HC Deb 24 April 1901 vol 92 cc1184-252


Order for Second Reading read.


In asking the House to read this Bill a second time it will not be necessary for me to make a very long statement, because similar measures have been frequently debated both in this House and in another place, and very often passed, although, unfortunately, not simultaneously in both Houses. I also feel myself somewhat in the same position as Mr. Bright, when he made the only speech he ever delivered in this House in support of the proposal, stating that though he had frequently voted for it he had never before spoken in favour of it, because he had never heard any arguments against it which required answering. I am very sorry that the course of obstruction, which is the only thing we have to fear, should have begun so early, and I cannot help feeling that it was hardly generous on the part of the noble Lord to try to stop the consideration of the Bill by a count.

Although hon. Members are probably well acquainted with the measure, it will be as well, perhaps, to give a short history of the question. Without going back to the Levitical time, I may point out that up to the time of Henry VIII. marriage within certain degrees of affinity was prohibited by the Church, but dispensations were granted by the authority of the Pope. In the reign of Henry VIII. the first Act on the subject was passed—namely, 32 Henry VIII., cap. 38. That measure was passed, as Bills on this subject always have been passed, not for the good of the country, or on religious or social grounds, but simply for personal reasons. By this Bill it was enacted that— All and every such marriages, as within the Church of England shall be contracted between lawful persons, as by this Act we declare all persons to be lawful that be not prohibited by God's law to marry, shall be by authority of these present deemed, judged, and taken to be lawful, good, just, and indisputable.…. And that no reservation or prohibition, God's law except, shall trouble or impeach any marriage without the Levitical degrees. After this time marriages within prohibited degrees were only voidable, and validity could not be questioned, if the marriages were not pronounced null and void by a competent ecclesiastical tribunal during the lifetime of both parties. This state of the law continued until 1835, when Lord Lyndhurst's Act was passed, and passed under circumstances upon which we cannot look back without shame. It was passed in the same way as the Act of Henry VIII., for purely personal reasons, and the object of the Bill was contained in the first clause—namely— 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 from that cause by any sentence of the Ecclesiastical Courts. The object of the Act was to make a particular prohibited marriage lawful. A further proviso was that— Nothing hereinbefore enacted shall affect marriages between persons being within the prohibited degrees of consanguinity. So that the difference between affinity and consanguinity was recognised by that measure. There was a certain amount of opposition to the Bill passing into law, in order to get rid of which a concession was made declaring future marriages void. That clause was struck out in the Commons, but re-inserted in the Lords. The measure came back to this House late in the session, and hon. Members know what occurs under such circumstances. The Bill was passed with an undertaking that the limitation should be removed in the succeeding year. That promise has never been fulfilled. The limitation was— That all marriages which shall hereafter be celebrated between persons within the prohibited degrees of consanguinity or affinity shall be absolutely null and void to all intents and purposes whatsoever. That Act did not extend to Scotland, and I believe that even to this day the law in Scotland is uncertain.

But what are these prohibited degrees? They are decided simply by a table issued in 1563 by Archbishop Parker, who issued it first in his own diocese, and recommended, I believe, that it should be pasted on church doors throughout the country. That table was never confirmed by the Synod of the Church, and it never had the authority of Parliament. It was, I believe, in opposition to the opinions of a much greater ecclesiastic than Archbishop Parker, namely, Bishop Jewell, and has simply been added to the Prayer-book, just as an advertisement is added to the flyleaf of any book. Moreover, you will not find that table of prohibited degrees in the authoritative copy of the Prayer-book which is preserved at Lambeth Palace. Since Lord Lyndhurst's Act was passed there have been incessant efforts to obtain a settlement. The Bill has been passed six times in this House, and once in the House of Lords. The first Bill was introduced in 1841, and since then the proposal has met with varying success, but I think I may say that, while the feeling of the country has always been in favour of the Bill, the feeling in the two Houses of Parliament has become gradually more and more in favour of it. When the Bill was presented in 1879, a petition, signed by a great many farmers in the county of Buckinghamshire, was presented by the late Lord Beaconsfield, while a still more numerously signed petition was presented by the Prince of Wales, who, as he presented it, stated his firm conviction that the Bill, if passed, would be for the advantage of the community at large. The feeling in favour of the Bill grew year by year in the House of Lords—the body which had hitherto been the chief obstacle to its becoming law. In 1882 it was rejected by four only, there being a majority of lay peers in its favour. In 1883 it was read a second time by seven votes, and defeated by only five votes on the Third Reading. The Bill has been passed several times in this House, but the fortune of the ballot has prevented it being introduced since 1891. In 1890 it was read a second time by 222 against 155, and, in the following year, by 202 against 155. The whole of a day was subsequently spent in divisions on Amendments, all of which were defeated by large majorities, but, owing to persistent obstruction, the Bill had to be withdrawn. Hon. Members may remember that in 1896 the Bill was brought forward in the House of Lords, where it was read a second time by 142 to 113, a third time by 142 to 104, and passed, but, of course, it was blocked when it came to this House.

I come now to the Amendment of the hon. Member for West Bradford which proposes the appointment of a Royal Commission. This House and the country are sick of Royal Commissions, and I believe they are sick of the obstruction of this Bill by dilatory motions. I am sure the House will not assent to the putting off of this subject once more by the appointment of a roving Commission to inquire into the question of the marriage laws as it affects the United Kingdom and the self-governing dependencies of the Crown. We have all the knowledge we can possibly want on the subject. I would like to refer hon. Members to the Report of the Royal Commission of 1847, which was presided over by Bishop Lonsdale. The Commission went very thoroughly into the subject, and the Report contained very instructive and overwhelming evidence in favour of this proposal. Among other circumstances I may point out that inquiries were made in certain selected districts to ascertain the proportion of marriages, and it was found that out of 1,364 prohibited marriages nine-tenths were with the deceased wife's sister. That, I think, disposes of the Amendment of the noble Lord the Member for Greenwich— That it be an instruction to the Committee that they have power to extend the Bill to the legalising of marriage with a deceased wife's daughter and a deceased wife niece "— because it shows there is no great necessity for that legislation. But the fact of the noble Lord desiring to move that Amendment shows his sincerity in opposing the Bill. The Report also says that eighty-eight such marriages had been prevented, and out of those eighty-eight there were thirty-two cases in which the parties who were prevented from marrying lived together. That is one of the very great evils of the present state of the law, that it permits an immoral man, under the pretence of marriage, to live with his deceased wife's sister and to desert her whenever he thinks fit. The conclusion of the Commission was that— On a review of the subject in all these different bearings and effects, we are constrained not only to express our belief that the Act of William IV. has failed to attain its object, but also to express our doubt whether any measure of a prohibitory character would be effective. These marriages take place when a concurrence of circumstances give rise to mutual attachment: they are not dependent on legislation. The Commissioners add— We are not inclined to think that such attachments would be extensively increased in number were the law to permit them. I think the House will agree that it is not necessary to appoint a second Royal Commission to go over ground which has been so thoroughly gone over before. I would also remind the House that these marriages—I will not go so far as the noble Lord who introduced the Bill in the House of Lords in 1896, who said that they were only prohibited by one single tribe in Borneo, and that a cannibal tribe, but I will say they are permitted by dispensation or otherwise in nearly all Continental States. The Roman Catholic view is that there is no Biblical prohibition of these marriages, and they grant dispensations on the ground that where the Church forbids the Church can permit. I believe I am right in saying that the Jewish community so highly approve of these marriages, and so strong is their conviction of their advantage, that it is their practice to allow a man to contract a marriage with his deceased wife's sister at an earlier date than he would he permitted to marry another woman. Practically all our responsible colonies have adopted this law, with the assent of the Crown, and I believe Newfound-laud is waiting to be incorporated with Canada, where these marriages are permitted. In the United States they are universally permitted.

With regard to this particular Bill, I think the House will agree that we were wise in adopting the form in which it passed the House of Lords in 1896. That is the very mildest form in which the Bill could be presented. Conciliation has been pushed to an extreme. There are many points in regard to which hon. Members who support the Bill wish it were made stronger, but I hope they will agree with me that the advantage of getting the principle of the Bill passed is so strong that it is desirable to accept its present form. I wish to point out that we are not going to adopt the Mosaic law in its extreme severity; we are not going to make these marriages compulsory. It seems almost unnecessary to say that, but the arguments against the Bill appear generally to be directed to that point. I remember reading an article by a Member of this House, the late Mr. Beresford Hope, whose articles were always interesting and worth reading, in which the whole of the argument was really based upon the idea that, if the old law was once abrogated, these marriages would be absolutely compulsory. I would also point out that while the law is retrospective in that the children of past marriages will not be bastards, we carefully preserve vested interests. Anybody who is entitled to any light or privilege under the present law will have his vested interest preserved.

There are two points in regard to which I confess I am sorry we have had to give way, but I think it is necessary. I do not think anybody would wish that a clergyman should be compelled to celebrate these marriages against his conviction. But we go further than that. The bishops have represented that while one clergyman might celebrate these marriages another might refuse, and it would introduce a great element of confusion and want of discipline into a Church which already is not very remarkable for its discipline. The grievance on this point, however, is not a very great one, because if anybody desires to be married according to the rites of the Church of England, and a clergyman is willing to perform the ceremony, it only entails a very short visit to the Registrar to make that marriage legal and valid. I have never myself been able to see why marriages should be put on a different footing from births and deaths. You must register a birth, whatever baptismal service may afterwards be performed, and you must register a death, whatever religious service may be performed over the grave. Therefore I do not think it is a very great grievance that you should be obliged to register your marriage, although a subsequent rite may be performed in a church. There is another point which is felt in my own country to be a strong grievance. It is very sad that the Sacrament has often been refused to those who have married a deceased wife's sister. We provide that no clergyman should be liable to any pains or penalties for withholding the rights and privileges of Church membership. I am very sorry that it should be so, but if hon. Members think of the meaning of the institution of the Holy Communion, and remember that the whole idea of it is brotherly love and amity, that they are told by the rubrics of the Church that all quarrels must be put aside and all injustices compensated before coming to that table, I think they will agree that if a clergyman was compelled to take part in the service against his will it would hardly be carrying out the great principle and idea of that rite.

Perhaps I ought to anticipate some of the objections urged against the Bill. One which I have always considered very disingenuous and unfair is that if marriage with a deceased wife's sister were permitted it would be impossible for a woman to live with her brother-in-law to take care of his children. Hon. Members who bring forward that argument know perfectly well that in the present state of society, unless persons are of very advanced age, that is not possible at present. If a young woman went to live with her brother-in-law she would not be received in society. ["Oh."] I can mention instances. I remember a case in which a Bishop of the Church of England, who voted against this Bill, was concerned. His gardener's wife died, and her sister came to keep house for him, and look after his large family. After about three weeks the Bishop sent for him and said: "Of course, I quite understand that in your first grief you naturally looked to your sister-in-law to come and help you, but, although I have nothing to say against your morals, and have full belief in your being a good man, it will be a public scandal if you go on living with this woman," and he told him that either his sister-in-law must leave the house or he must leave his service. There was also the case of an officer at Woolwich whose wife died, leaving him with a large family. His sister-in-law came to look after them in the married quarters they had hitherto occupied, while he himself went to the single quarters. Even then the sister-in-law was not received, and the colonel of the regiment refused to acknowledge or to call upon her. With actual marriages the feeling is the other way. I have never known, except in the case of a few very illiberal people, any real objection to those who have married their deceased wife's sister. Another anomaly of the law is that the Chancellor of the Exchequer does not recognise relations of affinity. Therefore, if a man has married his deceased wife's sister and dies, leaving her the whole of his property, she has to pay as a stranger in blood. The law considers her relationship to her brother-in-law so near that it will not permit her to marry him, and at the same time it charges her 10 per cent. upon any property that he may leave her because there is no relationship whatsoever existing between them. I shall therefore claim the support of the Chancellor of the Exchequer for this Bill.

I speak on this matter on behalf of the country, and I hope of the whole Empire, but more especially on behalf of my own constituency. There is a very widespread feeling throughout all Norfolk in favour of this Bill, and I believe that that feeling is not confined to any particular district, but is general throughout the country. I believe that if it were possible for a general election to be fought on this question alone not a single borough or county would return a Member opposed to such marriages. I see the noble Lord the Member for Greenwich has placed upon the Paper the motion, "That the Bill be read a second time this day six months." I thank him for the moderation of his proposal. When I saw the motion, having regard to the previous proposal of the noble Lord, I thought the words "six months" had some reference to the term of imprisonment to which he proposed I should be sentenced. I am aware of the strength of the noble Lord's following. He has behind him the whole strength of the English Church Union, and he may perhaps be supported by some of those whom he wished recently to imprison. [Several NATIONALIST MEMBERS: No.] I am very glad to hear it. But I wish to call attention to the fact that it is only one section of the Church of England who are against this Bill. A very large number are strongly in its favour. This is not in any way a party question, as is shown not only by the fact that I shall, I believe, get the support of a majority of Members on both sides of the House, but also by the unanimous action of the colonies. I may say here that I regret I was obliged to select this Bill in preference to the Colonial Marriages Bill, because this is a grievance which has been going on for a very long time. But this Bill will cover the Colonial Marriages Bill if it is passed. That measure has three times passed the House of Lords, but been blocked in this House. On this matter of colonial marriages I would quote the words of Sir Frederick Pollock— It seems to me an extraordinary anomaly and injustice that marriages which are valid in every self-governing British colony, under Acts approved by the Crown, should still be considered invalid, or be liable to have their validity disputed for any purpose, when the parties or their children come to the mother country, which….they regard as home. A very interesting circumstance is that in 1876 a very large and influential deputation, which was received by Lord Carnarvon, the then Secretary of State for the Colonies, pointed out the position of those who had been married in the colonies—that they had contracted marriages according to the usage of the colonies, under a law which Her Majesty had in an express manner approved, the moment they put foot on English ground they were declared to be living in adultery and their children proclaimed bastards. That is a state of law which the House can hardly wish to continue. Only last year an application was made to the Prime Minister to receive a deputation on this subject. He stated that he made it a rule not to interfere in questions affecting marriage with a deceased wife's sister, and therefore refused to receive the deputation. I regret that he did that, because I consider it is the principal duty of the Government not only to govern this country, but to look to the interests of the colonies. We hear a great deal about Imperialism nowadays. I claim to be an Imperialist in the true sense of the word, for I believe that the true policy of Imperialism is to knit together the Empire by similar laws, customs, and institutions, and to give a just and impartial consideration to the wishes of our countrymen beyond the seas. I have heard it said that this is only a small matter. But the sum of the happiness of this life is made up of small matters, and this Bill—though it may not affect the rich, because they can go abroad to some colony or country in which the iniquitous law which we are trying to alter does not prevail, and live there in happiness—affects the poor in their homes which they cannot leave, and deprives-them of the happiness which would ensue if this proposal were sanctioned. I hope, if I may use the words of Mr. Bright, that this House will declare with no uncertain voice that— the common liberty of men and women in the chief concern of their lives should not be interfered with by a law of Parliament which has no foundation in nature, and which, while it pretends to the sanction of Revelation, is in reality quite contrary to its dictates. I would make one final appeal to the opponents of the Bill. The opposition comes avowedly from one section of the Church. I would ask those hon. Members whether they think the course they are following will make that Church more attractive or popular. We have done our best to meet our opponents; we have shown every consideration for their feelings; we have pushed conciliation to its utmost limit. Do they not see that it is unjust and tyrannical to try to force their own ecclesiastical views upon those who do not agree with them, and to join in upholding a prohibition which is almost unanimously considered as un-justifiable and which inflicts a very cruel hardship upon a large number of people? I beg to move.

