HC Deb 27 April 1870 vol 200 cc1915-59

Order for Committee read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."—(Mr. Thomas Chambers.)


said, he felt that he need offer no apology for bringing forward the Amendment of which he had given notice to a measure so intimately affecting the family life and domestic relations of the people of the United Kingdom, his object being that, before the very great alteration contemplated by this Bill was sanctioned by the House, the whole question of the law of marriage should be fully considered. The great majority of the people of this country opposed the change now recommended as not merely objectionable in itself, but as leading to ulterior consequences greatly to be deprecated and deplored. The social system of this country founded upon the law of marriage had existed from time immemorial, and ought not lightly and easily to be disturbed. His hon. and learned Friend (Mr. T. Chambers) would probably admit this without hesitation, and, further, that nothing was so objectionable as to unsettle and introduce uncertainty into what was and ever must be the most important of our domestic relations, unless a strong, clear, and overwhelming case were made out. English law upon this point was and had ever been consistent with itself and with principle, which principle he toot to be that, within the family life and the family circle, such a thing as the possibility of contracting a marriage union should not even be contemplated. The purity and happiness of the family life was preserved and secured by such a prohibi- tion; what he had called the family circle being held to include relations by affinity as well as relations by consanguinity. When, therefore, they were asked to change a portion of the marriage laws as faulty and unsound, the question to be considered was whether the system, as a whole, was so faulty, so unsound, and so fraught with evils and inconveniences that the existing marriage laws could not and ought not to be maintained. His hon. Friend would hardly deny that this was a fair way of putting the question. The answer to such a question involved two considerations, one religious and the other social. Religious questions, he knew, had better be avoided in their debates as far as possible—not that he thought, where the morals of the people were involved, those questions ought to be evaded, either here or elsewhere; but it was hardly within the province, certainly not within the power of Parliament, definitively to determine this question one way or the other. But lest he should be charged with giving up the religious view of the question altogether, he would make two, and only two, observations on that head. The institution of marriage, restored as it had been to its original purity by the teaching of our Saviour, made the marriage union between the two parties to it, in his opinion, so entirely one that all the obligations, duties, and privileges which belonged to the one extended to and belonged to the other also. He could not bring himself to believe that there was any Divine command which would sanction, or even by inference permit, such a marriage as that which the present Bill would legalize. Whether according to our own version or to the Septuagint, prohibitions and restrictions were equally applied to marriages within the family circle. If that were so, then upon social considerations he maintained that the social system at present existing in this country ought to be maintained, for that system drew the most intelligible, the clearest, and the best line to prevent the family life from being interfered with or interrupted in any manner that could destroy its purity. His learned Friend could hardly deny that women were entitled to be put in this respect upon the same footing as men, or that, with regard to the forbidden degrees, there were not actually more cases of affinity proscribed than there were of degrees of consanguinity. This law had existed in Christendom for little short of 15 centuries. At the time of the Reformation a divergence of practice undoubtedly arose: the unreformed part of Christendom still adhered to the rules which were laid down in earlier times; but, unfortunately, they granted dispensations in favour of the rich which were not granted in favour of the poor. The reformed part of Christendom adhered in this matter to the ancient rules. Ii later times, in some foreign countries those rules had been considerably relaxed, and he much doubted whether the relaxation had been for the benefit of the people of those countries; but in our own country, in every part of the United Kingdom, the law remained what it had been for the first 15 centuries, and until quite recently that law had never been complained of. In England the marriage laws so adopted had been incorporated with our statutes, and confirmed by decisions of the Courts, so that when ill-advised persons sought to evade the law by contracting forbidden alliances in other countries where these were permitted, believing that the lex loci would validate such marriages, the highest tribunal of the kingdom—the House of Lords, by the mouths of Lord Brougham, Lord Cranworth, Lord Wensleydale, and Lord Chelmsford—held that the law of the country as to marriage was what it had been from time immemorial, and that it could not be got rid of by going abroad for the purpose Lord Wensleydale used a phrase as to which there could be no mistake—he said that, by our law, the marriage of a widower with his deceased wife's sister was always as illegal and as invalid as a marriage with a sister, a daughter, or a mother was. In Scotland this matter formed part of their articles of faith. The 24th chapter, sec. 4, of the Westminster Confession, ran thus— A man may not marry any of his wife's kindred nearer in blood than he may of his own; nor a woman her husband's kindred nearer in blood than any of her own. And in proof of the dislike with which the Scotch people as such would regard any such change in the law as was here proposed, he might point to the Motion of which the hon. Member for Edinburgh (Mr. M'Laren) had given notice—namely, that he would propose when they got into Committee on the Bill, to exclude Scotland from its operation. For his own part, he ventured to believe that it was better to resist the Motion for going into Committee altogether than to propose an Amendment of this kind. For however dangerous and unwise it was to interfere with the law of marriage in the first instance, the evils of doing so must be intensified if two different states of the law were created in different parts of the United Kingdom. He asked the House to consider, in the next place, what were the considerations advanced in support of the change proposed by this Bill. In the first place, it was said the aunt was the natural guardian and protectress of the orphan children of her dead sister. He did not dispute it; but did she not occupy that position of protectress much more under and in consequence of the existing state of the law than she would do when the prohibition of marriage was taken away? At present she filled the position of protectress naturally, and without exciting any feelings of jealousy. But would the same state of things continue when the aunt was changed into the step-mother? when her affections and interests for her own children would compete with those that otherwise would centre in the orphan children? His belief was that for every woman who would wish, as the wife of her deceased sister's husband, to obtain the guardianship of the orphan children, there were dozens who would retire from the care of the children altogether, saying that, as unmarried women, it was no longer possible for them to remain under the same roof with the father of those children. Instead, therefore, of being a reason in favour of the proposed alteration of the law, the position of the wife's sister afforded, he believed, the strongest possible reasons against such a change. Another argument sometimes advanced, which he would venture to call a mere pretence, was that this was a Bill for the benefit of the poor. That there might be some poor persons desirous of contracting these marriages he would not dispute; but investigation showed that this desire was felt much more strongly by the rich than the poor. The Report of the Commissioners many years ago enumerated all the marriages of this kind which had occurred, as far as the Commissioners were able to ascertain, and they were found to be in number 1,608. Of these, how many were cases of persons belonging to the artizan and labouring classes? Not above 40; the rest belonged to the upper and middle classes. To say, therefore, that this was a Bill for the benefit of the poor was to misrepresent the facts. On the contrary, he believed that the passing of the Bill would very much tend to impair the happiness and innocence of many a poor man's home. The agitation got up upon this subject had been promoted and paid for by the rich, and there could be nothing to his mind more discreditable than that persons directly interested in procuring a change of the law should attempt to make it appear that such a change was in accordance with the wishes of the community. It was sometimes urged in support of the proposed change that a large number of people were in favour of it; and that public feeling had been manifested by some having broken the law in order to contract the forbidden marriage. If, however, the wilful violation of the law was to be entertained as a reason for altering it, then society would be broken up altogether, for Parliament would be bound to consider other cases of wilful violation of the law, and the consequences of such a doctrine could not but be perfectly startling. Again, it was adduced, as a reason for supporting the present Bill, that in some foreign countries the original law had been to some extent relaxed in favour of these marriages. To that he answered that he was by no means sure that that relaxation had contributed to the morality of those countries, and, according to the best information he could obtain, even many of the people in those countries deplored the relaxation; but certain he was that any such relaxation in this country would be inconsistent with the customs, the wishes, and feelings of the great mass of the people, and that that House had no right, for the sake of a few persons, to go against the opinions of the vast majority of the population in such a matter. He had not forgotten the forcible speech made on this subject last year by his lion, and learned Friend (Mr. T. Chambers), nor the arguments brought forward by one who, they all regretted, was not now present in the House—he alluded to the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade. His hon. and learned Friend said on that occasion that liberty in relation to marriage should be the general rule, and that no restriction on that liberty was justifiable unless it could be found either in the laws of nature or of Scripture, and the hon. Member for Birmingham rested his whole case on what he called the justice of giving to men and women natural freedom in this great matter of marriage. Now, what was natural freedom? Where were its limits and how were they defined? This natural freedom implied that a person might marry anyone to whom he was only related by affinity. Did it, then, allow two brothers to marry the same woman, the one after the death of the other, and did it permit the uncle to marry the niece? [Mr. O'REILLY-DEASE: In Roman Catholic countries that is done.] Yes; but not without dispensation. Did this natural freedom also permit marriage with a wife's mother or a wife's daughter? [Mr. T. CHAMBERS expressed his dissent.] He was glad that his hon. and learned Friend appeared to admit that a distinction was to be drawn between those cases of affinity and that case where he would sanction marriage. Was there or not a law of affinity applicable to both sexes? If not, then they must change the laws altogether; and, if there was, how could they justify for a single moment sanctioning marriage between a man and two sisters, and not between a woman and two brothers? There was no answer to be given to such a question except one, which condemned the whole Bill now before the House. If they once broke up the law of marriage, they must, in reason and justice, carry their relaxation much further than the present measure. Therefore, the argument of natural freedom would not avail in the discussion, for no civilized society ever existed which had not placed some restriction on natural freedom in the matter of marriage. The restriction must exist somewhere, and if the intelligible and consistent limit now fixed by the law was not taken, the advocates for change were bound to show what other limit could be established as good, just, and efficient. The existing law preserved and enlarged the domestic affections with respect to the arrangement of family life, and if they kept within that arrangement, they would keep family life innocent, pure, and happy; but if they broke up the arrangement, no man could tell what mischief would ultimately ensue. If asked why, as he entertained these opinions, he did not move the direct rejection of the Bill, he would reply that he thought Parliament was bound to consider, before authorizing the proposed change, whether or not the law as regards affinity and consanguinity should remain as at present. If Parliament should determine that kindred by affinity and kindred by consanguinity ought to be placed on a different footing, the Bill did not go far enough; but if Parliament should determine that they should retain the same position, then it went too far. It was for the interest of all parties, of both sexes, of the whole community, not to unsettle the law of marriage; and nothing could be more mischievous than to introduce uncertainties into such a law, except the introduction of inconsistencies and anomalies, which could only lead to ulterior changes of a worse description than that now proposed. He would therefore move, as an Amendment, the Resolution of which he had given Notice.


