists of the time, that it was easier to obtain a divorce a vinculo matrimonii anterior to the Reformation than after the principles of the Reformation had become established. The decision of the Star Chamber in the Foljambe case, limiting the jurisdiction of the Ecclesiastical Courts, was given about the year 1600, and very shortly after the Restoration the Legislature began to give relief to the country, by the introduction of a system of Parliamentary divorces. Now, when they spoke of legislative interference, and called it nothing more than the passing of peculiar laws to meet peculiar emergencies, denominating those judicial sentences of Parliament as mere privilegia, they used language altogether inaccurate and inapt. The administration of justice upon settled principles previously established, and according to rules previously fixed, was essentially a judicial act, and it mattered not whether the duty was discharged by a body calling itself a Legislature, or by two or three individuals sitting in an ordinary Court of Justice. That interference on the part of Parliament was in truth a judicial interference, prompted by the necessities of the country, and was the only mode by which justice could be administered in the absence of any regular tribunal which should be at the habitation and seat of the principle of the law. That was the mode in which the law of divorce had been regulary administered by the Legislature for a period of 150 years. Parliament, and the House of Lords in particular, had laid down general rules affecting applications for divorce, regulating the form of procedure, and determining the circumstances under which an aggrieved party might apply for a divorce. It was impossible, therefore, to deny that a law of divorce, well known and well understood, administered upon settled rules, had prevailed in this country for nearly two centuries, by which it was held that marriages were capable of being annulled. He was anxious to lay down that position at first, as it had been too common among critics and speakers upon the subject to declare that by the law of England marriage was incapable of being dissolved. That had been the argument over and over again in another place; and accordingly it had been represented to the country, that the Bill he was bringing under their notice would effect a complete change, and men's minds became impressed with the notion that a new principle and a new law was about to be imported into what he would call the legal constitution of England, and all this tended to create a hostile feeling towards the measure. He had endeavoured to prove by a slight historical deduction that we had at present in the House of Lords a tribunal for that purpose proceeding upon certain, and permanent settled rules. In the course of the jurisdiction exercised by the House of Lords, and after them by the House of Commons, certain exceptions had been established to the general principle that marriage was dissoluble for adultery, and the rule of the law might be thus simply described.—An injured husband who established a ease against his wife was entitled to a divorce, unless it could be proved that he had been guilty of collusion or of connivance, unless he was open to recrimination, and had been guilty of acts which would entitle the wife to be separated from him by a decree of the Ecclesiastical Court. Those rules had been established as to the right of the husband to obtain a divorce, but certain conditions had also been imposed by the House of Lords which, except under peculiar circumstances, they were not in the habit of relaxing. It was necessary that a man seeking a divorce should first prove the adultery in the Ecclesiastical Court, and obtain from that tribunal a decree for a divorce a mensâ et thoro. He must also, in cases where it was possible, bring an action at law against the adulterer—that action for criminal conversation, which had been termed the reproach of our laws. In that action he must again prove the adultery, and having established his case in that proceeding he was entitled to apply to the House of Lords to be again permitted to prove the adultery before that tribunal. If he successfully proved his injury on those three occasions he was then allowed to receive a divorce à vinculo matrimonii. With respect to the wife, those who had studied the subject would be aware that the rule at present was that for simple adultery on the part of the husband, the wife was not entitled to a divorce, but the House of Lords had established the practice that a wife was entitled to a divorce against her husband, if she could prove that his adultery was also incestuous, that it was accompanied with bigamy, or that the adultery had been attended with such aggravated circumstances as rendered it utterly impossible that the wife could be expected to live again with her husband. These were the rules established by the House of Lords, and reported in the cases which had been decided by that tribunal, which formed at present the law of divorce as administered by the High Court of Parliament. It was the object of the Bill which he now submitted to the House to embody that law. There was one particular only in which the Bill went beyond the present law in favour of the injured woman, and that was in cases of adultery attended with malicious desertion. In all other respects the Bill adhered to what had long been the universally understood rule for the administration of justice in England, with regard to divorces. That being the state of the case, as far as the Bill was concerned, he thought the House would agree that it contained nothing more than the expression of the existing law and a plan for transferring the administration of that law to a tribunal by which justice could be done in a more convenient manner, and without those difficulties of form and procedure which were of necessity incident to legislative proceedings. That was the first great and cardinal object of the Bill. But the Bill, while it embodied the present law, altered most materially the form of its procedure. That it should be necessary to prove the adultery in three different courts, and once in the absence of the wife through the medium of that most abominable proceeding the action for crim. con., had been held to be a great reproach to this country. The Bill, therefore, proposed that one simple form of procedure should be adopted by which the whole case might be thoroughly sifted and examined—the injured husband appearing as the plaintiff against the two other parties brought into court to contest his application for a divorce—namely, the wife and the adulterer. Therefore, the form of procedure would be changed entirely, and the action which now constituted so objectionable a feature of the present system would be got rid of. The law would remain the same, but the mode of its administration would be changed. That being the object of the Bill, he hoped the House would now permit him to examine into the subject a little more closely, in order to ascertain whether or not it was true that by embodying the law into a Bill, and creating a tribunal better fitted for the administration of that law they were in the slightest degree departing from what had been felt to be the true rule, dictated alike by justice and by every consideration of human advantage since the period of the Reformation. He would now call the attention of the House to the manner in which this question was dealt with at the time of the Reformation. They were all aware of the opinions that were expressed on this subject in the writings of the principal reformers, and he would remind the House that very shortly after the Reformation, or at least in the early part of the reign of Edward VI., a change took place in the state of the law. About that time occurred the case of the Marquess of Northampton, and the question which arose in that case was, whether a man who had obtained a divorce in the Ecclesiastical Court, on the ground of adultery of the wife, could be permitted to marry again. That question attracted the notice of Cranmer, and while the case was under discussion, certain questions were drawn up by those who had to decide it, and submitted to the consideration of some of the most eminent lawyers and divines. The answers to these questions were given in the collections of Records appended to the second volume of Burnet's History of the Reformation, and very similar opinions to those they contained were also expressed in a most remarkable manner in the Reformatio Legum Ecclesiasticarum. So much had been said on this subject in another place, and so much was likely to be said in that House, that he hoped he would be pardoned if he called attention to the manner in which the question was addressed to those lawyers and divines, and to the distinct and express manner in which the difficulties involved in the question was solved by the authority of those learned persons. The first six questions put were:— 1. Quid dirimit matrimonii vinculum? 2. Quas ob causas dirimi poterit? 3. An dirimi poterit conjugium a thoro, non a vinculo? Quibus casibus possit sic dirimi? 5. An exceptio illa (exceptâ fornicationis causâ) etiam in Lucæ, Marci, et Pauli locis, qui de his rebus tractant, est subaudienda? 6. An etiam uxor, repudiata propter adulterium, alteri poterit nubere? To these questions the following answers were returned:— Ad primam respondemus; Ipso adulterii facto matrimonii vinculum dirimi. Nam alioquin, ob solum adulterium non liceret viro uxorem repudiare; voluntas viri solicitat judices, judices palam faciunt ecclesiæ, virum licite talem repudiare uxorem. Ad secundam resp., Quod ob solam causam stupri dirimitur matrimonii vinculum; cujus ipso quidem facto, conjugii dissolvitur nodus, et loquimur his, qui sacrosancti matrimonii jus agnoscunt. Ad tertiam resp., Quod non; quia mulier quamdiu vixerit, alligata est viro, Rom. 7; item ne fraudetis vos invicem, 1 Cor. 7; item in eodem loco uxori vir debitam benevolentiam reddat simpliciter, et uxor viro; item vir non habeat potestatem sui corporis, sed uxor similiter; nec uxor habeat potestatem sui corporis, sed vir. Ad quartam patet in responsione ad tertiam. Ad quintam respondemus, Quod exceptio ista—viz., nisi causâ stupri; est subaudienda in Lucâ, Marco, et Paulo; alioquin manifeste erit repugnantia inter Matthæum et eos. Ad sextam respond., Quod repudiata propter adulterium, quia uxor repudiantis desiit esse, obidque libera est sicut aliæ omnes post obitum virorum possint aliis nubere; æquo jure juxta illud pauli, Si not contineant, contrahant matrimonium, 1 Cor. 7. The opinions thus expressed by those high authorities were afterwards embodied substantially in the canons of 1602, and there was therefore at that time a distinct recognition of the principle of divorce a vinculo matrimonii, as was also shown by the practice of the Ecclesiastical Courts to require persons there divorced to enter into bonds not to marry again. Afterwards it was discovered that the Ecclesiastical Courts were incompetent to pronounce a decree of divorce a vinculo, as they proceeded merely on the authority of the civil and canon law, and then it was found that there was no tribunal to administer the law as laid down by the reformers. Now, this being the recognition of the law as it was made in the early period of the Reformation, he need not weary the House by referring to the authority of those writers who had defended the principle thus laid down. His great object at the present moment was to point out the fact, that the law as he had stated it had been administered for nearly two centuries through the medium of Bills passed by the Legislature. Where did those Bills originate? Where were they first discussed, and by whose authority did they come down to that House? They all originated in the House of Lords, had been discussed before the Bench of Bishops, and come down to that House sanctioned by the high authority of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal of the Kingdom. Since the Duke of Norfolk's case in 1703 there was no recorded instance of any Bishop objecting in Parliament to the passing of any one of those Bills upon the ground which he saw had been taken in argument in another place, and also in petitions addressed to that House—namely, that marriage by the law of England was a thing indissoluble, and that this was according to the rule of Scripture. Now, if marriage was indissoluble on Scriptural authority, every one of those Bills had been a violation of that Scriptural authority. The authority of Scripture was binding on legislative assemblies as much as on judicial bodies or individuals in private life; but could they for a moment listen to the argument that they were about to fly in the face of Scripture, when they found that their Bishops, age after age, had been parties to the passing of these Bills, and when the two Houses of Parliament had, in all those instances, recognized the very principle of law which was now embodied in this Bill? He implored the House to consider whether it would sanction the arguments brought forward in another place, and which, no doubt, would be urged with great eloquence and knowledge and force in that House also. If they rejected this Bill, or refused to receive it on the principle to which he had just referred, they never afterwards could consistently receive a Bill that came down to them for a dissolution of marriage. They would, in point of fact, disapprove the whole of the existing practice of legislation on this subject, retrace their steps, condemn all that had been done for the last 200 years, and must refuse ever after to receive any one of those privilegia which they had been accustomed to admit in past times. If they admitted that the principle he contended for was conformable to what he would call the instinctive feelings of law that our Maker had written on the heart of man, but that the mode of administration in reference to the Bill which they passed was oppressive, inconvenient, and injurious in a high degree, then, according to all the rules of justice, they were bound to provide the means of a more impartial, expeditious, and economical administration for the benefit of the subjects of this realm. He might take his stand here—upon the simple ground that the Bill contained no more than an expression of what had long been known to be the law and practice of both Houses; and although he was perfectly aware of the extreme inconvenience, nay, almost the impropriety, of attempting in that House to deal with any Scriptural subject, and felt unable to do justice to such a question, yet he bogged those who took the Scriptural view of the matter laid down in another place to give him their attention while he attempted to present to them the grounds on which the question in reality stood. His attention had been directed a short time ago to some of the pamphlets and articles which had been written on this subject, and which had deservedly attracted great attention, regard being had to the eminent authorities from whom they came. He asked the House to recollect that they would be called on to recognize the authority of Scripture as an insuperable impediment to the passing of this Bill, and he would therefore endeavour to unfold to them the manner in which particular passages of Scripture had been treated by some of the eminent writers to whom he had referred. He would take the liberty of adverting to what had been, written on this subject by two most eminent divines of the Church—one of them no less a person than the author of the Christian Year; and he would make allusion also to an article that had appeared in the well-known periodical the Quarterly Review, as well as to a pamphlet attributed to a learned Friend of his own, and a most competent writer on this subject. He believed that it was against a standing order of that House to quote Greek, and he would not be guilty of a violation of that rule. The passage to which he wished to call the attention of the House was that in St. Matthew's Gospel:—"Saving for the cause of adultery," ——and he would quote but one word from the original—,which was translated in our version fornication. But although the word was so translated in this passage, it was always accepted as an equivalent for "adultery." Fornication committed by a married woman would, of course, be adultery. Undoubtedly, if that interpretation were given to the word, it was scarcely possible for any but the most subtle advocates to escape from the ordinary construction which had been attributed to the text. It was therefore necessary for these gentlemen to find a different interpretation, and the House would be rather surprised, he thought, to see the opinion which those writers who deprecated this Bill, and who would have it rejected, had of that Scriptural authority to which they so earnestly appealed. The first writer translated not as adultery, but as marriage with a foreign woman. Another translated the word "for the cause or on account of some uncleanness," and another translated it, in the Quarterly Review, as properly meaning "apostacy or idolatry." Those were writers who called upon the House of Commons to accept the Scriptural rule, and to reject the Bill; and who, while denying equally the interpretation ordinarily put upon the text, differed among themselves toto cœlo as to the proper interpretation. These were the gentlemen who grounded their opposition to the Bill on the canon and authority of Scripture. One of them, the learned author of the pamphlet to which he had alluded, had certainly translated the passage—"The woman shall not be put away, except on account or in consideration of adultery," and he stated most distinctly and most correctly that the words admitted of no other interpretation; but he went on to argue that our Saviour was excepting only the acknowledged case of the Jewish law—that He was giving a prohibition not merely to the Jews alone, but to all who received that Gospel—and that He desired to except out of that prohibition the case of adultery merely so far as it fell within the established Jewish law, which punished it by death. His learned Friend's object, therefore, was to show that the exception had reference to the Jewish law alone, and that, as the Jewish law had come to an end, the exception had come to an end also, leaving the general prohibition independent of all exceptions. But into what subtleness would reasoning like this lead! He would not apply to it the name which was usually applied to the subtleness of lawyers, for the subject was too sacred; but what would be the consequences if such reasoning were applied to the interpretation of the law? Then another argument was, that, as the exception in St. Matthew was not found in St. Mark or in St. Luke, that therefore the rule in St. Mark and St. Luke be taken to be the binding rule. But it never seemed to strike those who advanced this argument that the reasonable deduction was, that our Saviour, in addressing those who were conversant with and were bound by the Jewish law, thought it requisite in one place to say that He excepted the case which was provided for by the Jewish law, but thought it unnecessary in another place to introduce the exceptional case, because adultery in the Jewish law was not a case for divorce, but was subject to criminal punishment. Our Saviour was condemning those things which were divorces among the Jews, and adultery was not a case for divorce according to the Jewish law, but for criminal punishment. The divorces spoken of in the rule were those permitted to be given