said, that, in his opinion, this measure was one of a most injurious character. He gave credit to those who had proposed the Bill for wishing to introduce a measure that should be attended with beneficial results; but he thought that they had totally failed in that object. They certainly had not produced a Bill that met with the approbation of the people. On the contrary, it was considered out of doors as a measure of extreme harshness and cruelty; and it was properly objected to, as giving to a certain body of men a degree of despotic power such as had never before been known, and for the creation of which there was no justification. The right reverend Prelate opposite had asserted, that the poor were not entitled to the education of their children. [The Bishop of London: "I said no such thing."] He had certainly understood the right reverend Prelate to lay down such a doctrine. Now, he was prepared to deny that doctrine in every possible form. He knew the degree of attention that poor parents paid to the education of their children; and so far as that was concerned, it could not be left to better care than at present. He could say from his own knowledge, that the poor children sent to the school of which he was more particularly able to speak, were treated with every possible degree of care and attention; and when those children should be removed from his care, and taken to the workhouse, where the same degree of attention would not, and could not, be paid to their education, he believed they would suffer injury rather than receive benefit. The people at large thought this measure of separating the children of the poor from their parents to be one of extreme harshness and cruelty; and he could himself say, from his own observation, that the attachment of the poor to 1059 their children was the most remarkable feature of their character. It enabled them to bear evils almost incredible, for in every evil they found a consolation in their affection for their children. He was sure, that the Bill was founded in mistake. It was founded from first to last on the principle that, because it may be desirable to do certain things in certain places therefore, the power to do them ought to be extended throughout the kingdom at large. He was sure that this would be found a grievous error; but, in the mean time, the misery it would occasion was extreme; and he believed that when it came to be put into operation, the indignation it would excite was beyond what any man living could believe. He gave the Bill his most decided opposition.
The Bishop of London
was not about to enter into the general question of the Poor Laws Bill, but to explain away an error into which the noble Baron had fallen. The noble Lord had generalised an observation of his in such a manner as to give it an entirely different effect from that which he (the Bishop of London) had intended, and different, too, he believed, from what it had borne in their Lordships' minds when he uttered it. He had stated not that it was expedient to take away children from their poor parents, but that, generally speaking, the children of paupers would be better educated apart from their parents, than with them. He had not made any such general statement as the noble Lord supposed. With respect to the children of the poor in general, and, perhaps, with respect to paupers' children, it might be true that in schools conducted with that attention which was bestowed by the noble Lord,—an attention that, as the noble Lord was present, he should not attempt to characterise, because the high terms in which he must speak of it would offend his Lordship. It might be true, he said, that in such schools the education the children would receive would be better than under the proposed system; and if he could be convinced that such was the education they everywhere received, that fact might modify his opinion; but that was not the case; and, therefore, he repeated, that when men became paupers it was expedient that their children should be educated apart from their parents, at least if were intended that their children should be secured all the advantages of educa- 1060 tion. The noble Lord knew that the best schools were those where the children were taken from their parents and clothed and educated without them. These schools always produced the best servants. He took it for granted that the proposed schools would be conducted as they ought to be when he thus expressed his opinion on the subject.
said, that the Bill was a perfect delusion from beginning to end; and, therefore, he should give it his hearty opposition. He was sure that it could never come into full operation. The people were against it all over the country, and in some places had begun to prepare for maintaining their poor by voluntary subscription. He moved, that the Bill be read a third time that day three months.
was no advocate for the principle of this Bill; but he was convinced that the voluntary subscription scheme would never be carried into effect.
The Earl of Falmouth
was aware that the Bill was likely to pass, but he could not withhold himself from again expressing his feelings on the subject. Before this Bill was introduced, great efforts were being made to restore the administration of the Poor-laws to a proper state; and since its introduction those exertions had been redoubled. He wished that some delay had been allowed, as he should have liked to see what would be the effect of those endeavours, before these violent remedies were tried. If an act had been passed strengthening the hands of the Magistrates in the first instance, though the experiment might have failed, this measure might then have been introduced with more general satisfaction. Many Magistrates had expressed themselves willing to administer the Poor-laws as they should be administered, but without an Act of Parliament they could not, in defiance of general custom and long habit, expose themselves to the unpopularity of such a proceeding, nor ought they to be expected to do so. He was sure that many of their Lordships had been influenced to vote in favour of the Bill by an idea that it was necessary to prevent the evils which were generally allowed to exist; but they had been influenced by these considerations a great deal more than the facts of the case would warrant. He was sure that, in doing so, they had acted conscientiously; and he was glad to see a measure of this kind discussed, 1061 even in Committee, with so much less party spirit than might have been expected.
The Bishop of Rochester
said, that, although he did not object to the Bill as a whole, he objected to several of the clauses of it. He objected to the bastardy clauses, and to those clauses which would have the effect of separating a man, his wife, and children from each other.
§ Lord Wynford
said, that his opinion of the Bill was unchanged. He believed that it would work great injustice and cruelty, and tend to make property insecure, and that it was opposed to all the principles by which the legislature was accustomed to guide itself.
§ The House divided on the original motion:—Contents 45; Not contents 15: Majority 30.
The Bishop of Exeter
In conformity with the notice given some nights ago, I rise for the purpose of proposing, that the 55th clause of the Poor-Laws Amendment Bill, as one of the clauses affecting the Law of Bastardy, should be removed. The purport of this clause is to make any person who marries a woman, having a bastard child, to be chargeable for the maintenance of that child; but in taking the liberty to make this Motion, I will ask your Lordships' permission not to confine my attention to that clause, but will extend my remarks, generally, to the import of the clauses relating to the subject of bastardy; for although most of what I have to say belongs to a part of the Bill subsequent to this particular provision, yet I apprehend that it will be more convenient to your Lordships that I should confine myself to one address. I can assure your Lordships that my intention, in making this Motion, is anything but of a vexatious kind. I rise, my Lords, to entreat you to take this opportunity of deferring the further consideration of this very important branch of the Bill before you, to another Session of Parliament; and I certainly should not presume to press this Motion upon your Lordships, after the decided opinion expressed by so large a majority of the House in favour of the general principle of the Bill, if I did not consider this branch of it to be perfectly distinct from the rest—and if I did not think that the main business for which the Commissioners are constituted might be equally well carried on, and the great objects of the Bill might equally be effected, whether these clauses be passed this year 1062 or not; and if instead of them something else, which, on the whole, would be better adapted to meet the great acknowledged difficulties which beset the subject of bastardy, shall be passed in another year. My Lords, in taking this course, I have the satisfaction of knowing, by a letter which I this morning received from an hon. Member of the other House, upon whose Motion there had been inserted in this Bill the very important clause which your Lordships have since struck out—I mean the member for East Somerset—that I have his concurrence in the course I am now taking. That hon. Gentleman, in the communication which I had the honour of receiving from him, has earnestly entreated that the attempt to defer the bastardy clauses till the next year may be persevered in, not expressing a very especial attachment to what is called his clause, but deeply impressed with the necessity of doing something to prevent the mischief which must result from letting the fathers of bastards escape, as the Bill proposes. He says, that he knows his clause, having that object in view, was most favourably regarded by the other House. Therefore, I apprehend my Lords, that if you suffer this Bill to pass in its present state, you will be sending it down to the House of Commons denuded of a very important part of the provisions which induced that honourable House to send it up to your Lordships; and I may be permitted to remind you of the extreme undesireableness of our now sending to the other House of Parliament any alterations in the Bill, which shall involve a new principle or much of detail. For, as the noble and learned Lord truly said, last night, that honourable House, even as regards time, will not have an opportunity of discussing this new principle, and the new code which would be appended to this principle, in more than one sitting, without the advantage of considering it in Committee, or debating it clause by clause, and of making those alterations in it which their wisdom might dictate in that Committee; and, therefore, it would be most undesirable—especially, I repeat, at so late a period of the Session—to send down such alterations to them, as it would be impossible for them adequately to consider. That which was so well said last night, by the noble and learned Lord, has been ill said to night by me; happily, however, its weight rests on its own obvious import- 1063 ance, and not on the words in which it has been expressed. I am sure your Lordships will see that the observation applies fully to the alterations made in the Bill now before the House; and I should say, that it would apply still further, if those clauses should be introduced, of which notice has been given by a noble Baron now absent, and which it is understood will be moved by the noble Duke in his stead. Those clauses, together with the one which I have felt myself compelled to append to them, if all of them were carried, would introduce a completely new principle and very large details; and I venture again to put it to your Lordships, whether this can well be done at so late a period of the Session? Therefore, my Lords, without entering into the merits of this question at the present moment, I should say, that on all considerations of expediency, in order to