HL Deb 16 July 1832 vol 14 cc426-7
The Earl of Eldon

moved the second reading of Moffatt's Divorce Bill. The noble Earl explained, that it was the case of a lady seeking to be divorced from her husband; and, though she had married him against her father's consent, he did not think that was a good reason for denying her prayer. Her husband had been guilty of gross acts of adultery, and drunkenness; she had done all in her power to obtain redress, and as their Lordships had already granted prayers of this description, he thought Mrs. Moffatt was entitled to relief.

The Earl of Radnor

opposed the Motion. He did not deem it sufficient ground for an act of legislation, that a lady had been ill treated by a husband whom, before she married, she knew to be worthless: her sufferings were the consequence of her own imprudence, and the Legislature ought not to help her.

The Lord Chancellor

also opposed the Motion. There were only two cases in which a woman had obtained a divorce, and that was in cases where the husband had committed the adultery with the wife's sister, and the incest was the main ground for passing the bills. But here there was no incest, but the simple adultery, accompanied by desertion. At present, when the wife behaved well, there was no way by which a profligate husband could obtain a divorce, but by committing adultery and spiriting the wife up to demand it. If, therefore, their Lordships were to encourage women in coining to their Lordships' House for a divorce, they would only enable profligate husbands to get divorced from the women they disliked, and marry others. The right of property, and other things, depended on the wife's not committing adultery; and there was, therefore, a good reason why the man should have a remedy not granted to the woman. This was, he admitted, a case of great hardship as far as Mrs. Moffatt was concerned; but, if Parliament should adopt this new precedent, it would open the widest door to collusion.

Lord Wynford

opposed the Bill. The difficulty of dissolving the marriage-tie, was one of the greatest securities of social life, and as relief could not be given to Mrs. Moffatt without granting impunity and indulgence to Mr. Moffatt, he should oppose the Motion.

The Earl of Eldon

said, there was no evidence whatever of any collusion in this case.

The House divided on the question that the Bill be read a second time—Contents 8: Not Contents 16;—Majority 8.