HC Deb 02 May 1866 vol 183 cc284-330

Order for Second Reading read.


in moving the second reading of this Bill, said, that considering the illustrious men who had preceded him in the advocacy of this cause, he had undertaken the conduct of the measure, not spontaneously, but on account of having been very much pressed to do so by those who were favourable to the proposed legislation. For a great many years the question had been before Parliament and the country, and as the result of discussion usually was to elicit the truth and lead to a satisfactory settlement of debated questions, he was inclined to believe that a similar effect would be produced in the present case. He was aware that the subject was a difficult and delicate one, but he trusted to be able to bring it under the consideration of the House without trespassing beyond the fair limits of discussion. It was an advantage in dealing with this subject that it was not a party or sectarian question. The supporters of the present Bill did not wish to coerce any man's conscience, but all they desired was that the law should be put in such a state that a man's freedom of action should not be limited according to other men's consciences. What was now asked for was demanded simpliciter, and not as an instalment of larger demands hereafter for altering the law of marriage. He had been surprised to see an advertisement in The Times newspaper, proceeding from the Church Union, representing that the Amendment in opposition to the Bill, which was to be moved by the hon. Member for Northamptonshire (Mr. Hunt), would be supported by all the Conservatives and by the Scotch Members, for it was not true that it would be supported by all the Conservatives, or by all the Scotch Members, several of whom were favourable to the proposal; whilst 20 per cent of the advocates of the proposed change were Conservatives. A little while ago a deputation went to Lord Derby on the subject of this Bill, and that noble Lord, after stating that the balance of his opinion was rather against the proposed change of the law, distinctly declared that he would never sanction the question being made a party question or the identification of the Conservative party with it. It would be pre- mature and unwise summarily to alter any law which had existed for a very long time, but when the people had come to an understanding on a question after full consideration, then it would be unwise in the House to refuse to follow public opinion, and to decline to change the law. Speaking generally, he maintained that the opinion prevailed among the public of all classes that the restriction which the present Bill proposed to remove was an unwise restriction. Not only was such the opinion in this country, but the voice of Christendom itself had come to a tolerable unanimity on the question. The ground he took enabled him to use no timid tone in this matter, and he declared that every day the restriction continued injustice was committed What was the history of this question? There was no trace for 4,000 years in any country, however intelligent and civilized, of such a restriction on marriage, a fact utterly incredible, if the marriages in question were incompatible with the purity, the happiness, or the refined affections of do mestic life. He was confident that neither in ancient Rome nor in Greece, whose codes of marriage law were exceedingly good, did the restriction exist which it was the object of the present measure to remove; yet any unnatural connection in relation to marriage even though inadvertent, was denounced in the literature of those times, and described as sure to bring down the vengeance of the gods. The Jewish law was the marriage law of this country. It was the only law on Divine authority, and there was no addition to it or alteration of it in the New Testament. He believed that law to be absolutely binding on the Jewish Church and on all Christian Churches to the end of time. If the marriage in question were against God's law, there was an end of the matter, and every hon. Gentleman who now supported the Bill would in such case abandon it. But the supporters of the Bill contended that this kind of marriage was not against God's law. The law was as binding and as extensive as at the time when it was first given, but no further; and there was an implied sanction in the New Testament that the law was a perfect law, because though reference to it occurs several times, no alteration was introduced under the new dispensation. No one would dispute that one of the earliest errors and heresies which crept into the Christian Church was a mistaken view with respect to marriage. For the first 300 years of the Christian era there was no law restraining the marriage which it was now sought to legalize, unless it applied to the clergy alone; but a spirit of asceticism crept into the Church, and the result was that one restriction after another was imposed, until prohibitions against the marriage of relations up to the seventh degree of consanguinity and affinity were established. Not only that; but spiritual affinity, as it was called, was included, arising out of sponsorship or baptism, for the law then allowed baptism by laymen. This state of things, so intolerable to the laity, was altered by the Church in the year 1235, and the prohibition brought back to the fourth degree. In those days the clergy were the only educated persons, and the laity were in a great degree in their hands, and yet they reduced the prohibitory degrees to the fourth, as he had stated. Notwithstanding that, if we looked to the 32nd of Henry VIII., we should find what were the mischiefs produced in society by the state of the law at the time. It was there recited that in consequence of the inconveniences which had ensued, and might ensue from divers persons who had long continued in matrimony being divorced and separated contrary to God's law, though the marriage had been solemnized in the face of the Church, and children born of it, and by reason of other prohibiting than God's law admitteth, which else were lawful, and so disturbing married persons, &c, the Act went on to say that it made lawful all such marriages as might not be prohibited by Clod's law. It would be seen from that Act that, notwithstanding the change made in the Church law on the subject, a further change was necessary for the purpose of removing the grievances which were caused by the previous state of things. The opponents of the Bill would say that the Reformers left this among the prohibited degrees. It was true that they did, but universal Christendom now admitted that they made' a mistake in doing so. ["No, no !"] He was quite sure the Church of England said so. In his opinion, upon this point the Reformers were mistaken But, however, the point which was material to his argument was this, that we began with the Divine law, we went on through hundreds of years under Church law, and when we come to change we come back to God's law. The foundation of the statute law of this country on the subject of marriage was God's law, and the advocates of this measure would not be turned aside by shifting them from God's law to Church law, because were it not for the enlightened opinion of the laity on the question, Church law might still be enforced. The time of Henry VIII., however, was not the most favourable for determining such things as these, because the statutes in that reign were framed very much upon what was considered the King's feelings, and the political convenience of the day. Now, the state of the law which resulted from the passing of the Act of Henry continued for 300 years, and all that time marriage with a deceased's wife's sister was unlawful, but was it not contracted? Why, during the whole of that time, from 1530 to 1835, any person might have married any other person, however allied to him by affinity, only subject to the Ecclesiastical Courts setting the marriage aside during the lifetime of both the parties. So that virtually a man might have married his step-mother or his step-daughter, subject to the censures of the Ecclesiastical Courts, and subject to the marriage being set aside by those Courts. But, if none of these things happened—and they rarely did, because actions of this kind were seldom entered on, and only when a question of obtaining property and setting aside the legitimacy of children arose—the marriage remained perfectly good. Was there any scandal occasioned by marriages within the prohibited degrees during the whole of that time? Were there any complaints that religion or morals were discredited? Who complained? Was any trace of such complaint to be found in the literature of England during those 300 years? Nothing of the kind. The Christian sentiments and feelings of the nation were sufficient to protect it from evil consequences, although the law was very imperfect for securing a proper condition of the married state. The people went on without having their moral sense wounded by such marriages as took place within the prohibited degrees; for they were almost without exception marriages with a deceased wife's sister. And now he came to what he believed to be the most important portion of his argument—the Act of 1835. The marriages in question were all voidable in the Ecclesiastical Courts by process; but if they were not made void by such process during the lifetime of the parties the marriage was indissoluble and the children were legitimate. He was going to speak very freely of the Act of 1835. It went under the name of Lord Lyndhurst's Act, but it had been distinctly and specifically disavowed by him, for it was as different from the Bill brought in by Lord Lynd-hurst as anything could be. Lord Lynd-hurat was not entitled to the credit of the Act if it were a good one, nor to the reproach if it were mischievous and ill-advised. The Bill of that noble and learned Lord proposed that all these marriages should be unassailable in the Ecclesiastical Courts unless they were assailed within two years. That was the single and simple object of the Bill; but at the instance of a distinguished prelate, against whom he should not say a word—the late Bishop of London—the measure was so altered as while validating those already contracted to declare all such marriages absolutely null and void for the future. Before that time the general impression of people of this country was that all marriages within the prohibited degrees were alike contrary to God's law. They believed that, and believed the law to be justified by that. But after the passing of the Act of 1835 it was utterly impossible for any person to think so for the future. For what were the recitals of this Act? They were that— Whereas marriage between persons within the prohibited degrees was voidable only by sentence of the Ecclesiastical Courts during the lifetime of the parties thereto, and it is unreasonable that the status of the children of parents within the prohibited degrees of affinity should remain so long unsettled"— And here he would stop for a moment and ask, Why not leave out the word "affinity," and say only "prohibited degrees?" Why draw a distinction between affinity and consanguinity if there was no difference between them? The words employed left marriages within the prohibited degrees of consanguinity where they were before, and, that being so, there was no escape from the position that in the estimation of those who framed and passed that Bill there was a distinction between the prohibited degrees of affinity and consanguinity, for it was on that distinction that the Act passed thirty years ago was actually founded. The recital then went on to say— It is fitting that all marriages which may hereafter be celebrated within the prohibited degrees of affinity and consanguinity shall, ipso facto, be absolutely null and void. Was there ever such an Act of Parliament in the world before? Was it desirable to draw a distinction in the first part of the recital between marriages of affinity and consanguinity, and then to declare that hereafter marriages of both kinds were alike absolutely null and void? The Bishop of Exeter said, he would never have consented to the Act if the parties to the marriage were not still left liable to proceedings against them for incest. But here was an Act of Parliament which legitimized the offspring of a marriage, prevented the parties to it from separating or contracting any other marriage, while it left them liable to ecclesiastical censure for incest, if they continued to discharge the highest obligations of marriage after the passing of the Act of 1835. So that what would be lawful on the 31st of August would on the 1st of September be unlawful and incestuous. The Legislature said that the union was a lawful one, and nobody should presume to call it in question; but the Church said it was void ab initio, it was against God's law, it was incestuous, and every day the parties continued in it they would be liable to severe censure. The first clause in the Act gave efficacy to such marriages already contracted, while the second made them for the future absolutely null and void. Such an Act as that subverted one's notions of morals, the common people did not understand it, it only confused them. He would not complain of an Act of Parliament which would say what were the prohibited degrees, provided they were consistent with God's law. He and those who acted with him would be prepared to make such decrees binding and the violation of them punishable. He would not complain of the law if it had been carried out as Lord Lyndhurst intended; but when an Act of indulgence was sought to be obtained for a person in high rank, which would give him wealth, large estates, and a place among the nobles of the land, he did complain that it should have been thought a fitting occasion to forbid, under the severest penalties, a practice which had been practically allowed for 300 years, under which the parties to the union and their children were received into society, and for which there was practically a standing dispensation, subject only to a casualty which did not happen, perhaps, once in a hundred years. Black-stone defined a legitimate child to be "a child born in lawful wedlock;" and under the statute the offspring of the marriage in question being made legitimate are held to be born in lawful wedlock, yet the Judge of the Ecclesiastical Court and the Bishop of Exeter declared the contrary of the very same children, declaring them to be the fruit of an incestuous connection. The people for a long time had not been able to understand the distinction between "void" and "voidable." Every man in this country was entitled to marry, whatever his rank in life; and, not understanding the distinction to which he had adverted, they had been greatly misled since the passing of the Act of 1835. The people did not believe that the bishops believed these marriages were against God's law. He would be told that this was a very delicate question, and that it would be a rash and hazardous thing to meddle with it. But he did not ask for any change which was forbidden by God's law. The opponents of the measure had changed the Church law—they multiplied prohibited degrees until the country groaned under them, and then they altered the marriage law. What he and his friends said was this—that there was one thing still remaining which when granted would satisfy the necessities of the country. He did not expect to hear it much argued that the proposed change was contrary to God's law, because those who were in the habit of using such arguments had greatly diminished. And as for the text which had been so often appealed to, a Hebrew question was involved in that, which he was not competent to discuss, and he was quite willing to take the opinion of sound learned critics upon that point. But were they to be guided by the opinion of the Church of England? If so, he would say the majority of the bishops and clergy had come to the conclusion that the proposed change was not against the law of God. The Bishop of London and 400 of the metropolitan clergy had petitioned in favour of the Bill. He was entitled, at all events, to argue that the Church of England was so divided in opinion on the subject that they could not be considered as against the proposed change. Well, then let them look to foreign nations. Every country in Europe had sanctioned it. They had made the change in France, they had made it in Switzerland, they had made it in every Roman Catholic country in Europe—only there a form of dispensation was required — but that was granted without difficulty where there was no immorality. He was entitled to say, therefore, that, both in the opinion of the Protestant and of the Roman Catholic Church, these marriages were not against the law. In Scotland they were not unanimous on the subject. The Dissenters were uniformly in favour of the proposed change. It was only the other day that a petition was presented signed by Dr. Aldis and 200,000 communicants of the Baptist Union in favour of a change in the law. If it was considered that the change was not against God's law, then there was an end of the question. The general defence of this restraint was that it secured for our domestic circles a degree of purity and refined affection which would not otherwise exist, but such attempts to secure a factitious and sentimental purity, in excess of what Scripture laid down, had always an effect the reverse of what was intended. No instance could be cited of a laxity of moral sentiment as the result of allowing such marriages, for Lord Lyndhurst stated of Massachusetts that there was no community in which purer morals existed. Moreover, the Church in her most solemn formularies appealed only to God's law pronouncing void alliances which contravened it, and declaring indissoluble those which did not. The Bill did not seek to compel any man to contract or solemnize a marriage which he considered unlawful, neither did it interfere with property, for all vested rights under the present law were left intact. It simply proposed to legalize all such marriages from the year 1835 and henceforth, and whereas the Act of that year made twenty marriages of different classes of affinity unassailable in any Ecclesiastical Court, this only proposed to make one such class of marriages unassailable. The highest authorities in the land, those most eminent in learning in law, in statesmanship, and in the Church, had expressed their approval of this step. He might refer to many, but he would only quote the opinion of the late Lord Palmerston, who said that the moral feeling of the community at large was not with the present law, that a great number of persons transgressed it without believing that they committed any moral offence, and that the law caused a great deal of misery and social evil among the middle and lower classes. The Bishop of London and 400 of his clergy had petitioned in favour of the measure, because as charged with the welfare of the middle and lower classes, they saw the imperative necessity for this alteration. He would appeal, too, to county Members, even to those who were perhaps about to oppose the Bill, whether in their own villages they were not acquainted with cases in which a sister-in-law was the most prudent and honest choice a man could make to fill the place of mother to his bereaved family. Of course, it was no argument to say because a law was broken therefore it should be altered, but when a law was broken with impunity and was at issue with the moral sense of the community, which alone gave law its efficacy, the Legislature ought not to allow such a state of things to continue, especially when the nearest affections of the people were concerned, but were bound to bring the law into agreement with the moral sense of the community.