secure a fair and dispassionate discussion, it ought to be deferred to another Session; and I have the satisfaction of thinking that there can be no real practical inconvenience in doing so; for what will be the consequence? nothing more than that the present bastardy laws will be suffered to survive some six months longer; but recollect that, in those six months, these bastardy laws will not be permitted to produce the same extent of mischief which I freely admit they have produced in past times; because, my Lords, the administration of these laws will now be under the direction of men of great ability, who have made extensive inquiries on all that relates to the subject; and who have shown, in the Report which they have presented, and the regulations which they have recommended, that they will take care that the Bastardy-laws, as at present existing, shall, under their superintendence, be administered carefully, ably, and effectively. And here I will remind your Lordships that these Bastardy-laws, imperfect as they are, faulty as they are, have yet been found in the main very effectual in the few parishes in which they have been wisely administered. It is certain, therefore, I repeat, that by means of the able Commissioners, who will direct the administration of these laws throughout the country, we shall have a wise administration of them so long as they are permitted to exist, and thus that no harm can result from their existence being prolonged for the few 1064 months which will intervene before Parliament shall re-assemble. When we return after the recess to consider this matter again, coolly and calmly—with the advantage in the meanwhile of inquiring for ourselves, and hearing from others, more especially of obtaining the opinions of the most judicious of those persons, whether Magistrates or Overseers, who have had to do with these laws—I think that then we shall be enabled to deal with this matter far more satisfactorily, than is possible at present. I cannot, therefore, but submit to noble Lords the expediency of acquiescing at once in the proposed delay. If I shall have a hope given to me that such will be the case—if I may indulge the expectation that your Lordships will accede to my suggestion—I shall most gladly spare your Lordships, as well as myself, the trouble of going further. My Lords, not receiving any such encouragement, I am compelled to detain your Lordships with some remarks on the merits of the clauses as they now stand. My first and great objection to them is, that they are founded on a principle of injustice—I apprehend of admitted injustice. I apprehend that there is no noble Lord in this House who will venture to say, that the principle on which this law is to proceed, in respect to bastardy, is other than unjust; if there be a single individual who thinks it to be not unjust, I should be greatly obliged if he would indicate his opinion to me. My Lords, as no one seems to do so, I take it to be admitted by all that it is unjust; and that admission having been made [Expressions of dissent.] I am sorry, then, to perceive that I must discuss the question of justice; and I assure the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, that I was perfectly sincere in believing the injustice to be admitted—though by his smile he seems to think otherwise. My Lords, as to the injustice of this measure, I rest my proof plainly and simply on its proposing to fix on one party—and the party who of the two is the less able to bear it—the whole burthen which belongs by the law of nature in other words, the law of God—equally to both proportionately to their respective ability. It is on this principle that I proceed; that the law of God lays on the father of a bastard child as much the burthen of maintaining that child as on the mother. I might go further if it were necessary for my argument; I might say 1065 that the law of God imposes on the father of a bastard child the duty of maintaining that child, as much as the duty of maintaining his legitimate child. My Lords, in saying this, I think that I speak on no light grounds. I have no doubts myself—none whatever—in spite of the indications that I have received of the doubt entertained by others, that this view accords with the doctrine contained in the Holy Scripture; for, my Lords, while I admit that there is no text which in terms commands the father to maintain his bastard child, yet I must say, that there are principles repeatedly stated and enforced in Holy Writ, which clearly point out that obligation. Such are those passages of Scripture which specially refer to the duties of fathers to breed up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, as well as all others which allude to the maintenance of children by their fathers; allude, I say—for there is none that specially and formally commands them to fulfil that obligation—Holy Scripture referring to it as to a matter so plain, that no human being could require to be informed what is the law of God on the subject. All these texts, which refer generally to the duties of parents towards their children, appear in my mind, to refer to their duty of parents, towards all their children, bastards as well as legitimate. My Lords, while I draw this conclusion from Scripture, I am happy to think that I am fortified in it by very high authorities. I refer more especially to the laws of this country, and to the principle—the hitherto undisputed principle—on which they are founded. I will not say anything as to what may be—in truth, my Lords, I do not know what may be—the law of France or Italy, or other foreign countries on this subject—and I am not ashamed to add, I do not care what it is:—I am satisfied, my Lords, with the principles of British law, and to these principles I refer with confidence, in confirmation of the doctrine I have the honour of maintaining this evening before your Lordships. The great commentator on English law states the duty of parents to bastards as follows:—'Let us next see the duty of parents to their bastard children by our law, which is principally that of maintenance; for though bastards are not looked upon as children to any civil purposes, yet the ties of nature, of which maintenance is one, are not so easily dissolved. The 1066 same writer says again;—It is a principle of law that there is an obligation on every man to provide for those descended from his loins. He goes still further, and adds that The duty of parents to provide for the maintenance of their children is a principle of natural law—an obligation laid on them not only by nature herself, but by their own proper act in bringing them into the world; for they would be in the highest degree injurious to their issue if they only gave their children life that they might afterwards see them perish. By begetting them, therefore, they have entered into a voluntary obligation to endeavour, as far as in them lies, that the life which they have bestowed shall be supported and preserved; and thus the children will 'have a perfect right of maintenance from 'their parents.' This, my Lords, is the language of Blackstone: and if I look to a great commentator on the laws of another part of the United Kingdom—I mean Mr. Erskine, in his Institutes of the Law of Scotland—I find the same principle distinctly laid down by him. 'Parents are bound to maintain their issue though the relation should be merely natural; not only the mother, who is always certain, but likewise the father, if he hath either acknowledgd the child for his, or may be presumed from other 'circumstances to have begotten him.' While these, my Lords, are the principles of British law—I say it emphatically, British law—law which prevails, and always has prevailed, in both parts of Great Britain, in Scotland as well as in England—I rejoice to add that these principles are recognized by all the great jurists who ever instructed mankind on this important subject. I hold in my hand extracts from Montesquieu, Grotius, and Puffendorf—all going to the full extent of what I have said; but, in truth, my Lords, I cannot bring myself—speaking as I am in an assembly of Englishmen—I cannot bring myself to have recourse to foreign jurists, not even to Grotius, Puffendorf and Montesquieu, to maintain for me the principle that English fathers are bound to maintain their children—aye, their illegitimate children. No, my Lords; I will not degrade myself, nor insult you, by citing to you any such authority. [The right reverend Prelate here cast upon the floor papers Which he held in his hand.] Happily, indeed, I 1067 have an English authority—a very high authority—no other than that of two admirable men—right reverend friends of mine—who have subscribed this very Report—this Poor-Law Commission Report—and I mention these right reverend Commissioners rather than their brother-Commissioners, because your Lordships will agree with me, when I say that their authority on such a question must always have the greatest weight—greater even than that of the other eminent individuals whose names follow in the subscription to the same Report. My Lords, I rejoice in saying, that my right reverend friend behind me (the Bishop of London); and not only he, but also my right reverend friend, not now in the House (the Bishop of Chester), have concurred in recognizing and asserting this great principle for which I contend. For thus they say, in their Report before us:—'The object of the Act of the 18th Elizabeth, chap. 3, was merely to force the parents"—In the plural, observe my Lords, both parents, the father and the mother—"to support their child (their bastard child)—a duty which appears to have been previously performed for them by the parish." I rejoice, then, my Lords, instead of quoting the words of Puffendorff, Grotius, and Montesquieu, to be able to quote the words of my right reverend friend. He admits, as your Lordships perceive, that it is the duty of both parents to support their children—their bastard children—a duty, indeed, which, before the passing of the 18th of Elizabeth, was, he says (on what authority I do not stop to inquire) performed for them by the parish. If then, it be the duty, the admitted duty, both of the father and of the mother, to provide for their bastard children, I think that it cannot require much observation from me to satisfy your Lordships that it is only just that the duty which belongs to—and the burthen which results from that duty, should not be taken from him who is best able to bear it, and be placed on the helpless shoulders of the poor female—my Lords, I say the helpless shoulders of the poor female, and I shrink not from the full meaning of the words. I must be permitted to remind your Lordships, that though the woman is bound to do all she can for the sustenance of her child, yet she never can do very much without assistance, from others. I must remind your Lordships that woman is es- 1068 sentially helpless, and that in bringing these poor children into the world, it has pleased God to show her helplessness in the most trying and affecting manner. At that tremendous extremity of suffering nature, woman must have assistance—she must have support—she must have it then, and for some time afterwards. Why, then, it is a mockery of the laws of nature,—ay, my Lords, and it is a mockery of something much more sacred, the laws of God—to east upon the helpless shoulders of the woman, this undivided burthen. I contend that woman is by nature not designed, not qualified, to bear the full burthen of the maintenance of her children. But, my Lords, when it has been actually admitted—as I have already shown—by my right reverend friend, that it is the duty of the father, as well as of the mother, to maintain these children, can it be necessary to urge this point further? Still more, can it be contended any longer, (as it is however contended by my right reverend friend and by the noble and learned Lord) that the Legislature ought to throw this duty solely on the mother? Why is this to be done? The only reason I have heard