, in seconding the Amendment, said, that the hon. Member for Edinburgh (Mr. M'Laren) had given Notice of an Amendment for omitting (Scotland from the operation of the Bill; but such a proposition was opposed to the Report of the Royal Commission on the Laws of Marriage, which recommended that there should be uniformity in the laws of the throe kingdoms on the subject of marriage. That Report was signed by the Lord Chancellor, his two immediate predecessors on the Woolsack, and the hon. and learned Member for Richmond (Sir Roundell Palmer); and he ventured to think that that was a recommendation which the Government would not lightly pass over or disregard, and to which he trusted that Parliament would, in a future Session, give a legislative sanction. With regard to the Bill before the House, he did not believe that Parliament was prepared to alter the law of marriage on the evidence yet brought before it in reference to this one case of affinity, while leaving all other cases of affinity untouched. Why did the hon. and learned Member for Marylebone bring in a partial Bill of this nature? Why did he not come down to the House and ask Parliament to revise the Table of the prohibited Degrees? He knew what answer he should receive. It would be said that the prohibition of this particular kind of marriage was felt as a grievance by a great many persons, and that it would be time enough when a demand arose for marriage in any of the other prohibited degrees for Parliament to be asked to abolish the prohibition in those cases. Now, there was evidence to show that marriage with a deceased wife's niece was not uncommon, and only as late as the 24th of last March there was reported in The Times an application for a declaration of nullity of marriage in the case of "Gee v. Heath," on the ground that the man had married his wife's niece, and the Court declared the marriage void. He hoped Parliament would not pass a Bill of an exceptional nature like the present; but that, if the law was to be altered, the whole question would be considered in the manner suggested by the right hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Spencer Walpole).

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "it is inexpedient to alter the Law of Marriage, which has existed in this Country from time immemorial, as to the degrees of kindred and affinity within which Marriages are permitted, until Parliament has considered the whole question whether degrees of affinity should be put on a different footing from the corresponding degrees of consanguinity,"—(Mr. Spencer Walpole,) —instead thereof.


said, he did not know whether it was the pleasure of the House to enter into a prolonged discussion on a measure which had been the subject of debate perhaps a greater number of times than any other measure that could be named, now that the old and famous question of church rates had been removed from the arena of contention; but there were two points on which he wished to say a few words, and perhaps he might be permitted to speak thus early as he was unable to remain long in the House. He wished first to remind the House of the practical footing on which the hon. and learned Member for Marylebone (Mr. T. Chambers) had placed his Bill. He had produced a Bill in which he carefully avoided all interference with the laws or by-laws of any religious community, and asked the House of Commons to do that which, apart from the opinions and rules of any religious community, would be admitted to lie within its proper power—to establish a rule upon which, for civil purposes, certain marriages should be permitted to be contracted. He thought his hon. and learned Friend in doing so had exercised a wise discretion. The Bill raised the question whether we could continue to maintain our marriage law in regard to the table of prohibitions on the ground on which it had so long stood—on the ground taken by the ecclesiastical law of the country. It appeared to him, considering the great number and diversity of religious communities into which society was divided in the three kingdoms, that, with the exception of the Established Church of England and the Presbyterian communities of Scotland, there was no religious community with which it was a matter of conscience to maintain the prohibition which the present Bill proposed to remove; but, on the contrary, so far as the religious communities, other than the Established Church of England and the Presbyterians, had expressed a judgment, it was adverse to the prohibition. He had for many years felt the strength and pressure of the argument derived from the principle of general toleration, and the difficulty of enforcing the rule of one particular religious denomination on the members of other denominations who did not recognize its authority. He, therefore, thought his hon. and learned Friend had acted wisely in aiming at satisfying the full demands of the principle of toleration or religious liberty without interfering with the religious rules which any particular community of Christians thought proper to adopt. He now came to the consideration of the nature of the opposition offered to the Bill; and here he could not but observe that the Mover and Seconder of the Amendment appeared to found themselves on what he must call a narrow basis—they declined to raise by their Amendment the question of principle—though, of course, it was open to them to urge that to any extent in their speeches—and the narrow ground taken by the Amendment was, that his hon. and learned Friend should not be permitted to bring into question a particular point which he had selected from the table of prohibitions unless he was prepared also to raise a similar question with, regard to a great multitude of other prohibitions. His hon. and learned Friend claimed to be allowed to proceed on what might be termed the practical view of the case—namely, that there was a great pressure upon the law at this particular point; and opinion was divided amongst all political parties and all denominations, and so divided that it could not be said that the lax portion of the community were on one side and those of a higher moral standard on the other. Bishops of great reputation, clergymen of the highest character, had been found favourable to the change proposed—and he was bound to say he attached great weight to the opinion of such a man as the Dean of Chichester, all whose leanings, if he had any leanings, in matters ecclesiastic, might have led him the other way, but who founded his conclusion entirely upon his own experience as a parish priest in one of the most important parishes in the country. Opinion being divided in this remarkable manner on this particular part of the law when it was not so divided upon any other, his right hon. Friend opposite (Mr. Spencer Walpole) challenged his hon. and learned Friend, and required him to descend from that practical ground, depart from the plea that the present state of things demanded a modification of the law which could not be practically carried into effect, and in the enforcement of which public opinion would not support them, and grapple with the wide, general, abstract question—whether a distinction was to be drawn between degrees of affinity and degrees of consanguinity. He did not say that the Amendment of his right hon. Friend was a captious mode of raising the question, but it was a mode of proceeding on which the Friends of the Bill were perfectly justified in joining issue, and contending that according to the established rule and practice of legislation in this country, it was better to look on practical grounds to that which pressed and even cried aloud for amendment, rather than entangle themselves in the consideration of abstract questions of great scope, difficulty and delicacy, with regard to which there was no urgency in any quarter. Reference had been made to the argument of natural freedom. He preferred to avoid all arguments in the nature of abstraction in regard to a subject of this kind. If he were told that the question of the lawfulness of marriage with a deceased wife's sister was inseparably connected with, and ought not to be considered apart from, the general question whether degrees of affinity ought to be treated like degrees of consanguinity, his answer was, that that proposition was confuted by facts; and one fact that was conclusive was this—that there had been a whole generation of debate on the subject of this Bill. Parliament had been discussing it for some 35 years, and the experience of those discussions proved that for practical purposes those questions were perfectly settled. No one would hesitate to admit that natural freedom had its limits, and that when it reached a certain point it might more justly be called unnatural freedom; and while that would be the case on one side of the question, it was undeniable that on the other this system and method of provisions had been pushed under certain circumstances much too far, partly, perhaps, from the overstrained rigour of opinion, and partly, from the fact that prohibited degrees had been invented—such prohibitions as one arising from sponsorship in baptism, or other matters, due either to pure imagination or to something worse—the devices of what was termed priestcraft, endeavouring to make merchandise out of ecclesiastical rules of that kind. No doubt these were extremes; but his lion, and learned Friend had taken a rational course in saying that the line between those two extremes was a line which could not be determined by an absolute and immutable rule. He admitted that this rule of marriage law was a rule that should not be lightly changed; these were not questions that should be opened except upon a great necessity, and upon the certainty of clear benefit. We ought not to tamper year after year with our marriage laws; but it should be borne in mind that this present course of proceeding could hardly come under the name of a yearly tampering with those laws, for this proposal, which had been drawn up in the most restrictive terms to which it could possibly be reduced, was one which had been sustained by the continuous movement of opinion for 35 years, and upon almost every occasion when it had been brought forward it had received the sanction, sometimes under very remarkable circumstances, of the representatives of the people in the House of Commons? That being so, he thought the facts of the case had come out in such a shape as to make it their duty, if possible, to remove out of their way this stone of stumbling and cause of contention. He hoped that this would not be allowed within those walls to degenerate into a class question. He was prepared to admit that, for the social purposes of that favoured handful of mortals who stood at the head of the social pyramid, it would be advisable to maintain this prohibition, and that, of course, was the handful of mortals out of which this House had been selected; but they ought not to allow their personal feelings and social traditions to blind them to the different circumstances of those who were not within the favoured precincts. They ought not to judge according to what they might think their own class required; it was their duty to look beyond that, and to consider the condition of the whole of society with respect to the maintenance of this prohibition. Looking beyond that narrow precinct, he confessed that he had come to the conclusion that it was not merely an abstract argument in favour of liberty that his hon. and learned Friend had to urge, but the consideration that, upon the whole, it was for the religious and moral advantage of the mass of society if, making the best choice they could between alternatives, neither of which might be perfect, and with an honest endeavour to make that choice, they gave up a restriction which was not adequately sustained by the public conscience and conviction of the time in which they lived, when they had no reason to suppose that that public conscience and conviction would alter in favour of the restriction. By longer resistance they might widen the area of contention, where any widening would be unnecessary, and might lead to evil. They ought to maintain those restraints in force which the public conscience and conviction would warrant; but they ought to beware lest, by attempting to strain too far the principle of prohibition, they weakened the authority which all these laws ought to possess in the minds of the people, in order to be carried into satisfactory and permanent execution, and to attain those results which they were intended to achieve.