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

MR. GRIFFITH-BOSCAWEN (Kent, Tunbridge Wells)

I rise for the purpose of asking the House to reject this Bill. In doing so, like the hon. Member opposite, I shall be going over old ground and using old arguments, but at all events those arguments have proved effective up to the present time, and, in the absence of any new argument on the other side, I hope they will prove effective either here or in another place in stopping the Bill on this occasion. The hon. Member has treated the matter very lightly, and as a matter of mere convenience and expediency. Those of us who oppose the measure regard it far more seriously. We consider that the Bill proposes to alter altogether the universal law of Christian marriage which has prevailed from the earliest times. We are asked to alter what we believe has been laid down by clear Divine command. The hon. Member says the opposition comes from one section of one Church, and asks whether we think in opposing this Bill we are making that Church attractive to the people. I have never heard a more extraordinary argument. As if our duty as Churchmen was to make our Church attractive to the people! I do not believe there is any Church which would base its views upon so important a matter as marriage on a question of mere temporary expediency and popularity. We are also asked to introduce a change which will break down a custom which, notwithstanding the statement of the hon. Member, prevails very largely among the people, of a sister of a deceased wife coming to look after the children of her sister after her death, and living with the husband without any scandal or reproach. I was astonished to hear the hon. Member say there was any scandal or reproach attaching to it. I have never heard of such being the case; while, on the other hand, I can give endless instances in which the exact opposite is the fact. If you pass this Bill, the condition of affairs which is so advantageous to the children—that of being brought up by the one who is nearest in kin to their deceased mother—will disappear altogether. Women will certainly not be able to enter into such a position if the idea that they are no longer sisters, but mere strangers, and therefore marriageable, once becomes law. The House is asked to make this very serious change, but not to go into the whole matter; to introduce a perfectly illogical, one-sided, and unfair exception: to legislate for one particular example, but not to touch the question of the deceased husband's brother, or a niece, or any other of the alterations in the table of prohibited degrees which might be suggested. If this thing is to be dealt with at all, it must be dealt with on a clear and logical basis. To ask us to make this alteration, which introduces an inequality between the sexes which does not at present exist, is a very strong order unless its promoters can point to some real and great demand on the part of a large section of the people. I have been a Member of this House for nine years, and have fought several elections, but I have never heard this question brought forward at an election meeting or come across any demand for such a change in the law. When we are told that this is a measure which the poor earnestly desire, my reply is that, by the ordinary constitutional methods, the poor people of the country never make that desire known. So far from this being a poor man's Bill, my view is that it is merely a measure brought forward in the interests of certain rich and influential people, who have themselves broken the law, and want to be "white-washed."

The hon. Member who moved this Bill referred to the Royal Commission of 1817. That Commission investigated the number of these so-called marriages which had taken place since the passing of the Lyndhurst Act. There were altogether 1,648, of which forty were among the poorer classes, and 1,608 among the richer classes. If you are going to alter the law at all you must look at the beginning and see whence this law came. Without wishing to argue in this House the question of the terms of the prohibition in the eighteenth chapter of Leviticus, may I say that the origin of the law, as clearly and logically expressed there, is that the husband and wife are one flesh, and that, as they are of one flesh, as we are expressly told, a man or a woman may not marry his or her near of kin, he or she must not marry either their own near of kin or the near of kin of the husband or wife. For that reason it clearly follows, because the deceased wife's sister is the near of kin of the wife, that a man may not marry his deceased wife's sister. It is argued that this particular degree is not prohibited in so many words in that chapter. I admit it. But there are thirteen prohibitions which have always been regarded as examples, and of those no less than seven are prohibitions of affinity, and only six of consanguinity. Although a man is not expressly forbidden to marry his deceased wife's sister, the exact converse is prohibited, and a wife may not marry her deceased husband's brother. Surely the one thing follows from the other, and, as Bishop Jewel once said— Albeit I be not forbidden by plain words to marry my wife's sister, yet I am forbidden to do so by other words, which, by exposition, are plain enough; for when God commands me that I should not marry my brother's wife it follows directly that I may not marry my wife's sister, for between one man and two sisters and one woman and two brothers is a like analogy and proportion. I do not want to argue the interpretation of the verse or to go into details; suffice it for me to say that from the earliest times, among the Jews, among early Romans in the early Church, the idea that the husband and wife are one flesh has been at the very root of the matter. The idea has been prevalent not only among Christian nations, but it was the law in ancient Rome in Pagan times. Gibbon, the great historian, has written these words about it— The profane law-givers of Rome were never tempted by interest or superstition to multiply the forbidden degrees; but they inflexibly condemned the marriage of sisters or brothers, hesitated whether first cousins should be touched by the same interdict, revered the parental character of aunts and uncles, and treated affinity and adoption as a just imitation of the ties of blood. That was the law in even pagan Rome. From the very earliest times in the Christian Church the same law has prevailed. We have been told that there is no evidence of it in the Christian Church before the fourth century. That may be true, but the evidence we have is sufficient to prove that it always existed in the early Church, because the first evidence is that of Bishop Basil, who wrote in the fourth century, "We know of no such marriages: they are incestuous; they do not exist." Coming down to more recent times, the law has always prevailed in the Eastern Church, and prevails now. In Western Christianity it prevailed always, until a dispensation was first given in the Middle Ages by Pope Alexander. Since then dispensations have been given by the Romish Church, but what are these dispensations? They are dispensations, not only in the case of marriage with a deceased wife's sister, but in the case of all or a great many of the other prohibited degrees, including some of consanguinity. Dispensations have been given even in the case of a man marrying his own niece. But that does not prove that the Church of Borne permits these marriages. On the contrary, if a dispensation is required, the dispensation itself is the proof of the law.

Let us turn to the Church of England. The Church of England, following the universal practice of the Western Church, has always prohibited these marriages, and so much so (as apparently some doubt has been raised) that in the Canon—which, with all deference to the hon. Member, was passed by Convocation in 1571, the same Convocation which drew up the Thirty-nine Articles, and gave its sanction to the table of prohibited degrees there is this passage (I am reading the English translation)— All marriages which have anywhere been contracted within the degrees of consanguinity or affinity prohibited in the 18th chapter of Leviticus should be dissolved by the authority of the Bishop, but especially if anyone after the death of his first wife should have married her sister; for this degree by the common consent and judgment of all learned men is held to be prohibited in Leviticus. Therefore, so far as the Church of England goes, there can be no more doubt than there is in the case of the Eastern Church or the Church of Rome. I am therefore justified in saying that what the hon. Member asks us to do so lightly, and as a matter of mere expediency, is to alter the custom which has lain at the root of the idea of Christian marriage from the very earliest time.

What argument does the hon. Member bring forward in support of this change? He says that apparently it was the law in England down to 1835. Once more we have the Lyndhurst Act brought up and misunderstood. The Lyndhurst Act simply provided that marriages which had been voidable up to that time should in future be void ipso facto. Why had they been voidable? Because they really were void, and a certain process had to be gone through to make them legal from the civil point of view. The Lyndhurst Act did not alter the actual law; it merely altered the machinery of the law. I said that no new arguments had been brought forward in favour of the Bill, but there is one. We are told that the Treasury had settled the whole question, because if a deceased wife's sister inherits any money from the husband of the deceased wife she has to pay the full 10 per cent. duty, the Treasury not regarding affinity as being the same thing as consanguinity. The Treasury has a hand in most things, but I never knew before that it settled the law of marriage. Then we have the argument from the colonies. We are told that the colonies are almost unanimously in favour of this measure, and that because there is an Imperial spirit abroad—we are glad to recognise an Imperialist spirit on the benches opposite—we must follow the example of the colonies in this matter. But are we in this matter to follow their law? It is a very good thing that we should support the colonies in all Imperial matters, but when we give the colonies self-government it is one thing to say "We won't legislate for you; you must legislate for yourselves," and it is quite another thing to say that we in future should be legislated for by the colonies, for that is what you are asking. You are asking that, because the colonies have this law of their own on a matter which has led to some unpleasantness in this country, therefore we should adopt their law. I do not think that the colonies really desire that we should alter our law to please them. Certainly they have never said so. I know, of course, that the Colonial Marriages Bill has been brought in by people who wish to use it mainly lever to change the law at home. I know that Lord Strathcona and other eminent colonists have spoken strongly on this matter; but, on the other hand, at the Colonial Conference some years ago, out of twenty-one colonial representatives only six urged that we should alter the law in this country. Sir Alexander Campbell, one of the representatives of Canada, the colony to which Lord Strathcona belongs, used these words— They had altered this law to suit their own position, and were quite willing that the people of England should retain theirs. This shows that a large number of colonists quite see that they cannot expect to force our hands in this matter. But we are told that a slur is cast on them when they come to this country, that their wives are not recognised in society, and that their children are not recognised as legitimate. I can hardly believe that this is the case. An hon. Member told us that a friend of his had married his deceased wife's sister somewhere in Norfolk, and that they were now living in Norfolk. If that is the case, I think that the colonists who do the same thing in the colonies, and who come to live in Norfolk, or any other county, will be received equally in good society. The late Lord Cairns, who I suppose would be regarded by most Members as a great authority on this point, held the view that a marriage with a deceased wife's sister contracted in the colony by a man domiciled in the colony should be perfectly legal in this country. If that is so I think this colonial grievance disappears, and we see that the real object of the Colonial Marriages Bill is to enable English people who are domiciled in England to go to the colonies and marry there, so that their marriage may be good when they come back to England.

I would venture to put before the House one or two other objections which come from a study of the law of marriage and the law of divorce in the colonies, and in some other countries which have adopted this change of the law. In the colonies, and also in America, they have done the thing logically. They have practically said in every colony, and in nearly every State in America, that there should be no prohibition in regard to the relations of affinity and consanguinity, and the result is that in those countries they have broken down altogether the idea of oneness of flesh between the husband and the wife. They have reduced marriage to being a mere civil contract, undertaken very often for mere, I might say, temporary expediency. The colony of Victoria has lately passed a new Divorce Act which allows the greatest amount of laxity, so much so that a woman may get divorce on the ground that a man has deserted her, that he has been frequently drunk, or that he has been in prison three years. In other words, the whole idea of oneness disappears, and marriage becomes a mere temporary contract voidable for a great variety of reasons. Take again the state of affairs in America. In the State of Kansas there is one divorce to every twelve marriages celebrated in the year; in Colorado one divorce for every five marriages celebrated; and in San Francisco one divorce for every three marriages celebrated. Now I ask, are we prepared to tamper with our marriage law, when we have awful examples like those before us of what it leads to? I have not said very much about the social order of matters in this connection, but I do most emphatically say that the protection which is now afforded to children by the sister of the deceased wife would be lacking after that change. The women of this country as a whole are almost unanimously opposed to this measure. I received this morning, and I daresay some other Members received, a protest from some of those ladies who have taken a lead in the improvement of the social and educational position of women, and who have done an immense amount of good in this country. They protest most seriously and emphatically against, firstly, all the inequality that would be produced in the sexes if this Bill passed, and secondly against doing away with the great position of utility and social comfort which many of them have been able to occupy in the way of looking after a sister's children after her death. The Church of England is almost unanimously opposed to the Bill. [An HON. MEMBER: No.] There may be individual exceptions. I believe the bulk of the people are absolutely indifferent about it, and we are asked to pass the Bill for the benefit of a few law breakers. I ask the House at all events, in view of the serious importance of the subject, to pause before it passes the Bill, to pause before it proceeds to tamper with that which has been held to be most sacred, and that which has led to our social purity, namely, the ancient law of marriage.

* MR. SHARPE (Kensington, N.)

I rise, Sir, to second the motion of my hon. friend the Member for the Tunbridge Division that this Bill be read a second time this day six months. He has dealt so fully with the religious arguments—biblical and ecclesiastical—that I shall confine myself to the practical questions: (1) What are we asked by this Bill to do? (2) Is it worth the risk to make the change proposed?

(1) We are asked to repeal a custom of universal Christendom handed down to us from primitive ages anterior to the severance of East and West, adhered to unfalteringly by all the churches of the orthodox communion, and still the rule of the Latin Church, though, as a Protestant, I regret that it has been often broken by the grant of Papal dispensations in individual cases to allow of marriage with, a deceased wife's sister and other more distressing marriages—as, for instance, in the case of a member of a Royal House some years ago, the marriage of an uncle with a niece! Such dispensations began under the infamous Pope Alexander VI. But the exception proves the rule. In the English Church we have the canons of 1571 and the table in our Book of Common Prayer, the table of prohibited marriages. The Established Church of Scotland and the Disestablished Church of Ireland are equally opposed to the innovation.

(2) The risk we shall run is the abolition of all prohibitions in the table, for where can you stop? A man may marry his wife's sister; then why should not a woman marry her husband's brother?

Further, we shall establish a cleavage between the law of the Church and the law of the State, and the friction consequent thereon must be very dangerous. It is a great fallacy to say that if the demand made by a few, a comparatively few, law-breakers were acceded to, no injury would be inflicted upon anyone. On the contrary, as was pointed out by Mr. Gladstone in his great speech of 1855—a storehouse of all the learning on the subject—for every man who would wish to marry his wife's sister, there would be thousands of women injured in being deprived of the comfort of their sisters being received in their husbands' houses, to comfort and help in times of trouble, sickness, and death. As regards the flippant question who could be better entrusted with the orphans of a lost wife than her surviving sister, it was well replied by Lord Brougham, "She will not prove to be the better aunt by becoming a stepmother.'"

Lastly, we have the colonial argument. Because we have had the Royalassent given to such marriages in some Australian colonies, therefore we ought to legalise them here. I cannot see the force of this argument. I yield to none in my admiration for the loyalty shown the mother country by our colonies in our time of distress during the war, but I consider it preposterous to propose to repay it by altering our law of inheritance. We have allowed those colonies complete legislative freedom to settle their own affairs as they like, but I can see no reason why they should be allowed to dictate outlaws to us. The risk may be too much for an old community, which may be escaped by the greater buoyancy of a young State as of a young person. There is a remarkable precedent for refusing to alter our law for such reasons: one 666 years old, in the reign of Henry III. When it was proposed in 1235 by certain Norman ecclesiastics to alter another part of our law of inheritance in order to make it conform to that of the continental provinces then subject to our King, the reply of Parliament after full consideration was, that they were unwilling to alter the laws of England, which were in use and approved—an answer in historic words, which will be, I trust, repeated on this occasion by the Commons of England with regard to this Bill.