said, he cheerfully acknowledged the tone and temper of the remarks of the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Thomas Chambers) in introducing the Bill, and hoped that he himself and those who might follow him would observe his example in that respect. He should be sorry to wound the feelings of any individuals who thought differently from him on this subject. He had himself private friends whose personal feelings and happiness were mixed up with this question, and he had received letters from persons most anxious that it should be settled in the manner proposed in the Bill of the hon. and learned Gentleman. He could not withhold his compassion from persons so situated; but in a question of such public importance no consideration of individual feeling should be allowed to operate. It was a great public and social question, and hon. Members had to discharge their duty as legislators, to put aside private feeling, and do what they thought was right for the public at large. The hon. and learned Member said the Bill was not in any respect hostile to any particular individual, or any particular class of individuals. But he (Mr. Hunt) maintained that the Bill was hostile to the interests of the whole community. He asked the House to sanction a measure which would be inimical to the whole country for the sake of a small number of individuals who, with their eyes open, had broken the existing law. He believed the House would never have heard of this measure, or at all events would not have seen the extensive agitation that bad been got up in its favour, had there not been wealthy individuals personally interested; the consequence of which had been that large sums of money had been spent in getting up petitions, and advertisements had even ap- peared in the public press offering specific sums for the obtaining a certain number of signatures thereto. The House would understand, therefore, the factitious nature of this agitation. It was represented by the hon. and learned Gentleman and by those with whom he acted that the alteration sought by the Bill was the only thing at which they aimed, and that on succeeding in this their organization would be disbanded. He (Mr. Hunt) had never in his life heard a statement that showed so thorough an absence of principle. It had been said that affinity was nothing in this question—it had always been argued that consanguinity was everything, and that affinity was nothing. If so, why was this particular instance singled out for legislation? Why did they want to allow marriage with a deceased wife's sister more than with any other person who came within the degrees of affinity? Why, for the sake of consistency, did they not legalize a man's marriage with his deceased wife's niece, or with his deceased wife's mother? [A laugh.] It might be an amusing thing for hon. Gentlemen to think of the notion of legalizing marriage with a man's stepmother; but he believed that, in the majority of cases, the mother was more willing to take care of the children than the sister was. What was the argument used on former occasions? Why, it was represented to be a poor man's question, and it was urged that such a man, through want of proper accommodation, could not have his deceased wife's sister living in the same house with him unless they were married. Now, if that argument was worth anything in regard to the one case, why was it not of equal value in regard to the other? If a poor man's house would not admit of his late wife's sister taking charge of the children, how would it admit the wife's mother or the wife's niece? and were not these very proper persons to take care of the children? The advocates of the measure, therefore, would not be consistent if, after they succeeded in their proposal—which he hoped they would not—they did not bring forward a Bill to enact that no marriage should be voidable by reason only of the affinity of the parties. Again, he wanted to put a question with regard to the other sex. If they wished to make it lawful for a man to marry his deceased wife's sister, why should they not allow a woman to marry her deceased husband's brother? The only answer he had ever been able to get to these questions was, "Oh, but there are special circumstances in the case of a deceased wife's sister. She is the proper person to act as mother to the children." Now he did not deny that she was a proper person to take care of the children; but he wanted to know why she could not do so just as well without marrying her deceased sister's husband? He believed that for one case in which the Bill would secure proper care for the children, there would be ninety-nine cases in which it would deprive them of such care; for if this Bill became law, would it be possible for any sister of a deceased wife to go and take charge of the children? Would not she be liable to be taunted with seeking to become her sister's successor, and would not her own delicacy of feeling make her shrink from placing herself in a position where a marriage with her brother-in-law might be likely to happen? This Bill would drive away from the motherless homes of England persons who were now willing to discharge these important duties. The hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Chambers) said that this was not a party question, and he (Mr. Hunt) rejoiced that it was not. He wished there were more questions of which the same could be said, and in opposing this Bill he welcomed the aid of many hon. Members on the other side of the House, who would throw their ability and eloquence into the cause. When, however, the hon. and learned Gentleman went on to say that there had been a great growth of public opinion in favour of the measure, he entirely took issue with him. The votes of that House were a tolerably correct measure of the growth of public opinion; and what had been the history of this measure of late years? Why, for a certain number of years there was a majority in its favour, and it was sent up to the other House and always rejected there; but since that time public attention had been more closely drawn to the question, it had been more fully discussed and considered, and the result, as he believed, was that there had been a great change of public opinion, and that it was decidedly turning against the alteration in the law proposed by this measure. In 1859 there were three divisions on the Bill, and in each case there was a considerable majority for it, the votes being on the first occasion 155 Ayes, against 85 Noes; on the second 135 Ayes, against 77 Noes; and on the third 137 Ayes, against 89 Noes. These figures showed a considerable majority in favour of an alteration of the law. But in 1861, the Bill, when brought in by Lord Houghton, then Mr. Monckton Milnes, was rejected in that House by a majority of five; and though in the following year the second reading was carried by a small majority on account of the early period of the Session at which it was taken, when the Scotch Members were not present in large numbers, the Motion for going into Committee was negatived on the 12th of March by a majority of thirty-two. Since that time no one had had the courage until now to revive the measure, and though he did not complain of its being again brought forward in this new Parliament, he should he much surprised if the decision of the present House of Commons was different from that of its predecessor. The hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Chambers) went into a long and historical argument, in order to show that the ancient and civilized States permitted such unions. He would not follow the hon. and learned Gentleman in his historical arguments; but he would contend that as the world grew older we ought to look for improvement, for a higher sense of morality, and for greater purity in domestic relationships; and if we went back to a period anterior to the Christian era to prove that no such law existed, we must remember that there were then many practices which were now spoken of as heathenish, and which it was not desirable to imitate. We must not, therefore, take the era before the promulgation of Christianity for our pattern. The hon. and learned Gentleman next appealed to the history of Christendom on this subject. But though it was true that the Church of Rome had granted dispensations for such marriages in favour of certain privileged individuals, it must be admitted that the law of that Church was against these marriages, and that dispensations were only granted under special circumstances. He wa3 no defender of the practice of dispensations, for he thought that what was law for one man should be law for another; but surely no one could dispute that the law of the Romish Church and that of Christendom for centuries prohibited these marriages. The hon. and learned Gentleman admitted that if these unions were against God's law his case was at an end; but he tried to throw the onus probandi on his opponents, and argued that unless they were proved to be contrary to God's law they would be upheld. This position, how- ever, would carry him a great deal too far. There was a law that no person under the age of twenty-one could contract a legal marriage without the consent of parents; but such a law was certainly not to be found in the Bible. This, it might be said, was hardly an analogous case. Perhaps a more analogus case was that of a man having two wives. Now he (Mr. Hunt) was not aware that there was any prohibition of bigamy in the Scriptures; and yet the hon. and learned Gentleman would hardly maintain that, unless there was such a prohibition, we had no right to forbid a man having two wives. It was quite sufficient that it was contrary to the law of the land; and he had a right to insist that it was sufficient that it was the opinion of a very large portion of the community that these marriages were against God's law. The petition which he had presented, signed by 5,000 persons, expressed that opinion. In the structure of the Bill itself there was an admission to that effect, for it proposed to make those marriages good if contracted before the registrar, the hon. and learned Gentleman being well aware that the opinion of the Ministers of religion was generally that those marriages were opposed to God's law. He contended that they had no right to alter the law in opposition to the religious opinions of the great bulk of the community. He was not going to argue the Levitical question, for there were great differences of opinion as to the construction of the particular verse upon which the point was supposed to hinge; but if, for the sake of a few individuals, they legislate in opposition to the religious views of a large part of the community, they would create an impression that the Legislature were willing to violate God's law, and the authority and respect which they enjoyed would be grievously impaired. He agreed with the hon. and learned Gentleman in condemning some of the provisions of the Act of 1835. That Act, however, made the law certain, for whereas, until that time the validity of these unions and the legitimacy of the children born of them could only be questioned during the lifetime of the parents, it made such marriages absolutely void, and the issue absolutely illegitimate. The hon. and learned Gentleman had tried to make out that these marriages were not void, but only voidable by the law of England. He believed they were always void, and such was the opinion expressed by Lord Brougham in the case of "Forster v. Livingstone." Lord Lyndhurst's Act made no difference as to their legality, and merely altered the mode of proceeding in questioning it. He could not agree that anything had occurred that necessitated an alteration of the law as it now stood. It did not follow because certain marriages bad been declared at a particular period valid, that that should be drawn into an argument for legalizing all past and future unions of this kind. The hon. and learned Gentleman had hardly alluded to the great argument on this question—he meant the social argument. He (Mr. Hunt) maintained that this was a social question, and ought to be treated entirely as a social question. He believed it to be a question in which the domestic happiness of the inhabitants of this country was deeply involved. Unless husband and wife could receive their near relatives at their home, three-fourths of the comforts and happiness of married life would be at an end. He believed, indeed, that the relation between a husband and his wife's sister was almost the only case of platonic affection that really existed; for under the present law a wife rejoiced to see friendship and affection between her husband and her sisters, and such affection materially contributed to the comfort and consolation of a husband if his wife was taken from him. A woman was at present able to nurse her dying sister or take charge of her household, without any possibility of jealousy on the part of the wife or any feeling that her conduct could be regarded as indelicate or unfeminine, and after the wife's death she was able, without reproach or suspicion, to take the charge of her brother-in-law's house, and be the guardian of his children. If this law, however, were passed, she would in thousands of cases be driven away, for she could not remain there with the idea that she might be thought to have any ulterior object. Much had been said on former occasions as to this being a poor man's question; but he (Mr. Hunt) believed that it was almost entirely a middle-class question. The women in the lower classes either married early or went into service, and there was but little probability of the unmarried sister of a man's deceased wife leaving her situation in order to live with him and bring up his children. He did not rest his statement that the subject was not a poor man's question upon mere individual assertions, but upon statistics laid before the Commission appointed in 1848 to inquire into this matter. It appeared from those statistics that since the passing of Lord Lyndhurst's Act in 1835 there had been 1,648 such marriages, of which five had been contracted by mayors of towns, seventy by magistrates, persons of title, gentlemen of fortune, and naval and military officers, thirty by clergymen and ministers of the Gospel, 1,503 by merchants and others of the middle classes, and only forty by labourers. Those figures entirely set at rest the point whether or not this was a poor man's question, and proved that it was in reality a middle-class question. The hon. and learned Gentleman had not upon this occasion advanced the old argument that the laws making such marriages unlawful should be repealed because a great number of persons had broken them, and therefore it was not necessary for him (Mr. Hunt) to deal with that point—he trusted he should never hear that argument again. He would ask hon. Gentlemen whether they would be inclined to permit marriage with the sister of a divorced wife, and if not, what difference they drew between the two cases. He asked the House to reject the Bill because he believed it would involve an immense amount of discomfort among the people—because it was not called for; and because the agitation in its favour had been got up entirely by a few individuals who had broken the law. He asked the House to reject it, because he believed that the more the question was looked into and the more it was studied, the more strongly the House would be of opinion that it was desirable to maintain the present state of the law affecting the degrees of affinity.

Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."—(Mr. Hunt.)


said, a question which so intimately concerns the social relations of society has been well described both by the learned Gentleman who moved the second reading, and the hon. Mover of the Amendment, as a question of no party character; indeed, Sir, it is one far removed from the atmosphere of party passion and political prejudice, Members of each of the two great political parties will doubtless vote for and against the measure; and, although Members of Her Majesty's Government may equally speak on either side, it must be clearly understood that they so speak each in his individual capacity, and that the Government will not throw its weight as a Government into the one scale or the other. And indeed, Sir, it appears to me that whilst this question is one which especially requires—so it is one to which we are particularly well able to give—our calm and dispassionate judgment. That judgment is not likely to be disturbed by any great external pressure. Those who are immediately affected by the present state of the law are neither by their numbers nor by the nature of the case likely to assail us with noisy agitation. Comparatively speaking, they are few in number, and, for the most part, they suffer in silence. But, Sir, they are the representatives of a very large number of persons in this country who most entirely and conscientiously believe that, neither in a social, moral, nor religious point of view can any valid objection he urged against these marriages. If placed in similar circumstances themselves, they would feel that should they contract such marriages they would do no wrong; they know that in other countries such marriages are good and legal, and that their belief upon this subject is the belief of the majority of every other Protestant community in Europe, and they ask us to enact that henceforward those who entertain this belief may be free to act upon it, if the occasion should arise, without subjecting themselves—and worse still, their children which are yet unborn—to civil disabilities of a cruel and degrading character. And, Sir, by this enactment we seek no interference with those who hold a different opinion. They will be as free as heretofore to act upon their own opinion in their own cases without let or hindrance from us; we only ask that they will no longer insist upon the infliction of a cruel punishment upon persons—as good, as moral, as religious as themselves—who conscientiously differ from their view of the matter. And, Sir, is this, at first sight, an unreasonable request? Is it one inconsistent with the spirit and principle which has generally guided the legislation of Parliament? Is it not one entirely in accordance with the view generally adopted in this country—that civil rights ought not to be affected by religious opinions—and is not that view the very life and soul and essence of that reformed religion which the majority of us profess?