for various causes, and those were subject to the rule. But the rule was to be taken with an exception, which exception of itself struck at the very root of the marriage bond, for, by the well-known law adultery was made punishable by death, and most effectually dissolved the marriage by putting an end to the life of one of the parties. He could not for a moment imagine that any hon. Gentleman in that House would be disposed to be led away by reasoning upon the Scriptures which was so discordant, so inconsistent, and so contradictory. Blessed was he who could accept the ordinary translation of the Holy Book, without perplexing himself by discordant renderings of the Greek and Hebrew text. What was it that gave to marriage that mysterious character with which it was invested under the Christian dispensation? It was a passage in Scripture much more pertinent than the one to which he had already referred—which every one must read with reverence and unappreciable joy—in which our Saviour, when restoring the institution of marriage to its original solemnity, said, "He who made them at the beginning made them male and female, and said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and cleave unto his wife, and they twain shall be one flesh; wherefore they are no more twain but one flesh." It was that passage, which was incorporated in our marriage service, which gave its holy and mysterious character to the Christian institution,—so he might call it with propriety, since Christ had re-established it in its original solemnity. If man and wife were thus mystically incorporated, what was it that severed and destroyed the continuance of that mysterious union? Was it not adultery? If such were the sacred character of the marriage vow, did not those words of Christ bring with them this conclusion, that that which severed the mysterious bond was the most effectual means, according to the letter and spirit of Scripture, of dissolving the marriage? This was written in Scripture, and it was written in the heart, for every human being capable of appreciating the sanctity of marriage must feel that, when one party to the marriage was guilty of that sin which struck the very soul from the contract, the holy character of the union could never again be restored. He had ventured thus to glance at the inconsistencies of the Scriptural argument, because much had been said on it in another place, and he was afraid much more would be said on it in this House. His first antagonist to-night would probably be the hon. and learned Member for Dundalk (Mr. Bowyer). What was the view of the case which that hon. Member was bound to adopt? He would read to the House a passage from the decrees of the Council of Trent, which would show to the House the kind of arguments which they were likely to hear from that hon. and learned Member:— Si quis dixerit ccclesiam errare, cum docuit et docet juxta evangelicam et apostolicam doctrinam propter adulterium alterius conjugum matrimonii vinculum non posse dissolvi, et utrumque, vel etiam innocentem, qui causam adulterio non dedit, non posse, altero conjuge vivente, aliud matrimonium contrahere, mœcharique eum qui, dimissâ adulterâ, aliam duxerit, et eam quæ, dimisso adultero alii nupserit, anathema sit. Si quis dixerit ecclesiam errare, cum ob multas causas separationem inter conjuges, quoad thorum, sed quoad cohabitationem ad certum incertumve tempus fieri possi dccerni, anathema sit. But, if he were not mistaken, the hon. and learned Member's Scriptural views of the subject would be pretty well disposed of by the caustic language of the hon. Member for East Surrey (Mr. Drummond). Then would descend into the arena a great master of eloquence and subtle reasoning, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford (Mr. Gladstone). If that right hon. Gentleman had lived—thank Heaven he had not—in the middle ages, when invention was racked to find terms of eulogium for the subtilissimi doctores, how great would have been his reputation. The right hon. Gentleman would lay his views before the House, drawn no doubt partly from the same sources as those of the hon. and learned Member for Dundalk; but the materials would be worked up with such exquisite skill, such ingenuity, and such power, that the substance produced to the House would be of the most beautiful texture, and radiant in colour, and altogether of the most fascinating character. No doubt they would hear the shrill cry of the hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Hadfield) in deprecation of the Bill, and probably they might have from the hon. and learned Member who also represented Sheffield (Mr. Roebuck) some caustic remarks on the edifying spectacle. Having thus described the contradictions within, he feared that they were likely to have equal contrarities without— Iliacos intra muros peccatur, et extra. He hoped and trusted, nevertheless, that they should be able steadily to steer through the dangerous passages of the scriptural argument, and, although he had ventured to touch upon it, and should therefore be the last to deprecate the introduction of such criticism, yet he would humbly intreat the body of the House to abide by the exposition of the Scriptures which had been the received and accepted interpretation, not only by our own Church, but by all the Protestant Churches of Christendom; to believe that those Churches could not err as a body; and that the interpretation of those passages, on which we and our ancestors had acted for so many years in the administration of justice, was more likely to be right than any new interpretation which could be now adopted. That being the way, then, in which the matter stood with regard to the law of the country, and to the question whether the law of the country and the sacred writings were always in harmony or at variance with one another, he next approached another point which was a fruitful source of difficulty and of vexation, and which he had no doubt would prove to be a most abundant source of argument in that House—he meant the question of the intermarriage of the guilty parties, and whether that marriage should or should not be left to be solemnized in facie ecclesiæ. Many petitions had been presented upon this subject, and he believed that no less than 6,000 clergymen had petitioned that the House would not lay a load upon their consciences. With respect to the petitions of those learned and reverend men, the first thing that occurred to him was, that it was singular that they should be addressed, not so much to the question of the law and the morality of the law—the importance of which they appeared not to regard so highly—as to their own individual and particular feelings. If they chose to argue the question, and would give the House the benefit of their representations upon the question whether the adulterer and the adultress should be permitted to marry, he said at once that their representations should be received with great attention and listened to with great respect; but if they admitted that to be the law which had been acted upon in the case of every Divorce Bill which had passed during two centuries, and if they had in every instance hitherto submitted to that law, he could not understand why they should not do so for the future. Did they think lightly, he would ask, of disregarding what they believed to be a conscientious obligation in two or three instances only, and did it become too strong for resistance when they were required to disregard it in twenty or thirty instances? If it were right and proper, as it had hitherto been, for the benefit of morality and for the interests of humanity, that the guilty parties should be permitted to marry—if that rule were to remain and were to be the law of the land—then he hoped that the House of Commons would never for one moment listen to the desire of the clergy of the Church of England to be relieved from the obligation of obeying the law of the land. He could not conceive anything more dangerous, or anything that would be fraught with more unhappiness to the clergy and to the Church than for the House to listen to those statements, which were called conscientious scruples and difficulties, about the obligation of the clergy to obey the law of the land. Let them discuss the law if they would; but when they had arrived at the conclusion that it ought to be the law of the land, let them require, without a moment's hesitation on the part of the clergy, obedience to that law. That was the true notion of the supremacy of the Crown. It consisted in this, that the Church, like every other body, should submit to the civil law of the land; and this, he might humbly represent to his right hon. Friend the Member for the University of Oxford, was the true notion of the connection of Church and State. The true union of Church and State in this country was produced by this, that the Church was subordinate to and was upheld by the common law of the land in like manner as every other body and institution was. He knew well from history the struggles of the Roman Catholic clergy to be emancipated from the law that bound the laity; but at the Reformation the principle was established that the Crown was the head of all power and authority, that it was, therefore, the head of the Church, and that the Church was accordingly bound by the obligations of the law. Whatever the law was, then, he should never entertain the least hesitation or doubt as to the absolute necessity in a constitution like ours of requiring from the clergy absolute and implicit obedience to that law; and if the House of Commons should come to the conclusion that they would not alter the law in this respect, but that the adulterer and adultress should be permitted, after the dissolution of the marriage, to marry inter se, as had been hitherto the law, then he trusted that they would not enter into the other subject of inquiry as to whether they should or should not exempt certain clergymen of the Church of England from the obligation of obeying that law. There was one particular matter connected with the procedure in these cases to which he begged the attention of the House. He had stated that the action for crim. Con., as it was familiarly called, was to be entirely abolished. The House was no doubt aware that in another place there had been a great deal of discussion as to what should be the substitute for that action, and more particularly with reference to affording compensation—if compensation it could be called—to the really injured husband. He remembered a case in which a married woman, possessed of a large settled income, which was the chief or sole dependence of her husband for the maintenance of a large family, was seduced by an adulterer and eloped with him; a divorce followed by Act of Parliament, and she carried away to the adulterer the whole of her separate income, and left her husband and children completely beggars. In such a case as that, probably, one might recognize the propriety of giving, at the expense of the adulterer, some compensation to the husband. The House would accordingly find that in one of the sections of the Bill, as it had come down from the Lords, there was a provision, empowering the Court, on pronouncing for a divorce, to impose on the adulterer a fine. But the section stopped there; and it was therefore in the form of a penal enactment in a qualified sense. It imposed a fine on the adulterer, but it gave no orders as to the application of the fine. Supposing, however, that it might be deemed expedient to approve that enactment, it might deserve the consideration of the House whether the fine should not be made to answer the purpose either of giving compensation to the husband, or, in a proper ease, of making a provision for the wife. He threw that out as a suggestion which the House might think deserving of attention if they passed the second reading of the Bill. The tribunal to which these cases were to be referred was constituted, he believed, in an unexceptionable manner; and he apprehended that there could be no objection taken to the procedure, except perhaps that it might appear desirable in Committee to facilitate a little the mode of appeal. That which he might call the ordinary business, the preliminary inquiry, the investigation into facts, would be conducted before the ordinary Judge of the Court; but the more important and vital inquiries, and discussions, and determinations must be had before the full court, which was to consist of three members, of whom the ordinary Judge was to be one, the other two being selected from the Lord Chancellor, the Lord Chief Justice of England, the Lord Chief Justice of the Common Picas, or the Lord Chief Baron of the Exchequer. That was the form of the tribunal, and he thought that no better could be devised for the purpose of accomplishing the great object in view, of rendering collusion and connivance impossible, of giving relief only in those cases where it was required, and of ascertaining, with as much certainty as human investigations permitted of, whether there were circumstances in any case submitted to them which disentitled the husband or the wife to the remedy provided by the Bill. Leaving that subject, the other portion of the Bill, by which, as he hoped, the House would be of opinion that a great improvement in the law was effected, dealt with those proceedings hitherto confined to the Ecclesiastical Courts which afforded separations a mensâ et thoro. These sentences, improperly called divorces, were in reality nothing in the world more than regulations of the terms of mutual separation in cases where if was not consistent with the interest of either husband or wife that the parties should live together, or where the wife was entitled to a separation by reason of the adultery or cruelty of her husband. These divorces, as they were wrongly termed, were converted by the Bill into judicial separations; but the House was aware that, as the law now stood, if a divorce were obtained a mensâ et thoro from an Ecclesiastical Court, the consequences of that divorce were exceedingly imperfect and insufficient for the end desired. The wife was still entitled to dower, the husband to the property of the wife. The consequence was, that many cruel and barbarous cases had occurred, in which the husband had driven the wife to sue for this sentence, and the wife had afterwards, by industry or by the exercise of intellectual ability, obtained for herself an independent position and become the owner of property, when the husband returned, laid his hand upon her hard-earned gains, and swept all away to gratify his own dissolute propensities. This reproach of our law, this relic of its savage character as regarded the relation of husband and wife, would, he trusted, be effectually removed by the provisions of the Bill. There was one portion of the measure by which a wife was enabled to procure release and protection through the order of a justice of the peace from savage conduct on the part of her husband, which might, he admitted, be open to a good deal of discussion in Committee. With regard, however, to the general tenor of the enactment as between husband and wife on this subject, he thought the existing law would be found to be greatly improved both in point of actual justice and in point of humanity—with respect both to the condition of women and the protection of the weak against the tyranny of the strong. Such were the parts of the Bill to which it was necessary to call attention upon the second reading. As the subject had now been introduced to the House of Commons almost for the first time, he had thought it due to them to give some explanation of this Bill, imperfect as his explanation had been. Before concluding, however, he must advert to two or three points which had been alluded to on previous occasions, when this subject had been partially considered by the House of Commons. He ought, perhaps, to have referred to them when he was calling attention to the principal provisions respecting the intermarriage of the adulterer and adultress. That was a subject with which the House of Commons was familiar, owing to repeated discussions in former times. About the year 1770, he believed it would be found that a Bill was brought down from the House of Lords, introduced there by the then Duke of Atholl, the object of which was to forbid these marriages. That Bill passed the House of Lords, if he remembered rightly, but was rejected, after grave consideration, by this House. About fifteen or sixteen years afterwards, the attempt was renewed; and the last time this proposal was made to the House of Commons was in 1800. On these three occasions the important question whether the prohibition of intermarriage between the adulterer and adultress would promote the interests of society—whether these prohibitions would prevent the increase of the of offence, or whether they would act as nothing more than inhuman and barbarous restrictions, which would by no means tend to check such crimes—this question was well considered by the House, and the whole subject was debated with great knowledge, zeal, and eloquence. On all these occasions, however, the judgment of the House was given in favour of the existing practice—in favour of what had constantly been permitted in the case of divorce Bills—the feeling, therefore being that such a prohibition would be simply cruel, without holding out a prospect of promoting the interests of society by the repression of crime. As the House was well aware, by a standing Order in another place, a clause prohibiting such intermarriage, was introduced into every divorce Bill, but it was invariably struck out by the House of Commons. He wished the House of Commons, therefore in attending to this question, would always bear in mind that the subject was one which had never been lost sight of, which had been repeatedly discussed, and on which the decision had always been one way, the practice on divorce Bills being regulated accordingly. If this, then, had been the determination of Parliament on the subject during 150 years, he thought it desirable that the House should bow to precedent, should recognize the existence of the rule, and should not now enter upon the question as res integra, deliberating upon it as a matter previously undiscussed and unknown. If that were the view which the House thought proper to take, in conformity with ancient usage, then he believed there was no room for the agitation of that question relating to the consciences of the clergy, upon which, probably, the most urgent appeal would be made. He had now gone through the principal subjects of the Bill. He had abstained, of course, from dwelling on the evils existing in the present law, which had been so long admitted, so universally recognized, so frequently pointed out, not only in Parliament, but out of Parliament, not only by lawyers, but by every writer upon the habits and manners of the people, that it would be a mere waste of time to enter upon so trite a subject. That this Bill was required, that it would at length correct what, from the time of the Reformation, had been admitted as a defect in the law of England, he believed none could venture to deny. Its provisions would naturally engage the most anxious and deliberate attention, but the Bill itself was introduced into the House with confidence, because, he repeated, it did no more than express and embody what had been the law of the land for nearly two centuries; and in that spirit of confidence he called upon the House to give a second reading to this measure.