for it, is one which I admit sounds plausibly enough, and I confess I was myself caught by it for a while; the only reason, my Lords, that I have heard in support of this proposition is, that it is expedient, in order to preserve a purity of morals in all classes of the community, that as strong a restraint as possible should be put upon woman to compel her to maintain her chastity. I apprehend that this is the principle on which is to be rested the fitness of relieving the father altogether, and laying the whole burthen of maintenance on the woman alone. But here again, my Lords, I must take leave to say, that we find in Holy Scripture that this is not the course which it pleased God himself to take. God, my Lords, in that law which he himself gave to his chosen people, laid down principles which it is for us, and for all mankind to be ready at all times to acknowledge as most equitable and most wise. I do not mean to contend—I never did contend, although the arguments urged the other day against me in Committee, supposed me to contend—that all the details of the Mosaic Law are to be imitated in the legislation of these days. No, my Lords, nor did I ever contend that—all the principles which are to be found in the Mosaic Law, ought 1069 of necessity now to be carried into effect by human law; but I contended then, and I confidently contend this night, that these principles themselves, are at least to be recognised as most wise and most just. Now, my Lords, I say, that God in legislating to prevent incontinency among his chosen people, did not direct his prohibition, nor his worldly penalties, or restraints, solely to the woman. On the contrary, he addressed them more especially to the man, even in cases where the parties were equally guilty—where the woman was consentient to the Act, even there he imposed upon the man—the man alone—a positive penalty; ay, my Lords, and in order to deter the man, he made it his duty to marry the woman; nay, further, he deprived him in this case, of a liberty which the husband enjoyed in almost every other, the liberty of divorce—because he had humbled her, he was never to put her away during his life. Upon that principle, maintained in the Word of God, and because it is there maintained, I contend that the reason which is given to justify this departure from it, in the Bill before us, is unsound—is vicious. It is unsound and vicious, because the process to which recourse is there had, for the preservation of female chastity—I mean, the directing all the penalties of the law, and limiting the whole burthen, to the woman—is contrary to the principle maintained and enforced in the law of God. The Report of the Commissioners, indeed says, as I had occasion to state in a former debate, that there is another reason why this process respecting the maintenance of bastards should be adopted—namely, because only one of the parents of an illegitimate child can be ascertained. This is a position necessary, it must be admitted, for the justification of this Bill—absolutely necessary—but it is a position which is positively contradicted by almost every authority that has had to do with this Bill, except these Commissioners; by all especially, both in the other House of Parliament and in this. The other House of Parliament adopted a clause—though your Lordships, it is true, have since struck it out—which distinctly negatives any such position, for that clause proceeded on the assumption that the father of a bastard child could, as a matter of course, be ascertained. Not only did that clause do so, but also, my Lords, the 1070 two clauses which are to be proposed by the noble Duke this night, and which I understand have the high approbation of many noble Lords of great influence in this House—those clauses proceed on the very same principle, that the father can be ascertained. Here, then, we have a case pretty nearly of felo de se—here is another step in the process of justification absolutely struck away; but this is a series in which (as is most worthy of being borne in mind)—if any one part fails, the whole thing falls to the ground: yet here we have it proved, admitted, acted upon as manifest, that one principle essentially necessary to be established, in order to justify this Bill,—namely, the principle, that the father of a bastard child cannot be ascertained—is palpably unfounded. In short, my Lords, we have the authority, not only of the law, both of Scotland and England, and of all the jurists that can be referred to, and all the great lawyers and statesmen who have had to do with the making of laws up to this time; but we have the authority of the present House of Commons—we have the authority of the noble Baron who gave notice of those two clauses—we have the authority of the noble Duke (of Wellington) who intends to move them this night,—and we have a further authority—I mean that of his Majesty's Ministers, who have intimated their intention to adopt the clauses which are to be so moved; we have all these great and illustrious authorities for saying, that the necessary principle of this Bill—that on which the justification of its provisions respecting bastardy wholly depends—namely, that only one parent of an illegitimate child can be ascertained—is wholly without foundation. For those authorities unanimously declare, that it is possible to ascertain both parents, the father no less than the mother—nay, the clauses which are to be moved, this very night, will undertake to prescribe a course for ascertaining the father. Thus, then, my Lords, the most essential, the fundamental principle of this part of the Bill is, I repeat, struck from under it. When we hear so much of only one of the parents being capable of being ascertained, and when it is treated as so much a matter of course, that this one, the mother, can always be ascertained, shall I be permitted to ask your Lordships whether this is so absolutely certain as it seems to be? I press the question seriously,—I press 1071 your Lordships seriously to consider it. Is it so plain, that you can always ascertain who is the mother of the bastard child? My Lords, let this Bill but pass, as it at present stands, and your Lordships may depend upon it that you will soon discover your mistake. Depend upon it, if the ingenuity of woman be taxed to defeat those provisions which she will feel,—and I must say, will justly feel,—to be most iniquitous, most cruel, most oppressive, it will not be taxed in vain. Yes, my Lords; you must be prepared, when you have passed this Bill, to see a woman exercise her utmost ingenuity to defeat you, to evade the undue burthen which you would impose upon her,—to prove to you, that you cannot ascertain the mother of a bastard child more easily than the father, if your cruelty drive her to concealment, You must be prepared, too, for the responsibility of having forced her to expose her offspring to hazards which I will not attempt to describe, because I am sure your feelings will not suffer you patiently to listen to the description. If this Bill should pass, every mother of every bastard child will feel that she is grievously injured. She knows—(you cannot persuade her to the contrary)—that she ought to have the protection and the assistance of the father of that child; but she will now learn that that protection and assistance will be refused to her by him, because he is told by the Legislature of his country that he is right in refusing it. And, my Lords, be it remembered, that the woman will be told this at that very time when she is in a state of the utmost destitution,—in the hour of her utmost distress,—at a time when every temptation that want, and misery, and shame can force upon her, will come in their fullest might,—it is then, my Lords, it is at such an hour, that she will be told, that—"the world is not her friend, nor the world's law." Depend upon it she will exert her ingenuity to the utmost to defeat that law, which she feels is to her so oppressive and so cruel. If you pass the Bill, you must be prepared to find every woman who can manage the thing at all,—I will not say ready to destroy her child, but—ready to try every expedient which is possible for her to try to place the poor babe which is to be the instrument of her degradation, destitution, and misery,—out of her own hands into the hands of others. 1072 These children will be carried in baskets nicely wrapped up, and safely and cautiously secured, and laid at the overseer's door, or at the work-house door, or at the door of the clergyman; and, my Lords, I sincerely hope, that if this Bill passes, many of these poor infants will be consigned to the protection of the clergyman, knowing, as I do, that he, at least, will take care that the child shall be borne, in security, to those who will in that case be bound to maintain it;—to the officers of the parish. In short, my Lords, you will find that every work-house will become an hospital for foundlings, and the least deplorable result of the proposed measure, if it is adopted, will be that injury to morals, of which hospitals for foundlings have been invariably found productive. And yet, my Lords, we are told that all this cruelty, all this injustice, is to be committed for the sake of morality,—for the sake of frightening women into chastity. I have but little confidence in the nostrum. I believe that woman will defeat it; and I earnestly wish but I cannot hope, that mere defeat may be all you will have to deplore. I tremble to think that crimes of a more hideous and appalling kind, than any violations of chastity may be, must be the consequences of the measure in which we are now invited to concur. God grant that those who, with me, entertain this fear, may be found to be mistaken! If the Bill pass into a law, most earnestly and sincerely do I pray that it may not disappoint the expectations of those who have introduced it—that in this one instance the unchristian expedient (if you indeed resort to it) of doing evil that good may come for injustice, my Lords, in any form, under any disguise, and for any purpose whatever, is, and must be, evil—God grant that in this instance the expedient may really effect its object—that the good sought and purchased at so high a price, as the sacrifice of justice, may be after all obtained—that the Bill may succeed in deterring frail woman from those vicious courses which it is, I doubt not, sincerely designed to prevent! If it does this, it will have done something it will have done much—but enough it cannot do, for nothing can be enough, to compensate its monstrous violation of a principle which the law of God, and up to the hour in which I speak the law of man, has always hitherto held sacred— 1073 the principle of equal justice, in requiring the father to discharge, in due proportion, the first great duty which both parents owe to their common offspring, however born to them, whether in wedlock, or out of wedlock, the duty of support and maintenance. But let us see what are the probabilities that this Bill will really improve the morality of women? If there shall be many—I confess I do not expect that there will,—but if there shall be many who will be altogether deterred by the new law from yielding to the seductions of men, yet, at least, we must see that those who do yield, whether many or few, will be in a far worse state, even as respects morality, than such women are in at present. I entreat your Lordships to consider what will be the position of every such woman under the proposed law. By the clause now especially under your consideration, she will be cut off from all hope of marriage even with the partner in her sin, much more with any other man; and with this hope, the only hope of a creditable settlement, she will also be cut off from the only refuge to which she can have recourse, and where only she might recover some portion of that virtuous character, and some approach to that decent station which her former offence had forfeited. I appeal to the experience of you all—for you all, my Lords, I am persuaded, in