said: Before entering upon the merits of this Bill I must allow myself one or two minutes to express my regret—my deep personal regret—to find one with whom I have maintained an intimate personal friendship—if he will allow me to say so—for many years, assume the position which my right hon. Friend has now done. I may now consider myself an old Member of this House, though twice out of it for long periods—once for five years, because I opposed this Bill. There is no event in my political life on which I look back with more satisfaction than on that of having sacrificed my Parliamentary position to my conscientious convictions. For anyone situated as my right hon. Friend finds himself there must always underlie a deep and subtle temptation. He is something more than a mere statesman—something more than a clever administrator or a dexterous manipulator. He is all that; and, over and above it, he is a philosopher and a theoretic logician. There is always a temptation to such a statesman to allow the logical faculty and his own keen appreciation of abstract consistency to come between himself and affairs as they are in fact, and not in theory. I have just been listening to the logic of the philosopher; but I failed to catch the experience of the administrator—I failed to catch those arguments which might convince me that the grounds on which the speaker based his conclusions were broad enough and solid enough to sustain the edifice which he attempted to rear. The right hon. Gentleman talked of the continuous movement of opinion, and he referred in particular to the decisions of this House—the elective Assembly of the nation—the popular side of the Constitution. But does my right hon. Friend remember that, for the last 10 or 12 years, this question has at intervals come before the House, and yet has never reached the Upper House? Each successive time, up to last year, the House threw it out, three times in all—at first on a collateral issue, but on the other two occasions by a direct Aye and No vote. So that up to the meeting of the present Parliament, there has manifestly been no continuous movement of public opinion to which the hon. Member for Marylebone or my right hon. Friend can appeal. A great change, no doubt, took place last year in the tone of this House. I make the supporters of the Bill a present of the fact. But where were the indications that public opinion had, in its deepest and broadest and purest sense, undergone any similar change? Have there been any public meetings? Have there been any remarkable conversions of thinking and educated men? Have the great organs and indicators of public opinion—the leading journals—sounded the key-note of change? So far is that from being the case that—not to mention Conservative papers—the leading organs of opinion on the other side of the House have—and I welcome the fact—on social grounds, and from practical apprehensions, expressed their strong dislike to the innovation. No doubt, the same stock arguments, the same concentrated activity, the same secret machinery, the same strong personal interests are employed in 1870 in pushing forward this measure which were employed in 1850. Outside that agency, I fail to see any indications of any movement of public opinion. What farther cases of grievance to the poor man have come to light? What farther claims of domestic suffering have been substantiated to propitiate public opinion? Absolutely none. We know, from the Report of the Bishop of Lichfield's and Mr. Stuart Wortley's Commission in 1848, that of 1,648 marriages within the prohibited degrees, which were then alleged to have taken place since Lord Lyndhurst's Act, there were only 40 quoted as having occurred among the poorer classes. These statistics are on record, and they are the statistics of the promoters of the change. Their accuracy has not been affected by any subsequent inquiries or revelations. What other instances of hardship to the poor man; what other cases of grievance; what other privations have been adduced? Not one. Not one single case has been brought before the House in all the successive debates, or before the bar of public opinion, which is not to be found in the Blue Book of 1848. If there were any grievances so very pressing, would not the hon. and learned Gentleman who, with so much ability and eagerness, has taken the part of foster-father to this Bill, have made himself their expositor? Would he not have based his advocacy of the measure on those practical grounds, rather than upon arguments which are merely theo- retic? There was one statement of my right hon. Friend which I was astonished to hear him make. He complains of the narrow basis on which the present opposition to this Bill has been rested. He complains that there is no precise principle involved in the Amendment of my right hon. Colleague. If he had said that my right hon. Friend had taken too broad a basis—that his Amendment was based on grounds too theoretic—if he had said that the appeal was not made to some practical issue, but rested on pure and abstract principle, I should have been prepared to defend it; but I should have admitted that the objection was colourable and legitimate. But when I hear the right hon. Gentleman state that the Amendment contains no principle—that the basis on which we raise this conflict is a narrow one—I can only answer by reading the words of the Amendment— That it is inexpedient to alter the Law of Marriage, which has existed in this Country from time immemorial, as to the degrees of kindred and affinity within which Marriages are permitted, until Parliament has considered the whole question whether degrees of affinity should be put on a different footing from the corresponding degrees of consanguinity. We are therefore called upon to state that the appeal to the House not to pass an incomplete and fragmentary alteration in a law which has existed in this country from time immemorial, but to consider the whole question, is to shirk principle and to put the whole matter on a narrow basis. I confess that, with all my respect for the ability and the great logical powers of my right hon. Friend, I fail to follow him in this argument. It is we—and I am glad of that—it is we who, by this Amendment, have raised the whole question, and through this House we appeal to the whole country—it is we who call upon the public to face the whole matter, and to ask themselves this question, whether or not the present marriage law, taken as it is, should not be maintained as, if not the best of advantages, at least the smallest of evils, and to consider, if we take away from it in any degree, what disorder will most assuredly follow. In the whole argument of my right hon. Friend I think he did not lay sufficient stress on that which, after all, is, and must be, the true function of legislation and the proper province of government—to hold, the scales of the social economy, to judge in difficult and controverted cases, to arbitrate where the diverse passions and jarring interests of persons and classes must make cheerful and unanimous consent impossible without the careful control of some superior power; and thus, in matters where salus populi is suprema lex, not to shrink from administering that suprema lex, wherever by the nature of the case the individual conscience could not act for the Commonwealth, but could only embroil and confound the general understanding upon which national peace depends. Surely if there is any class of questions on which the Government of the State, in contrast with the fluctuating opinions of individuals, must hold those scales and judge for the community, it is that of the laws affecting the conjugal relation. What have we beheld within the last few months in that country which lays claim to being the freest in the world—which lays claim to having reduced sovereignty to the fewest possible elements, while it has given to individual opinion and energy the widest possible influence and scope? I mean, of course, the United States of America. What has been the most practical question on which the Senate and Congress of the United States have this year been legislating? It is the reversal of the marrige law, enacted by, and in full use within, one of the largest of the subordinate territories, which, though not yet actually States possess a constitutional recognition within that great confederation. Their work has been to overset the marriage laws of Utah in the face of a possible civil war; while the only practical detail on which a strong divergence of opinion appeared was, whether this overset should be backed by the material force of 40,000 soldiers. No doubt the polygamy of Utah is an extreme case; but, because it is an extreme case, it is set up for our present warning. Who could have believed, some 30 or JO years ago, that, long before this present century had run its course, in a civilized and English community, a community founded, by ourselves, speaking our language, worshipping with our forms, and possessed of a Constitution based upon our tradition—in this great Anglo-Saxon community, the second one in the world, the question of polygamy or of monogamy would demand Parliamentary decision, and that decision at the risk of a civil war? The scandal has long been staring us in the face; and it is only because we have grown so familiar with it that it does not strike us, as it would have done a few years ago, in all its abnormal horror. It is no doubt an extreme case; but it is a case teaching by example, and it shows us that there is a point at which every Sovereign Commonwealth must intervene between man and his opinions—between man and his passions—and must lay down some general marriage law which shall govern the whole community. It is a question of degree, and the House is now asked to consider whether it is the better and safer course to adhere to customs as they are, or to embark on an unknown sea of vague and indefinite changes.

Those who have looked upon the present Bill with alarm and distress have done so not merely because of the principles which are contained within its four corners, but because of the principles which, like the oak within the acorn, are ready to germinate into active life as soon as this measure may unhappily be passed and another may be required to suit the convenience, the desires, or the passions of some other section of the community. Our marriage law of England is, as all who have looked into the matter are aware, a very simple one. It may be right or it may be wrong; but it aims at preserving the utmost extent of liberty consistent with what it believes to be the voice of God; while, on the other hand, it rejects, and it abhors the worldly notion of any dispensation or sliding scale based upon considerations of social expediency. It says that there shall be one law for high and low, for rich and poor; for the Sovereign on the Throne and the beggar in the streets—one list of degrees to be permitted, one list to be prohibited—that there shall be one equal law for all. There could be no system wider than that. By the present English law, we can have no case, however rare, of any violation of this consistent and unchangeable principle by virtue of any dispensation. The hon. Member for Marylebone (Mr. T. Chambers) pleads that his present Bill throws the old law into confusion only on one point. He admits that there ought, speaking generally, to be no dispensation—no difference between classes. He only strikes out of the list of prohibited degrees one isolated class and places it within the degrees in which marriages are permitted. Well and good; but he further says—"I propose to enact that these specific marriages shall take place only before a civil officer. I do not require that they shall be legalized by any ecclesiastical officer, or by the presence of the incumbent of the parish church; I only propose that they shall be allowed before the registrar." Well, but here at once you set up two classes of marriage in the land. You break down that simplicity and uniformity of the system, on which the conjugal relations have for 300 years been based. You admit the principle of dispensations into our system. What is this Bill but one gigantic recognition of dispensations, framed to admit one particular class of marriages according to one form and in one building, while they are prohibited in another form and in another building. If once you admit the principle of classification in marriages, where are you to stop? How are you to meet those exceptions which, on various grounds of human selfishness, have been admitted in other countries? If you have one class of marriages which may be celebrated in a place of worship, and another class which must be celebrated before the registrar, you will soon have to recognize left-handed marriages and all those other Continental irregularities which, in our insular simplicity, we have hitherto avoided.