But, Sir, in placing my views upon this subject before the House as briefly and concisely as I can, I wish to be just and fair towards those who oppose us; and, although at first sight concession to our demands appears—as I confess it does to me—so just, so wise, so reasonable, I am bound to admit that there are arguments on the contrary side which require and deserve to be fully and fairly considered and encountered. Sir, I will not attempt to dive deeply into theological arguments. I have listened attentively to the speech of my hon. Friend opposite who moved the Amendment, and I think I shall be best stating his views and the views entertained by both sides of the House by assuming that it is generally agreed that theological opinions ought not to involve civil disabilities, except and until their result and action upon society prove injurious to its interests, and then you would desire the law should interpose to check and prevent that action and result. If, then, I understand rightly, the two strongest and most substantial arguments against this change, as advanced by my hon. Friend are these. First, that it would injuriously affect social relations which exist at present, and thus, he says, would be hostile to the best interests of the community; and secondly, it would initiate a course of legislation which it would be difficult to stop—if the wife's sister—why not the wife's niece? If the wife's niece; why not the husband's brother? There is no resting-place, no principle to stop you, and moreover, many of the arguments which would induce you to consent to this change would, if their validity were once admitted, and if they were carried to their legitimate conclusion, equally justify bigamy, or polygamy. Therefore, say you, better to stop where we are, and not take this first step on the downward course. I hope I state the case fairly, and I will endeavour to meet it. Sir, the last argument is one which, ever since the foundation of the world, has always been urged against any change which ever has been proposed; even if good in itself, it might lead to something more objectionable at some future time. But surely it is but fair that each question should be considered upon its own intrinsic merits. The forbidding of this particular marriage is that which constitutes the social grievance especially complained of—if this grievance is shown to exist—if you cannot prove by the example of other countries where it does not exist that its removal would injuriously affect society—is it just and fair and right to refuse to grant the remedy merely on account of some vague fear of ulterior demands? And upon what grounds do you say that this is the safest, surest resting-place at which permission to marry should cease and restriction should begin? The Church of Rome forbids these marriages, and grants dispensations under which they may be contracted. But the Church of Rome equally forbids the marriages of first cousins, and equally grants dispensations under which they may be contracted. I know many persons in the Church of England who entertain the strongest objections to the marriages of first cousins; they hold that the children of own brothers and sisters are very near relations; far nearer than the sisters of a deceased wife; and that they ought not to intermarry. But suppose for a moment that these marriages were illegal in England and that we desired to legalize them, should we not be encountered by precisely the same arguments as at present? Should we not be told that the repeal of the law would dislocate the framework of society, and that the arguments in its favour were equally favourable to bigamy and polygamy? But why is that point at which the marriages of first cousins are lawful and that with a deceased wife's sister unlawful a safer and surer resting-place than the point at which both should be lawful? The canon law forbids both, and if you argue upon this ground, in order to be consistent you should not be content with opposing this Bill, but should seek also to render illegal the marriages of first cousins. But, Sir, the truth is that this matter can only be argued on the side of restriction in two ways. Either you must say we will forbid these marriages upon theological grounds, because the teaching of our Church by law established forbids them, and we think her teaching ought to be by law enforced—upon which point I will say a word presently—or else, in considering the marriages which you will hold legal or illegal, you must take into account the state of public feeling and public opinion, so far as you can accurately ascertain it. And herein is the difference between those marriages which we desire to legalize, and those to which you say this legalization would lead us—the universal feeling of the public condemns the one and does not condemn the other. Bigamy is rather beside the question. The bigamist offends against the public sense of religion and right, and he is visited with penal consequences. And, to be consistent, if marriage with a deceased wife's sister is injurious to the interests of society, you ought not to be content with subjecting to civil disabilities those who contract such marriages, but you ought to seek the infliction of penal consequences. But this no one will dream of for a moment. Polygamy is repugnant to public feeling and to public policy. Again, if a man marries—or rather, lives as if married—with his own sister, or niece, or any similar relation, he outrages public opinion and violates every feeling of social decency. Such a man would not be tolerated in any English society, but would be regarded with disgust and abhorrence. But is this the case with the man who marries his deceased wife's sister? Why, Sir, I am speaking to those many of whom probably know, as I know, such instances in more than one grade of life. Does public opinion condemn persons who have contracted such marriages? Are they not received with the best of us into the society of their own rank? I never heard it pretended to the contrary. And why is it so? Because public opinion attributes no moral turpitude to such people. Because the opinion of society sees nothing immoral, irreligious, or disgraceful in such marriages; and therefore I say that you maintain this restriction in defiance of the practically expressed feeling and opinion of the public mind. But, Sir, let us look a little more closely into the assertion that the social relations of life will be injured and unhinged by the alteration of this law. Says my hon. Friend, "if a woman marries her deceased sister's husband and bears him children, she will love them better than her sister's children, and be more likely to treat the latter unkindly." Well, Sir, but is it not true of every stepmother, that she is likely to love her own children better than those of her predecessor, and is she not rather more likely to love the latter if they are the children of her own sister than if they were the children of a stranger? Then my hon. Friend repeats the oft-repeated allegation that, if your wife knew that you could legally marry her sister after her own decease, that sister could never more stay in your house during your wife's lifetime upon the same intimate and affectionate terms as at present. Sir, I venture, with respect, entirely to dispute that proposition; it appears to me to pre-suppose a state of jealousy and want of confidence between husband and wife which is incompatible with our notion of that domestic happiness and tranquillity which pervades our English homes. In the first place, I do not believe that a wife is constantly thinking what her husband would do, and whom he would marry, after her death; and, in the next place, if any wife was afflicted with such an unhappy disposition, it would not be of her sister alone that she would be jealous, and depend upon it the relaxation of this law would not be required to render the social relations of that family disturbed and miserable. Sir, I believe that this fear of social discomfort to arise from the proposed change is based upon a sentimental objection which does scant justice to the good sense, good taste, and good feeling of the wives and women of England—and one word upon this point—we are told that the feeling of the women of England is decidedly opposed to this alteration of the law. Well, Sir, if the opinions of English women ought ever to have weight with an assembly of Englishmen it is upon a question of this nature. I confess that I attach great importance to those opinions if they are clearly and unmistakably expressed. But in the first place, judging from petitions which have been presented, and from other evidence, I do not believe that this feeling of the other sex is so strong and so prevalent as has been proclaimed by the opponents of change; in the next place, I am sure that it does not extend to the middle and lower classes; and, in the third place, where it does exist, I think we ought to bear in mind the great amount of ecclesiastical and clerical opposition to this measure, and the peculiar susceptibility of the female mind to clerical and ecclesiastical influences; and, taking this into account, I think we may well doubt whether the whole strength of the case on both sides has ever been fully and fairly placed before those women who have pronounced against the proposed relaxation. For, indeed, Sir, I advocate this change at least as much in the interests of the woman as in the interests of the man. I do not desire to inflict any clap-trap arguments upon the House, or to talk of this only as a "poor man's question" thereby to excite your sympathy. But if the House will consider for a moment the case which has often been brought forward of a labouring man who loses his wife and is left in the greatest difficulty as to providing for the care of his young children, they will find that often the wife's sister is the only available person. But in what position does the present law place her if she comes to take charge of the children? In one of temptation and trial which too often ends in sin and sorrow. The wife has often, on her death-bed, recommended her sister as the best person to fill her place; but the present law places her at a fearful disadvantage, whilst it frequently leaves the alternative between the neglect of the children and the temptation of the parent. But with regard to the man who is placed in such a position? What good will it do to talk to him of the canon law which forbids these marriages? A power greater than churches and synods has implanted in his breast an instinct and feeling which tells him that there is nothing wrong in taking as the legitimate successor of his wife the sister who has already learned to love the children, and this feeling and instinct will not be overborne and outweighed by any canon law that ever was enacted. But how will his love and respect for the Church be affected by the knowledge that it is her teaching which imposes this restriction upon him? Why, Sir, apart from every other reason and argument, I give my vote upon this question emphatically as a Churchman, and in the way which I believe to be most truly in accordance with the real interests of the Church of England. Those Members of the Church of England who sit on this side of the House are sometimes accused of being callous to her interests—lukewarm in her defence—ready to concede everything and to make a stand for nothing. Sir, I believe that nothing can be more unfortunate for an Established Church than that any oppressive law should be upheld by the civil power as the result of her teaching. In a country where opinion is free nothing could so tend to weaken an establishment. Sir, I desire to avoid this in the case of our Church. I am in favour of an Established Church, and I am in favour of our Established Church. An Established Church is the acknowledgment by the State that religious teaching should exist throughout the length and breadth of the country. Our Established Church is the recognition by the State of those fundamental truths of Christianity, upon which is based the religion of the great majority of our people. I, Sir, am not one to underrate the value of such a recognition and such an acknowledgment. But the more that I recognize in the Church of England a mighty engine for good, the more anxious I am that no man or body of men should see in the enforcement by law of her teaching any in- fringement of civil rights or of religious liberty. Such an infringement I think I see in the present marriage law, which we propose to change. In arguing in favour of that change, I trust I have said nothing to give offence to those who conscientiously resist it. I do feel strongly on the subject. I believe that the general social dangers which are apprehended are visionary and chimerical, whilst the particular social advantages to be gained are real and substantial. I believe that the interest of morality will be furthered; the interest of religion unassailed, and the position of the Church of England strengthened by the relaxation of this law. I think that the present law operates injuriously upon society, and might be altered to its great and lasting benefit; and, so thinking and so believing, I can come to no other conclusion than to give my earnest, hearty, and cordial support to the second reading of this Bill.


trusted that the House-would grant him the indulgence usually accorded to Members addressing them for the first time. It would have been more agreeable to him to have given a silent vote on this question, especially as he could not suppose that he should be able to adduce any new argument or throw any new light upon the question; but feeling strongly upon the matter, he felt that it was his duty to say a few words upon it. Notwithstanding what had fallen from the hon. Member who had just spoken, he felt assured that the majority of Englishwomen viewed with alarm these oft-repeated attempts to induce the House to reform the marriage laws and to re-arrange the boundaries of the Prohibited Degrees. He would shortly state his reasons for voting against the second reading of the Bill. He was glad to find that the question had not been treated in a party or political spirit, and he trusted that it would never be regarded in that light. He entertained a strong opinion, almost amounting to conviction, that these marriages were prohibited by Divine law, that they were at variance with the best interests of society, and were opposed to those purer and higher principles of morality that were introduced under the Christian dispensation. This being so, he hoped that the House would pause before it consented to relax a prohibition which was undoubtedly founded upon the Levitical law, and which obtained force throughout Christendom for more than fifteen centuries. The hon. Member for Northamptonshire had already argued the question on social grounds, and he (Mr. Monk) proposed to devote himself only to the Scriptural view of the matter. He would lay down three propositions, two of which, he thought, would scarcely be disputed. The first was that the Divine law prohibited marriage between those who were near of kin; secondly, that this prohibition extended to affinity as well as consanguinity; and thirdly, that where the cases were strictly parallel with the exception of sex, the prohibition in the case of the man extended to the woman, and vice versâ, although there might be no prohibition in direct terms. Marriage was prohibited in Leviticus between a man and his deceased brother's widow; indeed, there was a curse against such unions, that they should be childless; and, by parity of reasoning, surely the same prohibition must extend to a marriage with a deceased wife's sister. It was said that there was an exception made in favour of a marriage between a man and his deceased wife's sister; but he entirely demurred to that conclusion. Judging from the context and from the whole tone and tenor of the chapter, he was forced to the conclusion that the natural interpretration of the passage was that placed in the margin by the translators of the Bible—namely,"one wife to another." But why was an exception to be made in the case of marriage with a wife's sister, who was in the second degree of affinity, while the prohibition was to be maintained in the case of a deceased wife's niece, who was in the third degree of affinity? Previously to the Act of 1835, marriages with a deceased wife's sister were unlawful, though they were only voidable by process of law; and though the Act of 1835 relieved parties who had contracted these marriages from pains and penalties, it was passed merely to protect the issue of such marriages; but it expressly re-affirmed that these marriages were forbidden by the law of God, and made them void ab initio. The state of the law previous to the passing of the Act had given rise to very great abuses. He recollected a case of a somewhat extraordinary character. A man married the niece of his deceased wife, a young girl just emerging from childhood. They lived several years together, and children were born; but growing tired of the connection, he instituted a collusive suit in the Ecclesiastical Court to dissolve the marriage, the office of the Judge being promoted by a servant of the husband. The Judge of the Court had no alternative but to pronounce for the nullity of the marriage. From feelings of humanity, however, he postponed passing sentence from time to time until he ascertained that an annuity had been settled upon the forsaken woman and her children. It appeared to him (Mr. Monk) that it was an insufficient argument to use that these marriages ought to be legalized in this country, because they were allowed in other countries, and that the law as it stood interfered with the liberty of the subject. The same argument applied with equal force to the law prohibiting bigamy and polygamy. He recollected a speech of the Bishop of St. David's on this subject, in which he said— He was afraid there were some persons who regarded this as a liberal measure, but to him it appeared a retrograde movement, which would carry them back from Christianity to Judaism, not however to stop there, but to go on until it landed them in a state of nature. There was a time when marriages between brothers and sisters were not only permitted but were absolutely necessary, and when polygamy was also allowed, but a purer code of morality was subsequently introduced. If the present Bill were passed, he (Mr. Monk) thought that it would rudely snap asunder one of the holiest and most cherished ties that bound families together, and by abrogating the moral law of the country, would produce the most serious consequences to society generally.


said, that having frequently expressed his opinion on this subject, he should not repeat his arguments on this occasion. He thought that looking to the interests of society, the balance of argument was in favour of the alteration of the existing law. He did not believe that the House was competent to decide upon the scriptural part of the question. Each hon. Gentleman must form his own opinion on that branch of the question, and take the course which his conscience dictated. When the subject was last under discussion, he felt strongly, and he still felt, that it was undesirable repeatedly to introduce a measure of this character unless a probability of its passing existed; because the effect of keeping this question continually under notice was to induce people to contract these marriages in the hope of their being legalized, the result of which was much domestic discomfort and misery. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Marylebone (Mr. Thomas Chambers) might consider himself justified in again submitting this question to Parliament, if he had any reasonable ground for supposing that the opinion of the new House of Commons on this subject was different to those of former Houses. Unless, however, he had good grounds for such an impression, he (Sir George Grey) did not consider that it was wise or politic to bring this question frequently under the consideration of Parliament. If the result of this debate should prove that there was no reasonable hope that Parliament would be induced to alter the law, he must urge upon hon. Gentlemen not to revive the question, and consequently to encourage expectations that were not likely to be fulfilled, he Act of 1835 was, in his opinion, indefensible. He doubted, however, whether the alteration in the law proposed by the Bill was exactly the alteration which was required, but he approved the principle that these marriages should not be absolutely declared void.