the performance of that great duty which belongs to you as proprietors, when looking into the state of morals in your respective neighbourhoods, have perceived—whether it does not often happen that those poor women who have fallen from chastity, and have afterwards been married, become respectable and chaste wives. It is a remarkable fact, that while, as must be admitted, there is a great want of strict chastity (so far as regards connexion with some one man) amongst the lower orders of women before marriage, yet, after marriage, even those very women who have previously so erred, rarely—very rarely indeed—violate the marriage vow. I appeal to the experience of all who hear me, whether such is not the case? But if it be, I must contend, that it is a most cruel provision of the Bill, which disregards this very gratifying fact, and which will preclude every such woman from the possibility of obtaining that refuge in which she may regain, with God's blessing, some fragment of the credit and comfort which 1074 she has lost,—some portion of the respect of others, as well as of her own self-respect. The clause before us deprives her of this last hope, and tells her that she shall be abandoned for ever—it tells her in short, that there is nothing left for her to hope on earth. God grant that she may be taught, by others, the way to secure better hopes hereafter! But, indeed indeed, my Lords, the position in which these wretched women will be placed, is one, above all others, the least favourable for them to receive this lesson with effect or for their instructors to teach it to them with that best encouragement of zeal in teaching—the hope of teaching with success. Even this is not all. The obstacles to their reformation end not here; for as they have nothing left on earth to hope, so it will be found that they will have as little left to fear. See, my Lords, I beseech you, how this will be. The woman will feel that she cannot marry, but she may do worse. Though she has no hope of ascending the marriage bed, yet, if she permits others to ascend her bed, and if the consequence be a further spurious progeny, she nevertheless has nothing further to fear, nothing upon earth to deter her from her vicious course. For if the maintenance of one child has been too much for her to bear—if the pressure even of that burthen has compelled her to enter the workhouse—it is obvious that the parish cannot force her to bear any part in the maintenance of any other child; and thus your Lordships will perceive that while she will have nothing to hope, she will also have nothing left to fear. I repeat, what I said on a former day, that if she has a child every year, she will not be in any way a sufferer from the charge of them; the parish, and the parish only, will have to maintain them all. In a word, if your Lordships shall consent to the Bill as it is proposed to you, you will—and for the sake of morality, forsooth!—have reduced a fellowcreature—yes, my Lords, I must remind you, a fellow-creature—one of equal worth to any among you in the sight of Him who is the Father and the Saviour, I trust, of us all—you will have reduced a fellow-creature, I say, ay, many such a fellow-creature, to the shocking position of having nothing in this world to hope or to fear! nothing to look to from good conduct or from ill! Is that a state to which you wish, to which you can consent, to re- 1075 duce any human being? If it be not, you will hesitate long before you permit this clause to pass. My Lords, it cannot, but be feared that the great majority of women who shall be reduced to such a state by being the mothers of bastards, will become utterly depraved. Shut out from all hope and all fear, most of them will abandon themselves altogether to their passions, and will run their course of vice and debauchery, regardless of all moral restraints, as the law will have released them from every restraint of every other kind. In the estimation of the world, all of them will stand alike, or nearly alike—all will have lost their casts and character, utterly, finally, inevitably lost it. But among those who will thus be male to suffer from the cruel enactments of this Bill, you must be prepared to expect that there will be some who, in spite of their fall from chastity, have not lost all feelings of honour, however perverted—have not lost all sensibility to that charm of self-respect, without which, even to such minds, life itself is worthless; nor can be made to accommodate themselves to any condition, in which they are condemned to live without some hope of regaining the respect of others. Consider, then, my Lords, I entreat you, consider what, under the provisions of this Bill, will be the state of mind of women such as these. All those feelings of perverted honour will rise up, in guilty conflict with the best instincts of her nature, in women of this description—and can they be few? I fear we must be prepared for the frequent occurrence of crimes, which at present happily startle us by their rarity, no less than by their enormity. I fear we must be prepared to hear, too often, that the mother's hands have been raised either against herself, or against her infant; or that the poor babe has been abandoned, rather than the mother should suffer the hopeless shame and lengthened misery which she must otherwise undergo. My Lords, when I see such a dreadful prospect of the frequency of these crimes—ay, or did I not see this, did I see no more than the prospect of one single instance, (for I declare most solemnly that the foreknowledge that one such case would arise, in consequence of a law which has been shown to be unjust, and which is admitted to be founded on injustice—or, at least, on most unequal dealing with parties whose fault is equal)—the foreknow- 1076 ledge of one such case would, I repeat, determine me to reject the law. But when I see the dreadful prospect which is really before us, the prospect of such cases continually occurring, it is not the monstrous and un-Christian principle, to which I have before alluded, of doing evil that good may come, that can reconcile me to the probable, the almost certain result. No, my Lords, if I were to assent to this measure, and if some such case of suicide or child-murder were the consequence of its passing, I should shudder at the responsibility I had so unwarrantably incurred—I should shudder at having been partaker, as I should then feel that I had been partaker, of that one woman's sin. But while we are thus considering the moral effect of this clause on women, have we altogether lost sight of what is to be its moral effect upon men? We heard a statement the other night from a high authority—and I heard it with great regret—of the supposed state of the masculine morals of this country. I assure the noble and learned Lord that I mean not any disrespect to him when I declare that I believe his statement to have been grievously, extravagantly, unfounded. Most sincerely should I regret to believe that statement true; but I do not believe it; I do not believe that in any rank, in any class of Englishmen, nor in any part of England, does that state of morals actually exist, which was so strongly described by the noble and learned Lord the other evening, as prevailing among all men of all societies in the land. I am sure, my Lords, that such was not formerly the case, and I trust that it is not now. I know it was not so thirty or forty years ago; and whatever may have been the departure—if there has been a departure—from the comparative virtue of those days, I do not believe that anything like the immorality described by the noble and learned Lord does now prevail. I believe, that in all large portions of society in England cases like those which he has stated constitute the exception, and not the rule. Feeling so, my Lords, I must profess that it is, in my apprehension, a matter of grave interest that you do not proceed to the adoption of a law, which I admit could do no harm, as far as men are concerned, if the noble and learned Lord's statement of the masculine morals of the country were really true. If the habits of men among us be as depraved as the noble and learned Lord has 1077 stated, no law which you may pass can make them worse. But do you, my Lords, seriously believe that they are? Do you give credit to the noble and learned Lord's statement? It is impossible. But if this be so, and if, as I have already said, and as all must admit, we are bound to consider, not merely the morality of women, but that, also of men, it is plain that we ought not to remove all, or any of those checks which God and man, up to this hour, have imposed on men, to save them from yielding to their profligate propensities. Now, my Lords, by passing this Act you will remove all those checks. You will release men, especially in the humbler walks of life, from all temporal restraints on their licentiousness. And this is not the only vicious consequence even to men which will follow from passing the Bill in its present form. There are other moral evils, of very grave importance, which must also result from it. The tendency, the direct tendency, of this Bill, in this part of its provisions, is to harden the heart of man, and increase his selfishness to an intensity of which we have never yet believed him capable. It goes further,—it goes to confound his sense—his practical sense—of right and wrong, and to deaden all his moral sensibility. It tells him that an Act of Parliament, forsooth, may release him, and has released him, from that duty which he owes to his children by the law of God,—a duty, therefore, which he owes to God himself. Such is the direct tendency of this moral Bill,—a Bill by whose moral provisions you are about to produce all these portentous effects,—a Bill by which you will corrupt and harden men, and encourage self-murder and infanticide in women,—a Bill by which, at the very least and lowest, you are about to sacrifice the first principles of justice, and to tyrannize over that part of your kind which, up to this hour, you have felt it your first duty, as it has been your honest pride, to protect. My Lords, there is one single observation more which I must make. Every law, to be efficient,—and in this sentiment I am sure I shall have the unanimous concurrence of all your Lordships—every law, to be really efficient, must have the sanction of public opinion. My Lords, this Bill never will, never can, have the sanction of the general opinion of the British people. It is impossible. My Lords, the British people have never yet been taught 1078 to regard woman merely as the minister to their vilest passions—as the slave of their grossest appetites; they regard woman as a being whom they are bound to honour in her purity, and not to spurn even in her fall,—to cherish in her weakness, to assist in her distress,—above all, to protect when she is oppressed. They never will be parties to all the cruelty and all the oppression that are concentrated in this Bill. My Lords, if such be the case, will you proceed to pass the Bill? Will not the effect be, to disgust the people of England with the law itself, so far as this measure is concerned? and let me remind you, that it is not easy to disgust a nation with one part of its laws without that disgust extending further. The effect of a Legislature's framing any of its laws in despite of the best feelings of the people is this:—that every law so formed tempts them to cast off their respect for all laws; and, I must not be afraid to add, for the Legislature which shall have ventured to make it. My Lords, I do not wish to go further on this occasion; indeed I feel that it is not necessary for me to do so. I cast myself upon your hearts, and call upon you to vote with me or against me this night, as those hearts shall prompt you. I call upon you by your sense of justice, by your bowels of mercy, ay, my Lords, and by your feelings of manhood, to reject this most unrighteous law. And I do now move, that this 55th Clause of the Bill he rejected.