But I have to speak now to the subject-matter which my right hon. Colleague has raised by the simple, definite issue of this Amendment on which I was prepared to have spoken when the observations of my right hon. Friend compelled me to travel farther from that point than I desired. The Amendment invites a comparative survey of the marriage law of other countries; and on that subject I have a few facts to bring forward which will make clear to the mind of every candid man that you cannot make the change which the hon. and learned Gentleman wishes without going much farther and adopting other changes on which he would look with as much aversion and horror as I do—I mean such changes as the marriage of a widow with her deceased husband's brother; the marriage of a uncle with his deceased wife's niece; the marriage of a uncle with his own niece; or of a nephew with his own aunt. I say—and I challenge the hon. and learned Member to disprove it—that once this present Bill shall become law the legalization of the other marriages will only be a question of time, and of a very short time too. I found myself in this opinion on what is called the irrefragable logic of facts—on the fact that in all the countries of civilized Europe, where marriage with a deceased wife's sister is tolerated, either absolutely or by dispensation, the other classes of marriages are also tolerated. Let us take the matter historically. Who was the first Pope who granted a dispensation for marriage with a deceased wife's sister? It was Alexander the Sixth, Roderick Borgia. This too well-known Pontiff gave such a dispensation to Emmanuel, King of Portugal; and then, for the first time in the Christian world, marriages with a sister-in-law were sanctioned by the highest Christian authority. But he did one thing more—he afterwards gave a dispensation to Ferdinand, King of Sicily, for marriage with his own aunt. That marriage also took place in the face of Christendom under the dispensation of Pope Borgia, and from that period to the present one, in Roman Catholic countries, the marriages of uncles with their nieces, and of aunts with their nephews, from time to time occur to the scandal of all pure-minded people of that communion, as well as of our own. Looking to the miserable annals of the monarchy and nobility of Spain and Portugal, which has culminated in Spain in its present state of not being able to obtain a monarch to preside over it, I believe that at the bottom of this state of things—mingled with other corruptions, no doubt—must be reckoned the unblushing practice of this class of marriages—marriages of uncles or nephews with nieces or aunts—which has openly prevailed in the Royal and noble families of the two kingdoms, and has issued in producing among the nobility a weak and puny race, feeble in body and contracted in mind. We come now to France. Under the old French system, which closed with the guillotine, marriages by dispensation within the unlawful degrees went on continually increasing. Once, indeed, in 1723, the Parliament of Paris had the moral courage to quash one of these alliances, though it had been celebrated by Papal dispensation; but, still, the practice grew till it perished on the scaffold that was erected at the Revolution. Then comes the Code Napoléon. The eminent jurists who framed that code prohibited marriages between brothers and sisters-in-law, between uncle and niece, and nephew and aunt. And here let me appeal to those of my opponents who talk so much of progress and liberty to note that by the Code Napoléon these marriages were absolutely forbidden. But it is not so now; these marriages are now tolerated by the easy means of a dispensation from the head of the State. And when did that happen? At a period of French legislation which no one would call the brightest in her annals—in the early and more disturbed days of the July Monarchy. On the 16th of April, 1832, a law was passed modifying the article of the Civil Code to this extent— Nevertheless, it is allowable to the King to abrogate, for grave reasons, the prohibitions enacted in the 162nd article in respect of marriages between brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law; and, by the 163rd article between the uncle and the niece, the aunt and the nephew. So was this change accomplished in that country, which is every day, by the increase of facilities of locomotion, brought nearer and closer to us, socially, politically, and morally; and yet it is within the last 38 years that not only marriages of brothers and sisters-in-law on both sides, undistinguished in the Code, have been made legal by an easy and cheap dispensation obtained from the head of the State, but also those between an uncle and niece, and between a nephew and aunt. Well, if such a state of things can, and does, exist in France, is it chimerical in us to take care of the first steps, and watch where the drift of public opinion here will drive us if once we pass this measure? I come now to Germany. In Roman Catholic Germany such marriages are allowed by Papal dispensation. A newspaper, detailing the funeral of a distinguished Austrian marshal lately dead, quite accidentally told us that his wife was his niece. But I turn to Protestant Germany. That is a country which is often quoted—and justly quoted—to us as a model of education and civilization, a country which is held up to us—and I do not blame those who do so—as having given that education which we wish to give to every labouring man in the land, and as therefore being a beacon light which we are bound to follow. Take Protestant Germany—what is the state of that country as to its marriage law? Before the Commission of 1848 there came a German lawyer, M. Adolphus Bach, summoned, as an expert, to give evidence as to the condition of Germany, who gave his evidence with great force and fulness, and with an evident desire to state the truth as to the marriage law in his country; but, at the same time, with an appreciation of its distastefulness to English hearers, which was a sufficient safeguard against exaggeration. M. Bach stated, that in Protestant Germany the marriage of a widower with a deceased wife's sister was permitted by dispensation from the Consistorial Court, or from some other courts acting in the name of the Sovereign, with one exception—namely, Prussia—the portion of Germany pre-eminent for its education and literary pretensions. What, then, was the state of the case with regard to Prussia? There such marriages were allowed without any reason shown, and without the formality even of a dispensation. There was free trade in marriages open in Prussia to all—as well in those between brothers and sisters-in-law as also in those between uncles and nieces and aunts and nephews, with this one exception, that a dispensation was required where the aunt was older in years than her nephew. Ever since 1791 this absolute free trade in marriage, both as regarded consanguinity and affinity, had existed in Prussia. M. Bach stated that the marriage of an aunt with her nephew was a comparatively rare thing. Well, I am not surprised at that. One question put to M. Bach was this—Is the marriage of an uncle with his own niece considered incestuous?" He replied—"In a great many parts of Germany it is not; in some parts it is." Is this the assertion of a sensation writer? Is it the remark of the correspondent of a newspaper, who is sent to make up a case? On the contrary, it is the truthful evidence given by a German lawyer, who knew the resentment that would be shown in his own country if he mis-stated the facts, and who also knew how unpalatable they would be in England; who had no inducement to give untrue evidence; and who gave his evidence under a manifest sense of responsibility. It is this credible witness who tells us that, in a great many parts of Germany, a marriage of an uncle with his niece is not considered incestuous. And what country is it in which this state of things is found? Is it among a people of the Latin race? Is it in Greece, or in Roman Catholic countries? Is it in a country where an inferior civilization prevails? No; it is in Protestant Germany; in highly-educated Germany; in Saxon Protestant Germany, that the marriage of an uncle with his niece is not considered incestuous; and I ask those Gentlemen who are disposed to follow the hon. and learned Member for Marylebone into the Lobby, whether this fact is not a test of their principles which they ought to pause on and consider? In Denmark the state of the marriage law is the same in regard to brothers and sisters-in-law, aunts and uncles, nephews and nieces. Again there is another Protestant country most nearly related to us by common national descent, common habits, and much that is common in feeling—I mean Holland. In Holland, by act of the Legislature, the marriage of brothers and sisters-in-law, of an uncle with his niece, and of an aunt with her nephew, are allowed under dispensation. These facts abundantly prove that over Protestant Europe, in Germany, in Holland, and in Denmark, these marriages are allowed, whether by dispensation or absolutely; and also that in all Roman Catholic countries the marriages with brother's widow, aunt, and niece go pari passû with the allowance of marriage with a deceased wife's sister. What more do you want to show that these evils, which I am sure the hon. and learned Gentleman deplores as much as we do, would follow upon the passing of his Bill?

But what is the case of the prohibited degrees in England itself? An attempt was made before the Commission of 1848 to show that marriage with a deceased wife's sister was not unpopular in England; that it was contended that the limited inquiry carried out by the promoters of the change exhibited 1,648 alliances of the kind as having taken place in England since the passing of Lord Lyndhurst's Act, and that, on an arithmetical calculation, it must follow that 10,000 cases were the sum total for the whole country. These statistics were, however, torn to pieces by Mr. Goulburn, who showed that, if the supposition were correct, one widower in every four who married a spinster must have married his wife's sister. Except, then, these statistics—one half of which were thus torn to pieces, and the other half tore themselves to pieces in the impotence of the promoters to find more than 40 poor men's cases out of their own boasted 1,648—there was no argument whatever for the change as a remedy needed for a practical grievance. Some persons, who wished to fill up the gap made in these statistics, set on foot a private investigation, making use of the assistance of the parochial clergy, to whom they sent forms inquiring what was the number of unlawful marriages to which each could testify, and within what degrees of consanguinity or affinity they were contracted. The Return is now some 20 years old; but it is as good now as it was then—the habits of the people are the same; the passions and the temptations which led to those conjunctions then are as potent now to lead to them. The numbers returned were not large, for replying was perfectly optional; but it is not the numbers to which I wish this House to look—it is to the proportions of the various unlawful marriages to which I call attention. The Returns, though not complete, covered a broad selection of the districts of England, and it may well be assumed that similar proportions would reign elsewhere. I can speak confidently of the faithfulness of the papers; and it is, as I said, to the proportions of the different degrees which I call upon this House to consider. The proportion, then, in 1849, was that, out of 269 marriages within prohibited degrees of marriages, with a deceased wife's sister there were only 178—not two-thirds of the whole—there were 41 with a brother's widow, six with an own aunt, six with a wife's daughter, one with a half-sister, one with a father's wife, two with a son's wife, three with an uncle's wife, 11 with a wife's niece, and one, shocking to state, with an illegitimate daughter.


Were these marriages in church or chapel, or simply concubinages?