Motion made and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."


said, when his right hon. Friend, the Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Henley), endeavoured to save the House from the discussion of a Bill which, in his opinion, it would be impossible to discuss satisfactorily, the noble Lord at the head of the Government administered a severe rebuke to that right hon. Gentleman and those who held the same opinion, and called upon them to wait until the principle of the measure had been fully explained. The hon. and learned Gentleman had now endeavoured to perform this duty, he had gone at some length into its enactments, but he (Sir W. Heath-cote, confessed his inability to discover, after all, upon what principle the Bill was really based. Like a skilful advocate the hon. and learned Gentleman had quietly assumed throughout his speech that which it was impossible to prove, namely, that the Bill was in strict conformity with the existing law of England, and only put into a different shape the manner in which the remedy was obtained. It was clear, however, that the passing every year of these private Acts of Parliament were practical protests against changes in the law, and were proofs that the principle assumed by the hon. and learned Gentleman was unknown to our law. Then, again, the hon. and learned Gentleman should remember that divorces thus obtained were as one to 100,000 of the marriages which actually took place, and he would ask whether they were really appreciable, and whether they in any degree inoculated society throughout England? He (Sir W. Heathcote), therefore, could regard the decisions of the House of Lords with regard to those Acts as having the same weight with decisions in our Courts of Justice, which affected us in some way almost every day of our existence. The hon. and learned Gentleman attempted to establish two principles which were entirely contradictory and destructive of each other. At one time he treated the marriage bond as generally dissoluble, subject only to the regulations and restrictions of human legislation; and at another time he treated it as indissoluble, subject to certain exceptions imposed, not by human legislation, but by an authority ab extrâ—that of Holy Scripture. If they were to refer to merely human authority and to recognize what he understood had been laid down by the hon. and learned Attorney General in several parts of his speech, namely, that it was competent for them to allow a dissolution of marriage under any regulations which they might think fit to impose, he should like to know what chance there was of this entirely singular adaptation of that principle being made permanent in this country. There was no country in which the regulations contained in this Bill had yet been adopted, and he could see no possibility, if they were adopted in this country, of our stopping short of that state of things which was to be found in Prussia, in which the grounds of divorce were so numerous, or he should rather say on such a subject, so innumerable; indeed the only consistent conclusion of such a course of legislation was to declare that even the mutual consent of the parties was sufficient to dissolve a marriage. The hon. and learned Attorney General attempted to sustain his Bill by the interpretation he put upon a certain passage of Scripture. He would not dispute with him the justice of that interpretation. He understood him to assert that that passage, properly translated, declared that a man was prohibited from divorce except in one case—namely that of the adultery of his wife, and that in that case he was not prohibited from either putting her away or marrying again; and further, that that liberty being given to him by Scripture, it would be tyranny and oppression in human law to deprive him of it. That was the basis on which the hon. and learned Attorney General proposed to legislate with respect to a man putting away his wife; but then what was his enactment with respect to the woman? He had failed to sustain his Bill in that respect by any reference to Scriptural authority. The woman was not mentioned at all, except in that part of the Scripture which contained prohibitions against marrying her. But it might be that as the duties between the two sexes were reciprocal, the words in the Bible which referred to the one were according to the usual practice to be held to apply to the other. He was not disposed to quarrel with the two sexes being, with respect to this matter, placed on an equal footing, for that he thought would only be just. He saw no reason why the Bill, if it should become law, should not apply to both sexes; but if it was intended that the words which referred to the man should apply to the woman, why was there not a distinct declaration to that effect? They must take the words of Scripture in one sense or in the other; they must either adopt the words in their naked literal terms, when there would be no reference to the woman, or, arguing from analogy, they must extend the exception so as to include the man. Although he had, for the sake of argument, declined to enter into a contest with the hon. and learned Gentleman as to the interpretation of the authority to which he had referred, yet he was by no means disposed to admit it. He was not going to expose himself to the censure which he had thrown upon those who went into a minute and critical examination of the meaning of Greek words in that House. He was not prepared to admit the results at which the hon. and learned Gentleman had arrived with regard to the passage which he had interpreted. Let it be remembered that we had four independent writers on this subject, and that for a considerable period they wore not embodied as we now had them in a book. During that period it was impossible to cheek the expressions of one of the writers by those of another, because their writings were not bound up together. They were circulated thus separately throughout all countries, and for a long time stood on their own basis. Three of those writers laid down these prohibitions which the hon. and learned Gentleman sought to invade. They laid them down with the greatest precision and without the smallest qualification. Two of them wrote at a period later than that, at which he wrote, on whose expression the hon. and learned Gentleman relied. And yet not one of them had thought it expedient to transfer to his pages the expression which was so much relied on. Did not that amount to a demonstration that, in his opinion, when he took that part of the passage, without importing into it this so-called exception, it was not in his eyes an exception which varied the meaning of the passage? There was not a word about remarriage in the passage to which the hon. and learned Gentleman had referred. If, as the hon. and learned Gentleman had said, no sane man could possibly understand the passage on which he relied in any other way than he had interpreted it, he ought to explain to the House how it arose that for the first 300 years o the Christian era there never was the smallest doubt or hesitation in the whole Christian world in giving an interpretation of it opposite to that which the House was now told to accept. If there ever was a time at which doubt or difficulty might have occurred with respect to the meaning of the passage in which it was said there was an exception, it must have occurred during that early period of Christianity. If that so-called exception had the tendency which the hon. and learned Gentlemen sought to attach to it—namely, that of allowing divorced person to marry again—it would have occurred to the Christians of that more than to those of any subsequent period, that such was the interpretation to be put upon it. But such an interpretation was never suggested till after the Christian Church had entered into those intimate relations with the corrupt Roman empire which introduced Pagan laxity. After time, however, the Church righted itself entirely, and so had continued from that day to this without any doubt upon the subject; and, notwithstanding what had been said that night, he maintained that both the law and the Church of England had ever, up to that very day, reprobated the course which would be sanctioned by the Bill. The hon. and learned Gentleman had referred to the opinions of the Roman Catholics on the subject, and said that the House ought not to listen to them, because they held that marriage was a sacrament; but the connection between the premises and the conclusion of his argument were impalpable to his (Sir W. Heathcote's) apprehension. The Roman Catholic Church also held baptism to be a sacrament; but no one ever doubted that it also believed that baptized persons might be cut off from membership with the Church by excommunication. Again, the Eastern Church held marriage to be a sacrament, but it believed also that marriage was dissoluble. The hon. and learned Gentleman had referred to the Reformatio Legum as an authority, but he had failed to show that those first English reformers, who were its authors, would have supported the enactments in this Bill. The Reformatio Legum took quite a different view of each part of this subject. It contained many more causes for divorce than were to be found in this Bill. It proposed to put the woman on an entire equality with the man, and to subject both to very severe punishments. But more than that, the Reformatio Legum merely embodied the suggestions of a Commission, which never became law. He did not know whether any inference was to be drawn from the production of a document which did not become law, except this—that those who had it under their consideration at the time that it was drawn up disapproved of it, and were not disposed to carry it into effect. The hon. and learned Gentleman had referred to the petition of a large portion of the clergymen of the Church of England in a manner which surprised him (Sir W. Heathcote). If the Bill passed into law, persons would be as freed from the marriage bond, as if it had been dissolved by death, and they would be entitled to call upon any clergyman of the Church of England under pains and penalties, to marry them according to the rites of the Church of England. Now, it was perfectly well known that the great majority of the, clergy believed that it would be their duty to refuse to give the sanction of a religious service to toe re-marriage of a divorced person, and, although the hon. and learned Gentleman knew all that, as well as that by the law marriages might be performed at a registrar's office, he had not inserted any protecting ennactment in the Bill to save those clergymen from the pains and penalties to which they might be subjected for refusing to marry a divorced person—and, in fact, regarded the absence of such enactment as an important and essential part of this Bill. Accepting the hon. and learned Gentleman's admission, surely the inference to be drawn from the fact that this oppression was an essential element of the Bill was, that they ought to reject the whole measure. The more they looked at the provisions of the Bill, the more they would find objections multiply to every part of it. Not only was it too late in the Session to legislate at all on such a question, but a satisfactory result was hopeless in regard to this particular Bill itself, and, therefore, it was a case to be dealt with on the second reading, and not in Committee. It was impossible that this measure could lead to a permanent settlement of the law of marriage, either in respect of the court which it proposed to institute, or in respect of the limits which it prescribed for divorce. Once fairly embarked in its dangerous course, we must advance step by step until we found ourselves in the deplorable position in which the Prussians stood at this moment—a position from which the best men were now recoiling with horror, and in which they were vainly endeavouring to obtain the alteration of a law that reduced marriage to the level of the most ordinary contract, capable of being put an end to without difficulty by the consent of the parties. Neither would it be possible for the tribunal which the Bill would set up to maintain its ground. They professed to give the right of divorce to all the world; and undoubtedly, if the principle were a sound one, it ought to be extended equally to all classes of the community. Indeed, it might be plausibly argued that, if divorces were to be granted at all, the poor ought to have greater fact-lilies for obtaining them than the rich. But he contended that they would be running counter to all right principle in sanctioning the arrangements now contemplated. It was said that the new court would be a dignified tribunal that would deal with these grave questions of marriage with all the solemnity which befitted them. But, the proposed innovation once adopted, he did not see how they could stop short until they had brought this novel jurisdiction down to the County Courts. In his opinion, the introduction of this measure indicated no ordinary crisis in our national affairs. The predominance of parties, the rise and fall of Ministries, or even the constitution of our Government itself, sank into insignificance when compared with the portentous changes now in contemplation. The sanctity of the family home, the purity of woman, and her equal position in the social scale, were now at stake. Moreover, these enactments, which he believed were forbidden by our religion, could only be carried into effect by a wholesale persecution of the ministers of our Church. If, therefore, there were any hon. Gentlemen who, while differing with him as to the amount of latitude which ought to be given on this subject, still thought it was not decent to drive on such a grave measure with such breathless haste, and that the House should be allowed to approach the consideration of this question after some intervals of repose, and when they could bring to the task an undivided attention and an unbroken energy, he confidently appealed to them to support the Amendment which he was about to move. By the adoption of that Amendment they would at least have time to look around them before committing themselves to a step which, once taken, it would be impossible to retrace. At the very moment in which they were carrying on this discussion the flume had burst forth, and the plague begun to show itself. He was not speaking vaguely or without information. He knew that at this very time a body of dissolute and depraved men were already exulting over the licence which they expected to receive at the hands of the Legislature; and, although he was far from accusing the advocates of this Bill of any intention to gratify the vicious inclinations of such persons, he yet believed that these men rightly construed the tendency and effect of a measure like the present. With these convictions he had no hesitation in making the Motion which he had undertaken to submit to the House, and he therefore begged to propose that the Bill be read a second time that day three months.