confessed he was much disappointed at what had fallen from the right hon. Baronet the Secretary of State for the Home Department, because, if he recollected rightly, on the previous occasion when this question was before the House the right hon. Gentleman stated that he doubted very much if the interests of society would be served by the question being agitated year after year in the House without the prospect of some Bill being carried; and he said that— If the House should refuse to accede to his hon. Friend's (Mr. M. Milnes) proposal, or if it should assent to it by only a small majority, and there be no real prospect of an alteration in the law, he thought that repeated agitation of the question would only be calculated to encourage these marriages and bring misery upon those who enter into them. And he added— I throw out these suggestions with a view of guarding myself against being considered pledged under all circumstances to support a similar proposition in future. He (Sir William Heathcote) felt, therefore, greatly disappointed at hearing the right hon. Gentleman declare his intention of voting in favour of the present Bill. The hon. and learned Gentleman(Mr. Chambers) who introduced the subject supported the principle of the Bill upon his belief that no human legislation ought to interfere for the purpose of narrowing the limits within which marriage might be contracted, unless there was clear foundation for such legislation in the Divine law. The hon. and learned Gentleman also submitted that this was not an atmosphere for religious or scriptural discussions. Now, though he (Sir William Heathcote) did not feel the smallest doubt as to the aspect of this question in reference to the Divine law, nevertheless he agreed with the hon. and learned Gentleman that this was hardly to be considered as an assembly suited for a discussion of conflicting interpretations of the sacred writings. Avoiding as much as possible, therefore, such arguments, he should confine himself simply to laying down a few propositions against the enactment of any such law as that which was now proposed. He hoped, however, he should not be misunderstood, or as being supposed to have given up such arguments; because he recollected what an uncandid use had been made of this line of proceeding adopted by certain hon. Gentlemen on a previous occasion, when it was asserted by some of the advocates of this measure that the opponents of the Bill had abandoned the religious ground because they proceeded on the secular part of the case. To guard himself from being supposed to he unwilling to meet the advocates of this measure upon theological grounds he would say that the code of the prohibited unions in the Scriptures bore upon the face of it marks of being applicable to mankind in general as well as to the institutions of Jewish polity, and still remained in full operation. He would also venture to say that the parallel between similar degrees of the sexes was complete, and that marriage with the widow of a brother or the sister of a wife rested on precisely the same grounds, and must stand or fall together—it was impossible to justify the prohibition of the one upon any ground that did not apply with equal force to the other; and that where there were special grounds or limited circumstances found under the Jewish polity to justify the marriage of a man with his brother's widow such a union could only be taken as being allowed under special conditions, and as furnishing an exception to the general rule. Again, whatever might be the interpretation of the phrase in respect to a wife's sister, it was impossible to make use of it for the purpose of sanctioning such a marriage by any process of reasoning which would not be equally applicable as an argument for the sanctioning of polygamy. He made that protest in passing, not for the purpose of urging it further, but to guard himself against its being supposed by the supporters of the measure that he did not feel that the Divine law was opposed to them. He did not abandon that point, although he did not base his opposition to the measure upon it, feeling with the hon Member for Northamptonshire (Mr. Hunt) that there was enough without it to justify them in opposing the Bill. But he desired to impress upon the House the fact that there were only a rich and active minority—a number infinitesimally small—who were desirous of enforcing their views on the great majority of the people who did not desire to move in the matter. They ought to have a strong case in their favour before they called upon the opponents of the measure to resist it, because it was for them to set up a case, before they called on their opponents to defend their position. The friends of the movement had ventured to state that the law of England had always been in the direction to which they wished to reduce it; but he (Sir William Heathcote) apprehended that the law, beyond all doubt, had never sanctioned one of these marriages, and that both before and since the passing of Lord Lyndhurst's Act they had been void in the eye of the law, and the decisions to which the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Marylebone (Mr. Chambers) had referred showed that, in the opinion of the Judges, that was the case. The hon. and learned Gentleman acknowledged that the law ought not to be repealed merely for the convenience of those by whom it had been broken; but as far as he (Sir William Heathcote) understood him, he did rely very much upon the fact that amongst a certain class of society the breaking of the law was looked upon with some favour. But if he intended to assert that the law had become practically obsolete—that there was any general disposition in widowers to marry the sisters of their deceased wives, or in the rest of the world to approve such a marriage when it did occur, then he (Sir William Heathcote) would join issue with the hon. and learned Gentleman on the fact. It had been urged in favour of the proposed change that the deceased wife's sister was the natural guardian of the children. That might be true—very probably it was true—but if they passed this Bill it would be impossible for her to continue in that relation for which she was considered to be so well fitted, unless she married the father of those children. But in the great majority of cases no such marriage would be desired by either party, and then they must separate entirely when the proposed change in the law should have made it impossible for them to lire together without scandal. In the small minority of cases she might be willing to marry her sister's husband, and in such cases she would be put in the position of a stepmother, who, if she had children of her own, would naturally prefer them to those of her sister. Thus in the majority of cases they would drive her away from the sister's children, and in the minority of cases she would have interests prior to those whom they wished her to protect. It was impossible if they passed the Bill that the matter could rest there, but they must be prepared to witness men looking forward to the reversion of their brother's wives, The laws relating to divorce would also have to be considerably relaxed, and in proportion to the temptation which they offered by the relaxation of the marriage laws would be the justification for such a course. He had risen chiefly for the purpose of protesting against the uncandid interpretation put upon their silence respecting the scriptural argument by those who advocated a change in the law, and to express the grief which he felt at the course which his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department had announced his intention of pursuing.


said, that the hon. Member for Northamptonshire (Mr. Hunt) in the course of his speech had said that if the Bill passed the question could not rest there. His answer to that was—to use an expression that had become familiar during the last week or two—that the hon. Gentleman did not "know the men with whom he had to deal." They were practical men, and would not proceed on theoretical notions—they wanted to get rid of a cruel practical grievance, and he was therefore surprised to hear the hon. Gentleman use as an argument that if they legalized marriage with a deceased wife's sister it would be necessary to go farther and permit a man to marry his wife's grandmother. The advocates of this measure wished to bring the marriage laws into consonance with the moral sense of the country. To show that the feeling of the country was in favour of such marriages, he had only to refer to the fact that this House had between thirty and forty times recorded its decision in their favour, and petitions signed by upwards of 1,100,000 persons had been presented in favour of legalizing them. The hon. Member for Northamp- tonshire had stated that in the short interval between the passing of Lord Lyndhurst's Act and the sitting of the Commission of Inquiry into this question, 1,648 of these marriages had taken place against the law of the land in the upper and middle classes, which he said showed that it was not a poor man's question. But that was no proof that such marriages were not frequent among the poor. The fact was that it was more difficult to ascertain these marriages amongst the poorer classes than in the upper and middle classes, The number of these marriages in the upper and middle classes was a proof that the law required alteration in that direction. He was sorry to hear it said that these marriages were contrary to the Divine law. How came it, that if these marriages were forbidden by the Old Testament, the Jews, whose interpretation of their own law was surely entitled to weight, never dreamed of regarding them as unlawful? In every Protestant community except this, these marriages were allowed, and no immorality was the result, and, but for the Scotch Members, he did not believe that the law would be maintained here for a single Session. In the Roman Catholic Church 600 dispensations were granted each year for these marriages. Seeing the law of God did not prevent this marriage, he did not see how they could support the existing law. The real reason there was so much objection to the measure was because there were so many hon. Gentlemen who had an objection to the law of the land interfering with the canons of the Church. But an injustice should not be done on that ground. It was said that if this Bill were passed, it would cause wives to be jealous of their sisters. Any one who knew the tender and affectionate ties that existed between sisters would know that this would not be the result in but very few instances. It was also argued that if these laws were sanctioned there would be greater difficulty in sisters taking charge of the children of their deceased sisters. He did not, however, believe that it would prevent that; but it would do away with much suffering and injury of which the present law was the cause. Was it not, on the other hand, generally felt by the widower that no one would be as tender to his offspring as the sister of his deceased wife? But she was driven away from his home of which she was so well calculated to be the head. He should support the Bill—in reference to which its opponents had given up the Scriptural argument—on the ground that it was simply an act of justice.