The Returns were obtained from a private inquiry, which could not be tested with accuracy. It was a general paper sent round to the parochial clergy, asking them to state what marriages of this nature were within their personal cognizance. I presume, therefore, that these were marriages taken all round—some in church, some in chapel, though some might represent concubinages—but, even if they do, testing popular feeling in regard to unlawful conjunctions. The House will observe that in this return there are two cases of marriage with a son's wife; and I may state that last year I received a letter from a correspondent which informed me that in a certain well-known borough towards the Eastern Counties there is an individual, occupying a respectable station in life, who has married his son's widow upon the argument—who can be so good a protector of a son's children as their grandfather? Well, but that argument, I venture to say, is just as good as four-fifths of those arguments that have been brought forward in favour of this Bill. I should rather say it is the acceptance and continuation of the same arguments. All that we have heard about the aunt being the best protector of her sister's children is just as good or just as worthless as the argument in favour of the grandfather. If those marriages are right and proper in themselves, well and good—cadit quœstio; but if there is something intrinsically wrong about them—and that there is felt to be something wrong all these laboured defences go to prove—then, all the sentiment we hear about making the aunt a better aunt by transforming her into a stepmother, simply falls through. Once pass this Bill, and the time and the party will soon arrive which will seek to induce Parliament to sanction other marriages on grounds just as logical, just as true, just as strong—nay, it may be stronger—than those which are now urged to sanction marriage with a deceased wife's sister. What is the ordinary argument? We are appealed to on behalf of the disconsolate widower who is left with his motherless children, and who feels the necessity of finding some kindly soul to exercise a mother's care for them. But our sex is the stronger; men find it comparatively easy to get on in the world; we have more self-reliance and withal more both to distract thought and invite attention; and it must be, therefore, comparatively easy for a father to find a step-mother for his children without confining himself to his dead wife's own family. But take the case of a poor widow, who wants a man with a strong arm to protect her, and render to her helpless offspring that succour and protection which she, in her sorrow and desolation, is incompetent to afford. Where is she to find that strong arm more readily than in her husband's family—in him who bears her husband's name, and who will hare the credit and honour of hers and his own and his brother's flesh and blood at heart. These arguments are fully as good and as logical as any that can be urged in favour of marriage with a deceased wife's sister. They are of the same class, only a little more cogent. The whole argument is an exceedingly painful one; but it is not we that have propounded it—it is not we that have brought it on—and I believe that all you have said for the last 20 years—and that you will continue to say for, I hope, 20 years to come, and long after, unless you learn a timely silence—will be thrown in your teeth as soon as you have passed this Bill, as arguments in favour of the marriage of a deceased brother's widow. There is not one of your arguments, however eloquently urged, which is not as strong and as valid for the marriage of a deceased brother's widow as for the marriage of a deceased wife's sister. You find that on the Continent the nearest degrees of consanguinity—when it comes to the marriage of an uncle with his niece, or of a nephew with his aunt—are not held sacred. If we are to pass this Bill, it will come to the same in this country. The younger Members of this House will hear these changes advocated; they will hear from the Treasury Bench the argument addressed to them—that because there has been violations of the law, confessed misdoing ought to be held as an argument in favour of an abrogation of the law. I do not apologize to this House for the length of time which I have addressed them—I do not apologize to the House for the painful topics on which I have dwelt. The arguments I used are only those of the other side turned upon those who first urged them. The topics have been forced upon us. But I charge every one who is about to follow the learned Common Serjeant into the Lobby on this Division, to lay to heart that he is going into the Lobby with the certainty that he is voting not only for marriage with a deceased wife's sister—you are, all of you, voting for marriage with a deceased brother's widow; you are voting for marriage of an uncle with his niece; you are voting for marriage of a nephew with his aunt.


said, he must deny that all these marriages would necessarily become legalized if the Bill were passed. The promoters of the Bill had no ulterior views; and that being so, they were not going to be intimidated by the cry that by voting for this measure they were pledging themselves to other propositions. What they were voting for was the proposition contained in the four corners of the Bill, and nothing else. They did not wish to disturb the general Law of Marriage. They only wished to remove one restriction, which they considered ought never to have been imposed. Notwithstanding all that had been said by the hon. Member who had spoken last, he maintained that of late years there had been a large increase of public opinion in favour of the Bill. That fact was made abundantly manifest in the Divisions that had taken place last year, in which larger numbers voted for the Bill than upon any previous occasion. The hon. Member had answered himself upon some points, for there could be no be no better demonstration of the will of the country than large majorities in the House, and he admitted that he had lost a seat through his votes on this question. He (Mr. Melly) did not deny that the Bill demanded a large sacrifice on the part of the upper classes; but what if it did? If a rich man lost his wife he could engage governesses, and make such domestic arrangements as to obviate all difficulties. But when they came to the working classes the case was entirely different. It was from a personal canvass in the large manufacturing districts of Preston and Stoke-upon-Trent that he learned the feeling of the working classes on this subject. They were now as desirous, on moral and religious grounds, to remove the present restriction as the opponents of this Bill were to retain it. In some of the manufacturing districts high wages led to early marriages, and constant labour induced premature deaths. The parties lived sometimes in two rooms; often in one; and when the wife was on the point of confinement the person invited to come and assist in the house was invariably the sister-in-law, who, if the wife died, remained to take care of the children. Under those circumstances was it not, he asked, most desirable that a marriage should take place? The hon. Member opposite (Mr. Beresford Hope) said it had been ascertained that out of 1,608 of these marriages the parties in only 40 cases belonged to the working class. But that was because the law forbade the marriage. As it was, the parties frequently lived in concubinage with the full consent of the community amongst whom they dwelt, and they were not looked upon as persons were whose marriage would be legal. Therefore, by prohibiting these marriages we were lowering the respect for the marriage tie. The wealthy man could go to Germany and satisfy his conscience and that of his presumed wife; but the poor man could not do so. It was difficult to separate this matter from the old question between the Church of England and the cause of freedom, because the canon law of the Church was maintained by the law makers of the country contrary to the wishes of the people.


said, the last speech was a fair sample of those usually made on that side of the question. The Motion before the House took a large view of the question, and asked hon. Members opposite to do that which they had always refused to do, and what the hon. Member had carefully avoided doing—namely, to define the principle by which they would be guided. The hon. Member said the question was contained within the four corners of the Bill, and he had hoped to have heard what the hon. Member's idea of the question was, but he never stated it. The rule which had been held from the earliest ages of Christendom was now impeached by the hon. and learned Member for Marylebone (Mr. T. Chambers). It was said that the Roman Church did not hold the rule, because it had granted dispensations to depart from it; but a dispensation dispensed with something, and, if not with a law, he did not understand with what; and he believed the Roman Catholics would be exceedingly unwilling to have it said that the proposed change of the law was in accordance with the rule of their Church. He agreed that the power of the State to fetter a man in the choice of a wife was a grave one, and ought to be based on clear principles. The rule hitherto had been perfectly clear and precise; it included and excluded a certain number of affinities, and neither more nor less; and those who objected to it ought to lay down some other law which would be equally clear and precise in including and excluding a definite number of cases. It was some such law which the right hon. Gentleman who proposed this Motion (Mr. Spencer Walpole) had in view; but it was impossible to extract such a definite rule from hon. Gentlemen opposite. He would be most unwilling to imply any idea of insincerity in their motives in bringing forward this measure; but if there was anything which could induce such an idea it was their unwillingness to come face to face with the difficulty, their readiness to throw over the present rule, to substitute nothing in its stead, and to leave everything unsettled. If this Bill was a just one we had been doing a great injustice for a very long time; and if it was true, as had been said, that the Bill did not go far enough, they would be inflicting a grave injustice by passing a partial measure, which was based upon no principle. He had avoided the social part of the question, believing that the support of, or opposition to, this Bill ought to be based upon religious grounds; for although some might think certain marriages inexpedient, they had no right to prohibit them unless they were also forbidden by the law of God. Lust year the hon. and learned Member for Marylebone said the same thing. But when hon. Gentlemen discussed the social part of the question, they did so as if they took it for granted that everybody must wish to marry his deceased wife's sister. They said that the only person to take care of the orphan was the sister; and if that were the case it appeared to be the best argument against the Bill; because directly the Bill was passed a man would be obliged to marry his deceased wife's sister, or to live in a way that would give rise to scandal. With these feelings he should oppose the Bill in all its stages. He trusted the House would not pass a partial measure and a piece of class legislation. If the law was to be changed, it should be dealt with in a more comprehensive spirit; but he could not avoid fearing the conduct that had brought punishment upon heathen nations would be visited by penalties as severe when followed by a Christian country.


said, he thought the principle upon which the Bill was based was to be found in the New Testament, and it was that of removing an insupportable restriction, a burden the weight of which the people were not able to bear. So far as he could form an opinion from what had been written by learned divines and Jewish Rabbis, the Mosaic law was rather in favour of the marriages in question than against them, and therefore the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Spencer Walpole) had wisely abstained from the argument usually founded on the verses in Leviticus, and rested his case solely on the social effect of the proposed change. It was not necessary to meet speculation by counter speculation, nor to argue the matter as the hon. Member for Stoke (Mr. Melly) did. In these matters an ounce of fact was worth a pound of theory; and one of the most enlightened of jurists, Mr. Justice Story, of the United States, in some parts of which the law permitting such marriages had for a long time been in operation, said, that in point of moral tendency these marriages were the best sort of marriages, and that he never heard the slightest objection to them founded upon moral or domestic considerations. That opinion might be set against all speculation on the subject. It was said that this agitation was directed chiefly by persons of substance; but was not that more or less true of all agitations on great questions? He believed it would be very difficult to show that the 15,200 names attached to the Petition presented from Glasgow were the names of persons who were rich. On the contrary, he believed that a very large proportion—considerably more than half—were the names of men in the poorer classes of life, upon which the present state of the law pressed with great hardship, inducing many to live in concubinage because their marriages could not at present be legally solemnized. Having, nine years ago, placed his name on the back of a Bill intended to effect an alteration in this portion of the Marriage Law, he had received innumerable letters complaining of the hardships inflicted upon the writers. Among others he had received a touching letter from a man occupying a high position as a farmer, in which the writer said that, having contracted such a marriage as this at the express request of his wife, made on her death-bed, and having gone to Switzerland to make the marriage as binding on their consciences as was possible, he found on his return that none of his friends exhibited the smallest degree of coldness towards himself or his wife, but that the clergyman refused to church the latter, to christen the child, or to deal with them in any such way as he would have done if the marriage had not been contracted. Unless there was some natural objection to such marriages, which came home to the consciences of the people, the rule of freedom ought to prevail. Archbishop Whately, in a letter addressed to his (Mr. Denman's) father on this subject in 1853, said he was convinced of the inexpediency of the present law; but that argument would be useless in the then state of public opinion, as the supporters of prohibition who quoted the Mosaic law, were evidently "proof-proof." The Archbishop compared the arguments drawn from Scripture against these marriages to the non-employment by the Jews of fresh meat and butter at the same meal, on the ground that they were forbidden to seethe the kid in its mother's milk, and added— I myself have never in public given any opinion as to the advisableness of the marriage in question, and I never will. Nor, again, have I ever maintained that the Jew is a fit person to sit in Parliament, but I take my stand upon this ground—every man should be allowed to make choice of his wife or his representative according to his own judgment, and not according to another's, except where some public evil can be shown to result. The burden of proof clearly lies on those who would impose or continue this restriction, and that is a burden which facts prove they cannot sustain. What I maintain is, that each should be left at liberty to contract or abstain from such a marriage as he himself may judge best. He (Mr. Denman) thought this letter completely answered the arguments adduced on the other side. He did not hesitate to state, in answer to some observations that had been made, that if as good a case could be made out at a future time for a Bill to legalize marriage with a deceased wife's niece as for this measure, he should not oppose such a proposition. That, however, was not the question before the House. The objection that the Bill only dealt with a part of the question of prohibited degrees ought not to be allowed. Believing, as he did, that they ought to deal with cases of difficulty and hardship as they arose, and believing that the present state of the law led to a vast amount of immorality and concubinage without being productive of any advantage to the community, he should have no hesitation in giving his support to the Motion for going into Committee.