seconded the Amendment.

Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now" and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day three months:"

Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."


said:—I so far agree with my hon. Friend who has just sat down, that I think there is one consolatory phase to this subject. It is that we can approach it without reference to any party feelings—that it is a question which equally interests every class and every denomination, and which is exclusively social and domestic in its bearings and relations. But this Bill seems to me to do badly, or rather not at all, what it professes to do, and attempts to do what it cannot and has no right to do. In the first place, it pretends to give relief to the poorer classes. It is said that divorcé under the present system is a luxury attainable only by the rich; and therefore, to relieve the poor, the Bill goes on to provide you with another Court of Chancery. I have yet to learn how one Court of Chancery will be very much cheaper than another; and I am not to be led away by the name which your new tribunal is to assume. In the next place, I do not see a provision for that upon which I hope we shall take care to insist—I mean a perfect equality between the man and the woman in this matter. No, you are to continue the same tyranny of the male over the helpless female which now exists. There is no mitigation for the weaker and more dependent sex in this piece of legislation. With your permission, Sir, I would draw attention to what the hon. and learned Attorney General called "the historical deduction of marriage." But the hon. and learned Gentleman's historical deduction went back no further than the time of the Reformation. Now, I humbly opine there were many men and women married in this world before the Reformation. To trace marriage from its root, we must revert to its first principle. When the hon. and learned Attorney General quoted the passage of Scripture which declares that at the beginning no divorce was contemplated, he made a very remarkable omission, I know not why, though no doubt he had his reason for it. He left out the words, "Therefore what God hath joined together man must not put asunder." That was the original idea of marriage. That is God's law, God's way of regarding this relationship. It is very true that, at the time when our Lord was upon earth, divorces and separations had become very common. There is no doubt that in this, as in every other instance, man had departed from the rule laid down by his Creator. But God does not change, although man does. I am sure that every man who has read the Old Testament will confirm what I say when I state that, from the first chapter of Genesis to the last chapter of Malachi, marriage is assumed to be indissoluble. The whole groundwork of the expostulations of the Prophets to the rebellious nation rests on this foundation. The day of the choosing of the Jews to be a separate people from the rest of mankind is called "the day of their espousals." When the first of the Prophets expostulates with the favoured nation, for having totally abandoned the worship of the true God, he says, "Where is the bill of your mother's divorcement, whom I have put away?" Going on through the whole line of the Prophets, the same principle is continually recurring; and when you come to the last, it is said again— Only return unto me, and you shall be again as the one betrothed in your youth, for I hate putting away; and I will be a husband to you again. I say that you cannot understand the exhortations of the Prophets, from one end of their writings to the other, unless you bear that argument in mind. I now come to the period of the introduction of Christianity. I am aware that you view with distrust the notion of tradition, and I think you are right, because you know what monstrous things have been built on that very precarious foundation. Nevertheless, wise men can separate the precious from the vile in everything, and tradition is in ecclesiastical what the common law is in civil matters. It is from that lex non scripta that you learn the real habits, practices, and sentiments of a people long before they were ever embodied in their statute law. Christianity was first established in the East, and the Greek Church is the only church recognized in the Scriptures. It was addressed in Scripture in Greek. The Greek Church held, from its earliest foundation, what it called seven , and it was followed by the Roman Church, which, separating from the Greek Church, called these , sacramenta, I am not going to enter into any theological or metaphysical discussion as to what these or sacramenta, were. I am content to take the very lowest explanation, which will be sufficient for my argument; but I may observe that two Greek fathers, defining the word in their writings, give the precise definition of a sacrament which is found in the Catechism—an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual reality. Now, I take it, that whoever incurs one of these has an indelible characteristic conferred upon him. Take the case of baptism. A baptized man may, very possibly, in after life, be rather alarmed at the great responsibility which that rite involves, and may be tempted to say, "I wish I were a Jew or infidel; I wish I had not incurred this responsibility;" but he must be judged as a baptized man. Again, take the case of orders. I knew a clergyman who in after life became very rich. He wrote to his Bishop and said, "I don't mean to be a clergyman any longer; I am not a clergyman; I mean to be called 'squire.'" The answer was, "You cannot reverse your consecration; as a priest you must stand or fall." The same is the case with regard to the subject of marriage. You cannot be judged as a bachelor, having once been married. You are judged and are responsible for the care of her to whom you have been united. Remembering these difficulties, the disciples said to our Lord, "If such be the case, it is better not to marry." He replied, "I grant there are many persons to whom this is not applicable, but if you choose to incur the responsibility, you cannot shake it off." When our Lord was asked how often a man should forgive his offending brother, He replied, "Till seventy times seven;" and is an offending wife the only person who is never to be forgiven? When our Lord saw the woman taken in adultery what did He say? "Go; I do not condemn thee; go, and sin no more." Remember that the oath taken in marriage is the most solemn that can be taken, except in the consecration of a Sovereign or in the ordination of a priest. It is taken at the altar, as scarcely any other oath is. Do you think, after taking such an oath, whereby you swear to protect a woman until death does you part, that you can qualify that oath by saying, "until the House of Lords shall us part," or "until an Act of Parliament shall us part?" I object to the language of the clergy on this point, that they must obey an Act of Parliament, even though it were against their consciences. Are their consciences so easy that if you put a clause into an Act of Parliament they will do what their consciences tell them is wrong? If so, give them no redress whatever. We have heard reasons urged against pardoning a woman who has committed adultery; but in the good old times that was not the feeling. You have on the statute book at present a remarkable Act of the 13th of Edward I., from which I will read a few lines. [The hon. Gentleman read an extract from the statute, to the effect that if a wife willingly left her husband, and went away, and continued with her lover, she should be barred of action to demand her dower; but that if her husband willingly, and without coercion of the Church, was reconciled to her and suffered her to dwell with him, in such case she should be restored to her action.] Here is a view you have never contemplated; and the evil of the Bill before us is, that you are going to establish as a normal condition of the land what has hitherto been effected only by exceptional legislation, procured at times—and I speak in the presence of those who know the truth of what I say—by wealth, and power, and rank, when the same remedy would have been refused to poorer men. How came such a state of things to exist? As many other evils have arisen—from the avarice of the priests. When they were asked whether marriages could not be set aside, they invented the doctrine of dispensations, and so you have incestuous marriages all over Europe. I have shown you that marriage is a sacrament, not by virtue of the Christian Church, but because it was prior to the existence of that Church. No ceremony for marriage existed until the time of Charlemagne, who, in 780, ordained that no marriage should be valid in the empire unless it was performed in the presence of a priest; and there was no marriage service in the Christian Church until the days of Hildebrand, 300 years subsequently. It is remarkable how in all times—by the Hebrews, the Latins, and the Greeks—the same form was kept up. The man went to the house of the woman, and demanded her in marriage. He took her away. Hence he was said ducere uxorem; whereas she was said nubere, and was described as nupta—a term never applied to the man; and to this day there is in the Catholic Church a ceremony termed the nuptial benediction—that is, the bestowal of a blessing upon a thing already existing. The abuses of the clergy with regard to this matter at length became so great that they could no longer be borne. The kings rose, the nobles rose, the people rose. The priests' party murdered all who opposed them in Spain and Italy, but in France, in Germany, and in this country the Remonstrants succeeded; and what did they do? No sooner had they put down the usurpation of the priests than they themselves usurped that ecclesiastical authority which the priests had exercised, and then came in what yon call your Protestant doctrine of divorce. Yes, it is a Protestant doctrine ! Do you think that by an Act of Parliament you can do what you like? Every one, in the insolence of absolute authority, has thought he could do so. That creature at Rome who thinks himself infallible, declared that the earth does not move round the sun, [Mr. BOWYER: No, no!] Well, if the hon. Gentleman will only read the preface to the Jesuits' Newton, and see how the editors apologised to the Pope for the doctrines of the "Principia," he will find reason to retract his denial. Why, it is notorious. There was another great authority—a popular assembly—which, when the people had their way, decreed that death was eternal sleep; but, nevertheless, in spite of that decree, every man will rise again and receive in the body for the things done in the body, whether they be good or evil. You may, in your pride, decree the dissolution of marriage, but woe to those who put confidence in your decision and reject the universal testimony of Scripture from the first chapter in Genesis down to the last in Revelations.