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

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

* MR. MELLOR (Yorkshire, W.R., Sowerby)

said the hon. Member for Tunbridge Wells had quoted the custom of the Romans, but he did not know whether the hon. Member meant that we should adopt all the customs of the Romans. He was astonished to hear the remarks he made about them. He should like to point out with regard to the Romans, that in the very passage he quoted the law was laid down clearly that affinity and adoption were to be treated as consanguinity. Did he mean to suggest that, in the present day, after all these centuries, we should regard adoption and affinity in the same way as consanguinity? Really, he thought his hon. friend might have considered that since the time of the Romans a great Dispensation had come, and, indeed, that it might be admitted that Christianity had altered in many respects in favour of humanity the customs that prevailed among the Romans with regard to the law of marriage. His hon. friend wished to quote the Jews. He was astonished to hear him quoting the Jews, because that matter was dealt with by the hon. Gentleman who moved the Bill. It was notorious that the Jewish people were to a man in favour of this Bill, and he hoped before the debate closed that they would hear some Member of the House who belonged to that community on the subject, so that there should be a distinct answer given to the suggestion of his hon. friend that, according to Jewish law, such marriages were forbidden. The hon. Member for Tunbridge Wells wished to argue that these marriages were forbidden according to Scripture. He doubted whether that House was the proper place in which to discuss the meaning of Scripture, but he knew that when a Bill was brought in by Lord Lyndhurst to make these marriages valid, the Bishops assented to it. Was it to be supposed that if the Bishops thought there was anything inconsistent with Scripture in the proposal they would have assented to the Bill? The Pope, too, had been in the habit of granting dispensations to enable people to contract such marriages. Was it to be suggested that the Pope would have done that if he had thought they were forbidden by Scripture? He was not there to defend all the dispensations of the Pope, but he thought he might safely and assuredly argue that there could be nothing inconsistent with such marriages in Scripture when the Pope had given dispensations.

So much for the religious argument. Let them look at it a little further. For a long time these marriages were not void. Down to 1835 these marriages were voidable only, not void; and they were voidable only on one set of conditions. Some relation interested in the marriage had to bring a suit in an ecclesiastical court to make the marriage void, and it could only be voided if he was successful The result was that in every case a suit was so instituted and dropped, and the marriage became actually valid, as no other suit could be instituted. The great majority of those who opposed the Bill belonged to the party which was striving to revive in this country the claims of the sacerdotalists. They would to-morrow abolish the Divorce Court, which had done so much to alleviate misery; they would then attack the present law of civil marriage, and hand back the whole control of marriage to the priests, thereby destroying the great liberty that had been gained, and reverting to the perilous state of things which existed in the darkest ages of this country. The opinion of Lord Cairns with regard to this matter had been quoted. He should like to ask whether those who were quoting Lord Cairns now would quote his opinion and authority upon other ecclesiastical discussions that were likely to arise in this House. He should be delighted to have Lord Cairns quoted with approval in regard to certain other matters. If they followed his opinions they would have a very different state of discipline in the Church from that which they had now. It was suggested that these marriages would make a great difference in the social condition of the people. His hon. friend had asked, "Who has ever been asked a question about this Bill at an election?" Well, he had. He was a Yorkshire Member, and he could only say he believed that if the West Riding were polled to-morrow there would be more than two to one in favour of the Bill. His experience since he had been a Yorkshire Member had convinced him that this Bill was thoroughly desired throughout the country. Considering the claims put forward by the sacerdotal party, it was important that the Bill should no longer be regarded as a small matter. He hoped the result of the Bill would be to show that the great majority of the people of this country were in favour of remedying a cruel injustice, and to restore—for that was what it came to—the law to its former condition. In speaking in this House on this Bill, John Bright said that much as mankind had suffered by cruel war at the hands of soldiers, he doubted whether mankind had ever suffered as much at the hands of soldiers as at the hands of priests. He hoped that a great majority for this Bill would at all events for a time check the progress of the sacerdotalists throughout the country.

MR. VICARY GIBBS (Hertfordshire, St. Albans)

The right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken has twitted my hon. friend with having quoted Lord Cairns, and asked whether he would also quote Lord Cairns on other ecclesiastical topics. My answer to that is that Lord Cairns's opinion on Church matters was not quoted, but his opinion on the law of the land was quoted. He swept away and disposed of the difficulty suggested by the hon. Member who moved the measure that people coining over to this country who had been legally married in their own domicile abroad would be treated as living in concubinage in this country. My hon. friend said he had a distinguished friend, but unfortunately a law-breaking friend, who had married his wife's niece, and yet he was visited by all the distinguished, respectable, and law-abiding people of Norfolk. I do not know whether his distinguished friend will thank him for advertising this fact. The hon. Gentleman and his measure are going to do nothing whatever for him. They are going to leave his children illegitimate, and leave him to be looked upon by the country as living in concubinage. We look upon marriage as a sacred institution, which should be viewed altogether differently from an ordinary contract of sale or purchase. [Opposition cries of "Hear, hear."] I am glad for once to find myself in sympathy with hon. Members opposite. The supporters of this measure say that there is a large demand for it, and the right hon. Gentleman who spoke last was very indignant at the statement made by my hon. friend that this question was hardly ever referred to at the elections. He told us that during his political career only one person at one meeting ever asked him a question upon this subject. Nobody in my constituency, either on the platform, in private, or in public, has ever mentioned the subject to me, and that does not look as though there was such a burning demand for this reform as has been described.

As I have already shown, if there is no more sanctity in the marriage contract than in any other contract, then the whole doctrine disappears, and you ought to be allowed to marry any relation of your wife, and you ought to be able to marry even her daughter. I say that such a proposition is not only grossly illogical, but grossly disgusting. To say that there is any analogy between the particular occasions alluded to which justifies us as a general rule in allowing this thing by law, I must frankly say is a pure absurdity. Both the hon. Members who have addressed the House, and the right hon. Gentleman who followed them, have endeavoured to tar those of us who disapprove of this measure with the sacerdotal brush. They seem to think that there is something discreditable in the fact that we are deeply interested in the Church to which we belong in regard to this question. I do not believe hon. Members opposite have any such ignoble feelings as that they would not wish to see us loyal members of our Church. As a churchman—not as a high churchman or a sacerdotalist, but simply as a member of the English Church—I object to a law for which I believe there is no general demand being introduced which will tend to separate further the law of the Church from the law of the land. You will say that this has been already done by the Divorce Court, but so far as the divorce laws have tended to separate the law of the Church from the law of the land, so far I believe those Acts have been a great misfortune in this country. We should endeavour to keep within the law as laid down in the Gospel. This measure is a deliberate attempt to run counter to the law of our Church. The hon. Member practically says to us "We have drawn up such a liberal Bill, and we have treated you so well, and so nicely met all your objections, that I think you might et the thing go through." He says that these people married by the registrar are not allowed to be married in church, and that our priests, who, according to the right hon. Gentleman, inflict so much injury on the country, are not to be punished if they refuse them the sacred rites of our Church and the Holy Communion. Does that tend to make for peace? You do not see that, in your efforts to assist those who have broken the law, and in your energy to look after law breakers, you are going to raise strife in every parish in the country. In this way you think that you are doing good work for the country. It is almost incredible to conceive that men can really believe that they are doing good by promoting measures of this kind, and then trying to stuff down our throats the argument that we are narrow, prejudiced, and bigoted sacerdotalists because we try to stop our country being severely injured. Why is this to be done? It is to be done because somebody wants it. Somebody has broken the law, and therefore he would like to have the law altered to suit his case. Many years ago the Mormon sect was popularised by the fact that it held out to its members a right to marry as many women as they liked. If hon. Members opposite found as a consequence that bigamy was spreading in this country, would they not come down to this House and protest against it? With regard to the marriage laws in the Colonies, however much we may sympathise with the colonists. I ask is it reasonable that we should allow them to tamper with institutions and laws which we in England regard as sacred? Is it not a sufficient amount of liberty or Home Rule for us to allow our colonies to make their own laws, and to say that we will consent to any reasonable proposals which they make in the interests of their country, without asking us to put an end practically to a law simply because it has been broken by certain persons?

We know that this measure is supported by one or two rich men who have broken the law themselves. We know that the machinery of this agitation is still being kept up by a few rich men who run the show in London. We know that the thing is fictitious, and the people themselves do not care for it at all. The mass of the people are not slow nowadays to make known their views to their representatives in Parliament, and we have constantly to go to them and keep in touch with their views. It is in our own interests to find out what they require, otherwise we should soon lose our seats. It is our business to try and find out what our constituents are thinking and feeling, and I know that, as far as my own constituency is concerned, if there was any sort of feeling upon this subject they would not be so shy as not to tell me quickly what they thought about it. I think the hon. Member who first spoke said that it was a very dishonest argument to say that, whereas a married wife's sister could now come and live with her and assist her in the discharge of the household duties, she could not do so after this Bill was passed. I think I am justified in saying that if you break one article of affinity you break into it all. If you break down the doctrine of affinity, the woman becomes a perfect stranger in every respect, and I think that matter has been completely dealt with. I thank the House for allowing me to speak at such length upon this question, and I shall heartily record my vote against this measure.

MR. J. P. FARRELL (Longford, N.)

said he had not intended to take part in the debate, but in the last two or three days he had received a large number of communications on the subject of the effect the Bill, if passed, would have on the general marriage laws of the country, and these had strongly confirmed him in his opposition to the Bill. He could not congratulate the promoters of the measure on the advocacy they had received, and certainly from a Catholic point of view the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Sowerby Division was eminently calculated to influence votes against the Bill and to increase the opposition to this attempt to tamper with the marriage laws. In insulting and uncalled-for terms the right hon. Gentleman denounced what he was pleased to call "sacerdotalism," leaving wholly out of view the belief that certainly was in the mind of every Irish Catholic that marriage is a sacred sacramental rite, and a function which it was the duty of the clerical body to protect. It was a rite which should never be interfered with by the law of the land. The interference with marriage as a solemn religious ceremony by the divorce law had done much to promote immorality and to destroy what might be called the very foundations of society. Day after day our great newspapers were filled with disgusting details of scandals in all grades of life. That was one effect of the attempt to abrogate the law laid down by our Divine Redeemer, that no man should seek to put asunder those whom God had joined together. In America the facilities offered for divorce were a scandal to a Christian people. Marriage was the basis and foundation of civilised society, and the ultimate result of depriving it of its religious character would be disastrous.

They heard of influences behind this Bill, and on one occasion he listened to a debate in the House of Lords, when the present King and his son and many of the highest in the land attended to support this most objectionable measure. It was stated in that debate, and not denied, that it was solely in the interest of a few people that this change in Christian law was attempted. He was glad that the proposal to make this serious change in the Christian law was then defeated, and he hoped the present effort would meet with a like fate. There could be no greater misfortune to domestic homes than that this Bill should pass. It would set up discord, it would lead the wife to distrust her sister. Such a proposal had no sanction in Scripture or in any covenant of the Church, and the more fact of a Papal dispensation having been given under special circumstances established the fact that the Roman Catholic Church did not approve of these marriages. He did not believe there was any wide desire for such a Bill, and felt confident that 99 per cent. of the women of Ireland were opposed to it. He had received five telegrams from Dublin asking him to support the Bill. They were handed in at St. Stephen's Green at the same time, and he intended to institute an inquiry as to whether they were not all sent by the same person. It seemed to him that the attempt of the House of Commons to legislate on this subject was an attempt to introduce one of the doctrines of the French Revolution into our legislation—namely, free trade in marriage. He agreed with the last speaker as to the necessity of protecting affinity, and recognising it in connection with the marriage law. He believed there was in the breast of all of them a natural repugnance to this measure, the principle embodied in which was an outrage, and the giving effect to it would be deeply resented. He hoped hon. Members would therefore reject a Bill which had for its object the loosening of the most sacred ties that bound society together.

MR. CATHCART WASON (Orkney and Shetland)

said the hon. Member who moved the rejection of the Bill made one great blunder. He did not make his speech—full as it was of learning and research—at the proper time. It should have been delivered thirty years ago, when the Colonial Marriages Act was first passed. It was now utterly out of date and entirely uncalled for. It had been said that there was no colonial demand for this Bill, whereas as a matter of fact the colonies had shown the utmost desire for it to be passed into law. That desire had been made known through the voices of their accredited representatives, who were almost in the position of ambassadors. The colonies had likewise petitioned the Government in favour of the Bill. In what other way could they give expression to their desire? They were absolutely and entirely in favour of the Bill. They felt very strongly and bitterly upon the subject, and it was utterly impossible for the Government of the day to ignore its responsibility in connection with this matter, and say it was not going to take its stand on one side or the other. The whole responsibility rested entirely with the Government, and must not be handed over to private Members sitting on the other side of the House. They demanded, that this Bill should be carried into law, not only in justice to themselves and to their colonies, but in justice to their whole womanhood through the British Empire. Not long before her late Majesty gave her consent to the measure, that is to say the Colonial Marriages Act, in 1871, the colonies were treated something like the Uitlanders had been treated—with supreme indifference; and the one object of British statesmen was to get rid of them at any price. ["No, no."] The then Government of the day—he passed no reflection upon either party—treated with absolute indifference and were careless about our great colonial empire. He did not complain of the British statesmen, as they simply reflected British public opinion. They practically said, "Go where you please as long as you do not bother us. We do not care how many wives you have so long as you do not trouble us." The bone of self-government was thrown to them in a spirit of contemptuous indifference, just as a bone was thrown over to a hungry dog, to get rid of them, and avoid troublesome and difficult questions as well as to shirk our responsibilities. But it had not done so in any way. The day was past for the utterly absurd and ridiculous distinctions which were formerly drawn between public opinion in the colonies and in the mother country. Many persons who were long past middle age hoped to live to see the colonies and the mother country as united as Kent was to Sussex. At the time her late Majesty gave her consent to the Colonial Marriages Bill a voyage from Australia to the mother country was a matter of months; now it was a matter of weeks. Then a voyage to Canada was a question of weeks, whereas it was now a question of days. These things had brought the colonies into close alliance with the mother country. We had to recognise this fact—that nothing in nature ever stood still, we were either going forwards or backwards, and the tie which united the mother country with her colonial dependencies was—


Order, order! The hon. Member is now entering on the general discussion of a subject which is very remote.


apologised for having transgressed the rules of debate. What he wished to show was that the tie between the mother country and the colonies would probably be much weakened if in the consideration of this question regard was not had for the opinion of the self-governing colonies. So far as colonial opinion was concerned it was absolutely unanimous in favour of the Bill, and he believed, too, that the whole womanhood of this country was in favour of the measure. America had set a noble example in the emancipation of women. In days gone by mankind generally had a very small opinion of the virtue of women, and hedged them round about by all sorts of impossible restrictions. But very different views now prevailed, and he hoped, therefore, that this Bill would be passed by an overwhelming majority. This was more than a national question, it was a question of the Empire; it was a question uniting the colonies with the mother country in one indissoluble bond. It was one of those small things which went to make the happiness and greatness of a people, and would go a long way towards more firmly cementing the friendly relations between this country and the colonies. While cooling his heels at St. Martin's-le-Grand the other day he noticed a place called "Little Britain," and, on inquiry, found that it was bounded on one side by a hospital and on the other by a churchyard. He could only hope that if we were to have in our midst a party of "Little Britishers," they would not land their country in a similar position to Little Britain—half way between disease and death.

* EARL PERCY (Kensington, S.)