said, he had listened with great attention to the extract from a letter of Archbishop Whately which had been read by his hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Denman), but had failed to detect the slightest semblance of argument in its contents. It was written in the clear, lucid, and humorous style which characterized the compositions of that right rev. Prelate, and the writer displayed, as he usually did, great confidence in the justness of his own opinions. There was in it nothing more than a dogmatic condemnation of everybody else's arguments and opinions, combined with the expression of certain broad and general principles, which, if carried to their logical extent, would go far beyond the proposal contained in the Bill now under discussion. The views which he (Sir Roundell Palmer) had stated on several occasions on this question remained unchanged, notwithstanding the high authorities referred to by his hon. and learned Friend. He must, however, at the outset of his remarks, say that more justice had been done by his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Marylebone (Mr. T. Chambers) on this occasion to the arguments of those who were in favour of the alteration of the law than had formerly been the case; because it was shocking to his mind, and to the minds of those who took the same view of the subject as he did, that one law should be proposed to be laid down for England and another for Scotland and Ireland. It was quite clear, if his hon. and learned Friend was right in his legislation on this subject, he was also right in extending it to Scotland and Ireland. Of that there could be no possible question, because there ought to be but one Marriage Law for the whole of the United Kingdom. He could not, however, agree in the doctrine that the Marriage Law of the United Kingdom, and more particularly that portion which dealt with the protection which the law threw round families, ought to be dealt with, if dealt with at all, by piecemeal, or that we ought to wait for the complaints of any particular class, dealing with each complaint, as it arose, as a practical question, without thinking it our duty to investigate the general principle of the Marriage Law. He felt the strongest possible conviction that it was a course unworthy of the country and of that House, whatever might be the merits of this particular matter, to refuse to look at the question as a whole. Some might, perhaps, consider it unwise to have any prohibited degrees at all. Archbishop Whately apparently thought so; at all events, the principles enunciated in the letter which had been read by his hon. and learned Friend would go that length. If, however, there were to be any prohibited degrees, it ought to be shown where the line was to be drawn, and upon what principle that line was to be adopted. Were they to include or to exclude all cases of affinity corresponding to those of consanguinity, or only some? With the opinion of Archbishop Whately in respect to the value of the Levitical law, as such, so far as civil legislation was concerned, he respectfully agreed, because he entirely subscribed to the proposition that what was merely the law of Moses was not necessarily the law for them. But it appeared to him that the principle of this Bill was, in the narrowest sense, Levitical and Mosaical, because those who advocated the change in the law were compelled to found their arguments upon a particular text, and that an obscure one, alleging that these marriages ought to be legalized because this text contained nothing which prohibited them. In his argument against this Bill, however, he did not intend now to take his stand upon any assumed interpretation of any portion of the Levitical law. It was not in the House of Commons—and after the experience of so many years, though, he believed, he had once been guilty of doing it—that he should venture into the region of Levitical interpretation. But they ought to know distinctly on what principles they should proceed. If it was urged that there was a certain verse in Leviticus which might seem to sanction such marriages as these, though to him it seemed otherwise, there could be no doubt that a case, at least, equally strong could be made out in favour of marriage with a deceased husband's brother. Was the hon. and learned Gentleman prepared to adopt that? Or if they were to have no prohibited degrees of affiinity, let them legislate on that principle. At any rate it would be better to legislate on some such fixed and definite principle rather than merely to satisfy the demands of certain rich men who were subscribing money, keeping up this agitation and breaking the law systematically. Whatever else might be a good reason for legislation, that certainly could be none; and to deal with an isolated question of this kind, without giving or adopting any consistent rule, founded on any principle whatever, could certainly not be right. But, above all, he must protest, in the interests of law and society generally, against the retrospective provisions of this Bill. No doubt those who supported this measure out-of-doors would think it of little value unless it were retrospective, because the whole object which they had in view was to legalize their own illegalities. But on this point the law was clear; in all cases it had been decided against them; and, notwithstanding this, they went on from year to year violating the law and encouraging others to do it. The law, therefore, if altered, should not be altered in their favour; it should not be altered to take them out of the status in which they had deliberately placed themselves, especially when such retrospective action might affect the interests of others. To do that, on such a subject as this, would be to encourage a contempt for the law; to teach people that they might break it with impunity, trusting not only to got it changed, but to get that change made retrospective. He could not but think that it was a most dangerous precedent, and one apart altogether from the particular merits of the abstract question, which the House would be very unwilling to establish or to follow in cases of a different nature; and if such a precedent were not safe with regard to the other laws affecting the interests of society, it could not be safe here. But what were the reasons for which any prohibitions concerning marriage existed at all? There would be no necessity for such prohibitions if they could rely upon that general repugnance to certain connections which prevailed in most well-regulated minds; and yet he believed every Member of that House would feel it necessary to maintain those prohibitions to, at all events, some extent. And for what purpose did those prohibitions exist? Was it not in order that they might throw the protection of the law round the constitution of families, round the domestic hearth; that they might throw that protection of the law round those persons who, in the interests of society and of the most sacred and tender affections of our nature, ought to be enabled to associate together upon a footing of intimacy and endearment, perfectly free from suspicion or restraint? It was necessary for that purpose that such prohibitions should exist, with the exception, perhaps, of the relationships in the direct ascending and descending line, such as parent and child, where, except in cases of enormous obliquity, the natural repugnance to such connections might, in general, be safely relied upon. But that natural repugnance, even in such cases as these, had not invariably been strong enough, they knew, shocking as was the fact. In the case of brother and sister, there was a time in the constitution of the human race when it was absolutely necessary for its continuance that such marriages should not be forbidden; but now, upon domestic and social grounds such a marriage was rendered impossible and was forbidden by law, in order that brother and sister might associate as brother and sister without the restraint and suspicion which would arise if it were possible for them to enter into any other relation. Then came the question of affinity. If a family necessarily included parent and child, brother and sister, was it not needful that the effect of marriage should be that which the law now made it—to introduce into the family circle and on the same footing as the others the husband's or the wife's parents and children, brothers and sisters? It was as needful for the wife to see her sister, as her sister, in her husband's family as it was before, and yet it was now proposed to deprive the wife of her sister's company, for that would be the result unless they allowed her to be the husband's sister as well. He did not say that the alteration in the law would generally cause the sanctity and purity of these relations to be violated, but they would be in danger of violation, and would, at any rate, be interrupted and disturbed. When, too, it was urged that there were many who desired to effect these marriages, he could only say that for one man who had any wish of this kind there were 50 or 100 who had not, and by legislating as was proposed they would be practically altering and injuring the wife's sister's status in 100 families to every one upon whom the alteration conferred any satisfaction. If they took a sister out of 100 families in order to introduce a wife into one, did they think the balance would be on the side of the good or the evil, looking at the matter in a social point of view? It might, of course, happen that the death of a man's wife left a family of young children without a mother's care. Was the wife's sister to be no longer a husband's sister, to be no longer the children's aunt, without exciting the suspicion, the evil surmise, and observations of the world? That danger was provided against by the present law; but it would, in his opinion, at once arise in case the alteration now proposed were made. Mr. Justice Story had been quoted by his hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Denman), as saying that no harm came of these marriages in America. He replied, that the question was not whether harm came of them, but whether or not we should interfere by law so as to destroy the family status of the wife's sister. He felt convinced that the law was necessary for the purpose of throwing a protection around families, and that if the law were altered that protection would be withdrawn. It was said that there were numerous instances among the poorer classes where the present law inflicted great hardship; but he knew also that the usefulness of the law which gave to the wife's sister the status of a sister was recognized among the poorer classes as well as the richer, and from the testimony of clergymen well acquainted with the poor of London and of some very populous country districts, he was led to believe that these marriages were not really more common among the poor than were other irregular connections, such, for instance, as bigamy; while among those who did not wish to marry their wives' sisters, there was the same dislike to an alteration in the law as there was among the higher classes. One thing certainly appeared to be curious—the whole of the arguments in favour of the Bill were drawn from, the poor, but the agitation was confined to the rich. That agitation, too, was not disinterested, but had for its object the promotion of the views and interests of those who took part in it. He had stated that he should not trouble the House with any arguments upon the theological question, but he would beg leave to say a word or two on a matter that was frequently misunderstood. At the time of the Reformation reference was constantly made to those passages in the Mosaic law as indicating not the degrees, but the limits of relationship within which the prohibitions should range; and the Reformed Churches took, as the Roman Catholic Church had done—for that Church also, while extending the doctrine of impediments to marriage still further, recognized a material distinction between the Levitical and other degrees—the extreme limits which they found there, and included those degrees of relationship between them, to which by a parity of reasoning these prohibitions were applicable. Until recently there was, practically, unanimity of interpretation upon that subject, and it was not satisfactory, therefore, to be told, even upon the high authority of Archbishop Whately, that there was nothing in the religious argument. He had not founded his arguments against this measure upon theological grounds; but it did not detract from the weight of the social arguments against it to find that the religious arguments pointed in the same direction. When, therefore, he said that he was content to argue this question upon social grounds, he did so believing that the religious argument was also in favour of the view which he took, and that the removal of the restrictions, of which he held the final cause to be domestic and social, would, at the same time, involve a violation of the principles of morality and sound religion.