said, he heartily concurred in almost all that had been said upon the scriptural aspect of this question by the hon. Member who had just spoken, and regretted that at the present period of the Session the question could not receive the consideration which its vast importance demanded—an importance far exceeding, indeed, that which attached to any mere material amelioration of the comforts of the people. The three chief grounds upon which the opposition to this Bill might be based were those derived from authority, reason, and experience. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General had made some remarks upon the uniform practice of the Legislature in case of divorce which were calculated to mislead the House, for there were a few omissions in his historical sketch which he was anxious to point out. The Attorney General had referred to the Reformatio Legum as evidence of the opinion of the reformers, but he agreed with the hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford that this authority went for nothing. This book was compiled in the reign of Edward the VI., but the opinions it contained were deliberately rejected in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, and not without investigation. The Attorney General said that the divorce a vinculo was tolerated in Queen Elizabeth's time, but no single case of divorce a vinculo occurred during that reign. So that if the House wished to obtain the opinions of the reformers, he would rather appeal to those of Queen Elizabeth's time, when religious opinions had been sifted and consolidated, than to the reformers of Edward VI.'s reign, when opinions were agitated and fluctuating on account of the new doctrines imported from Geneva, and when it was impossible to contemplate questions by the calm light of reason and experience. The hon. and learned Gentleman had also quoted certain questions put to eminent authorities in the case of Lord Northampton, but he did not give the answer to another question, which was, whether divorces a mensâ et thoro—equivalent to a judicial separation—were to be allowed. The answer was, that judicial separations were in no case to be allowed. He believed that divorces a vinculo never were permitted by the Church of England, except for nullity of marriage, and by one of the canons it was ordered that all parties suing for a divorce a mensâ et thoro should give bond in a heavy sum, in case they should set at nought the decision of the spiritual court and contract a second marriage in defiance of that decree. The uniform testimony of the Church of England down to the reign of Charles II. was against the dissolubility of marriage. The Attorney General had restricted his citation of authorities to the last two centuries; but he appealed from the practice of two centuries to that of eighteen centuries. If the authorities of the two centuries was worth anything, he ventured to think that the practice of eighteen centuries was worth more. He could not avoid saying a word upon the text of St. Matthew upon which so much stress had been laid. Our Lord said, "Whosoever shall put away his wife, except for fornication, committeth adultery;" and it was argued that this verse contained no prohibition against a man marrying a second time. But it should be remembered that polygamy was not forbidden among the Jews, and it was impossible to forbid the man to take a second wife, since there was no obstacle to his having more than one wife. Important testimony had been borne against the dissolubility of marriage by Chancellor Kent, the learned commentator upon the laws of the United States. He said it was doubtful whether divorce upon the ground of adultery would not lead to fraud and corruption, and that he had had to deal with many cases where there was reason to believe the sin of adultery had been committed by the husband in order to obtain a divorce. Experience had taught that increased facilities of divorce only increased the tendency to divorce, and the House would do well not to break hastily, in a few weeks, the most precious link in the chain of social order that bound society together. It was not only in America that there had been a reaction against facilities for divorce. In France, in 1789, the revolutionary authorities abolished the old law of France relative to marriage. The result was so dangerous to public morals that in 1803 a check was placed upon the facility of divorce, and in 1816 the Legislative Assembly without a dissentient voice again affirmed the indissolubility of the marriage tie. He thought that this example of a nation retracing its steps was alone sufficient to induce the House to refrain from tampering with the very foundation of civil society. He would not further allude to the case of Prussia, except to say that if the House weakened the sacredness of the marriage tie by admitting its dissolubility in cases of adultery, they could not stop there, but must allow divorce for the most trivial causes. That was the case in Prussia, and if the same assertion could not be made of America it was because the facility of divorce had not prevailed there long enough to develope its natural tendency. He implored the House to pause before entering upon so fatal a line of conduct, and to remember the words of Burke, who said:—"The Christian religion by rendering the relation of marriage indissoluble has done more towards the peace, happiness, settlement, and civilization of the world than by any other part in the whole scheme of Divine wisdom." If the authority of Burke and the example of Prussia, America, and France had any weight, they ought to warn the House against entering upon a course which had produced the very worst results wherever it had been carried out. He did not deny that certain portions of the marriage law fell with undue harshness upon certain classes of society, but he confidently asserted that no case had been made out for this Bill. Laws were made for the general good, and before the House gave its sanction to the proposed legislation on so extremely delicate and important a subject as this it should be well assured that the change now in contemplation would be productive of advantage to society rather than of harm. At all events delay, by which the law would be allowed for a time to remain as it was, could work no great injustice, except to very few indeed of their fellow-creatures; but if they acted with undue precipitation in this matter, the time would come when they would rue having been tempted to lay hasty hands on that most venerable institution of marriage.


said, he heartily coincided, and he thought every hon. Gentleman present must also have coincided, with the observations with which the hon. Member for West Surrey (Mr. Drummond) had prefaced his speech, in which he expressed his great satisfaction that this sacred and solemn subject, with which the interests of every man, woman, and child in the country might be said to be inseparably connected, was entirely removed out of the atmosphere of party feeling. He would say at once that there were two features in the Bill which he could not support when it went into Committee, unless, indeed, he should hear stronger arguments used in their favour than any that had yet been adduced. The first was the obligation laid upon clergymen, after a divorce, to marry the guilty parties should they present themselves for marriage, which obligation, under colour of this Bill, would have the force of law. He thought when some 6,000 or 7,000 clergymen had signed a declaration that it would be a violation of their consciences to have to pronounce the benediction of the Church on parties so situated, it was no answer to them to say that for 200 years past there had been annually one, two, three, or four privilegia passed by Parliament, or that because a great body of the clergy had not in times past appealed against those privilegia, therefore when an alteration of the law was proposed, under which they might reasonably calculate that, instead of one, two, or three, there might be 200 or 300 cases of divorce every year, the clergy were not to be heard when they came in such numbers to state their conscientious objection to the obligation sought to be imposed on them. Let the House bear in mind that on this occasion they were discussing a question which in many of its bearings must be considered a great ecclesiastical question, without the possibility of referring to the Houses of Convocation for the opinion of the clergy upon it, and it was hard to say to them, "We have altered our minds with regard to the law of marriage and you must now alter yours." No doubt inconveniences might arise from the exercise of that conscientious objection on the part of the clergy, but considering that their objection applied not to the innocent, but only to the guilty parties, and that we had already in this country a secular form of marriage provided by which those guilty parties could be married after a divorce, there was no sufficient reason for placing so irksome a burden on the necks of the clergy. Some might think this a small matter, but it was a much smaller matter on which the disruption of the Church of Scotland proceeded. The other point to which he objected was the clause which provided that on a sentence of divorce being pronounced the Judge should have no power to punish the adulterer, except by a fine. If they reduced that to practice, the result would be that what would be a fine to the rich would be imprisonment to the poor. The intention of the Bill being to afford greater facilities for divorce than existed before, the House must calculate on a greater number of applications for divorce than were made before, and he thought it was of the greatest importance that they should impose upon the crime of adultery such a punishment as would make it discreditable in the eyes of society. Coining then to the general question and to the great principle involved in the Bill—namely, the dissolubility or the indissolubility of marriage, he was prepared to give his hearty support to the Bill, and should therefore vote for the second reading. He could not, however, quite agree with the view taken by the hon. and learned Attorney General, in which he attempted to represent the existing system of laws in this country as a system of which the Ecclesiastical Courts were one part and the Parliamentary jurisdiction another. It appeared to him (Mr. Puller) that the fair and honest view of the matter was that we had got two contradictory systems running side by side and co-existing with one another. They had adopted one system drawn from the old Roman Catholic Church, by which a divorce a mensâ et thoro was allowed; and another system which was the offspring of the Reformation, and which he believed, was more consistent with the teaching of the apostles. The latter system was, however, improperly carried out by the privilegia every year. Well, let them now consider what would be the consequences of this Act if passed into law. It was said, upon the one hand, that the operation of the Bill under discussion would be beneficial; while it was, upon the other hand, contended that the contrary would be the case. Now, he should give no decided opinion as to what must be the necessary result of its passing into a law, but it appeared to him to possess the great merit of being framed with a view to remove the important questions of marriage and divorce from the uncertain basis of tradition upon the one side and the fleeting current of popular opinion upon the other to place it upon the fixed and safe foundation of Scriptural authority. The hon. Member for West Surrey (Mr. Drummond) had very fairly referred to the text of Scripture which said that a man should leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife, and the comment upon it to the effect that those whom God had joined together man should not put asunder; but he did not think that the hon. Gentleman had been happy in his exposition of that text. The question was, whether the act of adultery did not altogether do away with the state of things which was contemplated by that Scriptural law; whether, after the commission of that act, it could of the husband and wife justly be observed "they twain are one flesh," whether they had not in reality been already "put asunder." And when they were told that a man should "cleave to his wife," he would ask did those who cited that text really mean that it was the duty of a Christian man to cleave to an adultress? Did any part of the Bible, did the ecclesiastical law of this country, as it was administered at Doctors' Commons, lay down any such rule? Did not that law, on the contrary, say to the husband whose wife had been guilty of adultery, "turn her out of doors the moment you discover her guilt; upon that condition, and upon that condition only, will we absolve you from the obligation of loving her or cherishing her, or doing anything for her besides providing her with a decent maintenance." The hon. Member for West Surrey rested his arguments upon one or two texts taken from different parts of the Old Testament and put together in a manner which could not be justified. If they looked to the law in the Mosaical books, they would certainly find it stated in the book of Leviticus that the adulterer should be put to death; but he took leave to remind the House that the law was more fully and particularly expressed in the book of Deuteronomy, where it was said that the party found in the act of adultery should be put to death. This was evidently intended to establish the actual certainty of guilt before the law should be put in force. The language of the Jews, recorded by St. John, in the ease of the woman taken in adultery was a convincing proof that the law was so understood by them. Therefore there was no room for the ingenious argument that the law for stoning adulterers excluded any law for divorce on the ground of adultery. There were many cases of adultery in which the law unquestionably gave the injured husband the remedy of divorce. Then to come to the passages in St. Matthew on which so much stress was justly laid, let all the circumstances be remembered. It was well known that there were two sects of Pharisees who came to our Lord. The one held the strict doctrine of granting a divorce for adultery only. The other held the lax doctrine that divorce should be granted in other cases as well. When, then, our Lord answered that divorce was unlawful except it be for fornication, could any of his hearers doubt, or can any one now doubt that He recognized its lawfulness in the excepted case? Whatever might be the full meaning and extent of the Mosaic permission to give a bill of divorcement, it was clear, on comparing it with a remarkable passage in Jeremiah, that it was applicable to the particular case of adultery, and that while it gave a distinct permission to the injured husband to marry again, it treated the coming together again of the divorced parties as an abomination. They were told, however, that there was an uninterrupted current of opinion on this subject from the earliest ages of the Church. He granted them that after the fourth century they might have had an uninterrupted practice of prohibiting remarriage; but it was quite impossible for any person looking into the text books not to find passages proving that in earlier times an extensive practice was allowed by the bishops of remarriage by husbands who had divorced their wives on the ground of adultery. He felt bound to admit that considerable alarm prevailed throughout the country in consequence of a feeling that the operation of the Bill before the House would be to impair the sanctity of the marriage vow. He, however, did not share in that alarm. In dealing with the Bill they should pay regard to the state of the existing law which it was the object of the Bill to amend. Was that law, he would ask, consistent with domestic purity, and the apostolic precepts given for the purpose of ensuring that purity? Why, under its operation a man whose wife had committed adultery, and who was not sufficiently rich to have recourse to the interference of Parliament, could obtain, only a divorce a mensâ et thoro; and though he himself might be perfectly innocent, was debarred, during the lifetime of the woman by whom he had been injured, from all the comforts of the married state. Now, that sort of compulsory celibacy was so contrary, in his opinion, to the rule laid down by St. Paul, that if the Bill had no other result than to put an end to such a system he should be rejoiced to see it pass into a law.