One aspect of this debate which strikes me is its air of unreality. Not only is it academic, but every one knows that if the Bill is read a second time it can hardly be passed this session. It is also unreal because the opponents of the measure are placed under a great disability. Whatever the nominal grounds adduced for the opposition, the real grounds are religious; and religious arguments are those which the House is least competent to consider and most reluctant to discuss. I am not going to discuss the theological part of the question. But I do think that those who say that the Bill does not conflict with religious argument might at least study what that argument is. I cannot imagine how any hon. Member car seriously say he is not going to press the Bill to the same length as the Jewish Levitical law, "which made these marriages compulsory." Are hon. Members aware that oven if these marriages are not forbidden by Levitical law, they are, at any rate, discouraged. The marriages that were made compulsory were marriages, not between a man and his deceased wife's sister, but between a man and his deceased brother's wife, and then only when the deceased brother had left no children. Is it not absurd to suggest that we should pass a Bill to enable a man to marry his deceased wife's sister when there are children, because the Jewish law provides that a man shall be obliged to marry his deceased brother's wife when there are no children? I do not know whether we are to take the speeches delivered this afternoon in favour of the Bill as presenting the case for it in the best possible light. I do not think I ever heard a more revolutionary measure proposed on such unsubstantial and contradictory grounds. On the one hand, it is said that the Bill will merely remove a hardship which is severely felt, and in the same breath, that it will bring the law into accordance with public feeling. But it is ridiculous to minimise the importance, or to deny the revolutionary character, of a measure which sweeps away the basis on which the law of marriage has rested ever since this country became a nation, and which suggests no rational alternative. That is the real crux of the question we have to consider. According to the religious view marriage rests on the clear principle that a man may not marry any relation of his wife whom he may not marry if that same person were his own relation by blood. That view has received the universal assent of all sections of the Christian Church for at least fifteen centuries, since the foundation of Christianity, and it is based on the whole teaching of the Scripture. We are told now that we are not to consider ourselves bound by any regulations which do not justify themselves on logical and scientific grounds. But what is the logical and scientific principle on which the marriage law of the future is to be based? Are you going to boldly sweep away all prohibitions against marriages within the degrees of affinity? If not, why not? Wherever the line is attempted to be drawn, it cannot be drawn at marriage with a deceased wife's sister. When the Bill was first introduced fifty years ago marriage with a deceased wife's niece was included; and though that provision is now omitted, clearly if one marriage is to be legitimate, a fortiori the other is equally so. Abroad there are very few countries which have sanctioned marriage with a deceased wife's sister without also sanctioning marriage with a deceased husband's brother. In Germany marriage between uncle and niece is permitted; and in some States of America they see no objection to a man marrying his deceased father's wife. We all know that these marriages would be regarded with loathing and detestation by the vast majority of the people of this country; and is it fair to ask the House to pass a law on the ground that other nations have passed it, and yet to pretend that we should be able to draw an arbitrary distinction which other nations have found it impossible to draw?

This is, I say, a leap in the dark; and what necessity has been shown for it? In whose interests is it to be taken? What is the evidence of any real wide-spread demand for the change? What proof is there of any wide-spread violation of the existing law? If the whole country were boating at the doors of the House in favour of the measure, I should still vote against it; but where is the evidence of the general demand? We know hon. Members have been approached by their constituents, and that some of them, who are in favour of the Bill personally, have absented themselves because they do not wish to give a vote contrary to the views of their constituents. For the last fifty years the measure has wandered from one House to the other in Protean shapes, and although in this House it has been passed by diminishing majorities, it has invariably—with one exception—been defeated and rejected by the House of Lords, and without a single protest from the public. What evidence is there of a wide-spread violation of the existing law? The marvel is, not that some people among the working classes have married their deceased wives' sisters, but that the custom has not become almost universal, when year after year responsible legislators hold out the hope that such marriages can be contracted with impunity. We know that as a fact cases of incest of all kinds do occur among the poorer classes. [Cries of "Withdraw."]

MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)

Shame; I protest against that.


No hon. Member has a right to get up and interrupt an hon. Member who is in possession of the House in order to make a protest.


I ask you, Sir, whether an hon. Member has a right to apply the disgraceful term and epithet of incest to men as honourable as himself.


To the poorer classes.


It is not a question of order that the hon. Member does not agree with what the noble Lord says.


Might not the noble Lord be requested to reconsider his words? He has made an imputation against the great bulk of our constituents.


The intervention of hon. Members is unnecessary. I am not expressing my own opinion as to whether these unions are incestuous. It is the expression used in the existing law of England. These cases of irregular union, of course, occur among the poorer classes of the community, and among the richer classes quite as much. Indeed the latter form the great bulk of the cases. We know from the evidence laid before the Commission in 1847 that of 1,048 such marriages in the course of a year, three-fourths were contracted not by the poorer but by the wealthy classes. I say, therefore, that this Bill is not only based on no principle, but that it is not justified either by the evidence of a widespread violation of the existing law, or a general demand for a change.

I ask the House to consider in whose interest we are asked to legislate. It can only be in the interests of two classes—either the persons who have already contracted or intend to contract these marriages in the future, or else in the interests of their unfortunate offspring. We have already had sufficient evidence in connection with other kinds of legislation of the pernicious effect of sanctioning the principle that the violation of an existing law ought to be a sufficient justification for altering it. I will confine myself to showing that even if this Bill is passed it will not protect the interests of the people to whom I have referred, and, therefore, it is not only iniquitous in my view, but it is also a sham. Let us take the case of the children first. I do not really know why the children of a marriage with a deceased wife's sister should, in the abstract, be regarded as having any more claim to our sympathy than the children of any other illegitimate union. But I admit that there is a certain appearance of cogency derived from the fact that these unions have been legalised and allowed in the colonies, and that it does seem rather hard that if the children of these marriages come over to this country they are not to be regarded as having the full rights of children who are recognised as legitimate. That is a very unsound and, in my opinion, a very dangerous argument. It is unsound because there is no more reason why we should follow the example of the colonies, who have far less experience than we have in matters of this kind, than that they should follow ours. I think, if example is to be followed, it is the business of the colonies to follow ours. Let me point out that if the colonies vitally feel this great distinction in the marriage laws they have a very simple, remedy. They have only to bring in a Bill reverting to the old and sound principle of the marriage law, and containing a retrospective clause safeguarding the interests of the people who have been misled in this matter. But all of us know that this argument, derived from the colonies, is really as hollow as the argument about a general demand for this Bill in the country, because this Bill does not apply to the colonies only, and even if it did it would not safeguard the rights of children of these marriages, for the simple reason that the promoters have inserted a clause in the Bill limiting its retrospective action as regards rights to property. Therefore, if we revolutionise the whole of our social system at home, we will not have even the shadowy consolation of removing from our colonies a grievance of which they have a right to complain.

Now I pass to the case of the parents. They may be said to have some ground at present to complain of two grievances. One is that they are under a social stigma in consequence of having contracted these marriages, and the other is that in cases of desertion or ill-treatment the law does not offer them any chance of redress. Take the case of social stigma. How will it be removed? This Bill provides that these marriages are to be considered legal if performed in the presence of a civil registrar, but it does not repeal the section of the divorce laws which brands these unions as incestuous. What will be the result? Either public opinion in this country will continue to coincide with that of the authors of the divorce laws, or else it will veer round and coincide with the opinion of Parliament, and adultery with a wife's sister during the wife's lifetime will be regarded as no worse than any other form of adultery. You cannot have it both ways. Either human law in matters of this kind is based on human instinct, or human instinct is based on human law. If the prevailing sentiment of the community has created the present law, then clearly the whole case of the supporters of this measure must fall to the ground if they cannot show that that sentiment has undergone a profound or radical alteration. But if, on the other hand, it is the law which has created popular sentiment in this matter, then we ought to be very careful how we change that law, unless we provide some other principle which will be recognised as equally binding on the moral sense of the community. Now let me say a word with regard to cases of ill-treatment and desertion. So far from affording any relief in these cases, the promoters of the Bill have turned it into a Bill for the protection of bigamy. They have introduced a section which practically provides that if a man has married his deceased wife's sister and subsequently deserted her for another he shall be able to repudiate that marriage, and in that case the deceased wife's sister would be left with the brand of a cast-off mistress, whereas her rival who is living in open immorality would be granted the full protection of the law. The practical effect of the passage of this Bill will be that it will encourage every scoundrel who has married his deceased wife's sister and then become tired of her to repudiate her before the knot is finally and irrevocably tied.

That brings me to one of the most sinister features of this attempt to tamper with the marriage laws. Let us put aside altogether for a moment the question of the views and the doctrines of the Christian Church. Let us assume our right to disregard them, as we long ago disregarded them, when we set up the divorce laws in this country. Take Christianity on a different footing. Even those who have never recognised it as anything else than a mere temporary phase in the great evolutionary current of human thought and ethics have never denied its splendid claim to have raised the status of women to a perfect equality with that of man. And it is to be reserved to this age—the age of emancipation of women—to devise this first insult, to thrust her down from that position of equality, to enact that what is perfectly legitimate for a man should be considered a crime in the case of a woman; and that although a man may marry his deceased wife's sister, a woman may not marry her deceased husband's brother. We are now asked to pass this change, which, whether it be good or bad, will vitally affect the life and happiness of every woman married and unmarried in this country, without asking the opinion of women or allowing them to be heard in a House in which they are not represented. No one is a stronger opponent than I am of the proposal to grant the parliamentary suffrage to women, but if we pass such a proposal as this, then the demand for the enfranchisement of women becomes absolutely unanswerable, and I hope hon. Gentlemen who desire that will at any rate be consistent on the present occasion, and that they will not vote for the Second Reading of this Bill until at all events women have been heard on the subject. There is another section of this House to whom I should like to appeal if I may, and which has been conspicuous in late years. I mean the so-called Protestant party. They profess, no doubt quite sincerely, devotion to the principles of the Reformation, they denounce certain practices in the Church as lawlessness, and whether I agree with their methods or not I have a large degree of sympathy with their objects. Are they going to be consistent? Are they going to take their stand on the side of the clergy, and protest against the lawlessness of the State? One of the greatest protests of the Reformers was a protest against the claim of the Pope to grant a dispensation for marriages of this kind. The Roman Catholic Church is still consistent. It has never altered its dogma and doctrine on this matter, and whether we agree with the doctrine of dispensation or not the Roman Catholic Church affords a splendid example, which might be well taken to heart by the Protestants of this country. I do not know whether I need emphasise the opinion of the Roman Catholic Church on this occasion, but in 1882 Cardinal Manning wrote his own opinion on this subject at very great length. He said that the law of the Roman Catholic Church forbade marriage with a deceased wife's sister, that dispensations were only granted for grave reasons, and that the alteration of the law would have the effect of throwing open to everybody that which was now confined to a few cases. Roman Catholics are faithful to their own doctrine, in spite of the fact that that faithfulness does inflict very serious hardship on the children of the marriages which the Pope has permitted. Roman Catholics are consistent. What about Protestants? If this Bill is passed we cannot blame the clergy of the Established Church for their lawlessness, for we will have proved ourselves quite as disloyal as they are to the principles of the Reformation. Surely we may well ask ourselves which is the party whose practices are more fraught with danger and ruin to the State—those who burn incense and carry lights in procession, or those who lend the weight of their authority to the fatal doctrine that you need no greater safeguard for the sanctity of social life than the passing opinion of a fluctuating parliamentary majority. If this Bill is passed it must create a cleavage in English society such as has never yet existed, and must bring the State into open conflict with the Church. Let no member of the Established Church think that this Bill can be passed and at the same time the connection between the Church and the State be maintained. Let no one suppose that we are going to allow the clergy of the Established Church to denounce as notorious evil livers people whom the State regards as lawful and legitimately married, and perpetuate a state of things under which two sets of persons may be found in adjacent parishes both of them having committed precisely the same act, one with complete immunity, and the other refused all right of participation in the most sacred offices of their religion.

There is a feeling of liberalism abroad which asks why people should not be allowed to do what they like, even if they cause offence or scandal to others. If this Bill be passed it will cause more than offence and scandal, and in this case the offenders will be in a minority, and the offended will be the majority. There is also a spirit of weariness at seeing this subject dragged up session after session, and a desire to vote upon it, and have done with it once for all. We are not going to have done with this question by taking our stand on a principle which no one can define or defend, and which hon. Gentlemen who now advocate this Bill will be the very first to attack as soon as it suits their own political convenience. Lastly, I come to the case of the colonies. We are told we ought to pass this Bill because it will remove a grievance from our colonies, who have done so much for us, and that we ought not to perpetuate ill feeling between the mother country and the colonies. We are told that in this matter we stand absolutely alone. Yes, Sir, we do, and I say frankly I think it is "a splendid isolation." It is not the only respect in which we stand alone. We also stand alone as being the greatest, wealthiest, and most powerful Empire the world has ever seen, I certainly am not going to say that there is no connection between the two. Whether there is or not, I think Englishmen are Englishmen all the world over, and I am certain that the colonies will not think one whit the worse of us if we refuse to compromise our conscientious convictions. On the contrary, I say they will admire us more if we insist on our right to claim that in questions of this kind no considerations of self-interest, no motives of political expediency have ever induced us, in the words of Tennyson— To sacrifice the truth to serve the hour, Or palter with eternal God for power.

* SIR HENRY FOWLER (Wolverhampton, E.)

The noble Lord has in his powerful and eloquent speech suggested that this debate was unreal, but he has redeemed it from that imputation. He at all events has made it a real debate. He has unfolded to us new views of constitutional government; he has given this Bill an application which even its most devoted adherents did not believe it possessed; and he has laid down doctrines as absolutely inconsistent with the principles of Great Britain as a great constitutional nation as I have ever heard in the House of Commons. He has made not only a real, but an unreal speech. What has been unreal has been the manner in which he entirely ignored the history of this legislation. He talked about our being in a position of "splendid isolation," but he did not tell us how we came into that position. He left it to be inferred that our Legislature, actuated by the highest religious motives, has during a long succession of centuries enacted a series of laws for the purity of marriage, and that any departure from the august traditions of that legislation would involve the terrible consequences he so eloquently described. I am not going into the details of the Bill. I shall defend it exactly on the principle laid down by the noble Lord himself. This Bill is not dictated by political expediency or by party motives, and I venture to think that when a division on it is taken a very large number of hon. Members who share the noble Lord's political opinions will be found voting in favour of it.

I am going to tell the House the story of the Bill, as this is a new Parliament, and as it has been conspicuously ignored in this debate, I am sure the noble Lord, to whom I will not impute ignorance on any subject on which he speaks, must know that story. Prior to 1835 the law of this country with reference to these marriages was very clear and very simple. I am not going to give it in my own words, as my claim might be disputed by legal disputants in this House. I am going to quote the statement of the Royal Commission, which consisted of most eminent men including great judges, both legal and ecclesiastical, which investigated this question in 1847. The House will know that a Royal Commission in those days was not composed, as it is now, of contending disputants, who make the Commission the scene of a small Parliamentary debate. It was composed of five or six or seven men of independent and judicial minds, and their decisions had a weight which the decision of a Royal Commission does not now carry. That Commission was presided over by a bishop of great learning and impartiality—I mean Dr. Lonsdale, the then Bishop of Lichfield; and with him were associated Mr. Justice Vaughan Williams, Dr. Lushington, a distinguished ecclesiastical judge; Mr. Stuart Wortley, at one time Solicitor General, afterwards Recorder of London, and a distinguished member of this House; and Sir Arthur Blake, who was, so to speak, the lay member of the Commission. The House will be of opinion that the findings of a Commission of that character can be relied upon. The Commission found that for centuries certain marriages within certain degrees of affinity were prohibited by the Church, but that by the authority of the Pope dispensations were granted. They found that after the marriage of Henry VIII. and Catharine had been pronounced null and void, the ecclesiastical courts dealt with these marriages by pronouncing them null and void. In the reign of James I. the civil courts interfered and prohibited the ecclesiastical courts from pronouncing them null and void when either party was dead. After that decision these marriages were regarded as voidable, but if they were not pronounced void during the lifetime of both parties, then their validity could not afterwards be questioned, nor the legitimacy of the children impeached. That pronouncement entirely sweeps away the ground from the argument that these marriages are immoral or wrong, or that, to employ the word used, no doubt unintentionally, by the noble Lord, they were "incestuous," because an incestuous marriage could not be voidable only, it must be absolutely void ab initio.

