HC Deb 17 April 1861 vol 162 cc686-705

Order for Second Reading read.


moved the second reading of the Marriage Law Amendment Bill.

Motion made, and Question proposed,—"That the Bill he now read a Second Time."


said, he rose to move the following Amendment to the Motion:— That, in the opinion of this House, any measure that would have the effect of placing the Law of Marriage, with regard to the prohibited Degrees, on a different footing in different parts of the United Kingdom, would be highly inconvenient. He took leave to say that his Amendment was addressed to those hon. Members who, agreeing with the principle of the Bill, might yet be induced to think that it ought not to be carried out in its present shape until the common opinion of the United Kingdom agreed with them; and he ventured to urge that the clause which provided that the Bill should not extend to Scotland or Ireland, would create such an anomaly that they had no right, for the purpose of carrying out their views, to disregard it. He did not intend to confine his remarks to the particular ground of objection pointed out by his Amendment, but in arguing the question generally it must he understood that he had to presume the arguments which would he used in favour of the Bill, as the House had not been favoured with them during the present Session. It might be said that his Amendment was a question to he considered in Committee. But was that so? The Bill proposed an important alteration of the law of marriage, to be confined in its operation to one part of the United Kingdom. And why? Because its promoters well knew that their only chance of carrying it was by confining its application to one part of the United Kingdom, and, having so tar succeeded, to extend its operation to the other parts. Without the limiting clause they would have no chance of success, for if they struck it out they would have to encounter a fierce opposition from Scotland and Ireland. If the Bill passed in its present shape, it would be possible for a man by marrying his deceased wife's sister to have a lawful wife in England and another in Scotland; for in Scotland the English wife, in such a case, would be no more than a concubine. That he stated on the authority of Vice Chancellor Sir Page Wood. He appealed to the Scotch and Irish Members. He warned Scotch and Irish Members that if they allowed the Bill to pass it might be extended to their own countries, and he hoped they would help him to throw it out. He did not intend to enter into the Scriptural arguments in regard to the Bill, as such a discussion might be inconvenient in that House. He said that marriage with a deceased wife's sister was prohibited by the laws of this country on the ground that it was contrary to the law of God, and in support of that view he referred to the decision of the Lord Chancellor in the recent case of Brook v. Brook. Lord St. Leonards expressed a similar opinion, and it was decided that such marriages were contrary to the law of England. A very large portion of the people of this country were of the conscientious opinion that they were contrary to the law of God. That such was the case was shown by the petitions which had been presented, by the fact that the Lower House of Convocation declared against these marriages with only two dissentients, and that Scotland and Ireland were almost unanimously opposed to the measure. Those persons who did not take that view ought to respect the conscientious opinions of their fellow subjects, and not force on the country a law which they believed to be unscriptural. If the Legislature passed a law which was opposed to the scriptural and conscientious convictions of a large majority of the people of England, all laws would be weakened and their authority impaired. One great argument which had been used in favour of former Bills was that in hundreds of cases the law had been broken, and, therefore, to prevent the law from being broken it was advisable to alter it, and that a great many persons were now living in concubinage with their deceased wives' sisters. If that argument were to be allowed, Parliament ought to go a great deal further, and marriages within the degrees not only of affinity but of consanguinity, ought to be sanctioned. Then it was said to be a poor man's question, but he distinctly denied it. The cases where poor men had married their deceased wives' sisters were very few. Owing to females in the lower walks of life marrying more frequently at an earlier age than those of the middle-classes, it it was not often that a poor man with a a family married the sister of his deceased wife. He would refer to the Commission appointed in 1847 to inquire into the subject. Professional gentlemen were employed by those who were personally interested in procuring the alteration of the law as proposed by this Bill, and they gave evidence of 1,648 cases that they had ascertained in which the law as they said was a hardship and it was found that out of the 1,648 cases of this kind there were only forty labourers and mechanics who had formed such a connection. The fact was that it was an upper and middle-class question, for a poor man could rarely obtain the services of his deceased wife's sister, and generally employed his own mother or his wife's mother to look after his family. The House should remember that if they gave relief to hundreds by passing such a Bill, they would produce much greater social misery and inconvenience to thousands of the rest of the community. All that familiar and pure intercourse between a man and his sister-in-law, to which at present no censure could attach, would be at an end; and in hundreds and thousands of cases women would be prevented by delicacy from taking charge of the children of their deceased sister. It was said that the sister of a deceased wife was the natural guardian of that sister's children. Was she a worse guardian as their father's sister or their father's wife? And if she became a wife did she not at once become the injusta noverca, whoso reputation was proverbial? If a man was permitted to marry his deceased wife's sister, why not her mother, her aunt, her neice, or her daughter by another husband? Where was the line to be drawn? And, taking the converse of the case, why should not a woman, then, marry her husband's brother? He challenged the promoters of the Bill to answer that question. He objected to the Bill because he believed it was opposed to the conscientious opinion of a majority of the people of the country, and because he believed the social inconvenience it would cause would be much greater than the advantages it professed to confer; and, lastly, because by the restriction of its operation to England only it would create a most in- convenient anomaly. It was, therefore, a Bill which the House had no business to sanction.