said, that although he had a strong objection to the principal provisions of the Bill he should not trespass upon the time of the House by going through the various clauses. Nor was he prepared to contend that even the clause relating to the dissolubility of the marriage tie formed so prominent a feature of the measure as that discussion upon it should not be reserved until such time as the Bill came under consideration in Committee—if, indeed, it ever reached Committee. There were, however, two grounds upon which he was prepared to vole for the rejection of the Bill. The one was, that it seemed to him to be pressed upon the House by the Government, without any urgent necessity for its introduction at the present late period of the Session; this being in point of fact, he believed, the first Session in which the attention of the country had been actively aroused to the investigation of the important question with respect to which Her Majesty's Ministers now called upon Parliament to legislate; a question which awakened the liveliest emotion in every domestic circle, which was intimately connected with the moral well-being of the community, and which was calculated to influence more than almost any other the characters and prospects of the rising generation. It was therefore a subject upon which time should be afforded to the people of the country to express their opinions; and so far as those opinions have yet been indicated it was, impossible to say that they were in favour of the measure before the House. There was no reason, then, why that measure should be hurried through Parliament—unless, indeed, that which was to be found in the Government being anxious to point to its enactment as one of the fruits of the Session. Everybody must feel, considering the period when Parliament assembled, and considering the vast amount of business which had to be got through, that no discredit would be reflected upon the Government if this measure was not disposed of during the present Session. Everybody too was aware that next week a great number of hon. Members would be absent, and if the Bill were persisted in the details would be discussed in Committee with very few Members present. He should feel bound, therefore, for the reasons which had induced him on a previous occasion to vote for postponing the consideration, to again record a similar vote. There was another point, which referred to the Bill as a whole, which was worthy of consideration. The Bill by its title claimed to be a measure to deal with the law of divorce in England. Now, if there was any one subject on which legislation should be imperial, that subject was the law of divorce. It was the fashion to talk of the advantages of imperial legislation, and yet upon a subject regarding which it was of the highest importance that the law should be uniform—namely, the law of divorce, the first time the House of Commons was called upon to deal with that subject it was proposed to legislate for England alone. At present there was no proposal before the House to deal with the law of divorce in Ireland, nor did he gather from the Government that it was their intention to introduce one for that purpose. The position of society as regarded this question was very different in Ireland from what it was in England, because in Ireland the proportion of Roman Catholics was large and the feeling which existed in that country against the dissolubility of the marriage tie was most strong, and he wanted to know if marriage was to be made dissoluble in England, was not the same principle to be applied to Ireland? Then, again, with regard to Scotland, in that country marriage might be dissolved not only by reason of adultery, but for other reasons, such as abandonment by the husband. Now was the House prepared to go that length? If the subject of divorce were dealt with at all it ought to be dealt with wholly and entirely, and upon principles applicable to the three provinces which formed the empire, so as to establish for the empire one uniform law. He thought that in that respect the Bill was ill-conceived, and believing, as he did, without reference to any of the particular clauses which it contained, that the principle of which he complained could not be by any possibility amended in Committee, he should vote against the second reading of the Bill.


said, that the present Bill proposed to afford a cheap and expeditious mode of procuring a dissolution of the marriage tie, and he should like to make a few observations upon the subject, as he understood it was proposed to extend its provisions to Ireland. Now, in the first place, as far as England was concerned, there did not appear to him to be any very urgent call for any important change with regard to the law of marriage and divorce. There did not appear to be any great call for the alteration now meditated, although some particular proceedings under the existing law affecting marriage might be in the highest degree objectionable. When the Attorney General spoke of the law of marriage in this country as being a scandal in the eyes of Europe, he doubtless referred only to the particular action for damages for criminal conversation, which was, he admitted, a great discredit to our jurisprudence; but, because that particular action was a scandal, did it appear that in order to remove it it was necessary to undermine and sap the very constitution of the law of marriage? The subject was so closely connected with religious topics that, it was almost impossible to discuss it without reference to the Scriptures themselves. It would, he allowed, be objectionable to take as a guide for present legislation the strict words of any law which was laid down in Scripture with reference to marriage, or to any other obligation, but at the same time, as the representatives of a Christian people, that House was bound to legislate upon the spirit of the Christian religion. There was another institution which we observed not in accordance with the strict letter, but with the spirit of the injunction, to keep holy the Sabbath day; but no one would ever think of introducing a measure to compel the strict observance of the Jewish law with regard to that ordinance. As regarded the principle of the present Bill, he did not think that the dissolubility of marriage was in accordance with the spirit of the Scriptures, and he certainly objected to making a divorce any easier to be obtained than it bad hitherto been. In his opinion there were two questions which the House in discussing this subject ought to consider—whether the facility of divorce ought to be increased, or whether divorce ought not to be abolished altogether. For himself, he could only say that he would vastly prefer giving his support to a measure to render all divorces illegal, than to accord his sanction to a Bill such as that before the House. He fully believed that to facilitate obtaining divorce was calculated to produce enormous evils, and he could quote great authorities to the same effect. In the year 1798, in the House of Lords, the then Lord Chancellor (Lord Loughborough) brought forward a new Standing Order to render more stringent the power of granting divorce. Upon that occasion Lord Loughborough complained that Divorce Bills were passed as matters of course, and expatiated upon the laxity of manners and morals which had of late years gained ground in the higher ranks of society, and suggested that it was owing to the very facility of obtaining divorces, and of the adulterers being married as soon as a divorce had been obtained. In the same debate the Bishop of Durham said, that at the root and bottom of most divorce eases was collusion between the parties, and that if they took away the facility of obtaining divorces they would improve the morals of the people. This took place only four years after the revolution in France, when by a decree of the Convention marriage was declared altogether abolished. It was at a time when France revelled in infidelity, when gross recklessness of morals prevailed in that country, and all regard for religious ceremonies was set at nought. It was not to be wondered at that, with the infection spreading and divorces portentously increasing, the House of Lords took steps to make the law more stringent. It was because he believed that by affording any increased facilities for divorce they increased the desire to obtain divorce that he chiefly objected to this Bill. He could proudly refer to Ireland, where the greater proportion of the people were Roman Catholics and the celebration of marriage was considered as a sacrament. They never heard of any outcry in Ireland against the indissolubility of marriage. They never heard of internal quarrels in families, of their suffering under a worse than Egyptian bondage, of cases in police offices of wives and husbands quarrelling. The people were convinced that, once married, it was utterly impossible they could ever be divorced, and to that cause was attributable the happiness of Irish homes. When the Irish peasant girl came to the altar to pledge her troth to her husband she dismissed from her mind the reflection of the possibility of their ever being disunited, the same as when a novice, exchanging the white for the black veil, completely put aside all thoughts of returning to the busy and pleasure-loving world. If they increased the facilities of divorce they would have, in the course of time, an enormous number of increased divorces. If they once passed this law they could never go back, but must continue in the same course, however terrible the evils which would flow from it. If it wore once found that marriage could be dissolved with ease, numbers of persons would enter into the state of matrimony with the detestable intention of committing a crime for the purpose of dissolving it. He called upon the House to pause before they passed a Bill which was exceedingly likely to prove disastrous to the country.


said, this Bill came before the House with the pretence of justice and fair play. It was pretended that it was a poor man's Bill. No doubt it would be conceded that if divorce wore lawful according to the principles of religion, and not prejudicial to the interests of society, it ought to be equally open to poor and rich. But if this were a poor man's Bill, it was rather remarkable that petitions signed by as many as 90,000 persons should be presented against the Bill, and none in favour of it. There were petitions from Roman Catholics and from Protestants of all denominations in condemnation, and a declaration of 6,000 clergymen against the measure; but he had never heard of any petition in its favour. He believed it would not turn out to be a poor man's Bill. The right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Henley), with characteristic acuteness, had pointed out that while it pretended to give a cheaper administration of justice, it abolished a number of local courts which brought justice to the doors of persons who resided at a distance from the metropolis, and sent them to a court which would be practically inaccessible to poor men. The machinery of the Bill was exceedingly ponderous. It seemed a strange thing that, whereas a single Judge could bang a man, it took two Chief Justices and a Judge in ordinary to grant him a divorce from his wife. He doubted whether, having regard to the machinery of the Bill, it would provide a cheap remedy. But, supposing that it did, there was a preliminary question to be decided, whether the divine law allowed of any divorce a vinculo—whether the divine law allowed the bond of marriage to be so broken that the parties might marry other persons. The question had been debated in another place. They had the bishops of the Established Church divided upon the subject. Four of them declared against divorce a vinculo. One of the ablest pronounced a speech which had been unanswered and was unanswerable. A large body of the English clergy declared that divorce a vinculo was contrary to the Christian religion. As he had said once before, they were treating their Church very badly. He did not belong to their Church, but he must say that those who were members of it acted very inconsistently if they did not give the teachers of their Church more time to consider this great question. It was a theological question, and yet they were asked to deal with it as if it were mere ordinary legislation based upon temporal principles. This was not a winding-up Act. It was not a Bill for establishing partnerships with limited liability. It was not a Bill for rendering more speedy and easy the dissolution of partnerships. It was a Bill involving the very foundation of society and the fundamental principles of the divine law. That was the question which the House had to decide, and a very deep and solemn responsibility rested upon them in its decision. It ought to be fully discussed and patiently considered, and every argument that could be adduced ought to be carefully weighed. He should not say much upon the effect on society of facilitating divorces, but he would refer to a pamphlet containing a report of the speech of a person holding high judicial office in Prussia, pronounced in the chamber, and giving an account of the awful consequences of facilitating divorce in that country. That gentleman gave instances of people who had exchanged wives, and of an agreement by which a wife had been sold, a rich single man guaranteeing a large sum to the husband upon the understanding that a divorce should be obtained, and that he should marry the married woman. He might be told that in Prussia divorces a vinculo were allowed for more causes than were contemplated by this Bill. That was true, but if they facilitated divorce for adultery to the extent proposed by this measure, it would soon be urged that such divorce ought to be granted even in cases where adultery had not been committed. If they once broke in upon the salutary principle alike of the common and of the ecclesiastical law of England they would not know where to stop. They would give rise to an universal immorality. Lord Stowell, in the case of "Evans v. Evans," which was a case of divorce for incompatibility of temper, not a divorce a vinculo, but only a mensâ et thoro, said that these latter divorces were granted only in extreme cases, and that the necessity of persons remaining husbands and wives obliged them to be more or less good husbands and wives. Persons knowing that they could not be separated performed their matrimonial duties better than they would do if they thought they could get rid of the obligations of the state of matrimony. These reasons went nearly the whole length of saying that marriage ought not to be dissolved at all. The hon. and learned Gentleman, the Attorney General, said, that for the last 150 years divorces a vinculo had been allowed, and that this Bill only provided a cheap and easy mode of obtaining them in the place of an expensive and inconvenient one. Let the House take a plain, common sense view of the matter, and they would see that there was no soundness in this argument. It was true that privilegia were in particular cases passed to separate man and wife but the very fact of these being passed proved that the common law prohibited divorces. These divorce Acts did not alter the jurisprudence of the country, and were not incorporated into it. What the House was now asked to do was, to remove a landmark of the law, to alter the jurisprudence of the country, and to introduce into it the new doctrine that the judicial power could dissolve marriage, and enable persons to marry again. Among Roman Catholics there was no doubt as to the indissolubility of marriage. His hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General had read one of the dogmatic decrees of the Council of Trent, which some hon. Members who did not distinctly hear it, or were not ready with their Latin, might have thought declared marriage to be dissoluble, and anathematized those who said it was indissoluble. As, however, that was not the case, he did not know why his hon. and learned Friend had read it. He was quite willing to be bound by decrees of the Council of Trent, but as he was addressing an assembly consisting chiefly of Protestants, he would appeal to no authority but one which was equally sacred to both Protestants and Catholics. He would base his arguments upon the words of sacred Scripture, and would show from them that marriage could not be dissolved by any human authority. It might be said that that House was not a place for theological arguments; but if it undertook to decide questions which involved the Divine law it must not refuse to hear that law discussed. There were in the Scriptures four passages which bore upon this question; one in St. Mark, one in St. Luke, and two in St. Matthew. The words in St. Luke were,— Whosoever putteth away his wife and marrieth another committeth adultery; and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery. In St. Mark the passage was,— And he saith unto them, whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her. And if a woman shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery. These passages taken by themselves declared that marriage could not be dissolved at all; not even in the case of adultery was an exception allowed. They were corroborated by several statements in the epistle of St. Paul, with which he would not trouble the House, but with which hon. Members were no doubt acquainted There were two passages in St. Matthew bearing on the question, and it was con tended that those passages contained an exception to the general rule laid down by the other Evangelists. That exception it was alleged, allowed divorce in the single case of adultery. The first passage was as follows,— But I say unto you, that whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication causeth her to commit adultery; and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery. The second passage said,— And I say unto you, whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, am shall marry another, committeth adultery; and whoso marrieth her which is put away, doth commit adultery. Here was an apparent contradiction between the three Evangelists, St. Matthew, St. Mark, and St. Luke. Two forbade divorce à vinculo matrimonii absolutely, taking the text according to the ordinary meaning of language, while the third was supposed to make an exception in the particular case of adultery. Let them now see what modes had been devised for explaining this apparent contradiction. All the Evangelists were equally inspired, and, therefore, it could not be said that one was right and the others wrong. They must somehow be consistent with each other, and the question for consideration was how the alleged inconsistency could be reconciled. The first mode—that hinted at by the Attorney General—was to read the Gospels as one, and to bring into St. Mark and St. Luke the supposed exception in St. Matthew. He thought he could show that this theory was an incorrect one, and could not be received as a mode of reconciling the three apparently contradictory passages. The Gospels were not intended to be read as one document. Each of them was written by a different person, at a different time, in a different place, and for different parts of the Church, and they were collected into one volume so late as the fourth century. If the theory was correct that a different doctrine was laid down on this subject by St. Matthew, from that delivered by the other Evangelists, it must follow that what was allowed in one part of the Church was regarded as a mortal sin in another, which he held to be absurd. Still some means must be found of reconciling the apparent inconsistency between the Gospels. Now, if it could be shown that what had been thought an exception in the Gospel according to St. Matthew was no exception at all—that it never was intended to make divorce lawful in the case of adultery—then the difficulty must vanish. The question, therefore, came to be, what was the meaning of the words used by St. Matthew? He thought he could show that they did not permit a divorce for adultery nor form any exception to the general rule established by St. Mark and St. Luke. By the Jewish law prevailing at the time when and in the place where the words of the Evangelists were uttered, adultery was punishable with death. An hon. Member bad stated that there was a limitation to that law, contending that the punishment of death was inflicted only when the parties were taken in the fact; but that doctrine was contrary to the opinion of the most able and learned interpreters. Adultery being punishable with death, it was quite impossible—it was absurd—to read the words of St. Matthew as meaning that divorce a vinculo was not to be allowed except in the case of adultery, which was a capital crime. He would not enter into a criticism of words, far less would he quote Greek in that assembly; but according to Mr. Baddeley, who, in his learned and very able pamphlet, had supported his opinion on high authority, the first passage in St. Matthew meant, "I say nothing as to adultery," and the second, "setting aside adultery," implying that adultery was not and could not be a ground for divorce at all. The fact then was, that adultery was punishable by the criminal law. The one passage would run thus,— I say unto you whosoever putteth away his wife, I say nothing of the case of adultery; he who shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery. The other passage would read, I say unto you whosoever putteth away his wife—excluding the case of adultery, I say nothing of the case of adultery—and shall marry again, committeth adultery; and whosoever marrieth her that is put away committeth adultery. That construction of those passages was in accordance with the original Greek. That being so, the right interpretation of those passages was the interpretation that was in accordance with the passages in the other two Evangelists. The context of those other two passages corroborated that view of the meaning of St. Matthew. In the 19th chapter of St. Matthew the strongest expressions were used against the dissolubility of marriage. "Whom God hath joined together let no man put asunder." Then again, there was the famous declaration, "Wherefore they are no longer twain, but one flesh." The whole context was against the dissolubility of marriage. Our Lord told the Jews that Moses allowed the dissolution of marriage for the hardness of their hearts, but it was not so from the beginning. Thus they had the whole spirit of the passages themselves and of their context tending to the one result of bringing the Gospel of St. Matthew in perfect harmony with the Gospels of St. Mark and St. Luke. The question was afterwards put to our Lord, whether divorce was allowable in any case. In reply He referred to the original institution of marriage, and in the strongest terms said, "Whom God has joined together let no mail put asunder." Supposing that the exception applied to cases where the guilty parties were liable to be put to death, it would be an absurdity to say that divorces were to be allowed in such cases. The death of the man or woman offending would of itself dissolve the marriage, and thus the law which made adultery punishable with death proved that marriage could not be dissolved in any other way. He maintained, further, that the indissolubility of marriage was asserted by the law of England. The ecclesiastical law, which was part of the common law of England, had put that interpretation upon the divine law. By the constitution of this country the spiritual law was administered by spiritual courts, and that law had always been considered as part of the common law; and they found from the earliest times that the spiritual law of England had always held that marriages could not be dissolved, even in case of adultery. But, supposing even that the law, as administered by Parliament, did allow divorces a vinculo, he submitted, notwithstanding the arguments of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General, that at least there were grave doubts entertained as to its correctness. The Anglican bishops were divided upon it. About 6,000 of the Protestant clergy in substance had said marriage was indissoluble, and had represented that if they were compelled to marry divorced persons, they should feel they were committing a sin. He could not agree with the Attorney General that an Act of Parliament was an infallible guide. No doubt every one was bound to obey the law, but there were limits beyond which men should not be called upon to act in opposition to their consciences. They were told to "Render unto Cæsar the things that are Cæsar's, and unto God the things that are God's; but the command showed that there were limits beyond which Cæsar's commands ought not to go. He could not but sympathize with those clergymen who called on the House to relieve them from the performance of that which would be burdensome to their consciences. That there was a grave doubt whether this doctrine of the dissolubility of marriage was allowed by Scripture, even its advocates could not deny,—and the very existence of that doubt was a reason for the rejection of the Bill. On these grounds he would give his support to the Amendment which had been moved by the hon. Member for the University of Oxford.