This state of the law continued until 1835, when it was altered by what is known as Lord Lyndhurst's Act. What is the story of that Act? The head of a certain noble house in this country—I am sure the noble lord will be aware of the truth of what I am about to say—married two sisters. By the first sister he had no son, and by the second sister he had a son. Of course the legal minds of the day were brought to bear on the possibilities of the case. If the son's legitimacy were impugned in the lifetime of the father and the mother, the ecclesiastical courts would have pronounced the marriage null and void, the son would have been declared illegitimate, and the descent of that noble title would have gone in another direction. In addition to their high position, the parties were the near relatives of perhaps the greatest subject of the Crown, who had already been Prime Minister. Lord Lyndhurst was approached, and he introduced a Bill towards the close of 1835 which would have dealt with this ease. That Bill had a very singular history, not only in its introduction, but also in its alteration. Lord Lyndhurst, in introducing the Bill in the House of Lords, pointed out the danger of marriages being voidable during so long a period as the lifetime of the parties. What he proposed to enact was that no proceedings should be taken to render such marriages already contracted void unless they were taken within six months after the passing of the Act, and that with regard to marriages contracted after the passing of the Act, no steps should be instituted in the ecclesiastical courts to render them void except within two years after the marriage. The House will again see that there was no question of dealing with anything that was immorally wrong. Surely, if such marriages were of the nature which the noble Lord so eloquently denounced, there could be no justification for the limitations of the proceedings which were proposed. Hansard was not so accurate in those days as it is now.* I tried to trace the story of the Bill through Hansard, but I failed. The Bill was not introduced until June, and came down to this House in August. At that time there were two very astute members of the Episcopal Bench in the House of Lords—the Bishop of London and the Bishop of Exeter—and of course a Bill of that kind would be a difficult Bill to pass in face of the opposition of the Bishops. I do not say that any bargain was made between so great a Chancellor as Lord Lyndhurst and two such eminent Prelates as the Bishops of London and Exeter; but at all events a curious arrangement was undoubtedly evolved by some mind or other, by which it was agreed that if all the marriages of which we are speaking which had been contracted in the past were made valid, all such marriages in the future would be prohibited, and so the Bill came down to this House. The Liberal party in the House of Commons protested against the second clause of the Bill. They said that they were quite willing to accept the first clause to render valid marriages which had been already contracted, but objected to the second clause which invalidated such marriages in the future. The House had a division, and the Liberal party was in a majority, and the second clause was struck out of the Bill. Sir William Follett, who had charge of the Bill, at once stated that he would not be responsible for it any further if the Amendment was maintained, and it was evident that the House of Lords had consented to the Bill legalising these marriages in the past on condition that such marriages should not be valid in the future. I make these statements on the authority of my late venerable colleague in the representation of Wolverhampton, who was a Member of the House at that time, and also on the authority of a * Mr. Gladstone stated, more than once, that Barrow's Mirror of Parliament gave for the period it covered (1828–41) fuller and more accurate reports than Hansard.—[ED.] distinguished Member of the House, who as a connection of the parties was intimately acquainted with all the facts. At that time several Members of this House had either contracted marriages with their deceased wives' sisters or were connected with persons who had contracted such marriages, and they took the very reasonable ground that it would be very hard to throw out a Bill which would make their marriages absolutely valid. Great influence was used on all sides of the House to get the opposition to the second clause withdrawn, and on the 24th August the Solicitor General moved to restore that clause. The clause was restored, and the Bill was passed. Gentlemen who had taken an active part in getting that clause struck out pledged themselves to use every effort in an early session of Parliament in order to have the law reformed. Will the noble Lord in face of a story like that contend for the justice, the sanctity of legislation which was not party legislation, but personal legislation, intended for the benefit of one noble family, and by which a great and serious change was made in the law of this country, which has inflicted injury and wrong upon a large section of His Majesty's subjects? That is the state of things which we are now endeavouring to put right.

The noble Lord says that there is no public feeling about this Bill, and that it has been brought on spasmodically. Since 1835 the question has been brought again and again and again before the House. It has been rejected thirteen times in the House of Lords. After the election of 1880 the sense of the House was taken on it, and a resolution was carried in its favour by a majority of 238 to 127. After the General Election of 1886, when the Liberal party was broken up, and when party ties to a certain extent were altogether swept away, it was thought advisable to take the opinion of the new House, elected on new conditions, on it. The Second Reading of the Bill was carried in 1888 by a majority of 239 to 182, and in 1890 by 222 to 155. As I have said, the Bill was rejected thirteen times in the House of Lords before 1896, but by decreasing majorities. The House of Lords, which of course would be susceptible to the influence to which the noble Lord alluded, however, carried this Bill in 1896 by a majority of 142 against 10. In that vote there were nineteen bishops, and it will be seen that the large majority of the temporal Peers were in favour of the Bill. The House of Lords has also passed the Colonial Marriage Bill, which was so ruthlessly denounced this afternoon. I have told the House the story of this controversy so far as Parliament is concerned. I will now return to the findings of the Royal Commission on the merits of the case. They found that these marriages were permitted in nearly every Protestant and continental State, and that although the Roman Catholic Church prohibited them as a matter of discipline, that the prohibition might be and was dispensed by the Pope, and others authorised by him, the prohibition taking place on the principle that it was the Church, and not the law of God, which imposed the prohibition, and therefore that the Church could, for fitting reasons, dispense with it. The noble Lord quoted a declaration by Cardinal Manning against these marriages, but he did not quote Cardinal Newman, who said— If he looked upon this question as one affecting the rich, he should perhaps think the marriages inexpedient; but if in the interests of the poor, he thought they were expedient. That was the opinion of Cardinal Newman, and no man will say that Cardinal Newman ever paltered with what he believed to be the divine law.


I do not think he stated that these marriages should be legalised by the State.


I have quoted the words of Cardinal Newman, and the noble Earl may put any construction he likes on them. But I will quote a greater authority on Roman canon law than either Cardinal Manning or Cardinal Newman, and that is Cardinal Wiseman. He was examined before the Royal Commission of 1847, and he was asked— Taking the question with reference to Scripture, is such a marriage [the marriage of a man with two sisters in succession] held by your Church as prohibited? Certainly not; it is considered as a matter of ecclesiastical legislation. In another question he was asked— Then the Commissioners are to understand that in your Church the general prohibition of these marriages is a matter of discipline, and permission to contract such marriages is granted, or not, according to what you may think most advantageous and proper? Certainly. With respect to marriages of this description, do you find amongst Catholics that persons contracting such marriages are received with the same kindness and good feeling as persons who have contracted ordinary marriages? With a dispensation, perfectly so. It is not thought in any way disgraceful or improper the moment that the Church has given permission. The whole tenour of Cardinal Wiseman's evidence is that in the case for which we are pleading, especially where there are children, dispensations were granted over and over again. That, then, is the view of Roman Catholics so far as their Church is concerned. I observe that the noble Lord and other Members who oppose the Second Reading of this Bill ignore all Christian opinion outside the Church of England.


I mentioned the Church of Scotland and the Confession of Faith.


The Confession of Faith prohibits marriages with Papists and infidels. The noble Lord must know that two of the most distinguished divines that ever adorned the Church of Scotland—Dr. Chalmers and Dr. Norman Macleod—were both in favour of these marriages. Does the noble Lord include the English Nonconformists in the Church of Christ?




Then, I say that they are practically unanimous in their views upon the subject, and are not in agreement with the noble Lord as to the true construction of Holy Scripture on this question. Then there is the American Church and the Churches of our own great colonies. America, may be a new country, and our Australian colonies may be, as they have been described, ignorant, wayward, and youthful; but, at all events, they have sound scholarship and profound piety, and there again they are practically unanimous on this subject. In fact, the whole Protestant world outside one section of the Church of England is in favour of the lawfulness of these marriages. We heard it stated in the course of the debate that practically the Church of England was at one against these marriages. But how many bishops and archbishops and how many of the clergymen intimately acquainted with the deeds of the poor have expressed themselves in favour of them? What did Mr. Gladstone say with reference to the subject in 1869? He said— When I consider the weight of testimony given by ministers of religion—among the most respected of their several communions—men among the Roman Catholics, the Nonconformists, the Established Church, High Church, and Low Church, including such a man as Dr. Hook, who might, perhaps, be described as the first parish minister of his day—when I consider the pressure of the motives which have induced so many persons who have had practical experience of the consequences pronounced by the present state of the law to support the proposed change, I do not shrink from the responsibility it would entail. One word more. The Commission found that these marriages were legal in the United States, and quoted from Mr. Justice Story's "Conflict of Laws," in which he said— In many, and indeed in most of the American States, marriages between a man and the sister of his former deceased wife are not only deemed in a civil sense lawful, but are deemed in a moral, religious, and a Christian sense lawful and exceedingly praiseworthy. But in Mr. Justice Story's letter to the Commission he says— Nothing is more common in almost all the States of American than second marriages of this sort; and so far from being doubtful as to their moral tendency, they are amongst us deemed the very best sort of marriages. In my whole life I never heard the slightest suggestion against them founded on moral or domestic considerations. I suppose that all will consent that Mr. Justice Story was one of the most eminent men who ever sat on the judicial bench. But we are told that the Jews are against these marriages. If the Jewish community hold the interpretation of Leviticus placed upon it by the noble Lord it would be a very strong authority for that view. But the Royal Commission had the evidence of the Chief Rabbi, Dr. Adler, and he said that— the marriage of a widower with the sister of his deceased wife is not only not considered as prohibited, but it is distinctly understood to be permitted, and on this point neither the Divine Law nor the Rabbis nor historical Judaism leave room for the least doubt. He further said that— these marriages were considered proper, and even laudable, and that, when there are children, the usual time for remaining in widowhood is abbreviated in such cases. Let me call the attention of the House to the final findings of the Royal Commission. They find that— these marriages are contracted by many persons of unimpeachable character and religious habits. Further they find that— the feeling against these marriages is in a great measure founded rather on a vague and uninformed assumption that they are prohibited by God's Word than on a mature examination either of the Scriptures or the law of the Church. Among the poorer classes in a great majority of cases where the sister of the deceased wife becomes an inmate of the house the end is marriage or concubinage. When a poor man with a family has the misfortune to lose his wife some assistance for his domestic concerns become indispensable, assistance for which he cannot afford to pay and which must be rendered immediately. All circumstances and all feelings point to the sister of the dead wife, and when once she becomes a permanent inmate the result is inevitable.


Hear, hear.


The noble Lord is quite within his right to dissent, but his opinion is not that of a large number of rectors and vicars of parishes where the poor prevail both in London and elsewhere. I am not going to put the matter entirely on the condition in society of those contracting these marriages. What I want to point out is this, that you have no right by a majority to found legislation of this character on the interpretation put upon one verse of Leviticus by one particular set of divines. This is a question which should be left to individual conscience. All the arguments against this Bill seem to be founded on the theory of compulsion, that we are going to pass a law to compel every man to marry his deceased wife's sister. Why should you interfere with the individual conscience? I would be no party to inflicting upon the clergy of the Church of England the injustice of compelling them to celebrate marriages which they believe to be forbidden. But are members of the community who do not accept the doctrines of these clergy to be compelled to accept a prohibition which they believe to be unauthorised? The noble Lord tells us that if the whole nation were knocking at the door of Parliament and asking for this one thing he would advocate the rejection of it. There is no infallibility in human judgment. The noble Lord appears to think there is; but I have not been able to find it in any monarchy or Republican legislature, not even in the House of Lords. So long as the constitution of the country is government of the nation through its representatives in Parliament, we must take that for better or for worse. And so long as the majority of this House is loyally adherent to constitutional government, we are bound to accept its decision.

Before I sit down I must say one word on a question which has occupied a good deal of attention, and that is the position of our colonies with reference to this subject. The noble Lord said "What have they ever done to show that they care about it? The whole agitation has been engineered here." I have a document signed by the present Prime Minister of the new Federation of Australia, Mr. Barton, by Mr. Deakin, Mr. Fyshe, Mr. Kingston, and by nearly all the members of the Commonwealth Cabinet. In that document they say, "In the agreement of the undersigned it is very desirable that the Colonial Marriages Act should be passed with the least possible delay." I am astonished at the noble Lord's statement as to the laws sanctioning these marriages. I take the South Australian Marriage Act. It says— Whereas doubts having arisen as to the validity of the marriage of a man with the sister of his deceased wife, it is expedient to remove these doubts. It is the same in Victoria, in Tasmania, in New South Wales, and in Queensland. I would be the last man to undervalue the Imperial spirit so far as our colonies are concerned. We are ready enough to avail ourselves of the assistance of our colonies when they show their loyalty. It must be remembered that the marriage law of the colonies is not a matter for themselves exclusively. Every law sanctioning these marriages passed by any Colonial Parliament was passed by the consent and with the authority of the British Crown. Mr. Gladstone, Lord Beaconsfield, Lord Salisbury advised Her Majesty to assent to these measures. It is monstrous to tell the people of this country that though laws sanctioned by the Sovereign, under the advice of the most eminent ministers of the Crown, might make these marriages legal, they are morally wrong. Mr. Speaker, there cannot be two standards of morality in the British Empire. What is morally wrong in London must be morally wrong in Sydney and Toronto. We are asked what is the hardship from which our colonial fellow subjects suffer? In the first place, when they come to their old home you give their wives the status of concubines, and you brand their children with the stigma of bastardy. The noble Lord shakes his head. Let me put this case. A younger son of a great family emigrates to Australia, where he becomes domiciled. He marries, loses his wife, and marries his deceased wife's sister, and that marriage is legal. They have a son, and in the course of time that son becomes heir to the estates and title which belongs to the head of that great house. But he cannot succeed. There is no question about the law. So far as real property is concerned—it may be different to personal property—the head of that noble house would be regarded as a bastard.

I will not further trespass on the time of the House in discussing the general trend of this measure. I believe it will be a great boon to a section of the community, possibly a small section, and I believe that it will also be a boon to a large section of the poorer classes of this country, who have no alternative but to live in sin because they cannot contract these marriages. I say that in justice to the widespread opinion that prevails in this country and throughout the whole of the British Empire, this House is not entitled, at the instigation of a minority, to use and abuse the forms of the House in order to prevent the repeal of a law which was enacted for the benefit of. I might almost say, an individual family, and which is upheld by the authority of a section which is not entitled to enforce its opinions, however conscientiously held, against the deliberate judgment of the nation.


said be felt a difficulty in intervening in the debate after a speech of so much ability, eloquence, and passion as that just delivered by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Wolverhampton. He made no claim to be an antagonist of the right hon. Gentleman, but failing any other Member, he craved the indulgence of the House for a few minutes. The right hon. Gentleman had given them a most, interesting historical survey of this subject, and had given them an account of Lord Lyndhurst's Act, which quite confirmed the opinion he had always held, that politics were in a very disreputable condition in the early part of last century, and that the Church of England was not altogether free from a contaminating atmosphere. But the right hon. Gentleman was too good a historian not to know that many of the best reforms in history had been associated with disreputable circumstances. The Habeas Corpus Act was passed for the protection of a not very creditable personage. The freedom of the press was due to a disreputable intrigue against the censor of that day. The law of marriage must not be judged on anything but its merits.