said, that his hon. Friend the Member for East Surrey was quite mistaken if he thought that the Scriptural argument was universally or at all given up. He could say that it was not so, and if hon. Members on his side of the House did not oppose the social revolution on religious grounds, that abstentation proceeded from the delicacy which they felt in thrusting upon the House matters of such a solemn nature as direct references to Scripture involved. This delicacy and disinclination were inured in their minds—perhaps too much so—by the consideration that they were mostly supporters of that form of religion which happened to be the Established Church; and they feared, therefore, that for them to dwell upon their own doctrinal views in such a debate might savour of a desire to enforce religion by the secular arm. With this explanation, he would make good to assert, that the Scriptural argument was not abandoned, and he would proceed to examine the question in its social and practical aspects. The purposed alteration was, he contended, an attempt on the part of a very small minority to tyrannize over the feelings and wishes of the large majority. His hon. Friend attempted to prove that these marriages were not contrary to the Word of God, by the assertion that Great Britain and Ireland were the only Protestant countries in Europe in which such marriages were not allowed. He took him at his word, he accepted the challenge, and he repeated the hon. Member's statement, that Great Britain and Ireland were the only Protestant countries of Europe in which such marriages were not allowed, What of that? Great Britain and Ireland were also the only Protestant countries where marriage with an own niece, a brother's or a sister's daughter were not also allowed. The two prohibitions universally hung together, and it would be impossible to relax one without directly leading on to the relaxation of the other. Again, in all Roman Catholic countries marriage with a wife's sister was also permitted by dispensation. So equally by dispensation marriage with a niece was tolerated. In a word in Protestant countries wive's sisters and own nieces were marriageable without dispensation, and in Roman Catholic countries, with dispensation, but in either case the two relationships stood or fell together. His hon. Friend had professed that the present measure was intended to be final, and expressed a belief that nobody would think of inviting the House to consider the relaxation of any other degree. He did not believe in this assertion, and he would say why. When this unlucky measure was first ventilated, some years since, the wife's sister was not the only degree of affinity included in the Bills then brought under their notice; they also comprehended the wife's niece. ["No, no!"] It was very well for hon. Members who knew nothing about it to say "No, no !" but he was talking of debates and divisions in which he had himself taken a part as he was doing in the present one. Now the niece was dropped out to make the change go down more pleasantly with the unwary. He had no faith in the pretended finality. In twenty years or less the claims of the wife's niece and those of the brother's widow would certainly be urged. If this Bill passed a man might for a short time rest and be thankful on the bosom of his wife's sister, but in time she might die, and he would then look for similar comforts from the daughter of some other sister and come to the House to give them to him. That this was no imaginary contingency was shown by the Report of the Committee on Petitions of a few days since, recounting one in which a conscientious and bereaved gentleman had actually prayed to be allowed to take to himself the daughter of his deceased wife's sister. He repeated, it was true that the Roman Catholic Church granted dispensations for the marriage with a deceased wife's sister, but dispensations for unions with nieces, aye, and with aunts, could also be obtained, and the evil effects of such marriages were exhibited in the degenerate, weak, and puny members of the Royal families of Spain and Portugal, among whom such marriages had been common. His hon. Friend had endeavoured to furbish up an argument by insisting on the unnecessary and vexatious extent to which this canon law had carried its restrictions, instancing what was termed spiritual affinity. But the complete answer to this plea, so far as it was an argument for laxity, was given by considering what the principle was which England adopted at its Reformation. It swept away at once and for ever dispensations. It said that most conjugal unions were lawful and should be lawful for all men—and a few were unlawful and should be unlawful for all men. It should not be forgotten that whatever might have been the secondary causes which had led up to the Reformation the last and immediate one was such a marriage—the marriage with a brother's wife, contracted by Papal dispensation. It had not been many years before that date that the first dispensation of the kind had ever been given, and he begged the House to note who the Pope was who gave it—Borgia, infamous in history as Alexander VI., who permitted Emmanuel King of Portugal to marry his wife's sister. The marriage law of this Kingdom might be different from that of other countries, but he trusted it would long preserve its insular peculiarity. The hon. Member who last addressed the House asked how it was, if the feeling of the country was against the measure, that the House of Commons had several times given its assent to the proposed change in the law? He (Mr. Beresford Hope) asked in return, if the feeling were in favour of the measure, how was it that the proposed change had never been carried out in face of successive illusory majorities? The fact was, that the innovation ran counter to the best feelings of the people of England, Scotland, and Ireland; and so the measure was constantly wrecked against the manifestation of that feeling. The question had been many years ventilated, and was then laid by to rest; and it had only been brought again to light by the special efforts of new Members seeking for notoriety in a new Parliament. On the Scriptural argument he would not contest the question. On the argument in favour of the measure, founded on the practices of foreign countries, he had, he conceived, grounded a strong argument against the change. On the social question, he refused further to discuss until he saw on the table an overpowering mass of petitions from wives wishing to give their sisters, in the telling words used with such effect by Mr. Sheil in a former debate, a "reversionary interest in the pillow" on which they were to lay their dying head—from the sisters anxious to bring that reversion into possession—and from children anxious for the substitution of an aunt into a stepmother. In the absence of any such petitions he refused to believe in the popularity of the change, which they were too apt to forget was emphatically a woman's question; when such made their appearance, he would argue the matter at greater length. Till then, he denounced it as the mere handiwork of an anonymous society, which was always pretending to possess powerful and respectable suppor- ters, but which when called on to name its concealed backers never got further than "Joseph Stansbury, Secretary." He trusted that the House would peremptorily reject that which he refused to call anything better than "Stansbury's Relief Bill."


said, the Bill would operate to the detriment of the best interests of the country. On the Scriptural argument be did not think he ought to use his own opinion as a test; but the fact that the prohibition was supposed to rest on the Canon law was likely to have prevented the Dissenters from taking a fair view of the subject. Of the argument drawn from the practice of foreign countries all he would say was that if such practice permitted marriage in the case now under consideration so also did it permit marriage in other cases, the introduction of which into England no one would venture to seek. All the arguments in favour of legalizing marriage with a deceased wife's sister went too far. The arguments equally applied to a deceased wife's mother. He should certainly vote against the second reading.


said, it had been often said England was the only place where real domestic happiness was known; and he believed that if this Bill were allowed to pass that statement would have to be materially qualified. He believed that by far the great majority of the women of this country had an intense and instinctive dislike to the marriages which it was now sought to legalize, and this he thought was quite a sufficient reason why they should pause before they consented to pass this Bill.


said, he should not have risen but for a remark of the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Hunt) which had put the question entirely on the ground of sentimentality. He joined issue with him on that point, and contended, that however much the sentimental argument might apply to upper-class marriages of the kind referred to, it did not apply to the marriages of the poorer classes. This was very much a poor man's question. True, statistics showed that few marriages of this sort were contracted among the poor; but that was because the parties were not brought into such intimacy as they were in other classes. By depriving the poor man of the opportunity of marrying his deceased wife's sister they were doing a great wrong. Their object was to remedy the evil inflicted by the Act of 1835, and to relieve the working classes from the pressure of that Act. He hoped they would not prolong a state of things which was really dangerous to the nation. He should vote for the second reading.


Sir, it is a great satisfaction that this question is not treated as in any degree a party question. Rising to speak after the right hon. Baronet the Member for Petersfield (Sir William Jolliffe) who tells us that he supports the Bill of my hon. and learned Friend, I desire to explain in a few words why I vote for the Amendment of the hon. Gentleman opposite the Member for Northamptonshire (Mr. Hunt.)

I admit, Sir, that as a general rule this House is quite unfit for the discussion of points of religious doctrine. And besides, I do not think it satisfactory in general to force on other persons a view of religious doctrine which they do not accept, or a religious authority the obligation of which they do not admit. And yet, in a matter of marriage I am unwilling altogether to pretermit all reference to moral and religious considerations; it is, perhaps, the one subject as to which within certain limits it is fair to press these considerations upon other people. Very briefly, therefore, Sir, I put the moral and religious part of the argument in this way. If what is forbidden to one sex is forbidden to the other—and what is forbidden to one sex must be forbidden to the other, or else a woman may marry her own father, for such a marriage is nowhere in terms forbidden—then this marriage is expressly forbidden in the 18th chapter of the Book of Leviticus. And farther, it is forbidden as contrary to natural morals, for the Canaanites are said to have offended Almighty God by making this marriage amongst others. I pass by a long, obscure and difficult scholastic discussion as to the meaning of a particular verse which is supposed by some to come in as a sort of qualification on a general prohibition—such discussion having, in my opinion, with all respect to those who differ, nothing to do with the matter in hand. I waive, as quite unfit for the House of Commons, all questions as to the authority of the Book of Leviticus. I waive even all question as to its authenticity. I only say that whatever its authority and whoever wrote it, it is plain this is the meaning of it. New, how has universal Christendom interpreted it? I do not deny, though I do not assert, that this marriage may have taken place in fact just as marriages of priests took place in fact. But I say that there cannot be found a recorded instance of a permitted marriage of this sort for the first fifteen hundred years of Christianity. Churches and sects, the orthodox and the heretical, East and West, differing on almost every other subject under heaven agreed in this. And I think my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-upon-Trent (Mr. Beresford Hope), has already pointed out that the first dispensation for this marriage was granted by Alexander VI., a Pope not remarkable for the spotless purity of his own private life. Now, this view of universal Christendom these islands received as part of their marriage law from the very earliest times. There never was a period when this marriage was not illegal. True, it could only be set aside in the Ecclesiastical Courts as matter of procedure, but that was because by the law of this country all questions of marriage were decided by those tribunals. Marriages the most horrible and the most incestuous could never, as far as I know, be questioned except in those courts. That has always been till lately the law of the land, and although it may be that through the imperfections, or if you will, the corruptions of the Ecclesiastical Courts these marriages were in fact celebrated, still they were always illegal, and they could always be set aside in the same way, and in no other way than a marriage between a brother and sister or a father and daughter. We are therefore, I think, justified in thus far enforcing the moral and religious view on all persons living in these islands. We have a right to say, to those who wish a change, "Ever since we have had a Government at all this has been the law—you were born under it—it is part of the moral and Christian code as accepted by the whole British people for centuries—and if you break it do not ask us who love it, who profit by it, who think it right and are quite sure it is expedient to sanction your breach of it, and to repeal a law which is a great blessing to us because you with your eyes wide open have chosen to set it at defiance." My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Marylebone (Mr. Thomas Chambers) has indeed told us that these marriages though forbidden by the Christian law, were not forbidden by the two great nations of classical antiquity, and he has been pleased to appeal to me to confirm his statement. Sir, I am not quite sure how the matter stood in the latter ages of Borne, when the Em- pire became Christian, but I should not be disposed to go to the earlier times of the Empire, to the times of Claudius and Agrippina, or of Nero and Poppæa, for my laws of marriage. Nor should I go to the Athens of Alcibiades, and to the state of society painted in the comedies of Aristophanes for my canons of purity of life. Nay more, when the Greeks founded their great dynasties in the East, every one knows who has heard of the later Ptolemies and Cleopatras what horribly incestuous marriages became amongst them not the exception but the rule.

But I pass from these matters to the social argument; and the social considerations, I confess, seem to me all one way, and to constitute an overwhelming case for maintaining the law as it stands. Who, to begin with, can count the sum of innocent delight or the moral and intellectual improvement which the present happy relations of brothers and sisters-in-law has brought about in this country? It was an observation not sentimental, but practical, and made by a much wiser man than myself, that unpassionate affection is one of the great educators and civilizers of mankind. Every candid man knows this is so in his own case, and must admit that the wider in reason the circle of such influences can be made the better for the nation. Change these relations—suffer brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law to marry—and besides destroying these influences, you lower at once the whole idea of Christian marriage. Now, the husband's relations are the wife's relations, and the wife's the husband's; for they are no more twain, but one flesh. But pass this law, and you make them twain at once—or rather half twain; for you propose to keep the wife tied to your relations, but to set yourself free from hers. There are a multitude of other social considerations on which at this period of the debate I refrain from insisting; but one thing I must point out—that if this law be changed no modest marriageable woman can henceforth ever treat her brother-in-law as a brother. For the very alteration of the law after so much discussion and argument would point her out upon the wife's death as the proper Parliamentary successor, and if she put herself in the way of the succession most people would be sure to say she was seeking it.