said, he could not give a silent vote in the case of a Bill of such vast importance. He confessed that he felt Considerable difficulty on this subject; but it was a difficulty which arose from the legislation of the last 150 years, otherwise he should have no difficulty at all. His hon. and learned Friend had pressed this measure on the House as one of urgency, because its object was to remove what he called a blot on the law of England, and to do away with the anomaly which enabled the rich to obtain a divorce while the poor could not. That was the crying evil, the removal of which must be pressed forward in the dog-days. Now he found, from the Report of the Commissioners, that from 1715 to 1775 the number of Acts passed to dissolve marriages were 60, or one a year; that from 1775 to 1800 they amounted to 74, or about three a year; and that from 1800 to 1852 there were 110, being an average of rather more than two a year. Now, did these figures show that there was any urgency in the case? He was decidedly of opinion that the interests of society would be best promoted by regarding marriage as indissoluble from any cause whatever; but if his hon. and learned Friend's argument in favour of the Bill was good for anything, it should have shown that this was a poor man's Bill. At present the average expense of getting a divorce a mensâ et thoro was from £150 to £200, and it was of course much greater when the case went the whole length; but would his hon. and learned Friend say that the expense under his Bill would be so much less as to enable the artisan or still poorer classes to obtain divorce? They would have to go before a court equal to any of the Supreme Courts before a divorce a vinculo could be obtained; and he believed the expense would not be less than from £300 to £400. Why, then, should this Bill be urged upon them as a poor man's Bill? Then came the great question as to the expediency of the measure. Now, if there was one thing certain, it was that by the law of England marriage was indissoluble. No doubt, before the Reformation, recourse was had to a variety of fictions and devices for the purpose of carrying out the object; but then what was done was this, to declare upon some ground or other, not a divorce, but that there had been no marriage at all, and that it was void ab initio. The first Act of Parliament passed for dissolving a marriage was in 1701; but now it was to be understood, in every case where a marriage was solemnized, that that marriage might at some future day be dissolved by a court of law. He could not look on such a proposal without the greatest apprehension. This was a grave and important question raised for the first time, and he could not but regret that they were called on to decide upon it in so hasty a manner. But he objected to the Bill on the higher ground, that it was best for the interests of society that this most sacred contract, when once entered into, should last for the life of the parties. This was forcibly put by Lord Stowell, as quoted in the first Report of the Royal Commissioners:— For though, in particular cases, the repugnance of the law to dissolve the obligations of matrimonial cohabitation may operate with great severity upon individuals, yet it must be carefully remembered that the general happiness of the married life is secured by its indissolubility. When people understand that they must live together, except for a very few reasons known to the law, they learn to soften by mutual accommodation that yoke which they know they cannot shake off; they become good husbands and good wives, from the necessity of remaining husbands and wives, for necessity is a powerful master in teaching the duties which it imposes. If it were once understood that upon mutual disgust married persons might be legally separated, many couples, who now pass through the world with mutual comfort, with attention to their common offspring, and to the moral order of civil society, might at this moment have been living in a state of mutual unkindness, in a state of estrangement from their common offspring, and in a state of the most licentious and unreserved immorality. In this case, as in many others, the happiness of some individuals must be sacrificed to the greater and more general good. Was the House prepared to say that all the Divorce Bills, or half of them, which had been passed had been passed wisely, or that it would not have been better for the parties if there had been no means open to them of obtaining a divorce? How many evils, besides adultery, were there in the marriage state which no legislation could touch. He knew a gentleman—one of the most amiable men in the world—whose wife, after one or two years of marriage, without any reason whatever, ceased to live with him. No doubt this was a form of insanity, but no Act of Parliament could meet such a case. The question was, whether, taking an extended view of human society, it was not for the happiness of the greater number that marriage should be regarded as indissoluble. Suppose a woman preferred another man to her husband, if there were no possibility of divorce she would know that, by giving way to that attachment, she would condemn herself to disgrace and misery for the rest of her life. But by this Bill, and even under the present system, the prospect of divorce was open to her, and she knew that by going through a certain process she might become the wife of the man whom she preferred to her husband. Under the present system the process was tedious and expensive, and it was just because this Bill proposed to render it more easy that he objected to it. With his objections to divorce he could not bring himself, without much more consideration than time was allowed for, to support the second rending of the Bill. The Government had certainly no reason to be satisfied with the course which this debate had taken, for out of the seven hon. Members who had preceded him six had opposed the Bill, and the seventh, the hon. Member for Hertford, had only spoken of it with faint praise. Anything, therefore, more wanton on the part of the Government than their urging forward the Bill at the present period of the Session he could not imagine.