seconded the Amendment.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word 'That' to the end of the Question, in order to add the words 'in the opinion of this House, any measure that would have the effect of placing the Law of Marriage, with regard to the prohibited Degrees, on a different footing, in different parts of the United Kingdom, would be highly inconvonient,'"—instead thereof.


said, that, judging from the petitions which had passed through his hands on this subject, he thought the advocates of this change rested it upon moral and social grounds. He would not enter into the theological argument further than to say that, as far as Providence had given him the power to read the plain instructions of the Bible, he could not see the law contained in it which prohibited those marriages. As to the moral part of the question those parties who were in favour of the Bill composed a large portion of the respectability and morality of the country. Their testimony ought to be regarded, and a consideration shown for their social interests. As to the expediency of the Bill, what was founded upon a right interpretation of the Scriptures, and was morally for the benefit of the community, must be expedient, and, therefore, he felt bound to give his support to the Bill. He would refer the hon. Member who introduced the Amendment to some remarks which had been made on the subject by the late President of the Poor Law Board.


said, that he had hoped that after the departure from the House of Mr. Stuart Wortley, who used to represent those gentlemen who were anxious to marry the sisters of their wives, they should have heard no more of this painful subject. A society had, however, been formed for the purpose of keeping alive the agitation. Constant advertisements in The Times and offices in Parliament Street were expensive luxuries, and proved that the persons who composed that society were at any rate wealthy. These advertisements stated that those marriages might be contracted in Denmark, and would be viewed as legal in this country. Now, that was a mistake; and such statements had already occasioned considerable evils and disappointment. Who proposed this marriage law amendment? The only information afforded on this point was by an advertisement signed by an M. A. and Hon. Secretary. A society had now been formed for preserving the law, and its members at least were not ashamed of their names and of their organization. Their president was the Dean of Westminster; they had on their committee noblemen, gentlemen, and clergymen, and on two occasions they had met in Willis's rooms large assemblages of their countrymen and countrywomen, who had given an unanimous opinion against any alteration of the law. ["Hear, hear!"] He could understand that cheer. True, a few persons had been refused admission, but they were turned back by the detective police; and he did not suppose that hon. Gentlemen opposite would wish that those who differed from them in opinion should have their pockets picked. Certainly the Marriage Law Reform Association had been very fortunate in obtaining the services of able and eloquent men in that House; but, somehow or other, they had not retained those services. Mr. Stuart Wortley, having been unable to get returned for an English constituency was elected for a Scotch county, and thereupon he ceased to advocate the cause of those who wished to marry their deceased wives' sisters. So with the noble Lord the late Member for Norwich (Viscount Bury), who took refuge with a Scotch constituency, and whose name no longer appeared on the back of the Bill. Probably be would not even be found in the division lobby; and if the hon. Member (Mr. Monckton Milnes) should ever be so unfortunate—which God forbid!—as to be rejected at Pontrefract and have to seek a Scotch constituency, he too would abandon this great question of social justice and this poor man's question. He (Mr. Ker Seymer) refrained from entering into the religious arguments, not because they were abandoned, but because the House of Commons was of all assemblies in the world that the least suited for such a discussion. The more the question was considered, however, the more strongly did it appear that these marriages were opposed to the Word of God. He would certainly not go through the chapter of Leviticus, but he could only say that, if these marriages were not forbidden in it, neither were many other marriages of affinity and consanguinity, and the rules there laid down were merely a string of unconnected and arbitrary prohibitions. While he would not deal further with the religious, he might be allowed to say a word or two upon the ecclesiastical question. In his opinion it would be very impolitic to place the law of the land in opposition to the law of the Church. Here was the "Table of Kindred and Affinity, wherein whosoever are related are forbidden in Scripture and our laws to marry together." But if the Bill passed it would be necessary to insert here that such marriages were forbidden by Scripture, but that some of them were allowed by law. For such a step there ought to be a strong necessity. If it were taken many persons would still be of opinion that these unions were opposed to the law of God; and clergymen would look upon parishioners who thus married as living in sin. These were only a few of the inconveniences which would follow a change in the law. He had stated what was the opinion of the Church of England; and the Church of Scotland, in the Scotch Confession of Faith, laid down the law with particular clearness, declaring a man might not marry any of his wife's kindred nearer in blood than his own, nor the woman any of the husband's kindred nearer than her own. It was said, "Oh, but the prohibition is only one of councils, and canons, and Popes, and is not based on the Bible;" but there was no church which cared less about councils, canons, or Popes than the Church of Scotland, which yet declared that in marriage consanguinity and affinity were identical. Again, he had heard it said, "This is a Puseyite objection." Well, if so, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Earl of Shaftesbury were Puseyites, as well as the whole Scotch nation, which was absurd. With regard to the Roman Catholic Church, these marriages were for many ages considered contrary to the law of God; and the first dispensation in respect to them was granted by the infamous Pope Alexander Borgia. But dispensations were now equally granted to the marriage of an uncle and niece; and, therefore, the Roman Catholic Church on that question was no guide to them, although he believed that the Roman Catholic population of the British Islands were strongly opposed to unions with a deceased