The Bishop of London
It is not my intention to trespass upon your Lordships' time with any lengthened observations. I know not that I can add in substance to the arguments which, on a former occasion, I addressed to your Lordships, when I endeavoured to counteract the effect which the eloquent appeal then made by my right reverend friend must have produced on your Lordships' minds. Powerful as the address of my right reverend friend has also been on the present occasion, yet I do not expect that the practical result of it has been such as to impose on me the necessity of replying, at any considerable length, to the observations he has made. I should have been glad to have been spared from entering again upon this really painful subject, for painful it must be to feel one's self called upon by an imperative sense of duty to assist in the ungracious task of endeavouring to remove errors from the public mind, when those 1079 errors are closely intertwined with some of the best feelings of our nature. I know not that I should have risen at all on the present occasion, had I not lately been made the object of a most gross and malignant attack, which makes it necessary that I should say a few words, not so much in favour of the clause which my right reverend friend proposes to omit, as in self-vindication, though the extreme grossness and malignity of the attack, combined with the knowledge of the quarter from whence it comes, will disarm it of that power which it otherwise might have had, and disappoint the intentions of its author. With respect to the part which I have myself taken, both in the preparation of the Report which has now been some time in your Lordships' hands, and in the consultations upon the measure now under discussion, I trust I may be permitted to say, that when I was first applied to by the noble Lord, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, to become one of the Commissioners for inquiring into the Poor-laws, I felt a very strong reluctance to embark in that inquiry. I had a pretty clear perception of the obloquy to which I should probably expose myself by doing my duty in the examination of such a subject,—a subject to which I had paid rather close attention for several years past. I knew that many of the recommendations which would probably be made by that Commission, and to the making of which I should be a party, would be of such a nature as would be likely to expose me to the imputations which have been since so liberally lavished upon the Commissioners. I yielded, however, to the solicitation of that noble Lord, and consented to take upon me the office. Having done so, I should have been wanting in the duty I owe to the country at large, had I not faithfully and fearlessly applied myself to the duties of that office. If, in the execution of those duties, I felt myself compelled to adopt opinions at variance with the sentiments of many with whom I am accustomed to concur, I trust I shall not, on that account, be accused of acting under the influence of unworthy motives. Without having made this disclaimer, I trust your Lordships would have done me the justice to believe, that I am fully alive to the painful and inconvenient situation in which I am placed,—that of appearing to be the advocate of measures which seem to wear on the surface some- 1080 thing of unkindness towards the most interesting portion of the community; but which, in my conscience, I believe, when followed out into all their results, will prove to be to those very parties a source of improved morality, and of happiness. My right reverend friend has spoken largely and forcibly of the duty of parents to support their offspring, whether legitimate or illegitimate. I fully acquiesce in the justice of that principle; no doubt it is the duty of both parents to do all in their power to support the progeny which they have been the means of adding to the human race. But that really is not the question at issue. There is nothing in this Bill which goes to countenance the opinion, that it is not the duty of the father as well as the mother, even of an illegitimate child, to support their offspring; but the question is, in the first place, whether we ought, and, in the next place, whether we can, enforce the performance of that duty by legislation. My right reverend friend is too well versed in theology and ethics not to know that there are many duties prescribed by the law of God, which it is not expedient, often not even possible, to enforce by human legislation. I need only remind your Lordships of the filial duties; the duties of children to their parents are as reciprocally obligatory as the duty of parents to support their offspring; and yet, beyond a certain point, by what human legislation can you ensure the right conduct of children towards their parents? My right reverend friend says, that when a female who has been the victim of seduction is reduced to the utmost extremity of want—at that moment when nature cries out most loudly for relief—she will be told by the framers of this Bill that it is not the duty of the father to provide for the support of her child. But I deny that this Bill pronounces any opinion of the kind. It takes for granted, that it is the duty, the moral duty, of the father to support the child; but what the Bill says is, that the present mode of enforcing that duty is not only extremely inconvenient, but in practice, leads to results infinitely more detrimental to the morals of the community, than would be the case, if the matter were left entirely to the course of nature. For, after all, I must contend, that the course which this Bill points out, is the course pointed out by the law of nature; and, therefore, inasmuch as the 1081 law of nature is not, in this instance, interfered with by the written law of God, the course pointed out by this Bill is the course sanctioned by the law of God itself. I am quite aware that the Levitical law inflicts a certain penalty on the seducer of female virtue. That law refers to two cases,—the one to the violation of female chastity, and the other, where the woman is a consentient party; but what is the penalty which that law inflicts upon the man? Why, that the man should be compelled to marry the injured female. Now, in the first place, the very principle upon which this Bill proceeds is, that it is, if not impossible, yet exceedingly difficult to fix upon the actual father. That it is, in a moral and religious point of view, the duty of the person who has deprived a female of her virtue, to make the only reparation in his power, by marrying her, no person will stand up and deny; but when we look at the consequences which notoriously result from forced marriages, contracted under such circumstances, few will be bound to argue, that even if we could ascertain the real father, we should attempt, by legislative enactments, to compel him to marry the female whom he has wronged. But the truth is, that the extreme uncertainty which attends all attempts to fix upon the father, renders all such legislation partial and unjust. The painful illustrations which I felt myself called upon to adduce, on a former occasion, from the Poor-Law Reports, I will not weary your patience, nor disgust your taste, by repeating; but the whole tenor of the evidence brought before the Commissioners proves, if not the impossibility, the almost insurmountable difficulty of discovering who the father is. I confess that I was surprised to hear my right reverend friend argue, that this Bill went upon the assumption, that we may discover the father. This part of the Bill, I repeat, as originally framed, was founded on the principle, that the father could not be discovered. Of course I do not say, that in no case it would be possible to ascertain the real father; for in the game of chances we may now and then hit upon the right person; but, upon the whole, the principle is a sound one, that it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to ascertain the real father. Then, my Lords, my right reverend friend adverts to the circumstance of some honourable Member of the other House having 1082 introduced a clause into this Bill, which clause assumes that to be true which the Bill says can by no means be proved to be true; and then my right reverend friend immediately tells us, that this 55th clause is not wanted, because the Bill has already so assumed the principle that it is possible to ascertain the real father. My Lords, what I contend for is, the measure in its original simplicity, which keeps clear of the probable injustice resulting from all attempts of filiation, and proceeds upon the original law of nature, which requires an unmarried mother to maintain her child. I have recently received a communication from an intelligent clergyman in the county of Warwick, in which he alludes to what took place in this House on a former evening, when this subject was under discussion. With your Lordships' permission, I will read the substance of that communication:—
"I feel persuaded that your Lordship will pardon my stating three cases which have very recently occurred in this parish, as they cannot but tend to confirm your Lordship's opinion, and fully justify your Lordship's sentiments. The first case was that of a young woman who swore a child to a person, who proved to our Magistrates that only five months had elapsed from the day he had first had an illicit intercourse to the birth of the child; consequently the order was refused. The actual father escaped, and the child and the mother came on the parish for relief, according to the existing Poor-laws. The second was an infamous girl in the workhouse who became pregnant. On being asked who she would swear her child to, she said with the greatest assurance, 'that the child had so many fathers, that she had not yet fixed upon one.' At last she fixed upon a respectable young man, whose friends employed an attorney, and, on the witnesses having been examined, the magistrates refused to make an order. The parish-officers having resolved to take the case to the quarter-sessions, the friends of the young man consented to his paying ls. per week, rather than incur an expense that would involve them in pecuniary difficulties. The third, and most atrocious case was that of a most artful and abandoned girl, who came before the Magistrate, and had the audacity to swear her child to the son of a beneficed clergyman, a youth of about seventeen, of the most unblemished reputation. When she came 1083 into the justice-room he did not know her even by sight, and it was clearly proved to the Magistrates that he was at school during the very time that she swore he was at home, and being connected with her. The Magistrates refused an order. The parish officers carried it to the General Quarter Sessions. The father of the young gentleman engaged for his son special Counsel. The learned Sergeant, having elicited from the girl that she had received money from different persons not to swear the child to them, thought it unnecessary to call his witnesses. The girl's testimony was received, and an order made upon the youth on the oath of a girl not a degree better than a common prostitute. So deeply convinced was the learned Sergeant of the entire innocence of the youth, that he enclosed his check to his father for 52l. 10s., the amount of his fee, and said that no case had ever given him so much uneasiness as the fatal and unalterable decision that had been made against his son. For, as the law stands, this pious and excellent youth, who is educating for the ministry, can make no appeal; nor can he, as he has ascertained, indict her for perjury."
