§ The Duke of Richmond
presented a petition from Arthur Chichester, esq. referring to the case of the marquis of Donegal, complaining of the retrospective effect of this bill, and praying that it might not pass into a law.
§ Lord Ellenborough moved the order of the day, and the House resolved into a committee on the bill. The noble lord observed, that the bill had been already much discussed both with respect to its prospective and retrospective clauses. The 1129 petition which had been just read, complained of its operation in the latter respect, and referred to a case in which the petitioner was interested. But their lordships must be aware that the bill had not been introduced with reference to that particular case or to any other. This was, indeed, the fourth time the measure had been sent up to them from the House of Commons. Their lordships, therefore, now came to the discussion, well informed of the nature of the measure, and with the knowledge of its having the repeated sanction of the other House of Parliament. In order to show the evils to which the present state of the marriage law gave origin, he referred to the cases of Riddall v. Ledyard, and Hayes v. Watts, in the Ecclesiastical court. It was quite unnecessary for him to point out the conclusion which was to be drawn from such cases. They must satisfy their lordships, that no person could be in perfect security of the possession of the property he had received from his ancestors. Not one of their lordships, however great his property, however great the services to the country by which it had been acquired, but was exposed to danger as the law now stood. Every one, then, who looked forward to transmitting to his posterity, the estates and honours he had received from his ancestors, must desire some amendment of the law. Some purely accidental circumstance—some oversight in the marriage, not merely of his father, but of his grandfather, might vitiate the contract, and he, his children, and all his collateral connexions, since the original ancestor, be made bastards. Such lamentable cases frequently occurred. A slight omission in point of form rendered null the marriage of persons, after they had had issue, and their children were advanced in life. And yet this was done in cases to which the legislature, at the passing of the marriage act, had never meant it to apply. Men were bereft of the property to which they expected to succeed, and made bastards, by an operation of the law which was contrary to the original intention of those who framed it. When the law was in this state—when a marriage could be dissolved, not only by the husband himself, who had accomplished it by his own perjury, but also by an heir at law, instigated by the basest motives of self-interest—surely such a system called loudly for amendment. Nothing could be more injurious to so- 1130 ciety, than to allow the law to operate in a manner calculated to incite brother against brother, husband against wife; and to teach men to forget all the ties of affection, and all the bonds of honour. It was not for him to read their lordships a lecture on the principles of legislation. A law so hostile to morality, he should suppose, needed only to be pointed out in order to be repealed. A law which held out a constant temptation to crime—to the violation of the most sacred duties—ought not to be allowed to remain in the Statute-book. With this conviction on his mind, he entertained no doubt that their lordships would approve the present bill; and, in particular, that they would give a favourable reception to that clause which ratified marriages contracted in good faith, and which would be perfectly valid were it not for some accidental omission. The bill referred to that clause in the marriage act which requires the consent of parents and guardians to the marriage of minors. In deference to public opinion, that clause was left untouched. The marriage of minors would still be liable to be impeached; but it was thought adviseable that after a certain time had elapsed, if the marriage was not questioned, it should be held valid. In all cases where previous consent was required, the marriage would, after a certain time, become legalized.—The measure before their lordships was calculated to give confidence and security to the most important relations of social life. With regard to marriage, whatever religious ceremonies might be connected with it, the object of human legislation ought to be to mark out clearly who were married persons and who were not. This was certainly due to an institution on which the transfer of property and civil rights so greatly depended. But the complaint was, that men could not with certainty know whether they were legally married or not. Some accidental circumstance might render the ceremony void; and even when a marriage had taken place with the consent of all the parties who had a right to give their consent, it might, by some trifling omission or neglect become null. Their lordships must be aware that by declaring a marriage null, which had been bona fide contracted, they disgraced and planted a stigma on persons whose bounden duty it was, to live together. By the present bill, parents and guardians still retained, within a certain time, the power of nullifying a mar- 1131 riage to which their consent had not been given. He confessed, however, that a far better system might easily be found. He would go the length of saying, that when a marriage was once contracted without consent, it ought, notwithstanding, to remain indissoluble, except on the adultery of one of the parties.