wife's sister. It was said that these marriages were made illegal by Lord Lyndhurst's Act, but they had been always illegal, and were before that time not only voidable but actually void. They were blamed for calling such marriages incestuous, but when so pertinacious an attempt was made to procure a repeal of the law, it was necessary to call things by their right names. Nor could he in any way assent to the argument that as the law was not obeyed, therefore it ought to be altered. The fact was that the law had never had a fair chance. As Lord Campbell observed, the people had been taught that these marriages were lawful, and then the breaches of the law thus occasioned were brought forward as a reason for altering the law. The recent decision in the case of "Brook v. Brook" had, it was said, made many thousands of children illegitimate, But who made them so? Who sent these unhappy persons abroad by means of a lying advertisement, which declared that marriages with a deceased wife's sister celebrated in Denmark were valid here? Many of the unfortunate women had, he was told, gone to the offices of the society, and complained there of the way in which they had been deceived. He deeply deplored their position, but he could not alter the law of England to please them. The fact that the law was only partially obeyed afforded no good reason for altering it. As to the Commission which had reported, there never was a more one-sided one. A witness examined before it, the hon. Member for Rochdale, said that he never met with a person out of Parliament who approved the existing law. Where could the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Cobden) have lived, if that was his opinion? The hon. Member was now in Algeria, but there could be no impropriety in stating that that gentleman's sister had formed one of these marriages, and that the hon. Member sanctioned and even strongly advised it. That, perhaps, accounted for his views upon this question, for, under such circumstances, no well bred person would be likely to express to him a disapproval of such marriages. Instead of public feeling being in favour of a change in the law there was a stronger opinion against the change outside the House than in it. If they altered the law because it was not obeyed they must sanction polygamy, inasmuch as there was said to be more cases of bigamy in the country than of these marriages. Were they going to sanction polygamy and all intercourse between the sexes which they could not prevent? If so, the whole morality of the country would be entirely destroyed. Had this been only a poor man's question, they should never have heard of it; but clergymen who had made inquires could find no such cases among the poor, and, if in Yorkshire they were of frequent occurrence, Yorkshire must be an exceptional district. Then, it was said that to forbid these marriages was an interference with natural right; but, if Parliament once went into the question of natural right, he did not know where they would be landed. What right had the Legislature to fix time and place and age with regard to marriage? What right had they to say that a person should not marry until twenty-one without the consent of the parents? That was a clear invasion of natural rights imposed by the State for the good of society; and the State for that end had a right to impose such restrictions. Now could they trust to the influence of civilization; for instances had been known of highly civilized communities who had permitted marriage between brothers and sisters of the half-blood, and other practices from which we should shrink with abhorence. It was said that a disconsolate widower turned to his wife's sister as the natural guardian of his children. But disconsolate widowers who married again did not seek guardians for their children, but wives by whom they might have another family. He thought that, instead of the children losing an aunt and finding a stepmother, it was much better for them to retain the aunt. Why, he asked, were the great majority of the people who obeyed the law to have their laws altered in order to meet the views of a comparatively small minority? No one had a right to call on them for such a sacrifice. It was said that to sanction such marriages would not make the least difference as regarded the whole nation; but a letter from a clergyman showed that in the United States this innovation had brought about a change for the worse, had prevented the unreserved communication which formerly took place between a man and his sister-in-law, and, instead, had introduced a painful constraint; and this gentleman added that the public mind had become alarmingly unsettled on the whole question of marriage, owing to the approval given in America to marriages of this sort. Then the example of Protestant Germany was quoted, but foreign Protestants had never furnished us with an example. Were we prepared to treat the Bible as they did, to spend the Sunday as they did, let our Government establish gambling places kept open the whole Sabbath, to give the facilities for divorce which existed in those countries, and to permit the marriage of an uncle and niece by consanguinity? Unless we were prepared to do this the practice of foreign Protestant countries could be no guide to England. We had unhappily much vice and much crime to lament in this country; but there was one thing in which we had no reason to envy foreign countries whether Protestant or Roman Catholic, and that was the relations between husband and wife. The Bill itself was in some respects better and in others worse than former Bills. It did not impose upon the clergy the alternative of disobeying the law of the land or the law of the Church, but it sent the parties to be married before the registrar. But it was worse, inasmuch as legalized ex post facto the marriages of those persons who had wilfully broken the law of the land. It would lead to all sorts of complications by excepting from its operation Ireland and Scotland. Some time ago the noble Lord the Foreign Secretary, anticipating what was now the common practice of his colleagues of speaking against a Bill and voting for it, made a speech in which he stated distinctly that if the Bill passed it would be impossible to stop here. If they considered the case of the man they would have soon to consider the case of the woman. That was an irresistable inference, and it was because he believed that this Bill was but the commencement of a downward course of legislation, in which he believed it would be found impossible to stop, that he earnestly entreated the House to say with regard to this Bill, what had been said on another occasion centuries ago, Nolumus leges Angliœ mutari.