And where is the case for such a change? Can it be denied that the people of Scotland are almost unanimous against this Bill? Is not Ireland, happily, without distinction of creed, by a great majority against it? Why are Scotland and Ireland not to be considered when the peace of their families and the purity of their marriage law is in question? Can it be denied that the great majority of Englishwomen shrink from this alliance? that certainly an overwhelming majority of the women of England are vehemently against it? Is the Parliament of England because it consists of men to pass a law relating to marriage from which the great mass of English women will recoil with horror? Farther, Sir, there is no principle in this Bill. It does not sanction marriage with a brother's widow, nor with a wife's niece, nor with a husband's nephew; yet all these marriages, one would think, were included in the one under discussion. And if the same amount of energy were employed, and the same amount of money spent in getting up a case for either of these marriages, does anybody doubt that the same sort of statistics might be obtained? Farther, it is no argument to say that there is no natural horror at these marriages. Marriage laws are of necessity conventional; marriages which we should all shrink from now were, as we know, and from the nature of things must have been at one time common. And those who know best what life is in our crowded cities, aye, and in our miserable cottages, will be the last to rely on natural horror to protect us from incestuous connections, or to desire to bring down the standard of our laws to the level of the habitual breach of them. If, then, no case has been made out for the abolition of this restriction, why should we hesitate to stand where we are? Why make any difficulty in rejecting this Bill? Some gentlemen who have broken the law are naturally anxious to legalize their breach of it, and they perhaps wisely limit their endeavours to changing this particular restriction. But by some persons there is a zeal, and almost a religion, imported into this matter which I confess I do not understand. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Marylebone (Mr. Thomas Chambers) pursues his argument with an energy I find it difficult to follow. He almost resembles a person of whom I am reminded by seeing my hon. and learned Friend the Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Selwyn) in his place. My hon. and learned Friend was arguing on this subject with a gentleman who was in favour of the change, and the gentleman said to him, "Well, Sir, I am not a married man; I never have been a married man; and, probably, I never shall be a married man; but if ever I should marry, I feel so strongly on this matter that I am determined upon principle to marry no one but my deceased wife's sister." In that case, Sir, zeal certainly outran discretion.

I admit, Sir, that a minority is to be generously considered and tenderly dealt with; but this is an attempt of a minority who have broken the law to interfere with the comfort and destroy the happiness of the vast majority of the subjects of the Queen who delight in the law, and who have not broken it. You cannot allow the few who want to marry their sisters-in-law to do so without destroying the relation of sisters-in-law altogether, for the great majority of men who do not want to marry them. While there are plenty of other women in the world, while as the right hon. Baronet and my hon. and learned Friend admit, this is not a poor man's question, what pretence is there for the change? What is there to show the majority are wrong? Why in such an affair as this are their feelings to be set at nought? I end, as I begun, by rejoicing that this is not a party question. The highest and sternest views of moral and social obligation have been advocated indifferently from both sides of the House. I view it not at all as a party man; but I conceive I best discharge my duty as a Member of Parliament by maintaining to the utmost of my power a law of marriage which, although the breach of it may, and does, I believe, in some cases occasion an unhappiness which I sincerely regret and feel for, yet in itself tends greatly in my judgment to the advancement of the moral, and therefore of the general and material well-being of the people.


said, that some of the most enlightened members of the Church of England were in favour of the proposed change in the marriage law. He belonged to a party which acknowledged only Scriptural authority in this matter, and he believed he spoke the sentiments of the whole body of Nonconformists when he said that their opinion was favourable to the principle of this Bill. The question ought to be considered as one specially affecting the welfare of the poor man.


said, that he must apologize to the House for rising to address it after the very admirable speech of the hon. and learned Member for Exeter (Mr. Coleridge), seeing that it was almost impossible to add anything to that which he had laid before the House; but painful as the discussion of this question was, his convictions in regard to it were so strong that he would hardly be able to justify himself if he did not on all occasions endeavour humbly to enforce the opinions he entertained. He felt that there was no interest of society the change of which in a wrong direction would be more dangerous and more liable to be attended with the greatest evils than the interest which was involved in the law of marriage. Upon the family all society rested, and the law of marriage was that which protected its sacred character. He urged hon. Members who might be influenced by the argument of the liberty of the subject to please himself in this matter, to bear in mind that liberty—that was freedom from the restraints of law—was not possible in this matter. No one would argue that Parliament should sweep away altogether all the prohibitions which the law had made upon marriage on the ground of consanguinity or affinity. There was no one present, he ventured to say, who would not shrink from the idea of a discussion being raised as to every degree, one after the other, on the table of prohibitions, calling upon the House to go through them all, and show whether from Scripture or reason, or convenience, it was necessary to maintain every one of them. All must feel that if all prohibitions were swept away, and men were left to many their blood relations and relations by marriage as much as they pleased, a security of the utmost value would be taken away from the most sacred and fundamental interests of society. This being clear, he owned that he should have thought that it would be almost equally clear to every Member of the House that if they were to have a law of prohibition on such a subject, it should be a law consistent in itself; and that of all things the most unjustifiable and the most mischievous would be arbitrary encroachments on that law, striking out of it particular cases which manifestly fell within the range of its principle, upon the ground, forsooth, that agitation was got up against them—that a certain number of persons came forward and pleaded their own violation of the law as a reason why the law should be altered. He thought such a law as that proposed by the hon. and learned Gentleman who introduced this Bill (Mr. Chambers) could not be defended for an instant. It would be a law utterly inconsistent with itself and repugnant to all principle, infringing on the symmetry and consistency of the law which now existed, and giving nothing consistent or symmetrical in its place. What was the principle on which the law rested? He would say that it was the fencing round, by the prohibition of marriage, the sanctity of the relation of the sexes within the family, as far, and as far only, as the permanent and the necessary interests of society required that security. It had always—especially with religious men—been closely connected with religious considerations. It was doubtless true that these considerations were carried to an extravagant length in the times of the early Church, but certainly of the mediaeval Church. But at the time of the Reformation the Legislature restrained those prohibitions within what seemed to be their natural and consistent limits, and those limits were decided according to the interpretation placed upon the Levitical law. He was not going again to argue the question on the interpretation of the Levitical law; but he would take the liberty of pointing out the difference in the modes of dealing with the law at the time of the Reformation by the two parties who took it in hand. The Reformers of every community—not only Episcopalians, but Protestants of every kind—interpreted the Levitical law in the same way; and they, in some cases, like the Roman Catholic Church, allowed dispensations. When, however, they interpreted the Levitical law consistently with itself, they found out a principle by which they could tell how far they were to go. They took extreme cases, including equal and nearer degrees of relationship, and they took the case of the woman and held that there must be a converse law in the case of the man. Everybody would say that that was a consistent scheme. According to this interpretation the law did not make any arbitrary exceptions; whereas the interpretation of the other side allowed arbitrary omissions and exceptions, interfering with the symmetry, the harmony, and the consistency of the law. But the case did not rest with the Levitical law, for there were thirteen out of the thirty-three degrees not mentioned in it, and if the House were to say that there should be no degree that was not mentioned in that law, it would have to strike out half the table. That principle, therefore, did not hold good. How, then, was the question to be dealt with? The advocates of the Bill could not take their stand on theological arguments. He would be glad to know how in the world an argument conducted upon the question of polygamy would be theologically sustained. Although in the minds of religious men a sense was to be deduced from Scripture which harmonized with our law of monogamy and rejected the law of polygamy, persons who took the mere letter of the old Testament especially would very easily produce arguments much better than any ever produced on the present subject to show that polygamy was in itself perfectly justifiable. There could be no doubt whatever about it. Nevertheless, although a proposition could not be argumentatively sustained on scriptural grounds, for that reason a law consistent in itself, which presented a scheme in harmony with itself and conducive to the interests of society, was not to be set aside. The Bill before the House was one of the most extraordinary he had ever seen; the hon. and learned Gentleman who had introduced it (Mr. Chambers) actually asked the House to make a declaration retrospectively, that everybody that had broken the law for the last 300 years was to be deemed to have been obeying it—for that was the substance or the effect of his request. But he only asked the House to do so in reference to a single case—marriage with a sister of the deceased wife. It was said that this could not be helped; but on what rule did those who said so proceed? Did they go upon the hon. and learned Gentleman's interpretation of the Levitical law? He wanted, however, to know why the hon. Gentleman's interpretation of it was better than that of anybody else? They must go upon somebody's interpretation; or if hon. Gentlemen did not go upon some interpretation of the Levitical law, what were they guided by? He would tell them. They were influenced by an association formed to procure an alteration of the law to justify past breaches of it, and if Parliament were to strike out the part of the law in question for such reasons, there would speedily be formed other associations to alter some other parts of the law of marriage. Those who were not content with this argument, who did not accept any particular interpretation of Leviticus, would probably inquire whether they had anything to do with Leviticus. Some people did not acknowledge the authority of that Book at all, and they would be entitled to say, "Why should you impose upon us laws founded on the authority of Leviticus? We do not want to argue this question hut upon the dictates of natural sense." A very high authority had said that it could not be proved by natural sense that any marriages of affinity were morally wrong. Lord Russell had said, with great candour, that no one disposed to maintain the pre sent law saw any point at which he could stop short of abolishing all prohibitions of marriages of affinity, and that it would be necessary to fall back on consanguinity. If the House thus fell back to consanguinity, what was to become of the case which had been several times mentioned, of marriage of the uncle with the niece? Some persons referred to the opinions of the Jews. The other day a most respectable gentleman of the Jewish persuasion told him, as a matter of fact, that the Jews recognized the law of marriage between a man and his niece, one reason being that such marriages were not expressly prohibited in the chapter in Leviticus. He did not know whether that was so; but it was easy to imagine that there might be a difference of opinion among Jews; and it was no doubt the fact that those marriages occurred among the Jews, and also by dispensation among the Roman Catholics, and among the Protestants of some European countries. If we were to square ourselves to what the Jews permitted, we could not stop short of encroachment upon consanguinity. He wanted to know why we were to abrogate the law of affinity, or to alter it in this particular manner? He ventured to say there was no case in which the protection of affinity by law was of more value than it was in this. If there were one case in which more than another the law ought to protect the family and social relationship by prohibiting marriage it was that of the wife's sister. And why? Because the society of the sister was of much more importance to the wife than the society of the niece—there could be no doubt about it—and he could conceive no greater encroachment or inroad upon the happiness and peace of a family than the enactment of a law, which, directly or indirectly, altered the status of the wife's sister in the family. She now regarded her sister's husband as a brother. Would it be possible if this Bill were passed any longer to treat one's wife's sister as equal to one's own sister? It was an immense blessing to every class of society that the present law entitled husbands to treat their wife's sister as their own, and to receive her into the house upon that footing. It was proposed to take away that privilege and blessing. He entreated the House not to do it. He did not wish to dwell upon the Bill, but every Bill of this sort bore upon the face of it the stamp of its own condemnation. Why, for instance, should there be one law for England and another for Scotland? One great novelty of the Bill was that it was to be retrospective. Every marriage was to be deemed to have been good which had been solemnized against the law in England since 1837; while in Scotland it applied only to marriages contracted after the passing of the Act. Every time the subject had been introduced it had been introduced by persons having no object in view that was conducive to the settlement of the question; they merely endeavoured to gain a particular object important to some few persons at any expense as to the consistency and symmetry of the law, not minding whether they had one law for England and another for Scotland—not minding whether there was one law for a husband's brother and another for a wife's sister—but unsettling everything. And for what purpose?—merely to gratify agitators who had been encouraging breaches of the law by constantly and perseveringly misrepresenting it to ignorant members of society. He would now say one word on the argument of the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir George Grey), who spoke of this Bill as in his judgment a poor man's question. The right hon. Gentleman, however, admitted that marriages with a deceased wife's sister were not common, and the grievance was that poor people were not able to make them; that was to say, he was desirous of giving the poor the opportunity of making such marriages, thinking they would be highly advantageous to such people. But he could not see that the poor differed in this respect from other classes of society, and the infrequency of the marriages was not an argument in favour of legalizing them. The last time the subject came under discussion in the House he received communications from several of the clergy of the largest and most populous parishes in the metropolis, among them being the Rector of St. Giles's, while others were sent from Manchester and other parts of the country; and those clergymen informed him that they had taken very great pains to ascertain as accurately as possible how far marriages of this sort were common among the populations committed to their spiritual care. The result was that they found fewer eases of this particular kind of violation of the law than other kinds which they mentioned, which the Bill did not propose to deal with. He admitted, of course, but with deep sorrow, that what was described as incest was to be met with—not often—in the lower classes of society, under circumstances which tended to explain if not to extenuate it. That was much to be lamented; but the cure for it was to elevate the persons, to improve their dwellings, to increase their spiritual superintendence, and to give them better education; but of all things least likely to improve their morals and lead them away from crime was to teach them, by such examples as this, that it was only necessary to commit a certain amount of crime, and then form a society to get it legalized through the action of Parliament.