—But, leaving for the present the consideration of what the law prospectively ought to be, he thought their lordships could not hesitate to agree to the retrospective operation of the bill. The petition which had been laid on the table was not correct in the supposition that no retrospective measure for legalizing marriage had been enacted by parliament. In 1781, 1805, and 1814, acts had been passed for the purpose of legalizing all marriages in churches and chapels where banns had not been published since the passing of the marriage act, and which marriages, but for those acts, would have been absolutely null. There was, therefore, nothing new in the principle or in the enactments of the present bill; and he could not help observing, that if any of their lordships approved of the measure prospectively, they ought also in consistency to give its retrospective operation their support. Indeed he could not conceive how those, who thought right to guard against the future bastardizing effect of the marriage act should not be equally anxious to secure themselves against the consequences of omissions which might have occurred with regard to the marriage of their ancestors. When the act first passed, its mischievous effects were not foreseen. Few persons then understood the circumstances which rendered a marriage null, and for some years cases of dissolution of marriage were of rare occurrence. They, however, soon increased, when wicked and artful men discovered that, by taking advantage of their own perjury they could bastardize their children, and degrade their wives; or when some relative, as bad as the perjured husband, discovered a flaw in a marriage, by which he might bastardize the children who stood between him and the property he coveted. On these grounds he anticipated their lordships' concurrence in the principle of the retrospective clauses, It was not his intention to persist, in retaining all the clauses as they stood, neither would he contend for the retrospective operation, without making an exception of marriages in which the parties had, on knowledge of the illegality of the 1132 contract, separated and ceased to cohabit, and some other cases. He called upon their lordships to pass the bill, that every man might be assured that the law which maintained him in the possession of his property would also enable him to transmit it to his children.
§ Lord Stowell
rose and addressed their lordships for the first time, but in a tone of voice that rendered his speech for the major part inaudible below the bar. He began by adverting to the importance of the subject, and observed, that whilst it was impossible to deny the evils of which the law as it now stood was occasionally productive, yet the reference he entertained for those great names under whose auspices the marriage law was established, had often checked the desire he felt to see it reformed. Various bills of this description had, during the last few years, travelled up to their lordships' House, and, notwithstanding the changes which they underwent in their progress, had failed to receive the approbation of their lordships. He should be glad if the present measure were to prove more fortunate than its predecessors; but in order to become so, it was not enough to point out defects which ought to be supplied, or evils that required a remedy, but it should be made evident that the proposed alterations would not lead to consequences still more mischievous and deplorable. The length of time, also, during which the law as it now existed had continued, and the prodigious interests on which it had operated, must cause them to hesitate and take a full view of all the difficulties that surrounded a question of this nature.—Havity, said thus much, he would add, nevertheless, that he had heard with much pleasure many of the observations which had fallen from the noble baron. He could not, however, agree with him in one branch, of his doctrine, because in his (Lord S's.) view of the subject, the marriage contract was entirely within the competency of a civil jurisdiction. It might not be so in, savage life, where the essence of the engagement consisted perhaps in an appeal to Heaven; but in civilized states in which there was a matrimonial law, it was held that the Supreme Being left it to society to consider age and circumstances—to prescribe forms, and exercise a controlling authority over the whole subject. Dangerous consequences might possibly arise from leaving it altogether to private judgment to determine by what ceremony the 1133 Union should take place which was to bind the parties as man and wife; and it might become impossible to distinguish such no Union from a state of unlawful co-habitation. To guard with the greater security against evils of this kind, religion had formerly imposed on the law the obligation of considering marriage as a sacrament. The intervention of no third party was necessary, as it was thus rendered a personal sacrament; and in this state had the law remained until the period of the Reformation. Such, indeed, at this moment was the law of Scotland, and marriages might be contracted in that part of the kingdom to this day, without regard to any circumstance but the will of the immediate parties. At the Reformation a very material change took place in this branch of the law. Many attempts were made to introduce a greater degree of certainty, and give a more definite character to the marriage institution. No doubt, those attempts were made with the royal permission granted in the first instance; but the only effect they for some time produced was, to lead to an express declaration, that marriage without consent of parents was null and void. Upon this principle such contracts were dissolved ab initio. In 1677, a bill was introduced for the purpose of giving a more settled form to the legal principles so adopted. The subject was, however, subsequently referred to a very large committee, consisting of eight peers and all the prelates, who were instructed to provide suitable penalties for clergymen who should act in defiance of the law—to examine witnesses and report the substance of their inquiries to the House. After the fullest consideration both by the committee and the House, the same principle was confirmed; and it was enacted, that no marriage