said, he was desirous of stating the views of Nonconformists on this question; they were about half the population, and their opinions were entitled to be heard. They were so far as he could ascertain, generally in favour of the proposed change, and they asserted that there was nothing in religion or morals contrary to such marriages. With regard to the social aspect of the question, he looked at it as principally a poor man's question. He did not know what it was with regard to the higher classes, to whom the hon. Gentleman who last addressed the House referred. He knew that among the people in his own employment the law was constantly violated; and he thought the hon. Gentleman could not have had much intercourse with the poor when he stated a contrary opinion. When a poor man lost his wife, and had five or six children to look after, he naturally turned to the wife's sister as the best guardian to place over them, and out of a feeling of gratitude eventually married her. This was the poor man's view of the question. It was not what the rich might think of it with regard to their own position that the House should so much consider, but what was best for the largest number of the people—and on this account he should warmly support the Bill. The hon. Member for Dorsetshire had referred to a recent unanimous meeting which had been presided over by Vice Chancellor Wood. It was easy enough to have an unanimous meeting when all who were admitted shared the same opinions. He was anxious to attend the meeting, and he presented himself at Willis's Rooms, but he was refused admittance, although he did not think there was anything in his appearance which should arouse the suspicions of the detective police to whom an hon. Member referred. He was asked if he had a ticket? He said, "No;" but he promised not to interfere. The doorkeeper said, I am very sorry, sir, but I cannot admit you without a ticket," and pointed out a notice to that effeet in the advertisement of the meeting. He added, "Are you in favour of the society? He (Sir Morton Peto) replied that he could not say he was. "Then," replied the man, "I cannot allow you to go upstairs." He (the hon. Baronet) had not the slightest objection to having meetings against the Bill, but let them not be paraded as having any particular bearing on the question as referred to as public meetings. The Dissenters thought with him. They found nothing in the Divine word against these marriages, and nothing had made them in any way inexpedient. On behalf, therefore, of the Nonconformists of England he called on the House to read the Bill a second time.


said, that he was able to say of his personal knowledge that tickets had been sent to the secretary of the Marriage Law Association, and it was, therefore, the hon. Gentleman's own fault if he had not provided himself with the ordinary means of admission to a public meeting. Reading over the Report of the Petitions Committee he had come across a curious petition, presented only three years ago to the House, which had not been printed nor noticed at the time in any way. It seemed so germane to the present matter that he would read it to the House. It professed to come from the communicants of a sect of Protestant Dissenters in the Royal burgh of Dundee. It began by setting forth— That the sect whereof your petitioners are members believes that there is Scripture warrant for the continuance of the family institution as it existed in patriarchal and Jewish times—namely, the state in which the head of a family may have one or more wives. That your humble petitioners do not adopt such a principle from any other than the purest and most enlightened motives, and because they believe it to be in accordance with the Word of God; and, further, that your petitioners so long as they are resident in this land, and subjects of the Queen's Most Excellent Majesty, never will attempt contravention of its laws. That your petitioners would, nevertheless, respectfully state to your honourable House that they feel it to be a grievance that they should, by the laws of this well-governed realm, be debarred from exercising their rights of living in conformity to the dictates of their conscience; and that, while not wishing to impose their views on others, they yet think that others should allow them to live in conformity with their own views, and not impose their views on them. That your petitioners would call the attention of your honourable House to the fact that the prayer of this petition is not without precedent in Her Majesty's dominions—that is to say, Her Majesty's colonies, for that the Natives of India and other un-Christian subjects of Her Majesty, are permitted to have more wives than one. That your petitioners regretted to observe that the Bill which your honourable House passed into a law in your last Session for the better regulation of the laws of divorce and matrimonial causes, did not contain any such provision as would meet the peculiar case of your petitioners. They then went on to pray— Your honourable House to pass a law to remove these wrongs, by providing that if a man, the husband of one wife, shall present himself before a magistrate, and solemnly swear that his conscience believes the lawfulness of the Divine institution of polygamy, and he therefore wishes to marry another wife or other wives, the magistrate shall be empowered to issue a licence for the celebration of such marriage, which shall be a legal marriage, according to the law of this country, and the issue thereof legitimate; your honourable House annexing to the said law such provisions as your honourable House, in your wisdom, shall think fit and necessary to prevent its abuse. That thereby your honourable House will right the wrongs of a considerable number of Her Majesty's subjects, and approach one step nearer to absolute perfection in legislation. That was exactly the train of reasoning used by the advocates of this Bill. They, in like manner, deny that the permission they seek was forbidden in the Bible; they allege the purity of their motives, and they dwell on the grievance to which they are subjected in not being permitted to act on their own conscientious opinions. If anyone had intended to indite a pungent satire on the proceedings of the Marriage Law Association he could not have done it more neatly or concisely. Nothing certainly could exhibit in a clearer right the legitimate consequence of the arguments used in behalf of this measure.