, in reply, said, that he was astonished, after the principle of this Bill had been sanctioned by the most eminent Judges and members of the episcopal bench, that those who now supported this Bill should be subjected to the sweeping censure which bad been pronounced by the Attorney General. If they carried the Bill, would the Attorney General and his friends have any objection to such marriages in Scotland being declared valid? It was his (Mr. Chamber's) desire to validate these marriages in every part of the Empire, His hon. and learned Friend below him (Mr. Coleridge) said that there was no instance of a dispensation being granted for the marriage with a deceased wife's sister until that granted in the case of the King of Portugal. The hon. and learned Member for Dundalk (Sir George Bowyer),how-ever, had referred him to a case in which such a dispensation had been granted long before that time. Why, for 300 years before 1835 there was practically a standing dispensation for all such marriages, and there was nothing whatever to show that any public scandal or any relaxation of the morals of the country had been produced in consequence. He fully believed that the provisions of the Bill were not contrary to Divine law—had it been shown that they were he would have given it up. The Attorney General had dwelt forcibly upon the moral results of the Bill. Now it was his (Mr. Chamber's) conviction, if this Bill were passed, that so far from any of the evils predicted from it arising a vast deal of good to society generally would be produced.

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

The House divided:— Ayes 154; Noes 174: Majority 20.

Words added.

Main Question, as amended, put, and negatived.

Second Reading put off for six months.

Adair, H. E. Hadfield, G.
Adam, W. P. Hanbury, R. C.
Akroyd, E. Hankey, T.
Anstruther, Sir R. Harris, J. D.
Ayrton, A. S. Headlam, rt. hon. T. E.
Bagwell, J. Heathcote, hon. G. H,
Baines, E. Henderson, J.
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Barnea, T. Hodgkinson, G.
Baxter, W. E. Holland, E.
Beaumont, H. F. Horsman, rt. hon. E.
Beaumont, W. B. Howard, hon. C. W. G
Bentinck, G. C. Hughes, W. B.
Berkeley, hon. H. F. Jackson, W.
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Browne, Lord J. T. Jolliffe, rt. hn. Sir W. G. H.
Bruce, Lord C. Kelly, Sir F.
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Buller, Sir E. M. Kinglake, A. W.
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Calcraft, J. H. M. Knatchbull-Hugessen, E
Calthorpe, hn. F. H. W. G. Lawrence, W.
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Davey, R. Martin, P. W.
Dent, J. D. Meller, W.
Dick, F. Merry, J.
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Fawcett, H; Mitchell, A.
FitzGerald, Lord O. A. Mitchell, T. A.
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Gaskell, J. M. O'Loghlen, Sir C. M.
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Rawlinson, Sir H. Taylor, P. A.
Repton, G. W. J. Tite, W.
Robertson, P. F. Tollemache, J.
Rothschild, N. M. de Tomline, G.
Russell, A. Treeby, J. W
Russell, H. Trevelyan, G. O.
Samuelson, B. Vivian, H. H.
Scholefield, W. Vivian, Capt. hn. J. C. W.
Seely, C. Watkin, E. W
Seymour, A. Whitbread, S.
Shafto, R. D. White, J.
Sherriff, A. C. Whitworth, B.
Simeon, Sir J. Wynn, C. W. W.
Smith, J. A. Wynne, W. R. M.
Smith, J. B. Wyvill, M.
Stacpoole, W. Young, R
Stanley, Lord
Stansfeld, J. TELLERS.
Stirling-Maxwell, Sir W. Chambers, T.
Sturt, Lt.-Colonel N. Gilpin, C.
Acland, T. D. Dyott, Colonel R.
Adderley, rt. hon. C. B. Eckersley, N.
Annesley, hn. Colonel H. Edwards, Colonel
Armstrong, R. Egerton, Sir P. G.
Aytoun, R. S. Egerton, hon. W.
Baggallay, R. Elcho, Lord
Bagge, W. Esmonde, J.
Bailey, Sir J. R. Ewing, H. E. Crum-
Baring, hon. A. H. Farquhar, Sir M.
Baring, H. B. Feilden, J.
Barnett, H. Fellowes, E.
Barron, Sir H. W. Fergusson, Sir J.
Barttelot, Colonel Floyer, J.
Bathurst, A. A. Forde, Colonel
Beach, Sir M. H. Forester, rt. hon. Gen.
Beach, W. W. B. French, Colonel
Bective, Earl of Gallwey, Sir W. P.
Benyon, R. George, J.
Bernard, hon. Col. H. B. Gladstone, W. H.
Blennerhassett, Sir R. Goddard, A. L.
Booth, Sir R. G. Greenall, G.
Bovill, W. Greville, A. W. F.
Bridges, Sir B. W. Greville, Colonel F.
Brooks, R. Grosvenor, Capt. R. W.
Bruce, Major C. Hamilton, Lord C, J.
Buckley, E. Hamilton, I. T.
Burrell, Sir P. Hamilton, Viscount
Cairns, Sir H. M 'C. Hardy, G.
Campbell, A. H. Hardy, J.
Cartwright, Colonel Hervey, Lord A. H. C.
Castlerosse, Viscount Henley, rt. hon. J. W.
Cave, S. Herbert, hon. P. E.
Cavendish, Lord G. Hesketh, Sir T. G.
Cobbold, J. C. Heygate, Sir F. W.
Cole, hon. H. Hodgson, W. N.
Coleridge, J. D. Hogg, Lt.-Colonel J. M
Conolly, T. Holford, R. S.
Corry, rt. hon. H. L. Hood, Sir A. A.
Courtenay, Lord Hope, A. J. B. B.
Cooper, E. H. Hornby, W. H.
Cranbourne, Viscount Howes, E.
Cubitt, G. Hubbard, J. G.
Dalkeith, Earl of Huddleston, J. W.
Dawson, R. P. Humphery, W. H.
Dowdeswell, W. E. Jones, D.
Du Cane, C. Kearsley, Captain R.
Duncombe, hon. A. Kelk, J.
Dundas, rt. hon. Sir D. Kendall, N.
Dunlop, A. M. King, J. K.
Dunne, General Kinnaird, hon. A. F.
Du Pre, C. G. Knox, non. Major S.
Langton, W. G. Pim, J.
Leatham, W. H. Powell, F. S.
Lefroy, A. Rebow, J. G.
Leslie, W. Ridley, Sir M. W.
Lindsay, hn. Colonel C. Samuda, J. D'A.
Lindsay, Colonel R. L. Sclater-Booth, G.
M'Lagan, P. Scott, Lord H.
M'Laren, D. Selwyn, C. J.
Mainwaring, T. Simonds, W. B.
Manners, rt. hn. Lord J. Smith, S. G.
Miller, S. B. Stanhope, Lord
Miller, T. J. Stanley, hon. F.
Miller, W. Stronge, Sir J. M.
Monk, C. J. Surtees, H. E.
Monsell, rt. hon. W. Sykes, C.
Montagu, Lord R. Taylor, Colonel
Montgomery, Sir G. Tottenham, Lt.-col. C. G.
Mordaunt, Sir C. Turner, C.
Morgan, O. Vandeleur, Colonel
Mowbray, rt. hon. J. R. Verner, E. W.
Naas, Lord Verner, Sir W.
Neeld, Sir J. Vernon, H. F.
Neville-Grenville, R. Waldegrave-Leslie, hn. G
North, Colonel Walker, Major G. G.
Northcote, Sir S. H. Walpole, rt. hon. S. H.
Ogilvy, Sir, J. Waterhouse, S.
O'Neill, E. Whiteside, rt. hon. J.
O'Reilly, M. W. Whitmore, H.
Otway, A. J. Wickham, H. W.
Packe, C. W. Williams, F. M.
Paget, R. H. Winnington, Sir T. E.
Palmer, Sir R. Wyndham, hon. H.
Parker, Major W. Wyndham, hon. P.
Paull, H. Young, G
Peel, rt. hn. Gen.
Peel, A. W. TELLERS.
Peel, J. Hunt, G. W.
Percy, Maj Gen, Lord H. Heathcote, Sir W.

Bill read a second time, and committed for Monday 28th May.