said, that however much opinions might differ as to the principle contained in this Bill—the dissolubility of marriage—there could be but one opinion as to the serious nature of the changes which it introduced. When it was urged the other evening that it was too late in the Session satisfactorily to discuss this Bill, the advocates of postponement were told that the House would be full of life and vigour for this subject, and that every provision of the Bill would be amply discussed. But what was the fact? There had been an able, ingenious, but somewhat sophistical speech from the hon. and learned Attorney General in favour of the Bill, but not one speech had since been delivered on that side. The first half of the speech of the hon. Member for Hertfordshire (Mr. Puller) was dead against the Bill, though the remaining half was certainly a vindication of what was alleged to be the one principle involved in it. The hon. and learned Attorney General based his vindication of the main principle of the Bill upon two grounds. First, he said that the human dissolubility of marriage had been received as the law of the Church and of the State ever since the Reformation; and, secondly, he said that it was rightly the law of the Church and of the State, inasmuch as it was strictly in conformity with the express declaration of Holy Writ. The hon. and learned Gentleman in his plea in support of the first of these grounds said that the Bill made no change in the law; but in the course of his speech he retrograded from that assertion, and said that it made no "material" change. He had, too, laid great emphasis upon the assertion that the Reformatio Legum Ecclesiasticorum depended upon the statute law, so that a great many hon. Members were left under the impression that it was an Act of the Legislature. [An expression of dissent from the ATTORNEY GENERAL.] He was aware that the hon. and learned Gentleman did not intend to convey that impression, because no one knew better that such was not the case; but still that was the inference from what the hon. and learned Gentleman said. So far from the hon. and learned Gentleman's statement being correct, however, the fact was that the human indissolubility of marriage had been the received law of the Church and of the State from the Reformation down to the time of Charles II., and the hon. and learned Attorney General with great wisdom had refrained from laying much stress upon the state of morals and religion which led to the first repeal by private enactment of the received law of the Church and of the State in the time of that Monarch, and he (Lord J. Manners) did not think that the House would be induced by the example of that epoch to carry, at the fag end of the Session, a measure fraught with such tremendous consequences to the domestic relations of the people of this country as the Bill under discussion. The hon. and learned Attorney General stated that it was clear that the law, as it then stood, permitted these marriages, or why, he asked, should the Ecclesiastical Courts when they granted a divorce a mensâ et thoro have exacted from the parties a bond that they would not marry again? He (Lord J. Manners) regarded that as a clear and distinct proof that in the view of the Legislature those marriages were to be prohibited, and inasmuch as in other countries there might be facilities for marrying again they exacted a bond positively to forbid such persons availing themselves of those facilities. But, probably, the most fanciful of all the arguments of the hon. and learned Gentleman was that in which he begged the House to regard the two Houses of Parliament taken together as constituting a judicial tribunal, when he said that by sanctioning private Acts of Parliament they gave to them the effect of a judicial decision from the Bench. But was it ever permitted to Judges, when a cause was brought before them to say, "We will oppose that cause," or, "we will not speak upon it; we will kick it out of our court of justice; we will take no cognizance of it?" Yet the hon. and learned Attorney General endeavoured to prove that the two Houses of Parliament passing these exceptional and abnormal Acts were strictly analogous to a court of justice. In another place, when a right rev. Prelate was taunted for not having before attempted to stop the passage of some of these exceptional Divorce Acts, he admitted that up to the present he had not taken that course, but he said that for the future he would endeavour to arrest the progress of every one of these Bills; and an hon. Gentleman in that House had given the same pledge; but if the Houses of Parliament had merely judicial functions to perform how could it be open to any Member to refuse his assent to any of these Acts? He held, then, that the argument of the Attorney General to prove that these exceptional Acts of Parliament had the force of law, was totally and entirely erroneous. At that hour of the night (twenty minutes to twelve) he should have great reluctance to enter upon the Scriptural part of the question, but he thought that the people out of doors would be against the hon. and learned Attorney General on the Scriptural argument, for no man could read the able argument of Mr. Baddeley without being convinced that the Bill came into collision with the revealed law of God. They had been told the other night that they might regard the question of principle as settled by the discussions which had taken place in the House of Lords. With great respect for that illustrious assembly, however, he said that this was pre-eminently a question affecting the people of this country. If it were true, as the promoters of the Bill stated, that it was in tended to bring home to the cottage of the poor man as well as to the palace of the rich the benefits—if such they were—of this law, then he said that it was the bounden duty of the House to see that this great question received the fullest and most deliberate discussion, and to refuse to act upon the dictum of any other assembly, however distinguished or illustrious it might be, on a matter which affected the social and domestic welfare of the people. They were told that they must bow to authority upon the subject; authority of what kind? He could understand a person saying that in the other House there sat grave and reverend ecclesiastics from whom they might well receive guidance upon the spiritual and theological bearings of the question. He was willing in those respects to yield to their authority; would the hon. and learned Attorney General say as much? This Bill had come down sanctioned by a majority of the Temporal but not of the Spiritual Peers. He had stated his deliberate opinion that this Bill violated both Scripture and the settled law of the land. If it only proposed to allow the remarriage of the innocent sufferer from conjugal infidelity it ought to be supported by the most irrefragable scriptural arguments; but when it gave to guilty persons the privilege of enjoying through life the fruits of their sin, he pronounced it as not only opposed to the best interpretations of the word of God, but as striking a blow at the foundations of all human law. If Parliament could deal thus with the seventh, why not with the eighth commandment? If a man who stole from his neighbour that compared with which all earthly possessions were poor and pitiful was allowed, upon the payment of some wretched fine, to enjoy for the remainder of his life the fruits of his sin, how could you justify the penal colony, the felon's cell, and the life-long misery and degradation which the then partial law would visit upon the far less guilty thief or forger? But, more than this: the inevitable effect of this Bill was, as it seemed to him, to smooth the path before the adulterer's feet, and to teach the disappointed wife that if she had only the bad courage to sin blindly and boldly, to violate at once the command of God and her own solemn vows, years of worldly happiness, and, if they might judge from the experience of other countries, years of worldly respectability would yet be in store for her under the same solemn sanction and with the same nuptial benediction as were at present reserved for the innocent and the pure. Was it right that a change of this vast importance should be effectuated without some reference to what was taking place every day in foreign countries, where greater laxity existed than was proposed even under this Bill? Doubtless many hon. Gentlemen were familiar with the remarkable speech of Baron Von Gerlach, which had been translated by the hon. Member for West Surrey (Mr. Drummond). In Prussia, which was constantly referred to as an example in matters of education, the number of divorces every year, out of a population of 17,000,000, amounted to upwards of 3,000, or nearly 10 a day; and in the district of Berlin, the centre of Prussian enlightenment and the department of the supreme courts, they were 57 divorces to every 100,000 inhabitants. The House had heard a most able argument from the hon. and learned Member for Dundalk (Mr. Bowyer), who spoke the united opinion of the Roman Catholics of England and Ireland on this subject. Was it true, however, that in Prussia the Roman Catholics were sheltered by the decrees of their Church from the evil influences of this all but heathenish legislation? Baron Von Gerlach cited in his speech the following instance:—" A labourer of the Roman Catholic persuasion appears, according to the statement of several of his wives, to have been six times divorced and seven times married, and to have now seven wives living." He (Lord J. Manners) feared, if this legislation were entered upon, that in process of time they should see adulterous parties anticipating, as he had said, years of happiness and "respectability." What was the case in Prussia? This was the statement of a Roman Catholic Priest, who said:— An act of adultery previously committed forms the ground, almost without exception, of those divorce cases the pleadings in which I have had the perusal of. In consequence of the divorce granted by the court of law and of a subsequent remarriage the adulterous element is successful, and, being for a time followed by no unpleasant consequences to the parties, it obtains, to my great regret, a sort of outward respectability. Cases of a second divorce, followed by a third marriage, are not uncommon. If it were true, as was alleged, that it was intended to bring this Bill home to the people generally, he should oppose it upon the ground of the inevitable effect which this loosening of the marriage tie must have upon the masses. He had heard with regret, bordering upon astonishment, the hon. and learned Attorney General's declaration that under no circumstances would the Government consent to relieve the clergy from the monstrous oppression to which this Bill proposed to subject them. The hon. and learned Gentleman said he regarded it of the essence of the Bill that the clergy should not escape from its nefarious operation. Now, let the House reflect upon the position of the clergy of the Established Church. After an expensive education indelible orders were fixed upon them. "Once a pries always a priest." A clergyman incurred at his ordination obligations the most so lemn which could be imposed on any human being, and could not change his profession and follow another more agreeable to his feelings and consonant with his tastes Now, if Parliament legislated for what Lord Hervey once rather irreverently called the burdensome profession of the law, what was the course pursued? If new duties for instance, were imposed on County Court Judges, after their appointment, Parliament was called upon for a large and liberal increase to their salaries. The same rule was rigidly adhered to in other cases,—namely, that where persons had once entered into a covenant to perform certain duties no duties should be afterwards imposed upon them of which at that time they had no knowledge. Yet not only did the Bill propose to place upon the clergy new and most onerous obligations, which they did not in the least anticipate at their ordination, but these obligations were in their eyes and to their consciences directly antagonistic to some of the most solemn of their ordination vows. The Attorney General said that these agitating clergymen must be brought to know that they, like other men, were subject to the common law. The hon. and learned Gentleman, however, ought rather from his position to be the defender of the clergy, and ought to see that men who had entered into a profession upon a certain solemn understanding should not be called upon by Act of Parliament to violate the very obligations they had undertaken to observe, and to violate at the same time the clearest dictates of their consciences. It was impossible to read the language of any of the petitions which had been presented by the clergy against this Bill without seeing that there was not the slightest ground for the taunt which had been thrown out against them, that they cared nothing for the language of Scripture or the law of God on the subject, and only wanted to be exempted from the law of the land. They distinctly stated in these petitions their belief that the Bill was opposed to the word of God and to the social and domestic happiness and welfare of the people. They had good reason to believe that their views and claims were not listened to in that House with that respect to which they thought they were entitled. They prayed that if the Bill should become law they might be exempted from all penalties for not obeying a law clearly inconsistent with the spirit and letter of the vows which they had taken and the dictates of their consciences. Their claim could not with justice be resisted. Parliament had thrice since the Reformation entered on a course of legislation which compelled thousands of the most conscientious clergymen of the Church of England to resign their livings and sacrifice their worldly fortunes, and their praises had been enshrined in immortal verse,— Their altars they forego, their homes they quit, Fields which they loved, and paths they oft had trod. And cast the future upon Providence— Like men, the dictate of whoso inner sense Outweighs the world, whom self-deceiving Wit Lures not from what they deem the cause of God. But those were memorable occasions, on which questions respecting rival dynasties and the polity of the Church agitated the public mind; but no such excuse could be offered for pressing forward this oppressive Bill. The question was merely whether as conscientious, learned, pious, laborious, a body of men as had ever preached the glad tidings of the Gospel, should be bound to give way to the lust of adulterers and the tyranny of Parliament. Under any circumstances he should have opposed this Bill. When he asked himself whether it would effectuate its professed object, he was compelled to say that he believed it would do no such thing; and, therefore, even as a matter affecting the credit of Parliament, he thought the House ought not to let it pass into a law. These were the reasons why he should oppose it—first, because there was not time now, when the public mind was so deeply agitated by the state of our Indian empire, to give sufficient consideration to a Bill like this; secondly, because it was a Bill, which, if passed, would lead to consequences most momentous and fatal to the purity and happiness of the homes of the people; and lastly, because it was a measure which violated the rights of conscience, and imposed new and contradictory obligations on the Clergy of the Church of England.

MR. GLADSTONE moved, (at ten minutes past twelve o'clock) the adjournment of the debate.


said, he hoped that the right hon. Gentleman would withdraw his Motion in order that a division might be taken upon the second reading that evening.


thought that they ought not to go to a division until they had had a full debate upon the question. Some member of the Government ought to have risen to give some answer to the able arguments which had been advanced against the Bill. For his own part, he thought it was his duty to state fully the grounds on which he should give his vote against the Bill, and he therefore supported the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman.


One of the reasons urged by the right hon. and learned Gentleman, in support of the Motion for adjournment is, that no member of the Government has spoken of the Bill. I must, therefore, inform him (for he could not have been in the House), that my hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General spoke with singular clearness and ability, in explanation of its principles, at length. His speech, which was not tedious, lasted about two hours.


said, if he thought it was really the wish of hon. Gentlemen to express their opinions on the Bill, he would have no objection to an adjournment.

Motion made, and Question put, "That the Debate be now adjourned."

The House divided:—Ayes 125; Noes 188: Majority 63.

Question again proposed.

MR. HENLEY moved that the House do now adjourn.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That tins House do now adjourn."


hoped that the right hon. Gentleman would not press his Motion, as the House had already, by a considerable majority, expressed its wish that the debate should proceed.


said, he intended to support the second reading of the Bill, although he thought that some of its clauses required Amendment. It could not, therefore, be supposed that he desired to defeat the measure. But his right hon. Friend's Motion being simply meant to affirm that the discussion ought not to terminate until the right hon. Member for Oxford University (Mr. Gladstone) and other hon. Gentlemen, who took a deep interest in the question, had had an opportunity of expressing their sentiments upon it, was, in his opinion, perfectly reasonable. If another evening were devoted to the debate, the Bill, when it passed into law, would be much more acceptable than it could be if hurried through without deliberation.


said, that as, by the rules of the House, he could not again move the adjournment of the debate, he had moved the adjournment of the House. His sole object was, to obtain more time for discussing this important measure.


observed, that he had never known a great debate in which less eagerness to catch the Speaker's eye had been shown by hon. Members who were said to be very anxious to address the House. The debate had been, one of a very languid nature, although the attendance was good, and there was no reason why the right hon. Member for Oxford University should not, at any time, during the last five hours, have commanded the attention of the House, and delivered the speech which he so much wished to defer till another evening. Indeed, there appeared to have been a predetermination to obstruct the progress of the Bill. Protesting against the unreasonableness of this demand for an adjournment, he yet could not advise the House to enter into a contest against a pertinacious minority in which both sides were certain to lose their time and their rest, and perhaps, also, their tempers.


said, that several hon. Friends of his were anxious to explain their views upon this subject. For his own part, he had expected that the Solicitor General, the right hon. Baronet (Sir G. Grey), or some other Member of the Government, would have addressed the House; and he had purposely waited in the hope of hearing their opinions.


said, he supported the Motion for adjournment, on the ground that the question was one of great social importance, to the discussion of which it was but reasonable that full time should be devoted.


said, he was willing to withdraw his Motion for the adjournment of the House, on the understanding that the debate should be adjourned.

Motion by leave withdrawn.

Question again proposed; Debate arising; Debate adjourned till To-morrow.