between minors should be binding, that was celebrated without the consent of parents or of guardians. In 1691, another measure was brought forward, the object of which was, to prevent clandestine marriages, and which had likewise its origin among their lordships. From the period to which he had before alluded, one great and invariable principle was acknowledged. The marriage of a minor without consent of his natural or appointed guardian was invalid. Such contracts amounted literally to nothing. No amendment or further change took place till the reign of George 2nd, when the act by which marriages were now regulated was passed. It 1134 was well known by what gross abuses of the former statute, the interposition of the legislature was at that time loudly called for. Shops were opened in various parts of the metropolis, where every legal restraint and precaution was eluded. Youths of the best families and of the highest hopes were invited into these receptacles, where, in a moment of thoughtless levity, or transient fondness, misery was perhaps incurred, and affliction carried into the bosoms of the most respectable members of society. Never did an abuse exist that required a more prompt or efficacious remedy. Never could an abuse have grown to such a height, had the means of preventing or correcting it been plain or obvious Sensible, however, of the extreme difficulty belonging to the subject; the now bill was prepared by a considerable number of peers, but it did not finally meet with the approbation of the House. It was then put into the hands of lord Hardwicke, of whom he might be allowed to say, that, whether, considered in his judicial or legislative character, he was one of the ablest persons this country has yet produced. The bill which he framed became a law, and had been in operation ever since. By this proceeding it was re-enacted; that marriages without the necessary consent were null and void: and that whatever ceremony might take place, it amounted only to an idle form, signifying nothing, and binding nobody. Such was undoubtedly its effect, and the clergyman marrying parties who thus contracted no legal obligation, might again marry either of them to a different persona The whole was a mere nullity, and the female might desert her partner's bed without becoming an adulteress. She had previously gained none of the privileges of a wife, and she therefore could not forfeit them. Marriages thus liable to be dissolved were in law no marriages, at all, nor had the children born of them ever been for one moment legitimate. The only question upon this point was, whether it would be convenient to leave contracts of this description to be decided by others, and after a considerable lapse of time. Now, in his opinion, they could not introduce a worse evil than that of rendering such acts voidable. At present they were void ab initio; but if it should be rendered uncertain whether they ought or ought not to be held valid, and if their legal character was to be left de- 1135 pendant on particular circumstances, and on the judgment of a court, did not their lordships readily foresee the consequences? Would they ever agree to leave it doubtful for perhaps a long succession of years, whether, in the eye of the law itself, a woman was married, and whether her children were to inherit their father's rights and property? The principle of nullity gave a fixed and definite character to the law; and he submitted, that it was better to determine the whole question by the point of original validity, or the reverse. In cases where the consent of third parties was not requisite, there could be no doubt that the provisions of this bill might be beneficially applicable. It was sufficient that the parties knew their own minds, and there was no necessity or plea for any delay; but in cases where the consent of third parties was necessary, greater doubt might arise. These third parties were either parents, or guardians appointed by parents or by the court of Chancery. Extraordinary as it must appear, he had not known a single instance of the application of the law in this last instance, however essential such an application must be to the interests of the higher and wealthier classes. No doubt it was equally important that the law of marriage should be uniform, and that it should not apply differently to the rich and to the poor. With regard to that clause of the statute which referred to parties possessing 100l. a year, he had never been able to understand it clearly. The people of this country would not, he was persuaded, willingly submit to a matrimonial law that was equivocal in itself, or that depended on the wealth or situation of the parties. The necessity of consent was made evident by another circumstance, as it related to a variety of cases. The fact might not come to the knowledge of the individuals whose consent was required; it might be industriously concealed from them; and instances of this kind were perpetually occurring. It was not always against, so much as without consent, that the marriages of minors took place. How, then, would their lordships decide, when the only question was, original nullity or not? On the one side all was definite; but leave the contract voidable only, and there might be no end to the perplexity or the confusion.