HL Deb 18 May 1843 vol 69 cc494-7

House in committee on the Townshend Peerage Bill.

Lord Brougham

proposed two amendments, declaring that the four eldest children were not the lawful issue of the marquess Townshend, instead of bastardizing them; and providing, on the ground of infancy, that the bill should not affect the youngest child, Cecil, Mina Bolivar.

The Earl of Wicklow

thought the noble Lord ought to explain his reasons for those alterations; if they had been contained in the bill as originally drawn they would be unexceptionable. Was the object of the bill in declaring that these were not the issue of the Marquess Townshend, to imply that they were legitimate children of any one, if so they would deceive the country, for they were illegitimate if they were not the children of the Marquess.

Lord Brougham

had stated distinctly, on the second reading of the bill, that he! meant to make these alterations, and to move them in committee. He had also given his reasons. Although, in his private opinion, it made no difference, yet it was a material consideration that if they bastardised the children, not only would they not be the lawful issue of Lord Townshend, but not the lawful issue of any valid marriage which might have taken place since the marriage with Lord Townshend, which marriage the mother had stated to be a nullity from beginning to the end. According to the English law, the change would make no difference in the bill; but here was an alleged Scotch marriage, and how could the House take upon itself to say what the decisions of the Scotch courts would be? He was unwilling to deprive the parties of that right. With respect to the case of the infant, he thought it was agreed on all hands that they ought to except the infant from the bill, because being an infant, he could not be served.

Lord Monteagle

thought as to the first alteration the reasons in favour of it were conclusive. Instead of bastardising the issue the bill now declared that the children were not the issue of the Marquess of Townshend. But he saw increasing objections to the principle and policy of the bill, after there should have been an exception made in favour of the infant. There was no doubt in his mind of the justice of this unfortunate case, and he believed that there was no doubt in the minds of any of the eight noble Lords who like himself voted in the minority, but the great object of the bill, as originally introduced, was to protect the interests of the rightful claimants to the Townshend peerage. This bill, as it had been modified, would not produce that effect, because it would leave undisturbed the claim of one of the children, namely, the minor. They would now leave the difficulty of the case precisely were they found it. There would be nothing to prevent that child from urging, when he reached majority, a claim similar to that now put forward by the alleged Lord Leicester. They would only be leaving the false claim, if he might so call it, to be represented by one child instead of another. He had heard some of his noble and learned Friends support their vote for this bill on the ground of a reparation to public scandal and public morals; but he had heard no observation made, on an exhibition—the basest and most degrading to public morals—that a Peer of this realm (as it had been given in evidence)—had offered for a pecuniary consideration to deprive his own brother of his rights and honours. He was not lawyer enough to know whether any property would be given to Lord C. Townshend by this bill. [Lord Brougham: "Not one farthing."] His noble Friend assured him not one farthing; then he said, that this bill not affecting the youngest child, Cecil Mina Bolivar, would make no alteration in his condition. He would be left in the same status as at present, and the day after the bill passed, he might assume the title of Lord Leicester, and claim all the property accruing under the settlements of Mr. Dunn Gardner. Lord C. Townshend might then have to go through the same process hereafter to prove the illegitimacy as the present infant, as well as that of the former children. He objected to the bill on principle, and he thought from these circumstances it would not attain the end in view.

Lord Campbell

was understood to admit, that it was possible that a marriage might be proved to have taken place between Lady Townshend and Mr. Margetts, and he thought the first amendment had been very properly drawn to meet that contingency. With respect to the other amendment the bill would now not affect an infant who was not before their Lordships, and who could not be brought before them. The bill declared Lord Leicester not to be the son of the Marquess of Townshend, and the youngest son, he had understood had already laid down the title of Lord C. Townshend, and called himself Mr. Margetts. He supported both amendments.

The Earl of Wicklow

opposed the amendments. He thought that if the first amendment were carried, it would admit the possibility of the legitimacy of the children; and as under no circumstances could that be the case, he opposed it. It had been said, that Lord Leicester was taking on himself the honours of the peerage; but if the second amendment were passed, the younger son might assume all those honours to-morrow. He thought that the amendments would render the bill inoperative, and he therefore opposed them.

The Marquess of Clanricarde

said, considering what had come before the House in the evidence, he would suggest that the wisest course for their Lordships to adopt, and the best to sustain the dignity of the House, would be to pass a bill of attainder against the present Marquess of Townshend, which would compel him to come to the bar of the House, and state what the circumstances were under which the children were born.

Lord Brougham

begged to remind his noble Friend behind him, who had said, that no person had taken any notice of the Marquess of Townshend's conduct, that he had reprobated the conduct of Lord Townshend as most unjustifiable, and stated that it was a fraud upon his brother and the rest of his heirs. The noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Wicklow) had laid down the law that there was no difference between stating that the children were illegitimate, and that they were not the children of the Marquess of Townshend. He (Lord Brougham) believed that that was the law of England; but would the noble Earl undertake to say, that that was the law of Scotland? If the marriage of the Marquess of Townshend was void ab initio; propter impotentiam, and if a Scotch marriage took place in this case, as he be lieved it did, then the children would not be illegitimate, but the children of John Margetts. The law of the two countries was so different, that a marriage which the Scotch courts held to be perfectly innocent, the English law punished as a felony. The objections to the amendments only amounted to this, that they made the bill more objectionable, and strengthened the reasons for throwing it out on the third reading. He continued to think them necessary, and should support them.

The Earl of Devon

was glad to see the amendment introduced, but that did not alter his objection to the whole bill, and he would oppose it on the third reading.

Amendments agreed to.

Bill went through committee. Report was ordered to be received.

House resumed, and their Lordships adjourned.