If this be true, I admit that the argument holds good only to a certain point, because it does not prove that other remedies may not be applied to the evil complained of; but the letter I have read shows the extreme difficulty of proving who the father is. I trust I may be permitted to make one remark with respect to the clauses which a noble Duke is about to propose in lieu of the clause which was inserted by the other House of Parliament, and which has been rejected by your Lordships. By those clauses, in affiliating the child, the mere evidence of the mother, on oath, is not to be considered sufficient; but corroborative evidence is to be required to justify the Magistrate in making an order. I do not quite understand what that corroborative testimony can be, or how it is possible to adduce any other evidence than what is generally received in cases of this description. It is true, evidence may be adduced on the other side to prove an alibi, but how the woman can adduce corroborative evidence, except now and then, in a very few cases, I cannot conceive; and this difficulty is to me the chief recommendation of the clauses, as they will, in point of fact be merely nugatory. Now, with respect to 1084 the effect which this Bill will have on female morality (or feminine, as I may call it, my right reverend friend having spoken of masculine morality), I will advert for a moment to the statement of my right reverend friend, that if this clause should be adopted, it will leave the unfortunate woman nothing to fear, and nothing to hope for. As the law stands at present, the woman has, indeed, nothing to fear, but she has a great deal to hope for from her frailty. That is the principal defect of the present law, a defect which the clause now under discussion goes to remedy. Under the present system, every imaginable temptation is held out to a woman to repeat her offence. Instances upon instances were laid before the Commissioners, of abandoned women having become mothers of illegitimate children, in order that they may obtain such a dowry as would induce not less abandoned men to marry them. Without denying the danger which my right reverend friend has pointed out, of women being induced by the proposed alterations of the bastardy law to repeat their offence, he must allow me to remind him, that his argument has proceeded upon the supposition that there will be as many mothers of bastard children after this law shall have passed, as there now are; whereas, this law will inevitably reduce their number. Another fallacy which has run through my right reverend friend's argument, is this, that these unfortunate females will be left entirely destitute of relief. But that will not be the case: they cannot, except by their own fault, be left to perish. It is true, that the relief which will be given them will only he administered in a particular form,—that is, in the workhouses; but they never will be exposed to that extremity of suffering which my right reverend friend has depicted with so much fervour and pathos of language. Then, with respect to the immorality which will be encouraged by this measure in the other sex. Supposing the parties to be equally vicious, the seducer is not likely to meet with any obstacles in his unprincipled attempts; and I admit that, in such cases, the Bill will not be likely to have any remedial effect; but neither will it make matters worse than they now are: but the great remedy is the certain effect which it will have by interposing, in many cases—in most cases, I might say,—where the mind of a female is not corrupted, an in- 1085 superable barrier to those attempts; so that the cases where the seducer will fail, will infinitely out number those in which he will succeed. With respect to one further topic which my right reverend friend has slightly treated, but upon which others have spoken out more fully,—I mean the crime of infanticide,—that is a point which did not escape the notice of the Commissioners, and they have treated of it in their Report, but as briefly as was consistent with a due regard to the importance of the subject. It is not necessary, nor indeed proper, that I should enter into any lengthened discussion of such a point on the present occasion, for reasons that must be obvious to your Lordships. But I believe that the instances have been exceedingly rare where that crime has been perpetrated under the influence of an apprehension on the part of the unfortunate mother, that either herself, or her helpless offspring, would be suffered to starve. The experience of all will confirm the statement, that such a crime is generally perpetrated from a sense of shame; and here I think one of the greatest recommendations of the measure now proposed displays itself. When the female will no longer be called upon to go before a public tribunal to affiliate her offspring,—when she is spared the necessity of proclaiming to the world at large her first deviation from the laws of female honour, her first departure from virtue, there will be a door left open to her for repentance and reformation. We shall hear much less frequently of instances of a second violation of chastity,—and we shall have the satisfaction of being told of many families whose honour will have been preserved, because they were not obliged to make a public disclosure of their daughter's disgrace. I am aware of the delicacy of speaking upon this subject. I should be sorry to say a word that should diminish a sense of real shame for such an offence; but I think that good effects will follow from not exposing a young woman to public disgrace who has fallen the unfortunate victim of seduction. Such a female, who, however blameable she may be, is yet not abandoned, nor lost to all sense of decency, ought not to be hurried into the depths of vice by public ignominy. I will not dwell upon this topic any longer. But to revert, for instance, to the subject of infanticide,—God be praised, 1086 the crime is comparatively rare in this country, and the present measure will not increase its frequency. We have the testimony of one of the best and most eminent men of the age to prove, not only from experience, but upon the broad principles of natural truth, justice, and morality, that no such danger is to be apprehended from this measure. My right reverend friend has quoted authorities of some eminence, and has referred to jurists and others in support of his views of the subject. His quotations are not immediately present to my mind; I am, therefore, unable to determine what degree of weight ought to be attached to them, or how far their force may be modified by a consideration of the context. But whatever weight ought to be attached to the testimony of Montesquieu, Grotius, and Puffendoff, I will take the liberty of reaching the evidence of a man of whom I may say, without danger of being accused of flattery (even though I panegyrize a witness who is about to give evidence in my favour), that in many essential qualifications he is not far inferior to the highest of those names to whom my right reverend friend has referred, not at all inferior in piety, and zeal, and philanthropy to any man living, and, in point of talent, learning, and sagacity, not inferior to my right reverend friend himself; I allude to that distinguished person, Dr. Chalmers, whose admirable work, on the civil and religious economy of large towns, your Lordships would all do well to peruse. I am glad to shelter myself under this authority; and when I have read it, I know not that it will be necessary for me to add a word more:—"There is a sensitive alarm sometimes expressed lest on the abolition of legal charity there should be no diminution of crime, while the unnatural mothers, deprived of their accustomed resource, might be tempted to relieve themselves by some dreadful perpetration. It might serve to quell this apprehension and to prove how nature had provided so well for all such emergencies as that she might safely be let alone, to consider the following plain but instructive narrative from the parish of Gratney, contiguous to England, and only separated from it by a small stream. The Reverend Mr. Morgan, its minister, writes me that, "To females who bring illegitimate children into the world we give nothing. They are left entirely to their own resources. It is, however, a re- 1087 markable fact, that children of this description with us are more tenderly brought up, better educated, and, of course, more respectable, and more useful members of society, than illegitimates on the other side of the Sark, who, in a great many instances, are brought up solely at the expense of their parishes. This comparison of parishes, lying together in a state of juxtaposition, and differing only in regimen, proves with what fearlessness a natural economy might be attempted; not, we admit, in reference to cases which already exist, but certainly in reference to all new cases and new applications. The simple understanding that in future there was to be no legal allowance for illegitimate children in a parish would lay an instantaneous check on the profligate habits of its people. The action of shame and prudential feeling, and fear from displeased, because injured and oppressed, relatives, would be restored to its proper degree of intensity; would be surely followed up by a diminution of crime; and as to any appalling consequences that might be pictured forth on the event of crime breaking through all these restraints, for this, too, nature has so wisely and delicately balanced all the principles of the human constitution, that it is greatly better to trust her than to thwart and interfere with her. She hath provided in the very affection of the guilty mother for her hopeless child a stronger guarantee for its safety and its interest than is provided by the expedients of law. This is forcibly illustrated by the state of matters at Gratney, and might help to convince our statesmen how much of the wisdom of legislation lies in letting matters alone." With this testimony I shall conclude my observations on this subject. I trust my right reverend friend will believe me when I say, that it is with infinite pain I find myself compelled to differ from his master-mind upon a question of so much delicacy and importance. I entered upon the consideration of this department of the Poor-laws with considerable misgivings; but the more I continued my inquiries, and the longer I meditated upon the subject, the more I was convinced that the conclusion at which the Commissioners have arrived, is that conclusion which, if adopted by your Lordships, will be better calculated than any other expedient which, under existing circumstances, can be had recourse to, for improving the state of 1088 morals among the lower orders of the people, so far, at least, as they are connected with the vice of incontinency. I may be permitted to add, for in a question of so much difficulty and delicacy, it is natural that I should seek to fortify myself by the example and arguments of others,—that I have the satisfaction of knowing that in the opinion which I have formed on this most important subject, I have the entire and cordial concurrence of my right reverend friend who was joined with me in the Commission, and whose name is sufficient to satisfy your Lordships and the public, that nothing which I have consented to is either contrary to the law of God, to the dictates of humanity, or to the principles of justice, I mean the Bishop of Chester.
§ Lord Wynford
said, that after the able and eloquent speeches of his two right reverend friends, he felt bound to call the attention of their Lordships to a few points which they had either omitted or misunderstood. He would commence by calling their attention to the clause by which a man married to the mother of the bastard children of another man, was bound to provide for their maintenance and support. Now, was it consistent with natural justice that their Lordships should sanction such a clause? He could not help thinking that such a clause tended to the material injury of morality and religion. If a woman had a child, and was on that account to be cut off from all further intercourse with the respectable part of society, her ruin was not only commenced, but irrevocably consummated. Who would marry her, if he were compelled to support her illegitimate children? However they might be inclined to act upon the other bastardy clauses, he was sure that it would be most injurious to the interests of humanity and justice to compel the man who married a woman who had been seduced by another to maintain her bastards—to exonerate her seducer from that burthen, and to place it upon another, who had inflicted no wrong, but to a certain degree had himself suffered wrong. To render it impossible that a woman once unfortunate should ever be joined hereafter in honourable marriage to any man, was a course very different from that which the British Legislature had hitherto pursued. Upon these grounds, even if there were no other, he should vote in favour of the Motion of his right reverend 1089 friend the Bishop of Exeter. On the general question of Bastardy, he would not follow his two right reverend friends into the different quotations which they had made from Scripture. It required no authority to prove, that by the law of nature both parents were equally bound to support the children whom they brought into the world. In the case of legitimate children the whole burthen fell upon the father, and hitherto a great part of the burthen had also fallen upon the father in the case of illegitimate children. Under any circumstances, the ability of the father to maintain the child was greater than that of the mother. He gained higher wages than she did, and was not exposed to various infirmities to which she was liable. In time of childbirth she could gain nothing. The original curse that she should bring forth in pain prevented her from contributing at all during that period to the maintenance of her infant. To throw on her, therefore, the whole burthen of providing for her child was that which he could not call injustice merely, for it was unheard-of cruelty. His right reverend friend (the Bishop of London) had told their Lordships that the tender feelings of the mother would induce her at all hazards to maintain her child. He admitted, that women did in general feel more strongly than men. But then their Lordships ought not to forget how the rankling sense of desertion and injury was calculated to change her feelings. A woman seduced into criminality by the man she loved, and afterwards ruthlessly left by her seducer to the scorn of the world, was likely to experience