He knew that a distinction was drawn between consanguinity and affinity. He himself did not approve of the old ecclesiastical system by which a marriage had to be challenged in order to be made invalid. The right hon. Gentleman's argument went a good deal further than he was aware. Lord Lyndhurst's Act dealt, not with the deceased wife's sister, but with the whole question of consanguinity. No distinction was made which had not previously existed in ecclesiastical law. Under the old ecclesiastical system marriages were, as Lord Brougham said, only voidable because they were void. It would have been foreign to the whole ecclesiastical idea that a marriage could be made void if it were not inherently void, and Lord Lyndhurst's Act, however disreputable its origin, merely put into a more reasonable form what had always been the law of Christendom from the earliest date.

He passed to the suggestion that the adoption by the colonies of Bills of this kind was an argument in favour of our welcoming a similar Bill. The right hon. Gentleman said we were bound by the assent given by the Crown to these Bills under the advice of Imperial Ministers, but he overlooked the fact that if we denied to the colonies every Act of a colonial Legislature which we thought objectionable we should destroy their right of self-government. The idea of that right was quite consistent with the possibility of its misuse. What was claimed by the right hon. Gentleman was that because a colony had injudiciously abused the right of self-government, we should cease to assert our right of self-government. Was this House and the House of Lords—the Parliament of the United Kingdom—not to make the same claim in behalf of our own local affairs? The right hon. Gentleman had said what was morally right in Melbourne could not but be morally right in London, but that argument might be used for the introduction of Mohammedan polygamy in England, and, on the other hand, was it supposed that we could put down polygamy in India? Of course, the Government of a great Empire must constantly submit to very serious breaches of the moral law, in order to carry out the constitutional ideal of government. Then there was the Roman Catholic argument. He confessed he was annoyed at hon. and right hon. Gentlemen in this House quoting the Roman Catholic Church in support of this question. But even in making these quotations they had misapprehended their force. When these hon. Gentlemen said that the Roman Catholic Church did not teach that these unions were not against Divine law, they misrepresented the position of that Church. The true state of the case was that the Church of Rome did not admit that the law of the Church was not Divine. On the contrary, the Roman Church claimed that the Church, under the direction of the Pope, was a Divine authority, and, therefore, that that authority, in that very high sense, might relax laws which it would be presumptuous for a State to relax. They knew that the Roman Church was against this Bill, and had opposed it as definitely and clearly as did the Church of England. Then there was the philanthropic argument—the argument of the poor man who found no one in the world fit to marry except his sister-in-law. That was a shallow and a hollow argument. He knew a man, who belonged to the lower middle class, whose sister-in-law had charge of his children, and he had lived with her for fifteen years without scandal and without imputation. That man told him he dreaded the passage of this Bill, because he knew that it would then be necessary for him to marry his sister-in-law in order to avoid scandal. There was not the slightest sign from the beginning of the whole discussion that any great body of the working classes cared two straws about this matter. That very day the right hon. Gentleman had been very angry with him for calling attention to the fact that there were scarcely forty Members present. Was that likely to happen when a great reform was demanded by the mass of the people? Everybody knew that the marrow of this agitation was to be found among a certain number of a particular class of wealthy people who had broken the law and wished to have their characters whitewashed by Act of Parliament.

He opposed this Bill on the grounds of expediency, and in the last analysis the grounds of expediency would be found to coincide with the grounds of morality. But he did not wish to conceal that the true ground of his opposition to this Bill was that it violated the Christian law of marriage. On what did that law rest? It rested upon the word of the Gospel. The Christian law of marriage, like many other parts of Christian doctrine, was partially revealed in the Old Testament; and it was completed, fulfilled, and developed in the New Testament. It was fulfilled and developed by the laying down of a great principle into that symmetrical and consistent system of law which the Church had for fifteen centuries unvaryingly maintained. That great principle was that the union between man and wife was as close as possible, that it transcended human reason, that it was of such a close and mysterious character that it could not be dissolved, and could not be repeated during the lifetime of the parties with another person. That principle also prohibited marriage with the relations of both parties to a certain degree. That great principle was laid down in the words, "these twain are become one clay." It was upon those words that the Church proceeded to build up her system of Christian law. If we rejected that system we must reject those parts of it relating to affinity, the principle of in-dissolubility of marriage, and even the principle of monogamy. For example, bow difficult it would otherwise be to show that polygamy was against the Divine law. Polygamy was not expressly prohibited in the New Testament, but the prohibition arose out of only a reference to "one wife" by St. Paul. Apart from this fundamental principle, there was no logical foundation for these restrictions. For example, they could not reasonably deny that a man might marry his deceased wife's daughter—which, by the way, had already been admitted by a colonial Legislature—or his deceased wife's niece. He wished the right hon. Gentleman would explain the distinction between a deceased wife's sister and a deceased wife's niece.


I said the Act did not affect a deceased wife's daughter. I do recognise a distinction.


said that the supporters of this Bill were distinctly not logical; they did not say that all the deceased wife's relations were eligible persons to marry. Therefore, they did not go the whole length of their argument. Their logical system was to set up one exception among the degrees of affinity, but on no principle whatever. He and those who agreed with him maintained that the Christian law of marriage was a Divine law, and it was an argument in favour of that view that it was a consistent law, based on broad principle. No such claim could be put forward by the promoters of the Bill. Their law was merely regulated by considerations of expediency. There was really no reason why they should not extend the scheme of the Bill. It might be said that there were social arguments in favour of polygamy of a most important character; and if once they admitted that, the whole marriage law was open to revision. There was no reason whatever why they should not admit a Bill to a Second Beading permitting the marriage of more than one wife.

Now, let him observe that the Christian aw of marriage did not rest merely on its divine origin, but rested its claim also on its extraordinary success. He would have liked to quote from the "History of European Morals," by his right hon. and learned friend the Member for Dublin University, in which the author pointed out that, of all the benefits which Christianity had conferred on the world, the best was the degree to which it had raised the position of women. Therefore, the Christian law of marriage had been most successful in its influence upon society; step by step, it had lifted humanity to a, higher and a purer level. When a systematic system of law, which depended on fixed principles, was under discussion, was not that a claim worthy of consideration?—a claim that it had been of infinite value for the progress of the human race. There were two principles on which man should be considered in relation to the law of marriage. They might say that man was an animal, whose marital position was to be regulated according to the physiological principles of the stud-farm. Or they might say that man was an immortal being, that the circumstances which surround him were profoundly mysterious, that the body was the meeting place between the spirit and matter, and that the laws directing these were in a large measure beyond the capacity of human comprehension. Therefore they should be guided by a law which had been eminently successful, and which had been laid down by Divine authority. He took his stand on the position that the Christian law of marriage was founded on the principles of the Christian Church. The promoters of the Bill took one out of thirty prohibited degrees, and said they would allow marriage within that degree, but by doing so they destroyed the logical basis of marriage. Why was that alteration to be made from considerations of colonial expediency or to favour the poor? This was a moral question, but, said the promoters of the Bill, "These unions do not seem shocking to us; to our moral sense there is nothing wrong in them." In effect, they declared that their moral sense was a complete answer to the whole Christian tradition.


Your interpretation of Christian tradition.


said that that was a very familiar position in all the disputes about private judgment. They invented an unsystematic Christian law of marriage—a law resting on no logical principle—and said that that was more likely to be the proper interpretation of Scripture than that which the Church had given for so many ages. Was that reasonable? How were they to accept these home-made Papal Chairs, and bow down to them as being infallible? The question was not between reason and authority. The question was between authority and authority—between the Church, whose tenets had come down to us with the sanction of saints and divines, and the respectable Gentlemen whoso names were on the back of the Bill. He should be sorry to see this House departing from the principle which was associated with its most glorious traditions, the principle of adhering to the law of the Christian Church. In all the discussions in this House which had been fraught with issues of the utmost importance to the fate of the nation an appeal had constantly been made to the ecclesiastical and divine law—an appeal which had been listened to with effect and followed. He hoped the House would not depart from that great tradition. He hoped they would not set aside the great mass of the Christian traditions of the Christian Church in this matter, and regard the law of marriage in the same way as would the manager of the stud farm. He ventured to appeal to hon. Members whether in a matter of this fundamental character they would do well in supporting, on an occasion of this kind, and only after a few hours debate, a Bill brought in by hon. Gentlemen with only the authority of private Members. There was no law which so touched the future of the race as the marriage law; no other law which so immediately and directly affected the welfare of the race, and yet that was the law which might be altered by a chance vote of Parliament, and which was not safeguarded by the Constitution. He believed that was an error, and he maintained that this marriage law should be deemed to be a fundamental law not to be lightly altered or changed. Ever since this nation had existed, from Celtic times to the present, our country had been guided by the Christian law of marriage, and now, on a Wednesday after-noon, after only four hours debate, they were invited to overthrow that splendid tradition of moral progress. The Christian law of marriage had built a causeway across the morass of Eastern shame and lust, on which the race had paced onwards, slowly, between enlightenment and Empire, and now they were asked to set up something new in its place! Now they were going to tear down what angels had built up, so that they might walk between grossness and utility. He was persuaded that the House ought to think well before they adopted this Bill. They ought to reflect deeply and search their consciences and hearts as to whether they believed it to be in accordance with the divine will. And if they did so he was persuaded they would come to the conclusion that no act would be more dangerous to the civil prosperity of the country or more subversive of the future greatness of our race, than to repeal or tamper with that great fundamental and civilising law, the ancient Christian law of marriage.

MR. SEELY (Lincoln)

I congratulate the noble Lord on having, in a speech hostile to the Bill, avoided what I cannot help thinking is a great mistake—the use of strong language against those who are in favour of it. I think the noble Lord has been far wiser than those who preceded him in their opposition to this measure, in not imputing evil to those who differed from him. I would not at this hour of the afternoon detain the House at any length, mainly because the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Wolverhampton has been absolutely conclusive in its history and reasoning. There is one thing which I commend to the noble Lord and those who spoke with him. They object to this Bill mainly because they think there is a risk of there being some weakening in the general law and feeling with regard to marriage in this country. That is the real objection, and that is why they have used the strong language which we have heard to-day with regard to a measure which is really only for the purpose of altering the state of the law on a Wednesday afternoon in April back to what it was before it was altered late in the month of August seventy years ago. I wish hon. Members to reflect upon that.

Now, it is the case that in some portions of the world, in some countries connected with us, there has been a weakening of the marriage laws, and therefore we cannot say that it is impossible that some agitation of the kind might at some period rise up in this country upon the question which we are discussing to day. There is absolute unanimity in this country with regard to the existing marriage laws. There is no desire to in any way weaken them, to in any way increase the risk of or the facilities for divorce or anything of that kind; but do not those who are opposing this measure think it is a mistake to keep in existence any real grievance which may exist against the existing marriage laws? So long as this grievance is kept in existence, so long will there be found a number of persons who think that such an alteration in the marriage laws is required; but once this great difficulty is put right, then there will be no personal feeling of any kind whatever, or any attack upon the laws of marriage of this country; and for that reason, in addition to the main reasons given by the right hon. Member for East Wolverhampton, and many other speakers to-day, I ask this House to pass this measure, and pass it by a good majority, so that we may put an end to all controversy with regard to the marriage laws of the country for the future. Those who profess to any acquaintance with the marriage laws of this country will agree with what has been stated by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Wolverhampton, that there is a demand for the alteration proposed. You cannot have such a demand upon this as you would have upon a great constitutional change, because the number who desire to take advantage of the change is small, and men do not talk upon subjects of this kind openly in the market-place.

There is no real objection, I think, to the change in the mind of anybody. One argument against it is that it would interfere with the relations between a man and his wife's sisters. But how can that be, when at the present time we are told a large number of these marriages do take place? One hon. Member mentioned 1,000 instances in thirteen years. That number is sufficient to make it known that there is no real difficulty in marrying one's deceased wife's sister. I have known cases where men who were not living in great houses containing many rooms have not been able to have their deceased wife's sister to take care of their children in consequence of want of accommodation. I hope the House will not be led away by the eloquence of the noble Lord the Member for South Kensington, who has the usual confidence of youth in his opinions. I could not help thinking, when he told us that he represented the opinion of all the married women in England, that as time goes on, and he obtains a more intimate knowledge of the opinions of married ladies, he will not be able to speak with such absolute confidence. I hope this measure will be passed to day by a large majority, and that it will have a happy issue in another place, and that it will put an end once and for all to the only grievance—to the only thing that could ever arise to cause any re-opening of the marriage laws of this country, which in my opinion would be a serious misfortune.


, who spoke amid cries of "Divide," said he should not have intervened in the debate had not frequent reference been made to the fact that such a change had been made in the marriage laws of the colonies as was contemplated by this measure, and it had been argued from that that this country ought now to change its laws to suit those of our colonies. He was Governor of South Australia, which was the first colony to make such a change in the law, when the first Act was passed, and it was perfectly notorious when that measure was promoted in the South Australian Parliament, that it was got up from home, and supported by funds from home in the interests of certain people who had contracted illegal marriages in this country, and who, not being able to get a law in this country to suit their condition, thought that if such a change was made in the colonies it must necessarily operate here. They operated first in South Australia because the colony was known to be heterogeneous with regard to religion, and the Parliament there very impatient of any restrictions of laws founded upon ecclesiastical rules, and that therefore it was only necessary to tell them that the main objection to its being passed here was the fundamental law of the Church of England to make them say, "We have no Established Church here." Both parties in the House were responsible for this change in the colonies, such laws having been sanctioned under Lord Salisbury as well as other Ministers, but it was under the administration of the Colonial Office by Lord Kimberley, who was himself in favour of such a change, that the South Australian Act was passed. It naturally followed that, when the law was changed in South Australia, when other self-governing colonies passed similar Acts consent was not to be withheld. But he did not think the responsibility of giving consent in those cases was in the same degree as the responsibility of the Colonial Secretary who gave consent to the original measure. He did not think, however, that these marriages had become more prevalent in the Australian colonies in consequence of the passing of these Acts. In South Australia, for years after the Act was sanctioned, it became the practice of people in the other colonies who desired such marriages to resort to South Australia to avail themselves of the law, but even then there was only one clergyman of the Church of England who would solemnise such marriages, and he was not very much respected; and when he (Sir J. Fergusson) visited South Australia five years ago, he was informed that there was not a minister of the Church of England who would solemnise such marriages, and that the Presbyterians were just as strong in their objections. It was no proof that such marriages would be acceptable to the community to say that in some localities such unions had been frequent, because that with equal truth might be said of connexions of a still more objectionable character. No doubt in certain classes of society where respectability had been cast aside a certain amount of irregular marriages would always take place.

The line of argument upon this question, not for the first time, had been on the general grounds of Christian principles, and it would be deplorable if that were to be lost sight of, because it would certainly be a very serious danger to the morality of the country if we were to lose sight of the peculiarly sacred character of Christian marriage. He had no desire to go over the ground which had been taken by other speakers; his only desire was to draw attention to the considerations which he thought ought to be regarded when such a serious change in the law was contemplated. What would be the effect upon society, where the wife's sister was naturally regarded as the most proper guardian and protector of her sister's children in case of the wife's death? In all sections of society the wife's nearest relations occupied a position in the family closely resembling those of the blood relations of the husband. The husband's sister of course lived on most intimate terms with the family; so did the wife's. Without the slightest breath of scandal the husband lived on closely intimate terms with them. And in those cases the sister could come into the house and take the place which the wife occupied in her lifetime. During her sister's life she had been accustomed to that place, and upon her death the sister was its natural possessor. If this Bill passed, and upon the removal of the wife the sister could marry the husband, all these brotherly familiarities by the husband would be impossible; they would cause jealousy and suspicion, which would break up hundreds and thousands of homes. It would not be possible for the wife's sister to come and reside in a house as one of the family where she was likely to form these ties. He had known cases in humble houses where, the wife having been removed by death, the sister had come and taken charge of the children, and had lived there for years; and when the natural grief had passed away, the man had married, and the deceased wife's sister had gone back to her home. Such a thing would be impossible if the wife's sister was to be as open to the husband's addresses as any other woman. Those were considerations which could not be ignored; they were matters which were in the minds of everybody, and would have to be referred to over and over again if a change like this in the law was going to be made.