—He knew it had been urged, that parties might be betrayed into error and might suppose that they had complied with all 1136 the provisions of the law, when they had in fact misunderstood them. It had been even said, that they might engage themselves in the nuptial contract, without being aware that the consent of others was necessary. Such being the case, it was contended, that time ought to be allowed to bring about, as it were, a compromise, and to furnish an opportunity of supplying the requisite formalities. If this principle were admitted, the utmost care should be taken not to extend the time so conceded beyond the period that might appear strictly necessary for the purposes contemplated. He had endeavoured to show what an enormous evil a voidable marriage must be, and he would add, that its enormity must be proportionate to the length of its duration. He had seen with some surprise in the present bill a provision by which, although the right of consent was reserved to fathers and guardians, five years might elapse without the fact reaching their knowledge, and a suit might then be instituted in the arches' court which might be carried to the court of delegates, and which, as far as he knew those courts, might last for three years longer. Here, then, would be eight years of uncertainty and suspense. He trusted that the House in its humanity would not agree to plunge parties into misery like this, and that it would still consider the consent of parents or guardians as indispensable. By this bill the natural mother was admitted in certain cases to the privilege of giving the requisite consent. Was she also to institute the legal proceedings, and this, too, in preference to the virtuous widow? What security was there that she might not be a very unfit person, one wile, had made a merchandise of her charms, the child itself being the offspring of some accidental connexion? It might be other wise; but how were they to distinguish between a settled cohabitation and the state of things which he had supposed? The father might have been long totally estranged from her, and she might have been distributing her favours amongst twenty nominal husbands He objected strongly to the late period of the session, when so momentous a subject was brought before them. It was remarkable, that the various bills of the last four years had all been presented at the same inconvenient period of the year. In his judgment, the best course which their lordships could now pursue, and the best 1137 mode they could adopt of dealing with this measure, would be, to let the question stand over till next session, when it might originate amongst themselves, with the assistance of all that learning which belonged peculiarly to the subject, and was calculated to confer greater authority on the proposed reform.
The Earl of Westmoreland
warmly supported the bill, which he regretted had not passed two or three years before. Many atrocious acts of robbery and injustice might then have been prevented; and the number of such acts was, he feared, even now, daily increasing. He did not doubt, indeed, that they would Continue to prevail, and to set all religion, all justice, and all humanity at defiance, unless parliament should interfere, and rescue the country from the gross iniquities to which it was now subject. The law, as it now stood, was not the ancient law of the land: it was not only a departure from, but a direct subversion of that ancient law; its intention was, to prevent clandestine marriages, and its operation, to destroy those which were just, and ought, therefore, to be binding. As to what had just fallen from the learned lord, he would beg leave to ask him, whether the marriages which be said were null and void, must not become void by judgments of courts, in order to their being so considered? He wished to see the law extend its protection over youth and property; but it was quite as necessary to guard against other species of fraud and spoliation. Surely it could not be denied, that the law was nugatory as regarded its own provisions. These might all be set aside by various expedients, by a journey to Scotland, or a voyage to France, or even by a marriage in which the banns were published with a certain degree of secrecy. Minors, by a subsequent marriage, after full age, might also remedy every defect, except, perhaps, the illegitimacy of their first-born.—The bill contained two principal clauses, the one prospective, and the other retrospective; but he proposed to consider them together. Their lordships would immediately proceed to amend the act; and thus prevent progressive nullities. No great injustice could be done by preventing the operation of the existing act, when, if this bill be not passed, nullities would be pronounced, and injustice would be committed. He wished to protect those who complied with the law, as far as they were 1138 acquainted with it, and guarded their property from being made the subject of such dishonest hopes and selfish speculation. He would put some cases to show the insecurity of property under the law as it at present stood. He would put the case of a marriage celebrated with all due ceremonies and formalities, where the parties were of the highest rank, and where the greatest property was involved. He would suppose that his majesty should be present on the occasion, and that the archbishop of Canterbury should celebrate the ceremony. Nay more, the lady should go through the secret chamber of the chancellor, and the ordeal of the master in chancery; so that royalty, church, and law, should publicly sanction the union. He would suppose the lady had brought a large fortune. He would suppose that this couple had lived together forty years, and that they had children married into their lordships' families, and thus allied to the highest rank and respectability in the country. He would further suppose, that to make provision for these children, this couple suffered a recovery with the eldest son, and had mortgaged or sold their property. After all this, by the existing law, a little informality might render such a marriage, so solemnized, and followed by so many acts, the validity of which depended on its validity, null and void. The lady might happen to have been one day younger than she believed herself at the time of her marriage, or the licence might be attested by one witness instead of two, and such trifling imformalities would overthrow a marriage believed good for forty years. The noble earl put some other cases of equal hardship, both with respect to real and personal property. The existing law destroyed all security of all kinds of property. But let us look at it as it affected the public. These mortgages and sales were invalid; so that the honest purchasers would be deprived of their property without remedy, as the estates would go, over the remainder man. Suppose a property, real, or personal, in trust, or not devolving to a lady on marriage, or corning of age. These estates, or funded property are sold—and she dies before she attains the age of twenty-one.