a strange revulsion of sentiment; and instead of feeling that love for her offspring which sprang up spontaneously in the bosom of every modest female, was likely to look on it with feelings of abhorrence, on account of the guilt which had reduced her to such a state of abject wretchedness. At the time of her infant's birth the law could not compel her to maintain it, nemo enim tenetur ad impossibilia. As then it was impossible for her to maintain it at that time, who must maintain it for her? Her parents, or it might be her more distant relations. This alteration in the law, then, would fling all her family into a murderous conspiracy, one party conspiring to prevent the child from coming into the world, and another destroying its existence as soon as the child came into it. His 1090 right reverend friend, the Bishop of London, said, that from the inquiries which he had made, he was certain that there was no fear of anything of this kind taking place. Now, he too had made inquiries, and he found that wherever the Law of Bastardy had been most rigidly executed, there it had produced infanticide. The experience of his right reverend friend and of himself was so uncertain that it could not be much depended on, and they must both of them, therefore, recur to natural principles. It had likewise been said that great abuses had prevailed under the existing Bastardy-laws. Now, those abuses did not so much arise from the laws as from the abuses of them. He would rather that those abuses should be tenfold, not of what they were, but of what they were represented to be, than that, the life of any innocent child should be sacrificed to remove them. His right reverend friend had also spoken of the difficulty of executing the Bastardy-laws with certainty and with justice. But, the instances to which his right reverend friend had referred to prove that position had proved directly the reverse; for in those two instances the Magistrates, after cross questioning the principal witness, had dismissed the case, and had refused to make an order of affiliation. The evil, it was plain, arose not from the law, but from the abuse of it. Go back, therefore, to the 18th of Elizabeth, administer that Act with strictness, and all the evil now existing would soon be eradicated. What had that evil arisen from? From the overseers making a point of giving to the woman the bastardy pay, as it was now sometimes called. Now that was in direct violation of the Statute, for it did not warrant the overseers in paying the allowance to the mother. The Statute directed the money to be paid over to the Churchwardens and Overseers, not for the use of the woman, but for the purpose of indemnifying the parish against future loss. Let the law be administered in that way, and depend upon it bastardy would not become more frequent. In the parish of Cookham the number of bastards had been reduced to nothing, in consequence of the strict administration of the present Bastardy-laws. He hoped that in Cookham and in other parishes, where the number of bastards had diminished, the diminution had not been occasioned by holding too strict a rein over the infirmities of the 1091 mother. One of the defects of this Bill was, that it would enormously increase the amount of the poor-rates. He would assume, that after the Bill was passed, the number of bastards would be as great as it was at present; for his own part he thought that it would be much greater. One of the Commissioners had stated, that the temptation to the increase of bastard children was the increase of the bastardy pay. Now, if that was the only temptation, it might be easily removed. The seducer, however, had better and more attractive inducements to hold out to the woman than the bastardy pay. He had now got too old to recollect what those inducements were; but he was certain, that there were a thousand inducements far more seductive than the mere telling her, "You receive 2s. a-week for your present bastard, and you will receive 4s. a-week for your next." That was too coarse an argument for any man to use to any woman. He repeated, that the number of bastards must increase if none of the consequences of criminality were to be visited on the seducer, if he were left to roam through the world a free agent, to gratify his passions to any extent which lie might think proper. That would, of necessity, increase the parish burthens, for if children were begotten, and if the father were exonerated from the task of supporting them, and if the mother could not support them, then the burthen must fall upon the parish. The children might indeed be kept in the workhouse; but then they must have food and clothes to support their wretched existence, and the expense of providing such necessary articles must fall upon the parish. He hoped, that he had shown that it was inconsistent with the reputation of their Lordships, and inconsistent with the principles of natural justice, that one of the parents of a bastard child—and that the parent most able to maintain it—should not contribute to its support. He hoped, that he had satisfied their Lordships that it was inconsistent with humanity, that it was inconsistent with the principles of Christianity, on which our law was founded—that it was inconsistent with economy—to insert this clause in the Bill. But even supposing that it were not inconsistent with economy, still he could not give his consent to a measure which placed the poor in a worse situation, and which plunged the woman into still greater degradation than 1092 that in which both parties were at present. Economy, however, would not be gratified by these alterations. He felt constrained, therefore, to vote for the Motion of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Exeter.
The Lord Chancellor
said, that as their Lordships were obviously very impatient to come to a division on a question which had already been debated six or seven times, he should confine what he had to say within the narrowest possible limits. Indeed, after the speech of the right reverend Prelate (the Bishop of London), so complete and unanswerable, it would be a waste of time to go into the subject at any length. He should not have troubled their Lordships on this occasion had it not been for the observations of the right reverend Prelate (the Bishop of Exeter), who assumed that it was the wish of the supporters of the Bill, to have the clause excluded which had been introduced in the other House on the Motion of the hon. member for East Somerset, and upon whose suggestion the right reverend Prelate seemed to intimate he had brought forward the subject. The fact was, that the clause of the hon. Member of the other House had been left out of the Bill by their Lordships, but at the same time it was understood that a noble Lord would move some other clauses which would embrace the same objects in a safer manner than was proposed by the hon. Member he had alluded to. The right reverend Prelate had alluded to what he (the Lord Chancellor) said the other night respecting the sending down a Bill to the other House which had been so altered from what it was when received from the other House, that it might, in point of fact, be considered a new Bill, or rather a new code, and that the House of Commons was justified in rejecting it, because they had not time to examine the changes made in it, and which must, by the forms of the other House, be either accepted or rejected entirely at one sitting. The right reverend Prelate had assumed, that the House of Commons would be justified in rejecting the present Bill in consequence of the changes made in it, and, above all, in consequence of leaving out the clause proposed by Mr. Miles. Now, although that hon. Gentleman's clause had been left out, yet others were to be inserted in the Bill differing very slightly from that rejected. Under those circumstances, he 1093 thought the right reverend Prelate might be satisfied thus far, and that there was no reason to fear that the House of Commons would object to the alteration that had been made. He did not regard the charges of inhumanity and cruelty that had been brought against the supporters of the present Bill. If he would condescend to use such a line of argument, he could with just as much fairness say to those who charged the defenders of the Bill with being oppressors of unfortunate females, the defenders of the immorality of males, and the encouragers of incontinence, that by supporting the present system of Bastardy-laws they held out inducements to want of chastity, that they were encouragers of conspiracy and fraud, and were protectors of perjury. He did not for a moment mean to say, that those who supported the law as it now stood were either encouragers of fraud or perjury. But it would be as just on his part to make use of such accusations as the persons who had made such gross and unfounded charges against the right reverend Prelate (the Bishop of London). The other right reverend Prelate (the Bishop of Exeter), had argued against these clauses as if they held out an encouragement to infanticide. He (the Lord Chancellor) would ask, whether there was any ground for such an assumption? In point of fact, such assertions were nothing more than phantoms to scare men, and to induce them to oppose a change in the law lest infanticide should be increased. On this point he would refer to what the law was in other countries. They knew how ill the present system worked in this country, but as the plan proposed had not been tried here they were forced to go to foreign countries. The system of throwing the charge on the mother existed in France and Belgium. In France a few years ago M. Portalis, the Minister of Public Instruction, proposed a law similar in principle to the clauses which had been so much objected to. Previous to the Revolution a provision was made for foundlings, and under the military and truly-savage tyranny of Napoleon, who was anxious for an increase of children to enable him to carry on his wars, foundling hospitals were greatly encouraged. For his own part he had given his opinion on foundling hospitals when he moved the second reading of the Bill, and he was perfectly sure that no person would say that foundling hos- 1094 pitals held out encouragement to continence. Since the foundling hospitals had been put down in France the greatest possible good had resulted. In those departments and communes in which the new system had been carried into effect with the greatest rigour the crime of infanticide had diminished in such a degree that it might almost be said that it had disappeared. This he believed was also the case in Belgium since the adoption of the new system. Again, if they went to Ireland, where the father had not to provide for the maintenance of his bastard child, did they find the crime of infanticide prevail? The Irish were accused of many things, but nobody would accuse them of infanticide. Indeed there was no part of the world, no part of the United Kingdom, in which that crime prevailed to so little extent as it did in Ireland. He should violate the promise he had made at the commencement if he said more, and indeed it was unnecessary for him to say more, after the most able speech of the right reverend Prelate (the Bishop of London.)
The Earl of Falmouth
could not help feeling that the right reverend Prelate (the bishop of London), who had alluded to the scandalous and indecent attacks made on him, had noticed that which was unworthy attention. There was no person in their Lordships' House, he was sure, who was not satisfied that the right reverend Prelate was actuated by the best motives in the course he had pursued. The right reverend Prelate seemed to think that the bastardy clauses in the Bill were expedient, but he did not attempt to justify the principle on which they rested. The right reverend Prelate said, that he was anxious to punish the man as well as the woman if it could be safely and readily done. Now it appeared to him (the Earl of Falmouth), that under this Bill the inducement to false swearing on the part of the woman was destroyed, as the overseer was prevented giving her money. If relief was required, both mother and child must be sent to the workhouse; and therefore the probability was, the woman would name the father. The right reverend Prelate had dwelt on the difficulty of getting corroborative evidence, as was proposed by the clauses which the noble Duke (Wellington) intended to move; but in cases of seduction such evidence was at present necessary. In point of fact, all that was 1095 required was circumstantial evidence to support the testimony of the woman. The noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack dwelt on a former occasion on his more than common attachment to the fair sex—of his chivalrous feeling of devotion to them; but, in his opinion, the fair sex would be more readily induced to rely upon the assertions of the noble and learned Lord if he supported the Motion of the right reverend Prelate to throw out these clauses.
§ The Duke of Richmond
was one of those who thought that the father ought to help to support his illegitimate child, and he should therefore have voted for the Motion of the right reverend Prelate but for some other considerations which he thought merited attention. He must admit, that in the experience he had had in the country in his magisterial capacity, he had seen that great injustice was often done to persons who had illegitimate children sworn to them, because they could not find sureties. They were sent to jails, where they were sometimes confined for a considerable period, their associates being persons of most abandoned character. He was most anxious to have the law altered in this respect, but he could not bring himself to consent to its alteration, unless he were convinced that their Lordships would adopt the clause which had been proposed by an hon. Member in the other House, and which, he was happy to learn, was to be embodied in some clauses that the noble Duke intended to introduce.
said, he would vote for the omission of the clauses. He believed that there were 100,000 women at this moment pregnant with illegitimate children; the proposed law, therefore, would have an ex post facto effect, which appeared to him a strong reason for opposing it. He denied the fact, as it had been stated with reference to France, by the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack. The law of France was altogether different from that of this country, since in France they had abolished the law of primogeniture. The women of France got husbands by their virtues; in England women got husbands by their previous pregnancies.