CAPTAIN JESSEL (St. Pancras, S.)

said there was one point he desired to urge in defence of the motion. Having had charge of the colonial Bill dealing with this subject he would venture to remind the House that the whole of the evidence in favour of that Bill came from the colonies. All the self-governing colonies unanimously demanded that the Bill should be passed. That showed that the Bill originated in the colonies, and brought the House face to face with the colonial view of this matter. Almost the whole world was in favour of the principles of the Bill. In America, France, and all the great continental countries, there was a demand for the change asked for by this Bill. England was the only country where marriage with the deceased wife's sister was not lawful. Except in the Church of England the feeling was in favour of the change. The wishes of the Church of England had been consulted in the Bill by the provision that no clergyman of that Church should be compelled to solemnise such a marriage. It appeared to him somewhat hard upon those who did not belong to the Established Church that they should not be accorded the privileges allowed by other countries. This matter had occupied the attention of the public for the last sixty years; it had been repeatedly passed through the House of Commons and the House of Lords, and he hoped on this occasion the Bill would be passed by a large majority.

MR. FLOWER (Bradford, W.)

, who spoke amid repeated interruption and cries of "Divide," was understood to say that the whole of the speeches addressed to the House upon this subject seemed to suggest that there was an air of unreality in the proceedings. He could not help thinking that that air of unreality had been created by the reluctance of the House to grapple with what was the real question which underlay the proposals of this Bill, and every other Bill which dealt with the marriage laws of the country. What he would have liked to hear was an expression of opinion from the Government Benches. A Bill which dealt with the marriage laws of the country was dealing with a matter of transcendental importance, and it was to be deplored that there had been no expression of opinion from those responsible for the government of the country upon such an important—such a vital topic. He would have liked to hear from a responsible Minister that the Government realised the serious character of the legislation proposed to the House this afternoon. They could not have given better proof of their appreciation of its importance, than by expressing their determination to ascertain precisely the difficulties that might arise through a change in the marriage law of the Empire. Speaker after speaker had referred to the, colonies in their remarks, but when one came to consider the marriage laws of the Empire, there was not merely the fact that there were striking and curious differences between the marriage laws of this country and our self-governing colonies—there was also the fact that there were perhaps more striking and more curious differences between the marriage laws of the different parts of the United Kingdom itself. There were striking differences in the marriage laws of Scotland as contrasted with those of England, and also in the marriage laws of Ireland as contrasted with those of Scotland and England. All these subjects needed inquiry. The Royal Commission of 1868, in the words of Mr. Boyd Kinnear, reported that— A good marriage law should embrace the maximum of simplicity and the maximum of certainty, simply because it affects almost every class and every person, the most humble and illiterate as well as the most exalted and learned; because it affects the contracts and social relations the most important that can arise between human beings; because it affects the foundation of society and influences the fate of innumerable individuals. He regretted that the Government had not met the proposal for the second reading by announcing that they would appoint a Royal Commission on this subject. This Bill, if it passed, would only add to the existing confusion, In 1887 there was a conference of representatives of the colonies on the subject, and of the twenty-one who were present only six failed to recognise the unfairness of asking Great Britain to change, her laws of inheritance to suit the convenience of the colonies. The representatives of Canada, Newfoundland, New Zealand, Western Australia, and the Cape deprecated anything of the kind. The hon. Member was about to proceed with his speech, when.


rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put."

Question put, "That the Question be now put."

The House divided:—Ayes, 290; Noes, 106. (Division List No. 139.)

Acland-Hood, Capt. Sir Alex. F. Dilke, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles King, Sir Henry Seymour
Agg-Gardner, James Tynte Dillon, John Kinloch, Sir John Geo. Smyth
Agnew, Sir Andrew Noel Doogan, P. C. Kitson, Sir James
Allan, William (Gateshead) Dorington, Sir John Edward Labouchere, Henry
Ambrose, Robert Doughty, George Lambert, George
Anstruther, H. T. Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers- Lambton, Hon. Frederick Wm.
Archdale, Edward Mervyn Doxford, Sir William Theodore Langley, Batty
Arrol, Sir William Duncan, J. Hastings Law, Andrew Bonar
Ashmead-Bartlett, Sir Ellis Dunn, Sir William Layland-Barratt, Francis
Ashton, Thomas Gair Edwards, Frank Leigh, Sir Joseph
Asquith, Rt. Hon. Herbert Hy. Elliot, Hon. A. Ralph Douglas Leng, Sir John
Atherley-Jones, L. Ellis, John Edward Leveson-Gower, Frederick N. S.
Austin, Sir John Emmott, Alfred Levy, Maurice
Bagot, Capt. Josceline Fitz Roy Evans, Samuel T. (Glamorgan) Lewis, John Herbert
Bailey, James (Walworth) Faber, George Denison Lloyd-George, David
Bain, Col. James Robert Fellowes, Hon. Ailwyn Edw. Lonsdale, John Brownlee
Balfour, Capt. C. B. (Hornsey) Fen wick, Charles Lough, Thomas
Banbury, Frederick George Field, William Lowther, C. (Cumb., Eskdale)
Barry, E. (Cork, S.) Fisher, William Hayes Loyd, Archie Kirkman
Bayley, Thomas (Derbyshire) Fison, Frederick William Macdona, John Gumming
Beach, Rt. Hn. W.W.B. (Hants Fitzmaurice, Lord Edmond MacDonnell, Dr. Mark A.
Beaumont, Wentworth C. B. Flannery, Sir Fortescue MacIver, David (Liverpool)
Bell, Richard Flavin, Michael Joseph Maconochie, A. W.
Bhownaggree, Sir M. M. Flynn, James Christopher M'Arthur, Charles (Liverpool)
Bigwood, James Foster, Sir Walter (Derby Co.) M'Calmont, Col. J. (Antrim, E.)
Bill, Charles Fowler, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry M'Cann, James
Black, Alexander William Furness, Sir Christopher M'Crae, George
Boland, John Galloway, William Johnson M'Govern, T.
Boutnois, Edmund Goddard, Daniel Ford M' Iver, Sir Lewis (Edinb'rgh W
Bousfield, William Robert Graham, Henry Robert M'Kenna, Reginald
Bowles, T Gibson (King's Lynn) Grant, Corrie M'Killop, James (Stirlingshire)
Brand, Hon. Arthur G. Green, Walford D. (Wednesbury M'Laren, Charles Benjamin
Brodrick, Rt. Hon. St. John Greene, W. Raymond- (Cambs.) Mansfield, Horace Rendall
Brown, Alex. H. (Shropshire) Grey, Sir Edward (Berwick) Maple, Sir John Blundell
Burns, John Griffith, Ellis J. Mappin, Sir Frederick Thorpe
Burt, Thomas Guest, Hon. Ivor Churchill Markham, Arthur Basil
Buxton, Sydney Charles Guthrie, Walter Murray Massey-Mainwaring, Hn. W. F.
Caldwell, James Hain, Edward Maxwell, Rt. Hn Sir H. E (Wigt'n
Cameron, Robert Haldane, Richard Burdon Mellor, Rt. Hon. John William
Campbell, Rt. Hn J.A (Glasgow) Hall, Edward Marshall Melville, Beresford Valentine
Carvill, Patrick G. Hamilton Hambro, Charles Erie Mitchell, William
Causton, Richard Knight Hamilton, Marq. of (L'nd'nd'y) Molesworth, Sir Lewis
Cavendish, R. F. (N. Lanes.) Hammond, John Mooney, John J.
Cavendish, V. C. W. (Derbyshire Hare, Thomas Leigh Morgan, J. Lloyd (Carmarthen)
Cawley, Frederick Harmsworth, R. Leicester Morley, Rt. Hn John (Montrose
Cayzer, Sir Charles William Harwood, George Morton, Edw. J. C. (Devonport)
Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J. (Birm.) Hatch, Ernest Fredk. Geo. Moss, Samuel
Chamberlain, J. Austen (Worcr Hayden, John Patrick Moulton, John Fletcher
Channing, Francis Allston Hayne, Rt. Hon. Charles Seale- Murphy, J.
Chapman, Edward Hayter, Rt. Hn. Sir A. D. Murray, Col. Wyndham (Bath)
Charrington, Spencer Helder, Augustus Nannetti, Joseph P.
Clare, Octavius Leigh Helme, Norval Watson Newnes, Sir George
Coddington, Sir William Henderson, Alexander Nicol, Donald Ninian
Cohen, Benjamin Louis Hobhouse, Henry (Somerset, E. Nolan, Col. John P. (Galway, N.
Collings, Rt. Hon. Jesse Holland, William Henry Norman, Henry
Colston, Chas. E. H. Athole Hope, John Deans (Fife, West) Norton, Capt. Cecil William
Colville, John Hornby, Sir William Henry Nussey, Thomas Willans
Compton, Lord Alwyne Horniman, Frederick John O'Brien, K. (Tipperary, Mid)
Corbett, A. Cameron (Glasgow) Hudson, George Bickersteth O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)
Cox, Irwin Edward Bainbridge Hughes, Colonel Edwin O'Connor, James (Wicklow, W)
Craig, Robert Hunter Humphreys-Owen, Arthur C. O'Donnell, John (Mayo, S.)
Cremer, William Randal Hutton, Alfred E. (Morley) O'Donnell, T. (Kerry, W.)
Crombie, John William Jacoby, James Alfred O'Dowd, John
Daly, James Jessel, Capt. Herb. Merton O'Kelly, Conor (Mayo, N.)
Dalziel, James Henry Johnston, William (Belfast) O'Malley, William
Davies, Alfred (Carmarthen) Joicey, Sir James Orr-Ewing, Charles Lindsay
Davies, M. Vaughran- (Cardigan Jones, William (Carnarvonsh) O'Shaughnessy, P. J.
Delany, William Jordon, Jeremiah Palmer, Sir Charles M (Durham
Denny, Colonel Kearley, Hudson E. Partington, Oswald
Dewar, John A. (Inverness-sh. Kenyon-Slaney, Col. W (Salop) Paulton, James Mellor
Pease, Sir Joseph W. (Durham) Sadler, Col. Samuel Alexander Walton, Joseph (Barnsley)
Peel, Hn. Wm. Rbt. Wellesley Samuel, S. M. (Whitechapel) Warner, Thomas Courtenay T.
Pemberton, John S. G. Sandys, Lt.-Col. Thos. Myles Wason, Eugene (Clackmannan)
Perks, Robert William Scott, Chas. Prestwich (Leigh) White, George (Norfolk)
Philipps, John Wynford Scott, Sir S. (Marylebone, W.) White, Patrick (Meath, North
Price, Robert John Shaw-Stewart, M. H. (Renfrew) Whiteley, George (York, W. R.)
Priestley, Arthur Sinclair, Capt. J. (Forfarshire) Whiteley, H. (Ashton-u.-Lyne)
Pryce-Jones, Lt.-Col. Edward Smith, Abel H. (Hertford, East) Whitley, J. H. (Halifax)
Pym, C. Guy Smith, Samuel (Flint) Whittaker, Thomas Palmer
Quilter, Sir Cuthbert Soames, Arthur Wellesley Williams, Rt. Hn J Powell- (Birm
Rankin, Sir James Soares, Ernest J. Willox, Sir John Archibald
Rea, Russell Spear, John Ward Wilson, Fred. W. (Norfolk, Mid)
Reckitt, Harold James Spencer, Rt. Hn. C. R. (N'rth'nts Wilson, John (Durham, Mid)
Redmond, John E. (Waterford) Stevenson, Francis S. Wilson, John (Falkirk)
Redmond, William (Clare) Stone, Sir Benjamin Wilson, J. W. (Worcestersh., N.
Reed, Sir Edw. James (Cardiff) Sullivan, Donal Wodehouse, Rt. Hn E. R. (Bath)
Reid, Sir R. Threshie (Dumfries Taylor, Theodore Cooke Wolff, Gustav Wilhelm
Rickett, J. Compton Tennant, Harold John Woodhouse, Sir J. T. (Hnd'rsf'd)
Ridley, Hn. M. W. (Stalybridge Thomas, Abel (Carmarthen, E. Wrightson, Sir Thomas
Rigg, Richard Thomas, Alfred (Glamorgan, E. Wylie, Alexander
Robinson, Brooke Thomas, F. Freeman- (Hastings Wyndham-Quin, Maj. W. H.
Robson, William Snowdon Thompson, E. C. (Monaghan, N. Young, Samuel (Cavan, East)
Roe, Sir Thomas Thornton, Percy M. Younger, William
Rolleston, Sir John F. L. Tomkinson, James Yoxall, James Henry
Ropner, Col. Robert Trevelyan, Charles Philips
Rothschild, Hon. Lionel Walter Ure, Alexander TELLERS FOR THE AYES—
Royds, Clement Molyneux Wallace, Robert Sir Brampton Gurdon and
Russell, T. W. Walton, John Lawson (Leeds, S. Mr. Cathcart Wason.
Abraham, Win. (Cork. N. E.) Gibbs, Hon. Vicary (St. Albans) Myers, William Henry
Allsopp, Hon. George Godson, Sir Augustus Fredk. Newdigate, Francis Alexander
Baird, John George Alexander Gordon, Hn. J. E. (Elgin & Nairn Nolan, Joseph (Louth. South)
Baldwin, Alfred Gorst, Rt. Hon. Sir John Eldon O'Brien, P. J. (Tipperary, N.)
Bartley, George C. T. Goulding, Edward Alfred O'Shee, James John
Bathurst, Hon. Allen Benjamin Greville, Hon. Ronald Palmer, Walter (Salisbury)
Beach, Rt. Hn. Sir M. H. (Bristol Groves, James Grimble Percy, Earl
Blundell, Col. Henry Gunter, Colonel Pierpoint, Robert
Bolton, Thomas Dolling Halsey, Thomas Frederick Pilkington, Richard
Boyle, James Hardie, J Keir (Merthyr Tydvil) Plummer, Walter R.
Brigg, John Haslam, Sir Alfred S. Powell, Sir Francis Sharp
Bull, William James Heaton, John Henniker Power, Patrick Joseph
Campbell, John (Armagh, S.) Hoare, Sir Samuel (Norwich) Remnant, James Farquharson
Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edw. H. Hope, J.F. (Sheffield, Brightsd. Richards, Henry Charles
Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor) Howard, John (Kent, Faversh.) Robertson, Herbert (Hackney)
Cecil, Lord Hugh (Greenwich) Howard, J. (Midd., Tottenham) Round, James
Cogan, Denis J. Hutton, John (Yorks, N. R.) Sackville, Col. S. C. Stopford-
Coghill, Douglas Harry John-tone, Heywood (Sussex) Seton-Karr, Henry
Condon, Thomas Joseph Joyce, Michael Sharpe, William Edward T.
Cranborne, Viscount Kennaway, Rt. Hon. Sir John H. Sinclair, Louis (Romford)
Crean, Eugene Kennedy, Patrick James Smith, Hon. W. E. D. (Strand)
Cullinan, J. Kenyon, Hon. G. T. (Denbigh) Stanley, Hn. Arthur (Ormskirk
Dalrymple, Sir Charles Legge, Col. Hon. Heneage Stanley, Lord (Lancs.)
Dewar T. R. (T'rH'mlts, S. Geo. Leigh-Bennett, Henry Currie Stroyan, John
Dickson-Poynder, Sir John P. Leighton, Stanley Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)
Dimsdale, Sir Joseph Cockfield Llewellyn, Evan Henry Talbot, Rt. Hn. J. G. (Oxf'd Uni.
Disraeli, Coningsby Ralph Long, Rt. Hn. W. (Bristol, S.) Tomlinson, Wm. Edw. Murray
Dixon Hartland, Sir Fred. D. Lucas, R. J. (Portsmouth) Tufnell, Lieut.-Col. Edward
Esmonde, Sir Thomas Lundon, W. Tully, Jasper
Farrell, James Patrick Malcolm, Ian Welby, Lt.-Col. A C E. (Taunton
Fergusson, Rt. Hn. Sir J. (Manc'r Milward, Colonel Victor Wharton, Rt. Hon. John L.
Finlay, Sir Robert Bannatyne Minch, Matthew Whitmore, Charles Algernon
FitzGerald, Sir Robert Penrose- Montagu, G. (Huntingdon)
Flower, Ernest Moon, Edward Robert Pacy TELLERS FOR THE NOES—
Forster, Henry William More, Robt. Jasper (Shropshire) Mr. Griffith-Boscawen and
Garlit, William Morris, Hon. Martin Henry F. Sir Mark Stewart.
Gibbs, Hn. A. G. H. (City of Ldn) Murnaghan, George

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

The House divided:—Ayes, 279; Noes, 122. (Division List No. 140.)