—What is to happen? If a real estate, the heir at law would take it. If funded, what is to happen? Is the trustee or bank director, that passed this property, to refund?—In short, without a retrospective clause, no trans- 1139 action in life was secure. No counsel could give an opinion upon the validity of any title; because, however good other deeds might be, no counsel could answer what defect there might be in some one of the licences granted 20, 30, or 40 years preceding. Such was the state of the law, that no man knew how to avoid offence, or when he was within the penalties of the law;—a law which was repealed for every good purpose, and only existed for fraud. Four sisters shall be in one house; three of them shall marry by stealth, the fourth with all the formality of parental consent. The three clandestine marriages are good, and the public one shall be voided 20 years after upon some trifling informality. Another instance,—a daughter married under a license, surreptitiously obtained;—the father forgave her on condition of her marrying again: three years after, this lady was divorced, on some informality respecting the man's licence. Both, then, as regarded the comfort of families, the peace of the parties, and security of property, some change was necessary in the existing law. And what was the objection to an amendment that would afford such security? Why, that it would affect the rights of third parties. In his opinion, their security was fully enough attended to. It would not disturb their property, but only interrupt certain expectations and speculations. He put the case of the family of a nephew enjoying the prospect of proving the invalidity of his uncle's marriage. If the marriage were pronounced void, the uncle might marry again, and disappoint hopes so formed; and he (lord W.) saw no hardship in such disappointment. It was the duty of their lordships to do what was right and just, whatever effect their decision might have on ill-placed expectations.—But he might prove by former marriage acts, that the legislature had never been restrained from improvements of the law, by a consideration of the remote and uncertain interests of third parties. The first marriage act that he found was that of 32nd Henry 8th, which made every marriage valid which was celebrated in facie ecclesiœ. This act robbed third persons of their rights, annihilated all previous rights to divorce from contracts, &c. presenti in futuro, to speculate in invalid marriages; but such an anticipated consequence did not prevent its passing. Next, 5th Edward 6th, which confirmed the marriage 1140 of priests and deacons with dowry. &c. This act had no reference to third parties, whose rights it took away. This act was repealed by 1st of queen Mary, and never set up again till 1 James 1st., which continued all the marriages and property of priests end deacons, without reference to third parties. The 12th. Charles 2nd, confirmed all marriages made during the rebellion, however irregular—no consideration of third parties. The noble earl enumerated the other marriage acts from the Reformation down to the act of George 2nd, which was at present in force, and which this bill was intended to amend; and showed that they all interfered with the rights of third parties, as well as the present measure; but that that interference was no bar to their enactment. Nay, even after the passing of the act of George 2nd, a class of marriages had been celebrated, one of which the courts pronounced null; and an act was, therefore, in 1781, brought in, to legalize the informal marriages of thirty years. Here was an interference with the rights of third parties for a long period, and including a great number of cases: and yet the consideration of their assumed rights did not prevent the measure from passing.—In 1805, bishop Horsely brought in a bill, to legalize marriages in churches and chapels, where banns had not been published. In 1816, another was brought in, to confirm marriages made by dissenting ministers in India.—The noble earl confirmed his argument by an appeal to the bill of lord Redesdale, which interposed to prevent the levying of penalties for clerical non-residence, after suits for recovering them had been, in a great variety of instances, commenced. Now, as to setting up nullities;—by Mr. Reston's act, by an informality in the attestations of deeds, deeds to a great extent were invalid and null.—An act passed to confirm all these deeds, as if they had been legally executed—no consideration of third parties. The retrospective clause could not affect the rights of third parties to commence suits. No suit of nullity could be brought by them during the life-time of the parties. Their rights were therefore out of the question. To allow the parties themselves to commence suits of nullity would be merely another way of authorising voluntary divorces Parties who celebrate their marriage in jade ecclesiœ, should be allowed no right to divorce one another for informality. He 1141 trusted, that no man who voted against this measure, would find himself or his family in the distressed state consequent upon this law;—and that no reverend prelate who had formally joined a lady in matrimony, would, by his vote, have her to charge him with having, instead of a blessing, conferred on her the heaviest lot of misery and misfortune. The noble earl concluded by giving his support to the bill, as proposed to be amended by the noble lord who introduced it.