said, he believed that the opinion and practice of the whole civilized world were sufficient refutation of the arguments which had just fallen from his hon. and learned Friend (Sir Roundell Palmer), and which had been used a thousand times before. His hon. and learned Friend argued that a sister-in-law could not live with her brother-in-law, in case of the removal of these restrictions, without giving rise to scandal, reproach, or sus- picion; but the thing was done at present, without any such mischievous results, throughout the whole civilized world. Lord Lyndhurst had admitted that there was not a State more pure in the morals of its people than that of Massachusetts, where these marriages were permitted. He (Mr. T. Chambers) could not concur in the statement that this was a Levitical Bill. The opposition to it had originally been founded on a Levitical argument, and that argument had been encountered by a Levitical refutation; but the objection to the measure on that, as well as social grounds, had now, he was pleased to see, been abandoned in the Amendment now under consideration. With reference to the charge that this Bill was the result of an agitation carried carried on by the rich, he should be glad to learn what agitation of any kind had ever been carried on by the poor. Indeed, how would it be possible for the poor to protect themselves if it were not for the assistance of the wealthier classes? He was amazed that his hon. and learned Friend in that House should object to the retrospective part of the Bill. What about the Act of 1835? If this prohibition were repealed, it would be because the public opinion of the country had decided that it never ought to have been imposed and that it was not just to retain it; and if that were so, how could any man come forward and say—"Whatever you do as to the future, let the past remain untouched, and let the children of former marriages of this kind remain bastards?" Now, what was the nature of the Amendment to the Motion before the House? He was very glad that he had yielded to the representations made from the other side, and to the persuasions of Gentlemen on his own side, when he allowed such a long interval to elapse between the second reading and the present stage of the Bill, in order that its opponents might have time to present their case in the best form. They had had plenty of time to consider the question, to discuss it among themselves, and to determine what form the Amendment should finally assume. That Amendment in its final form his right hon. Friend (Mr. Spencer Walpole) had moved to-day. It was well worth consideration, but did it touch the social objections on which his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Richmond (Sir Roundell Palmer) had dwelt so much? Not at all. It altogether ignored them, and the scriptural objections also, so that some progress in the argument had been made at last. The Amendment consisted of two parts. The first, was that it was proposed to alter the Marriage Law which had existed from time immemorial, and the second, that it was inexpedient to do that until Parliament had considered whether degrees of affinity should be put on a different footing from degrees of consanguinity. Now, the two assumptions contained in the Amendment were alike without foundation. The first was that the Marriage Law as it at present stood had existed from time immemorial. Time immemorial may, with more or less propriety, be interpreted to mean historic as distinguished from prehistoric and legendary times; legal memory, or the reign of Richard the 1st, or living memory. On either of these interpretations the assumption in the Amendment is baseless. The Marriage Law was not the same that it had been in historical memory, for it had come down within that period from seven degrees of affinity to four. It was not the same in legal memory, because it had come down from four degrees of affinity to two. And it was not the same in living memory, because Lord Lyndhurst's Act altered it in 1835. The alterations that had been made were every one of them excellent precedents for the Bill which he had brought in. Indeed, so far from there being such stability in the Marriage Law as to make interference unwarrantable, it would be far nearer to truth and accuracy to say that the perpetual alterations which had been made in it would justify this Bill, if justification for further alterations were needed. The second assumption in the Amendment was that affinity and consanguinity ever did hold as regarded the Marriage Law such relations as would justify the phrase "corresponding degrees." There was a fallacy in the words "corresponding degrees." Could his right hon. Friend opposite, or any other man, give a single proof from ancient or modern times that affinity and consanguinity were ever reckoned the same thing in regard to marriage? Had his right hon. Friend suggested a single reason from the history of the Christian Church that would justify the assumption that affinity and consanguinity in relation to marriage were the same thing? Not one. The principle of dispensation had been talked of; but dispensation was from ecclesiastical and not from Divine law, and hence it never applied to consanguinity. The right time for raising this question was in 1835, when Lord Lyndhurst passed his Bill, which touched 20 cases of affinity and abolished every one of them. He would read a portion of the Preamble of Lord Lyndhurst's Act. It said— Whereas marriages between persons within the prohibited degrees are voidable only by sentence of the Ecclesiastical Court pronounced during the lifetime of both the parties thereto, and it is unreasonable that the state and condition of the children of marriages between persons within the prohibited degrees of affinity should remain unsettled during so long a period"— Here, let it be observed, that the first allusion to "prohibited degrees" said nothing either of affinity or consanguinity, but the second expressly mentioned degrees of affinity, and affinity alone. It then went on to say— And it is fitting that all marriages which may hereafter be celebrated between persons within the prohibited degrees of consanguinity or affinity should be ipso facto void, and not merely voidable. Be it therefore enacted.…that all marriages which shall have been celebrated before the passing of this Act between persons being within the prohibited degrees of affinity shall not hereafter be annulled for that cause," &c. What about consanguinity, then? When that Act passed there were persons living together within the prohibited degrees of consanguinity, and yet it was not proposed that the children of such connection should be rendered legitimate. How, then, could it be said that the questions of affinity and consanguinity were determined by the same considerations? What Bishop in the House of Lords got up, when Lord Lyndhurst's Bill was before it, to say that affinity and consanguinity ought to be put on the same footing? Not one. They knew very well that the words "corresponding degrees" were themselves a fallacy. The doctrine affinitas non generat affinitatem must be regarded as holding good; so that strictly speaking there were no degrees of affinity. Did his right hon. Friend really desire to bring the question of the 20 degrees of affinity into discussion in that House? Why he would loathe the very idea of such a thing. Hon. Gentlemen opposite did not really believe that it was the same thing for a man to marry his wife's sister as his wife's mother or daughter. Therefore, their object in proposing the Amendment was simply to obstruct the Bill, and the Amendment was not a bonâ fide one. The House of Commons had already decided the question on 33 Divisions, and what his right hon. Friend was really attempting to do was to reimpose a restriction which was already gone. They could not enforce the law; and, under these circumstances, he would commend to the consideration of the House the words of the late Earl of Derby, who said that he thought it unjust and unwise to prohibit by law that which they permitted in practice.


said, that the course which the debate had followed fully justified the action which he had taken last year, in somewhat straining the forms of the House so as to get a discussion upon the question whether the Marriage Law should be altered so as to affect other marriages of affinity. Though the First Minister of the Crown had stated that he believed we could stop here, they had heard from the hon. and learned Member for Tiverton (Mr. Denman), that he was quite prepared to go further; and, therefore, the House, if it passed the Bill, must do so with the perfect understanding that all the collateral relations mast stand or fall together. They had hardly been met fairly by the hon. and learned Member for Marylebone (Mr. T. Chambers), because he had attempted to isolate the question. The feeling existed, and rightly existed, that if the proposed alteration were made, the same power should be given to a woman to contract marriage with two brothers as to a man with two sisters. Owing to the course he took last year with respect to giving permission to a woman to contract marriage with two brothers, he had received several interesting letters, some extracts from which he would read. As long as the law remained uniform no one would have a right to complain, but when the law was not uniform then a grievance was felt. One of the letters which he had received was from a woman who had married two brothers in succession. She said that the persons who had organized the association for legalizing marriages with a deceased wife's sister were either very selfish or very inaccurate thinkers. She had married two brothers, and was very much in- terested in this question. The command was given in Holy Writ with reference to the succession to land, that the man should marry the widow of his brother, and that command had never been annulled; for though the Jewish law had been done away the spirit of the law still remained the same, and though the redemption of the land could not be put forward now, as a plea why such marriages should be contracted, still if a man would be likely to make a better father for his brother's children than another, that was a better reason than the redemption of land. Such was the lady's reasoning on the subject. A great deal had been said about an act of justice, but if they gave a man power to marry two sisters it would be unjust to prevent a woman from marrying two brothers. Another letter to which he had alluded was from a man who had married the widow of his brother, and was dated from the borough he represented—Boston. The writer said— Being a supporter of yours at the last election, I with others much appreciate the Bill on the marriage question, as to the deceased brother's widow, and being that way circumstanced myself, I should be glad if you would give it all the support in your power. I find you have moved an Amendment which will exactly meet my case. These letters proved that they were legislating in the dark if they supposed that this was the only case in which legislation would be required. If they were to pass this Bill to-morrow he was not the man to oppose the extension of the principle, and his opinion was that in that case all marriages between degrees more remote ought to be allowed. Earl Russell expressed his opinion that if they made a change in the law they could not stop short with this measure, neither could he see the justice of saying to a man that he should be able to make a particular kind of marriage to suit his convenience while his widow would not have the same privilege. The noble Earl thought that the law should be equally applicable to both sexes. The real question at issue in his (Mr. Collins's) opinion was, whether any affinity except that arising out of the ascending or descending line should be held as a bar to marriage; but, if that were the case, it would be better to deal with the subject as a whole than to keep perpetually tinkering with the Marriage Law. There was a case mentioned to him in the Lobby by a Gentleman, who said that he had parted with his wife's sister two years ago, and he did not want to live with her again. But if this Bill passed the only chance of escape for the gentleman would be that in the meantime he should marry somebody else, and thus contract himself out of its operation. He did not think a person ought to be driven into such a marriage as this, therefore, if it should get into Commit tee, he would bring up an Amendment to meet such a case as he had mentioned.