Agg-Gardner, James Tynte Emmott, Alfred Lockwood, Lieut.-Col. A. R.
Agnew, Sir Andrew Noel Evans, Samuel T. (Glamorgan) Lonsdale, John Brownlee
Allan, William (Gateshead) Faber, George Denison Lough, Thomas
Ambrose, Robert Fenwick, Charles Lowther, C. (Cumb., Eskdale)
Archdale, Edward Mervyn Field, William Macdona, John Cumming
Arrol, Sir William Fison, Frederick William MacDonnell, Dr. Mark A.
Ashton, Thomas Gair Fitzmaurice, Lord Edmond NacIver, David (Liverpool
Asquith, Rt. Hn. Herbert Henry Flannery, Sir Fortescue Maconochie, A. W.
Atherley-Jones, L. Flavin, Michael Joseph M'Arthur, Charles (Liverpool)
Austin, Sir John Flynn, James Christopher M'Crae, George
Bagot, Capt. Josceline FitzRoy Foster, Sir Walter (Derby Co.) M'Dermott, Patrick
Bailey, James (Walworth) Furness, Sir Christopher M'Govern, T.
Bain, Colonel James Robert Galloway, William Johnson M'Iver, Sir L. (Edinburgh, W.)
Balfour, Capt. C. B. (Hornsey) Goddard, Daniel Ford M'Kenna, Reginald
Banbury, Frederick George Graham, Henry Robert M'Killop, Jas. (Stirlingshire)
Bayley, Thomas (Derbyshire) Grant, Corrie M'Laren, Charles Benjamin
Beaumont, Wentworth C. B. Green, Walford D (Wednesbury Mansfield, Horace Rendall
Bell, Richard Grey, Sir Edward (Berwick) Mappin, Sir Frederick Thorpe
Bhownaggree, Sir M. M. Groves, James Grimble Markham, Arthur Basil
Bigwood, James Guest, Hn. Ivor Churchill Massey-Mainwaring, Hn. W. F.
Black, Alexander William Guthrie, Walter Murray Maxwell, Rt. Hn Sir H. E (Wigt'n
Boland, John Hain, Edward Mellor, Rt. Hon. John Wm.
Boulnois, Edmund Haldane, Richard Bunion Melville, Beresford Valentine
Bousfield, William Robert Hall Edward Marshall Minch, Matthew
Bowles, T. Gibson (King's Lynn Hambro, Charles Eric Mitchell, William
Boyle, James Hamilton, Marq of L'nd'nderry Molesworth, Sir Lewis
Brand, Hon. Arthur G. Hammond, John Mooney, John J.
Brigg, John Hardie, J Keir (Merthyr Tydvil Morgan, J. L. (Carmarthen)
Brown, Alexander H. (Shropsh. Hare, Thomas Leigh Morley, Rt. Hn. J. (Montrose
Burke, E. Haviland- Harmsworth, R. Leicester Morton, Edw. J. C. (Devonport
Burns, John Harrington, Timothy Moss, Samuel
Burt, Thomas Harwood, George Moulton, John Fletcher
Butcher, John George Hatch, Ernest Frederick Geo. Murphy, J.
Buxton, Sydney Charles Hayden, John Patrick Nannetti, Joseph P.
Cameron, Robert Hayne, Rt. Hon. Charles Seale- Newnes, Sir George
Carvill, Patrick Geo. Hamilton Hayter, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur D. Nolan, Col. J. P. (Galway, N.)
Causton, Richard Knight Helder, Augustus Nolan, Joseph (Louth, South)
Cavendish, R. F. (N. Lancs.) Helme, Norval Watson Norman, Henry
Cavendish, V. C. W. (Derbysh.) Henderson, Alexander Norton, Capt. Cecil William
Cawley, Frederick Hobhouse, Henry (Somerset, E. Nussey, Thomas Willans
Cayzer, Sir Charles William Holland, William Henry O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)
Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. J. (Birm. Hope, John Deans (Fife, West) O'Connor, Jas. (Wicklow, W.
Chamberlain, J. Austen (Wore. Hornby, Sir William Henry O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)
Channing, Francis Allston Horniman, Frederick John O'Donnell, John (Mayo, S.)
Clare, Octavins Leigh Howard, John (Kent, Faversh.) O'Donnell. T. (Kerry, W.)
Coddington, Sir William Hudson, George Bickersteth O'Dowd, John
Cohen, Benjamin Louis Hughes, Colonel Edwin O'Kelly, Conor (Mayo, N.)
Collings, Rt. Hon. Jesse Humphreys-Owen, Arthur C. O'Malley, William
Colville, John Hutton, Alfred E. (Morley) Orr Ewing, Charles Lindsay
Compton, Lord Alwyne Jacoby, James Alfred O'Shaughnessy, P. J.
Corbett, A. Cameron (Glasgow) Jessel, Captain Herbert Merton Palmer, Sir C. M. (Durham)
Cox, Irwin Edward Bainbridge Johnston, William (Belfast) Parker, Gilbert
Craig, Robert Hunter Joicey, Sir James Partington, Oswald
Cromer, William Randal Jones, William (Carnarvonsh. Paulton, James Mellor
Crombie, John William Jordan, Jeremiah Pease, Sir Joseph W. (Durham)
Cullinan, J. Kearley, Hudson E. Peel, Hn Wm. Robert Wellesley
Daly, James Kennedy, Patrick James Pemberton, John S. G.
Dalziel, James Henry Kenyon-Slaney, Col. W. (Salop) Perks, Robert William
Davies, Alfred (Carmarthen) Kinloch, Sir. John George Smyth Philipps, John Wynford
Davies, M. Vaughan- (Cardigan Kitson, Sir James Price, Robert John
Delany, William Labouchere, Henry Priestley, Arthur
Denny, Colonel Lambert, George Pryce-Jones, Lt.-Col. Edward
Dewar, John A. (Inverness-sh. Lambton, Hon. Frederick W. Pym, C. Guy
Dilke, Rt. Hn. Sir Charles Langley, Batty Quilter, Sir Cuthbert
Dillon, John Law, Andrew Bonar Rea, Russell
Doughty, George Layland-Barratt, Francis Reckitt, Harold James
Doxford, Sir William Theodore Leigh, Sir Joseph Redmond, John E. (Waterford)
Duncan, J. Hastings Leng, Sir John Redmond, William (Clare)
Dunn, Sir William Leveson-Gower, Fredk. N. S. Reed, Sir Edw. James (Cardiff)
Edwards, Frank Levy, Maurice Reid, Sir R. Threshie (Dumfries
Elliot, Hon. A. Ralph Douglas Lewis, John Herbert Rickett, J. Compton
Ellis, John Edward Lloyd-George, David Ridley, Hon. M. W. (Stalybridge
Rigg, Richard Stevenson, Francis S. Whitley, J. H. (Halifax)
Robinson, Brooke Stone, Sir Benjamin Whittaker, Thomas Palmer
Robson, William Snowdon Sullivan, Donal Williams, Rt. Hn. J Powell- (Birm
Roe, Sir Thomas Taylor, Theodore Cooke Willox, Sir John Archibald
Rolleston, Sir John F. L. Tennant, Hareld John Wilson, Fred W. (Norfolk, Mid)
Ropner, Colonel Robert Thomas, Abel (Carmarthen, E. Wilson, John (Durham, Mid)
Rothschild, Hon. Lionel Walter Thomas, Alfred (Glamorgan, E. Wilson, John (Falkirk)
Royds, Clement Molyneux Thomas, F. Freeman- (Hastings Wilson, J. W. (Worcestersh. N.
Russell, T. W. Thompson, E. C. (Monaghan, N. Wodehouse, Rt. Hn. E. R. (Bath
Sadler, Col. Samuel Alexander Thornton, Percy M. Wolff, Gustav Wilhelm
Samuel, S. M. (Whitechapel) Tomkinson, James Woodhouse, Sir J. T. (H'dd'rsfd
Sandys, Lt.-Col. Thos. Myles Trevelyan, Charles Philips Wrightson, Sir Thomas
Scott, Chas. Prestwich (Leigh) Ure, Alexander Wylie, Alexander
Scott, Sir S. (Marylebone, W.) Wallace, Robert Wyndham-Quin, Major W.H.
Shaw-Stewart M. H. (Renfrew) Walton, John Lawson (Leeds, S. Young, Samuel (Cavan, Fast)
Sinclair, Capt. John (Forfarsh'e Walton, Joseph (Barnsley) Younger, William
Smith, Samuel (Flint) Warner, Thomas Courtenay T. Yoxall, James Henry
Soames, Arthur Wellesley Wason, Eugene (Clackmannan
Soares, Ernest J. White, George (Norfolk) TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Spear, John Ward White, Patrick (Meath, North) Sir Brampton Gurdon and
Spencer, Rt. Hn. C R. (Northants Whiteley, George (York, W.R.) Mr. Cathcart Wason.
Stanley, Lord (Lancs.) Whiteley, H. (Ashton-u-Lyne
Abraham, Wm. (Cork, N. E.) Fellowes, Hon. Ailwyn Edw. More, R. Jasper (Shropshire)
Acland-Hood, Capt. Sir Alex. F. Fergusson, Rt. Hn. Sir. J. (Manc'r Morris, Hon. Martin Henry F.
Allsopp, Hon. George Finlay, Sir Robert Bannatyne Murnaghan, George
Anstruther, H. T. Fisher, William Hayes Murray, Col. Wyndham (Bath)
Ashmead-Bartlett, Sir Ellis FitzGerald, Sir Robert Penrose- Myers, William Henry
Baird, John George Alexander Flower, Ernest Newdigate, Francis Alexander
Baldwin, Alfred Forster, Henry William Nicol, Donald Ninian
Barry, E. (Cork, S.) Garfit, William O'Brien, Kendal (Tipper'ry Mid
Bartley, George C. T. Gibbs, Hn A. G. H. (City of Lond. O'Brien, P. J. (Tipperary, N.)
Bathurst, Hon. Allen Benjamin Gibbs, Hon. Vicary (St. Albans O'Shee, James John
Beach, Rt. Hn. Sir M. H. (Bristol) Godson, Sir Augustus Fred. Palmer, Walter (Salisbury)
Beach, Rt. Hn W. W. B. (Hants.) Gordon, Hn. J. E. (Elgin & Nairn Percy, Earl
Bill, Charles Gorst, Rt. Hon. Sir John E. Pierpoint, Robert
Blundell, Col. Hemy Greville, Hon. Ronald Pilkington, Richard
Bolton, Thomas Dulling Gunter, Colonel Plummer, Walter R.
Brodrick, Rt. Hon. St. John Halsey, Thomas Frederick Powell, Sir Francis Sharp
Bull, William James Haslam, Sir Alfred S. Power, Patrick Joseph
Caldwell, James Heaton, John Henniker Rankin, Sir James
Campbell, Rt. Hn. J.A. (Gl'sg'w Hoare, Sir Samuel (Norwich) Remnant, James Farquharson
Campbell, John (Armagh, S.) Hope, J. F. (Shef'ld, Brightside Richards, Henry Charles
Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edw. H. Howard, J. (Midd., Tottenham Robertson, Herbert (Hackney)
Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor) Hutton, John (Yorks., N.R.) Round, James
Cecil, Lord Hugh (Greenwich) Johnstone, Heywood (Sussex) Sackville, Col. S. G. Stopford-
Chapman, Edward Joyce, Michael Seton-Karr, Henry
Charrington, Spencer Kennaway, Rt. Hon. Sir J. H. Sharpe, Wm. Edw. T.
Cogan, Denis J. Kenyon, Hon. G. T. (Denbigh Sinclair, Louis (Romford)
Coghill, Douglas Harry King, Sir Henry Seymour Smith, Abel H. (Hertford, East)
Colston, Chas. Edw. H. Athole Legge, Col. Hon. Heneage Smith, Hon. W. F. D. (Strand)
Condon, Thomas Joseph Leigh-Bennett, Henry Currie Stanley, Hon. A. (Ormskirk)
Cranborne, Viscount Leighton, Stanley Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)
Crean, Eugene Llewellyn, Evan Henry Talbot, Rt. Hn. J. G. (Oxf'd Univ
Cubitt, Hon. Henry Long, Rt. Hn Walter (Bristol, S.) Tomlinson, Wm. Edw. Murray
Dalrymple, Sir Charles Loyd, Archie Kirkman Tufnell, Lieut.-Col. Edward
Dewar, T. R (T'rH'ml'ts, S. Geo. Lucas, R. J. (Portsmouth) Tully, Jasper
Dickson-Poynder, Sir John P. Lundon, W. Warde, Colonel C. E.
Dimsdale, Sir Joseph Cockfield M'Calmont, Col. J. (Antrim, N. Welby, Lt. Col. A. C. E. (Tauntn
Disraeli, Coningsby Ralph M'Cann, James Wharton, Rt. Hn. J. Lloyd
Dixon-Hartland, Sir Fred. D. Malcolm, Ian Whitmore, Chas. Algernon
Doogan, P. C. Maple, Sir John Blundell
Dorington, Sir John Edward Milward, Colonel Victor TELLERS FOR THE NOES—
Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers- Montagu, G. (Huntingdon) Mr. Griffith-Boscawen and
Farrell, James Patrick Moon, Edward Robert Pacy Sir Mark Stewart.

Main Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read a second time, and committed for To-morrow.

It being Six of the clock, MR. SPEAKER adjourned the House without Question put.

Adjourned at Six of the Clock.