said, he was almost inclined to suspect that the hon. Gentleman, from the gusto with which he had read the petition to which he had referred, must have had some hand in its concoction. But that petition was presented either in earnest or in fun. If it were in earnest it evidently proceeded from the body called Mormonites, and it was hardly worthy of the serious matter in hand to impute to those who were in favour of the Bill that they were as wrong and erratic in their notions as the Mormonites. If it were in fun it was still less a subject for introduction on the occasion of the discussion of so serious a matter. Having given long and anxious consideration to the subject, he had come to the conclusion that the present law was inexpedient, and that it ought to be altered. The religious ground had almost entirely been given up by the opponents of the measure. Even Vice Chancellor Wood, in his recent pamphlet, did not lay much stress upon it, and all he would say upon it, therefore, was that he did not believe there was anything in Scripture to condemn them. It was not simply calling these marriages by the ugly name of incestuous which would make them so. By incestuous he had always understood that against which the feelings of the great majority of men revolted, or which was clearly forbidden by Scripture—but these marriages did not come within either of those categories. To say that the law had not had a fair chance was simply to affirm that it had not recommended itself to the feelings of the people, and, therefore, they had attempted to get rid of it. Had the corn laws a fair chance? For forty years we had kept up that great grievance, and it might equally in that case be said that the law had never a fair chance. The hon. Member for Dorsetshire (Mr. Ker Seymer) said if they altered the law in this respect they might as well have a Bill to allow bigamy; and the hon. Member who last addressed the House said they might as well introduce a Bill to legalize polygamy. But was it so? There were a million names to petitions in favour of marriage with a deceased wife's sister, whereas there had been but one petition in favour of polygamy, and not one in favour of bigamy. It was, therefore, an insult to the people of England to say that those who were in favour of these marriages were also in favour of bigamy and polygamy. He freely admitted that in this country there had been many cases where it had been a great blessing to a man on being deprived of his wife to be able to have her sister in his house to occupy her place, to take care of his children without any scandal, and he further admitted that this freedom would be impaired by the passing of this Bill—but he had taken pains to ascertain what was the feeling and practice in foreign countries where these marriages prevailed, particularly in Norway, and he found that there a sister-in-law could take the place of the mother with as little scandal as in this country. But if in making the proposed change they would lose something, society would also gain something. They would get rid of the concubinage which now existed to a great extent. The pamphlet of Vice Chancellor Wood, issued by the Marriage Defence Association, admitted the fact. It stated that among 40,000 people in the parish of St. Margaret and St. John, Westminster, there were three couples who acknowledged they had contracted these marriages. He thought this was no criterion for judging of the actual number, as there might be many living in that state who would not like to disclose the fact to a Vice Chancellor, or any other gentleman making the inquiry. But, taking it as the basis for a calculation, three marriages among a population of 40,000 would give them 1,500 for the whole country; so that they had 3,000 people who married in this way, or lived together unmarried contrary to the law. It might be said that people who violated the law were not entitled to sympathy; but was no sympathy to be felt for their children, who were in no way to blame. Surely they had a right to some consideration. The less they bastardised children the better, and, therefore, he should give his cordial support to the Bill, and hoped it would pass into law.