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

The House divided:—Ayes 184; Noes 114: Majority 70.

Adam, W. P. Dickinson, S. S.
Agar-Ellis, hon. L. G. F. Dilke, Sir C. W.
Anstruther, Sir R. Dillwyn, L. L.
Ayrton, rt. hon. A. S. Dixon, G.
Barclay, A. C. Dodds, J.
Baring, T. Dodson, J. G.
Barrington, Viscount Dowse, R.
Baxter, W. E. Edwardes, hon. Col. W.
Bazley, Sir T. Egerton, Capt. hon. F.
Beaumont, Capt. F. Enfield, Viscount
Beaumont, H. F. Eykyn, R.
Bentall, E. H. Figgins, J.
Bentinck, G. C. Fitzmaurice, Lord E.
Biddulph, M. Fitzwilliam, hn.C.W.W.
Bowring, E. A. Forster, C.
Brewer, Dr. Forster, rt. hon. W. E.
Bright, J. (Manchester) Fothergill, R.
Brinckman, Captain Fowler, W.
Briscoe, J. I. French, rt. hon. Col.
Bristowe, S. B. Gilpin, C.
Brogden, A. Glyn, hon. G. G.
Brown, A. H. Goldsmid, Sir F. H.
Bruce, rt. hon. Lord E. Gourley, E. T.
Bryan, G L. Gower, hon. E. F. L.
Buller, Sir E. M. Graves, S. R.
Bury, Viscount Grosvenor, Lord R.
Buxton, C. Grove, T. F.
Campbell, H. Gurney, right hon. R.
Candlish, J. Hadfield, G.
Carnegie, hon. C. Hamilton, Lord C. J.
Carter, Mr. Alderman Hamilton, Lord G.
Cavendish, Lord F. C. Hanmer, Sir J.
Chadwick, D. Harcourt, W.G.G.V.V.
Chaplin, H. Harris, J.D.
Cholmeley, Captain Haviland-Burke, E.
Clay, J. Headlam, rt. hon. T. E.
Colebrooke, Sir T. E. Henley, Lord
Crawford, R. W. Herbert, hon. A. E. W.
Dalglish, R. Herbert, H. A.
Dalrymple, D. Hibbert, J. T.
Davison, J. R. Hill, A. S.
Denman, hon. G. Hoare, Sir H. A.
Dent, J. D. Hodgkinson, G.
Holms, J. Rothschild, Brn.L.N.de
Howard, hon. C. W. G. Rothschild, Brn. M.A. de
Howard, J. Rothschild, N. M. de
Hutt, right hon. Sir W. Russell, A.
Illingworth, A. Rylands, P.
Jackson, R. W. St. Aubyn, J.
James, H. Salomons, Sir D.
Johnston, A. Samuda, J. D'A.
Johnstone, Sir H. Samuelson, B.
Jones, J. Sartoris, E. J.
Kavanagh, A. MacM. Seely, C. (Lincoln)
Kay-Shuttleworth, U.J. Seely, C. (Nottingham)
King, hon. P. J. L. Seymour, A.
Kingscote, Colonel Shaw, R.
Knatchbull - Hugessen, E. H. Sherriff, A. C.
Sidebottom, J.
Lancaster, J. Simon, Mr. Serjeant
Lawrence, Sir J. C. Sinclair, Sir J. G. T.
Lawrence, W. Smith, E.
Leatham, E. A. Somerset, Colonel
Lewis, J. D. Stacpoole, W.
Lewis, J. H. Stansfeld, right hon. J.
Liddell, hon. H. G. Stone, W. H.
Lowther, J. Strutt, hon. H.
Lusk, A. Stuart, Colonel
M'Arthur, W. Sturt, Lieut.-Col. N.
Macfie, R. A. Talbot, C. R. M.
Martin, P. W. Taylor, P. A.
Mellor, T. W. Tipping, W.
Melly, G. Tite, Sir W.
Merry, J. Tollemache, hon. F. J.
Miall, E. Tollemache, J.
Mitchell, T. A. Trelawny, Sir J. S.
Morgan, G. O. Trevelyan, G. O.
Morrison, W. Villiers, right hon. C. P.
Mundella, A. J. Vivian, Capt. hn. J.C.W.
Muntz, P. H. Wedderburn, Sir D.
O'Reilly-Dease, M. Weguelin, T. M.
Palmer, J. H. West, H. W.
Pease, J. W. Whalley, G. H.
Plimsoll, S. Wheelhouse, W. S. J.
Pollard-Urquhart, W. Whitwell, J.
Potter, E. Williams, W.
Powell, W. Wingfield, Sir C.
Price, W. E. Woods, H.
Rathbone, W. Wynn, C. W. W.
Rebow, J. G. Young, A. W.
Reed, C.
Richard, H. TELLERS.
Ridley, M. W. Chambers, T.
Robinson, E. S. Morley, S.
Roden, W. S.
Adderley, rt.hn. Sir C.B. Charley, W. T.
Allen, Major Clive, Col. hon. G. W.
Arkwright, A. P. Cole, Col. hon. H. A.
Aytoun, R. S. Coleridge, Sir J. D.
Barnett, H. Collins, T.
Barttelot, Colonel Crichton, Viscount
Bateson, Sir T. Croft. Sir H. G. D.
Beach, Sir, M. H. Cross, R. A.
Beach, W. W. B. Cubitt, G.
Beresford, Lt.-Col. M. Dalrymple, C.
Birley, H. Damer, Capt. Dawson-
Bright, R. Davenport, W. B.
Brise, Colonel R. Dawson, R. P.
Broadley, W. H. H. Dimsdale, R.
Cartwright, F. Dyott, Colonel R.
Cave, right hon. S. Egerton, hon. W.
Cecil, Lord E. H.B.G. Elphinstone, Sir J.D.H.
Erskine, Admiral J. E. Mowbray, rt. hon, J. R.
Ewing, A. O. Neville-Grenville, R.
Ewing, H. E. C. Newport, Viscount
Fellowes, E. Nicholson, W.
Floyer, J. Noel, hon. G. J.
Forester, rt. hon. Gen. North, Colonel
Gordon, E. S. O'Reilly, M. W.
Gore, J. R. O. Paget, R. H.
Gregory, G. B. Parker, C. S.
Grieve, J. J. Peek, H. W.
Hambro, C. Pell, A.
Hamilton, I. T. Pemberton, E. L.
Hardy, right hon. G. Percy, Earl
Hardy, J. Phipps, C. P.
Hay, Sir J. C. D. Raikes, H. C.
Henley, rt. hon. J. W. Round, J.
Hesketh, Sir T. G. Royston, Viscount
Heygate, Sir F. W. Salt, T.
Hildyard, T. B. T. Sandon, Viscount
Hodgson, W. N. Sclater-Booth, G.
Holford, R. S. Selwin - Ibbetson, Sir H. J.
Hlolmesdale, Viscount
Hope, A. J. B. B. Sevmour, H. de G.
Howes, E. Simonds, W. B.
Hurst, R. H. Smith, F. C.
Hutton, J. Smith, W. H.
Kekewich, S. T. Sturt, H. G.
Kennaway, J. H, Svkes, Colonel W. H.
Kinnaird, hon. A. F. Talbot, J. G.
Langton, W. G. Taylor, rt. hon. Colonel
Legh, W. J. Turner, C.
Lowther, W. Vandeleur, Colonel
M-Combie, W. Walker, Major G. G.
Mackintosh, E. W. Walter, J.
M'Lagan, P. Waterhouse, S.
Maitland, Sir A.C.R. G. Wells, W.
Malcolm, J. W. Wethered, T. O.
Manners, rt. hn. Lord J. Wyndham, hon. P.
Matthews, H.
Miller, J. TELLERS.
Mills, hon. G. W. Monk, C. J.
Mills, C. H. Walpole, rt. hon. S. H.
Montagu, rt.hn.Lord R.

Main Question, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," put, and agreed to.

Bill considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

Clause 1 (Marriage between a man and his deceased wife's sister not void or voidable).


said, he would propose, in lines 8 and 9, to omit the words "heretofore celebrated or contracted at any place whatsoever within the realm or without, or," in order to deprive the clause of its retrospective operation, which would have the effect of indemnifying persons who had broker the existing law.

Amendment proposed, in page 1, line 8, to leave out all the words from the word "heretofore," to the second word "or," in line 9, both inclusive."—(Mr. J. G. Talbot.)

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

The Committee divided:—Ayes 177; Noes 90: Majority 87.


said, he would beg to move, in line 12, after "Scotland," to insert "or elsewhere," his object being to cover the case of such a marriage contracted abroad at the residence of an ambassador.

Amendment agreed to.

On Question, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill,"


said, he regretted that his hon. Friend (Mr. J. G. Talbot) had not given notice of his Amendment to omit the retrospective part of the Bill. Many an hon. Member now absent, if he had known that such an Amendment would be moved, would have stayed and voted upon it. He should have given notice of such an Amendment himself had he not feared that, if he had done so, it might have been said he had not kept his promise not to offer any unreasonable opposition to the measure. He hoped, however, that the question of the retrospective operation of the Bill would be raised again, after due notice, upon the Report, in order that the House might have a proper opportunity of pronouncing an opinion upon it.

Clause agreed to.

Remaining clauses agreed to.

House resumed.

Bill reported; as amended, to be considered To-morrow.