The Lord Chancellor
said, the question was not now, whether the bill should pass, but whether the retrospective clause should remain part of it. In his opinion, the bill ought to be divided, and the retrospective and prospective clauses made separate measures. He did not now give his opinion on either, but wished to state that, they stood on distinct grounds, and that the one might be agreed to by those who might reject the other. In defending the retrospective clause, it had been assumed that the marriages which it would legalize were real marriages. They were not so: they were no marriages at all. The parties might marry again to-morrow; and the act would, therefore, declare as marriages, what, before it passed, were not marriages. The act of George 2nd, pronounced Marriages null and void, unless celebrated under certain circumstances. They were, in consequence, null and void; and this clause would substitute a marriage for a transaction which was not entitled to be considered as one. But leaving this retrospective clause for future consideration, he must say, that he could not agree to the prospective clauses as they stood. It was better, in his opinion, that the parties should know, as soon as they were married, whether they were married or no, than that they should be left in an uncertainty as to whether they had contracted a valid matrimonial engagement or not. No man who had his heart in the right place would permit a clause to pass which allowed parents or guardians to deliberate for a number of years, whether they would consider the marriage of their children or their wards as void or valid. He would put the case of a cruel or capricious father, who should be displeased at the very early marriage of his daughter (for imprudent marriages were likely to be contracted chiefly by very young persons), and who had it in his power to dissolve it immediately. 1142 "No," such a father might say, "I am very angry at your conduct; I will not now dissolve your marriage; I shall leave you together till you have a family, of five or six children, and then I wills bring a suit of nullity, dissolve your marriage, make bastards of your children, and turn you to beggary." To grant such he could never consent. If the parent withheld consent, but died before the infant attained the years of majority, the marriage became valid. This strange inconsistency in the law would therefore be introduced—that, of the children of two fathers, both withholding consent from their marriage, the one by the death of her father might be legitimately married, and the other by her father's remaining alive might find that she had not been married at all. He would put the case that he (the lord chancellor) and the noble lord who introduced the bill had a daughter married on the same day, and in the same circumstances; but that he (the lord chancellor) died before he brought a suit of nullity, and that the noble lord survived: his (the lord chancellor's) daughter would be legitimately married, whereas the noble lord's daughter might find her marriage dissolved. He could never agree to a clause which would admit of such results. With respect to the retrospective clause, the objections were still stronger. His noble friend who had last spoken did not seem to know that there could be any vested interests but what the party was in the enjoyment of. Now, vested interest not enjoyed, might be more valuable than those possessed. Suppose an elder brother, illegally married, possessed an entailed estate, and a younger brother legally married; the children of the latter would have a vested interest in the estate more valuable than the father. The bill rendered proclamation, of banns more difficult than before. The clergyman was even indictable if he made a mistake. He could not agree to the first clause, which repealed the act of George 2nd, till he saw the objections removed which he had stated. He Wished it to be known, that marriage was marriage immediately after it was contracted, and could not admit an intermediate state of five or six years after the ceremonies were performed, in which it was left to parents or guardians to make it valid or not.
The Earl of Liverpool
could not agree to the postponement of the bill. He 1143 thought something ought to be done to guard the existing law this session.
§ Lord Redesdale
opposed the prospective clause, and recommended, that in future all marriages Should be celebrated in pursuance of banns and not of licences.
§ The Earl of Harrowby
was of opinion, that where a party had obtained a marriage under a false affidavit of his own, and afterwards invalidated that marriage, the sentence of nullity pronounced in consequence should operate as a conviction of perjury against the wrong doer.
§ The first clause was then agreed to.
§ On the motion for agreeing to the second clause, the object of which is to give parents and guardians the power of voiding marriages, until the parties attained the age of 21,
defended the clause, allowing that it might be susceptible of amendment, but maintaining, that by its adoption, the existing law would be materially improved. If the clause, however, should be rejected, he should still think the bill eminently serviceable. The clause was drawn in strict analogy to the law of the country in other respects.
The Earl of Liverpool
thought it would be desirable to introduce into the clause a provision, that any suit for rendering a marriage null and void, must be commenced within a twelvemonth of the solemnization of the nuptials. He recommended that the Chairman should report progress, in order to give their lordships time to consider this suggestion.
§ The Chairman accordingly reported progress, and asked leave to sit again.