said, that no one knew better than the hon. and learned Gentleman who had just sat down that the highest legal authorities had pronounced a strong judgment against the principle of this measure. At the time of the Reformation the marriages in question were declared to be null and void. Afterwards an opinion grew up that they were only voidable; and that state of things remained down to 1835, when Lord Lyndhurst's Bill, while confirming past marriages, declared that thenceforth such marriages should be void; in other words, re-enacted the ancient law of Henry VIII. After that law had passed persons went abroad to get married in countries where these marriages were legal; but the House of Lords had recently decided in the case of Brook v. Brook that persons thus temporarily changing their domicile did not get rid of the incidence of the English law. He could not bring himself to believe that the House would pass the Bill. Though we were supposed to live in an united emipre, and the law of marriage was the foundation of our social existence, Ireland or Scotland were excepted from the Bill. There was to be one law of marriage for England, and a totally different law for Ireland and Scotland. A man was to be married in England, and unmarried in Ireland or Scotland; and a child legitimate in one country was to be illegitimate in the other two. He was sorry the law officers were not here, they were sometimes present when there was no need of them and absent when their presence would have been desirable. The Government generally seemed to have abdicated its functions on Wednesdays and let the House of Commons do what it liked on those days with the laws and institutions of the country. Certainly there were many questions—the one before them among others—which were in much safer keeping in the hands of the House of Commons than with the Government. But surely on a question of that sort the great legal officers ought to be present to inform the House what would be the effect of the Bill on the laws of inheritance. A great legal authority had said it was necessary, in order to perfect the union of marriage, that the husband should take the wife's relations in the same degree to be the same as his own; and the wife vice versa. If they were to be the same persons as were intended by the law of God they could have no difference in relations; and, by consequence, the prohibition touching affinity must be carried as far as the prohibition touching consanguinity; and when they considered who were prohibited from marrying by the Levitical law, they must not only consider the mere words of the law, but the fair and just inference that might be drawn from them. Chapter XVIII. of Leviticus must, therefore, be expounded in the same way as in the table of degrees of the Reformed Church with regard to incest. Blackstone said the canonical disabilities were either grounded on the express words of the Divine law, or consequences plainly deducible from them. It was for those, therefore, who sought to set aside the law to adduce adequate reason; and that he thought had not been done. The great argument advanced in favour of the Bill was that it was habitually broken, but he could not accept that as a reason for a change in the law. That men disobeyed a law which was clearly expressed was only a proof that they would disobey any law, and not that the law should be repealed. The hon. and learned Gentleman had told them of a Norwegian friend who did not understand the usages and customs of this country. Did he ever find any gentleman abroad who did? He had himself tried to explain to a foreigner our system of trial by jury, but when he mentioned the sheriff and the jurymen the foreign gentleman exclaimed, "God be thanked we have no such thing hero. We have no sheriff to summon jurymen, and no jurymen fit to try a cause." When he heard that other countries did not agree with us, it was proof to him that they were in the wrong and that we were in the right. It did not satisfy him that our ancient laws were founded on mistake, but that foreigners should study our laws and imitate them. But how had the Chamber of Turin settled the law of marriage? He quoted from the Quarterly ReviewIt is well worthy of remark that this law appears to rest on the same basis as our own. Its prohibition limits to the ascending and descending degree. It makes no difference between the two sexes. It treats affinity as consanguinity, spurious as legitimate relationship, and forbids dispensations. Therefore, if they looked to a country which had achieved freedom, and would, he hoped, preserve it by its moderation and wisdom, they found that it had adopted our law, and thus shown its own good sense and the good sense of the law itself. An argument was founded upon the number of petitions which had been presented in favour of the Bill. But a letter had been printed in the Clerical Journal, and never been contradicted, quoting from a circular signed J. Stanbury, who begged to be informed whether the gentleman to whom the circular was addressed would give his aid, and offered £2 2s. for 400 signatures, the society finding the forms, papers, &c. Petitions of that kind would not induce Parliament to allogate a law of vast consequence to the country, unless the objection to it were founded in reason and Christianity. It was said that the opponents of the Bill had abandoned the religious part of the question It was not so, but in deference to the feelings of the House they had not entered into those arguments. A few words briefly conveyed the opinion of a Bishop remarkable for his moderation—the Bishop of St. Asaph, who said he had formerly some doubts upon the matter, but after most anxious consideration his opinion was that these marriages were forbidden by the law of God. In the edition of the Scriptures by Low, Whitby, and others chiefly read by the masses, it was laid down for their edification and instruction that these marriages were forbidden, because persons who were wont to live together would be sorely tempted to lewdness one with another if their marrying together were not severely forbidden. In Scott's edition of the Bible the note showed fully and clearly that these marriages were forbidden by the principles of Christianity. If, with these warnings, people would form these marriages against the law of the land, his answer to the argument of the hon. and learned Gentleman was that they must take the consequences. They were appealed to on behalf of the children; but, because in some countries illegitimate children were made legitimate by the subsequent marriage of their parents, would the hon. and learned Gentleman have them alter the ancient law of inheritance in England? Upon the social question he would ask the advocates of this change what was the opinion of the women of England, Scotland, and Ireland. He hesitated not to say that they were in the mass opposed to that mischievous Bill, and in giving that opposition they furnished the strongest of all arguments against its adoption. As the Bill would make one law for England and another for Ireland upon a vital question, and as it had not been shown how property would be effected, he submitted that it was unsafe, that it was not justified by expediency, that it was contrary to the principles of Christianity, that it was clearly contrary to the law of the land, and, therefore, that it ought not to be adopted by that House.


said, he was astonished that the right hon. and learned Gentleman, fresh from his recent experience and his recent triumph, should insist on parity of law between England and Ireland. When Ireland had a register of marriages and the law was in conformity with that of England, the argument that the Bill did not apply to Ireland might have some bearing upon the question. He asserted that public opinion in favour of the Bill was increasing, and he believed that petitions would accumulate until even the right hon. and learned Gentleman was convinced that such an opinion did generally prevail, because this was a country in which they were not in the habit of putting restrictions on the intimacy of private life. There was nothing in the habits, the life, or the religion of the English people why there should be imposed on them a penal statute totally different from that which was imposed upon all other Protestants in every part of the world. The austere Puritans of America did not impose such a restriction, and an American citizen of eminence said the Protestants of England were inflicting a deep injury and insult by presuming as they did by this restriction that they alone could interpret Scripture. When hon. Members talked of incestuous unions, they should remember that they were talking of the union of the people with whom they had daily intercourse and whose society they were glad to enjoy. They might postpone the change, but their children would be as much astonished at such a prohibition as they were at the celibacy of the Catholic clergy or any other restriction which the advancement of civilization had declared to be unnecessary.

Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."

The House divided:—Ayes 172; Noes 177: Majority 5.

Words added.

Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.

Resolved, That, in the opinion of this House, any measure that would have the effect of placing the Law of Marriage, with regard to the prohibited Degrees, on a different footing in different parts of the United Kingdom, would be highly inconvenient.

List of the AYES.
Adair, H. E. Atherton, Sir W.
Adeane, H. J. Ayrton, A. S.
Agnew, Sir A. Bailey, C.
Alcock, T. Baines, E.
Antrobus, E. Ball, E.
Archdall, Capt. M. Baring, T.
Ashley, Lord Baring, T. G.
Barnes, T. Headlam, rt. hon. T. E.
Bass, M. T. Heneage, G. F.
Baxter, W. E. Herbert, rt. hon. H. A.
Bazley, T. Holland, E.
Beamish, F. B. Jackson, W.
Beaumont, W. B. Jervis, Capt.
Beamount, S. A. Jervoise, Sir J. C.
Biggs, J. Johnstone, Sir J.
Black, A. Jolliffe, rt. hn. Sir W. G. H.
Bonham-Carter, J. Kelly, Sir F.
Botfield, B. Kershaw, J.
Brand, hon. H. King, hon. P. J. L.
Bright, J. Kinglake, A. W.
Briscoe, J. I. Kinglake, J. A.
Bristow, A. R. Kingscote, Col.
Browne, Lord J. T. Knatchbull-Hugessen E.
Bruce, H. A. Langton, W. H. G.
Buckley, Gen. Lawson, W.
Butler, C. S. Layard, A. H.
Butt, I. Leatham, E. A.
Calthorpe, hn. F. H. W. G. Lee, W.
Carnegie, hon. C. Locke, J.
Childers, H. C. E. Lysley, W. J.
Cholmeley, Sir M. J. Mackinnon, W. A.
Clay, J. Malins, R.
Clifford, Col. Marjoribanks, D. C.
Clive, G. Marshall, W.
Coke, hon. Col. Martin, J.
Coningham, W. Massey, W. N.
Crossley, F. Mellor, J.
Davey, R. Mills, T.
Davie, Col. F. Mitchell, T. A.
Denman, hon. G. Moffatt, G.
Dillwyn, L. L. Monson, hon. W. J.
Douglas, Sir C. Morgan, hon. Major
Duke, Sir J. Morris, D.
Egerton, E. C. Noel, hon. G. J.
Ellice, rt. hon. E. Norris, J. T.
Elphinstone, Sir J. D. Onslow, G.
Enfield, Visct. Owen, Sir H. O.
Evans, Sir De L. Padmore, R.
Evans, T. W. Paget C.
Ewart, W. Paxton, Sir J.
Ewart, J. C. Peacock, G. M. W.
Fenwick, H. Pease, H.
Fitzwilliam, hn. C. W. W. Peto, Sir S. M.
Foley, J. H. Pilkington, J.
Foley, H. W. Pinney, Col.
Foljambe, F. J. S. Pollard-Urquhart, W.
Forster, C. Pryse, E. L.
Forster, W. E. Ramsden, Sir J. W.
Fortescue, hon. F. D. Raynham, Visct.
Fortescue, C. S. Ricardo, O.
Fox, W. J. Roupell, W.
Freeland, H. W. Russell, A.
Gard, R. S. St. Aubyn, J.
Gibson, rt. hon. T. M. Salomons, Mr. Ald.
Gifford, Earl of Scholefield, W.
Gilpin, C. Shelley, Sir J. V.
Glyn, G. C. Sheridan, H. B.
Glyn, G. G. Sidney, T.
Goldsmid, Sir F. H. Smith, J. B.
Gower, hon. F. L. Smith, M. T.
Greene, J. Smyth, Col.
Grenfell, C. P. Somerset, Col.
Gurdon, B. Spooner, R.
Gurney, J. H. Stacpoole, W.
Hadfield, G. Stansfeld, J.
Hanbury, R. Talbot, C, R. M.
Hankey, T. Thompson, H. S.
Hardcastle, J. A. Tite, W.
Hartington, Marq. of Tollemache, hon. F. J.
Hayter, rt. hn. Sir W. G. Tollemache, J.
Turner, J. A. Willcox, B. M'G.
Villiers rt. hon. C. P. Williams, W.
Vivian, H. H. Wrightson, W. B.