The Bishop of Exeter
said, he had not seen, though he had heard, of the attack that had been made on his right reverend friend; and he must say, with reference to that attack, that there was no man in this 1096 house or elsewhere to whom he would more entirely give credit, not only for the purity of his motives, but for the zeal with which he had exerted himself to carry into effect this measure, of which he, no doubt, conscientiously approved.
§ Their Lordships divided on the question, that the Clauses stand part of the Bill.
§ Contents—Present, 42; Proxies, 51; Total, 93. Not Contents—Present, 40: Proxies, 42; Total 82: Majority, 11.1097
|List of the CONTENTS.|
|Bishop of London||Lynedoch|
|Howard of Effingham||Rosslyn|
|Ducie||Bishop of Derry|
|Norfolk||Bishop of Hereford|
|List of the NOT CONTENTS.|
|Jersey||Archbp. of Cashel|
|Verulam||Bishop of Exeter|
|Eldon||Bishop of St. Asaph|
§ The Earl of Abingdon paired off.
§ Several verbal amendments were made to the Bill.
§ The Duke of Wellington moved several Clauses which had for their object to alleviate the severity of the Bill towards the female. The noble Duke read the clauses.
The Marquess of Westminster
said, he should with great pleasure second the amendment of the noble Duke, convinced as he was of the clauses being a very desirable amendment of the measure.
The Bishop of London
said, he would not consent to the alteration just now suggested as to bringing the question before the Quarter Sessions. It would render the Bill far less efficient and unsatisfactory in its operation.
§ The Marquess of Lansdowne
expressed his intention to support the clauses recommended by the noble Duke. It would tend to remove objections entertained by many to the Bill, and alleviate the severity imputed to the clause rendering the female liable to the maintenance of a bastard child. It was but fair that the burthen of supporting it should be shared by the two persons considered to be its parents, when they could be identified.
§ Lord Wynford
had no other objection to the clause than that he thought the enactment would entail very heavy expenses on the parishes. The same object he thought might be effected by empowering a certain number of the Magistrates out of session to make orders conformably with the object of these clauses.
The Bishop of Exeter
said, he would not conceal his gratification at finding that these clauses had been moved as an amendment to the Bill. If any thing was wanting to display the complete iniquity 1098 of the Bill, and particularly that part of it to which he had given his strenuous opposition, it was furnished by the necessity the noble Duke and the noble Lord found themselves under of bringing forward these clauses to mitigate the severity of their own Bill. It appeared then that when the poor female had been completely exhausted of all means to maintain her child, and not until this distressed state had reached her, the partner of her offence was to be called upon to contribute—not to her in her distress, observe, but to the parish itself, which hardly needed the contribution. He was glad this had occurred, because it exposed in the strongest light the great and flagrant injustice which it was apprehended even by its friends must result from the Bill.
§ The Duke of Richmond
asked the reverend Prelate what was the case at present? Did the Magistrates now ever make an order on the supposed father until they were applied to by the mother. The language used as to the measure he thought was too harsh, especially coming from the quarter it had. The object of the Bill was to discontinue the practice of giving women money to settle questions of bastardy by way of bargain, and do away altogether with forced marriages between persons who had neither respect nor affection for each other.
The Marquess of Salisbury
had occasion to witness in his capacity of Magistrate that the frauds of women practised in the affiliation of children were endless. He thought that bringing these cases, under these circumstances, before the Quarter Session would be attended with great benefit to the public.
§ The Amendments agreed to, and the Bill passed.
§ "1. Because this Bill is unjust and cruel to the poor. It imprisons in workhouses, for not working, those who cannot procure employment, and others for not maintaining their families who cannot, by the hardest labour, obtain wages sufficient to provide necessaries for their wives and children, although the want of employment and the low rate of wages have been occasioned by the impolicy and negligence of the Government.1099
§ "2. Because the present rate of wages, insufficient as it is, cannot be sustained, or employment found for the poor, or their condition materially improved, without ameliorating the condition of the Irish poor.
§ "3. Because we think that no necessity or sufficient expediency has been established to justify the withdrawing of the power of executing the Poor-laws from the local authorities, and transferring them to a Board so constituted as proposed by the Bill, and possessing the arbitrary powers conferred on three Commissioners appointed, and removable, by the Crown.
§ "4. Because we think the system suggested in the Bill, of consolidating immensely extensive unions of parishes, and establishing workhouses necessarily at great distances from many parishes, and thereby dividing families, and removing children from their parents, merely because they are poor, will be found justly abhorrent to the best feelings of the general population of the country; and especially, inasmuch as it introduces the children of the agricultural poor to town poor-houses, it will conduce greatly to the contamination of their moral principles, and be calculated to prevent their obtaining in youth those habits of industry most likely to be beneficial to them in after life.
§ "5. Because the alteration of the Law of Settlement is calculated to operate unjustly, and to lead to still more extensive removals and more intricate lawsuits than the law as at present existing.
§ "6. Because the alterations made in the Bastardy-laws are inconsistent with the principles of Christianity on which the Parliament of the united empire has always professed to proceed, since, both parents, being equally bound by those principles to maintain their offspring, the father, being more able to contribute to that maintenance than the mother, ought to pay more largely, whereas by this Bill he is all but exonerated from any such obligation.
§ "7. Because we consider that nearly all, if not all, the evils which may have existed in the administration of the present laws might have been corrected by a short Act, securing the due administration of the Poor-laws under the control of the existing magisterial and other local authorities,
§ "(For the 4th and 6th reasons)
§ "H. EXETER.
§ "(For the 1st and 6th reasons)
§ The following Protest was entered against retaining the 55th Clause in the Bill.
§ "1. Because the parts of the Bill which it was proposed to reject impose the charge of maintaining every bastard child on the mother alone, thus laying on one of the parents the whole of a burthen which by the most obvious dictate of natural justice, and the plainest deduction from the law of God, ought to be borne equally, or in proportion to their several ability, by both.
§ "2. Because the burthen thus laid on the mother, in a degree far beyond her power to bear, will ordinarily place and keep her in permanent and absolute dependence on parish relief; and coupled with another provision which makes any man who shall marry such mother liable to the maintenance of her child, can hardly fail to encourage the most unbounded licentiousness, for as the woman is thus shut out from all prospect of marriage, and as both she and her spurious progeny, present and future, be they as numerous as they may, will be all maintained by the parish, without further shame, suffering, or inconvenience to herself—as, in short, she will be deprived of all the aids to virtue which Providence has mercifully given in temporal objects of fear and hope, it can hardly be doubted that her own incontinence and the absolute impunity held out to every man who after she has once borne a child may choose to offend with her, will make almost every such woman to become a common prostitute, and every workhouse of which such women are inmates to be a common receptacle of prostitutes, from which they will carry on their vicious courses with little or no effectual restraint, unless the workhouse itself be converted into a gaol, and every woman who bears a bastard child, and is too poor to maintain it without assistance, be consigned to lasting imprisonment.
§ "3. Because another and more appall- 1101 ing consequence may be expected to ensue, in the case of those unhappy women who, after their fall from chastity, still retain some perverted feelings of honour, which the provisions of this Bill are too likely to place in conflict with the best instinct of their nature, tempting them to the destruction or the abandonment of the wretched infants, whose lives cannot be sustained without subjecting their mothers to so much of lengthened misery and degradation.
§ "4. Because, while such is the injustice, and such the frightful tendency, of the provisions of this Bill, as they affect women, its probable effect on men are less to be deprecated. From men in humble life the Bill removes one of the most powerful checks on their licentious appetites, which Providence has imposed in the cost and burthen consequent on the indulgence of them, thus opposing itself to God's holy institution for the continuance of the species by lawful wedlock. It does more—it directly tends to harden the hearts of men, to aggravate their natural selfishness, to pervert and corrupt their moral sensibility, to make them deem themselves released by Act of Parliament from one of the first and most obvious duties which the laws of nature—in other words, the laws of God, impose—a duty which must endure so long as the relation of parent and child shall subsist—a duty which no man who deserves the name of man has ever yet dared to set at nought.
§ "5. and lastly. Because a law which professes on the face of it to bear so unequally on two parties whose moral guilt must be deemed equal—imposing its burthen with exclusive and extreme severity on the more helpless, leaving the stronger and the abler absolutely untouched, (even by the provisions subsequently introduced) so long as the weaker party is capable of bearing anything, and then interfering, not on the principle of equal justice, but solely to indemnify the parish from any excess of charge which the exhaustion of the mother may make it impossible to wring from her—because such law cannot carry with it that which is indispensable in all wholesome legislation—the sanction of public opinion; but proceeding on the unchristian principle of doing evil that good may come, must like every other such attempt fail of the end proposed, with this unhappy aggravation of the 1102 failure, that it tends to shake tie confidence of the people in the justice and righteousness of the laws in general, and to impair their respect for that Legislature which shall have ventured to enact it.
§ "H. EXETER.
§ Aug. 8. "MOUNTCASHEL."