Vyner, R. A. Wyvill, M.
Watkins, Col. L.
Westhead, J. P. B. TELLERS.
Whalley, G. H. Milnes, Mr. M.
White, J. Buxton, Mr.
List of the NOES.
Adderley, rt. hon. C. B. Garnett, W. J.
Astell, J. H. George, J.
Baillie, H. J. Getty, S. G.
Baring, H. B. Gordon, C. W.
Barrow, W. H. Gore, J. R. O.
Barttelot, Major Graham, Lord W.
Bathurst, F. H. Greenall, G.
Beach, W. W. B. Greville, Col. F.
Bentinck, G. W. P. Grogan, Sir E.
Bernard, T. T. Haliburton, T. C.
Blake, J. Hamilton, Major
Bond, J. W. M'G. Hanbury, hon. Capt.
Bovill, W. Hardy, G.
Brady, J. Hardy, J.
Bramston, T. W. Heathcote, Sir W.
Bridges, Sir B. W. Henley, rt. hon. J. W.
Brooks, R. Hennessy, J. P.
Bunbury, Capt. W. B. Hervey, Lord A.
Burghley, Lord Hoygate, Sir F. W.
Burrell, Sir C. M. Hodgkinson, G.
Caird, J. Hodgson, K. D.
Cairns, Sir H. M'C. Holford, R. S.
Cartwright, Col. Holmesdale, Visct.
Cave, S. Hood, Sir A. C.
Cavendish, hon. W. Hopwood, J. T.
Cavendish, Lord G. Hotham, Lord
Cayley, E. S. Howes, E.
Cecil, Lord R. Jermyn, Earl
Clive, hon. G. W. Johnstone, hon. H. B.
Close, M. C. Kekewich, S. T.
Cobbett, J. M. Kendall, N.
Cobbold, J. C. Kennard, R. W.
Cochrane, A. D. R. W. B. Kinnaird, hon. A. F.
Cogan, W. H. F. Knatchbull, W. F.
Cole, hon. H. Lefroy, A.
Collins, T. Legh, Major C.
Cubitt, G. Legh, W. J.
Curzon, Visct. Lennox, Lord G. G.
Dawson, R. P. Leslie, W.
Deedes, W. Lindsay, hon. Gen.
Dickson, Col. Longfield, R.
Du Cane, C. Lyall, G.
Dunbar, Sir W. Lygon, hon. F.
Duncombe, hon. A. M'Cormick, W.
Dundas, F. MacEvoy, E.
Dundas, rt. hon. Sir D. Mackie, J.
Dunlop, A. M. Maguire, J. F.
Dunne, Col. Mainwaring, T.
Dunne, M. Malcolm, J. W.
Du Pre, C. G. Manners, rt. hn. Lord J.
East, Sir J. B. Miles, Sir W.
Edwards, Major Miller, W.
Egerton, Sir P. G. Mills, A.
Egerton, hon. W. Mitford, W. T.
Elcho, Lord Monsell, rt. hon. W.
Estcourt, rt. hon. T. H. S. Montgomery, Sir G.
Farrer, J. Mordaunt, Sir C.
Fellowes, E. Morgan, O.
Fergusson, Sir J. Mowbray, rt. hon. J. R.
FitzGerald, W. R. S. Mundy, W.
Forester, rt. hon. Col. Mure, D.
Gallwey, Sir W. P. Naas, Lord
Newport, Visct. Talbot, hon. W. C.
Nicol, W. Thynne, Lord E.
North, Col. Thynne, Lord H.
Northcote, Sir S. H. Torrens, R.
Packe, C. W. Tottenham, C.
Pakenham, Col. Traill, G.
Parker, Major W. Trefusis, hon. C. H. R.
Patten, Col. W. Upton, hon. Gen.
Paull, H. Valletort, Visct.
Pevensey, Visct. Verner, Sir W.
Phillips, G. L. Walcott, Adm.
Puller, C. W. G. Waldron, L.
Quinn, P. Walker, J. R.
Ridley, Sir M. W. Walpole, rt. hon. S. H.
Rolt, J. Walter, J.
Rowley, hon. R. T. Watlington, J. W. P.
Salt, T. Wemyss, J. H. E.
Sclater-Booth, G. Whiteside, rt. hon. J.
Scully, V. Whitmore, H.
Selwyn, C. J. Wickham, H. W.
Seymer, H. K. Wyndham, hon. H.
Seymour, Sir M. Wyndham, hon. P.
Shirley, E. P. Wynn, Col.
Sibthorp, Major Yorke, hon. E. T.
Smith, A.
Smith, S. G. TELLERS.
Somes, J. Hunt, Mr.
Stanhope, J. B. Hubbard, Mr.
Stuart, Lt.-Col. W.

House adjourned at five minutes before Six o'clock.